When Kraft Foods Group announced on Tuesday that customers might not be able to find some Velveeta products on store shelves for several weeks. The Twitter-verse, talk shows and the like reacted as if we all might starve during the NFL Playoffs and -- eegad -- the Super Bowl. The guacamole coalition most likely is still snickering. Stay Calm there are cheese alternatives.
The Velveeta shortage was first reported by Advertising Age, a trade magazine, after inventories dipped at a few stores on the East Coast.
I am a huge fan of the ease and magic that a mound of chopped cubes of processed Velveeta and the contents of a can of Rotel tomatoes can create in the microwave. But News Flash: Velveeta doesn't have an exclusive on melt-ability. All kinds of cheese can do the same thing. Here are some recipes that offer less processed solutions:
CHILI CON QUESO
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 medium onion, chopped ( 1/2 cup)
1 can (1 pound) tomatoes, well-drained
1 can (4 ounces) chopped chilies, drained
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco pepper sauce
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
1. In medium saucepan melt butter; saute onion until tender. Add tomatoes, breaking up with a fork. Stir in chilies. Cover; simmer 15 minutes. Stir in milk and Tabasco sauce. Simmer 2 minutes longer. Add cheese. Cook, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth.
2. Serve immediately with taco chips.
Makes about 3 cups.
To microwave: In 2 quart microwave bowl, microwave butter and onion 45 seconds. Add tomatoes, chilies -- microwave 3 minutes. Stir in milk, Tabasco, and cheese. Micro one minute, stir, and microwave additional minute if needed, until cheese melts and mixture is smooth.
Weight Watchers Chili Con Queso
10-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup diced Anaheim chilies
1/2 cup light ale beer
1 3/4 cups reduced fat shredded sharp Cheddar
1 1/4 cups skim milk
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup sliced green onions
2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1. Spray a large saucepan with non fat cooking spray and set over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and beginning to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add beer and cook until reduced slightly, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup milk and bring to a simmer.
2 Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup milk and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to the pan and cook, stirring vigorously, until bubbling and thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add cheese and cook, stirring, until melted. Stir in drained tomatoes, chilies, lime juice, salt, pepper, cilantro, green onions, chili powder and cumin . Serve warm, garnished with a bit of cilantro.
PRONTO SPINACH DIP
Yield: 5 cups
2 cups chunky salsa or picante sauce
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
8-ounce package cream cheese, cut into cubes
10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
1 cup chopped pitted ripe olives
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, mix salsa, Monterey Jack cheese, cream cheese, spinach and olives. Stir until heated through.
2. Serve with tortilla chips, fresh vegetables or bread cubes for dipping.
Recipe note: To thaw spinach quickly, microwave on high (100 percent) power for 3 minutes, breaking apart with a fork halfway through heating
HOT-HOT CHILI CON QUESO
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 4-oz can chilies, drained and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3/4 tsp seasoned salt
1/8 tsp garlic powder Dash white pepper
1 8-oz package cream cheese, cubed and softened
1/4 cup cream or milk
2 tbsps drained, chopped pimentos
1. In medium saucepan, simmer tomatoes, chilies, onion, seasoned salt, garlic powder and pepper 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Blend in cream cheese and then cream. Over very low heat, stir and heat through.
2. Turn into chafing dish or heat-proof casserole and keep warm over candle warmer, and garnish with pimento. Serve warm with carrot sticks, celery, cauliflower florets, green pepper squares and tortilla chips. Thin with a little cream if needed during serving period. Any leftover dip may be chilled and used as cracker spread.
Also, here's a Velveeta Substitute recipe from Food.com. It's way too much work for a brick of cheese for me. Seriously, if you have to resort to this before an ample supply of Velveeta returns to stores you made need some therapy. Pass the shredded cheese and turn on the game!
1 1/2 cups very hot water
1/2 cup instant milk, plus 1 tablespoon instant milk
0.5 (1/4 ounce) envelope unflavored gelatin (1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 lbs cheddar cheese, shredded
1. Line a 8x4x2 – 5″ loaf pan with plastic wrap. In a blender, put 1/2 cup of the water, 3 tablespoons of the milk, 1/2 teaspoon of the gelatin. Whip until gelatin is dissolved. Quickly add 1/2 lb of the cheddar to the hot mixture. Whip until blended. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.
2. Repeat this twice, until all ingredients are used.
3. Cover the pan with more plastic wrap and chill overnight before unmolding. Keep cold and slice as needed.
More help from the Orlando Sentinel test kitchen:
Besides any shredded cheese blend, look for these products in supermarkets
Queso blanco: Gets soft, not runny when heated. Don't heat in microwave, it just gets rubbery. Straight from the fridge, it's a little rubbery, mild yet rich-tasting. Serve with guava paste for dessert. Cut into pieces for salads, shred over beans or chop for dishes such as tacos, quesadillas, stuffed peppers or enchiladas.
Queso de papa (mild longhorn style): Yellow; runny when heated; soft tang.
Queso quesadilla: Faintly yellow; creamy; melts easily. Try on burgers and quesadillas.
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