Lighten Up, America!

We sent Cooking Light's tireless contributing editor, Allison Fishman Task, on a mission: to crisscross the country in search of favorite regional foods and to lighten them for a country that is starting to think hard about what it eats. Buy the Book: Lighten Up, America!

America's Favorite Regional Cheeses

The goes-with-everything snack, America loves its cheese.

Tillamook Cheddar

Northwest: Oregon Tillamook Cheddar

Photo: Oxmoor House

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Pimiento Cheese
San Francisco Teleme
Iowa Maytag Blue

Vermont La Luna
La Luna, an aged cheese made from organic, raw goat’s milk, is produced by Blue Ledge Farms in Salisbury, Vermont. This semi-firm cheese is a Vermont original that’s akin to Gouda and Havarti. It has a milky flavor with mild herbal notes reminiscent of fresh grass.

Philadelphia Cream Cheese
This fresh, high-fat cheese is not native to Philadelphia, but to New York, where it was first produced in the 1870s when cream was added to Neufchâtel cheese. It wasn’t sold under the brand name “Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese” until the 1880s.

Pimiento Cheese
A mixture of shredded cheddar cheese, diced pimientos, and mayonnaise, this Southern staple has its origins in North Carolina. Southeast states account for 80% of all pimiento cheese spread sold in the U.S., but most Southern cooks maintain that the best is always homemade.

Alabama Goat Cheese

Belle Chevre, a French-style goat’s milk cheese, is made in a small creamery in rural Elkmont, Alabama. The soil and climate of the Southern terroir is believed to be the key factor in the cheese’s award-winning indulgent texture and distinctive flavors. Great care goes into the production and packaging of this fine cheese since both are done by hand.

Iowa Maytag Blue
Since 1941, Maytag Dairy Farms has been producing world-acclaimed blue cheese with the milk from its prize-winning herd of Holstein cattle. They still use a time-honored process for making blue cheese that was developed at Iowa State University in the 1940s.

Arizona Cotija
This hard cow’s- or goat’s-milk cheese is sometimes referred to as the “Mexican Parmesan” for the way it’s crumbled over finished dishes of Hispanic origin. It is a dry, firm, salty cheese with a slightly granular, crumbly consistency. Originally produced only in Mexico, where it was named after the Michoacán town of Cotija de la Paz, it is now produced in the States as well.

San Francisco Teleme
This is a creamy, semi-soft cheese originally produced on the windy coastline north of San Francisco in the 1940s. It’s a fresh, rindless cheese prized for its milky flavor and for a soft texture that makes it excellent for melting.

Oregon Tillamook Cheddar
Since 1851, Oregon’s wet Tillamook Valley has been producing some of the West’s finest cheeses. Known primarily for their medium cheddar, the co-op of Oregon farmers that contributes to the Tillamook brand also makes yogurt, sour cream, butter, and ice cream.

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