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Archive for November, 2010

TIP OF THE DAY: Starfruit (Carambola)

Don’t pass up the opportunity to decorate your food with starfruit this season. These “edible stars” can be used just about everywhere:

  • A garnish on anything from drinks to desserts
  • As a “star” ingredient in fruit salad
  • On fruit or cheese skewers
    They pair with savory as well as sweet foods, and are a lovely decoration on platters and plates.

    Starfruit or carambola (star fruit is an alternate spelling) is the fruit of a species of tree (Averrhoa carambola) native to southeast Asia. The tree is also cultivated throughout the subtropical belt, including Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. These are the fruits that are sold in the U.S., as a result of import restrictions due to potential pests that often accompany the fruit.

    Named for the five-pointed star shaped slices it yields when cut horizontally, the pale yellow, juicy flesh with a distinctly tropical orange-pineapple flavor contains a few small, flat seeds. The fruit is nicely crunchy like an apple. The thin, edible skin, is lime green on the tree and ripens to a bright yellow, shiny/waxy sheen.


    Make every drink and dish a “star” with
    starfruit. Photo by Beatriz Chaim | SXC.


    The flesh retains a firmness when ripe, and therein lies a challenge: Starfruit has so much more flavor and sweetness when it is allowed to ripen on the tree. Much of what is available outside Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico has been picked green. It just isn’t the same.

    There are two main types of starfruit—sweet and tart—so you may have to ask the produce manager to clarify which type you’re looking at.

  • While both varieties are fine for garnish, most people prefer to eat the sweet variety.
  • Sweet varieties will be golden yellow and have a fragrant aroma.
  • Tart varieties tend to have thinner ribs and are often a more pale yellow color. You may also come across a rare white variety, which is sweet.

    Not only is starfruit attractive; it’s healthful, too. Starfruit is rich in vitamin C antioxidants and low in sugar and acid (though it should not be consumed by people with kidney problems).


    Native to Southeast Asia and India, starfruit was brought back home by sailors and traders in the late 1700s, and became popular with wealthy Europeans. It was brought to Hawaii by Chinese traders in the late 1800s. Yet, it was introduced to mainland America—Florida—only about 75 years ago. Today the state is the largest producer of American-consumed starfruit.

    Find more of our favorite fruits and recipes in our Gourmet Fruit Section.



    GIFT OF THE DAY: Deluxe Peppermint Sticks

    Soft peppermint sticks won’t hurt
    teeth. Photo courtesy King Leo.


    Here’s an inexpensive gift that every peppermint candy lover will cherish.

    King Leo Candy makes succulent chocolate-dipped soft peppermint sticks just once a year, for the holidays.

    Made with 100% pure peppermint oil, they’re very flavorful and melt in your mouth. There’s no hard candy cane to crunch at the risk of your dentistry.

    Hand-dipped in luscious dark chocolate, the peppermint sticks are great for snacking, to garnish desserts or to serve with coffee or hot chocolate.

    A 6-ounce box is $5.99; a case of 12 boxes is $70.00, at The minimum order is $25, or 6 boxes.

  • Find more of our favorite candy and chocolate gifts for Holiday 2010.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Seasonal Milkshake Dessert

    ‘Tis the season to take advantage of limited-edition ice cream flavors: candy cane/peppermint, cinnamon, eggnog and pumpkin.

    For a crowd-pleasing dessert, serve a small piece of pumpkin/apple/other seasonal favorite pie or cake with a small “side” milkshake (4-6 ounces) in a holiday flavor. If you’d like something lighter, substitute biscotti or cookies. Think of it as the “bake and shake” equivalent of “surf and turf.”

    To make the shake, just blend 1 cup of ice cream with 1/2 cup milk (or 1 pint of ice cream and 1 cup of milk).

    Depending on the flavor, you can add chocolate or caramel syrup; and can garnish the milkshake with chocolate shavings (candy cane milkshake), ground cinnamon and/or nutmeg (for cinnamon, eggnog and pumpkin milkshakes).

    To get chocolate or caramel markings as shown in the photo, use a bristle paint brush or a thin squeeze bottle.

    Find more of our favorite recipes and products:

    Have your cake and eat it too—with a
    mini-milkshake. Photo by Rafael Fragoso | SXC.


    PRODUCT: Minute Maid Light

    A satisying O.J. Lite. Photo by Erika Meller |


    If you’re still stuffed from Thanksgiving dinner, it’s a good time to read about Minute Maid Light fruit drink, instead of some rich, heavy food.

    At only 15 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrate per 8-ounce glass, it’s an orangey way to start your day or quench your thirst throughout it. Each 8-ounce serving contains 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.

    We tried Orange Tangerine and Lemonade fruit drinks. The products are made with real juice from concentrate, sweetened with sucralose and acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), and are certified kosher by Triangle K. Both can also be used as low-calorie cocktail mixers.

  • Orange Tangerine scored well with us; we’ll buy it again. For very few calories, we’ll trade the natural O.J. at 110 calories a glass for 15 calories per glass. You know you’re drinking a light version, but for those who can quickly drain an eight-ounce glass, it’s a good substitute (and makes a nice reduced-calorie Screwdriver).

