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PRODUCT: Good Zebra Gourmet Animal Crackers

Good Zebra Animal Crackers

Good Zebra Animal Crackers

Spirit animals await you, in chai, lemon and vanilla. Photos courtesy Good Zebra.

 

Good Zebra calls their animal crackers “spirit animal crackers.” That’s because their four varieties represent different spirit animals.

You can take the quiz to find your spirit animal—a totem representing you in the animal kingdom.

A totem is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol of a tribe, clan, family or individual.

Native American tradition provides that each individual is connected with nine different animals that will accompany each person through life, acting as guides.

Cultures around the world consider their spirit animal to be an otherworldly guide, who appears during difficult times to offer love, healing and/or support.

It generally takes the form of an animal with which a person (or a clan) shares a certain set of characteristics, and thus a kinship.

The animal acts as a guide and protector for humans. In death, the humans’ spirits are absorbed into the animal. (Here’s more from The Atlantic.)

You don’t have to pursue your spirit animal in order to enjoy Good Zebra animal crackers, however.

We call Good Zebra gourmet animal crackers, because the sophisticated flavors taste so good—in chai, lemon and vanilla.

There are 11 different animal shapes*, inspired by original tattoo art, “each with a soul-touching message to enlighten, uplift and empower,” according to the producers.

 

Each 2-ounce resealable bag contains approximately 20 animal crackers, delivering 12 grams of protein.

The crackers are all natural, nothing processed or refined (they’re sweetened with honey and coconut sugar). Made with 70% organic ingredients, they’re certified kosher by OU.

You can buy 12 packages for $28 or four packages for $17.

Get yours at Good-Zebra.com.

If you’d prefer to bake your own animal crackers, here’s a recipe.

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*We identified a butterfly, deer, fox, grizzly bear, kestrel, owl, peacock, turtle, unicorn, wolf, and of course, zebra. There is a Native American zodiac with additional animal symbols.

 
  

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Jeff’s Famous Jerky

We’ve had Top Pick jerkys before, but they are few and far between. Even small-batch artisan brands can be too tough for us, and/or leave remnants of gristle.

Not so with Jeff’s Famous Jerky. Each variety we tried was melt-in-your-mouth tender, with exquisite flavor. When you can say jerky has exquisite flavor, you know you’ve hit the motherlode.

Jeff’s Famous Jerkey, of Mission Viejo, California deserves to be famous, especially for its eye-opening bacon jerky. Bacon or beef, the meats are marinated in deep, layered marinades.

Jeff’s produces more than a dozen flavors (below).

The beef jerky has lower sodium than most brands, with no added MSG or nitrates. The bacon jerky has less sodium than pan-fried bacon.

The only caveat with jerky in general is that it’s high in sodium (don’t buy it for anyone on a salt-restricted diet).

But it’s almost fat free, and it’s solid protein: One ounce has about 23% of one’s daily value of protein. Before we continue, check out:

TRENDS IN JERKY

And America wants more of this high protein, low-fat, grab-and-go snack that’s naturally gluten-free*.

America’s consumption of meat snacks has increased by 18% over the past five years, according to recent data from The NPD Group, a market research company.

House-made jerky can be found more and more on the menus of fine casual restaurants.

  • At Pakpao Thai in Dallas, the Salty Thai Jerky is one of the top-selling shareable starters, paired with a crisp lager or pilsner. The Massaman Curry jerky pairs well with wheat beers.
  • The Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland, makes a jerky plate which includes smoked andouille jerky, pork curry jerky, black pepper beef jerky, dehydrated maple syrup and sriracha chips.
  • At Chapter One restaurant in New York City, house-made jerky is used to garnish for duck wings and Bloody Bull cocktails (a Bloody Mary with added beef broth).
  •    

    Jeff's Famous Bacon Jerky

    Jeff's Famous Maple Bacon Jerky

    [1] Oh so delicious: Jeff’s Maple Brown Sugar Jerky. [2] Hot and sweet: Jeff’s Honey & Jalapeño Jerky. (all photos courtesy Jeff’s Famous Jerky).

     
    Jeff’s Famous Jerky is so tender and tasty, you can bring it to the dinner table and pair it with fine foods.

