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Archive for February, 2013

TIP OF THE DAY: A New Take On Margaritas For National Margarita Day

Something different: a Pineapple Cilantro
Margarita. Photo and recipe courtesy Sauza


Today is George Washington’s birthday. It’s also National Margarita Day.

Washington (1732-1799) never had a Margarita: The cocktail wasn’t invented until 1948, as the prevailing story goes (history of the Margarita).

But that doesn’t mean you can’t toast to both Washington and National Margarita Day, with two specialty Margarita recipes from Sauza Tequila: Pineapple Cilantro Margarita and Banana Margarita. Yum!


Ingredients For 6 Cocktails

  • 2 cups pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons (1/8) cup minced cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 6 parts blanco-silver Tequila
  • 2 parts orange liqueur (Grand Marnier, triple sec, etc.)
  • 2 cups ice
  • 1 lime and 1 orange for garnish
  • Coarse sea salt or kosher salt for rim

    1. RIM glasses with salt: Rub the rims with a lime wedge, then dip into a plate of salt.

    2. COMBINE in a shaker the pineapple juice, cilantro, lime juice, orange juice, Tequila, orange liqueur and ice. Shake until cold. Serve up or on the rocks. Salud!



    Ingredients For 9 Cocktails

  • 1 13-ounce can of frozen pineapple-orange-banana concentrate
  • 13 parts reposado Tequila (the different types of tequila)
  • 4 frozen bananas
  • 1 can of light beer
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • Optional garnish: brown sugar-broiled bananas
  • Optional glass rim: brown sugar

    1. PREPARE optional banana garnish: Roll banana in brown sugar, slice and broil for 2-3 minutes on each side or until sugar caramelizes.


    And now for something completely different: a banana Margarita with beer. Photo and recipe courtesy Sauza Tequila.

    2. COMBINE the first 4 ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a pitcher, add beer and stir.

    3. RIM glasses, if desired. Serve with or without ice.

    A wealthy gentleman farmer, George Washington “kept a bountiful table,” as the saying went. And he kept it daily: According to, he and Martha entertained constantly during his presidency; and during the 20 years after Washington left office, George and Martha only dined alone twice!
    Washington was extremely fond of fish, eating it almost daily, served in many different ways. At breakfast he favored hoe cakes, cornmeal pancakes served with melted butter and honey (the name references the original way of cooking them, on a hoe that had been heated in a fire). Also appearing regularly on the Mount Vernon table:

  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • String beans with almonds
  • Steak and kidney pie
  • Fish Muddle
  • Tipsy cake (trifle)
  • Martha Washington’s Whisky Cake
    And to drink? Washington was very fond of porter, a strong, dark ale; Madeira, a fortified Portuguese wine made in the Madeira Islands, and other wines were also served. He loved pickles and other condiments, particularly mushroom ketchup (which was popular long before tomato ketchup was first made, and it’s still available).

    And yes, Washington did love cherries in every form, including cherry pie. But he did not chop down a cherry tree—his biographer made it up (here’s the legend of the cherry tree).


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    WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY: Blue Cheese Salad With Dried Cherries

    Cherries, apples and blue cheese combine in
    a delicious salad. Photo and recipe courtesy


    George Washington, our first President, was born 280 years ago today. It’s been pretty well documented that he did not, in fact, chop down a cherry tree. But we can still be grateful for the opportunity to enjoy luscious dried tart cherries as we celebrate his birthday (fresh cherries are a summer fruit).

    Not only do the deliver terrific flavor; cherries are nutritious and one of the foods highest in antioxidants (here’s a list of high antioxidant foods).

    While we enjoy this delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe with dried cherries, the more healthfully inclined should consider this refreshing salad recipe that combines dried cherries with other fruits and blue cheese—a great combination.

    Tart and chewy cherries pair with the heat of grated fresh ginger and piquant blue cheese. If you prefer, you can substitute iceberg wedges for the mixed greens.



    Ingredients For 4 Servings

    For The Salad

  • 4 cups mixed greens, washed and patted dry
  • 1 tart apple, sliced
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup red onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup pecans, toasted, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (3 ounces) blue cheese, crumbled

    For The Dressing

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

    Dried cherries available from


    1. WHISK together sour cream, milk, lemon juice, zest, vinegar, ginger, honey, salt and pepper; refrigerate dressing until ready to serve.

    2. PORTION greens onto four plates. Divide apple slices and strawberries among salads. Garnish with cherries, onion and pecans.

    3. DRIZZLE dressing over salad and sprinkle with blue cheese; serve immediately. Cover and refrigerate extra dressing up to 3 days.




    PRODUCT: Cake Boss Cakes, At A Store Near You

    From left to right: It’s My Party, Oh My
    Ganache! and Va Va Velvet. Photo courtesy
    Dawn Foods.


