Thursday, August 28
Earlier this summer I received an email from Tillamook, inviting me to visit the Tillamook cheese factory in Oregon as well as see one of their dairy farms. After a little “please pretty please can I ditch our family for three days” begging with Nate, I promptly emailed Tillamook and said YES to the invitation. We love Tillamook around our house. From the time I was a wee thing my mom taught me that Tillamook cheese was the best. Not only do I think their products are great, but I always love getting a peek into food production, so I couldn’t wait for this trip.
Two weeks ago I flew to Portland, OR, where I arrived at what appeared to be the set for Portlandia. Oh, wait, it was just Portland. Portland IS Portlandia, in case you were wondering. I loved Portland and had a wonderful afternoon exploring and eating my way around town. A delicious lunch at Tasty n Alder, dessert at Voodoo Doughnut, and a large portion of my very short time spent at Powell’s Books, which is now on the list of my most favorite places on the planet, made for a pretty perfect day.
Let’s get down to the business at hand, shall we? Cheese! I have so much to share about Tillamook it’s almost overwhelming, so I’m going to let my pictures from the trip guide me through this post.
We headed west from Portland to Tillamook, OR. The drive was unbelievably picturesque and you can’t miss the factory once you reach town. There I am in front of the GIANT Tillamook sign with Stephanie from 52 Kitchen Adventures…she is wonderful, btw.
We of course were given a tour of the factory. Anyone can visit the factory for tours and to shop in the store, so if you’re ever in the area be sure to stop in! We also had a chance to go behind the scenes and see where the cheese is aged and stored. The facilities are quite impressive.
Have you ever noticed a boat on the Tillamook logo? Well, there it is! The ship Morning Star was used in the early days to deliver cheese up and down the coast. Obviously it’s a little landlocked now but it is just as beautiful as ever.
Part of our tour was lead by Dale Baumgartner, Tillamook Head Cheesemaker (a.k.a. the Head Cheese…that joke is irresistible). Dale has been working for Tillamook for for over 40 years and he knows his cheese. It was fascinating learning how the cheese is made today, but maybe even more interesting hearing about his early years at Tillamook. I always love talking with people who truly love their work and are such experts at what they do. It’s inspiring to me and something, quite honestly, I can’t imagine.
Want some fun cheesemaking facts? Here you go! (I stole these from the signs on the tour.)
- Each of the eight stainless steel cheese vats holds approximately 53,500 pounds of fresh milk. On average each vat makes three batches of cheese per day.
- It takes 10 pounds (1.16 gallons) of milk to make 1 pound of Tillamook cheese.
- More then 1.7 million pounds of milk arrive at the plant each day. Approximately 167,000 pounds of cheese are made each day.
In addition to learning all about how the cheese is made, we also spent part of our day with Jill Allen, Manager of Product Quality. Jill leads the sensory team, which spends all day every day tasting every single batch of everything that is made at the plant, from butter to yogurt to cheese to ice cream to sour cream. Jill was equally as fascinating to listen to, plus she let us taste all kinds of delicious things. And, in case you are wondering, her team expectorates everything they taste so that their tastebuds are as ready to go on the first bite as they are on the last. Bottom line, after everything we learned about sensory, I would absolutely not want to be on that team! I’m glad other people are up for the job!
During our session with Jill, we taste tested Tillamook products alongside leading competitors. You can even tell from this crappy indoor photo how different Tillamook’s cheddar is compared to other brands – the difference was night and day! Many factors play into this, from the quality of the milk to the water content or the cheese to the smaller blocks of cheese that are made. Great care is taken at every step in the process, making for a higher quality final product.
I think one of my favorite things we tasted that day were the cheddar cheese curds. The curds is what the cheese looks like before it’s compressed naturally into blocks. Sadly you can only buy the curds at the Tillamook factory store, which was, by the way, awesome.
That evening we drove west, where we had a view of the amazing Oregon coast.
