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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 Food Holidays/History/Facts

RECIPE: Pecan Sandies

pecan-sandies-tasteofhome-230

Pecan sandies. Photo courtesy Taste Of
Home.

 

September 21st is National Pecan Cookie Day. Our favorite has got to be the pecan sandy, modeled after the French sablé.

A shortbread-like butter cookie with a sandy texture, sablé means “sand” in French and refers to both the color and the texture of the cookies.

The cookies originated in the Normandy region of France and are a very popular tea cookie. Common variations include chocolate and lemon sablés.

In some sandy recipes, the dough is lighter than traditional dense, buttery shortbread. A pecan sandy is simply the shortbread with chopped pecans added to the dough, or a pecan half embellishment on the top of the cookie.

This recipe is courtesy Taste Of Home. Prep time is 10 minutes, total time is 55 minutes.

 
RECIPE: PECAN SANDIES

Ingredients For 18 Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Grease a baking sheet.

    2. CREAM in a bowl the butter and sugar; stir in vanilla. Add flour; mix on low until well blended. Stir in pecans; mix well. Chill for 30 minutes.

    3. ROLL into 1-inch balls; place on the sheet. Bake at 350° for 15-18 minutes or until bottom edges are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
     
     
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF COOKIES IN OUR COOKIE GLOSSARY.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Have Some Grenache

    brunello-230BSP

    A glass of 100% grenache is a new
    experience for most wine lovers. Photo ©
    Dusan Zidar | Bigstock Photo.

     

    Grenache (pronounced gruh-NOSH), called Garnacha in Spain, is one of the most widely planted (and highest-yielding) red wine grape varieties in the world. It’s most commonly found in blends, where it’s used to add body and sweet fruitiness. It’s not easy to find a 100% garnacha wine in many U.S. wine stores.

    But look for Las Rocas and other wines from the Aragon region of northeast Spain (where the grape probably originated, although Sardinia also claims it as a native grape). Five D.O.* regions in Aragon (Calatayud, Campo de Borja, Cariñena, Somontano and Terra Alta) are producing quality wines that are at least 85% Garnacha. (A wine that is at least 85% of a particular varietal can be called by that varietal’s name.) Las Rocas, at $15, os well priced.

    Grenache grows in hot, dry climates; Spain, Sardinia, the south of France and California’s San Joaquin Valley are prominent growing regions. It is the dominant variety in most Southern Rhône wines, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

    BLENDED INTO VERY POPULAR WINES

    In Spain, Grenache is blended into Rioja. It is used to make rosé wines in France and Spain. If you’ve had a bottle of Tavel (a district in the Côtes du Rhône), you’ve had grenache.

     

    Grenache was one of the first grape varieties introduced to Australia in the 18th century. It was the country’s most widely planted red wine grape variety until it was surpassed by Shiraz in the mid 1960s.

    In was also one of the first grapes to be successfully planted and vinified during the early development of the Washington wine industry, in the early 20th century.

    Wines made from Grenache tend to lack acid, tannin and color, which is why they are usually blended with Cinsaut, Syrah, Tempranillo or other grapes. In addition to the better-known red wine, there is a white grape, Grenache Blanc or Grenacha Blanca. A wine made with White Grenache is similar to White Zinfandel.

    White Grenache is a very important grape in France, where it is the fourth most widely planted white variety†. Like red Grenache (Grenache Noir), it is used as a blending grape in the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

     

    CELEBRATE INTERNATIONAL GRENACHE DAY

    To celebrate International Grenache Day—the third Friday in September, which this year is September 19th—the producers of Las Rocas Garnacha sent us a bottle of red. The brand name, which means “the rocks,” refers to the steep, rocky slopes where the grapes are grown.

    The flavors of grenache are typically spicy (look for white pepper) with berry fruit, often raspberry and strawberry (we found blackberry and black cherry in Las Rocas). The lower tannins make it softer on the palate; the alcohol content is relatively high (this year’s Las Rocas has 14.9% alcohol).

    GRENACHE & FOOD PAIRINGS

    Pair grenache as you would any medium-body red wine: with beef, chicken and turkey, lamb or pork, including stews. Its spicy qualities also pair well with international spices, such as garam masala and milder curries. The fruitiness also makes them a natural for dishes with dried fruit, such as Moroccan tagines; and with general sweetness, such as barbecue.

    In recent decades, the total acreage of Garnacha in Spain has been on the decline, with the vineyards being replanted with the more fashionable Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo.

