Friday, June 28, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Cherry Pie Bars

From Kitty's Kozy Kitchen

In my search for the perfect Independence Day dessert, I found this recipe for Cherry Pie Bars on a cute blog called Kitty's Kozy Kitchen.  The original source is the Taste of Home website.  These cake-like bars are easy to make and taste delicious.  I sprinkled some fresh blueberries (about 2/3 cup) over the top -- the red and white are already there, so the bit of blue added just the right patriotic touch!  I did cut the recipe in half, as I usually do, since the full recipe would make far too many bars for the two of us.  In fact, the original recipe states that the yield is 5 dozen bars, which seems rather astonishing to me.  The blogger mentioned that she cut hers into larger squares, which I did as well, so I have reduced the yield to just 16 bars (still more than enough for my husband and myself!).

Cherry Pie Bars

1/2 C. butter, softened
1 C. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 C. flour
1 can (21 oz.) cherry pie filling
1 C. confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp. each vanilla and almond extracts
2-3 T. milk

Cream together the butter, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the extracts.  Gradually add the flour.

Spread about 1 1/2 cups of the batter in a greased 9-inch pan. Spread with the pie filling.  Drop the remaining batter by teaspoonfuls over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

In a small bowl, mix the confectioner's sugar, extracts, and enough milk to reach the desired consistency for drizzling.  Drizzle over the top of the bars.  Makes 16 bars.

Update: My husband was not a fan of so much glaze, so next time I may reduce the amount and possibly only glaze half of the bars.  To cut the sweetness a bit, drizzle some chocolate syrup over the top of a serving!
             

Thursday, June 27, 2013

This 'n That Thursdays: Is Your Kitchen Making You Fat?

From Flaming Fun

I recently came across an interesting little quiz on HouseLogic testing the ability to recognize nine diet saboteurs in one's very own kitchen!  Take a look at these images:

From Apartment Therapy

From Best Kitchen Decoration

From Home Revo

From DIY Network

From DIY Network

From Houzz

From MultyFlex

From Melissa Loves

From Coast Views Magazine

All of these photos feature items in the kitchen that could be exacerbating weight woes (some have more than one).  Can you figure out what they are?  For the answers, visit the website.  At least four of these problems exist in my kitchen!  And here's a bonus image -- do you know how this kitchen could be making you overeat?


Check out the answer here (to a lesser extent, this is another issue in my kitchen).  After taking the quiz you may find yourself rethinking your kitchen design -- I know I am!

From Condé Nast Collection

From The Real Health Wife

From CHEEZburger
             

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wish List Wednesdays: Little Guy Teardrop Trailer

From Chilhowee RV Center

I have never thought of camping as recreation, having spent far too much time living in tents while doing field research in my younger days.  Why spend the night in a sleeping bag on the floor of a flimsy tent if a nice little cabin with real beds and indoor plumbing is available?  Even the relatively recent phenomenon called glamping (glamorous camping) was of no interest to me -- until I saw this sweet Teardrop Trailer by Little Guy!  Available in a range of sizes, colors, and custom options, this cute trailer features an outside compartment that can be used as a kitchen and/or dining area:

From Roaming Times

From Sunset

And even the littlest trailers have room for a bed on the inside:

From Sunset

A battery pack is included as a power supply for lights and small appliances.  The tiny versions are lightweight enough to be pulled by a car, but I think my personal favorite is the Silver Shadow model.  Even though indoor plumbing is still an issue, I may be forced to reconsider my views on camping now, thanks to the Little Guy Teardrop Trailer!
             

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Current Events: Super Moon Tonight!

Photo by Tim McCord (from Space.com)

Don't forget to look for the super moon tonight!  The moon was also pretty spectacular early this morning, but I did not have my camera with me.  Weather permitting, I intend to photograph the super moon tonight or early tomorrow morning, to the best of my rather limited abilities.  This is something I have been promising myself I would do every year, and every year I forget, but hopefully I will actually accomplish my mission this time.  If any of my images turn out to be halfway decent I will post them here (don't hold your breath, though!).

Update: Well, here is my sorry attempt to photograph the super moon early this morning:


I really wish I had remembered to take my camera with me yesterday morning, as the air was much less hazy and the moon was closer to the horizon then -- it was much more impressive and would probably have photographed better.  This image looks like every other full moon -- nothing super about it.  Oh well, maybe I will have better luck next year.
             

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Weekend Wonders: Flying Beagle, or The Art of Stealing!

