Category Archives: Cheese

Easy Sausage Brunch Casserole

One of my two sisters (both excellent cooks) brought this delicious casserole to a baby shower our family hosted years ago.  It  has since become a go-to dish for holiday breakfasts and relaxed company brunches.  I love it because it can be made ahead and baked just before serving, but also because you can create your own variations with different flavored sausages, cheese varieties, and even breads.  My current favorite uses Rumiano Organic Pepper Jack Cheese.  There’s something very satisfying about choosing Rumiano’s Certified Organic, Non-GMO Verified, Kosher, ARumiano Pepper Jackmerican Humane Certified cheeses.  There is even more satisfaction in eating this super creamy Monterey Jack cheese spiked with red and green jalapeño peppers.  It makes a mean turkey and pepper jack panini, elevates a cheese and cracker snack to an art form, and is wonderful in recipes.

Sausage Brunch Casserole

  • Six slices of bread, cubed
  • 1 pound ground pork sausage
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms, sautéed in butter
  • 8 ounces Rumiano Organic Pepper Jack Cheese, grated
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish or prepare with nonstick spray.  Brown sausage in a large skillet and drain well.  Spread cubed bread in the bottom of the casserole dish, spread sausage over the bread, and top with mushrooms.  Grate the cheese and spread over the other ingredients.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk eggs together and add the remaining ingredients.  Mix well, then pour over the sausage mixture.  Bake for 30 minutes and serve.

Preparation tips:

Almost any kind of bread works well in the casserole.  I have used white, wheat, sourdough, and gluten-free breads with great success.

Use canned or freshly sautéed mushrooms.  I like to keep sautéed mushrooms in 1/2 cup portions frozen and ready to pop into recipes.  If you choose canned mushroom, drain off the liquid.

After assembling the casserole, you can cover and refrigerate it overnight.  You may need to add about 5 minutes to the baking time.


We became fans of Rumiano cheeses when we tried their Garlic Jack Cheese several years ago.  We love their family history, their socially conscious business model, and most of all, their great-tasting cheeses!

Where to buy Rumiano Organic Pepper Jack Cheese:

  • Buy from the artisan
  • Find a store  (Note: “Find a store” links to a list of retailers on the Company’s website, but stores may not carry all of the Company’s products. Please check with your local store to be sure they have this specific product in stock. If not, ask them to carry it!)

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Happy New Year!

2014 got off to a great start with a family gathering at our house for brunch.  With a few make-ahead recipes and some of our favorite gourmet foods, preparation was a breeze.  A sausage, egg, and cheese casserole along with a hash brown casserole were the hearty centerpieces of the buffet.  As expected, RoRo’s handmade Cinn-A-Rolls quickly disappeared.


Our good friends at Cherith Valley Gardens provided new inspiration for our traditional “lucky” dish.  Their recipe combines black-eyed peas, CVG’s Hot ‘n Spicy Corn Relish, onion, tomato (which I omitted today), and fresh cilantro to make a tasty partner for tortilla chips.  Yum!


We love Henning’s Natural Chipotle Cheddar Cheese and Cheddar Cheese Curds, so we were excited to add Henning’s Natural Garlic and Dill White Cheddar to the buffet.  The Henning Family recommends this flavorful cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches and a burger topper, but we thoroughly enjoyed it solo.  (Garlic dill cheeseburgers will be on the menu this month!)


When I saw Roth Moody Blue cheese in the deli case, I bought it on name alone.  I love my classic rock almost as much as I love cheese!  The small batch cheese made with local Wisconsin milk is smoked over fruit wood, adding sultry notes to this creamy blue.  Our first new gourmet food tasting of 2014 received 100% “thumbs up” from the blue cheese lovers present.


No brunch would be complete without coffee and mimosas, but we have also been enjoying coffee liqueur-spiked hot chocolate this winter.  You might just forget about coffee shop hot chocolate once you try this!

IMG_0811Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

  • 4 cups half and half
  • 3/4 cup Ghirardelli Premium Hot Cocoa Double Chocolate Flavor
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup coffee liqueur (we like Kahlua)
  • whipped cream
  • caramel topping
  • coarse Kosher or sea salt

Mix half and half, hot chocolate mix and espresso powder in a medium saucepan.  Whisk until well blended over medium heat just until it boils.  Remove from heat and stir in coffee liqueur.  Divide among 4 mugs.  Top with whipped cream, drizzle with caramel topping and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.    (Note:  the hot chocolate mixture without toppings keeps well in the refrigerator overnight.)

