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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for April, 2013

CINCO DE MAYO: Mexican Chicken & Rice Soup Recipe

Soup for Cinco de Mayo. Photo courtesy
Dole.

 

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.

MEXICAN CHICKEN & RICE SOUP RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 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
  •  

    Preparation

    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.

      

    Comments

    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 Eat24.com. 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.”

      

    Comments

    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 AnnClark.com.)

    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.

     

    BISCOCHITOS RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 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
    extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  

    Preparation

    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.

     
    FIND MORE OF OUR FAVORITE COOKIE RECIPES.

      

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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.

    BREAKFAST

    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).

    LUNCH

    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.

     

    SNACKS

    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.

     

    DINNER

    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.
     

    DESSERT

    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.
     

    COCKTAILS & WINE

    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.
     
    VISIT LOVEYOURRAISINS.COM FOR HUNDREDS OF TASTY RECIPES, HEALTH & NUTRITION INFORMATION.

    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.

      

    Comments

    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.

     

    ABOUT TILLAMOOK CREAMERY

    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.

    ABOUT CHEDDAR CHEESE

    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.

    RECIPE: GRILLED CHEESE & APPLE SANDWICH

    Ingredients

  • 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
  •  
    Preparation

    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.
     
    FIND MORE OF OUR FAVORITE CHEESES IN OUR GOURMET CHEESE SECTION.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Chocolate Ganache Pups

    If you know a mom who loves chocolate and dogs, is there a better Mother’s Day gift than these chocolate pup bonbons?

    Made by hand by Gearhearts Chocolates, the milk chocolate bonbons are filled with silky chocolate ganache, which is lightly infused with handmade peanut butter.

    And they’re guilt-free: Five percent of sales of Peanut Butter Pups is donated to Companions for Heroes, a not-for-profit organization that matches rescue pets as companion animals to our nation’s wounded veterans.

    Read the full review and order yours today.
     

    FIND MORE OF OUR FAVORITE CHOCOLATES &
    EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
    CHOCOLATE.

     

    Who can resist these chocolate peanut butter pups? Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Agua Fresca For Cinco De Mayo

    Make agua fresca for Cinco de Mayo. Photo
    © Raptor Captor | Fotolia.

     

    In Spanish, agua fresca means fresh water. In culinary terms, it refers to a variety of refreshing cold drinks that are sold by street vendors and at cafés throughout Latin America; they’re also sold bottled and are whipped up at home.

    A traditional agua fresca is an infused, sweetened water, flavored with fruits and/or vegetables—often a more complex layering of flavors than lemonade and limeade. It is nonalcoholic and noncarbonated.

    The recipes can include a combination of fruits or veggies, flowers (like hibiscus), herbs and/or spices, cereals (barley, oats, rice), seeds (chia), even almond flour. Agua de horchata, a very popular recipe, is made of rice spiced with cinnamon.

    While some look forward to Margaritas and other alcoholic libations to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, kids and adults who refrain from drinking should indulge in an agua fresca or two. Of course, you can add a shot of rum, tequila or other spirit for those who want to celebrate with it.

    Three of our favorite combinations:

  • Watermelon (or any melon) and basil
  • Cucumber with basil and mint
  • Hibiscus (made with hibiscus herbal tea) and honeydew
  •  

    They’re as easy to make as lemonade. Try different recipes and develop your own signature. You’ll be certain to have people dropping by through the warm spring and summer months.

    TIP: To ensure that the sugar dissolves, use simple syrup or ultrafine sugar (which you can make by pulsing regular sugar in the food processor or spice mill). You can infuse the simple sugar with herbs (we like basil or rosemary). Here’s the simple syrup recipe.

    And here’s the agua fresca recipe we had recently at Tres Carnes, a wonderful new Texican smoked meat spot in New York City (more about it below). The house agua fresca, a combination of apple, cucumber and lime, was so refreshing that we had a second. Thanks to executive chef Sasha Shor for sharing her recipe.

     

    TRES CARNES AGUA FRESCA RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 3 cucumbers (English or other thin-skinned cucumbers), unpeeled
  • 6 granny smith apples, unpeeled
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup, made from 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water (or use agave)
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • Sliced limes and/or cucumber for garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE a basic simple syrup by boiling water and dissolving sugar in it. Reduce by 1/3 until a syrup forms. Cool completely.

    2. TRIM ends from cucumbers and chop into large chunks.

    3. CORE apples and remove stems, discard cores and seeds.

     

    Smoked pork shoulder, our favorite among three delicious smoked meats at Tres Carnes restaurant. Photo © Chris Gardiner | Fotolia.

    4. PURÉE cucumbers and apples with lime juice in a blender or food processor until all is incorporated and you have a thick purée. The consistency should be similar to thinned applesauce.

    5. STRAIN the purée mixture through a fine mesh strainer, removing all fruit and vegetable pulp. You may have to strain twice depending on your strainer.

