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Who doesn't love cheese? Grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, baked lasagna with ooey gooey cheese melted all over it are common cheesy dishes. But with over 2,000 varieties to choose from, it's time to put a little more thought into your cheese choices.

Cheese is formed from milk. Milk is curdled by the addition of acid, rennet (enzymes) or bacteria. The mixture separates into whey (water) and semi-solid curds (mostly fat and protein). Acid and salt are then added to the curds to promote longer shelf life and impart flavor.

Cheese is often categorized by its texture. Hard cheeses include Asiago, blue cheese, gruyere, parmesan, and Swiss. Semi-hard cheeses include provolone, Monterey jack, Gouda and cheddar. Colby and Havarti are semi-soft, while feta, mozzarella, gorgonzola, and brie are all soft cheeses.

The different flavors of cheese are defined by the type of animal milk used, the animal's diet, whether the milk is pasteurized or raw, and its aging process. Cheese from cow's milk are generally more neutral in taste. Swiss, provolone, Colby and cheddar are typically made with cow's milk. Cheese made from goat's milk may be more crumbly and robust, such as feta and chevres. Sheep and buffalo milk cheese generally have a higher fat and protein content making it richer in taste.

Cheese is a good source of protein and calcium. In fact, cheese is the number two source of calcium in American's diets. However, cheese is also a source of saturated fat and sodium. Try low-fat cheese or choose the more bold flavored cheese to help you eat less. If you're on a low-sodium diet, try Swiss or ricotta, which typically have less sodium. Whatever type of cheese you choose, be sure to savor every bite!

Here's a super simple recipe that goes beyond a typical cheesy recipe, and the best part is that you can put it together in minutes!

Caprese Salad Printable PDF

4 large tomatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick

½ cup fresh basil leaves

1 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced ¼ inch thick

½ teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

On a large platter, arrange in the following pattern: tomato, basil, mozzarella, basil. Sprinkle

salt evenly over entire salad. Then drizzle with olive oil and then drizzle with vinegar.

Yield: 4 servings


Nutritional analysis per serving: 130 calories, 11 grams fat, 330 milligrams sodium,

9 grams total carbohydrate, 2 grams dietary fiber, 2 grams protein