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Archive for Food Holidays/History/Facts

FOOD HOLIDAY: National Tater Tot Day

February 2nd is National Tater Tot Day.

Chefs nationwide have been putting their own twists on this American comfort food.

At The Eddy in New York City, the potato is blended with bacon prior to frying. The tots are served in a pool of mustard sauce, topped with pickled mustard seed and English pea purée (we substituted homemade basil mayonnaise).
 
TATER TOTS HISTORY

Tater Tots are an American side dish made from deep-fried, grated potatoes. They are miniature croquettes: crisp little cylinders of hash brown-style potatoes. Tater is American dialect for potato, and “tots” came from their small size.

Although the name may seem generic, Tater Tots® is a registered trademark of Ore-Ida. Tater Tots were created in 1953 when Ore-Ida’s founders, brothers F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg, were considering what to do with leftover slivers of cut-up potatoes from their 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. The rest is history.

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

What’s with pickled mustard seeds? Over the last year or so, they’ve have become a trend with chefs, some of whom use them as a condiment with fatty foods (bacon, charcuterie, fried food, pastrami, etc.).

 

Gourmet Tater Tots

Mustard Seeds

Top: Tater Tots interpreted at The Eddy in New York City, with pea purée and pickled mustard seeds. Bottom: Pickled mustard seeds from OurDailyBrine.com.

 
The Eddy paired them with their version of Tater Tots.

To make your own, follow this recipe from OurDailyBrine.com. to make your own pickled mustard seeds.
 
MORE TATER TOTS

  • Gourmet Potato Tots Recipes
  • Baked Potato Tots Recipe
  •   

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    FOOD FUN: Good Luck Foods For The Chinese New Year

    The Chinese New Year starts on February 8th. It’s the Year of the Monkey.

    It’s also known as the Lunar New Year, since it’s based on the lunar calendar; and other Asian countries besides China celebrate it. The celebration lasts for 15 days, and is celebrated by an estimated 1.4 billion people around the world.

    Families gather to feast and to wish each other good luck in the year ahead. Children may be given red envelopes filled with coins, although the money inside is not as important as the color and symbol found on the envelopes, which signify happiness and good blessings.

     
    FUN FACTS ABOUT CHINESE NEW YEAR

    These tidbits come from Calbee North America, a company that specializes in crisp, natural snacks with popular brands like Harvest Snaps, Saya Snow Pea Crisps and Shrimp Chips.

  • The start of the Chinese New Year varies each year. It depends entirely on the phases of the moon, which is why it is also known as the Lunar New Year. It usually begins sometime between January 21st and February 10th.
  • The Chinese New Year engenders the world’s largest human migration, known as Chunyan. More than one billion people board planes, trains, boats, buses and cars to visit loved ones.
  • Chinese New Year celebrations were born out of fear and myth. Legend spoke of the wild beast Nien (which also is the word for year) who appeared at the end of each year, attacking and killing villagers. Loud noises and bright lights were used to scare the beast away.
  • No meat is eaten on the first day of the Chinese New Year. This is meant to ensure a long and happy life. (Did those ancient Chinese know about cholesterol?)
  • The meal on Chinese New Year’s Eve is the most important dinner of the year. Typically, families gather at a relative’s house for dinner. These days, many families often celebrate at a restaurant.
  • Greet people with the phrase Kung Hei Fat Choi. It means Happy New Year, or May You Have Good Fortune, in Cantonese.
  •    

    Calamondin Oranges

    Pomelo

    Lucky citrus: Both oranges and pomelos are considered good luck for the Lunar New Year. Top photo courtesy FamilyFeedbag.com, bottom photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     

     

    Branzino

    A whole fish is served to ensure a good start and finish to the year. Photo courtesy Eataly.

     

    GOOD LUCK FOODS

    Stock up for Chinese New Year with:

    1. Oranges & Tangerines

    Displaying these fruits, and eating them, is said to bring wealth and luck. The tradition stems from the way the Chinese words for gold and orange sound alike, while the word for tangerine echoes luck.
     
    2. Long Noodles

    Eating the longest possible noodles portends long life. Unless you can buy uncut fresh strands from a pasta shop, look for a box of spaghettoni.
     
