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Archive for Food Holidays/History/Facts

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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    FOOD HOLIDAY: Apple Ginger Toddy For National Hot Toddy Day

    ginger-toddy-castelloUSA-230

    Enjoy a hot toddy on a chilly day. Photo
    courtesy Castello USA.

     

    January 11th is National Hot Today Day. Here’s some toddy history.

    And here’s a riff on the classic rum toddy, made with apple cider, Cognac and fresh ginger slices. It’s topped off with a garnish of delicious crystallized ginger chunks.

    The recipe is courtesy Castello USA.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 3 cups apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh ginger
  • 2 whole allspice berries or 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 4 ounces brandy/Cognac
  • 8 candied ginger chunks for garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cider, fresh ginger and allspice in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and cover. Let stand 10 minutes. Skim the foam and strain to remove any solids.

    2. LADLE a half cup hot cider into each mug and add ¾ ounce brandy. Skewer the ginger cubes as garnish for each glass.

     

    RECIPE: CRYSTALLIZED GINGER

    You can buy crystallized ginger (candied ginger) or make your own. If your grocer doesn’t carry it, look in natural food stores or candy stores, or get them online.

    This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown. Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 1 hour.

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 pound fresh ginger root
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 pound granulated sugar
  •  

    Preparation

    1. SPRAY a wire rack with nonstick spray and set it on a half sheet pan lined with parchment.

    2. PEEL the ginger root and slice it into chunks. You can use the side of a spoon to scrape the peel. Add the ginger and water to a 4-quart saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Cover and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the ginger is tender.

    3. TRANSFER the ginger to a colander to drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and the rest for another purpose (it’s ginger syrup, great for drinks and desserts).

    4. WEIGH the ginger and measure out an equal amount of sugar. Return the ginger and 1/4 cup water to the pan and add the sugar. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar syrup looks dry, has almost evaporated and begins to recrystallize, approximately 20 minutes. Stir often and keep an eye on the syrup so it doesn’t start to burn.

     

    Crystallized Ginger

    Crystallized ginger chunks from The Ginger People.

     

    5. TRANSFER the ginger immediately to the cooling rack and separate the individual pieces. Once it is completely cool, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Save the sugar that drops from the cooling rack and use it for tea and coffee.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cacio E Pepe

    In addition to National Pasta Day on October 17th, there’s a National Spaghetti Day and it’s today, January 4th. Today’s tip is to celebrate a preparation that is rarely found on restaurant menus: Cacio e Pepe.

    Cacio e Pepe, “Cheese and Pepper,” is a Roman dish from central Italy. Cacio is a dialect word for a sheep’s milk cheese (like Pecorino Romano), and pepe refers to black pepper. The recipe is that simple: long, thin spaghetti*, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and freshly-ground pepper.

    The only other ingredient in the dish is a bit of olive oil to bind the ingredients. It whips up very quickly when you don’t have time or energy to make a more elaborate recipe.

    SUBSTITUTES

    If you don’t have the ingredients in the classic recipe—or prefer others—here’s what we would substitute:

  • For the spaghetti: any thin flat noodle such as bavette, bavettine, fettucelle, linguine, linguettine, tagliatelle, taglierini.
  • For the Pecorino Romano: any hard Italian grating cheese.
  • For the black pepper: red chile flakes, dried chipotle or jalapeño flakes.
  •  
    RECIPE: CACIO E PEPE

    In this recipe from Good Eggs, the Pecorino Romano cheese is blended with some Parmigiano-Reggiano for more depth of flavor.

    Ingredients

  • 10 ounces fresh spaghetti (substitute dried)
  • 1-3/4 cups of Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
  • 10-12 grinds of black pepper peppercorns, or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried chile (more to taste)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  •    

    Cacio e Pepe

    Pecorino Romano

    Top photo: Cacio e Pepe, a classic Roman pasta dish. Photo courtesy Good Eggs. Bottom photo: Pecorino Romano cheese from Fulvi, the only company still making the cheese in greater Rome. Photo courtesy Pastoral Artisan.