  • We really enjoy it with oysters on the half shell, and with ceviche or pan-fried scallops.
  • You can lie it across or at the side of a protein, crumble it on top as a garnish, or mix it into other dishes like vegetables and pasta.
  • Consider Spaghetti Carbonara (which has bacon in the recipe), Fettuccine Alfredo (bacon is a delicious addition to the cream sauce), or pasta simply tossed with olive oil, bacon jerky and shaved Parmesan cheese.
  • With beer or a hearty red wine, it’s a natural.
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    Jeff's Famous Beef Jerky

    Jeff's Famous Beef Jerky

    Jeff's Famous Jerky Maple Bacon

    [3] Jeff’s beef jerky. [4] and [5] Packages of Jeff’s Jerky.

     

    JEFF’S FAMOUS JERKY VARIETIES

    Jeff’s makes so many flavors of delicious, tender jerky that you won’t know where to start. (We suggest a build-your-own mixed box.)

    The flavors are variously spicy, sweet, hot, and combinations thereof. More importantly, they are clean, clear and natural, beautifully layered to imbue the meat with complex flavors.

    All are hormone-free, without added MSG or preservatives, made from American meats.

    Bacon Jerky Varieties

  • Honey Brown Sugar
  • Honey Jalapeño
  • Maple Brown Sugar
  • Sweet Cinnamon Roll
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    Beef Jerky Varieties

  • Black Pepper Sea Salt
  • Cajun Style
  • Cranberry Jalapeño
  • Habanero Heatwave
  • Jalapeno Carne Asada
  • Korean Barbecue
  • Orange-A-Peel
  • Old Fashioned Original
  • Pacific Red Hot
  • Sriracha Ghost Pepper
  • Sweet & Smokin’ BBQ
  • Sweet Teriyaki
  •  
    GET YOURS NOW!

    Single-flavor packages are $6.99 at JeffsFamousJerky.com. The beef packages contain 3 ounces of jerky; the bacon packages have 2 ounces.

    Build-your-own variety packs offer a 20% savings; and there are gift boxes with personalized notes.

    For Easter treats, tie a ribbon through the punch hole on top of the bag, and maybe add some bunny stickers.

     
    SOME JERKY HISTORY

    The word jerky comes from the Quechua language of the Incas, who called their dried meat “charqui.” But they were hardly the first people to make it.

    Neither were Homo sapiens, we can deduce. Homo erectus emerged 1.5 million years ago, and evidence found five years ago in a South African cave suggests Homo erectus that built campfires.

    The remains of animal bones and plant ash could be dated to a million years ago. [source]

    By the time Homo sapiens emerged, 195,000 years ago, man had been enjoying barbecue, and by extension jerky, for some time.

    Drying food is one of the first three food preservation techniques, along with salting and, in northern climes, packing with snow in ice caves or cellars.

    Meat dried over a smoky fire is protected from egg-laying insects and multiplying bacteria (they need moisture to live). Cutting it into thin strips makes it easier to chew.

    All the fat is trimmed from the meat because fat doesn’t dry. The dried meat could (and can) then be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration.

    While the prehistoric method of drying the meat was used by other ancient peoples, it was not known in Europe.

    The first visitors to the New World found Native Americans making jerky† from the meat of any animal they hunted (that which wasn’t consumed immediately).

    In addition to helping early colonists stave off starvation, later pioneers who headed west quickly learned to make jerky. It was easy to transport, and was an important, high-protein addition to their diet.

    The meat for jerky could be anything from buffalo to whale. Today jerky can be found in proteins as common as turkey, tuna and salmon, to exotics such as alligator and ostrich.

    Today’s jerky eaters have the luxury of enjoying it as a snack rather than a necessity. We also have the pleasure of using tender cuts of meat marinated in a variety of spices, salt and/or sugar—seasonings that were not available to most ancients jerky-makers.

    Modern jerky is dried in low-heat smokers, as opposed to the ancient technique of hanging strips of meat racks to dry in the hot sun. (The campfire could hold only so much.)

    If your only experience with jerky has been dry and tasteless jerky, you deserve some of the good stuff.
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    *Some brands or flavors within brands may use soy sauce or other glutinous ingredient in the marinade.

