Holidays

Don’t have time for Valentine’s Day?

Don’t have time for Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day falls on Tuesday this year, probably the most unromantic day of the week, not a day you want to spend baking a cake or slaving over candlelight dinner plans. And who had time to shop for VDay meal ingredients in a blizzard? On the upside, Valentine’s Day falls on Taco Tuesday, so you already have a winner right there, but if you’re looking for something a little more inspired that doesn’t require much effort, I have a few ideas. Breakfast Overnight Oats – Healthy, simple, ready to go, and easily adaptable to every taste. In a pint mason jar mix 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup rolled oats, and 1/2 cup whatever toppings you want. For Valentine’s, may I suggest raspberries or strawberries with mini chocolate chips? Mix and place in the refrigerator overnight. The milk and yogurt will soften the oats by morning, and it’s soooo gooood. Stuffed French Toast – This is adapted from this DairyGood.org recipe for Pineapple French Toast.  Using two pieces of bread, spread about a tablespoon of ricotta cheese on one side, add sliced strawberries, or raspberries and chocolate chips, place the second piece of toast on top. It’s easiest to seal the two pieces together by cutting off the crust (or cutting out with a heart-shaped cookie cutter). Submerge in your French toast mixture of eggs, milk and vanilla and place on a hot, buttered skillet, browning both sides. Top with maple syrup and some yogurt or whipped cream, and you’ve got yourself a decadent Valentine’s breakfast that is ready in no time.     Banana Strawberry Bread – 2 cups flour 1 tsp baking powder 2 eggs 1/2 cup buttermilk 1 cup sliced strawberries – fresh or frozen 3 bananas – mashed 1 tsp vanilla 1 cup mini chocolate chips (optional) Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Mix flour and baking powder, lightly mix eggs, vanilla and buttermilk, combine together and add bananas and strawberries. Pour into buttered bread pan (will cook faster if divided into two bread pans). Bake until a knife can be stuck in the middle and come out clean. Cinnamon Heart Scones Adapted from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/79470/simple-scones/ 2 cups flour 1/3 cup sugar 1 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp baking soda 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces 1/2 cup sour cream 1 egg 1/2 cup cinnamon hearts (or mini chocolate chips or dried cranberries or currants) Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix dry ingredients, cut in butter, mixing into flour until granular. Add cinnamon hearts. Add egg and sour cream, mix together (use hands) until fully incorporated and dough ball has formed. Press into a 3/4-inch thick circle and place on cookie sheet, cutting into 8 equal triangles (or use a scone pan). Bake for 15-17 minutes. Lunch A heart-shaped cookie cutter can come in handy on Valentine’s. Send the kids to school with heart-shaped PB&J, or for an at-home lunch how about grilled cheese and tomato soup (made with milk of course).   Or if you’re in the mood for salad, try a simple one of spinach, sliced strawberries with pecans or cashews and crumbled feta or other cheese on top. Drizzle with a balsamic or raspberry vinaigrette.   Supper Again, it’s Taco Tuesday, and you could get take out or make delicious tacos at home pretty easily – don’t forget the sour cream and cheese. Tacos might not seem romantic, but who doesn’t love tacos? And who wouldn’t feel loved if served tacos for dinner? Another simple option would be pizza. Pizza is not junk food, and you can...

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Easter and Maple Sunday – a winning combination!

Easter and Maple Sunday – a winning combination!

