Cheese Squares

Do you have recipes that you make only at certain times of the year? Recipes that would be good at anytime of the year, but is only ever made around a certain time.  Our family has LOTS!  This one in particular, for some reason, is ONLY and I stress the only ever made for the Christmas Season.  I am talking about Cheese Squares!  Throw your diet out the window when your eating these little delights, but let me tell you, they are totally worth every delicious calorie!  I really don’t know why our family only makes them at Christmas.  There is nothing about a Cheese Square that says ‘Christmas’.  They are not red and green.  They don’t have the scent of pine or cinnamon.  Maybe, it’s because they are just that bad for you that your body only needs them once a year?  Who knows…

Usually around this time of year, early November, Mom starts preparing for the Holidays, getting some ‘pickies’ prepared for Christmas company.  This time of year there will always be several different homemade delights in the freezer just waiting for company to share them with!  These Cheese Squares have been a part of our Christmas for as long as I can remember.  They are very easy, only 3 ingredients, perhaps a little time-consuming and fiddley, but worth every second.  Today Mom and I whipped together 3 batches to have on hand, only took us a couple of hours.  I have no idea where this recipe came from.  It is a hand written one that has been in Mom’s recipe book for years!

Cheese Squares

1 lb Butter, room temperature
1 450 gr pkg Velveeta Cheese, room temperature
2 loaves thin Sandwich bread, must be the square sandwich bread

Directions:

1. Make sure you buy the right bread!  A normal loaf of bread will not work as well. You need the ‘thin Sandwich bread’ the square one

2. In stacks of 3, cut crusts off of the bread and set aside

3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl with a hand-held beater, combine the butter and cheese. Mix on low to combine.  Raise speed to high and mix until light and fluffy, approx 2 mins

4. To assemble  – spread an even layer of cheese mixture between each layer of bread and on the top

5. Pick up the triple decker and spread an even layer around the sides

6. Once all sides (except the bottom) are covered, slice in three

Looks good doesn’t it? But we are not done yet!

7. Spread another even layer on all remaining sides (except bottom)

8. Place on a lined cookie sheet, single layer, not touching.  Cover and freeze over night

9. The next day ( or several hours later when they have frozen through) remove from tray and place in freezer bags

10.  These must be cooked from frozen, if not the cheese will all melt off.

11. Preheat oven 350 F

12. Place on lined cookie sheet and baked until the edges are golden

Delicious!  These are always a crowd pleaser.  Despite the ingredients, these are a very ‘light and airy’ appetizer.  The outside crisps up a little and the inside is soft and tender with melted buttery cheese.  It is like a gourmet finger sandwich grilled cheese.  It is very difficult to stop at just one!

Most prefer to eat them as they are and enjoy the mild cheesy goodness, but some like to dip in ketchup.  They also are quite nice for lunch with a nice bowl of home-made tomato soup.  I would definitely recommend giving these are try

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Spanakopita/Tiropita

This summer friends of Mom and Dad’s moved onto our road, great people and they make wonderful food!  We have been very fortunate to receive a few wonderful Greek dishes over the past few months.  I have had a lot of tzatziki in my day but theirs, by far, is the best ever! I have no idea how they make it, nor do I want to know, because it would never be the same if I were to try to make it.  It is simply amazing!  Another wonderful delight they make is spanakopita, delicious!  Mom had helped them make a batch one day, so today we thought we would try a batch ourselves!

I kept saying we were making spanakopita, I had always thought that was what they were, but Mom corrected me, what we made was more of a tiropita.  Tiropita is made with layers of buttered phyllo and filled with a cheese-egg mixture where as spanakopita is layers of buttered phyllo with a spinach, onions and a cheese-egg mixture.  Ours was somewhere in-between, mostly cheese with a little spinach, perhaps a ‘Spanatiropita’?

“Spanattiropita”

Let me start by apologizing, there are no measurements.  Mom just ‘adds’ until it is right. So I will guess how much we used, approximate…

Phyllo pastry 2 packages
Spinach (1/2 package of frozen) drained and squeezed dry
Feta cheese (2 cups)
Ricotta cheese (1 cup)
Parmesan cheese (2 cups)
Greek seasoning (1 tsp)
4 eggs
Butter (half pound)
Directions:

1. In a large bowl add eggs and ricotta

2. Add  feta and parmesan, stir

3. Add spinach

4. Add seasoning and combine well

5. At this point you need to prepare your phyllo.  Phyllo is very fussy, you will need to follow the boxes directions on thawing, usually in the fridge overnight.  Keep phyllo covered with a damp cloth so it does not dry. Prepare your work area.  Melt the butter, get a pastry brush, a sharp knife or pizza cutter large working area and a large sheet pan covered in plastic wrap.