    †The pemmican you may have read about in tales of early America was dried meat mixed with dried berries and rendered animal fat. It was invented by Native Americans and used extensively by immigrants in the fur trade. Many years later, it served as a high-calorie food for Arctic and Antarctic explorers such as Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen.

      

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    CHOCOLATE STORE: 2 Beans, A Chocolate Paradise

    2 Beans Chocolate Store NYC

    Al Nassma Camel Milk Chocolate Bars

    Marie Belle Matcha White Chocolate Bar

    [1] Enter the emporium: coffee to the right, chocolate to the left (photo courtesy 2 Beans). [2] The first chocolate made with camel’s milk, from Dubai (photo courtesy Al Nassma). [3] Another winner: the matcha white chocolate bar from Marie Belle (photo courtesy Marie Belle).

     

    Depending on where you live, there may be a store dedicated to chocolate bars.

    2Beans is the go-to store in New York City. A gallery of the world’s great chocolates, it’s a dizzying experience for the novice and connoisseur alike.

    There’s fine coffee, too; the second of the “two beans.”

    You can buy all you want to bring back to your lair, or sit down and enjoy your chocolate with a coffee or wine pairing.

    The whole is greater than the sum of the parts: beyond a chocolate store, beyond a coffee bar, the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

    There are also high-end soft drinks (like Fentiman’s) and small bites for those who want food with their chocolate.

    The flagship store is a modern, two-story glass rectangle a block from Grand Central Terminal, at 100 Park Avenue (212-937-8914). While there may be larger concepts in other cities, right now 2Beans is where the action is in our town.

    There are currently three locations, with two more to open this year (you can find the other two are in the Turnstile Shops at Columbus Circle, and at Amsterdam Avenue and 82nd Street on the Upper West Side.

    ENTER THE EMPORIUM

    A wall of chocolate bars, a large glass case for bonbons, a stand-up coffee bar and pleasant upstairs seating for some chocolate with coffee or wine.

    2Beans is a chocolate store and coffee parlor located in New York committed in providing best confectionery items and coffee beans.

    There’s a chocolate for everyone: more than 50 brands from over 18 countries: famous, not-yet-famous, bean-to-bar, kosher, Fair Trade, organic, and raw chocolates, even sugar-free (mostly 100 cacao choices, as opposed to artificially sweetened).

    You start with the A’s (Akesson’s, Amano, Amedei…) and work your way through the alphabet of the world’s great artisan chocolate bars—including our own local and national producers.

    There are also boxed chocolates, fill-your-own chocolate boxes, seasonal chocolates and fun chocolates. There are pastries, if you’d rather have some with your coffee.

     

    There are even camel’s milk chocolate bars (photo #2), made by Al Nassma in Dubai (and the only camel’s milk chocolate made in the United Arab Emirates). The name means drifting breeze in Arabic, a welcome and gentle wind bringing cool respite from the heat of the desert.

    One friend, a chocolate bar aficionado, stops by weekly for a pick-me up (and take-me-home). For happy hour, the store is open weekly.

     

    MILK BOY SWISS CHOCOLATE

    Our favorite discover on this week’s visit were the bars from a Swiss bean-to-bar producer, Milk Boy.

    Made in Switzerland with cacao from sustainable farms in West Africa, the company offers

  • Dark Chocolate 60% cacao with pine tree oil
  • Dark Chocolate 85% cacao
  • Milk Chocolate
  • Milk Chocolate with crunchy caramel and sea salt
  • Milk Chocolate with lemon and ginger
  • White Chocolate with Bourbon vanilla
  •  
    We purchased the Milk, Milk with lemon and ginger and White Chocolate…and can’t wait to return for the rest of the line.

    The wrapper depicts the cow parade from villages to the Alps for grazing season. Each spring, the cows parade up the mountains to fanfare from the villagers. At the end of grazing season, they come back in for the winter.

    For art enthusiasts: the design was created by famous Swiss paper-cutting artist Esther Gerber. It’s just icing on the cake (wrapping on the bar?) of this exquisite chocolate.
     
    ANOTHER WINNER

    The Matcha White Chocolate Bar from Marie Belle.

    But in truth, how many winners are on the shelves at 2 Beans?

