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TIP OF THE DAY: Beyond Taco Tuesdays & National Taco Day

October 4th is National Taco Day, and this year it coincides with Taco Tuesday. What does that mean?

Tacos for breakfast (recipe below), tacos for lunch, tacos for dinner, tacos for dessert. But first:


SUrprisingly, the Aztecs did not invent the taco; nor did anyone else, until the 18th century.

According to Professor Jeffrey M. Pilcher, author of Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food, tacos are not an ancient food.

Rather, as he discusses in an article in Smithsonian Magazine, Mexican silver miners in the 18th century likely invented the taco as a hand-held convenience food, followed by taco carts and taquerías in the working-class neighborhoods.

As the taco spread throughout Mexico, each region added its own touches: meats, spices, salsas, garnishes.

Mexican Americans in the Southwest reinvented it. As late as the 1960s, tacos were virtually unknown outside Mexico and the American Southwest.

In 1962, businessman Glen Bell founded Taco Bell as a drive-up with a few outdoor tables. It grew into a mass-marketing powerhouse, serving an Anglo version with a hard shell at quick-service restaurants nationwide.

This hard pre-fried corn tortilla shell (photo #2) is not authentic. Like the burrito, a larger wheat flour tortilla, it was born in the U.S.A.

Yet within 50 years the United States had shipped its hard taco shells worldwide, from Australia to Mongolia—redefining the taco in the eyes of millions, if not billions.
And Taco Tuesday?

This American event was begun in in 1982 as a successful promotion by Taco John’s. It encouraged people to go out for tacos on Tuesday nights, and offered specials like $1 fish tacos.


Mole Tacos

Pre-Fried Taco Shells

[1] An upscale taco in the classic mold. This one includes braised beef and mole sauce, with cottage cheese Here’s the recipe (photo courtesy McCormick. [2] Hard fried taco shells are an American invention. They stand up on their own (photo courtesy Old El Paso)!

Since tacos are easy to make at home and popular with the whole family, Taco Tuesdays is also a frequent event in home kitchens.

While Taco John’s trademarked the name, the trademark is no longer enforced. Now, it’s Taco Tuesdays for everyone!

You may think that National Taco Day is a day to celebrate the classics; but as you do, put on your thinking cap and invasion the next great taco combination you can make.

  • Sophisticated tacos. Chefs at better restaurants are pushing their creativity to transfer icon dishes to tacos. Try these braised beef tacos in mole sauce (photo #1).
  • Put your own spin on it. Ground beef tacos became cheeseburger tacos, for example. Grilled, sliced steak is popular in northern Mexico, and our tony friend Ordway wanted to try the concept with filet mignon. We made them for his birthday, with a sauce of melted gruyère, crème fraîche and salsa verde, a Mexican-French fusion. (May we say, it was a silly excess but very appreciated by the birthday boy. We’ve since gone with braised short ribs or lamb shank—DEE-licious.)
  • Trio of tacos. Our favorite dish at our neighborhood Tex-Mex restaurant is a trio of tacos, each with a different filling. Why choose just one?
  • Specialty tacos for every occasion, like these corned beef and cabbage tacos for St. Patrick’s Day.
  • Sashimi tacos. Fish tacos are great, but sushi lovers will adore these sashimi tacos as well. The shell is made from wonton wrappers. Fillings can be anything you like. Haru restaurant in New York City serves three full-size tacos: tuna with cherry tomato salsa, salmon with avocado and striped bass with apple yuzu ceviche sauce.
  • Dessert tacos. Whether they’re in a sideways waffle cone resembling a hard taco shell, or in a waffle from your waffle maker, this is fun food. How can you resist? Here’s the recipe. Warning: It’s not the neatest ice cream sandwich to eat. It’s best served on a plate at the table.

    Breakfast Taco

    Breakfast Burrito

    Dessert Taco

    From breakfast to dessert: [3] Breakfast taco with scrambled eggs and sausage (photo courtesy Imusa, recipe below). [4] A DIY set-up from David Burke Fabrick | NYC. [5] A simple dessert taco in a waffle cone shell (photo courtesy Add as many toppings as you like. You can use a waffle maker to make a soft waffle shell.



    Unlike the American-invented breakfast burrito, essentially an egg-and-sausage wrap sandwich, this recipe is truer to Mexican preparations.

    There’s a fight between Austin and San Antonio over the origin of the breakfast taco.

    At first, it was a breakfast made at home: eggs, sausage or other pork and cheese, rolled in a warm tortilla. In Mexican kitchens, tortillas are a staple, like a loaf of bread.

    The concept then migrated to breakfast stands and restaurants, as far back as the 1950s.

    Thanks to IMUSA USA, a maker of kitchenware for global recipes—for this breakfast taco recipe. You can find more recipes on their website.

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 chorizo links (about 7 ounces), diced
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup cilantro, divided
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar
  • 10-12 corn flour tortillas
  • Chipotle-flavored Tabasco or other hot sauce (substitute ketchup)

    1. MIX the sour cream, lime juice and salt in a bowl; put aside.

    2. CHAR the tortillas over a gas flame or directly on an electric burner until blackened in spots, turning with tongs. Place in a tortilla warmer or aluminum foil and set aside.