     

    las-rocas-garnacha-230

    Celebrate International Grenache Day. Photo courtesy Las Rocas.

     

    Show your support of Grenache today: Enjoy a bottle with dinner.

     
    *D.O., short for Denominaciones de Origen, is similar to the French Appellations. Production of products produced in a particular D.O. are regulated by specific laws meant to ensure quality and consistency.

    †The first three are Ugni blanc, a blending grape; Chardonnay and Semillon.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Gourmet Potato Tots (A.K.A. Tater Tots)

    sandwich-tater-tots-redduckketchup-230

    Heaven: sandwich, beer, potato tots. Photo
    courtesy Red Duck Ketchup.

     

    They’re not quite senior citizens, but Tater Tots® hit the big 6-0 this year. You could buy a box to celebrate, or you could make your own, tastier tots—bite-size potato croquettes—from scratch.

    The Idaho Potato Commission salutes the tot as both an inspired potato product and a springboard for potato creativity. Its website boasts a collection of innovative tot recipes and variations on the theme.

    For example, enhance the potato mixture with:

    ROBUST SEASONINGS

  • Aromatics, such as truffles
  • Herbs (parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme)
  • Onion or scallion—lots more than in Tater Tots*
  •  
    ELABORATE STUFFINGS

    Stuffed Tots with elaborate fillings:

  • Simple proteins (crumbled bacon, shredded crab, Parmesan, blue cheese)
  • Braised pork
  • Curried chicken
  •  
    HEARTY TOPPINGS

  • Breakfast scrambles
  • Chili
  • Nachos
  • Poutine (brown gravy and cheese curds†)
  •  
    *The ingredients in Tater Tots are potato, vegetable oil, salt, corn flour, onions, dextrose (a simple sugar also known as glucose), disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate (an antioxidant that prevents potatoes from turning brown) and natural flavoring.

    *Traditional poutine consists of these toppings on fries, but we’re borrowing them for tots.
     

    TATER TOTS VS. POTATO TOTS

    The term Tater Tots is used generically, like Kleenex; although it’s a trademark of Ore-Ida, which invented the little potato bites in 1953. If you’re referring to anything but the Tater Tots brand, call them “potato tots.”

    Tater Tots are made from deep-fried, grated potatoes, resulting in crisp little cylinders of hash brown-style potatoes. Tater is American dialect for potato, and “tots” came from their small size.

    Ore-Ida founders, brothers F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg, were considering what to do with leftover slivers of cut-up potatoes from their signature French fries. They chopped them up, mixed them with flour and seasonings, and pushed logs of the grated/mashed potato mixture through a form, slicing off and frying small pieces.

    Tater Tots began to arrive in grocery stores in 1954. They quickly caught on as a snack food, a side dish and the foundation for casseroles at dinner tables across America.

    The Ore-Ida brand was acquired by H. J. Heinz Company in 1965.

     

    LOADED POTATO TOTS

    This potato tot recipe borrows from the “loaded baked potato” concept, adding bacon, chives, shredded cheese and sour cream.

    Ingredients

  • 2½ pounds russet potatoes, divided
  • 2 ounces bacon, double-smoked, cooked, chopped
  • 6 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 1 ounce butter, melted
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt, as needed
  • 2 cups flour
  • 6 each eggs, lightly whipped
  • 2 quarts vegetable oil for frying
  •  

    loaded-potato-tots-idahopotatocomm-230r

    Loaded Potato Tots. Photo and recipe courtesy Idaho Potato Commission.

     

    Preparation

    1. BOIL 2 pounds of potatoes. Cool, peel and mash.

    2. COMBINE bacon, cheese, chives, butter, cream, pepper and salt to taste in a large bowl; blend well. Roll into 1-ounce pieces, place on wax paper-lined sheet pan and chill overnight.

    3. SHRED remaining potatoes, using a box grater, into a shallow bowl.

    4. PLACE flour in another shallow bowl. Roll potato tots in flour to lightly coat then coat in egg. Roll in shredded potatoes to form crust. Return to sheet pan and chill.

    5. HEAT oil to 375°F in a heavy-bottomed pot, and fry balls until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel to drain. Season with salt and serve.
     

    AND THERE’S MORE

  • Recipe: Baked Potato Tots
  • History of potatoes
  • Potato Types
  •   

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Whiskey Sour Day

    Old Fashioned

    Whiskey Sour. Photo by Lognetic | Fotolia.

