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Archive for Holidays & Occasions

TIP OF THE DAY: Champagne Jell-O Shots…Or Maybe Beer

How old can you be and still enjoy Jell-O shots?

Erica of Erica’s Sweet Tooth adapted this recipe from Bakers Royale.

Point of accuracy: This recipe is made with plain gelatin, not flavored Jell-O, so it’s not really a Jell-O shot.

Another point: Everyone responds to the word “champagne,” but pricey champagne at $30 and up is not the best wine to use in recipes. Instead, use another sparkling wine for one-third of the price.

Don’t Like Champagne?

If the dad-of-honor prefers beer, substitute fruit beer in the recipe…or go bold with an IPA or stout. Guinness shots, anyone?
 
RECIPE: CHAMPAGNE JELL-O SHOTS

Ingredients For 15 Jello Shots

  • 10 ounces plus 5 ounces champagne (or cava, prosecco or other sparkling wine)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 envelopes Knox plain gelatin
  • Optional garnish: white sparkling sugar (sanding sugar)
  •    

    Champagne Jell-O Shots

    Champagne gelatin shots for any festive occasion (photo courtesy Erica’s Sweet Tooth).

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE 10 ounces of the champagne with the sugar 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; stir to combine.

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

    4. CUT: First dip the pan into warm water and use a knife along the sides to gently release the gelatin. Use a sharp knife to cut squares. Before serving, dip the tops in the sparkling sugar and serve with a festive toothpick.

    (Or, for the tongue-in-cheek approach described below, serve a square or two in champagne coupes, with an optional strawberry or raspberry.)

     

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    Champagne cupcakes—to serve with the shots? (Photo courtesy Cook Craft Love.)

     

    RECIPE: RASPBERRY CHAMPAGNE CUPCAKES

    Another celebratory treat: champagne cupcakes. Why are they shown in champagne coupes (photo at left)?

    Decades ago, it was established that the champagne coupe—also called sherbet champagne glasses because they were popularly used to serve scoops of sherbet—were not ideal for sparkling wine.

    The wide surface area of the bowl—allegedly modeled after Marie Antoinette’s breasts—enables the bubbles to dissipate more quickly than they do in a flute or tulip glass.

    While the photo shows them tongue-in-cheek, serving champagne cupcakes instead of champagne, you can serve equally tongue-in-cheek champagne shots in them.

    If you want to bake the raspberry champagne cupcakes in the photo, here’s the recipe from Meaghan of CookCraftLove.com.

    You don’t have to open a new bottle: You can make this recipe with leftover champagne. It doesn’t matter if it’s flat: It will become flat quickly enough when mixed into the batter.

     
    You can serve the cupcakes with a glass of sec or demi-sec champagne, which are sweeter than brut champagne. Here are the levels of sweetness in Champagne.

    If you’re planning to buy champagne, check out our champagne buying tips.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Mashed Potato Bar

    Mashed Potato Bar

    Mashed Potato Bar

    Mashed Potato Martini

    Mashed Potato Bar

    [1] Who can resist a mashed potato bar (photo courtesy Betty Crocker)? [2] Use whatever dishes you have for the toppings. They don’t have to match (photo courtesy Hormel Foods).[3] If your guests can cope with glass, use your Margarita and Martini glasses (photo courtesy Hormel Foods). [4] Keep the potatoes warm in a slow cooker (photo courtesy Tip Hero).

     

    Whether you like to grill for Father’s Day or prepare everything in the kitchen, a fun, interactive addition to the festivities is a mashed potato bar.

    Our dad loved our cold green bean salad. With a bowl of that, and a cucumber salad or a special slaw, the only other side you need is the mashed potato bar.

    It’s a treat for guests to customize their toppings. For you, everything can be prepared ahead of time, including the potatoes, which are kept warm in a slow cooker or other device.

    Don’t want potatoes? Substitute mashed cauliflower.

    PREPPING THE MASHED POTATOES

    Make the mashed potatoes with or without skin, using your choice of red, white or golden potatoes.

  • Use a tried-and-true recipe.
  • If you like to load up the groaning board, offer mashed sweet potatoes as well.
  • If you don’t have a slow cooker to keep the potatoes warm, use aluminum foil pans with steam warmers underneath. For a fancier event, use chafing dishes. If you don’t have any of these, see what you can borrow.
     
