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Archive for April, 2013

CINCO DE MAYO: Mexican Chicken & Rice Soup Recipe

Soup for Cinco de Mayo. Photo courtesy


You could whip up some tortilla soup for Cinco de Mayo. Or, try this Mexican Chicken & Rice Soup.

There are dozens of “Mexican-style” Chicken Soup recipes out there. This one is tasty and easy to make. Don’t omit the lime or the cilantro; both provide authentic (and delicious) Mexican flavors.



  • 4 chicken thighs (6 ounces)
  • 2 small carrots
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • Fresh lime juice for garnish
  • 1/2 lime, cut into wedges, for garnish


    1. PLACE chicken thighs, carrots, onion, bay leaf and salt in a large stockpot and cover with 8 cups of cold water. Cook over medium-high heat just until the mixture begins to boil. (NOTE: We remove the skin from the thighs to reduce the fat and cholesterol in the soup.)

    2. REDUCE heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until chicken is tender. Remove all the ingredients from the stock. Discard the onion and bay leaf. When cool enough to handle, remove the chicken from the bone and chop the chicken and carrots into bite-sized pieces.

    3. PLACE 1/4 cup rice in the bottom of each of 4 bowls. Distribute the chicken, carrots, chopped red onion and cilantro evenly among them and top with 1 cup of stock. Squeeze some lime juice on top and serve, garnished with a lime wedge.

    Makes: 4 Servings | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 30 minutes.


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    FOOD FUN: Hidden Meanings Of 12 Popular Food Phrases

    You may be as cool as a cucumber and know how to bring home the bacon, but do you know where those phrases come from? Here’s a list of food phrases with hidden meanings, compiled by a website and search engine for restaurants that deliver food.

    1. BACON: “Bring Home The Bacon”

    Meaning: Get the money

    Some believe this phrase originated in Dunmow, England where the Dunmow Flitch (flitch is a side of bacon) was given every four years to a couple who impressed the town with their strength of fidelity. However, most believe the term derives from a 1906 boxing bout. Joe Gan’s mother told him before the fight, “Joe, the eyes of the world are on you. Everybody says you ought to win. Peter Jackson will tell me the news and you bring home the bacon.” This quote was published in the New York Times and caught on, creating one of the tastiest expressions ever.


    Monkeys are responsible for the phrase, “go bananas.” Photo courtesy Del Monte.

    2. BANANAS: “Go bananas”

    Meaning: Go crazy

    When zoologists fed monkeys bananas, the apes went crazy over the tasty treat. This is also where we get the phrase, to “go ape.”

    Another origin may come from the drunken, bewildered behavior of Indonesians who got totally blackout drunk from a fermented banana drink called Tonto. But our vote is with the monkeys.

    3. BEANS: “Spill The Beans”

    Meaning: Give away a secret

    This expresssion is believed to have originated in ancient Greece. Votes were held by the casting of beans: White beans meant yes and black beans meant no. If the vote collector dropped the jar and a black bean was seen, the vote was ruined.

    4. BUTTER: “Butter Someone Up”

    Meaning: Flatter someone excessively

    The origin of this phrase traces its roots to ancient India. When seeking favor from their higher powers, people would throw little balls of butter (more precisely, it was ghee, clarified butter) at statues of the gods. Butter was costly, so it was a fitting tribute. There’s an even older Tibetan tradition of making sculptures for the New Year out of butter, to bring peace and happiness.


    Butter is expensive, so “buttering someone up” is a tribute. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.


    5. CAKE: “Piece Of Cake”

    Meaning: Easy, requires little effort

    This phrase originated with the “cake walks” of the 1870s. Cakes were awarded as prizes during competitions where couples would promenade around a cake. The couple who walked with the most grace and style was awarded the prize. Since the effort involved was relatively easy, the terms “cake walk” and “piece of cake” entered our parlance.

    6. CHEESE: “The Big Cheese”

    Meaning: An important person or the most influential person in a group

    Although today “cheesy” indicates something cheap, in the early 19th century, “cheese” was used to describe something top-rate. The phrase evolved from an Anglo-Indian term, “chiz.” Related terms: big enchilada, big gun, big kahuna, big shot, big wheel [of cheese].

    7. COOKIES: “That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles”/”Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk”

    Meaning: Bad things happen

    There’s no hidden meaning behind this one: Sometimes a cookie crumbles before you can properly eat it, or a glass of milk gets knocked over. You may lose out but don’t despair: There will be another cookie and another glass of milk.

    8. CUCUMBER: “Cool As A Cucumber”

    Meaning: Calm and collected

    It’s a fact: The inside of a cucumber is actually 20 degrees cooler than the outside.

    9. EGGS: “A Bad Egg”

    Meaning: A person who’s no good

    This phrase originates from the use of “bad egg” to mean something that disappoints (as an actual bad egg certainly does). Today, it’s someone who disappoints through bad character and actions.

