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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Holidays & Occasions

TIP OF THE DAY: Green Macarons

Paris may not be as festive as Dublin or New York when it comes to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day; but rest assured, there are celebrations! Both expats and locals head to the city’s numerous Irish pubs and yes, there is green beer. (Who knew that Paris had “numerous Irish pubs?” Source)

We, however, would head to Ladurée or Pierre Hermé for pistachio macarons, a classic flavor where the meringue is colored green.

You don’t have to head to Paris. If there are no macarons in your neck of the woods, you can order them from Dana’s Bakery, Macaron Café or Mad Mac. There are also Ladurée outposts in New York City and Miami, but we couldn’t find online ordering options for either.

Dana’s Bakery, which doesn’t make classic flavors*, has two green options right now: Key Lime Pie and Thin Mint. So if pistachio nuts are not your thing, she’s your gal.

While a classic pistachio macaron is filled with pistachio or vanilla ganache, or possibly chocolate ganache, we’ve found varieties from creative macaron artists that feature matcha ganache, peanut butter ganache, red bean jam and other fillings (like Dana’s chocolate mint and Key lime). Whatever your preference, include a bit of France in your St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

   

pistachio-pierre_herme-230

Plan in advance: green macarons (pistachio)
for St. Patrick’s Day. Photo courtesy Pierre
Hermé.

 

*The current flavors at Dana’s Bakery include Birthday Cake, Cookie Dough, Cotton Candy, Fruity Cereal, Jelly Doughnut, Orange Creamsicle, Peanut Butter & Jelly, S’mores and Strawberry Shortcake, among others.

 

AmarettiCookies-recchiuti-230

Ameretti, the “original” macaroons. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy Michael Recchiuti.

 

WHO INVENTED MACARONS?

The ganache-filled meringue cookie sandwiches shown above are called Parisian macarons. The first macaroons, from Italy, were quite different: almond meringue cookies similar to today’s amaretti, with a crisp crust and a soft interior (see the photo at left).

The name derived from the Italian maccarone or maccherone, itself derived from ammaccare, meaning to crush or to beat. (The reference is to the crushed almonds or almond paste, which is the principal ingredient.)

These original macaroons arrived in France in 1533 with the pastry chefs of Catherine de Medici, who married France’s King Henri II. More than two centuries later, two Benedictine nuns, seeking asylum in the town of Nancy during the French Revolution (1789-1799), paid for their housing by baking and selling the cookies.

 
According to Wikipedia, “[Pâtisserie] Ladurée’s rise to fame came in 1930 when his grandson, Pierre Desfontaines Ladurée, had the original idea of the double-decker, sticking two macaron shells together with a creamy ganache as filling.

The first versions combined two plain almond meringues with a filling of chocolate ganache; but today, various varieties of ganache, buttercream or jam are sandwiched between meringues of seemingly limitless colors and flavors.

Other stories variously give the invention date as “the beginning of the 20th century” and 1952. The latter date has credence if you believe the blog ParisPatisseries.com, that in 2012, Laduree hosted a 60th anniversary party for the macaron.

Here’s the history of macarons.
 
MACARONS VS. MACAROONS

Italian Jews adopted the cookie because it has no flour or leavening, and thus can be enjoyed during the eight-day observation of Passover. It was introduced to other European Jews and became popular as a year-round sweet. Over time, coconut was added to the ground almonds and, in certain recipes, replaced them.

When the coconut cookies arrived in England and the U.S., macaron became macaroon. Until the Parisian macaron craze began within the last ten years, coconut macaroons were far more prevalent in the U.S. and the U.K. They’re a lot easier to make and transport than the fragile Parisian variety.

A tasting plate of amaretti, coconut macaroons and Parisian macarons would be an excellent “educational dessert.”

  

Comments

RECIPE: Broccoli Madness Salad

For green fare on St. Patrick’s Day, try this very green broccoli salad from Souplantation. It has plenty of added ingredients (bacon! raisins! cashews!) to make it a crowd pleaser.

RECIPE: BROCCOLI MADNESS SALAD

Ingredients For 6 Side Salad Servings

  • 1 head raw broccoli
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  •  
    For The Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  •  

    broccoli-madness-salad-souplantation-230r

    An easy broccoli salad, sure to please all. Photo courtesy Souplantation.

