As many of you know, I am a big believer in eating and drinking local; and in eating real food instead of processed substitutes. Recently I was invited to tour Lutz Farms a wonderful North Carolina Dairy Farm in Lincolnton, NC; and Milkco, a local milk a processing plant in Asheville, NC. The trip, sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture in conjunction with The Dairy Alliance, inspired this post. The recipes included in this post are my take on easy ways to eat more milk and cheese – all tasty ways to work more dairy into your daily diet.
Meet Your Local Dairy Farmers
If you have never been to a local dairy, you should plan the time to take a visit to one soon. Many local dairy farms across the Carolinas offer tours to the public – a fun and educational way for the whole family to learn more about where our food (and drink) comes from.
In the meantime, I offer you a virtual tour, similar to the one I experienced in person.
As with any food stuff, I always think it important to know where our food comes from and milk is no exception. As I walked around the Lutz family farm, I was delighted to see first hand and learn of the care and love with which these cows are raised.
To that end, allow me to introduce you to a few of North Carolina’s milk makers, this beautiful herd of Jersey dairy cows and their caregivers, farmers Corey and Bridgette Lutz.
The milk processed at Lutz farm, like many local dairies, is sold to a local processor, Milkco. Milkco buys milk from dairy farmers within a 150 mile radius of their Asheville, NC-based plant and processes milk for many companies and brands included the Laura Lynn brand sold throughout the Ingles chain, Sealtest and more.
Many other North and South Carolina dairies including Hickory Hill Milk in Edgefield SC; Homeland Creamery in Julian NC; and Ran Lew Dairy in Snow Camp, NC – just to name a few, all process, sell and deliver their own milk. If you are interested in keeping it local, all of these brands are available at several grocery stores in and around Charlotte, NC.
How Dairy makes a Difference in your Diet
No matter which brand of milk you buy, a glass of milk is a complete highly nutritional package. All milk – whole, skim and reduced fat – packs the same whopping 8 grams of protein per 8 oz glass and is the top food source for much needed calcium, potassium and vitamins D, A and B our bodies need to be nutritionally sound.
And if you are trying to “eat light” and “eat healthier” , don’t let milk scare you. If you are like me and are not one to drink a glass of milk every day, you can get the same nutritional benefits by cooking with milk.
Most chefs would agree that for cooking whole milk is a better choice. The consumption of a high protein, real whole dairy-based sauce or salad dressing is an easy way to get the nutritional value milk offers; while the rich creamy texture and mouth feel milk adds to any recipe helps to keep additional cravings away.
The fat in whole milk and in whole milk cheese is what makes these dairy products better for cooking.
The use of whole milk and whole milk cheese makes these dressing thick without any added flour or cornstarch – a benefit of the fat content. Dressings and sauces are creamier, and therefore more satisfying and so, in the end, you will want to eat less.
Don’t panic about drinking or cooking with whole milk – or using it in your coffee. An 8 oz glass of whole milk only has 8 grams of fat as compared to an 8 oz glass of reduced fat milk ( often called 2%) which has 5 grams of fat; or 8 oz. of low fat milk ( also known as 1%) which contains 2.5 grams of fat. Whole milk buttermilk has 4.5 grams of fat to an 8 oz. glass.
Reduced fat, low fat and fat free milk are not watered down versions of whole milk, they still have all the same nutrients as whole milk, they just have less fat and so the texture of the liquid changes.
More on Cooking with Whole Milk and Cheese
Its confusing for sure… but it doesn’t need to be so. Simply remember that health professionals recommend that healthy adults limit dietary fat to no more than 20-35% of total daily calories, which equals 44-78 grams of fat
One glass of whole milk adds a lot of flavor and doesn’t come close to using up all the fat you could include in your daily diet. The bonus is, a glass of whole milk fills you up, so you won’t crave or give in to a less nutritional alternative.
As far as these salad dressings or dips are concerned, or the milk in your coffee for that matter – each 2 – 3 Tbsp sized serving doesn’t begin to make a dent in our suggested daily fat consumption; and yet gives us a high protein, high flavor addition to the meal, instead of a processed fat free substitute that leaves you wanting for more.
Cooking with Milk on Charlotte Today
I always enjoy doing a cooking segment with my friends Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson on WCNC’s Charlotte Today. It was my pleasure to share the three recipes featured in this post on the show. Watch how easy it is to cook with whole milk and cheese and then scroll down in this post for all the ingredients and delicious details.
