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Archive for Holidays & Occasions

TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Biscuits For Breakfast

We love to start the new year with homemade biscuits—a different type each year. This year, it’s ham and gruyère, with fresh chives.
 
THE HISTORY OF BISCUITS

The word biscuit dates to ancient Latin: bis cotus, meaning twice baked. These words form the origin of biscotti: initially a hard food with a long shelf life that could be taken on the road, in an era where roadside food was minimal at best. They were (and are) first baked, then dried out in a slow oven.

It’s important to note that, like those hard Roman biscotti, the term biscuit in Europe still refers to what is called a cookie or cracker in the U.S.

Scones an early quick bread, are first mentioned in the early 16th century. Spice buns appeared during the Tudor period (1485 to 1603).

But it wasn’t until the 18th century that chemical leavenings (raising agents) enabled the the moist, fluffy biscuits we know today.

The leavening creates gas bubbles that lighten and soften the dough. Pearl ash (potash) was an early example; others included beer and kefir (both of which have live yeast), sour milk, vinegar, lemon juice and or cream of tartar. Steam and air were used to raise popovers and Yorkshire pudding.

Baking soda was used by the turn of the 19th century; baking powder was introduced in 1843 (the difference between baking powder and baking soda). And with them came light, fluffy breads and cakes galore.
 
BISCUITS VS. ROLLS

Biscuits and rolls are both made from flour, fat* (butter, shortening, olive oil), liquid (buttermilk, cream, milk, water) and salt.

What’s the difference?

Biscuits are raised with chemical leavening (baking powder); rolls are risen with yeast.

RECIPE: HAM & SMOKED GOUDA BISCUITS WITH MAPLE BUTTER

This recipe is from National Pork Board, “Pork: Be Inspired.” They can be served at any meal of the day; but we prefer their complex flavors with the simpler foods of breakfast, or with a light lunch of soup and salad.

The recipe was originally made with smoked Gouda, but we prefer Gruyère. You can substitute any semihard cheese.

You can also substitute other types of bacon for the standard American bacon strips; and substitute chives for the thyme.

Don’t hesitate to make any recipe your own, by substituting favorite ingredients or experimenting with new ones.

Prep time is 20 minutes; bake time is 20 minutes.

Ingredients For 12 Biscuits

  • 1 cup diced ham steak (not sliced ham)
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus more for the baking sheet
  • 1-1/2 cups smoked Gouda cheese, coarsely shredded (about 4-1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped (substitute thyme)
  • 1-1/4 cups plain yogurt (lowfat is O.K.)
  •  
    For The Maple Butter

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (substitute honey)
  • Pinch of salt
  •  

    Ham & Cheese Biscuits

    Maple Butter Recipe

    Bacon & Sweet Potato Biscuits

    Buttermilk Biscuits

    [1] “Ham and cheese” biscuits. You can use your favorite types of ham and cheese (photo courtesy National Pork Board). [2] Maple butter is one of many compound butters you can easily make (photo courtesy Food Blogger Connect). [3] Chipotle Cheddar Biscuits (here’s the recipe from McCormick). [4] Classic, flaky buttermilk biscuits (here’s the recipe from Kindred Restaurant | Davidson, N.C.).

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F. Butter a large baking sheet, or coat it with nonstick spray.

    2. WHISK together in a large bowl the flour, baking powder, sugar salt and baking soda. Use a pastry cutter or fingertips to add the butter, working the mixture until it resembles a coarse meal.

    3. STIR in the ham, cheese and chives. Add the yogurt, stirring until just combined. Drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet in 12 equal mounds, about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. While the biscuits bake…

    4. MAKE the maple butter. In a medium bowl, combine the butter and maple syrup. Add salt to taste and transfer to a serving bowl.

    5. SERVE the biscuits warm. with the maple butter on the side.

     
    MORE BISCUIT RECIPES

  • Bacon & Sweet Potato Biscuits
  • Buttermilk Biscuits
  • Cheddar Chive Biscuits, atop a vegetable cobbler!
  • Dill Biscuits With Smoked Salmon
  •  
    ________________
    *Some types of rolls do not contain fat.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Good Luck Foods For The New year

    Yesterday we recipes for a particular “good luck” food to celebrate the new year: black-eyed peas, a southern U.S. tradition.

    Today’s tip: Check out more lucky foods from around the world, and enjoy some on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.

    Some are ancient traditions, others relatively new. Pick, choose and adapt your own lucky food traditions for the new year.

    COOKED GREENS

    In parts of Europe, cabbage, collards, kale and chard are consumed for luck because their green leaves look like folded money (who doesn’t want good fortune in the new year?). In Denmark, stewed kale is eaten, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon (hmmm….). In Germany, sauerkraut is the veg of choice. In the southern U.S., it’s collards.
     
