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Archive for December, 2010

TIP OF THE DAY: Better Food Photography

Your photos of Christmas dinner can look a lot better this year.

Prominent food photographer Lou Manna, recognized by the elite Olympus Visionary Program, offers 13 tips for better food photography.

1. Keep your composure.

2. Take a fork’s-eye view.

3. Limit your ingredients.

4. Give your food a sense of style.

5. Clean your plate.

6. Crack the ISO code.

Get full details of these six tips plus the remaining seven food photography tips.



Improve your game [hen]. Photo © Lou Manna.




GIFT OF THE DAY: Breville Tea Maker

Our favorite: Breville’s One-Touch
Tea Maker. Photo courtesy Breville.


We love tea and drink several cups a day. The Breville One-Touch Tea Maker is our Appliance Of The Year.

We’ve tried most of the other sophisticated tea makers out there (different brewing times and/or temperatures for black, green, white and herbal teas). This is the best.

Breville’s One-Touch Tea Maker has forever changed the way we brew tea.

With the perfect temperature per type of tea (black, green, herbal, white) and your instructions on how strong you want it, this Breville beauty brews the best tea we’ve ever had. Even teas we haven’t liked taste amazingly better.

It’s fun watching the tea basket lower and brew. You can auto-set the appliance so tea is ready the minute you get out of bed, get home, etc. Over the summer, we brewed two batches daily, which we poured into pitchers and also into re-purposed empty water bottles for grab-and-go iced tea.


We are in love with this appliance. It’s worth every bit of $249.95. Find it at fine retailers and online.

  • Visit our Tea Section for everything you need to know about tea, plus recipes and our favorite tea brands.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Salad

    Need something to bring to Christmas dinner? We’re updating this popular post from last year:

    Make a beautiful red-and-green Christmas salad by adding “red” greens to your vegetable mix. Or make a colorful and delicious beet salad.


    If you can’t find the more exotic red lettuces—red endive, red leaf lettuce, red mustard greens, red oak lettuce, red romaine and the new red watercress—most stores carry the naturally red-veined chard, baby kale and radicchio. If you like, you can mix them with regular green leaf lettuces; but we prefer to keep our Christmas salad in holiday colors.

  • For more color and texture, slice thin rings of red and green bell peppers.
  • Use cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes. They not only taste better than out-of-season tomatoes; they look better in the salad.
  • Slice water chestnuts into thin disks as “tree ornaments.”
  • Instead of regular table salt, add more flavor with a seasoned salt, like saffron salt, fennel salt or other artisan salt blend.

    If you don’t want to make a Christmas salad
    with greens, a beet salad has the same
    holiday colors. Photo by Sarsmis | IST.

  • Use an elegant vinaigrette. Try fine olive oil with sherry vinegar or Champagne vinegar in a 3T:2T proportion. Add a pinch of dry mustard plus a pinch of salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste.

    Lacking the time to make pickled beets from scratch, we used Aunt Nellie’s Pickled Beets & Onions to make this quick salad:


  • 2 jars (16 ounces) sliced pickled beets with onions (or plain pickled beets with a thin-sliced small red onion)
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves or red-veined chard
  • 1/2 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese (optional)
  • Walnut halves for garnish (optional)
  • Olive oil (optional)
  • 10 leaves fresh basil, sliced into a chiffonade

    1. Empty beets into a large bowl.

    2. We used the liquid in the pickled beets for the salad dressing. If you want you can add a small amount of olive oil to taste.

    3. Mix in the spinach/chard and basil leaves.

    4. Place into serving dish. Top with goat cheese and sprinkle on walnuts.



    RECIPE: Blueberry Cranberry Relish

    Add blueberries to your cranberry relish.
    Recipe and photo courtesy Chilean Fresh
    Fruit Association.

    It isn’t blueberry season—at least not in the U.S. But fresh blueberries from Chile are available. Not at low summer prices, mind you. But those who love their blueberries year-round need not go without.

    One reason to buy fresh blueberries now is to make this easy and delicious Blueberry Cranberry Relish, delicious with Christmas turkey and ham.


    This recipe is best made a day or two in advance to let flavors blend. It makes 12 quarter-cup servings.


    • 1 cup fresh blueberries
    • 1 cup fresh orange juice
    • 8 ounces fresh cranberries
    • 1 tablespoon orange zest
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

    2. COOK until the sugar dissolves and the berries soften, for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and chill.

    Nutrients per serving: calories 76, fat 0, cholesterol 0, sodium 0, dietary fiber 0, protein 0.

