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ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Caraway Cheese Spread With A Caraway Stout Cocktail

Caraway seed, from a member of the carrot family*, is a popular seasoning in Irish cuisine. Here’s a great way to start St. Patrick’s Day dinner: with Caraway Cheese Spread and a Caraway Stout Cocktail.


This cheese spread from McCormick is so easy to prepare—it takes just five minutes when you start with a prepared Cheddar cheese spread. Make it ahead of time, refrigerate, and let it warm up on the counter for a few minutes prior to serving.
Ingredients For 1-1/4 Cups (10 Servings)

  • 1 container (12 ounces) Cheddar cheese spread, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons minced onions
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons caraway seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s® Seasoned Salt (or substitute†)
    For Serving

  • Crudités
  • Crackers
  • Baguette slices

    Cheese Spread

    Caraway Cheese Spread from McCormick. You can make it in 5 minutes.

    *Apiaceae, commonly known as the carrot, celery or parsley family, is a family of mostly aromatic plants with hollow stems.

    †Here’s how to blend your own seasoned salt.


    1. MIX the cheese spread and seasonings in medium bowl. Cover.

    2. REFRIGERATE at least 2 hours to blend flavors.


    Stout Cocktail

    Caraway Stout Cocktail from McCormick: stout plus Irish whiskey!



    Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with this cocktail that features Irish whiskey, Guinness Extra Stout and licorice flavor notes from caraway seeds. It uses homemade caraway simple syrup—easy to make in 10 minutes.
    Ingredients Per Drink

    For The Caraway Simple Syrup (Enough For 6 Cocktails)

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed, coarsely crushed‡
    For The Caraway Stout Cocktail

  • 2 tablespoons caraway simple syrup (recipe below)
  • 1 ounce Irish whiskey
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) Guinness Extra Stout or substitute, chilled

    1. MAKE the simple syrup: Coarsely crush the caraway seeds (see footnote†). Bring the sugar, water and caraway seeds to boil in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let stand 1 hour. Strain the caraway seeds and refrigerate the syrup until ready to serve.

    2. MIX the cocktails: Combine the caraway simple syrup and the whiskey in tall glass. Pour the beer into glass. Serve immediately.

    ‡How to crush caraway seeds: Coarsely crush seeds with a mortar and pestle. Or, place seeds in a small resealable plastic bag. Close tightly. Pound with a rolling pin, mallet or heavy skillet until coarsely crushed.



    RECIPES: It’s Cherry Time!

    Fresh cherry season begins in May; but today is George Washington’s Birthday, a traditional occasion for cherry pie and other cherry recipes.

    We started the day with a Cherry Yogurt Parfait. Chobani, Dannon and Yoplait, among others, sell cherry-flavored yogurt; but one can easily make a more festive yogurt parfait. And we did! We prefer our parfait to a cup of cherry yogurt.



  • Yogurt brand of choice, in plain or vanilla; if you can find cherry yogurt, great
  • Cherries: fresh in season, frozen in the off-season
  • Optional: dried cherries (alone or in combination)
    What about canned or jarred cherries or cherry pie filling?

    You can mix cherries in water or light syrup into plain yogurt, but sweet, gloppy pie filling is over the top.

    1. COMBINE the yogurt and cherries in a mixing bowl, in your preferred proportions. Reserve a few cherries as a topping for the parfait. Stir to combine.

    2. SCOOP into a dessert dish, parfait dish, Martini glass or other festive vessel. Garnish with the reserved cherries and serve.

  • In the “normal” way—as a yogurt parfait.
  • Atop dry cereal (we eliminate the milk, and enjoy the cereal at its crunchy best).
  • As a topping for pancakes or waffles.
  • As a garnish for fruit salad.
  • Spooned over pound cake or angel food cake.
  • Atop frozen yogurt.

    Pick up some Welch’s Fruit & Yogurt Snacks in the new Cherry flavor.


    Cherry Yogurt Parfait

    Welch's Fruit 'n Yogurt - Cherry

    Top: Make a Cherry Yogurt Parfait like this one from Bottom: Want something that’s grab-and-go? Have fun with these yogurt-covered cherry snacks from Welch’s.