    10. FAT: “Chew The Fat”

    Meaning: To chat or gossip

    This phrase comes from the practices of the Inuit natives of Alaska, who used to chew whale blubber. It took a long time for the blubber to dissolve, so there was plenty of time for light conversation. Another theory believes that the phrase comes from sailors who were forced to chew salt pork when supplies were low.

    11. GRAVY: “It’s All Gravy”

    Meaning: It’s all good

    This phrase originated from an Old English saying that explained, life is meat and potatoes, and the luxuries are gravy.

    12. NOODLES: “Use your noodle”

    Meaning: Use your brain

    Noodles kind of look like brains. Originally “using your noodle” was an insult, implying that someone’s head was filled with wet, floppy noodles. Nowadays, it simply means “to think about it.”


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    RECIPE: Biscochitos, Cinco De Mayo Cookies

    Cookie maven Ann Clark of Make More Cookies wants more people to bake biscochitos. Crisp and crunchy, biscochitos are a cinnamon cookies, “a cross between shortbread and cinnamon toast,” says Ann. You don’t have to shape them like cactus or chiles; biscochitos are traditionally cut in a diamond shape for weddings or in a fleur de lis shape. Any cookie cutter will do. (The cactus and chili pepper cookie cutters are available on Amazon or at

    These classic Mexican cookies are “the perfect cookies to nibble on during Cinco de Mayo,” says Ann. Often served at Christmas and at weddings, biscochitos came to Mexico by way of Spain; the inclusion of anise seed and brandy or wine or wine attests to their European heritage. They are beloved in the southwestern U.S., and are the official state cookie of New Mexico.


    Cactus- and chile-shaped cookies are a fun option for Cinco de Mayo. Photo courtesy Ann Clark.


    Recipes for biscochitos often state that you must use lard to make them authentic. Ann says that lard does, indeed, make cookies with a uniquely light, crisp texture. But it also makes them taste like lard. Her recipe uses a combination of shortening and butter.

    Two other departures from tradition: To help the cookies keep their shape, Ann’s recipe uses less baking powder than is usually called for. And, to reduce the risk of breakage, instead of dipping the baked cookies in cinnamon sugar they get a coating before going into the oven.

    This recipe makes about 20 cookies.


    Make biscochitos in your favorite shapes.
    Photo courtesy Cowgirl Way | Pinterest.




  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon anise seed or 1/2 teaspoon anise
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


    1. STIR sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and set aside.

    2. BEAT butter and shortening together in a bowl; add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until fluffy.

    3. ADD egg, brandy, vanilla and anise; mix until completely incorporated.

    4. WHISK together and add the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix just until all ingredients are well blended; do not overmix. Chill dough for 3-4 hours before rolling.

    5. PREHEAT oven to 350ºF. Roll dough out on a lightly floured counter to 1/4-inch thickness and cut with cookie cutters. Transfer cookies onto cookie sheets that have been lined with parchment paper or silicone liners.

    6. BRUSH each cookie lightly with water, using a pastry brush; sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly colored. Let cookies cool slightly on cookie sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.



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    FOOD HOLIDAY: 30 Favorite Ways To Enjoy Raisins On National Raisin Day

    It’s a big day for one of the world’s smallest fruits, the raisin. Long before processed foods became the snack of choice in America, people would snack on healthful* raisins, or nut and raisin mixes. Much as we enjoy chocolate-covered raisins, National Raisin Day, April 30th, is the day to return to raisins’ roots.

    Raisins are a great grab-and-go snack, but are also so much more. So we’re paying homage to the humble dried grape by sharing 30 ways in which it is elevated to something quite special.

    If you don’t like raisins (there are some of you out there, and one of you works at THE NIBBLE), you can use the following recipe concepts with dried blueberries, cherries or strawberries.


    1. BREAKFAST CEREAL. Just as Skinner’s Raisin Bran first added raisins to its bran flakes back in 1926, you can make Raisin Cheerios, Raisin Chex, Raisin Rice Krispies, Raisin Special K, raisin granola, raisin oatmeal or other mix.

    2. PANCAKES. After making a disappointing batch of blueberry pancakes (the berries were way too tart), we fished out the berries and substituted raisins. Delicious!


    Mixed raisins. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

    *Raisins are good nutrition: A 1/4 cup serving has 9% DV of fiber and potassium and 6% DV of iron, no cholesterol; no fat and no added sugar. The USDA ranks raisins as the most economical dried fruit.
    3. MUFFINS & DANISH. If you enjoy a raisin bagel, how about raisin toast (from a loaf of raisin bread) or homemade raisin muffins? A cheese danish without raisins is a disappointment. If you buy raisinless baked goods, simply add your own. They affix nicely with the tiniest dab of honey. If it’s a cheese croissant, cut it in half and sprinkle in the raisins (and some sliced almonds, too).