From QZLife

It's now official -- dogs steal food when they think we're not looking!  Most of us already know this, but a recent study has shown that dogs have elevated their penchant for crime to an art form.  Dogs in the study were four times more likely to steal food, and to steal it more quickly, when the food was in a darkened room, even though a human who had told them not to take it was present in the room.  This suggests that dogs know when we can see them and when we can't!  Apparently dogs possess a form of intelligence called "theory of mind", which is the ability to understand that others have different perspectives, feelings, and knowledge than oneself, and can modify their behaviors based upon this ability.

Once again it all boils down to the realization that dogs know us even better than we thought they did, and probably even better than we know ourselves.  Maybe dogs really are geniuses!  And not only do they know just the right time to steal, they can also figure out ingenious ways of doing so, as this remarkable beagle demonstrates (the video is a bit slow to reach the climax, so skip ahead to minute 1:55 if you're in a hurry):



(You can also watch the Animal Planet version.)

It really does make you wonder sometimes about who really is in charge when it comes to dogs and their humans!
                

Friday, June 21, 2013

On the Homefront: Sunny Summer Table

Sunny the Dalmatian has graciously agreed to preside
over the deviled egg plate!

The first day of summer has arrived, and to celebrate I have set a sunny summer table!  Lots of bright orange and yellow dominate the color scheme, balanced out by white and a bit of brown to cool things down slightly.  And of course that quintessential summer bloom, the sunflower, makes an appearance as well.  The citrusy colors inspired an equally citrusy menu, while the whimsical crustacean centerpiece influenced the entrée selection.  Rather than escape the heat, I decided to embrace it, so be prepared to sizzle!


Croft and Barrow Checkerboard Tablecloth from Kohl's; dark brown wooden bead placemat from Target; orange round placemat from Kmart; white dinner plate (Tivoli by Studio Nova); orange salad plate (Waechtersbach) from Tuesday Morning; yellow napkin from HomeGoods; stainless flatware (Tripoli Sand by Cambridge) from HomeGoods; orange water glass from The Cupboard in Fort Collins, CO; can't remember where I got the wine glass.





I couldn't decide which set of napkin rings to use, so I ended up
doing something completely different instead.  The napkins
remained unadorned, and both sets of rings, along with a
scattering of Skittles and a big white candle, were
combined to create a fun centerpiece, a sort of
crustacean carousel!

The obvious menu choice for this celebration of summer is one featuring lots of citrus flavors.  I chose recipes which include either lemons or oranges, to match the color scheme of course!  The simple salad is one my husband has been making for years.  He simply tops baby spinach leaves with canned mandarin orange segments and tosses it all with a generous drizzle of sesame oil.  I decided to complicate things just a bit by making a dressing with the sesame oil (1/3 C. mandarin orange liquid, 1 T. each rice vinegar and sesame oil), so use your own imagination and taste preferences when dressing this salad!

Sunny Summer Menu:

Lemonade and/or White Wine
Lemon and Dill Deviled Eggs*
Mandarin Orange and Spinach Salad with Sesame Oil Dressing

From Closet Cooking

*Lemon and Dill Deviled Eggs

6 eggs
1/4 C. mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 T. minced fresh dill
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 T. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Place the eggs in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat and let sit for seven minutes.  Place the eggs in a large bowl filled with cold water and let cool.  Peel the eggs and cut them in half lengthwise.  Scoop the yolks into a bowl and combine with the remaining ingredients.  Spoon or pipe the yolk mixture into the halved egg whites and serve.  Serves 6.

Even the Lindt Lindor Truffles on the table are the tasty orange variety:


Happy Summer Solstice, everyone -- enjoy your summer!

A sunflower close-up!
                

Foodie Fridays: Lemon Garlic Baked Shrimp



From What Will I Cook Today?

Roasting or baking is my new favorite way to cook shrimp (closely followed by grilling, which only comes in second because I do not like to set up the grill!).  My favorite flavor combination for shrimp includes lemon, garlic, and one or more fresh herbs, so the recipe from Epicurious for Lemon Garlic Baked Shrimp needed minimal tweaking to satisfy my tastes.  Be sure to serve this with bread, rice, or pasta to soak up all of the luscious sauce.

Lemon Garlic Baked Shrimp

1/4 C. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz. medium shrimp, peeled
2  T. lemon juice
zest of one lemon
2 T. chopped fresh parsley

Combine the olive oil and garlic in a 11x7-inch baking dish (or one similar in size).  Bake at 450 degrees for 5 minutes until the garlic is lightly colored.  Add the shrimp and lemon juice, turning the shrimp to coat.  Salt to taste.  Bake the shrimp 6-8 minutes until just cooked through.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the lemon zest and parsley.  Serves 2.
             