     

    August 25th is National Whiskey Sour Day. We’ll drink to that!

    The Whiskey Sour is one of the most famous of the classic cocktails, one that survived Prohibition, which saw the fall into obscurity of many other classics of the time (Satan’s Whiskers, anyone). Those that survived include the Manhattan, Planter’s Punch, Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Tom Collins, etc).

    The “sour” refers to lemon juice, which is added with sugar to create the drink. Whiskey is a generic term, referring to any spirit, or alcoholic distillate, made from a fermented mash of grain or malt and aged in barrels (the brown color comes from barrel aging).

    Thus, requesting a “Whiskey Sour” enables the bartender to use any whiskey. If you want something specific, say so: a Bourbon Sour, Scotch Sour, etc.

    There are numerous types of whiskey—American (Bourbon, corn, Tennessee, rye), Canadian, Irish, Scotch and others. Each is distinguished by the type of grain (barley, corn, rye) used in the fermentation process, as well as the distinct distillation and aging process. Each nation has its own rules and regulations about what constitutes a true whiskey. Regardless of the variety or country of origin, a general rule of thumb is that all straight whiskeys must be aged at least two years in wood, generally oak.

     

    The whiskey sour recipe was first published in 1862 in the seminal mixologists’ guide, Jerry Thomas’ How to Mix Drinks (still in print!). However, most cocktail recipes, including the sour, existed long before this time—some dating as far back as the 1700s.

    RECIPE: CLASSIC WHISKEY SOUR

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces Bourbon
  • .75 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • .75 ounce simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Garnish: Maraschino cherry
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE bourbon, lemon juice and simple syrup in a shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously.

    2. STRAIN into an ice-filled rocks glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

     

    As easy as this is, most bartenders use a commercial sour mix, which often means either reconstituted lemon juice. You can taste the difference, and it isn’t good. Since you’re not turning out hundreds of drinks a day, don’t try to save time: Use fresh squeezed lemon juice and simple syrup.
     
    Variations

  • Egg white. An egg white gives cocktails a creamier consistency. You can use a whole egg white per drink, or a portion of one. The technique: Shake the cocktail before adding the ice.
  • Less sweet. Cut back on the simple syrup for a less sweet cocktail. As a side benefit, the flavor of the whiskey becomes more prominent. (Sugar was originally added to cocktails to counter the medicinal flavor of the whiskey.)
  • More sweet. While it isn’t classic, add some of the maraschino cherry juice to the cocktail. Note though, that cheaper maraschino cherries are often sitting in high fructose corn syrup. Use a quality brand like Tillen Farms, in pure sugar syrup. They make great stocking stuffers for your favorite mixologists.
  •  

    tillen-farm-cherries-230

    Maraschino and bing cherries are made with pure cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. Photo courtesy Tillen Farms.

     

  • Bitters. While a traditional whiskey sour is made without bitters, an alcoholic preparation flavored with botanical matter for a bitter or bittersweet effect. You can add a dash or two of bitters to add complexity. There are so many types of bitters available these days; the recipe below uses chocolate bitters.
  • Switch the liquor. Consider a Pisco Sour, Sidecar (Cognac and orange liqueur) or Margarita (tequila and orange liqueur), for example. Anything with sugar and lemon or lime juice can be considered a sour.
  •  
    There are simple recipes—whiskey and sour mix—plus complex versions, like the Maple Sour below, created for Basil Hayden’s Bourbon by Jason Stevens, bar manager at Congress Austin.

    RECIPE: MAPLE BOURBON SOUR

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1½ parts bourbon
  • ¾ parts tawny port
  • ¼ part Grade B maple syrup
  • ½ part lemon juice
  • 1 heavy dash Bittermen’s Molé Bitters (or other chocolate bitters)
  • Garnish: lemon wheel and maraschino cherry
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake for 15 seconds and double strain into a double Old Fashioned glass with ice.

    2. GARNISH with a lemon wheel and a maraschino cherry.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: The Easiest Peach Pie Is A Galette

    It’s National Peach Pie Day, peaches are in season and there’s no reason not to make a luscious peach pie. It’s just fresh peaches and a bit of sugar in an easy, handmade crust.

    If you’re not a natural pie baker, there’s a simple way to do it that requires absolutely no skill in rolling a crust. It’s a galette, also called a rustic pie or rustic tart.

