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RECIPE: Sparkling Pear Cocktail

La Poire Sparkling Cocktail

America's Favorite Pear

[1] La Poire sparkling cocktail (photo courtesy Grey Goose). [2] America’s favorite pear, the Bartlett (photo courtesy CookThink). There are also red Bartlett and d’Anjou are available in green and red varieties.


This week we had a bottle of Angry Orchard’s Knotty Pear Cider at lunch, and it reminded us that fall is also a time for all things pear.

For a celebration, toast or other special occasion—or weekend chillaxing—this cocktail from Grey Goose is a star. Easy to make, it combines pear and citrus with sweet Moscato. You can use other slightly sweet sparkling wine such as Asti Spumante.

If it isn’t a special occasion, don’t go out of your way to find the perfect garnish. Or a Champagne flute.


Ingredients For 6 Drinks

  • 6 parts Grey Goose La Poire
  • 1 part lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 small pear, ideally Anjou or Bartlett*, red or green
  • 1 bottle sparkling Moscato or other sparkling wine, chilled
  • Garnish options: baby orchid, crystallized ginger, sliced star fruit

    1. PEEL and core the pear and cut into 1/4-inch dice.

    2. PLACE the lemon juice, sugar, pear and Grey Goose La Poire in a bowl. Stir well to combine until the sugar is fully dissolved.

    2. DIVIDE the pear mixture into six Champagne flutes or wine glasses. Fill each chilled glass with Moscato.

    3. GARNISH and serve.
    *A juicier pear variety will accentuate the pear flavors. Here are the different types of pears.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Get Seasonal With Pumpkin-Accented Everyday Foods

    In our childhood, fall meant a choice of pumpkin pie or pumpkin pie. Today, there’s pumpkin everything.

    Walk into your favorite food store: You’ll find pumpkin-themed products in every aisle.

    Start the day with pumpkin yogurt or a bowl of pumpkin granola, toasted Thomas’ Pumpkin Spice English Muffins and bagels. Wash them down with pumpkin coffee or tea. End the day with pumpkin ice cream. And pumpkin-up everything in-between.

    And we haven’t even gotten to the baked goods, from bagels and scones to pumpkin cheesecake.

    Some contain actual pumpkin or closely-related squash; others are simply accented with pumpkin pie spices.

    Yesterday at Whole Foods, we picked up:

  • 365 Everyday Value brand Pumpkin Spice Granola with Cranberries & Apples
  • Talenti’s Pumpkin Pie Gelato (with real pieces of pie crust!)
  • Terra’s Beauregard Sweets & Fairytale Pumpkin Chips
    Yesterday we covered pumpkin beer. Here are some of our favorite products of the season. Many are limited editions, so don’t dally!


    David’s Tea Pumpkin Chai, a black spiced tea, is a customer favorite. It’s fragrant and flavorful, with notes of cardamon, cinnamon, cloves and squash pieces, and a hint of caramel.

    David’s recommends stirring in a spoonful of brown sugar and topping it with steamed milk. We drank ours straight.

    It’s also available packed in a tin for gift-giving; and herbal Spiced Pumpkin Tea. Take a sip at

    You can find Celestial Seasoning’s Sweet Harvest Pumpkin Black Tea at many supermarkets.

    You’ll find everything from caramel, maple and nutty flavors like almond and hazelnut, along with the fall spice flavors: cinnamon, gingerbread, pumpkin spice, snickerdoodle, etc.

    Looking for K-Cups? You’ll find plenty of them. We’ve been working our way through Dunkin Donuts Pumpkin Spice at a brisk pace. If you can’t find them locally, head to
    Pumpkin Juice

    Natalie’s, our favorite line of all-natural, fresh-squeezed juices, squeezes apples, pears and real pumpkin, blended with cinnamon, ginger and clove. It’s very special.

    If you can’t find it locally, contact

    Pumpkin Yogurt

    Pumpkin yogurt abounds, with a shout-out to Noosa Pumpkin Yoghurt, one of our favorites. Stonyfield Organic has Pumpkin Oh My Yog, a tri-layer whole milk yogurt: cream top, honey-infused whole milk yogurt middle, and pumpkin bottom.
    Salsa & Chips

    Mrs. Renfro’s Pumpkin Salsa is a smooth (as opposed to chunky) salsa that is delicious on anything, starting with a sauce for chicken, fish, tofu, grains, potatoes and other vegetables.

    For the classic American use—with chips—there are seasonal offerings such Food Should Taste Good’s Fall Harvest Chips, Way Better Snacks Punkin’ Cranberry (yes, that’s how they spell it) and other brands.

    We even added it to vodka for an instant Pumpkin Martini.


