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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

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.

      

  • Comments

    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.

     
      

    Comments

    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.
      

    Comments

    FOOD 101: Cooking History

    early-man-cooking-sirgy.com-230

    Be grateful for your stove and microwave! Photo courtesy Sirgy.com.

     

    Do you like sashimi and steak tartare?

    Man has been wandering Earth for some 200,000 years, but the general use of fire began only about 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. Until then, man ate his food raw.*

    Neanderthals discovered how to deliberately create fire. This led to warmth—the priority in the Ice Age—and to the secondary benefit of cooking meats. Most likely, a piece of mammoth, venison or another flesh that would have been eaten raw, fell in the campfire. It had to be left there until the flames died down, no doubt filling the air with the alluring aroma of roasting meat.

    Heat breaks down tough fiber and releases flavor in the process. As a natural next step, meat and tough roots were slower cooked in the embers or on a flat stone by the side of the fire.

     
    Boiling took more time to evolve, using large mollusk or turtle shells until man created vessels of earthenware or bark that could be placed over the fire. Steaming inside animal stomachs and leaves preceded the more sophisticated development of crockery. The first oven could have been as simple as a hole in the ground.
     
    Here’s what your most ancient of forefathers did:

  • They dug a large pit in the ground and lined it with flat, overlapping stones to prevent seepage. Large quantities of water were poured in, presumably transported in skin bags. Other stones were heated in the campfire and add to the water to bring it to a simmer.
  • The food was then added and, while it was cooking, more hot stones to keep the water at the desired temperature. This technique is still used in some isolated parts of the world.†
  •  
    It was only much later that boiling or stewing was done in small pots placed near the fire, or in cauldrons suspended over a fire. [Source: Food in the Ancient World, Joan P. Alcock [Greenwood Press:Westport CT] 2006 (p. 105-106)]

    The use of fire vastly extended man’s diet, enabling tough foods to be palatable. Cereals—barley, millet, rice, rye, and wheat, as well as potatoes, require cooking before they can be consumed by humans. The use of fire doubtless encouraged the domestication of these foods and the end of lives as hunter-gatherers, as man settled into farming communities.

    Thanks to FoodTimeline.org for inspiring this article.

     
    *Source: Cambridge World History of Food, Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Conee Ornelas [Cambridge University Press:Cambridge] 2000 (p. 1571)
    †Source: Food in History, Reay Tannahill [Three Rivers Press:New York] 1988 (p. 14-16)
     
      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Rice Pudding Day

    Here’s a fun take for National Rice Pudding Day: rice pudding tartlets. These are made in rustic style by Frog Hollow Farm.

    You don’t need tartlet pans that turn out fluted, rigid tart shells. Instead, just roll the dough and fold the edges over the filling—the style known as galette. Rice pudding replaces the traditional fruit filling.

    Just make your favorite rice pudding recipe and this galette dough:

    RECIPE: GALETTE DOUGH

    You can make this dough up to 2 days in advance. Wrapped in plastic, then in foil, it can be frozen for up to a month.

    Ingredients

  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  •  

    rice-pudding-tartlet-froghollow-230

    Rice pudding tartlets. Photo courtesy Frog Hollow Farm.

     

    Preparation

    1. PLACE 3/4 of the butter on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until hard, 30 minutes or longer. Refrigerate the remaining butter.

    2. COMBINE flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Add the refrigerated butter and pulse 10 times to combine. Add the frozen butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. There should be some small, pea-size clumps.

    3. ADD the ice water and pulse 10 more times until just incorporated. Squeeze a small amount of dough between your fingers to make sure it holds together. If not, pulse a few more times, as necessary.

    4. EMPTY the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Gather the dough, bringing the edges together and pressing it into a mass. Form the dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic.

    5. ROLL out the dough, still wrapped in plastic, into 1/2-inch-thick disks, four inches in diameter (for individual tartlets). Refrigerate for least 45 minutes.

    6. Place filling in the center of the circles. Pleat the dough around the filling and bake until the crust is lightly golden, for about 15 minutes in 375°F oven.
     
    RICE PUDDING RECIPES

  • Adult Rice Pudding Recipe
  • Layered Rice Pudding Bars Recipe
  • Leftover Rice Rice Pudding Recipe
  •   

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Zucchini Day, Spiral Zucchini & Zucchini Pasta

    Whether served raw, roasted, baked, grilled, sautéed, pickled, or fried, zucchini is one of the most versatile vegetables, and a seasonal summer favorite that’s abundantly available at farm stands and supermarkets.

    This summer squash is very low in calories—33 calories for a medium zucchini.