Thursday, June 20, 2013

This 'n That Thursdays: This Video Will Touch Your Heart


If you have not yet seen this video, prepare to be profoundly moved by the sweetness of a three-year-old boy!  As he eats his meal, he carries on a conversation with his mother, which leads to a rather unexpected conclusion by the little fellow that brings his mother to tears.  In fact, I think only the most hard-hearted among us would not be affected by this, so don't be surprised if you find yourself choking up just a bit as well.

Although the video is being touted as an argument for the vegan lifestyle (raising much controversy between those who eat meat and those who do not), I do not see it that way.  Rather, I find it to be a testament to that which makes human beings unique, namely our ability to gather information and use it to form conclusions based not only on how this information affects us and our species, but how it affects other species as well.  This child is only three, and he may form different conclusions as he gets older and gathers more knowledge.  He will come to understand that death is a natural part of life, and that some animal species kill others for food, sometimes out of necessity (obligate carnivores) and sometimes as a normal supplement to their diet (omnivores and facultative carnivores).  He may one day become a dedicated meat eater, or he may devote his life to the vegan cause, or he may forget all about the whole issue -- only time will tell.  But the fact that one so young can care so deeply about the lives of other creatures reminds us that life is a very precious gift, and should not be taken for granted.  We would all do well to pause once in a while to remember this, and to be thankful for all, humans and non-humans, who have given their lives for others.  And we should thank a little three-year-old boy for reminding us of this.

From The Inn at Serenbe
                

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wish List Wednesdays: Built to Resi(s)t Club Sofa

From YLiving

Now this is the sofa for the dedicated couch potato!  A clever collaberation between furniture designer Quinze & Milan and the backpack manufacturer Eastpak, a Built to Resi(s)t Club Sofa combines the sleek contemporary lines of the former and the rugged storage capacity of the latter.  The result is an attractive and functional seating option that lets you keep everything you need within reach -- once you sit down, you may never have to get back up!  The sofa comes in a variety of color options (subject to availability).  It is a serious investment at $3,515 from YLiving (free shipping!), but for anyone who tends to move a lot and/or enjoys nesting on their sofa when at home, this could be a design match made in heaven!  In fact, if the designers ever decide to offer a sleeper sofa option, I would absolutely have to purchase one as the perfect furniture piece for a combination office/guest room.  How about it, Quinze & Milan?

More storage in back!
                

Friday, June 14, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Lemon Spaghetti

From PopSugar

I adore citrusy flavors, especially that of the oh-so-versatile lemon.  From appetizers to desserts, this sunny yellow fruit enhances just about anything to which it is added.  And summer is a particularly great time to savor the tart and refreshing flavor of lemon.  One of my very favorite lemon recipes involves another food that I love, namely pasta.  Rachael Ray's Lemon Spaghetti couldn't be simpler, and it is so good I could live on just this one dish.  If you haven't tried the recipe yet and you too are a fan of lemons, be prepared to fall in love!

Lemon Spaghetti

1 lb. spaghetti
3 T. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1/2-3/4 C. heavy cream
1 C. grated Parmesan
1/4 C. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 C. chopped fresh basil

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes.  When the pasta has cooked for about 5 minutes, add the lemon juice and a ladleful of the pasta cooking water (at least 1/2 C.) to the skillet with the cream.  Turn up the heat to bring the sauce to a bubble.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta 5 minutes more, then drain, reserving another 1/2 C. of the cooking water.  Add the lemon zest and half of the cheese to the sauce and season with salt to taste.  Add the pasta and remove the skillet from the heat.  Toss the pasta for a couple of minutes and allow it to absorb the sauce, adding more pasta water if it seems too dry.  Serve with the remaining cheese and the herbs sprinkled on top.  Serves 6.

Update: I used shredded rather than grated Parmesan, which ended up clumping in the sauce.  Next time I will not stir the cheese into the sauce, but will add it to the pasta after stirring the sauce in.  I think that this will distribute the cheese better.  I stirred the herbs into the pasta as well instead of sprinkling them on top for this reason.
                

Thursday, June 13, 2013

This 'n That Thursdays: Is Your Dog a Genius?

