Category Archives: taste and health

“blue cheese day” celebrates america’s first grand champion cheese

This month marks the one-year anniversary of an Oregon success story that made national and international news. 

On October 18, 2019, Rogue Creamery from Central Point, Oregon, earned the title of “best cheese in the world” for their Rogue River Blue Cheese at the World Cheese Awards in Bergamo, Italy. It was the first time in the history of the competition that an American cheese was selected as grand champion.

In honor of Rogue River Blue’s historic win, Oregon Governor Kate Brown has issued a proclamation designating October 18 as Blue Cheese Day.

Similar to the “Judgement of Paris” in 1976, when American wines triumphed over the best French vintners in a blind taste test, this was a statement win and a landmark moment for American artisanal and farmstead cheeses.

The U.S. Dairy Export Council President, Tom Vilsack said, “This is more than a win for Rogue Creamery of Central Point, Oregon, The ‘Best Cheese’ title creates a halo effect that will cause global customers to look at all U.S. cheeses in a brighter light.”

This was no small feat. An international panel of 260 judges selected Rogue River Blue out of more than 3,800 cheeses from 42 countries. 

The judges experienced the signature Rogue Valley terroir captured within each taste of the organic, cave-aged blue cheese wrapped in Syrah grape leaves soaked in pear spirits, with flavors of sweet pine, wild ripened berries, hazelnuts, morels and pears. It earned their high praise and respect.

This special cheese is the product of many years of hard work and refinement by President David Gremmels with support from his dedicated team at Rogue Creamery and their organic herd of Brown Swiss and Holstein cows. Rogue Creamery is a certified B-Corporation that serves as a model for sustainability in dairy, committed to leaving a positive impact on people, animals, and the planet.

“I am humbled and filled with gratitude. This is the greatest distinction a cheese can receive,” said Rogue Creamery President, David Gremmels. “What extraordinary validation of our commitment to quality, of the place that inspires our cheese – Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley – and of the excellence of the growing American artisan cheese industry.”

Since the 2020 World Cheese Awards were postponed to 2021, Rogue River Blue will have the rare distinction of continuing its reign as “best in the world” for two years running. 

This is just one example of Oregon’s dairy producers and processors who bring our state’s great agricultural bounty to our tables. 

RELATED LINKS

Going Rogue: Oregon Cheese Makes a Big Statement

Rogue Creamery

Oregon Cheese Guild

Milk delivery returns to its roots

What’s old is new again as companies like Milk Run and Alpenrose bring back milk deliveries of the past with a new twist.  Vans splashed with colorful logos and full of local milk and produce are bringing the farm directly to your doorstep so that you can experience the fresh taste of locally harvested food.

Alpenrose, a dairy that began in 1916 in Portland, recently returned to it’s milk delivery roots this August by delivering daily milk and produce within the Portland metro area. You won’t get milk in glass bottles, but it’s easy to order through their website or mobile app.

“It’s been nearly 40 years since our trucks delivered fresh milk to the area,” said Josh Reynolds, general manager for Alpenrose. “We are ready to bring back a new, modern twist on home delivery.”

Customers can order dairy products, along with an array of produce that includes coffee from Stumptown, blackberries from Hurst’s Farm and Spielman’s bagels.

Milk Run, the brainchild of farmer Julia Niiro, started with a question: How could farmers bring fresh food from their farms directly to their neighbors?  Niiro, a partner with Revel Meat Co. in Canby, OR, reached out to a handful of neighboring farms to join her in answering it.  A few short years later, Milk Run operates in Portland and Seattle and works with over 200 farmers across Oregon to supply it’s rapidly growing customer base.  

With more people stuck at home due to quarantining, Milk Run saw an opportunity to shrink the gap between farmers and consumers and educate prospective locavores. “I think that the tactile experience of getting the food in our Milk Run box is the teaching tool for understanding what can be experienced locally.” said Lilly Harris, Operations Manager for Milk Run.  

Alongside favorite staples like Sourdough Boules from Grano Bakery, fresh eggs from Trent Family Farms and Gravenstein Apples from Kiyokawa Orchards, dairy lovers will be happy to see locally produced milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, cream cheese, sour cream and more.  Participating farms and processors include TMK Creamery, Garry’s Meadow Fresh, Nancy’s, Organic Valley, Larsen’s Creamery, Lulubelle’s Creamery, Briar Rose Creamery, Cascadia Creamery and Willamette Valley Cheese.” 