    6. ADD simple syrup and water and stir well. You may have some sediment but that’s ok!

    7. CHILL the agua fresca and serve over ice. Garnish and serve.
     

    TRES CARNES RESTAURANT: TEXICAN SMOKED MEATS IN A FAST FOOD VENUE

    Tres Carnes is the newest best thing to happen to fast food. The first outpost launched recently in New York City (at Sixth Avenue and 22nd Street). If the great food and lines snaked out the door are any indication, it’s a smash hit.

    You move through a line past the hot table, where personable counter staff put whatever you want in a bowl, in a burrito wrap or onto a plate with two soft tortillas. You choose from three kinds of smoked meat (the “tres carnes”) prepared by Mike Rodriguez, an award-winning pitmaster—smoked brisket, chicken adobo and BBQ pork shoulder—and revel in the delicious sides of beans, corn, greens, guacamole and squash. Chili is Texas-style: all meat, no beans.

    There are so many delicious sides that vegetarians can have as wonderful a meal as carnivores. Everything is seasoned with great finesse, and the food is of a quality that doesn’t get any better at far fancier, white tablecloth restaurants. In fact, we can’t think of any other Tex-Mex restaurant we’d rather return to.

    The eatery is so new that there are no photos of the fab food on the website, no place to sign up for information, not even a Facebook page or Twitter. But keep checking at TresCarnes.com, and hope that a Tres Carnes comes to you, soon.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Uses For Leftover Rice

    Fried rice is a favorite use for leftover rice.
    Here, it’s made with brown rice. Photo

     

    After we published uses for leftover pasta, we received requests for uses for leftover rice.

    Any of these recipe ideas works for white or brown rice.

  • Eggs. Add the rice to omelets or frittatas, with or without leftover beans, capers, olives, sliced green onions and diced vegetables.
  • Fried Rice. This is what Chinese restaurants do with leftover rice. Simply toss the rice in a frying pan with some oil and the “mix-ins” (see the recipe is below). You can make your recipe as complex as you like, using whatever vegetables and cooked meats you have in the fridge.
     
    We recently made a batch of fried rice with cilantro, cashews, edamame and pineapple. If you like hot and spicy foods, add minced jalapeños or hot sauce to your recipe. Fried rice is a wonderful opportunity to be creative and turn out a different recipe every time.
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  • Rice Pudding. While rice pudding is typically made by cooking raw rice in milk, you can add milk, sugar and mix-ins to cooked rice. It’s our favorite use for leftover rice from Chinese food take-out. Simply combine the rice, just enough milk or cream to the top of the rice, sweetener and dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg. Add dried blueberries, cherries or raisins, a pinch of salt and an optional 1/8 teaspoon vanilla. Cook on the stovetop or the microwave. Serve hot or chilled. We like to garnish rice pudding with chopped pistachios.
  • Rice Salad. Make rice salad by adding any ingredients you have on hand: carrots, peas, bell pepper, green or red onion, fresh herbs, nuts. Use a vinaigrette dressing; for an Asian-style vinaigrette, combine 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 6 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil, with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. You can serve it as a side, or on a bed of lettuce as a first course.
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  • Seasoned Rice. If your leftover rice is relatively plain, kick it up a notch or two by adding other ingredients, such as those options in the rice salad above. It’s like fried rice but not fried; like rice salad but hot and without the dressing. We’re happy just mixing in fresh herbs and some toasted sesame seeds. For a real treat with roast poultry, make Persian rice with sour cherries (recipe).
  • Soups and Stews. You can add the rice to any soup or stew. For an artistic touch, use an ice cream scoop to place a mound of rice in the middle of a soup bowl. Garnish the top of the rice with some herbs, and spoon the soup around it.
  • Sandwich wraps. Season the rice, add it to the tortilla with other ingredients—beans, chicken, grilled or tofu. Seasonings can range from Asian ingredients (sesame seed, soy sauce) to herbs to red pepper flakes.
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    It’s easy to turn leftover rice into rice pudding. Photo courtesy UNK.

     

    EASY FRIED RICE RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 4 cups cold cooked rice
  • 1-2 tablespoons light soy sauce or oyster sauce (an earthy, sweet and salty sauce)
  • 2 green onions, washed and finely sliced
  • Other ingredients of choice (diced bell pepper, chicken, pork, sausage, etc.)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BEAT the eggs with the salt and pepper.

    2. HEAT the oil in a frying pan or wok and add the eggs, stirring, until they are lightly scrambled. Remove, set aside and clean pan with a paper towel.

    3. ADD 2 tablespoons oil, heat and add the rice. Stir-fry for a few minutes; then add the soy sauce.

    4. ADD the scrambled eggs, combining thoroughly. Stir in the green onion and any other ingredients. Heat through and serve.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Veggie Fries Recipe

    Get everyone to eat more vegetables—
    French fried! Photo courtesy Arch Rock
    restaurant | Santa Barbara.

     

    A few weeks ago we published a recipe for truffle fries from Arch Rock Fish restaurant in Santa Barbara. This luxurious comfort food seasons French fries with truffle oil and shaved Parmesan cheese.