    4. CARROT RAISIN SLAW. It’s delicious with sandwiches or cottage cheese and yogurt. Here’s an easy recipe: 4 cups shredded carrots, 1-1/2 cups raisins, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 to 3 tablespoons milk. Combine carrots and raisins in a mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar and enough milk to achieve a dressing consistency. Thoroughly coat carrot-raisin mixture. Yields 8 servings.

    5. COTTAGE CHEESE & YOGURT. Whether for breakfast, lunch or snacks, add some raisins to your yogurt and cottage cheese. We love an artistic mixture of black raisins and golden raisins (sultanas), and some sliced almonds.

    6. SALADS. Raisins are delicious in a mixed green salad, spinach salad or arugula and endive salad; the sweetness plays well against bitter greens. Toss raisins into cole slaw or even a fresh fruit salad; dried fruits add an interesting counterpoint to the fresh ones. Raisins are de rigeur in curried chicken, tuna and egg salads.

    7. WRAPS & SANDWICHES. Sprinkle a few raisins into just about any wrap, from ham and cheese to turkey to grilled vegetables. Raisins add sweetness in the way that chutney (which often includes raisins) and cranberry sauce do. Then there are peanut butter and raisin sandwiches, cream cheese and raisins, grilled cheese and raisins and one of our favorites, goat cheese and raisins on a toasted baguette.


    Curried roasted cauliflower with raisins.
    Photo courtesy Dole. Here’s the recipe.



    8. ANTS ON A LOG. This retro snack is as much fun today as it originally was in the 1950s. Celery stalks are filled with peanut butter, and raisins placed atop like a line of ants. Our mother preferred cream cheese to peanut butter.

    9. ENERGY FIX, HUNGER FIX. Keep boxes of raisins in your desk drawer, glove compartment, gym bag or locker. They’re yummy alone, with a cup of tea, cinnamon-accented coffee or other drink.

    10. RAISIN “S’MORES.” Instead of graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows, grill thin slices of baguette with a piece of chocolate bar and some raisins.

    11. TRAIL MIX. Long before the term trail mix was coined (in the 1950s), middle class families would keep a candy dish of mixed nuts and raisins on the coffee table. If you had an especially good grandmother, she would toss M&Ms or chocolate chips into the mix when you were visiting.



    12. BEANS & LENTILS. Stir raisins into bean and lentil dishes. For baked beans, cut the sugar in half and add a half cup of golden raisins (a nicer color contrast with the beans).

    13. CALVES LIVER, FISH, CHICKEN PAILLARD. Use the rum raisin sauce in #15 below; cut the sugar in half and substitute wine for the rum.

    14. CHILI. Do you know the trick of adding chocolate to chili to bring out new dimensions of flavor? It works with raisins, too.

    15. CURRY. Raisins accent any curry dish, or any dish seasoned with cinnamon, ginger or turmeric,

    16. HAM OR PORK. You can substitute (or add) raisins for prunes in pork/prune recipes. Or, top ham or pork roasts with a rum raisin sauce: In small saucepan, combine 1 cup water and 1 cup raisins (we like to mix black and golden raisins); bring mixture to boil. In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup brown sugar and 2 tablespoons flour; add slowly to raisin mixture, stirring constantly until thickened. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons rum; stir to blend and remove from heat.

    17. MEAT DISHES. Pot roast, heavy casseroles and stews of meat and/or poultry get a lift from 1/4 cup of raisins.

    18. RICE & GRAINS. Go Middle Eastern and add raisins to your hot rice dishes or rice salads. Do the same with whole grains: barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, farro, quinoa, etc.

    19. STIR FRY. Along with your protein and garlic, add a sweet touch of raisins.

    20. STUFFED CABBAGE. One of our favorite ancestral foods, we recently purchased a prepared dish of stuffed cabbage at Zabar’s in New York City. There was so much sugar in the recipe, we couldn’t eat it until we’d fixed a work-around with vinegar. Zabar’s took the cheaper route with sugar, when naturally sweet raisins were the proper ingredient.

    21. STUFFING. A packaged bread stuffing comes alive with some raisins and fresh herbs.

    22. VEGETABLES. Add raisins and nuts to bitter greens like chard and kale; definitely try them with Brussels sprouts and bacon.


    23. CAKES & QUICK BREADS. Add raisins to carrot cake and zucchini bread. They’re delicious in pound cake; even more so when they’re pre-soaked in rum. We put those rum-soaked raisins into brownies, too.

    24. COOKIES. Make classic oatmeal raisin cookies, with or without chocolate chips. Butter cookies and shortbread with raisins are also delicious.