    MASHED POTATO BAR TOPPINGS

    DAIRY

  • Butter
  • Cheeses: blue, cheddar goat, parmesan; crumbled, grated or shredded
  • Sour cream, plain Greek yogurt
  •  
    PROTEINS*

  • Bacon
  • BBQ pulled pork
  • Chili
  • Sausage, sliced mini pepperoni or crumbled whole sausage
  • Anything else you like
  •  
    SEASONINGS

  • Prepared seasonings
  • Salt and flavored salts
  • Heat: dried chipotle, hot sauce, red chili flakes, peppermill
  •  
    VEGETABLES

  • Onions: caramelized, onion rings, sliced scallions
  • Mushrooms, sautéed
  • Steamed medley: broccoli, carrots, zucchini, etc.
  • Tomatoes: diced fresh tomatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped sundried tomatoes
  •  
    TOPPINGS

  • Cheese sauce (if you can keep it warm)
  • Corn chips
  • Fresh herbs: chives, dill, shredded basil, parsley
  • Gravy
  • Olives
  • Sliced jalapeños
  •  
    PARTY ON!
     
     
    MORE DIY FOOD BARS

  • DIY Bacon Bar
  • DIY Bloody Mary Bar
  • DIY Breakfast & Brunch Bar
  • DIY Dessert Bar
  • DIY Jambalaya Bar
  • DIY Stuffed Avocado Bar
  • DIY Taco & Wing Bar
  • DIY Wedge Salad Bar
  • 20 More Food Bars
    ________________

    *Assumes beef and chicken are main courses from the grill.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bruschetta From The Grill

    Firing up the grill this weekend? Make bruschetta (pronounced broo-SKEH-tuh).

    We love a DIY bruschetta bar. Just rub the bread with garlic, brush it with extra virgin olive oil, grill, and place the slices on a platter along with all the fixings.

    Even easier, brush the bread with garlic olive oil! You can buy it, or infuse your own in advance by dropping halved garlic cloves into a cup of olive oil (or however much you think you’ll need). Any leftover oil can go right into a vinaigrette.

    Bruschetta originated in the Tuscany region of Italy, where it is commonly served as a snack or appetizer. It may have been the original garlic bread.

    Plus, we have our own invention dessert bruschetta, below.

    BRUSCHETTA VS. CROSTINI: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

    There are two factors:

  • The size of the bread slice.
  • The cooking technique: grilling versus toasting.
  •  
    Bruschetta slices are larger, three or four inches in diameter) and grilled. Crostini, cut from a ficelle, a thinner baguette about two inches wide (the word is French for “string”).

    You can use bread of a different diameter; but if it isn’t grilled, it isn’t bruschetta.

    Here’s how to remember the difference:

  • The verb bruscare is Roman dialect meaning “to roast over coals.” But there’s something simpler.
  • Think of crostini as crust or crouton (which is its literal meaning). Toast has a crust. That’s how we taught ourself to recognize the difference.
  • While Italians serve bruschetta as a snack, the smaller crostini can be served plain with soup and salad, like the original melba toast.
  •  
    Note that some American manufacturers and others in the food industry misuse the term, selling jars of “bruschetta.” To be accurate, it should be labeled bruschetta topping). Bruschetta is the grilled bread, not the topping.

    RECIPE: DIY BRUSCHETTA BAR

    The simplest bruschetta topping is salt and pepper (i.e., seasoned garlic bread), but that’s for a bread basket.

    Almost any cheese, fruit, meat, spread or vegetable can be a topping. Toppings can be cooked, marinated, pickled, raw or smoked.

    For a DIY bar, offer at least three different toppings. We like everything, so tend to go overboard: Our toppings look like a buffet. Regarding bread, we prefer a crusty sourdough or rustic loaf.

  • Be sure the loaf will give you slices of a workable size.
  • If you’re not familiar with the particular loaf, ask to ensure that it doesn’t have holes for the toppings to fall through.
  • We have the loaves sliced at the store, then we cut the slices in half.
  •  
    Along with the bread, make sure you have fresh garlic and check your olive oil for freshness.

    Ingredients

  • Baguette or other loaves of bread
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper and peeled, halved garlic cloves
  •  
    For The Toppings

  • Avocado, mashed and seasoned (garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, etc.)
  • Caprese: quartered cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, balsamic glaze
  • Charcuterie: pâté, prosciutto, salume, etc.
  • Cheeses: ricotta, ricotta salata, soft goat cheese
  • Fresh basil, julienned/shredded
  • Fruit: sliced figs
  • Garnishes: capers, chopped herbs, chopped mixed olives
  • Greens: baby arugula or watercress
  • Heat: raw jalapeños slices, grilled chile peppers
  • Marinated artichoke hearts (chopped)
  • Mushrooms, marinated
  • Onions: caramelized, chives, chopped green onions (scallions)
  • Peppadews, sliced
  • Pimento, chopped or sliced
  • Raw and cooked veggies of choice: asparagus, grilled vegetables, sliced radishes, etc.
  • Spreads: bean, hummus, pimento cheese, tapenade
  • Tomatoes: sliced plain or marinated in oil and vinegar
  •  
     
    More options: shredded mozzarella or other cheese such as thinly-sliced Brie, fish (we have a passion for anchovies and herring salad on bruschetta), other marinated vegetables, mostarda.

