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Grilled Romaine with Cheddar Dressing

It seems that more and more restaurants I go to lately have a grilled Caesar Salad offering on their menus. On a date last week, I had a particularly delicious version of this old/new favorite. The salad was served hot off the grill with the cool dressing oozing in between the romaine leaves. It was divine. I resolved then and there to try my own spin on grilled romaine.

Cheddar Makes It Better

I love the smokey taste of the romaine leaves, drizzled with olive oil, as they emerge from the grill, but I was determined to combine it with something creamier than a regular Caesar dressing. My mind went immediately to a tried and true Cabot recipe for Cheddar Cheese Salad Dressing. I thought it would be a perfect complement to this elegant salad.

Reader, it was. Click Below for the Recipe.

Grilled Romainc Salad with Cabot Cheddar Dressing

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My friends at Cabot Creamery decided that July was the perfect time to get creative about summer desserts. So they challenged five talented and inventive food bloggers to create something sweet and heavenly and perfect for warm weather using Cabot Cheddar Cheese.

Links to each recipe were posted on the Cabot website and people were invited to vote for their favorites. The competition was stiff, but the crowd favorite and ultimate winner was Chef Chaz – Charles French – who wowed us with his delectable Cheddar Brownie with Whipped Cream & Strawberries. This winning recipe will forever reside on the Cabot website and Chef Chaz will retain bragging rights from this day forward.

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Chef Chaz’s Cheddar Brownie with Whipped Cream & Strawberries

I’m glad I didn’t have to choose a winner, because all five entries were amazing. Who knew incorporating The World’s Best Cheddar into a summer sweet could result in such delightful desserts? Since they were equally delicious, I thought the only fair way to highlight the remaining four bloggers would be to list them alphabetically by first name.

Prepare to drool!

Philadelphian and ShopRite Potluck Food Blogger Emily Malloy,  modestly claims in her blog Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness, that her Apple & Cheddar Ice Cream is an “edible masterpiece.” She also claims that her funky fresh dessert will remind you of cheesecake. All I know is I can’t wait to try this refreshing summer treat!

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Emily’s Apple & Cheddar Ice Cream

This Cheddar Fruit Tart with Fresh Blackberry Sauce might have come from a wicked small kitchen, but it is destined to be a huge hit at tables everywhere. Katie, of The Small Boston Kitchen fame, created a light dessert that she calls “a classic reinvented with a summery twist.” She used Cabot Smooth Sharp Cheddar and combined it with slivers of apples and pears and a fluffy bed of puff pastry. The twist was a drizzle of fresh blackberry sauce and a sprinkling of crunchy almonds.

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Katie’s Cheddar Fruit Tart with Fresh Blackberry Sauce

I am a total sucker for anything mini, but Linda, of Welcome to Linneyville, brought mini to new heights with her Cranberry Pecan Double Cheese Mini Pies. I mean, really, how good do these look? With very little effort, these elegant little desserts can be ready for your next get together. The look amazing…and taste divine. Win/win, if you ask me.

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Linney’s Cranberry Pecan Double Cheese Mini Pies

I saved Peter, of Peter Is a DB, for last for good reason. He is the reason the folks at Cabot created this challenge, not once but twice. A few months ago, he asked them to challenge him to create a dessert. They said: “Great…use chocolate and cheese.” Peter came up with this gorgeous, crazy piece of work that has no name but looks a little like cheesy, chocolate stuffed French toast.  I’ll let a couple of pictures tell the story:

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Peter’s First Challenge

cabotchallengepeteAnd because once is evidently not enough for this intrepid blogger, Peter came back and asked for a second chance, which is how the official Cabot Summer Dessert Challenge came to be. Peter’s offering for this challenge, Strawberry Cheddar Cheesecake, is an experiment in sweet and savory with a creamy yogurt sauce. He claims the dessert was inspired by an old Married with Children episode. Let’s not quibble with how an artist gets his inspiration. Let’s just enjoy the results.

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When I moved into my house 10 years ago the yard was bordered by a tangle of trees and bushes. It created a lush buffer between my neighbors and me so I let it remain wild and untouched. “Let” is probably the most benign spin I can put on my effort. I have a way with plants…a very bad way. So the less I was involved in their care and maintenance, the better off all god’s creatures would be.