    Galette (gah-LET) is a term with multiple meanings, depending on the category of food. In the pastry world, a galette is a rustic, round, open-face fruit pie. It is flat, with a flaky, turned-up crust that wraps around the filling to creates a “bowl.” It hails from the days before people had pie plates

    RECIPE: GALETTE AUX PÊCHES, RUSTIC PEACH PIE

    Ingredients

  • 4 ripe peaches,* sliced into eighths
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (you can use less, especially if the peaches are very sweet)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Optional: 1 cup blueberries (see this variation from
    McCormick.com—see photo below)
  • Pâte sucrée (sweet pastry dough—recipe below)
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  •    

    peach_galette_2_froghollowfarm-230

    A peach galette. If you don’t want to bake, you can order this one, or send it as a gift, from Frog Hollow Farm. Photo courtesy Frog Hollow Farm.

  • Optional garnish: crème fraîche, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream
  •  
    *You may end up needing more peaches, depending on their size. So you may want to have a few extras on hand, or fill in with blueberries.
     

    Galette Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 400°F. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge, discard the plastic wrap and place the dough between two pieces of parchment or wax paper (or you can just use a floured surface).

    2. ROLL out the dough into a 13″ circle. Do not force or stretch the dough.

    3. TRANSFER the dough to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. (The dough can be made in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.)

    4. TOSS the peach slices gently with the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Arrange them in concentric circles atop the crust, leaving an edge of 2 inches. Fold over the edge of the dough up, one fold at a time (you should have five folds). Press on the corners to seal the tart.

    5. BRUSH the beaten egg white on the 2″ dough border. Bake for 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool slightly before serving if you want a warm pie. It’s also delicious at room temperature or straight from the fridge.

     

    blueberry-peach-galette-mccormick-230

    Peach galette with blueberries. Photo
    courtesy McCormick.

     

    RECIPE: PÂTE SUCRÉE, SWEET PASTRY DOUGH

    Pronounce this dough pot soo-CRAY. It’s the buttery crust used for tarts.

    The dough can be made up to two days in advance.

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water
  •  
    Crust Preparation

    1. PULSE the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add the chilled butter cubes, continuing to pulse until the mixture looks crumbly and there all pieces of butter are about the size of a pea. Gradually pulse in the cold water until the mixture still looks crumbly, but holds together when pinched.

    2. MOVE the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, cover with another piece of plastic wrap and firmly press into a disk. Place the dough in the fridge and chill for an hour or longer.

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F and follow the instructions for Galette Preparation, above.

      

     

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: Lemonade Recipes For National Lemonade Day

    sparkling-melon-lemonade-zulka-230

    Melon lemonade, an inspired idea. Photo
    courtesy Zulka Sugar.

     

    According to chef and food historian Clifford A. Wright, the all-American summer drink, lemonade, may have had its origin in medieval Egypt. It’s hard to tell, because while the fruit originated farther to the east, the earliest written evidence of lemonade comes from Egypt.

    The wild lemon originated in Assam, India and northern Burma. It was cultivated, and travelers brought it to China, across Persia and the Arab world to the Mediterranean.

    The wild fruit was very acidic and filled with seeds. Given the scarcity of sweeteners, it was initially used as an ornamental tree in early Islamic gardens, producing fragrant blossoms.

    The trade in lemon juice and lemonade was quite considerable by 1104, says Wright. Documents from the Cairo Geniza, the medieval Jewish community in Cairo from the tenth through thirteenth centuries, show that bottles of lemon juice were mixed with lots of sugar, consumed locally and exported.

    So you can celebrate today, National Lemonade Day, with our classic lemonade recipe, make the Sparkling Melon Lemonade recipe below, or spike it with a clear spirit, particularly gin, tequila or vodka.

     
    The recipe is courtesy of Zulka Morena, manufacturers of premium quality sugars. You can find more sweet recipes on the website.

    RECIPE: SPARKLING MELON LEMONADE

    Ingredients For 3 Quarts

  • 8-10 cups chopped melon (you use any—watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, etc.—but a half watermelon is ideal)
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Sparkling water or club soda
  • Optional garnish: melon balls and fresh mint
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE a simple syrup: Combine water and sugar in a small sauce pan and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Chill completely before using.

    2. PURÉE the melon in batches with some of the lemon juice and simple syrup, using a blender or food processor. Use even amounts of each ingredient each time. Combine all batches once blended in a large 3 quart pitcher, and chill at least 4 hours.

