Posts Tagged ‘dairy’

Real Milk as a Luxury Food? (and Homemade Butterscotch Pudding)

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Jane Black is the first byline I look for when reading the Washington Post weekly food section, and one of my favorite food writers anywhere. So I was excited to see her write up some fantastic local dairies this week. I was a little disturbed, though, to see some references on Twitter to her article calling milk the “next luxury food.” Huh? Yes, the glass-bottled, all-natural milk we buy from Maryland’s South Mountain Creamery is more expensive than conventional milk at the supermarket. But in my opinion, artificial-hormone-free milk from cows who aren’t fed GMO grain is one of the most important purchasing decisions I make for my family. I’ve written before about how milk was the gateway food into more natural/organic eating when I was pregnant with my son. During pregnancy and when children are first weaned onto cows’ milk, it is so important to make sure the milk you’re drinking is as pure as possible. Unfortunately, even commercial organic milk isn’t perfect as until just this year (June 17, to be exact), organic producers didn’t even have to allow cows to actually graze. Cows were made to eat grass, and grass-fed cows produce tastier and healthier milk. There are other ways to save money on food — cooking at home more, cutting out processed foods, etc. — that don’t require compromising on quality milk.

Now of course it happens from time to time that we wind up with too much milk in the fridge, and what better way to put it to use than with homemade pudding? It’s really not that much more difficult than stirring together a boxed mix, and tastes infinitely better. Of course, if the temperatures stay so high here we’ll be firing up the ice cream maker soon enough, but pudding requires less waiting.

I had had butterscotch pudding on the mind since reading about it on The Kitchn back at the start of the year. Of course, not one to leave easy enough alone I decided to follow David Lebovitz‘s simpler recipe (minus the whiskey) but cook the butterscotch more as per Shuna Fish Lydon‘s recommendation. If you read Shuna’s passionate plea to preserve real butterscotch, you’ll see why I felt compelled to follow her instructions. (Well, partially.) My brown sugar and butter took much longer than 10 minutes to melt and darken, probably because I used light brown sugar rather than dark (uh, duh), so my resulting butterscotch had an almost burnt taste. Next time I’ll stick with either one recipe or the other — or at least use dark brown sugar — but if you’re curious, here’s how I made it.

Butterscotch Pudding
adapted from David Lebovitz with inspiration from Shuna Fish Lydon

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed (dark) brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons organic cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions: Melt the butter and sugar in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, stirring infrequently, until it reaches a syrupy consistency (10-15 minutes). Add salt and remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cornstarch and 1/4 cup of the milk and stir until smooth. Whisk in the eggs to combine.

Add the remaining milk to the melted brown sugar, whisking until smooth. Then add the cornstarch/egg mixture and again whisk until smooth.

Return to medium high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly, until pudding thickens. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour pudding into a bowl and chill for at least an hour, depending on your patience level. I probably dug into mine after about 30 minutes. Makes 4-6 servings, and is best served with fresh whipped cream on top.

Shared with Fight Back Friday at the Food Renegade.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Between our home-delivered farm-fresh milk and the cheese addiction my toddler shares, we consume a lot of (hormone-free) dairy products in our house. A favorite way to use up the assorted bits and ends of cheeses in our cheese drawer is my baked macaroni and cheese, with roasted red peppers. I don’t believe in hiding vegetables in food, but I do exploit the “better together” theory of adding vegetables to something the toddler is guaranteed to eat. He loves to look at different colored peppers, but rarely eats them. I find that roasting the peppers first gives them a velvety smooth texture that goes better in creamy pasta than crisp fresh vegetables, making them a little less objectionable to sensitive eaters.

Recipe: Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Red Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 2 roasted red peppers, cut in thin 1-2 inch slices
  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (favorite blend: cave-aged cheddar, smoked gouda, Wallaby)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmigiano (or similar, used Dry Jack recently)

Instructions:

Cook macaroni according to package instructions, but subtract 3 minutes from cooking time. While macaroni cooks, melt butter in saucepan over low heat. When melted, stir in flour, salt and mustard and cook until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat and whisk in milk, stirring until lumps are dissolved. Return to high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until boiling. Boil and stir 1 minute, until sauce begins to thicken. Reduce heat to low and stir in cheese until melted and smooth.

Drain macaroni. Combine with red peppers and cheese sauce and pour into 2-quart casserole pan. Mix together breadcrumbs and parmigiano cheese and sprinkle over top. Bake 25-30 minutes, until topping is golden. Makes 6 servings. Enjoy!

Shared with Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by its founder, Ruth of Once Upon a Kitchen. Check out this week’s round-up for more yummy pasta inspiration!

Dope-Free Dairy

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Part IV in the Sustainable Family Supper series

dairy cow

What’s the matter with rBST? I’ve written before about how my path to natural and organic food began with a look at milk. When I became pregnant with my son, milk took on a renewed significance as I eliminated sodas and caffeinated beverages from my diet. I finally got around to reading up on bovine growth hormones, a.k.a. rBST or rBGH. You probably already know that they are artificial hormones designed to increase estrogen in female cows, thus increasing their milk production. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its use in 1993, and like with so many other issues, refused to reexamine its safety despite growing consumer pressure and health concerns. The problem, or problems, are that the unnatural increase in production leads cows to develop infections at much greater rates, requiring them to be more heavily treated with antibiotics, which are passed on to milk consumers and flow out into soil and water with the cows’ waste. Then, there are studies linking rBST with increased breast, prostate and colon cancers in humans. The most galling part of the whole situation, in my opinion, is the ridiculous requirement by the FDA that requires dairy producers who label their milk rBST-free to include a disclaimer stating that “there is no difference between milk from cows treated with rBST and those who are not.” Actually, there are scientific studies showing that rBST is harmful and yet the burden is on the good actors to refrain from impugning the “good” name of the producers who continue to use rBST in the face of such studies.

