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Archive for November, 2015

FOOD FUN: Ice Cream Christmas Tree Ornaments

How clever is the Breyers Ice Cream employee who turned ice cream into Christmas tree ornaments? You can do it too, or hand it over to the tweens and teens to make with their friends.

Breyers used a 1.5 quart container of their Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. You can, of course, use holiday flavors: candy cane ice cream, eggnog ice cream, gingerbread ice cream, etc.

Check out this Christmas sprinkle mix and Christmas confetti, both from Wilton. Or, use crushed candy canes or instead of the sprinkles

Find more nifty ice cream creations at Breyers.com.

RECIPE: ICE CREAM CHRISTMAS TREE ORNAMENTS

Ingredients For 12 Pieces

  • 1.5 quarts of ice cream (3 pints—but buy extra just in case)
  • 12 mini peanut butter cups
  • 12 pieces (1-1/2-in. ea.) thin red licorice
  • Christmas sprinkles (substitute rainbow sprinkles)
  •  

    Ice Cream Christmas Ornaments

    Ice cream ornaments for eating, not hanging. Photo courtesy Breyers.

     
    Preparation

    1. LINE a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil, then spray with nonstick cooking spray. Freeze for at least 20 minutes.

    2. SCOOP the ice cream, using a large round ice cream scoop, into 24 firmly packed scoops. Arrange the scoops flat-side down on the pan and freeze for 2 hours. Meanwhile…

    3. MAKE the ornament “hangers.” Poke two holes in the small, flat side of the peanut butter cups with a skewer. Add a licorice “hanger” by pushing the ends into the holes. Freeze.

    4. PRESS two scoops together to form a completely round ornament; repeat with the remaining scoops for a total of 12 ornaments. Arrange them on the pan and freeze at least 1 hour.

    5. ROLL the ornaments in the sprinkles, leaving a bare spot on top to attach the hanger. Attach the hanger by pressing it onto the top of the ornament. Freeze for 3 hours or until ready to serve.

      

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    RECIPE: Gingerbread Cookie Dip & Spread

    gingerbread-cookie-dip-venable-qvc-230

    Yummy and easy dip for cookies, fruit and more. Photo courtesy QVC.

     

    OMG, we haven’t even finished Thanksgiving leftovers but the countdown to Christmas is ON!

    If you’re too busy racing around and don’t have much time to prepare something special for family, friends or colleagues, here’s an easy treat from QVC’s chef David Venable.

    It’s Gingerbread Dip or Spread—yummy with cookies, cinnamon-flavored snack chips and sure, crudités.

    Says David, “There isn’t a more perfect potluck or office party recipe out there, foodies. This takes seconds, needn’t be cooked or kept warm, and uses ingredients you probably already have on hand.”

    RECIPE: GINGERBREAD DIP FOR COOKIES

    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cut in four pieces and brought to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup whipped topping
  •  
    Your Choice Of Dippers

  • Tea biscuits, gingersnaps, graham crackers, mini gingerbread men, spice cookies, vanilla wafers
  • Cinnamon-flavored bagel, pita and/or tortilla chips
  • Strawberries or other fruit
  • Pretzels
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, molasses, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth.

    2. SCRAPE the mixture into a medium-size bowl and fold in the whipped topping. Transfer to a serving dish.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Almost Apple Pie (Slow Cooker Apples)

    If an apple a day keeps the doctor away (see below), it stands to reason that an apple dessert helps, too.

    We have two slow-cooker apple recipes for you today. The second is like apple pie filling. Both are classic fall and winter desserts, suitable for weeknights or for company. They can be served warm, at room temperature or chilled.

    While you can prepare both recipes in an oven, a slow cooker with a liner saves you from scrubbing a pan—and leaves the cooked apples juicier, too.

    Both recipes were developed by Reynolds Kitchens.

    RECIPE #1: SLOW COOKER STUFFED “BAKED” APPLES
    WITH CINNAMON & BROWN SUGAR

    Prep time is 20 minutes, slow cooker time is 3 hours. You can make the recipe even healthier by replacing the brown sugar with half as much agave syrup*. While there’s not a lot of refined sugar in the recipe, every little save helps.
     
    Ingredients For 4 Servings

       

    Slow Cooker Baked Apples

    “Baked” apples from the slow cooker. Photo courtesy Reynolds Kitchens.

  • 4 medium tart baking apples (such as Braeburn, Granny Smith or Jonathan), cored
  • 1/4 cup regular rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup apple juice
  •  
    *Want to cut back on sugar? A better choice than sugar is agave nectar, a low-glycemic natural sweetener from the agave plant. Agave nectar has a glycemic index (GI) of 32, half that of table sugar (GI 60-65). Honey has a GI of 58, pure maple syrup has a GI of 54. Here’s more information on agave.
     