    3. Pomelo

    This parent of the grapefruit is thought to bring prosperity and status, because its Cantonese name sounds similar to the words for prosperity and status. (The pomelo was crossed with a variety of orange to produce the grapefruit.)

     
    4. Long Leafy Greens and Long Beans

    Chinese broccoli and long beans are cooked without slicing, to wish for a long life. You can substitute regular broccoli, broccoli rabe or broccolini. As for the long beans: They’re so much fun, so see if you can find them at a Chinese grocer.
     
    5. Whole Fish

    The Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for abundance. The fish is served with the head and tail intact to ensure a good start and finish to the year.

      

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    PRODUCT: Mardi Gras King Cake Kit

    King Cake

    King Cake

    Here’s what you can make from the King Cake Kit. You can use the icing and sparkling sugars to create your own special design. Photos courtesy King Arthur Flour.

     

    Egad: It’s a perfect storm of food holidays! The Super Bowl is February 7th, Lunar New Year begins February 8th, Mardi Gras follows on February 9th, and Valentine’s Day is February 14th.

    We’re tackling them one by one. Here, an easy and most delicious King Cake kit from King Arthur Flour lets you celebrate in style. It has everything you need to make a fine King Cake. You can even host a King Cake party, as many do in Louisiana.

    Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are eaten in Louisiana during the Carnival season: at home, in offices and at King Cake parties.

    While people in other parts of the country may order a King Cake from a baking company in Louisiana, making your own with a King Arthur product is likely to be tastier, not to mention less expensive and more fun.
     
    THE KING CAKE KIT

    What’s included:

  • 1-pound box of premium cake mix (an egg- and butter-rich yeasted sweet dough)
  • Almond paste for the filling
  • White icing mix
  • 2-ounce bag of each decorating sugar in the Mardi Gras colors of yellow, green and purple
  •  
    The traditional plastic baby is not included, but you can get one at the nearest party store (in the Baby Shower section).

    The kit is $19.95 at KingArthurFlour.com.

     
    ________________________________________
    *The colors were selected in 1872 to honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Alexis Alexandrovich Romanoff, whose house colors were purple, green and gold. Purple signifies justice, green represents faith and gold is for power.

     

    THE HISTORY OF KING CAKE

    The King Cake is an adaptation of the French Epiphany Cake. While an Epiphany Cake is subdued—a round of crisp brown pastry—the celebration cakes in New Orleans are decorated in the three official colors of Mardi Gras: purple, green and gold*.

    The cake itself is named for the three Wise Men, also called Magi or Kings. In France the Epiphany Cake is called galette des rois, king cake.

    The King Cake tradition is believed to have arrived in New Orleans around 1870. In France, puff pastry (pâte à choux) is filled with almond cream (frangipane). But in New Orleans, the concept took another direction.

    The first King Cakes for Mardi Gras were simple rings of yeast dough, some braided, with a small amount of decoration.

    The cakes became more festive over time, incorporating the Mardi Gras colors.

    In more recent years, the fillings have followed modern tastes. You can find them in chocolate, numerous fruit flavors, even cream cheese. Royal icing with the three official colors of sparkling sugar decorate the tops.

    Shapes have evolved, too: round, oval, square, and at fine restaurants, deconstructed. There are also cookie and macarons in purple, green and gold.

    The ubiquitous cakes range from garish supermarket options to elegant pastry from the best bakers.
     
    What About The Baby?

    The cake traditionally includes a small plastic baby representing Baby Jesus. The person who gets the piece of cake with the baby is said to have good luck for the next year.

    Note, however, that the lucky trinket has various privileges and obligations, which can include hosing next year’s party—or at least, bringing the cake.

    After the rich Danish dough is braided and baked, the “baby” is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar toppings in the Mardi Gras colors.

    Today, a tiny plastic baby is the common prize. At a party, the King Cake is sliced and served. Each person looks to see if their piece contains the “baby.” If so, then that person is named “King” for a day and bound by custom to host the next party and provide the King Cake.
     
    In earlier days, the baby might be made of porcelain, or even gold in wealthy homes.

    These days, since no one should bake plastic inside a cake, the trinket is typically inserted through the underside of the baked cake.