    Pumpkin Spice K Cups

    Mrs. Renfro's Pumpkin Salsa

    Natalie's Pumpkin Apple Juice

    Noosa Pumpkin Yogurt

    English Muffins

    [1] Pumpkin Spice coffee from Dunkin Donuts Home. [2] Mrs. Renfro’s Pumpkin Salsa. [3] Pumpkin Apple Spice Juice from Natalie’s. [4] Noosa Pumpkin Yogurt. [5] Thomas Pumpkin English Muffins.



    BOOK: The Gefilte Manifesto, New Cooking For The New Year

    The Gefilte Manifesto

    Gefilte Fish Terrine

    [1] Modernize Jewish cooking with The Gefilte Manifesto. Cover photo: parchment-wrapped trout roasted with sliced onions. [2] The new gefilte fish: a two-fish terrine (photos courtesy Flatiron Books).


    Those who don’t celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, can still participate in one of the sweetest treats: sliced apples with honey for dipping. It symbolizes a sweet start to the new wear.

    This year, Rosh Hashanah spans Sunday, October 2 through Tuesday, October 4*.

    If you’re guesting for Rosh Hashanah and need a host/hostess gift, we like the new cookbook from Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz, owners of The Gefilteria, a culinary venture that reimagines Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine.


    THE GEFILTE MANIFESTO: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods, combines respect for culinary tradition with modern culinary preferences.

    The authors—Brooklynites Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz—took more than 100 recipes “pulled deep from the kitchens of Eastern Europe and the diaspora of North America.”

    They re-thought the recipes, taking into consideration modern palates, seasonality and consumers’ desire for easy-to-follow recipes.

    The authors’ variations on time-honored favorites add modern spins to both everyday and holiday dishes. Consider:

  • Fried Sour Pickles With Garlic Aïoli
  • Kasha Varnishkes With Brussels Sprouts
  • Kimchi Stuffed Cabbage
  • Savory Blintzes
  • Smoked Whitefish Gefilte Terrine
  • Sour Dill Martinis
  • Spinach & Leek Kreplach
    You’ll see how easy it is to make home-cured corned beef and pastrami, farmer cheese and honey-sesame chews—just like Great-Great-Great Grandmother did, but with modern conveniences like electricity, food processors and refrigerators.

    Get your copy here.

    Plan B: Bring a really fine honey like Savannah Bee, and a bowl of apples.
    *In the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, the dates of Jewish holidays vary yearly. They are based on the Hebrew calendar, which is not in sync with the Gregorian-Wester-Christian calendar.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Purple Potatoes

    Just a few years ago, purple potatoes were hard to find, especially for our Red, White & Blue Potato Salad (here’s a bonus recipe), popular fare for Memorial Day and Independence Day.

    Thankfully, things have changed. Once called purple Peruvian potatoes, they are now grown worldwide in response to consumer demand, so are much more readily available.

    Millennia ago, many potato varieties grew wild in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, in what is now Peru.

    Along with many other varieties of potatoes, they were cultivated around 3000 B.C.E. by the Incas.

    Imagine European cuisine without potatoes! But they were unknown until the Spanish conquistadors reached the shores of Montezuma’s empire (modern-day Mexico) in 1519. Potatoes sailed back to Spain a few years later.

    See the history of potatoes and the different types of potatoes.

    In addition to the vividly colored flesh—some purple, some blue—purple potatoes* have a creamy texture and are rich in flavor. Their starch level is medium, so purple potatoes are an all-purpose potato.

    Creamy and earthy-tasting like russet potatoes, the color is very dramatic. Depending on their species, some varieties have a nutty flavor, some varieties become a lighter lavender shade after cooking.

    There’s also a purple-fleshed “Okinawan” sweet potato, a staple in Hawaii. Look for it in Asian markets. decreasing the risk of stroke and macular degeneration. †Purple potatoes are now grown around the world.

    Try them baked, broiled, fried or mashed to add color and style to your meals. Make purple potato chips as as a beguiling snack, side or garnish.

    As with all potatoes, blue/purple potatoes originated in Peru, where the Incas cultivated many varieties of potato (see the history of potatoes). The color can become lavender when cooking. The starch level is medium, so purple Peruvians are an all-purpose potato. They are moist and earthy-tasting, sometimes with a nutty flavor; and the color is very dramatic. Purple potatoes are not only prettier, they have higher levels of polyphenol antioxidants to protect body cells against free radical damage (see this article from NBC News). They can help lower blood pressure, without causing weight gain: guilt-free potatoes!

    A purple-fleshed sweet potato used extensively in Hawaiian cuisine, your best bet to find these are in Asian markets or online.

