How to Make Your Next Meal Dairy Delicious

Excited today to be doing a virtual cooking seminar featuring a variety of delicious dairy products. The seminar is for a meeting of the North Carolina Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (NCAND). My friends at The Dairy Alliance asked if I would teach a class for the group that featured dairy. I was delighted. With things as they are in September of 2021, the class is a virtual one.

Virtual is not the same as being there in person. But, I’ve found lots of ways to make virtual cooking classes lots of fun. One of them is in shipping out packages of ingredients to class participants. In this case, with the aid of a non liquid ice pack, aged and firm cheese are easy to ship and I even figured out a way to ship the butter. As for the milk, if you don’t have immediate refrigeration look for the brands that pack in shelf stable packaging.

Prior to the actual class, we had a short practice session to make sure all the technical issues wouldn’t be a problem. I only mention this last part, because i took this fun photo to share. When you need the laptop to be higher in a zoom or webex meeting, you elevate things with boxes you happen to have around. It was a big hair sort of day.

I’m a huge fan of local products. I always stand in support of local farmers and producers; so for me that is always a part of every class I teach, virtually or in person. That’s why in each of the recipes on this blog, you’ll find me touting lots of local choices.

Here’s How the Carolinas Do Dairy

The great news here is that North Carolina has lots of local dairy options from a host of talented cheese makers to milk, ice cream and yogurt, too. And South Carolina has several too. Because I live in Charlotte, a short drive from the state line, SC producers and farms are local to me as well.

If you want to go direct from the dairy my go-tos are Ran Lew Dairy in Snow Camp NC and Hickory Hill Milk out of Edgefield SC. We aren’t cooking with ice cream today, but its worth metioning two tasty options. My friend farmer Randy Lewis at Ran Lew Dairy also makes terrific gelato you can buy at the farm; and my dairy connection in South Carolina, friends Watson and Lisa Dorn at Hickory Hill Milk provide the milk that goes into Clemson’s Best Ice Cream. In both you can taste the dairy difference.


Did you know that in the state of North Carolina, most milk you find in the grocery store is locally source from within 100 miles? So even if you are not buying direct from a local dairy the milk you do buy is most likely sourced from a co-op of local farmers. And what’s even better is that there are so many wonderful ways to cook with milk, aside from drinking in by the glassfull or in your morning cup of coffee or tea.

About the Souffles

As for the milk called for in this souffle recipe, you can use whole milk or low fat milk. Personally, I don’t love it as much with fat free milk, although it works. My thinking is if you have great butter and great cheese and local eggs, just go with the whole milk for all the richness and flavor.

As for the butter called for in the recipe, definitely go with real dairy. Use the real thing, salted or unsalted doesn’t really matter. If you are in or around Charlotte, go to the Matthews Community Farmers Market or the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on Saturdays. UAV cheese is at both markets, but you can meet cheesemaker Zach Gadberry in Matthews. Get your hands on some Uno Alla Volta Cheese local butter. This butter is made from locally sourced whole milk, It adds a punch of flavor and buttery goodness, you simply can’t get with any sort of substitute.


2 Tbsp. butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (use regular or gluten free)

1 cup whole milk

¾ cup grated cheese. Use your favorite or a combo of your favorites – also try it with ricotta cheese and fresh herbs. Here is a list of some great local NC options.

6 local eggs. If you can’t find local be sure to buy pasture raised.

Finely grated real Parmesan cheese. This one is only local if you live in Parma, Italy, but it really adds a great texture and flavor.

Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend* and sea salt to taste

Butter 6-8 small ramekins Dust with grated parmesan cheese; shake out excess. Place dishes in roasting pan. Reserve.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan. Add flour; whisk 1 minute. Add milk and whisk until mixture is thick and smooth. Remove from heat.

Add cheese and whisk until melted and smooth.

Whisk in egg yolks, salt and pepper. Cool.

Meanwhile, in a clean dry bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold whites into soufflé base.

Divide soufflé mix among prepared dishes.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until soufflés are slightly puffed and golden on top, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately for the most dramatic effect.  

For more detailed info on how to beat the egg whites, the benefits of cooking with local eggs, and a spinach laden souffle recipe, check out this fun egg-centric post.

  • My Hot Pepper Blend is a mix of equal parts tellicherry, lampong and pink reunion peppercorns with an equal amount of coriander seed. You can find them all at the Savory Spice Shop Southend in Charlotte or you can order from them online. Simply grind them all up in your coffee grinder and enjoy.

Because Everyone Loves Pie and Yogurt

Next up, two recipes that call for yogurt. One a play on a mix of recipes I love. One day flipping through instagram I watched video of Padma Lakshmi making a frozen yogurt pie and I got inspired. The same week, a dear friend made Bill Smith’s Atlantic Beach Pie with the soda cracker crust. It’s a keeper for sure!