    In the past, as in France, other trinkets such as coins and charms could be baked into the cake. In humbler homes, a pecan, pea or bean could be baked in.

    Trinket or not, we look forward to a big slice of our King Arthur King Cake.

     

    King Cake

    Glamorous King Cake

    Deconstructed King Cake

    Baby Figurines

    Top: A nicely decorated King Cake from Hudson Valley Chocolates. Second: A glamorous King Cake from New Orleans confectioner Sucre. Third: Chef Ric Tramonto’s deconstructed King Cake at Restaurant R’evolution. Bottom: A baby figurine is inserted into the cake. These are from Wilton, but any party store should have them.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Snow Cream (Snow Ice Cream)

    AN ANCIENT TREAT

    Although the crank ice cream freezer wasn’t invented until 1843, and the first large-scale commercial ice cream plant in 1851, esearch shows that ice cream was first created in the cold regions of China more than 4,000 years ago. There, milk and cream, perhaps some overcooked rice, and spices were packed in snow to harden.

    Fruit ices were also developed, prepared with fruit juices, honey and aromatic spices. Snow and saltpeter served as an ancient ice cream maker to freeze ingredients in a container.

    Through trade routes, the frozen desserts were introduced to Persia about 2,500 years ago. The Persians called the frozen concoction sharbat, “fruit ice” in Arabic and the origin of sherbet, sorbet and sorbetto.

    Alexander the Great, who battled the Persians for 10 years before finally toppling the Persian Empire in 330 B.C.E., discovered fruit “ices” sweetened with honey and chilled with snow. He returned to Greece with the knowledge; and within three centuries, Emperor Nero was serving fruit juices mixed with honey and snow at his banquets.

    Here’s more on the history of ice cream.

    Turn history into fun: With the next fresh snowfall, you, too can make sharbat—or snow ice cream, also called snow cream. Transport yourself back to ancient China, or to Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia. (Nero’s banquets? Maybe not so safe!)

    First up is a simple recipe from Julie Blanner for strawberry snow cream, ready in just three minutes.

    RECIPE: SNOW ICE CREAM (SNOW CREAM)

    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Strawberry Nesquik*
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups clean snow
  • Optional garnish: fresh or frozen/thawed strawberries
  •  
    *Instead of Nesquik, you can purée frozen strawberries and add sweetener as desired.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the Nesquik and milk, and pour over the snow. Blend as desired.
     
    RECIPE: SHARBAT

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fruit juice
  • 2 cups clean snow
  • Optional sweetener: agave or honey
  •  
    Prepare as above.
     
    Variations

  • Sweeteners: try whatever you like, from honey and maple syrup to lower-glycemic sweeteners like agave and sucralose (Splenda).
  • Flavors: Instead of fruit or juice, add an extract to the snow: coffee, lemon, mint, vanilla, etc.
  •  

    Ice Cream

    Making Snow Cream

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/snow ice cream strawberry julieblanner 230

    Top photos: An ancient recipe with modern decorations, and the preparation process, from GimmeSomeOven.com. Bottom: Strawberry snow ice cream from Julie Blanner.

  • Milk type: You can use almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, and other nondairy options; and can add more flavor with the flavored varieties (chocolate, coffee, green tea, vanilla, etc.).
  •  
    DIFFERENT TYPES OF FROZEN DESSERTS

    Ice cream and sorbet are just two types of frozen desserts. Discover more in our Frozen Desserts Glossary

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: Corn Chips Vs. Tortilla Chips

    January 29th is National Corn Chip Day.

    Before THE NIBBLE, we thought that corn chips and tortilla chips were synonymous. They aren’t, as you’ll see below.

    The best-known corn chips in America are Fritos, which were created in 1932 by Charles Elmer Doolin of San Antonio.

    Dolan was the manager of the Highland Park Confectionery in San Antonio. As the story goes, he found a local man who sold deep-fried corn snacks and had 19 retail accounts. He purchased the recipe, the accounts and a handheld potato ricer for for $100, which he borrowed from his mother.

    Doolan and his mother perfected the recipe in their kitchen, and Doolan created the Frito Corporation. [Source]

    In 1948, Doolin invented Chee-tos. In 1961, a merger between The Frito Company and H.W. Lay & Company, makers of potato chips in 1961 to form Frito-Lay. In 1965 Frito-Lay became a subsidiary of The Pepsi-Cola Company.