    The skin is tan, similar to the familiar russet potatoes; but the flesh is a bright magenta color. The Okinawa purple sweet potato has a delicate, slightly sweet taste and a creamy texture.

    The Okinawa is a member of the sweet potato family: order Solanales, family Convolvulaceae, genus Ipomoea, species, I. batatas. Its subspecies is Ipomoea batatas cv. Ayamurasaki.

    The white potato is of the same botanical order, Solanales, but diverges from the sweet potato at that level. The taxonomy of the white potato is: order Solanales, family Solanaceae, genus Solanum, species: S. tuberosum.

    Okinawa potatoes can be cooked like any sweet potato: baked, boiled, candied, mashed, roasted, scalloped or steamed.

    The Okinawa sweet potato is not related to the purple yam, ube, which is popular in Filipino cuisine and creates dishes of intense purple color.

    The term “yam” is often used incorrectly in the U.S. Yams are not members of the potato order, family, etc., but are from a totally different order. Be is from the order Dioscoreales, family Dioscoreaceae, genus Dioscorea, species D. alata.


    Purple Peruvian Potatoes

    Blue Potatoes

    Okinawa Sweet Potato


    [1] Purple potatoes—in fact, all potatoes—originated in what is now Peru (photo Mona Makela | IST). [2] Some varieties have blue flesh, a result of the soil pH and other factors (photo courtesy Burpee). [3] Okinawa sweet potatoes (photo courtesy Melissa’s). [4] Ube are not potatoes (photo courtesy

    *The blue or purple color comes from anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that create red, blue and purple colors, depending on the pH of the soil and other growing factors. These antioxidants may help with everything from fighting heart disease and prostate cancer to lowering blood pressure.


    Purple Peruvian Potato Croquettes

    Purple Potato Chips

    Purple Potato Soup

    [5] Purple potato croquettes (photo courtesy Idaho Potato Commission). [6] A fancy hors d’oeuvre, purple potato chips with caviar (photo Bethany Holdhaus | Wedding Edibles). [7] Purple potato soup (photo © Family Spice).



    Try this recipe from, made with Idaho Purple Potatoes.

    A croquette is a small portion of fried food coated with bread crumbs. It can be made from cheese, fish and shellfish, ground meat, mashed potatoes or vegetables, variously seasoned.

    Filling Ingredients

  • 4 pounds purple potatoes
  • 4 ounces butter
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup herbs (parsley, thyme), chopped
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt (more to taste)
    For The Breading

  • All-purpose flour
  • 5 egg yolks, whisked
  • Coarse bread crumbs (we prefer panko)

    1. BOIL the potatoes until fork tender. Carefully peel the potatoes while warm, discarding the skins and placing the meat of the potato in a food mill or a food processor with the paddle attachment.

    2. WARM the cream and butter and add to the potatoes and add all filling ingredients except the eggs. Completely blend until the potatoes are smooth and then add the egg yolks, one at a time, until incorporated.

    3. SPREAD the potatoes out on a cookie sheet or a one-inch sheet pan and smooth the top. Cover with plastic wrap and cool overnight in the fridge.

    4. CUT out the desired size of the croquettes with a cookie cutter or ring. Set up a breading station of flour, the whisked eggs and the bread crumbs. To bread: Coat the croquette in the flour, brushing off the excess. Completely coat with egg and transfer to the bread crumbs. Repeat this process for a double breading.

    5. FRY the croquettes in oil until golden brown, finishing in the oven until hot and ready to serve.

  • Fashionable Niçoise Salad
  • Purple Potato & Red Beet Salad
  • Rainbow Pizza


    TIP OF THE DAY: Instead Of Cinco De Mayo, Celebrate September 16th…With Reposado Tequila

    Blue Nectar Reposado Tequila

    Tequila Manhattan Cocktail

    [1] Reposado tequila is the preferred type for celebrations [2] Distrito Federal is Manhattan cocktail that replaces the bourbon with tequila (all photos courtesy Blue Nectar Tequila).


    Many Americans look forward to celebrating Cinco de Mayo each spring. This relatively small Mexican holiday commemorates a regional battle in 1862, long after Mexican Independence was declared. More Americans celebrate it than Mexicans!

    Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day.

    That honor goes September 16th, known as Grito de Dolores (The Cry of Dolores, the town where the battle began). It’s the most popular holiday in Mexico.

    Here’s the scoop on Mexican Independence Day, commemorating the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence from Spanish colonial rule in 1810.

    As with America’s Independence Day, the Mexican National Day of Independence is a patriotic holiday, with celebratory drinks, food and fireworks.

    Today’s tip: Wherever you live, celebrate Mexican Independence Day on the 16th.