    There are many wonderful ways to serve zucchini:

  • Garnishes
  • Gratin
  • Grilled
  • Soufflé
  • Stir-fried zucchini ribbons
  • Zucchini and carrot slaw, “cole slaw” or salad
  • Zucchini pasta
  • Zucchini sticks, baked or fried
  •  
    Two of our favorite recipes are below. To make them, treat yourself to the new Microplane Spiral Cutter, a tool that quickly and effortlessly transforms zucchini—as well as carrots, cucumbers, radishes and other vegetables—into elegant spiral cuts and ribbons.

       

    sprial-grater-microplane-beauty-230L

    Food fun with the new Microplane Spiral Cutter. Photo courtesy Microplane.

     
    Thanks to Microplane for announcing this gadget in time for National Zucchini Day, August 8th.

    Resembling an old-school manual pencil sharpener in both style and function, the Spiral Cutter has two razor-sharp (surgical steel!) slicing barrels to accommodate different vegetables—the small barrel for long, slim vegetables such as carrots, the large barrel for cucumbers, summer squash and other, broader vegetables.

    It debuts this month in Black and Green for a suggested retail of $14.95. Learn more at Microplane.com.

    Then, you’ll be set to whip up this delicious salad:

    SPIRAL ZUCCHINI RECIPE # 1: THAI-STYLE ZUCCHINI RIBBON SALAD (BASED ON SOM TUM)

    We love green papaya salad, som tum. We can easily eat two appetizer portions at our local Thai restaurant.

    Our favorite guest blogger, Hannah Kaminsky, agrees. “Served chilled, the tender yet crisp strands of unripe papaya are cooling, yet still popping with bursts of heat from abundant flecks of chili peppers. Brightly acidic, tangy, and slightly salty, with just a touch of sweetness to take the edge off, every component must be in perfect balance to achieve a successful, harmonious dish.

    “Of course, the key ingredient, green papaya, isn’t typically available in hometown grocery stores, which is why I took a page from the ever-popular zucchini noodles. They don’t stay crisp as long as papaya, so be sure to leave them undressed until the minute you’re ready to serve.

     

    thai-zucchini-salad-kaminsky-230

    Zucchini Thai salad: zucchini replaces green
    papaya in the classic som tum recipe. Photo
    © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    “Even without the papaya, this recipe transports me to a delicious new world of flavor with every single bite.

    “The dish comes together very quickly, so prep all of your vegetables first and you’ll zip right through the rest of the preparation.”

    Ingredients For 2-4 Servings

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar or dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3-4 ounces (a big handful) haricots verts (skinny green beans), lightly blanched
  • 2 medium zucchini, spiralized or julienned
  • 1/2 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2-1 red Thai chile, thinly sliced
  • Handful skinny chives or scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons roasted and salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dressing. Whisk together the lime juice, coconut sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce and garlic. It will seem like a lot of liquid, but don’t worry: That’s exactly what you want. This isn’t like a traditional salad dressing; it should soak into the noodles a bit, and you will have a bit of a pool at the bottom when it’s in proper proportion.

    2. PLACE the green beans, zucchini ribbons and tomatoes in a medium bowl. Pour the dressing on top and toss to coat. Add the chili, a bit at a time, until it’s spicy enough for your personal taste. Give it one more good toss to mix everything around and evenly distribute the ingredients before transferring everything to a serving dish.

    3. TOP with a generous handful of sliced chives and chopped peanuts. Serve immediately.

     
    SPIRAL ZUCCHINI RECIPE # 2: ZUCCHINI “SPAGHETTI”

    You will love this dish, part of our repertoire since we began to fashion our own “cuisine minceur” in high school. It does a great job emulating spaghetti, for very few calories and carbs.

    Ingredients

  • Zucchini ribbons
  • Sauce of choice—red, white, pesto, EVOO and garlic, etc.
  • Grated Parmigiano-Romano or other Italian grating cheese (for a texture change, consider shaving instead of grating)
  • Optional garnishes: capers, fresh herbs, green peas or other vegetables, panko bread crumbs, sautéed garlic slivers, sliced olives or any favorite pasta topper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COOK zucchini briefly, to al dente. (We steamed them in the microwave for 30 seconds).

    2. PLATE with sauce. Garnish with grated cheese and any other ingredients.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Olive Oil Swap

    olive-oil-bread-loaf-flavoryourlife-230

    Instead butter on your bread, try olive oil.
    Photo courtesy FlavorYourLife.com.

     

    August is National Olive Oil Month, reminding us again that it’s easy to make heart-healthy switches in everyday eating.