    We can’t even begin to count!

     

    Milk Boy 85% Chocolate Bar

    Milk Boy Chocolate Bar

    [4] Milk Boy, an outstanding brand from Switzerland. [5] Try the entire line (photos courtesy Milk Boy).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Food Gifts

    Cranberry Bark

    Cailler Chocolate Bar

    [1] Chocolate bark with holiday accents (photo courtesy Close Encounters Of The Cooking Kind). [2] Use a quality chocolate bar like Cailler for the best flavor (photo courtesy Cailler—pronounced kiy-YAY). The Swiss chocolate bars in their festive boxes also make great stocking stuffers.

     

    For those moments when unexpected guests arrive for Christmas, or when acquaintances give you an unexpected gift—we have a strategy:

    Make homemade bark or fudge in advance. They have a long shelf life; it’s easy to carry a small tin with you for chance encounters; and even people who don’t eat sweets will be pleased to have something nice to serve their own guests, or to regift.

    It’s also a sweet gift to take on casual visits over the holidays.

    Here, two holiday-accented options:

    RECIPE #1: CHOCOLATE ORANGE PISTACHIO BARK

    Using salted pistachios gives this bark the popular sweet-and-salty profile. We adapted this recipe from one by the Florida Orange Juice.

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 16 ounces quality semi-sweet chocolate (Callebaut, Lindt, etc.)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup salted pistachios, chopped if desired
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the orange juice in small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce to ¼ cup and cool.

    2. MELT the chocolate over in boiler. While the chocolate melts, stir occasionally as you…

    3. LINE a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment to a ¼-inch thickness. Swirl in the cooled orange juice with a spatula, creating thin channels in the chocolate.

    4. SPRINKLE the cranberries and pistachios over chocolate and lightly press. When the chocolate is completely hardened…

    5. BREAK into pieces and package. For home gifting, a simple box or gift bag with a ribbon is fine (wrap the pieces in wax paper for protection). For toting around, consider something more durable. For longer storage, keep in an airtight container.

     

     

    RECIPE #2: WHITE CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY FUDGE

    We adapted this snowy holiday fudge from Mom On Timeout (love that name!).

    It’s just the thing to take over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house…or to the neighbors next door.

    Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup regular sour cream
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped white chocolate (we use Lindt* chocolate bars)
  • 1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme/cream†
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces dried cranberries
  • Optional garnish: green sprinkles or candied mint leaves
  •  
    How To Measure Chopped Chocolate

    Six ounces of chocolate chips equals 1 cup. If you chop the chocolate the size of chips, this conversion will work.

    Unless dry ingredients are finely ground, like flour and sugar, so they completely fill the cup measure, it’s difficult to get a precise measurement (e.g., one cup of blueberries). This is why professional recipes give measure in ounces, not cups.
     
    ________________
    *You can use white chocolate chips, but you’ll get better chocolate flavor from a premium chocolate bar.
    ________________
     
    Preparation
    1. LINE a 9″ x13″ baking dish with parchment or foil; lightly spray with cooking spray.

    2. COMBINE the sugar, sour cream, butter and salt in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, to the soft ball stage (238°F on a food thermometer).

    3. REMOVE from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until completely melted. Stir in the marshmallow cream and vanilla extract until completely blended. Next, blend in the dried cranberries. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and cool to room temperature. If you want a green accent, add it now. Then…

    4. PLACE the pan in the fridge for several hours or overnight, before cutting into squares.

    5. STORE in an airtight container. For home gifting, a simple box or gift bag with a ribbon is fine (wrap the pieces in wax paper for protection). For toting around, consider something more durable. For longer storage, keep in an airtight container.

     

    Cranberry Fudge

    Craisins

    Candied Mint Leaves

    [3] Snowy Christmas fudge from Mom On Time Out. [4] Dried cranberries from Ocean Spray. Their Craisins are simply branded dried cranberries. [3] Want a garnish? Make candied mint leaves—the smaller the better. You can chop them after they’re candied. Press them into the fudge when it has cooled (photo and recipe from Emjay’s Imagination).

     

    †CREAM VS. CREME

    What’s the difference between creme and cream? Why do you see “creme pie” and “cream pie” for the same thing? The answer: error which evolved into common usage.

