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Archive for March, 2017

TIP OF THE DAY: Piñata Cake

Our job includes a lot of research, which often turns up surprising things.

One of this is piñata cake, a concept that originated in the U.K. and is also popular in Australia.

We also found it in Germany, called surprise cake.

You don’t hit a piñata cake with a stick. It’s when you cut into the cake that the treasures (candy) spill out.

The treasures are theme candies that fill a “secret” center well in the cake. The well is cut after the layers are baked, so you can place anything in the well without fear of melting.

(If you’re in the chips, silver dollars would be nice!)

The uncut top layer then goes on top of the well layers, and the whole cake is frosted.

A four-layer cake is recommended to have enough room for lots of candy to tumble out.

You can make them in any occasion. We’re keeping a recipe for a Valentine’s Day: a red velvet cake in red and pink layers, filled with Valentine candy.
 
IT’S EASY!

“We can’t stress enough just how easy these cakes are,” says The Whoot in Australia. “Everyone will think you must have gone to so much effort.

“It has a very festive look and you can make it in colors to suit any theme.”

The only caveats are:

  • You need to bake a dense cake. The cake circle needs to be hardy to hold the sweets in the well.That means no no airy cakes, angel cakes or sponge cakes.
  • Don’t cut too wide a well. The perimeter needs to be sturdy enough to hold up the cake.
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    THE HISTORY OF PIÑATA CAKE

    A 2015 article in London’s The Daily Mail says that “Asda kicked off the trend last year with their Smartie pinata cake and Lakeland [a manufacturer] soon followed, selling all the paraphernalia needed to create ‘surprise’ cake.”

    Asda is a supermarket chain in the U.K., that first created the cake for sale in its stores.

    After the success of the cake, Asda printed the recipe on its lifestyle website.

    The first cookbook with a piñata cake recipe seems to be Cakeology by Juliet Sear, published in 2015.

    She notes that piñata cakes had become popular in the past year, i.e., 2014.
     
    PIÑATA CAKE FOR EASTER

    For a holiday in which the Easter Bunny brings baskets full of surprises, piñata cake this makes a great holiday cake.

    Carrot cake, the favorite of the Easter Bunny, is both theme-appropriate and dense.

    If you have the frosting skills, you can you can make a basket weave frosting, turning the “piñata” into an Easter basket filled with Easter treats.

    Of course, piñata cake works for any holiday, any occasion, any theme colors. The decorations on top can be as simple or ornate as you wish.

    Ask someone else to cut the cake, and be the first to see the surprise.

     

    Pinata Cake

    Pinata Cake

    Pinata Cake

    Pinata Cake

    Some of the many ways to create a piñata cake. Links to the recipes are below.

     
    RECIPES

    Here are the recipes in the photos:

  • Cake #1: piñata cake recipe in spring pastels, from Australia’s In The Playroom.
  • Photo #2: a glamorous piñata cake recipe* from Germany’s Dr. Oetker, which calls it a surprise cake.
  • Cake #3: a rainbow piñata cake recipe from Bakers Corner, Australia
  • Cake #4: The secret well. Photo courtesy Cakeology.
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    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CAKES IN OUR CAKE GLOSSARY.
     
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    *The recipe is in German and uses Dr. Oetker baking products. We present the photo as a guideline for the most elegant piñata cake we found. You can cut and paste the recipe into Google Translate if you want a translation.

      

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    RECIPE: Turkey Neck Soup

    Broth With Vegetables

    Turkey Necks

    [1] The vegetables in this soup are made with a vegetable spiralizer. (photo courtesy Wholesomeness.au). [2] Turkey necks ([photo courtesy Oma’s Pride).

     

    THE NIBBLE first created its Daily Food Holiday Calendar in 2004. But it’s taken us this long to address one of the more unusual holidays: National Turkey Neck Soup Day, March 30th.

    Turkey neck soup is a concept we’d only come across on the calendar. This year, for the first time, we had enough down time to wonder:

    Who established a holiday for turkey neck soup?

    And do you need more than one turkey neck?

    We couldn’t find an answer to who, but it turns out that turkey neck soup is a more economical way to feed a family than, say chicken or turkey soup made with the main parts of the poultry.

    And yes, you do need more than one turkey neck. Some people freeze the necks from the giblets bags that come in whole turkeys and chickens, until they have enough.