  • The Lemonade didn’t fare as well with us. Even though we added a two teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, it didn’t perk up as we’d hoped. We could taste the artificial sweetener and the drink reminded us of Crystal Light. It’s easy to squeeze a lemon and make a glass of fresh lemonade sweetened with low-glycemic agave nectar or a packet of sucralose (e.g., Splenda).
  • The line also includes Limonada-Limeade and Raspberry Passion, which we couldn’t track down at our local markets. A colleague tells us that Limonada-Limeade, some Orange Tangerine (substituting for the Cointreau) plus tequila makes a lower-calorie, No Sugar Added Margarita.

    Minute Maid, the world’s largest marketer of fruit juices and fruit drinks, is a brand owned by The Coca-Cola Company.



    GIFT OF THE DAY: Champagne Truffles, Rum Truffles

    These melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffle logs, made in Argentina for Harry & David by LW Chocolatier, are truly delectable.

    They’re perfect to serve with espresso or after-dinner drinks; and for a luscious snack any time you need a chocolate fix. Fill the candy bowl and guests will be in heaven.

    Choose from cocoa-powder-coated Rum Truffles or powder-sugar-coated Champagne truffles—or don’t choose and get some of each.

    Packaged in an elegant bronzed gift box, these are a sophisticated, grown-up treat that kids will love as well. Twelve individually-wrapped truffles (13.5 ounces) are $39.95 at

    Melt-in-your-mouth happiness. Photo
    courtesy Harry & David.



    Have a delicious Thanksgiving. Photo


    Wishes For Today:

    May your stuffing be tasty
    May your turkey be plump,
    May your potatoes and gravy
    Have nary a lump.
    May your yams be delicious
    And your pies take the prize,
    And may your Thanksgiving dinner
    Stay off your thighs!

    – Anonymous

    Thanks to for reminding
    us of this holiday verse.


    RECIPE: Pumpkin Fritters

    THE NIBBLE’s Kids & Family Editor, Cricket Azima, says that if you haven’t settled on a pumpkin dish for your Thanksgiving dinner, these South African Pumpkin Fritters are a snap. You can also serve them for dessert with ice cream or whipped cream, or make them for brunch over Thanksgiving weekend.

    The recipe is from Cricket’s cookbook, Everybody Eats Lunch.

    These fritters are topped with cinnamon sugar. If you’d rather take a savory approach, top with plain nonfat Greek yogurt (or serve it on the side) and garnish with pumpkin seeds (optional).


    Serves 4 (16 fritters)


  • 1 can pumpkin (15-ounces)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


    Mmm, pumpkin fritters. Photo © Blueee |
    Fotolia. Serve with the main course, for
    brunch or for dessert with ice cream or whipped cream.


    1. In large bowl, combine pumpkin, flour, egg, 1 tablespoon sugar, baking powder and salt.

    2. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

    3. Cook in two batches. Drop spoonfuls of mixture into pan and lightly flatten with a spatula. Cook until golden, about 4 minutes per side.

    4. In small bowl, combine remaining sugar with cinnamon and sprinkle over hot fritters before serving.



    GIFT OF THE DAY: Heat & Dry Dish Rack

    Let hot hair dry your dishes. Photo
    courtesy Bon Home.

    Your hand-washed dishes will dry in 10 minutes on your countertop! All you have to do is press the “on” switch on this first-of-its-kind dish rack. Hot air will waft up from the bottom of the rack and dry the dishes.

    The Heat & Dry Dish Rack from Bon Home is much faster and more sanitary than towel drying—and it’s whisper quiet.

    • No more towel lint, no potential breakage most of us have experienced when hand-drying.
    • It’s perfect for hand-washed items too delicate to put into the dishwasher—like fine crystal.
    • At $99.95 it may seem pricey, but use it daily for a year and the cost equates to 27 cents a day. We’d gladly pay that, never to have to hand-dry glassware again! Buy online at


    See all of our favorite kitchen gadgets for Holiday 2010.


    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Manage Holiday Eating

    Thanksgiving celebrates the season’s bounty. In addition to an elaborate dinner, there’s often a generous amount of pre-dinner munchies: cheese, dips, spreads and more.

    While they’re all delicious, they can fill up guests so that by the time they sit down at the table, the edge is off the appetite. Some people may have even filled up on the pre-dinner goodies.

    One way to make sure that everyone has room for the turkey, stuffing, yams and pumpkin pie, is to pass the hors d’oeuvre, crudité platters, cheeses, etc., instead of setting platters in the middle of seating and conversation areas.

    You can enlist older children to circulate with trays, with a reward of 10 iTunes songs as their tip to ensure good service. They can enjoy playing cater-waiter and coming up with the most engaging ways to say, “Ladies, may I offer you some spinach dip?”

    Your guests will thank you.

    Don’t fill your guests up before
    dinner begins. Photo courtesy Artisanal Fromagerie & Bistro, NYC.


    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: eCreamery Customized Ice Cream

    Mix up your favorite ingredients. Photo

    One of the most delightful products of the year—and a wonderful holiday gift—eCreamery allows you or your gift recipient to customize the ice cream, gelato or sorbetto flavor of your dreams.

    We’ve become eCreamery addicts: We can’t wait to make the next flavor…and the next.

    In addition to choosing the flavor (there are 80 for ice cream and gelato, and nine for sorbetto) and two mix-ins, the pints are custom-labeled with your creative name for the blend: Happy Elf Eggnog, Mom’s Youth Serum, Cher’s Chocolate Fantasy, and so on.

    The products are top-quality, and the fun experience is memorable.

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