    3. ADD the olive oil to a nonstick sauté pan and bring to medium-high heat. Sweat the onions for about one minute and add the diced chorizo. Cook for 5-6 minutes until chorizo is browned.

    5. ADD half of the cilantro and all of the cooked chorizo to the beaten eggs. Blend and pour into the pan. Cook on low heat, stirring from time to time.

    6. PLACE the cooked eggs, cheddar, tomatoes and remaining cilantro in separate bowls and lay them out throughout the table with the warm tortillas. Let everyone build their own.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Cold Brew Coffee With A French Press

    The average American drinks 2.1 cups of coffee a day. Collectively, Americans drink 4,630 cups of coffee each second. And September 29th is National Coffee Day.

    Cold brew coffee, which has been around quite a while (we’ve had a Toddy cold brew system for 20+ years), has finally hit the mainstream.

    Coffee drinkers find it has superior flavor; and in the summer, iced coffee is as easy as adding cold water to cold-brew concentrate from the fridge. (Here are some well-reviewed brands).

    Companies from Folgers to Blue Bottle sell cold-brew coffee. You can buy large bottles of concentrate; you can buy grab-and-go 16-ounce bottles.

    Yet, if you have a French press, you can make trendy cold brew coffee without purchasing a special cold brew system or a bottle of ready-brewed. The French press recipe is below. But first:

    A French press is a coffee-brewing device consisting of a pot with a removable plunger made of fine mesh.

    Coarse-ground coffee is added to the pot, followed by boiling water. The plunger device is placed on top. The coffee grounds float in the water.

    When the coffee is ready to be poured, the plunger is employed. As it is pushed down, the grounds are pushed to the bottom. It does not use electricity; although you likely need it to heat the water.

    If you have a French press, there’s no need to buy a cold brew system, or pricey bottles of cold brew coffee at retail.

    Today, you can find coffee presses in stainless steel, in a stainless holder with a glass beaker (photo #1), and in plastic.

    French presses are made in sizes from 1-2 cups to 10 cups or more. There are travel mug versions, of course: We use this coffee press “mug” from Bodum.

    French press or coffee press is the name in English; although in In New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, the apparatus is known as a coffee plunger. In France it is called cafetière à piston; in Italy it is a caffettiera a stantuffo.
    Brewing Tea In A French Press

    You can use a French press to brew loose tea as well, but don’t use a press that is used to brew coffee. Even after washing, microscopic bits of coffee oil can cling to the glass or metal, imparting an unwelcome undertaste to the tea.


    Classic French Press

    Cold Brew Coffee  Concentrate

    [1] The classic design of the modern French press (this one is from Bonjour). [2] One of the artisan cold-brews sold at retail (photo courtesy Jittery John’s).

    With both coffee or tea, be sure to pour it soon after brewing. Letting the grounds or tea leaves sit under the brewed beverage creates a bitter brew, not a better brew.
    Conceived In 1852

    The first known design for a plunge-type brewer was patented in 1852 by two French designers, Mayer and Delforge. You can see their design at

    Per Brooklyn Roasting it was ahead of its time; manufacturing was not precise enough to snugly fit the filter within pot of the design.

    Others tried their hand, but the first iteration of brewer that we know today was patented by Italian designers Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta in 1929. They employed a rubber seal around the edge of the filter.

    The design evolved, with improved the function of the rubber seal.

    The design we know today was patented by a Swiss designer, Faliero Bondanini, in 1958. It was manufactured in France and called a chambord. With a compact design and no required electrical outlet, it became a very popular brewing method.


    These instructions are proportions for an 8-cup French press. Remember that the “standard” cup size used by manufacturers was set long before coffee mugs and modern insulated travel mug containers were in use. So if you use a large mug, you’ll get 4 mugs worth from an 8-cup press, or three 16-ounce travel mugs.

    Use only coarse-ground coffee. Smaller grains will slip through the mesh filter and produce unacceptable coffee.


  • 1 cup coffee, coarsely ground
  • 3 cups water, room temperature

    1. PLACE the coffee in an 8-cup French press. Add the water. Stir the grinds to integrate with the water.

    2. PLACE the French press plunger on top (do not plunge into the water) and place in the fridge for 12 hours.

    3. PRESS down on the plunger, which pushes all the grounds to the bottom, underneath the mesh filter. Pour and enjoy cold with ice, or warm in the microwave.
    TIP: Depending on how well the coffee is ground, a few grounds may escape into the coffee. Our mom further poured the coffee through a piece cheesecloth. We don’t.


    Stainless French Press

    Manual Coffee Grinder

    [3] Fashionable restaurants bring coffee to the table in a French press (photo courtesy Kabuki Japanese restaurants). [4] It’s easy to grind your own beans for a French press, since the coffee is coarsely ground (photo of manual coffee grinder from



    We start with an important fact for the many people who want more or less caffeine:

    There is no association between caffeine levels and flavor (e.g. strong coffee). The major difference comes from amount of coffee used and, most importantly, the brewing technique.

    Cold brew has the most caffeine, followed by drip coffee and espresso.

    Take this fun coffee trivia quiz.