    Suggestion: Pick your green, and make it a tradition; or feature a different one each year. You can start with a crisp spinach salad with a warm bacon vinaigrette.

    FISH

    Cod has been a traditional feast food since the Middle Ages; and the Catholic Church’s policy against red meat consumption on religious holidays helped make all fish commonplace at feasts. For the new year, boiled cod is popular in Denmark. In Italy, baccalà, dried salt cod, is a traditional food. Herring is consumed at midnight in Poland; in Germany, it’s likely to be carp.

    In Sweden, the smorgasbord provides a variety of fish dishes. In Japan, herring roe is consumed for fertility, shrimp for long life, and dried sardines for a good harvest (sardines were once used to fertilize rice fields).

    Suggestion: With so many delicious fish and seafood dishes, you can present a new one each year. That includes sushi or sashimi and caviar (we purchased salmon roe and wasabi tobiko).

    GRAPES

    In Spain, each celebrant consumes 12 grapes at midnight—one grape for each stroke of the clock. Each grape represents a different month; the goal is to swallow all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight. It’s not an ancient practice, but dates to 1909, when grape growers had a surplus of inventory. They promoted the idea, and it became a tradition, spreading to Portugal and some parts of Latin America.
     
    Suggestion: Consider ramekins of mixed grapes, frosted (sugared) grapes. Or perhaps start your own tradition with grape granita or a frozen Grape Margarita.

    LEGUMES

    Popular from Europe to Asia, legumes—beans, peas and lentils—are symbolic of money. An Italian double-lucky new year’s tradition, sausages and green lentils (cotechino con lenticchie), features a second lucky food, pork. Germans have lentil or split pea soup with sausage. In Brazil, the traditional first meal of the new year includes lentil soup or lentils and rice. In Japan, sweet black beans (kuro-mame) are consumed during the first three days of the new year.

    Suggestion: Along with yesterday’s black-eyed pea recipes—all of these are delicious choices, but we’re going for red bean ice cream instead of the kuro-name. You can also add beans to a spinach salad.

    PORK

    Pigs came to symbolize progress: They push forward, rooting themselves in the ground before moving. With its rich fat content, pork also signifies wealth and prosperity. That’s why roast suckling pig is popular new year’s fare in Austria, Cuba, Hungary, Portugal and Spain. Austrians even decorate the table with marzipan pigs. Swedes choose pig’s feet, Germans feast on roast pork and sausages. We wouldn’t turn down a pork roast, porchetta or a baked ham.
     
    Suggestion: For an easier path, add bacon or pork belly to the spinach salad.
     
    FOR DESSERT

    Cakes and cookies. Cakes and other baked goods are served around the world, with a special emphasis on round or ring-shaped items. In Italy, that means chiacchiere, honey-drenched balls of dough fried and dusted with powdered sugar. In Hungary, the Netherlands and Poland, donuts are customary (Holland also has ollie bollen, puffy, donut-like pastries filled with apples, raisin and currants. Some cultures hide a special trinket, coin or whole nut inside the cake; the person who gets it will be lucky in the new year.

    Suggestion: Avoid broken teeth and choking hazards. Serve cookies or an easy bundt cake. What could be more appropriate than egg nog bundts?
     
    WHAT NOT TO EAT

  • Chicken: It scratches backwards, symbolizing setbacks.
  • Flying birds (duck, pheasant, etc.): Good luck could fly away.
  • Lobster: It moves backwards.
  •  

    Spinach Salad

    Lentil Soup

    Porchetta

    Egg Nog Bundt Cakes

    Carstens Marzipan Pigs

    Lucky foods for the new year: [1] Start with a spinach salad, with bacon for extra luck (photo courtesy Evolution Fresh). [2] For the soup course, lentil or bean soup with ham or pork sausage and mustard greens (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [3] For the main course, porchetta, or a simple roast pork loin (photo courtesy Il Buco | NYC). [4] Something round for dessert: mini egg nog bundt cakes. Here’s the recipe from Eat Wisconsin Cheese. [5] Marzipan pigs for everyone (photo Premier Food & Beverage).

     

      

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    RECIPE: Bouchons Au Chocolat

    Bouchon (BOO-shone) is the French word for cork; hence the name of these little chocolate cookie-cakes*, made in timbale molds, also called baba molds.

    They are rich and brownie-like, and the inspiration for Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery (here’s his bouchon recipe).

    These chocolate “corks” are an ideal sweet for New Year’s Eve, and you can serve them for dessert with a sweeter champagne or other sparkling wine for dessert.

