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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Say Cheese! It’s National Dairy Month

By Sherrie Norris

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, June is National Dairy Month; it actually began in 1937 as National Milk Month in an effort to promote drinking milk, and eventually grew to include all dairy products. 

The folks at the IDFA remind us that this is a perfect time to kick-start the summer with nutrient-rich dairy foods. From calcium to potassium, they tell us, dairy products — such as milk — contain important nutrients which may help with weight management, as well as blood pressure, bone-related issues, including osteoporosis, and even certain cancers. 

Whether it’s the protein that helps repair muscle tissue or vitamin A to help maintain healthy skin, the experts describe dairy products as “a natural nutrient powerhouse.” And that’s just a few of the reasons why, they tell us, that we should be celebrating dairy month not only in June, but the whole year long. 

So, to make it easier for our readers, we’ve dug up a few new recipes to help with the observance.

Baked Mozzarella Sticks

12 sticks part-skim mozzarella string cheese

1 large egg

¼  cup flour

¼  cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

¼  cup Panko breadcrumbs

2 tsp. parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp. dried parsley

Nonstick cooking spray

Marinara sauce and/or Ranch dressing, for dipping

Remove wrappers from cheese and cut cheese in half  for 24 pieces. Freeze about 30 minutes.

In three separate shallow dishes, place egg, flour and breadcrumbs, each in their own dish. Whisk egg. To breadcrumbs dish, add panko, parmesan and parsley.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Dip frozen cheese sticks in flour, shaking off excess, then into the egg, then the crumbs. Repeat for each cheese stick, placing them on the lined baking sheet. Freeze on sheet at least 15 minutes, or until ready to bake (this is a must or they will melt before the crumbs get golden).

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 F. Arrange oven rack in the bottom third of your oven.

Bake 4 to 5 minutes, turn sticks over, and bake an additional 4-5 minutes, watching closely so they don’t melt. Serve hot with marinara sauce or Ranch dressing for dipping.

Homemade Fudgesicles

1½ cups chocolate milk, low-fat or regular 

2 banana, ripe

3 Tbsp. peanut butter or Nutella

¼ tsp. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

Pour mixture into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Cheesy Grits

2 cups water

1/4 tsp. salt

½ stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup quick cooking grits, not instant

1 small garlic clove, minced (optional)

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup milk, room temperature

Heat water, butter and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat to boiling. Slowly mix in grits and garlic into boiling water; reduce heat to medium-low. Gradually whisk to prevent lumps. Cover pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until grits have thickened, about 5 minutes.

Add cheese and milk. Cook and stir until cheese is melted.

Note: When reheating leftovers, add additional milk, broth or water for better consistency.

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

5 cups diced unpeeled potatoes

1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

1/2 cup skim milk

4 Tbsp. grated Parmesan

Salt to taste (be careful not to over salt)

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

While potatoes are cooking, pour buttermilk and milk into a small saucepan and cook over a very low heat until just warm. Be careful not to boil.

Drain potatoes, add warmed milk; mash to desired consistency. Stir in cheese and salt. Top with butter and let it melt.

Sour Cream Pound Cake

1 ½ cups butter, softened

3 cups sugar

6 large eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

½  tsp. salt

¼ tsp. baking soda

1 (8-oz.) container sour cream

1 tsp. lemon extract

¼  tsp. almond extract

With electric mixer, beat butter at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yolk fades.

Sift together flour, salt and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat batter at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in extracts. Pour into a greased and floured 12-cup tube pan.

Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan, and cool completely on wire rack.