From Dognition

Have you ever wondered just how smart your dog really is?  I'm sure all dog owners have stories about the incredibly brilliant
/amusing/silly/dumb things their dog has done, but are you curious as to just why your dog does what he/she does?  Then you may want to check out the recently released book The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter than You Think by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods.  Dr. Hare founded the Canine Cognition Center at Duke University.  He has done extensive work on the cognitive abilities of animal species, but became particularly interested in dogs when he realized that they were unusually adept at cueing in on human gestures and signals that other species, including chimpanzees, failed to notice.

Dr. Hare believes that the unique bond forged between dogs and humans so long ago is a major reason that the former are so adept at reading and interpreting our signals.  Intentionally or not, we have selected for dogs that direct their focus on us.  As a result, more than any other species, dogs have an ability to understand us in ways that we often do not understand ourselves, mostly because they can pick up and act on cues we don't even know we are giving.  And, in a shift from recently held ideas about animal behavior, it is now thought that dogs can use this information to make decisions about their own subsequent actions.  Moreover, each dog is unique and will process information differently.  Hare and other scientists have developed a canine assessment test which allows dog owners to determine just how their dogs do this (see a sample test in the video below, and keep in mind that each test will be repeated multiple times for a more accurate assessment of each dog's performance):


If you are interested in testing your own dog, visit the Dognition website for more information.  There is a fee to access the test (from $39.99 to $147 depending upon which package and payment option you choose).  Once you have tested your dog, you can enter the data into the site's database.  You will receive a Profile Report of your dog's performance to help you better understand how your dog learns, and all of the data collected will be used by the researchers to further their "Citizen Science" studies which are conducted to gain even more insights into dog cognition (you can receive updates on this research as well).  The games are designed to be simple, fun, and nonjudgmental.  According to Dr. Hare, this is not an IQ test for dogs so much as it is a way to demonstrate that different dogs process and act upon the same information in different ways.  Each dog's reaction can be thought of as more of a survival strategy than an indication of intelligence, and each strategy has its own advantages and disadvantages.

I received a doctoral degree in the study of animal behavior myself, and this was during the period when it was widely believed that animals had limited cognitive abilities.  Studies on domestic animals were deemed less important than those of species living in natural conditions, as it was thought that the less contact a species had with humans the more relevant the collected data were to the study of animal behavior.  This is a fine concept, but it meant that the whole other aspect of how animals adapt and react to human interactions was neglected.  Since we tend to perceive the world in relation to how it affects us, this information is equally valuable, and in my opinion focus on this sort of research is long overdue.  I have not yet tested my dogs, but I have every intention of doing so, and when I do I will share their results.  Based on the Dognition Profiles, my prediction is that our Dalmatian will test out as a Maverick, while the terrier mix will be either an Ace or a Charmer, so we shall see!  These profiles remind me of the Parelli Horsenality Chart which my riding buddy has found so useful when training her horses, so they could potentially become an important tool for dog training.

It was almost impossible to get this photograph of both dogs
focusing on me, and notice the impudent Dalmatian's tongue
sticking out -- this does not bode well for testing
(don't worry, girls, I'm just kidding -- I think!).
                

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wish List Wednesdays: Maddie on Things: A Super Serious Project About Dogs and Physics

From StyleCaster

I seriously need to get myself a copy of this book!  Don't be fooled by the title -- Maddie on Things: A Super Serious Project About Dogs and Physics is photographer Theron Humphrey's loving tribute to the shelter puppy he adopted and then brought with him on a year-long photojournalism journey across the nation.  When he realized this amazing coonhound had a unique ability to balance on just about anything, he modified his original plans for the trip to include photos of Maddie perched on things.  Friends encouraged him to continue the theme, and this book is the result.  Maggie also led him to begin a new project called "Why We Rescue" for Purina One, which I strongly recommend that you check out.  The book is widely available -- Barnes & Noble has hardcover copies for 20% off (list price $15.95) at $11.65, and Amazon.com has Kindle versions for $7.99.  I am adding this book to my library as soon as possible!

Theron Humphrey and Maddie
             

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Holiday Hits: Adopt a Shelter Cat Month

From Mousebreath

June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month.  Spring is kitten season, and shelters are overwhelmed with them right now, so if you have been considering getting a cat please check out your local animal shelter.  The American Humane Association has some tips on adopting a shelter cat.  But what if you are unable to adopt a cat right now?  Then check here for some tips on other ways you can help!  And just in case you have a dog and don't think a cat would be appreciated, just take a look at this cute video:


Who knows, your own canine companion may be longing for a feline friend as well!
                