    Here are more photos from the early years of Fritos, on FlashbackDallas.com.
     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CORN CHIPS & POTATO CHIPS

    Corn chips and tortilla chips are made in very different ways.
     
    Corn Chips

  • Corn chips are made from corn meal (ground corn, or masa), which has been is mixed with salt and water, extruded (shaped) and fried.
  •  
    Tortilla Chips, A.K.A. Taco Chips

  • The corn in a tortilla chip undergoes a process known as nixtamalization, in which the corn is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution such as lime water, and then hulled, ground and made into tortillas.
  • The tortillas are then sliced and fried into crispy chips.
  • This ancient process was developed by the peoples of what is today Mesoamerica.

  • Tortilla chips, however, were invented in the late 1940s in Los Angeles. Here’s the history of tortilla chips.
  • National Tortilla Chip Day is February 24th.
     
    HERE ARE ALL THE AMERICAN FOOD HOLIDAYS.

  •  

    Fritos Corn Chips

    Bag Of Fritos

    old-fritos-bag-flashbackdallas-230

    Fritos, America’s most famous Corn chips. Top photos courtesy Frito-Lay. Bottom photo courtesy FlashbackDallas.com.

     

      

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    RECIPE: Happy Salad For Sad Weather

    Colorful Salad

    Pick up these bright ingredients and make a happy salad. Photo courtesy Evolution Fresh.

     
  • Weather: Cold.
  • Sky: Gray.
  • Snowstorm: Heading this way.
  • Cheer: This bright, happy salad.
  •  
    We saw the photo and recipe on Evolution Fresh’s Pinterest page, where it was featured as a summer recipe. But all of the ingredients are just as available in the winter.

    Because there are no leafy greens to wilt, you can make a large batch and eat it over several days. You can vary it with olives, crumbled cheese, crunchy seeds or other favorite salad additions.

    RECIPE: BURST OF SUNSHINE SALAD

    Ingredients

  • Bell peppers, red, yellow or orange, diced
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • English or Persian [seedless] cucumbers, sliced in half-moons
  • Radishes, sliced
  • Optional: red onion or sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • Optional: fresh herbs, minced
  • Dressing: balsamic vinaigrette or Dijon mustard vinaigrette
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients, toss toss to coat with dressing, and serve.

     
    THE HISTORY OF SALAD

    Man and his ancestors have been eating salad greens since they crossed from homonids (great apes) to hunter-gatherers.

    More recently in our history, ancient Romans and ancient Greeks ate mixed greens with dressing. They brought the custom with them in their imperial expansions, and green salads became a European convention/ [Source]
     
    IS IT SALAD IF THERE’S NO LETTUCE?

    Yes, indeed. A salad is a dish consisting of small pieces of food, typically served cold and usually mixed with a sauce (called salad dressing).

    Beyond vegetable salads of all types, raw or cooked, there are bean salads, grain salads, pasta and noodle salads and meat/poultry/protein salads such as chicken, egg, tuna and seafood.

    The leafy green salads most of us think of as “salad” is technically “garden salad” or “green salad.”

    The word “salad” comes from the Latin salata, salty. During Roman times, the vegetables were seasoned with brine or salty oil-and-vinegar dressings. In English, the word first appears as “salad” or “sallet” in the 14th century.

     
      

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    FOOD 101: Those Oldies But Goodies ~ The First Cultivated Crops

    Emmer Wheat

    Brown Turkey Figs

    Top: Emmer wheat, one of the eight founder crops. Photo courtesy Sortengarten. Bottom: Figs were the first fruit to be cultivated. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    All of the plant-based food we eat first grew wild. When man transitioned from packs of nomadic hunter-gatherers to settled villages of farmers, they learned to cultivate the foods that were most important to them.

    This happened some 10,000 or 11,000 years ago, in the Neolithic Age (sometimes referred to as the Agricultural Revolution). Man domesticated animals as well; and the stable food supply supported an increasingly large population.