    Small, round and chewy, they are, alas, addictive. There’s more information on the Welch’s Fruit Snacks website.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Compound Butter (Flavored Butter )

    Compound Butter

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/crayfish butter chickenfriedgourmet

    Truffle Butter

    Compound Butter

    Compound Butter

    Compound Butters

    Cookies & Compound Butter

    Beurre à la maître d’hotel, lemon parsley butter; crayfish compound butter for seafood; pasta tossed with truffle butter; roasted sea bass with herb butter; herb, bourbon-pecan, and gorgonzola butters, ready to spread on bread; last but not least, sweet compound butter for dessert or pancakes. Photos: Brown-Eyed Baker, Chef Michael O’Boyle,, Land O’Lakes,


    Want to become a more impressive cook instantly? Use compound butter! Also known as finishing butter or beurre composé in French, it’s unsalted butter that has been blended with seasonings.

    There are endless variations. Escoffier published 35 combinations in 1903, and cuisine has evolved in many directions since his classic renderings of anchovy butter and beurre à la maître d’hotel (lemon parsley butter, which is the sauce served with escargots).

    In Continental cuisine, compound butter is added to the pan to finish a sauce, placed directly atop meat, fish or vegetables to create a flavorful garnish, or mixed into pasta and rice. Just a dab transforms a dish: If you think butter makes everything taste better, think of what butter infused with great seasonings will do.

    Herb butter and Roquefort butter are classics atop steak, anchovy butter has long been paired with grilled seafood) are staples at fine steakhouses. On the sweet side, honey butter and strawberry butter have long been a brunch favorite.

    These are just a few of the dozens that were long a part of the standard fine-cooking repertory. The compound butter most often used in the U.S.: garlic butter.

    A melting dollop of compound butter is an attractive garnish, melting over a piece of beef or fish; or can be used in the kitchen to make a quick pan sauce, adding mouth feel add fat and flavor simultaneously. Whether at a restaurant or at home, it creates an easy upgrade to a simple dish.

    But trends in cooking, from cuisine minceur (lighter French food) and Asian-accented dishes, have pushed the one-ubiquitous compound butter to the side.

    Fear not, butter lovers: According to Flavor & The Menu, compound butter is currently trending with restaurant chefs.

    The new compound butter, however, is modernized with flavors that would not have found their way into Escoffier’s (or Julia Child’s) compound butters:

  • Hot sauce compound butter, tossed with potato tots or fried vegetables, from Chef Ray Martin of Noodle Fresh in Orange County, California.
  • Ramp butter for pasta and sea urchin butter for Lobster Bucatini, from Benjamin Lambert at 701 in D.C.
  • Ribeye with gochujang butter, at Edward Lee’s Succotash in National Harbor, Maryland.
  • Wasabi-yuzu-kosho butter, at Wolfgang Puck’s Cut in Las Vegas.
  • Pork belly-sake butter served over pork tenderloin, from Chef Deb Paquettte in Nashville.
    Compound Butter As An Appetizer!

    Chef Paquette offers a butter tasting as an appetizer—and it’s very popular. Diners get four distinct flavored butters with a French baguette. The flavors change, but recent flavors have included cashew-ginger, mushroom-taleggio-tarragon, saffron chorizo and Steak Diane, which blends the butter with a reduction of beef stock, red wine, thyme and Dijon.

    More Compound Butter Ideas From Flavor & The Menu

  • Avocado + Citrus: Season butter with smashed avocado, zesty chile-lime seasoning and chopped cilantro, shape into a log and chill. Serve over grilled skirt steak, chicken and fish, or slather on grilled Mexican street corn with cotija cheese.
  • Bacon + Blue cheese: Pair the bold, craveable flavors of crumbled blue cheese and salty-crisp bacon with unsalted butter, coarse black pepper and minced chives. Serve as a signature topper for grilled steak, shrimp, chicken, specialty burgers and roasted potatoes.
  • Creole + Roasted Garlic + Lemon: Add New Orleans attitude to your menu with a Creole butter seasoned with rich, roasted garlic and caramelized lemon, Louisiana hot sauce and Creole seasoning. This is delicious over grilled oysters, scallops or as a signature butter paired with crusty bread.
  • Lemon + Rosemary + Asiago: Combine lemon zest, fresh rosemary, sea salt and grated Asiago cheese with unsalted butter. Slice into coins and serve over grilled fish, roast chicken, haricots verts and grilled vegetables. Or spread over grilled flatbread for an appetizer.
  • Sriracha + Honey: Blend unsalted butter with golden honey and fiery Sriracha sauce for a sweet and spicy flavored butter; spread on a split hot-from-the-oven biscuit and top with a crispy chicken filet and bread-and-butter pickles for a hearty “anytime” breakfast sandwich.

