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Archive for September, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Your Best Cheese Plate Passion

Our favorite cheese course: four different
goat cheeses. Photo courtesy


What’s your cheese passion? Are you singing the blues? Do you clamor for Cheddar? Do you pine for Parmigiano-Reggiano?

We have a passion for goat cheese (chèvre). While variety may be the spice of life, nothing makes us happier at the dinner table than when the cheese course comprises three or four different types of chèvre.

The next time you put a cheese plate together, focus on your cheese passion. You can do it by milk type:

  • Cow’s milk cheeses: for example, Cheddar, Comte, Emmenthaler, Gouda and Gruyère
  • Goat’s milk cheeses: Bonne Bouche, Drunken Goat, Goat Cheddar or Gouda, Goat Cheese Log, Humboldt Fog and Selles sur Cher
  • Sheep’s milk cheeses: Agour Ossau-Iraty, Cabrales, Manchego, Pecorino Toscano, Robiola and Roquefort
  • Mixed milk cheeses: Boschetto al Tartufo, Cabrales, Ibérico and Kasseri

    Or go by cheese group. For example:

  • Bloomy-Rind Cheeses: Brie, Brillat-Savarin, Camembert and Rocchetta
  • Blue Cheeses: Gorgonzola , Roquefort, Stilton and a blue Brie or chèvre
  • Cheddar-Style Cheeses: Cheddar, Colby, Double Gloucester and Red Leicester
  • Hard Italian Cheeses: Asiago, Grana Padano, Parmigiano-Regiano, Pecorino Romano
  • Pungent Cheeses: Epoisses, Livarot, Alsatian Munster, Taleggio
    We could go on forever, but you may prefer to browse through our Cheese Glossary for ideas.

    Then, combine the cheese course with some lightly dressed salad greens and a cheese condiment or two.

    You’ll be in cheese heaven.

    Here are more of our favorite cheeses and cheese recipes.



    PRODUCT: The Best Mexican Chocolate

    Chocolate lovers: Have you tried Mexican chocolate?

    Also called Oaxaca chocolate, Mexican chocolate is a cinnamon-scented sweet chocolate accented with cinnamon. Some varieties include clove, ground almonds and/or nutmeg.

    Mexican chocolate is used primarily to make hot chocolate, but it’s also an ingredient in pork rubs, as a seasoning for beans, and of course, in Mole Poblano or Mole Negro.* You can also just eat it like candy, bake with it, make ice cream and do anything else you’d do with chocolate.

    The Ibarra brand is a large commercial brand and can be found in the U.S.

    But for those who want the best Mexican chocolate, take a look at the artisan product—handmade and stoneground—from the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project. An American company and a Mexican company are working together to help small farmers continue to grow the indigenous foods of Mexico.


    Handmade, stoneground Mexican chocolate: an artisan treat. Photo courtesy


    From state of Guerrero, on the southwest coast of Mexico, a cooperative of women grow their own cacao and then harvest it and toast it on clay pans called comales. They then stone grind it with piloncillo (an unrefined sugar) and canela, a loose-bark variety of cinnamon grown in Ceylon (it’s easier to grind than hard-stick cinnamon).

    The result is rich, dense, 70% cacao chocolate: intense, delicious and rustic with hints of smoke.

    You can buy it at
    *ABOUT MOLE (moe-lay): Each region of Mexico has its own mole recipe. One of the most famous, mole negro from Oaxaca, uses the base mole ingredients—roasted dried chiles, unsweetened chocolate, almonds and spices—plus peanuts, plantains, cloves, cinnamon, onion, garlic, sesame seeds and five different chiles. Mole poblano, from Pueblo, uses the base ingredients plus tomatoes, raisins, bread, lard, anise, cloves, cinnamon, three different chiles, garlic, sesame and other ingredients. The sauces accompany beef, chicken, enchiladas, seafood and turkey, and are served with rice and tortillas.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Hors d’Oeuvre

    Grilled beef and horseradish-yogurt spread
    on a baguette. Photo courtesy Nature’s


    Even if you live in Maine, it’s still warm enough to grill outdoors. So the next time you have a cocktail party or a simple wine gathering, grill your hors d’oeuvre. (In French, “hors d’oeuvre” is used for both singular and plural forms of the noun. Americans who don’t know French add an “s” at the end.)

    Start with canapés: finger foods composed of a base and topping, meant to be eaten in one bite. The name is the French word for sofa: the topping sits upon the “sofa.” The topping itself is called the “canopy.”