My youngest child moved out of the house several years ago and after happily living in my well-ordered but very empty nest I eventually decided  to get a housemate. David and I are perfect cohabiters; we are both quiet and private and deeply respectful of boundaries and personal space. We also have many complimentary skills.

The talent I most value in this incredibly gifted man is his ability to bend nature to his will. Saying he has a green thumb does not begin to plumb the depths his brilliance when it comes to gardening. My yard is now a place of breathtaking beauty and bounty. It is a riot of flowers, vegetables, herbs, plants, shrubs, bees, and birds. Among his many other horticultural accomplishments, David discovered a covey of raspberry canes in the tangled brush around the house. Without disturbing the wild nature of the border, he cleared out weeds around the plants, wove the canes around each other for mutual support and fed and watered them until they blossomed in the spring.

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Berries for breakfast!

And now we have the most gorgeous harvest of berries you could imagine. I eat them for breakfast in my yogurt. I bake them in various desserts. I snack from the bushes after a run. I am berry blessed.

In honor of this season’s raspberry harvest, David has given me permission to print his Nana Stacy’s Raspberry Buckle recipe. It has been passed down through generations of Mainers — a dessert that combines fruit and moist cake batter, and is topped with a rich, crunchy streusel topping. Be aware that while this works beautifully with raspberries, it is equally scrumptious with native Maine blueberries.

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Nana Stacy’s Raspberry Buckle

Berry Buckle:

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup soft shortening

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups raspberries

Streusel Topping:

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup butter

Pre-heat oven to 375º.  Cream eggs, sugar, and shortening together. Combine dry ingredients separately.  Mix together, then add milk. Gently fold in berries, mixing as little as possible. Pour batter into a greased 9 x 9 baking pan.

To make streusel topping, cut butter into small pieces and mix all ingredients together. (Nana Stacy and David recommend using your hands for this process, ensuring that all the ingredients are evenly combined.) Top cake with streusel mix and cook for 45 – 50 minutes.

But wait! There were still more berries, so next came a very basic raspberry pie. No need for a recipe here, it’s just pie crust, berries dusted with flour, with a bit of sugar, and a squeeze of lemon. Easy, elegant, and the essence of summer.

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Ready for the oven.

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A little too dark, but the phone rang…

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Leftover dough cookies.

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When I have pie for breakfast, I use my Princess fork.

And thanks to David, The Plant Whisperer, there will be lots more posts from our garden. Stay tuned!

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April is just chock full of holidays and celebrations and excuses for making great food. Take today, for example. Upon waking this morning, I read on Twitter that April 17th happens to be National Cheeseball Day, and while they say Cheeseball and I say Cheese Ball, it all comes out the same in the end.

Later, as I was trolling the aisles of my local supermarket, I passed a dairy case that featured several kinds of cheese balls and cheese logs. They all looked exactly like the kind my Grammy used to make – big and lumpish and covered in chopped nuts of dubious origin. It is giving them all the breaks when I say that they did not look very good. That’s when inspiration struck and I knew I could do better.

It was a rainy Sunday and nothing more could be done to ease the pain of my tax return, so I thought: “Why not cheese balls? Why not now?” I had just about everything I needed to improvise and so I set out to bring my Grammy’s cheese balls into the 21st century.

We know it’s all about the cheese, right? And so I took a basic formula to create the foundation of my afternoon of ball play. Here is what I did:

Basic Cheese Ball Formula

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups Cabot Cheddar Cheese, grated

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2 shakes Worcestershire Sauce

a dash or two of Tabasco or Sriracha Sauce (optional)

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Add something fun and delicious to roll the whole thing around in. Preferably not nuts of dubious origin.

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Use your imagination when thinking about what you’ll roll your balls in.

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Pretend you’re a painter with a ball-rolling palette.

Mix the cheeses, Worcestershire Sauce, and hot sauce food processor until smooth and blended and let chill in refrigerator for several hours. Then you can make a big ole cheese ball and surround it with crackers. Or you can do what I like to do and make tiny, bite size balls and mix ‘em up a bit. Add interesting tastes to your balls. Roll your balls in different kinds of yumminess. Bottom line? Have fun with your balls.

