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Archive for December, 2010

COCKTAIL RECIPE: True Grit & Bourbon

While Rooster Cogburn never missed a drink, we’re not certain that he’d cotton to mixing his whiskey with cinnamon schnapps and gold flakes.

That’s more than a bit too fancy for the whiskey available in either rural Arkansas or the Indian territory that became Oklahoma.

And nobody in Charles Portis’ novel, True Grit—or any of the filmed versions—was looking for gold.

But we’ll let that pass, because Wild Turkey has created a charming Old West cocktail that assembles the ingredients—the gold, the grit, the sarsaparilla and the whiskey—into a cocktail honoring the American West.

They named this cocktail after the tough lawman in the novel:

See “True Grit,” then drink it. Photo
courtesy Wild Turkey.



  • 1-1/2 ounces Wild Turkey 101
  • 1/2 ounces Goldschläger, cinnamon schnapps laced with gold flakes (which is a beautiful liqueur to drink straight up or mixed with vodka or blanco/plato/silver tequila, as well, with gold flakes swirling in clear liquid)
  • 4 ounces sarsaparilla or any root beer*
  • Coarse salt (provides the grit)*Here’s a fun fact: From 1820 to 1910 (much of the time period covered by Charles Portis’ novel, which ends in 1928), sarsaparilla was registered in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia as a treatment for syphilis. (There is no scientific research to substantiate this claim.) Sarsaparilla is a trailing vine with prickly stems, native to Central America. Oh, and Rooster’s given name was Reuben.



TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Flavored Water

While anise water won’t overtake mint water,
it’s one of our favorites. Photo courtesy

We’ve written before about adding berries, citrus slices, cucumber slices, mint and other herbs to create a pitcher of infused water. It adds considerable flavor with negligent calories.

You can also make flavored water with extracts. McCormick’s, available at most supermarkets, has the widest retail selection:

  • Fruit Flavors: Banana, Lemon, Coconut, Orange, Raspberry and Strawberry
  • Herb Flavors: Anise, Cinnamon, Mint
  • More Flavors: Almond, Maple, Rum


We make mint water every day. The recipe: 8-10 drops of mint extract per 16-ounce bottle of water (use a clean medicine dropper).

We like a very flavor-forward water. If you’re not certain how strong you like it, start with 6 drops and keep adding until you reach your preferred threshold.

But lately, we’ve been playing with other recipes, including combinations (banana rum is a favorite). But our most favorite discovery: anise water. If you love the flavor of anise (or licorice), try it.

And let us know your favorite combinations.


Cooking Video: Low Calorie Cocktails


You can still enjoy a few drinks on Christmas and New Year’s Eve, without breaking the calorie bank.

Registered Dietician Elizabeth Somer provides tips that help you to “drink this, not that,” to borrow a phrase from the popular book by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding.

In fact, the book series that includes Drink This, Not That, Eat This, Not That and Cook This, Not That will help jump-start your New Year’s diet.

But back to our weekly cooking video: Spend a few minutes with it and you’ll be mindful of which drinks are highest in calories and which alternatives are just as satisfying. Or as we see it, trade off drink calories for a piece of pecan pie or cheesecake.

  • Enjoy these low-carb cocktail recipes at your Christmas dinner, New Year’s party and throughout 2011.
  • Find more food and drink videos in our Cooking Videos Section.
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: OXO Salad Spinner

    Stop using paper towels to dry off your salad greens.

    You not only use an unreasonable amount of paper towels (non-green greens, as it were); but you also unnecessarily crush delicate greens such as basil and mint.

    Instead, use the OXO Good Grips Salad Spinner to dry your lettuce and herbs.

    What separates the OXO Good Grips Salad Spinner from its competitors is the ease and versatility of use.

    • The OXO Salad Spinner uses a pump style method for spinning the basket rather than a crank or rope.
    • This means you can operate the spinner with only one hand by simply pushing down on the pump.


    Dry your salad without wasting paper towels.
    Photo courtesy OXO Good Grips.

    • There is also a non-slip ring on the bowl to make sure it stays put while you’re drying your salad leaves.


    The 6-quart bowl is deep, so you can toss your unwashed greens into it and fill it with cold water. This lets any sediment sink to the bottom while your salad floats to the top.

    Then when you’re ready to spin, simply slowly lift the basket out of the water, pour out any dirt and spin. If you’re in a bind, the large bowl also acts as a serving vessel. You can dress the salad and put the entire bowl out for display.