    The folks at Blue Nectar Tequila tell us that the most popular type of tequila consumed in Mexico on national holidays is the more aged (and more expensive) Reposado, not the clear Blanco (a.k.a. silver or white tequila—here are the different types of tequila).

    Blanco is aged not at all or up to two months, while Reposado and Añejo tequilas are aged longer: Reposado for six months to a year, Añejo for one to three years. Aging gives layers of complexity to the spirit.

    While tequila was first produced in the 16th century by Spanish immigrants to Mexico, aged tequila styles such as Reposado and Añejo did not appear until the early 1900s.

    Some producers began to age their tequila in oak casks left over from red wine, brandy and rum that had been imported for consumption by the Spanish aristocracy.

    This stroke of genius changed the overall quality and taste of basic tequila, which at the time was raw-edged and without complexity.

    So today’s tip is: Celebrate September 16th by sipping a glass of Reposado or Añejo tequila, neat or on the rocks, enjoying the flavors with each sip.

    Or try one of the cocktails below, or this wonderful menu of tequila cocktail recipes.


    Reposado tequila has a woodsy quality that pairs well with beef-based, poultry and pork-type main dishes. (complementary flavors in recipes include orange, cinnamon and honey).

    Instead of America’s go-to grilled food for Independence Day, a favorite dish in Mexico is pozole, a classic soup made of hominy and pork.

    In modern times it’s also made with beef, chicken, seafood, or vegetables and beans. Here’s a selection of pozole recipes.

    For dessert, have churros or dark chocolate with Añejo tequila.

    And sure: Bring on the guacamole, salsa, chips and esquites—Mexican corn on the cob.

    The classic bourbon-based Manhattan cocktail is the inspiration for this Mexican version, which is named after historic Mexico City, an area known as Distrito Federal.
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces Reposado or Añejo tequila
  • 1 ounce sweet red vermouth
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: brandied cherry

    1. COMBINE the spirits and bitters in a cocktail glass. Add ice and stir until cold, about one to two minutes.

    2. STRAIN into a coupe glass, garnish with the cherry and serve.



    Ingredients Per Drink

    The vodka-based Cosmo is remade with Reposado teqila.

  • 4 lime quarters
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ½ ounces Reposado tequila
  • 1 ounce cranberry juice
  • ¾ ounce orange liqueur
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: lime wheel

    1. MUDDLE the lime quarters with the simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add the tequila, orange liqueur and cranberry juice.

    2. TOP with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lime wheel.


    Tequila Cosmopolitan Cocktail

    [3] The Mexipolitan: A Cosmopolitan with tequila instead of vodka. Calling Carrie Bradshaw!



    Blue Nectar Tequila, is a hand-crafted, super-premium tequila that focuses on agave-forward flavor profiles.

    While by Mexican law Reposado must be aged a minimum of 2 months, Blue Nectar Reposado Extra Blend is aged 6-8 months and then blended with three-year-old Extra Añejo, to deliver hints of vanilla and smoke.

    For more information on the different expressions of Blue Nectar tequila, visit



    TIP OF THE DAY: Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur & How To Infuse Your Own

    Ancho Reyes Liqueur

    Casa Noble Reposado Tequila

    Tequila Cocktail

    [1] Today’s pick: Ancho Reyes chile liqueur (photo courtesy Ancho Reyes). [2] Casa Noble reposado and blanco tequilas. Mix reposado with the liqueur in the cocktail below (photo courtesy Casa Noble). [3] Combine them to make this delicious cocktail (photo courtesy Casa Noble).


    If you like tequila, mezcal and the cuisine and culture of Mexico, why should you celebrate September 16th?

    Because it’s Mexican Independence Day.

    In the U.S., the holiday Americans celebrate is Cinco de Mayo. But Cinco de Mayo is a minor holiday in Mexico. More Americans celebrate it than Mexicans!

    Here’s the scoop on Mexican Independence Day, commemorating the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence from Spanish colonial rule in 1810—the biggest holiday celebration in Mexico.

    Why do Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

    The date commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over superior French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is celebrated locally in the city and state of Puebla, in south-central Mexico.

    A relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the U.S. Cinco de Mayo has taken on a life of its own. It has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations, and many non-Mexican fans of the cuisine. Here’s more on the holiday.

    So what’s today’s tip?

    Celebrate with some chile-infused liqueur.

    In 1927, the Reyes family of Puebla, Mexico made a homemade liqueur from the area’s ample ancho chile crop. Fortunately, they decided to make it commercially.

    We love its smoky heat, for mixing, sipping neat, in marinades or for drizzling over lemon or lime sorbet.

    It’s not simple, sweet heat: Beyond the smoky chile are notes of cinnamon, cocoa, herbs and tamarind (maybe more depending on the sensitivity of your palate).