    We also like eggplant caponata, pesto and sautéed mushrooms, but tend to use them more in cooler weather.

     

    Bruschetta Bar

    Rustic Loaf

    Rustic Loaf

    Bruschetta Bar

    Strawberry Bruschetta

    [1] Who needs a burger? We’re heading for the bruschetta bar (photo courtesy What’s Gaby Cooking).[2] Buy bread that has a pretty solid crumb (photo courtesy The Stone Soup). [3] This loaf is beautiful, but not for holding toppings (photo courtesy Bake Street). [4] A bruschetta bar from Countryside Cravings. [5] Dessert bruschetta, here with goat cheese (the recipe from Emily Bites). We use mascarpone.

    Preparation

    1. SET out the toppings and teaspoons for serving. We use ramekins; you can use any bowls you have.

    2. SLICE the bread from 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. Rub each side with cut garlic clove and brush each side with olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Grill to your desired toastiness.

    3. PLACE the bread on a platter next to the toppings and watch people create their appetizers.
     
     
    DESSERT BRUSCHETTA

    Most people won’t have seen dessert bruschetta. We don’t know if we invented it, but our sweet tooth gave us the idea years ago.

    Start with a loaf of bread with dried fruit, such as cherries or raisins. For toppings:

  • Artisan preserves
  • Flavored peanut butter (chocolate, cinnamon, maple, etc.)
  • Fruits: berries; sliced dates, figs, grapes and stone fruits
  • Honey
  • Mascarpone or sweetened sour cream
  • Nutella
  • Garnishes: chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, etc.
  •   

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    TIP FOR MEMORIAL DAY (OR JULY 4th) WEEKEND: Red, White & Blue Recipes

    Red, white and blue colors are not just for July 4th. Memorial Day is an equally patriotic holiday.

    Memorial Day honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

    Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War (1861 to 1865), which saw the largest loss of life of any American war. An estimated 620,000 soldiers died in the conflict—roughly 2% of the U.S. population, in addition to countless civilians.

    By the late 1860s, Americans in various communities had begun holding springtime tributes to the fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

    In 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. It first celebrated Memorial Day on May 5, 1866, and was selected because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

    Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971. Each year on Memorial Day a national moment of silent remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m., local time. [source]
     
     
    MEMORIAL DAY RECIPES

    Even if you’re spending a quiet weekend at home, you can celebrate Memorial Day with a patriotic bite or two. Here’s a group of recipes to bite into.

    Some are so easy that all you have to do is put the ingredients together: no cooking.

    You can use the same red, white and blue recipes for Independence Day and Labor Day, which honors the contributions that American workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country.
     
     
    MEMORIAL DAY BREAKFAST RECIPES

  • Red Velvet Pancakes (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blueberry Muffins (recipe)
  • Poached Eggs or Egg White Omelet With A Side Of Red & Blue Berries
  • Yogurt Parfait With Star-Shaped Toast (recipe)
  •  
    MEMORIAL DAY SIDE & MAIN DISH RECIPES

  • Apple Ginger Cole Slaw (recipe)
  • Blue Cheese & Red Vegetables (recipes)
  • Chilled Raspberry Soup With Blueberries(recipe)
  • Firecracker Macaroni & Cheese (recipe)
  • Patriotic Cheeseburger (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Potato Salad (recipe 1 and recipe 2)
  • Star-Shaped Sandwich Skewers (recipe)
  • Tomato & Mozzarella Skewers (recipe)
  •  
     
    MEMORIAL DAY SNACK RECIPES

  • American Flag Crudité Plate (recipe)
  • American Flag Fruit Skewers (photo)
  • Bacon Flag Pizza (recipe)
  • Cheese American Flag (recipe)
  • Marshmallow Pops (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Ice Pops (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Popcorn (recipe)
  • Stuffed Celery (recipe)
  •  

    Red, White & Blue Yogurt Parfait

    Red, White & Blue Fruit Skewers

    Patriotic Sangria

    Patriotic Drink

    COULDN’T BE EASIER: [1] Yogurt plus berries. For fun, cut star-shaped toast with cookie cutters (photo courtesy Smuckers). [2] American Flag fruit skewers (photo courtesy [the former] Stix Mediterranean Grill | NYC). [3] Layer white sangria or pink lemonade in a pitcher with berries. You can find the recipe on the Svedka website). [4] Cocktails or mocktails, from Cosmos and Pomtinis to pomegranate juice mocktails (photo courtesy The Clean Dish).