    Preparation

    1. LINE a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker with a Reynolds Slow Cooker Liner. Place the sliced apples in the liner.

    2. COMBINE the oats, raisins, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon in a small bowl. Spoon the mixture into the centers of the apples, patting down with the back of a spoon or a narrow metal spatula. Mound any remaining oat mixture on top of the apples. Pour apple juice around the apples in the cooker.

    3. COVER and cook for 3 hours on low.

    4. TRANSFER the apples to serving bowls and drizzle with the cooking liquid.

     

    Slow Cooker Sauteed Apples

    More like apple pie: apple slices slow-cooked
    with cinnamon. Photo courtesy Reynolds
    Kitchens.

     

    RECIPE #2: SLOW COOKER GLAZED CINNAMON APPLES

    Prep time is 15 minutes, slow cooker time is 3 hours (low) or 2 hours (high).
     
    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut in eight wedges
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Optional topping: vanilla ice cream or whipped cream
  • Optional cookies: gingersnap, oatmeal, shortbread or sugar cookies
  • Preparation

    1. LINE a 5-to-6 quart slow cooker with a Reynolds Slow Cooker Liner. Open a slow cooker liner and place it inside a slow cooker bowl. Fit the liner snugly against the bottom and sides of bowl; pull top of the liner over the rim of the bowl.

    2. PLACE the apples in the bowl and drizzle with lemon juice.

    3. MIX the granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples; stir gently with a rubber spatula to coat the apples. Drizzle with butter.

    4. PLACE the lid on the slow cooker and cook on the low-heat setting for 3 hours or on the high-heat setting for 2 hours, until the apples are done.

    5. CAREFULLY REMOVE the lid to allow the steam to escape. Transfer the apples to serving bowls and top with ice cream or whipped cream; or spoon the apples over a scoop of ice cream. Serve with cookies, if desired.

    6. COOL the slow cooker completely; remove the liner and toss. Do not lift or transport the liner with food inside.
     
     
     
    “AN APPLE A DAY” ORIGIN

    According to a website that tracks the origins of English phrases, the earliest known print reference dates to Wales in 1866:

    Eat an apple on going to bed, And you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.

    By the turn of the 20th century, a number of variants of the rhyme were in circulation, including the one popular in the U.S.

    Why were apples singled out to keep the doctor away? While they are healthful*, the answer is more complex. In Old English, “apple” was used to describe any round fruit that grew on a tree. Adam and Eve’s forbidden fruit is cited in English as an apple; but the word in the original Hebrew and the subsequent 1611 King James version of the Bible, it simply called “a fruit.”

    Most historians believe that the apple originated in the Dzungarian Alps, a mountain range separating China from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (far away from the Middle East/Garden of Eden). Scholars believe that the fruit tree in the Middle East, the designated home of the Garden Of Eden, may actually have been a pomegranate.

     
    *According to Phrases.org.uk and medical resources: Apples contain vitamin C, which aids the immune system, and phenols, which reduce cholesterol. Apples help to reduce tooth decay by killing bacteria that adhere to the teeth. Cornell University researchers believe that the quercetin in apples protects the brain cells against neuro-degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

      

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    GIFTS: Stocking Stuffers, Part 1

    For stocking stuffers, we look for special items around $10 (or less). Here’s the first bunch of gourmet foods we’d like to find in our stocking.

    ANNIE B’S CARAMELS

    In polka dot gift bags of 20 caramels, Annie B’s caramels are sure to please. The Signature Mix includes Butter Rum, Chocolate, Sea Salt and Original (vanilla) caramels. The Holiday Mix has Chocolate Raspberry, Peppermint and Pumpkin Spice caramels. The Chocolate Lovers Mix has Chocolate, Chocolate Sea Salt and Chocolate Raspberry.

    Each bag is $8. There are larger gift boxes and keepsake metal tins, $24. Get them at AnnieBsCandy.com.
     
    BAULI MINI PANETTONE OR PANDORO

    These sweet Italian Christmas breads now come in 3.5-ounce mini sizes—the equivalent of a breakfast pastry or a croissant. But what a pleasure biting into the little domed yeasty raisin bread (panettone) or sponge cake (pandoro)—we prefer the panettone. They’re $2.99 each at PiccolosGastronomia.com.

    If you want to give a full-size version, no one will be disappointed. It just won’t fit in the stocking. See the whole line at BauliUSA.com. The line is certified kosher by Star-D.
     
