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Archive for June, 2010

JULY 4th: Red, White & Blue Cupcakes

Make red velvet cupcakes like these from
Magnolia Bakery. Photo courtesy


One special dessert for July 4th is red, white and blue cupcakes.

These cupcakes from New York City’s Magnolia Bakery combine red velvet cake, white frosting and a blueberry garnish.

  • You can also create a tray of cupcakes, lined up in red, white and blue “stripes,” by tinting 1/3 of the frosting red, 1/3 blue, and leaving 1/3 of the tops white.
  • More options: Use blue decorating sugar (sanding sugar) to sprinkle the tops; cut out blue stars from fondant; or use stripes of red and white fondant over a thin layer of icing, topped with a blueberry.
  • If you prefer something other than red velvet cake, look for red cupcake liners.

    TIP: Make mini cupcakes instead of full-size ones. With all the food that revelers will have consumed before dessert, smaller is better.
    Take a look at our easy cupcake decorating ideas, good for 365 days a year.

    See our Gourmet Cakes Section for more cupcake ideas and recipes.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Slowly Defrost The Meat & Seafood

    Cool before refrigerating. Photo by Edward
    O’Neil | IST.

    Why does cooked meat have to cool down before it is refrigerated? Why should meat be defrosted in the fridge instead of on the countertop? For the same reason: to avoid bacterial growth. Extreme temperature changes abet bacterial growth in meat, poultry and seafood.

    That’s also why thawing and refreezing of uncooked or cooked meat and seafood is not recommended. You increase your risk of bacterial contamination when the item goes through several temperature changes.

    • Defrost frozen meat/seafood overnight on the lowest shelf or in the meat drawer—you don’t want raw drippings contaminating other foods.
    • Let cooked meat sit in a room-temperature container for half an hour; then cover and immediately refrigerate it. Meat that is already at room temperature or just slightly warm can be refrigerated as is.
    Find our favorite meat products, glossaries, tips and recipes in our Gourmet Meats Section.



    PRODUCT: LunchSkins Reusable For Kids’ Lunch Bags

    Disposable plastic food bags were introduced in 1964. Overnight they changed the way people carried their sandwiches and carrot sticks to lunch. (The prior options were aluminum foil, paper bags and wax paper.)

    Baggies and the variations that followed made it easy to transport food and keep it moist. But flash forward to the present: Every day, more than 20 million sandwich bags from school lunches alone end up in landfills.

    Three green moms with a mission designed an alternative kids’ lunch bags. Their solution, LunchSkins, are a fine work of engineering: The plastic-lined bags are made from pastry bag material and go straight into the dishwasher for cleaning. The colorful designs have a velcro closure. There’s even a place to write the owner’s name with a permanent marker.

    Reduce landfill waste: Pack sandwiches
    and snacks in LunchSkins.

    Reduce landfill waste, save money, eat healthy and look stylish while you’re doing it: LunchSkins kids’ lunch bags are the answer to plastic baggie pollution. Buy them at

    Find more of our favorite kids’ products.



    TIP OF THE DAY: July 4th Ice Cubes

    Make star-shaped ice with an inexpensive
    star-shaped ice cube tray.


    Make your ice cubes special for July 4th. It’s easy!

    Just freeze 2 blueberries and a raspberry in each compartment of your ice cube tray.

    For an extra-special presentation, make “star” ice cubes.

    You can order a star-shaped ice cube tray from




    GOURMET GIVEAWAY: MaryAnna’s Sweet Tea

    Cool off this summer with a refreshing beverage, like the bottled tea made from this week’s Gourmet Giveaway prize-sponsor: MaryAnna’s Sweet Tea.

    As we noted last week, MaryAnna’s all-natural bottled sweet tea tastes like fresh-brewed. The teas are made with filtered water, premium tea and cane sugar.

    The Summer Sweet Tea has just the right amount of lemon juice to brighten the flavor without making it “lemony.” The Berry Sweet Tea is flavored with raspberry; the effect is one of fresh, infused berries.

    Both flavors will be hits with your family and guests. Grown-ups can also enjoy MaryAnna’s Sweet Tea as a mixer, with gin, tequila or vodka.

    Cool off this summer with MaryAnna’s sweet
    tea. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

    • THE PRIZE: One winner will receive a mixed case of MaryAnna’s Sweet Tea, which includes six bottles of each of the two flavors. Approximate retail value: $24.95.
    • To Enter This Gourmet Giveaway: Go to the box at the bottom of our Gourmet Tea Section and enter your email address for the prize drawing.
    • To learn more about MaryAnna’s Teas, visit
    • Here’s a review of five more of our favorite bottled teas.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Barbecue Banana S’mores

    It’s easy to turn ripe bananas into
    banana s’mores. Photo courtesy


    For a barbecue, our favorite dessert is a watermelon carved into a basket, filled with fresh fruit salad.

