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Archive for March, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: Removing Orange Peel & Pith

Have trouble peeling oranges? Try thin-
skinned mandarins instead. Photo courtesy


We recently received a gift of delicious oranges from Harry & David. But boy, it wasn’t easy to remove the peel and the pith.

Then we remembered our Mom’s tip: Roll the orange on a hard surface, pressing down firmly.

We then scored the orange vertically (from top to bottom) into eight segments (first into quarters, then into eighths). We loosened the peel at the stem end and began to peel away.

It works!

If you don’t like to fuss with the peel, go for a mandarin instead of an orange. They’re a different species, and the thin skin is easy to peel with your fingers. Satsumas, clementines and tangerines are also readily available.

Mandarin hybrids have thicker skin but are also easy to peel: the tangor is a cross between the mandarin and the common orange; the tangelo (honeybell) is a cross between a tangerine and either a pomelo or a grapefruit.




PRODUCT: Hibiscus Tea, Superflower Power

If you’re looking for a delicious herbal tea, consider hibiscus tea.

Very fragrant and naturally caffeine-free, hibiscus tea is made from the petals of the hibiscus flower. It has a tart, red berry flavor and is drunk hot or cold (we particularly love it iced, where the tartness is extra refreshing).

FOOD TRIVIA: The hibiscus plant is a member of the mallow family, the most famous member of which is the marsh mallow. The sap of the marshmallow root was used in ancient times to make marshmallow confections. Today, gelatin and egg whites are used.

The Republic Of Tea has six flavors of hibiscus tea, in bags and as loose tea: Natural Hibiscus Tea, Blueberry Hibiscus Tea, Key Lime Hibiscus Tea, Pineapple Lychee Hibiscus Tea and Vanilla Apple Hibiscus Tea. We brew them as iced tea year-round.


Hibiscus tea is tart, refreshing and good
for you. Photo courtesy Republic Of Tea.


Scientific studies suggest that hibiscus is not only rich in vitamin C and minerals, but also significantly effective in maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Research has also found beneficial anti-inflammatory and mild anti-bacterial properties. (Check with your healthcare provider, but the recommendation is three cups a day for these health benefits.)

How To Steep Herbal Tea
Herbal tea requires longer steeping than black tea.
1. Heat fresh water to a rolling boil.
2. Add 1 teaspoon of herbs or 1 tea bag per six-ounce cup (add more for a larger mug).
3. Steep tea for 5 to 7 minutes. Put a lid on the cup to keep the heat in. If the steeped tea is not as hot as you like it, microwave it for 10-20 seconds.
4. For iced tea, double the amount of tea used, steep as above and pour over ice.



COOKING VIDEO: Homemade Marshmallows


We apologize for our strong opinion, but we think that supermarket marshmallows are terrible. Hard in texture, cottony in the mouth, they’re the Wonder Bread of marshmallows. If they’re your only frame of reference, we’re not surprised if you don’t particularly like marshmallows.

Here’s a cooking video that shows you how to make good marshmallows from scratch. It’s pretty easy. (The cute kids at the beginning will go away shortly so as to not interfere with the cooking.)

If you decide that you like making marshmallows, you can try other recipes until you’re as good as our favorite artisan marshmallow makers. (Different emulsifiers achieve lighter or heavier textures, for example, and you can make any flavor under the rainbow.)



Find more of our favorite old-fashioned candies in our Gourmet Candy Section.


PRODUCT: MiniMate Produce Keeper

Save your produce! Photo courtesy
HealthQuest Technologies.


The average family throws out more than $400 per year in spoiled fruits and vegetables. We can attest to that problem.

We’re always looking for a solution, and we may have found it with the MiniMate. A battery-operated appliance that sits in the fridge, it prevents the growth of mildew and kills the bacteria that cause food to spoil. And it claims to eliminate E. Coli and Salmonella, which can survive in the freezer as well as the fridge.

The MiniMate generates activated oxygen, or ozone. This technology is used as an antimicrobial agent in the fresh-cut produce industry. As it makes produce last longer, it saves money in spoilage. We think the MiniMate will earn back its $29.95 cost in just a few months.


And at 5″x5″x2.5″, it fits into our seriously packed refrigerator.

We conducted our test-run on the two items that we throw out the most: fresh raspberries and strawberries. Under our observation, the MiniMate doubled their shelf life in our fridge.

Learn more, and purchase, at



TIP OF THE DAY: Scouting The Produce Aisle

Part of the joy of eating is discovering new ingredients. They don’t have to be exotic (like fiddlehead ferns), just different.

We always walk down the produce aisle looking for something we haven’t tried before. Then, we look at all the ways we can use it to add fun and flair to our dishes.

We love the miniature bell peppers that have gotten broad distribution over the past couple of years (we found them at Costco).

Their tiny size and bright colors—green, orange, red and yellow—bring a smile to our faces. Their flesh is sweet and crisp. They’re so cute, kids will look forward to eating their veggies.

And they’re very versatile. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t chop up something that’s been miniaturized, but check the price tag: The minis can be less expensive per pound than regular bell peppers.

We’ve been using them for:


Miniature bell peppers are available year-
round. Photo courtesy

  • Cocktails: A garnish on a savory cocktail, like a Bloody Mary or a Martini.
  • Hors d’Oeuvre: A colorful addition to the crudité platter, or stuffed with pesto, meat and rice (like regular stuffed peppers) or herbed soft cheese. We made a pimento goat cheese mix—wonderful!
  • Salad & Sandwiches: Toss them in a salad, with or without cherry or grape tomatoes. Use a toothpick to “crown” a sandwich.
  • Garnish: These minis add color and charm to just about any plate.
  • Veggie: Skewers, stir-fries or other substitutes for their big brothers.
    How would you use them?