     
    Preparation

    1. WASH the broccoli and pat dry. Chop off the bottom 2 inches or so of stems and break the head into florets.

    2. PLACE the florets in a large bowl; add the bacon, cashews, raisins and red onion.

    3. MAKE the dressing: Combine the mayonnaise, sugar and cider vinegar in a small bowl; stir until smooth.

    4. TOSS the broccoli mixture with the dressing. Let it set 10 minutes or longer before serving. Serve on chilled salad dishes.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Grasshopper Pie For St. Pat’s

    Grasshopper Pie is a crème de menthe chiffon pie with a chocolate cookie crust. It was invented in the U.S. in the 1950s following the popularity of the Grasshopper Cocktail, a dessert cocktail made from cream, green crème de menthe and white crème de cacao.

    The drink’s name derived from its green color. While it reputedly originated at Tujague’s, a landmark bar and Creole restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the story is a bit more complicated.
     
    THE HISTORY OF THE GRASSHOPPER COCKTAIL

    The recipe, created by Philibert Guichet Jr., owner of Tujaque’s, began as an entry submitted to a cocktail contest in New York City. It won the second place prize. Of note is that the contest was held in 1928—before the end of Prohibition (1920-1933). [Source]

    The cocktail gained popularity in the South during the 1950s and 1960s.

    In the 1950s, liquor became much more widely available as it filled grocery store shelves across the land. With women doing most of the grocery shopping at this time, the popularity of sweeter, dessert-type drinks increased. By the 1960s, the Grasshopper had become a standard cocktail.

       

    grasshopper-pie-tasteofhome-230r

    Plan ahead for something green and delicious: Make a Grasshopper Pie for St. Patrick’s Day. Photo and recipe courtesy Taste Of Home.

     
    NEXT STOP: GRASSHOPPER PIE

    At the same time the cocktail became a national standard, the pie appeared. Chiffon pies were very popular at that time, and food historians speculate that the recipe was invented by food companies to promote their products.

    In the American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes For The 20th Century, Jean Anderson writes, “I suspect—but cannot verify—that [Grasshopper Pie] recipes descend from one that appeared in High Spirited Desserts, a recipe flier published jointly by Knox Unflavored Gelatin and Heublein Cordials. [Source]

    Prep time is 30 minutes plus several hours to chill (or overnight).

    An easy frozen version follows the standard version below.

    You can play with the garnishes, using chocolate chips instead of chocolate shavings. If you want a more vivid green for St. Patrick’s day, add food color before you whip the cream.

     

    ice-cream-grasshopper-pie-tasteofhome-230

    The easiest Grasshopper Pie is made with mint chip ice cream. Photo and recipe courtesy Taste Of Home.

      RECIPE: GRASSHOPPER PIE

    Ingredients For 8 Servings
     
    For The Crust

  • 1-1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon chocolate wafer crumbs, divided (about 32 wafers)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
  •  
    For The Filling

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1-1/3 cups well-chilled heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup green crème de menthe
  • 1/4 cup white crème de cacao
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • Garnish: grated chocolate or mint-flavored chocolate*
  •  
    *Green & Black’s and Lindt are two brands of mint chocolate bar available at many supermarkets.
     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the crust. Stir together the wafer crumbs, sugar and butter in a bowl to combine. Pat the mixture onto the bottom and up the side of a buttered 9-inch pie plate. Bake the crust in the middle of a preheated 450°F oven for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

    2. MAKE the filling. In a heat-proof bowl or the top half of a double boiler, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/3 cup of the cream; let it soften for 5 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, crème de menthe, crème de cacao and egg yolks. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture registers 160°F on a candy thermometer.

    3. REMOVE the bowl to a larger bowl of ice and cold water. Stir the mixture until it is cooled and thickened.

    4. BEAT the remaining 1 cup cream in a separate bowl until it holds stiff peaks. Fold it into the crème de menthe mixture thoroughly.

    5. POUR the filling into the crust and chill the pie for 4 hours, or until set. Sprinkle the pie with the grated chocolate.
     
    RECIPE: ICE CREAM GRASSHOPPER PIE

    This version is even easier, using store-bought mint chocolate chip ice cream (photo above left). It’s a kid-friendly recipe without the liqueurs; but feel free to add 1/8 cup of crème de menthe to the softened ice cream.

