Tag Archives: cheese

Brie and Chive Fondue

Enjoying Brie and Chive Fondue at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

I’ve been a reader of Bon Appetit magazine since the early ‘90s. One recipe I’ve kept in my repertoire from those early days is their Brie and Chive Fondue. It’s such an old recipe that you can’t even find it on their website! Luckily, I had it tucked away in an old post here at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet (now deleted). Since search engines had a tough time finding the post, and I could only find the recipe at one other source on the web, I thought I’d repost it with a  few gluten free changes.

I recently made Brie and Chive Fondue for New Year’s Eve. It was such a hit with the kids, that my son has asked that I make it for his upcoming birthday party! At first I was reluctant to do so, since I thought his friends would think that brie’s a little weird. But I’m reconsidering since the brie you buy at Sam’s Club isn’t all that strong. Additionally, the choice of grapefruit juice instead of wine – which is traditionally used in a Gruyere fondue – makes this recipe very child friendly.

This Mama’s tips

  • If you have trouble finding 100% pink grapefruit juice, use 100% grapefruit juice or a pink grapefruit and other 100% juice blend. Don’t use grapefruit juice cocktail, which is full of added sugar and other nasty stuff.
  • I’ve substituted gluten free flour instead of all purpose flour. If you’re making this for a party, use gluten free bread instead of regular bread. Or keep one pot completely gluten free, so there’s no cross-contamination between guests who may be dipping regular crusty bread into the pot.
  • Tail on shrimp as a dipper is amazing. But save it for the adults!
  • Fondue pots! I have an old one green one from the ‘70s that I found at a thrift store. I also have a Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Fondue Pot [affiliate link] that’s wonderful. (The picture above is the green fondue pot resting on the Le Creuset base – we were using both fondue pots that night.) Everyone from Target to Pier One to Crate & Barrel sell fondue pots, so you now have an excuse to go out and buy one!
Enjoying Brie and Chive Fondue at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Brie and Chive Fondue

From the September 1991 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.


For fondue:

  • 2 pounds chilled slightly firm Brie cheese
  • 2 tablespoons gluten free all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon buttery spread
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 1/2 cups (or more) 100% pink grapefruit juice
  • white pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon minced grapefruit peel

For dipping:

  • gluten free bread cut or torn into 1-inch pieces
  • apple and pear slices
  • cooked shrimp (you don’t need fondue skewers if you used the tail-on variety)


  1. Remove rind from cheese. (I admit my family and I like to eat the rind pieces. So why throw it away?)
  2. Tear cheese into pieces and place in a large bowl. Add gluten free flour and toss to coat.
  3. Melt buttery spread in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat.
  4. Add minced shallots and sauté until golden brown, about 4 minutes.
  5. Add 1 1/2 cups grapefruit juice. Simmer until liquid is reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low.
  6. Add 1 handful of brie to the saucepan and stir constantly until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes.
  7. Repeat with remaining cheese, 1 handful at a time.
  8. Season to taste with white pepper. You can make this one day ahead, which is perfect if you’re making this for a party. Just cover and refrigerate. Reheat over low heat, stirring frequently. Thin with more juice if necessary.
  9. Stir in chives and grapefruit peel.
  10. Pour cheese mixture into a fondue pot and set over candle or canned heat. Serve with the dippers of your choice.
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 40 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 10 Minutes
Servings: Makes about 4 cups. Serves 4 to 6 for a hearty meal.
  • Serving size: 3/4 to 1 cup per person

Goat Cheese in Infused Olive Oil

Goat Cheese in Infused Olive Oil at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

During the holidays, I find that most of us tend to focus on sweet flavors like baked goodies at our parties. While I love a sweet treat now and then, since my brain surgery, I really go for the savory. I love a slice of fancy cheese, some olives, or a schmear of hummus on a cracker.

In my opinion, one of the really elegant appetizers is one of the most simple – dipping a chunk of nice bread in quality olive oil. I first experienced this at one of my favorite Italian eateries in Colorado. The waiter would come by and pour a high quality olive oil into a couple of small dishes. He’d add some  grated cheese and possibly some salt and pepper to the olive oil, if you wished. Then you’d take pieces of their lovely freshly made bread and dip it into the olive oil while you waited for your food to be cooked up. They even had gluten free bread, so no one was left out of this lovely ritual.

Goat Cheese in Infused Olive Oil at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Inspired by this memory and Carbonell Olive Oil’s “Dare to Carbonell” campaign, I’ve recreated this appetizer with a bold new twist. First, I’ve infused Carbonell Olive Oil with herbs and fermented Japanese Aamori Black Garlic. The fermented garlic, which is available at Trader Joe’s, has a sweet taste and is amazing. I then used the infused oil (you can use either one) and added it to goat cheese for another bold appetizer. Both are wonderful ways to enjoy the Spanish flavors of Carbonell!

Infused oils also make terrific homemade gifts for the foodies on your holiday list. Put the oils into small glass bottles with a decorative ribbon and tag.