I don’t shop a lot in grocery stores. Instead, you’ll generally find me more at local farmers markets. But on a recent trip I found these wonderful sweet potato crackers by RW Garcia at Costco. Upon reading the label I loved learning they have their origins in Lincolnton NC. And so I decided to try them as a pie crust with very happy results. Note: it takes 30 of these puppies to make a cup of cracker crumbs.

Cooking with Yogurt

Not only is yogurt is high in protein, calcium and Vitamin B; but even people on lactose-free diets can eat yogurt as long as the yogurt contains   “live active cultures”. The good-for-you bacteria eats away at the lactose (or sugars) as the milk is made into yogurt. The result is the delicious tangy flavor of yogurt for everyone to enjoy in savory and sweet dishes alike. For more info on the nutrients in yogurt…


Again my go-to is local and I regularly buy Zach Gadberry’s yogurt cheese. Its thick like a great Greek yogurt and has that unmistakeable tangy taste.

Heidi Billotto’s Sweet Potato, Ginger, Peach Frozen Yogurt Pie

For the Gluten Free Sweet Potato Pie Crust:

2 cups ground RW Garcia 3 Seed Sweet Potato Crackers (make your own variation with any cracker of your choice)

8 Tbsp. butter, melted

3 Tbsp. organic  sugar

Add softened butter and sugar to the ground cracker crumbs – a food processor makes quick work out of this task. Once the mixture has a sandy texture, pour into a deep dish pie pan and push across the bottom and up the sides to form a crust. Make sure there are no gaps in the mixture. Freeze the crust for a few hours to harden the crust. Since this is a frozen no-bake dessert, you do not have to bake the crust!

For pie filling:

Your favorite thick Greek Style yogurt

3 Tbsp. candied ginger, chopped fine

zest of 1 lemon

Local honey to taste (optional)

Or for a slight sweetness and a gorgeous pink color, add a tablespoon or two of Glean Beet Goodness, a local beet powder produced in Snow Hill, NC. This cool local NC product is available online from Amazon

For the topping: Fresh firm but ripe local peaches or frozen sliced peaches ( make your own variation with any fruit of your choice)

Stir the candied ginger and lemon zest into the yogurt. Taste for sweetness adding a bit of sugar or local honey if you would like. Once the pie crust is firm pour the ginger yogurt mixture into the crust. Freeze the pie for 8 hours or overnight, before serving.  

Top the frozen pie with the fresh or defrosted peaches. Cut and serve the pie as a frozen dessert or fun breakfast treat.

Keep the pie in the freezer between cutting and serving slices. 

Think Small For a Fun Variation on the Theme

Follow the same direction but use individual ramekins ( like the ones you use for individual souffles to make single sized servings.) You’ll find these are easier to pull out of the freezer, top and serve; and everyone gets more of the crunch of the crust.

For some fun seasonal color, garnish the pie with local candied roselle hibiscus or pomegranate seeds.

Candied Roselle Hibiscus, you say?

Also in season right this minute and on through fall in North Carolina is the edible hibiscus flower called roselle. Buy them from local farmers and make your own hibiscus tea or candy them in simple syrup to preserve the flavor and color of the season.

For the simple syrup:

A dozen or so local roselle hibiscus blossoms.

2 cups water

1 ½ cups sugar

To make the simple syrup, cut the bottoms off of each hibiscus bloom and gently pop out the hard seed. Discard seeds and bottoms. Reserve.

Bring the water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Add the sugar and reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking and gently swirling the pan occasionally (instead of stirring)  until the sugar has melted. Continue cooking on a low simmer. Add the hibiscus and allow to simmer for 10 minutes or so, or until the mixture gets syrupy. Remove from heat and allow to sit until cool. Transfer the syrup into a glass Mason or Ball jar, cover and refrigerated until you are ready to use.

Now, Let’s Sip on a Seasonal Smoothie

Using lots of the same ingredients we’ve already talked about, let’s blend all the local flavors into a smoothie. Organic pineapple just and a slice or two of the fresh fruit make a tropical. The frozen banana keeps it cold without having to add ice. And, the lettuce makes it a great way to eat your greens as you enjoy your daily dose of dairy all at the same time. Cheers!

You can also enjoy your smooth as a start to any meal. Serve it up in small rocks classes, top with a little dollop of yogurt and some local berries, a slice of local cucumber and a sprig of mint for the perfect finish to your starting course.

Heidi Billotto’s Can’t Beet It Tropical  Smoothie

3 packed cups locally grown Lettuce or baby kale ( or a mix of the two)

1/4 packed cup fresh locally grown mint leaves

2 cups unsweetened coconut water 

1/2 cup pineapple juice

3 cups fresh pineapple, chilled and chopped

1 cup your favorite Greek-Style Yogurt

2-3 Tbsp. Glean Beet Powder

one frozen banana , cut into bite sized pieces before freezing  

Blend the lettuce, mint, and coconut water until smooth.

Add the pineapple juice, pineapple, yogurt and beet powder; Finally add the frozen banana and blend until smooth and thick. Pour in a tall glass with a fun straw and enjoy !

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