Tag Archives: Cheese

Dairy Month: Grilled Pizza

Did you know that June is Dairy Month?  Although my family’s calf ranch is not a dairy farm, our calf ranch is interwoven with the dairy industry quite firmly.  We raise the calves for dairymen.  Think of us as glorified babysitters.  But that’s another story.  So not only is my occupation somewhat involved with the dairy industry, I also happen to be a dairy product enthusiast.  Based on that information, you could probably assume that I am pretty excited that it is dairy month right now…to which I will respond, “That’s a safe assumption, friends.”

As with beef month, I’ll be blogging about some fun dairy facts as well as recipes that involve dairy products.  I’m excited to share this first dinner idea with you as it was a total experiment, but it turned out quite tasty!

Lately I’ve been seeing this trend of grilling pizza.  When I first came across the concept, I thought it was a bit strange.  Growing up we had only ever baked pizza in the oven or received it from the pizza place!  The more that grilled pizza kept coming across cookbooks and recipes websites though, the more I started to think, “That’s actually kind of a cool idea.”  So I went on a bit of a whim and registered for some mini pizza stones from Sur La Table.  These pizza stones are safe for the grill and we just happened to receive them from one of Phil’s family friends at our shower this last weekend.  I could hardly contain my excitement to try to grill a pizza, so we pulled those pizza stones out of the box and tried our hand at all that is grilled pizza.  If you’re wondering about pizza stones, these are the ones we used: Pizza Stones

Phil tossing one of the pizzas. He has Italian running through his blood, you know…

The beauty of pizza is that you can make it however you want.  You can use white dough or wheat dough.  Put whatever sauce your heart desires and pile on as many, or as few toppings as you’d like.  It’s fantastic.  For our pizza we used the following ingredients:

  • White pre-made dough bought at the local supermarket
  • Marinara sauce
  • Pepperoni
  • Basil
  • Mushrooms
  • Fresh chopped pineapple (as per Phil’s request)
  • Cheese (LOTS of cheese) – Italian 6 Cheese Blend and Mozzarella

 

Now, we came up with the grilled pizza idea a bit last-minute, so I didn’t have time to make my own dough.  I guess you could say that I cheated.  I’m at peace with that fact though.

We also heard rumors that the less toppings on grilled pizza, the better.  However, our toppings seemed to all get cooked just fine on the grill, so I’m not sure whether I should believe those rumors or not!

How you grill the pizza is pretty simple.  Ready?

  1. Roll out the dough.  This is probably the most complicated part.  I have a new appreciation for people who can toss/roll out perfectly round pizzas!  Make sure you have some flour on hand to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the pan.
  2. Flour the pizza stones on the grill, then place the pizza on the stones.  Cook it for about 5 minutes, or until the side on the stones is a light golden/brown.  The time you grill it for depends on how thick your pizza is.  Our first pizza was thicker, so it took about 10 minutes to grill.  Our second pizza was thinner, so it took closer to 5 minutes.
  3. Once the first side is cooked, remove from the grill & flip over so that the uncooked side is facing down.
  4. Place your sauce & toppings on the grilled side of the pizza. Do not drown your crust with sauce as the crust will become soggy.
  5. Place the pizza back on the grill and cook for another 5-10 minutes.  Again, the length of time on the grill depends on the thickness of your crust.
  6. Once your cheese is nice & melted, remove from the grill.  Cut into slices & serve.

As you’re enjoying your delicious pizza & thinking about how sad your pizza would be without all of that delicious cheese, remember that dairy farmers & their families across the country are working hard to produce the milk for that delicious cheese.  Thank a cow.  Thank a farmer. 

Happy Dairy Month, Y’all!

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Beef Month: Baked Spaghetti Dish

I’m excited to share with you one of my favorite go-to recipes as a part of beef month.  I got this recipe from a friend who got it from a friend who got it from a friend who got it from her mom…did you get that?  Oh well, it doesn’t matter.  Just know that it’s been passed on to a lot of different people as it quickly becomes a favorite when people try it.  Which usually is a good indication that it’s good!

