Tag Archives: cheese

Pre-shredded Cheese – yes or no

I recently made a recipe that said the sauce would be creamier if using self-shredded cheese versus pre-shredded cheese bought at the store. I’ve often heard people say they don’t like the pre-shredded cheese. I’ll admit I’ve gone in phases of which I buy. So is there really a difference?

The answer is yes. Pre-shredded cheese is coated with anti-clumping agents, such as starch and/or cellulose, and often also with anti-molding agents. These make them last longer and not melt together into a large clump in the bag. But it can also mean they won’t melt together as well when putting them in a sauce or on a dish.

So what should you buy? That is a matter of personal preference. None of these additives change the nutrition to a level that matters. Personally, I buy big bags of pre-shredded mozzarella that I store in the freezer. Then I’m always ready for pizza or pasta, which are “back-up” meals for me. And I find mozzarella a pain to shred. I buy block cheese of other cheeses for cost and varied utility.

Happy eating!

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Cheesy Vegetable Chowder

I hope you’ve had a great 2016. Every year has its ups and downs. But hopefully the ups were high enough to offset the downs. I wish you all a Happy New Year this weekend.

One quick recipe to end the year – vegetable chowder. Hopefully it will be helpful in clearing out your fridge of any remaining holiday foods. And keeping you warm, as I see the forecast for many early next week is rather cold.

I’ve been tweaking this recipe for awhile, and I’ve made most of my batches with leftovers from holiday veggie trays, cheese trays, etc. It is great for just cleaning out the fridge and pantry, which is great any time of year. Enjoy!

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder (Serves about 8)

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder

4 cups low sodium vegetable (or chicken) stock
4 cups vegetables, chopped (broccoli, carrots, celery, cauliflower, zucchini, etc)
1-2 cups small diced potatoes
2 tablespoons no salt added butter
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk (preferably skim)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon fresh thyme (optional)
2 cups shredded cheese (something more flavorful than mozzarella)

1. Heat stock to a boil in a large stockpot. Add potatoes and other long cooking vegetables (carrots, celery). Add other vegetables sporadically so they all finish cooking about the same time (total time, 15ish minutes).

2. When the vegetables are almost done, heat butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes, until translucent. Add in flour. Stir for 1 minute. Add in milk, pepper, and thyme, stirring frequently. Cook for a couple minutes, until beginning to thicken.

3. Add milk mixture to vegetable pot. Cook until desired consistency (about 5 minutes or so). Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted throughout.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 236
Protein: 13 g
Fat: 12 g
Saturated fat: 8 g
Cholesterol: 36 mg
Carbohydrates: 20 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 491 mg

Recipe Notes: Sorry the recipe is a bit vague in places. It really depends on what vegetables you have, how big you cut them, and how crunchy/soft you like your veggies in the soup. If you have leftover cheese slices from a cheese tray, just crumble them up or dice them up small. They’ll melt faster that way than in slices.

Source: adapted from my mom’s broccoli cheese soup recipe

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Oven Baked Tacos

The holiday season is upon us. We are all very busy and stressed. Easy dinners are the order of the day, yes? These oven baked tacos are a win on that score. They can be put on the table in about 30 minutes and are delicious. And there isn’t a big mess afterwards. I hope these help ease a little of the December stress in your life.

Oven Baked Tacos (Makes 12 tacos)

Oven Baked Tacos

12 hard shell taco shells
½ tablespoon canola oil
1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
½ jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed if desired, diced small
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tomato, diced
½ cup salsa
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
2 tablespoons water
½ cup shredded cheese (your preference)
Shredded lettuce
Chopped green onion
Chopped tomatoes
Sour cream
Shredded cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400. Line taco shalls in 9×13 baking dish.

2. Heat a medium to large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and ground meat. While it begins to brown, chop vegetables. Add onion, peppers, and garlic once meat is mostly browned. Saute, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and pepper soft. Add tomato, salsa, taco seasoning, and water. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until thickened and combined.