Here is just a partial list of fun ways to deck your balls for wows and jollies!

Fiesta Balls: Use Cabot Habanero Cheddar and roll in chopped cilantro.

Bunny Balls: Use Cabot Mild Cheddar, add chopped spinach when you process the cheese, and roll in chopped carrots.

Sharp & Sweet Balls: Use Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar and roll in chopped dried fruit.

Seedy Balls: Use Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar, add a dash of soy sauce and roll in toasted sesame seeds.

Green Balls: Use Cabot Garlic & Herb Cheddar and roll in chopped pistachio nuts.

Caprese Balls: Use Cabot Tomato Basil Cheddar, add 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves, and roll in sun dried tomatoes.

Sunny Balls: Use Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar and roll in roasted sunflower seeds.

Fancy Balls: Use Cabot Private Stock Cheddar and roll in chopped scallions.

Kickin’ Balls: Use Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Jalapeno Cheddar, add 1/2 a mashed avocado, and roll in chopped almonds.

Horsey Balls: Use Cabot Horseradish Cheddar and roll in crumbled bacon.

Cheezy Poof Balls: Use Cabot Sharp Cheddar and roll in crushed cheese puff snacks.

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Truth be told, if you let your imagination run free, cheese balls are just about the most fun you can have making an appetizer. Drop me a line with your ideas.

And have a ball!

April 15th. A day that strikes dread into the hearts of Americans everywhere. If tax day has gotten you down, I have just the antidote. Why not console yourself with the ultimate comfort food…grilled cheese.

(Technical aside: Traditionally, Tax Day is April 15. This year, because of a relatively obscure DC government holiday, Tax Day is April 18, which is also Patriot’s Day, a holiday in New England that is often celebrated with more enthusiasm than the 4th of July. But I digress.)

As you may have heard, April is National Grilled Cheese Month, 30 days of celebrating the glories of toasted, golden cheesy goodness. Whether you use a frying pan and spatula, a panini press, or an iron in your dorm room, grilled cheese is good for what ails you, just about any time.

So many grilled cheeses, so little time. Here are eleven bloggers and chefs who have given us their unique take on this American favorite. These all look so good, I plan to work my way through the list, one sammy at a time!

From A Yummy Mommy comes the Chicken Pesto Smoked Bacon Delight. Delightful doesn’t begin to describe this mommy’s yumminess!

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Chicken Pesto Smoked Bacon Delight

My go-to foodie friends, Susie and Chelsie, famously known around the blogosphere as We Are Not Martha threw a grilled cheese party and invited everyone to come. They made lots of grilled cheese goodies, but my very favorite was this Bacon & Avocado Grilled Cheese, combining salty, cheesy, cheddary goodness.

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Bacon & Avocado Grilled Cheese

From the blog Cheese Is Alive comes this complex and very grown-up grilled cheese with a combination of Cheddar and Goat Cheese. It’s “a little bit sweet and a little bit tangy.” And a lot tasty! Can’t wait to see what this is all about.

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Grilled Goat Cheese & Cheddar with Crabapple Jam

Here’s one that was a fan favorite when we posted it on the Cabot Facebook Page – from The Small Boston Kitchen. Who wouldn’t love a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon apple jam? I mean, really.

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Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Bacon Apple Jam

From Cabot’s own Chef – and fishing legend – Jimmy Kennedy comes a New England classic, The Ver-Monte Cristo inspired by fresh, local ingredients. French toast grilled cheese? Mais oui!

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The Ver-Monte Cristo

And speaking of Vermont legends, check out rising rock star and tour bus chef, Grace Potter, of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Grace can rock the stage or some Cabot Hot Habanero Cheddar for a stellar sandwich. This is grilled cheese with a real kick…not for the faint of heart.

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Hot Habanero Mexican Delight

Some of you may have missed my own blog post in honor of this special month, Pancetta & Spinach Grilled Cheese, with a side of Bacon Wrapped Matzo Balls. Oh my! This one has it all…color, flavor, and veggies.

