MANCHEGO POPCORNS & MOVIES

Popcorn & Manchego CheeseI love summer in La Mancha with its bright skies and warm days. But when it’s so terribly hot that’s hard to sleep, staying awake until late watching classic movies is a great pastime.

My latest extravaganza is to make a special theme evening watching a couple of films (and sometimes even three!) on a particular topic, while enjoying drinks and snacks carefully chosen to match the occasion.

Last weekend I organized a La Mancha movie evening with friends and, we enjoyed so much I have to share the experience with you.

First of all, I prepared a selection of classic films from La Mancha. We watched in this order:

  • All About My Mother (1999), a comedy-drama written and directed by Manchego film director Pedro Almodóvar, that won him his first academy award for best foreign language film.
  • Man of La Mancha (1972), an adaptation of classic novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, starring Peter O’Toole as the famous knight and Sophia Loren as sexy Dulcinea.
  • Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), my favorite Almodóvar film, a totally hilarious comedy, perfect to take you through to the wee hours.

Then the snacks… since the movie snack “par excellence” are my beloved popcorns, I decided to try a Manchego version of them. Here’s what I did.

What you need:

  • Butter, 2 tbsp
  • Garlic, 2 cloves, pressed
  • Spanish smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp
  • Salt, a pinch
  • Popped corn, 6 cups
  • Manchego cheese, 1/4 cup, grated

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan over low heat, cook butter, garlic, paprika and salt.
  2. Scrape over popped corn.
  3. Add Manchego cheese.
  4. Mix well and add more salt if desired.
  5. Serve immediately and enjoy.

So, what do you think? Are you up for a Manchego movies evening?

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.

5 TIPS FOR A PERFECT PICNIC… WITH CHEESE

www.themanchegocheese.com1. Choose wisely

It’s hard to imagine a picnic without cheese, but when you’re going to be out all day in the sun, you should choose wisely. I’m sure you don’t want your painstakingly selected cheese to end up as a runny mess!

Taking into account how long the cheese will be away from refrigeration, how hot the weather is and how the cheeses will be transported are key. Of course, choosing top quality tasty cheeses are crucial too!

Firm cheeses like Manchego do well in the wilderness. They’re quite resistant to the heat, easy to eat and combine well with a wide variety of simple foods.

2. Pack it well

Make sure to pack your cheeses correctly. My favorite way of doing so is using individual airtight containers, just a little bigger than the cheese. Separating each cheese will prevent you from mixing the flavors so I’ll rather use separate containers than mixing all the cheeses in one.

3. Keep it simple

Forget complex dishes and reach for simple yet tasty foods. Manchego cheese, a selection of sliced meats such as Serrano ham, “chorizo” or “salchichón”, some sturdy fruit such as apples or, better yet, a small container of jam or “dulce de membrillo”, and a fresh loafer of bread with raisins, nuts and seeds, are almost all you need for the perfect picnic lunch.

4. Take the essentials

Now you have the food sorted, let’s look at the other essentials. Here’s a basic list:

  • Cooler fully stocked with ice
  • Small cutting board and knife to cut and serve cheese
  • Picnic basket to carry supplies
  • Small storage containers for leftovers
  • Soft picnic blanket or tablecloth to lay on ground
  • Utensils/plates/cups
  • Napkins/paper towels
  • Trash bags
  • Music player

5. Don’t forget the wine

Last but not least, make sure not to forget the wine. After all, is there a better way to relax than savoring a glass of wine with your picnic cheese menu?

QUICK & TASTY RECIPES #11- Grilled asparagus with Manchego & walnuts

la foto 2Spring has sprung and so we’re kick starting barbecue season. Hooray!

If you, like me, love to add vegetables to any BBQ, here’s a fantastic recipe that has become an all time favorite in my family. This is so simple yet healthy and yummy that I’m sure your gang will love it too.

 

What you need:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus (about 1 pound), trimmed
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oilwww.themanchegocheese.com
  • 1 ounce of Manchego, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 2 walnuts
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • Salt & pepper

Instructions:

  1. Heat grill to medium-high.
  2. In a big bowl, toss the asparagus with the extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper.
  3. Grill until tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the soy sauce on it
  5. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with the Manchego and walnuts.
  6. Enjoy!

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?

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.