We stayed at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda, where my hotel room looked out on this:
I didn’t want to leave. But they made me, which wasn’t too hard since they gave me cute yellow boots and told me I could go look at cute baby cows. Sold!
Before we flew home, we spent the morning at one of the Tillamook dairy farms, owned by Ryan and Wendy. Tillamook is a cooperative, so the farmers all have a stake in the business. There are less than 150 farms in the co-op and they are all within a fairly short distance of the plant. And, from what we witnessed, the cows on those farms are living good lives as Tillamook employees.
Here’s the deal. We did not hear one “MOO” the entire time we were on the tour. Wendy said that cows only “moo” when they are discontent or warning other cows about something, so if they’re quiet, it pretty much means they’re happy and content.
Wendy and Ryan were gracious hosts and taught us all kinds of interesting things about being dairy farmers. I think what struck us most is how much work it is and how tied they are to the farm. It’s really hard for them to ever get away and I think they said it’s been 2 years since their last vacation. Heavens. And Ryan is up before 3:00 AM every day. I can’t even imagine.
They explained that it costs more to make high-quality milk but that Tillamook incentivizes the farmers to make high-quality milk, so it’s worth it. It is amazing how much goes into the process of milking cows twice a day. This particular farm has around 400 cattle and it costs $7/day/cow just for feed. Ryan is a 4th-generation dairy farmer, so he knows what he’s doing. He and Wendy were both incredibly relaxed and happy.
Needless to say I had a fabulous time, surrounded by wonderful people, delicious food and cute cows! I learned a lot and am so appreciative that I was able to be a part of the trip. Also, we had the chance to taste a new Tillabar flavor that is coming out next year and it is AMAZING. I’m not allowed to tell you what it is, but I’ll be sure to let you know when it hits stores!
Thank you, Tillamook!
Wednesday, August 27
Today I have a quick kitchen tip, which involves sharing yet another awesome find from my recent unexpected shopping spree on the King Arthur Flour website. In fact, today’s item is what started the whole shopping spree to begin with!
I love my silicon baking mats and use them multiple times every week. (Side note: if you don’t have one already, hop to it!) As much I use my SILPAT, I do still use parchment paper for various projects, including when I make granola bars each week. (Side note #2: I cook granola bars on parchment paper, then tear the paper into small pieces to place between the layers of granola bars in my storage container. Works great!)
I don’t remember the details, but for some reason one day on Facebook two of my food blogging friends Barbara and Diane told me about flat parchment baking sheets. I had always just bought parchment paper in a roll at the grocery store and didn’t even know flat sheets existed. Diane and Barbara told me how awesome the sheets were so I decided to order some on the King Arthur website (along with many, many, many other wonderful items I didn’t know I needed but totally did).
Anyway, the bottom line is that I love the parchment paper sheets just as much as Diane and Barbara do. Those ladies were so right. The flat sheets are much easier to work with than the rolled up paper, which tends to curl easily when you’re trying to lay it out, and they fit perfectly in a cookie sheet. The flat parchment sheets are also easier to cut down to different sizes when making cakes. (Side note #3: You can also buy 9-inch and 8-inch round parchment paper sheets if you really don’t want to ever have to cut parchment paper yourself again.) One last benefit is the sheets that I got at King Arthur are also reusable. They’re pretty much magic.
Barbara lives in Utah and gets her parchment paper sheets at Orson Gygi. I am not fortunate enough to have a wonderful restaurant supply store near where I live, which is why I ordered mine online from King Arthur.
Happy parchment papering!
Tuesday, August 12
About six months ago I needed to order some parchment paper sheets from King Arthur and then proceeded to get totally sucked in and bought way more stuff than I was planning on (like the tulip baking cups). I had been wanting a bread box, mostly for when I make homemade bread. I had done some research but hadn’t found anything that I thought would work well.
Then I noticed this expandable bread keeper on the King Arthur site. It caught my eye for two reasons. First, it’s expandable. Second, it had an air vent. The biggest complaint I found with other bread boxes was that bread would go moldy. The vent seemed like the answer.
