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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Choctál’s Singe Origin Ice Cream

When we first reviewed Choctál ice cream in 2007, it was a unique experience. It still is.

The California company pioneered single origin ice cream in the two most popular flavors, chocolate and vanilla. The line—four single origin chocolate ice creams and four single origin vanillas—demonstrate how the flavor varies, based on the origin of the cacao and vanilla beans.

This means you can have one heck of an ice cream tasting for National Ice Cream Month (July).

It’s a memorable experience, especially for people who enjoy discerning the different flavor profiles between one origin and another in chocolate bars, olive oils, sea salts, wine grapes and so forth. The flavors of these agricultural products and others are greatly affected by their growing environment (terroir).
 
A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE

In the beginning—some 4,000 years ago—there was ice cream. Here’s the history of ice cream.

Fast-forward ahead a few thousand years—beyond the labor-intensive ice cream made by servants of the wealthy in pre-electricity Renaissance days, beyond the invention of the ice cream churn in 1851, beyond the soda fountains at neighborhood drug scores, which engendered the ice cream soda along with scooped ice cream to eat at the fountain or to take home.

Along with home refrigerators, supermarket brands arrived in the 1950s. Many used cheaper ingredients and whipped more air into then ice cream (known as overrun) to keep gallon prices low. This engendered a USDA classification system. “Economy,” “regular” and “premium” ice creams were defined by butterfat content and overrun.

Häagen-Daz arrived in the 1970s with even higher butterfat and lower overrun than premium ice cream, inaugurating the superpremium category. With butterfat greater than 14% (some brands have 18% and more), overrun as low as 20% and complex flavors in addition to the basic ones), there’s no rung higher to go on the classification scale—by government standards, at least.

Some companies—including Choctál—have labeled their ice cream “ultrapremium,” but this is marketing rather than an official government standard.

And now, there’s single origin ice cream.
 
WHAT IS “SINGLE-ORIGIN?”

The term is not currently regulated in the U.S., but single origin can refer either to a single region or at the micro level, to a single farm or estate within that region.
 
It is based on the agricultural concept of terroir (tur-WAH), a French term that is the basis for its the A.O.C. system (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, or controlled designation of origin), created in the 1950s.

 

Choctal Single Origin Chocolate Ice Cream

Choctal Single Origin Ice Cream

Choctal Single Origin Vanilla Ice Cream

[1] A pint of Kalimantan chocolate, with beans from Borneo. [2] The four origins of chocolate and vanilla may look the same, but the tastes are noticeably different. [3] A pint of vanilla made with beans from Madagascar, the classic raised to the heights by Choctál (photos courtesy Choctál).

 
These environmental characteristics gives agricultural products their character. A.O.C. and related terms like Italy’s P.D.O. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or Protected Designation of Origin.) recognize that different plots of land produce different flavors from the same rootstock. In the 1990s, the European Union created a new system to provide a uniform labeling protocol: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).
 
What IS “TERROIR?”

Terroir, pronounced tur-WAH is a French agricultural term that is the basis of the French A.O.C. (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) system. It refers to the unique components of the place (environment) where an agricultural product is grown.

Each specific habitat (plot of land) has unique set of environmental factors that affect a crop’s qualities, down to nuances of aroma, flavor and texture. They include the climate and microclimate, weather (the season’s growing conditions), elevation height and slant of the land), proximity to a body of water, slant of the land, soil type and amount of direct sunlight.

This means that the same rootstock that is grown in different locations produces different flavors.

Not only will the product taste and smell somewhat different (Sauvignon Blanc can have grass or grapefruit aroma and flavor notes—or neither—depending on their terroir), but intermediate products also create a difference.

For example, grass with more clover, wild herbs, and so forth produces a delicate difference in an animal’s milk, and thus in artisan cheese.

Note that processing will also affect the flavor. Neighboring wine makers, for example, can use different techniques to create wines that highlight their personal flavor preferences.

 

Choctal Single Origin  Ice Cream

Choctal Single Origin  Ice Cream Cones

Choctàl pints and cones (photos courtesy Choctàl).

 

THE CHOCTÀL SINGLE ORIGIN ICE CREAMS

Choctàl Single Origin Chocolate Ice Cream

  • Costa Rican cacao is distinguished by sweet notes of coffee and a hint of butterscotch.
  • Ghana cacao, from the coast of West Africa, has a fudge, milk chocolate character.
  • Kalimantan cacao, from the island of Borneo in the South China Sea, produces intense cacao beans with a slight hint of caramel.
  • Dominican cacao, from the Dominican Republic on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, has a natural dark chocolate flavor profile with notes of clove and nutmeg.
  •  
    Choctàl Single Origin Vanilla Ice Cream

  • Indonesian vanilla is full-bodied, blending the creamy sweetness of classic bourbon (Madagascan) vanilla with a woody floral note.
  • Madagascar vanilla, from the island off the eastern coast of Africa, has been the world standard in vanilla for centuries, smooth and buttery. In the hands of Choctal, it may be the best vanilla ice cream you’ll ever taste.
  • Mexican vanilla has a natural touch of cinnamon. Choctàl adds more cinnamon. It obscures the single origin flavor, but makes a delicious cinnamon-vanilla ice cream.
  • Papua New Guinea vanilla has fruity, floral notes of cherry that linger on the palate during a long, lush finish.
  •  
    The line is certified kosher by OU.