“We can think about local food abstractly,” said Harris, “But having it delivered to your doorstep and opening a box of local produce is a totally different experience. You’re able to see what’s in season and learn why it’s important to cherish the produce when it’s fresh and ripe.”

Farmers seem to be responding in kind to the local demand for their products. Lulubelle’s, one of Milk Run’s dairy purveyors, will soon be producing new products like Half & Half and Heavy Cream for it’s online customers.

In working directly with farmers, Harris commented, “I think farmers are the most grounded, intelligent people that we could possibly work with.  They’re knowledgable about their craft and excited to share what they produce with consumers.  I love being able to provide that conduit for their excitement and knowledge.” 

It’s Time to Celebrate Ice Cream Month!

Let’s celebrate ice cream!

Many activities have been cancelled during this pandemic, but don’t let that stop you from celebrating National Ice Cream Month and National Ice Cream Day on July 19!

Ice cream seems to make everything better, as we witnessed when ice cream sales increased by 45% in March. When the going gets tough, Americans reach for comfort foods, and ice cream is a quintessential comfort indulgence. After all, money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy ice cream and that’s basically the same thing. 

So, how can you celebrate this national ice cream month? We have some ideas to get you started. 

If you’re comfortable leaving your home, there are ice cream shops that have figured out a way to open their stores and still comply with social distancing protocols, and with the recent closures, these shops still need your support! Just in time for National Ice Cream Day on July 19, we have updated our crowdsourced Oregon Ice Cream Trail for 2020. Open the map, connect the dots, and check out some open shops near you. You could even plan an ice cream-themed road trip! 

In select communities where county fairs have been cancelled, the Oregon Dairy Women and Wilco have partnered to deliver some happiness in the form of ice cream. Many Oregon State Fair attendees look forward to the Oregon Dairy Women’s soft serve ice cream every year, so this year the Oregon Dairy Women figured out a way to take their famous State Fair soft serve ice cream on the road with the “Red Barn on Wheels.” They will be set up in Wilco parking lots across the Willamette Valley and will be open most weekends in July and August, Friday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Money from their ice cream sales and tips will go to support dairy education programs in Oregon. Check out the Oregon Dairy Women Facebook page to see if they will be visiting a Wilco near you! And may we recommend you try the delicious Marionberry Milkshake? 

If you’re not comfortable going out, ice cream can also be delivered straight to your home! Check out this article for ice cream deliveries available in the Portland area. 

Or, maybe after you finish making your 130th sourdough bread, you’ll want to try your hand at making ice cream. It’s much easier than you may think!

You can make it in a couple of zip top bags, with ingredients you probably already have in your home, or with an ice cream machine.

It’s a great opportunity to try new flavors like the Loganberry ice cream Guernsey Dairy Mama recently created. Don’t forget to add your favorite toppings of berries, chocolate, or sprinkles! 

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? Have you tried a new flavor during the pandemic? Let us know in the comments on our Facebook page

Stay Home, Stay Safe, Stay Healthy

We will all remember the Spring of 2020 because of the stay at home restrictions put in place to help stop the spread of disease.   To make the most of the time, we offer you these tips to stay healthy while staying home.

Eat Well. Our bodies need the best fuel every day, and this is a great time to focus on healthy food choices.  Eating a balanced diet, which includes lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, dairy and whole grains, can help keep you healthy. And, it’s easy! Use the USDA’s MyPlate app as your guide.  Think about food groups when planning meals and snacks.  Try for at least two food groups for a snack – fruit and cheese, for example – and at least three for a meal – whole grain pasta, tomato sauce with added vegetables, and lean ground beef.  Pour a glass of milk to round out the meal.

Drink plenty of fluids. Your body depends on fluids to survive, and most healthy people can stay well hydrated by drinking water and other fluids whenever they feel thirsty. Water is recommended, but when you want something different, consider drinks that won’t add unnecessary sugars to your diet, like milk. Milk not only tastes great, it also is an affordable, excellent source of 9 essential nutrients. And, did you know that three of the nutrients – vitamin A, vitamin D, and protein – are essential for a healthy immune function?