    Crème, pronounced KREHM, is the French word for cream. In America, French recipes were served at the tables of the wealthy, most of whom knew how to write and pronounce French properly.

    As these recipes entered the mainstream, people who did not know French began to pronounce crème (KREHM) as (KREEM), and dispensed with the accent mark: hence, creme. This mashup of French and English became acceptable, and over time, “creme” was used for American dishes like cream pie, because “creme” looked fancier (i.e., French-associated was better).

    To display your erudition when discussing a French dish, e.g. Crème Brûlée, use crème; when discussing an American dish, e.g. Chocolate Cream Pie, use cream.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Red Licorice For Chocolate-Covered Anything Day

    Christmas Twizzlers

    Chocolate Covered Licorice

    Christmas Candy Cake

    [1] These Christmas Twizzlers are available at Target and elsewhere (photo courtesy Candy Warehouse). [2] You can buy the artisan version from confectioners. These are sold on Etsy by Nicole’s Treats. [3] Wowsa: a kid’s fantasy Christmas Cake from Cake Whiz. Underneath: a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.

     

    December 16th is Chocolate-Covered Anything Day.

    We love chocolate-covered apples-on-a-stick, bacon strips, berries, citrus peel, cookies, dried fruit (apricots and figs are our favorites [sorry, raisins]), graham crackers, gummies, ice cream pops, maraschino cherries, marshmallows, nuts, orange segments, popcorn, pretzels and potato chips. You can buy them or make them.

    What we haven’t tried:

    Chocolate-covered baby octopus, calamari, carrots, insects, Cheetos, corn dogs, edamame, garlic, jalapeños, jerky, kimchi and seaweed (from Korea), mashed potatoes (a Paula Deen recipe), onions, pickles, roses (real roses on their stems!), Slim Jims and wasabi peas.

    One source even recommended dipping these latter items in chocolate fondue!

    So today’s proposal, chocolate-covered licorice, should not sound far out. For licorice lovers, it’s quite a tasty variation.

    While it’s the week before Christmas and we propose a red-and-green theme, you can use this easy recipe for any holiday where the licorice stick colors work (black, brown, green, orange, purple, red, yellow-green, etc. (Check out the colors at Candy Warehouse.)
     
    CHOCOLATE-COVERED CHRISTMAS LICORICE

    Twizzlers makes red, green and white twist (photo #1), which you can find at Target, Candy Warehouse and elsewhere.
     
    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE COVERED LICORICE
    (OR OTHER CONFECTION)

    Ingredients

  • Red licorice sticks (soft, not stale)
  • White chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate bar
  • Green food color
  • Optional: red and green sprinkles, confetti or other decorations (we had gold and white dragées at hand)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT the licorice sticks in half. You can skip this step, but the half-sticks are easier to eat, and more size-appropriate when covered in chocolate.

    2. MELT the white chocolate in the microwave. We used a pie plate, which makes it easy to dip the licorice.

    3. TINT the white chocolate green. If you like, you can keep some of the batch white for drizzling over the green chocolate.

    4. DIP the licorice and set on wax paper to dry.

     
    TIP #1: We used sugar tongs. Ours have a serrated gripping edge.

    TIP #2: If you plan to store the licorice for a few days or longer, cut the wax paper in sizes that fit into the container. Then, just lift the wax paper and pop the sheet(s) into the storage container.

    5. DRIZZLE the optional white chocolate or add the sprinkles promptly, before the chocolate sets. If not using the same day…

    6. STORE in an airtight containe. We used our Le Creuset red rectangular baking dish, which makes a beautiful presentation; but you can use any baking pan and plastic wrap. Store at room temperature.
     
    WHY IS LICORICE PRONOUNCED LICORISH?

    The Scots pronounce it “licoriss,” from the Old French “licoresse.” In England and the U.S., it is “licorish.” Here are two theories as to why:

  • The phoneme may have shifted from /s/ to /sh/, as happened with the words “pressure” and “sugar.”
  • A 1685 spelling of “licorish” in England leads to speculation is that this pronunciation originated in a regional dialect of English, which changed many final “s” sounds to “sh.”
  •  
    The history of licorice.

     
      

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