    3. TO SERVE: Fill large glasses with ice and then halfway with the melon mixture. Top with sparkling water and stir.

     

    MORE LEMONADE RECIPES

  • Lavender Lemonade Recipe
  • Peach Lemonade Recipe
  • Spicy Lemonade Recipe
  •  
    THE HARD STUFF: LEMONADE WITH SPIRIT

    RECIPE: LONDON LEMONADE GIN COCKTAIL

    This elegant cocktail is a world apart from bottled hard lemonade, and takes less than three minutes to put together. It’s perfect for brunch, outdoor parties, warm days and menus that go with lemonade.
     
    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 1 part gin
  • 1 part triple sec
  • 1 part fresh lemon juice
  •  
    Preparationl

    1. FILL a shaker with ice and add ingredients. Shake vigorously for one minute.

     

    london-lemonade-beefeater-230

    Add some gin, tequila or vodka for a lemonade cocktail. Photo courtesy Beefeater Gin.

    2. POUR into a collins glass. Garnish with mint leaves and serve with a straw.
     

    MORE LEMONADE COCKTAIL RECIPES

  • Blueberry Lemonade Cocktail Recipe
  • Lemonade 485 Cocktail Recipe
  • Limoncello Lemonade Recipe
  • Tequila Lemonade Recipe
  • Saké Lemonade Recipe
  •   

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Vanilla Custard Day

    Creme Brulee served in ceramic bowl.

    Baked vanilla custard. Photo © Xiebiyun |
    Fotolia.

     

    We looked for a custard recipe to tweet today, National Vanilla Custard Day.

    But, zut alors, we didn’t have one. How can that be? It’s one of our favorite comfort foods (our mother always baked a batch when we were under the weather, scented with nutmeg).

    So, here’s a remedy: Mom’s recipe—although as you can see, it’s a pretty basic recipe. You can use nonfat, 1% or 2% milk for a less rich custard.

    Originally, all custard was flavored with vanilla, but simply called “custard.” Now there are chocolate custard, coconut custard, green tea custard, lemon custard, maple custard, pumpkin custard—any flavor can be added to, or infused into, the custard.

    Custard is typically prepared in individual porcelain ramekins or glass custard cups. But you can use whatever size-appropriate, individual oven-safe dishes you may have; or prepare the custard in a single casserole size.

    Note that most recipes are for a plain custard, garnished afterward with cinnamon or nutmeg. We love a nutmeg-infused custard, so mix it right into the custard prior to baking.

     
    If you want more fruit and less cholesterol, check out this beautiful recipe from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

    You can also use the custard as a shell filling, to make custard pie, custard tarts or mini tarts.
     
    RECIPE: BAKED VANILLA CUSTARD

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg*
  • Optional side: fresh berries
  •  
    *Or, instead of mixing it into the custard, use the cinnamon or nutmeg as a garnish only.

     

    Preparation

    1. BEAT together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl, until well blended.

    2. HEAT milk in a saucepan until very hot (but not boiling); stir into the egg mixture.

    3. PLACE 6 lightly greased 6-ounce custard cups or one 1-1/2-quart casserole in a large baking dish. Pour egg mixture into cups or casserole. Place pan on rack in preheated 350°F oven.

    4. POUR very hot water into pan to within 1/2 inch of top of the cups or 1 inch of top of the casserole. Bake until a knife inserted near center comes out clean, about 30 minutes for cups or 40-60 minutes for casserole. Remove promptly from hot water. See the next section, “When Is The Custard Done?”

    5. COOL on wire rack about 5-10 minutes. Serve warm or refrigerate and chill thoroughly to serve cold. Garnish with ground cinnamon or nutmeg.

     

    84-0109-110-aeb-custard-cups--230

    Pouring the water into the bain-marie. Photo courtesy American Egg Board.

     
    When Is The Custard Done?

    Baked custard should be removed from the oven (and water bath) before the center is completely set. The center will jiggle slightly when the dish or cup is gently shaken.
    Custard will continue to cook after it’s removed from the oven, and the center will firm up quickly. Overbaked custard may curdle.

    The knife test: Test for doneness with a thin-bladed knife. Insert the knife about 1 inch from the center of a one-dish custard, or midway between center and edge of custard cups. If the knife is clean when pulled out, the custard is done. If any custard clings to the blade, bake a few minutes longer and test again.

    CUSTARD TIPS

    These tips are from the American Egg Board, IncredibleEgg.org.