    This recipe, from Good Eggs, combines dark cocoa powder and melted semisweet chocolate make these bouchon: way to go to usher in a sweet new year.

    Note that there are two different sizes of timbale pans. Depending on which you choose, you’ll have dessert size or nibble size pieces.

    You can also use timbale molds for other baking, shaping mousse and gelatin, vegetable sides, ice cubes and chocolate—especially chocolate-on-a-stick, a fun way to make hot chocolate.

    You can also use mini-muffin pans, but you lose the cork shape.

    RECIPE: BOUCHONS, CORK-SHAPED MINI CAKES

    Ingredients For 12 Large Bouchons

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of cocoa rouge cocoa powder†
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter (24 tablespoons), melted and cooled a bit
  • 1 cup of quality semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • Timbale molds or mini muffin tins
  •  
    ________________
    *Technically, a cake is eaten with a fork, and a cookie is finger food. Bouchons, like brownies, are finger food; although they can be served as a cake, with ice cream, whipped cream or other garnish.

     
    †Cocoa rouge (red cocoa) is a Dutch-process cocoa that lends baked goods a particularly appealing reddish color. In some brands it is the same color as ditched chocolate; but other brands sell a much lighter, tanner, ditched chocolate. You can substitute conventional ditched cocoa if that’s what you have.
    ________________
     
     
    Preparation

     

    Chocolate Bouchon Recipe

    Silicone Timbale Mold

    Cocoa Rouge

    [1] Usher in the new year with cork-shaped bouchons au chocolat (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [2] A silicone timbale mold (photo Fat Daddio’s). [3] Cocoa rouge (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour).

     
    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Butter the inside of the timbale molds or muffin wells and cover with powdered sugar.

    2. SIFT together in a small bowl the cocoa powder, flour and a pinch of salt. In a larger bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the eggs, vanilla and granulated sugar for a couple of minutes, until they’re well combined and light yellow in color.

    3. BEAT about a quarter of the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, with the mixer on its lowest setting. Then do the same with a quarter of the butter. Repeat until all of the dry mixture and butter have been combined. Gently fold the chopped chocolate into the batter with a silicone spatula until it’s pretty evenly distributed.

    4. USING a pastry bag, a ziploc bag with the tip cut off, or just spoon, fill each of the timbale molds until they’re just over half full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out largely clean—except for the bits of melted chopped chocolate!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Black-Eyed Peas For The New Year

    For prosperity in the new year, it’s a Southern tradition to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day—most popularly in the beans-and-rice dish, Hoppin’ John. Other favorites are black-eyed peas and ham, the peas often combined with collards (photo #3).

    The custom is actually a lot older than the U.S., and began in the Middle East.

    An ancient Sephardic Jewish custom, black-eyed peas are served on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah. This “good luck” tradition is recorded in the Babylonian Talmud, compiled circa 500 C.E., and includes other good luck foods such as beets, dates, leeks and spinach. The custom is still followed by Israeli Jews and Sephardic Jews the world over.

    Other good-luck foods eaten at new years around the world include figs, fish, grains, grapes, greens, noodles, pork and pomegranate seeds. Here’s why.

    Like hummus? Try this black-eyed pea dip as an alternative.

    If you prefer, here’s a recipe for black-eyed pea salsa.

    RECIPE: BLACK-EYED PEA DIP & SPREAD

    Even if this recipe (photo #1), from Melissa’s, doesn’t give you prosperity, it does provide nutrition.

    Beans are a nutritional powerhouse as well as a very economical source of protein. Make a resolution to add beans to your diet at least once a week; the more often, the better.

    In addition to dip and sandwich spread, a hot bean side dish and bean soup, try a cold bean salad vinaigrette or mix beans into a green salad or grain bowl.

    There are even bean desserts. The you may have encountered chocolate cookies and brownies enriched with black beans, or Japanese red bean ice cream and dessert sauces (they’re azuki beans, sometimes mis-translated as adzuki beans).Take a look at these bean dessert recipes.
     
    Ingredients

  • 12 ounces black-eyed peas cooked according to package directions (20 minutes in a pressure cooker)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (garlic mayonnaise—aïoli—is delicious [recipe])
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • Optional: 1 jalapeño, stem and seeds removed
  • Salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
  • Bread or crackers for spreading, crudités for dipping
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients, except for the crackers, in a food processor or blender until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

    2. SERVE with bread, crackers or crudités. We also use it as a sandwich spread with grilled vegetables and mozzarella.
     
     
    ARE BLACKEYED PEAS PEAS OR BEANS?

    They’re beas, beige in in color with a black “eye” on one side.

