Tuesday, February 24
Two summers ago we stayed in Falmouth, MA for our annual Cape Cod family vacation. One night we ordered pizza from a restaurant called Stone L’Oven and every last pizza was delectable. My favorites were the fig and prosciutto pizza (which I already created a recipe for) and a wonderful sweet potato pizza. Nate’s cousin Sara and I went back and forth endlessly about which one we liked more. In the end we couldn’t decide, they were both amazing!
I have finally recreated the sweet potato pizza in my own kitchen and it was delicious! This pizza has all kinds of wonderful ingredients, from salty bacon and gorgonzola cheese to sweet caramelized onions and sweet potatoes. Top it all off with a balsamic glaze and you’re in heaven!
A note on the balsamic glaze – I used to make it myself until I discovered STAR’s Modena Creamy Balsamic Glaze. Their glaze is the perfect consistency for drizzling on pizza, so that’s what I use now. I highly recommend it.Sweet Potato and Bacon PizzaThis pizza is the perfect combination of salty and sweet!Author: Jane MaynardIngredients
- Pizza crust of your choice (I use this recipe or good naan bread for my crust)
- olive oil
- 1 fresh garlic clove per pizza you make
- caramelized onions
- fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced (regular shredded mozzarella cheese works, too, but I love fresh)
- gorgonzola cheese, small chunks
- sweet potato, cubed
- bacon, cooked and chopped
- fresh spinach
- salt and pepper
- balsamic glaze (if you want to make your own, click here for instructions. STAR makes a bottled balsamic glaze that I love - click here for more info.)
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Toss cubed sweet potatoes in olive oil and sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a cooking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, until soft.
- Roll out pizza crust then brush on a thin layer of olive oil across the surface. Push fresh garlic clove through a garlic press then spread with your fingers over the oiled crust. Top pizza with caramelized onions, gorgonzola cheese, spinach, sweet potatoes, and bacon. Finish with mozzarella cheese.
- Bake pizza how you normally do it for your crust recipe.
- Remove from oven, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper then drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve!
Thursday, January 29
Just a quick post today to share my new favorite cheese. It’s called ricotta salata and it’s mighty fine.
The kind I buy is from Bel Gioioso. They label the cheese as “The Italian Feta,” which I think is a good description. Salata means “salted,” and that’s basically what this cheese is – ricotta cheese that has been pressed, salted and dried. The texture is very similar to feta, but the flavor is much more mild. Think ricotta with, you guessed it, salt added!
I pretty much put it on every salad I eat now. I can’t get enough. And, unlike feta, my kids are much more likely to eat it sprinkled on their salad, so they can eat the same salad I make for the adults. I’m thinking ricotta salata would be good in other dishes, too, like scrambled eggs or tossed into roasted veggies. Maybe it’s time I start experimenting, but, honestly, I go through enough of the stuff with just salads!
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. (I want to add a little something here, copying and pasting one of the comments from one of my mom’s best friends, Jona, who is the source of our family’s loyalty! “Your mom was indoctrinated by me when she was 17, Jane. So glad you loved Tillamook and beyond. I hope you saw my grandfather’s picture in the Cheese Factory. He was one of the earliest cheesemakers back in the early 1900’s. I am so proud of that heritage.”)
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!
Tuesday, April 1
Years ago my friend Liz hosted a cheese party at her home. If you showed up with a bottle of wine, she gave you a plate of cheese! Okay, so it was actually a little fancier and more involved than that. She had gone to who knows how many cheese shops and gathered who knows how many cheeses and had them set up at different tables, organized by strength. Have you ever been to a cheese tasting? It’s really fun! You start with the mildest cheeses and work your way up. And you JUST EAT THE CHEESE. Leave the bread and crackers at home, this experience is about really tasting the cheeses, appreciating the nuanced differences of each type. It was a delicious, educational and fun night that obviously left an impression on me and changed the way I looked at cheese.
There truly is an art to cheese, one that I am woefully uneducated about but also very much appreciate. Nate lived in Paris for a few years back in the day, so we have a bias towards French cheeses. When I had the chance to work on a post for Président, trying out one of their recipes and sharing it with you, I jumped. We love brie and camembert and love to buy Président when we indulge!
A few years ago, Nate and I went to Paris together. We ate so many wonderful foods, including cheese of course! As I was looking through Paris photos this morning to include in this post, I laughed when I discovered the very first photo I took in Paris was of a small round of Président camembert we bought on our first day in that marvelous city! No wonder that’s the cheese I always buy – we can enjoy a bit of France right here in California!
By the way, les crèmeries are to Paris what Dunkin’ Donuts are to Boston. I couldn’t believe how many cheese shops there were, and they all looked like this. No wonder the French have mastered the art of cheese.
The recipe I am sharing with you today comes from Président’s website, where you can find all kinds of easy gourmet recipes. I chose this particular recipe because it not only sounded delicious but it was downright pretty. This beautiful torte would be perfect to serve at any party, but a cheese party would be especially lovely. It can serve as a nice alternative to the straight-up cheese tasting but still fit into the theme of the evening. Also, even though the torte might look intimidating to make, it actually is quite easy to throw together. You can totally impress without the stress!
Also, this food looked gorgeous at every step of the cooking process. Sorry for all the pictures, but I just couldn’t help myself.