Today we’re talking about Baked Spaghetti.  Now, I’m not a big fan of regular spaghetti, but somehow, once the spaghetti is baked, it becomes more than okay.  Here’s your list of ingredients:

You’ll need some shredded cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, spaghetti sauce, ground beef and spaghetti noodles.

Now, before you turn up your nose at the mention of “cottage cheese” being put in your spaghetti, just keep your nose on level ground with me for a minute.  I scoffed at the notion of cottage cheese in my spaghetti, but my doubts were quickly silenced once I put the first forkful in my mouth!  Give the cottage cheese a chance, will ya?

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Boil the spaghetti noodles exactly how you would if you were making a regular ol’ pot of spaghetti.  Boil the noodles in hot water until cooked…you know the drill.

At the same time, you’ll want to brown some ground beef in a pan until thoroughly cooked through.  Once the meat has been browned, combine it in a mixing bowl with spaghetti sauce, cottage cheese and sour cream.

I tried to make a pattern, pre-combining of the ingredients. Cool, huh?

Once mixed together, spread the meat layer in a 9×13 pan.

Once the meat layer has been put down, strain your spaghetti noodles and spread the noodles on top of the meat layer.  You’ll top the noodle layer with a plethora of shredded cheese.  Don’t skimp on the cheese!

See the three layers?  Meat, noodles, cheese.  Once you see those three layers, cover the entire dish with tin foil.  And put in the oven for approximately 1 hour.  When my mom makes this dish, she only keeps it in for about 30 minutes.  I’m not sure if it really makes a difference, but my original recipe says “Bake for 1 hour.”  So I bake for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and enjoy!  I love to serve it with garlic bread & a Caesar salad.  I’m so Italian.  Clearly.

Baked Spaghetti Recipe

  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 8 oz cottage cheese
  • 1 jar Ragu spaghetti sauce
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 8 oz spaghetti noodles
  • lots of cheese (I say lots because I “measure” by however much cheese it takes to solidly cover the entire dish)

30 Days on Cheese: Baked Ziti Dish

Baked Ziti...er...Mezze Penne

Well, I’d be lying if I told you it was easy to get out of bed this morning for my 5:15 am workout.  It was so much cozier in my bed than outside of its warm covers.  I did it though.  I got out of bed, put on my workout clothes & turned on my “Jillian Michaels: 30 Day Shred” workout DVD.  I tend to gravitate toward that workout more because I have done that DVD for quite a while.  For me personally, half of the battle with tough workouts is the mental battle.  When I do a workout DVD that I’ve never done before, I think it’s so much more difficult because I don’t know what to expect.  Which is why I love “30 Day Shred.”  I’ve done that workout so many times that I can quote almost every word that Jillian Michaels says in those 20 minutes of shredding.  The moves are still difficult, but my mental battle is won because I know exactly what will the workout entails.

Last night, with the help of my mom, I made the Baked Ziti recipe.  We used Mezze Penne as the pasta instead of Ziti because oddly enough, my local supermarket does not carry Ziti noodles.  It was an incredibly easy recipe to make, requiring only about 20 minutes of prep time and then 20 minutes of bake time.  I do need to warn you, if you were planning on trying that recipe, maybe you should invite company over on the night you cook it.  There were 5 of us eating the dish and we had over half of the pan left.  It makes a GINORMOUS pan of pasta.  We figured that it could at least feed 10 people.  Or, if you’re like my family, just eat the leftovers for a few days.  Thankfully, everyone requested leftovers for their lunches today (that’s when you know it’s a good recipe!).

There was plenty of cheese involved in that dish.  But remember, I can’t say this enough…it’s all about moderation.  I ate my meal quickly last night, so I was feeling like I could eat a second plate of food, but instead, I decided to wait a few minutes.  And wait, I did.  After a few minutes, my food had a chance to settle a bit better and I realized that I really wasn’t hungry anymore.  Moments of self-control are never bad to have.  🙂

Pardon the plastic plate...Mezze Penne & Caesar Salad

What’s on your dinner menu for tonight?  I’d love to hear about it!