    (Punsters: You can make a “couch potato” by topping the base with a potato-based food, such as cubed ham and potato salad with grainy mustard-mayonnaise and capers, or mashed potatoes mixed with salmon caviar.)


    Miniature versions of grilled cheese (slice a regular sandwich into quarters) can be enhanced with chutney or any of these wonderful gourmet grilled cheese recipes. We’ve served several different grill cheese on the same tray: blue cheese, cheddar and smoked Gouda, for example.

    To plan your grilled hors d’oeuvre, select a base, a spread (which acts as a flavorful binder between the base and the topping) and a “canopy.”


    Pick Your Base

    There are many different bases for canapés, ranging from pastry shells to tortilla chips. Here’s the best selection for grilled canapés.

  • Baguette slices
  • Blini or other mini pancakes, including potato pancakes
  • Crackers
  • Cucumber slices
  • Crostini (grilled baguette slices) or grilled pita wedges or toast (multigrain, wheat or white)
  • Polenta (sliced from a preformed tube)

    Pick Your Spread

    Many canapés are simply a base and a spread, such as cheese, pâté or relish. With grilled canapes, a different type of spread serves as the binder between the base and the grilled “canopy.”

  • Aïoli, Baconaise or other flavored mayonnaise
  • Chutney
  • Compound butter (so many delicious varieties)
  • Guacamole
  • Hummus
  • Mustard (from Dijon, grainy mustard and honey mustard, see the different choices)
  • Seasoned Greek yogurt
  • Soft cheese: crème fraîche, fromage blanc, goat cheese, pimento cream cheese

    Hors d’oeuvre on grilled pita wedges and grilled polenta rounds. Photo courtesy


    Pick Your Canopy (Topping)

  • Grilled cheese (many gourmet variations)
  • Fish and seafood: oysters, sardines, scallops, shrimp
  • Fruit-meat combinations, like prosciutto-wrapped figs stuffed with blue cheese and pecans
  • Meats: beef, lamb or pork from the grill
  • Sausage, grilled and sliced (look for special flavors, like chicken basil)
  • Vegetables, grilled and sliced to fit on the base
    Pick A Garnish
    Garnishes add another layer of flavor, along with color and visual appeal.

  • Chopped fresh herbs: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
  • Grated cheese
  • Lemon or lime zest
  • Sliced vegetables or fruits: capers, gherkins, grape tomato half, marinated mushrooms, olives, pickled onion half, pimento, radish, watercress
  • Spice: chili flakes, cracked black pepper

    Canapés aren’t the only hors d’oeuvre that can be grilled. Skewers, in fact, are the obvious choice.

  • Grilled chicken skewers with satay sauce
  • Mini kabobs: meat or tofu, vegetables, fruits
  • Shiitakes or assorted mushrooms
  • Shrimp wrapped in bacon
  • With a skewer instead of bread base, you save the carbs; but you often replace the calories with a dipping sauce.

    You can pick up a book about grilled appetizers: Appetizers On The Grill.

    Find more of our favorite hors d’oeuvre recipes.



    RECIPES: Mocha Latte, Iced Mocha Latte & More

    Iced mocha latte. Photo courtesy Krups.


    After we published the recipe for three-minute caramel latte, the mocha latte fans wrote in: “Where’s our mocha latte recipe?”

    Here it is, just in time for National Coffee Day, September 29th. Thanks to Krups for the recipe: We’re making the espresso in a Krups combination Coffee Maker & Espresso Machine (the company also makes an espresso machine with a glass carafe, but note that “four cups” means four espresso-size cups).

    This recipe isn’t a Starbucks-variety mocha latte: It has a kick of coffee liqueur. For kids and non-drinkers, we have an iced mocha latte milkshake,” below.



  • 2 ounces of fresh brewed espresso
  • 4 ounces of skim milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons of chocolate syrup (regular or reduced fat—we use Guittard)
  • 2 ounces of Kahlúa or other coffee liqueur
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream, chocolate shavings and/or chocolate syrup drizzle
  • Preparation

    1. Brew the espresso according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Allow to cool to room temperature.

    2. Fill a tall glass with ice and pour over the ice in this order: chocolate syrup, milk, Kahlúa and espresso. Stir well to combine.

    3. Garnish and serve. Toast to National Coffee Day.



    A mocha latte is a variation of caffé latte (called latte for short) to which some type of chocolate flavor has been added.

    It can be dark, milk or white chocolate syrup, cocoa powder/mix or even chocolate milk or powder.