    What are your favorite produce “discoveries?”

    Find more of our favorite veggies and recipes in our Gourmet Vegetables Section.



    PRODUCT: BarTule Bar Tool Set

    The Swiss Army Knife of bar tools.
    Photo courtesy Bartule.


    So you have a small apartment but like to entertain; or you enjoy a cocktail in the office at the end of a long day. Or you need to set up a bar area for your boat, patio or other outdoor venue. What should you do?

    BarTule aims to tackle this challenge with its space-saving all-in-one bar set. Neatly nested are an ice bucket, a bottle opener, a corkscrew, a 4-ounce jigger,* a citrus juicer and an ice bucket lid that doubles as a coaster or salt-rimmer. There are no extraneous parts.

    *That’s the size of a wine pour, and four times the size of a normal jigger.

    After use, the pieces fit back in place. The manufacturers call it an “abstract sculpture,” but to us, it looks like what it is: a bar set.

    Made from high-density polycarbonate and stainless steel, the Bartule is available in six colors—blue, clear, green, red, smoke and yellow. It’s $49.91 at And yes, it’s dishwasher safe.




    FOOD HOLIDAY: Chocolate-Covered Raisins Day

    It’s National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day.

    The best-known chocolate covered raisins in the world are Raisinets, made by Nestlé. Some fun Raisinet facts:

  • Raisinets are produced in Burlington, Wisconsin, with California raisins.
  • Nestlé didn’t invent Raisinets: They were created in 1927 by the Blumenthal Chocolate Company, which also made Goobers. The brand was acquired by Nestlé in 1984.
  • In 2010, nearly 20 million pounds of Raisinets were produced—that’s almost 30 million Raisinets per day and 8 billion per year. If you lined them up end-to-end, Raisinets would stretch around the earth about three and a half times.
  • It took almost seven million pounds of raisins and more than 10 million pounds of chocolate to produce all those Raisinets.


    Celebrate the day with Raisinets. Photo
    by Jerry Deutsch | THE NIBBLE.

    To celebrate National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day, Nestlé has launched the Star Struck Sweepstakes: Upload a photo of you with Raisinets, and you could win your choice of a trip for two to Hollywood or New York City, plus $2,500. The contest continues through June 21, 2011.

    Final factoid: There’s a town in America called Raisin City, located in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley. Home to nearly 5,000 raisin growers, it’s where 99.5% of U.S. raisins are produced—including those that become Raisinets.

  • Find our favorite old-fashioned candies.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Sustainable Seafood

    Atlantic Cod is endangered. Switch to Pacific
    cod. Photo courtesy McCormick. Get a
    recipe for beer battered cod.


    You may see plenty of fish in the market or on restaurant menus, but the world’s population of wild seafood is threatened with extinction. Over-fishing and lack of fishing regulation have depleted numerous varieties of fish, including most types of tuna.

    Ubiquitous fish farming may be the solution of the future. But for the present, shrimp and salmon, the two leading farmed seafood species, are often farmed in an unsustainable manner, polluting the environment.

    The Monterey Bay Seafood Watch, sponsored by California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium, creates pocket seafood guides showing which fish are both sustainably harvested and low in toxins. Download a pocket guide that is customized for your region before you go shopping for fish or head to a restaurant. There’s also an iPhone app.


    The non-profit Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program is the most recognized and trusted resource for sustainable seafood recommendations. Seafood Watch recommendations are science-based, peer reviewed and use ecosystem-based criteria.

    The website also offers delicious and environmentally-friendly seafood recipes by some of the nation’s leading chefs. You can sign up for the recipe of the month as well.

    It’s easy to make sustainable choices that satisfy your taste buds and your conscience.



    PRODUCT: Flavored Half & Half

    If you love flavored coffee, check out Organic Valley’s new flavored Half & Half pints for an instant treat. They turn plain coffee into hazelnut or vanilla coffee. A soy creamer is also available in vanilla varieties.

    Half & half, which is a combination of cream and whole milk, adds just the right amount of richness to a cup of joe.* The new flavors add the perfect amount of hazelnut or vanilla, as well.

    *Why is coffee called a cup of joe? The true story is lost to history, but here are the three top contenders.

    The only catch, for those of us who don’t add sugar to our coffee, is that the flavors are presweetened – with Fair Trade certified, unrefined organic cane sugar.

    Beyond coffee, we used the flavored half & halfs on our morning Cheerios and oatmeal. It’s a delicious touch, if not exactly contributing to a healthy, whole-grain breakfast.

    Organic Valley is a co-op of family farms that practice organic dairying. Their cows are antibiotic- and hormone-free; no pesticides are used in the pasture or to grow their feed. The line is certified kosher by OU.


    A rich splash of flavor for your coffee,
    in half & half plus soy creamer. Photo
    by River Soma| THE NIBBLE.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Smarter Chips

    Popcorn “chips”: Pop Corners from Medora
    Foods. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE


    Today is National Chip & Dip Day. Before you reach for the potato chips and onion dip, here are some suggestions for healthier chipping and dipping.

  • Tortilla chips. Pick whole-grain tortilla chips. Salsa, the dip of choice, is low-calorie and healthy.
  • Popcorn chips. Pop Corners presses popcorn–a whole grain–into chip shapes.
  • Popped potato chips. Popchips are a real find. They aren’t fried or baked – they’re popped. Delicious and nongreasy, they’re a keeper.
  • Kettle Brand Chips. If you want a conventional potato chip, we love the Kettle Krinkle-Cut chips. Thick and very crunchy, they don’t break when dipping.

    Just about everyone loves crunchy snacks. The right chip is crunchy and good for you.

  • Find more of our favorite snacks in our Gourmet Snacks Section.
  • The history of popcorn.
  • The history of tortilla chips.
  • The history of potato chips.



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