    While the health benefits of olive oil are no secret (including no cholesterol and less saturated fat than butter), most people are unaware of how simple it is to make the swap. Here are three easy switches:

  • Olive oil vinaigrette instead of creamy salad dressings
  • Sautéeing with olive oil instead of butter or other fat
  • Dipping bread in olive oil instead of spreading it with butter
  • When you swap butter for olive oil, you use need less oil—so that’s also a savings in calories.
     
    HOW TO SWAP BUTTER FOR OLIVE OIL

  • 1 teaspoon butter > ¾ teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter > 2-¼ teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter > 1-½ tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup butter > 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup butter > ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup butter > ½ cup olive oil
  • ¾ cup > ½ cup + 1 tablespoon
  • 1 cup > ¾ cup
  • 2 cups > 1-½ cups
  •  
    For more ways to swap butter for olive oil in everyday recipes, visit Pompeian.com.

    You can also print out Pompeian’s butter to olive oil conversion chart and hang it on the fridge.

    MOVIE POPCORN OIL

    What kind of oil is in and on your movie popcorn?

    Most movie theaters pop the kernels in coconut oil. Coconut oil is 86% saturated fat, the kind that raises cholesterol. Lard is 38% saturated fat.

    The butter-flavored oil topping at the movies is usually partially hydrogenated soybean oil that contains both saturated and trans fats. [Source]

    What happened to “butter topping?” The butter made the popcorn soggier than oil. As a bonus to theater owners, oil is also far cheaper than butter.

    During the month of August, Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil has arranged with some movie theater chains to offer pure olive oil as an alternative to the standard topping. If you find yourself at one of those venues, let us know how you enjoyed the swap.

     
      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Oyster Day

    oysters-bacon-iSt1531875JamesAntrim-230

    Surf and turf: oyster on the half shell topped
    with crumbled bacon. Photo courtesy James
    Antrim | IST.

     

    It’s National Oyster Day. But hey—aren’t you supposed to avoid oysters in the hot summer months?

    Fresh oysters are available year-round, with caveats.

    The advice not to eat oysters during months spelled without an “r” does not refer to spoilage and food poisoning from eating oysters during June, July and August.

    Rather, it refers to the oyster’s spawning months, May, June, July and August (in the Northern Hemisphere). The meat from spawning oysters is softer, milkier and more bland than in the fall and winter.

    When oysters are fattening up, they load up on glycogen, a polysaccharide that is the principal storage form of glucose. This sugar is greatly depleted when oysters spawn, diminishing the quality of their flesh.

    “If oysters don’t spawn, they grow plump and sweet, and can be harvested year-round,” says Michael Kirkpatrick in his article, ‘Duxbury Pearls: Island Creek Oysters,” in Edible Boston, Spring 2007.’ ”

    Here’s a tip to enjoy your oysters in the warmer months: Choose oysters from the colder waters of New England and Canada. The oysters don’t spawn, although they grow large as if they were going to.

     

    If the oysters don’t spawn, won’t the colony die out?

    We contacted oyster Kirkpatrick, who advised: “Oyster colonies naturally die out all the time, which is one reason why many, if not most, commercial oyster beds are re-seeded on a regular basis (another reason: to ensure a reliable harvest).” Reseeding involves obtaining oysters from hatcheries and adding them to the beds.

    Thanks, Michael! If you visit the Cooperstown, New York, area, you can stay at Michael’s bed and breakfast, The Farm.

     

    OUR FAVORITE WAYS TO ENJOY OYSTERS

    The fresher the oysters, the more they demand to be enjoyed absolutely plain. That’s how you taste their terroir and enjoy the undiluted brine in the cups.

    That’s how we like to eat oysters. If there’s any garnish, it’s a bit of caviar—salmon caviar, tobiko, whitefish, sturgeon or other (the different types of caviar).

    Need a garnish? Go for a bit of citrus juice (yuzu is the best!) or mignonette sauce: dry white wine, sherry vinegar, chopped shallot and fresh-cracked white pepper. There’s no need to add salt, as oysters have natural salinity.

    That’s mignonette (min-yo-NET) sauce in the photo at left. The name is French, derived from the word for dainty.

    Sauces and other toppings were created to spruce up oysters that have lost their spanking freshness. When you top an oyster with cocktail sauce, or with herbed bread crumbs, butter and cream, salt, pepper and hot sauce—Oysters Rockefeller—the oyster flavor is buried under other layers.

     

    del-frisco-oysters-230w

    Oysters with mignonette sauce. Photo courtesy Del Frisco.

     

    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF OYSTERS

    How many types of oysters have you had?

      

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