    You can buy turkey necks in the poultry department of supermarkets from Perdue and Shady Brook Farms, along with non-branded packages.

    Turkey necks themselves are bony, but they do have meat; and thus can be used to make that Paleo diet darling, bone broth.

    Want to make turkey neck soup?

  • The classic, economical recipe combines turkey necks with root vegetables—carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, turnips—plus onion, celery and parsley. Potatoes, noodles or rice can bulk up the recipe. Here’s a recipe.
  • A variation, this recipe uses two pounds of turkey necks, with the more elegant leeks and mushrooms as the main vegetables, plus a carrot and onion. It employs a mix of brown rice and wild rice to create a heartier meal soup.
  • Some recipes called “turkey neck soup” start with the entire carcass from a roast turkey dinner. The neck from the giblets bag is usually available to toss in; and perhaps the other giblets, if they didn’t go into the gravy.
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    However, if a so-called turkey neck soup has a good portion of turkey meat, then it’s regular turkey soup. If cooks have all that meat at hand, they don’t need to focus on the neck.

    For the first time in 13 years, we bid you a Happy National Turkey Neck Soup Day.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Sheet Pan Dinners

    For its Fish Friday Favorites series, McCormick enlists food bloggers to develop easy recipes.

    This week’s theme is “baked in sheet pans,” using McCormick’s packets of seasoning mixes.

    McCormick makes 18 different seasoning packets: two each for Bag & Season (for meats), Chili, Gluten Free, Gravy, Home Style Classics, Italian, Mexican, Slow Cooker and Snacks & Dips. Here’s more about them (scroll down the page).

    We thoroughly endorse these easy dinner ideas: fresh, nutritious home cooking in a half hour or less, with big flavors and minimal clean-up.

    RECIPE #1: SHEET PAN SHRIMP-LIME FAJITAS

    Who doesn’t like fajitas?

    “Sheet pan chili lime shrimp fajitas make an easy, healthy, and delicious one-pan 20-minute meal—with tons of flavor the whole family will love,” says Tiffany of La Creme De La Crumb.

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 10 to 15 minutes.

     
    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound large white shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 bell peppers, thinly sliced (go for a combination of red, yellow, and green)
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 packet McCormick Fajita Seasoning Mix
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, plus additional lime wedges for serving
  • 8-10 six-inch flour tortillas*
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Garnish: chopped cilantro
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    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Combine the first 7 ingredients (shrimp through lime juice) in a large bowl. Stir to combine and coat the shrimp and peppers well in the seasonings.

    2. SPREAD everything out on a large baking sheet pan in a single layer (note: line the pan with foil or parchment for easy clean-up). Items can overlap; just not heaped in a pile. Bake for 10-15 minutes until shrimp is pink, the tails begin to char slightly and the peppers are tender.

    3. DISTRIBUTE the shrimp and peppers on top of the tortillas along with avocado slices. Top with freshly shopped cilantro and serve with lime wedges for squeezing.

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    *Traditionally, a fajita uses the smallest tortilla, 6 inches in diameter; a soft taco 8 inches; and a burrito 10 inches.
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    RECIPE #2: SHEET PAN SHRIMP SCAMPI WITH ASPARAGUS

    “Those of you who are observing Lent: Don’t let Lent have you fishing for flavor! This sheet pan meal is big on flavor—and you don’t have to sacrifice on taste,” says Alyssa, The Recipe Critic.

    “I love using McCormick’s seasoning mix packets in recipes. They make it so easy to put together flavors and bust out a complete meal that will your family will love.”

    Who doesn’t love Shrimp Scampi†? Prep time is 5 minutes, cook time is 8 minutes.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 pound asparagus, cut into two inch pieces
  • ¼ butter, melted
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 packet McCormick Garlic Butter Shrimp Scampi Seasoning Mix
  • Garnish: 1 lemon, sliced
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    Sheet Pan Fajitas

    Shrimp Scampi Recipe

    Sheet Pan Shrimp & Asparagus

    [1] Shrimp and lime fajitas (photo courtesy Le Creme De La Crumb | McCormick). [2] Seasoning the ingredients and [3] the final dish, emerging from the oven (photos The Recipe Critic | McCormick).

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F. Lightly grease a sheet pan and set aside (note: first line the pan with foil or parchment for easy clean-up).

    2. PLACE the shrimp and asparagus in a large mixing bowl. Pour the melted butter, olive oil and lemon juice on top, sprinkle on the seasoning packet and mix until combined.