    Here’s a detailed story in pictures of how the chiles are grown and infused to become Ancho Reyes.

    We’ve seen it on Wine-Tracker from $29.99 to a high of $48.99.

    We really enjoyed this cocktail from Casa Noble Tequila (here are more recipes).

    The recipe specifies reposado tequila, slightly aged (a minimum of two months by law): Casa Noble reposed is matured in French white oak barrels for 364 days!

    We had only silver/blanco, but it was delicious just the same. (Here are the different types of tequila.)

  • 1.5 ounces reposado tequila
  • .5 ounce ancho chile liqueur
  • .25 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 2 drops mole bitters
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: orange peel
  • Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients—except the garnish and ice—in a mixing glass. Stir and strain the drink into a glass over ice.

    2. SQUEEZE the orange peel into the glass; then rub the inside of the peel around rim and drop into the glass.

    Here’s an Ancho Reyes cocktail we published, featuring grilled pineapple.



    While not an exhaustive list, we found these products at retailers:

  • Tanteo (a NIBBLE favorite) and other brands make chile-infused tequila.
  • Stolichnaya and other brands make chile-infused vodka.
  • Patrón XO Cafe Incendio adds arbol chiles to a chocolate liqueur based on their tequila.
  • Kiss Of Fire is another chile-infused liqueur.

    You can infuse tequila or vodka (or any other spirit) with fresh chiles. The spirit adds more heat to Margaritas and Bloody Marys (and the tequila-based Bloody Maria and Chipotle Maria.

    You can also cook with the infused spirits. Just search online for “cooking with tequila” (or vodka) and you’ll find everything from salad dressing and marinades to pasta sauce and tequila-lime sorbet.

    You can use any type of chile; habaneros will give more heat than jalapeños (check the Scoville Heat Units. For a smoky flavor, chose ancho or chipotle.

    Try three chiles your first time out. If you want more heat when you taste it after 3-4 weeks, you can add more chiles and infuse for another 3-4 weeks (or just use more chiles next time).

    Here’s our glossary of the different types of chiles.

  • 1 bottle (750ml) tequila, vodka or other spirit
  • 3 large chile peppers

    1. WASH the chiles, pat dry, slit lengthwise and insert into the bottle of tequila.

    2. CAP the bottle tightly and place in a cool (away from a heat source), dark place for 3 weeks. Taste and if you want more chile flavor, infuse for another 1-2 weeks.

    3. KEEP or strain the chiles from the bottle, depending on how you like the look.


    Ancho Chile

    Infused Tequila

    [4] An ancho chile, used to infuse the alcohol base of Ancho Reyes chile liqueur (photo courtesy [5] It’s easy to infuse your own favorite chiles into tequila or vodka. This photo shows how Foodie Misadventures did it (photo © Foodie Misadventures).

    Infused spirits are great for gifting!



    RECIPE: Bacon Bourbon Cider

    Bacon Cocktail Garnish

    Cinnamon Sticks

    [1] Another way to enjoy fall’s apple cider: with bourbon and bacon (photo courtesy Davio’s | Manhattan). [2] Make your own cinnamon simple syrup with cinnamon, sugar and water (photo by Ben Fink, Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran).


    As restaurants and lounges switch to their autumn menus, we’re getting lots of fall cocktail recipes. We test cocktail recipes each weekend, typically inviting friends to stop by between their errands.

    This week’s cocktail recipe: Bacon Bourbon Cider from Davio’s Manhattan, one of New York’s fine steakhouses with a Northern Italian-accented menu.

    Two fall favorites—apple cider and maple-candied bacon—will make this a favorite fall cocktail. It’s so easy that it may well end up on your favorite home cocktail list.

    Davio’s uses Bulleit Bourbon for the cocktail. We used another top brand/
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces Bulleit Bourbon
  • 1 ounce cinnamon infused* simple syrup
  • 3 ounces apple cider

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a cocktail shaker; shake and pour into a Collins glass.

    2. GARNISH with a slice of candied bacon.
    *You can add ground cinnamon to plain simple syrup or use the recipe below.

    This recipe is for 8 pieces, but trust us: You’ll want to candy the entire pound package.

  • 8 pieces thinly sliced bacon
  • 1/4 cup plus two tablespoons maple syru

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 300°F. Place the bacon strips flat on a cooling rack screen placed over a baking sheet. Bake the bacon for approximately 10 to 12 minutes, or until thoroughly brown and crisp.

    2. COOL the bacon; then brush both sides of the strips with maple syrup, using a pastry brush. (We long ago replaced our bristle pastry and basting brush with a silicon pastry brush—so much easier to use and clean).