  • Bain-Marie. Don’t skip the bain-marie, or hot-water bath. It insulates the custard from the direct heat of the oven and promotes even cooking so the edges don’t overcook before the center is done. Very hot tap water will do.
  • One-Dish Custard. The recipe can be baked in lightly greased 1-1/2 quart soufflé or baking dish. Pour hot water to within 1 inch of top of dish. Increase baking time to 35 to 40 minutes.
  • No-Mess Pouring. Make the custard in a bowl with a pouring lip, or transfer it to a large glass measure. This makes filling the custard cups easier and neater.
  • Perfectly Smooth Custard. Strain the custard through a sieve when filling the custard cups or baking dish. This removes any tough egg strands.
  •  
    WHAT IS CUSTARD?

    Custard is semisoft preparation of milk or cream and eggs, thickened with heat. It can be cooked on top of the stove or baked in the oven.

    Custards can be sweet or savory, from desserts and dessert sauces to quiche and savory custard tarts.

    What’s the difference between custard, crème caramel, flan and panna cotta?

    Check out the different types of custard in our Custard Glossary.

    The difference between custard and pudding:

    American pudding is a sweetened milk mixture thickened with cornstarch, then cooked. It has no eggs in it. In the U.K. and Europe, it is also known as blancmange, and is thickened with starch.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Decipher Food Product Labels

    How confusing is the verbiage on the front of a box, bag, jar or can of food? Actually, it can be pretty misleading. It’s called marketing: Companies want you to choose their product over the competition, so they do what they can to hype on their packaging (most purchase decisions are made at the “point of sale,” or when looking at options on the shelf).

    Hence, each word on the package can help make the sale—whether or not it’s providing accurate information to consumers.

    You’d think that with all of the federal regulations and those helpful nutrition labels, it would be easy to know what you are buy. But while the the nutrition label on the back of the package is all facts, we typically respond to what’s on the front. And it can be misleading.

    After we reported that products made by Newman’s Own Organics aren’t necessarily organic, we’re taking on these other confusions.

     
    WHOLE GRAINS: MULTIGRAIN VS. WHOLE GRAIN

    “Multigrain” may sound like it’s better for you, but it simply means that more than one type of grain is used. Bread flour can be a combination of wheat flour, cracked wheat and oat bran, for example; but none of these is a whole grain. It’s the same with “seven grain bread.” The blend may be flavorful, but that doesn’t mean any of the seven grains is whole grain.

       

    arnolds-multigrain-bread-loaf-230

    This loaf has some whole grain components—wheat bran, brown rice and oats (plus cane sugar, brown sugar and sucralose). But the main ingredient is still unbleached enriched wheat flour. Look for the seal of the Whole grains Association.

     

    If you’re looking for whole grain fiber and nutrition with your bread, breakfast cereal, crackers or pasta, be sure the product is all whole grain, or at least that a whole grain leads the list of grains.

  • “Wheat bread” is not whole grain; it must say “whole wheat.” All of what we call white bread is wheat bread (except gluten-free bread).
  • Wheat bran, which appears on some ingredients lists, is part of the whole wheat kernel, along with the endosperm and the germ. Each of these components has different nutrition benefits. Refined wheat flour with added wheat bran added isn’t enough; go for the whole wheat.
  • It’s the same with seeds—normally good additions to bread and crackers, but in such small amounts that they’re no substitute for a whole grain product. We saw one label touting “flax and grains”: What the heck does “grains” mean? It could mean seeds, or it could be marketing.
  • A dark brown color means nothing: It can be created with molasses. Pumpernickel is made from rye, a whole grain, but most commercial pumpernickel is made from refined flour. Look for 100% rye on the label.
  • “Enriched,” which appears on bags of white bread, is also misleading. Why is it enriched? Because refining the whole wheat flour into white flour removes most of the vitamins and minerals. Because bread is a key component of our diet, the government ordered some nutrients added back in!
  • Words like “healthy” or “nutritious” are just marketing: They mean whatever the manufacturer wants them to mean and have no official standing.
  • You can find gluten free breads made with brown rice flour or a blend of ingredients. Again, look for the words “100% whole grain” on the label.
  • “Organic” is better for you and the environment, but it doesn’t impact nutrition. It’s better to have non-organic whole grain bread than organic white bread.
  •  
    Here’s more on what is a whole grain.

