What Kids Learn
- Turn up the heat, but not too high.
- Use good melters (cheddar, colby, Swiss, Monterey Jack).
- The perfect cheese melts smoothly without producing a rubbery, oily mess (think: mozzarella cheese gone awry).
Whenever schools close for the day due to snow, it doesn’t take long—after the initial whoops and hollers—for my kids to suit up and head outdoors, even when the temperature plummets to near zero. And not much later, they’re back indoors, hunting for food—usually for something substantial, that they can help me make too.
This easy, cheesy Mexican dish is our snow-day go-to. While technically a dip, you can turn this into a meal by pairing it with a favortite soup or even homemade pigs in blankets (see how-to’s that follow).
You can vary this dish, too, by using a blend of Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese, “light” cream cheese, if you prefer, and a flavored salsa. Make it healthy by garnishing with chopped tomato, lettuce, canned, drained black beans, and guacamole. Snow-day food doesn’t get much better than this!
What You’ll Need
- 1 (8-ounce) container cream cheese, softened
- 1 (16-ounce) jar bottled salsa (or more as desired)
- 1 to 1½ cups grated cheddar cheese
- Tortilla chips, for dipping
What to Do
- Have your child unwrap the cream cheese. Show her how to spread it evenly in a 9-inch glass pie plate.Teachable Moment: Need-to-Know Facts about Cheese for Dips
- Not all cheeses are created equal; some work better than others. Top melting cheeses include cheddar, Swiss, Gouda, Gruyère, and Monterey Jack.
- Processed cheese also melts smoothly for dips and sauces. Hard cheeses like Parmesan and pecorino do not.
- When melting cheese in a saucepan, proceed slowly for the best results. Aim for a steady medium-low heat. The melting point for a classic cheddar dip is about 150°F. This method should help prevent your dip from turning into a stretchy, cheesy mess with a layer of oil on top!
- Let her measure the salsa and spread it evenly over the cream cheese.
- Invite her to measure the grated cheese and sprinkle it evenly over the salsa.Teachable Moment: Totally Cheesy Cheddar Cheese Facts
- Queen Victoria of England reportedly received one really cheesy wedding gift: a 1,000-pound wheel of cheddar cheese.
- During his time in office back in the 1800s, U.S. President Andrew Jackson hosted a White House party at which he served a 1,400-pound block of cheddar cheese.
- In 1964, cheese makers in Wisconsin created a massive 34,951-pound cheddar cheese from the milk of 16,000 cows for the World’s Fair in New York.
- Twenty-five years later (in 1989), members of the Oregon branch of the Federation of American Cheesemakers produced the largest cheddar cheese ever. It weighed 56,850 pounds.
- Microwave on high for 3 minutes until the mixture is bubbly hot and the cheese is melted. Serve with chips.
For homemade pigs in blankets:
What You’ll Need
- 1 tube refrigerated crescent dinner-roll dough
- 1 package mini hot dogs
What to Do
- Let your child unroll refrigerated crescent dinner-roll dough from the package and separate it into triangles.
- Slice each triangle into thirds lengthwise. Show your chef how to wrap the mini hot dogs, using one triangle for each wrapper.
- Have your helper place the individual pigs in blankets on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.