ENERGY BOOSTING BREAKFASTS

Manchego cheese breakfastWe’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but, during a busy morning, it’s easy to let breakfast fall low in your list of priorities.

A good breakfast fuels you up and gets you ready for the day. Also, eating a substantial, protein-rich breakfast keeps you full, so you end up eating less during the day. Yes, research shows that including protein at breakfast is critical to successful weight loss!

Manchego cheese has more protein than meat and so adding Manchego to your breakfast is not only yummy but a fantastic idea too. Here are three suggestions for a 100% delish energy boosting Manchego breakfast:

1. The healthiest option

A balanced, easy-to-assemble make-ahead morning meal: Grab an apple, wrap 1 to 2 ounces of Manchego in plastic, and toss ¼ cup of fiber- and protein-rich walnuts into a re-sealable plastic bag. You can snack this while driving to work.

2. The sweetest one

A quick and sophisticated alternative suitable for the everyday: Cut a couple of slices of bread – a French baguette if possible. Drop a bit of olive oil on each and toast them on the grill. Place a slice of Manchego cheese and a thin slice of membrillo paste on top of each toast.

3. The perfect brunch

A one-pan meal that will be an instant hit: In a large skillet sauté in olive oil ½ sliced onion and 2 sliced potatoes. Once ready, pour the mix in a bowl, then crack two eggs into it and add a handful of sliced green olives together with 2 ounces of Manchego, sliced thin. Stir gently with a whisk, then pour the mix back to the skillet and bake it in a medium-high heat oven until ready. Serve with freshly squeezed orange juice, hot coffee and a bread roll.

TOP 10 VEGETARIAN TAPAS (Part II)

Manchego Veggie tapas IIDid you think that last week’s list was absolutely delicious? Did you have the opportunity to try all the veggie “tapas” I recommended? Then get ready for more to come! Who said Spanish food was just about paella & meat?

6. Salmorejo – Vegetarian cold soup

This is similar to gazpacho but even tastier. Ensure it comes “sin jamón” (without ham), as many versions come with Serrano ham sprinkled on top.

7. Huevos rotos – Fried eggs with potatoes

Simple food at its best. Again ask for “sin jamón, por favor”.

8. Pimientos de padrón – Spicy bell peppers

If you’re the kind of person who likes surprises, this will surely be your tapa of choice. As some peppers are sweet and others spicy, you’re in for a fun ride!

9. Croquetas de espinacas – Spinach croquettes

Croquettes are a must have “tapa”. For veggie enjoyment, as for croquettes “de espinacas” or “de setas” (mushrooms). Yum!

10. Queso Manchego frito – Fried Manchego Cheese

Fried cheese is a commonly found “tapa” in the La Mancha region, home of the Manchego cheese. Try it with some marmalade on the side to maximize the enjoyment. Surely, the perfect end for a veggie “tapas” feast.

PAIRING: MANCHEGO CHEESE & ALMONDS

Almonds & Manchego CheeseLast week I talked about enjoying Manchego with nuts as a fantastic way to boost your health and energy levels. Manchego & walnuts are my favorite combination. Almonds and pecan nuts are excellent options too.

Today I’ll dedicate the post to pairing Manchego with almonds. This is an all time classic snack in Spain, popular as a small “tapa” for the “aperitivo” and also great to eat while watching TV.

Manchego goes well with both raw and roasted almonds. Spaniards normally enjoy Manchego with the Marcona type of almond. This nut – native to Spain – has also become a very popular item in specialty cheese stores in the US too. This tells a lot already about its versatility as a cheese partner!

Try and find Marcona almonds roasted in oil and salted – I prefer them without skin but, since you can also eat their skin, with and without skin are perfectly fine options.

Here are two suggestions to savour this fantastic pair:

  • Almonds + Manchego + Apple slices = The perfect mid-morning snack. Not only tasty and healthy, also easy to prepare and carry to the office.
  • Almonds + Manchego + Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) = A sophisticated appetizer that will surprise your dinner guests.

Just two great ways to enjoy Manchego & almonds. What would your suggestions be?

PAIRING: MANCHEGO CHEESE & WALNUTS

Manchego cheese & walnutsNutrition experts keep on telling us that we should include nuts into our daily diet. Apparently, these little wonders are packed with heart-healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They’re nature’s way of showing us that good things often come in small packages!

Pairing them with cheese is a good idea for a super healthy snack – great for people with special nutritional needs such seniors, children or pregnant women – or a simple yet delish dessert.

Manchego cheese goes well with different types of nuts. Having tried it in different combinations, I would recommend pairing your Manchego with walnuts, almonds or pecan nuts.

I’ll dedicate this post to the Manchego & walnut combination, my favorite couple from the three mentioned before, and a heavenly combination when made as a trio with a little honey on the top. Yum!

But, why is Manchego & walnuts such a great pair?

The crunchiness of walnuts is a tasty contrast to the texture of the Manchego. Also walnuts have an earthy flavor that compliments the taste of the Manchega sheeps’ milk really well.

