that's forking good

adventures in a culinary neophyte's kitchen

Posts Tagged ‘cheddar cheese’

anti-resolution soup

Posted by culinaryneophyte on January 3, 2012

The first (and last) time I made soup was more abhorrent than the first 10 minutes of the 6 o’clock news — so traumatizing I avoided making or eating any liquescent meals for more than a year. Last week, I decided to grow a set and give it another try. Fortunately for me [and my clean kitchen], this bacon cheeseburger soup did not require a creaming capacity or any appliances other than my own stove top. (I should mention, though, that I got an immersion blender for Christmas, so I may try my hand at some more skillful soups throughout the wintry months.)

I’m a fan of hearty soups chock full of veggies, but sometimes you’ve got to cook for the masses, and the masses like meat. And bacon. And cheese. And clogged arteries. You weren’t trying to stick by that New Year’s resolution at all, right?

adapted from Cooking With Paula Deen
♦1 lb. package of bacon
♦1 lb. ground beef (I used lean, 93%)
♦2 tsp. minced garlic
♦1 tbs. onion powder
♦2 tsp. smoked paprika
♦2 tsp. McCormick’s barbecue-flavored Grill Mates spice
♦2, 14-oz. cans of low-sodium chicken broth (Swanson)
♦1 small can of cheddar cheese soup
♦2 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
♦1/2 c. shredded white cheddar cheese
♦French’s fried onion straws

Cut bacon into 1/2-inch pieces, drop into sizeable pot (Dutch oven) and heat on medium-high heat until crisp. (You don’t necessarily need to use the entire pound of bacon; I used about 10-12 slices.) Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Leave half the bacon grease in the pot. (Or all of it, if you’re feeling extra heart attack-y.) Add ground beef, garlic and spices, and cook for about eight minutes — or until meat is completely browned. Drain grease. Add chicken broth, cheese soup, Worcestershire sauce and bacon. Cover and heat on low heat for 10-15 minutes. Dish into bowls and garnish with cheddar cheese and fried onion straws.

Total time? 40 minutes. (As always, blame the bacon for the long cook time.)
Cost? $4.15 ground beef, $2.99 bacon, $2.39 fried onion straws, 59¢ cheese soup, $2 chicken broth, $2 shredded cheese.
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out of 10. Attempting another soup, my expectations were obviously tempered; you’d think that’s why the marks are so high, but this soup is just that good. I neglected the part where you could — and probably should — incorporate veggies (e.g. onions, chopped tomatoes, maybe some shredded lettuce), but again, it’s best to cater to your diners if you want acclaim. Aside from the crunchy bites of bacon and crispy fried onion straws (before they got soggy), my favorite part of this experience was it required only one pot and minimal cleanup. A great weeknight meal that reheats well for leftovers. Enjoy!


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Opening Day dip

Posted by culinaryneophyte on March 31, 2011

The wait is over. Five long, dark months have passed. It’s Opening Day. Baseball has returned.

From a few of the players’ mouths (Hunter Pence, B.J. Upton, James Shields), Opening Day has been described as reaching the top of a roller coaster, the first day of the school and, of course, Christmas. Yes. All of the above.

I usually like to tie in what’s going on outside my kitchen to what I post here, but I didn’t get a chance to make cute little baseball-themed cookies or anything of that ilk, so rather than stretch it make it work, I’m reluctantly shifting focus to today’s “food holiday” — National Tater Day — with loaded baked potato dip (from bakedbree).

I made this for a recent potluck, and while it was successful, it was a little overshadowed by all the more substantial dishes there. This is much more appropriate for a casual hangout — maybe one where you and your friends are sunk in the couch watching a handful of baseball games [via MLB Extra Innings free preview] and want to put as little effort as possible into what you’re eating?

The dip doesn’t actually contain any potatoes, so like baked bree, I would recommend using potato chips or fries as dippers to get the full baked potato effect. If you don’t have a deep fryer, go with the chips; without something strong enough to scoop, it’s a little frustrating to eat. McCain waffle fries + my new deep fryer = winning combination.