I haven’t done a good brunch in a long time, but there’s no better reason than Easter to lay out a mid-morning spread to share with family. And since Maine Maple Sunday falls on Easter this year, it’s a great reason to go heavy on the maple syrup! Here are a few ideas for your Easter get together. To begin with, I have a simple suggestion rather than a recipe. At one time, I thought it to be common knowledge, so I know many of you will be thinking, “Well, duh.” But it turns out that not everyone does this. The secret to light and fluffy scrambled eggs? Cream, or you can use milk, but cream gives that extra little umph. About 1/2 cup of cream to 4 eggs works perfectly. Get your frying pan hot, melt the butter, and whisk your eggs and cream together in a bowl before pouring them onto your frying pan. Proceed as usual. Now, a suggestion to serving them? Swimming in maple syrup. I remember going to a brunch with my family at a sugar shack in Quebec (we live relatively close to the Canadian border). There was a room filled with long tables, and you sat with family and strangers alike. The tables were all laid out with home-cooked samplings, and one of my favorites was a big bowl of eggs and maple syrup. If not topping my eggs with cheese, I will top them with maple syrup (or both). I recently inherited a waffle maker and have used it every weekend since. This Easter weekend, it will be cranking out some of these Ham and Cheese Waffles. You can simply add your favorite cheese (cheddar always works nicely) and some ham to any waffle batter, but here’s how they are done in my household. I doubled my usual recipe for a larger gathering. Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Waffles 2 cups flour 2 eggs 2 tsp baking powder 1 1/2 cup of buttermilk* 1 cup grated cheese 1 cup chopped ham *Depending on the flour you use, you might not need all the buttermilk. Start with 1 cup and then add as the batter needs it. Start heating your waffle maker. Mix dry ingredients and then add in the wet and mix well until fully incorporated. Pour or spoon the batter onto your waffle maker. For a special/different pancake experience, try dutch baby pancakes. Here’s a quick simple version. I like anything I can bake in my cast iron skillet. Blueberry Dutch Baby Pancakes 1/2 Cup flour (I used Buckwheat) 1/2 Cup milk 1/2 cup blueberries 3 eggs 1 tsp vanilla Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Thoroughly butter your cast iron skillet and put it in the oven to warm for about 10 minutes. Mix ingredients thoroughly and pour into the warm skillet. Should bake 15-20 minutes.   I have never been a decorative cake person – I don’t have the patience, but I had a moment of weakness and purchased an adorable Easter bunny-shaped cake pan. Then I couldn’t decide what kind of cake to make in it though. Rabbits mean carrots, so carrot cake was an obvious choice, but flavors like lemon and coconut say “Spring!” to me. So, I made two cakes. Lemon Cake with Coconut Mascarpone “frosting” 1 1/2 cups of flour 1 tsp baking powder 1 tsp. Almond or Vanilla extract 2 eggs 1 cup yogurt 1 cup sugar or 1/2 cup honey 1/2 cup buttermilk 2 lemons (zest and juice) For the “frosting” 1/2 cup of whipping cream 4 oz. of mascarpone cheese 1/2 cup coconut...

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Raspberry Sweetheart Cake

Raspberry Sweetheart Cake

  To be completely honest, before I made this AWESOME, AMAZING, DELICIOUS, GORGEOUS (sorry, did I just toot my own horn a little too much?) dessert, I really didn’t know what crème fraîche was. I mean, I was positive it involved dairy (like 99% positive) and was pretty sure it involved cream. I’m a simple kind of girl, you know. I cook with basic ingredients, usually the ones that are in my fridge and need to be used up before they start growing fuzz. I don’t like a lot of extra steps when I am cooking and baking and I HATE doing dishes, so the less involved, the better. But we’re talking Valentine’s Day here, a day to show the ones you love just how much you really love them – like “I love you so much, I had to do the dishes THREE times while making this for you.” (This recipe is not anywhere near that bad, but you can play it up.) Or “I love you so much, I used these really fancy ingredients that I’m not even sure how to pronounce.” (It is pronounced “krem fresh,” right ?) Anywho … back to my confession of ignorance – I didn’t know what crème fraîche was, but standing in front of the specialty cheese section of the Hannaford Supermarket, there it was. It had a romantic ring to it. Perfect for a Valentine’s recipe, right? So I googled it on my smart phone. Yes, I was one of THOSE people using her phone in the grocery store. Actually, I stood there so long, studying, debating on how to use it, that the deli girl, whom I have known since childhood, asked with a concerned voice, “Uh, can I help you find something, Jami?” Well, by then I had found out that “crème fraîche” is a super fancy-sounding name for something super simple. You can easily make your own crème fraîche with buttermilk and cream (you can also easily buy it). So, I left that department empty-handed (I did have to return later for the mascarpone cheese though). Most sites I found compare crème fraîche to sour cream or say it is somewhere between yogurt and sour cream. All the recipes said to mix 2 tablespoons of buttermilk into 1 cup of heavy cream in a glass container, cover with a cheese cloth or something else that is breathable (clean dish towel) and let it set at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours (some said 12-16 hours), during which time it will thicken. Stir and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. It should stay good to use for 10 days to two weeks. The cake part of this recipe is not what is really important. It doesn’t even have to be chocolate if you’re loved one does not like chocolate (weirdo). Use whatever recipe you like, though I will share mine with you. I actually started with the recipe on the back of the Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa bag and made a few adaptions. One change was using 3/4 cup of sugar rather than 1 3/4 cup. I like dark chocolate, but if you like things sweeter, you might want to go by their suggestion. I also added coffee because I love putting coffee in any chocolate baked goods, and I used yogurt in place of butter. I also baked the cake so that I could layer it. You could make a sheet cake or round cake and just use the same raspberry/crème fraîche/mascarpone frosting. Whatever you do will be great. The topping is what makes this dessert. Chocolate Cake 2 cups flour 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa 3/4 cup sugar...

