Superbowl Food Everyone Can Get Into

This focaccia bread is so good, Carson had to make sure he got every last crumb from the counter.  No, he was not food deprived and yes, his mom does feed him…it’s just that good and he didn’t want to miss a bit. It a recipe Superbowl fans will get into also. A superbowl party is a fun excuse to pull out my family’s all-time favorite recipes.  Many  are from Dave’s mom who would serve a wonderful appetizer buffet every January.  Her recipe box is full of great ones like artichoke dip and spinach-cheese squares.  She was the inspiration for our tradition of appetizers for Superbowl Sunday. My spread has evolved to include focaccia bread.

This focaccia recipe is really one I designed long before I knew what focaccia bread was. I would make huge pans of it for the football team, wresting team, track team and any other occasion when my kids friends would magically appear whenever they heard there would be food at the Nyenhuis house. The first I remember serving it for a group was when my daughter Ashley had her 8th grade volleyball team over for a post-season celebration of pasta and bread.  I used my favorite bread dough and spread it out in pans. Rubbed it with garlic, butter and a hard cheese like Asiago, slipped the trays in the oven for 15 minutes and cut it into squares. The team loved it and it became a signature bread in our family.


Ashley is stretching the dough with a gentle hand.  The dough has great aeration from the first rising period. A rolling pin used to flatten out the dough removes too much air. For a light, airy bread we use the Italian method of handling the dough with our bare hands.  Gently turning the dough over on itself after it comes out of the  food processor helps aerate the dough, replacing the air that the yeast consumes during fermentation and it stretches and redistributes the air bubbles.


Gently stretching the dough to fit a baking pan after the first rising makes shaping the Focaccia Bread easy.


A special cheese I got at the Gibbsville Cheese Store is Sap Sago. It is a delicious hard cheese that comes in a container that is designed to turn upside down and grate. Other cheeses like Asiago or Parmigiana-Romano  can be used also.

SONY DSCAshley is using parchment paper to line the baking pan.  It makes clean-up a snap but a preheated baking stone or an greased cookie sheet would work too. Insulated baking pans prevent the bottom of the bread dough from browning and crisping so choose a plain baking pan instead.

Focaccia Bread

2 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon dry yeast
3 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, optional
1/4 cup grated hard cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves

Combine yeast in 2 tablespoons warm water to proof yeast.  Combine flour, salt, sugar, water and proofed yeast  in a food processor. Add yeast and salt. Process for 90 seconds or until well mixed. Remove dough and fold over on itself several times. Place in a greased bowl, turning greased side up. Cover with a wet towel or plastic wrap and allow to stand until double, about 1 1/2 hours.  Spread half of olive oil over a 11 x 14 baking pan.  With hands stretch dough to fit a greased baking pan.  Spread with remaining olive oil and minced garlic. Top with cheese, salt and rosemary leaves. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Gibbsville Cheese Crostini

It was late. We were all tired. But as we walked through the cheese show room, Mallory could not help but adjust the cheeses as she went by, making sure they were all faced just so.  It came from habit, she said.  After all, making cheese has been a part of the Van Tatenhove family way before she was born. When her Great Grandparents started making cheese, they would preserve their own special cheese culture in  mason jars that they had to keep at the perfect temperature.  It was an arduous process, but one that allowed them to build their cheese business  to one of the best known cheeses around.

Photos of the cheese factory in 1933 through today. I think in those early years the cheese culture was “wild” meaning it was not prepackaged. It was probably handed down from one cheese maker to another.  If I remember the story right, Mallory’s Grandmother said they would have several mason jars of the cheese culture sitting on the counter. Every time they used some they would make more of the culture so they would have enough for the next batch of cheese.


Pictured here are some of my favorite Gibbsville cheese products. The culture for these products today are purchased to assure the same quality every time and the equipment is state of the art, but it is still the Van Tatenhove family who devote their time and talents to making a cheese with a smooth, complex flavor that has made Gibbsville Cheese famous.

cheese vatThe whey and curds are starting to separate in this vat. Cheese cultures provide different flavors, textures, and forms by coagulation of the milk protein casein. The cheese from Gibbsville is made from milk delivered by neighboring dairy farmers. I love the idea of the surrounding farmers bringing their fresh milk to the Van Tatenhoves to make incredibly delicious cheese. In other parts of the country that might be called a “Boutique”, or “Artisianal” cheese but for Gibbsville cheese, that’s just the way they have always made it.