Tuesday, October 15
When I was in college, I had a co-worker who ate Burger King jalapeño poppers for lunch almost every day. I thought she was bananas. I mean, they were good, in a fast-foody kind of way. But every day? For her entire lunch? She was obsessed! Ever since, whenever I see or eat jalapeño poppers, I think of popper-crazy Lily and it makes me happy.
What I have to share with you today is waaaaaaaaayyyyyy better than the Burger King jalapeño poppers. And, in addition to being incredibly delicious, these poppers are beyond easy to make. The “recipe” comes from my mother-in-law Pat, the source of so many of my favorite easy and delicious recipes.
I made these poppers with Pat over the summer when the family was all together on Cape Cod. I didn’t get a chance to photograph them very much because there were about 8 people standing around the pan while I shot a few photos. They were like vultures! Okay, so I was one of the vultures who couldn’t wait to get the camera out of the way and dig in!
If you have latex gloves lying around, wear them when you make these. Pat and I never do, much to our detriment. I rubbed my eyes TWICE within 24 hours of making the poppers and just about blew my eyeball out of the socket. If you don’t wear gloves, just be smarter than me and keep your hands aways from your eyes for about 1 day.Easy Homemade Jalapeño PoppersAuthor: Jane MaynardIngredients
- About 20 jalapeño peppers
- 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- Fresh, shredded parmesan cheese (if you don’t have any, don’t worry about it!)
- A handful or so of chopped chives or green onions (again, if you don’t have this, don’t worry about it)
- About 20 strips uncooked bacon, cut in half
- Vegetarian version: bread crumbs, plain or mixed with a bit of parmesan cheese plus a dash of salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 – 400 degrees F.
- Cut jalapeño peppers in half the long way. Clean out the seeds and membrane (if you have latex gloves, this is the time to wear them!).
- If you are adding parmesan cheese and chives/green onions, mix them with the softened cream cheese. Fill each cut jalapeño pepper with cream cheese, filling them to the top but not overfilling too much so that the cheese doesn’t melt all over the pan. Wrap each stuffed pepper with a piece of uncooked bacon. Place on a large cookie sheet. You don’t need to space them apart too much, so go ahead and pack them in.
- If you want to make the vegetarian version, stuff the pepper with the cheese then roll the stuffed pepper in the breadcrumbs, sprinkling a bit of extra breadcrumbs on top and pressing into the cheese gently.
- Bake until bacon is cooked. The longer you cook the poppers, the less hot the peppers will be, so if you want them less spicy, cook on the lower end of the temperature range for a longer time. Total cook time will probably be about 20 – 30 minutes.
- This recipe is easy going and can be modified to your tastes – feel free to experiment!
Thursday, November 12
Today I’ve got a quick, tasty meal idea for you, thanks to my dear friend Angie who shared this non-recipe-recipe with me recently. It’s her go-to meal and it’s a winner!
In honor of The Pioneer Woman giveaway we’ve got going this week, I did this post Ree style, photographing every step of the cooking process. Thought it would be funny to finally do that with the easiest recipe on my site. Funny, right? A-ha-ha-ha-ha!Easy Peasy Bean TacosEasy to make and delicious to eat!Author: Jane MaynardRecipe type: Main DishCuisine: MexicanIngredients
- Flour or corn tortillas, smaller size
- Shredded cheese
- Can of refried beans
- Toppings you like on tacos…tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, lettuce, etc.
- Preheat your oven broiler. Heat up the can of beans in a saucepan.
- Place the tortillas on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle some cheese on half of the tortilla (you can also heat them up on the stove, whichever you prefer).
- Pop the tray in the oven, broil until the cheese melts. This is seriously the hardest step of the process. You still with me?
- Schmear on the beans.
- Add your favorite taco toppings.
- Fold. Eat. Enjoy.
We really liked these tacos, and I loved how simple they were to make. But I’ve gotta say, I think a few grilled peppers and onions would give the tacos nice flavor and crunch…but yeah, that involves chopping stuff AND dirtying another pan. So don’t worry too much about it. These are Easy Peasy Bean Tacos, after all.
Thursday, October 15
I will share the following delectable soup recipe with you under one condition: You are not allowed to think about the amount of fat present in the soup when you eat it. It is worth every last calorie. That said…I wouldn’t recommend eating this soup every day. Neither would a cardiologist. But, oh my goodness, you’re going to like it.
Without further ado…the best broccoli cheese soup recipe around! Oh wait, a bit more “ado”…it’s easy to make with a short list of ingredients and quite fast. However, there is a lot of standing at the stove and whisking involved. Make sure you have some tunes or an episode of This American Life playing when you start cooking. I even do leg exercises while I whisk away…just a little preemptive strike on the butter, cream and cheese.Broccoli Cheese SoupCreamy, cheesy, and delicious! From my friend Elizabeth PaulAuthor: Jane MaynardRecipe type: Main Dish, SoupIngredients
- ½ C butter
- ½ C flour
- 1 Quart Half & Half
- 3 C cheddar cheese, grated
- 3 C broth (chicken or vegetable)
- 1 pkg frozen broccoli (or 2 small heads fresh broccoli chopped into bite sized pieces)
- 1 tsp salt
- Combine broccoli, broth and salt – bring to a boil, simmer until broccoli is cooked.
- Melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour gradually, whisking. Simmer and whisk for a few minutes. Add half & half four times, whisking constantly (make sure it gets thick before each addition of half & half).
- Add cheese.
- Add broccoli/broth/salt mixture and stir.