Get fresh air. While doctors don’t typically prescribe sitting on your porch to cure an ailment, they do say that stepping outside can help to impact both our physical and mental health.  Open a window, take a walk, or sit on your porch. “Taking a short break outdoors can leave you feeling refreshed and more energized to get back to your daily tasks,” says Dr. Jimmy Johannes, a pulmonologist at Long Beach Medical in this article. Plus, it’s easy to keep a safe “social distance” outdoors!

Keep moving. Just because the gyms are closed doesn’t mean you should stop your exercise routine. Use this time as an opportunity to try something new. Many gyms are offering online classes, and many at home programs are offering free trials. Who knows? Maybe now is the time to start training for your next 5k or marathon. It starts with the resolve to keep moving. Need to get started? The Department of Health and Human Services offers physical activity guidelines and practical ways to be active on their website.

Get plenty of sleep. Getting a good night of sleep not only helps you feel and think better, it can also help you manage stress. Start with a healthy evening routine.  Turn off the screens, including your phone, an hour before bed and pick up a good book, meditate, write, play music or find another relaxing activity that will settle your brain.  Being “stuck” at home does mean you have an opportunity to binge-watch your favorite television show, just consider that getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep will help you stay healthy.

Do something good. Times are stressful. People are uncertain, confused and cooped up. A great way to help manage your own stress is to take time each day to do something for someone else. Check on a neighbor, share a roll of TP, call a parent or grandparent, sew some masks for healthcare workers, or donate funds to your local food bank. While you are at it, thank a farmer for continuing to produce food for your family. Even doing something small for someone else will boost your mood- and theirs too!

Domino’s and Dairy: A Partnership Powered by Pizza

What does a popular pizza chain and a local dairy have in common? A lot more than just cheese. Both are part of a strong partnership that benefits farmers, local franchisees and their communities.

Recently, Jake Fraizer of Dallas, Oregon, was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council for his exemplary contributions to the dairy industry and his local community.

Jake Fraizer has only had one job in his life. “I started delivering pizzas when I was 18, and worked my way up,” he said. Now 17 years later, he’s part owner in a successful Domino’s pizza store in Dallas, Oregon. “I love it,” he said. “I still love delivering. No one is ever mad to see the pizza guy.”

In 2019, Domino’s was named the top pizza chain based on annual sales, but that has not always been the case. In a 2009, in a survey of consumer taste preferences among national pizza chains, Domino’s tied for last place. That same year Domino’s announced plans to entirely reinvent its pizza with a unique ad campaign where consumers were filmed criticizing the pizza quality, and chefs were shown developing a new pizza. The dairy checkoff organization, Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) committed to address this situation with Domino’s because about 25 percent of all U.S. cheese ends up on a pizza.

“During the past ten years, we have invested in partnerships with influential quick service restaurant companies,” said Marilyn Hershey, board member for DMI. “That investment includes providing these partners with consumer insights, product development and nutrition expertise to develop new menu choices that include dairy, and that in turn find new markets for farmer’s milk. “Our four key partners, Domino’s, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut have moved more than 2 billion equivalent pounds of milk in the duration of our work together.”

“Domino’s is one of these partnerships that feels more like family than partner,” said Hershey. “They love our partnership, they love dairy farmers, and they love our cheese.”

“It’s nice for me to let customers know that the cheese is actually from a farm,” said Fraizer. “Everybody thinks all fast food is fake, and it’s not. So that’s a big part of it, especially when it comes to dairy. I’d rather have all of our ingredients locally, like in the US, instead of getting shipped around, so I like the dairy partnerships.”

But this small town Domino’s and a local dairy have more in common than just cheese.

“When we are harvesting the crops, my guys put in long hours. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to offer them a warm meal as a thank you,” said Louie Kazemier, Owner of Rickreall Dairy, located just outside of Dallas, Oregon.

Even though the farm is technically out of Fraizer’s service radius, he will still deliver to Rickreall Dairy.  “We deliver out to the dairy a lot,” said Fraizer. “Louie does so much for the community I don’t mind.”

And, Fraizer often goes above and beyond. One year, after a particularly difficult harvest, Fraizer didn’t charge anything for the pizzas. “I’m still not sure if he could see the exhaustion on my face or was just feeling generous, but either way it was really nice,” said Kazemier.