Thats a lot a cheese curds.!!

Here come the curds!!! You can get fresh cheese curds every  Tuesday after 2 pm. I will personally guarantee that the cheese curds will squeak. Believe me I tried them last summer when I was there. I even tasted cheese curds before they got the final salt added. Very interesting!!!  I forgot to ask  how long before cheese curds loose their “squeak”. Guess that means I will just have to show up on a Tuesday and test it out myself.

boxed cheese curds

Or if you can’t make it to the shop,  mail order a variety of cheese by calling Gibbsville Cheese at 920-564-3242 and online at


Here is Mallory with Coulter and nephew Carson.  Coulter’s smile says it all. I never see that big of a smile from him except when he is around Mallory. We have an unwritten rule that Coulter has to bring Mallory wherever he goes….OK so the Marines do not listen to our rules but anyway we think he is so much better because of her.

But back to cheese. Mallory’s grandparents told me that when they started in the cheese business the whole family was involved. It is still that way today, their family making cheese for your family.

Gibbsville Cheese Crostini

4 ozs. Gibbsville Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/4 cup crumbled bacon
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 small baguette, thinly sliced and each slice rubbed with fresh garlic

Combine cheese, bacon, mayonnaise, sun dried tomatoes and almonds in a small mixing bowl. Spoon a tablespoon on each slice of bread that has been rubbed with garlic. Place slices on a baking tray and place about 3 inches under the broiler. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cracked Pink Peppercorn and Sage Crackers

Peppercorns come in all colors and I just happen to have some pink ones. Their flavor blends perfect with my not so perfect sage that has been waiting to go into some spectacular creation. Pink Peppercorns and sage saved from my garden. Someone asked me yesterday how I come up with recipe ideas. Well the truth is, I just take all my favorite foods and combine them…..OK, maybe a little consideration for flavors and the science of the ingredients but basically I think of what I love or what I think my readers, friends or family will love. When I was at the Gibbsville Cheese showroom, Mallory’s mom gave me a container of an Aged Asiago  cheese spread by Pine River that she said is one of her favorites.  It is one of my favorites now too. So good in fact,  that it is worthy of a homemade cracker to make it shine just a little more. The combination of the pink peppercorns, sage and the aged Asiago is so good. The cheese can be mail ordered from Gibbsville Cheese at 920-564-3242 and online at What does cracker pastry dough and bone china have in common?  They both have a translucent quality and when bone china is held up to the light you can see your hand through it.  Light, crisp crackers start with dough that when held up to the light, shows that same transparency. Below is a photo of the grains and other ingredients ready to be mixed in the food processor. The second photo shows a strip of dough in front of a window to show how thin the dough should be rolled. (Yes that is snow in the background, we have snow about 10 months of the year and the other months just  flakes, not enough to call real ‘snow’.)

The maillard reaction is responsible for the browning that takes place while the crackers bake. The browning reaction between the amino acids  and reducing sugars in the grains give the crackers a deep, earthy flavor. Research has shown that breads with dark brown crusts gain a wonderful flavor even deep in the center of the loaf. Each cracker gains more flavor as they brown. SONY DSCThe crackers on the left were baked just a few minutes longer than the crackers on the right but have a stronger wheat flavor and a strong toasted texture. SONY DSC These crackers are best when served the day they are made or within a few days.

Cracked Pink Peppercorn and Sage Crackers
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup ground flax
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked pink peppercorns
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup water Sage leaves
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt

Combine flour, ground flax, sugar, baking powder, salt, pepper and butter in food processor. Mix 10 seconds or until mixture resembles coarse meal. With unit running, add water. Mix until dry ingredients are moistened. Form into a ball.  Roll out on parchment paper and cut into desired shapes. Top with sage, flax seeds and additional salt. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 6 minutes or until lightly browned. Can be stored up to 1 week in a tightly covered container. Cracked Black Peppercorn and Sage crackers are great served with Asiago Cheese Spread that I got at Gibbsville cheese. Order online at