    Ingredients

  • 4 cups mint chocolate chip ice cream, softened
  • 1 chocolate crumb crust (8 inches—store-bought or made with the recipe above)
  • 5 Oreo cookies, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chocolate-covered peppermint candies (e.g. Junior Mints)
  • Chocolate hard-shell ice cream topping
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SPREAD the ice cream into the pie crust. Sprinkle with the cookies and candies.

    2. DRIZZLE with the ice cream topping and freeze until firm. Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before serving.

      

    Comments

    TIP: Microwave Kale Chips

    “I am so sick of kale,” our friend Bonnie exclaimed, as we sat down to a restaurant lunch. We have nothing against a kale salad, but we were trended-out by the kale Caesar salad as a menu item. We wanted the original Caesar salad: We wanted romaine!

    The one thing we agreed upon was kale chips as an alternative to potato chips or fries. Unlike baked kale chips, they can be ready in five minutes, in time to join a cold beer or soft drink.

    We made this recipe in advance of St. Patrick’s Day, to test how much we’d need for a party.

    You can make chips (of any kind) in minutes with the Microwave Chip Maker, a handy device from Mastrad. Two trays are $20. We bought a second set, since they can be stacked to turn out a greater volume of chips.

    You can use a microwave-safe plate also; or cook the kale directly on the glass turntable.

    Using herb-infused oil adds another layer of flavor to the chips.

       

    kale-chips-thepamperedchef-230

    Kale chips made with conventional curly kale. Photo courtesy Mastrad.

     
    RECIPE: MICROWAVE KALE CHIPS

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 bunch kale, cleaned and thoroughly dried
  • 4 tablespoons regular or herb-infused olive oil or canola oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  

    lacinato-black-tuscan-dinosaur-kale-beauty-goodeggs-230r

    Lacinto kale, also called black kale or dinosaur kale, Tuscan kale. Photo courtesy TheGoodEggs.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. REMOVE the stems from the dry kale. Tear the leaves into 2″ pieces. Toss with the oil to coat and place the pieces in one layer on the tray. Don’t overlap the pieces; doing so can cause arcing* in the microwave. Season with salt and pepper.

    2a. WITH MICROWAVE CHIP MAKER TRAY: Microwave on HIGH for 1½ minutes. Continue microwaving in 30-second intervals until the desired crispness is reached. Allow to cool before removing to a bowl.

    2b. WITH A REGULAR MICROWAVE-SAFE PLATE: Microwave for 3 minutes, continuing in 30-second intervals until the desired crispness is reached. Transfer to serving bowl.

    3. REPEAT with additional batches. For the best flavor and texture, serve immediately; but you can store the chips in an airtight container for up to a week.
     
    WHICH KALE SHOULD YOU USE?

    There are more than 50 varieties of kale, of which four are most often found in the U.S. Curly kale is the variety typically found in grocery stores.

     

    You may have to hit farmers markets or specialty produce stores for the others: lacinato kale (also called black kale, dinosaur kale, and Tuscan kale. among other names), redbor kale (ornamental kale, which is equally edible) and red Russian kale.

    For kale chips, we personally preferred using lacinto kale or red Russian kale. The leaves are longer, flatter and better to tear into chip-size pieces. But you may prefer curly kale, which was used in the photo above.

    Here’s more about kale.
     
    *Arcing, or sparking, is rare and the USDA can’t explain what causes it. Theories include the mineral or moisture content of certain vegetables; and foods with sharp rather than round edges arranged too closely in the microwave.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Poppyseed Pockets

    Last night at sunset, the Jewish holiday of Purim began. As recounted in the Old Testament’s Book Of Esther, it commemorates the saving of the Jewish people in 5th century B.C.E. Persia from a plot by Hamen, advisor to the king, to annihilate them in a single day. (Here’s the whole story.)

    Traditional foods are part of the celebration, the most famous of which is hamentaschen.

    The name means “Hamen’s pockets” (the singular is hamentasch).

    A three-cornered filled cookie, named after the tricorner hat worn by Haman. It is created by folding in the sides of a circular piece of dough, with filling placed in the center. Traditional fillings are poppy seed, prune, date, apricot, and fruit preserves. Of course, modern bakers have increased the appeal by using chocolate, dulce de leche and sweetened cheese.