    Here are more fun facts from THE NIBBLE and

  • Coffee is the second most traded commodity on Earth, after oil.
  • Coffee beans are actually the seeds of berries, which grow on a shrub or small tree.
  • Teddy Roosevelt is said to have consumed one gallon of coffee a day.
  • The first webcam was invented by scientists at the University of Cambridge, so they could monitor when their coffee pot was full.
  • It is not true that light-roasted coffee has more caffeine than dark-roasted coffee. In terms of the ground coffee, light-roasted has more because the roasted beans are denser. However, once brewed, darker roasts have more caffeine.
    Facts About Decaf

  • The amount of caffeine in coffee varies a lot. It can depend on the beans (robusta has much more than arabica), the portion size, but most importantly the brewing technique.
  • Decaf doesn’t mean caffeine-free. According to FDA regulations, coffee must have 97% of its original caffeine removed in order to be labeled as decaffeinated. Drink 5-10 cups of decaf a day and you’ll likely be consuming the equivalent of a cup or two of regular coffee in terms of caffeine content.
  • While a cup of regular coffee usually contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine, a 2007 Consumer Reports test of 36 popular brands found some decaf cups that still packed in more than 20 milligrams of caffeine. But the difference in a cup of brewed coffee is truly minimal.
  • A minority brew: According to the National Coffee Association, just 10% of coffee drinkers in the U.S. opt for decaf. At a coffee house or cafe, the percent can be almost double.
    Here are more decaf coffee facts.



    FOOD FUN: National Beer Holidays

    Got Beer?

    September 28th is Drink Beer Day (also called National Drink A Beer Day).

    But beer lovers can plan an entire year of beer celebrations:

  • American Beer Day, October 27th
  • National Beer Day, April 7th
  • National Bock Beer Day, May 3rd
  • National Homebrew Day, the first Saturday in May
  • American Craft Beer Week, the third week in May
  • American Beer Month, July
  • National IPA Day, the first Thursday of August
  • International Beer Day, the first Friday of August
    There are also local beer events. Check your state!


    Hops Growing

    There would be no beer without hops, a species of flowering plant that is cultivated on trellised vines (photo courtesy The hop plant, Humulus lupulus, is a member of the Cannabaceae family, making it a botanical cousin of cannabis.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Savory Pancakes

    Bacon Corn Griddle Cakes

    Carrot Pancakes

    Flavor Flours Book

    [1] Bacon and corn griddle cakes from Recipe Girl—and here’s her recipe. [2] Carrot pancakes with salted yogurt, gluten free. Here’s the recipe from Jessica Koslow at Bon Appetite (photo Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott). [3] You don’t need to use wheat. Check out these flours (photo courtesy ).


    September 26th is National Pancake Day. Normally, we’d make our favorite: buttermilk pancakes topped with smoked salmon, crème fraîche and chopped dill.

    We’d love them with a topping caviar: We’ll have that daily when our ship comes in.

    But until then, we’re not highbrow: Another favorite is chocolate pancakes with chocolate chips, topped with bananas and sour cream.)

    Today’s tip is: Take a fresh look at pancakes.

    Cultures around the world eat pancakes, both sweet and savory. Some have them as a main dish, some enjoy them as street food.

    There are so many choices:
    From Danish aebleskiver to Russian blini and latkes in Europe, to Chinese scallion pancakes and Japanese okonomiya, filled with shredded cabbage and other choices from shrimp to vegetables.

    In Malaysia, apam balik—folded pancakes—are made with rice flour and stuffed with a sweet peanut filling.

    In Somalia, anjero is a fermented, crepe-like pan bread made from sorghum and corn flowers. It looks like a thin pancake and is topped with sugar or beef. In South Africa, pannekoeke look like tacos, folded over with a popular filling of cinnamon custard and streusel.

    The fold-over technique is also used in the cachapas of Colombia and Venezuela: corn pancakes folded over grated queso mano or mozarella, and grilled until melted.

    Click the links above for the recipes.

    Take a look at the different types of pancakes in our Pancake Glossary.


    1. SELECT a flour: buckwheat, chickpea, chestnut, coconut, corn, nut, oat, rice, sorghum, spelt, teff, wheat, whole grain, etc.

  • Explore: Here’s a terrific book on cooking and baking without wheat flour.
  • Mix the batter. Check online recipes to see if you need to alter proportions.
    2. ADD your favorite ingredients:

  • Proteins: bacon, cheese, ham, sausage (chicken, pork), roe, seafood
  • Herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, sage, thyme, etc.
  • Spices: cardamom, Chinese five spice, cinnamon/pumpkin pie spices, cumin, curry powder, garlic, ginger, pepper, etc.
  • Fruits: apples, bananas, berries, dried fruits, stone fruits, tropical fruits, etc.
  • Vegetables: cabbage, carrot, corn, onion/green onion, pumpkin, zucchini, etc.
    3. PICK your toppings:

  • Dairy: butter or compound [flavored] butter, from jalapeño to strawberry; crème fraîche, mascarpone, sour cream, yogurt
  • Sweet: honey, syrup
  • Garnish of choice: Bacon, crumbled or grated cheese, toasted nuts
    4. FRY and serve.