Secrets to Eating Cheese & Being Thin

I’d say I’m a pretty regular girl.  I don’t diet.  I don’t count calories.  Every time a New Year comes around, I find myself making a resolution to drink more water and less soda (pop, whatever you want to call it).  I like butter.  I like salt and I like sugar.  For the most part, I eat whatever my heart desires.  I’ve never been overweight, but I have had moments where I find my jeans not buttoning with as much ease as I’d like them to.

Fortunately, I have grown up in a place where I have been surrounded by a community of people whom are most commonly referred to as, “farmers.”  I don’t know all of the specifics of the agriculture world, but I know enough to know where my food comes from & to know that the farmers behind my food and clothes work really hard to feed & clothe me and you.  So naturally, you can imagine my frustrations when I continue to see report after report and advertisement after advertisement try to attack my friends and their families for producing food for their country.  The problem isn’t the food and product that is being produced, but rather the habits of the people consuming the food.

I’ve grown up eating food from both organic and conventional farmers.  I’ve tasted both raw milk and pasteurized milk.  I’ve eaten cheese, butter, huge steaks, chicken, fish, vegetables, fruits, pasta & gluten.  Milk used to be the only beverage that I would drink.  I’ve always been in the “suggested” weight range for my age and height and I’ve been healthy (unless you count the time when I was 3 months old, had the real measles and almost died).  So, here’s my secret: I eat in moderation.  And I try my best to stay active. 

Moderation is huge.  As is, cooking home cooked meals.  People say that cooking things like beef or chicken is more expensive than eating out.  Have you eaten at McDonald’s lately?  (I eat at McDonald’s sometimes-I like their chicken nuggets.  I blame my mom from my childhood days.  Love you, Mom!)  It’s pretty expensive for “fast food.”  So don’t tell me it’s more expensive.  Maybe by a little bit, but the biggest thing that fast food chains have going for them isn’t necessarily cost, but rather it’s ease.  We live crazy lives here in America & when we’re tired from working 8 hours a day and have to go home to a hungry family, it is much easier to go through the drive thru.  I know.  Been there, done that!

In fact, there was 1 month in particular where I started a new job.  I had an hour commute to work, and an hour commute back.  I was gone from 6:30 am until 5:15 pm.  I was exhausted and the last thing I wanted to do was cook a meal and then have to do the dishes.  Want to hear something disgusting?  I gained 15 pounds in 30 days.  It was awful.  I felt gross & tired all of the time.

To combat this problem, I began working out for just 20 minutes a day and eating at home.  I ate little snacks throughout the day instead of three huge meals & I dropped back to my normal weight in 3 weeks.  It wasn’t easy.  I had to wake up earlier to fit in workouts.  I had to do dishes after I cooked.  But my energy came back to me & I felt so much better.  Not only that, but I fit in my jeans again!!  Because that’s what really matters, right?!

I still ate chocolate chip cookies & cooked with butter.  I ate cheese & drank milk, but I did everything in moderation.  Don’t stuff yourself.  Don’t eat until you’re so full that you feel sick.  Here’s another trick of mine: eat slower.  That’s easy for me because I’m a naturally slow eater (ask any of my friends who have had to wait for me to finish my food).  Eating slower allows your body to process the fact that it is full before you are able to get up to retrieve seconds or thirds.

Now, one more time, disclaimer:  I’m by no means a nutritionist.  I don’t count calories or research nutritional values.  Maybe someday I will, but for now, I’m just a regular girl who is pretty bothered by these accusations against agriculture.  Take responsibility for your health and wellness.  It’s your body – no one else can hurt it, but you.

I’ll be providing recipes for breakfast, lunch & dinner for 5 days of the week.  The weekends mean “rest” when it comes to cooking in my house.  So that means leftovers for lunch on Saturday, cereal for breakfast, eating dinner out, etc.  And that’s okay too!  I’m not saying “nay” to one thing and “yay” to another.  It’s all about MODERATION.  Dinner out every night of the week…not okay; dinner out once or twice, okay.