Goat Cheese in Infused Olive Oil at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Goat Cheese in Infused Olive Oil

To avoid cross contamination between guests dipping regular and gluten free breads into oil and cheese, make a special goat cheese round just for your gluten free guests. Mark it clearly with a sign.


  • 1 (8-ounce) log soft mild goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup Infused Carbonell Virgin Olive Oil (see recipes below)
  • Liberal pinch or two table salt or finishing salt
  • Rosemary or thyme sprigs and leaves for garish
  • Sliced baguette, ciabatta, or gluten free breads – toasted if you wish


  1. Place cheese on plate and loosely drape with plastic wrap. Using your hands, shape the goat cheese into a round shape.
  2. Pour infused olive oil over cheese round.
  3. Sprinkle cheese round with salt.
  4. Garnish plate with rosemary and thyme sprigs.
  5. Serve with bread.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 15 Minutes
Servings: Makes 8 appetizer servings
  • Serving size: 2 baguette slices with cheese

Herb and Fermented Garlic Infused Olive Oil


  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 head fermented Japanese Aamori Black Garlic (available at Trader Joe’s)
  • 3 teaspoons black whole peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 cups Carbonell Virgin Olive Oil


  1. Place all ingredients in a medium sauce pan.
  2. Heat over medium heat until a cooking thermometer reads 175 degrees F.
  3. Let cool.
  4. Pour into a bottle and cork.
  5. Keep cool and out of direct sunlight for up to 1 month.

Rosemary and Chive Infused Olive Oil


  • 3 large fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 small bunch fresh chives
  • 3 teaspoons black whole peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 cups Carbonell Virgin Olive Oil


  1. Place all ingredients in a medium sauce pan.
  2. Heat over medium heat until a cooking thermometer reads 175 degrees F.
  3. Let cool.
  4. Pour into a bottle and cork.
  5. Keep cool and out of direct sunlight for up to 1 month.

Dare to Carbonell!

The bold tastes of Spain and Carbonell Olive Oil

Since 1866, Carbonell Olive Oil has embodied the spirit of art, culture, food, family, and friends with their high quality olive oil. Today, Carbonell is the world’s leading Spanish olive oil brand, and has three distinct varieties each suited to a different cooking need:

  • Daringly Expressive Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a rich taste and smooth flavor that will make any dish pop with Spanish personality. Use Carbonell Extra Virgin Olive Oil for salads, dips, marinades and drizzling over finished dishes.
  • Fantastically Light Extra Light Olive Oil has a light taste that’s perfect for high-heat cooking such as frying, sautéing, and baking.
  • Distinctly Classic Olive Oil has a traditional flavor that serves as an all-purpose cooking oil, adding a mild flavor to soups, sauces and grilled meats and vegetables.

This blog post is part of a paid SocialMoms and Carbonell blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own. To read more posts on this topic, click here.

Fig, Caramelized Onion, Prosciutto & Goat Cheese Pizza

Fig, Caramelized Onion, Prosciutto & Goat Cheese Pizza at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.comMy son, Nathan, came home from school the other day asking me if I had a goat cheese and fig pizza recipe on my blog. Seems he has a teacher who grows figs in her yard and she needed some ideas. Nathan told her about the goat cheese and fig pizza made with Udi’s Gluten Free pizza crusts I'd made for dinner a few times, and thought I'd a posted recipe for it. However, while I had recipes for Goat Cheese Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Baby Greens and Balsamic Reduction and Caramelized Onion & Fig Mini Pizzas, I didn’t have one that combined the two. That is until now, thanks to my friend, Holly Clegg.

I love figs and can usually find fresh ones here in Georgia when they’re in season or dried ones when they’re not. However, if you’re having a tough time finding any sort of figs, you can substitute dates or even dried plums.

Find more of Holly’s trim& TERRIFIC® recipes at hollyclegg.com and The Healthy Cooking Blog. Don’t forget to check out Holly’s new cookbook, KITCHEN 101: Secrets to Cooking Confidence, too!

Gourmet Aphrodisiacs this Valentine’s Day

If you are looking for just the right subtly sweet and savory dish with gourmet appeal yet quick and easy – then look no further than my delightful Fig, Caramelized Onion, Prosciutto & Goat Cheese Pizza. Did you know that figs are considered a symbol of fertility and revered as an aphrodisiac? From the “Food for the Mood” chapter in Holly Clegg's trim&TERRIFIC Too Hot in the Kitchen: Secrets to Sizzle at Any Age, this is the go-to cookbook for a fun-filled Valentine’s Day gift! Filled with recipes for romance, aphrodisiac ingredients, and enticing words like, “A good marriage is like a good wine, it gets better with age.”

Turn up the heat this Valentine’s Day and you’ll definitely sizzle in your kitchen!

Fig, Caramelized Onion, Prosciutto & Goat Cheese Pizza at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Fig, Caramelized Onion, Prosciutto & Goat Cheese Pizza

Figs, considered a symbol of fertility and revered as an aphrodisiac, turn pizza into an alluring palate pleasing masterpiece.


