Sunday, August 21, 2011

(Don't) Hit the Road Jack Monterey Jack Cheese Quick Bread

Emily Dickinson may have died for beauty, but it's said that my paternal grandfather died for cheese.

According to my father, when he was growing up it wasn't unusual to have pastito (a kind of Greek lasagna with white sauce, cheese, nutmeg, and ground lamb) AND cheese pies for dinner.  The doctor told my grandfather: "if you don't stop eating cheese you're going to die" and my grandfather John did die of a heart attack.  According to my father, his own cholesterol was in the 400s when he was a young man.  That can't be right, can it?  I mean, the numbers don't go that high.

Flickr: psalakanthos

As a very little girl, I don't remember engaging in many EX-Treme cheese indulgences. As an adolescent, however, I grew up in the late 80s/early 90s. If the 'naughts' are the era of bacon, the previous era was clearly the Age of Cheese, and I am old enough to remember when there was only one flavor of Doritos (the coolest salty snack to have in your lunch) and to have heralded in the era where cheesing it away with pizza-flavored Combos was one's birthright as an American.  And cheese fries. With double cheeseburger or cheese-topped hot dogs.

Flickr: Pahz

The deep-fried mozzarella sticks I consumed at NJ diners are likely still lodged in my digestion system, somewhere.

My adult relationship with cheese as been somewhat manic-depressive, alternating between total absorption and total abstention. When I was living in the UK, I had a particular fondness for the jacket potatoes sold by street carts .

My favorite potato dealer, er, vendor was located in Convent Garden. He had a coal-fired oven that would leave the potatoes scorched on the outside yet the interior was always soft and creamy, with the very center of the potato almost like a mash.  I would usually order it topped with Cheddar. The cheese was tossed on unmelted, but the heat of the potato would quickly soften it to the perfect consistency--pliant but not rubbery.
Flickr: tomylees

"These are the best potatoes," I told everyone until one day I noticed why the cheese was so creamy...

In addition to the shredded cheese, there was also a large clump of butter melting beside the cheese.  Butter.  Cheese.  Butter.  Cheese.  Like the buttery goodness of every cheese sandwich squared several thousand times and stuffed into one perfectly cooked potato.  I had to shift to Shapers diet lunches from Boots, the popular English pharmacy.  Part of me wished I never learned The Secret.

Flickr: ben p

In the interests of lightening up cheesiness, here is a tasty, whole-wheat bread that is kind of a 'Son of' my last post about cheese bread. It's made with olive oil, whole wheat, and skim milk, and if you really wanted to, you could use low-fat Monterey Jack cheese (although I used the full fat variety). It would be great paired with a nice spicy, Southwestern salad. Unless you're like my mother, who used to order a tough steak from the American menu in Mexican restaurants and look with horror even at my extremely unspicy choice of chicken enchiladas.

Monterey Jack Cheese Quick Bread

Look at all of those cheesy, oozing hunks of yumminess!


2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 pinch of salt (approximately 1/2 teaspoon)
1 pinch of black pepper
4 tablespoons of olive oil (with extra oil to grease the pan)
1 cup skim milk
1 beaten egg
4 ounces of Monterey Jack cheese, cut into cubes


I didn't use them this time, but 1/2 cup diced jalapeno peppers or sun-dried tomatoes would compliment this bread well.


1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Oil a 9x5 or 8x4 pan.
2. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pepper
3. Mix together the oil, milk, and egg, fold into the dry ingredients.
4. Slowly add the cubes of cheese (and other add-ins, if you are using them) to the batter.
5. Bake for 45 minutes.  Cool for 5-10 minutes, remove from pan. Cool for another hour before cutting. Best served the day it is made


  1. When was was a little brat in the single digits I hated vegetables so much I refused to even eat the tomato sauce on pizzas. I used to make my parents order me a small butter cheese pizza with every pizza delivery. I'm sure that with today's food politics Jamie Oliver would try to take me to child services for letting me parents feed me that. But at the time they sure were tasty. I also think that someone who tells people what to feed their kids should stop displaying his horrible judgment by naming his own "Snuggly Wuggly Billy Boo Moonshine."

  2. @MD: For some reason I was too stupid as a child to realize that tomato sauce on pizza contained a fruit/vegetable. However, I used to demand buttered spaghetti when the rest of the family was eating it with tomato sauce, which apparently is pretty common--lots of restaurants complain about having kids demand plain pasta with butter. It really sounds like you were ahead of your time and created 'white pizza.' I think that several chains owe you a few bucks for that!