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Archive for January 26, 2013

VALENTINE CANDY: Chocolate & Flowers

In 1999, Byrne & Carlson opened in Portsmouth, New Hampshire: a great artisan chocolate shop located in a charming brick townhouse. Portsmouth, the nation’s third oldest city (settled 1623), regularly appears on various “best places to live” lists. For our vote, Byrne & Carlson strongly helps that standing.

The chocolates and confections are made by hand in small batches, using the finest ingredients. When we first saw Byrne & Carlson’s wares at a trade show, we were enchanted by the beauty of their chocolate bars, decorated with edible flowers. It was the first time we’d ever seen such creative garnishing, and the chocolatiers set the standard for all others to come.

Made from the finest chocolate couverture, the chocolate bars a delectable and beautiful Valentine’s Day gift.


There is no e-commerce, but it’s easy to order:

  • By phone: call toll-free, 1.888.559.9778 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you call after business hours, leave a message and your call will be returned.
  • By fax: 1.888.559.9778. Include your credit card information.

    From top to bottom: Violet Bar with candied violets and mint leaves, Venezuelan Bar with crushed cacao nibs, Mendiant Bar with almonds, orange peel, pansy and candied violet petals. Photo courtesy Byrne & Carlson.




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    TIP OF THE DAY: Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole

    Those who don’t like broccoli and cauliflower
    might like it better with Parmesan. Photo


    The cruciferous vegetables group* is great for you: filling, low in calories, high in fiber and cancer-fighting antioxidants.

    Nutrition experts want you to eat more cruciferous vegetables: two to three times per week, with a serving size of at least 1-1/2 cups.

    But too many people say they don’t like widely-available members of the group, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. That could be a result of being served over-cooked vegetables. When cooked too long, chemical breakdowns in the vegetables yield a rather unpleasant aroma and flavor from the sulfur in the compounds.

    To nudge the naysayers, try this creamy Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole from It has two not-so-secret weapons: cream cheese and Parmesan cheese.

    In fact, a sprinkle of grated or shredded cheese can give almost any snubbed food more appeal. You’ll get plenty of compliments on this recipe, and probably requests for seconds. We wouldn’t be surprised if it became part of your holiday dinner repertoire. Move over, green bean casserole!


    This rich and creamy casserole can be made a day in advance, covered and refrigerated and then baked just before dinner. Although we prefer fresh vegetables, using frozen vegetables saves time and money.

    The recipe has 179 calories per serving, 11g fat, 13g carbohydrates, 31mg cholesterol, 432mg sodium, 3g fiber and 7g protein.

    *The cruciferous group includes arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, collard greens, cress, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, radish, rapini (broccoli rabe), rutabaga, tatsoi, turnip and wasabi. Mizuna (a variety of mustard green) and tatsoi have become “designer greens” in salads at America’s finest restaurants.


    Makes 10 servings. Prep Time: 20 minutes. Cook Time: 40 minutes.


  • 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs (we use the crunchier panko bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning,† divided (substitute: 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
    seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen broccoli florets, thawed
  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen cauliflower florets, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
  • 1-1/4 cups milk (you can substitute half and half or cream for an even richer dish)
  • 4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, cubed
    †You can make your own Italian seasoning by combining equal parts basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Store in an airtight jar.



    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Mix bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning in small bowl. Set aside.

    2. CUT any large broccoli or cauliflower florets into bite-size pieces.

    3. MELT 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet on medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir about 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in flour, remaining 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, garlic salt and pepper. Add milk; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.

    4. ADD cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese; cook and stir until cream cheese is melted. Add vegetables; toss gently to coat. Spoon into 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle top evenly with crumb mixture.

    5. BAKE for 40 minutes or until heated through with top lightly browned.


    Parmesan cheese makes anything taste better. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.



  • Frozen vegetables will release water when cooked; this waters down the casserole. You can avoid it by microwaving the frozen vegetables on HIGH in a covered dish for 8 to 10 minutes; then drain the excess liquid. Then proceed with Step 4, above and reduce the cooking time to about 15 minutes at 400°F.
  • Other vegetables: Feel free to add Brussels sprouts, carrots or other favorites.


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