  • Chipotle butter for corn on the cob.
  • Gochujang and honey butter on a garlicky seared chicken paillard.
  • Sriracha and toasted sesame butter on cracked pepper-seared scallops.
  • Harissa, honey and za’atar butter over cumin-spiced, char-grilled lamb chops.
  • Aleppo pepper, smoked-salt maple butter over wood-fired Brussels sprouts.

  • For a topping butter, consider adding flavorful liquids like wine, reduced citrus juice, soy or mirin. Whip at high speed to marry the flavors; the butter will break, but keep whipping—it will come together again.
  • Try roasting items like mushrooms and onions, then finely chop and whip into butters for concentrated flavor.
  • Toast or lightly fry spices like curry powder, smoked paprika and chile powder before adding to flavored butters.
    On The Sweet Side

  • Tangerine + Dark Chocolate: Combine European-style unsalted butter with tangerine zest, orange marmalade and chopped pieces of best-quality dark chocolate. Spread over a warm croissant or brioche as a signature brunch option.
  • For sweet butters, use high-quality flavored syrups like blackberry and toasted hazelnut for consistency.
  • Cookie butters have been trending on the retail side, to spread on cookie! What else would you do with this Snickerdoodle Cookie Butter recipe?

    First, remember that any of these butters can also be used on bread, potatoes, rice, vegetables, etc.

  • Compound butter technique and recipes
  • Crayfish Butter Recipe for fish and seafood
  • Mussels With Maître d’Hotel Butter Recipe
  • Hazelnut Butter, which goes with just about everything
  • Still more compound butters from Epicurean Butter
    Once you’ve developed your favorite compound butters, you can bring them as gifts to friends who cook (or who love bread and butter).


    FOOD FUN: Make Beet Yogurt For Your Valentine

    Beet Yogurt - Samin Nosrat


    Top: The secret ingredient is popped
    mustard seeds. Photo courtesy Samin
    Nosrat. Bottom: Serve either recipe with
    homemade pita wedges. Photo courtesy
    The Pioneer Woman


    Our supermarkets are filled with cooked, packaged, ready-to-eat beets brought in for Valentine’s Day. While we love fresh-roasted beets, they’re the most time-consuming root vegetables to prepare.

    We got the message. We’re using the pre-cooked beets to make Valentine dips and spreads. If you want to roast your own, we salute you.

    This recipe, by California chef and author Samin Nosrat, is adapted from one published on (and further adapted by us). We received it from Good Eggs in San Francisco, an outstanding grocery delivery service.

    Good Eggs recommends it as an addition to a composed salad, a spread for a cheese board or a tangy addition to a sandwich. “Once you start stirring popped mustard seeds into your savory cooking, you’ll never stop,” they assure us.


    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 1 pound red beets (you can use other colors for other occasions)
  • Salt
  • Cooking oil of choice
  • 1 teaspoon brown or yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk yogurt
  • 1/2 lemon

    1. HEAT a small pan over medium heat for a minute. Pour in enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add the mustard seeds. Swirl the pan until the mustard seeds begin to pop, cover the pan so the seeds don’t escape, and reduce the heat to low. After about 30 seconds, you’ll hear the popping slow down.


    2. REMOVE the pan from the heat and let the seeds cool, uncovered, for a minute or two. Cut the beets into large chunks and place them in the bowl of a food processor, along with the garlic. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. You can use a potato masher if you prefer it to a food processor: The mashed beets will be a much rougher texture (like hand-mashed potatoes) but still fine for all purposes.

    3. ADD the popped mustard seeds, yogurt, a big squeeze of lemon juice, and some salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.



    This is the yogurt to whip up for Valentine’s Day. You can make it with any color of beets, but save the orange and yellow for another occasion and use red beets. You can make the recipe a day in advance.