The appreciation is mutual. “He does so much for Christmas Cheer, and the community. And Christmas Cheer means a lot to me,” said Fraizer.

Christmas Cheer, a nonprofit organization in Dallas, feeds families in need over the holidays. Fraizer and his wife joined the board of directors four years ago. “I think every kid should see how lucky they are that they have food,” said Fraizer. “That was ingrained in me, especially by my dad.”  

Christmas Cheer does various canned food drives throughout the year, but the perishable items like meat and dairy products, are more difficult to obtain. Kazemier’s donation of ground beef and milk helped to feed 500 families this past Christmas. “Anything perishable like meat or milk or cheese is so expensive that getting a donation is massive,” says Fraizer.

Fraizer’s donation of time and effort is an easy decision. “I grew up in this town, I think it’s kind of selfish if I don’t [give back],” he said. “I also like that it’s local. I know exactly where the money is going”.

Kazemier shares Fraizer’s sentiments on giving back. “I’ve been blessed and I want to bless others,” he said.

Their lives barely ever intersect, except when pizza is delivered, but this dairy farm owner and franchisee partner together to not only make a high quality product for their customers, but also in giving back to their community.

RELATED LINKS:

Domino’s Bets Added Cheese Will Further Grow Brand

Domino’s- An Undeniably Strong Partnership

The Melt Down: Grilled Cheese Event Goes Bigger Than Ever

It’s a dream come true for fans of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, and it’s bigger and better than ever in 2020.

There’s a popular month-long event called “The Melt Down,” where sales of signature grilled cheese sandwiches throughout February support YCAP regional food bank efforts to fight hunger. This year’s “Deluxe Edition” includes 68 participating restaurants and businesses in Yamhill County and 13 sponsors. The restaurants are in a friendly competition for the title of the “Biggest Cheese.”

Each restaurant has their own unique take on the classic grilled cheese sandwich, many with clever names to match. Some examples include: Diet Starts Tomorrow, The Triple Texan, Play with your Food, Ooey Gooey Tomato Grilled Cheesy and Check Yo Self Before You Raclette Yo Self. While there are options for the strict grilled cheese purists, some other ingredients include peanut butter, jalapeños, pineapple, pesto, potatoes, marinara, brisket, avocado and quince chutney.

But how to decide with so many options to choose from? Easy. There’s a passport with details on the sandwiches available at each stop, including their address and business hours. Those who show their passports get stamps or signatures to make them eligible to win prizes donated by 40 area businesses.

Local restaurants in the community are also winners since the event generates increased business thanks to The Melt Down. “It is hard to believe that a small idea just a few years ago has grown into such a successful fundraiser and has provided a much needed economic boost to so many businesses here in Yamhill County,” said YCAP Development Specialist Diane Longaker.

In 2019, more than 6,280 sandwiches were sold, raising approximately $20,000. That equals more than 65,000 meals for the people served by YCAP and its food bank. Oregon dairy farmers and processors including Tillamook and Organic Valley are supporting The Melt Down: Deluxe Edition with hopes for record-setting results. You can help by ordering a grilled cheese from participating restaurants through February 29.

RELATED LINKS:

The 2020 Melt Down: Deluxe Edition

YCAP Regional Food Bank

Nine Reasons to Enjoy Real Milk in Your Handcrafted Coffee Drink

These days, there are a lot of choices when it comes to ordering barista-crafted beverages, and it isn’t just about flavored syrups. Most of that latte, mocha or cappuccino you enjoy is comprised of milk (or alternatives), and at $4 to $6 a cup it’s an investment that you want to get right.

As individuals, we certainly have our own choices, and there are plenty of reasons to proudly order real milk in your favorite coffee beverage. Here are nine of them:

1. Enjoy a Perfect Pairing

Many baristas prefer to use real milk for specialty coffee drinks. It has the right taste, creamy texture, and foams consistently when steamed because of its richness in protein.

2. Get Real

Milk has one of the cleanest labels around. What you see is what you get, so you know exactly what you’re drinking when you order real milk.

3. Consider the Footprint

About 90% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. are from transportation, power generation, industry, commercial and residential. Yet U.S. dairy’s impact is estimated at just two percent, and dairy farmers just keep improving their practices.

