Great ways to enjoy nature’s perfect food

Milk is universally consumed for its high protein and nutrient content. It contains 15 essential nutrients, 16 if you consider that vitamin D is added.

Protein helps build and repair muscle and bone tissue and quells hunger pangs.

Vitamin A is important in bone and tooth development and healthy skin. There are seven B vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, pantothenic acid, folate, B12 and B6. They are important in red blood cell formation, releasing food energy from carbohydrates and bone and tissue growth.

The minerals calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and selenium, are important in forming strong bones and healthy teeth and play a role in nervous, muscular and immune systems.

Milk is 85 percent water so it’s a good thirst quencher. All forms of milk contain 16 nutrients, with only the fat content changing in different milk varieties. There are only five grams of sugar in one cup of chocolate milk.

Baked French Toast

I used pannetone, an Italian Christ-mas bread, in this recipe. It is slightly sweet and makes a wonderful baked breakfast, but any slightly sweet and stale bread will work just as well. A shallow baking dish allows lots of crispy topping bits for everyone.

  • 8 eggs
  • 5 c. whole milk 1.25 mL
  • 1/2 c. sugar 125 mL
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla extract 30 mL
  • day old bread such as French bread, cinnamon buns, brioche
  • 1/2 c. walnuts or pecans 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup 60 mL
  • butter to grease pan

Generously grease a nine x 13 inch (22 cm x 33 cm) baking pan with butter. Tear bread into chunks or cut into cubes and evenly distribute in the pan. Use enough bread to fill the pan.

Whisk together eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla. If you are using unsweetened bread, you may want to increase the sugar.
Cover pan tightly and store in refrigerator, preferably overnight.
Before baking, top with coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans and a drizzle of maple syrup. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C) and bake, uncovered, for 45–60 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Basic Oven Omelet

  • 10 large eggs
  • 2 c. milk 500 mL
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese 250 mL
  • 1 c. diced cooked ham, bacon or sausage 250 mL
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped 60 mL
  • fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch (22 cm x 33 cm) baking dish with olive oil or non-stick cooking spray.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl and whisk in the milk, then stir in cheese, ham and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and pour into the prepared pan. At this point, the casserole can be covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is slightly golden and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool five minutes before slicing. Serves six. – Adapted from Not Your Mother’s Casseroles.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

This is so simple and half the price of purchased ricotta. I like my curds dry so I let it strain overnight in the refrigerator. Planning ahead is required.

  • 8 c. whole milk 2 L
  • 2 tbsp. white vinegar 30 mL

Bring the milk to just scalding temperature and turn off the heat. You can tell when it has reached scalding because there will be little bubbles in the milk around the inside of the pot.
Stir in vinegar. Put lid on and let sit for an hour. Strain the clotted curds through a cheesecloth-lined strainer.

Hot Herb Garlic Ricotta Dip

  • 8 oz. fresh ricotta 250 mL
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • fresh herbs such as rosemary or oregano
  • sea salt, to taste

In a small ovenproof skillet, heat enough oil to coat the bottom over medium heat. Add a few cloves of sliced garlic and cook until fragrant and just beginning to color, then immediately top with a layer of ricotta about an inch thick. Drizzle generously with oil. Bake in a 375 F (190 C) oven until bubbling on top, about 20 minutes. Top with finely chopped herbs and sea salt. Serve immediately with toasted baguette slices. Adapted from Bon Appetit.

Italian Cheesecake

The floral sweetness of golden raisins is a must in this recipe.

  • 2 tbsp. softened butter 30 mL
  • 1/2 c. ladyfinger crumbs 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. golden raisins 125 mL
  • 3 tbsp. dark rum 45 mL
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 c. sugar 250 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 3 mL
  • 4 c. drained fresh ricotta at room temperature 1 L
  • 1 c. mascarpone, at room temperature 250 mL
  • finely grated zest of one lemon and one orange
  • 1/2 c. toasted pine nuts 125 mL

Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C). Brush a nine or 10 inch (20-25 cm) springform pan with butter on the bottom and sides. Place a circle of parchment paper on the bottom. Butter the paper and coat bottom and sides with ladyfinger crumbs. Excess can stay on the bottom of the pan. Put raisins in a small bowl and pour rum over. Let soak while making the filling.
In a mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat eggs, sugar and salt at high speed until foamy and the sugar is dissolved and no longer grainy, about two minutes. Puree ricotta, mascarpone and zests and add to mixer. Drain raisins, set aside and add leftover rum to the mixer. Mix on medium until smooth and fluffy, about two minutes. Fold in raisins by hand.
Put springform pan on a baking sheet and pour batter into pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Place on the lowest rack in the oven and bake until edges are set and golden but the centre is still jiggly, about one hour. It will continue to cook as it cools. Cool on a wire rack completely before cutting and serving. Serves 10 to 12. – Adapted from Lidia’s Italy in America.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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