    The Neolithic Age is considered to be the final stage of cultural evolution among prehistoric humans: living together in communities. Also called the New Stone Age, it was the period where man developed stone tools by polishing or grinding*, and began to develop crafts such as pottery and weaving.
     
    THE FOUNDER CROPS

    After 9500 B.C.E. the eight so-called “founder crops” of agriculture appear in the Fertile Crescent, the land in and around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that is now include Mesopotamia, and the Levant, the eastern coast of the Mediterranean sea. Levant†.

    The eight wild crops that were the first to be cultivated were:

  • Cereals: einkorn and emmer wheat
  • Legumes: bitter vetch (heath pea, a species of pea), chickpeas, hulled barley, lentils, peas
  • Flax (linseed)
  • ____________________________
    *The previous age or period, the Paleolithic, was the age of chipped-stone tools. Following the Neolithic was the Bronze Age, which saw the development of metal tools.

    †The previous age or period, the Paleolithic, was the age of chipped-stone tools. Following the Neolithic was the Bronze †The Levant was a large area in southwest Asia: south of the Taurus Mountains, with the Mediterranean Sea as the western boundary, and the north Arabian Desert and Mesopotamia in the east. Today, the area includes Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

     
    Although archaeologists believe that wheat was the first crop to be cultivated on a significant scale, all eight crops appear “more or less simultaneously” in sites in the Levant. [Source]
     
    Fig trees follow shortly; or, based on newer evidence, they may have been the first cultivated crop of all.

    Scientists have found remains of figs in Jericho, near the Jordan River in what is now called the West Bank, an area formerly called Palestinian territories and the State of Palestine. They appear to be the earliest known cultivated fruit crop—and perhaps the first cultivated crop anywhere. The figs were dated to 11,400 years ago. As archaeologists continue to unearth new evidence, our knowledge will evolve.

    For example, the latest findings show that the olive was first domesticated in the eastern Mediterranean between 8,000 and 6,000 years ago, following figs as the earliest domesticated fruit.

    Even with the advent of farming, other foods were still gathered wild, including lentils, almonds and pistachios, wild oats and wild barley. No food source was left uneaten!

    Remains of dates have been found on a number of Neolithic sites, particularly in Syria and Egypt. This means that they were being eaten by man as much as 7,000 to 8,000 years ago, although we have no proof that they were cultivated that early. [Source]
     
    WHAT ABOUT ANIMALS?

    Sheep and goats were the first domesticated food animals, followed by cattle and pigs. Man’s best friend, the dog, was domesticated in the Paleolithic by hunter-gatherers, some 12,000 years ago.

     

    HOW DID FARMING BEGIN?

    People collected and planted the seeds of wild plants. Over time, the first farmers learned how much water and sunlight were needed for success. Weeks or months later, when the plants blossomed, they harvested the food crops.

  • Between 9100 and 8600 B.C.E., farming communities built communal brick buildings to store the village’s harvests.
  • By 7000 B.C.E, sowing and harvesting were practiced in Mesopotamia.
  • By 8000 B.C.E., farming was established on the banks of the Nile.
  • Maize was domesticated in west Mexico by 6700 B.C.E. Other New World crops included the potato, the tomato, the chile pepper, squash, several varieties of beans.
  • In parts of Africa, rice and sorghum were domestic by 5000 B.C.E.
  • Evidence of cannabis use by 4000 B.C.E. and domestication by 3000 B.C.E.—in Siberia, no less!
  • In the 6th millennium B.C.E. in the Indus Valley, fertile plains in what are now Pakistan and northwest India, oranges were cultivated; by 4000 B.C.E. there were barley, dates, mangoes, peas, sesame seed and wheat; and by 3500 B.C.E. cotton.
  •  
    In the Far East, domestication occurred separately, but at about the same time.

  • In China, rice was the primary crop instead of wheat. Rice and millet were domesticated by 8000 B.C.E., followed by mung, soy and azuki beans.
  • In New Guinea, ancient Papuan peoples are thought to have begun practicing agriculture around 7000 BCE. They began domesticating sugar cane and root crops.
  •  

    Fresh Chickpeas

    Just Picked Olives

    Top: Chickpeas (they’re inside the green shell) were a founder crop. Photo courtesy Melissas.com. Bottom: Olives were one of the first cultivated foods. Photo courtesy Kaldi Tastes.