4. Buy Local

On average, real milk travels less than 100 miles from cow to coffee shop.

5. Choose Sustainability

Dairy farmers are sustainable by nature. Their cows can eat food that humans can’t or don’t want to eat and upcycle it into milk. Farmers recycle water, use manure as natural fertilizer, regenerate their lands and some even generate renewable natural gas and electricity.

6. Boost Your Economy

The dairy industry provides jobs and pays for services that support families in our rural communities. Dairy processing jobs also pay higher on average than others in the food processing sector, and those wages are spent locally.

7. Drink Nutrients

Nutrient-dense milk is often called nature’s perfect beverage. It is packed with nine essential nutrients and is an especially good source of protein and calcium.

8. Support Cow Care

Dairy cows are well cared for. Farmers know that when they treat their cows well, the cows perform better. In addition to a nutritious diet and healthcare, many enjoy back scratchers, waterbeds, and climate-controlled shelters.

9. Save Money

Real milk is affordable and a great value.

Dairy farmers work 365 days a year (366 days in 2020) to bring milk and dairy products to your local coffee shops, grocery stores and kitchen tables. They take great pride in caring for their employees, animals and natural resources. So the next time you order a triple “mochalatteccino” or whatever your go-to order is, make sure you ask for real milk, and raise a toast to your local dairy farmers!

Wow Your Holiday Guests with These Cheese and Chocolate Pairings

This holiday season, we recommend you introduce your friends and family to a new power couple: cheese and chocolate. That’s right, two individual favorites combine to give you an unexpectedly compatible taste that is sure to impress at your next holiday party. If you’re in a hurry, skip to the bottom for suggestions on pairings.

But, why pair cheese and chocolate together?

You have heard the saying that opposites attract, but in this case it’s the similarities in cheese and chocolate that make them pair well together.

1. Both are indulgent.

Typically cheese or chocolate are among the top snacks Americans will reach for when they want some decadence. Pair them together and you get a luxury hors d’oeuvre perfect for special occasions.

2. Both flavor profiles can be sweet.

Typically, cheese is considered to be a savory treat, and chocolate a sweet snack. However, depending on your cheese type, it can have a sweeter aftertaste and the darker the chocolate the more savory the taste.

3. Both chocolate and cheese are fermented.

Most people understand the cheese making process of fermenting milk, but did you realize the cacao bean must first be fermented in order to make chocolate? The fermentation process makes cheese and chocolate a winning combination much like our traditional preference to pair cheese and wine.

4. Both cheese and chocolate can contribute to your health.

Cheese has the nutritious benefits of protein, calcium, and phosphorus, along with vitamins A and B12. And although chocolate isn’t always known for its nutritional benefits, the main ingredient in chocolate, cacao, is abundant in the antioxidant flavonoids and theobromine.  Now, we aren’t suggesting that cheese and chocolate can replace your greens at dinner, but we are saying the combination can be part of an overall healthy diet.

cape mears_dk cherry almond_h

Make the most of your tasting experience.

Turns out there is an art and science to pairing foods, however, there are no rules when it comes to pairing cheese with chocolate; it’s a matter of personal preference, so feel free to experiment! And, if you are wanting to pair like the professionals, here are a few tips:

1. Smell both the chocolate and cheese before tasting.

Did you ever wonder why sommeliers smell the wine before tasting? It’s because aroma and taste combine to create a flavor profile through the nose and mouth that is interpreted to the brain for a more thorough tasting experience. When you smell your chocolate and cheese combination, it will give you a more complete flavor.

2. Resist the urge to chew the chocolate.

We recommend tasting the chocolate first, and make sure to release the flavors slowly by pressing a small piece to the roof of your mouth and running your tongue along the bottom of it, allowing it to melt. This will help you appreciate the texture of the chocolate, along with the specifics of flavor. With many chocolates, the flavor will change as it melts in your mouth. Once you have enjoyed the taste of chocolate on its own, add a small bite of cheese and notice the flavor change again.

Setting up your tasting

You can try any number of combinations to determine your favorite flavors and textures, but here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Choose high quality cheeses and chocolates.