    We love this article from National Geographic, and recommend it as a short read on the history of pancakes.

    Archaeologists have discovered grains on 30,000-year-old grinding tools, suggesting that Stone Age man might have been eating grains mixed with water and cooked on a hot rock.

    While the result not have looked like the modern crepe, hotcake, or flapjack, the idea was the same: a flat cake, made from batter and fried.

    Ancient Greeks and Romans ate pancakes topped with honey, and a Greek reference mentions toppings of cheese and sesame as well.

    These foods were not called pancakes, but the first mention of “pancake” in an English dictionary dates to the 16th century: a cake made in a pan.

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “Flat as a pancake” has been a catchphrase since at least 1611.

    For the rest of the pancake’s journey to modern times, head to National Geographic.



    RECIPE: Rum Punch For National Rum Punch Day

    September 20th is National Rum Punch Day. While the word “punch” conjures up a large bowl of drink, the word actually derives from the number five in Sanskrit and Hindi.


    Punch is a general term for a broad assortment of mixed drinks, made with or without alcohol. The word “punch” derives from the Hindi word, panch, from the Sanskrit is panchan, five.

    In India, panch was made from five different ingredients: sugar, lemon, water, tea or spices and an alcoholic spirit; hence the name.

    Punch was “discovered” in India by the British sailors of the East India Company. The concept was brought to England in the early 17th century. From there it spread to other countries.

    While Western punch recipes generally contain fruit or fruit juice, fruit isn’t essential. Nor is an elegant punch bowl required: a pitcher is fine, and in many cases, it’s more practical.

    You can also make just one punch drink at a time. Here are two recipes for individual punch drinks—rum punch, of course, to celebrate National Rum Punch Day.

    For serving in tall glasses, get some fun straws.

    It’s hard to resist 144 cocktail umbrellas for $4.79, but we resisted.


    This classic rum punch uses two different types of rum: white and dark. If you don’t have both, use what you have.

    Because this recipe is in “parts,” you can make anything from a single glass to a party portion, without any calculations.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 part Bacardi Superior (white rum)
  • ½ part Bacardi Select (dark rum)
  • ¼ part grenadine
  • 1 part orange juice
  • 1 part pineapple juice
  • ½ part cranberry juice
  • 1 lemon, sliced

    1. COMBINE ombine all liquid ingredients iIn a large container. Refrigerate until chilled and enjoy. If making a large batch, just before serving…

    2. POUR into a large punch bowl, stirring in ice. Garnish the bowl with floating lemon slices. Serve each glass with a lemon wheel.

    This recipe, from Inspired By Charm, uses coconut rum and dark rum. No dark rum? Try it with all coconut rum.


    Rum Punch

    National Rum Punch Day

    Yellow Striped Straws

    [1] Grenadine and orange or yellow fruit juices create the “sunset” effect (photo courtesy Inspired By Charm). [2] Get out your Mason jars (photo courtesy The Blond Cook). [3] Tall drinks deserve a fun straw (photo courtesy Balloon Red).

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 3 ounces pineapple juice
  • 2 ounces orange juice
  • 1 ounce dark rum, plus 1/2 ounce to splash on top
  • 1 ounce coconut rum
  • Splash of grenadine
  • Garnish: lime slice

    1. POUR into a glass the pineapple juice, orange juice, 1 ounce dark rum and 1 ounce coconut rum. Gently stir.

    2. SLOWLY POUR in a splash of grenadine. The grenadine will sink to the bottom to create the “sunset” coloration.

    3. ADD 1/2 ounce of dark rum to the top. Garnish with a slice of lime and serve.



    TIP OF THE DAY: 25+ Substitutes For Hamburger Buns

    National Cheeseburger Day is September 18th, so have fun with it.

    Instead of your personal standard, branch out and make your CB special. You can do it by using a different:

  • Ground meat or blend
  • Cheese
  • Condiment(s)
  • Toppings
  • Stuffing
    For inspiration in these areas (you might call it foodporn), check out
    But today’s tip is the easiest of all: Think outside the bun.

    So many different types of bread—plain or toasted—are waiting to cradle your burger.


    What should you use instead of a hamburger bun? The easiest answer:

    Walk down the bread isle of your market and see what speaks to you. You’ll find more than enough yummy choices to re-envision your burger.

  • Bagel burger (garlic or everything) or simit burger
  • Baguette burger (or other French bread)
  • Brioche burger
  • Burger on rye
  • Challah burger
  • Cornbread burger
  • Croissant burger (great with pretzel croissants)
  • English muffin burger
  • Ezekiel 4:9 burger or Genesis 1:29 burger (both breads have lots of whole grains and legumes)
  • Focaccia burger
  • French toast burger
  • Garlic bread burger
  • Indian bread burger (chapati, dosa, naan, paratha, roti)
  • Italian bread burger
  • Nut bread burger
  • Olive bread burger
  • Pizza crust burger (a great use for leftover pizza dough)
  • Potato bread burger
  • Pumpernickel burger (add sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing for a burger version of the Reuben sandwich)
  • Pupusa burger (pupusa is a stuffed corn tortilla)
  • Onion roll burger (or other specialty roll)
  • Rustic loaf burger
  • Sourdough burger
  • Toast burger (toast white, whole wheat, whatever you have)
  • Wrap burger