    Fans of Buddy Valastro, TLC Channel’s Cake Boss, don’t have to pilgrimage to Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey for a cake.

    Buddy has struck a deal to deliver cakes to stores nationwide, beginning with six buttercream cakes “inspired by the flavors, techniques and styles of the cakes featured on the show.”

    The cakes are produced by Dawn Foods, a long-time supplier to Carlo’s Bake Shop, using Buddy’s recipes and designs. The Cake Boss himself has been involved every step of the way to ensure that the cakes meet his quality standards.

    At $27.99 for a seven-inch cake, they are not an everyday purchase.


    But for a special occasion, the cakes, which can be found in the bakery department of supermarkets and other food stores, are better than most store-bought cakes. We tried three varieties; our notes are below.

    The line is kosher certified by OU. Cupcakes and fondant cakes are expected later this year. The buttercream cake selection* includes:


  • Bada Bloom: Yellow cake and chocolate cake layers with fudge filling, decorated with flowers. (REVIEW: Our favorite of the three we tried—we ate a second [tiny] slice and had to stay our hand from eating a third piece.)
  • Dulce De Leche: Caramel filling between chocolate layers and a frosting of white Belgian chocolate ganache.
  • It’s My Party: The yellow cake and chocolate Bada Bloom combination with a festive, non-floral decor.
  • Oh My Ganache! All chocolate, all the time: cake, filling, icing and a chocolate shavings garnish. (REVIEW: Despite the all-chocolate ingredients, it’s not cloying or overly rich; we had a second piece of this, too.)
  • Va Va Velvet: Red velvet layers filled and topped with cream cheese frosting and finished with cake crumbs and shaved white chocolate.

    Bada Bloom, Dulce de Leche and Whole Lotta Carrots. Photo courtesy Dawn Foods.


  • Whole Lotta Carrots: Shredded carrots, coconut, pineapple, raisins and walnuts, with cream cheese frosting and filling. (REVIEW: We are beyond picky about certain recipes, and we want our carrot cake to taste just so. This is not the recipe of our dreams, but we opine that most carrot cake lovers will be happy with it.)
    Next Step: Check the store locator and look for a special occasion.
    *Each retailer may only carry a partial selection.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Things To Do With Frozen Peas

    Frozen peas are a versatile ingredient. Photo
    by Claire Freierman | THE NIBBLE


    We typically keep a bag of frozen peas in the freezer—not as a substitute ice pack, but to add a burst of color and flavor to just about any savory dish.

    Many recipes add peas for exactly that reason. But we’ve got ways to use peas that you may not have considered.

    Why frozen peas?

  • They’re well-priced and easy to keep on hand.
  • They’re pre-cooked and thaw quickly at room temperature (or steam them for a few seconds in the microwave).
  • The texture, flavor and color are excellent (canned peas are mushy and have that canned taste).
    But in another month or two, when peas are in season, it’s time to buy and shell them, and enjoy pea purée and fresh pea soup in all their glory.



  • Eggs: Add peas to omelets or as a garnish for any style of eggs; mash peas into deviled eggs and/or sprinkle on top of them.
  • Garnish: Pretty much everything looks bright and cheerful with a garnish of peas.
  • Mashed Potatoes: Mash peas in with the potatoes, or use as a garnish.
  • Pasta: Just about any pasta dish can be complemented with dots of green peas, including mac and cheese and macaroni salad.
  • Rice & Other Grains: Ditto. Peas are the easiest way to perk up leftover rice (add some green onion and red bell pepper).
  • Salads: Add peas to bean salad, chicken salad, egg salad, green salad, potato salad, rice salad, shrimp salad, tuna salad, vegetable salad, etc.
  • Sauces & Dips: Blend peas into hummus, pesto or yogurt dip, or make this delicious pea and Parmesan dip.
  • Side: Peas as a side dish are a no-brainer, but pea purée is a special treat (add a bit of mint).
  • Soup Garnish: Sprinkle peas atop any soup, with or without croutons.

    Make a risotto, or mix green peas into regular rice. Photo courtesy





    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Planter’s NUT-rition Peanut Butter

    Cinnamon Raisin PB, a real treat. Photo by
    Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    Peanut butter is a nutritious food: It was invented by a physician to provide protein for people who could not chew meat (see the history of peanut butter).

    While delicious flavored peanut butter has been produced by artisan manufacturers for more than a decade, Planters is the first national producer to take on mix-ins.

    Three NUT-rition flavors have inclusions that create a delightful texture as well as added flavor—we’d classify them as “gourmet” PB:

  • Banana Granola Nut Peanut Butter: We could use more banana flavor, but it’s perfect for a PB sandwich with sliced bananas.
  • Berry Nut Peanut Butter: Chewy bits of dried cranberry add texture and flavor.
  • Cinnamon Raisin Granola Nut Peanut Butter: Perhaps our favorite.
  • Cherry Chocolate Peanut Butter is “coming soon.”