6.  Get 2 sheets of phyllo, brush each sheet lightly with butter

7. Cut in half and then in thirds, ending up with 6 strips

8. Place approximately 1 tbsp of mixture at the end of each strip

9. Next you form the triangle, looks tricky, buts it’s not.  Fold over one corner to the opposite side of strip

10. Now fold up

11.  Continue folding on the triangle until you reach the end, may need to tuck in ends.

12. Brush with butter

13. Place on a lined sheet, can be layered with parchment between

14. At this point you can cover and freeze overnight, then place in freezer bags for storage.  Or bake.

15. Pre heat oven 375.  Place on baking sheet.  Bake approx 10 mins on each side or until golden brown

Absolutely delicious!  The phyllo was tender and flaky.  The filling was warm and creamy, the cheese was tangy with hits of spinach. These are nothing like the store-bought or restaurant ones.  Dad said ‘Two thumbs up”.  These are a new favourite. YUM!

Daring Bakers Are Crazy For Crackers!

I’m Baaaack!!!  It seems like forever since I have posted a Daring Bakers Challenge, I missed 2 months!!  That is unheard of for me.  I knew I had lots of spare time this month, as I am on Summer Holidays (WOO HOO!!), so I was very eager to see what the challenge was this month.

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

For a moment I had another “really??” moment, “Crackers? Why not a sweet, delicious, rich, decadent dessert?”  Then I calmed down and dove right in.   I was quite excited, I had never thought of making my own crackers.  I love crackers!! If you have a good cracker, you don’t even need to put anything on it.  Don’t get me wrong, most of the time crackers are strictly ‘ladles’ for a delicious cheese spread or topping of some sort.  We all have our favourites that go with certain crackers.  A mild cracker goes with many cheese dips and spreads so you can fully enjoy the topping.  This is nothing better than a crisp fresh cracker with a thick slice of extra old cheddar cheese, (taste buds are going crazy just thinking about it!)

For this challenge we had free reign, our only requirement was that we had to make 2 different types of crackers, prepared two different ways.  They could be rolled, sliced, cut, pasta rolled, etc.  After much searching I decided to go with a sliced and a hand rolled variety.

Parmesan Rosemary Crackers
makes 20 crackers, adapted from Food and Paper

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus 20 full leaves for decoration
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup (2 1/2 ounces) finely grated Parmesan cheese
5 tablespoons sour cream
1 egg white, lightly beaten

1.Pulse flour, salt, pepper, and rosemary in the bowl of a food processor to combine.

2. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal.

3. Add cheese and pulse to combine

4. .Add 1 tablespoon of sour cream at a time, pulsing after each addition, until a well-combined dough comes together.

5. Transfer dough to a work surface and shape into a 2-inch-diameter-wide log. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.


6.  The next day. Heat oven to 325 degrees F.

7. Slice logs into 1/4-inch slices and place them on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet.

8.  Bake immediately, rotating sheet once, until crackers are golden brown, 25-35 minutes.

9. Transfer to a rack to cool.

10. Crackers can be made a day ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

These crackers were ok.  They were not quite what I was expecting.  I thought they would have been a lot crisper, like a cracker.  They were a little soft in the middles, more like a savory shortbread.  Maybe I could have cooked them a little longer or sliced them thinner, not sure if the results would have been different.  The flavour was ok, perhaps a little over powering. Probably will not make these ones again.

Cheese Nips

Adapted from Happy Simple Living

Right off the bat I am going to recommend these, they were amazing!!!  Make them!!

8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (or substitute 1 tablespoon unsalted butter)

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup flour

2 tablespoons ice water

1. Combine the cheese, butter, shortening and salt in a food processor or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

I knew this recipe had to be good, 8 oz of sharp cheddar cheese! Had to stop my self from eating it.  Actually had to grate a little more, as the 8 oz keep dipping into the 7s.

2. Add the flour and pulse or mix on low-speed until the mixture is combined.

3. Add the ice water slowly with the mixer or food processor running. The dough will just start to come together, and should look something like this:

You may need to add a few more drops of water, but go slowly so you don’t overdo it

4.  Gather up the dough and pat it into three disc shapes. Don’t knead it or mess with it too much. Wrap the discs tightly in waxed paper or parchment and refrigerate for at least an hour, or until you’re ready to bake the crackers. The dough can be refrigerated like this for up to 5 days.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

6. Let the dough sit out at room temperature for about 20 minutes, and cut a piece of parchment paper to fit your favorite baking sheet.

7. Gently begin to roll the dough out directly on the parchment paper. At first it may seem a little unyielding…but just take your time and press the cracks back together as you go. ( I found it helpful to dust the parchment and rolling pin with a little flour)

8. Keep persevering, and roll the dough quite thin, to a thickness of about 1/8 inch.

9. Cut the crackers into 1 inch squares. I used my fondant cutter, worked perfectly!

10. Poke a hole in the center of each cracker with a skewer. Along with being decorative, the hole allows the steam to escape which helps your crackers bake up nice and crisp.

11. Use a sharp spatula to separate the crackers gently on the parchment paper and transfer the whole paper. I found it much easier to dip the spatula in flour, kept the nice square shape, no sticking.  Keep the scrap edges, they were quite tasty as well!

12. Bake the crackers for about 12 to 13 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges. (Depending on how your oven cooks, your baking time may be more or less so watch the first batch carefully.)

Even the scraps!