So, I bought the expandable bread keeper, got it in the mail, and then stuck it in a cupboard and forgot about it. Like, my-friend-Debbie-texted-me-one-day-and-asked-if-I-had-a-bread-box-and-I-told-her-no forgot about it. When we got home from vacation this summer, I stumbled on the bread box, broke it out and started using it. AND I LOVE IT.
The vent works great and has two settings, depending on how humid your climate is or if your bread is warm. I love that it can expand to different sized loaves, and it’s really tall so you can fit a lot in there. And there is also a little mini bread board inside, making it really easy to slice off the bread you need and then put it away.
This bread keeper is great for homemade bread but I do also use it for breads we buy at the store that come in paper bags (like fresh French and Italian breads). I’m using less plastic bags AND the bread keeps better. We even stored leftover muffins in there and it worked great – since the bread keeper is so tall, I just stacked two layers of muffins inside.
I had a loaf of crusty bread go moldy the other day, but it had been in there for a whole week, so, you know, obviously it went moldy. And it actually stayed UN-moldy much longer than when it’s in a plastic bag.
So, there you have it. I love my expandable bread keeper and I’ll never forget its existence ever again! If you’re in the market for a bread box, I know it’s not as cute as some of the metal retro ones out there, but I think the function on this far exceeds the need for a glamorous bread box. Just sayin’.
Anyone have any bread box advice? Do you have on you love? Tell us about it!
Posted by Jane Maynard at 9:48 am 5 Comments
Categories: fab faves, Kitchen Tips, the goods Tags: bread box, bread keeper, expandable bread keeper, king arthur flour, kitchen equipment, kitchen gadgets, kitchen tips |
Friday, August 8
Before I get to food links, I have two things to share with you that I’m loving.
First off, I started wearing Birks. As in Birkenstocks, specifically the Gizeh sandals. I received them as a gift last fall at a Ladies’ Home Journal event but didn’t start wearing them, despite my sister-in-law Hannah who works in fashion in NYC telling me that people were totally wearing them again. Then I bought a standing desk and my feet started hurting from standing so much and then I pulled out the fancy new Birks and THEN I FELL IN LOVE. Just thought I should let you know. My feet never hurt when I wear these. Plus, they’re actually kinda cute.
Second, a new company started by a mom contacted me about trying out their product, the Kupp’. My kids are absolutely loving it! I love that they are made out of glass, given my goal to phase out plastic as much as possible from our lives, but the silicone sleeve makes them very kid-friendly. And my kids love having their very own cup to be responsible for. They basically haven’t used anything else for two weeks!
Here’s my post on Babble this week. My kids and I were supposed to try a Disney recipe out and report on how it went. The popsicles are made from non-fat, plain yogurt, bananas and blueberries with just a bit of honey. I honestly didn’t think my kids would like the popsicles that much, but I was so wrong. They loved them! This is a great recipe for kids:
And food fun on Cosmo:
- 15 Perfect Peach Recipes You Need to Try This Summer
- 15 Incredible Three-Ingredient Desserts
- 12 Unexpected Ways to Use Peanut Butter
- 10 Amazing Ice Cream Sandwiches You Must Try This Summer
As always, please share anything you like!
Thursday, July 31
A couple years ago I started noticing really cute muffin liners at coffee shops that sort of stuck up on top. I had been keeping my eye out for them at the store but never found them anywhere. Then, one day when I sent on a mini shopping spree on the King Arthur website, there they were. Tulip muffin papers. I of course put them in my cart immediately! Imagine my delight when I found them a few months later at Target. Yay!
Tulip baking cups are my new favorite baking cups, a.k.a. muffin papers, a.k.a. muffin liners, a.k.a. cupcake liners, a.k.a. they have a lot of names, apparently. Whatever you call them, they are wicked cute and I’m loving them!