     
    And the rest is [agriculture] history!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Granola Bars

    Granola Bars

    Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars

    Top: No-bake chocolate chip granola bars
    from Fearless Homemaker. Here’s the recipe.
    Bottom: Cherry, chocolate and cashew
    granola bars from Love And Zest. Here’s
    the recipe.

     

    It’s National Granola Bar Day. Even if you’re happy with the bars you buy, it’s the day to make your own custom recipe (ours is dark chocolate chunks, dried cherries and pistachio nuts, sometimes with a bit of coconut).

    HISTORY OF THE GRANOLA BAR

    Heree’s the history of granola breakfast cereal, which was invented in the 19th century by Dr. James Caleb Jackson for his sanitarium patients. It was the first dry breakfast cereal, and the first to be eaten cold.

    He actually invented “granula.” In 1881, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, proprietor of another sanitarium, copied his recipe; when Jackson brought a lawsuit, Kellog changed the name of his product to granola.

    Granola bars did not appear until much later, as a better-for-you snack. Most sources credit Stanley Mason (1921-2006) as the innovator. Mason was a tireless inventor. His more than 100 inventions also included the squeezable ketchup bottle, dental floss dispensers and disposable diapers.

    Granola bars are dense, chewy cereal bars made from granola ingredients—oats, honey and inclusions like dried fruits and nuts. These days, chocolate baking chips, peanut butter and other ingredients not imagined by either Jackson or Mason, are often added.

    There are no “wrong” ingredients, although M&Ms and marshmallows seem to defeat the purpose of a nutritious snack. Here’s a basic recipe:

     
    RECIPE: GRANOLA BARS

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds (or a mix of other seeds)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts of choice (a mixture is fine)
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ, oat bran or ground flaxseed*
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (or canola oil), melted, plus extra to grease the pan
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted nuts)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups dried fruit in any combination (a list follows)
  •  

    *If you don’t like these ingredients, use more oats. For gluten-free bars, use gluten-free rolled oats.
     
    Dried Fruit Options

  • Apricots, chopped
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Coconut, shredded or flaked
  • Currants
  • Cranberries
  • Dates, chopped
  • Figs, chopped
  • Raisins and/or sultanas
  • Tropical dried fruits: mango, papaya, pineapple
  •  
    More Ingredients

  • Candied ginger, diced
  • Chocolate chips
  • Nuts, in any combination
  • Peanut butter or other nut butter
  • Rice Krispies
  • Seeds, any kind or mixture
  • Spices: gingerbread spices, orange zest, pumpkin pie spices
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 by 9-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper or foil, leaving “handles” on two sides for lifting. Set aside.

    2. COMBINE the oats, seeds and nuts and spread onto a rimmed sheet pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven, transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

    3. STIR in the honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in a saucepan; stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the oat mixture, toss until the mixture is well coated, then add the dried fruit.

     

    Coconut Cranberry Granola Bar

    Apple Pie Granola Bars

    Top: Coconut cranberry raisin granola
    bars from Bella Baker. Here’s the recipe. Bottom: Apple pie granola bars from The Baker Chick. Here’s the recipe.

     
    4. POUR the mixture into the prepared baking pan and press down on it, tamping it as tightly as possible with a rubber spatula or other implement. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the granola is golden brown. (The longer it bakes, the harder the bars.)

    5. COOL for 2 hours before slicing into bars. Use a serrated knife. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a week, using parchment or wax paper to keep the bars from sticking. You can also freezer them for up to 6 months.

      

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    RECIPE: Homemade Tomato Soup With Goat Cheese Crostini

    We love tomato soup, but have run out of patience with the added sweeteners—typically corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup. We don’t like the excessive sweet taste of the soup, we don’t like the added calories, and we certainly don’t like HFCS.

    For National Soup Month, here’s an easy recipe from Davio’s Boston, one of several locations in the excellent Davio’s Northern Italian Steak Houses in Atlanta, Manhattan, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and later this year in Los Angeles.

    A side of goat cheese crostini turns the soup into a first course or a sophisticated “soup and sandwich” lunch.