    GOURMET CHOCOLATE BARS

    Chocolate bars from two prestige producers are just right for stocking stuffers.

  • Cailler (kai-YAY) from Switzerland is very smooth and creamy milk chocolate. The Swiss invented milk chocolate, so you know it’s special. Choices include plain Rich and Creamy, plus Hazelnut, Almond Hazelnut and Cranberry and Almond Hazelnut and Raisin. Each bar is packaged in charming box-like wrapper.
     
    There are also dark chocolate bars and boxes of bonbons. Three individual bars are $13.50 at Amazon. For more information visit Cailler.com.us.
  • Chuao Chocolatier (chew-WOW) in California makes two holiday chocolate bars we love: Hope, Joy & Gingerbread in milk chocolate, and Peace, Love & Peppermint in dark chocolate. The 2.8-ounce bars are $6 at ChuaoChocolatier.com. We’ve got to stock up on enough Gingerbread to get us through until next year’s Christmas chocolate is produced.
  •  
    THE MILL FUDGE FACTORY

    There’s lots of hand-crafted fudge around, but The Mill Fudge Factory gets it right: just sweet enough, not cloying. It’s melt-in-your-mouth moist, hand-cut and hand-dated for freshness.

    The company makes classic and inventive flavors. Choose from Belgian Chocolate, Chocolate Coconut, Chocolate Salted Caramel, Chocolate Raspberry, Chocolate Walnut, Natural Peanut Butter, Penuche and Pure New Hampshire Maple. Seasonal flavors include Cranberry Maple Nut, Eggnog, Holiday Mint and Pumpkin Pie.

    Want a hint of spirits? Scottish Whiskey fudge is made with with Johnny Walker Red. Cabin Fever Maple Whiskey Fudge is made with the whiskey declared the best flavored whiskey on the market. And Bailey’s Irish Cream Fudge is a perennial favorte.

    We loved every bite we tried of the regular fudge flavors. The sugar-free fudge was OK, but we could taste the erythriytol—we hope the company will consider re-formulating with maltitol (see the different types of non-nutritive sweeteners).

       

    Annie B's Caramels

    Bauli Mini Panettone

    Gingerbread Chocolate Bar

    Fudge With Whiskey

    TOP PHOTO: Annie B’s gift bag of caramels. SECOND PHOTO: A mini panettone from Bauli. THIRD PHOTO: Holiday chocolate bars from Chuao Chocolatier. BOTTOM PHOTO: The Mill Fudge Factory has conventional and “spirited” fudge.

     
    All confections are available in sampler gift boxes; half-pound portions are $10, one-pound is $18.00. There are more elaborate gift baskets, a four pound Fudge Sampler for $60 and a Fudge of the Month Club 3, 6 and 12 months, $14.99 or less per month. There’s free shipping on orders of $35 or more.

    Go for it at TheMillFudgeFactory.com.

     

    Quin Coffee Marshmallows

    Snowman Marshmallows

    Superseedz Pouches

    Topperfino Chocolate Mug Toppers

    TOP PHOTO: A foot of marshmallows from
    Quin Candy. SECOND PHOTO: A marsh-
    mallow snowman topper for hot chocolate or
    coffee, from Sur La Table. THIRD PHOTO:
    Three of the nine flavors of Superseedz.
    BOTTOM PHOTO: Topperfino chocolate mug
    toppers.

     

    QUIN “FOOT LONG” MARSHMALLOWS

    Quin’s melt-in-your-mouth marshmallows are different from any others. They’re made in foot-long lengths, then cut into thirds to fit into a stocking-worthy packet. In Coffee, Root Beer or Vanilla, they’re delicious, fun and $4 per bag (2.9 ounces) at QuinCandy.com.

    SUR LA TABLE SNOWMAN MARSHMALLOWS

    These adorable vanilla marshmallow discs with a snowman face are new and nifty. Individually wrapped in a perky square box, Frosty’s marshmallow face peers through a cut-out.

    Place one atop a cup of hot chocolate and it will melt into something even more delicious than it looks. The marshmallows work with coffee, too—especially flavored coffees like hazelnut and vanilla, or with a spritz of pumpkin spice syrup. We’ve used them to top chocolate teas, too.

    They’re $9.95 per box at SurLaTable.com.
     
    SUPERSEEDZ SEASONED PUMPKIN SEEDS

    SuperSeedz was a Top Pick Of The Week in 2007, and we’ve been superfanz ever since. Pumpkin seeds are a gift for anyone: vegan and cholesterol-free with 7g of complete, plant-based protein per serving. That means they contain the nine essential amino acids (more than peanuts, pistachios, almonds and chia seeds).

