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Dorothy Dean presents: Say cheese – keto popcorn cheese – for National Cheese Lover’s Day

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 20, 2021

By Audrey Alfaro For The Spokesman-Review

Editor’s note: The original recipe said to slice the cheese into ¼- and ½-inch slices – ¼-inch slices is correct.

It’s here, everyone! The day that celebrates each and every person on this planet: National Cheese Lover’s Day.

(And don’t even come at me with “Well, I don’t like cheese” because that’s not humanly possible, Karen.)

Observed annually on Jan. 20, this fromage-filled day honors the people who love and appreciate all things cheesy, like these cheesy facts:

Cheese is more flavorful at room temperature.

The most popular cheese recipe in the world is macaroni and cheese.

Pizza Hut uses a whopping 300 million pounds of cheese each year, the most out of all fast-food chains.

The most expensive cheese is more than $500 per pound. It’s called Pule, and it’s a crumbly cheese made of donkey milk in Serbia.

The subtle yellow color in cheese (and butter) comes from beta-carotene in the grass cows eat.

So, for your cheese-loving pleasure, I’m sharing a beyond-simple recipe that needs just one single ingredient – you guessed it – cheese.

Known as moon cheese, keto popcorn cheese and cheese pops, this addicting snack takes a bit of patience, but it is worth every bite.

It’s also gluten-free, keto-friendly and perfect for diabetics.

Hard cheese, such as cheddar or Gouda, is cut into ¼-inch slices, then into small squares. The cut cheese is arranged on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, covered with a tea towel, and set out for 3-4 days at room temperature to dry out and harden. (And, no, it won’t spoil or mold.)

Once your cheese is completely dried, the waiting game is done, and the fun begins. By fun, I mean baking your cheese and watching it pop!

In a 390-degree oven, the cheese bakes for 4-5 minutes. You’ll see it puff up and literally pop, slightly jumping on the baking sheet.

It’s then cooled and ready to be enjoyed (and by enjoyed, I mean devoured). This satisfying snack hits all the right notes in taste and texture.

It’s ultra-cheesy crunchy, crisp and airy and just plain addicting. Eat them by the handful, or try them on soup or salad.

Any hard cheeses can be used: Colby, Gruyère, Manchego, Asiago, Parmesan, Monterey Jack, provolone.

Some cheeses take longer than others to dehydrate. So, adjust time accordingly, as they must be completely dry and almost rock hard to pop.

Steer clear of soft cheeses like Brie or mozzarella, as their moisture content is too high, and they’ll just melt.

If you’d like to add a kick of flavor, try it with popcorn seasonings, paprika, ranch seasoning, cayenne or garlic and Parmesan. Just toss or sprinkle with seasonings while still hot so it’ll stick.

Keto popcorn cheese

4-ounce block hard cheese

Slice the cheese into ¼-inch-thick slices and then into bite-size squares.

Arrange the cheese in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and cover with a clean dish towel or paper towel.

Let the cheese sit out at room temperature for 3-4 days or until dry and very hard.

(The cheese must be completely dehydrated, or it will just melt when baked instead of puffing and turning crunchy.)

When ready to bake, preheat an oven to 390 degrees.

Blot away any moisture on the cheese with a paper towel.

Bake the cheese for 3-5 minutes and (watch it pop!) until it is puffed up.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with seasonings, if desired.

Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Audrey Alfaro can be reached at spoonandswallow@yahoo.com.

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