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Pancetta & Spinach Grilled Cheese

How about this next post from A Toast to Taste, riffing on the much-loved standard? It’s Grilled Cheese with Vermont Cheddar (Cabot, of course) and Prosciutto, layering sharp cheddar and thin slices of prosciutto between rustic Italian bread.

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Grilled Cheese with Vermont Cheddar & Prosciutto

In this blog post on Nutritioulicious, we found a lower calorie, full flavor version of an old favorite. Instead of butter, they use a lower calorie spread to coat the pan. They also substituted sandwich thins in place of regular bread to save 50 or 60 more calories. This recipe calls for Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar, but I’m going to go one step further and try it with Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar. It melts like a dream, with less fat and calories.

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Nutritioulicious™ Grilled Cheese

For those of you celebrating the Passover season, my friend Robin Cohen of Doves and Figs created this innovative – and quite delectable – way to honor the traditions of the holiday while enjoying the spirit of grilled cheese month. Her Drunken Passover Grilled Cheese is destined to become a family favorite in my house.

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Drunken Passover Grilled Cheese

And finally, from Cook Like James, I give you simply “The World’s Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich,” at least that’s what James calls it. And I have to admit, it looks pretty darned delicious. I love that he grates his cheese before cooking. The better to melt it, my dear.

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Whether your family is celebrating Easter or Passover or just the arrival of spring, I wish you all a very happy Grilled Cheese Month! Check back at the end of the month for more Grilled Cheese madness.

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In 8th grade, I moved to a new city and was enrolled in a fancy private school. I was shy, awkward, and trying to figure out how I was going to fit in. Day one found me in my burgundy blazer, gray flannel skirt and knee socks, cowering in the girls’ bathroom. That first day I was rescued by a classmate who took me under her wing. With her big blue eyes and a head capped with blond curls, my new best friend, Lynnie, looked like an angel, but was full of the devil.  That year, and for many to come, we found countless ways to get into trouble.

Lynnie was my first Jewish friend. Though her family wasn’t particularly observant, they introduced me to magical new foods. It was a year of firsts for me. My first pastrami sandwich, my first sip (and then some) of Manischewitz wine, and, yes, my first encounter with matzo. We smeared it with thin layers of chopped liver on Friday nights and crumbled it into eggs for a breakfast of matzo brie. And on rainy Saturdays, Lynnie’s mother would melt chocolate chips and let us dip pieces of matzo into the melted, molten depths. Sometimes we squeezed mini-marshmallows in between the chocolaty layers, making impromptu matzo s’mores.

Last week, Foodista sent out an email blast with recipes for Passover. In it was a dessert recipe for Caramel Matzo Crunch, a treat that instantly brought me back to 8th grade. I decided to recreate a bit of my past and see if I could improve on it. After all, my own multi-culti family has Jewish roots and our Passover celebrations are some of our happiest memories. I am always on the lookout for new foods for the holiday.

To make these Matzo Dreams, I started with Yehuda Matzos, my favorite brand, imported from Jerusalem.

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I placed a layer of matzos on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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In a sauce pan over medium heat, I melted a firmly packed cup of brown sugar and a cup of Cabot Salted Butter, stirring until the sugar was completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.

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I poured the caramel sauce over the matzos, spreading it evenly. The caramel-covered matzo went into a 375º oven, cooking for about 8 minutes, until bubbly. I watched it carefully, making sure it didn’t burn.

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Next, I spread 6 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips over the hot caramel. On a whim, I put a few mini-marshmallows on one corner of the baking sheet. The heat from the caramel melted the chocolate chips and softened the marshmallows. I spread the chocolate evenly over the caramel covered matzos.

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After the chocolate was spread, I refrigerated the matzo on the baking sheet for about a half hour, then broke up the sheets of matzo into small pieces.

In addition to the marshmallows, my twist on this recipe was a sprinkling of Maldon Sea Salt Flakes. The combination of rich chocolate, sweet caramel and delicate flakes of salt covering the crispy matzo is a dessert that is, at once, simple and sophisticated – a happy memory punctuated with a hint of salt.

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Covered in caramel and chocolate, dotted with marshmallows, and kissed with flakes of sea salt, these Matzo Dreams are the perfect end to a Passover…or Easter…feast.

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