  • Strong-brewed coffee (we use espresso, French roast or
    Italian roast)
  • Milk
  • Chocolate flavor component
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream, chocolate shavings, drizzled chocolate syrup



    Mocha milkshake. Photo and recipe (below) courtesy Nescafé Taster’s Choice.

    1. Brew coffee. Mix in chocolate flavoring of choice, stirring to combine thoroughly.

    2. Heat milk in a saucepan, whisking to create a froth. (Alternatively, we love our milk foamer.)

    3. Fill a cup with half coffee/chocolate mix, half milk. Spoon foam on top. Garnish as desired.


  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 1/2 cup (about 1 large scoop) chocolate ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

    1. BLEND. Place milk and coffee granules in blender; cover and blend until coffee is dissolved.

    2. ADD. Add ice, ice cream and sugar; blend until smooth.

    3. GARNISH with whipped cream, chocolate shavings or chocolate sprinkles. Serve immediately.

    Find more of our favorite coffee recipes.

    Check out the different types of coffee in our Coffee Glossary.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Throw An Oktoberfest Celebration

    Oktoberfest beer with a spicy cheese dip.
    Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.


    Each year, many people look forward to Oktoberfest, an annual 16-day beer festival held since 1810 in Munich, Germany—the country’s renowned Bavaria region, comprising southeast Germany.

    Oktoberfest is said to be the world’s largest fair, with more than 6 million people attending—15% of the beer fans come from outside Germany. Other cities around the world hold their own Oktoberfests, modeled after the original.

    While it’s called Oktoberfest (German for October feast), the event begins in late September and ends in early October.

    As you can imagine, large quantities of Oktoberfest beer are consumed—almost 7 million liters were served during the 16-day festival in 2007. The traditional style of Oktoberfest beer is Märzen,* an amber-red, smooth, mildly sweet lager with a malty aroma, which originated in Bavaria.


    To be designated Oktoberfest beer in Germany, the beer must conform to the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law), which dictates a minimum of 6% alcohol (by comparison, America’s Budweiser has 5%). The beer must also be brewed within the city limits of Munich.

    Traditional foods served with the beer include:

  • Cheese noodles (Käsespätzle, a noodle casserole with cheese and onions—here’s a recipe)
  • Grilled chicken (Hendl)
  • Grilled fish (Steckerlfisch)
  • Grilled ham hock (Schweinshaxe)
  • Potato dumplings (Knödel)
  • Potato pancakes (Reiberdatschi)
  • Pretzels (Brezeln)
  • Roast pork (Schweinebraten), and of course,
  • Sauerkraut and Blaukraut (red cabbage sauerkraut) with
  • Sausages (Würstl, including the Bavarian specialty Weisswurst, a white sausage made from veal and pork, seasoned with bacon, lemon, onions and parsley)
    *For German speakers who wonder why a beer named for the month of March (März in German) is celebrated in October: Märzen was originally brewed in March and laid down in caves before the summer heat made brewing impossible. At the end of September, any remaining kegs were consumed during the two-week Oktoberfest. While some modern brewers make Märzen seasonally for Oktoberfest, others brew it year-round.



    There’s still time for you to have an Oktoberfest celebration. You don’t need to adhere to the German schedule: Consider that you’ve got all of October.

    For an adult Halloween party, combine the two events and do a tasting of Oktoberfest beers, fall beers and pumpkin beers/ales.

  • Brown Ales
  • Dunkelweizen
  • English/India Pale Ales
  • Harvest Beers/Ales
  • Oktoberfest/Märzen beers
  • Pumpkin Beers/Ales
    (Check out all the different types of beer in our Beer Glossary.)


    Oktoberfest beer from Wisconsin: Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest beer with sausage and sauerkraut. Photo courtesy Leinenkugel.


    Here’s a recipe from the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, for brats steamed in Oktoberfest beer.


    Enjoy Leinenkugel’s recipe for Oktoberfest-Infused Bratwurst, brats boiled in beer, then grilled.


  • 1 dozen brats
  • 1 dozen brat buns
  • Oktoberfest beer, to cover†
  • 1 medium large sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 2 ounces butter
    †We used 5 bottles.

    1. Place brats in a Dutch oven with sliced onions, peppers and butter; cover the brats with beer. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer until brats are cooked. Remove brats and set aside remaining beer mixture.

    2. Grill brats until golden brown and return to beer mixture until ready to serve.

    3. Serve brats on fresh brat buns, plain or toasted, with your favorite toppings: ketchup, mustard, onions, peppers (chopped bell peppers or jalapeños) and sauerkraut.