Happy New Year to all who share our love for gourmet foods and best wishes to the talented artisans who delight us with their creations.  May you prosper in 2014!

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Smoked Gouda Pimento Cheese on Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Did you do a double take on that combination?  That’s what I did when a pimento cheese sandwich on cinnamon raisin bread was served at a country club luncheon I attended.  The sandwich had eye appeal, for sure, but I wasn’t too sure about the combined flavor profile of cinnamon, cheese and raisins.  After one bite, I was a true believer, and I’ve been sharing this tasty duo with others for years.  Most have become fans of this somewhat quirky combo.

The country club sandwich was simply made with cheddar pimento cheese and a national brand cinnamon raisin bread.  That is how I had always made it, too.  That is, until I realized I had some delicious smoked gouda pimento cheese made with Yancy’s Fancy Smoked Gouda Cheese in the refrigerator at the very same time there was Greenlee’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread in the pantry.  I knew this would be a very different sandwich.  Smoked gouda has a more robust flavor profile than cheddar and Greenlee’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread has a softer texture than other cinnamon raisin yeast breads.  The possibilities were intriguing.


I made a sandwich for lunch, and it was very different, as I had expected, and very flavorful, as I had hoped.  The cheese and raisins paired nicely, and the sweet cinnamon bread was balanced by the onion and garlic flavors in the pimento cheese.  This would make a good grilled cheese sandwich, too.  Yancy’s Fancy Smoked Gouda Cheese and Greenlee’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread are both stellar products in their own right, and it is great when we find artisan products that partner well, as these do.

Do you have a favorite sandwich with unusual ingredients?


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Fried Cheese Curds

Now we know the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers will be playing in the Super Bowl, so we can get started on answering the really important question – what will we eat while we watch the game?  Maybe football game snacks take on more significance when your team hasn’t been in the Super Bowl in like, forever.  But enough about the Dallas Cowboys!

For the next couple of weeks, there will be no shortage of great ideas for game time food.  Allen usually makes his signature smoked sausage in red currant mustard sauce, and something cheesy is normally on the menu, too.  Cheese curds have been very high on our snack food list recently.  When we found Henning’s Cave Aged Peppercorn Cheddar Cheese at Central Market last fall displayed next to Henning’s Cheddar Cheese Curds, we had just tasted fried cheese curds at the State Fair of Texas.  I bought a carton of cheese curds to try recreating the recipe we had enjoyed at the fair.  There was one problem with my plan – the cheese curds were so delicious we ate them before I could get them into the fryer!  Cheese curds are bits of cheese separated from the whey before they are pressed together.  They have a very mild taste, creamy texture and they squeak when you eat them.  We managed to restrain ourselves on the second carton we bought, I found a recipe on that seemed pretty close to what we had eaten at the fair, so we were in business.

Real Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds

Heat oil in a deep-fryer, or large, deep pot to 375°.  Whisk together milk, flour, beer, salt, and eggs to form a smooth, thin batter.  Place about 6 or 8 cheese curds into the batter at one time, stir to coat, and remove with wire strainer.  Shake the curds a couple of times to remove excess batter.  Deep fry the curds until golden brown, 1 or 2 minutes.  Drain on paper towels, then serve hot.


These cheesy little gems will start a party in your mouth!  They are wonderful solo, but add ranch dip (or maybe a dill dip), and you have a snack with a significant wow factor.  I’ve only seen Henning’s cheddar cheese curds in Dallas markets, but their website offers white cheddar, cajun cheese, garlic and dill (be still my heart!), ranch cheddar, pepper cheese, and two tone yellow and white cheddar curds.  You could experiment with different flavored cheese curds and dips for weeks.

I haven’t decided yet which Super Bowl team I’ll be rooting for, but there will be cheers for fried cheese curds!