♦1/4 lb. bacon (I used about six slices of medium-cut)
16 oz. sour cream
2 c. cheddar cheese
1/3 c. chopped fresh chives (I bought a 1/4 oz. package and it sufficed)
2 tsp. hot sauce, plus little more for drizzling on top
dippers — waffle fries, potato chips, etc.

Cook bacon, and crumble when cooled. Place all ingredients (sans dippers) in bowl. Mix. Let chill in fridge for at least an hour. Check taste, and adjust with salt or hot sauce if desired. This really couldn’t be easier.

Total time? 15 minutes prep (bacon is most time-consuming part), 1 hour chill time.
Cost? $3 bacon, $1.50 sour cream, $1.74 chips, $1 chives, $1 hot sauce, $2 fries/potato chips.
Overall success relative to expect? 6 out of 10. I liked this dip, but I didn’t love it. I’m not really sure why, and I know that’s not helpful. It might be because I’m not the biggest sour cream fan. I would still recommend making it because it’s tasty, easy and seemed to be a crowd-pleaser (which may or may not have been because it came with freshly deep-fried waffle fries). Happy Opening Day, baseball fans!

time to dip!


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easy, cheesy, doable

Posted by culinaryneophyte on February 22, 2011

I ate a lot of frozen dinners when I was little; that’s just what happens when you have two older brothers who’d rather be sneaking cigarettes and macking it with the ladies than preparing meals for their precious baby sister. Aside from salivating over the thought of that nuked Kid Cuisine brownie (seriously, how awesome were Kid Cuisines?), one of the most distinct microwaveable meal memories I have is heating up a Swanson chicken pot pie and picking out the repugnant peas to make it edible.

I’ve since said goodbye to my old friend Swanson, but moving on from microwaved meals doesn’t mean you can’t take shortcuts, and that’s why I love this cheesy chicken pot pie from Kitchen Simplicity. 

(I might also mention that I couldn’t make or talk about this dish without thinking of this — a little shout to “Preston and Steve,” for those who live in the Philadelphia market.)

I employed a bag of Pictsweet Steam’ables for the filling (okay, so I guess I’m not totally rid of that microwaving habit); I used the peppercorn-seasoned variety, which includes asparagus, carrots, celery, onion, zucchini and squash — and no peas! The topping is comprised of Bisquick. I know this may seem obvious, but make sure you use the boxed baking mix variety, and not the buttermilk pancake easy-shake bottle. Don’t ask me how I neglected to read the label before purchasing the latter; thankfully, I realized my error before it was irreparable, and made a mid-cooking trip to the grocery store, but I am embarrassed nonetheless. Pancake pot pie? Bleck.

notice the difference, please.

♦2 c. cooked chicken, shredded
2 c. mixed vegetables of your choosing

Place chicken and veggies in a glass baking sheet.

2 tbl. butter
2 tbl. flour
1 c. chicken broth
salt and pepper
1 c. shredded cheese

Melt butter over medium heat, add flour and cook for one minute. Slowly add chicken broth, whisking constantly to remove lumps. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste and stir in cheese until melted. Pour sauce over chicken and vegetables, and mix well.

1 c. Bisquick mix
1/2 c. shredded cheddar
1/3 c. milk

Stir ingredients together with a fork until moistened. Spread thinly over contents of baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees, or until top is golden.

Total time? 35 minutes prep (includes trip to store), 25 minutes bake.
Cost? $3 box Bisquick ($2 wasted on pancake mix bottle), $2 frozen veggies,$1.74 cheese, $1 chicken broth.
Overall success relative to expectations? 8 out of 10. A+ shortcuts on this one, too. When I finished eating my single serving, I put out an APB to my friends that I had leftover chicken pot pie available for pickup, and 30 minutes later, I was nearly cleaned out. Next time, I’ll try to make the filling a little thicker (more cheese? flour?), but overall, this was great for a cold day, visitors and a little bit of leftovers.

