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Archive for April, 2011

COOKING VIDEO: Pea Soup With Ham Recipe


What do do with those Easter ham leftovers: make a fresh, spring pea soup with diced ham.

Peas are in season, and soup never tastes better than when made with fresh peas.

Fresh pea soup (you can substitute frozen green peas) tastes brighter and more luscious than split pea soup. Just watch this video with Chef Peter Sherlock.



  • Do you know your peas and legumes? Check them out in our Beans & Legumes Glossary.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Change For Earth Day

    Kermit the Frog said that it isn’t easy being green.

    But in one sense, at least, he’s wrong. It’s easy to be green (or greener) by making some simple lifestyle changes.

    Today is Earth Day, so our tip is to make the Earth a healthier place by making one change from this list:

  • Eat fewer animal products. Much as we love meat, cheese and ice cream, the methane from manure is the #1 contributor to climate change. Compounding this, consumer demands for more meat result in the felling of forests to create more grazing land. Forests trap carbon dioxide, playing a major role in mitigating climate change.
    Help save the planet by developing a repertoire of great vegan and vegetarian dishes and go meatless one day a week (build up to two days). Today we’re having falafel—a vegan crowd pleaser we bought frozen at Trader Joe’s—for dinner, and making a concerted effort going forward to switch our ice cream habit to dairy-free sorbet.

    Eat more vegetarian and vegan foods. Falafel
    and hummus, very popular foods, are both
    vegan. Photo © J. Java | Fotolia.


  • Eat seasonally, buy locally. You’ve heard a lot about this. Buying local, seasonal food reduces the amount of fuel (“food miles”) used to bring the food to your table.
  • Carry a BPA-free water bottle. Models like this one from Watergeeks have an internal water filter, so any tap water you add to the bottle will taste good. Spare the landfill from disposable water bottles.
  • Avoid products with excess packaging. The less packaging, the less waste. Look at the bulk food bins to see what you can purchase unpackaged. Refuse to buy over-packaged products.
    Eco Glossary: Twelve terms you should know.

    Organic Food Terms: Everything you need to know about sustainable foods.



    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Jelly Bean Day

    Jelly beans are mostly sugar. No wonder
    they are so popular! Photo by River Soma |


    Today is National Jelly Bean Day. It’s also the 35th anniversary of the best-known brand of jelly beans, Jelly Belly, which petitioned for the holiday.


    Many sugared confections are the ancestors of jelly beans. Turkish Delight, which is jelled sugar and rosewater coated with powdered sugar, is one well-known candy that, according to, is mentioned in the Bible (see the photo for the resemblance to jelly beans).

    Centuries later, an unknown confectioner switched the powdered sugar for granulated sugar, added some flavors, and created the gumdrop.

    Then, in the 17th century, a French confectioner invented a process called panning, which created a hard sugar coating by stirring candies in a mixture of sugar and syrup. Nuts were panned (such as Jordan almonds); later, chocolate was used to create chocolate-covered nuts and other candies.

    Take a gooey mixture called a sugar slurry, add a coating and you get a jelly bean. Jelly beans are made from sugar, corn syrup and starch, with small amounts of anti-foaming agent, flavoring, lecithin and salt. To make them shiny, they’re coated with edible wax and confectioners’ glaze.


    The modern jelly bean is believed to have been invented in the U.S., sometime after 1850. The earliest recorded advertisement for jelly beans is from Boston confectioner William Schrafft, who may have also been the creator.* The ad promoted sending jelly beans to Union Soldiers engaged in the Civil War (1861-1865).

    By the early 1900s, jelly beans had become a staple penny candy. Possibly, they were the first bulk candy. They became part of the Easter tradition in the 1930s, when somebody connected their egg shape with the eggs symbolic of the spiritual rebirth of Easter. Their festive colors made them a perfect celebratory candy.

    During World War II, much of the chocolate produced in the U.S. was sent overseas to soldiers. Americans focused on other sweets; flavorful, colorful jelly beans became popular.

    And, if you’re old enough to remember, they were the favorite candy of president Ronald Regan. He persuaded the Jelly Belly company to make a blueberry jelly bean so that he could serve red, white and blue jelly beans in the Oval Office.

    Here’s some jelly bean trivia:†

  • Americans will eat some 15 billion jelly beans over the Easter holiday.
  • Boys are more likely to eat a handful at a time while girls like them one by one.
  • Given an assortment, most people eat them in this order: red, purple, green, yellow and black.
    Through Easter Sunday, April 24th, 2011, Jelly Belly is offering a 35% discount on all merchandise on Just use the code 35YEARS when you check out.

    Happy National Jelly Bean Day!