    While the main experience is to taste and compared the different origins to each other, they are also splendid in everything from à la mode to floats.

     
    WHERE TO FIND CHOCTÁL ICE CREAM

    Here’s a store locator to find the nearest pint of Choctàl.

    You can also order pints and gift cards on the Choctàl website.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Meet The Wineshakes~Wine Milkshakes

    July 17th is National Ice Cream Day.

    Of course, it’s easy to head to the freezer, store or scoop shop to celebrate. But we thought you might like something special.

    Like a wineshake, a wine milkshake. Wine + ice cream = wineshake.

    Does it sound unusual? Well: The first printed reference to a milkshake dates to 1885, and referred to an alcoholic drink, a “sturdy, healthful eggnog type of drink, with eggs, whiskey, etc., served as a tonic as well as a treat.”

    By 1900, the whiskey and eggs were gone, and the term “milkshake” referred to “wholesome drinks made with chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla syrups.”

    Yet, the milkshake still contained no ice cream until 1922. Here’s more history of the milkshake.
     
    THE DAWN OF THE WINESHAKE

    The folks at California-based Winc winery have whipped up delicious ice cream and wine milkshake recipes, combining their wines with Van Leeuwen ice cream. But you can use what you have on hand or other substitutes.

    Winc has an online store where you can purchase the wines and send gift cards. We want them just to display the names and label designs: a work of art in wine bottles, so to speak. The wines are well-priced, so this is art we can afford!

    RECIPE #1: COOKIES & CREAM WINESHAKE

    Ingredients Per Shake

  • 1/2 cup cookies and cream ice cream
  • 2 ounces Alchymist Noir Red Blend (Syrah, Barbera and Valdiguié) or other “big red”
  • Giant drizzle chocolate syrup
  • Garnish: more chocolate syrup for drizzling
  • Garnish: Oreo cookies, mix of crushed and whole
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLEND the ice cream, wine, and big drizzle of chocolate syrup until you reach the desired consistency of your shake. We mixed ours in the blender, but you can use an immersion blender, cocktail shaker or whatever you have at hand.

    2. POUR the shake into a glass. Top with more chocolate syrup and add the Oreos. Drizzle the top with more chocolate syrup and top with whipped cream as desired.

       

    Cookies & Cream Wine Shake

    Chocolate Wine Shake

    Strawberry Rose Wine Shake

    Vanilla Sparkling Wine Shake

    Shake it shake it baby: Wineshakes from Winc winery (photos courtesy Winc).

     

    RECIPE #2: DARK CHOCOLATE PINOT NOIR WINESHAKE

    Ingredients Per Shake

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate ice cream
  • 2 ounces Porter & Plot Pinot Noir or other Pinot
  • Chocolate syrup, for drizzling
  • Garnish: chocolate chips, fresh cherries with stems
  •  
    Preparation

    2. BLEND the ice cream and wine until you reach your desired consistency.

    2. POUR into a glass, drizzle with chocolate syrup and top with chocolate chips, then the cherries.

     

    Alchymist Pinot Noir

    Au-Dela Dolcetto

    [1] Winc’s Alchymist Noir Red Blend. [2] Au-Delà Sparkling Dolcetto*, a dry sparkling red wine. Au-delà means “beyond” in French (photos courtesy Winc).

     

    RECIPE #3: STRAWBERRY ROSE SHAKÉ

    Ingredients Per Shake

  • 1/2 cup strawberry ice cream
  • 2 ounces Ruza White Zinfandel or other White Zin
  • Fresh strawberries
  • Garnish: more strawberries, for garnish
  • Optional: whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLEND the ice cream, wine, and a handful of strawberries to taste, until you reach the desired berry flavor and shake consistency.

    2. POUR into a glass. Top with whipped cream and garnish with more strawberries.
     
    RECIPE #4: VANILLA SPARKLING SHAKE

    Ingredients Per Shake

  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 2 ounces Au-Delà Sparkling Dolcetto* or other sparkling red wine
  • Fresh mixed berries
  • Garnish: whipped cream, more berries
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLEND the ice cream, wine, a big handful berries to taste, until you reach desired berry flavor and shake consistency.