    3. SPREAD the shrimp and asparagus on the sheet pan in an even layer (note: line the pan with foil or parchment for easy clean-up). Scatter the lemon slices on top. Bake for 8 minutes or until the shrimp is pink and cooked through. Serve immediately.
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    †FOOD TRIVIA: Scampi is the Italian word for a prawn. In the U.S., it became the name of an Italian-American dish, Shrimp Scampi: broiled butterflied shrimp that been brushed with garlic butter or oil (and sometimes a splash of white wine). It’s amusing among the cognoscenti that Americans request a dish that translates to Shrimp Shrimp. But that’s not all of today’s trivia:

    SHRIMPS VS. PRAWNS: THE DIFFERENCE. Prawns and shrimps are both crustaceans with 10 legs. They can be found in salt water and fresh water all over the world, and have similar flavors. While the terms are often used interchangeably, with prawns, the first three of the five pairs of legs on the body have small pincers; with shrimps only, two pairs are claw-like. In the U.K. and Australia, prawn is the name consumers and restaurants use for what is called shrimp in the U.S. Both crustaceans are found in a variety of sizes. More information.

     

    Sheet Pan Baked Salmon

    [4] After 5 minutes of prep time, baked salmon in orange-butter sauce is ready in another 20 minutes (photo courtesy Avery Cooks | McCormick).

     

    RECIPE #3: SHEET PAN ORANGE CHILI SALMON

    “This salmon is healthy, so easy, ready in 30 minutes, and has restaurant-quality flavor,” says Averie of Avery Cooks. “It’s so moist and juicy. I seasoned the salmon with McCormick Chili Seasoning Mix (Original) for a pop of heat, which is perfectly balanced by the honey and orange juice. The seasoning adds flavor without being spicy and it doesn’t overpower the fish.”

    Prep time is 5 minutes, cook time is 20 to 25 minutes.
     
    Ingredients For 2 to 3 Servings

  • 1 to 1.25 pounds skin-on salmon fillet
  • 1 orange, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons honey
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons orange juice from about half an orange (substitute packaged orange juice)
  • 2 teaspoons McCormick Chili Seasoning Mix Original Flavor
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • Garnish: 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
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    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F and place a piece of foil on the baking sheet to cover it completely. Place the salmon on the foil, skin-side down, with the longer side of the fish parallel to the longer side of the sheet pan. Pull the edges of the foil up 2 inches over the pan rim, or enough so that when you pour the butter sauce over the top, it will be contained in the foil.

    2. NESTLE the orange slices underneath the salmon, spaced evenly around the fillet. Set aside.

    3. PLACE the butter in a microwave-safe glass measuring cup or bowl and heat on high power to melt, about 1 minute. Stir in the honey and orange juice. Pour or spoon about two-thirds of the mixture over the salmon; reserve the remainder. Evenly season with the seasoning mix, and add salt and pepper, to taste.

    4. ADD another sheet of foil on top and crimp or pinch both pieces together to get the seal as tight as possible. If you have time, set the pan aside to allow the fish marinate for about 10 to 15 minutes; you’ll get enhanced flavor. Bake for 15 minutes.

    5. REMOVE the pan from the oven and cut open up the top of the packet so the salmon is exposed (but the edges are still raised to contain the sauce). Set the broiler to to high. Spoon the reserved sauce over the salmon, if desired. Use your judgment: If there’s already lots of juice, you don’t need to add more (you don’t want it to start leaking). If you have extra sauce, pour it over the finished dish or bring it to the table in a pitcher.

    6. BROIL the salmon for 5 to 10 minutes, or until as golden as desired. The exact broiling time will depend on the size and thickness of the salmon, oven variances and personal preference. Keep a close eye on the salmon because all broilers are different and you don’t want to burn the fish.

    7. GARNISH with parsley and serve immediately. This recipe is best warm and fresh, but will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 3 days.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Deconstruct Your Favorite Foods

    For National Black Forest Cake Day, March 28th, we deconstructed the Black Forest Cake (photo #1), inspired by the dessert (photo #2) at Compère Lapin in New Orleans.

    We had so much fun with it, that today’s tip is: Deconstruct one of your favorite recipes.

