Get meal started right with dairy appetizers

Cheese is at the forefront of these appetizer recipes:

Sausage and Spinach French Bread Pizza with Wisconsin Fresh Mozzarella

Servings: 4 Ingredients:

1 4-x-16-inch loaf French bread

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces sweet or hot Italian sausage

1 cup yellow onion, sliced

4 cups (6 ounces) fresh baby spinach

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes, optional

1 cup (about 8 ounces) Wisconsin Fresh Mozzarella, cubed

1/2 cup (2 ounces) Wisconsin Aged Provolone or Parmesan, shredded

6 tablespoons pizza or marinara sauce

Cooking directions: Preheat oven to 400 F.

Slice the top quarter from bread. (Reserve slice for another use.) Remove bread from bottom, hollowing loaf and leaving 1/2-to 3/4-inch border with crust. Place bread on baking sheet. Brush inside with olive oil and bake 5 minutes, or until edges are golden and bread is slightly dry.

Remove casing from sausage. Heat large skillet, adding a little oil if sausage is very lean, over medium and add sausage, crumbling, and cook until almost browned. Add onions. Cook 4 minutes, until onions soften. Add spinach, in batches if necessary, and cook 2-3 minutes, until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat.

Add tomatoes, chile flakes, Mozzarella and Provolone to sausage mixture. Stir well.

Spread bread with pizza sauce. Fill with sausage-cheese mixture. Bake 20 minutes or until ingredients are heated through and cheese melts.

Wisconsin Pepper Jack Hushpuppies

Servings: Makes 20 hushpuppies Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup Wisconsin Pepper Jack* Cheese, grated

1/3 cup green onion, minced

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

Vegetable or peanut oil for deep frying

Jalapeño jelly or marmalade Cooking Directions:

Mix together cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir in cheese, green onion and hot pepper sauce. In small bowl, lightly mix eggs and buttermilk together. Add to cornmeal mixture and mix well.

Prepare heavy, deep saucepan, skillet or electric deep fryer. If using pan or skillet, pour in oil to depth of at least 2 inches. Follow instructions with deep fryer for oil depth. Heat oil to 360°F. Drop in hushpuppies by tablespoons-full in batches. Do not crowd. Fry until puppies rise to surface and brown—about 2-3 minutes. Remove from fat and drain on paper towels. While hot, serve with jalapeño jelly.

*Jalapeño Jack or Habanero Jack can be used as well.-

Cheddar Olive Pops

Servings: Makes 25 olive pops Ingredients:

2 cups (8 ounces) Wisconsin Aged Cheddar Cheese, coarsely grated

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon paprika

25 large pimiento-stuffed green olives

Cooking Directions: Preheat oven to 400 F.

In large bowl, blend together cheese and butter with electric mixer. Add flour and paprika; mix well.

Shape 1 tablespoon of cheese mixture around each olive, dipping hands in flour, if necessary, to prevent sticking. Arrange on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Remove from baking sheet and serve immediately.

Fiesta Dip

Servings: Makes 6 cups Ingredients:

1/3 cup onion, diced

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon canned chopped green chiles

1 10-ounce package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and well drained

1 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin Monterey Jack Cheese, coarsely grated

1 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin Queso Quesadilla Cheese, coarsely grated

1 8-ounce package Cream Cheese

1 2.25-ounce can sliced ripe olives, drained

Blue and yellow corn tortilla chips Cooking Directions: Preheat oven to 400 F.

Cook onion in olive oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until tender. Add tomato and chiles; cook 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; add spinach, cheeses and olives, stirring well.

Spoon mixture into a buttered 2-quart baking dish. Bake, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Wisconsin Smoked Cheddar Arancini (Crispy Rice Balls)

By Chef John Caputo Servings: 6 Ingredients: 4 ounces butter

1/2 yellow onion, minced

10 ounces Arborio rice (Italian risotto rice)

1 cup white wine

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