Celebrate dairy month with milk and cheese

This photo, from Allrecipes, is of the World’s Best Lasagna submitted by John Chandler.

Now that world seems to maybe have a little better handle on COVID-19, hopefully the dairy industry is starting to prosper a little more.

But, alas, the Lawrence County Fair is canceled this year, dousing all of my anticipation of seeing all of my dairy farmer friends whom I’ve encountered through the years. I’ve interviewed adults as little children who won grand champion banners and ribbons that they proudly displayed in their barns — the McBrides, the Trotters, the Martins, the Deans, the Sturgeons, the McKissicks, the Kinds, and the list goes on.

In more recent years, I’ve been meeting their children who are growing up in the farm families and entering the agriculture arena. They are just as proud as their parents and grandparents were, to lead those giant dairy cows, struggling to move their massive weight and getting them to stand properly as they enter the judging rings each year.

Each year there has been a cheese auction and, afterward, the Lawrence County Dairy Princess has created a giant banana split sundae that she and her associates would serve to the crowd.

As they all take a pause this year, we all need to stop and remember that some of our most important food comes from the dairy cow, and the dairy industry is one of the largest industries in Pennsylvania.

June is National Dairy Month, and we can be proud to say that a lot of the milk we drink, and the cheese, yogurt, ice cream, buttermilk, cottage cheese comes indirectly from cows being raised right here in Lawrence County.

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, National Dairy Month began as National Milk Month in 1937 as a way to promote drinking milk. It was created to stabilize the dairy demand when production was at a surplus, but has now developed into an annual tradition that celebrates the contributions the dairy industry has made to the world. After the National Dairy Council stepped in to promote the cause, the name soon changed to “Dairy Month.”

In scouting for some good dairy recipes, I found that the website for Allrecipes has 6,590 dairy recipes to choose from, but the one that caught my attention was for the World’s Best Lasagna, by John Chandler, who writes, “It takes a little work, but it’s worth it.”

For those of us who love lasagna, there are some that are good, and some not so good. Perhaps the best one I’ve tasted in a restaurant is at the White Rose Spaghetti House on Standard Avenue in Masury, Ohio. The restaurant dates back to at least the 1940s and has vintage murals of Italy on the wall. When you walk in, you smell spaghetti sauce. I always ordered spaghetti or mostaccioli there, until I tried the lasagna. Now I never order anything else.

When I saw John Chandler’s recipe in Allrecipes, it made me anxious to give it a try. Perhaps I’ll make it for someone’s birthday.

Meanwhile, last year I picked up a pamphlet called Distinctive Dairy Dishes at the Lawrence County Fair that has all good recipes using dairy products. It was printed by allied milk producers for distribution by county dairy princesses, and I’ve picked out of a few of the better ones. So in honor of Dairy Month, some of the best are being shared with you below, from main dishes to desserts:

World’s Best Lasagna

(John Chandler, Allrecipes)

1 pound sweet Italian sausage

3/4 pound lean ground beef

1/2 cup minced onion

2 cloves garlic

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 6-ounce cans tomato paste

2 6.5-ounce cans tomato sauce

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley

12 lasagna noodles

16 ounces ricotta cheese

3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water.

In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Cheddar Onion Pull-Apart Bread

(Distinctive Dairy Dishes)

2 loaves frozen bread dough

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup melted butter

1/2 package Lipton onion soup mix

Put frozen bread dough in refrigerator the night before to thaw. The next day, slice each loaf into 12 pieces. Make a pocket in each dough piece and put in some cheese, then roll dough and cheese into a ball. Combine soup mix with melted butter in a bowl. Dip each ball into the soup mixture and roll until coated. Drop each piece into a Bundt pan.

Cover and let rise until double in size. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

Temple Potatoes

(Distinctive Dairy Dishes)

8 medium potatoes, parboiled

1 small onion, minced

1/4 pound grated cheddar cheese

1/2 stick butter

1 cup half and half

1 teaspoon salt

Grease 9x13-inch pan. Peel and grate potatoes into pan; mix cheese and onions throughout. Combine salt with cream and pour over top. Dot with butter and bake in a 400-degree oven for 1 hour. Serves 6 to 8.

Raspberry salad

(Distinctive Dairy Dishes)

1 10-ounce package of frozen red raspberries, thawed

1 pint vanilla ice cream

2 3-ounce packages raspberry gelatin

1 16-ounce can frozen pink lemonade concentrate

2 cups boiling water

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Drain raspberries and reserve syrup. Dissolve gelatin into boiling water. Add ice cream by spoonfuls and stir until melted. Stir in lemonade and reserved raspberry syrup. Chill until slightly thick. Add raspberries and pecans, refrigerate till set.


Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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