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Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese

We always enjoy going to Central Market, but it was especially enjoyable last weekend.  Wackym’s Kitchen Margarita Cookie samples were available as part of the Citrus Fest celebration, and we were not surprised to see the display table was very popular!  We picked up a delicious lemon dill cooking sauce, and will be sharing it with you soon.  Central Market’s variety of cheese products is pretty amazing any day of the week, and on this particular day, a display table was being manned by Dave Eagle from Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese.  Dave introduced his cheese, and as we savored bites of his sharp and mild Gouda-style cheese, he introduced himself as a “recovering attorney”.  He said after many years of practicing law, he was ready for a career change.  He is a self-avowed cheese lover, and because he had always enjoyed European artisan raw milk cheeses during his travels, he decided to make raw milk cheese himself.  In true Texas competitive fashion, he reasoned that since Texas is the ninth largest dairy state in the union, he should be able to make the same fine artisan cheeses he had enjoyed in Europe, California, Vermont and Wisconsin!

Dave’s first task was to learn the art of cheese making,  so he attended artisan cheese school in Vermont.  His second task was to find a source for  fresh raw milk, and he relies on Sandy Creek Farm in Bridgeport, Texas.  Sandy Creek’s purebred Brown Swiss cows provide the Grade A raw milk for Eagle Mountain’s artisan cheese.  After Dave returned to Texas from Vermont, he taught his son, Matt, all he had learned about cheese making.  They work together at Dave’s Granbury facility making Gouda and Swiss style cheeses, and others.  Dave is clearly passionate about his cheese, but he is also passionate about the process.  He told us he will be offering cheese making classes this spring, and we will be watching his website for more information on that.

DSC01376Allen and I brought Dave’s mild cheese home, and Sunday night seemed like a good time to enjoy it.  Dave had reminded us to bring the cheese to room temperature before we ate it.  It was so good that it was hard to stop eating! The cheese is semi-firm, yet still creamy.  The flavor is smooth and rich.  I’m never going to be asked to be a cheese competition judge, but I would eat this cheese again and again.  In 2011, actual cheese competition judges awarded Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese a blue ribbon  for their Birdville Reserve cheese.  Dave has clearly mastered the art he admired for so long, and he obviously enjoys sharing his cheese and his craft with others.  Contact him on his website to find out how you can get some of this great cheese for your very own, or to get more information about his cheese-making classes.

Dave handed us a brochure about Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese, and it states “Bless’ed are the Cheese Makers”.  We say, “Amen, Brother Dave!”

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Yancey’s Fancy Smoked Gouda Cheese

DSC01302Our regular Costco shopping trip last weekend was interrupted by the sight of a feeding frenzy around one of the “road show” displays.  For those of you who aren’t Costco shoppers, the store invites guest gourmet food vendors to set up sampling displays and offer their products for a few days.  These events usually offer crazy good products for a really good price, so I’m always in line to see what is going on.  In this case, cheerful workers were distributing cheese samples at lightning speed as they chatted with shoppers about mouth-watering recipe ideas.  I popped a bite of Yancey’s Fancy Smoked Gouda into my mouth and immediately understood why people were stuffing cheese in their mouths as fast as they could!  The pasteurized process cheese had a delicate, smoky flavor and a really creamy texture.   Allen was just as impressed as I was, and so into the shopping cart it went.

Process (or processed) cheese is a combination of natural cheese and emulsifiers which make it a very uniform product that melts smoothly.  It is great for cooking because it doesn’t separate when heated for long time periods as natural cheese does.  American cheese is a very popular process cheese that most people have eaten at one time or another.  While you might not bust out a process cheese to serve on a cheese tray at your next dinner party (unless your guests are five-year-olds), I think it is a really good option for cooking, especially when it is as tasty as this smoked gouda.  I immediately thought of the smoked gouda pimento cheese that Karen and I pick up from Market Street’s deli whenever she is in town.  It is so good that sometimes I don’t wait until she comes to town!  I had a quick and easy version of it mixed up in under 10 minutes, and was pleasantly surprised to find that Yancey’s Fancy had a firmer texture than some process cheese, so it was very easy to grate.

Smoked Gouda Pimento Cheese

  • 8 ounces Yancey’s Fancy Smoked Gouda Cheese, grated
  • 1 – 2 ounce jar diced pimento
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Grate cheese and place in a medium mixing bowl.  Add all other ingredients and blend well.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.