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horsing around

Posted by culinaryneophyte on February 8, 2011

I love Panera, but when I think about how much money I’ve spent there over the years, it makes me wince a little. Is it me, or does everything there seem to cost about twice as much as it should? Keeping that in mind, I decided to create my own affordable, café-like sandwich that tastes just as good: horseradish and apple panini.

♦1 hard sandwich roll or loaf of bread
1 Golden Delicious apple
3 slices of horseradish cheddar cheese
1 tbl. spicy mustard

A beautiful Wegmans loaf was donated to my cause (thanks, Beck!), so I started off with a quality Italian bread base, but any hard roll or bread will do. I’m a big fan of cheese and apples together, so I picked up a Golden Delicious to act as the “meat” of my sandwich; this also had me inadvertently throwing Matt Damon’s quotable quip, “Do you like apples?” in my roommate’s direction.

To spice up the sandwich, I tried out Dietz & Watson’s horseradish cheddar cheese. Best. Decision. Ever. (Thank God I only got a quarter-pound or I would have eaten myself sick.) To top it all off, I added a little bit of spicy mustard. I then basted the tiniest bit of butter on the outsides (use your discretion), fired up my Foreman Grill and melted that bad boy into a panini on par with Panera’s finest.

Total time? 7 minutes.
Cost? $2 for quarter-pound of horseradish cheddar, 50¢ apple, $2 bread (sorry, mine was free!)
Overall success relative to expectations? 9 out of 10. The cheese was melty, the bread was crispy and the flavors melded wonderfully. More importantly, I spent less on three sandwiches than I would have on one at Panera. Only drawback? No broccoli cheddar soup!

❤ = a loving loaf of bread


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2010 bites

Posted by culinaryneophyte on December 31, 2010

I’m not going to waste your time Auld Lang Syne and all that jazz. If you’re going to a New Year’s party tonight, and need a little snack for the guests, you’ve come to the right place: buffalo chicken bites.

There’s ne’er a party in my circle of friends that doesn’t offer buffalo chicken dip as part of the spread, and while I’m grateful we’ve embraced such a delicious dip, I’m always looking to switch it up. These bite-sized beauties are crispy and spicy, take no more than 40 minutes total and should cost you only about $10 to accommodate a decent amount of people. (And, as part of that unspoken who-brought-the-best-dish-to-the-party competition, you’ll definitely take first place.)

♦3 c. shredded cooked chicken
1/2 c. hot sauce
3-1/2 oz. cream cheese, softened
1-3/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c. sliced green onions
1 c. flour
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 – 4 c. corn flakes cereal, crushed

Combine chicken, cream cheese and hot sauce, then mix in green onions and cheese. Make 1-inch balls out of mixture, and set aside. In three separate bowls, place flour, egg and corn flakes. Dip each ball into each bowl (in that order), and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Check on them periodically to make sure they don’t semi-explode.

Total time? 20 minutes prep, 20 minutes bake. (Note: I foolishly didn’t realize until halfway through that I could and should roll these more than one a time, so my prep time could have been a little shorter. Doh!)
Cost? $2.50 corn flakes (you won’t use even close to the entire box), $4 chicken, $1.99 shredded cheese, $1 green onions, 79¢ Texas Pete Hot Sauce, $1 cream cheese.
Overall success relative to expectations? 9 out of 10. I initially made these to use up some leftover chicken I had, and didn’t really expect much, but I’ve dubbed them the ultimate party snack. You’ll see in the photos that my balls were pretty big (let’s hear it, comedians), so if you’re cooking for a crowd, tone ’em down a bit and you’ll get more for your money. This dish lost points only because I ran out of hot sauce, and had to improvise with the Tiger Sauce (see maki mockery for more on Tiger Sauce), which didn’t have nearly the kick I needed, but that’s easily remedied. Yields about 45 bites.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Posted by culinaryneophyte on October 2, 2010

Lessons learned from this adventure:

  1. Cooking bacon is terrifying.
  2. Crescent roll containers are not foolproof.
  3. Dollar store clear wrap costs a dollar for a reason.