    *Schraft’s candy company was established in Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1861, by William F. Schrafft. Succeeding him in 1898, Frank Shattuck expanded the company to include restaurants, most located in Manhattan. The ice candy and cream sundaes were very popular when Pet, Inc., makers of Pet evaporated milk, purchased Schrafft’s in 1967. They broke the ice cream, restaurant, and candy operations into separate companies. Alas, it is no longer in businesses.




    MOTHER’S DAY: Beautiful Chocolate

    Hearts and flowers: Beautiful hand-painted
    chocolates from Anna Shea, available at


    Mother’s Day? It isn’t even Easter yet.

    True, but Mother’s Day falls a scant two weeks after Easter. You need a gift strategy.

    As far as gourmet chocolate goes, Anna Shea creates chocolate “haute couture”: beautiful, artisan-crafted and hand-decorated chocolate designs.

    This may be the best-looking box of chocolates we’ve ever seen. And beyond impeccable appearances, each piece is delectable.

    Each jewel-like chocolate is handmade and then hand-painted (that’s edible paint, of course) with a design that evokes the flavor of the delicious ganache inside.

    If Mom loves a box of fine chocolate, she’ll be delighted to receive a box of Anna Shea chocolates—whether for Mother’s Day, as a thank-you for Easter dinner or for no occasion in particular.

  • Purchase a box.
  •, created in response to the many requests we get from readers for gift recommendations, has just launched. It includes our favorite gift items—something for everyone, from $15.00 and up.

  • We’re adding new products regularly, so if you don’t see what you want, sign up for Alerts on the website and you’ll be sure to get the 411 when there’s something new.
  • Also use the feedback device to let us know what you’d like to see more of—and to share any other comments and suggestions.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Crafts Easter Basket

    This lovely “nest” basket from Williams-Sonoma is crafted out of oak moss, lavender, pink globes, white ammobium and oregano. It’s filled with 24 “robin’s eggs” that have champagne, amaretto and kirsch-flavored chocolate centers.

    It makes a charming centerpiece, not just for Easter but year-round.

    If you can’t get to a Williams-Sonoma store, head to your nearest crafts store and buy the materials to make your own basket arrangment.

    Then head to the candy store to fill the basket. It doesn’t need to be with blue robins’ eggs. There are plenty of delicious Easter egg candies that can fill the basket—until people catch sight of them. So make sure to buy refills!


    Handy with crafting? Make this charming
    centerpiece for Easter. Photo courtesy




    PRODUCT: Monterey Jack From Tillamook Cheese

    Our two-pound loaf disappeared in a week.
    Photo courtesy Tillamook Cheese.


    April is National Grilled Cheese Month (Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day was April 12th).

    Here’s a wonderful everyday cheese to head up the celebration: Tillamook’s Monterey Jack cheese, voted America’s Best Monterey Jack Cheese at the 2011 United States Champion Cheese Contest. (The company’s Colby Jack–a blend of two cheeses–was also a winner, taking Best In Class honors.)

    This Monterey Jack’s fresh, buttery flavor and creamy texture are spot-on. Its meltability gives it the versatility to work with just about anything – it’s a Jack of all trades in the kitchen. Here are 25 suggestions from Tillamook and THE NIBBLE:

    Ideas With Shredded Monterey Jack

    1. Wrapped with potatoes and eggs in a breakfast burrito.
    2. Mashed into potatoes with butter.
    3. Melted in an omelet with vegetables.
    4. Stuffed into grilled peppers.
    5. Paired with sausage and mushrooms in a breakfast strata.


    6. Mixed into salads—try grilled chicken, green chile, avocado, tomato and romaine, with a side of tortilla chips.
    7. Mixed into mac and cheese, by itself or in combination, like in this three-cheese recipe.
    8. Made into cheese soup.
    9. Sprinkled atop tortilla soup, or used as a garnish for other soups (try corn chowder with shredded Monterey Jack and crumbled bacon).
    10. Baked atop enchiladas; in fajitas, tacos and other Tex-Mex favorites.
    11. Rolled into meatballs.
    12. Grated onto garlic fries.
    13. Sprinkled onto roasted vegetables.
    14. Melted into cheese fondue.
    15. In a baked potato.
    16. On a pizza (try a Buffalo Chicken pizza, blended with crumbled blue cheese—here’s the recipe).
    17. In a manicotti recipe with salsa (try this chipotle manicotti).

    Ideas With Sliced Monterey Jack
    18. Layered on a ham or turkey sandwich, or any favorite sandwich.
    19. Grilled between sliced bread for a superior grilled cheese sandwich.
    20. Fried on an egg sandwich.
    21. Broiled on bread with a slice of roast beef.
    22. As a snack right out of the package.
    23. As a general garnish.
    24. On a cheese board.
    25. With a glass of white wine.