    We second that motion! But don’t make an obvious switch among American, Cheddar and Swiss slices. Consider:

  • Blue
  • Brie or Camembert (the difference)
  • Feta
  • Flavored Cheddar (we love a burger with Cabot Chipotle, Garlic, Horseradish and Jalapeño Cheddars)
  • Fontina
  • Gouda
  • Gruyère
  • Jack or Pepperjack
  • Jarlsberg
  • Havarti or other butterkäse
  • Washed rind (“stinky”) cheese:* Epoisses, Muenster d’Alsace,† Limburger, Pont l’Eveque, Stinking Bishop, Taleggio
    *It’s a personal thing, but we love stinky cheeses, both in general and in the way they complement the grilled, beefy aroma and taste of the burger. The aroma is not necessarily representative of the cheese. But the cheese is specifically crafted to create those earthy scents.

    †Munster d’Alsace, also called Alsatian munster and French munster (optional spelling muenster), has nothing in common with bland American munster, except that they are both cheeses.


    Baguette Cheeseburger


    Focaccia Cheeseburger

    Cheeseburger On Sourdough Bread

    Pita Burger

    English Muffin Burger

    [1] A baguette cheeseburger (photo courtesy Ian Warf | Pinterest). [2] In France, McDonald’s serves the McBaguette (photo McDonalds). [3] Try a hard roll, and don’t be afraid to go rectangular instead of round (photo courtesy [4] We love a burger on toasted sourdough bread (photo courtesy Omaha Steaks) [5] Pita: a natural pocket for your burger (photo courtesy Droolworthy Daily). [6] A natural: the English muffin burger (photo courtesy Thomas Breads).


  • Use fresh meat: The more freshly ground the meat is, the more tender and flavorful the burger.
  • Keep the meat cold. Patties will stay as juicy as possible when they’re cooked cold. Putting the patties in the fridge also helps to keep the flavor-carrying fat from dripping out.
  • Stop flipping! Flip only once: Constant turning will toughen and dry out the meat, and if you flip too soon, the burger will stick. Cook two minutes per side for rare, three for medium-rare, four for medium, and five for well-done.
  • Don’t press down on the burger! When a burger is pressed with a spatula, the juice is pressed out, taking all that moistness and flavor with it.
  • Move a cheeseburger. To add cheese, move the burger to the cooler side of the grill, top with cheese and cover the grill for a minute to let the cheese melt.
    Thanks to Crawford Ker of Ker’s Winghouse for these tips.



    TIP OF THE DAY: 10+ Uses For A Trifle Bowl

    English Trifle Bowl

    English Trifle Bowl

    Peanut Butter Trifle

    Homemade Edible Arrangement

    [1] A classic English trifle (photo courtesy [1] This modern trifle combines peanut butter pudding and pretzels. [3] A good-for-you substitute. Move over, Edible Arrangements (photos #2 and #3 courtesy Pampered Chef).


    Trifles are one of the easiest desserts you can make—and impressive to present. Most of the ingredients are purchased ready-to-use, with only custard or other pudding requiring a few minutes of preparation.

    A trifle is a layered British dessert of fruit, sponge fingers or sponge cake soaked, custard, and a topping of whipped cream. Other ingredients can be added (gelatin/Jell-O, cookie crumbs) and the cake can be soaked in alcohol.

    Trifle is an evolution of a fruit fool, a dessert that probably originated in 15th -century Britain. Puréed stewed fruit was swirled with sweet custard.

    The classic was (and is) gooseberry fool, but seasonal fruits—apples, berries, rhubarb—were also used.

    Other countries have their own versions that followed the British concept. In Italy, for example, zuppa inglese, a layering of liqueur-soaked sponge and custard, appeared in the late 19th century.

    The first known reference to a trifle appears in 1585 in a cookbook, The Good Huswifes Jewell. It was flavored with sugar, ginger and rosewater (a recipe for the well-do-do, as sugar and spices were costly).

    The trifle evolved to include a layer of crumbled biscuits (cookies) and alcohol-soaked sponge cake or sponge fingers (ladyfingers) as the bottom layer. Brandy, madeira, port and sherry were used to soak the sponge.

    When powdered gelatin* became available in 1845, a layer of fruit “jelly” was added to recipes.

    As was so common among the fashionable in Renaissance Britain, France, and other European countries, new foods engendered new styles of dishes and flatware. For trifles, a straight-sided pedestal glass bowl showed off the beauty of the layers.

    Today, many people prefer bowls without the pedestal (easier to store), and modern ingredient layers that range from layers of chocolate cake, peanut butter pudding, pretzels and Oreos.

    Glass bowls with or without a pedestal are used for other desserts and can also be repurposed. Anyone who owns a straight-sided glass bowl has already figured out how to use it for layered dips, layered salads (fruit, green, pasta) and as a fruit bowl.

    It can serve as anything from a bread basket (nice with muffins at brunch) to a chip bowl.