Here’s why I like tulip liners:
- Tulip liners are really easy to separate when you’re putting them in the pan. Makes them a bit quicker to set up than traditional baking cups, which I almost always accidentally double up a few times per batch.
- No batter spillover on your pans! I think this is my most favorite aspect of these liners.
- They’re purrrrty.
- If you’re in a pinch and find yourself without cupcake liners, you can make your own tulip liners using small squares of parchment paper. Just Google “diy tulip cupcake liners” and you’ll find a plethora of tutorials.
A few more notes for when you use them as well as where to buy them:
- You can cook cupcakes as well as muffins in these liners, although I have yet to make cupcakes myself. If you make cupcakes, you’ll need to pipe on the frosting.
- If you make muffins with these liners, you’re not really going to get a “muffin top.” The tops still get the same texture as a normal muffin, but they don’t have that classic muffin top shape. In fact, it’s pretty much stump central. (When Nate and I realized I was making muffin stumps, it made us laugh so hard. It’s safe to say Elaine would not like these muffin liners.)
- When filling the liners with batter, do so carefully. If you drip or accidentally get batter on the upper part of the liner, it will bake to a dark color so you’re liner will have ugly spots. Not the end of the world but something to keep in mind.
- Like I mentioned, I recently found PaperChef tulip baking cups at Target. You can also buy tulip liners online at various sites like the King Arthur website and Amazon. Please note if you order them from somewhere online, depending on how they are packaged when shipped they may arrived “squished.” I was able to straighten mine out after some careful bending. Customer reviews on Amazon mentioned the same problem with some of the liners you can order there.
Wow. I had no idea I had so much to say on the subject of tulip baking cups.
Thursday, July 24
Friends, I need to do a follow-up post about scoops because I didn’t realize a little something about my scoops until now. My sister-in-law Cora said that I needed to do a follow-up!
Three years ago I wrote a post about how you absolutely need a scoop (or two) in your kitchen. I still firmly stand by that advice. HOWEVER…I learned this summer that there is a second bit of advice that I should have also included that I didn’t know was important. Not only do you need a scoop (or two), you need a Pampered Chef scoop.
Here’s the deal. When I went to New Jersey this summer I made cookies at my mom’s house. When I went to make the cookie dough balls, I got out the scoop that I had given her last year, a scoop that I had purchased at Michael’s and was not cheap, by the way. As I pulled it out of the drawer, my sister-in-law said, “Ugh, I’ve gone through three scoops since you wrote that post about scoops. They always break on me!” I was stunned to hear this.
And then I started scooping dough and the scoop kept getting jammed and the little swivel thingy kept getting pulled into the wrong place. It was basically the biggest pain ever. Cora was aboslutely right. The scoop could not handle a batch of cookie dough. It kinda blew my mind.
I have NEVER had any issues whatsoever with my Pampered Chef scoops. They are in the exact same condition as the day I got them, they never get jammed, they have never broken and I can make a billion cookie dough balls with no issues. Cora and I realized that my advice to “Get a scoop” really should have been “Get a Pampered Chef scoop.” I had no idea that it made such a difference!
Pampered Chef sells three sizes of scoops:
- Large Scoop (~3 tablespoons): perfect for making pancakes and filling muffin tins.
- Medium Scoop (~2 tablespoons): perfect for standard-sized cookies
- Small Scoop (~1 tablespoon): also good for cookies, just smaller ones
If you’re only going to get one scoop, go with the medium, especially if you’re getting it specifically for making cookies. It’s a great size.
This post is in no way sponsored by Pampered Chef. I just needed to tell you how much better their scoops are! And also apologize if you, like Cora, have been feeling frustrated the the scoop you may have gotten based on my advice.
Also, as usual, I love your feedback! If you have another brand of scoop that is equally as awesome as my Pampered Chef scoops, please share it with us!