    But that takes time and PDG carving skills. So here’s another way to wow family and friends: banana s’mores. The banana takes the place of the graham crackers.

    For each serving:

    1. Split a ripe banana down the middle. Fill the center with mini marshmallows plus chocolate and/or peanut butter morsels.

    2. Wrap the banana in foil, punching a hole in the top for steam to escape.


    3. Allow five or more minutes on the grill for the marshmallows and chocolate melt, remove and serve—with a spoon.

    4. A scoop of vanilla, chocolate or banana ice cream atop the banana s’mores also hits the spot.

    If you love s’mores as much as we do, check out these s’mores recipes—all with the traditional graham crackers.



    PRODUCT: Rishi Iced Tea

    We sampled hundreds of different foods during our first day of the Fancy Food Show.

    In-between all that eating, you really need some refreshment!

    Some people drink water; we head for the thirst-slaking tea. The iced black Peach & Passion tea from Ahmad Tea of London was a delicious relief; we downed three cups! You can find the tea on

    And Rishi’s Citron Green “tropical” green tea offered soothing notes of lemongrass, lemon myrtle, fresh orange blossom, tangerine and jasmine flowers. A complex and exciting combination of flavors, it was voted “Best Green Iced Tea” at the 2006 World Tea Expo.

    The tea is organic and Fair Trade Certified, and is available at

    Find more of our favorite teas in our Gourmet Tea section.

    Rishi’s Citron Green and Ahmad’s Peach
    & Passion are two standout iced teas.
    Photo courtesy Rishi Tea.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Red, White & Blue Recipes

    How many red, white & blue recipes can
    you devise? Share them here!


    Plan ahead for at least one red, white and blue recipe for July 4th.

  • You can start the day with plain or vanilla yogurt, topped with raspberries and blueberries.
  • For lunch, make red, white and blue potato salad (keep skins on red-jacket potatoes with your favorite recipe, sprinkle top with crumbled blue cheese) and decorate the bowl with a perimeter of blueberries.
  • Use blue and red tortilla chips with your regular nachos recipe, along with white Cheddar or other good white melting cheese. Sprinkle some blue cheese or goat cheese (it‘s very white) atop the red salsa.
  • For appetizers or snacks, make a white bean dip and garnish the perimeter of the bowl with a few raspberries and blueberries.
  • For dessert at dinner, top ice cream with strawberry or raspberry purée and whipped cream, sprinkled with blueberries. You can make a parfait by layering the ingredients in a sundae glass or wine goblet. (See our Ice Cream Glossary for ice cream terms.)

  • Or, add any red and blue berry combination to cake, cupcakes, sorbet and any white cheese. Use toothpicks to anchor berries for a red, white and blue “centerpiece cheese” on a cheese tray.
  • Instead of macaroni salad, make a pasta salad with white pasta, halved red cherry tomatoes (or grape tomatoes) and garnish with blue cheese and/or blueberries.
  • You can also find red and white-striped ravioli to serve with red sauce or white Alfredo sauce and blue cheese.
  • Serve pink lemonade with blueberries and raspberries. You can freeze blueberries and raspberries in the ice cubes, and sprinkle a few of each in the drink for a dramatic effect.
  • For dessert, how about a watermelon “napoleon?” cut slices of watermelon into squares. Make a three-decker napoleon, filling the layers with whipped cream and berries.
  • For more Independence Day food and beverage ideas, select the July 4th category in the column at the right.

    And please share your own ideas!



    NEWS: Off To The Fancy Food Show!


    In two hours, THE NIBBLE staff will assemble at the Fancy Food Show, our “home” for the next three days.

    Our goal: to find the best new foods and beverages to review.

    The Fancy Food Show is like culinary Disneyland—you’re surrounded by enticing exhibits and you can’t hope to see it all. We’ll be tripping the light fantastic—or more realistically, the hard concrete floor of New York City’s Javits Center.

    We anticipate fewer posts to and less publishing on until the latter part of next week. Don’t think we’re slacking off; food shows are hard work!


    TIP OF THE DAY: Practice “Safe Meat”

    You probably practice “safe meat” in the kitchen.

    You’ve heard for years how important it is not to use the same cutting boards, utensils and plates for other foods that you use when preparing raw poultry, pork and other raw meats. You know to avoid cross-contamination.

    But what happens when you leave the structure of the kitchen and head outdoors to the grill?

    It’s easy for unsafe practices to transpire beyond the safety of the kitchen.

    Just plan ahead and you’ll find that it’s almost as easy to practice “safe meat” when cooking outside.

    Photo by Matt Moser | SXC.

    Here’s a tip to circumvent a big cross-contamination point and make cooking and serving more convenient:

    Cover a plate, platter or tray with plastic wrap to carry the raw meat to the grill. After the meat is on the fire, throw away the plastic wrap. Use the clean plate to carry food back to the table.



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