    Don’t think that a two-pound loaf is too much. Between recipes and snacking, it might last a week. Other sizes are available, including 8-ounce chunks, 12-ounce slices, and 1- and 2.5-pound loaves.

  • If you don’t know Jack, read the history of Monterey Jack cheese.
  • Find more of our favorite cheeses and recipes in our Gourmet Cheese Section.
  • Tillamook County Creamery Association is a cooperative of 220 farming families, known for its award-winning Cheddar and other dairy products. Learn more about Tillamook at


    RECIPE: Poached Pears

    Of all the recipes we tried with our recent shipment of Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears, the simplest and perhaps most satisfying has to be poached pears with chocolate sauce.

    Along with the pears, we also had on hand jars of the new flavors of The King’s Cupboard dessert sauces: Bourbon Caramel, Chocolate Crème De Menthe and Chocolate Irish Cream. Voilà!



  • 1 bottle fruity red wine, Port or semi-sweet white wine such as Muscat or Riesling (Gallo Muscat is terrific, only $5.00 a bottle, and you can drink it alongside the pears)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 4-6 firm pears, peeled and cored with stems intact
  • Optional garnish: mint leaf, raspberries

    Poached pears with chocolate sauce. Photo
    courtesy The King’s Cupboard.


    1. Combine first five ingredients in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil.
    2. Reduce heat to a simmer and add pears to the poaching liquid.
    3. Simmer pears for 30 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork.
    4. Remove pears and chill standing upright for several hours or overnight (we keep them in the poaching liquid to infuse more wine flavor).
    5. To assemble, place pears on individual serving plates. Warm chocolate sauce in microwave (start with 20 seconds). Spoon sauce over pears. Garnish with mint leaf or berries.

    Alternate Sauce
    Instead of using chocolate sauce, you can reduce the poaching liquid to one cup, and spoon over the pears. Garnish with crème fraiche, crumbled blue cheese or blue cheese ice cream.

    Alternate Recipe
    A related dish, Poires Belle-Hélène (in English, Pears Belle-Hélène), combines a poached pear and chocolate sauce with ice cream and slivered almonds.



    TIP OF THE DAY: 7 Healthy Nuts

    Of all the healthy nuts, walnuts are the
    healthiest. Photo by J. Eltovski | Morguefile.


    Last week we discussed why pistachio nuts are good for you.

    Pistachios are just one of seven healthy nuts recommended by the USDA for daily snacking.

    The “Magnificent Seven” healthy nuts include:

  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
    You can have one or one-and-a-half ounces per day—as a snack, in salads and yogurt parfaits and mixed with rice and other grains. There’s a place for nuts in every meal of the day.


  • More about the seven healthy nuts, how to incorporate them into meals and why walnuts are the healthiest nuts of all.
  • How to toast nuts.


    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Biscoff Spread

    First there was peanut butter, a creamy spread made from ground peanuts.

    Then there was Nutella, a brand-name spread of chocolate and ground hazelnuts.

    Completing the trio is biscoff spread, relatively new to the U.S. It was invented in 2007 on a Belgian reality tv show. When it was introduced commercially, it sold out in three hours.

    Biscoff spread is made of ground spice cookies called spéculoos in Europe and biscoff in the U.S. If you like ginger and cinnamon, you may find it even more delicious than peanut butter and Nutella.

    Check out our Top Pick Of The Week, biscoff spread from Lotus Bakeries.

    As with PB and Nutella, you can use it on everything from bagels and toast to dips and frosting. The review has plenty of ideas and recipes.


    Biscoff and cream cheese frosting on carrot
    cupcakes. Delicious! Photo by Rixipix | IST.


    Find more of our favorite spreads.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Hot Cross Buns For Easter

    Hot cross buns: an Easter tradition. Photo
    courtesy Amy’s Bread.


    Hot cross buns are sweet yeast buns made with raisins or currants and decorated with a cross. The cross was originally made with knife cuts in the dough; today it’s piped or spooned on with icing.

    The cross symbolizes the Crucifixion, and the buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. The first recorded use of the term “hot cross bun” appears in 1733.

    However, the buns have much earlier roots. As with some other Christian traditions, this one is believed to predate Christianity. Similar buns were eaten by Saxons to honor Eostre, the goddess of spring, whose name is probably the origin of “Easter.” In pre-Christian times, the cross is believed to have symbolized the four quarters of the moon.

    Celebrate Easter—or celebrate spring if you don’t celebrate Easter—by baking a batch of delicious hot cross buns with this recipe.

    The recipe is courtesy Amy’s Bread Revised and Updated, by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree.


  • Check out all the different types of bread in our Bread Glossary.


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