By Sherrie Norris
June is National Dairy Month, an observance that started out as National Milk Month in 1937 as a way to promote drinking milk and to help stabilize the dairy demand when production was a surplus.
According to the International Dairy Foods Association, it is now a tradition that celebrates the contributions the dairy industry has made to the world.
National Dairy Month is a great way to start the summer with nutrient-rich dairy foods. From calcium to potassium, dairy products like milk contain nine essential nutrients which may help to better manage your weight, reduce your risk for high blood pressure, osteoporosis and certain cancers.
Whether it’s protein to help build and repair the muscle tissue of active bodies or vitamin A to help maintain healthy skin, dairy products are a natural nutrient powerhouse. Those are just a few of the reasons that you should celebrate dairy not just in June, but all year long.
The association has developed easy and delicious recipes prepared with seasonal ingredients, including many varieties of cheese and other ideas perfect for enjoying hot summer days and warm summer nights. Whether your family is making tracks to the park for a picnic, or staying close by in your own backyard, this is the time to try some of those dairy-licious recipes.
Chunky Cheese Bread
1 pkg. (16 oz.) hot roll mix, plus ingredients to make mix
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbs. green onion, sliced
8 oz. pkg. Jalapeno-Jack cheese, cubed
Make hot roll mix according to package directions; adding sun-dried tomatoes and green onion, knead into dough. Divide dough in half; shape into 2 round or oval loaves on a greased cookie sheet. Let rise (covered), in warm place until doubled in size, 30-40 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees until golden, about 20 minutes. Makes 2 loaves.
Baked Mozzarella Sticks
1 pkg. reduced-fat Mozzarella string cheese
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
8 Tbsp. Panko bread crumbs
½ cup marinara sauce prepared, warmed
Position rack in upper third of oven and preheat it to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil; spray lightly with cooking spray. Remove cheese from packaging and set aside. In small bowl, whisk egg until foamy. In small non-stick skillet, mix Italian seasoning with bread crumbs and place over medium-heat. Cook and stir bread crumbs until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Dip one piece of string cheese in egg until coated, and then into toasted bread crumbs, coating completely. Re-dip the string cheese in egg and again in bread crumbs, if desired. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining string cheese and place on baking sheet 1½ inches apart. Spray string cheese lightly with cooking spray.
Bake 5 to 6 minutes or until heated through.
Note: Cheese may melt slightly and loose shape. Simply press it back into place. Serve with warmed marinara sauce for dipping.
Low-Carb Cheese Crisps
Non-stick cooking spray
1 (8 oz.)pkg. finely shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly coat rimmed baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Place 2 tsps. Colby-Monterey Jack cheese mounds, 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Press mounds gently with fingers to flatten. Bake until mounds are thin, bubbly and golden, no more than 6 to 8 minutes.
Immediately transfer crisps to paper towels with a metal spatula. Serve when crisps have cooled completely.
Note: Baking too long will make crisps too hard and not easily removed from the baking sheet.
May be baked a day ahead and “crisped” before serving in oven at warm setting, for 4 to 5 minutes.
Delicious Fruit Dip
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 to 2 Tbs. maple syrup
In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, sour cream, sugars and syrup to taste; beat until smooth. Chill. Serve with fresh fruit.
Cheesy Potato Gratin
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives, minced green onions, or dried chives
1 1/2 cups blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup (4 oz.) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup milk
1 clove garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 350. Grease baking dish. Overlap one-third of potato slices in one layer in baking dish. Sprinkle with one-third of salt, pepper, chives and cheeses. Repeat layers two more times. Combine milk and garlic, pour over potato layers. Bake 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until potatoes are tender and golden brown, and liquid is absorbed.
Hot Cheese Dip
8 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese
8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese
8 oz. sour cream
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tsp. hot sauce
1 can jalapeno dip or Cheddar cheese dip
Grate Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese together. Mix remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Alternate layers of grated cheese and other ingredients in square pan, ending with grated cheese. Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Serve with tortilla chips.