    You don’t have to celebrate Purim to bake a batch. You can make a traditional hamentashen recipe, or try the modern version below. The cookies are round instead of triangular, and cream cheese is added to the traditional poppyseed filling.

       

    poppyseed-pockets-goboldwithbutter-230

    Poppy pockets are a spin on traditional hamentaschen. Photo and recipe courtesy GoBoldWithButter.

     
    RECIPE: POPPYSEED POCKETS

    Ingredients For 3 Dozen Cookies

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2-3/4 cups flour
  • 1 12.5-ounce can poppy seed filling*
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  •  
    *You can find it online if your local supermarket doesn’t have it.

     

    poppyseed-filling-solo-230

    Buy poppyseed filling in the can. You can find
    it in supermarkets or online. Photo courtesy Solo.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer; mix until well combined. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and vanilla; mix to combine.

    2. SLOWLY ADD the flour and mix just until thoroughly incorporated. Remove the dough and divide it into four equal parts. Flatten each into a round disc and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour.

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. On a well-floured surface, roll out one packet of dough at a time, to about 1/8-inch thick. Using a 2-inch, round cookie cutter, cut circles from the dough and transfer half of the circles to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Reserve the remaining circles to use as tops for each cookie. Re-roll and cut any remaining dough scraps.

    4. PLACE 1 teaspoon of poppy seed filling in the center of each dough circle. Dip the tip of your finger or a small pastry brush in water and lightly brush water around the edge of each filled circle. Quickly cover each with a reserved dough circle top and use the tines of a fork to gently crimp the edges of the two circles together. Cut an “X” into the top of each cookie with tip of a sharp knife.

     
    5. BAKE 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies just start to turn golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and dust generously with confectioners’ sugar. Let the cookies cool on baking sheets for 3 to 4 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
     
    WHAT ELSE TO DO WITH POPPYSEED FILLING

    Solo Foods, producers of the most prominent brand in the U.S., has recipes for:

  • Bread: muffins, quick breads, yeast breads
  • Candy: fudge, truffles
  • Desserts: custards, mousse, puddings, trifles
  • Savory: barbecue sauce, chicken Kiev, chicken wings, kebab sauce
  • Sweet baked goods: bundts, brownies and bars, cake and cheesecake, cookies, cupcakes,
    frostings/icings, pie/pastry, tarts
  •  
    Check them out at SoloFoods.com. Our personal favorite: poppyseed yeast cake (coffee cake).

    UPDATE:

    Reader Cheryl Olenczak writes that it’s easy to make homemade poppyseed filling and avoid the additives in commercial brands. She uses a recipe submitted by Hepzibah to AllRecipes.com, substituting butter for the margarine.

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes Ready In: 1 Hour

    RECIPE: HUNGARIAN POPPY SEED FILLING

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound poppy seeds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  •  
    Preparation

    1. GRIND the poppy seeds in a mill or coffee grinder.

    2. COMBINE the milk, butter/margarine and sugar in a saucepan. Cook on low heat, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves. Gradually pour about half of the hot milk mixture into the beaten eggs, whisking constantly.

    3. RETURN the egg and milk mixture to the saucepan. Continue to cook and stir until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a metal spoon. (Run your finger down the coated spoon: it should draw a clear line.) Add the poppy seeds and stir well to blend.

    4. REMOVE from the heat; cool before using. Store unused filling in the refrigerator for up to five days.
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cherry Cheesecake With Chocolate Glaze

    chocolate-cherry-cheesecake-bettycrocker-230

    Cherry cheesecake with chocolate accents.
    Photo and recipe courtesy Betty Crocker.

     

    Next in our choice of cherry recipes for Washington’s Birthday (February 22nd) is a cherry cheesecake with a twist: a chocolate crust and chocolate glaze.

    Prep time for this Betty Crocker recipe is just 35 minutes, plus another 5 hours and 50 minutes for baking and chilling.

    You can make this recipe ahead of time and freeze it. To do so, first bake the cheesecake; cool and glaze. Freeze it until the glaze is set. Then wrap it tightly and freeze it for up to 1 month. Before serving, unwrap and thaw the cheesecake in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours.