    Here’s what we did with Black Forest Cake:

    Instead of a chocolate layer cake with cherry filling, garnished with shaved chocolate and whipped cream, we followed Compère Lapin’s lead with:

  • An individual chocolate round covered with ganache.
  • A side of morello cherries in kirshwasser (cherry liqueur).
  • A scoop of cherry sorbet atop a bed of flakes of grated chocolate.
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    We like the deconstructed even better than the traditional.

  • It’s elegant and sophisticated, as opposed to the old-fashioned layer cake with whipped cream.
  • The richness of the chocolate ganache added an intense chocolate hit, lacking in the original.
  • The morello cherries in kirschwasser added just the right counterpoint to a sweet dessert.
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    Serve it with a liqueur glass (or snifter, or jigger) of kirschwasser.

    If this seems like too much work, here’s a super-easy deconstructed Black Forest Cake:

    Take a slice of chocolate pound cake, chocolate sour cream cake or even a brownie. Top with the Red Sour Cherry Topping from Chukar Cherries (or a quality cherry pie filling) cooked with kirschwasser, and a generous topping or side of whipped cream.

       

    Black Forest Cake

    Deconstructed Black Forest Cake

    [1] A conventional Black Forest Cake (photo courtesy Sweet Street Desserts. [2] Black Forest Cake deconstructed, at Compère Lapin restaurant | New Orleans.

     
    There’s more about Black Forest Cake below, including its origin and a link to traditional recipes.

    WHAT ARE DECONSTRUCTED RECIPES

    Deconstruction is an avant-garde culinary trend of the last 15 years or so, championed by the famed Catalan chef Ferran Adrià, who has referred to his cooking as “deconstructivist.”

    Hervé This, the “father of molecular gastronomy,” reintroduced the concept in 2004 as “culinary constructivism.” Essentially, all of the components and flavors of a classic dish are taken apart and presented in a new shape or form.

    The idea is art plus fun, and the deconstruction must taste as good as the original. For example:

  • Deconstructed pecan pie could be brown sugar custard [emulating the filling], with crumbled shortbread cookies [for the crust] and a side of caramelized pecans.
  • Deconstructed key lime pie could be the key lime filling in a Martini glass, topped with graham cracker crumbs.
  • Deconstructed stuffed cabbage is our favorite way to make stuffed cabbage. We’ve done this for some 25 years—who knew we were so avant garde? We slice the cabbage and cook it in the tomato sauce (sweet-and-sour, with raisins and vinegar) along with rice-filled meatballs.
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    The deconstruction saves hours of blanching cabbage leaves, filling them with chopped meat and rice, rolling them and simmering in tomato sauce.

    All the flavors are there, and it’s also easier to eat: One often needs a steak knife to saw through those blanched cabbage leaves. We say: Our deconstructed version is better than the original.

     

    The first “Black Forest Cake” was probably not a conventional cake but a dessert comprising cooked cherries, cream, kirsch and a biscuit: similar to the original berry shortcake.One of the quintessential Old World desserts, Black Forest Cake transports us to eras past, when the thought of chocolate cake, cherries, liqueur and whipped cream were a dessert equivalent of heaven.If you want to make a traditional Black Forest Cake, here’s a recipe.

      

    Deconstructed Buffalo Wings

    Deconstructed Buffalo Wings

    Two ways to deconstruct Buffalo Wings: [3] as a parfait (Hungry Girl) and as a chicken meatball topped with blue cheese (Carlos Andres Varela Photography).

     


    SOME DECONSTRUCTED RECIPES

    Study these for ideas. When you’ve created your own masterpiece of deconstruction, send us a photo.

  • Deconstructed Bloody Mary
  • Deconstructed Buffalo Wings #1
  • Deconstructed Buffalo Wings #2
  • Deconstructed Caesar Salad
  • Deconstructed Coffee Ice Cream
  • Deconstructed Crab Cake
  • Deconstructed Fruit Loops Cereal
  • Deconstructed Guacamole
  • Deconstructed Ratatouille

  • WHAT IS BLACK FOREST CAKE

    The Black Forest region of southern Germany is known for its sour morello cherries and kirsch, or kirschwasser, a clear cherry brandy made from them.

    It’s not surprising, then, that desserts made with both the cherries and the kirsch are part of the regional repertoire.

    Black Forest Cherry Torte—torte is the German word for cake and Schwarzwälderkirschtorte is its name in German—is a chocolate layer cake filled with layers of whipped cream and Kirsch-soaked morello cherries.

