Sunday, April 29, 2012

Seasoned Cheese Nuggets

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. I agree.
We spent so much time this week working outside, planting flowers and veggies, moving dirt, placing edging and decorative rock, running soaker hoses, and various other things, that normal chores have fallen by the wayside.
Laundry, sweeping, vacuuming, picking up- those have been given only a half-hearted effort. Dishes have been getting done, although I had not gotten to the bottom of the sink until yesterday. I was always getting at least one load of dishes done, but not always put away so I could then load it up again to empty the sink. That doesn't address things like wiping counters and scrubbing the cook-top. Not to mention dusting, heaven forbid. We have eaten out too much, eaten left-overs from eating out in between, and scrounged around for something when we were too tired to shower and then go find someplace to eat. It has been pitiful. Anyway, a trip to the grocery store is long over-due. LONG over-due.
How is it we have so many things in the cabinets, and for that matter the fridge, and yet have nothing with which to make a meal? It can sometimes be because we are picky, but mustard and salad dressing and cornmeal do not a meal make. Or cake mixes, chips, and canned peas. Just sayin'.
Some of my favorite childhood meals were ones my Mom invented with what we had in the cabinet. Mommy's Oink Cluck Spud is still a favorite. Don't laugh. It was awesome.
So, for supper tonight, I knew I had a tube of Pillsbury bread sticks and random cheeses. Add to that a dollop of butter and some spices, I knew I was on my way to a quick fix supper. For fun I also made some watermelon lemonade slushies, so we can tell ourselves we had some fruit at least!

Here is what I did.
I opened the last four string cheese rolls.
I cut each roll into maybe ten small pieces. I'll be honest, I didn't count.
Each piece was about 1/2" long. This was not precise, so don't go looking for a ruler! Stop it! If you want to be precise, there are 12 bread sticks, and each of those will be cut in half. So, that means you need at least 24 pieces of cheese. I have no idea how many I had. It will all be ok, I promise.

I popped open the tube of bread sticks, and unrolled them. Then I cut each bread stick in half and pressed two at a time out on a plate. I placed two of the cheese pieces into each half and folded them up, sealing things closed.

I sprayed the casserole dish with pan spray and placed each nugget in the dish as I wrapped them. I found toward the end, after I tucked the ends under, I could roll them in my hands (like rolling cookie dough balls) and the edges sealed better that way I believe.

After all the nuggets were rolled, I did the unthinkable- I melted butter to use for the topping. I know, I know. Butter is one of those things we all love, but don't want to admit it. Butter makes everything better, you know it, I know it, all cooks know it. Do any of us NEED it? NO!! Regardless, it seemed the right thing to do. So I melted a TB of butter and added some spices. Basil, Garlic Salt, Parsley, and home-made hot pepper flakes.
The hot pepper flakes were not made by us, but by friends. They are indeed HOT. Puts store bought pepper flakes to shame both heat wise and FLAVOR wise. Serious pepper flavor here, not just the empty hot spicyness of most store bought pepper flakes. You just do not know the difference until you have smelled them. I do NOT eat red pepper flakes. But these pepper flakes have a flavor that you cannot miss, and I DO like them. We like them so much Eric planted 5 different kinds of peppers in our garden, so we will be making our own later this year. I will have to let you know how that goes!
That was a side-bar, as my long ago high school Sunday school teacher would say.
Back to the recipe at hand.
I mixed the spices and the melted butter and spooned just a drizzle over the top of each nugget.

Oh yes, things were going along nicely. I could have stopped there, butter, cheese, spices. Its all good. But I wasn't finished just yet. No sirree bob. Because everyone knows that a little cheese may be good, but more cheese is better. So lets move along and find some more cheese.

I used between 1/4 and 1/3 C shredded mozzarella cheese, and about 4 TB shredded Parmesan Romano blend shredded cheese.
Then it was time to throw it in the oven and see what magic might happen. 350 was as good as anything, and I set the timer for 10 minutes. While that was doing its thing, I worked on the watermelon lemonade slushies.

We had been to Sam's Club with my teacher/helper and dear friend on Friday. We didn't get much in the way of food, mostly paper products. I didn't think I needed things like a big enough can of peas to feed everyone in my neighborhood. However, they were passing out samples, and we tried a watermelon lemonade slushie there that Eric wanted me to make at home. So I did grab two small round watermelons and a tub of lemonade drink mix.

The slushies are very simple. Cut the rind of the watermelon off and cut the flesh into chunks and dump that into your blender. You need about 3-4 C watermelon cubes, and add a cup of water. Blend on high for about a minute. I used the 'liquify' setting. Then I strained it through a mesh strainer, because I can't stand bits of seeds in my drink. I stirred the pulp bits and seed bits in the strainer to get all the juice to move on through. Then you add 1/2 C of the lemonade mix, and mix that in. Right before you are ready to drink it, you add 2-3 C of ice cubes and crush them up good. I will admit, I prefer to drink it through a straw, and I could care less if the ice is crushed. I could have whole cubes in my cup to make it cold and I would be just as happy. To each his own. It is very refreshing and summery. I could also see these made into home-made popsicles. You could also use fresh lemons, I would imagine, but I do not know how many.

The oven timer went off about the time I was finishing the slushies. I had placed the casserole dish on the bottom rack in my oven, as I did not want the cheese on top to get too brown before the dough was cooked. Things looked good after ten minutes, but obviously needed more time. I moved the casserole dish to the top rack and set the timer for 5 more minutes.

In a perfect world, or in a parallel universe, I would have had marinara sauce to dip these cheesy nuggets in. But, as I previously mentioned, the cupboards are rather picked over at the moment, so all I could come up with to dip them in was Olive Garden Italian dressing. I know, we are weird.

When the timer went off the second time, things looked about perfect, so I declared supper finished and Eric went to wash his hands.


I used tongs to dip out several cheesy nuggets for each of us, and added a small dish of Olive Garden Dressing to each plate. I also grabbed some sprinkle Parmesan cheese as well.

It was love at first bite. I heard purring from Eric I do believe.

Eric said more than once that they were very good. He also says that he can imagine a chunk of garden fresh roma tomato inside each one sometime. I think he is right. These call for experimentation. Add some pepperoni, or tomatoes, or bacon or peppers. Have fun, be creative, try something out of the ordinary. I will say the Olive Garden dressing was fabulous with them.

I have no recipe to offer you this time, but I will write down what I used.

1 tube Pillsbury bread sticks
4-5 string cheese rolls (we used Cheddar/Mozzarella)
1 TB butter
1/4 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp garlic salt
Dash of dried Basil
Dash of hot pepper flakes
1/3 C Shredded Mozzarella
4 TB Shredded Parmesan/Romano Blend

bake @ 350 for 10 min on bottom rack in oven, rotate & 5 more min on the top rack.

Dip in any sauce you want to use (or what you have on hand)


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