  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • Pinch sugar
  • 1 (12-ounce) thin pizza crust
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 4 ounces figs, sliced in thirds
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, optional


  1. In small nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil and sauté onion, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes until start to turn golden. Add sugar and continue cooking until caramel color. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat oven 450°F. On pizza crust, spread remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and cover with orange marmalade. Arrange cooled onions, figs, prosciutto, goat cheese and mozzarella on crust.
  3. Sprinkle with rosemary, if desired. Bake 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust crisp.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour
Servings: Makes 8 servings
  • Serving size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 281
  • Calories from Fat: 96 (34%)
  • Total Fat: 10g
  • Saturated fat: 4g
  • Unsaturated fat: 6g
  • Sodium: 279mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 38g
  • Sugar: 12g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 6g
  • Cholesterol: 16mg

Dietary Exchanges: 2 starch, 1/2 fruit, 1/2 lean meat, 1 1/2 fat

Recipe and photo used with permission of the author.

Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links. A commission may be earned from a referred sale to their website.

Two dishes in one: Polenta and Ham Pizza Rounds and Polenta and Ham Casserole

Polenta and Ham Pizza Rounds

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Boar's Head. All opinions are 100% mine.

One of my go to meals when I can’t think of anything else to make is polenta. The great thing about polenta is that you can keep a couple of tubes of it in the pantry since it’s shelf stable. My favorite way to cook it is to sauté slices in a pan, cover them with warm spaghetti sauce, and add a little parmesan cheese on top. However, this recipe for Lower Sodium Ham & Polenta Rounds from Boar’s Head bakes the polenta rounds, which seems so much healthier!

Inspired, I created these Polenta and Ham Pizza Rounds using Boar's Head lower sodium deli meats and cheeses. In addition, I created a Polenta and Ham Casserole using leftover lower sodium ham and provolone from the first dish. The ingredients shown below are for making both dishes. If you just want to make the Pizza Rounds, halve the recipe and use leftover ham and provolone in quiche or omelets.

The Pizza Rounds make wonderful party appetizers as well as a main dish. They’re a little messy to eat with your hands – and you have to wait for the rounds to cool down a bit. Even so, my nine-year-old daughter managed just fine. Her verdict – “Oh Mom, these are so good that I can’t stop eating them!” – as she ate her third Polenta and Ham Pizza Round!

While I had used Boar’s Head products before for sandwiches, I had never cooked with them and was impressed with the results. Check out their website to learn which of their products are gluten free, lower sodium, and on the Feingold Association list.

Polenta and Ham Pizza Rounds

Polenta and Ham Pizza Rounds and Polenta and Ham Casserole


  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 (18 ounce) rolls of polenta, cut into 32 rounds
  • Cooking spray
  • 12 slices Boar’s Head Black Forest Brand 25% Lower Sodium Smoked Ham
  • 1 (8-ounce) package Boar’s Head 42% Lower Sodium Provolone Cheese (or 16 slices)


For Polenta Ham Pizza Rounds:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine tomatoes, oregano, basil, thyme, salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Carefully slice polenta. Keep best slices for the pizza rounds. Broken and funky rounds will be used in the casserole.
  4. Carefully slice polenta. Keep best slices for the pizza rounds. Broken and funky rounds will be used in the casserole.
  5. Spray a large oven safe dish or cookie sheet with cooking spray. Place 16 polenta rounds on dish, 1/2 to 1 inch apart.
  6. Use a cookie cutter to cut ham and cheese. I used a flower shaped one that was just slightly bigger than the polenta rounds. If you run short on ham, overlap two smaller pieces of ham. Then carefully cut it with your cookie cutter. Since the ham will be under the cheese, no one will really notice that you’ve had to “make due.”
  7. Spoon a large dollop of the tomato mixture on to the polenta round – just enough to almost cover the polenta.
  8. Carefully place ham and cheese slices on top and top with a piece of tomato from the leftover tomato mixture.
  9. Place in oven and cook for 15 minutes until cheese is melted.
  10. Remove from oven and place pizza rounds on a platter to serve as appetizers. Or serve two to four rounds per person as a main dish along with a vegetable or salad.

For Polenta Ham Casserole:

  1. Coat the inside of a casserole dish with cooking spray.
  2. Layer half of the “less perfect” polenta rounds on the bottom of the casserole dish. Cover with half the remaining tomato mixture.
  3. Layer the rest of the polenta rounds. Cover with the rest of the tomato mixture.
  4. Chop up remaining pieces of ham and cheese and liberally sprinkle on top of casserole until evenly spread.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes until cheese has melted and starts to brown a little. Serve and enjoy!
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes
Servings: Many!
  • Serving size: Don't go crazy!

Making Polenta and Ham Pizza Rounds

The Polenta and Ham Casserole is a very cheesy dish. If you’re worried about too much fat and calories, use less cheese and save the remaining pieces for chef salad, omelets or a quiche. In addition, you can health up this dish by adding chopped up broccoli, squash, zucchini and/or cauliflower to the layer below the ham and cheese. It’s a great way to sneak in some healthy veggies into your family’s dinner!