    3. PLACE the bacon back on the rack in the oven and bake for an additional 3-4 minutes.

    4. RESTRAIN yourself from eating all the candied bacon.


    You can make simple syrup up to a month in advance and keep it in the fridge, tightly capped. It can keep even longer, but why take up spice with an item you don’t use?

    Instead, use the cinnamon syrup to sweeten tea or coffee, or to drizzle over desserts: baked goods, fruits, puddings, etc. You can also give it as gifts in a Mason jar tied with a ribbon.


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cinnamon sticks

    1. BREAK the cinnamon sticks into pieces (1 inch or longer), using a rolling pin or other implement (or break them by hand). Place them in a small sauce pan with the sugar and water.

    2. BRING to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool.

    3. STRAIN out and discard the cinnamon stick pieces, and refrigerate, tightly covered.

  • For each 2-inch cinnamon stick piece a recipe requires, substitute 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
  • Taste to see if you want more cinnamon flavor, and proceed 1/4 teaspoon at a time. Ground cinnamon has a stronger flavor than cinnamon sticks.
  • However, the flavor of ground cinnamon dissipates after 6 months or so (the minute a spice is ground and has much more exposure to air, the flavor begins to fade). If you don’t use cinnamon often, buy cinnamon sticks instead: They keep their flavor for up to 2 years. Grind them in a spice grinder or coffee grinder as needed.

    Who knew that most of our ground “cinnamon” is actually cassia—not true cinnamon?

    Check out the different types of cinnamon.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Tea Party Ideas, Part 2

    Tea Sandwiches

    Modern Tea

    Tea Party Crostini

    [1] Tea can be classically staged, like this one from Tea Time Magazine, or [2] modern service, like this at the Langham Palace | New York. Instead of classic British tea sandwiches on crustless bread, you can substitute tartines—French open-face sandwiches—or Italian crostini. Here’s a close-up from Honestly Yum.


    Yesterday we tendered the idea of a monthly tea party. That list covered January through July. Today: the rest of the year.

  • Iced Tea Party. What could be more refreshing in the dog days of summer than a iced tea with strawberry shortcake scones topped with vanilla ice cream? Offer guests the choice of black, green and herbal iced teas, with lemon and lime slices.
  • Iced Tea & Sorbet Sundae Bar. Cut up the many luscious fruits in season and create a fruit salad bar. Sorbet is half the calories of ice cream and frozen yogurt.

  • Teen Tea Party. Take your teenager (or someone else’s) out for a tea experience and ask him or her to bring a friend. Share your love of tea and some good conversation as you give them a glimpse of the past and a custom enjoyed by everyone from kings to common folk.
  • Book Exchange & Tea Party. Ask everyone to bring a favorite book that they’ve read and are ready to trade. Each person gives a two-minute presentation about why they loved the book. Names are drawn from a hat and each participant selects his/her new book in the order the names were drawn.

  • Tea O’ween. Celebrate Halloween for the whole month of October with cinnamon spice tea, pumpkin scones and midnight chocolate double layer cake. Try Constant Comment, the original American spiced tea recipe invented by Ruth Bigelow (available in supermarkets and from Decorate your midnight chocolate cake with candy corn or other favorite Halloween candy; or serve midnight chocolate cupcakes and provide different Halloween candies so guests can decorate their own.
  • Harvest Tea. Serve fall harvest foods for tea: pumpkin muffins, apple pie, nut tarts, cookies or nutted cream cheese sandwiches on zucchini bread.
    Bonus: Provide oranges, pomanders and optional ribbon, and let guests make their own party favors: pomanders!

  • Pumpkin Tea. Start Thanksgiving early with a “Pumpkin Tea” consisting of pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin scones. Have a some cranberry scones or muffins for those who don’t like pumpkin. Serve your favorite black tea, or try the Pumpkin Spice Tea from Bigelow Tea, Zhena Gypsy Tea (organic, Fair Trade and KSA kosher) or (rooibos).
  • Thankful To A Tea. No matter how busy we are, we all can lend a hand, and we all could use one. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, host a “Wish List Tea.” All the participants submit in advance one reasonable request they hope someone else in the group can fulfill. It can be a night of babysitting, a bicycle, the loan or donation of a black cocktail dress or size 9 red pumps, someone to explain home equity loans, etc.