    Last year, another brand of salad spinner won a major industry award. We rushed to buy it. Alas, the pull-cord broke within eight weeks.

    Our OXO gets the thumbs up!


    RECIPE: Holiday Cranberry Sauce

    It’s easy to make from scratch. Photo
    by M. Sheldrake | IST.

    Whether you’re planning a duck, goose, ham or turkey for Christmas, make your own delicious cranberry sauce as a side. It’s easy, and tastes so much better than store-bought.



    • 1 pound frozen or fresh cranberries
    • Juice of 2 navel oranges
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 3 tablespoons honey (more if needed)
    • ¼ cup Bourbon (optional)
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • Juice of 1 lemon
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 1 jalapeño, finely minced

    1. Wash cranberries under cold water and place in a sauce pan with brown sugar, cinnamon stick, half the orange juice, salt, jalapeño and bourbon.

    2. Bring mixture to boil on high heat, then maintain a simmer on low heat. The cranberries should pop and break down.

    3. When the orange juice has reduced by half (about 5 minutes), add the second half of the orange juice. If the orange juice reduces too quickly before the cranberries fully break down, you can simply add water, about 2 tablespoons at a time, until the cranberries pop and resemble jam.

    4. Strain the mixture through a strainer, to separate the skins and stems. Push the mixture through with the back of a spoon.

    5. Place back in pan, stir and taste. If the sauce is still acidic, add honey 1 tablespoon at a time. You may not need all the honey.

    6. Add a few drops of lemon juice to brighten up the cranberry sauce.

    7. It’s ready to serve!



    GOURMET GIVEAWAY: Hickory Farms’ Home For The Holidays Gift Box

    Winners will enjoy treats from Hickory
    Farms. Photo courtesy Hickory Farms.

    This prize may not arrive in time for the holidays, but you’ll be glad you have it for Super Bowl snacking.

    Two lucky winners will receive a Home For The Holidays Gift Box, which includes everything you’ll need for a meat-and-cheese hors d’oeuvres tray: beef, summer sausages, four cheeses, two types of mustard and crunchy crackers. Those with a sweet tooth can nibble on four strawberry candies.

    All you’ll need to supply are napkins and plates.

    Retail Value Of Prize: Approximately $50.00.

    • To learn more about Hickory Farms, visit
    • To Enter This Gourmet Giveaway: Go to the box at the bottom of our Gourmet Food Gifts Page and click to enter your email address for the prize drawing. This contest closes on Monday, December 27th at noon, Eastern Time. Good luck!


    TIP OF THE DAY: Substitution For Cheesecloth

    As the name implies, cheesecloth is a fabric used in cheese production.

    Layers of cheesecloth are used to wrap cheeses like Cheddar: The small holes in the cloth allow the cheese to breathe without drying out. Cheesecloth is also used to press and drain the curds of soft cheeses.

    While you may not be in the cheese-making business, some recipes require cheesecloth (also spelled cheese cloth) to make a bouquet garni (an aromatic bundle of herbs), as a straining cloth to clarify stocks and soups, and to triple-strain and press Greek-style yogurt.

    If you don’t have cheesecloth and you’re in a bind, simply use a coffee filter or two to make a bouquet garni or clarify your soup.


    If you can’t find cheesecloth locally, it’s
    available online.

    For a bouquet garni, tie up your herbs with string or butcher’s twine (available at supermarkets or any butcher) in a coffee filter and toss it in your soup, stock or sauce. For clarifying, set the filter in the mouth of a large jar and ladle in your soup or stock. Use your non-ladle hand to hold the filter as you pour in the soup.


    TRENDS: Craft Beer

    Try a spicy beer with your fruitcake.
    Photo courtesy

    Here’s an idea for Christmas dinner or New Year’s Eve: Treat guests to a craft beer tasting.

    As we relayed last week, a Wakefield Research survey shows that more than 60% of men would prefer to toast the New Year with beer rather than Champagne. By implication, they wouldn’t mind having that beer at Christmas as well.

    And by further implication, they wouldn’t mind tasting some exciting craft beers instead of the same old, same old.

    So go to your closest depot of craft beer and get six or so different brews for a tasting. If you don’t know where to begin, the sales associate can help you. One place to start is with the same style of beer (pilsner, dark ale) from six different microbreweries. Or, purchase six different styles of beer from the same brewery.