Polenta and Ham Casserole

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Prosciutto Cups with Goat Cheese Mousse

Crispy Prosciutto di Parma Cups with Goat Cheese Mousse at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

When I entertain during the holidays, I try to mix up healthy appetizers along with small but delicious indulgences. I also believe that if you’re going to treat yourself, it’s healthier to have a few small bites than a big plate of something that’s not so good for you.

That’s why I’m sharing this fun party appetizer recipe from Prosciutto di Parma. Instead of using dough, this recipe uses the prosciutto to form the cups to serve the goat cheese mousse in – a really cool and unique idea that's totally gluten free!

You could cut a few fat calories by using a low fat goat cheese and no fat milk. You could also experiment with other herbs that would go well with prosciutto, like basil.

If you don’t have a piping bag, make your own by filling a ziploc sandwich bag with the cheese mixture, making a small diagonal cut at one corner, and squeezing it out the open corner.

Crispy Prosciutto di Parma Cups with Goat Cheese Mousse at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Crispy Prosciutto di Parma Cups with Goat Cheese Mousse


  • 6 slices Prosciutto di Parma
  • 3.5 ounces plain goat cheese at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Cut Prosciutto di Parma slices in half crosswise. Press a half slice of prosciutto into each cup of a mini-muffin pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, in a small bowl, combine goat cheese with milk and chopped chives until creamy.
  4. Remove Prosciutto di Parma cups from the oven and let cool.
  5. Pipe or spoon the goat cheese mousse into cooled Parma cups, filling each with about a tablespoon of mousse.
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes
Servings: Makes 12 cups
  • Serving size: 1 cup

Recipe and photo supplied by Parma and used with permission.

Easy Peasy Caprese Appetizer

Easy Peasy Caprese at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.comOne of my family's favorite summer time appetizers is Caprese. Sometimes I think that we grow basil and tomatoes just to have this dish. Traditionally it’s made with red wine vinegar, but I enjoy it with Nakano Rice Vinegar, which I find has a lighter taste and doesn’t overpower the basil, cheese and tomatoes.

This is a simple appetizer to make when you have guests over and not a lot of time to fuss in the kitchen making food. Plus it’s easy enough to make that the kids can help by slicing tomatoes or picking basil leaves. My kids love this dish, though Lucie has a bad habit of not eating the basil. Oh well, just more for me to put on my caprese!

Easy Peasy Caprese at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Easy Peasy Caprese Appetizer


  • 1 Mozzarella log
  • several tomatoes from the garden or store
  • fresh basil leaves from the garden or store, washed and gently patted dry
  • Nakano Natural Rice Vinegar for splashing
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • salt and pepper


  1. Slice the mozzarella up in thin slices. Place slices on a large plate or platter.
  2. Count how many mozzarella slices you have, then cut tomatoes up in thin slices to match that number.
  3. Place tomato slices underneath the cheese slices so they’re directly on the plate or platter.
  4. Cover tomato and mozzarella with basil leaves. If you have small leaves and big slices of tomato/cheese, feel free to use more than one leaf.
  5. Drizzle a little olive oil over the basil leaves.
  6. Next splash on a little Nakano Natural Rice Vinegar.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve immediately.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 15 Minutes
Servings: Makes approximately 10 to 12 appetizers.
  • Serving size: 1 appetizer

Nakano 60-Day SPLASH IT ON, STEP IT UP CHALLENGE – Ends 8/24

Nakano is holding a 60-Day Splash it on, Step it up Challenge on Facebook to encourage their fans to to make healthy lifestyle choices such as eating more vegetables and being more active. Check it out for fun and helpful fitness tips and health features such as a step tracker wrapping around a globe that show you the number of steps you’ve walked.

They’re also offering prizes such as a one-year free gym membership for the first prize winner. (The second prize winner receives six personal training sessions and third prize winner will receive a Nakano workout bag!) It ends on August 24th (this Thursday!) so sign up as soon as possible!

You can also sign up for Mizkan's enewsletter to be eligible for their Splash for Cash giveaway - a chance to win $150! (Mizkan is the parent company of NAKANO.) Even if you don’t win, you’ll get a terrific enewsletter filled with tips and recipes. I signed up for it months ago and really like it.

Finally, you can connect with NAKANO on Facebook and Twitter.

Disclosure: Mizkan, the parent company of NAKANO, provided compensation for this post. All opinions and experiences are my own.

Homemade Queso Fresco #secretrecipeclub

queso-frescoWhen we moved to Georgia, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have access to Mexican foodstuffs like locally made corn tortillas or Mexican cheese. How wrong I was! There’s a large Hispanic population here in Athens, GA and you can find all types of Hispanic food – including special cuts of meat like carne picada – right at WalMart, Krogers and Publix. So even though I’ve moved to the South I can still enjoy the dishes I  loved when I was growing up in Southern California like carne asada and Fish Veracruz since it’s easy to find all the ingredients like Queso Fresco, the Mexican version of feta.