Let Whole Milk Dress Your Salad or Shape Your Sauce
My master dressing recipe today begins with a mix of milk and cheese – you can mix and match as you would like. Once you have that base, simply blend in spices, herbs, or fruit purees to make up the variation on the theme.
As I like to keep it local, in the televised cooking segment, I will be using whole milk and buttermilk from Hickory Hill Farm and local Half and Half from Homeland Creamery. ( in addition to the recipes in this post, you’ll also find a great buttermilk biscuit recipe featuring Hickory Hill Farm Buttermilk, here) But any brand of whole milk or whole buttermilk will work in these recipes.
The same goes for the cheeses – the ricotta, the cottage cheese and a wonderful Greek yogurt-style cheese I now substitute for any recipe that calls for Greek Yogurt, all come from Charlotte’s own Uno Alla Volta, available on Saturdays at the Matthews Community Farmers; market and the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market or during the week at specialty grocers and cheese shops across the city. ( Enjoy other recipes in this blog featuring Uno Alla Volta products here and here.
While my preferences lean toward local products, these recipes will work with any of your favorite brands of whole milk or whole milk cheese or yogurt.
Each of these whole milk-based dressings will keep about a week in the fridge – or about a month in the freezer.
Green Goddess Dressing
Heidi’s Green Goddess Dressing
To serve with fresh sliced tomatoes,a tomato or chopped salad stuffed avocado, your favorite green salad or to use with a mix of raw veggies as a dip
- 2 anchovy fillets rinsed, patted dry, and coarsely chopped
- 1 clove garlic peeled and smashed
- 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup bunched Italian Parsley leaves minced
- 1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves minced
- 2 Tbsp. fresh chives minced
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt more to taste
- pepper to taste
Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor; blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender with a rubber spatula as needed. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Refrigerate in a container with a tight fitting lid for up to 1 week.
Grilled Lamb Chops with Blue Cheese Buttermilk Dressing
Heidi’s Blue Cheese Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
Serve as a dipping sauce for local wings or pork ribs; nap across your favorite cut of perfectly grilled local steak or grilled or broiled local lamb chops
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup whole milk cottage cheese
- 1/4-1/2 cup Blue Cheese
- 1 clove garlic minced
- sea salt to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf Italian parsley minced
- 2 Tbsp. fresh Chives minced
- 1 Tbsp dill weed fresh or dried
- 1 Tbsp Greek oregano leaves dried
- 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper to taste
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- your favorite hot sauce to taste
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well. Or if you would like a smoother dressing or dip - combine the mix in a blender or food processor. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Chill until ready to serve.
We all know how convenient it is to have a can of frozen OJ concentrate in the freezer – a tablespoon or two can add a lot of flavor to any recipe. But did you know how easy it is to make your own fruit purees and concentrates without adding any additional sugar?
This time of the year when local peaches and melons are fresh and ripe, simply puree them in a blender or food processor and then freeze in small containers. Use the frozen puree by the spoonful to add a fresh flavor packed addition to any sauce, dressing, drink or dip recipe and enjoy!
A Fun Fact for Full Disclosure: My fruit salad dressing below calls for the OJ or melon puree – but things were so busy on the show, I totally forgot to take the container of melon puree I made out of the freezer on set!
Good news is the recipe is delicious with or without the puree. Drizzled over a sliced and portioned watermelon topped with berries or served “straight up” is a compote or martini glass with your choice of fresh fruit.
Watermelon with Berries and Fresh Cream
MINTED BERRIES & FRESH FRUIT WITH SWEET CREAM
For fun in the summer you can serve the berries on top of a slice of local watermelon for a fun fresh fruit "pizza" use the dressing to look like the melted mozzarella cheese!
- A mix of your favorite local fruit chopped or sliced
- zest of two lemons
- 1 cup heavy cream or half and half
- 1/2 cup Greek Style whole milk plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2-3 Tbsp defrosted but not diluted frozen orange juice concentrate OR your own puree of any seasonal melon or peach
- Splash of orange infused cognac optional
Toss berries with lemon (and orange zest, if you would like). Reserve. In a food processor, combine cream, yogurt, sugar and orange concentrate or fruit puree.
Serve berries & fruit over a dollop of the sweet cream- drizzle with Orange Cognac if you feel the whim to do so.
I’d like to express my thanks to my friends at The Dairy Alliance, sponsor of this Partnered Post. The mission of The Dairy Alliance is to educate the public on the value of including dairy products into our daily diet as they promote and protect the interests of the Southeast dairy farm families. I am delighted to help by sharing their story. Visit the Alliance’s website for more dairy-centric recipes and to learn more about all The Dairy Alliance offers.