    Serve the beers in order from lightest to darkest style, giving everyone a two-ounce pour. This nets out to one bottle of beer consumed per person. One 12-ounce bottle yields 6 pours. Discuss the aromas and flavors in each beer—they’re complex and much more flavorful and aromatic than mass-marketed megabrands.

    Craft beer continues to be hot. In 2010, craft breweries nationwide were unable to keep up with demand from enthusiastic beer lovers.

    While many of the top-selling beer brands from the large breweries saw a decline in sales in 2010, 200 new craft breweries opened and almost 500 more are reported to be in the planning stages.

    Here are highlights from the ever-changing beerscape, according to the Brewers Association, which represents America’s small and independent craft brewers.

    • Cans vs. Bottles: Full-flavored craft beers in cans instead of bottles continued to gain traction across the country.
    • “Sour is the New Hoppy”: Barrel-aging, which produces interesting tart flavors, has become very popular—even among America’s hopheads who like the bitter flavors.
    • Beer and Food: Craft beer and food pairings continue to be prevalent at the dinner table. From coast to coast, restaurants are offering beer pairings with food. See our beer pairing dinner menu (a great idea for New Year’s Eve) and find many pairing ideas at
    • Cooking With Beer: Craft beer has become a staple ingredient in many dishes, from brines to sauces. Get lots of ideas at
    • Nano Breweries: These tiny breweries, with a case output so small that they can’t be called microbreweries, are hot and growing.
    • Brewpubs: The estimated 1,000 brewpubs in the country represents well over half of U.S. breweries. Looks like we want good grub with our craft beer.


    Support your local brewery. Meet friends at your nearest brewpub for some holiday cheer.

    Understand the types of beer in our Beer Glossary.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Unwind With A Relaxation Drink

    Is the holiday rush getting to you? Unwind with a relaxation drink.

    For the past two years, relaxation drinks—lightly carbonated soft drinks with relaxation agents such as the amino acid L-theanine, melatonin, and valerian root—are the new growth area in the beverage category. Low in sugar and caffeine-free, the “family-friendly” drinks are calming, while increasing focus and concentration.

    In other words, they’re meant to soothe the mind and body.

    ViB, short for “Vacation in a Bottle,” is a favorite of Jessica Simpson and has a number of major athletes as investors. The category originator, ViB, was developed by two Dallas entrepreneurs who observed a growing backlash against the energy drink market. ViB’s main ingredient is the amino acid L-Theanine, the calming ingredient in green tea.


    Chill with Unwind relaxation beverage. Photo
    courtesy Frontier Beverage.

    While we’re not keen on the name, you could try drank, a brand spelled with a lower-case “d” that doesn’t say anything about “relaxation” (maybe the development team was so relaxed, its powers of naming were diminished).

    RelaxZen has gone one further. In addition to its main formula, the company has created RelaxZen DAY FLIGHT and RelaxZen NIGHT FLIGHT for sale at airports, to calm nervous fliers.

    We’ve just tried Unwind Ultimate Relaxation, with the catchy slogan, “Tired Of Being Wired?” It did take the edge off.

    With only 40 calories for a 12-ounce can (10 grams of sugar), it contains the calming properties of melatonin, rose hips, passion flower and valerian root, with added nurturing from vitamins B6, B12 and C. It’s all natural and OU kosher, in Citrus Orange, Goji Grape and Pom Berry.

    Relaxation drinks also come in handy when you’re overly-wired from coffee or energy drinks. They can be found at convenience stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, groceries and other retails.

    Headquartered in Memphis, Unwind Beverage is sold in select stores in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio and the New England Region, including Albany, Boston and Hartford. It is available online by the case ($54.95) at


    GIFT OF THE DAY: This Chocolate Box Has An Edible Box

    Give chocolates in an edible chocolate box.
    Photo courtesy Charles Chocolates.

    OMG: Five more shopping days until Christmas.

    If you’re still stuck for that special Christmas gift, this chocolate box from Charles Chocolates may be the solution.

    It’s all chocolate, including the box!

    The dark chocolate or milk chocolate selections are in a base of dark or milk chocolate, with a milk chocolate or white chocolate lid. The box is filled with 18 pieces of Charles’ Chocolates most popular bonbons. Including the box, each box is a pound of chocolate.

    The chocolate boxes are $60.00 each, but there’s a special offer now: two boxes for $95 (instead of $120).

    Purchase online at



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