Tuesday, July 22
My parents recently moved to northern New Jersey, very close to the New York border. It is absolutely beautiful where they live, complete with rolling green hills as far as the eye can see. This is the third summer that we’ve visited them at their new home but the first summer that we made two really great discoveries – Dairy Swirl in Vernon, New Jersey and the little town of Warwick, New York.
First, let’s talk ice cream. Dairy Swirl is literally five minutes from my parents’ home but, for some reason, we never went until this year. And that is a crime because it is awesome. They serve homemade ice cream in all kinds of wonderful flavors that are creative but make total sense. You know, nothing crazy, just all completely wonderful combinations of ingredients. And just outside the shop there are these giant rocks embedded in the side of the hill that are perfect for sliding. The kids could have stayed there all day. If you’re ever in northern New Jersey near Vernon, be sure to stop in!
After you hit the Dairy Swirl, keep driving north about 30 minutes to the town of Warwick, NY. Again, I don’t know why we never ventured to Warwick before but I’m so glad that we did! The town is adorable, with lots of little shops and restaurants, a cute town green where they play live music on the weekends, farmstands and more. I can only imagine how beautiful it is in the fall when the leaves are aflame!
My dad and I spent a few hours in Warwick with all three kids, so we kept the visit simple: lunch, dessert and a visit to the local bookstore. After lunch at Eddie’s Roadhouse (the filet sliders were awesome, the ribeye steak was just okay according to my dad), we hopped over to Corbett’s Cookie Bar Kitchen, where we had a really fun chat with the owners. They’ve been open about a year and only serve cookie bars. I love talking to small business owners who are so passionate about what they do – I really admire them because I am too chicken to do anything like that! The carmelita was our favorite flavor – it was like taking a big bite out of the best cookie dough. And the Mexican brownie was my other favorite. One bar is enough for 2-3 people, by the way, so pace yourself!
After stuffing ourselves silly, we took the kids to Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe. This bookstore is tiny and like a maze of book shelves, which I love. The kids’ section is tucked in a back corner and the kids and I spent a lot of time back there. Basically, we loved it.
Quick side note: another 10 minutes north there is an even smaller town called Sugar Loaf that also has some really cute shops, where you can buy things like handmade candles and soaps.
So, this fall when you east coasters are wondering where you should take a drive to enjoy the leaves, head over to the Warwick Valley. You can’t go wrong! (For that matter it was perfectly fun in the summer, too!)
Sunday, July 20
Hello! We are home from vacation and I am getting back into the cooking groove! After such a long break I am actually really looking forward to it.
Before we get to this week’s dinner plans, I need to tell you about the dinner that Nate and I had last night. Today is our 15th wedding anniversary (TIME FLIES! Happy anniversary, Nate!). Last night Veladora at the Rancho Valencia hotel in Rancho Santa Fe hosted us for dinner to celebrate. There are no words for how wonderful our evening was, but I’m going to give it a try! (Seriously, in the time it took for us to drive off the hotel property we must have said, “That dinner was awesome!” twenty times.) First of all, the food. Ahhh, the food. Nate ordered prime rib cap and I was treated to scallops. Both dishes were unreal. The rib cap was a beautiful cut of meat cooked to perfection, and my scallops were paired with three different corn sides that complemented the scallops beautifully. All of the food we had was wonderful, right down to the 18-year old balsamic vinegar for dipping the focaccia. Chef Matt came out to meet us at the end of our meal and it was so interesting talking with him about the food, how the menu is developed and modified with the seasons, as well as his own career path. Beyond the food, the serving staff was stellar and the restaurant itself was beautiful. The best part was that, despite the high caliber of the restaurant, we felt comfortable and relaxed, thanks to both the setting and the staff. Oh, and they gave us a little gift on the way out the door that was, of course, a tasty treat. It was truly the perfect way to celebrate our latest life milestone. Thank you, Veladora, for a night we will not soon forget.
Despite the fact that I pretty much don’t want to eat any other food ever after Veladora, real life dictates that I still have to feed my family. So, back to the weekly menu!