However, when I saw Andrea Kruse of Adventures in All Things Food’s recipe for Queso Fresco for my Secret Recipe Club post, I had a light bulb moment. I didn’t have to go to the store – I could make my own at home! My family and I have made mozzarella before, which is easy. But making Queso Fresco is even easier – all you need is milk, kosher salt, vinegar and some cheese cloth.

Let’s talk about milk

The nice thing about making cheese at home is that you can choose the type of milk that you want – organic, non-organic, sourced from a local dairy, or just the regular stuff from the store. Traditionally, Queso Fresco is made from raw cow’s milk. Here in the US, it’s made from pasteurized milk. I used pasteurized organic whole milk, but you can use whatever you like.However, you do want to avoid ultra pasteurized milk, which will not curdle during the cheese making process.

Also, I had wondered about using low fat or skim milk. Since all the recipes I’ve looked up use whole milk, I stuck with that.

What kind of salt and vinegar?

Most recipes I see on the internet for Queso Fresco use kosher salt. However, the types of vinegar vary. Some use white distilled vinegar, others use red wine vinegar or cider vinegar. Others use rennet or lemon juice to curdle the milk. I used white distilled vinegar since I felt it wouldn’t add any negative flavors to the cheese.

Draining and pressing the cheese

I used a double layer of cheese cloth when I made my Queso Fresco. However, the cheese stuck to the cloth and some was left behind when I peeled it away from the cheese. Next time I make this, I’ll use thin muslin tea towels instead.

As far as pressing the cheese, the easiest thing to do is to gather the sides of your cheese cloth and make your Queso Fresco into a mound or disc shape. Another option is to use a large can to make a cheese press like this one.

Also, you’ll end up with around 2 1/2 cups of whey. You can use it in smoothies or instead of water in soups, bread dough, or savory dishes.

Curds and whey draining the cheese

Queso Fresco


  • 1 quart whole cow’s milk
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons white distilled vinegar


  1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan heat the milk over medium heat. Add in the kosher salt.
  2. Bring the milk up to just barely a simmer, when it will start to foam up (around 190 degrees F). Make sure that the milk doesn’t burn by stirring frequently and keeping an eye on it. When it has a steady simmer and threatens to boil over, remove the pan from the burner.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons vinegar and stir. The milk should curdle and separate immediately. If not, add another tablespoon of vinegar. Stir gently so you don’t break the curds.
  4. Line a colander with doubled cheese cloth or a thin dish towel. Place colander in the sink or in a large pan. Drain off the cheese.
  5. Take up the corners of your cloth and gently squeeze out the whey. For a drier cheese, you can place a weighted plate on top of the cheese cloth and press out excess moisture. (I tried to remove as much whey as possible since I have a food sensitivity to it.)
  6. Cheese will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Enjoy it sliced or crumbled on salad, fish or vegetables or Mexican inspired dishes.

More from the Secret Recipe Club!

Want to join the Secret Recipe Club? You can sign up here.

Goat Cheese Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Baby Greens and Balsamic Reduction

Goat Cheese Pizza with Pine Nuts, Baby Greens and Balsamic Vinegar Reduction at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

I’m crazy about balsamic vinegar reduction as a sauce on anything from roasted vegetables to fish. Drizzling it on food makes an ordinary dish burst with flavor and adds a little elegance to boot. Plus, it’s so easy to make. In this recipe, I used Holland House balsamic vinegar, brought it to a boil on the stove top, and then simmered it until it was reduced by half. Easy!

This pizza recipe is inspired by a gluten free pizza I had at Udi’s PIzza Café Bar in Arvada, Colorado and a Caramelized Onion & Fig Mini Pizza I had when I visited the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter test kitchen back in 2010.

I made this gluten free using Udi’s Gluten Free pizza crusts. If you’re not gluten free, feel free to use whatever pizza crusts you wish. Or you can make your own using my healthy whole wheat pizza dough recipe.

Leftover balsamic vinegar can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks and reheated slightly to drizzle on vegetables, fish, chicken, beef and even strawberries!

Goat Cheese Pizza with Pine Nuts, Baby Greens and Balsamic Vinegar Reduction at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Goat Cheese Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Baby Greens and Balsamic Reduction


  • 2 cups Holland House balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large onion, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons low saturated fat, buttery spread
  • 1 premade pizza crust
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 12 ounces baby greens
  • 2 teaspoons pine nuts


  1. Pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. (Make sure to watch carefully to avoid a messy boil over.)
  2. Quickly reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered until vinegar is reduced by half and thickens slightly.
  3. While your balsamic vinegar is reducing, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add buttery spread to skillet to melt.
  4. Add onions and reduce heat to medium. Slowly sauté onions until they turn slightly brown and are caramelized. Be careful not to burn onions. Reduce heat and add more buttery spread if needed. When onions are done, remove skillet from stove top and set aside.
  5. Set oven to 425 degrees F.
  6. Place pizza crust on a cookie sheet or pizza pan.
  7. Using a spreader or offset spatula, spread a thin, even layer of goat cheese on pizza crust. If goat cheese is too hard to spread, put it in the microwave on high for 10 seconds to soften.
  8. Add an even layer of baby greens on top of the goat cheese layer.
  9. Carefully sprinkle pine nuts evenly over pizza.
  10. Cook for 10-12 minutes until greens start to wilt and pizza crust and cheese are heated through.
  11. Remove pizza from oven and drizzle balsamic vinegar over it. Apply a light or heavy drizzle depending on your individual taste.
  12. Slice pizza and serve.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Total Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes
Servings: Makes 1 personal sized pizza.
  • Serving size: Serves 2 as an appetizer or 1 as an entrée.