13. Cool the whole sheet on a wire baking rack and repeat with the remaining dough. You can serve the crackers warm, or cool them completely and store them in a container with a tight fitting lid.  This recipe makes about 8 dozen crackers.

The verdict? These were delicious!!!  They were crispy and the shape cheddar really came through.  I would have to say they are better than the boxed variety you can buy.  Highly addictive, had to put them away so I would not eat them all in one sitting.  Also, nice with a dip, but I prefer to enjoy the wonderful ‘cheesiness’ on its own.  I will be making these many more times!

Thank you Dana, for such a wonderful challenge!!!  I would have never thought I could have made something better than a boxed cracker 🙂

Cheddar Shortbread Bites

I was having one of those days where I wanted to bake something, but lord knows I don’t need anything!  Sometimes I just get in the mood to bake, it seems to calm me, I find it very relaxing.  After mulling around a few ideas I asked Mom if she wanted me to make her something, muffins, scones whatever.  Initially she said no, but a few minutes later presented me with a recipe for a cheese shortbread.  That peaked my interest.  After looking at the very short list of ingredients we discovered that between the 2 of us we only had half of the recipe, so I used the cheese and spices I had, which are listed below.

Cheddar Shortbread Bites

1/2 cup butter softened

1 tsp sugar

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 cup flour

1 tsp  parsley

1/2 tsp paprika

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 F and cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper

2. Beat butter and sugar until well blended

3. Add cheese, mix well

4. In a separate bowl, mix flour and spices, add to cheese mixture, stir until well combine (I found I had to use my hands to mix it well)

5. Divide dough in half and roll, on a lightly floured surface, each half into a 9 inch log

6. Slice approx.  half-inch

7. Place on prepared cookie sheet

8. Bake until golden brown, mine took well over 30 minutes

9. cool on rack

These were very good!  Everyone liked them, I could see them being addicting, luckily they were shipped down to Mom’s. They were crispy, but almost tender in the middle.  The sharp cheese really gave it a punch.  I will definitely make these again and try a few different cheeses with different seasonings.  And perhaps get the ingredients to make the original recipe!

 

Creamy Strawberry Crepes

I made some more crepes this morning for breakfast.  Instead of just with fruit filling I thought I would be a little more daring and make them with the sweet cheese that most crepes have.  They were very easy and a huge success.

Sweet Cheese Filling

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese,
softened
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
Directions

1. Blend the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth.

Gently fold in the whipped cream.

3.  I then piped the sweet cheese onto the crepes (see recipe in previous post)

4. Roll and top with your favourite fruit topping, I made strawberry, and dust with icing sugar

Cheese Manicotti

For a while now Mike has been asking me to make him Cheese Manicotti that I made quite a while ago, I keep saying I’m going to but never do.  Well, today was the day.

Cheese Manicotti

2 Eggs — beaten

2 cups Shredded mozzarella cheese

1 1/2 cups Ricotta cheese

1/2 cup Grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup Snipped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon Dried oregano — crushed

1 dash Pepper

As many lasagna noodles as needed, I used 10 1/2

Directions

in a medium mixing bowl stir together eggs, half the mozarella cheese, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsley, the 1/2 teaspoon oregano, and dash pepper.

Spoon onto pasta and roll

Pour half the tomato mixture into a 2-quart rectangular baking dish.

Arrange stuffed manicotti in the baking dish.

Pour remaining sauce over rollss. Sprinkle remaining mozarella cheese atop.

If desired, cover and chill manicotti for up to 24 hours.

Bake the stuffed manicotti, covered, in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until heated through

They were pretty good.  Normally I would make my own sauce as well but, quite honestly, I just didn’t feel like it today.

I used lasagna pasta because I like to use whole wheat pasta and they don’t sell whole wheat shells or tubes here.

Homemade Mac n’ Cheese

Is there anything better than Cheese?  To me it just seems to make the world a better place.  As I am sure you assumed, Cheese is one of my downfalls and my comfort food.  Once in a blue moon I will make this homemade Mac n’ Cheese recipe, it is ooey and gooey and just to die for! It is especially nice on a really cold winter day.  But really I eat it any time!

This recipe is adapted from a  Milk Calendar years and years ago.

Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese

ingredients

1/2 lb. elbow macaroni (approx. 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups milk
3 cups FRESHLY grated Cheddar Cheese (the older the better)
2 Tbsp. butter
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. dry mustard powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
Pinch nutmeg (optional)( I don’t use it)
Dash each Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco Sauce (optional)(I don’t use it)

Method

Cook macaroni in a large pot of boiling , salted water according to package directions.

Meanwhile, combine milk, cheese, eggs, flour, mustard, butter and pepper

When macaroni is cooked, drain well.

Return macaroni to the pot and place on medium.

Add the cheese sauce mixture.

Cook gently, stirring constantly, until mixture is creamy , smooth and thick – about 3 to 5 minutes.

Serve immediately. **** this is where I really stray away from the recipe!

Pour the Mac n’ Cheese in a 9×13 inch pan, cover the top with crumbled plain chips or cheese crackers (any of your favourites will do)

Bake at 350 until macaroni is set.

Remove from oven and let rest a few minutes.

Enjoy!