    Use beet yogurt as a dip, a spread, or as a topping—for baked potatoes, cottage cheese, grains, veggies, sandwiches, etc.

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 pound beets (about 3 medium)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt (your choice of 0%, 2% or full fat)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon*
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Crudités: cucumber slices, carrots, anything good for scooping

    Beet Yogurt Recipe

    A very romantic dish of yogurt. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

  • Whole wheat pita, cut into triangles and toasted (recipe below, or substitute pita chips)
  • ____________________
    *If you don’t like the licorice notes in tarragon, substitute basil or chervil.


    If you want to roast your own beats, follow the first three steps. Otherwise, skip to Step 4.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F.

    2. SCRUB and trim the beets, but leave the skins on. Place them in a small baking pan or casserole and fill it with 1/2″ hot water. Sprinkle with salt, cover with a piece of parchment paper, and then cover dish tightly with foil.

    3. ROAST the beets until tender, about 1 hour. Remove them from the baking pan and let them cool until they are comfortable to grasp. Then, using a paper towel, rub off the skins.
    4. GRATE the beets coarsely with a box grater, Microplane or the grating disc of a food processor. Blend with the yogurt, mint, tarragon, olive oil, and vinegar. Taste and season with salt and vinegar as desired.

    5. COVER and chill the yogurt for 3 hours or overnight for the flavors to meld.


  • Whole wheat pita
  • Olive oil
  • Salt (optional)

    1. CUT each pita round into 6 wedges and place them on a baking sheet. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt as desired.

    2. BAKE for 5 minutes or until crisp.



    VALENTINE’S DAY: Fruit & Yogurt Or Smoked Salmon For Breakfast


    Smoked Salmon, Dill & Yogurt

    Valentine Toast

    Top: Yogurt and “Valentine fruit” for breakfast. Center: Smoked salmon for more sophisticated palates. Photos and recipes courtesy Siggi’s Dairy, producer of artisan yogurt. Bottom: “Valentine toast.” Photo courtesy


    Following our recent article on chocolate pancakes for Valentine’s Day, one reader tweeted, “Got anything for health-conscious eaters that fits into the schedule of a busy working mom?”

    Beth, this one’s for you and the kids. You can easily make one or both recipes.


    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 container (5.3 ounces) vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Fresh fruit (kiwi, melon, pineapple, etc.) sliced 3/4-inch thick
  • Optional: grapes or raspberries for “spacers”

  • 1-inch heart cookie cutter
  • Ice pop sticks or skewers
  • Valentine toast (see below)

    1. COMBINE the yogurt and honey in a bowl; mix well and set aside.

    2. CUT the fruit with a small heart-shaped cookie cutter. Assemble the skewers, using grapes and/or raspberries between the hearts as desired.


    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 container plain fat-free yogurt
  • 3 ounces smoked salmon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
  • Salt & fresh-ground pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: lemon zest or thin lemon quarter*

  • Valentine toast (see photo)
    *Cut a thin wheel of lemon, then cut the circle into quarters.

    1. CUT the smoked salmon into large but bite-size pieces.

    2. BLEND the yogurt and dill, seasoning with salt and pepper as desired.

    3. SCOOP the yogurt into a bowl and top with the smoked salmon.

    4. GARNISH as desired and serve.



    Make heart-shaped whole wheat toast with a heart-shaped cookie cutter of any size.

    Toast both the original slice of bread and the cut-out heart.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Valentine Cheese Plate

    To celebrate Valentine’s Day, some cheese lovers make the traditional Coeur à la Crème—sweetened mascarpone cheese in a heart-shaped mold—for dessert.

    It’s very rich, a kind of “French cheesecake.”

    Others serve a cheese course with their favorite cheeses.

    Still others assemble a plate of delicious heart-shaped cheeses. If you’d like to do the same, head to the best cheese stores in town. They’re certain to offer a few limited edition, heart-shaped delights for the big day.

    You can find both domestic heart-shape cheeses like Amour from Coach Farm, a semisoft, bloomy-rinded goat cheese made in New York State; and imports like Godminster Cheddar from the U.K.