Our delivery vehicle of choice for this savory pimento cheese was Primizie Crispbreads Smoked Dutch Gouda and Garlic flavor, which was the only flavor we hadn’t yet tasted.  As with the other crispbreads, it was stellar.  The combination made for a great contrast between super-crunchy and ultra-creamy, and the double gouda and garlic layers were almost too good for words.  This duo should definitely have an addiction warning label attached!

Smoked Gouda Pimento Cheese

Yancey’s Fancy’s company roots go back to post-World War I New York, when Leo Kutter emigrated from Germany and began using his European cheese-making skills to produce Limburger cheese.  Mr. Kutter left his business to his sons at his death in 1962.  Richard and Tony Kutter partnered with master cheesemaker Brian Bailey in the mid-1990’s, who helped them expand their variety of cheeses.  In 1998 when the Kutters retired, Mr. Bailey, John Yancey and Mike Wimble bought the business and Yancey’s Fancy was launched.

If you are a Costco member, you should definitely check out the Yancey’s Fancy website for their roadshow schedule.  If you aren’t a Costco member, you can order online directly from the website.  We brought home two more flavors of Yancey’s Fancy cheese, and we will be sharing some recipe ideas soon!

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Henning’s Natural Chipotle Cheddar Cheese

Henning's ChipotleWisconsin is home to some really great cheeses, as practically everyone knows.  Our latest tasting included Henning’s Natural Chipotle Cheddar Cheese.  This visually appealing white cheddar is laced with spicy roasted jalapeño peppers.    It looks beautiful on a cheese tray, which is how we enjoyed it recently. Have you ever wondered about the difference between white and yellow cheddar?  It simply boils down to color.  Cheddar cheese is naturally white, and the familiar yellow color of many cheddar cheeses results from adding a plant-based extract called annatto.  Henning’s white cheddar is aged over a month and we thought it fell into the “mild” category, with less tang than an sharp cheddar which has been aged for a longer period.  Chipotle peppers are simply smoked jalapeños, but that process yields a very complex flavor that is popular in Texas and the Southwest.  White cheddar and chipotle peppers combined?  Completely addictive!  Henning’s Chipotle Cheddar has won awards in U.S. and world cheese competitions, and it definitely will win over your taste buds.

Our tasting combined Henning’s Natural Chipotle Cheddar with crisp, unflavored crackers and some smoked sausage, and it was superb.  The potential uses for it in recipes seems endless.  Nachos and Mexican casseroles immediately came to mind, but Allen thought it would be fantastic atop a juicy grilled burger, and everyone agreed.  That will be on the menu on the next warm weekend, which in Texas could be at any time!

Chipotle Cheese

We introduced you to the Henning Family’s cheese business and Kerry Henning, the “Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker”, when we tasted his award-winning aged peppercorn cheddar.  The family is committed to local dairy farmers who pasture-feed their cows and supplement their diets with a balance of natural grains.  The Hennings have almost 100 years in the cheese making business, and have won numerous national and international awards.  Their website offers easy ordering for their great cheese products.

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Rumiano Family Organic Monterey Jack Cheese

Rumiano Family Organic CheeseThe packaging on this cheese tells the story, “4 generations of the Rumiano Family bringing you the best tasting organic hand-crafted cheese on the planet!”   I could probably end the commentary at this point and start enjoying some really exceptional organic cheese, but since I can’t share a taste with you, I will continue telling the story.  We were introduced to the Rumiano Family when we tasted their Garlic Jack Cheese, which was truly awesome. When Owen Rumiano contacted us to share some information on the family’s organic line of cheeses, we searched out their organic Monterey Jack at our local Whole Foods Market.

You might think the fourth-generation owners of the oldest family-owned cheese company in California would be resting comfortably on their laurels.  Instead, they are leading their industry with the only certified non-GMO cheeses in the world.  This video shows the justifiable pride the family has in its operations including sustainable farming practices, humane treatment of the “happy” grass-fed cows that produce milk for their cheeses, a robust recycling program, and energy efficiency that includes some of their employees riding bicycles to work!

