Category Archives: Cheese

Trader Joe’s – Poutine Review

I’ll be the first to admit that I was never a fan of Trader Joe’s. I remember when family members would make a trek to one store, nearby downtown Milwaukee, and as we recently had one built not too far from where we currently live. I’ve been there, once, and bought random frozen products, only to be nearly disappointed every time I tried one of their products. I’ve asked my coworkers who live near the downtown location, and they also did not believe the hype. They’ve stated (and others) there are a couple of things that they did like about some of their stuff, including some of the jarred salsas, frozen Indian food, and wine specials. That is about it. Regardless, during last year’s Christmas season, my colleague gave me and my coworker a bag of Trader Joe’s poutine, yep, that’s how we roll in our office. Months later, I figured I would give these a try. As much as I love poutine, and I’ve made it before back in 2007, as well as put a twist on a chicken satay poutine (which rocked  by the way), who could go wrong, right?

Trader Joe's Poutine - Product Review

While looking at the bag, I had to somewhat drool. If you never had poutine, you are essentially getting french fries, drizzled or soaked in great gravy, and smothered with cheese curds. It’s pretty awesome. So when I opened the bag, I got a frozen packet of gravy, a frozen packet of cheese curds, and frozen french fries. Directions were simple, bake the fries until done, and simmer the two packets in hot water until cooked through.

Trader Joe's Poutine

When everything is ready, go ahead and assemble. I laid out the cooked fries, which looked good, onto a serving plate, then cut open the bag of gravy and curds. I squeezed the gravy all over the fries, and layered on the curds.

I then dug in. My first bite was just OK, second bite, less then OK, and it seemed to hang at that point from there on out. In all honesty, I was tasting every bite as though I was doing a product review. The fries were just OK, maybe slightly less than OK. I had to add salt, even though there was gravy and curds to be dealt with. The cheese curds kind of freaked me out to the point where I no longer wanted to eat them. Granted, the cheese curds had a great squeak to them, as every good cheese curd should, but the texture was totally off, and that is when the squeak freaked me out. I did not even want to look at the ingredients, or better yet what the hell that squeak was.

Overall, I would not purchase a bag of Trader Joe’s Poutine again, but I was appreciative of my colleague giving us the bag as a gift during that time. It really confirmed why I do not shop at Trader Joe’s, and I will continue to not believe the hype. If you are wanting poutine, make your own. You know what you are getting, and putting into your dish. Have you tried this product, and if so, what were your thoughts?

Feta Cheese and Mint Dip

A couple of weeks ago we were invited to one of the family’s annual pool party. With that said, I needed to come up with something to make. I normally do a spin on one of my taco dips, but this year I wanted to make something different. That’s when I immediately turned to all of the mint growing in my garden. Let me just say this, I have a TON of mint. I normally use the mint in dishes such as larb, or give handfuls to my daughter when she picks fresh raspberries from the backyard, but here I wanted to make a dip, using mint, and that is when I came up with a feta cheese and mint dip. It was great.

Feta Cheese and Mint Dip

The great thing about this dip, besides all of the wonderful flavor, is that you can serve it with pretzels or chips, or better yet, some nice garden vegetables.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 4tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dill weed
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Pita chips

This recipe is super quick to make, so lets get busy.

Heat a skillet on medium heat. Add in one tablespoon of the olive oil.  Once heated through, toss in the onions, and cook just until they begin to caramelize. Remove from the heat and set to the side.

To a mixing bowl, add in the cheese, lemon juice and zest, mint, dill weed, and cracked black pepper. Using a fork, begin mashing all of the ingredients.

Slowly add in the olive oil, and half of the cooked onions.  Stir until you have a lightly creamy texture.  Scoop the mixture into a serving dish, and garnish with the remaining cooked onions.

How to make Feta Cheese and Mint Dip

Serve with pita chips and fresh cut vegetables.

The result is a well balanced dip that has that great punch of feta cheese, while the mint just takes it into a whole other direction. Give this one a shot if you are looking for something other than a taco dip to bring to a party, especially if you love feta cheese. I wish I would have made more as this would probably be great on a grilled burger. Hope you enjoy!

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Pizza

It was not too long ago when some friends of ours said they were heading up north Wisconsin to visit some friends and that there was some cheese, the best cheese, in Wisconsin there. They had asked if I wanted some to bring back, and I said sure, get me twenty dollars worth of cheese, a mixture of a creamy blue, and some cheddar. I love soft blue cheese. I truly do. About a week later, I met up with them at our kids baseball game, and she forked over a bag of cheese, as promised, and she also threw in a blended cheese called Jamaican Jerk. They were not too pleased with the blend, however she said that I could probably make something out of it. I did. This pizza.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Pizza

At first bite, I really did not care for the cheese to be quiet honest with you, however I wasn’t going to let it go to waste. I figured I was going to make a queso fundido out of it, and then it sparked of how much I love Jamaican jerk chicken, that I would make a pizza out of it as I already had made a batch of pizza dough for the family.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch of your favorite pizza dough, rolled or tossed to your desire
  • 2 cups of cooked chicken, shredded
  • 2 1/2 cups of Jamaican Jerk cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite pizza sauce

That’s it. Pretty simple. The Jamaican Jerk cheese is actually a blend of a mozzarella style jack cheese so it went perfect when melted.

