Jenni Tilton-Flood : On Volunteering, Grilled Cheese & Farm Love

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While the crisis crashes around our homes and neighborhoods, we pray for front line workers, especially those essential workers on our lines making sure our farmers milk gets to and through their plants to bring you the Cabot products you count on.

While April is National Volunteer Month, and also National Grilled Cheese Month, we wanted to take a breather from CDC guidelines and our role in flattening the curve to introduce you to one of Cabot’s favorite farmers – super volunteer and grilled cheese ninja, Jenni Tilton-Flood.

Her fan club is large and inclusive; she gives new meaning to the concept of a bigger tent, she makes room and time for anyone who needs her. Jenni Tilton-Flood – wife, mother, daughter, friend, farmer, colleague, activist and volunteer – leaves a wake of positivity and light, and a healthy dose of straight talk – delivered extra spicy – wherever she goes. She’s a no-nonsense, let’s-get-this-done kind of woman who makes the people around her feel better about life.

Jenni grew up in Maine, the daughter of a John Deere tractor salesman. Her love of everything Deere (her Instagram handle is @jennideere) manifested early and has persisted to this day. As a teen, she started working for her dad in the John Deere dealership’s parts and service department.

Fate intervened when she and her now husband met cute in a scene that wouldn’t be out of place in a Hollywood rom com. A handsome young farmer comes in for tractor parts and meets a pretty girl in a flannel shirt and a grease stain on her nose. The handsome fella was Dana Flood, a third generation dairy farmer from Flood Brothers Farm in Clinton, Maine. “He told me later that he noticed me carrying two five-gallon pails of hydraulic oil for an older customer,” Jenni recalls, “and thought to himself, ‘That’s the woman for me.’”

Jenni took to farm life like a calf takes to a fresh spring pasture – with gusto, determination and unbounded joy.

She has many jobs on the farm – there are children to raise, meals to cook, communities to be served. Jenni represents the farm and the agricultural community on social media. She was one of the driving forces behind promoting the #farmlove hashtag which has been used more than 110,000 times on Instagram alone. She travels to conferences around the country to speak about agricultural cooperatives, sustainability, and farming practices.

But her work doesn’t stop there. “On our farm I am also referred to as ‘Somebody,’” explains Jenni, “especially when they need ‘Somebody’ to give a tour of the farm or go to the state capital to sit in on legislative hearings or when ‘Somebody’ needs to do anything that nobody else really feels like doing.”

Jenni is also a passionate and dedicated volunteer. She credits Mrs. Wentworth, her elementary school librarian, for sparking her volunteer flame. When she was in the fourth grade, she volunteered in the library, stacking books and working with younger readers. “It isn’t the tasks I remember as much as I remember the time being a reward,” Jenni recalls. “It was the reward of exploring the bookshelves and all the books I might never have discovered otherwise; the reward I got from watching a younger kid learn new words and love reading.”

Since then, volunteering has taken different shapes for Jenni, from classroom assistant, to fry lady in the snack shack at football games, to volunteering at events that support charities near and dear to her. Years of service have led to Jenni’s position as a Commissioner representing the business community on the Volunteer Maine Service Commission. She is particularly honored by her appointment to this state-level organization, whose mission is to foster and inspire community service and volunteerism to address critical needs in the State of Maine. “I’m really proud that I represent the business community,” she explains. “Farmers and agriculture are often overlooked as being part of our economy and business.”

Jenni has another passion, cooking for family and friends. As a dairy farmer and member of the Cabot Creamery Cooperative, she knows how important wholesome, nutritious foods are. Jenni knows that Cabot cheddar is at the top of the food chain. “Some people say ‘all you need is love,’” says Jenni. “I’m always going to add some cheese to that love.”

During these challenging times, volunteers will be feeding those on the medical front lines as well as people dealing with food insecurity. Jenni is no stranger to feeding a crowd, whether as a volunteer or her extended family’s go-to chef. “I love making sure that people are well-fed,” Jenni explains. “Food is a great way to say ‘I care.’”

Here are a few of Jenni’s favorite “Big Dish” recipes, perfect when you’re cooking for a crowd.

First up are BBQ Big Dish Enchiladas, a hearty dish that is loaded with rich barbeque flavor and loaded with Cabot Cheddar and Monterey Jack.

Who doesn’t love a delicious dish of Mac & Cheese? And this Big Dish Tomato Basil Mac & Cheese is perfect to feed a hungry crowd. Yes, please!

Pimento cheese may be a staple from the Deep South, but just about everyone – above and below the Mason Dixon Line – loves a grilled cheese made with rich and tangy pimento cheese. If you’re cooking for a crowd, check out this recipe for Big Dish Pimento Grilled Cheese. It’s just right in April – National Grilled Cheese Month – or any time there are hungry mouths to be fed.

These three recipes, each created to serve a hungry crowd, all sport the Jenni Tilton-Flood Seal of Approval!


Jenni’s Classic Sheet Pan Grilled Cheese

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 slices of your favorite bread
  • 12 oz. sliced or grated Cabot cheese
  • 8 tablespoons Cabot butter, room temperature

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 450°. Spread butter evenly on one side of each slice of bread.
  • Place six slices, butter side down, on the sheet pan.
  • Layer 2 ounces of cheese (2 slices or a heaping ¼ cup of grated) on the bread
  • Top with remaining bread slices, butter side up
  • Bake sandwiches for about 5-7 minutes, then flip, cooking for an additional 5-7 minutes. Both sides should be crispy and golden brown and cheese should be melted and gooey.
  • For the classic all-Amerian experience, serve with tomato soup!

Jenni uses the recipe section of the Cabot website to find inspiration for scores of grilled cheese sandwich ideas. Some of her favorites are The Vermont Grilled Cheese with crisp bacon and just a hint of real maple syrup or the Farm Girl’s Fave Grilled Cheese with Apple Slices.

Jenni’s Grilled Cheese Pro Tips

Grate is Great – For super meltability, grated cheese is a game changer. Use a heaping quarter cup per sandwich. If you’re in a hurry and your butter is too cold to spread, use your grater to make spreading a breeze.

The Best Bread, For the Win – No need to limit your grilled cheese to plain, white bread. Mix it up with pumpernickel or rye, challah or even cinnamon for a whole new flavor profile.

Mayo Maybe – For a flavor twist, try using mayonnaise instead of butter on the outside of your grilled cheese. A thin coating of mayo gives your sandwich a consistent golden brown exterior and adds a bit of tang.

Slow Your Roll – To get that perfect golden brown sandwich with perfectly melted cheese use a medium low setting and a bit of patience. Cover your pan for the last few minutes of cooking to achieve gooey grilled cheese perfection.

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