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Be the life of the party … BRING CHEESE!

Be the life of the party … BRING CHEESE!

You’ve had your fill of sweets and candies. You’re sick of baking and can’t stand the sight of another sprinkle, but you’ve got one more holiday party to finish out the year, and what are you going to bring to the table? What about something everyone loves, something no one ever gets sick of, something everyone will rave about and will be the talk of the New Year’s Eve party? The answer is cheese. Done right, a cheese plate can be a decorative centerpiece, and when filled with an assortment from local cheesemakers, can be a great conversation starter. Of course you don’t need quite the assortment I put together below – I just wanted to give several examples. Four or five should suffice, but why limit yourself? Maine has become a hotbed for cheesemakers, many making an art form of it, experimenting and developing signature flavors, specializing in varieties best suited to their cows’ milk. One can easily fill an impressive cheese platter with Maine-sourced cheeses. A stop at a food co-op and a local grocery store provided all I needed for the above cheese board. Haymaker is described as a mild to medium English-style hard cheddar-type cheese by its maker – Balfour Farms in Pittsfield. This cheese is the base for their other herbed hard cheeses. Owners of the farm, Doug and Heather Donahue, have a small herd of mostly Normande and Normande crosses – a beautiful breed with striking markings, including rings around their eyes, in an array of colors. It is known as a dual purpose breed, valued for its meat as well as its milk. In addition to aged hard cheeses, the Donahues also make soft cheeses and a bloomy rind cheese as well as yogurt and other cultured dairy products. Orne Meadows is advertised as a robust, sharp cheddar, and it is that for sure. Named for Cabot’s founding cheesemaker Tom Orne, it is a smooth Alpine-style cheese with a subtly sweet fruity and nutty finish, according to Cabot. The cheese is part of Cabot’s Founders’ Collection – cheeses are made from the original recipes created by their founding farmers in 1919. And yes, yes, Cabot cheese is made in Vermont, but more than one-third of the dairy farms in the state of Maine belong to the Agri-Mark cooperative, meaning they are farmer/owners of Cabot. So a purchase of Cabot products is still supporting your local dairy farms. As well as being easy to find in most grocery stores, there is also the Cabot Farmer’s Annex in the Old Port of Portland. They have a plethora of Cabot cheeses as well as other artisan cheeses, wines, ciders, gifts and more.   Port City Pesto by State Of Maine Cheese Company is an Italian flavored Jack cheese with “a delightful blend of roasted minced garlic, sun-dried tomato, and basil.”  Owner Cathe Morrill said it was a favorite among those attending the wildly popular Maine Harvest Festival in November in Bangor. She added that it’s festive red and green colors make it perfect for the holiday season. It could decorate a cheese platter all on its own. If you want to treat guests to a fun fondue, Cathe recommends the Mt. Kineo Caerphilly – a traditional Welsh cheese that melts very nicely. State of Maine Cheese Company is not of the new crop of cheesemakers. They were well ahead of the curve, establishing in 1983. Several of their cheeses are available in Hannaford Supermarkets. If you can make it to Rockport, it’s worth a stop at State of Maine Cheese Company’s shop – a haven for Maine-made...