Although it may be tempting to reach for your leftover Halloween candy and your regular cheddar for a pairing, we recommend thinking outside of the box. Consider buying your cheese from a cheese counter, or a local creamery. For the chocolate, look for chocolates made with high quality cacao and fewer ingredients. You may be surprised to find quality, local chocolates with a simple search.

2. Bring the chocolate and cheese to room temperature.

Once you have selected your cheeses and chocolates, cut them into bite sized pieces and let them sit at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes. This will help you appreciate their aromas and taste.

3. Offer a palate cleanser.

Be sure to offer crackers or fruit in between pairings to give your guests’ taste buds a rest.

4. Organize your pairings.

Order the pairings from mild in flavor to bold in intensity.  This will help you guide the tasting and prevent taste buds from being overwhelmed.

Now you’re the expert.

That’s it! You are well on your way to becoming a cheese and chocolate connoisseur at your next holiday party. However, if you are need of some inspired combinations, here are some our favorites to get you started.

monterey jack_chili chocolate

Monterey Jack with Milk Chocolate

Both the milk chocolate and the Monterey Jack will bring out the other’s soft and creamy texture to create a classic and delicious pairing.

vintage xsharp white_dark chocolate raspberry

Vintage Extra Sharp with Dark Chocolate Raspberry

This specialty aged cheeses are known for robust flavor, creamy and buttery with a bite, so it pairs with the tartness of the Dark Chocolate Raspberry. The brightness of the raspberry balances the slight bitterness of a vintage white.

smoked black pepper_sea salt chocolate

Smoked Black Pepper with Sea Salt

This paring is a tribute to the classic salt and pepper pairing. Did you know salt is the only rock that we eat? And, the enduring popularity of black pepper may owe itself to one picky eater, French King Louis XIV who preferred only salt and pepper, to the extent that he banned all other seasonings.

cape mears _salted almond

English cheddar with Salted Almond Dark Chocolate or Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond

English cheddars tend to be a slightly sweet and creamy cheddar. See what chocolate pairing your friends prefer! Whether they go with more sweet or savory, the almonds will add texture and bring out a nutty flavor to the cheese.

hot habanero jack with milk chocolate

Hot Habanero Jack with Milk Chocolate

And end your tasting with a paring where opposites attract. Milk chocolate is chosen to pair with a habanero in this Monterey Jack cheese to cool the spice on your tongue, while still bringing out the creamy texture in both the chocolate and the cheese creating a classily delicious pairing.

When it comes to pairing chocolate and cheese, it is all about personal preferences. Doing some “research” with family and friends can bring some fun and tasty pairings to your next holiday get together.

RELATED LINKS:

Cheese and Chocolate Pairings | Cabot Creamery

Tasting Chocolate | Ghirardelli

How to Pair Flavors, According to Science |Tasting Table

Cheese Pairing with Chocolate: a Winning Combination | The Wisconsin Cheeseman

How to Pair Chocolate with Cheese | wikiHow

Milk to the Rescue: Addressing an Ongoing Need

It’s a staple of American households and often tops the grocery list, but for many low-income families, having milk in the refrigerator can be a rarity. According to the Great American Milk Drive, people served by food banks receive less than one gallon per person per year on average. In Oregon, that statistic is changing.

Thanks to an influx of milk provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Oregon Food Bank network has been distributing nutritious skim, 1%, 2%, and whole milk every week to local families and individuals. So far, this has totaled nearly 160,000 gallons.

While it is great news, this did pose some challenges due to perishability, refrigeration capacity and logistics. In what they described as ‘a flurry of activity,’ Oregon Food Bank staff welcomed the distribution challenge and overcame stumbling blocks in coordination with Oregon’s 20 regional food banks to get the product in and out to communities as quickly as possible.

“This is a highly valuable and needed product across our region, and we’ve gotten really strong support from our partners in adjusting systems and processes that allow us to accept incredibly high volumes of milk,” said Gretchen Miller, Sourcing and Operations Strategist for Oregon Food Bank. “It’s more than we ever have in the past. What we’re happiest about is that we’re able to get fresh, high quality milk into the food insecure communities we serve.”

This milk provides a temporary supply to meet ongoing demand, and there are still long term needs to be addressed when it comes to fighting hunger in Oregon. You can help make a difference by contributing to the Oregon Food Bank and/or the Great American Milk Drive.