    2. POUR into glass. Top with whipped cream, and garnish with more mixed berries.

     
    FLOAT, MALTED MILK, MILKSHAKE: THE DIFFERENCE

  • A float is a carbonated soft drink—cola, root beer, etc.—with a scoop of ice cream “floating” in it.
  • A milkshake blends together ice cream, milk and flavoring.
  • A malted milk, malt for short, is a milkshake with added malted milk powder†.
  •  
    MORE FOOD HOLIDAYS

    National Vanilla Milkshake Day is June 20th; National Chocolate Milkshake Day is September 12th.

    See all the food holidays.
     
    ALSO SEE FROSÉ: ROSÉ & SORBET
     
    __________________

    *Dolcetto is a red wine grape from the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy. It is now planted in Australia and the U.S. as well. Other sparkling red wines include Brachetto d’Acqui, Lambrusco and Sparkling Shiraz, among others.

    †Malted milk is a powdered gruel made from a mixture of malted barley, wheat flour, and evaporated whole milk. It was originally developed by a pharmacist, James Horlick, as a nutritional supplement for infants. Soon enough, parents discovered how tasty it was…and the rest is history.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Ice Pops In A Snap

    July is National Ice Cream Month. Since there’s no Ice Pop Month or Ice Pop Day (and none for ice cream cones, either), we’re folding them in.

    We thank PeanutButterLovers.com, the consumer website of the Southern Peanut Growers for this recipe. It makes a dozen creamy pops, with hardly any effort.
     
    CREAMY PEANUT BUTTER-BANANA POPS

    Ingredients For 12 Pops

  • 4 large very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 12 ounces frozen whipped dessert topping
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour into ice pop molds or substitutes. Freeze until firm. How easy is that?

    2. TO REMOVE: Run the mold under warm water as needed to release the pops.
     
    Find more peanut butter recipes—from appetizers and soups through mains and desserts—at PeanutButterLovers.com.
     
    NO ICE POP MOLDS? TRY THESE SUBSTITUTES:

    If you don’t want to invest in ice pop molds, how about Zip-A-Pop disposable plastic sleeves (third photo at right). We love them!

    Otherwise, take a look around. Most likely, you have one or more of these:

  • Paper or plastic cups. Small (or large, if you want to go for massive pops) disposable paper or plastic cups are an easy and inexpensive stand-in for popsicle molds
  • Ice cube trays (example)
  • Loaf pans (example)
  • Silicone cupcake molds
  • Small cupcake/muffin tins (example)
  • Three- or 6-ounce yogurt containers (a great recycling opportunity)
  •  
    If you don’t have ice pop sticks, here’s another great recycling opportunity:

  • Plastic spoons (we’ve used plastic knives when testing recipes)
  • Stainless steel teaspoons or espresso spoons
  •  
    If you’re not a peanut butter or banana lover, here’s a recipe from Pom Wonderful that trades the PB for pomegranate juice.
     
    Prep time is 20 minutes, plus 4 hours freezing.

       

    Peanut Butter &  Banana Ice Pops

    Ripe Bananas

    Zip Pops

    [1] PB-Banana pops: fruit and protein in an ice pop. What could be better (photo PeanutButterLovers.com). [2] Overripe bananas are an invitation to make banana pops (photo © Luso Images). [3] Zip Pop bags (photo courtesy ZipPops.com.au).

     

    Doubly nutritious: bananas infused with
    pomegranate juice. Photo and recipe
    courtesy Pom Wonderful.

     

    RECIPE: POMEGRANATE-BANANA ICE POPS

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup pomegranate arils (from 1 large pomegranate, or buy a bag of arils and skip Step 1.)
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 1 cup simple syrup (buy it or make this recipe)
  • 4 ice pop molds or substitute
  • 4 ice pop sticks or plastic spoons
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SCORE 1 fresh pomegranate and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate under water to free the arils (the seed sacs). The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top. Strain and place the arils in a clean bowl. Refrigerate or freeze any extra arils for another use.

    2. PREPARE the simple syrup (recipe).

    3. PLACE all ingredients except the arils in a food processor; process until smooth. Then stir in the arils and divide the mixture evenly among the molds/cups.

     
    4. FREEZE slightly; then insert an ice pop stick or plastic spoon into the center of each cup to be used as a stick. Freeze until solid.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Fancy Lemonade

    Lemon Grove

    Lemon Tree

    Meyer Lemons

    [1] A lemon grove (photo courtesy Condé Nast Traveler.[2] Ornamental lemon trees can be grown indoors (photo courtesy BrighterBlooms.com. [3] Meyer lemons, less tart than the conventional supermarket lemon (photo courtesy GoodEggs.com).

     

    It took a while for man to turn lemons into lemonade, the quintessential American summer drink.

    THE HISTORY OF LEMONADE

    The origin of the lemon is still not certain, although food historians believe it may be Assam in northwestern India, where lemons have been cultivated for more than 2,500 years.

    It was brought to northern Burma and to China, across Persia and the Arab world to the Mediterranean.