However admirable a company’s business model is, it must also have a good product, and the Rumiano Family definitely delivers.  Monterey Jack is a Rumiano MJ platedlight-colored, semi-hard cheese with a mild flavor.  Rich Jersey cow milk gives Rumiano’s organic Monterey Jack a very creamy texture and buttery flavor.  We enjoyed it in a very simple presentation, cubing the cheese and serving it with slices of smoked sausage.  It was so very tasty!  As smooth and creamy as it was at room temperature, it would surely melt beautifully in a queso recipe or casserole.  A Cheesy Portobello Mushroom recipe on the company’s website looks like an excellent way to test that melting quality!

There is a store locator on the website so you can find Rumiano Organic Monterey Jack cheese in your area, or you can order directly from the Rumiano Cheese Company.  This cheese is guaranteed to please your palate and your social conscience!

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Henning’s Cave Aged Peppercorn Cheddar Cheese

This gorgeous chunk of cheese is from Henning’s Wisconsin Cheese.  Put this 2012 World Cheese Contest winning peppercorn cheddar on your “must-try” list.  Fine cheese should not be eaten straight from the refrigerator, but first brought to room temperature.  The peppercorn cheddar took almost two hours to warm, but it was definitely worth the wait.  The aging process creates a cheese that is firmer and dryer than fresh cheese, and develops more complex flavors.  The generous sprinkling of cracked peppercorns adds a nice spicy bite to the cheese.  Although I’m certainly no tasting expert, it seemed there was a hint of parmesan flavor in the cheese, and Henning’s website suggests adding the cheese to Italian pasta or salads.  That idea is worth exploring.

Kerry Henning is the third-generation cheesemaker in this family business established in 1914.  He has earned the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker designation, which is a complicated process of being licensed for at least ten years and having at least five years of experience in making the cheese one is “mastering” in.  Kerry has mastered in Cheddar, Colby and Monterey Jack and his cheeses have won numerous awards.

Kerry’s father, Everett, remains involved in the business, and was the driving force behind the family’s cheese museum and store.  It has a display of vintage cheesemaking equipment, offers large viewing windows onto the factory floor to see the cheesemaking process, and of course, has Henning’s cheeses for sale.  Oh, and fresh, warm cheese curds are available every weekday!

This successful family business is approaching the century mark.  Their website has a list of retailers where you can find their cheeses, and there is also an online store that offers cheese, sausage, candy, and other products.

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Rumiano Cheese Company Garlic Jack Cheese

I’ve wanted to write about this cheese for a while, but I had to get into Nancy Drew mode to find the producer.  Karen and I picked up California Mission garlic jack cheese at Central Market.

After shooting a quick photo, we unwrapped it and let it come to room temperature.  This is one amazing cheese with a super-creamy texture and garlicky goodness.  Between the five “tasters” who were present that evening, we quickly devoured it all.

The fun began when I searched out the producer.  I started with California Mission.  Dead end.  Then I clued into the person’s name on the label, David Jacks.  That initiated an interesting history lesson on the origin of Monterrey Jack cheese.  Mr. Jacks was a dairy owner and cheese maker in Monterrey, California.  In 1882, he packaged his cheese with his name and point of origin, “Monterrey Jacks”.  The “s” was dropped and eventually, Monterrey Jack became the signature cheese of California.  But it wasn’t the Jacks family who produced this cheese.  I couldn’t read any of the small print on the photo of the label for further clues, so I had no alternative except to buy another wedge of cheese for more research.  Oh, the sacrifice!

Not only did we have more delicious garlic jack cheese to eat, I now knew that the Rumiano Cheese Company was responsible for it.  Italian brothers Richard, Fred and John Rumiano emigrated to the United States around 1900.  After working in mines, they purchased a small dairy in Willows, California, and by the mid-1930’s, the brother had built the largest cheese company in California. Rumiano Cheese Company is now the oldest family-owned cheese company in the state, and they use local milk from third and fourth-generation family farms.  Third-generation brothers Baird and John Rumiano own and operate the company, and they look forward to passing the family business to their own sons.

Today, the family business focuses on food service distribution, which means you might have enjoyed Rumiano fine cheeses in your favorite restaurant, and provides cheese for private labels (such as  California Mission).  Fortunately, you won’t have to search as hard as I did to find Rumiano cheese.  Their website offers online ordering, but also has a search function to find retailers in your area.  Now that we know where to buy, we will be trying more Rumiano family cheese varieties!

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