    RECIPE: CHERRY CHEESECAKE WITH CHOCOLATE

    Ingredients For 16 Servings

    Ingredients For The Crust

  • 2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  •  
    For The Filling

  • 4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 can or jar (21 ounces) cherry pie filling—or make your own with the recipe below
  •  
    For The Glaze

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. In medium bowl, combine the crust ingredients; mix well. Press into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of an ungreased 10-inch springform pan.

    2. BEAT the cream cheese in large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sugar and almond extract until smooth. Add 1/2 cup whipping cream; blend well.

    3. SPOON 3-1/2 cups of the cream cheese mixture into crust-lined pan, spreading evenly. Carefully spoon 1 cup of the pie filling evenly overthe cream cheese layer (reserve remaining pie filling for the topping). Spoon the remaining cream cheese mixture evenly over the pie filling.

    4. BAKE for 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes or until the center is set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour.

    5. MAKE the glaze: In 1-quart saucepan, heat 1/2 cup whipping cream to boiling over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Stir in the chocolate chips until melted.

    6. LINE a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Remove the side of the springform pan. Place the cheesecake on the paper-lined cookie sheet. Spread the glaze over the cooled cheesecake, allowing some to flow down the side.

    7. REFRIGERATE at least 3 hours or overnight. Serve topped with the remaining pie filling.

     

    MAKE YOUR OWN CHERRY PIE FILLING

    Some brands of pie filling are distinctly better than others. A safe bet is to pick up an organic brand. The extra cost is worth it.

    For a luxury experience, we use a jar of sour cherry pie filling from Chukar Cherries (it’s $14.95).

    But if your discriminating palate doesn’t like any canned cherry filling, it’s easy to make your own with just 20 minutes of prep time, and 1 hour 10 minutes of cook time.

    RECIPE: CHERRY PIE FILLING

    Ingredients For An 8-Inch Pie

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen tart (Montmorency) cherries; or canned cherries in water (see photo at right)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 tablespoon almond extract (optional)
  •  

    oregon-specialty-fruit-red-tart-cherries-230

    Make your own cherry filling with fresh or frozen cherries, or canned cherries in water. Photo courtesy Oregon Specialty Fruit.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the cherries in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cover and simmer. After the cherries lose considerable juice (several minutes—stir occasionally), remove from the heat.

    2. COMBINE in a small bowl the sugar and cornstarch. Pour into the hot cherries and combine thoroughly. Add the almond extract and stir. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently.

    3. REMOVE from the heat and let cool. If the filling is too thick, add a little water. It it’s too thin, add a bit more cornstarch.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cherry Home Fries

    fried-w-cherry-homefries-choosecherries-230

    Cherry home fries. Photo courtesy ChooseCherries.com.

     

    One of our beefs with Presidents Day is that it obliterates the birthdays of two great presidents, Abraham Lincoln (February 12th) and George Washington (February 22nd).

    Both birthdays used to be bank, government and school holidays. In 1971, both presidential holidays were shifted to the third Monday in February and combined as the vague Presidents Day, to allow federal employees a three-day weekend. Hmpf.

    It’s tough to tie a food story to Lincoln, who ate only “incidentally.” He grew up poor without an excess of food. As an adult, he was so focused on work, it was tough to get him to eat at all. When he did eat, he nibbled simply, on apples, nuts, cheese and crackers.

    Although he never chopped down the apocryphal cherry tree, George Washington grew up the son of a wealthy planter, with all the victuals he could desire. While he was no foodie, he did in fact love cherries and other fruits from the groves of Mount Vernon.

    So we’re keeping up with the tradition of cherry recipes, starting with an unusual one:

     
    Cherry home fries! These use dried tart cherries, which play off nicely against the potatoes as well as eggs. We particularly like them with scrambled eggs or omelets. For extra fun, we made a jelly omelet with fresh goat cheese (you can use cream cheese) and cherry preserves.

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.