  • Arab traders brought the lemons to the Middle East and Africa sometime after 100 C.E.
  • They are believed to have been introduced into southern Italy around 200 C.E.; and was being cultivated in Egypt and in Sumer, the southern portion of Mesopotamia, a few centuries later.
  • Citron, a different citrus, looking like a larger lemon with a very thick rind and very little pulp or juice, seems to have been known by Jews before the time of Christ. References to the round, yellow fruit grown by the Romans were to citron. The lemon does not appear to have been grown in the Middle East in pre-Islamic times.
  •  
    But for many centuries in the Middle East, lemons were not widely cultivated as food.

  • They were largely an ornamental plant in Middle Eastern gardens until about the 10th century. Arabs introduced the lemon to Spain in the 11th century, and by 1150, the lemon was widely cultivated in the Mediterranean.
  • The first clear written reference to the lemon tree dates from the early 10th century, in an Arabic work on farming.
  • Crusaders returning from Palestine brought lemons to the rest of Europe. The lemon came into full culinary use in Europe in the 15th century; the first major cultivation in Europe began in Genoa.
  • The name “lemon” first appeared around 1350–1400, and derives from the Middle English word limon. Limon is an Old French word, indicating that the lemon entered England via France. The Old French derives from the Italian limone, which dates back to the Arabic laymun or limun, from the Persian word limun.
  • Lemons came to the New World in 1493, when Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to Hispaniola. Spanish conquest spread the lemon throughout the New World, where it was still used mainly used as an ornamental plant, and for medicine.
  • Lemons were grown in California by 1751; and in the 1800s in Florida, they began to be used in cooking and flavoring. Commercial cultivation of lemons took hold in California and Florida in the 1800s.
  • Around 200 cultivars (distinct varieties) of lemon can be found in the U.S. alone. Some are best for lemon juice, some for lemon oil, and some are all-around. Some are more disease-resistant, some bear more fruit.
  •  
    Over the millennia, many different types of lemons evolved.

    One of the reasons it is difficult to trace lemon’s origin is adaptability to hybridization, as well as the vagueness of descriptions and awareness levels. A “round citron” reference may actually be a lemon, or vice versa.

    Depictions of citrus fruits in Roman mosaics such as found in Carthage in Tunisia, and frescoes preserved in Pompeii, may look like lemons but are not supported by any botanical or literary evidence (source).

    What we do know is that many varieties proliferated in semi-tropical climates around the world. Here’s a pictorial glossary of the different types of lemons.
     
    And the history of lemonade?

  • The earliest written evidence of lemonade comes from medieval Egypt in the writings of the Persian poet and traveler Nasir-i-Khusraw (1003-ca. 1061).
  •  

  • Records from the medieval Jewish community in Cairo (10th-13th centuries) show that bottles of lemon juice, called qatarmizat, were heavily sweetened with sugar. An 1104 reference shows a considerable trade in exporting lemon juice.
  •  
    Over the centuries, lemonade has been enhanced with fruits, herbs, spices and yes, alcohol.

    National Lemonade Day is August 20th, but why wait until then to enjoy these recipes?

    This recipe is adapted from Leanne Vogel of HealthfulPursuit.com, for Strawberry Basil Italian Lemonade.

    Italian lemonade uses mineral water; you can use whatever water you like.

    You may want to soak the basil overnight, or first thing in the morning.

     

    RECIPE: STRAWBERRY BASIL LEMOMADE

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 24 organic strawberries, hulled
  • Juice from 2 lemons
  • Ultrafine sugar*, simple syrup or other sweetener to taste
  • 2 quarts mineral water
  • 48 basil leaves, washed and stems removed and divided
  • 2 cups ice cubes
  • Optional garnish:
  • Straws
  •  
    __________________
    *Ultrafine sugar dissolves more easily because the grains are much smaller. You can turn table sugar into ultrafine by pulsing it in a food processor.
     
    Preparation

    1. SOAK half of the basil in the mineral water for 6-8 hour and refrigerates.

    2. CRUSH the strawberries in a large bowl with a muddler or a potato masher, until they can be sipped through a straw. Add the lemon juice and sweetener, stir and refrigerate. When ready to serve…

    3. Add 2 spoonfuls of strawberry purée to the bottom of 8 glasses. Add 2 fresh basil leaves (not soaked) and a couple of ice cubes. Pour mineral water over the top and serve with straws.
     
    MORE EXCITING LEMOMADE RECIPES

  • Jalapeño Lemonade Recipe
  • Lavender Lemonade Recipe
  • Mint Lemonade Recipe
  • Peach Lemonade Recipe
  • Sparkling Melon Lemonade Recipe
  • Spicy Lemonade Recipe
  •  
    LEMONADE COCKTAIL RECIPES

  • Blueberry Lemonade Cocktail Recipe
  • Lemonade 485 Cocktail Recipe
  • Limoncello Lemonade Recipe
  • Tequila Lemonade Recipe
  • Saké Lemonade Recipe
  •  
    HAVE OTHER IDEAS FOR FANCY LEMONADE?