  • Tea & A Christmas Tree. ‘Tis the season to enjoy cinnamon spice tea with your favorite holiday goodies. Invite friends over to enjoy your tree, or decorate with a couple of non-denominational poinsettia plants. ‘Tis also the season to call people you haven’t been in touch with in a while, and mix new friends with old.
  • Chari-Tea. Help your favorite local cause. Ask friends to bring something to donate—“like new” clothes that they no longer wear, some canned goods, toys and books for the hospital waiting room—whatever your cause can use (call them and ask).
  • Boston Tea Party. The Boston Tea Party took place on December 16, 1773. This and a second “tea party” on March 7, 1774 were a prelude to the Revolutionary War. In honor of American Independence Day, you can hold a commemorative “Boston Tea Party” with the kind actually destroyed on that day. It was Britain’s oldest tea merchant, Davison, Newman & Co., whose tea chests were dumped at the first event. Still in business, the company sells Boston Harbour Tea (certified kosher), a blend of Ceylon and Darjeeling teas. Or, simply dump loose leaf tea “overboard” into a tea pot as you read the story of the Boston Tea Party. Serve colonial cookie favorites: benne cakes (sesame cookies), coconut macaroons, gingersnaps, jumbles, molasses cookies and sugar cookies.


    Perhaps the most fun of planning a tea party is deciding on the goodies. Just search online for “tea party recipes” and you’ll find enough for a lifetime of teas. The basic categories:

  • Cake. Here’s your opportunity to serve special things that most people don’t have often enough. They can be simple, from sponge cake to layer cake to bite-size madeleines and individual cheesecakes. Should you serve your “Death By Chocolate” cake or rich chocolate brownies? It’s a personal choice. We prefer to keep tea on the light-to-medium side, since, after all, dinner is in a few hours.
  • Tarts or tartlets. Fruit tarts and lemon tarts rule! You can make them quickly with tart shells and fruit curd. Tortes Almond, chocolate and linzer tortes are popular and less rich than layer cakes.
  • Cookies. Tea is a wonderful reason to get out your favorite cookie recipes: butter cookies, gingerbread or gingersnaps, linzer cookies, shortbread—the sky’s the limit.
  • Scones.
  • With curd or jam and clotted cream, they’re a classic favorite. It’s easy to bake your own moist scones with gourmet mixes from King Arthur Flour or other quality producer. They also sell gluten-free mixes.

  • Tea Sandwiches. These can be as simple or elaborate as you like. In the top photo, the sandwiches are simply ham and radishes, with spreads. The key to tea sandwiches is smaller size and fanciful cuts. Triangles and finger sandwiches are easiest, but get out your cookie cutters and go to town.
    Healthier Tea Party Foods

  • Lower-Sugar, Unfrosted Cakes. Angel cake, Bundt cake, carrot cake, sponge cake and zucchini bread, among others, have fewer calories than frosted cakes. They also can be with a heart-healthy oil instead of butter. butter—and no frosting. You can serve them with fruit purée (sweeten with a dab of agave) and/or Reddi-Wip, which has so much air that it has just 15 calories.
  • Pavlovas. These meringue cups (egg whites and sugar only, lots of air, no fat) filled with fresh fruit or brandies fruit. If it’s winter and the fruit selection isn’t great, citrus salad with mint is delicious!
  • “Slender” Tea Sandwiches. On Whole Grain Bread Slice bread ultra-thin and serve with healthy spreads: hummus, tuna and olive tapenade, turkey with marinated cucumbers and curried yogurt spread instead of mayonnaise.

    Sandwich Cake

    Sandwich Cake Slice

    [4] This beautiful sandwich cake yields a wedge [5] of savory sandwich. Here’s how to make it from

  • Fruit With Diet Yogurt Dip. Cut up fruit and serve with a dip made of fat-free yogurt, no-cal sweetener and cinnamon. If you don’t want to use a noncaloric sweetener, use agave syrup. The glycemic index is 21 compared to sugar (65) honey (56) and maple syrup (58). Baked Apples Bake apples with a bit of agave syrup—it’s very sweet, so a little goes a long way. Cinnamon and nutmeg provide wonderful seasoning.
  • Crudités. Low-calorie and fiber packed, serve a platter of raw or blanched vegetables with a yogurt-herb dip.

    Etiquette expert Arden Clise erases common ideas of “proper” tea behavior. She says:

    “People often think proper tea drinking means sticking your pinky out. That’s actually rude and connotes elitism. It comes from the fact that cultured people would eat their tea goodies with three fingers and commoners would hold the treats with all five fingers. Thus was born the misguided belief that one should raise their pinky finger to show they were cultured. Tuck that pinky finger in.”

    Find more of her comments at



    TIP OF THE DAY: Red, White & Blue Cupcakes For Patriotic Occasions


    These red, white and blue cupcakes are an eye- and palate-pleaser for any patriotic occasion.

    And they’re easy to make, with just the added step of dividing cake mix into three bowls and coloring two of them. We chose a frosting of stabilized whipped cream, stiffened with gelatin (it won’t collapse) and topped the cupcakes with red, white and blue decorations.


