Zucchini Chicken Wraps with Balsamic Vinaigrette + Provolone

 

 

When I was younger I used to go out of my way to eat at a place called Mighty Taco, famous in the Buffalo area.

 

 

 

 

At that point I didn’t eat meat or beans, so I thought of myself as innovative for putting iceberg lettuce in my taco.

 

I ended up with a taco containing lettuce and cheese--and only lettuce and cheese.

 

 

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Christmas Green + Red Cheese Balls

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I don’t think I’ve ever had a party—small or large, planned or last-minute—where I haven’t served cheese.

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If I’m standing around, drinking wine and chatting, I want to be snacking on some sort of cheesy goodness.

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And when it comes to Christmas, I find that my family is always in need of appetizers.

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I love the part of holiday gatherings where everyone is just relaxing and munching...

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So to bring some cheese to the holidays and keep things super festive at the same time, may I present you with Christmas Cheese Balls!

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The ingredients are few and the time involved is minimal, but in the end you'll be walking in with a show-stopping appetizer!

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You can make just the cheese ball with the green inside and enjoy a pesto-inspired ball with a red outside of tart and crunchy pomegranates.

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Or you can choose the ball with the red inside made with sundried tomatoes and green-coated in pistachios and herbs.

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No matter what you do, you’ve got a cheese ball!

And with that, you’ve got a party!

Christmas Cheese Ball
(Red Outside + Green Inside)

servings: 1 cheese ball

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 4 ounces herbed goat cheese, chilled
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped spinach
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds

Directions:

  1. Place the cream cheese, goat cheese, spinach, basil, and garlic powder in the bowl of a food processor, then process to combine until the mixture is nearly smooth and evenly green.
  2. Transfer the cheese mixture to a piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic, along with your hands, to form the mixture into a tight ball, then place it in the refrigerator to chill until it is firm—25 to 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the cheese ball from the plastic and transfer it to a small plate. Press the pomegranate seeds around the outside of the ball to fully cover it, then reshape it as needed to form a sphere. If you are having any trouble shaping it, let it chill for longer and try shaping/decorating again.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

Christmas Cheese Ball
(Green Outside + Red Inside)

servings: 1 cheese ball

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped sundried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped shelled pistachios


Directions:

  1. Place the cream cheese and sundried tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor, then process to combine until the mixture is nearly smooth and evenly red.
  2. Transfer the cheese mixture to a piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic, along with your hands, to form the mixture into a tight ball, then place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the cheese ball from the plastic wrap and transfer it to a small plate. Press the parsley around the outside of the ball to fully cover it, then repeat with the pistachios. Reshape the cheese ball as needed to form a sphere.
  4. Serve alongside the red cheese ball and your favorite crackers!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam + Pecans

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Appetizers are an important part of the holiday season. 

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When you're sitting around drinking bubbles and singing Christmas carols or opening presents, it's just not the same without something warm and cheesy to nibble on.

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Brie is not the most loved cheese (there are people who find it slightly stinky)...

But when you bake it into an ooey-gooey mess, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who can resist a taste (or two, or three—or eleven).

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And it only gets better when you top it with homemade blackberry and apple jam, candied pecans, and pomegranate seeds!

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Because although we can all agree that melty cheese is ridiculously good, when you combine it with slightly tart jam and crunchy pecans, you will NEED a second, third—and eleventh!—helping!

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And let’s be honest, it’s darn cute.

It’s a present in itself!

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Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam

servings: 1 brie wheel with about 1¾ cups jam, serves 8 to 10

Blackberry Apple Jam:

  • 2 cups blackberries, halved
  • 2 medium green apples, peeled + chopped into ½-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Baked Brie:

  • 1 brie cheese wheel (16 ounces), rind on
  • 1½ cups Blackberry Apple Jam
  • ½ cup whole blackberries
  • 1 medium green apple, sliced
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped candied pecans
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Blackberry Apple Jam:

  1. In medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the blackberries, apples, maple syrup, and vinegar. Bring this mixture to a boil, then a simmer, stirring occasionally, until all of the fruit is purple and has broken down; the liquid should be absorbed and the mixture thick and jam-like—10 to 15 minutes.

Baked Brie:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the top rind off the brie wheel and discard it. Place the brie wheel in a small, round, oven-proof dish, then place the dish on a baking sheet and cook until the cheese is melty—10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Remove the baked brie from the oven and top it with the Blackberry Apple Jam, blackberries, apple slices, pecans, pomegranate seeds, and thyme leaves.

Notes:

  • As the brie is eaten, there will be less jam at the bottom. Feel free to add the remaining ¼ cup of jam (the amount remaining after putting the 1½ cups of jam on top of the baked brie) to the bottom bit of the brie to increase the jam-to-brie ratio.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Everything Spice Pumpkin Cheese Ball

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After eating my 124,562nd Everything Bagel with cream cheese, I had an epiphany.

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“I should make this into a cheese ball!”

“Better yet, a PUMPKIN cheese ball!!”

