NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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A Cheesy National Dairy Month

A Cheesy National Dairy Month

            National Dairy Month, June, is a good opportunity to remind everyone that dairy means more than milk.  A major component of the dairy group is cheese.

            Cheese has been around for centuries and is rich in culture. Travelers from Asia are believed to have brought the art of cheese making to Europe. According to an ancient legend, the first cheese was accidentally made by an Arabian merchant who carried his milk in a pouch made from an animal’s stomach. The rennet in the lining of the pouch combined with the heat of the sun and caused the milk to separate into curd and whey. That night he found that the whey satisfied his thirst, and the cheese (curd) satisfied his hunger. The Pilgrims included cheese in the Mayflower’s supplies for their voyage to America in 1620.

             Natural cheese is made from four basic ingredients: milk, salt, starter culture or “good bacteria” and an enzyme called rennet. The nutrients found in cheese (e.g., calcium, protein, phosphorus) are there because milk is the main ingredient in cheese. Salt is needed to finish the transformation of liquid milk into enjoyable cheese. Salt also acts as a natural preservative.

            Process cheese is made from high-quality natural cheese so it also provides important nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus and protein. And it can be made to have more calcium as well as added vitamin D.  Historically, process cheese was used to provide shelf-stable cheese for wartime and for shipping to warmer climates. The processing halts the aging process so the cheese maintains its flavor, texture and smoothness. Process cheese is customizable for flavor and qualities such as a smooth melt that make it a versatile, tasty and easy-to-use food.

            Cheese makers have developed thousands of varieties of cheese around the world, each with a unique taste, texture and nutritional profile. No cheese is the same — there are many standards of identity for cheese, because there are a number of ways to adjust the basic recipe to get a distinct product (e.g., Cheddar, Swiss, blue, Brie, mozzarella, etc.).

            While nutrient profiles vary due to the large variety of cheeses, cheese contributes essential nutrients for good health to the U.S. diet, including calcium, phosphorus, protein, vitamin A and zinc. Cheese can provide calcium for people who don’t meet daily recommendations and risk poor bone health. U.S. preteen and teenage girls 9 to 18 are at risk for not getting enough calcium according to the Institute of Medicine.  As part of a healthy, balanced diet, cheese can help fill this gap.

            From the National Dairy Council, the following recipe features a healthier version of a long time favorite –macaroni and cheese.

            Mom's Macaroni and Cheese

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  • 12 ounces fat free sour cream
  • 8 ounces fat free cottage cheese
  • 3 cups cooked elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups fat free cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup evaporated skim milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 2 Egg Beaters
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • salt, pepper and paprika to taste
  •             Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside. In a blender, mix together sour cream and cottage cheese until smooth. Combine blended mixture with cooked macaroni, cheese, milk, chopped onion and Egg Beaters. Mix well and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into prepared casserole dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs and paprika. Spray top with cooking spray. Bake covered for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 minutes more.
                Six servings of ½ cup per serving. Per serving: 306 calories,  

    Submitted by: Makers of LACTAID® Brand Products

    Nutritional Facts

    7.3 g fat, 38% of Daily Value of calcium, 34 g protein

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