Consumers Fight Back: The good news is that after repeatedly losing attempts in state legislatures to ban the use of rBST-free labels entirely (hello consumers’ right to know what they’re eating!), in the face of growing consumer pressure against the use of artificial hormones, its creator Monsanto actually sold off the product last year. Meanwhile, consumer campaigns targeting major dairy companies and grocers have successfully forced many companies to voluntarily reject the use of milk from cows treated with rBST. You can sign up to receive alerts from the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to stay apprised of the latest. Food & Water Watch offers downloadable and mobile (iPhone/Blackberry) lists of rBST-free brands by state. Last month, Dannon and Yoplait joined the roster of major yogurt producers rejecting rBST milk (Stoneyfield has never used it). In the cheese world, Tillamook‘s farmer cooperative led the industry in adopting a rBST-free policy back in 2005. Cabot Creamery is the latest to get on the drug-free dairy bandwagon, announcing that they will finally stop accepting rBST-containing milk as of August 1, 2009. Even *some* Kraft cheese products (2% milk line) are rBST-free.

Next Stop, Schools: So if consumers won’t buy it, where’s rBST-treated cows milk going? Some is still in use commercially, and of course much winds up in schools. Food & Water Watch has a campaign underway, coinciding with this year’s reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, urging Congress to give schools the ability to let schools choose to use rBST-free and/or organic milk. According to Food & Water Watch, one out of five pints of the milk served to public schoolchildren may contain rBST. (Visit their School Milk action center to learn more.)

Better Yet, Drink Organic: If you already drink rBST-free milk, you might also want to consider organic. If you have to choose what to buy organic, organic milk and meat may be more beneficial than organic produce because the pesticides on cows’ feed are concentrated in their digestive system – and nonorganic feed includes genetically-modified (GMO) grain. And make sure that you’re choosing a brand that scores well on the Cornucopia Institute organic dairy study, because while organic certification guarantees that cows are fed GMO- and pesticide-free grain, it does not guarantee that the cows were allowed to graze on grass or treated humanely. Certain big-organic producers (Aurora and Horizon, notably) are only slightly better than conventional feedlot operations. (There’s a reason some store-brand “organic” milk is priced significantly lower – avoid Safeway, Giant, Publix and Costco store brands, which are sourced from Aurora Organics, a company found by the USDA to have “willfully” violated 14 criteria of the federal organic standard. Visit the Organic Consumer Association action page to sign a petition asking these company CEOs to boycott green-washing “organic” suppliers.)

We’re lucky to have a local, though not organic-certified, dairy delivery service, but when I have to buy milk between deliveries or on the road, I try to find Organic Valley. They are a co-operative of farms organized regionally, so the milk you buy may actually be fairly locally-produced, and they provide support to their farmers to make their farms more environmentally-friendly, such as helping their member farms obtain grants to place wind turbines on their farms. I attended a presentation by an Organic Valley farmer at last fall’s Green Festival and fell in love with the adorable pictures of his happy little cows and tale of how they prefer listening to rock music over classical. A recent study found that cows who are called by name (typically signifying a higher level of care) produce more milk, naturally. I may be a little idealistic, but shouldn’t every cow live like that?

What About Raw Milk? I haven’t read enough yet to take an informed opinion on the highly controversial issue of raw milk. Its sale is banned here in Maryland and Virginia (unless in a “cow share” program in VA), so I haven’t had the option of trying it. (At least not since I was a kid with cow-owning friends! Its true nothing else tastes like truly fresh milk.) On the one hand, I’m inclined to trust farmers who are praticing time-tested method,s and raw milk proponents insist that there are a wealth of health benefits to drinking raw. On the other hand, cows are naturally dirty animals! (That’s not a scientific argument, just an observation.) All the more reason to get to know your food’s producers, of course, whatever the product. At any rate, if you want to learn more, CheeseSlave has a great post on the reasons she chooses raw milk and links to more resources.

Fresh from the Little Goat Dairy by the River

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

While the FoodieTots is on our annual trip out west, in pursuit of farmstead cheese, tasty microbrews and fine pinot, I’m sharing a tale of our ’07 visit to this charming goat dairy nestled in Oregon’s coast range. Hopefully we will be nibbling on their hazelnut torte as you read this!

On our way back from the Oregon coast, we visited Rivers Edge Chevre, a tiny goat dairy that was having their second anniversary wine and cheese festival. The farm is located in a beautiful valley in the coast range. They recently won several awards at the 2007 American Cheese Society Competition. The cheese was phenomenal – the winery (Madrone Mountain) had port-style wines that were a little sweet for my taste. But the cheeses… yum. They had goat cheese tortes with flavors like olive tapenade, sun-dried tomato pesto, basil pesto, and roasted hazelnut and frangelico which was the toddler’s favorite. (I had to cut him off for fear of him getting drunk off cheese ;-) .) I really enjoyed the Sunset Bay, “an ash-coated wheel with a deep vein of paprika.” We took the hazelnut torte back to the grandparents’ and enjoyed it on toast every morning for breakfast.

And the little herd of friendly goats kept the toddler and his cousin well entertained.

originally published 09.10.07

Sustainable Food Tidbits: Praising Good Actions

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

One of the pitfalls of learning more about where your food comes from is the fact that the more you learn about the commercial food chain, the more hopeless things can seem. But organic consumers are making progress in getting major corporations to voluntarily reject artificial growth hormones in dairy products (rBGH), from Chipotle to Walmart and Kroger. Take a minute to sign the Food & Water Watch petition thanking these companies and let them know their responsible actions are appreciated.