For those of you that haven’t heard, April 12 is National Grilled Cheese Day.  I don’t know why we have such a day, but I can’t object to a holiday honoring melted cheese…

If you want to join the celebration, try our Beecher’s Grilled Cheese!

Beecher's Grilled Cheese

This sandwich combines gooey cheese, bacon, and creamy garlic aioli for crispy grilled cheese perfection!  It’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face.  National Grilled Cheese Day may just become your favorite eating holiday…

Wondering what to do with your leftover Beecher’s Flagship cheese?  You could always make more of these incredible grilled cheese sandwiches, eat it by itself (so yummy!), or use it to make our World’s Best Macaroni and Cheese.  Once you’ve tried it, you’ll throw out your old mac and cheese recipe and never look for another.

Mac and Cheese

If you’ve got a party coming up, you could also try our Mac and Cheese Bites.  These crispy, finger food-versions of macaroni and cheese make delicious appetizers!

Mac and Cheese Bites

Now that you’ve got cheese on the brain, you’re in the perfect mindset to enjoy the holiday.  Happy National Grilled Cheese Day!

 

During my discovery of Greek food this summer, I tried spanakopita.  I loved the combination of feta and spinach and decided to learn to make it myself.  One thing I wanted to change in my recipe for spanakopita was ease of eating.  I prefer my appetizers to be bite-sized finger foods – no utensils.  So spanakopita became Spanakopita Bites.

Spanakopita Bites

This recipe is adapted from What’s Cookin, Chicago?.  Homemade phyllo cups are filled with a mixture of spinach, onion, feta, and ricotta.  The cups are light and flaky and the filling has the perfect balance of spinach and cheese.  Plus, you’re eating spinach – yay, dark, leafy greens!

Spanakopita Bites

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

Serves: 4 dozen bites

Ingredients

1/2 tbsp. Vegetable Oil
1/2 Onion, finely chopped
5 oz. (1/2 package) Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed and squeezed
3 oz. crumbled Feta Cheese
1/2 c. Ricotta Cheese
1/2 Egg, lightly beaten
Salt
Pepper
12 sheets Phyllo Dough
4 tbsp. Butter, melted

1.  Heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until golden (~5 minutes).

2.  Transfer the onions to a bowl and combine with the spinach, feta, ricotta, and egg.  Season generously with salt and pepper and mix well.  Store the filling in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

Tip: Make sure you squeeze as much water out of the spinach as possible.  It also helps to separate the spinach with your hands as you add it to the bowl to make it easier to mix everything evenly.

Need ideas for what to do with the other half of that package of spinach?  Check out our Spinach Ricotta Gnudi – so delicious!

Filling

3.  Now it’s time to work with your phyllo dough.  The key to working with phyllo dough without pulling your hair out is to keep it damp.  Keep a piece of plastic wrap over the dough you’re not working with and cover it with a damp paper towel.  Of the brands I’ve tried, Athens has been the most cooperative.

Place one sheet of phyllo dough on a cutting board.  Sometimes you have to toss the first few sheets of phyllo if they’re torn or stuck together.  Just be patient and gentle as you work to separate the sheets.  Don’t sweat it if you get a little tear somewhere, and if the best you can do is separate two sheets from the other sheets, just go with it and work with your double sheets.

Once you’ve got your sheet(s) on the board, brush it with melted butter.  Top with another sheet of phyllo and press down.  Brush with more melted butter and continue this procedure until your phyllo is 6 sheets thick, making sure to finish with melted butter.

Fillo Pastry

4.  Using a pizza or pastry cutter, cut the phyllo into squares ~ 2″ x 2″.  My phyllo sheets were 14″ x 18″ and I got 24 squares out of them (6 squares by 4 squares).

5.  Brush mini muffin pans with melted butter and push the phyllo squares into the pan to make cups.  Fill the cups with ~1 tsp. of the spinach mixture and bake at 375º for 15-20 minutes until the phyllo is golden.

Bake til Golden

6.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

I like to serve them warm but they are equally as good at room temperature

Spanakopita Bites

This appetizer is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.  Even people who break out in hives when they see any green food won’t be able to resist these treaty.  They’re quite addictive… bet you can’t have just one!

Macaroni and cheese is no longer confined to the kids’ table at parties!  Everyone’s favorite food from childhood has now been turned into an appetizer – Mac and Cheese Bites.  I’ve also seen them called mac and cheese cupcakes or mac and cheese muffins.  Whatever you call them, they’re scrumptious!