     

    Red, White & Blue Cupcakes

    Patriotic Dessert

    Patriotic Naked Cake

    WHO WANTS DESSERT? [5] Add a simple cupcake garnish (photo courtesy Go Bold With Butter). [6] Ice cream with sauces, berries, even a blue macaron serving as the top and bottom of an ice cream sandwich (photo courtesy Vandal | NYC). [7] Just bake the layers, and top with red, white and blue (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

     

    MEMORIAL DAY BEVERAGE RECIPES & PRODUCTS

  • American Amber Ale
  • Chandon July 4th Limited Edition Sparkling Wine
  • Any sparkling wine with a splash of red liqueur, such as Alizé Red Passion or Remy Martin Red Berry Infusion (first the liqueur, then top with the wine).
  • Red, White & Blue Ice Cubes (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Layered Cocktail (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Sangria With Cocktail Option (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Layered Shooter (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Lemonade & Hard Lemonade (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Limited Edition vodka bottles, like this one from Svedka.
  • Red, White & Blue Sorbet Float (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Tequila Shooters (recipe 1 and recipe 2)
  • Spicy Hot Lemonade
  •  
     
    MEMORIAL DAY DESSERT RECIPES

  • American Flag Cookies (recipe)
  • American Flag Brownie Ice Cream Cake (recipe)
  • American Flag Pie (recipe)
  • Blueberry Cherry Pie With Stars & Stripes Top (recipe)
  • Oreo Cookie Balls (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Cheesecake (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Cupcakes (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Frosted Layer Cake (recipe 1, recipe 2,
    recipe 3)
  • Pavlova (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Grilled Angel Food Cake (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Parfaits (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Shortcake (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Tartlets (recipe)
  • Red, White & Blue Whoopie Pies (recipe)
  • Starfruit
  • Triple Berry Biscuit Shortcake (recipe)
  • Stars & Stripes Toll House Cookies (recipe)
  • Strawberry & Blueberry Parfait (recipe)
  • Red Velvet, White & Blue Cupcakes (recipe)
  •  
     
    MORE MEMORIAL DAY RECIPE IDEAS

  • More Recipes 1
  • More recipes 2
  •  

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: A Gift For Cookout Hosts ~ Homemade Burger Buns

    If you’re invited to a cookout over Memorial Day weekend or any other time during outdoor grilling season, you can make what will be a very popular contribution:

    Homemade burger buns.

    TWO BURGER BUN RECIPES

    King Arthur Flour has two recipes:

    RECIPE #1: Sesame Burger Buns

    Baker after baker commented on the website that these are “the best” burger buns (photo #1).

    Soft, gold yellow from the butter and egg, with a hint of sweetness, the flavor may remind you of King’s Hawaiian burger buns.

    Use them for burgers or any sandwich. You can switch the sesame for onion or garlic.

    Here’s the recipe.

    RECIPE #2: Cheesy Burger Buns

    The light cheese aroma of these alluring buns (photo #2) comes from adding grated cheddar or parmesan cheese to the no-knead dough.

    In fact, the light cheesy aroma and flavor create what you can bill as “double cheesy cheeseburgers.”

    Here’s the recipe.

    MAKE AS MANY AS YOU LIKE. YOU CAN FREEZE ANY EXTRAS.
     
    SPECIAL BURGER ROLL PAN

    This pan (photo #3) was commissioned exclusively by King Arthur Flour to make baking hamburger buns easier. Each pan bakes six large (4-inch) buns.

    It’s a versatile pan: Use it for individual pies or cakes, oversized scones, muffin tops, individual frittatas or miniature pizzas.

    The nonstick pan is $29.95 at King Arthur Flour.
     
     
    WHO CREATED THE FIRST HAMBURGER?

    It started with the Tatar armies of Ghengis Khan!

     

    Homemade Sesame Burger Buns

    Cheddar Flavored Burger Buns

    Pan For Homemade Burger Buns

    [1] You can top the buns with sesame seeds, or leave them off. [2] Add an extra hit of cheese to a cheeseburger by baking it into the bun. [3] Make perfectly-shaped buns with this special pan from King Arthur Flour.

     
    Here’s the history of the hamburger.

    WHY IS IT TARTAR SAUCE & TARTAR STEAK (STEAK TARTARE) INSTEAD OF TATAR?

    The Tatars (no “r”) were a Chinese nomadic tribe (ta-ta-er) conquered by Ghengis Khan.

    Tartar (with an “r”), the term used by Europeans, comes from the Greek Tartarus, the underworld.

    When Ghengis Khan and his successors pillaged western Europe, the populace (a.k.a. victims) called them Tartars, meaning people from hell. The word referred to all Mongol invaders (no doubt, the nuances of tribes didn’t communicate over the maruading and murder).

    Coincidentally, this word was similar to Tatar, so the two were (and are( confused. Over time, the words became interchangable in use. [source]
     
     
    TOMORROW: HOT DOG BUNS!

      

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