    Others you may find include:

  • Capriole, a fresh goat cheese heart with pink peppercorns, made in Indiana.
  • Coeur de Bray, a heart-shaped Neufchâtel cheese from the Normandy region of France.
  • Coeur du Berry, a goat cheese from Fromagerie Jacquin in France, available in a plain heart or with an ash coating.
    Plus these three bloomy-rinded goat cheeses from Oregon’s River Edge Chèvre:

  • Petit Bonheur, studded with pink peppercorns (the name means “petite happiness”).
  • Heart’s Desire, coated with Spanish paprika for smoky flavor and reddish color.
  • Old Flame, a silky cheese without additional accents.

    Heart-shaped cheeses are not a recent invention for Valentine’s Day (the history of Valentine’s Day). They originated more than 500 years ago in the little town of Neufchâtel-en-Bray, in the Haute Normandy region of France.

    Most of the maidens in town worked as milkmaids and cheese makers. When some fell in love with the occupying British soldiers during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), they started to produce heart shapes from the local soft cheese (Neufchâtel), to give as gifts to their sweethearts.

    Note that American Neufchatel is very different from its French namesake. In the U.S. it is a name given to a lower-fat type of cream cheese.


    Decorate the plate with fresh raspberries and strawberries or a scattering of pomegranate arils.


    Valentine Cheese Plate

    Coeur de Bray Neufchatel Cheese

    Coach Farms Amour Cheese

    Top: This gorgeous cheese and charcuterie plate from Flora Artisanal Cheese in Charlottseville, Virginia has pink, purple and red color accents that are spot-on for Valentine’s Day. Center: An aged Coeur De Bray Neufchâtel Cheese from Cheeses Of Europe. Bottom: Amour, a soft goat’s milk cheese from Coach Farm, available at Dean & DeLuca.

    Or, take inspiration from the gorgeous cheese and charcuterie platter in the top photo, created by Flora Artisanal Cheese in Charlottesville, Virginia. There’s enough for a party, but you can scale it down to your needs.

    Flora has created the Valentine’s Day platter with:

  • Rose-colored salume
  • Pink ham, especially thin-sliced prosciutto or serrano
  • Red raspberries
  • Red grapes, plus green grapes for a bit of contrast
  • Purple olives with green gherkins
  • White cheeses
  • Marcona almonds
  • Fancy crackers

    Godminster Heart Shaped Cheddar

    Baby Beets

    Top: Godminster makes a heart-shaped
    British Cheddar for Valentine’s Day. Bottom:
    Pickled baby beets from Sainsbury.



    To decorate your cheese plate for Valentine’s Day, here are more pink, purple and red garnishes:

  • Dried cherries or cranberries
  • Pickled baby beets (we like Aunt Nellie’s, or you can pickle your own with the recipe below)
  • Pink dragonfruit and lychees
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Purple figs
  • Purple grapes
  • Radicchio
  • Red cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Red radishes
  • Strawberries

    This recipe saves time by using jarred or canned baby beets.


  • 1½ cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ cups water
  • Optional: 3 tablespoons sugar*
  • 1 tablespoon pickling spices or juniper berries
  • 20 baby beets, drained

    For a spiced beets profile, substitute for the pickling spices:

  • ½ cup sliced fresh ginger
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
  • 4-6 pieces star anise
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
    Another variation we like: rice wine vinegar, coriander and cardamom. Let your palate be your guide.
    *You can add sugar and or salt to the brine; but make a batch without them first. It’s healthier, and it will let the flavor of the spices shine through.In either recipe, you can substitute agave, honey, maple syrup or noncaloric sweetener for the sugar.

    1. COMBINE all ingredients, except the beets, in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool.

    2. ADD the beets to an airtight container and cover with the pickling liquid, which should cover the beets.
    beets. It will easily peel off with your fingers. Cut the beets in half or leave whole if they are very small.

    3. REFRIGERATE for one day to two weeks.

    Check out the different types of cheese in our picture-packed Cheese Glossary.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Drink Kefir, Delicious & Very Healthy

    Strawberry Kefir

    Green Valley Lactose Free Kefir

    Lifeway Frozen Kefir

    Top: Kefir as a midday snack or even a better-for-you dessert. Photo © Viktorija | Fotolia. Middle: Green Valley Organics makes lactose-free dairy products, including kefir, yogurt, sour cream and cream cheese. They’re a godsend to dairy lovers with lactose intolerance. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE. If you’re sensitive to cow’s milk, or simply prefer goat’s milk, turn to Redwood Hill Farms kefir. Photo courtesy Bottom: Frozen kefir is an alternative to frozen yogurt with a higher probiotic content. Photo by River Soma | THE


    Media attention is so interesting. In terms of “healthier options,” we’re blanketed with pitches for kale and quinoa, hummus and Greek yogurt, even juice bars.

