I use cooking and baking for everything: mitigating stress, procrastinating, expressing love, etc. Turns out this tendency of mine is actually beneficial. Science shows that working with your hands and following step-by-step directions, especially while cooking and baking, helps the human brain self-regulate, much the same way that mindfulness meditation does.
    If there was ever a time for meditiation, it’s now. This pandemic-induced cycle of threat-fear-anxiety is exhausting. Meditation – or baking – helps reset that cycle. What this looks like in my kitchen: the longer I remain teacher’s aide and the lower milk futures drop, the more my oven runs. A couple days ago, Dan said to me, “Mom, you’re baking again? You should start a bakery.”
    Thank goodness I have a family who loves to eat home cooked meals and homemade goodies. And thank goodness they’re all home – all the time – to eat everything I bake.
    Interestingly, much like spring is the season of revival, my pandemic baking therapy has revived several long-lost or forgotten recipes – favorites that somehow fell out of rotation. This recipe revival includes quesadillas (how has it been years?), butterfly bars, monkey bread, oven-roasted asparagus with bell peppers and sweet onions, and homemade bread, to name a few.
    There’s been a revival of some ingredients, as well. The most notable of these is the cottage cheese revival. I used to keep cottage cheese in the refrigerator all of the time. We all enjoyed it as a quick, nutritious snack. Then, somehow, it fell out of favor.
    Our cottage cheese revival actually began kindling last fall at brunch following my goddaughter’s baptism. The egg bake served that morning was so delicious, I had to ask for the recipe. I’ve since made this egg bake multiple times and tweaked the recipe a bit – because very few recipes go un-tweaked in my kitchen.
    The secret ingredient in this egg bake is cottage cheese. There are no hashbrowns or bread cubes in this recipe for filler; instead, the cottage cheese magically gives the dish great body and texture.
    Since this egg bake is now a regular in the recipe rotation, I always have cottage cheese on hand again. The return of cottage cheese has led to a return of all the wonderful baked goods in which cottage cheese is used as a magical enhancement.
    I don’t use the word magical lightly here. In many of these recipes, the cottage cheese is clearly visible during mixing, but after baking the cottage cheese is undetectable. It disappears. Or, more accurately, transforms. Transformation is a popular phenomenon around here right now because we’re currently watching the entire “Harry Potter” series on movie night. Non-lovers of cottage cheese (because I know they exist) won’t know there’s cottage cheese in the dish unless you tell them.
    Next up, I’m sure, since we’re going through a ton of it and have an abundant supply of fresh milk, will be making homemade cottage cheese. I remember making cottage cheese long ago for a 4-H demonstration. I’ll have to see if I can find the recipe.
    Here are some ideas – and a recipe – for a cottage cheese revival in your kitchen:
    – Make cottage cheese pancakes. (Email me for the recipe or ask Google.)
    – Pureé cottage cheese in a food processor and use in place of ricotta cheese in lasagna.
    – Add 1 cup of cottage cheese to your favorite homemade bread recipe for a tender crust and amazing, English-muffin-like texture. If you haven’t tried the Artisan Bread in Five method for making homemade bread, I highly recommend it: https://artisanbreadinfive.com.
    – Make this incredible cheesy egg bake:
    Cheesy Egg Bake
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with butter or cooking spray.
    Mix together 1 pound of ground pork, 1 teaspoon dried sage, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Brown pork mixture and set aside. (Alternatively, you can use one pound of pre-seasoned breakfast sausage.)
    In a large bowl, lightly beat 12 eggs. Stir in 16 ounces of cottage cheese (2 cups), 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (2 cups), 8 ounces shredded co-jack cheese (2 cups), 1 teaspoon ground mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until well combined. Fold in browned pork. (A digital scale makes measuring the cheese super easy.)
    Pour egg mixture into prepared baking dish and smooth top. Bake for 35 minutes or until lightly browned and center of egg bake is puffed.
    Notes: If your family likes vegetables, this egg bake is even more delicious with the addition of one or two cups of sautéed vegetables. I like sweet onions and bell peppers, but I imagine that mushrooms or spinach would work, as well.
    You can also swap out the co-jack cheese for pepper jack, cheddar, or any other semi-hard cheese. Don’t make any substitutions for the mozzarella, though; it’s crucial for the texture of the finished egg bake.
    While writing this, I thought of another cottage cheese recipe I haven’t tasted in a very, very long time. Next spring, for Easter dinner, I’m going to revive my grandmother’s lime jello with cottage cheese. No childhood is complete without at least trying it.
    Who knows where else this cottage cheese revival will take us.
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minnesota. They have three children – Dan, 11, Monika, 8, and Daphne, 5. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com.