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Archive for February, 2011

RECIPE: Cherry Cheesecake For President’s Day


This video shows just how easy it is to make a delicious cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. The recipe uses fat-free cream cheese and sour cream, but you can use the regular versions for an even creamier—if higher fat and calorie—version, which is the way we like it. (What’s the food analogy to “Go big or go home?”)

Typically, cheesecake is served with fresh fruit. Blueberries, mango, raspberries and strawberries are fan favorites.

But since it’s President’s Day, let’s use a top-quality can of cherry pie filling as the topping (or make your own topping from frozen cherries). Our favorite cherry pie filling is made by cherry specialist Chukar Cherries. If there’s a better cherry pie filling out there, we haven’t discovered it.* Chukar Cherries products are also certified kosher.

*When we have to use a lesser cherry pie filling, we add a tablespoon of Kirsch (cherry brandy) to cut the sweetness.

So fat-free or full test, bake a cherry cheesecake.


Cheesecake Trivia
Cheesecake (savory) was popular in ancient Greece. Neufchatel, ricotta and other soft, fresh cheesecake-friendly cheeses have existed in Europe for centuries, engendering a variety of savory and sweet cheesecake recipes. But cream cheese was invented by accident in New York, in 1872, and later given the Philadelphia brand name (learn more).

In the early 20th century, the company promoted the first cream cheese cake recipe, and an icon was born.

  • Cheesecake trivia quiz
  • Great cheesecake recipes
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    PRODUCT: A Scrub Brush That’s Fun

    Need some help in the kitchen?

    Pier 1 Imports will sell you Brushing Beauties in blonde, brunette and redhead versions.

    Think of the scrub brushes as gal pals who are available to help with cleanup.

    At $6.95 each, the dishwasher-safe scrub brushes are inexpensive house gifts and “just because” gifts. Buy hair colors that match your friends’ hair.

    Back in your own kitchen, you’re likely to get less resistance from family or housemates when you ask them to “grab the redhead and scrub some pots.”

    Fun gals help scrub pots. From Pier 1 imports.


    RECIPE: Cherry Brownies For President’s Day

    Cherry brownies. Photo courtesy, specialist in vegan


    The legend of George Washington and the cherry tree was an invention of book agent Mason Locke Weems, in his 1800 biography, “The Life of Washington.” The cherry tree has been associated with Washington ever since.

    Washington’s Birthday was declared a federal holiday by Congress in 1880,* the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen.
    *Initially the holiday was for government offices in the District of Columbia. It was expanded to include all federal offices in 1885. State government offices, including schools, followed suit, followed by banks and other businesses. The holiday was celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday, February 22, until 1971, when it was shifted to the third Monday in February and combined with the Lincoln’s Birthday celebration to allow federal employees a three-day weekend.

    Cherry pie, typically made with canned tart cherries, became a popular way to celebrate the day. Over the years, many other cherry recipes followed.

    Alas for those who like fresh ingredients, cherry season is in summer. But quality canned cherries (we like Chukar Cherries) and dried cherries enable cooks and bakers to express their patriotism—or at least, use the occasion to make something different.

    For the President’s Day weekend, a batch of cherry brownies will hit the spot with your family and friends:

  • Prepare your favorite brownie recipe. Here’s a rich brownie recipe. Cut the nuts in the recipe in half (or omit them) to accommodate the cherries.
  • Soak 1/2 to 1 cup of dried cherries moistened with Kirsch (cherry brandy), rum or other favorite spirit.
  • Mix a half cup of the cherries into the brownie batter and/or press them into the top of the brownies when you remove the pan from the oven. There’s no need to drain the spirits: They make the brownies taste that much better!
    Prefer a chocolate chip cookie? Here’s our recipe for yummy cherry chocolate chip cookies.


    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Check If Fish Is Cooked

    Yesterday we suggested that you roast fish more often and included an easy recipe.

    The only difficult part of roasting fish is determining when it’s done. A key reason some people don’t like fish is because they grew up with overcooked, dry, “fishy” fish.

    While each recipe has time guidelines, it requires some experimentation with both the size of the fish and your oven to get it done exactly as you like it.

    Here’s the best way to check if the fish is finished cooking:

  • At the low end of the estimated cooking time, remove the baking sheet from the oven. (Close the oven door quickly to keep the temperature constant.)
  • Press on the fish with the back of a spoon or with a clean finger. (Be careful if you use the finger method, as the fish will be hot.)

    Halibut Provençal with onion, tomatoes,
    olives and white wine. Get the recipe.
    Photo courtesy McCormick.

  • If the fish flakes apart easily, it’s cooked. If the fish still seems quite firm (as if it’s pushing back at you rather than falling apart), then it needs to cook a little longer.
  • Fish fillets cook quickly, so check on them again every two minutes. Remember, also, that the fish will continue to cook after removed from the oven. So if it’s “almost there,” take it out.
    We never overcook fish because we like it on the rare side. After decades of eating sashimi and sushi, we enjoy it on the raw side, too!