    Here are more ways to use a trifle bowl. Thanks to Pampered Chef for some of these ideas and photos.



  • Candle Holder. A trifle bowl can make a candle holder with lots of flair. Just place a flame-proof base inside the bowl, place a pedestal candle on top, then fill around the base with any festive decoration: pretty stones, marbles, nuts, wine corks, wood chips. TIP: For the dinner table, use an unscented candle.
  • Centerpiece. For fall, fill the bowl with apples, chestnuts, dried wheat, gourds, Indian corn, mini pumpkins or a combination (photo #4). For the holidays, use candy canes, ornaments, pine cones, or mini evergreen trees (photo #5). For summer: sand and seashells, topped by a starfish. With any season, you can also place that pedastel candle in the center.
  • Desserts. Nouvelle trifle: Think of how to expand beyond the classic. Butterscotch pudding and pretzel layers? Banana pudding and ‘Nilla Wafers? Oreos and whipped cream? Baked Alaska? It’s so much easier to layer the cake and ice cream. Use a kitchen torch to brown the meringue. Or create a stunning fruit salad, either in colored layers or like the one in photo #3.
  • Drinks. Serve party punch or even ice cold shrimp cocktail. It makes a great visual impact that doesn’t require any additional decoration. Beautifully presented food speaks for itself!
  • Flatware. For buffets, wrap the flatware in napkins and present them in the bowl.
  • Flower Vase. Grab a bouquet or two of your favorite blooms and arrange them in the bowl. To hide the stems, try filling the vessel with rocks, fruit, or even crushed ice. Not much of a florist? No worries: Decorating your table with a few vases that have the same flower in the same color creates a pretty, modern look.
  • Ice Bucket. Make it the centerpiece of your drink station. Mini bottles of wine or champagne look just plain adorable displayed in the bowl.
  • Parties. Fill them with anything, from candy to party favors.
  • Punch Bowl. A smaller punch bowl can contain a mocktail version for those who don’t want alcohol (photo #6).
  • Snacks. Chips, pretzels, Chex Mix, etc.
    What else?

    We look forward to your suggestions!
    *Gelatin was first extracted by boiling animal bones, in 1682. But this laborious process was only undertaken in large kitchens with staff to prepare it. While gelatin is pure protein, it is colorless, flavorless and odorless, so it also needed to be enhanced for serving.


    Fall Centerpiece

    Christmas Centerpiece

    Trifle Bowl For Punch

    [4] Fall centerpiece. [5] Christmas centerpiece. [6] Punch bowl (all photos courtesy Pampered Chef).




    TIP OF THE DAY: Instead Of Cinco De Mayo, Celebrate September 16th…With Reposado Tequila

    Blue Nectar Reposado Tequila

    Tequila Manhattan Cocktail

    [1] Reposado tequila is the preferred type for celebrations [2] Distrito Federal is Manhattan cocktail that replaces the bourbon with tequila (all photos courtesy Blue Nectar Tequila).


    Many Americans look forward to celebrating Cinco de Mayo each spring. This relatively small Mexican holiday commemorates a regional battle in 1862, long after Mexican Independence was declared. More Americans celebrate it than Mexicans!

    Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day.

    That honor goes September 16th, known as Grito de Dolores (The Cry of Dolores, the town where the battle began). It’s the most popular holiday in Mexico.

    Here’s the scoop on Mexican Independence Day, commemorating the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence from Spanish colonial rule in 1810.

    As with America’s Independence Day, the Mexican National Day of Independence is a patriotic holiday, with celebratory drinks, food and fireworks.

    Today’s tip: Wherever you live, celebrate Mexican Independence Day on the 16th.

    The folks at Blue Nectar Tequila tell us that the most popular type of tequila consumed in Mexico on national holidays is the more aged (and more expensive) Reposado, not the clear Blanco (a.k.a. silver or white tequila—here are the different types of tequila).

    Blanco is aged not at all or up to two months, while Reposado and Añejo tequilas are aged longer: Reposado for six months to a year, Añejo for one to three years. Aging gives layers of complexity to the spirit.

    While tequila was first produced in the 16th century by Spanish immigrants to Mexico, aged tequila styles such as Reposado and Añejo did not appear until the early 1900s.

    Some producers began to age their tequila in oak casks left over from red wine, brandy and rum that had been imported for consumption by the Spanish aristocracy.

    This stroke of genius changed the overall quality and taste of basic tequila, which at the time was raw-edged and without complexity.

    So today’s tip is: Celebrate September 16th by sipping a glass of Reposado or Añejo tequila, neat or on the rocks, enjoying the flavors with each sip.

    Or try one of the cocktails below, or this wonderful menu of tequila cocktail recipes.


    Reposado tequila has a woodsy quality that pairs well with beef-based, poultry and pork-type main dishes. (complementary flavors in recipes include orange, cinnamon and honey).

    Instead of America’s go-to grilled food for Independence Day, a favorite dish in Mexico is pozole, a classic soup made of hominy and pork.

    In modern times it’s also made with beef, chicken, seafood, or vegetables and beans. Here’s a selection of pozole recipes.

    For dessert, have churros or dark chocolate with Añejo tequila.