    RECIPE: CHERRY HOME FRIES

    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 2/3 to 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 5 medium waxy potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (plus 1 to 2 tablespoons extra, as needed)
  • Optional: 1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red chiles or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SAUTÉ the cherries and onions over low to medium heat for 15 minutes, or until the onions become a deep brown. While onions and tart cherries are cooking…

    2. BOIL the potatoes in salted water until fork tender. Drain.

    3. ADD the potatoes to the skillet with the cherries and onions. Add extra oil if needed. Sauté for 5 minutes on high until the potatoes are crisp.

    4. SEASON with salt, pepper and chiles to taste.

     
      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Green Tea Fortune Cookie Cake

    At last: an idea to repurpose the fortune cookies that so many of us acquire from Chinese food take-out.
    This Green Tea layer cake is made by Baked NYC, one of the most popular bakeries in New York City. The cake has three almond white cake layers, frosted and filled with green tea buttercream.

    You can call it a Green Tea Cake, Fortune Cookie Cake, or Chinese New Year Cake. It’s easy to whip up with a box of white cake mix and some dark or white chocolate, into which you dip the fortune cookies. Here’s how:

    RECIPE: GREEN TEA FORTUNE COOKIE CAKE

  • Add 1 teaspoon of almond extract to a white cake batter (use a boxed mix).
  • If you want an actual green tea cake, add 4 teaspoons of matcha (powdered green tea) to the cake batter/mix and omit the almond extract.
  • Make the green tea buttercream (recipe below).
  • Dip the fortune cookies into melted dark or white chocolate.
  • If you like crunch, crush extra fortune cookies with a rolling pin and add the pieces to the filling over the bottom layer.
  •    

    green-tea_layer-cake-230

    Green tea frosting on a layer cake. The fortune cookies were dipped in white chocolate. Photo courtesy BakedNYC.com.

     
    If you want to make your own fortune cookies from scratch, here’s the recipe.
     

    RECIPE: GREEN TEA BUTTERCREAM

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 sticks butter softened
  • 3 tablespoons matcha green tea powder
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the water and tea powder to make a paste.

    2. CREAM the butter and tea until completely combined. Gradually add powdered sugar until you reach the consistency you like for frosting.

     

    Matcha

    Matcha, powdered green tea, is whisked with
    water into a foamy beverage. Photo by Kelly
    Cline | IST.

     

    WHAT IS MATCHA?

    Matcha is powdered green tea the consistency of talc, that is used in the Japanese tea ceremony (cha no yu). Matcha has a wonderful aroma, a creamy, silky froth and a rich, mellow taste.

    Matcha is made from ten-cha leaves, which are gyokuro leaves that have been not been rolled into needles but are instead steamed and dried. They are top-grade Japanese green tea, produced by a special process in the Uji district, a region known for producing some of the finest green teas in Japan.

    The tea bushes are shaded from sunlight for three weeks before harvesting, producing amino acids that sweeten the taste. Unlike whole leaf tea, which is steeped, the leaves are then ground like flour, slowly and finely in a stone mill. The powder is whisked into water, creating a foamy drink. It is the only powdered tea.

    Powdered tea is the original way in which tea was prepared. Steeping dried leaves in boiling water didn’t arrive until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

    Matcha contains a higher amount of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, L-theanine amino acids, polyphenols, chlorophyll and fiber) than other teas.

     
    In recent years, matcha has become a popular cooking and baking ingredient, and now comes in different grades for different uses. Pastry chefs have incorporated it into everything from cakes and custards to ice cream.
     
    WHAT IS THE CHINESE NEW YEAR?

    The Chinese calendar consists of both Gregorian and lunar-solar calendar systems. Because the track of the new moon changes from year to year, Chinese New Year can begin anytime between late January and mid-February.

    This year, it begins today, and it’s the Year Of The Goat, one of the 12 zodiac animals. The Chinese zodiac is based on a twelve-year cycle. Each year in the cycle has an animal sign: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat/ram/sheep, monkey, rooster, dog or pig.

    But what’s with the goat/sheep/ram? Which one is it?

    It’s what you want it to be. In Mandarin, the character “yang” refers to a horned animal, and covers all three of the contenders. But if you go for sheep, know that is one of the least desirable animals on the zodiac. A sheep is seen as a docile, weak follower, rather than a leader.

    So go for the goat: a feisty, independent-minded ruminant whose milk makes our favorite cheese!

