By Jessica Linnell, Assistant Professor (Practice), Family & Community Health, Oregon State University Extension Service
June is dairy month! Dairy is an important part of a healthy eating because it provides calcium, potassium, magnesium and other important nutrients.
If you’re looking for something different to mix up your usual dairy routine, try ricotta cheese. Ricotta cheese is a fresh cheese that is readily available at grocery stores and very easy to make at home. When you think about ricotta, do you think of lasagna and ravioli? Did you know it’s used in other foods too? Ricotta’s wonderful milky flavor and creamy texture are a great addition to many different kinds of meals.
Move over avocado and make way for ricotta toast! Put a dollop of ricotta cheese on a piece of whole-grain toast and drizzle a bit of your favorite honey. This is also lovely when paired with summer fruits like berries or sliced peaches. You can also make this a savory toast and top with your favorite vegetables. Try whole grain toast topped with ricotta and sliced tomatoes, or mix ricotta with some sauted spinach or Swiss chard and spread the mixture on toast.
Have you ever thought of swapping ricotta for mayonnaise? Spread ricotta on whole-grain bread and add your favorite meat and veggies. How about a turkey and ricotta sandwich with tomato, roasted red peppers, basil leaves, and lettuce.
Use ricotta instead of mayonnaise in tuna salad, egg salad, or chicken salad. For a great chicken salad mix together diced cooked chicken breast, ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and chopped parsley. Then add some crunch with some chopped nuts like almonds or pine nuts, and add some sweetness with grapes, raisins, or craisins.
Ricotta also can be used to make an easy desert. Mix ricotta with any of the following things for a delicious treat: honey, vanilla, cinnamon, sliced fruit, fruit jams or jellies, or toasted nuts like walnuts, almonds, or pistachios.
EASY TO MAKE RICOTTA
If you want to try making ricotta at home it takes just about 1 hour and then it’s ready to eat. You will need 2 quarts of whole milk (1/2 gallon), 1 cup of heavy cream, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from one lemon, one large collander, and fine-mesh cheesecloth. Line the colander with four layers of fine-mesh cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl. Bring milk, cream, and salt to a boil in a large, heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Stir in lemon juice. Once it begins boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes. Pour the mixture into the lined colander and let it drain 1 hour. Discard the liquid, then cover and chill in the refrigerator; it will keep in the refrigerator 2 days. (Note: Whole milk can be replaced with 2%, 1%, or fat-free milk if preferred).
Need a great breakfast before going to the Tillamook County June Dairy Parade? Here’s a tasty recipe that combines delicious ricotta and summer berries for a hearty calcium-rich breakfast.
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry sauce
(Recipe Source: Two Peas & Their Pod)
Number of servings: 4
Time for preparation (including preparation and cooking): 35 minutes
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon canola oil
To make the blueberry sauce:
In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and cornstarch and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine the blueberries, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and stir in lemon juice and cornstarch mixture. Stir until the sauce thickens slightly. Cover to keep warm and set aside.
To make the pancakes:
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta cheese, egg, egg whites, lemon juice, lemon zest, and canola oil. Gently fold this mixture into the dry ingredients just until there are no more visible dry clumps of flour. Be careful not to over-mix.
Heat a griddle or a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray.Â Drop about 1/3 cup of batter onto the hot griddle or skillet. Cook the pancakes until browned on the underside and beginning to set, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook the pancakes on the other side, about two minutes longer. Continue making pancakes until batter is gone.
Serve the pancakes warm with blueberry sauce.