    For guests, we often prepare “fish three ways”; for example, a roast salmon fillet, some slices of sushi-quality raw salmon and a salmon tartare (substitute salmon in this tuna tartare recipe) or a shooter of salmon chowder.

    There are many other options that don’t require raw fish. For example, top three smaller pieces of fish with very different sauces: this Provençal sauce, a mint-yogurt sauce and a mix of chopped pistachios and dried cherries.

  • Find more of our favorite fish recipes.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Roasted Fish Recipe—It’s Easy!

    Roast salmon atop sauteed spinach and
    mushrooms in a lemon butter caper sauce.
    Photo courtesy Restaurant i at the Charles
    Hotel, New York City.

    Too many people shy away from cooking fish because they feel it’s difficult. That’s a myth: It’s easy to cook healthy and delicious fish fillets, steaks and even whole fish.

    (Whether you use the English term fillet, pronounced FILL-it, or the French word filet, pronounced fee-LAY, both refer to a boneless cut of fish or meat.)

    Here’s a tip from Alissa Dicker Schrieber, The Kitchenista.

    While there are endless ways to cook any given food, it’s important to have a go-to method you can turn to time and time again: something foolproof, that turns out great every time, and that you don’t have to give much thought to.

    For fish, our go-to method is definitely roasting. It is an extremely simple undertaking: just three easy steps.

     Roasting fish requires only three ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and the fish. Herbs are invited, but optional (we use basil, dill, marjoram, oregano, rosemary or thyme).


    • Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil, which prevents food from sticking and makes cleanup easier.
    • Oil the baking sheet by pouring a drop of olive oil onto the parchment/foil. Spread it with a brush, a paper towel or your hand. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel and lay it on the parchment/foil. Sprinkle with optional herbs. Leave a bit of space between fillets; this helps them to cook evenly. If the fish has skin, place it skin-side-down. The skin will come off easily once the fish is cooked.
    • Drizzle with olive oil to coat (1-2 teaspoons per small fillet, 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon per large fillet), sprinkle with salt and put the baking sheet in the oven. Very thin fish like sole can take as little as 6 to 8 minutes to cook. Medium-thick fillets like striped bass can take up to 12 minutes, while thicker filets (cod, halibut, salmon) may take 15 or 16 minutes. Cooking times are only guidelines; the actual time will vary with the size of the fillets and your particular oven.

    You can serve roast fish simply, with lemon or lime wedges. The pan juices are very flavorful, so spoon them over the fish.

    Or, you can make a sauce. The photo shows a lemon butter sauce with capers. For a healthier alternative, make a sauce of fat-free Greek yogurt with minced chives and mint. Season with garlic salt and fresh pepper and serve at room temperature (yogurt separates when heated, but you can warm it slightly in the microwave).

    Whether or not you use a sauce, serve the fish atop the vegetables for a sophisticated presentation.

    Pick a fish for tonight. Alaska cod (also called gray cod and true cod), Alaska halibut, artic char, farmed U.S. or South American tilapia, wild-caught Pacific flounder or sole, wild-caught or Canadian-farmed salmon or wild-caught or U.S.-farmed striped bass. If you’d like something else, check Seafood Watch and choose a sustainable fish.



    NEWS: The First Coca-Cola Recipe

    Asa Candler, who purchased the Coca-Cola recipe from John Pemberton in 1887 for $2,300, worked on the original recipe to turn it from a medicinal tonic to a soft drink.

    Candler was maniacal about protecting his secret recipe. He demanded that no one ever write it down. All labels were removed from ingredient containers. Staff had to identified the ingredients by sight and smell only. All invoices from the ingredients suppliers were shredded, so that employees could not discover what they were and sell the information to rivals.

    Over the years, the company has made much of its “secret recipe,” which is so cloak-and-dagger that a major “secret ingredient” is known only as Merchandise 7X. The formula is kept in a bank vault. The company claims that any given time only two people know how to mix the 7X flavoring, and they can never travel on the same plane in case it crashes. It makes for good press.

    While it’s easy to determine the general ingredients in a lab analysis, the Merchandise 7X unique flavoring has been elusive.

    Now, producers of the Public Radio show “This American Life” claim to have uncovered the identity of Merchandise 7X. It’s a mix of seven ingredients.

    A February 18, 1979 article on the history of Coca-Cola, published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, included a photograph that claimed to be a handwritten copy of the Pemberton Coca-Cola recipe, written in a friend’s leather-bound recipe book of remedies and ointments.

  • Here’s the recipe.
  • The history of Coca-Cola.

    A portion of an image from an early Coca-
    Cola company check. The original can be
    purchased at


    Instead of trying to recreate the original, we recommend that you purchase some Boylan’s Cane Cola. It has a wonderful old-fashioned taste that might be quite similar to Candler’s final product. Their sugar-free cola is just as delicious—you won’t know it’s sugar free.

    Like Coca-Cola, Boylan’s is certified kosher. Read our review of Boylan Bottleworks, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.