3. Spoon meat mixture into the taco shells. Top evenly with shredded cheese.

4. Bake for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve with desired toppings.

Nutritional Information (Amount per taco):

Calories: 158
Protein: 10 g
Fat: 8 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 32 mg
Carbohydrates: 12 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 277 mg

Recipe notes: Don’t worry if your shells crack a bit trying to get them in the pan. Once you put the filling and cheese in, you can patch them back together. I would start checking the tacos at 5 minutes. The longer they are in the oven, the softer the shells become. Mine were in 8 minutes (convection oven) and the bottoms of the shells were almost too soft/soggy. The nutritional analysis uses ground turkey and doesn’t include in toppings. Refried black beans are a great side dish to serve with this.

Source: Adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff

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Zucchini Corn Fritters

It’s getting to be that time of year where gardens are going crazy. Or if you don’t have a garden, corn, zucchini, and tomatoes are fairly inexpensive and extra tasty at the store. Here’s a great side dish or snack utilizing some of the produce in season right now.

Zucchini Corn Fritters (Makes about 18 fritters)

Zucchini Corn Fritters

1 ½ cups packed shredded zucchini (no need to peel the zucchini)
½ cup corn kernels
1 green onion, diced
1-2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
⅓ cup bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1. Preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly coat with cooking spray.

2. Wring out excess water in zucchini, making sure it is really dry.

3. Combine zucchini and remaining ingredients in a bowl until combined. Add additional egg if mixture is too dry.

4. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet. Lightly flatten into fritter shape. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden and center is set.

Nutritional Information (Amount per fritter):

Calories: 23
Protein: 1 g
Fat: 1 g
Saturated Fat: less than 1 g
Cholesterol: 12 mg
Carbohydrates: 3 g
Fiber: less than 1 g
Sodium: 45 mg

Recipe source: adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

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Cauliflower Quesadillas and Happy Registered Dietitian Day!

Happy Registered Dietitian Day!  The second Wednesday of March is this special day we get to celebrate the RDs in our lives.  So hug or high five any RDs you know today.  To learn more about what it means to be an RD, read here.

At first glance, this recipe sounds like something only an RD would eat.  Who would mess with delicious, cheesy quesadillas by adding cauliflower?  Even I was skeptical, but I was curious enough to try them.  Besides cauliflower was on sale that week, and my little girl was on a huge quesadilla-eating streak.  If this got some veggies in her in the process, it seemed like a win.

These quesadillas were quite possibly the best veggie quesadilla I’ve tried, and I’ve tried a lot.  It struck the perfect balance between “this tastes like vegetables and being good for me” and “yummy quesadilla”.  Even my daughter was fooled for a few bites, although the game was up once a few pieces of cauliflower fell out of her tortilla.  Enjoy!

Charred Cauliflower Quesadillas (Makes 6 quesadillas)

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1 poblano chile
1 small head of cauliflower, chopped into 1 inch chunks
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large tomato, diced
1 cup spinach leaves
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 ½ cups monterey jack cheese, shredded
12 whole grain tortillas

1. Heat broiler on high. Char poblano under high heat, rotating as skin blisters. Transfer to a bowl once all sides are blistered. Cover bowl with foil tightly, and let rest for about 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel off as much skin as will come off easily. Remove stem and seeds. Place on cutting board.

2. Toss cauliflower with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper. Heat a large, heavy fry pan over high heat until almost smoking. Add cauliflower, and let it cook until beginning to char, but not mushy. Turn pieces to char all sides evenly. Total cooking time will be about 10 minutes, depending on heat of pan and size of cauliflower. Add to cutting board.

3. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add remaining ½ tablespoon olive oil. Saute onion for 3-5 minutes, or until beginning to soften. Add garlic and tomato. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until most of liquid is evaporated. Add spinach and continue to cook until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat.

