Snacks and appetizers made with cheese are mouthwatering morsels, no wonder in 2013 Center for Science in the Public Interest was able to report that cheese consumption in America has skyrocketed since 1970. Back in the ’70s, Americans averaged 8 pounds, and by 2013 this had jumped to 23 pounds per person, per year, on average. Even though it has calcium and protein, cheese is not always the healthiest option because it can have a high saturated fat content. That said, you can probably still indulge in the cheesy goodness of foods in moderation. Snack-sized offerings and appetizers are a portion-controlled way to have your cheese and eat it too, so try one of these six recipes the next time you want a bit of this dairy product in your day.
1. Easy Cheesy Crackers
Did you know you’re only three ingredients away from homemade cheese crackers? That’s right, a few ingredients, a little bit of time in the kitchen, and this recipe from 100 Days of Real Food are all you need to get your cheese-cracker fix without busting open a bag of Goldfish or other cheese-flavored snack cracker. It makes about 2 dozen crackers.
- 1 cup whole-wheat flour
- 5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into tablespoon size chunks
- 4 ounce or 1½ cups grated cheddar cheese
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine all three ingredients in a food processor and blend. The mixture will eventually turn into one big ball chasing itself around the bowl. Be patient because it can take a few minutes.
Roll the ball into a log about 1½ inches in diameter. At this point you could refrigerate the dough until later. With a sharp knife slice ¼ inches thick pieces off the log (pictured above) and place each one flat on an ungreased baking sheet. Try to rotate which side you are cutting down on because the top of the log does start to flatten a little. If you want your crackers to look a little fancy take a fork and gently mash down the top of each one before baking.
Bake for 8 to 14 minutes or until golden brown. The thicker the crackers the longer it will take. These crackers can be stored in the freezer so double the recipe and save some for later.
2. Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara Sauce
Cut a corner with the recipe Giada de Laurentiis provided Food Network for mozzarella sticks by using a store-bought marinara. Alternatively, you could make the marinara sauce below, but do so one day in advance. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge, and rewarm before using. The sauce yields 2 quarts, and there will be about fifty-six mozzarella sticks.
- 1½ cups Italian-style dried breadcrumbs
- 1⅓ cups freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 (16-ounce) blocks pasteurized mozzarella cut into 4 by 1/2-inch sticks
- 4 large eggs, beaten to blend
- 1½ cups vegetable oil
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 small onions, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 2 (32 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
- 2 dried bay leaves
Directions: For the bread sticks, stir the bread crumbs, 1 cup of Parmesan, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl to blend. Dip the cheese in the eggs to coat completely and allow the excess egg to drip back into the bowl. Coat the cheese in the bread crumb mixture, patting to adhere and coat completely. Place the cheese sticks on a baking sheet. Repeat dipping the cheese sticks in the egg and bread crumb mixture to coat a second time. Cover and freeze until frozen, about 2 hours and up to 2 days.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the cheese until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Transfer the fried cheese to plates. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve with marinara sauce.
To make the marinara sauce, in a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste.
3. Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions
French baguettes paired with Brie—hot out of the oven—topped with caramelized onions is a rich, creamy, sophisticated appetizer to serve at your next get-together. The recipe comes from Bon Appétit via Epicurious, is as easy as it is cheesy, and will have everyone asking you to share how you made the dish. It serves between eight and ten.
- 2 tablespoons (¼ stick) butter
- 8 cups sliced onions (about 4 large)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 8-inch-diameter (32- to 36-ounces) French Brie, packed in wooden box (reserve box)
- 2 French bread baguettes, sliced
Directions: Melt butter in heavy very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until just tender, about 6 minutes. Add minced thyme, reduce heat to medium and cook until onions are golden, stirring often, about 25 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup wine; stir until almost all liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle sugar over onions and sauté until soft and brown, about 10 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup wine; stir just until liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool. (Can be prepare two days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Unwrap Brie, reserving bottom of wooden box. Cut away only top rind of cheese, leaving rind on sides and bottom intact. Return Brie to box, rind side down. Place box on baking sheet. Top Brie evenly with onion mixture. Bake until cheese just melts, about 30 minutes. Transfer Brie in box to platter. Surround with baguette slices.
4. Spinach “Brownies”
Calling this baked spinach creation from AllRecipes.com a brownie may be a bit of a stretch, but shape-wise, that is what they resemble. Make these faux-brownies when you want a healthy cheesy snack.
- 1 (10 ounce) package spinach, rinsed and chopped
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup butter, melted
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 (8 ounce) package shredded mozzarella cheese
Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Place spinach in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook until spinach is limp, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir in eggs, milk, and butter. Mix in spinach, onion, and mozzarella cheese. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool before serving.
5. Honey-Balsamic Goat Cheese Dip
Slightly sweet, you’ll want to have this goat cheese dip from Taste of Home on hand whenever you have an apple as a mid-day snack. It also pairs well with French bread, and you could make mini French bread, apple, goat cheese dip sandwiches by spreading the dip between layers of sliced bread.
- 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
- ⅓ cup fat-free mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 medium apple, sliced
- 8 slices French bread (¼ inch thick)
Directions: In a small bowl, beat the goat cheese, mayonnaise, honey, and vinegar until smooth. Serve with apple and bread slices.
6. Cheesy Bread Twists
Frozen puff pastry simplifies your life when it comes to making twisted bread sticks. Flaky and sprinkled with the cheese of your choosing. Paula Deen used grated Parmesan, which could be substituted for another freshly grated cheese or a shredded blend of cheeses. It makes about twenty-six breadsticks.
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 (17.3 ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ cup butter, melted
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a baking sheet. On a lightly floured surface, unfold pastry sheets. Cut each sheet into 13 (¾-by-10 inch) strips. In a shallow dish, combine cheese, basil, and garlic. Brush pastry sticks with melted butter. Roll pastry in cheese mixture, lightly coating each side. Gently twist pastry sticks, and place on a prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.