Disclosure: Mizkan, the parent company of Holland House, provided compensation for this post. All opinions are my own

Tropical Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Tropical Grilled Cheese Sandwich at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.comTo close out National Grilled Cheese Month, I’ve partnered with Horizon Organic and Udi’s Gluten Free on a Grilled Cheese Recipe challenge using Udi’s Gluten Free breads and Horizon Organic Cheese to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich recipe.

Inspired by my recent trip to Hawaii, I wanted to incorporate tropical flavors of pineapple, guava, mango and coconut along with Udi’s Millet Chia for it’s crunchy nutty taste and Horizon Organic’s Cheddar Slices. For the tropical flavors I used a variety of fruit spreads and jellies – St. Dalfour Pineapple & Mango, Proud Pepper Jelly Co.’s Hot Pineapple Habanero, and Hawaiian Sun’s Guava Jelly.

I wanted to add some greens, so included some interesting veggies I found at my local grocery store – Sprouts Extraordinaire’s Zesty Sprouts (Sweet Clover & Radish”) and Paradise Farms’ “Baby” Sunflower Greens. The sprouts were sweet and crunchy, while the baby sunflower greens were slightly bitter and crunchy.

Now I realize that some of these products may be hard to find in your area, so feel free to substitute any kind of tropical fruit jam or jelly for the ones I used, and whatever type of sprouts or  baby greens you have available in your grocery store. Many of these products can be found online or at places like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, too.

Tropical Grilled Cheese Sandwich at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

How do you cook up your grilled cheese sandwich?

Usually I make grilled cheese on my two burner griddle pan. However, it’s in storage until we move into our house in Athens, GA. Luckily, our furnished apartment in Boulder came with a small George Foreman grill. I’ve been using it to grill steaks, brats and carne asada. It’s also perfect for making panini style grill cheese sandwiches in just a few minutes since the grill cooks both sides of the sandwich simultaneously.

Since the George Foreman grill is non-stick, you only need to spread a thin layer of buttery spread on the outside of your grilled cheese sandwich to give it that “greasiness” we all love, but without all the saturated fat of real butter. You could also take cooking spray and apply it to the outside of your grilled cheese sandwich to cut back on a few calories.

In my Tropical Grilled Cheese Sandwich recipe, I use a little bit of Earth Balance’s Organic Coconut Spread to give my grilled cheese a tropical flavor. If you can’t find Earth Balance’s spread, use a thin coating of coconut oil instead.

Looking for more gluten free recipes and tips? Check out Udi's Gluten Free Community!

Tropical Grilled Cheese Sandwich at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Tropical Grilled Cheese Sandwich


  • 2 pieces Udi’s Gluten Free Millet Chia bread
  • Coconut oil or spread
  • Your favorite tropical fruit spread, jelly or jam such as pineapple, mango or mango
  • 2 slices Horizon Organic Cheddar Cheese
  • Sprouts or baby greens


  1. Heat up griddle pan on stove top using medium heat.
  2. Place bread on a plate or a cutting board.
  3. Apply a thin layer of coconut oil or spread to each slice. Flip bread over.
  4. Apply a thin layer of your favorite tropical fruit spread to the bread.
  5. Cover one piece of bread with a layer of cheese.
  6. Apply a small handful of sprouts or baby greens on top of the cheese.
  7. Cover with second piece of cheese. Then cover with the second piece of bread, fruit spread side down.
  8. Place sandwich on heated griddle pan. Cook until bread is toasted a light brown and cheese begins to melt.
  9. Flip sandwich and cook until other side is toasted a light brown.
  10. Remove from griddle pan and serve for lunch, dinner or a snack.
Servings: Makes 1 sandwich
  • Serving size: 1 sandwich

Disclosure: I'm a Udi's Gluten Free Community leader and received sample product from Udi's and Horizon Organic to facilitate this recipe.

Wordless Wednesday: food my husband makes with the kids #wordlesswednesday

cheesemakers mozzarella caprese  mozzarella caprese

He made mozzarella from scratch with the kids and served up a delicious caprese appetizer for dinner.

Watermelon Mint & Basil Salad with Feta

Watermelon Mint & Basil Salad with Feta at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

This summer NAKANO is encouraging us to splash it on! That’s right, just go ahead and splash their gluten free rice vinegars on veggies, pasta salads, grilled fish and chicken, and more.