- Caprese salad with crusty bread
- Stewed green beans
- Taco night
- Grammy’s Orange Chicken
- Rice and veggie
- Takeout night
- Chicken on the grill
- Corn on the cob and watermelon
- Spinach and strawberry salad
Big THANKS to all of you who continued posting menus the last few weeks while I took a break. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it!
As usual, please share your menu for the week! Plain or fancy, we want to see it all!
Posted by Jane Maynard at 1:39 pm 20 Comments
Categories: fab faves, way gourmet, weekly menus Tags: dinner plans, free printable, meal plan, menu plan, PRINTABLE MEAL PLAN, rancho valencia, restaurants, shopping list, veladora, weekly menu, weekly menu planning |
Thursday, July 3
As you know from my non-existent weekly menus, we are on a multi-week trip visiting our family in the Northeast! We started our trip in New Hampshire and I wanted to share a little of the fun we had in that beautiful place.
To start, well, you know, when in Rome…
Pat, my mother-in-law, got a good deal on a ONE GALLON JUG of maple syrup so she had to buy it. I just wish I could take some on the plane with me! Owen was hilarious when we took pictures of him with the bottle (don’t worry, he had a diaper on!), but when we actually let him stick a straw in the bottle to drink, he refused. Shocking, I tell you.
For dinner one night we visited Kimball Farm in Jaffrey, NH and thoroughly gorged ourselves. For you New Englanders out there you’ve probably been to Kimball’s already and know just how yummy it is. We ordered quite the assortment of food, including to-die-for fish and chips, lobster roll, clam chowder, and onion nuggets. And, of course, NO salad.
We ended the night with Kimball’s homemade ice cream. See that there cone? That is the smallest size you can order. For a little perspective, that is a giant waffle cone being held by Nate. Ice cream insanity!
Another day we returned to Hillsborough Center to show Nate how beautifully magical this little village is. And to give Cate a chance to properly leap over puddles.
On a side note, we are loving the Highlander Hybrid that Toyota lent to us for the trip. It’s sooooo nice having a big car that gets almost 30 miles to the gallon, especially since we’ve already driven almost 1,000 miles! Plus, it’s just a really nice car. Nate’s great aunt couldn’t get over it, in fact. And it drives so quietly and smoothly. Basically, we’re taking it on the plane home with us.
Wednesday, June 4
Until a few years ago I had zero serving trays or platters to my name. For some reason, I didn’t get any as wedding gifts and then never thought to buy any. I finally acquired a few white ceramic serving platters. They’re nice and all but, honestly, I hardly ever use them. They just aren’t very versatile and are too heavey for easy, everyday use. And, even with those few platters, I still didn’t own any actual trays.
The trays pictured above are from Q Squared NYC’s Montecito line. These are the trays we probably use the most. Nate was especially happy on Mother’s Day when they had a tray to bring me breakfast in bed!
A few months ago when I started working with Q Squared NYC, they sent me several serving trays and platters. Suddenly I was flush with melamine serving trays in different sizes and shapes, and every last one of them was completely adorable.
These fun kids serving trays have come in especially handy for snack time during playdates! My kids think they’re super cute and I don’t have to worry about anyone breaking anything!
When I first discovered Q Squared, I was mostly excited about their dishes and flatware. Little did I know my most favorite items would be the serving trays! The longer I have them, the more I realize how much I was missing out all these years. They come in handy all the time, both for everyday use and when entertaining. I really love that they are made of melamine. The trays and platters are so much lighter than something made from ceramic, so I actually pull them out all the time. They’re easy to carry and perfect for taking outside. Basically, I can’t live without them now!
This serving platter is from the beautiful Heritage line.
If you don’t have any melamine serving trays or platters, I highly recommend getting one (or two or three!).
More from the Montecito line, this time the serving platters.
Three cheers for serving trays! Hip, hip, hooray! (Yeah, I’m a little crazy, but I really am in love!)
This post was sponsored by Q Squared NYC. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.