Recap of some secrets:

  1.  Everything in moderation.
  2. Cook your own meals.
  3. Take time to enjoy your food & eat a bit slower.
  4. Try to avoid seconds or thirds.
  5. More snacks, less large meals.
  6. Be active!
  7. Remember that you’re responsible for your body’s health & wellness.
  8. I didn’t say this earlier, but… EAT BREAKFAST!  And no, a cup of coffee doesn’t count.

Stay tuned:  Tomorrow I’ll be talking about the items I’ll be using for my at-home workout and I’ll also be sharing Week One’s Meal Plan.

My Abs & Thighs on Cheese

I’ve been inspired.  I read an article this morning about a group called “The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine” (PCRM).  They came out with a billboard blaming cheese for obesity rates.  Cheese?  PLEASE!

Now, don’t get me wrong.  As with any type of food, if you eat too much of it, it will not be healthy and/or beneficial for your body.  I’m no nutritionist, but I do know a special keyword called moderation.  It’s about self-control.  It’s about making choices that are smart and health conscious.

I’ve chosen to blog on this because my Twitter feed is currently blowing up with people who are A) Upset that yet another group of people are trying to blame the dairy industry for obesity rates and  B) Concerned that our world continues to speed up in pace and it’s therefore difficult to eat a healthy, balanced diet.  This conversation sparked a fire in me because I see both sides of the story.  I don’t think it’s right for anyone to criticize the dairy industry for obesity in America.  I also completely agree that it’s not easy to make time to grocery shop, cook meals, sit down to eat with the whole family and exercise.

Growing up, my family was go, go, go.  We still are.  There’s 4 of us kids.  My dad is a high school principal and my mom works at the calf ranch.  All 4 of us kids played sports almost year round where we traveled out of city and out-of-state, at times.  Not to mention, we were involved in Student Government, Choir, etc.  I understand the difficulty of finding time to be healthy.  But it’s all about making priorities.  It’s a lifestyle that people must choose.  And if they choose not to lead a healthy lifestyle, so be it.  But do not blame other people for your obesity issues and health problems.  Take ownership of your own actions.

So, to prove that it is possible to be healthy and to prove that your thighs and abs do not look like the billboard that PCRM came out with on cheese, I’m going to be blogging for 30 days on this topic.  I’ll be sharing my food choices and my workout regimens.  I challenge you to join me.  I’m going to start this challenge on Monday, January 23.  I will be traveling to a conference in the middle of it, so there might be a break for a few days, but that’s okay, too.  Follow me and you’ll see that it can be done.  Happy, healthy abs and thighs on cheese.  And a happy, healthy you.

For the record, I just came up with this idea about 10 minutes ago, so I’ll be sharing more solid details on workout materials that I use and a weekly meal plan as we get closer to Monday.  I like having a game plan at all times, so I won’t leave you Type A personalities hanging without details!

For the original article on the billboards, go here: http://www.dairyherd.com/e-newsletters/dairy-daily/Billboards-blame-cheese-for-obesity-rates-137601153.html

I LOVE cheese, and my abs & thighs look NOTHING like this.

Chicken Enchiladas – My Heritage

So here’s a fun fact about me: I’m 1/2 Mexican, 1/2 Dutch.  My friends kindly dubbed me the “Dutchican” when I was in high school.  If you’re around me long enough, you’ll learn quickly that I get asked quite often, “What ethnicity are you?” or for those trying to be more discreet, “What’s your last name?”  Apparently my appearance throws people off & they can’t help but wonder what I am!  I’m perfectly fine with that though – I enjoy confusing people.  So consider yourself special that you don’t even have to ask where my ancestors came from!  That being said, I’m going to share a little piece of my heritage with you tonight.  Half of it, to be exact.  Chicken enchiladas.  If we’re being technical though, you’re getting my complete heritage because I got the recipe from a Dutch person…  Are you still following?  Ok good.