    Let us know!

     

    Strawberry Basil Lemonade

    Lavender Lemonade

    Jalapeno Lemonade

    [1] Strawberry Basil Lemonade, the recipe at left (photo courtesy HealthfulPursuit.com). [2] Lavender lemonade (recipe, photo © Edith Frincu | Dreamstime). [3] Jalapeño Lemonade (recipe, photo courtesy Melissas.com).

      

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    FOOD FUN: Fish Bowl Or Shark Tank Punch

    Fish Bowl Punch

    Gummy Sharks

    [1] Sip the punch, eat the fish (photo and recipe courtesy CocktailsDetails.com). [2] Prefer to swim with the sharks? Use shark gummies instead. Or make a statement by using four fish and one shark (photo courtesy Amazon.com).

     

    Last summer we presented Pool Party Punch, a cocktail as blue as a swimming pool.

    This year, it’s Fishbowl Punch from CocktailDetails.com, with our own variation, Shark Tank Punch.

    You can also make a non-alcoholic punch (recipe below).
     
    RECIPE: FISHBOWL PUNCH OR SHARK TANK PUNCH

    Ingredients For 64 Ounces (1/2 Gallon*)

  • 5 ounces vodka
  • 5 ounces Malibu rum
  • 3 ounces blue Curaçao
  • 6 ounces sweet-and-sour mix (make your own)
  • 16 ounces pineapple juice
  • Half-gallon goldfish bowl
  • 1/2 cup Rainbow Nerds candy or other gravel-like candy
  • Optional: fish tank plant
  • Ice cubes†
  • 16 ounces Sprite
  • 4 Swedish Fish or Gummy Sharks
  • Garnish for the bowl: lime slices
  • Garnish for each glass: a fish or a shark
  •  
    __________________
    *1/2 gallon= 64 ounces = eight 8-ounce servings = ten 6-ounce servings = or sixteen 4-ounce servings. Serving size includes ice.

    †Use large ice cubes, if possible. The larger the ice, the slower it melts, the less dilution of the drink.

    Preparation

    1. COMINE the first five ingredients in a pitcher and stir to blend. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. When ready to serve…

    2. SPRINKLE the Nerds on the bottom of the fish bowl to create “gravel,” and anchor the optional fish tank plant.

    3. ADD ice to the bowl; then add the the chilled punch and the candy fish/sharks. Top off with lime slices.

    4. LADLE the punch into glasses and garnish with a fish. Alternatively, you can provide the ladle and glasses for self-service.
     
    NON-ALCOHOLIC VERSION

    Ingredients

  • 1 package Blue Raspberry Kool-Aid
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 quart cold water
  • 12 ounces bottled Piña Colada mix (no alcohol)
  • 1 two-liter bottle of Sprite or other lemon-lime soda, chilled
  • Garnishes per above
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the Kool-Aid powder and sugar in a large pitcher. Add half the water and whisk thoroughly to dissolve, making sure that the powder and sugar dissolve.

    2. ADD the remaining water and the Piña Colada mix. Stir and chill for several hours or overnight. When ready to serve…

    3. CONTINUE with Step 2 in the alcoholic version.

    4. ADD Sprite to fill the pitcher, stir gently and serve.
     
    PLANNING A WEDDING OR OTHER SPECIAL EVENT?

    Take a look at CocktailsDetails.com.
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Piña Colada Jell-O Shots

    Jell-O Shots

    Pina Colada

    [1] You can make Piña Colada shots with rum, or with add more pineapple juice for a cocktail (photo courtesy BreadBoozeBacon.com). [2] The inspiration: a Piña Colada (photo courtesy Tommy Bahama).

     

    July 10th is National Piña Colada Day, which reminded us that we’d saved a recipe for Piña Colada Jell-O Shots.

    So today’s tip is: Return to youthful fun with Jell-O Shots. You can find recipes online for everything from Margarita to Whiskey Sour Jell-O Shots.

    We first tried another recipe but preferred this one from by Julie Kotzbach of BreadBoozeBacon.com. We also like that she made them in a pan and sliced them, instead of using paper or plastic cups.

    Note #1: Look at the pans or baking dishes you have. Julie used a 6×9″ pan. We used the 8″ square Pyrex baking dish we have.

    Note #2: While most shot recipes use Jell-O (hence the term Jell-O shots), there is none in this recipe. Unflavored gelatin is used instead.
     