    But we haven’t heard anything on probiotics in ages. In case you don’t remember: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help to promote digestive health and enhance the immune system. Five years ago, probiotics were the “it” food ingredient.

    Today’s tip is to take a look at kefir, a highly probiotic beverage that is also highly delicious.

    Kefir, pronounced kuh-FEAR, is a tart fermented milk beverage. It is often called “drinkable yogurt,” although the recipes for yogurt and kefir vary (see below).

    In fact, kefir is even healthier than yogurt. It has been called “super yogurt,” since it is up to 36 times more probiotic than yogurt.

    Kefir is believed to have originated some 2,000 years ago among the shepherds of the Caucasus Mountains region—today’s Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. In more modern times, it has long been enjoyed instead of milk, tea or other beverages in northern and middle Europe and the countries of the former USSR.

    As our “January Healthy Foods Month” winds down, we offer up kefir as a must-try. You can drink it at breakfast, lunch and snack time—or enjoy frozen kefir for dessert.

    Kefir drinkers have benefited from the the explosion of the yogurt category over the last few decades. What was once only plain, rustic kefir is now a vibrant category of yummy, lowfat, probiotic smoothies, so satisfying that you can substitute them for milkshakes when you want a sweet treat.

  • You can find all the standard fruit flavors (banana, berry, peach and pomegranate, for example) as well as seasonal ones. Lifeway Kefir alone offers Cranberry, Eggnog, Pumpkin Spice and Watermelon flavors.
  • There are veggie flavors, too. Lifeway makes vegetable kefirs in Beet, Cucumber and Tomato.
  • There are conventional lines and organic brands.
  • For frozen yogurt lovers, there’s Lifeway Frozen Kefir.

    Kefir is not only delicious, it’s therapeutic. It contains millions of live and active probiotic cultures that clean and strengthen the intestines and help the body with healing and maintenance functions.

    People have been touting the numerous healing effects of kefir since the early 18th century. It has been used to treat allergies, atherosclerosis, cancer, candidiasis, digestive disorders, heart disease, hypertension, HIV, metabolic disorders, nervous system disorders, osteoporosis and tuberculosis.

    While kefir isn’t the panacea many believed it to be, it is a very healthy food, chock full of beneficial bacteria and yeast.

  • It contains numerous vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes, including healthy doses of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamins A, B2, B12, D and K.
  • Kefir contains a substantial amount of tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids that is known for its relaxing effect on the nervous system. Some people see it as a “calming” drink.
    But the reason most people seek out kefir is for digestive health: help from the millions of probiotic bacteria in each serving.

    Probiotic bacteria, which are live and active cultures, occur naturally in the digestive tract, where they help promote a healthy balance, good digestion and overall intestinal vitality. People with digestive problems need more of these cultures than their systems naturally contain.

    Raw kefir. Some mildly lactose-intolerant people can enjoy kefir, as long as it is is raw and not cooked (cooking destroys the lactase enzyme, which digests the milk sugar, lactose). Read the labels, and if you can’t find raw kefir in your regular market, check the nearest health food store.

    Lactose-free kefir. There’s lactose-free kefir for people with a higher degree of lactose intolerance. Green Valley Organics, a brand of lactose-free dairy products we can’t live without, makes not just kefir and yogurt, but cream cheese and sour cream.

    Goat’s milk kefir. For those who prefer goat’s milk, there’s Redwood Hill goat kefir. People who are mildly lactose intolerant can often tolerate goat’s milk products. Lovers of fresh goat cheese may like the affinity.


    There are several differences between yogurt and kefir, including how each is made, the types of bacteria present in each, and the flavor and consistency.

    Of greatest interest to those who seek probiotics for digestive health, is that kefir and yogurt contain different types of probiotic bacteria, which perform differently. And, as noted earlier, kefir has up to 36 times more beneficial bacteria. Net net, kefir is better for digestion.