So, I decided to make these in honor of my boyfriend.  He’s in Kenya on a missions trip at present & he’s the one who introduced me to the recipe.  I think it’s the night that my crush on him began.  But that’s another story for another day.  Onward…  Now, I like these because these are very simple to make.  If we were making my Grandma Flores’ enchilada recipe…not simple.  So delicious, but not simple.  Give me simple, please.

Ingredients

  • Cream cheese
  • Tortillas (I use flour for this recipe)
  • Shredded chicken or beef
  • Cheese (lots of cheese)
  • Enchilada sauce (Green or red.  I prefer red…it’s my favorite color.)
You’ll Need
  • A 9×13 pan
  • To pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees

 

First step:  shred the chicken.  Previously, I’ve bought those pre-cooked whole chickens from the grocery store-I’m not sure if your local market offers that, but it’s pretty glorious.  Anyway, I’ve just bought those and shredded the meat off of that.  This time, I put chicken in the crock pot and sprinkled a little seasoning on top.  When I got home from work, all I had to do was shred the meat…EASY!

Carnivores, unite!

Now that your chicken is ready to be placed in a home, grab your tortillas and cream cheese.  Now, I know this sounds bizarre, but hang with me.  You’re going to be spreading a thing layer of cream cheese over the entire tortilla.  If you’re anything like me and you LOVE cream cheese, then sometimes you might find that your love takes over your hand with the spreading knife in it and before you know it…there’s a rather thick layer of cream cheese.  That’s okay, too.  Try to control yourself though…  Just try.  For me?

Can you feel the love? I can.

Now, the next two steps are so simple that I can hardly stand it.  Once you’ve got your tortilla all cheesed up, you’ll put chicken down the middle (or beef, or cheese, whatever your little heart desires) and follow that with covering your heart’s desire in cheese.

Simple Step #1

Simple Step #2

Then you’ll roll those little beauties up… Yup, just roll it.  Don’t fold it.  Roll it.

All cozy in the pan...

They look a little naked though, don’t they?  We’ll cover them up.  Open up your can of enchilada sauce.  Yes, you could make your own sauce, but I’m too simple for that.  Or maybe the right word is lazy… No, no, it’s “simple.”  I’m sure of it.  Open that can of sauce up and let it rain on your enchiladas…

"Let it rain on your enchiladas..." Did anybody else start thinking of all of the songs that they knew with the word "rain" in them when they read that line? Ok, just me, never mind...

Sprinkle with cheese.  Just a suggestion, I strongly encourage you to support the dairy industry when you put cheese on your enchiladas.   (That’s code for…use a lot of cheese!)

 

Stick that pan into the heated oven for about 20-25 minutes (assuming that the chicken is already warm).  If the chicken isn’t warm, I’d go 40 minutes-ish.  I’m so helpful, I know.

Make sure that cheese is nice & melted!

Hello!  You feel more Mexican already, don’t you?  I am thankful for my Mexican ethnicity because among many other awesome things about Mexicanos…we have awesome food.  Just sayin’.

Delicioso!

Serve it up with whatever you’d like.  I chose Spanish rice & refried beans (there’s cheese in the beans…always).  The little salad on the side is for you guys.  I never put salad on the side of my plate.  Mexican restaurants always do though.  I got my inspiration from them.

Happy cooking, amigos!

 

Wordless Wednesday

Best place ever. Besides Disneyland.

Bravo Farms – located in Traver, CA.  That is, Central California to be exact.  It’s off the 99 highway.  If you are hungry, want fresh fruit, need gas, need a potty break, like cool places, love cheese, like wine, enjoy pool, want to pet some goats, enjoy climbing ridiculously tall treehouses, then STOP. HERE.  You could call me obsessed, but that’s okay.  Their food is EXCELLENT.  Their decor is awesome.  I realize that I’m supposed to be “wordless” in this post, but I have to use SOME words to tell you about how awesome this place is!  I’ll let this picture be worth my other 1,000 words – how ’bout that?

The tree houses you see there in the background…yeah, 6 stories tall.  That’s six stories of fun.  Go there.  You’ll be glad you did.