    25. PIE. Add to apple or other fruit pie or pecan pie; make a sour cream raisin pie. Other popular combinations include cranberry-raisin, pumpkin-raisin and rhubarb-raisin.

    26. PUDDING. Add raisins to bread pudding, custard, rice pudding, tapioca or any flavored pudding (butterscotch, chocolate, pistachio, vanilla, etc.). They work nicely in applesauce, too.

    27. RUM RAISIN ICE CREAM. Marinate raisins in rum and sugar for several hours or overnight. Remove the raisins from the liquid and stir into softened vanilla ice cream; return to the freezer to harden. Or use them as a topping on scoops of ice cream, or interspersed in a parfait.

    28. STEWED FRUIT. We love to make our grandmother’s stewed fruit compote: seasonal fresh fruits accented with a scattering of raisins.


    29. MULLED WINE. Toss raisins into mulled wine, while it’s warming or as a garnish. And supply an espresso spoon or cocktail pick so they can be easily eaten.

    30. MARTINI. Garnish a Martini with vermouth-soaked raisins. You can drop them into the glass or serve them skewered.

    RAISIN TRIVIA: California is the raisin capital of the world. Almost all California raisins are grown within a 60-mile radius of Fresno, in California’s sun-drenched San Joaquin Valley.


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    PRODUCT: The Best Cheddar Cheese From Tillamook

    We’re always happy when our favorite foods receive the laurels they deserve. That’s why we were so pleased when the Tillamook County Creamery Association received first place recognition for three of their cheeses at the United States Championship Cheese Contest, held recently in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

    The winners:

  • Tillamook Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese. Out of a perfect score of 100, Tillamook Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar received 99.45 in the Aged 2 Years Or Longer Cheddar Category. Naturally aged for more than two years, the cheese has a creamy, crumbling texture which and is delicious as a snack, in a fondue or a cheese course with fruit and wine. The extra sharp cheese needs an equally bold and full-bodied wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel.
  • Tillamook Sharp Cheddar Cheese. Tillamook Sharp Yellow Cheddar scored 98.65 points in the 6 months to 1 year Sharp Cheddar Category. Full flavored, but less so than Extra Sharp, Tillamook Sharp Yellow Cheddar is aged for at least 9 months to perfect its sharp, bold taste.

    Three award winners from Tillamook Creamery Cooperative. Photo by Elvira
    Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

  • Tillamook Colby Jack. Tillamook Colby Jack received 99.40 points in the Marbled Curd Cheese Category. The marbling is the result of two cheeses—Colby and Jack—a colorful medley of yellow and white with a fresh and mild flavor. This was the consecutive win for the cheese, which also won the award at the 2011 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest (the competition is held every two years).
    All three cheeses were also voted “America’s Best” in their respective categories, a special shout-out for superior taste and quality.

    It wasn’t an easy win. There are many fine cheese makers in the U.S. This year, the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest had a record-breaking total of over 1,700 entries across 82 categories, including seven categories of Cheddar.


    Delicious white Cheddar. Photo by Elvira
    Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.



    The Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) was established in Oregon in 1909, when several small creameries teamed up to ensure the quality and reputation of cheese made in the Tillamook Valley. Today, membership comprises more than 100 dairy farm families, many of whom are kin to the early pioneers.

    The farmer-owned cooperative is famously known for its award-winning, naturally aged Cheddars. But it is quickly becoming known for its variety of cheeses (including Colby Jack and Pepper Jack), butter, ice cream, sour cream and yogurt. Approximately one million people visit the cheese factory each year. The products are distributed nationally.


    Cheddar is a semi-hard cows milk cheese, the most popular cheese in England. Based on aging, from 3 months to 30 months, it varies from mild to extra sharp. Cheddar has been made at least since the 1100s; the first were made in Cheddar, a village in southwest England. The term has become almost generic, so Appellation of Controlled Origin-protected cheddar is labeled “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar,” which includes neighboring counties of Somerset, where the town of Cheddar is located.

    The cheese is naturally a creamy white, although vegetable dyes have made the orange color the preferred commercial style (the dyes have no impact on the flavor).

    In the U.K. the slang meaning of cheddar is money—similar to how “gravy” is used in the U.S.

    Here’s a tasty apple and grilled cheese sandwich, courtesy of Tillamook.



  • 1 loaf French bread, sliced
  • Aged White Cheddar, Sharp Cheddar or Colby Jack cheese, sliced
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, sliced thin
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Optional extras: sliced olives, fresh arugula, basil or spinach leaves

    1. PREHEAT a grill pan or regular frying pan over medium heat.

    2. ASSEMBLE cheese and apple slices onto one slice of bread. Top with optional extras and second slice of bread.

    3. DRIZZLE olive oil on outer sides of bread and transfer to the pan. Grill a few minutes per side, or until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown. Cut in half and serve immediately.


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