  • Yogurt. The beneficial bacteria in yogurt help keep the digestive tract clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria found in a healthy gut. They pass through the digestive tract and are called transient bacteria.
  • Kefir. The bacteria in milk kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract and team up with the beneficial bacteria that live there. Kefir also contains contains some yeasts.
    If you’d like to drill down into the details of the differences, a great source is The website can also guide you to making your own kefit, yogurt, and other cultured products at home.

  • All about probiotics in our Probiotics Glossary.
  • All the different types of yogurt and kefir products in our Yogurt Glossary.


    CHRISTMAS: A Star Made Of Cheese

    Cabot Cheese commemorates the Christmas Star (Star of Bethlehem) using a different flavor of their excellent cheddars for each point on the star.

    In addition to regular cheddars in different stages of sharpness, there are delicious flavored cheddars: Chipotle, Everything Bagel, Garlic & Herb, Horseradish, Hot Buffalo Wing, Smoky Bacon and Tomato Basil. The company also makes Muenster, Pepper Jack and other popular cheese styles.

    For variety, use other semi-hard cheeses. Look for young Asiago, Colby, Edam, Fontinella, aged Gouda, Jack, Manchego, Provolone and Queso Blanco—for starters.

    You can make the star with one kind of cheese or use a different flavor for each star point—any cheese firm enough to cut into cubes. You can make a larger star for a larger crowd.

    Ingredients For A 13-Inch Diameter Star


    Cheese Star

    A cheese star is born. Before building the cheese cube design, place a small bowl in the center for the garnish (here, pecans). Gouda wishes! Photo courtesy Cabot Cheese.

  • 5 (8-ounce) bars or blocks of cheese, cut into cubes
  • Fresh bay leaves or other herb
  • Roasted nuts, mixed olives or grape tomatoes
  • Garnish: fresh sage leaves (substitute basil, bay leaf, sweet bay or perilla [shiso])

    1. PLACE a small shallow bowl or saucer in the center of a large platter or cheese plate. Cut the cheese bars into 3/4-inch cubes, about 30 cubes for each flavor.

    2. BUILD the star around the bowl. Each of the five star points will be 5 cubes long and from 1 to 5 cubes wide. (If your bowl is too big, you will need more cubes to evenly the space five star points.)

    3. PLACE 4 or 5 cubes against the bowl to form each star point, for a total of 5 star points. Build out the points by placing more cubes as shown in the photo. In our star, we had a base row of 3 or 4 cubes, followed by one row of 3 cubes, 2 rows of 2 cubes and one row of 1 cube for the tip of each star point.

    4. BUILD up the star by topping the first layer with a second layer of cubes.

    5. TUCK sage leaves into the star as shown. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Fill the bowl in the center with nuts, olives or tomatoes.

    Here’s the recipe to stack cubes of cheese into a Christmas tree cheese board.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Cheese Balls

    Holiday Cream Cheese Balls

    Vegetable Cheese Ball

    TOP PHOTO: Cheese balls decorated like
    ornaments for holiday festivals. Photo
    courtesy Kraft. BOTTOM PHOTO: What’s
    inside the cheese ball? Here it’s red and
    green bell peppers. Photo by Claire
    Freierman | THE NIBBLE.


    Turn cheese balls into holiday ornaments with the right coatings. This recipe from Philadelphia Cream Cheese uses only cream cheese, but you can use your favorite cheese ball recipe.

    Instead of one big cheese ball, you make mini cheese balls with different coatings.

    We prefer to take the recipe one step further and flavor the cream cheese. We like bell pepper cream cheese, jalapeño cream cheese, olive cream cheese and scallion cream cheese; and for a splurge, smoked salmon cream cheese rolled in fresh dill.

    You can also make a dessert version to serve with cookies, like chocolate cream cheese (with cocoa powder and sugar), chocolate chip cream cheese (or other chip flavor), berry cream cheese (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry) and peanut butter cream cheese, rolled in cocoa powder, coconut or mini chocolate chips. But back to the savory:



  • 1-1/2 packages cream cheese (total 12 ounces), softened
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans

  • Cream cheese mix-ins: green and red jalapeños, green and red bell peppers, olives, pimentos, scallions or other fillings
    Serve With

  • Bagel Chips
  • Crackers
  • Other chips and crisps
  • Preparation

    1. CUT the cream cheese brick into 6 two-ounce pieces; roll each into ball. If you’re flavoring the cream cheese, finely chop and blend in the mix-ins before shaping the balls.