Inspired by some feta cheese and a gigantic seedless watermelon that my husband bought at Costco, I came up with this watermelon salad dish. My splash of NAKANO natural rice vinegar, which has no sodium or sugar, contrasts well with the sweetness of the watermelon and the saltiness of the feta. However, it’s the addition of mint and basil that make this dish feel like summer to me.

Nakano Rice Vinegars

What are you splashing NAKANO rice vinegar on?

Watermelon Mint & Basil Salad with Feta at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Watermelon Mint & Basil Salad with Feta


  • 6 cups watermelon, seeded and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon NAKANO All Natural Rice Vinegar


  1. Combine and gently toss ingredients in a decorative bowl. Serve.
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Servings: Serves 6
  • Serving size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 100
  • Calories from Fat: 39
  • Total Fat: 4.3g
  • Saturated fat: 2.8g
  • Unsaturated fat: 0.0g
  • Sodium: 214mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 13.4g
  • Sugar: 10.4g
  • Fiber: 0.9g
  • Protein: 3.8g

Disclosure: Mizkan, the parent company of NAKANO, provided compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.

Soy cheeses and a Layered Mediterranean Breakfast Bake

Layered Mediterranean Breakfast Bake Here’s another healthy recipe (and gorgeous picture) from 400 Calorie Fix: The Easy New Rule for Permanent Weight Loss! that I had to share. It’s perfect to bring to breakfast meetings or to make on the weekend. Serve it with some fresh fruit or berries.

Soy cheeses

Due to my food sensitivities I’ll be substituting soy cheese and tofu for the feta, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses in this recipe. Cheese has been one of the biggest challenges in my new way of eating since I must avoid milk products due to a whey sensitivity. Luckily, I’ve discovered vegan and soy cheeses.

My favorite soy cheeses are from Follow Your Heart’s Vegan Gourmet line of jack, mozzarella and cheddar cheese alternatives. I’m not going to lie to you and say that they taste just like cheese. At best, they’re “cheese like,” but they fulfill my urge for something cheesy. I’ve been told that Vegan Gourmet cheeses melt well, though I haven’t tried cooking with them yet and prefer to eat a few slices with apples for a snack.

I also just purchase a small shaker of Galaxy Nutritional Food’s Vegan Grated Topping. I thought it would be nice to add to a buttery spread on Tinkyada brown rice noodles or possibly on House Food’s tofu shirataki noodles.

Layered Mediterranean Breakfast Bake

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

Makes 4 servings


  • 1 medium zucchini, coarsely grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced scallions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
  • 1 1/3 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup slivered sun-dried tomatoes
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon McCormick Perfect Pinch Salt Free Italian seasoning
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) roasted red bell peppers, drained, rinsed, and cut into strips
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the zucchini in a small bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Coat a 21/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet or a skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add the scallions and garlic. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender. Add the feta and cook for 1 minute, or until almost melted. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the ricotta and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
  3. Heat the skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Squeeze extra moisture out of the zucchini, add the zucchini to the skillet, and
    cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and spread on the bottom of the baking dish. Top the zucchini with the ricotta mixture. Top the ricotta with the tomatoes.
  5. Whisk the eggs and Italian seasoning in a small bowl. Pour on top of the tomatoes. Top with the roasted peppers. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and Parmesan.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes, or until bubbly.

Nutritional information

1 serving = one 4” square

  • Calories: 330
  • Total Fat: 18g
  • Saturated Fat: 9g
  • Sodium: 930mg
  • Carbohydrate: 16g
  • Dietary Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 26g
  • Calcium: 45%

Weight Watchers POINTS = 7

This Mama’s tips

  • Another choice for a salt free Italian seasoning is Mrs. Dash’s Italian Medley.
  • Since I have to avoid pepper, I would substitute Mrs. Dash’s Tomato Basil Garlic for all the spices (except salt) in this recipe. It’s the only one they make that doesn’t have pepper in it.
  • If you have to avoid onions, remove the sliced scallions and substitute with celery or just increase the amount of sun-dried tomatoes and red bell peppers.

Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of the 400 Calorie Fix.

More healthy appetizers: Blue Cheese Deviled Eggs

Blue Cheese Deviled Eggs from This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

In my Planning a party? Cook up some healthy appetizers with Sam’s Club cheeses post, I showed you how to use cheese in a healthy way to flavor a dish instead of making it your main course.

If you’re into retro Mad Men parties, you could try some healthy deviled eggs. Below is another version of the classic, but this time with using one of Sam’s Club new blue cheeses. Even with the added cheese, they’re only 1 Weight Watchers POINT per half egg.

My 10-year-old son, Nathan, said these were pretty good, but they’re more of an adult indulgence due to the strong blue cheese and Tabasco flavors.