Nine Easy Ways to Hack Your Pizza

On National Pizza Day, and all of the other 364 days of the year, people across this country settle for sad slices of pizza that were once frozen solid like a manhole cover, lacking toppings or damaged in delivery. They often look nothing like the picture above and sometimes taste like cardboard. Let’s face it, not all pizzas are created equal.

We’re here to help with nine easy ways you can upgrade an uninspired, pathetic pie by hacking your pizza:

accessory-1238759_960_720.jpg1. Cheese It Up

Sure, you can always add more cheese to take it to the next level, but you might be surprised how trying different types of cheese can improve an otherwise boring pizza. While some scientists claim that mozzarella and cheddar are the best mix, there’s also provolone, Gouda, Colby, Edam, Asiago, Gruyère, Emmental, bleu, ricotta, burrata – and you’ll probably want to top it off with some Parmesan.

pizza-346985_960_720-e1549687918746.jpg2. Veg Out

So you ordered a basic cheese or one topping pizza? Add pre-cooked vegetables for extra flavor and extra nutrition. Beyond popular favorites like garlic, peppers, onions, olives and mushrooms, have you tried zucchini, corn, cauliflower, kale, quinoa, squash, broccoli or spinach? And don’t forget about fruits! Besides pineapple, some use peaches, pears, apples, bananas and fig.

pesto-1776673_960_720-e1549688039525.jpg3. Take a Dip

Dips aren’t just for chips. Sometimes the easiest way to jazz up a bland slice isn’t in the slice itself. Some swear by ranch dressing, but depending on the flavor of the slice you can also go with marinara, garlic and herb, pesto, BBQ, buffalo or hummus. Some even dip their pizza in milk. We’re not making this up … it’s a thing.

pepper-662550_960_720-e1549688142535.jpg4. Spice It Up

This one isn’t for everyone, but for those who like their pizza hot and spicy, you don’t have to settle for that packet of dried red peppers. There’s Tabasco, Sriracha, Cholula (everybody has their favorites), and if that’s not enough, you can add peppers ranging from hot to ‘you might need to sign a waiver’ before you eat it.

food-3309419_960_7205. Cook Like A Pro

Promote your small time pizza to the big leagues by cooking it on a pizza stone. You can make your own with a few bucks at a home improvement store. Look for untreated, unglazed terra cotta or quarry tiles. They’ll distribute the heat more evenly in your oven or barbeque. Yes you read that right, you can cook a pizza on a barbeque.

olive-oil-salad-dressing-cooking-olive-e1549688593916.jpg6. Rub the Crust

Coat the crust with olive oil before you stick the pizza in the oven. You can also use melted butter, garlic powder, crushed garlic, oregano, and some grated parmesan cheese. This simple step can add a seasoned and flavorful boost to any premade pizza.

american-1238676_960_720-e1549688710591.jpg7. Walk on the Wild Side

We’re not just talking about sprinkling some bacon bits on top, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Try adding some new combos like peaches and prosciutto, blackberries and basil, even shrimp and lobster. There’s plenty of inspiration online … alongside pizzas with hardboiled eggs, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, spaghetti and ramen noodles.

watercress-600072_960_720-e1549688802350.jpg8. Change It Up

There are a lot of ways to cook pizza that don’t even look like pizza. For example, put a pizza upside down on another pizza with cheese in the middle and you have a grilled cheese pizza/calzone impersonator. Go a stack higher for pizza lasagna. Roll a mozzarella stick inside slices or cut strips of ‘pizza fries.’ Kids like slices cooked on a stick like a Popsicle or heated in a waffle iron.

pan-544679_960_7209. Win Round Two

There’s an art to reheating slices. Using an oven, preheat to 375 and put it on a hot baking tray, cookie sheet or foil for 10 minutes. Or put it in a skillet, covered on medium heat with a few drops of water in the pan, and cook for at least five minutes. Then there’s the microwave – just place a cup of water next to the pizza when you cook it.

Hopefully one or more of these pizza hacks will help you elevate your next pizza from disappointing to delectable. If you’re still not impressed, try getting the ingredients to make your own pizza the next time you’re at the grocery store. It’s pretty easy with enough time and the right ingredients. Bon appétit!

 

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