    Serving Suggestions

    • Appetizer: A delicious condiment with Brie and other soft, creamy cheeses
    • Lunch: With turkey or ham sandwiches or grilled cheese; on a toasted cream cheese or fresh goat cheese sandwich
    • Dinner: A side with holiday turkey or ham; or everyday lamb, pork and poultry dishes
    • Dessert: A topping for vanilla ice cream, sorbet or frozen yogurt
    • Gift: Spoon into pretty glass jelly jars, tie a ribbon around the jar and give them as homemade gifts or party favors

    Also see our recipe for Cranberry Relish With Port.

    While you’re at it, make a Frozen Cranberry Margarita, Cranberry Mojito or Crantini (cranberry martini).



    GIFT OF THE DAY: Honey Ridge Farms Flavored Honey

    Here’s something sweet and better-for-you: honey is lower on the glycemic index than sugar.

    These superior flavored honeys from Honey Ridge Farms are blended with fruits or spices. Luscious, yet light on the palate, these honey crèmes are delicious on just about anything.

  • Spread on toast, scones, pancakes and waffles
  • Top ice cream
  • Use as a cheese condiment
  • Add to grilling sauces or marinades
  • And by all means, sweeten tea or other beverages
  • Flavors include Apricot, Blackberry, Cranberry, Lemon, Raspberry and Spiced (Cinnamon). The line is certified kosher by Oregon Kosher.

    You can purchase individual jars or a lovely gift crate with three 5.5-ounce jars:

  • Honey Crèmes, two 12-Ounce Jars, your choice of flavors
  • Honey Gift Crate With Three 5.5-Ounce Jars: Apricot, Blackberry & Clover
  • Honey Gift Crate With Three 5.5-Ounce Jars: Cranberry, Raspberry
    & Spiced (Cinnamon)
    Learn all about honey, how to pair honey and food, and find recipes in our Honey Section.

    Discover the fascinating history of honey.


    A gift box of Honey Ridge Farms Honey
    Crème is a sweet, better-for-you gift.
    Photo by River Soma | THE NIBBLE.


    PRODUCT: The Best Cheese Slices

    Tillamook’s standard Cheddar slice is cut
    into four mini-squares. Photo courtesy
    Tillamook County Creamery Association.

    Forget about those processed cheese slices.

    Oregon’s Tillamook County Creamery Association, formerly one of the best Cheddar producers in the country, is now the best in the world.

    Tillamook’s Medium Cheddar was voted “World’s Best Medium Cheddar Cheese” at the 2010 World Championship Cheese Contest—besting 58 other Medium Cheddar contestants.

    An international panel of Cheddar experts gave Tillamook a near-perfect score of 99.6 points out of 100.

    And now, the World’s Best Medium Cheddar Cheese is available in mini slices—the standard four-inch slice divided into four 2″x2″ slices, 48 mini-slices to a pack.

    They’re an easy solution for:

    • Sliders
    • Mini-sandwiches
    • Cheddar dogs
    • Eating less cheese on your burger (try two quarter slices, placed for maximum coverage)
    • And they’re the perfect size to fit on a cracker


    For entertaining, set out a cheese board of mini-slices, crackers, and garnishes (gherkins, pickle chips, olives, pepperoncini, Peppadew, cubed ham and turkey, sliced sausage, honey mustard and Dijon mustard) so guests can customize their snacks.

    Why else is this a great cheese?

    It’s all natural, made from milk that is rBST/rBGH free (no artificial growth hormones).



    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Tea (Or Wine) Break With Christmas Bread

    Gingerbread may be the best known Christmas “bread” in the U.S. Hopefully you’ll enjoy a few bites before the season ends (and send someone an adorable Gingerista gingerbread family that mirrors his or her household).

    But don’t let the holidays pass you by without trying pandoro, panettone, panforte and/or stollen.

    All are delicious with spiced tea like Constant Comment, which is also available in decaf and green tea versions. You can substitute an unflavored black tea.

    If you want to put some spirit into your snack, dessert or tea time, serve the Christmas bread with mulled wine (warm spiced wine) or with a sweet dessert wine, such as Spumante or Moscato.

    Gather the goods and invite friends to a special Christmas tea party.


    Stollen, the traditional German christmas
    cake or “bread.” Photo courtesy The London
    Hotel, New York City.