    If This Is Your Lunar Year…

    In addition to those born this year, those under the goat/ram/sheep sign were born in 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991 and 2003. For them, 2015 is an auspicious year.

    People born in the Year Of The Goat are said to like to be in groups. They are honest, intimate, and can be easily moved by the misfortune of others.

    Every sign confers lucky numbers, lucky colors, lucky flowers, etc. So whether you’re a goat or one of the other zodiac animals, head on over to ChinaHighlights.com to find yours.

    CHINESE NEW YEAR TRIVIA: The tradition of spending the Lunar New Year holiday with family means that hundreds of millions of Chinese people are traveling home. It’s the world’s biggest annual migration.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Meatloaf Hero Sandwich

    cheesy-meatball-hero-wmmb-230r

    A hearty meatloaf sub for Oscar watchers. EatWisconsin Cheese.com.

     

    Here’s a suggestion from From Eat Wisconsin Cheese.com: Switch the popular meatball submarine sandwich for a meatball hero, sub or hero whatever you call it in your neck of the woods (see the note below).

    It’s an easy way to feed a crowd during events like the Academy Awards. If you serve half a hero to everyone, along with other nibbles, this recipe feeds 12.

    RECIPE: MEATLOAF HERO SANDWICH

    Ingredients For 6 Sandwiches

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 1 cup (9 ounces) Asiago cheese, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon cracked pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon-style mustard
  • 6 sub/hero/French rolls
  • 6 leaves of lettuce
  • 12 tomato slices
  • 12 slices provolone cheese
  • Plus

  • Cole slaw, potato salad or French fries
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the meatloaf; Preheat oven to 375°F (conventional; if using a convection oven, preheat to 325°F).

    2. COMBINE the meats, Asiago, egg, breadcrumbs, parsley, Dijon mustard, pepper and salt in a bowl. Mix well and pack into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Bake the loaf until cooked through and browned, 55 to 60 minutes.

    3. REMOVE the meatloaf from the oven and drain the fat. Cool completely before slicing into 12 slices.

    4. BLEND the mayonnaise and mustard. Split the rolls and top each bottom bun with 1 tablespoon of the spread plus lettuce, 2 tomato slices, 2 meatloaf slices and 2 provolone slices. Top with the roll tops, and serve the sandwiches with potato salad or French fries.
     

    ONE SANDWICH, SO MANY NAMES

    Hero is the New York term for the sandwich also called the grinder, hoagie, po’ boy, torpedo, submarine, zeppelin and other names, depending on region.

    The term “hero” originated in the late 19th century when the sandwich was created to serve Italian laborers, who wanted the convenient lunch they had enjoyed in Italy. The name is credited to New York Herald Tribune food writer Clementine Paddleford, who wrote that “you needed to be a hero to finish the gigantic Italian sandwich.”

    The original hero sandwich, on an oblong roll, piled on Italian cold cuts, cheese, seasonings, oil and vinegar. Varieties evolved to include the meatball hero, eggplant parmigiana and chicken parmigiana heroes.

    These days, basically, anything served on a large, oblong roll is a hero.

    The other sandwiches—grinders, hoagies, etc.—developed with regional ingredients and preferences, but also evolved to include anything served on a large, oblong roll.

    FOOD TRIVIA: The sandwich is the #1 homemade dish.
     
      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Oscar Party Sushi

    If your Oscar party will include sushi, how about a platter that looks like a director’s slate?

    This fun idea comes from SushiShop, which isn’t selling the “director’s slate” platters but developed this as part of an advertising campaign.

    You can make it yourself with:

  • 10 pieces of salmon nigiri (fish atop rice pads)
  • 10 pieces of tamago nigiri (egg custard)
  • 24 pieces of pieces of black caviar roll in green soy wrappers (or a cucumber wrap), topped with a dab of green mayonnaise (or a piece of edamame)
  •  
    Your local sushi restaurant can create this for you, or work with you to create a different design with different sushi varieties (check them out in our beautiful Sushi Glossary).

     

    sushi-directors-slate-sushishop-230

    Cut! Eat! Photo courtesy SushiShop.com.

     

    Unless you’re a mogul, you can buy affordable black lumpfish caviar or black capelin caviar. We found 12 ounces for $29.99 and $14.95, respectively, on Amazon.

    Check out the different types of caviar.

      

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