My friends, Scott and Christina, recently hosted a potluck dinner in Scott’s newly refurbished backyard. Feeling ambitious, I volunteered to make two dishes — one savory and one sweet. This post focuses on the former: mini BLT crescent sandwiches.

(Note: I’m not even sure which acronym to go with here — hence this entry’s title — as the finished product was devoid of lettuce, but replete with cheese and onion. Also, some of the sandwiches were sans tomato, at certain party-goers’ requests. Quite the conundrum.)

As with most of my adventures, this undertaking was motivated entirely by the weekly supermarket circulars. (My friends harass me for the joy flipping through the sales brings me.) A few weeks ago, I capitalized on a Pillsbury deal (3/$5), and hit the Pillsbury website, which has thousands of creative recipes centered around their products. I settled on this one because it looked fairly easy, but utilized the crescent dough in a different way.

First of all: Why did no one tell me that frying bacon is the single most dangerous thing you can do in your kitchen? Up until this point, I had cooked only the minimally unctuous and completely harmless turkey bacon. But this ‘normal’ bacon? Not so much. Sizzling, crackling, burning grease flying everywhere. I was utterly terrified with each strip I flipped.

pre-puncture wounds

In another shining moment of culinary acumen, I failed to follow the easy-to-open crescent roll directions, i.e. “expose line to open can.” Somehow, I pulled off the entire wrapper — exposing the line — and nothing happened. Ignoring the “contents under pressure” warning, I began stabbing the container with a fork, which brought the dough oozing out of the puncture wounds. Thankfully, my roommate came to the rescue.

Also important to note: There are certain things you can get away with buying from a dollar store, but plastic wrap is not one of them. Serving trays? Sure, but clear wrap? Steer clear. I literally needed Scotch tape to make this stuff work.

♦1 can Pillsbury crescent rolls
♦1/2 c. Monterrey-Jack shredded cheese
♦8 slices of crispy bacon
♦2 tbl. chopped green onions
♦1/3 c. mayonnaise
♦1/2 c. shredded lettuce
♦8 cherry tomatoes, sliced thin

Unroll crescent dough, and press into 12-by-8-inch rectangle. Cut into 24 squares. Bake according to package (8-10 minutes at 375 degrees).

In the meantime, mix together cheese, onions, mayo and crumbled bacon in a bowl. When dough is baked and cooled, place a little bit of lettuce (or if you’re doing what I did, don’t) on 12 “slices,” followed by a small helping of the bacon-etc. mix. Top with two thin slices of tomato (or don’t), then add a second bread rectangle (or, if you burned two like I did and/or prefer these open-face style, don’t).

sandwiches and pinwheels

These are great little hors d’œuvrs, and the mix has unexpectedly great flavor for something so simple. Because this recipe yields 12 sandwiches, I doubled it to have enough for the potluck, but I switched it up a bit to offer the guests a few iterations of my dish — hence the pinwheel BOCs, at left. (Break the dough into the traditional crescent strips, add a dollop of the bacon-etc. mix at the end and roll. They came out much better than I expected, and flew off the tray faster than the standard sandwiches.)

Total time? 55-ish minutes (includes dangerous bacon frying)
Cost? Wait for the Pillsbury sale so you don’t pay more than $2/tube. Green onions for $1, bacon for $2.50, cheese for $2, cherry tomato sack for $2.50, mayo from the fridge.
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out of 10. I started feeling leery about this in the 11th hour of preparation, but these exceeded my expectations based on flavor and versatility. I would definitely make them again.

And the potluck? Great success. My friend Jay (at My Nose Knows) had his own wok station, we toasted s’mores over Scott’s fire pit and everyone left full and happy.

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