  • Pandoro is a star-shaped yeast bread sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, created in 19th-century Verona.
  • Panettone is a Milanese Christmas yeast bread, filled with candied fruits and raisins, that dates to medieval Italy. It is tall, dome-shaped and airy.
  • Panforte is short and dense. While the origins of a sweet leavened bread date back to Roman times, this dense mixture of almonds and candied fruit, sweetened with honey and flavored with spices, was born in 12th century Siena. See our favorite panforte (it’s gluten free).
  • Stollen was created outside of Dresden, Germany, in 1437. It is so prized that the city has trademarked the name, Dresden Stollen. The shape, covered with powdered sugar, is said to represent the diaper of Baby Jesus! See the history of stollen, and how Dresden erroneously claims their bakers invented it.
    If you’re in New York City for the holidays, you can stop by The London Bar by Gordon Ramsay at The London Hotel, 151 West 54th Street, not far from Carnegie Hall, Tiffany’s, the Time Warner Center/Columbus Circle and Times Square. Through the holidays, you can enjoy a slice of fresh-made stollen with spiced wine and a side of rum. It’s served daily from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. If you prefer tea, they’ll gladly oblige.

  • Get the recipe for mulled wine.
  • Find recipes for panettone French toast, bread pudding and panettone-Nutella sandwiches.
  • Check out all the different types of bread in our beautiful Bread Glossary.
  • Find more tea party ideas.


    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Belle Chèvre Goat Cheese Spread

    A simply scrumptious goat cheese spread
    in Cinnamon, Coffee, Fig and Honey. Photo
    by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

    Whether or not you like goat cheese, we’re here to spread the joy about Belle Chèvre Breakfast Cheese.

    It’s a line of four sweet-and-tangy spreadable cheeses that reminds us of lighter, drier cheesecake filling. Each of the flavors is perfect for spreading on your bagel, toast, muffin, crispbread and anyplace you’d spread cream cheese.

    Goat cheese is a lot healthier than cream cheese. Even if you don’t like it, if you like cheesecake, chances are you’ll like Belle Chèvre Breakfast Cheese.

    The melt-in-your-mouth cheese spreads—in Cinnamon, Coffee, Fig & Honey—can go from breakfast to hors d’oeuvre to dessert. You’ll be maa-d about it.


    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Store Fresh Herbs

    You can become a better cook overnight, just by using fresh herbs.

    Keep fresh basil, chives, dill, parsley, tarragon and other favorites in the fridge. They’ll make any savory dish taste better—from breakfast to dinner. Use fresh herbs and you don’t need to add as much salt (or any sugar) to recipes.

    Snip them into, or garnish:

    • Boiled, fried, poached or scrambled eggs
    • Soup—add a generous garnish or stir into the soup right before serving
    • Green salad, egg/chicken/tuna/seafood salad, macaroni and potato salad—herbs really perk up the flavor
    • Potatoes—baked, boiled, hash brown or mashed; sprinkle over French fries
    • Anything else that needs a bit of color and flavor


    If you find that your herbs only last a day or two in the refrigerator and can’t figure out why, the number one culprit is usually overexposure to moisture due to built-up condensation.

    An herb saver is a more formal way to
    preserve your herbs. Photo courtesy

    • Instead of keeping your herbs in the plastic bag in which you bought them, loosely wrap them in a sheet or two of paper towel to absorb excess condensation.
    • If you have room, another tip is to “plant” the herbs in a glass filled with enough water to cover the roots, and cover with a plastic bag.
    • If you want to get really fancy, there are herb savers that do the same as the water-glass-and-plastic-bag approach.



    GIFT OF THE DAY: Sam Adams Infinium Sparkling Ale

    Infinium is a most glam beer gift. Photo
    courtesy Boston Brewing Company.

    A Wakefield Research survey shows that more than 60% of men would prefer to toast the New Year with beer rather than Champagne. Enter Sam Adams’ new Infinium ale.

    The handsome, engraved bottle looks like Champagne; but it’s a special sparkling ale from Boston Brewing Company, makers of Sam Adams beers. It’s been created in partnership with Weihenstephan Brewery of Bavaria, Germany, the oldest surviving brewery in the world (since 760 C.E.).

    And it’s made with the thousand-year-old brewing technique called Reinheitsgebot (“The German Beer Purity Law”), which requires that beer be made with only malt, hops, water and yeast.

    Pop the cork and you’ll find a deep golden, full-bodied ale. Fruity on the nose, Infinium is mellow, round and malty on the palate. The ale has fine bubbles, which have led to the company calling Infinium a “Champagne-like beer.”

    A special treat for beer lovers, Infinium contains 10.3% alcohol by volume, twice the amount of an average beer. A 750 ml bottle has a Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price of $19.99.

    Infinium is available at retailers nationwide. You’ll thrill the beer drinkers at your party by pouring it to toast Christmas and the New Year.

    • See more of our favorite liquor gifts for Holiday 2010.
    • See all of our favorite holiday gifts.
    • Brush up on the different types of beer (there are 30 different styles!) in our Beer Glossary.



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