This Mama’s Tips

  • Serve them with some Mad Men: retro shrimp appetizers or Mad Men inspired Bloody Marys.
  • Everyone likes to hard boil their eggs in a different way. I prefer the following method:
    • Place eggs in a small sauce pan and fill with warm water.
    • Bring water to a boil.
    • Cover and turn off heat.
    • Cook for 10 minutes.
    • Remove from stove top.
    • Remove lid and place in sink. Run cool water into pan until eggs are cool enough to handle.
    • Lightly tap egg to break shell to remove it.
Blue Cheese Deviled Eggs from This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Blue Cheese Deviled Eggs

Recipe adapted from the DeviledEgg.org


  • 6 hard boiled eggs, peeled
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled – try a Blue Stilton, a Maytag Blue or even Gorgonzola
  • 2 tablespoons lite or low fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 5 drops Tabasco
  • 1 tablespoon minced green onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon McCormick Smoked Paprika


  1. Cut peeled eggs in half length wise.
  2. Place yolks in a mixing bowl, set the whites aside.
  3. Mash the yolks with the back of a fork and add blue cheese, mayonnaise, parsley, Tabasco, green onion, salt and pepper. Mix well.
  4. Spoon or pipe the filling back into egg white and sprinkle tops with paprika.
  5. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes
Servings: Makes 12 servings
  • Serving size: 1 whole egg
  • Calories: 51
  • Calories from Fat: 35
  • Total Fat: 3.9g
  • Saturated fat: 1.3g
  • Unsaturated fat: 2/6g
  • Sodium: 94mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 0.6g
  • Protein: 3.4g
  • Cholesterol: 96mg

Weight Watchers POINTS = 2 per whole egg

Disclosure: as a Sam’s Club Food Ambassador I receive compensation for my time and efforts and samples of Sam’s Club products.

Planning a party? Cook up some Feta Crumble Dip

Feta Crumble Dip Party Pizza from This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Last week I visited Sam’s Club headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas where I was dually impressed by Sam’s quality demands on their food partners and the extensive product taste testing they do. Along with their sustainability efforts – from their stores to their headquarters – I have a new appreciation for the company. While I was there, I had the opportunity to try out their new food offerings for the holidays - and for every day. As a newly hired Sam’s Club Ambassador, I’ll be sharing with you delicious and healthy food ideas and product news from their clubs in the next weeks and months.

Sam’s Club International Cheeses

Their latest offering is an amazing selection of 24 internationally acclaimed cheeses, like three of Mario Batali’s that are sold exclusively through Sam’s Club - Mountain Gorgonzola from Italy’s Lombardy region, an organic Parmigiano Regiiano, and an Iberico that is made from cow, goat and sheep’s milk. (The Iberico is to die for though the Gorgonzola is amazing, too.)

Sam’s Club is also selling cheeses like Maytag Blue, Fromage D’Affinois (an delectable double cream cheese similar to Brie), Kerrygold butter (a favorite of many bakers) and DaVinci Gouda.

Sam's Club international cheese

These amazing cheeses are being rolled out over the next few months at select clubs all over the US.

Use cheese as a condiment, not a main course

Now I know that cheese may be your Achilles Heel, and something you avoid when you’re trying to lose or maintain a healthy weight. (Me, too!) However, there is a healthy way to indulge in cheese. Instead of eating it by the piece, use it to flavor your cooking!

A perfect cheese to do this with is Kolios Barrel Aged Greek Feta. Feta is a full flavored cheese that will add a special zing to any dish. I love using it in Watermelon and Feta Salad or on a Spinach, Tomato and Feta Pizza.

My friend, Holly Clegg, author of the cookbook, Too Hot in the Kitchen, suggests serving her Feta Crumble Dip on crackers, in sandwiches or on chicken or fish. I like serving it on precooked whole wheat pizza crusts as a healthy party appetizer. Just spread a thin layer of no fat Greek yogurt, add the dip, slice the pizza into bite sized pieces and serve! For more recipes from Holly, visit hollyclegg.com.

Feta Crumble Dip Party Pizza from This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Feta Crumble Dip

From Holly Clegg’s cookbook, Too Hot in the Kitchen


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes (reconstituted)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces Kolios Barrel Aged Greek Feta, crumbled


  1. In bowl, combine all ingredients - except feta - mixing well.
  2. Toss with feta, refrigerate up to one hour, serve.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 15 Minutes
Servings: Makes 8 servings
  • Serving size: 1/4 cup
  • Calories: 80
  • Calories from Fat: 58 (73%)
  • Total Fat: 7g
  • Saturated fat: 2g
  • Unsaturated fat: 5g
  • Sodium: 193mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 3g
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 3g
  • Cholesterol: 5mg

Dietary exchanges: 1/2 lean meat, 1 fat
Weight Watchers POINTS = 2 for 1/4 cup

This Mama’s Tips

  • To reconstitute sundried tomatoes, pour hot water over them and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain.
  • If you can only find sundried tomatoes in oil, rinse them in hot water and blot with a paper towel to remove as much of the oil as you can.

Disclosure: as a Sam’s Club Food Ambassador I receive compensation for my time and efforts and samples of Sam’s Club products. Amazon links are affiliate links. A commission may be earned from a referred sale to their website.