California’s rich Latin culture and heritage help make the state the country’s leading producer of Hispanic-style cheese and dairy products. To recognize all of these flavorful products that bring authentic flavors to Latin favorites and new life to everyday meals, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) is celebrating May as Hispanic Dairy Month.
With summer just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to try easy twists on everyday snacks and dishes by swapping in Hispanic-style dairy for traditional dairy ingredients. From more than 25 cheese varieties to tangy cremas and drinkable yogurts, these products offer versatility for cooks looking to experiment with new flavors and textures.
The dairy experts at Real California Milk offer three simple swaps to get started:
- Swap Plain Yogurt for Drinkable: Drinkable yogurt is a popular product in Latin America and it can be a healthy indulgence. Drinkable yogurt comes in a variety of popular and unexpected flavors, such as coconut, prune, and apple. Drink “as is” for a quick, on-the-go snack or mix into other dishes, such as fruit salad, as an easy dressing.
- Swap Your Favorite Cheese for a Hispanic Variety: With 25+ varieties, Hispanic cheeses can satisfy most taste buds. Many are also affordable options in place of traditional cheeses. They fall into three categories:
- Fresh Cheeses, such as Panela and Queso Blanco, soften when heated but don’t melt so offer a soft, creamy filling that won’t run onto the plate.
- Melting Cheeses, such as Queso Quesadilla, Oaxaca, and Asadero are creamy and mild, perfect as a snack and topping.
- Hard Cheeses, such as salty and pungent Cotija can be crumbled, grated for a garnish or mixed into dishes for added flavor.
- Swap Sour Cream for Crema: Crema is a cultured cream similar to sour cream and crème fraîche, has a mild tangy flavor and doesn’t separate when heated. Unsalted crema whips up just like heavy cream but holds its peaks so cooks can whip up to a day in advance.
Looking for more food swap ideas? Real California Milk created a Hispanic Cheese Guide with easy tips for swapping cheeses in many popular family recipes for a unique food experience. Consumers can look for the Real California Milk or Cheese Seal on products while shopping to ensure high-quality products made with 100 percent milk produced by Real California dairy farm families. Products are available in supermarkets and specialty stores across the U.S.
Get inspired with this Chicken Thighs with Sofrito and Queso Fresco recipe created by award-winning Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli of Eating House Restaurant in Miami. It’s a perfect dish for the warmer weather.
Chicken Thighs with Sofrito & Queso Fresco
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds chicken thighs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, for dusting
- 1 teaspoon adobo sauce (optional)
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 poblano pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips
- 1 pound tomatoes, chopped
- 1 lime, juiced and zested
- ¼ cup Real California Crema
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 2 ounces Real California Queso Fresco
- Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Heat the oils in a large pan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour, tapping off the excess. Cook the chicken until golden brown on both sides, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a plate. Add the adobo sauce, onion, garlic, poblano and bell pepper to the pan and cook over medium-high heat until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, lime zest, crema, and stock; stir until smooth.
Return the chicken and its juices to the pan and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over very low heat until the chicken is tender and the sauce has slightly thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and lime juice and garnish the chicken with grated queso fresco and cilantro. Serve the chicken over steamed brown rice or the grain of your choice.
For more information and to connect with the CMAB through social media, visit RealCaliforniaMilk.com.