    RECIPE: PIÑA COLADA JELL-O SHOTS

    Ingredients For 15 Shots

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin powder
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons cream of coconut (Coco Lopez, Coco Reàl*, etc.)
  • ¼ cup white rum or coconut rum (the different types of rum—substitute pineapple juice for a no-alcohol recipe)
  • 15 maraschino cherries, rinsed and dried (we used Tillen Farms’ with stems and just patted them dry)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the maraschino cherries: Pat dry, first rinsing as needed. Set aside on a paper towel.

    2. SPRINKLE the gelatin over the cold water in a small mixing bowl. Let the powder to soak in for 2 minutes.

    3. POUR the boiling water into the bowl and whisk constantly until the gelatin is dissolved. Then add the sugar, and whisk until dissolved.

    4. ADD the pineapple juice, cream of coconut and rum. Whisk to combine. Pour into a small baking pan (you can also use paper or plastic cups or mini jello molds).

    5. REFRIGERATE for 1 hour until the gelatin has thickened. Place the cherries evenly in 3 lines across the top. Refrigerate until completely set, at least 4 more hours or overnight.

     
    6. PLATE: Dip the bottom of the pan into warm water for 10 to 15 seconds. Run a sharp knife through the gelatin, parallel to the cherry lines, creating 3 strips. Cut each strip into squares. Use a small offset spatula to lift from the pan onto a serving dish. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
     
    CUTTING DOWN ON THE SUGAR

  • Coco Reàl makes a version of its cream of coconut using low-glycemic agave instead of sugar.
  • Smirnoff makes a light pineapple-coconut vodka. Drink it straight or mix it with a splash of coconut water or milk. It’s not a Jell-O Shot, but it is lower in calories. You also can experiment with your own “light” shot recipe.
  •  
    WHO INVENTED THE JELL-O SHOT?

    The American singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer wrote about Jell-O shots in the 1950s, making them as a way to consume alcohol undetected on the Army base where he was stationed (no alcohol allowed).

    Jell-O shots seem like a modern concept, but Jell-O itself (flavored, sweetened gelatin) was invented in 1897. Beginning in the 1400s, gelatin (protein produced from collagen extracted from boiled animal bones and connective tissues) had been used to make desserts—a laborious undertaking.

    In 1862, the first modern cocktail recipe book was published in the U.S.: Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide.

    Jerry Thomas advised: “The strength of the punch is so artfully concealed by its admixture with the gelatine, that many persons, particularly of the softer sex, have been tempted to partake so plentifully of it as to render them somewhat unfit for waltzing or quadrilling after supper.” That sounds so much more charming than “falling-down drunk.”
     
    DON’T WANT TO MAKE JELL-O SHOTS?

    How about a Piña Colada dessert pizza?

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Ice Cream Cake Sundae

    We love this idea from Little Park restaurant in the TriBeCa neighborhood of New York City.

    The chef created Cinnamon Toast Ice Cream: cinnamon ice cream topped with cinnamon toast croutons. Building on that idea, we say:

    Celebrate July, National Ice Cream Month, with an Ice Cream Cake Sundae.
     
    Make the easiest ice cream cake ever, with ice cream and loaf cake layers in sundae dishes, and toasted cake croutons for the topping.

    We served it over July 4th weekend, and guests are clamoring for more. Perhaps it’s time for us to start a tradition of ice cream socials.

  • If you don’t have sundae dishes or other glass bowls, consider wine goblets or other glassware.
  • In addition to croutons made from toasted loaf cake, we cut thin layers from the untoasted loaf to layer in the sundae dishes.
  • We set out the toppings on a lazy susan. We scooped the ice cream and layered the cake, and everyone “dressed their own.”
  • Our recipe follows. You can do it more simply with just one flavor of ice cream and cake, and no toppings.
  •  
    RECIPE: ICE CREAM CAKE SUNDAE

    Ingredients

  • Ice cream flavor(s) of choice
  • Loaf cake(s) of choice
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    Optional Toppings

  • Chocolate sauce (we used Somebody’s Mother’s*)
  • Caramel sauce (we used King’s Cupboard*)
  • Raspberry sauce (a quick purée with a bit of sugar)
  • Fresh berries
  • Whipped cream (we used both chocolate and original flavors of Reddi-Wip)
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    *Both dessert sauce lines are NIBBLE Top Picks Of The Week. Here’s the Somebody’s Mother’s review and the Kings Cupboard review.
     

    Preparation

     

    Cinnamon Ice Cream

    Blueberry Banana Bread

    Reddi-Wip Flavors

    [1] The Ice Cream Cake Sundae (photo courtesy Little Park | NYC). [2] Buy or bake a loaf cake (photo courtesy Driscoll’s Berries). [3] Reddi-Wip flavors (photo courtesy ConAgraFoods).

     
    1. SELECT your ice cream flavors and loaf cakes. We chose the basics—chocolate, coffee and vanilla ice cream. For the loaf cakes: carrot cake, chocolate cake and pound cake loaf cakes (we couldn’t find a good banana loaf).