    They’re allergen friendly: dairy-free, egg-free, fish-free, peanut-free, shellfish-free, soy-free, tree nut-free and made with gluten-free ingredients. And they’re shell-free! SuperSeedz are dry-roasted in small batches, using a proprietary pan-roasting technique that bakes the seasoning right into each seed.
     
    Superseedz are currently available in nine flavors: Cinnamon & Sugar, Coco Joe, Curious Curry, Really Naked, Maple Sugar & Sea Salt, Sea Salt, Somewhat Spicy, Super Spicy and Tomato Italiano. Find them at food retailers across the U.S., including Safeway, Sprouts and Whole Foods Markets.

    They can also be purchased online at Superseedz.com. Two 1-ounce individual serving pouches are $3.99; a 5-ounce pouch is $4.99.
     
    TOPPERFINO CHOCOLATE MUG TOPPERS

    Our Top Pick Of The Week, Topperfino chocolate discs sit atop your hot chocolate or coffee, providing marvelous aroma before melting in to add Belgian chocolate to the cup.

    There are so many beautiful designs, in both dark and milk chocolate, that your biggest challenge will be deciding which design is perfect for which giftee. A box of 10 individually-wrapped discs is $13.99 at Topperfino.com.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Duck Bacon

    Duck Bacon

    You’ll absolutely love it: duck bacon from
    D’Artagnan.

     

    As a follow up to our article on ways to use duck fat, here’s how we use duck bacon.

    We love duck bacon. It has a wonderful flavor and is actually much leaner than pork bacon. It also leaves a less pervasive aroma to cling to our apartment’s air.

    Treat yourself to some. It also makes a nice gift for people who like to cook and enjoy pork bacon or roast duck.

    Duck bacon is sold by D’Artagnan in eight-ounce packages for $14.99, with a price break for a six-pack. Unopened packages can be kept in the fridge for eight weeks, or frozen.

    WHAT IS DUCK BACON?

    Duck bacon is thinly sliced smoked duck breast, made from Moulard duck breast (called magret de canard on menus and in recipes—see the different types of ducks).

     
    The breast is rubbed with salt and sugar, smoked over applewood and thinly sliced into strips. The bacon is fully cooked during smoking, and only needs to be tossed into a hot pan and fried until crisp.

    The slices are somewhat smaller than pork bacon strips, but they are thick and meaty with a rich, smoky flavor.

    All-natural duck bacon comes from humanely-raised ducks. The product is labeled “uncured” per the USDA, because it has no added nitrates or nitrites.

     

    WAYS TO USE DUCK BACON

    Duck bacon is delicious in any recipe that calls for regular bacon.

     
    Duck Bacon At Breakfast

  • Serve with eggs or the pancake-waffle-French toast group.
  •  
    Duck Bacon At Lunch

  • Top salads.
  • Add to sandwiches (our favorite is this Foie Gras Club Sandwich (recipe).
  • Use in quiche and other savory tarts/pies.
  •  
    Duck Bacon At Dinner

  • Make luxury burgers or sliders: Wagyu beef, foie gras and duck bacon.
  • Add to Brussels sprouts and green beans recipes.
  • Garnish sautéed vegetables.
  • Serve with fish and seafood: scallops, shrimp and lobster.
  • Enhance any poultry or meat recipe.
  •  

    Brussels Sprouts With Duck Bacon

    Crispy Brussels sprouts with duck bacon at Distilled NY.

     
    And save the rendered duck bacon fat to sauté potatoes or vegetables.
     
    THE USDA CALLS IT “IMITATION BACON”

    According to the Food Standards of the USDA, the term “bacon” designates the cured belly of a swine carcass. If meat from another portion of the carcass is used, the product name must be qualified to identify the portion—for example, pork shoulder bacon.

    And if another animal is used instead of the swine?

    Meat from other animals, such as cattle, chicken, duck, lamb, goat or turkey—and from vegetarian sources like seitan—may also be cut, cured, or otherwise prepared to resemble bacon. It may even be referred to as “bacon.”

    But according to the USDA, it isn’t. Unless it’s from a pig, it’s “imitation bacon” and should be labeled as such. Alternatively, it can be called “crispy smoked duck strips” or any word other than bacon.

    Another of our favorite products, Schmacon beef bacon, calls itself “uncured smoked beef strips.”

    Come on, USDA, change those standards. Your way is much more confusing to the consumers you’re supposed to be protecting.

      

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