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Archive for June, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Make A July 4th Cocktail

A star-spangled cocktail. Photo courtesy Congress Hall.


We serve Bloody Marys, Margaritas and Martinis year-round. But we love occasions that merit special cocktails.

So we were more than pleased when this red, white and blue “Star Spangled Banner” cocktail recipe arrived from Congress Hall, a 200-year-old classic American resort on the ocean in Cape May, New Jersey (so charming, we wanted to make a reservation—see the photo gallery).


This drink delivers delightful flavor from the two orange liqueurs and fresh raspberries.

Ingredients Per Drink

  • 3 tablespoons fresh raspberries, macerated and muddled
  • ¾ ounce orange liqueur (Cointreau, Curaçao, Grand Marnier, GranGala, triple sec)
  • ¾ ounce blue Curaçao
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • Coarse sugar or drink rimmer with red or blue flecks


    1. Moisten the rim of a Martini glass and dip it a half inch deep in sugar (use a shallow bowl for the sugar).

    2. Combine the muddled raspberries with the orange liqueur. Add to the bottom of the glass.

    3. Combine the vodka and blue Curaçao. Blue Curaçaos vary in color. If you want a darker blue, add a scant drop of blue food color (Curaçao is colored with food color. Cointreau, Grand Marnier and other high-end orange spirits are based on Cognac or other aged spirit, which yields a natural rusty orange color.)

    4. Shake with ice and strain into glass. Serve.


    For a red, white and blue effect, you can also use whipped cream and blueberries atop a red drink. You don’t have to sweeten the whipped cream; unsweetened, it provides a more sophisticated contrast atop a sweet drink.


    Adapted from a Congress Hall recipe.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 part vodka
  • 3 parts cranberry juice or pomegranate juice
  • Whipped cream (how about Bourbon whipped cream?)
  • Garnish: blueberries
  • Ice cubes
  • Straw

    1. Shake vodka and juice with ice in a cocktail shaker. Pour over ice cubes in a collins glass.


    Whipped cream and blueberries turn any sweet red cocktail into a patriotic one. Photo courtesy Congress Hall.


    2. Top with a small amount of whipped cream. Garnish with blueberries and serve with a straw.

    Find more of our favorite cocktail recipes.


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    JULY 4th: Bipartisan Truffle Party Favors

    Party line party favors for July 4th. Photo
    courtesy Choclatique.


    If your crowd spends a preponderance of time discussing politics, serve some of these clever chocolates for July 4th.

    Made by the creative L.A. chocolatier Choclatique, white chocolate shells are filled with chocolate ganache and topped with colored white chocolate donkey and elephant medallions in party colors.

    They are sold in two-piece party favors (one elephant, one donkey per box in a 12-box package) and boxes of 8, 15 and 30 pieces, all ranging from $18.00 to $55.00.

    And of course, given party politics, each size is available in all-donkey or all-elephant.

    Head to and search for “Capitol Collection.”

    Find more of our favorite chocolates.



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    TIP OF THE DAY: Compound Butter For “Instant” Sauces

    Want to become a more impressive cook instantly? Use compound butter! Also known as finishing butter, or beurre composé in French, it’s unsalted butter that has been blended with seasonings.

    There are endless variations. Escoffier published 35 combinations in 1903, and cuisine has evolved in many directions since his classic renderings of anchovy butter and beurre à la maître d’hotel (lemon parsley butter).

    In Continental cuisine, compound butter is added to the pan to finish a sauce, placed directly atop meat, fish or vegetables to create a flavorful garnish, or mixed into pasta and rice. Just a dab transforms a dish: If you think butter makes everything taste better, think of what butter infused with great seasonings will do.

    Herb butter (most often served atop steak), Roquefort butter (ditto) and anchovy butter (a classic with grilled seafood) are staples at fine steakhouses. Read a French restaurant menu and maître d’hôtel butter (lemon parsley) is certain to be garnishing some dish. And that delicious sauce of butter, lemon juice, parsley and garlic served with escargots? Compound butter.


    Compound butter made with crawfish and herbs. Photo courtesy Chicken Fried Gourmet.


    Compound butters are an easy alternative to more complex sauces. Make them ahead of time and keep them in the freezer, slicing off a pat as needed. They can be modestly to highly flavorful to enhance the main ingredient.

    Compound butters are meant to be decorative: not simply melted butter, but punctuated with seasonings and/or color. In addition to the recipe below for crawfish butter, try these compound butter recipes: citrus butters, savory butters, spiced butters and sweet butters.

    Served with anything from toasted French bread to grilled fish, oysters or shrimp, this delectable butter will spice up your meal with a Cajun zest. Thanks to chef Michael O’Boyle of Chicken Fried Gourmet in Shreveport, Louisiana, for the recipe.


  • 3 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 pound crawfish tails (if you can’t find crawfish, substitute another shellfish)
  • 5-6 cloves of whole garlic
  • 1 shallot diced
  • 3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning*
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of dried basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
    *You can make your own: Combine 2 tablespoons paprika, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons onion powder, 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1 teaspoon dried thyme. Use leftover spice on popcorn.