Nutritionally, walnuts are great for the heart and arteries. They have high amounts of alpha linoleic acid (ALA), an acid that helps to prevent heart arrhythmias, reducing inflammation and oxidation in the arteries. Great news!

So, what are you waiting for? Do like me: At least twice per week, enjoy a platter of Manchego cheese sprinkled with walnuts and drizzled with Rosemary honey – Health and pleasure on a plate.

MANCHEGO, A GREAT CHEESE TO EAT WHEN PREGNANT

Manchego CheeseThree of my favorite food indulgences are cheese, wine and cured ham. So when I fell pregnant and started worrying about everything – if you’ve been expecting, you’ll know what I mean – it made me very sad to read in different forums – yes, part of the “worrying about everything” includes compulsive internet searching – that cheese wasn’t safe to eat during pregnancy!.

Since I was already ruling out of my diet cured ham and wine, I was at least counting with me beloved Manchego cheese to make me feel better during the moody pregnancy months. I couldn’t believe it! This couldn’t be true!

So I started reading more on the topic – reliable sources, not the usual Internet rubbish – and asked various health specialists. And you know what? To my relief, they all agreed: Manchego is not only safe to eat but highly recommendable for pregnant women. Hooray!

Manchego is rich in protein and calcium, while also contains A, D & E vitamins, all of which are excellent nutrients for both mom & baby.

Also, as it’s a hard cheese, which has endured a long maturation process, the possibility of having any dangerous bacteria, such as listeria, is close to nothing – The CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, considers hard cheeses generally safe for expecting mothers.

However, if you want to eliminate this tiny little possibility, reach for Manchego cheeses made using pasteurized milk. Ask your regular cheese monger and/or look at the cheese label if in doubt. Manchego cheeses made with pasteurized milk are 100% safe and an excellent source for both nutrients & food pleasure.

Can you already guess how this story ends? Yes, you’ve guessed it. Since I learnt about this, I spent my pregnancy tucking into Manchego: Manchego & grapes, Manchego & Dulce de membrillo, Manchego & Dates, Manchego & Figs, etc. Ummm. I enjoyed those little pleasures so much! I felt great and gave birth to a very healthy little girl. However, my hips still remember those lovely Manchego nibbles. Or was it something else? Well, I guess that’s a topic for another post.

HOW TO TASTE CHEESE LIKE A PRO – Part III

Manchego cheese tastingAre you enjoying our cheese tasting class? I hope you are.

After getting the basics straight and admiring the visual appearance of the cheese, we now move on to the final part of the tasting, my absolute favorite part, as now it’s time to let your imagination run wild and I can tell you: for good or bad, my imagination has no limits.

What we’re looking for is a description of the flavor of the cheese. In wine tastings, we sniff and savor to come to such a description. With cheese, we can use the following techniques:

  • Smell vs. flavor: Like wine, sometimes the scent and flavor are synonymous. Other times, they are complete opposites. Before tasting the Manchego, give it a good whiff and compare the scent to the taste. Are they similar?
  • Use basic adjectives: Start with basic flavors to describe the cheese. Is it salty, sweet, sour, or acidic? Manchego cheeses have complex tasting profiles and so you might want to use a combination of these adjectives to describe them.
  • What the animals ate: As I said on the first part of these series of articles, the flavor of the milk often shines through and tastes like whatever the Manchega sheep ate, whether it was grass, hay, or wild flowers. Can you appreciate those notes?
  • Similes: Does your Manchego smell as a sweaty pair of socks? Does the flavor remind you of a stick of butter or even walnuts? The fun of tasting is to link the cheese to memories of foods or strong smells you’ve experienced. That’s why tasting is such a personal experience.

So how about you? How would you describe your favorite Manchego cheese?

HOW TO TASTE CHEESE LIKE A PRO – Part I

Manchega Sheep

We all know that cheese and wine have a lot in common. Many Manchego producers are also dedicated winemakers, and most wine aficionados are keen cheese lovers too. The two passions go often hand in hand!

It’s no surprise then to see that cheese tasting resembles wine tasting so much.

According to Pedro Condés, Communication’s Director at the Manchego Cheese PDO Council, a good cheese tasting should be conducted in three steps: “we normally commence by tasting the milk type, then look at the rind and texture, to finally appreciate the full flavor of the cheese”. If you think about wine, that would be identifying the varietal (milk), looking at the wine body (rind and texture), sniffing and savoring (flavors). Very similar, isn’t it?

So, let’s start by tasting the milk type. If with wine all begins with the varietal, in the case of dairy, there wouldn’t be any cheese without the milk.

Manchego is made with sheep’s milk. Furthermore, true Manchego cheese is made only from whole milk of the Manchega sheep raised in the La Mancha region. This is one of the reasons that make it so special.

The Manchega sheep’s milk is recognizable in the nutty, sweet and tangy notes of the cheese. As it’s impossible to buy Machega sheep’s milk in the US, Manchego cheese is your only chance to enjoy this particular taste.

So, do you have a piece of Manchego at hand? Take a bite, now close your eyes and savor it. Can you taste the Manchega sheep’s milk?