    And sure: Bring on the guacamole, salsa, chips and esquites—Mexican corn on the cob.

    The classic bourbon-based Manhattan cocktail is the inspiration for this Mexican version, which is named after historic Mexico City, an area known as Distrito Federal.
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces Reposado or Añejo tequila
  • 1 ounce sweet red vermouth
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: brandied cherry

    1. COMBINE the spirits and bitters in a cocktail glass. Add ice and stir until cold, about one to two minutes.

    2. STRAIN into a coupe glass, garnish with the cherry and serve.



    Ingredients Per Drink

    The vodka-based Cosmo is remade with Reposado teqila.

  • 4 lime quarters
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ½ ounces Reposado tequila
  • 1 ounce cranberry juice
  • ¾ ounce orange liqueur
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: lime wheel

    1. MUDDLE the lime quarters with the simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add the tequila, orange liqueur and cranberry juice.

    2. TOP with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lime wheel.


    Tequila Cosmopolitan Cocktail

    [3] The Mexipolitan: A Cosmopolitan with tequila instead of vodka. Calling Carrie Bradshaw!



    Blue Nectar Tequila, is a hand-crafted, super-premium tequila that focuses on agave-forward flavor profiles.

    While by Mexican law Reposado must be aged a minimum of 2 months, Blue Nectar Reposado Extra Blend is aged 6-8 months and then blended with three-year-old Extra Añejo, to deliver hints of vanilla and smoke.

    For more information on the different expressions of Blue Nectar tequila, visit



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Pizzeria Pronto Stovetop Pizza Oven

    September 5th is National Cheese Pizza Day, honoring the original modern pizza, the Margherita. It was named after Queen Margherita, consort to Umberto I, King of Italy from 1878–1900.

    As the story goes, during a visit to Naples, she asked the best pizza maker in town, Don Raffaele, to make her a pie. He made it in the colors of the Italian flag, a simple but delicious pie of basil, mozzarella and tomatoes. Here’s the history of pizza.


    Simply this: a steel case that sits on top of a gas burner and cooks your pizza atop pizza stones. There’s no electricity, no wood chips, no nuthin’ but the Pizzeria Pronto and your gas range.

    We love it: from the pizza stones that create an oh-so-delightful crust to the top quality ingredients we used. As long as we have dough in the fridge, we can have a pizza anytime we want, better than anything delivered. efficient new way to make pizza at home.

    Pizzeria Pronto is made by Companion Group, a company that began more than 30 years ago with the original Charcoal Companion charcoal chimney starter. The line now includes other grilling tools and accessories, and the Pizzacraft® line of artisan-quality pizza stones, pizza ovens, tools and accessories.

    In 2013 the company launched the first propane-fueled outdoor portable pizza oven, which pre-heats in 10 minutes and cooks the pie in 5 minutes. In 2016, the indoor Pizzeria Pronto® Stovetop Pizza Oven was released nationwide—the first gas range-powered indoor oven.

    Small but mighty, Pizzeria Pronto transforms your favorite dough and toppings into perfectly-cooked pizzas in just minutes (after all, the name means “pizza in a hurry”). With its heat-efficient design, it traps and reflects heat to harness the power of your gas range, creating an optimal cooking environment of up to 600°F. Yet, the room is no warmer than if you used your oven.
    How To Use Pizzeria Pronto Stovetop Pizza Oven

  • Simply place the round oven over a gas burner and turn on the flame.
  • The inside of the oven reaches 600°F, much higher than a conventional oven.
  • It preheats in 15 minutes and cooks a personal-size pizza in 6 minutes. TIP: If you want to keep the first pizzas hot while you cook more, keep them warm in a conventional oven preheated to 500°F.
  • You also need a personal-size pizza peel to insert and remove the pizza from the oven. The company sells one separately.
    The electric plug-in pizza ovens we’ve tried can’t hold a candle to it.

    It’s well worth the space it requires if you’d like to make pizza weekly or more often. We don’t have extra room in our kitchen so we did a bit of housecleaning. So long, old backup food processor and biannually-used waffle iron.

    Pizzeria Pronto is available at major retailers such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma and online. Williams-Sonoma carries a gray-top model instead of the standard red-orange model shown in the photos.

    Prices vary but it’s currently $106.27 on Amazon (a deep discount off the MSRP of $179.99).


    Pizzeria Pronto

    Pizzeria Pronto

    Pizzeria Pronto

    Pizzeria Pronto

    [1] Place the oven on the stovetop and turn up the flame to preheat. Add the pizza. [2] Close the oven door. [3] Cook for six minutes. [4] Remove the pizza, fragrant and bubbling. Photos courtesy Pizzeria Pronto .

    Before buying, take a minute to look at the bottom of this page to see if your gas burners will work.


    We invited the crowd over for a pizza party and bought (or over-bought, as is our won’t) the ingredients: regular and whole wheat doughs, sauces and cheeses for red and white pies.

    We provided lots of toppings: anchovies, garlic, jalapeños, mini meatballs, mushrooms, olives, onion and zucchini. But the crust (dough purchased from Fairway), sauce (the Classico brand Riserva line [not Bertolli Riserva]), mozzarella and ricotta (Bel Gioso) were so good that most people opted for a plain pie.