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Current Events: Environmental News


Several environmental issues made the news this week, two of them good and one bad.  Since this past Wednesday was World Environment Day, I thought I would share these stories:

1) Frog Thought Extinct Is Rediscovered

From National Geographic

The Hula painted frog (Latonia nigriventer), long thought extinct, was recently rediscovered in the Hula Valley of Israel.  This frog was the first amphibian to be declared extinct, and prior to its rediscovery was last seen in 1955.  It is the only living member of the genus Latonia, and is considered a rare "living fossil", a species that has not changed in millions of years and has few or no living close relatives.  It is believed that the current population numbers 100 to 200 frogs, but because much of its original habitat was destroyed when the wetlands of the area were drained, the survival of the Hula painted frog is still of concern.

2) Ancient Australian Lake in Pristine Condition

From Australian National University

After analyzing lake parameter data collected over 117 years, scientists from the University of Adelaide have concluded that Australia's Blue Lake has remained essentially unchanged for 7,500 years.  The discovery is so remarkable that one scientist has dubbed this lake "God's bathtub".  While other lakes in the area have been severely impacted by drought brought on by climate change, Blue Lake remains pristine, due to the fact that its water is renewed on a regular basis from an underground aquifer, allowing lake levels and chemistry to remain constant.  This lake has been a refuge to the freshwater biota of the region, but scientists warn that even a tiny amount of human influence could cause drastic changes to this fragile ecosystem.

3)  United States Atlantic Puffin Population in Peril

From KOMO News

In the United States, the Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) could be in trouble, and there are signs that these seabirds are at risk in other parts of the world as well.  Puffin breeding colonies are only found in localized areas of coastal Maine in the US.  Recently weak and dead starved adult birds have been found washed ashore along the eastern coast, and last summer the survival rate of puffin fledglings in Maine plummeted.  Scientists speculate that shifting fish populations in response to climate change have made it difficult for puffins to find food, especially for their young.  In addition, extreme oceanic conditions have been washing away puffin nesting sites along the coast, further reducing survival rates for the population.  Die-offs and population declines have been noted in other parts of the world as well, such as Iceland.  The Atlantic Puffin population in the United States is of particular concern because it has been brought back from near extirpation once before, when the birds were almost hunted to extinction in the late 1800s.  The recovery of this population was a rare success story, but the Maine puffin population is not large, and huge losses such as the ones being seen now could have a dramatic negative effect on their continued existence in this nation.

I have mentioned before that the Atlantic Puffin is my favorite bird.  At this point the puffins' continued existence in the US seems to be a matter of whether or not the birds can adapt to the changes in Atlantic fish populations, but I hope that in the near future more can be done to help these birds survive.
             

Friday, June 7, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Dill Havarti Mashed Cauliflower

From Eating Well

In yesterday's post I mentioned that dill Havarti is one of my favorite cheeses.  Imagine my delight when I found a recipe for mashed cauliflower using this cheese!  I had heard that mashed cauliflower is very similar in taste to mashed potatoes, and I have been meaning to try it, so this is the perfect opportunity.  And since the recipe comes from the Eating Well website, it is a relatively healthy version as well!  I fully intended to prepare this recipe before posting it, but my husband is out of town and one of our dogs cannot be left alone because she is not well, so I will have to wait a few days before I have a chance to get the ingredients I need.  After all, you can't make Dill Havarti Mashed Cauliflower without dill Havarti and cauliflower!  I will update this post as soon as I actually get to try this dish.

Dill Havarti Mashed Cauliflower

8 C. cauliflower florets (about one large head)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 C. grated dill Havarti cheese
1/4 C. low-fat milk
1 T. butter, cubed
1 tsp. dried dill
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 T. sliced chives or green onions

Steam the cauliflower with the garlic for about 10-14 minutes in a Dutch oven fitted with a steamer basket.  Transfer the vegetables to a food processor.  Add all of the remaining ingredients except the chives/green onions and purée until smooth.  Stir in the chives/green onions.  Serves 6.

Note: You can use Cheddar cheese if you prefer, or if you cannot find the dill Havarti.  Come to think of it, you could certainly use potatoes instead of cauliflower if you are a spud fanatic and/or dislike cauliflower!

Update: I finally got the chance to make this, and it is amazingly good!  It is a little more watery than mashed potatoes, more like soft grits (only not gritty), but the taste is almost exactly like potatoes!  I dumped everything into the cooking pot I used for the cauliflower and used my immersion blender rather than a food processor.  Also, I substituted minced garlic from a jar for the whole fresh cloves (added after the cauliflower was cooked) and stirred in some parsley as well as green onions.  I had this with my plain version of Baked Chicken Tenders, and it was quite a satisfying meal.
               