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And thus the Pumpkin Cheese Ball was born.

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I had seen different versions of pumpkin cheese balls on Pinterest.

But most of them involved hours of wait time and a series of rubber bands, which all seemed far above my pay grade (or attention span!).

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There had to be a better way.

And guess what?! I found it!

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Don't worry, I'll share my secret...

Basically you create a mouthwatering cheese ball made of goat cheese, cream cheese, sundried tomatoes, and scallions.

Cover it in Everything Bagel seasoning, then shape it with a chopstick or spoon.

And for the cutest final effect, top it with a pumpkin stem.

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It’s seriously that easy, and it’s done in 20 minutes.

And once you set it on the table, it will last about the same amount of time!

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Everything Spice Pumpkin Cheese Ball

servings: 10 to 12

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 5 ounces herbed goat cheese (such as Boursin)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped chives
  • ¼ cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup everything bagel spice mix
  • 1 stem from small pumpkin or bell pepper

Directions:

  1. Place the cream cheese, goat cheese, chives, and sundried tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor or mixer, then process to combine until the mixture is smooth.
  2. Transfer the cheese mixture to a piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic along with your hands to form the mixture into a short, squat ball, then place the plastic-wrapped ball in the refrigerator.
  3. Remove the stem from the bell pepper or pumpkin; if you use a pumpkin, it’s easiest to cut off the whole top of the pumpkin straight across, then cut around the base of the stem (rather than trying to break the stem off).
  4. Remove the cheese ball from the plastic and transfer it to a small plate. Pour/sprinkle the spice mix all over the cheese ball, pressing it in so that it sticks and coats the entire ball.
  5. Use a chopstick or spoon handle to press indented lines into the ball that resemble the creases on a pumpkin, then use your hands to smooth and reshape the ball.
  6. Insert the stem into the center of the top of the ball. Serve with your favorite crackers, and enjoy!

Notes:

  • If you’re having difficulty with Steps 4 or 5, try putting your cheese ball back in the refrigerator or freezer to chill longer. It will firm up and may be easier to work with.
  • If you don’t have a pumpkin or bell pepper, you can also use a 2-inch piece of broccoli stem; this also looks great!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
Everything Spice Pumpkin Cheeseball 8.jpg
 

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Boxed Mac + Cheese Pancakes

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When I was first starting out in the world of food, I was on a radio show here in NYC.

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One of the first segments I did was on a hole-in-the-wall diner known for all sorts of crazy-delicious concoctionsone of the concoctions being mac and cheese pancakes.

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They made theirs a bit differently than I make mine.

But with both versions, you get the tangy cheese and salty bacon swimming through the pancake, which is obviously a very good thing.

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I’m basically taking a box of mac and cheese and adding it to a pancake batter.

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Not exactly my healthiest meal ever, but I couldn’t resist recreating those diner mac and cheese pancakes.

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Thank you for coming on this Hack Your Mac journey with me this week!

My purpose in reinventing boxed mac and cheese was to show you that you don’t always have to make everything from scratch for it to be delicious.

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In real life we take shortcuts, and in real life sometimes we just need to have mac and cheese pancakes for dinner.

I mean, we just need to. 😉

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Boxed Mac + Cheese Pancakes

makes: Twelve 3- to 4-inch pancakes

Ingredients:

  • One 14-ounce box of macaroni and cheese (with liquid cheese packet)
  • 4 bacon strips (about 2 to 3 ounces or ¼ cup), some reserved for a garnish
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped scallions, more for a garnish
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces), more for a garnish
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place a medium pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the macaroni. When the water boils, add the macaroni and cook according to the package directions; drain when finished. Stir in the cheese packet, then set aside.
  2. While the macaroni cooks, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp—6 to 7 minutes, turning once. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain, then crumble it into small pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, baking powder, and salt until they are fully combined. Then fold in the cooked macaroni along with the scallions, cheddar, and crumbled bacon.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add the butter and allow it to melt. Scoop about ⅓ cup of the macaroni and cheese mixture into the skillet and cook until both sides of the “pancake” are dark golden brown—3 to 5 minutes per side.
  5. To serve, garnish with scallions, cheddar cheese, and crumbled bacon.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Red Cabbage + Raspberry Grilled Cheese

So great being on The Wendy Williams Show today! Check out the clip--and the recipe!--for my Red Cabbage + Raspberry Grilled Cheese.

Red Cabbage + Raspberry Grilled Cheese

servings: 2 Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cups lightly packed shredded purple cabbage (12 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup raspberry jam
  • ¼ cup champagne vinegar
  • 8 ounces Fontina fontina cheese, sliced
  • 4 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the cabbage and salt and cook until tender but not mushy, —3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the jam and vinegar and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the cabbage is completely tender, —2 to 3 minutes more. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  2. Heat a second large skillet over medium-low heat. Butter 1 side of each slice of bread. Place 2 pieces of bread, butter- side- down, on a plate. Top each with 3 alternating layers, : first of cheese, then cabbage, and then the rest of the cheese, dividing them equally, and then finish off with another slice of bread, butter- side- up. Place the sandwiches in the skillet and cook them until browned on the bottom, —3 to 5 minutes. Then fFlip them over and cook until the other side is has browned and the cheese is has melted, —3 to 5 minutes more, gently pressing the sandwiches as they cook. Cut in half and serve.