Start  by preheating your oven to the highest temperature, mine only goes to 500. If you have a pizza stone, preheat that as well.

Next, get your dough tossed or rolled out to your desired thickness. I went a bit on the thinner side on this pizza.

Spread a thin amount of pizza sauce on the pizza. Top with the Jamaican jerk cheese, and then add the shredded chicken. If you have some cheese left over, sprinkle it onto the chicken.

How to make a Jamaican Jerk Chicken Pizza

Place in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the crust is nice and golden and the cheese is nice and melted.

I’ll admit, the result was pretty darn good. The cheese did still have some of the funk that it had when eaten by itself, but the pizza sauce, along with the chicken somewhat balanced it out.

Have you ever tried Jamaican jerk cheese? What are your thoughts? Hope you enjoy!

Larb Quesadillas

I’m a huge fan of larb. Often referred to as laab, larb, laap, or lahp, it is a minced meat dish that can utilize chicken, pork, beef, or heck, even shrimp for all I know. The real key to larb is the combination of the ingredients that really make this dish shine. You get fresh herbs, toasted rice, and shallots, chilies, and lime that when brought together gets you wanting more, and more. Larb could possibly be one of my favorite dishes to eat along with Thai sticky rice.  My kids are a big fans of larb as well, and when I make it for them, I typically leave out the fresh chilies and serve them on the side. This past week I made a fairly big batch of larb and had plenty of leftovers. That’s when it came to me, well it came to me as I was looking at the leftover larb and grated cheddar cheese in the refrigerator that I would make a larb quesadilla. It was awesome.

Larb Quesadilla

Get started by making your favorite larb.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 lb of ground chicken
  • 2 shallots, minced (approximately 3 tbsp)
  • 1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/3 cup of toasted rice powder
  • 2-5 Thai chile peppers, minced
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp palm sugar, or regular sugar
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts (optional)
  • 1 whole lime, juiced
  • 2 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Begin by adding the oil to a large skillet and warm it to a medium, high heat. Once the oil is heated, add the ground chicken and begin cooking until it is fully cooked. This is will take about 10 to 15 minutes.

During this time, prepare the remaining ingredients. If you have never toasted rice before, add about 1/2 cup of rice to a dry skillet. Bring it to medium heat, and give it a good shake about every 2-3 minutes. Your goal is to brown the rice, and once brown, add it to a coffee grinder to make into a course powder.

Once the chicken is fully cooked, make sure you break it all up with a wooden spoon as you do not want any clumps. Drain off any excess water from the chicken, then add the chicken to a mixing bowl.

Add in all of the remaining ingredients, and give it a good mix. If you are serving kids, I would suggest removing the chile peppers from this recipe, or divide the mixture before adding the chile peppers. I would recommend 1-2 chile peppers for the mild at heart, and 3-4 chile peppers for those that love the heat. Regardless if it is one chile or four, the balance is perfect.

How to make a larb quesadilla

To make the quesadilla, add a flour tortilla to the bottom of a skillet, and keep on medium heat.

Add 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese to the tortilla. Add about 1 cup of the larb on top of the cheese. Top with remaining cheese, and place the second tortilla on top. Lightly press. Cook for a few minutes, or until the tortilla lightly chars. You should be able to smell it, if not, lift with a spatula to check. Flip over, and cook on the remaining side, for another few minutes.

Remove, and slice, or eat whole, you’re call.

This larb quesadilla was was ridiculously good. It had everything you love in a classic quesadilla, but elevated with great Thai flavors. Give this one a shot, and let me know what you think. Hope you enjoy!

Larb Quesadillas
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 lb of ground chicken
  • 2 shallots, minced (approximately 3 tbsp)
  • ½ cup of fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • ⅓ cup of toasted rice powder
  • 2-5 Thai chile peppers, minced
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • ½ tbsp palm sugar, or regular sugar
  • ½ cup roasted peanuts (optional)
  • 1 whole lime, juiced
  • 2 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Begin by adding the oil to a large skillet and warm it to a medium, high heat. Once the oil is heated, add the ground chicken and begin cooking until it is fully cooked. This is will take about 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. During this time, prepare the remaining ingredients. If you have never toasted rice before, add about ½ cup of rice to a dry skillet. Bring it to medium heat, and give it a good shake about every 2-3 minutes. Your goal is to brown the rice, and once brown, add it to a coffee grinder to make into a course powder.
  3. Once the chicken is fully cooked, make sure you break it all up with a wooden spoon as you do not want any clumps. Drain off any excess water from the chicken, then add the chicken to a mixing bowl.
  4. Add in all of the remaining ingredients, and give it a good mix. If you are serving kids, I would suggest removing the chile peppers from this recipe, or divide the mixture before adding the chile peppers. I would recommend 1-2 chile peppers for the mild at heart, and 3-4 chile peppers for those that love the heat. Regardless if it is one chile or four, the balance is perfect.
  5. To make the quesadilla, add a flour tortilla to the bottom of a skillet, and keep on medium heat.
  6. Add ½ cup of the cheddar cheese to the tortilla. Add about 1 cup of the larb on top of the cheese. Top with remaining cheese, and place the second tortilla on top. Lightly press. Cook for a few minutes, or until the tortilla lightly chars. You should be able to smell it, if not, lift with a spatula to check. Flip over, and cook on the remaining side, for another few minutes.
  7. Remove, and slice, or eat whole, you’re call.