Thursday, June 6, 2013

This 'n That Thursdays: Cheese, Glorious Cheese!

From The Cheese Store of Cedarhurst

This past Tuesday was National Cheese Day.  Since cheese is one of my favorite foods, I decided that today's post would be all about the cheeses I love most.  I tend to prefer hard cheeses to soft, and nutty cheeses to creamy or sharp ones.  Swiss-type cheeses top my favorites list, but there are so many varieties of cheese available that they are by no means my only choice.  Here is the list of my current obsessions, but there are still quite a few I have yet to try, so this list could change tomorrow!

1) Jarlsberg Cheese

From Springbank Cheese Co.

This Baby Swiss-type cheese will always be my favorite.  I discovered it when I was an undergraduate college student in upstate New York, and for me it is still the perfect cheese.  It has a sweet, nutty flavor and firm texture that I find irresistible, and it even comes in a "Lite" form that is practically indistinguishable from the original.  I have yet to try the smoked version, but I am sure I would love it since I love other smoked cheeses.

My only problem with Jarlsberg is that it is made in Norway, one of only three countries that continue to defy a 1986 International Whaling Commission ban on commercial whaling (the other two countries are Japan and Iceland).  For this reason, I rarely eat my favorite cheese any more, maybe only once every couple of years.  If you knew just how much I adore this cheese you would understand what a sacrifice this is for me, but to me preserving healthy whale populations is much more important than indulging in cheese, so until Norway stops killing whales I will continue to avoid this cheese.

2) Gruyère Cheese

From igourmet.com

Gruyère is authentic Swiss cheese, named for the town of Gruyères in Switzerland.  In general, it is a hard and nutty cheese, but the texture and flavor vary depending upon factors such as age, production season, and source.  It is an excellent cooking cheese, and is traditional in fondues and quiches.  It is also equally good eaten plain and pairs well with wines, especially red.  It can be expensive, but for me the flavor is worth the price, and it is a worthy substitute for Jarlsberg.

3) Tetilla Cheese

From La Tienda

This semi-soft, creamy cheese with the suggestive name from Spain is a recent discovery.  I received this oddly shaped cheese as a Christmas gift a few years ago, and have been hooked ever since.  It is especially good melted atop a really good bread such as Italian or French, or the Spanish Galician loaf if you can get it.  My source for this cheese (and for good Galician bread as well) is La Tienda, a catalog specializing in Spanish foods and other items.

4) Dill Havarti

From Boar's Head

Havarti is a semi-soft, buttery cheese from Denmark.  It comes in several flavor varieties, and I am especially fond of dill Havarti, which has flecks of dried dill weed throughout.  This is an excellent cheese to eat plain, with or without crackers.  There is also a caraway seed Havarti cheese that I like.  One variety that I have only found in upstate New York is Havarti with mustard seeds, which is another favorite.  It has been a while since I had this one, and think I am going to have to order some soon!

5) White Stilton with Lemon Peel

From Gourmet Food

White Stilton is an interesting cheese, made almost the same way as blue Stilton but without the introduction of the mold which causes the blue veining.  It is a dessert cheese, and usually has fruit bits added.  My favorite is the white Stilton with lemon peel.  Somehow the tart sweetness of the peel is the perfect foil for the sharpness of the cheese, and I enjoy this cheese plain.  There are other fruit-studded white Stiltons available (mango and ginger, blueberry, apricot, cranberry), but for me the lemon peel variety is far superior in taste.

6) Smoked Cheeses

This is not a single variety, but some cheeses are available smoked, and I find them to be delectable.  One favorite is the Maple Smoked Cheddar from The Vermont Country Store, which is not available in the summer but will be for sale again when the weather cools off.

From Smith'd

I also really like the Apple Smoked Gruyere from Red Apple Cheese, even though it is a processed cheese.

From Red Apple Cheese

Their Apple Smoked Provolone is good as well, and I would love to try their other smoked cheeses, which are not currently available in our local supermarkets.

This list is only a tiny sample of cheeses that I love -- a complete list would take up way too much space!  I once worked with a woman who had to give up cheese for health reasons.  Cheese is one of those foods that I would find difficult to stop eating, so I hope I never have to make a choice like that, because life without cheese would become a sorry existence indeed!