Notes:

  • You can really customize this sandwich: just use what you have in the pantry. Any sliced bread works fine, you can substitute any jam flavor that you like, and instead of champagne vinegar feel free to use red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.
  • Purple cabbage is also known as red cabbage and may be labeled that way.
  • I can usually find purple cabbage freshly shredded by the store in my produce section. You can also use green cabbage for a similar taste but a slightly less exciting color.
  • Because of the sweetness of the cabbage and the fact that it’s a grilled cheese, this sandwich should be a hit! Not convinced? Use half that amount of cabbage mixture for super- picky eaters; the cheese will melt all around it, mostly concealing our little secret.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Sundried Tomato + Basil Grilled Cheese

 

 

 

Soon enough summer will be here and we can start talking about salads and fresh veggies.

 

 

 

 

But for now, while there is still a chill in the air, I consider a scarf as important an article of clothing as pants.

 

And although spring has officially sprung, that chilly air means it's still the perfect season for grilled cheese.

 

 

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Pimento Cheese Grilled Corn

 

 

 

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Damaris Philips wedding in Kentucky. It was a day filled with vintage everything, homemade food, love, laughter and some serious dancing.

 

 

 

 

 

Damaris made all the food for her wedding (way to show me up Damaris ;) and it was as delicious as you might expect.

 

 

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Cheesy Matzo Bread

 

 

I like the taste of matzo bread, I know that many people find it dry and bland, I find it flavorful and…no actually, it’s pretty dry and bland.

 

 

 

 

However, just because on its own it’s not amazing doesn’t mean we can’t make it amazing. I know that it isn’t bursting with flavor, but it issuper crunchy and it makes a great base to build on.

 

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Cheddar Cauliflower + Squash Soup

 

 

 

I'm convinced that the reason Broccoli Cheddar soup is so popular is because parents like that they can sneak a vegetable into a kids' bowl and disguise it as Cheese soup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And let's face it! There are times when all of us would rather cozy up to a hot and cheesy bowl of soup rather than a bowl of steamy veggies.

And so we pat ourselves on the back for choosing such a healthy option while still feeding that inner child who is craving comfort food in a bowl.

 

 

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Pomegranate Goat Cheese Spread

RECIPE:

8oz Goat Cheese - softened

4oz Cream Cheese – softened

½ tsp Salt

1 Tbs + 1tsp Fresh Thyme (Finely Chopped)

1 Tbs + 1tsp Lemon Zest

1/2 cup Pomegranate Seeds

1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries

Mix Cheeses, Salt, Thyme and the lemon zest together until well combined. Add the Pomegranate Seeds and Cranberries and stir gently until well incorporated.  Top with extra cranberries, seeds and zest. Enjoy!!

 

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Cheese Ravioli

RECIPE:

Homemade Pasta Dough - Click here for fresh pasta recipe + how-to video

1 cup Ricotta

1.5 cups Parmesan

2 cups Gruyere

4 Garlic Cloves

1/2tsp salt

1 egg

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Spoon 1Tbs of filling into each ravioli. Cook ravioli and enojy!!

Makes 45 raviloi

 

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4 Cheese Mac + Cheese

HALF RECIPE:

1/2 Lbs Macaroni Pasta

2 Tbs Unsalted Butter

1/2 Large Onion

2 Cloves of Garlic

2 Tbs All Purpose Flour

3/4 Cup Whole Milk

4 Cups Cheese, Gruyere, Parmesan, Fontina, Cheddar

Salt

Cook Pasta 1 to 2 minutes shy of packaged directions.  In the meantime, Melt butter and saute onions and garlic until soft and translucent.  Add Flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Add milk and stir/whisk till it is combined in mixture.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, let simmer until thick, about 5 minutes.  Add in 3 cups of cheeses and stir until combined.  Combined cheese sauce with pasta and transfer to a baking dish.  Top with the remaining cup of cheese and broil till the top is crusty and brown.  ENJOY!

FULL RECIPE:

1 Lbs Macaroni Pasta

4 Tbs Unsalted Butter

1 Large Onion

4 Cloves of Garlic

4 Tbs All Purpose Flour

1.5 Cup Whole Milk

8 Cups Cheese, Gruyere, Parmesan, Fontina, Cheddar

Salt

Cook Pasta 1 to 2 minutes shy of packaged directions.  In the meantime, Melt butter and saute onions and garlic until soft and translucent.  Add Flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Add milk and stir/whisk till it is combined in mixture.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, let simmer until thick, about 5 minutes.  Add in 6 cups of cheeses and stir until combined.  Combined cheese sauce with pasta and transfer to a baking dish.  Top with the remaining 2 cups of cheese and broil till the top is crusty and brown.  ENJOY!

 

 

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