Monday, December 30, 2013

Celebrate New Year's Eve...with cheese?

When you think of New Year's Eve, what first comes to mind? Is it the ball dropping in Times Square? Getting together with friends and family? Fireworks (check out the ones at the Space Needle in Seattle...awesome!)? Or do you think about cheese?

Cheese? Now what does that have to do with New Year's Eve? Besides for the fact that I hope you find a way to somehow incorporate your favorite dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt into your festivities (the cows definitely thank you!), it has everything to do with ending one year and starting another for a town in the state nicknamed "America's Dairyland".


In Plymouth, Wisconsin, residents gather in the usual freezing temperatures not to watch a ball drop, but rather an 80-pound wedge of cheese lowered from a 100-foot ladder. Boring? Not at all! Now, I'm hoping these folks bring some cows or something to the celebration to really bring this full circle. But, since I won't be venturing to Wisconsin this New Year's Eve, I'll rely on those of you that do to tell me all about it.

Turns out that watching the cheese drop isn't the only quirky way to ring in the new year. I found an entire list of interesting New Year's Eve traditions taking place in cities across the United States.

Don't forget to add "eat more dairy products," "visit cows at the fair or a farm" or "meet a dairy farmer" to your list of New Year's Resolutions. Some farms are open to the public during the fall for ag tourism (i.e. with corn mazes, pumpkin patches, etc.) and for pre-planned tours throughout the year. I'd recommend calling ahead since farmers are busy if you'd like to see the farm.

While searching the internet for festive dairy recipes, I came across this delicious-looking cheesecake from the Taste of Home. The photo has red and green candies, but feel free to substitute whichever color you'd like as you ring in 2014.

Photo credit: TasteofHome.com

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • FILLING:
  • 4 packages (8 ounces each) Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • TOPPING:
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) sour cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Assorted candies

Directions

  1. Place an ungreased 9-in. springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil (about 18 in. square). Securely wrap foil around pan.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, pecans and brown sugar; stir in butter. Press onto bottom and 1-1/2 in. up the sides of prepared pan. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into crust. Place in a larger baking pan; add 1 in. of hot water to larger pan.
  4. Bake at 325° for 1-1/2 hours or until center is just set and top appears dull. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and sugar until smooth; spoon over hot cheesecake and spread to cover. Bake for 5 minutes longer or until topping is just set.
  5. Remove springform pan from water bath. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. Remove sides of can. Garnish with candies. Yield: 16 servings.
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 30 min. Bake: 1-1/2 hours + chilling

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