4. On cutting board, coarsely chop cauliflower and poblano together. Cauliflower chunks should be no bigger than ½ inch. Poblano pieces need to be small enough to be incorporated throughout. Add to onion mixture. Stir in green onions and lime juice. Mix until combined.

5. Heat a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Working in batches, make quesadillas. Place one tortilla on skillet. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cheese evenly over the surface. Top with 1/6 of vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of cheese (you will use ¼ cup cheese per quesadilla). Top with another quesadilla. Flip when bottom tortilla is browned and cheese is melting. Cook on other side until browned and all cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information (Amount per quesadilla):

Calories: 423
Protein: 16 g
Fat: 21 g
Saturated Fat: 10 g
Cholesterol: 27 mg
Carbohydrates: 49 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 708 mg

Recipe Notes: I added onion, tomato, and spinach to the original recipe. I did make some quesadillas without that, to test the original. While the original was good, this version was much better. The onion and tomato really brought home the “mexican” flavor and helped hide the “vegetable” flavor.

Source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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Too much pizza?

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A recent radio show broadcasted that research from the CDC stated that kids in America are eating too much pizza, which is not a healthy food. I was a bit puzzled, so I wanted to get a little more information on the actual research.

The CDC report is actually on sodium intakes in children and adolescents in the US. Like adults, children and adolescents are consuming more sodium than they need. And even in children, this can lead to increased blood pressure.

Why do we care? First, we don’t want to start kids off with health problems, like high blood pressure. This will only increase the likelihood of these problems as adults. Second, sodium intake is a taste preference. As children are developing their tastes and dietary preferences, we want to give them a healthy palate. Reducing intake when young will hopefully help prevent them from over consuming as adults.

So where does pizza come in? Pizza is the number one contributor of sodium to children and adolescent diets. Bread, poultry, cold cuts, and sandwiches round out the top five. Noticably, these are foods that naturally have high sodium. This isn’t about teaching kids to not salt their food. It is about teaching them to watch their consumption of foods naturally high in sodium.

So can your kid eat pizza? Of course! But, beware of the amount of cheese and cured meats on your toppings. Stick for less cheese, fresh cooked meats, veggies, and homemade sauce if possible. All of these allow you greater control of the sodium going in. Here are a couple of my favorites for pizza:

Marinara

Artichoke Pesto Pizza

White Chicken Pizza

Homemade Pizza Dough

What are your favorite adaptations to make pizza more healthy? Share them in the comments!

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I have a confession to make. I hate green bean casserole. I know this borders on insanity to many of you. I can’t stand canned green beans in any form, honestly. If I’m being completely honest, I hate any sort of green bean that hasn’t been sautéed or stir-fried. I know this is un-American. I’m sorry.

If by some miracle you are also in the anti-green bean casserole camp or are just looking for a different green vegetable side for your Thanksgiving table, I humbly submit these roasted Brussels sprouts. They caramelize into something almost sweet when you roast them. Tossed with a little bit of bacon and parmesan, I think your guests will thank you for skipping the green beans.

Enjoy!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts (Serves 4)

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1 lb Brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 strip bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 500. Place rack in upper-middle position in oven.

2. Trim stems of sprouts, but keep a little to keep intact. Cut large sprouts in half. Toss sprouts with olive oil, water, and pepper.

3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread sprouts in an even layer in pan. Tightly cover with another sheet of aluminum foil.

4. Roast in 500 oven for about 10 minutes. Remove foil lid. Return to oven and cook for 10-12 minutes more, until sprouts are tender and lightly browned.

5. Toss cooked sprouts with bacon crumbles and parmesan cheese before serving.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 98
Protein: 5 g
Fat: 5 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 4 mg
Carbohydrates: 11 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 99 mg

Recipe Notes: This is a pretty straightforward recipe.

Source: only slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Low-iodine adjustment: skip the bacon and cheese. Add ¼ teaspoon of salt to sprouts before roasting. Toss with just a touch more olive oil before serving.

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