    2. COMBINE the sesame seeds, poppy seeds and half the garlic in small bowl. Mix the herbs and remaining garlic in a separate small bowl. Combine the cranberries and nuts in third bowl.

    3. ROLL 2 cheese balls in the sesame seed mixture, 2 cheese balls in the herb mixture and the remaining 2 cheese balls in the nut mixture.

    4. WRAP each ball in plastic and refrigerate until ready to serve. Alternatively, you can place them in an airtight food storage container, lightly covered with plastic before you close the lid.



    The glamorous goat cheese log in the photo couldn’t be easier. If you’d rather turn it into round “tree ornaments. See Step 2.


  • Log(s) of goat cheese, straight from the fridge
  • Dried cranberries and pistachios -or-
  • The coating of your choice

    1. MIX roughly-chopped dried cranberries and pistachio nuts and place them on wax paper on a work surface.

    2. ROLL the log of goat cheese in the mixture, pressing down lightly so the mixture adheres. If you’d rather have round balls of goat cheese, let the cheese soften, form it into balls, and return it to the fridge until it hardens enough to roll easily.

    3. WRAP the finished log tightly in plastic and refrigerate until serving.
    TIP: See if you can score some honey goat cheese logs (we get ours at Trader Vic’s). They’re a revelation.

  • Christmas Tree Cheese Ball Recipe #2
  • Pine Cone Cheese Ball Recipe(#1 is in the photo caption)
  • Pine Cone Cheese Ball Recipe #2
  • Snowman Cheese Ball Recipe
  • Snowman Cheese Ball Recipe #2

    Christmas Goat Cheese Log

    Christmas Tree Cheese Ball

    TOP PHOTO: Goat cheese log from More Than Hungry. BOTTOM PHOTO: We love this Christmas tree cheese “ball.” Here’s the recipe from Betty Crocker.




    RECIPE: Goat Cheese With Sundried Tomatoes

    We love to serve red and green foods as much as possible during the holiday season. Doesn’t this goat cheese look nice and Christmasy?

    Slices of fresh goat cheese are topped with marinated sundried tomatoes, and you can serve them in several ways:

  • As an hors d’oeuvre, with crostini.
  • As an appetizer, atop a crostino (grilled or toasted bread).
  • Halved or quartered on a plate with a green salad (arugula, beets and radiccho are good choices, as are these).
  • On a goat cheese baguette sandwich.
  • As part of a cheese plate.
  • If you have leftover pieces, you can use them to top pasta and pizza, or add them to a sandwich or burger.
    And it’s so easy to make.

    You can buy whole sundried tomatoes, or make your own topping. dice them and marinate them in olive oil with oregano and other herbs*.


    Goat Cheese Appetizer

    Deck the table with goat cheese rounds. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.


    The Bella Sun Luci brand of sundried tomatoes has done all the hard work. Look for their jars of:

  • Julienne Cut Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil with Italian Herbs
  • Bruschetta with Italian Basil Sun Dried Tomato and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sun Dried Julienne-Cut Tomatoes with Herbs and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sun Dried Tomato Pesto with Whole Pine Nuts

    Homemade Marinated Sundried Tomatoes

    You can make your own marinated tomatoes, but it’s much quicker to buy them. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.




  • Goat cheese log(s)
  • Sundried tomato topping
  • Garnish: fresh rosemary†

  • Instead of the tomatoes, a mix of red and green bell peppers, diced and marinated.
  • A chiffonade of fresh basil, or a garnish of small basil leaves, instead of the rosemary.
  • If you make your own topping, consider marinating it in a flavored olive oil (basil, chili, rosemary, etc.).
    *You can use basil, black pepper, marjoram,oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, sea salt and/or thyme.
    †If you use rosemary, garnish with very small pieces, as guests may be wary of eating a larger sprig.


    If you come up with other uses for “Christmas goat cheese,” please share!



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