    Few people turn down French fries. But in the name of getting your family to eat more veggies—and because they’re delicious—how about veggie fries? Arch Rock Fish has supplied its recipe:

    VEGGIE FRIES RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • Carrot, fennel, yellow squash, zucchini or your favorite vegetables
  • Flour
  • Buttermilk or kefir
  • Seasonings: celery salt, granulated garlic* or garlic powder, ground fennel seed, onion powder, granulated garlic, salt and pepper
  • Oil for frying
  •  
    *Granulated garlic has a coarser texture than garlic powder; it’s like fine cornmeal.

     

    Preparation

    1. CUT vegetables into fry-shaped pieces (baton, a thicker julienne), about ½ inch wide. If a particular vegetable doesn’t lend itself to a julienne shape, cut into small florets (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower) or circles (e.g., broccoli stalks).

    2. MIX seasonings into flour.

    3. DIP vegetables into buttermilk to coat, then dredge in seasoned flour.

    4. FRY until golden.
     
    CUTTING THE FAT FROM FRIED FOODS

    If you’re concerned about fried foods, here’s another great tip: the T-Fal Actifry low fat fryer.

     

    The T-Fal Actifry cooks an entire batch of fries or fried veggies with just one tablespoon of oil. Photo courtesy T-Fal.

     

    This wonderful appliance lets you fry an entire batch of veggies in just one tablespoon of oil. It’s a great Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift for people who love their fried foods.

    SOME FAT IS GOOD FOR YOU

    Contrary to what many people believe, fat/oil is not bad for you: You need two tablespoons of it a day for healthy functioning of organs (more from the Mayo Clinic). It’s saturated fats, including cholesterol, that you need to avoid.

    So grab the monounsaturated “good” fats—avocado oil, canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil—and an Actifry and feel good about eating fried foods.

    Second-choice oils include the polyunsaturated fats, such as corn oil, flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil, olive oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil.

    Here’s more about good fats and bad fats.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Uses For Club Soda

    Drinking club soda is just for starters. Photo
    courtesy Schweppes.

     

    You may enjoy it as a refreshing drink or a mixer, or sprinkle it on tablecloth spills. But here are other uses for that bottle of club soda, seltzer or sparkling water (see the differences below).

    IN RECIPES

    1. Make Fluffier Pancakes. Instead of adding milk or water as the recipe directs, use club soda. The carbonation will help make the pancakes lighter and airier.

    2. Make Fluffier Matzoh Balls. As Jewish grandmothers know, seltzer does the same for matzoh balls.

    3. Make Fluffier Scrambled Eggs. Our mom used a few splashes of milk to make her scrambled eggs fluffy. Mom’s eggs were great, but carbonated water produces the same results.

    4. Make Tempura Batter. The magic of tempura coating is helped by substituting club soda for the water.

     

    AFTER EATING

    5. As A Digestif. Club soda and bitters are a time honored, non-alcoholic digestif, (A digestif is an alcoholic beverage served after a meal to aid digestion). Similarly, sipping on club soda can soothe an upset stomach; feel free to add the bitters, an herbal distillation.

    There are numerous non-culinary uses for club soda, from cleaning porcelain and stainless steel to preserving newspaper clippings. Check out 10 of them in the original article on Care2.com.

    CLUB SODA, SELTZER & SPARKLING WATER: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE

    The overall category is carbonated water, also called soda water: water into which carbon dioxide gas under pressure has been dissolved, causing the water to become effervescent.

     

    Carbonated Water: In the U.S., carbonated water was known as soda water until after World War II, due to the sodium salts it contained. While today we think of “soda” as a carbonated beverage, the word originally refers to a chemical salts, also called carbonate of soda (sodium carbonate, sodium hydroxide, sodium monoxide).

    The salts were added as flavoring and acidity regulator, to mimic the taste of a natural mineral water. After the war, terms such as sparkling water and seltzer water gained favor. Except for sparkling mineral water, all carbonated water/soda water is made from municipal water supplies (tap water).

    Carbonated water was invented in Leeds, England in 1767 by British chemist Joseph Priestley, who discovered how to infuse water with carbon dioxide by suspending a bowl of water above a beer vat at a local brewery. Carbonated water changed the way people drank liquor, which had been neat, providing a “mixer” to dilute the alcohol.

     

    Club soda makes scrambled eggs fluffier. Photo courtesy American Egg Board.

     

  • Club Soda: Like the original carbonated water, club soda is enhanced with some sodium salts.
  • Fizzy Water: Another term for carbonated water.
  • Seltzer or Seltzer Water: Seltzer is carbonated water with no sodium salts added. The term derives from the town of Selters in central Germany, which is renowned for its mineral springs. The naturally carbonated water—which contains naturally dissolved salts—has been commercially bottled and shipped around the world since at least the 18th century.
  • Sparkling Water: Another term for carbonated water/soda water. It can also refer to sparkling mineral water, which is pumped from underground aquifers. Note that not all sparkling mineral waters are naturally effervescent. Many are actually carbonated from still mineral water. Some are lightly carbonated by nature, but have extra carbonation added at bottling to meet consumer preferences.
  • Two Cents Plain: Another word for soda water, coined during the Great Depression, when plain soda water was the cheapest drink at the soda fountain.
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