     

    Blackeyed Pea Dip Recipe

    Blackeyed Peas In Bowl

    Blackeyed Peas, Collards, Ham

    [1] Black-eyed pea dip from Melissa’s. [2] The source material: black-eyed peas (photo Viktor Lugovskoy| IST ). [3] Blackeyed peas and collards with ham (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

     
    Black-eyed peas are also called black-eyed beans, because they are a subspecies of the cowpea, which is called a pea but botanical a bean, as are chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans.

    The are variously spelled black-eyed, black eye or blackeye[d].
     
    The Difference Between Peas & Beans

    Peas and beans are both legumes and seeds, each a separate genus in the Fabaceae botanical family. Some key differences:

  • Pea plants (genus/species Pisum sativum) have hollow stems; beans (genus/species Cicer arietinum) have solid stems.
  • Peas have leaf tendrils which they use to twine. In general, beans lack tendrils.
  • The taller varieties of both peas and beans need trellises to support them as they grow. Most beans just twine themselves over their supports, while peas use their tendrils to climb. At each node along their stems, peas generate two or three one-inch-long tendrils, which grab and then wind themselves around something, such as a narrow trellis.
  •  
    If you’re still curious, here’s more on the differences.

     
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF BEANS

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Champagne Gelatin (Not Jell-O) Shots

    Champagne Jell-O Shots

    Champagne Jell-O Shots Recipe

    Champagne Gelatin Shots

    [1] Erica’s Sweet Tooth found fancy picks to decorate her champagne gelatin shots. We could only find these at Ali Express, but we did find others with jewel-like accents and these with faux pearls. Plus, instructions to make your own. [2] Coucou Jolie used a star-shape ice cube mold to make stars. You can stir edible gold glitter stars into the mix before setting, or put them in the mold first, so they’ll create a garnish on top. [3] Got Pop Rocks? They do at Shimmy Shimmy Cake, a custom cakery in Austin, Texas.

     

    For conventional champagne to celebrate a special occasion, check out our recommendations.

    For less expensive but perfectly lovely non-champagne sparkling wines, we like these alternatives—great values, starting at just $10!

    But for a side of champagne gelatin shots, check out the recipes below.

    Point of accuracy: When a recipe is made with unflavored gelatin, not flavored Jell-O, it’s a gelatin shot. Jell-O is a brand that makes only flavored gelatin.

    You can make a red version of the gelatin shots with Lambrusco or other red sparkling wine, and present a platter of both red and white options.

    And you cab make a mocktail version by substituting sparkling cider.
     
    RECIPE #1: CHAMPAGNE JELL-O SHOTS

    Erica of EricasSweetTooth.com adapted the first recipe from Bakers Royale.

    Also check out her Funfetti Cheesecake Ball: It was designed to resemble the Times Square Ball.

    Ingredients For 15 Shots

  • 10 ounces plus 5 ounces Champagne (or better yet, Cava, Prosecco or other reasonably-priced sparkling white wine)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 envelopes Knox plain gelatin
  • Optional garnish: white or other color sparkling sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the sugar and 10 ounces of the champagne in a saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin on top and let it soften for 2 minutes.

    2. PLACE the saucepan over low heat and stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and add the remaining 5 ounces of champagne, stirring to combine.

    3. POUR the mixture into a brownie pan or other square/rectangular container and chill for at least an hour.

    4. CUT: First dip the pan into warm water and use a knife along the sides to gently release the Jell-O. Use a sharp knife to cut squares. Before serving, dip the tops in the sparkling sugar and serve with a festive toothpick.
     
    RECIPE #2: CHAMPAGNE GELATIN SHOTS WITH POP ROCKS

    Shimmy Shimmy Cake offers this variation, topped with Pop Rocks for some holiday “fireworks.”

    Regarding the Pinnacle Whipped Vodka, she says: “This is the absolute best vodka to use when making Jello Shots—just trust me on this one!”

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup creme soda
  • 1/2 cup sparkling wine
  • 2 envelops of unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup Pinnacle Whipped Vodka
  • Preparation

    1. COMBINE the soda and sparkling wine in a small sauce pan and stir. Sprinkle the gelatin over the mixture and let it sit for 1 minute.

    2. COOK the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly until the gelatin disolves (about 5 minutes). Remove from the heat and stir inthe vodka.

    3. POUR into a square baking dish (a cake pan is fine). Refrigerate until firmly set set (you can speed up the process by putting the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes). When ready to serve…

    4. CUT and plate, then top with Pop Rocks. Do not plate until ready to because as the Pop Rocks start to melt the gelatin. Also do not refreeze after plating; they will stick to the plate.

     
      

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