     

    reduced-fat-feta-athena-230

    Cheese is delicious, but high in fat. So
    reduced fat cheese still has a lot of it. Photo
    courtesy Athena.

     

    FIBER

    On a related note, whole grains are an excellent source of fiber. Look to switch out refined white flour products—breads, crackers, breakfast cereals, pasta—to more nutritious versions.

  • The USDA designation “excellent source of fiber” means that there is at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.
  • A product labeled “good source of fiber” needs at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving.
  • “Added fiber” needs to have only 10% more than a comparable product; but it that product doesn’t have much fiber to getin with, then “added” doesn’t mean much.
  •  
    FAT: REDUCED FAT VS. LOW FAT

    The USDA has a strict definition of low fat (also spelled lowfat): The product must have 3 grams or fewer per serving.

    To be called “reduced fat” a product must have at least 25% less fat than a regular version of the product (from the same manufacturer or a competitor). But that original product—cheese, for example—could be loaded with fat, so 25% less is still a lot of fat.

    Thus, go for low fat over reduced fat, but remember that reduced fat is still not “good for you” food.

     
    NITRATES: CURED VS. UNCURED

    Nitrites and nitrates are used to preserve processed meats, and to make them look better (pink bacon, ham and franks) and taste better. But they produce a carcinogenic substance, amines, when digested (here’s more on nitrates and nitrites).

    Even organic, uncured products still contain nitrates and nitrates—just less of them. Nitrates and nitrates exist naturally in plants and animals and even a naturally cured product, cured with celery powder or celery juice, will contain them. So for long-term health, the best course is to eat fewer cured meats.

     
    SODIUM: REDUCED SODIUM VS. LOW SODIUM

    The USDA requires that a product labeled “low sodium” contains 140 mg salt or less per serving. A reduced sodium product needs to be just 25% less than the regular version, which could be loaded.

    For example, a can of chicken noodle soup can have 1,622 mg of sodium. Twenty-five percent less than that is still a heck of a lot of salt.

    Fresh-packed, canned or frozen, processed foods are loaded with salt. Check the nutrition label and select products that have fewer than 500 grams per serving. Your daily recommended amount of sodium is less than 2400 mg. Here’s more on sodium from the FDA.
     
    SUGAR: SUGAR FREE VS. NO SUGAR ADDED

    These are typically products that use only the natural sweetener in the product—sugar free grape jam relying only on the grape sugar, for example—or use noncaloric sweeteners.

    “Sugar” refers to any sweetener, including agave, corn syrup, honey, molasses and all other nutritive sweeteners. (Nutritive sweeteners have nutritional value—they produce energy when metabolized by the body. They may or may not be refined.) Check out the different types of sweeteners, both nutritive and non-nutritive (i.e., produced in the lab).

  • Sugar Free means that the product has less than a half gram of sugar/serving. These are typically the products that use artificial sweeteners.
  • No Sugar Added could have no sugar added, but could have lots of natural sugar from sweeteners such as fruit concentrate, fruit juice or unsweetened applesauce.
     
    Neither of these options is better or worse than the other.
     
    FINAL TASK

    You’ve still got to look at the back of the package. Here’s how to read nutrition labels.

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: Creamsicle Cocktail For National Creamsicle Day

    orange-cream-pop-dream-svedka-230

    A Creamsicle cocktail! Photo courtesy
    Svedka Vodka.

     

    August 14th is National Creamsicle Day, a classic ice cream novelty on a stick that combines orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream.

    You can buy a Creamsicle, have a scoop of orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream in a dish, or enjoy this cocktail version from Svedka Vodka. It uses Svedka’s Orange cream Pop vodka, a “nostalgia flavor” and one of the company’s 11 flavored vodkas.

    RECIPE: CREAMSICLE COCKTAIL

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1 part Svedka Orange Cream Pop vodka
  • 1 part orange juice
  • 1 scoop vanilla ice cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a blender, adding 1/2 cup of crushed ice last. Blend until smooth and pour into a hurricane glass.

    2. GARNISH with an orange wedge and a scoop of ice cream.

     
    CREAMSICLE HISTORY

    In 1923, Frank Epperson, a 29-year-old husband and father working in the real estate industry, made what he called Epsicles for a fireman’s ball.

    They were a sensation, and Frank obtained a patent for “a handled, frozen confection or ice lollipop.” His kids called the treat a Popsicle, after their Pop. So Frank created Popsicle Corporation and collaborated with the Loew Movie Company for the nationwide marketing and sales of the product in movie theaters.