    The flavored peanut butters are available at grocers nationwide. Read the full review.



    PRODUCT: Lindt Wasabi Chocolate Bar

    Imagine being the master chocolatier for the world’s largest prestige chocolate company. Management is always looking for something new and different.

    You already have chocolate bars in Blackcurrant, Chili, Coconut, Cranberry, Orange, Passionfruit, Sea Salt, plus traditional flavors like Almond, Mint and Toffee and plain chocolate bars in a range of cacao intensities.

    What do you do next?

    Americans love chocolate, and we love sushi with wasabi; so how about wasabi—Japanese horseradish—and chocolate?

    It may not sound intuitive, but another hot spice, chili, is a natural with chocolate.

    And wasabi works, too!

    The Lindt Excellence Dark Wasabi bar is a surprising and delicious flavor experience. Silky smooth dark chocolate is subtly spiced with a touch of wasabi flavor.


    Lindt’s new Excellence Wasabi Chocolate Bar. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    While the label says “artificial flavors,” to us it tastes like wasabi powder has added to the chocolate—with charming results.

    So, bring some wasabi chocolate bars to the sushi bar. Give one as a gift to your sushi chef and enjoy a square or two after a delicious sushi dinner.

    Consider them as Easter gifts—let everyone else bring the chocolate bunnies and eggs. And on any occasion when you need a little something with big impact, wasabi chocolate is it.

    If you can’t find them locally, you can buy Lindt Wasabi Chocolate Bars on, $3.99 for a 3.5-ounce bar.

    While it gets a bit lost in the wasabi news, Lindt has also released a new Strawberry chocolate bar along with Wasbi. It’s not a daring surprise, but it reads the script beautifully.

    Read our review of Lindt Excellence chocolate bars.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Asian Peanut Sauce

    For both Asian- and Western-style salads,
    peanut sauce is a delicious dressing. Photo
    courtesy National Almond Board.


    If you enjoy a plate of Asian sesame noodles, that yummy, peanut butter-based sauce is equally versatile as a:

  • Dip for raw vegetables (crudités)
  • Grilled chicken, fish or tofu sauce or dip for
  • Pasta sauce
  • Rice and grains sauce
  • Salad dressing
  • Sandwich and wrap condiment
  • Steamed or grilled vegetable sauce
    While peanut butter, coconut milk or cream, garlic and soy sauce are common to all recipes, there is no one version of peanut sauce. Every region has its own signature style.

    For example, Indonesian peanut sauce uses lemongrass, tamarind juice and miso; Thai peanut sauce uses lime juice and cilantro.


    You can make a double batch and keep it tightly sealed in the fridge, ready to add flavor to so many different dishes. It’s a quick and nutritious snack with baby carrots or hard-cooked eggs, and delicious with leftovers (one of our favorites: mix with leftover rice; add some peas, chopped green onions and diced bell pepper).




  • 1-1/2 cups peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce*
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce†
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon brown sugar

    Grilled fish is delicious with peanut sauce. Photo courtesy Pollen restaurant.


    *For more heat and colorful flecks, add red chili flakes to taste.

    †If you don’t want to buy fish sauce just for this recipe, substitute Worcestershire sauce. If you think you’ll be making peanut sauce regularly, invest in the fish sauce.

    1. WHISK together ingredients, except cilantro, in a small bowl.

    2. MIX in cilantro just before serving.

    3. FOR A THINNER SAUCE OR DIP, dilute with water, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Use Peanuts, Especially Flavored Peanuts

    Indian chicken salad with roasted peanuts.
    Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy


    Peanuts are a New World crop. They are believed to have been domesticated in Bolivia or Paraguay, where the wildest strains still grow. The oldest specimens in Peruvian archeological sites date back some 7,600 years.

    While American colonists enjoyed a hearty, rich peanut soup (here’s a peanut soup recipe from Colonial Williamsburg), and Civil War soldiers snacked on “goober peas,” the majority of the peanut crop was used as animal feed until the 1930s. Then peanuts began to come into their own.

    The next burst of popularity came in the late 1960s. Until then, shelled peanuts were available in two varieties: salted and unsalted, cooked in oil. Planters introduced dry roasted peanuts, eliminating the oil slick that attached to the fingers of peanut nibblers.


    Progress followed with honey roasted peanuts. Other flavored peanuts trickled in to join them. Planters’ current flavored peanut lineup includes 5-Alarm Chili, Chipotle, Heat, Honey Barbeque, Honey Roasted, Roasted Onion & Garlic and Sweet & Crunchy.