    The cake is garnished with more whipped cream, morello or maraschino cherries (the latter more readily available in the U.S.), and chocolate curls or shavings.

    In the traditional German cake, the chocolate layers are soaked in kirsch syrup, although brandy or rum can substitute. American recipes tend to omit all spirits to make the cake family-friendly (and nowhere near as interesting).

     

    The earliest version of the recipe possibly dates to the late 16th century, when cacao ground from costly New World beans was first integrated into cakes and cookies.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Create A Spring Dinner

    A few days ago, our wine collectors group had its scheduled team spring dinner, an annual event that celebrates the emergence of spring fruits and vegetables.

    Problem is, nature isn’t cooperating. We’re still waiting for some of our favorite spring produce to show up in stores in the chilly Northeast.

    Even though some of them are now available year-round, in our grandmother’s generation and before, people had no choice but to eat seasonally. Hence, the popular roast leg of lamb with spring peas, and a delicate salad of butter lettuce, always on Nana’s menus.

    Thus, when when have a dinner to honor spring, we go full-out locavore. Here’s what you can choose from (we’ve left out the exotics; here’s the full list).

    SPRING FRUITS & VEGETABLES

    Because of imports from the southern hemisphere where the seasons are reversed, Americans have year-round access to what locally has been seasonal. There’s always someplace on earth that grows asparagus, for example.

    Spring Fruits

  • Apricots
  • Blackberries
  • Black mission figs
  • Honeydew
  • Mango
  • Oranges
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries
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    Spring Vegetables

  • Asparagus (for fun, look for the purple variety)
  • Belgian endive
  • Beets
  • Butterhead/butter lettuce (Bibb and Boston varieties)
  • Dandelion greens
  • Fava beans*
  • Fennel
  • Fiddlehead ferns
  • Garlic scapes
  • Morel mushrooms
  • Mustard greens
  • Nettles
  • Ramps
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Spring (English) peas, snow peas, Chinese pea pods
  • Vidalia onions
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    THE NIBBLE’S SPRING EDITORIAL DINNER

    COCKTAIL: Blood Orange Margarita, Mimosa or Screwdriver with fresh-squeezed blood orange juice, or this Cherry Blossom cocktail.

    FIRST COURSE: Spring sauté: asparagus, fiddleheads, garlic, morels and ramps, sautéed in good butter and swerved with a sprinkle of salt. It’s simple, yet memorable.

    MAIN COURSE: Leg of lamb, spring peas, baby potatoes. We like to cook a leg for leftovers: lamb salad† and lamb sandwiches. See our Lamb Glossary for the different cuts and types of lamb.

    SALAD COURSE: Belgian endive, butter lettuce (Bibb or Boston), fennel, snow peas and garlic scapes, dressed with a Dijon and sherry vinaigrette and garnished with fresh parsley.

    CHEESE COURSE: Spring cheeses with black mission figs. We can find bucheron and charollais affine (goat), coulommiers (cow) and Pyrénées brebis (sheep), plus cheeses from local American artisan cheese makers. Ask your cheesemonger what he/she has that’s newly arrived in spring.

    DESSERT: Rhubarb, any way you like it; blood oranges supreme, or in sorbet. Since strawberries, now available year-round, are a traditional spring fruit, a strawberry-rhubarb pie or galette (photo #5) does the trick.

    Of course, there will be more than one spring dinner.

    We’ll feature more of the menus as we make them, and look forward to any contributions from you.
     
     
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    *Fava beans require a level of patience to shell, which we lack. Should you be come across shelled fava beans, it’s worth paying the premium for the labor involved.

    †Recipes: lamb, cucumber and watercress salad, lamb niçoise salad and Thai lamb and asparagus salad.

     

    Blood Orange Margarita

    Sauteed Ramps, Morels

    Leg Of Lamb

    Spring Bibb Lettuce Salad

    Lille Cheese Vermont Farmstead

    Strawberry Rhubarb Galette

    [1] Blood Orange Margarita (here’s the recipe via Betty Crocker). [2] A spring sautée (here’s the recipe from Honest Food. [3] Leg of lamb with spring peas (here’s the recipe from Good Eggs). [4] We love how the bibb lettuce is stacked in this salad (the recipe from My Man’s Belly). [5] Lillé, a cheese from Vermont, is the American-made version of French Coulommiers. [6] A strawberry rhubarb galette is the perfect seasonal pie (photo Hewn Bread | Chicago).

     

      

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