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE TOMATO SOUP

    Ingredients For 6 To 8 Portions

  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 large white onion, sliced*
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed San Marzano tomatoes†
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 loaf Italian bread, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • Optional garnish: swirl of plain Greek yogurt
  • Optional side: goat cheese and chive crostini (recipe below)
  •    

    Sundried Tomato Soup

    Make tomato soup for National Soup Month. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.

    ______________________________
    *While butter adds a nice flavor note, you can substitute oil if you’re avoiding cholesterol, want a vegan option, etc.

    †You can buy the tomatoes crushed or whole. Steve buys them whole and hand crushes them.
     
    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter in a stock pot; add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Simmer for 1 hour.

    2. ADD the cubed bread and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside until cool. Purée until smooth with an immersion blender or in a regular blender or food processor. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

    3. SERVE: Bring the soup to a simmer. Plate and garnish with the optional yogurt, then with the basil and parsley. Serve with the crostini.

     

    Goat Cheese Crostini

    Goat cheese crostini are delicious with soup
    or a glass of wine. Photo courtesy Wines Of
    Sicily.

     

    RECIPE: GOAT CHEESE CROSTINI

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 ounces spreadable goat cheese (a softened log is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon chives, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8 slices sliced baguette (1/2-inch-thick slices) toasted French bread baguette
  • Optional garnish: extra virgin olive oil, fresh-ground pepper and lemon zest
  •  
    Preparation

    1. TOAST the baguette slices.

    2. BLEND together the goat cheese, dill and minced garlic. Spread evenly over the toasted baguette slices.

    3. GARNISH with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some lemon zest and fresh-ground black pepper.
     
    DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BRUSCHETTA
    AND CROSTINI
    ?

     

      

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    PRODUCT: Scotch Whisky Chocolates For Burns Night

    In Scotland, January 25th is a national holiday that celebrates the birthday of the great romantic poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796). On Burns Night, family and friends gather for an evening of good food and company. A traditional Burns’ Supper is served.

    This year, instead of cooking a traditional Burns Supper (smoked haddock, beef pie, haggis, colcannon, tatties), we’re taking the sweeter road:
     
    BURDICK SCOTCH WHISKY CHOCOLATES

    Available for only three weeks each year, this special box of chocolates blends Scotch whisky into every piece.

    There are ganache-filled chocolates made with some of the finest whiskys, including Highland Park, Macallan, Springbank and Talisker. They are accompanied by Glenfarclas bonbons and Lagavulin and Whisky Honey truffles.

     

    Burdick Scotch Whiskey Chocolate

    What a way to celebrate Burns Night! Photo of Scotch whisky chocolates from Burdick Chocolate.

     

    The chocolates are available now through January 28th. Get an extra box for Valentine’s Day, at BurdickChocolate.com.

  • A half-pound box of Scotch Whisky chocolates is $38.00.
  • The Scotch Gift Basket includes a quarter-pound box of the chocolates, shortbread cookies dipped in white chocolate, three Scotch Whisky chocolate cigars, a 12-ounce bag of spicy drinking chocolate, 1 chocolate mouse* and a book of Robert Burns Poems and Songs, $78.00.
  •  
    OTHER WAYS TO CELEBRATE BURNS NIGHT

  • Here’s an alternative Scotch and chocolate tasting party with fine chocolate bars.
  • Don’t like chocolate? Go straight to a Scotch tasting party.
  •  
    Here’s more about Burns Night.
     
    WHISKY VS. WHISKEY

    Whisky is the Scottish spelling of whiskey, a term that originated in Ireland. The alternative spelling was chosen to differentiate the Scots’ national product from Irish whiskey.

    The “whisky” spelling is used in Canada, Japan and Wales, as well as Scotland.

    In the U.S., a 1968 directive from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms specifies “whisky” as the official U.S. spelling. However, it allows the alternative spelling, “whiskey.”

    Most U.S. producers prefer to include the “e,” as do we. Without it, it looks like something is missing.

    Ironically, distillation was discovered in the 8th century in Persia—a country that has not permitted the sale and consumption of spirits since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

    Here’s a brief history of whiskey.
    _________________________________
    *The mouse honors the famous Burns poem, To A Mouse.

      

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