    If you’re planning a large event, use the handy calculator at We calculated that for a party of 25 guests consuming 3-5 beers apiece, we’d need 1 keg, 35 pounds of ice for a room temperature keg, and 30 cups, “Assumes 17% breakage, excluding drinking games.”



    PRODUCT: Multitasking Stuffed Burger Press

    Cut a well with the smaller ring and add your
    favorite stuffing(s). Photo courtesy


    We’ve seen a number of pieces from Cat Cora for Starfrit, a cookware line endorsed by the celebrity chef.

    But the newest, the Cat Cora by Starfrit 2-in-1 Burger Press is the one we’ll definitely use, over and over again.

    A burger press creates consistent, perfectly formed and sized burger patties.

    But this burger press has something extra: a smaller ring that can be used to form sliders and stackers, as well as to cut a well in a larger burger, to fill with your favorite complementary ingredients.

    Stuffed burgers are so much fun that we wonder how, in a country where burgers are the favorite food, they haven’t become the rage. We hope that the Cat Cora/Starfrit mold will be the beginning of a trend.


    Whatever your burger preference—beef, bison, chicken, lamb, pork, salmon, turkey (we haven’t tried it with a veggie burger)—you can make an already-delightful burger much more so.


    What should you use to stuff your burger? Whatever you like: That’s the fun of this gadget. You can look in the fridge and the pantry and find dozens of choices.

    We simply scanned our shelves. Then:

  • Beef. We stuffed different beef burgers with leftover arugula pesto, mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, sautéed onions and sundried tomato concasse.
  • Lamb. We stuffed different lamb burgers with chutney, goat cheese and mint jelly.
  • Salmon. We stuffed different salmon burgers with chopped cucumber salad, mango salsa and tzatziki (yogurt sauce with garlic and mint).

    The Cat Cora For Starfrit 2-In-1 Burger Press. Photo courtesy


  • Bison. Tonight, we’re stuffing bison burgers with a mix of sliced cornichons and olives, and with bacon and truffle cheese (a reverse cheeeburger).
  • Surf & Turf. The next time we have some extra oysters for stuffing, we’re going to try a surf-and-turf burger.
    Intensify the flavor by adding fresh herbs—basil, chives, dill, garlic, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme—or dried oregano and spices, to the filling.

    Imagine a pizza burger: tomato sauce and cheese stuffed into your favorite burger. How about a turkey burger filled with cranberry sauce and stuffing?

    Let us know what you’d use to stuff your favorite burger(s).
    The 2-in-1* burger press set includes:

  • 4.5-inch ring
  • 2.75-inch ring
  • 2 in 1 press
  • 2 lids for easy storage
    You can buy the burger press at At $24.95, it isn’t an inexpensive kitchen gadget. But it’s sturdy and will afford many years of bodacious burgers.


  • Pack ground meat into the larger ring.
  • Cut a center well with the smaller ring.
  • Fill well 3/4 with the stuffing and cap the well with some of the meat you’ve removed.
  • Cook to desired doneness and serve.
  • Be prepared for squeals of delight from happy diners.
    *It’s actually more than 2 in 1. We count burgers, sliders, stuffed burgers and anything you need a round cutter for: biscuits, cookies, melon, and anything that begs to be molded (rice, veggies, etc.).



    TIP OF THE DAY: Greek Lamb Burger

    A lamb burger, Mediterranean style. Photo
    courtesy Hubbard Inn | Chicago.


    Whether you prefer classic condiments and traditional toppings or would rather go the adventurous route, the hamburger lends itself to many interpretations (see our long list of burger variations for every day of the month, and then some).

    At Chicago’s Hubbard Inn, Executive Chef Bob Zrenner makes it even more adventurous. He substitutes lamb for beef, creating a Greek-style lamb burger.

    Chef Zrenner uses ground lamb from locally raised animals, and tops the patty with mint, cucumber, red onion and feta cheese. He topped the burger with tzatziki, a yogurt sauce, instead of ketchup.

    There’s juiciness from the lamb, creaminess from the feta and tzatziki, bright notes from the mint, and zesty red onion as a counterpoint to cool cucumber.




  • Ground lamb, 1/3 pound per person
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, plus more if making tzatziki
  • 1 small cucumber, thinly sliced*
  • 8 ounces tzatziki, purchased or homemade (recipe) (you can substitute hummus)
  • Ciabatta, hamburger buns, pita or rustic bread—or go breadless
  • Optional garnish: Kalamata olives
    *We prefer to pickle the cucumbers for an hour or longer. It’s very easy with this recipe.

