Finger Food: Cheese Straws

Rich, buttery cheese straws make for a great snack. They are also a perfect change from traditional dinner rolls at mealtime. Try them alongside salads and soups for a super taste treat. Here we give you one recipe for Parmesan cheese straws and one for cheddar cheese straws. Both are fairly easy to make and, given their great taste, you’ll want to make this finger food often!

Parmesan Cheese Straws

Ingredients:

½ cup butter

2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ cup milk

Directions:

  1. Take the butter out of the refrigerator and let it soften. Meanwhile, grate the Parmesan cheese.
  1. In a small bowl, mix the butter and Parmesan cheese until they are well blended.
  1. Add the flour, salt and cayenne and mix all of the ingredients well.
  1. Divide the dough in half. Lightly flour a flat surface and roll each half of the dough into an 18” x 3” rectangle. Now, cut the rectangles into 3” x ½” strips.
  1. Place the strips 1” apart on lightly greased baking sheets and brush the strips with the milk.
  1. Bake the strips at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese straws are lightly browned. Remember that the cheese straws will continue cooking a bit once you remove them from the oven so don’t let them get too brown. When you take the cheese straws out of the oven put them on wire racks to cool. Eat them right away or when they are completely cool, store them in a plastic container for later. You should get about 6 dozen cheese straws with this recipe.

Cheese Straws

Cheddar Cheese Straws

Ingredients

Three 10-ounce bricks sharp Cheddar cheese

1 cup butter

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Dash of garlic powder

Olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  1. Remove the butter from the refrigerator and let it soften. Grate the cheese and then let it sit to warm to room temperature.
  1. Put the softened cheese and butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer. Use the heaviest mixer paddle attachment you have and mix until the cheese and butter are the consistency of whipped cream. This can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes depending on your mixer.
  1. In a separate bowl, combine 3 cups of the flour with the salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic powder. Slowly add the flour mixture to the cheese mixture, one large spoonful at a time. Mix well after each addition of flour so that everything blends well.
  1. When all of the seasoned flour is added, slowly mix in some or all of the remaining unseasoned flour. You’ll want your dough to be reasonably stiff yet soft enough to be go through a cookie press. You may not need to add all of the flour.
  1. Lightly grease 4 or 5 cookie sheets with the olive oil. Put the star tube into a cookie press and press a portion of the dough through it onto a cookie sheet. You’ll want to create long strips of dough that run the entire length of the cookie sheet. Keep going until the pan is full, leaving about 1” between strips.
  1. Bake about 20 minutes until the cheese straws are golden brown and crisp. Be sure not to let them get too brown.
  1. Once done, cut the long strips into 3” lengths with a sharp knife. Remove the cheese strips from the pan with a spatula and let them cool on a wire rack. Enjoy them right away or store them in a plastic container when they are completely cool.

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Healthy Baked Polenta Fries

What’s Polenta?

Before delving into recipes and techniques for polenta fries you might be asking “What is polenta?”  Polenta is not an ingredient or a component but a specific dish.  It is a Central European food made by boiling ground yellow cornmeal into a thick and solidified porridge then baked, fried, or grilled.  Its place of origin is thought to be Northern Italy, France, or Switzerland.

History

In Italy it is though that polenta was eaten since Roma times and originally made from starchy ingredients like farro, chestnut flour, millet, spelt, and/or chickpeas.  Corn was brought to Europe from the New World in the 16th century and after that used as the primary ingredient in polenta.  The dish achieves its creamy texture from the gelatinization of starch yet it might not have a homogenous texture if the grain is a very coarse or hard grind.

Initial Cooking

Polenta is cooked by simmering the cornmeal (or other grain) in water or broth/stock with any other desired ingredients and eaten after the mixture is cooked again.  The initial boiling often takes place in a large copper pot called a paiolo and stirred with a large wooded stick (usually made of walnut) known as a canella until the polenta becomes thick enough the support the stirring rod on its own.  At this point the polenta is ready for its secondary cooking.

Polenta

Baked Polenta Fries

There are several different versions of baked polenta “fries” to appeal to a wide range of tastes.  One is a very Italian variation using sage, rosemary, and parmesan cheese or a similar one like romano or asiago.  After cooking polenta to a solid state sir in the herbs and cheese then transfer it to a baking dish and chill it until well set, about 45 minutes.  Preheat your broiler and line a baking sheet with foil then grease it.  Unmold the chilled polenta and cut it into 16 four inch by one inch sticks.  Brush the tops with olive oil then broil the sticks about four inches from the broiler until golden.  This should take about fifteen to twenty minutes.  This variety is delicious served with marinara sauce.

If you are looking for something a little more traditional and easier to prepare you can use 2 eighteen-ounce tubes of prepared polenta.  Unwrap the tubes and cut them in half crosswise then cut each half lengthwise into eight wedges.  Oil a large, rimmed baking sheet then place the wedges in a single layer turning them over to coat with the oil.  Season with salt and pepper then bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.  The polenta fries are great served with ketchup.

You can go with a Southwest twist for your polenta fries by adding minced peppers, chili powder, and cheddar cheese.  You might want to use corn oil and a seasoned salt or even a commercial chili seasoning packet from your local grocery store.  Prepare these using the same method(s) discussed above and serve them with salsa.

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