For better results, use processed cheeses for those main dishes

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

Cheese has been around for centuries and is widely used throughout the world. There are many varieties and each has its own special texture and flavor. All cheese is made from milk, mostly from cow’s milk, but some special varieties are made from the milk of sheep or goats.
Natural and

Processed Cheeses
All cheeses can be classified as either natural or process cheese. Natural cheese is made from pasteurized whole milk. Bacteria, rennet and even sometimes color are added. The curd is then heated, stirred and pressed in order to remove all excess moisture. The longer the cheese is cured, or aged, determines its sharpness. The most popular natural cheese is cheddar.
Processed cheese is made by combining new and aged lots of the same or different varieties of natural cheese. To stop further curing, an emulsifier is added to provide uniformity and quality.
Among the different varieties are mild, medium and sharp American, pimiento, Swiss, brick and Limburger cheeses.

Cooking with Cheese
Cheese should be cooked at a low temperature to prevent it from becoming too tough or stringy. Some cheeses blend more easily than others, such as cream cheese, which combines very easily and is used in many main dishes and desserts. For main dishes, using a processed cheese or aged cheddar will provide for better results. To help accelerate the melting and blending of cheese, grate, slice or shave it thin before you heat it. If possible, always mix cheese with a sauce before adding it to other ingredients.

Stuffed Peppers with Feta Cheese, Rice and Green Onions
This dish gives Greek-style flair to the ever-popular stuffed peppers we are accustomed to eating.
1 cup water
1/2 cup uncooked Arborio rice
2 green bell peppers, halved and seeded
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Stir in the rice. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside.
Place the peppers cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Roast 25-30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until tender and skin starts to brown.
While the peppers are roasting, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onions, basil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper in oil for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the tomato, and cook for 5 minutes. Spoon in the cooked rice, and stir until heated through. Remove from heat, mix in the feta cheese, and spoon the mixture into the pepper halves. Return to the oven for 5 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Cheesy Cajun Shrimp Boats
This is another variation on the popular stuffed peppers using poblano peppers, blackened shrimp, cheese and salsa.
6 large poblano peppers
2 cups cooked rice
1 lb. cooked small shrimp
1 cup thick, chunky salsa
1 Tbsp. Cajun or blackened seasoning mix
1-3/4 cups (7 oz.) 4-cheese Mexican blend, shredded
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Slice off about 1/4 of pepper lengthwise. Finely chop the slices; place in a large bowl. Remove and discard seeds from pepper “boats.” Cook in simmering water, covered, for 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain well; transfer to a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish.
Add rice, shrimp, salsa and seasoning mix to bowl with chopped peppers; mix well. Stir in 1 cup cheese. Spoon mixture into pepper boats, mounding if necessary. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 20 minutes or until hot. Combine cilantro and remaining cheese, sprinkle over pepper boats. Return to oven; bake 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. Makes 6 servings.

Avocado, Blue Cheese and Bacon Pizza
Pizza doesn’t always have to be tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and pepperoni.
1 unbaked pizza dough shell, 12-inch
2 Tbsps. olive oil
2 cups mozzarella Cheese, shredded
2 Roma tomatoes, cut in 1/8-inch slices
1 cup avocado, diced
1 lb. crisply cooked bacon, chopped
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
Brush pizza dough shell with olive oil. Top with ingredients in order listed. Bake at 450 degrees until crust is golden and cheese at center is bubbly hot.

Cheesy Bacon Lima Beans
Jazz up those lima beans by adding some bacon, onion, celery and cheddar cheese in this flavorful casserole dish.
16-20 oz. frozen lima beans
8 slices bacon, diced
1 small chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
12 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
Worcestershire sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook lima beans in 1-1/2 cups boiling salted water for 15 minutes; drain, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking liquid.
In a large nonstick skillet, fry diced bacon until about half cooked. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon to paper towels to drain; discard all but three tablespoons of fat. Add onion and celery to the skillet and cook until softened.
In a large bowl, toss together lima beans, onion, celery, cheese, pepper, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and the reserved cooking liquid. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle top with the bacon. Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes, or until top is browned. Remove and serve immediately. Makes 4-6 servings.

Caesar BLT Wraps
This is a tasty variation on the ever-popular BLT sandwich.
3 cups romaine lettuce leaves, torn
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/3 cup bacon, crisp and crumbled
1/4 cup Caesar salad dressing
1-1/2 cups (6 oz) shredded Parmesan, mozzarella and Romano cheeses
4 (10-inch) flour tortillas
Combine lettuce, tomato, bacon and salad dressing in large bowl. Add cheese; toss. Spoon mixture evenly onto tortillas; roll up tortillas burrito-style. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time. Makes 4 servings.