Friday, March 22, 2013

Cheese Please!

So one of the first things I noticed when we started cutting out processed foods was that some of our kids favorite foods - grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese - were some of the WORST processed foods I could be feeding them.  Yikes!  But what is a mommy to do?  Not ever let them have their beloved lunches in exchange for something different?  I wish.  It takes lots of time and many attempts to change kids eating habits and we are slowly getting there with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. But sometimes you just want that good old comfort food.

I have nothing against cheese itself.  I LOVE cheese.  I could live off of cheese and potatoes I think.  But a lot of the so called "cheese" that is sold in stores is only partially cheese.  We actually have a name for super processed cheese here in the US.  It's called American Cheese.  And we used to eat a lot of it!  I even bought the 2% milk kind thinking I was being healthy.  It was the same with Velveeta.  I would not buy it as often but it made the most glorious mac and cheese - my mouth is watering thinking of it but them my brain is like "what ARE you eating? Because this is not really totally cheese.  And how is this able to sit on the shelf un-refrigerated?"  A fantastic example of natural cheese vs. processed cheese is found in this companies ad.  I do not buy their cheese but I have switched to natural cheeses as much as possible and I love their visual.

Please understand I do not think bad of you if you choose to still buy these kinds of products.  I have just learned so much over the last month about how processed our food industry is and how horribly it is effecting our health as a nation.  With that in mind, I set out to make a few changes.  We now purchase our cheddar cheese through Royal Crest Dairy.  They sell Natural cheese from Chippewa Valley Farms.  We are still working on switching over mozzarella and feta to natural and plan to do some cheese shopping soon at Sprouts.  I no longer buy multiple bags of pre-shredded cheese as I have learned that in order to keep the cheese from clumping many additives are included such as the most popular - cellulose (wood pulp).  So we buy it by the brick and take the extra work to shred it ourselves.  The best part - it tastes phenomenal and you don't have to use as much because it is so full of flavor.

As far as grilled cheese and mac and cheese goes...  I still make it for the boys.  And for my husband and I too - who am I kidding! Only now I use freshly sliced cheddar cheese on homemade wheat bread with real butter to make the outside crispy.  It's delicious.  And just the other day I decided to make mac and cheese from scratch using organic milk, butter, and cheddar and a few seasonings.  It was so wonderful and as an added bonus I accidentally learned how to make my own 'Velveeta'!  I had lots of leftover sauce so I put it in the fridge over night and what I had the next day was the consistency of, you guessed it, Velveeta.  I have since used it to make scalloped potatoes (amazing) and plan to make some broccoli and cheese soup.  I think I could use it any place I once would have used Velveeta.  I'm even experimenting to see if it can be frozen for future use.  So you want the recipe?  I altered it from the original form adding more cheese than it called for - I think this is the reason it solidified so well in the fridge.

All Purpose Cheddar Cheese Sauce

4 tbps real butter
4 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
2 cups organic milk
3 1/2 - 4 cups shredded natural sharp cheddar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a sauce pan.  Add in the flour and whisk.  Slowly add in the milk and mustard and let heat up to a simmer and thicken a bit.  Slowly add in the cheese and melt it all together.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Use right away in your favorite recipe or put in a container for the refrigerator.  As it is a milk based product I would say it would be good for about a week.  I am freezing some in smaller portions to use in future recipes.


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