    By 1928, Epperson had earned royalties on more than 60 million Popsicles. But his happy days ended with the Great Depression. In 1929, flat broke, Frank had to liquidate his assets and sold the patent to, and his rights in, Popsicle Corporation.

    Over the years, the Popsicle Corporation created other frozen treats on a stick: the Fudgsicle (a chocolate-flavored pop with a texture somewhat similar to ice cream), the Creamsicle (vanilla ice cream and orange sherbet) and the Dreamsicle (a Creamsicle filled with ice milk instead of ice cream).

    Today, Creamsicle is the trademarked property of the Good Humor Company, owned by Unilever.

    Here’s more on the history of the Creamsicle, and a recipe for Creamsicle Cake.

     
      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: S’Mores Pie, Ice Cream Cake & More

    no-bake-smores-pie-browneyedbaker-230

    A no-bake s’mores pie. Photo courtesy Brown
    Eyed Baker.

     

    You don’t need a campfire to celebrate National S’mores Day. Here are recipes that are just as much fun.

    First, a no-bake S’mores Pie, the creation of Brown Eyed Baker, Lauryn Cohen. Here’s her recipe, shown in the photo.

    The marshmallows are browned with a chef’s torch (most popularly used to make crème brûlée).

    Prefer cake to pie? Here’s a S’mores Ice cream Cake recipe from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

    RECIPE: S’MORES ICE CREAM CAKE

    Ingredients For 10 Servings

  • 1-3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs,* divided
  • 1 loaf pound cake or chocolate pound cake
  • 1 rectangular container (1-1/2 quarts) chocolate ice cream
  • 10 ounces mini marshmallows
  • Optional garnish: chocolate sauce
  •  
    *You can substitute a prepared graham cracker crust for the crumbs, sugar and butter. You will still need some graham cracker crumbs for garnish.

    Preparation

    If you have a chef’s torch, use it instead of the broiler in Step 3.

    1. LINE a broiler-safe 8×8-inch glass or metal baking dish with foil, overlapping the edges of the dish with the foil (to help lift out the cake). Cut the pound cake into 1-inch slices (or as thick as desired) and tightly pack into a layer.

    2. SOFTEN the ice cream at room temperature for 5 minutes; remove the carton from the ice cream and cut the ice cream in half. Place both halves on top of the cake layer, trimming as necessary. Use a spatula to press and spread the ice cream evenly. Add a layer of graham cracker crumbs. Cover and freeze solid, 30 minutes or more.

    3. PREHEAT the broiler with the rack in the lower part of oven. Remove the ice cream cake from freezer; top with marshmallows (tightly placed together), spreading to edges of pan, pressing down to seal. Place cake under broiler, 8 to 10 inches from heating element. Broil until marshmallows are puffed and golden, 2 to 3 minutes, watching constantly.

    4. REMOVE from oven, sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs and drizzle with optional chocolate sauce. Cut and serve immediately.

     

    RECIPE: S’MORES CUPCAKES

    Ingredients

  • Chocolate cupcakes
  • Marshmallow creme
  • Graham crackers
  • Chocolate bar
  • Optional: mini marshmallows
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BAKE or buy chocolate cupcakes. Frost with marshmallow creme. Add optional mini marshmallows and brown with a chef’s torch.

    2. DECORATE with pieces of chocolate bar and graham cracker.

     
    Ice Cream Cupcakes Variation

    Instead of marshmallow creme, substitute vanilla or marshmallow ice cream. Garnish with mini marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers.

     

    smores-cupcake-ps-230

    It’s easy to assemble s’mores cupcakes. Photo courtesy Crumbs.

     

    RECIPE: S’MORES ICE CREAM

    Some brands offer s’mores ice cream; but you can make your own. You get to add your preferred form of marshmallow into this recipe: either a marshmallow creme swirl or mixed-in mini marshmallows.

    Ingredients

  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Chocolate chips or chunks
  • Graham crackers, crumbled
  • Mini marshmallows or marshmallow creme
  • Optional: waffle cones
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SOFTEN ice cream on counter. If using mini marshmallows, cut them in half in half.

    2. SWIRL marshmallow creme through the ice cream; alternatively, mix mini marshmallows into the ice cream.

    3. MIX in chocolate chips and graham crackers. Return ice cream to freezer.

    4. SERVE in bowls, with chocolate pound cake, or in a waffle cone.
      

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