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Taste test: Mexican cheese blends

Serving size ¼ cup ¼ cup ¼ cup
Calories 110 110 110
Fat/Fiber 9g / 0g 9g / 0g 9g /0g
Sugars/Sodium 0g / 180mg 0g / 170mg 0g / 180mg
Carbs/Protein 1g / 6g 1g / 6g 1g / 7g


It may be simpler and a bit quicker to get a Mexican-themed meal on the dinner table by using packaged grated cheese. Local supermarkets now sell bags for a variety of dinner menus. Most of the "Mexican" cheese blends include cheddar, Monterey Jack and soft, white and off-white types like queso or asadero. Our panelists sampled seven brands of finely grated blends and preferred the spicier mixes to the bland ones. Most of the judges said they prefer to grate their own cheeses, but they said that they wouldn't have to sacrifice flavor if they used a few of these ready-to-serve blends. Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent

Product/Score

(out of 100)
Kraft Cheddar,

Monterey Jack and

Jalapeno Peppers: 55
Sargento Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Queso Quesadilla and Asadero: 51Hannaford Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Asadero and Queso Blanco: 39
Judges'

comments
Bright color and visible specks of jalapeno peppers made this cheese blend the favorite among our panelists. They liked the kick from the peppers, coupled with the smooth Monterey Jack. "It's great that it's got more of the Jack cheese to the yellow cheese," said one judge, who also said he would add this cheese to tacos, salads or his breakfast casserole. "This is nice and spicy — it has bite!"Judges compared this cheese to comfort food. "It's got a mild taste and a mild chew," said one, adding that he liked the color and a "hint of nutty" in the flavor. "This has a unique flavor that would work well in any number of Mexican dishes," another said. "I'd use it in a baked dish for sure, maybe even in my Mexican lasagna."One panelist compared Sweetbay's store blend of cheeses to an Amish sharp cheddar. He liked the definite bite to the mix. "This has a strong, bold cheese taste and great texture," another said. "It has a really great chew and a very assertive taste." A couple of judges said this blend would be especially tasty on a salad or a savory dish.
Would

they buy?
Three of the four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.Two of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information$2 for a 9.6-ounce bag

from Walmart.
$2.18 for an 8-ounce bag

from Walmart.
$3.89 for a 16-ounce bag

from Sweetbay.


Also Sampled: Great Value ($1.86 for an 8-ounce bag from Walmart, 27 points); Publix ($2.89 for an 8-ounce bag, 24 points); Borden ($2 for an 8-ounce bag from Walmart, 23 points); and Market Pantry ($1.94 for an 8-ounce bag from Target, 21 points).

Panelists: Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; John Hehn, foodie and owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc.; Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Anu You Institute in St. Petersburg; and Jeff Jensen, public information officer for the city of Treasure Island. All foods were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to jkeeler@sptimes.com. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to food.tampabay.com.

Taste test: Mexican cheese blends 01/25/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 3:30am]

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