    Ingredients For The Cupcakes

  • 1 box white cake mix (or your own white cake recipe)
  • Red and blue gel food coloring (see notes in the last section)
  • Icing
  • Decorative sprinkles or stars
    Ingredients For 4 Cups Stabilized Whipped Cream

  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

  • Cupcake pan
  • Cupcake liners

    1. PREPARE a cupcake pan with paper liners. Place the cream in the freezer for 20 minutes prior to whipping (it will whip better).

    2. PREPARE the cake batter and divide it into three bowls. Use blue and red gel food coloring in two of the bowls (see notes about gel-paste below.)

    3. ADD one tablespoon blue batter to the each cupcake liner and spread evenly (we used a plastic teaspoon). Follow with a tablespoon of white batter, and a red layer on top of that, taking care not to mix the colors as you spread them.

    4. BAKE per cake recipe instructions and cool. While the cupcakes cool…

    5. MAKE the stabilized whipped cream frosting. Place the cold water in a small pan and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let it thicken; then place the pan over low heat, stirring constantly, just until the gelatin dissolves. Remove from the heat and cool, but do not allow it to set.

    6. WHIP the cream with the powdered sugar, until slightly thick. While slowly beating, add the gelatin to whipping cream. Whip at high speed until stiff peaks form, about 5-7 minutes.

    7. DECORATE and serve.


    Red, White & Blue Cupcakes

    July 4th Cupcakes

    American Flag Cupcakes

    [1] Red, white and blue layered cupcake (photo Elegant Affairs Caterers | Facebook). [2] Even easier options: red fruit atop white frosting (photo and [3] cupcake “flag” (photo Sprinkles Cupcakes).


  • White layer cake, filled with raspberry and blueberry preserves.
  • White-frosted stack cake with red and blue berry topping.
  • Lemon loaf layer cake with white filling and red and blueberry topping.

    The typical food colors available in supermarkets are water-based liquids that work well for most purposes. In many recipes, you use so little of it that the teaspoon or so of water isn’t going to impact the outcome of the recipe.

    But if you are looking for intense color—such as in red velvet cake—you need to use a lot of liquid to get the vibrant color. Too much liquid will alter the consistency of cake, candies, donuts and deep-colored frostings.

  • Soft gel food coloring (sometimes called liquid gel, not to be confused with the conventional liquid food color) delivers a deep, rich color without thinning the batter or frosting.
  • Gel paste food coloring is very concentrated and provides even deeper, more vivid colors than soft gel. It should be used in very small quantities.
  • Powdered food coloring is another very concentrated option that is often used to decorate cookies.
    You can often find gel food colors in craft stores, as well as in baking supplies stores and online, where you can buy red only or the four basic food colors. Wilton sells a set of eight gel colors, as well as neon and pastel sets. Don’t substitute one for another, unless you have time to test the results.

  • If exact color is important, mix the color in daylight so you can see the true hue.
  • Start with less color and adjust as you go.
  • Note that the longer the icing sits, the stronger the color will be. Proceed accordingly.


    JULY 4th RECIPE: American Flag Ice Cream Cake

    This easy flag cake from McCormick is made from reddened brownie layers with vanilla ice cream and a blue-tinted whipped topping. You can cut 12 servings from the loaf.


  • 1 package (family-size) fudge brownie mix
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 bottle (1 ounce) red food color
  • 1 tub (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
  • McCormick Neon Food Colors & Egg Dye in blue and purple
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows, divided
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
  • Optional: 1 cup strawberries, thinly sliced


    The “red” in this American Flag ice cream cake is food coloring added to the brownie. If you want more redness, add a layer of sliced strawberries over the top of the ice cream (photo courtesy McCormick).



    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Empty the brownie mix into a large bowl. Add the sour cream, eggs and red food color; mix well.

    2. SPOON the batter into a greased, foil-lined 9×5-inch loaf pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with fudgy crumbs. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

    3. MAKE the frosting: Stir the whipped topping, lemon extract, 1 teaspoon Neon Blue and 5 drops Neon Purple food colors with a spatula until evenly tinted. Stir in 3/4 cup of the marshmallows. Set aside.

    4. LINE a loaf pan with foil, with the ends of the foil extending over the sides of pan. Cut the brownie loaf horizontally into 2 layers. Place the bottom layer in the loaf pan and gently spread with the ice cream and the optional strawberries.

    5. PLACE the top brownie layer over the ice cream and spread the whipped topping mixture over the top. Press the remaining 1/4 cup of marshmallows into the whipped topping. Cover carefully with foil.

    6. FREEZE at least 2 hours or until firm. Use foil handles to remove dessert from pan. Place on cutting board; let stand 10 minutes to soften. Cut into slices to serve.



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