    1. Leave butter to soften at room temperature for 1 hour before starting recipe.

    2. Sauté crawfish with 1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add wine and garlic and simmer till evaporated. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

    3. In a food processor combine butter, crawfish and rest of ingredients. Process until all ingredients are incorporated evenly throughout butter.

    4. Spread butter mixture out on a plastic wrap and roll into a log. Wrap with a second coating of plastic wrap and seal the ends by twisting. Place in a sealed bag and freeze till solid.

    5. Slice off as needed and think of different ways to use it in your everyday cooking: fry breakfast eggs in it, flavor mashed potatoes and cooked vegetables, use on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise.


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    PRODUCT: Grow Back To The Roots Mushrooms In Your Kitchen

    Here’s a fun, educational and tasty summer activity for adults and kids alike: Grow mushrooms in your kitchen.

    Back to the Roots shows the joy of home farming via a small cardboard box that produces two micro-crops of mushrooms.

    Two UC Berkeley students came across the idea during a class, which mentioned the potential to grow gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds.

    Inspired by the idea of turning waste into fresh food, they succeeded in growing oyster mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds. With some initial interest from Whole Foods and Chez Panisse, and a $5,000 grant from the UC Berkeley Chancellor for social innovation, they decided to forgo their corporate job offers and become urban mushroom farmers.

    Now, everyone can enjoy freshly-harvested oyster mushrooms with a Grow-Your-Own Mushroom Garden. That which is not edible is compostible or recylcable.


    Our kitchen mushroom farm. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    Last year, the kit helped families grow more than 135,000 pounds of fresh mushrooms at home, reusing one million pounds of coffee grounds from Peet’s Coffee & Tea. This year, the company expects to reuse 3.6 million pounds of coffee grounds.

    A sustainable project that yields good, healthy food: This is a feel-good purchase and gift.

    The kits are available at some Whole Foods Markets and online.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Dissolve Sugar In Cold Drinks

    Sugar dissolves slowly in cold liquids. Photo by K.G. Toh | CSP


    As most people have discovered, table sugar is slow to dissolve in cold drinks. Whether you’re sweetening iced coffee and iced tea or making a sweet cocktail, there are better products to use than conventional granulated sugar.

    Superfine Sugar

    Pick up some superfine sugar, or make your own.

    Superfine sugar is simply table sugar that is ground into smaller grains, which dissolve quickly. You can make it in the food processor by pulsing table sugar until it’s very fine. Keep superfine sugar in a separate sugar bowl to bring out when you’re serving iced coffee and tea.

    Simple Syrup

    Simple syrup is typically used by bartenders to sweeten drinks. It’s a mixture of half sugar and half water, stirred over medium-low heat until it dissolves. Cooled to room temperature, it’s a quick sweetener.

    You can buy it or make a batch, keep it in the fridge in a tightly-capped jar and use as needed. Here’s the simple syrup recipe.

    There’s also a sugar-free simple syrup made with stevia.


    Agave Nectar

    The healthiest alternative is to use no sugar. Refined white sugar makes no positive contribution to our nutrition and has a downside everyone is familiar with.

    A better choice than sugar is agave nectar, a low-glycemic natural sweetener from the agave plant. Agave nectar has a glycemic index (GI) of 32; half that of table sugar (GI 60-65). Honey has a GI of 58, pure maple syrup has a GI of 54. (Here’s more information on agave.)


    It’s simple chemistry: Substances dissolve faster in hot water. Hot water molecules have more entropy (move faster) than cold water molecules, enabling hot water to more quickly break down the sugar molecules in the solution.

    How many types of sugar are there? Check out our Sugar Glossary.



    Don’t Dilute The Iced Coffee/Iced Tea

    We’ve been to delis where iced coffee (or tea) is made by pouring the hot stuff over ice. They probably figure that with the added sugar and milk, people won’t notice how dilute the coffee is.

    At home, you can:

  • Brew it ahead of time. If you’re a big consumer of iced coffee or iced tea, it’s also very inexpensive.
  • Save leftovers. When we have leftover brewed coffee or tea, we add it to a bottle in the fridge.
  • Turn leftovers into ice cubes. You can use them to chill down room-temperature coffee or tea, or to make already-chilled beverages extra-cold. Check out all the ways you can make and use “specialty” ice cubes.
  • Use coffee concentrate. We always have a supply of Java Juice packets on hand (certified kosher). You can also carry them and add them to your water bottle throughout the day.

    Iced tea pitcher and photo from


    Try Flavoring Ice Coffee & Iced Tea

  • Make Summer Flavors. Use flavored extracts—coconut, orange and vanilla, for example, Add ¼ teaspoon per cup/glass of coffee or tea.
  • Fancy Flavors.Check out Gevalia Coffee’s recipes for Caramel Iced Coffee, Chocolate-Hazelnut Iced Coffee, Lemon-Ginger Iced Coffee and Mint-Mocha Iced Coffee. There’s also the Whipaccino: cold coffee and vanilla ice cream whipped in the blender.


    Here are more iced coffee tips and recipes.

    Try this recipe for ultra-rich vanilla iced coffee with shaved chocolate.


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