  • Find more of our favorite soft drinks and diet soft drinks.
  • See these old-fashioned medicine ads. The products included not just cocaine but heroin!


    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Cheese Fondue Recipe

    Call friends over for a fondue party.
    Photo courtesy Emmi Roth Käse.

    February is National Fondue Month, a fun food to celebrate and a reason for a casual dinner party.

    There are three traditional types of fondue: beef, cheese and chocolate. Beef fondue consists of cubes of meat dipped into hot oil to cook and served with sauces. Chicken, scallops, shrimp and other proteins can be substituted. Cheese fondue is a pot of seasoned melted cheese served with cubed bread and often, fruit and vegetables. Chocolate fondue is melted chocolate served with fruit, cake cubes and other dippers.

    Traditionally, fondue has been served at the table in a pot or dish set atop a warming stand heated with a candle or sterno. Today’s portable induction burners don’t have the romance of a flickering candle, but do a more even job of keeping the oil/cheese/chocolate at the right temperature.

    Coming up soon: beef fondue and chocolate fondue recipes.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Sustainable Coffee

    We were thrilled to discover Tiny Footprint coffee, an organic brand that is doubly sustainable through negative carbon emissions.

    We taste most things blind. So before we knew it was organic or carbon negative, we thought it was a great cup of coffee.

    Then, we found out how sustainable it is, first through organic agriculture (no pesticides to pollute the environment or the farmers plus conservation of the land).

    The name, Tiny Footprint, refers to the company’s carbon footprint. A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas produced, directly and indirectly, to create and sell a product.

    For an individual, one’s carbon footprint is the result of everything it takes to support all of one’s life activities—food, shelter, transportation and so forth. Everything you buy and use makes your footprint grow. The larger your carbon footprint, the more greenhouse gas you generate. Greenhouse gas creates climate change (previously known as global warming).

    Delicious coffee for you, a bonus for the
    environment. Photo by Katharine Pollak |

    The growing, harvesting, roasting and distribution of Tiny Footprint coffee provides a tiny footprint indeed.

    For each pound of coffee purchased, the company more than offsets the carbon impact of harvesting, roasting and distributing its coffee by planting a small plot of saplings in the Mindo Cloudforest of Ecuador.

    Reforestation helps to protect dozens of threatened bird species and other forest animals by replacing habitats that have been cut down for cattle ranching, lumbering, tourism and general human expansion. And it helps the atmosphere: Plants take in carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas, for photosynthesis. In the process, they expel oxygen.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Leftover Valentine Candy

    These Dove chocolate hearts are about to
    be pressed into oatmeal cookies. Photo
    by River Soma | THE NIBBLE.

    If you have more Valentine chocolate than you think you’ll consume, you can transform it into something else.

    • Solid chocolate can be chopped up and converted into hot chocolate.
    • It can also be melted and used to dip bananas, strawberries and raspberries—plus cookies, potato chips and pretzels.
    • If you have chocolate-covered caramels, melt and use to coat pretzels. It’s divine!
    • Filled chocolates and caramels can be chopped up and added to brownie batter, cupcakes and Rice Krispies Treats.
    • Take a page from Hershey’s Kisses and press candies into fresh-baked cookies.

    Or, just bring them to work and set them out. They’ll disappear like magic.

    What would you do with leftover Valentine chocolate and other Valentine candy?


    TREND: The Beer Cocktail

    One of our editors doesn’t care for wine: She’s strictly a beer and spirits gal.

    There are many people like her. No wonder beer cocktails are on the rise.

    Beer has been mixed for centuries. The Black and Tan is a mix of stout plus lager or pale ale; Shandy is a mix of beer and lemonade; the Boilermaker is beer and a shot of whiskey; the Michelada is beer with lime, salt, picante sauce and sometimes, tomato juice.

    Now, Nation’s Restaurant News reports a trend in beer cocktails, mixing beer with absinthe, coffee, port and other mixers.

    The photo shows a Muddy Puddle, the signature cocktail of JoeDoe in New York City.

    Bourbon, iced espresso and simple syrup are shaken and poured over ice into a pilsner glass rimmed with crushed peanuts. The drink is then topped off with Sierra Nevada stout.

    Other recipe ideas:


    A beer cocktail with stout, bourbon, iced
    espresso and simple syrup, garnished with
    peanuts. Photo courtesy Nation’s Restaurant News.


  • Raspberry-tea-infused blanco tequila, ginger, lime and Modelo Especial lager, from Mayahuel in New York City
  • Pineapple-infused mezcal, lime, sugar cane and Negra Modelo dark lager in a glass with a spiced salt rim, also at Mayahuel
  • A Michelada variation with spiced honey stout (stout with port, Madeira and allspice), tomato, lime and spices, from Starbelly in San Francisco
  • Gin, Earl Grey tea-infused dry vermouth and St. Germain elderflower, topped with porter, at Alchemy in San Diego
  • Bourbon, absinthe and triple ale with grated cinnamon and nutmeg, also at Alchemy
    Call up your inner mixologist to develop your own ideas.



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