by Gerry Rowan
As a kid I had a love affair with processed cheese foods. Velveeta was a word that always made me salivate. I was introduced to it for the first time in my elementary school cafeteria in their version of cheese dogs. We never ate it at home, so it was novel and intriguing when I was 10. I began to crave this childhood comfort food again. I wanted a homemade version that tasted similar but didn’t have the exotic chemistry of the commercial brands. This homemade cheese food turned out to be a convenient camping food.
1 cup boiling water
6 tablespoons powdered milk
1 envelope (¼ ounce) unflavored gelatin
4 cups shredded cheese (Colby, Gouda, jack, pepper jack, cheddar, Swiss, or a mixture)
Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap; set aside. Add the boiling water to a blender; then sprinkle in the powdered milk and unflavored gelatin. Pulse to blend. Add shredded cheese and blend until smooth. Immediately pour into a prepared mold (it sets up quickly). Tap the mold on the counter to release any trapped air and flatten the top of the cheese. Put in refrigerator until set—about 2 hours or overnight. Keep refrigerated.
Additions: ¼ to ½ cup pickled jalapeño peppers, chopped; ¼ to ½ cup pickled onions, chopped; 2 to 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard; 1 to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper; ½ to 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, crumbled.
Substitutions: ½ to 1 teaspoon annatto seed extract for yellow cheese.
Note: Parmesan or blue cheese can be added for a flavored version. A piece of unflavored dental floss can cut this cheese food easily.
Home-Veeta Potato-Cheese Soup
8 cups water
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and shredded
1 pound (16 ounces) Home-Veeta Cheese, cubed
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
4 cubes chicken bouillon
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
½ teaspoon Kosher salt ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
Combine the water and all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until potatoes are tender (about 25 to 30 minutes).
Onions and Cheese
2 pounds sweet onions, peeled and sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons butter or bacon fat
8 ounces Home-Veeta Cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and sauté over medium heat until the onions are caramelized. Stir in the cheese food and allow it to melt. Serve over burgers, steaks, grilled chicken, omelets, home fries, etc.
Suggestions: You can slice this cheese food and melt it on top of scrambled eggs and home fries. Or cube it and stir into hot cooked rice. Add a dollop of butter and some Home-Veeta Cheese and you have a reasonable camp/trail mac ‘n’ cheese. Add with some crumbled, crispy bacon to the top of baked potatoes. Cube and add it to muffins or soda bread. Add a slice as part of the filling for an omelet.
Ham and Cheese Waffles
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1½ cup lukewarm milk
8 ounces Home-Veeta Cheese, diced
4 ounces ham, finely diced
⅓ cup melted butter
Preheat your waffle iron while you make the waffle batter. Whisk together the dry ingredients (except the ham and cheese). In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and butter. Mix together the wet and dry ingredients, stirring just until combined; then stir in the ham and cheese food. The batter may be a bit lumpy. Cook the waffles over a medium-high fire until golden brown. Serve with maple syrup, fruit syrup, pancake syrup honey, golden syrup, jam, or marmalade and butter.
Substitutions: Instead of 1 cup whole wheat flour, combine ½ cup whole wheat flour plus ½ cup all-purpose flour or entirely replace with all-purpose flour. White or light brown sugar for the brown sugar. Canola oil or melted vegetable shortening for the butter.
Camp-Friendly Version: Combine the dry ingredients and store in a ziplock bag. Combine the wet ingredients and store in a lidded plastic container. Combine the ham and cheese in a third ziplock bag. At camp, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, cover, and shake well.
Suggestion: Try thinning the batter a bit and cooking on a griddle.
Note: Several manufacturers make cast iron or aluminum waffle irons designed for use over an open fire or on top of a fuel-burning stove.