By Cris Carl, Networx
There is something special about cheese. Perhaps it’s the “mouth-feel” or the seemingly endless forms and flavors that make the dairy product a delight to so many. Even if you are vegan or lactose intolerant, there are still products that approximate or duplicate cheese. Whether melting, shredding, cubing, or serving whole, cheese is easily one of the most versatile foods. Whether you are having a party, or just want to make something fun for your family to eat, here are a few ideas for creative ways to use cheese. There are also a few creative uses for cheese that don’t involve eating – at least not right away.
Parmesan cheese chips: I’ve made this myself several times. Parmesan cheese chips are easy to make and can be flavored with herbs, spices, bits of fruit or vegetables etc. Or they are delicious with nothing added. I used freshly grated Parmesan. Just make 2-inch round piles (about a heaping tablespoon) of the cheese, or cheese mixture if you’ve added anything, on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Depending on what you may have added to the cheese, it will take about ten plus minutes to bake at 350 degrees. Remove from oven, let cool, and voila! Cheese chips.
Mac & cheese waffles: Experiment with breading cold cubes of mac & cheese with egg, flour, and bread crumbs until you get a good stiff mix. Place about a cup or so onto a hot waffle iron and cook until gooey inside and crisp outside.
Cheese straws: They are another fun party food that is more interesting than your basic cheese on a plate with crackers. Here is a recipe I’ve tried: Gather 1 ½ C. grated cheddar, extra sharp is best; 1 C. all-purpose flour; ¾ stick of cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons; ½ tsp. salt; about an 1/8 tsp. of cayenne, and 1 ½ T. of milk. Everything goes into a food processor, and mix until you have a cheese ball that can be rolled out. Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into strips. Place strips about ¼ inch apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake until lightly golden at 350 degree for 15 to 18 minutes.
Fried cheese balls: Dip cubes of cheese in egg and seasoned bread crumbs and fry in hot oil.
Cheese curds: I saw a piece on the Food Channel about these yummy cheddar bites that are popular in Wisconsin with everyone from Milwaukee electricians to plumbers to university students — just about everyone in Wisconsin loves cheese curds. I had to try them. They are hard to describe, as the texture is unusual (“squeaky”) – but good. Apparently you can also deep-fry them too.
Mixing soft cheeses with nuts, jellies, fruits, veggies, smoke, herbs, or spices: Here is a party snack recipe that I devised recently. Roll out crescent roll dough; smear it with hot pepper jelly; then layer on Monterey Jack cheese. I roll the whole thing up, place in the refrigerator for at least a half-hour, then remove and quickly slice rounds onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes.
Next: more innovative things to do with cheese… that don’t involve eating it!