    We personally, however, had anchovies from Cento: not salty, just right.


  • Steel casing with a heat-efficient design (you won’t feel that it’s 600° of heat).
  • Ttwo Cordierite baking stones diffuse the heat and deliver a perfect crust.
  • Very little assembly required. You need no technical skill whatsoever.
  • The built-in thermometer tells you when it’s time to add the pizza.
  • A moisture vent on top prevents the crust pizza from becoming soggy.
  • Dimensions: 16.93 inches x 14.25 inches x 6.69 inches. Weight: 14.7 pounds, which we (non-athletic female) had no trouble lifting.
  • Not for use with electric or induction stoves.

  • You’ll need cornmeal (semolina), so the bottom of the crust doesn’t stick to the stone plate.
  • Be sure to have a good pizza cutter and a brush to clean the pizza stone afterward.
  • One package of store-bought dough (we bought the fresh dough that comes in a plain plastic bag), meant for one large pie, makes two personal pizzas.



    RECIPE: Blueberry Ice Pops For National Blueberry Popsicle Day

    Blueberry Ice Pops

    Blueberry Cream Ice Pops

    [1] Puréed blueberries, perked up with a bit of lemon juice (photo courtesy Will Cook For Smiles). [2] Make a creamy blueberry pop with yogurt or non-dairy milk (photo courtesy A Healthy Life For Me). Here’s the recipe with almond and coconut milks; the recipe for a yogurt pop is below.


    September 1st is National Blueberry Popsicle Day, following close on the heels of National Cherry Popsicle Day, August 24th.

    Here’s the history of Popsicles (a happy accident!).

    But the name of the holidays needs to be changed. The Popsicle® brand doesn’t make blueberry Popsicles (here are the current flavors), for starters.

    Regardless of the flavor, only Unilever can call its ice pops Popsicles.

    Well sure, you can call it Popsicle for your own private use; but try to give brands the respect they deserve. Call them ice pops instead of Popsicles®, a slow cooker instead of Crock-Pot®, a food processor instead of Cuisinart®, tissues instead of Kleenex® and lip balm instead of Chapstick® (and on and on).

    Anyone can make or sell blueberry ice pops. And making them couldn’t be easier.



    First, chose what kind of blueberry you’ll use: blueberry juice, fresh or frozen blueberries. See the conversion table below.

  • 24 ounces blueberry juice (our favorite is Knudsen)
  • 1 pound bag frozen blueberries, puréed*
  • 1-2 pints fresh blueberries, puréed*

    Next, choose your sweetener. These are pretty low caloric pops if you use non-caloric sweetener or agave (you need only half the amount of agave, as it’s twice as sweet).

  • Agave
  • Granulated (table) sugar
  • Honey
  • Non-caloric sweetener (the different types of sweeteners)
  • Simple syrup

  • 1/3 cup water
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice (add a 3:1 ratio of juice to zest if you like)
  • Ice pop molds or paper cups with sticks or plastic spoons

    1. BRING bring the sugar (or other sweetener) and the water to a boil in a small sauce pan over high, stirring until the sugar (or other sweetener) dissolves. Transfer to a large measuring cup or other container and refrigerate for 30 minutes, until cool. If using blueberry juice, it may be sweet enough to avoid this step. Taste and decide.

    2. COMBINE the blueberry juice or puréed blueberries with the lemon or lime juice. Add the sweetener/water mix to taste. (The juice may need far less sweetening than the fresh or frozen berries.)

    3. STIR thoroughly and pour into ice pop molds. Freeze for 4-6 hours, with the mold tops on. If you’re not using ice pop molds with built-in handles, insert a stick into each mold after 1 or 2 hours when it can stand up straight.

    4. RUN the molds under warm water to release the pops for serving.


    These measurements are from Volume equivalents will vary based on size of the berries.

    Depending on how many pops you’re making and how many ounces are in each mold, determine how much fruit you need:

  • 1 pint fresh blueberries = 2 cups
  • 1 pound bag frozen berries = 3-1/2 cups
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries = 9 oz


  • 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tables honey or other sweetener (see list above
  • 2 cups vanilla or blueberry Greek yogurt (or any flavor)

    1. PURÉE the blueberries and sweetener together (see footnote below).

    2. POUR into a large bowl, add the yogurt mix gently: For a swirled effect, use a spatula to make swirls in the bowl. You can also add the yogurt first, then the blueberries, to get a half-and-half effect in photo #2, above. Otherwise, combine thoroughly for a lighter purple pop.

    3. TASTE and adjust sweetener if desired, then pour into the molds or cups. Freeze for 4-6 hours, with the mold tops on. If you’re not using ice pop molds with built-in handles, insert a stick into each mold after 1 or 2 hours when it can stand up straight.

    4. RUN the molds under warm water to remove the pops.


    Blueberry Yogurt Pops Recipe

    [3] Don’t have ice pop molds? Use paper cups and sticks or plastic spoons. But ice pop moles are inexpensive. If you enjoy making pops, treat yourself to a set.

    *To purée, place the berries in a food processor or blender and blend on high speed until the consistency of a smoothie.



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