Mac and Cheese Bites

Macaroni and cheese is baked in mini-muffin pans to create an incredible finger food that will please children and adults alike.  These bites are crisp on the outside and moist and cheesy on the inside.  Made with our World’s Best Macaroni and Cheese recipe, these appetizers will get gobbled up in a snap!

Mac and Cheese Bites

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes

Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

Serves: 24 bites

Ingredients

4 oz. Elbow Macaroni
1 c. Beecher’s Flagship Cheese, divided
1/4 c. Monterey Jack Cheese, divided
1 tbsp. Butter
4 tsp. Flour
3/4 c. Milk
1/8 tsp. Salt
Generous 1/8 tsp. Chipotle Powder
Dash Garlic Powder
Panko

1.  Complete steps 1-6 of our World’s Best Macaroni and Cheese recipe.

Add Cheese Sauce to Pasta

2.  Fill mini muffin wells with macaroni and cheese.  I use non-stick muffin pans so I don’t grease them but you may need to if you’re using regular pans.

Fill Muffin Cups

3.  Top the mini muffins with the cheese you set aside and sprinkle with panko.

Top with Cheese and Panko

4.  Bake at 350º F for 15-20 minutes until golden.  You can use the broiler to finish them if they’re not browning quickly enough.

Bake Bites

After giving them a few minutes to set, scoop those crave-able little bites out of the muffin pans and serve them while they’re warm.

Of course, before you serve them, you’ll have to eat one as a taste test to make sure they came out right.  And maybe try a second one – you know, for quality control.  It’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it…

I’m very good about getting veggies into my dinners, but I don’t do as well with lunch – so I’ve been trying to incorporate vegetables into my midday meals more often.  Quick and easy, this dish is ideal for lunch.  It’s also a great dinner option on a busy evening.  Made with whole wheat buckwheat noodles, asparagus, and tofu, this meal is light and healthy… and, best of all, delicious!

Sesame Noodles

This recipe is adapted from Deborah Madison’s sesame noodle recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone – a wonderful cookbook if you’re trying to get more vegetables in your diet or cut back on your meat consumption.  I liked the dressing she used for her noodles, but I chose to use soba noodles because A) they’re whole wheat and therefore healthier, and B) I like them.  I also added grilled tofu to make this a more filling dish.  Finally, I turned this into a hot dish rather than a cold one.  It may be traditional to serve sesame noodles cold, but I don’t care for cold pasta.  I hope you enjoy my version of this dish!

Sesame Noodles with Asparagus

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

6 oz. Teriyaki Baked Tofu
1 bundle Soba Noodles (~3 oz.)
1/2 bundle Asparagus (~10 stalks)
3 Green Onions
1 tbsp. Sesame Seeds
Sauce
1 tbsp. Sesame Oil
2 scant tbsp. Soy Sauce
1 scant tbsp. Black Vinegar
1 tbsp. Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Chili Oil
1 tsp. grated Ginger
1 small clove Garlic, minced

1.  Heat a grill pan over medium heat.

2.  While your pan is heating, wash and trim the asparagus and wash the green onions.  Slice the asparagus into 1 – 1 1/2″ lengths and thinly slice the green parts of the green onions.

3.  Once your pan is hot, grill your tofu.  Cook it long enough to get beautiful grill marks on both sides of your tofu and heat it through.

I use Wildwood’s Teriyaki Baked Tofu to cut down on the prep work for this dish, but you could marinate plain tofu in teriyaki sauce after it has been drained and pressed (see How to Make Tofu Edible).  Just make sure you give it a few hours to marinate so the flavor can penetrate the tofu.

Grilled Tofu

4.  While your tofu is cooking (or even while the grill pan is heating if you want to speed things up) begin bringing 2 pots of water to a boil – one small pot for the asparagus and one normal-sized pot for the soba noodles.

5.  Whisk together the sauce ingredients.

Sesame Sauce

6.  Once your water is boiling, cook asparagus for 3 minutes then drain.  Cook the soba according to the package directions (~4 minutes) and drain.

Note: I call for “one bundle” of soba noodles.  The noodles I buy come in a plastic bag with three wrapped bundles inside, but I’m not sure how other soba brands are packaged.  The package I buy is 9.5 oz. so that would be a little over 3 oz. per bundle.

7.  While the noodles are cooking, slice your tofu into bite-sized pieces.

8.  Return the noodles to the pot (off the heat) and add the asparagus, green onions, sauce, and almost all the sesame seeds and mix to combine.

Mix Together

9.  Plate your noodles, top with tofu slices, and finish with the remaining sesame seeds.

Sesame Noodles

You’ll love how quick and easy it is to make this guilt-free dish, but most of all, you’ll love how it tastes!