    Peanuts are nutritious: They’re a good source of monounsaturated (heart healthy) fats, which helps to maintain the immune system. Unsaturated fat is good for you: It’s a component of cell membranes that is needed for cell growth and daily repair.

    One serving of dry-roasted peanuts (30 grams) contains 12 grams of unsaturated fat, 2 grams of saturated fat and 0 cholesterol. It also contains protein, folate, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, niacin and thiamine.



    Sweet flavored peanuts can be used as cereal, pancake and ice cream toppers or baked into recipes. But savory flavors require a different treatment. Here are our 10 favorite ways to use savory flavored peanuts:

  • Breadcrumb enhancer: grind or finely chop peanuts and add to breadcrumbs
  • Dips: stir in chopped peanuts, especially into yogurt-based dips (curry dip, cucumber dip)
  • Hummus mix in: grind peanuts with the chickpeas, or chop as a mix-in or topper
  • Pesto: substitute peanuts for the traditional pine nuts (pesto recipe)
  • Popcorn mix-in
  • Rice/grain/pasta mix-in or garnish
  • Salad topper
  • Savory trail mix
  • Soup garnish
  • Yogurt or cottage cheese mix-in

    Two new flavors of Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts: Onion Garlic and Honey Barbeque. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    As long as we’re talking peanuts and salad, try this “Peanut Butter & Jelly Salad.”

    It uses neither peanut butter or jelly, but the suggestion of them. It’s what we call “marketing”: Not only is it tasty, but it’s a way to get kids to eat more salad.

    Ingredients Per Portion

  • 1/2 cup seedless grapes, sliced
  • 1 large leaf Boston lettuce, washed and patted dry
  • Favorite greens to fill the leaf “cup” (we used a cabbage slaw mix)
  • 1 tablespoon plain or sweet flavor dry roasted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons dressing of choice (a balsamic vinaigrette works well or ranch dressing)

    1. MIX grapes and peanuts with other salad ingredients. Toss to coat with dressing.

    2. FILL lettuce cup and serve.


    PRODUCT: UV Candy Bar Vodka & Candy Bar Cocktails

    UV candy bar-flavored vodka. Photo courtesy
    Phillips Distilling Company.


    Sip your candy bar, drink your dessert: Phillips Distilling Company has launched UV Candy Bar, a chocolate- and caramel-flavored vodka. It’s 17th vodka flavor in the UV Vodka line, that also includes UV Cake, UV Chocolate Cake and UV Whipped.

    And the bottles are flying off the shelf: Sales increased 81% last year. At a suggested retail price of $12.99 for a 750mL bottle, it’s an affordable treat.

    Bold, unique and sweet, dessert-flavored vodkas can indeed substitute for dessert. Just a shot can be a sweet conclusion to dinner: No high-calorie dessert necessary.

    While we enjoyed drinking shots, the vodka can be mixed into many cocktails, including a riff on the famous White Russian. Here are two recipes to start you off.



  • 1 part UV Candy Bar Vodka
  • 2 parts milk or cream
  • 1 piece butterscotch candy


    1. SHAKE all ingredients in a cocktail shaker.

    2. Serve over ice in a rocks glass.




  • 1 part UV Candy Bar Vodka
  • 1 part plain vodka
  • 1 part triple sec or other orange liqueur
  • 1 part amaretto liqueur

    1. SHAKE all ingredients in a cocktail shaker.

    2. Serve over ice in a rocks glass.Hardcore Candy Bar


    The Hardcore Candy Bar cocktail. Photo courtesy Phillips Distilling Company.





    TIP OF THE DAY: Crunchy, Savory Yogurt Parfait

    Pretzel nuggets add crunch to yogurt. Photo
    by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    One of our favorite kitchen activities involves playing with ingredients: What can we do with them that hasn’t been done before?

    That’s how we developed our Pretzel Yogurt Parfait. We were inspired by a bag of pretzel nuggets (alternatively, crush regular pretzels with a rolling pin) and memories of Yo Crunch yogurt, variously mixed with cereals, cookie pieces and candy bits.

    We love crunch, as do most Americans: That’s why crunchy chips of all kinds are the biggest-volume snack.

  • We used plain Greek yogurt to make our yogurt parfait, and tucked a layer of pretzels into the center for all-the-way crunch.
  • We also tried it with strawberry yogurt, for a sweet and salty effect.
    There are many possible riffs on the savory yogurt parfait. The most healthful include:


  • A sprinkle of flax, pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds
  • Sliced or chopped almonds or walnuts (the health benefits of nuts)
  • Diced cucumber evokes tzatziki and raita
  • Diced tomatoes for color, lycopene, vitamin A (the anti-oxidant beta-carotene) and vitamin C
  • Bigger flavors from chopped fresh chives or green onions, dried jalapeño or minced pickles
    What’s your favorite savory yogurt parfait recipe?




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