Flavour of the month, Pairings, Profiles

Flavour of the month: Black River Maple Cheddar

February is the suckiest month. My boyfriend sometimes makes the case for November: clearly the rambling of mal-adjusted soul that never fully knew autumn-induced joy and Santicipation (love you, honey!). After emerging bleary-eyed from a Polar-Vortex funk last year, I resolved to make plans, preferably hot ones, for this year.

Costa Rica, a bit pie-in-the-sky for our budgets, fell through. But the universe stepped in with two lucky opportunities, thanks to said boyfriend. First, a weekend work trip to Ottawa, on which I was invited to tag along. Almost immediately after, a week-long stint in Fort Myers Beach, squatting in the beach-side haven his parents rented for the suckiest month – air-kick!

Florida was a lot of ol’ faithful cheeses: melt-in-your-mouth mozzarella with tomato and basil and gooey cheddar crowning stuffed peppers. But our mini-break in Ottawa brought a new dairy love to my life: Black River Cheese’s Maple Cheddar. I’d seen it around the block many times, but had never bought it. That is, until I bought absolutely everything to eat.

Maple cheddar

Please accept my crude depiction of its components in lieu of the actual brick, which I obliterated. (Genevieve Howard/Compfight, J.P. Lon/Wikimedia Commons)

They say you should never shop when you’re hungry (not even for inedible things!), and we were living proof of that, headed to the grocery store to stock up on snacks having skipped dinner. We spent around $100 on “snacks” (for an army, I guess). Nestled in the spoils was Black River’s Maple Cheddar, to be paired with our crackers, or, y’know, eaten straight off the plastic knife with which we cut it.

Generally, cheese is not sweet. A lot of my favourites have sweet undertones (hay, Piave), but rarely is the overall impression more sweet than salty – which is why they’re usually so yummy with an accompaniment like jam. Not so with Black River’s.

The Maple Cheddar is a medium-aged cheese, so not too strong, which allows the maple syrup that it’s mixed with to really take the reins. It doesn’t have pure maple syrup’s bitterness or much of cheddar’s saltiness to create a more layered, deep flavour, so its powerfully-sweet impression won’t be for everyone (my boyfriend didn’t care for it, but he’s usually more of a salty/bitter guy – pun unintended but welcomed with a smirk). I, however, found it refreshingly soft and simple, and just devoured it.

Much like icewine is a true dessert wine, so does this cheese just scream dessert. Grilled cheese and cheese bread are two of the suggestions Black River makes for how to use it best, and I’d have to agree – bread would set off the sweetness while letting the cheese be the star. I’d tread carefully with any pairings. Common sidekicks like salty meats and antipasto would be too much, in my humble opinion. A lightly-smoked (not grainy) mustard would be interesting, or a Saskatoon berry jam (probably the only time I’ve ever wanted this specific jam, but I think its sorta-blueberry, sorta-apple lightness would be just right).

Honestly, though, it’s best left to its own devices, with just a little bit of bread. Suitable for both screw-you-February days and cuddled-up, what-month-is-it-anyway sojourns.

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Super Bowl dips
Entertaining, Recipes

Super Bowl recipes: One cheese, two dips

Super Bowl Sunday has a little something for everyone: Football (so I hear), puppy-centric commercials and the Big Kahuna, food. The Super Bowl falls in an indulgence sweet spot: I’ve finally recovered from all the junk I ate over the holidays, just in time to do it all over again. Plus, I’m a firm believer that a theme around which to centre your snacks makes for double the fun. These recipes are spinoffs of two of the most revered Super Bowl food groups: Pizza and buffalo wings.

I’ve been maniacally consuming Super Bowl recipes for the last two weeks, and I have to say, BuzzFeed Food really knocked it out of the park with Super Bowl snacks and Sriracha-cheese recipes – go have a look if you’re hosting and looking to make an impressive centrepiece dish, or want to enjoy a bit of cooking.

Pizza dip buffalo dip

But if, like me, you are going to a party and want to bring a simple, crowd-pleasing appetizer, look no further. These two dips were the crowning glory of the aforementioned holiday spread this year. Both are made with stuff you probably already have on-hand, and are perfect for the Super Bowl, too: Pizza dip and buffalo dip. I bought a single bag of shredded mozza-cheddar blend and it carried me through both, to rave reviews from my pals. Here’s what’s involved.

Buffalo dip for Super Bowl

Buffalo Dip 

This dip has been a winner in our family for years. It involves slightly more effort than the pizza dip, but it’s still dead simple. My aunt once gave me a big batch of this dip for Christmas – that’s the level of addictive we’re looking at. This can easily be adjusted with more or less chicken or buffalo sauce. I haven’t tried it with tofu before, but I’d bet if you bake the tofu first with a bit of spice, you’d never know the difference.

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 package cream cheese (8 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup ranch salad dressing (feel free to make your own if you’re not feeling bottled)
  • ~1/2 bottle of Frank’s Red Hot regular or buffalo, to taste
  • 1 cup shredded mozza-cheddar (in my case), or straight-up cheddar for tangier flavour
  • 1 bag tortilla chips (small rounds work best), for dipping

Buffalo dip for Super Bowl

Directions

Boil the chicken breasts until finished, about 20 mins. While the chicken is cooking, mix the cream cheese and ranch together with an electric mixer until creamy. Add Frank’s, then stir in shredded cheese. Chop the chicken very finely, then stir it into the mixture. Put into a 9×9″ baking dish and bake at 375 degrees for about 45-50 minutes until bubbly. Serve and dip!

Pizza dip for Super Bowl

Pizza Dip

So, buffalo dip was the big guns at our holiday spread, until my aunt made pizza dip this year. It’s four ingredients and so easy that it’s almost unfair how much people like it – give the other snacks a chance, would ya? People slaving over from-scratch and artfully-crafted apps might turn their nose up at first, but keep a polite smirk in your back pocket for roughly 10 minutes later, when they’ve thrown pretence to the wind and are scraping cheese from their chin so as to not miss any. There’s no pretty way to eat it, just dig in.

Ingredients

  • 250g tub herb and garlic cream cheese
  • ~1 1/2 cup your fave tomato sauce, to taste
  • ~1 1/2 cup chopped pepperoni, to taste
  • 1 cup shredded mozza-cheddar cheese, or straight-up mozza for lighter flavour
  • Sliced baguette, for dipping

Pizza dip for Super Bowl

Directions

You ready? This gets real simple, real fast. Grab the dish you want to serve it in. A tinfoil pie plate makes for easy cleanup. Spread the cream cheese across the bottom in a smooth layer. Pour enough tomato sauce to cover on top, as much as you like. Layer the pepperoni on top. Sprinkle the cheese. Pop it in the oven at 375 degrees until the cheese has melted and you’re about to implode with wanton desire from the smell. Serve with sliced crusty bread.

What are you making for the Super Bowl? Have any favourite recipes to share? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments!

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