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Cranberry Orange Ricotta Cake

Cranberry Orange Ricotta Cake

When is cake an acceptable breakfast choice? On Christmas of course, or for New Year’s or for Sunday brunch or any day when a cake is loaded with cranberries, Ricotta cheese and Greek Yogurt. This is a pound cake-type recipe that is super moist thanks to the Ricotta and yogurt, and super flavorful thanks to the cranberry and orange. I also included instructions on how to make this gluten-free. Often the problem with gluten-free baking is that it’s either dried out and crumbly or half baked and mush in the center. This came out perfectly with just a couple easy alterations (see the * below). Cranberry Orange Ricotta Cake Ingredients 2 cups flour* 2 tsp. baking powder* 1 tsp vanilla 3 eggs zest and juice from one orange (2 tsp orange zest and 1/4 cup orange juice) 1 cup Ricotta cheese 1/2 cup Greek yogurt 1/3 cup maple syrup or honey (or your choice of sweetener) 2 cups cranberries *Use 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour in place of the 2 cups regular flour and add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. Directions Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan with butter. Mix dry ingredients, leaving out cranberries. Add in eggs, Ricotta, yogurt, orange juice and maple syrup. Mix cranberries in last. Pour into buttered loaf pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes depending on oven, until the cake starts pulling away from the edge of the pan and you can stick a knife in the center and it comes out clean. Many of us are overwhelmed by all the food around during the holidays, but there are also many families who don’t have enough during any time of the year. One in four Maine children faces hunger. With its nine essential nutrients like Vitamin A & D, calcium, protein, phosphorous, potassium and more, milk could help close the nutritional gap with which these children are dealing. Access is an issue though. While milk is the most requested nutritious food at food pantries, it is the least donated. Some food pantries don’t have refrigeration to store dairy. The solution is the Great American Milk Drive. Anyone looking to help can donate $5 online at milklife.com/give. That money is in turn given to food banks as vouchers or coupons to be handed out and used to purchase milk in the grocery store. Enter your zip code, and that donation will go to an area food bank or pantry. Or text MILK to 27722 for an automatic $5 donation....

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Red, White and Moo – have a dairy delicious 4th of July

Red, White and Moo – have a dairy delicious 4th of July

I don’t know. Maybe I’m in a super patriotic mood, but I have just been on a kick with red, white and blue food ideas for the 4th of July. Originally I was just going to share a couple of Pinterest recipes, but they all used artificial whipped topping from a tub for the white – blech. No, thank you. I tend to like my music “alternative”, but when it comes to dairy – make mine real, please. Like, from a cow. Cows are awesome! When I grow up, I want to be a cow photographer. I could do it all day. Sometimes I do do it all day, and then I get home and realize I forgot to take any pictures of humans. You know where you can see cows? On dairy farms, so let’s keep it that way. Support our dairy farmers by drinking milk and eating cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, ice cream and on and on. Dairy farms are as American as apple pie (especially with a piece of sharp cheddar on top), and the Land of Milk and Honey wouldn’t be so special without the milk.   One of the great things about dairy is that you can make real good food real simple. I love good food, but I don’t like to spend a whole lot of time making it. Plus, it’s summer. Who wants to be stuck inside slaving over a hot oven? Now, not all my ideas worked out so great, but here are a few simple ideas to make sure you and your family have a dairy happy Fourth of July weekend. Parfaits – Both of these versions are delicious, but one is a little healthier than the other. In a cup or tall glass, layer fresh blueberries and strawberries (or black cherries) over plain or vanilla yogurt or whipped cream.       For fresh whipped cream, all you need is 1 cup of heavy cream and two tablespoons of sugar (or sweeten with honey or maple syrup). Pour your ingredients into a chilled bowl and then whip with the whisk on your mixer. It will take just a couple of minutes for the cream to stiffen. All done. No reason to pull out a tub of the “other” stuff. If you want the lighter version, you can use plain or vanilla yogurt. Greek yogurt will stand up a little better, but either type of yogurt will make your dessert taste amazing. I have to say, as a special holiday treat, I think the whipped cream is worth the extra calories, especially if you can work it off on the badminton court, but you won’t be disappointed with yogurt. Simple Summer Chillers This is about as simple as it gets. 1 Cup Milk 6-8 Fresh Strawberries 4 Small Ice Cubes 2 tsp Honey Blend, sip and relax. This could easily be done with other fruit as well. You could even have red, white and blue coolers by making the chillers with a handful of blueberries for blue or a vanilla bean for the white.   Red, White and Blueberry Cheesecake Ok, so maybe cheesecake isn’t the simplest option to make, BUT it can be much simpler than many make it out to be. Since cheesecake is refrigerated overnight, it’s also a cool, refreshing treat in summer, especially with some chilled strawberries on top! This is also another dessert you can make a little lighter if you opt for low-fat or fat free yogurt and ricotta cheese. 2 Cups Ricotta Cheese 2 Cups Greek Yogurt 1 Cup Sugar (alternative...

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