    2. SLICE some of the loaf cake(s) into 1/4″ to 3/4 inch slices. These are the cake layers, and the number you’ll need depends on the number of guests and how many slices fit in each serving dish. Wrap them in airtight plastic and set aside.

    3. CUT the remaining loaf(s) in as many 3/4″ to 1″ slices as you’ll need. Lightly toast the slices and let cool completely. Then cut them into the crouton size you like (we cut 3/4″ squares), and store them in an airtight container until you’re ready to serve.

    4. SERVE: Per the order of each participant, we scooped ice cream on top of pound cake layers. Don’t worry about exact size: You can push the layers into the sundae dish.

    5. TELL participants to go forth and garnish!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 20 Other Uses For Hot Dog Rolls

    Hot Dog Bun Enchiladas

    Pizza Hot Dog

    Salad Sandwich

    Peanut  Butter Sandwich

    [1] Chicken enchilada fixings in a hot dog roll (photo courtesy KingsHawaiian.com). [2] Pepperoni pizza ingredients in a hot dog roll (photo courtesy SimplyStacie.net). [3] Salad on a hot dog roll (photo courtesy Bitemore.com). [4] Peanut butter, bacon and banana on a hot dog roll (photo courtesy Huffington Post).

     

    July is National Hot Dog Month, so be sure to get your fill.

    When you have extra rolls without hot dogs, brats or other sausages to grace them, you can stick them in the freezer.

    You can also turn them into bread pudding, panzanella (bread salad), croutons or bread crumbs, and any number of recipes requiring bread, from gazpacho to romesco sauce.

    But today, we’ve thought outside the box in terms of fillings, and present 20 alternative fillings for your hot dog rolls.

    TIP: If the preparation doesn’t already require toasting/grilling, most of these preparations will be better with toasted or grilled rolls.

  • Buffalo Roll: Chicken tenders, blue cheese dressing, diced celery.
  • Breakfast “Burrito”: Scrambled eggs, bacon/sausage, salsa or other garnish.
  • Breakfast Toast: Serve a toasted roll with your favorite breakfast spreads.
  • Bruschetta or Crostini (the difference): Add your favorite toppings and eat them sandwich-style. You can cut them in half for serving.
  • Carrot Dogs: vegan recipe.
  • Cheese Sticks: recipe.
  • Chili (without the dog, but with the cheese and onions).
  • Faux Enchiladas Or Tacos: replace the tortilla with the roll.
  • French Toast or breakfast pastries.
  • Fruit Rolls: toast, spread with honey and add fresh fruit.
  • Garlic bread: One roll creates a mini garlic bread “loaf.”
  • Green Salad Roll: put all the ingredients on a toasted roll (go light on the vinaigrette): Cobb Salad, Chef Salad, Greek Salad, Spinach Salad.
  • Grilled Cheese.
  • Grilled Fish Or Seafood: Top it with tartar sauce or seafood sauce (instead of a lobster roll, try more affordable seafood).
  • Other Foods Not Eaten On Bread: Try Bean salad, ratatouille—check the fridge.
  • Panini: Add sandwich fillings, butter the outsides and grill the roll on a panini press.
  • Pizza Roll: Fill with your favorite pizza topping, sauce and mozzarella; microwave for 30 seconds to melt the cheese.
  • Sandwiches Made With Other Types Of Rolls: Barbecue, chicken parm, cubano, meatball, po’boy, Sloppy Joe, etc.
  • Sandwiches Made With Sliced Bread: Ham and cheese, PB&J, tuna, etc. Try a PB and banana sandwich, using the entire banana like a hot dog.
  • Southern Bird Dogs (recipe).
  •  
    We avoided ideas like these cheese fries in a hot dog roll, as well as spaghetti rolls and chicken chow mein on a hot dog roll. But you still can have fun with it: See the Frog Sandwich photo below.

     
    GARNISH, GARNISH, GARNISH

    Whatever you put into your hot dog roll, consider garnishes to top it:

  • Chopped fresh herbs
  • Diced tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, bell peppers
  • Leftover grains, vegetables
  • Pickles and/or sliced olives
  • Chutney or relish
  • Salsa
  • Shredded cheese
  • Shredded lettuce, slaw
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    BUNS, ROLLS AND BISCUITS: THE DIFFERENCE

    You may have noticed that we use the word roll instead of bun to denote hot dog-specific bread.

    There is no official difference: Both are single-serve breads, and the FDA only stipulates that buns and rolls weigh less than one-half pound (loaves of bread must weigh one pound or more).