    1. PREPARE. If you haven’t purchased the tzatziki, make it with this recipe. You can make it up to a week in advance.

    2. GRILL. Cook burgers to desired doneness.

    3. LAYER. Cover the bottom bread slice (or add to the pita pocket) with tzatziki. Place patty on top. Add cucumbers, onion slices and mint leaves. Top with more tzatziki and serve.
    We enjoy this burger with a beer; but mint tea is also delicious. You can steep the leftover mint in boiling water and serve the tea hot or iced.


    Find more of our favorite burger recipes.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Three Minute Caramel Latte

    Yesterday we wound up in a long line at Starbucks. All we wanted was a plain cup of coffee. Everyone else was there for a caramel latte or pumpkin latte, which require far more prep time.

    Please don’t think we’re being self serving, but you can make your own caramel latte at home, in three minutes or less.

    The recipe below is courtesy Nescafé. It yields two servings.

    Recipe Variations

  • If you already have brewed coffee, substitute it for the coffee granules and the hot water. You’ll turn this into a two minute caramel latte!
  • You can substitute chocolate or strawberry toppings or flavored syrups for equally easy variations.

    Make caramel lattes at home. Photo courtesy Nescafé.

  • You can use sugar-free topping/syrup and lowfat evaporated milk for a low-calorie treat.
  • You can have one of these for dessert. For a richer dessert, add a scoop of ice cream.
  • You can vary the recipe with your favorite extracts (try almond extract) and other flavorings.
    You’ll save a lot of time and money. This recipe serves two, so instead of meeting at the coffee shop, invite a friend over. Perhaps s/he can pick up the muffins.



  • 1 can (12 fluid ounces) can Carnation Evaporated Milk (you can substitute evaporated lowfat milk or fat free milk)
  • 1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping plus additional for drizzle
  • 4 teaspoons Nescafe Tasters Choice French Roast Instant Coffee Granules
  • 1 cup very hot water (slightly less than boiling)

    1, MICROWAVE. Heat the evaporated milk and ice cream topping in small, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on HIGH (100%) power for 2 minutes or until very hot.

    2. BLEND. Carefully pour the mixture into a blender. Cover and blend on high for 1 minute or until very frothy on top.

    3. MAKE COFFEE. Place 2 teaspoons coffee granules into each of two 12-ounce coffee mugs. Add 1/2 cup hot water to each mug; stir.

    4. TOP. Gently pour the evaporated milk mixture into each mug, spooning foam on top. Top the foam with a thin drizzle of ice cream topping, if desired.



    COOKING VIDEO: Make Homemade Crackers


    Impress your family and friends with these homemade crackers.

    This easy recipe produces a gourmet cracker, fragrant with rosemary. Made with almond flour instead of wheat flour, the crackers are also gluten free.

    Serve them with cheese, hummus or other favorite dip or spread, salad or soup.

    Most people don’t think of baking their own crackers. But these tasty bites may just be the start of a creative cracker-baking hobby.



    Find more of our favorite crackers and bread recipes.


    PRODUCT: Nonni’s Salted Caramel Biscotti

    “Our new exciting flavor!” proclaims biscotti-maker Nonni’s, and they are right.

    Nonni’s Salted Caramel Biscotti are a real find for the sweet tooth. Chunks of actual caramels are embedded in the biscotti, complemented by a quality chocolate dip and drizzle and a counterpoint of sprinkled sea salt.

    One might think that was good enough, but there’s better news: Each biscotto is only 100 calories—a number for which we were grateful after polishing off half a box.

    There’s a down side, of course: We enjoyed the Salted Caramel Biscotti so much, we couldn’t stop at one.

    The company helps you with portion control, though: Each box contains eight individually wrapped biscotti.

    If you can’t find the biscotti locally, you can buy them on

  • Six boxes, $32.98, about $5.50 per box.
  • A bigger bargain is this case of 12 boxes for $41.88, about $3.50 per box.

    Bet you can’t eat just one of Nonni’s delectable salted caramel biscotti. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.



    One box, eight delightful biscotti. Photo
    courtesy Nonni’s.


    What will you do with 12 boxes? Give them as special Halloween gifts or stocking stuffers.

    But once you taste them, we think you’ll keep them all. They’re a great excuse to host a coffee klatsch.

    Check out the history of biscotti and Mario Batali’s anisette or amaretto biscotti recipe.

    Find more of our favorite cookies and cookie recipes.



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