    Manufacturers and retailers use whichever term they want. However, the American Institute of Baking uses this distinction:

  • “Rolls” is generally applied to individual breads that hold a filling—either pre-filled like cinnamon rolls from sandwich bread like Kaiser rolls. The notable exception is hot cross buns, which are filled with currants or raisins. (Editor’s note: The first recorded use of the term “hot cross bun” appears in 1733, when there was no distinction. Because there is no official standard, there are many exceptions, from hot dog an hamburger buns (should be rolls) to hot cross buns (filled with currants).
  • “Buns” typically do not contain a filling, but can be eaten plain, with a spread (butter, jam), or used as a sop*.
  • Bunne was the word used in Middle English. The use of roll to describe a small bread came much later. The oldest reference we could find is to Parker House rolls, in 1873.
  • Biscuits use a different leavening. Biscuits use baking powder to rise; buns and rolls use yeast.
  • Texture: Rolls can be hard (crusty) or soft, buns are soft, and biscuits are pillowy soft (from the baking powder).
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    HOT DOG RECIPES (WITH ACTUAL HOT DOGS)

  • Bacon Cheese Dogs
  • Cubano Dog
  • Gourmet Hot Dogs 1
  • Gourmet Hot Dogs 2
  • Italian Hot Dogs
  • Mini Corn Dogs
  • Tater Tot Hot Dog Skewers
  • Top 10 Hot Dog Toppings
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    Southern Bird Dog

    Salami Sandwich

    Frog Sandwich

    [1] The Southern Bird Dog is filled with chicken tenders and bacon (photo courtesy JamHands.com). [2] Use extra hot dog rolls for your sandwiches (photo courtesy GlutenFreeDairyFreeNJ.Blogspot.com). [3] Have fun: a cheese sandwich on a hot dog roll (photo courtesy TheChaosAndTheClutter.com).

     
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    *“Sop” indicates a piece of bread or other solid used to wipe up a liquid food: gravy, sauce, soup, stew, etc. It is the source of the words supper, soup and sopping (drenched). It evolved from the Old English soppian, “bread soaked in some liquid.”

      

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    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.
     
    RECIPE: AMERICAN FLAG ICE CREAM CAKE

    Ingredients

  • 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
  •  

    brownie-ice-cream-cake-mccormick-230

    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).

     

    Preparation

    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.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Watermelon Steaks

    Grilled Watermelon Recipe

    Seedless Watermelon

    [1] Grilled watermelon steaks with walnut gremolata (photo courtesy McCormick). [2] Use seedless watermelon (photo courtesy Bridges Produce).

     

    We’ve previously recommended cauliflower steaks and grilled cabbage steaks. Today’s “field meat” steaks are made with watermelon. The sweet fruit is grilled with savory seasonings to create a special first course.

    Seedless watermelon is cut into thick “steaks”; marinated in a mixture of white balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and rosemary; and topped with a walnut gremolata.

    What’s gremolata? It’s a lively, fresh-chopped condiment that typically includes parsley and/or other green herbs, plus lemon zest and garlic. It’s the traditional accompaniment to osso bucco, braised veal shank; but it’s a tasty accent to many dishes. Bonus: Because it’s so flavorful, you can cut back on salt.

    Here’s more about gremolata, including the classic gremolata recipe.
     
    RECIPE: GRILLED WATERMELON STEAKS WITH WALNUT GREMOLATA

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 8 minutes. Some people like to cut the watermelon into rectangles, in line with the steak theme. You also can cut the grilled watermelon into bite-size squares and serve them as hors d’oeuvres.

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1/2 small seedless watermelon
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary leaves, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt (substitute kosher salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
  •  
    For The Gremolata

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT four 1-inch-thick, half-moon slices of watermelon. Reserve any remaining watermelon for another use.

    2. MIX the vinegar, oil, lemon juice, rosemary, salt and pepper in small bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons for drizzling over the grilled watermelon. Place the watermelon steaks in glass dish and add the rest of the marinade. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, turning the watermelon halfway through. Meanwhile…

    3. MAKE the walnut gremolata: Mix the walnuts, parsley and lemon peel in a small bowl and set aside. Remove the steaks from the marinade, reserving the leftover marinade for basting the watermelon during grilling.

    4. GRILL the steaks over high heat for 2 to 4 minutes per side or until grill marks appear, brushing with the leftover marinade after the 2-minute mark.

    5. SERVE: Cut the watermelon steaks in half. Drizzle with the reserved marinade. Sprinkle with the gremolata.
     
    WHICH IS BETTER: SEEDLESS OR SEEDED WATERMELON?

    We turned to the National Watermelon Board to learn that:

  • There’s really no difference between seedless and seeded watermelon when it comes to taste. Most people prefer not having to deal with seeds, as opposed to those who enjoy seed-spitting contests.
  • A watermelon’s flavor is impacted by different factors, and seeds aren’t really one of them. Flavor can be greatly influenced by seed variety, the time of year the fruit was harvested, the amount of rain the crop received, the general climate it was grown in, how much direct sunlight it got, the type of soil, and other variables.
  • All watermelon grown for retail sale must meet a minimum brix level, a measurement of sweetness. Most watermelons exceed that level.
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