     
    *Long, thin spaghetti has different names in different regions of Italy; for example, capellini, fedelini, spaghetti alla chitarra and tonnarelli. In the U.S., you’re most likely to find spaghettini, vermicelli and of course, spaghetti. The widths of all of these strands vary, but not in a significant way to impact the recipe.
     
    Preparation

    1. FILL a large pot with water about 3/4 full. Add 1/4 cup of salt and taste the brine. The rule of thumb is that the cooking water should be as salty as ocean water. Add up to an additional 1/4 cup salt as desired—but don’t over-salt, since the cheese is very salty. Cover the pot and bring it to a rolling boil over high heat. Meanwhile…

    2. GRATE the cheese into the bottom of a large bowl. This will be the bowl in which you’ll toss and serve the pasta, so choose accordingly. When the cheese is grated, add about 10 grinds of fresh black pepper to the bottom of the bowl and set aside.

    3. REDUCE the heat and add the pasta to the boiling water. Fresh pasta will take about 3-5 minutes to cook, while dried spaghetti will 10-12 minutes, per package directions. When the pasta is at the right state of al dente, dip a mug into the pot to reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water; then strain the pasta in a colander. (Why do cooks reserve some of the pasta cooking water for blending? The heat melts the cheese, while the starches in the water help to bind the cheese and pepper to the pasta.)

    4. ADD the strained pasta to the bowl, along with a splash of the pasta water and a drizzle of olive oil. Use a large fork or soft tongs to toss the pasta, pepper and cheese. (We love our silicone pasta tongs). When the spaghetti is well coated, taste it and adjust the cheese and pepper levels as desired. If the texture is a little dry, add another splash of pasta water or a bit more olive oil. Serve immediately.

     

    Pouring Olive Oil

    Cacio e Pepe has no formal sauce; just a bit
    of olive oil that binds the grated cheese into
    a coating. Photo courtesy North American
    Olive Oil Association.

     

    ABOUT PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE

    Pecorino Romano is a hard, salty, full-flavored Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk (pecora is the Italian word for sheep). An ancient cheese, Pecorino Romano was a dietary staple for the Roman legionaries. Today’s Pecorino Romano is made from the same recipe, albeit with pasteurized milk.

    The method of production of the cheese was first described by Latin writers like Pliny the Elder, some 2,000 years ago. It was made in Roman countryside until 1884, when a city council ruling over cheese salting in shops caused producers to move to the island of Sardinia.

    One brand, Fulvi, is still made in the countryside outside of Rome. It is known as genuine Pecorino Romano. Like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano is made in very large wheels, typically 65 pounds in weight.

    Today, the designation “Pecorino Romano” is protected under the laws of the European Union. [Source]

    Pecorino Romano is often used in highly flavored pasta sauces, particularly those of Roman origin such as Bucatini all’Amatriciana and Spaghetti Alla Carbonara.

     
    Like Asiago, Parmesan and other grating cheeses, Pecorino Romano is often served on a cheese plate, accompanied by some hearty red wine. Typically, a younger cheese (five months of maturation) is used for table cheese, and a more mature, sharper cheese (eight months or longer) for grating and cooking.
     
    Don’t Confuse These Cheeses

    There are two other well-known pecorino cheeses, which are less salty and eaten as table cheese or in sandwiches. Don’t confuse them with Pecorino Romano:

  • Pecorino Sardo from Sardinia
  • Pecorino Toscano from Tuscany
  •  
    And beware of “Romano” cheese sold in the U.S. This is a mild, domestic cow’s milk cheese, bland and not right for this recipe. If you can’t find Pecorino Romano, the best bet is to substitute Asiago or Parmesan.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The New Bloody Mary Garnishes

    Aquavit Bloody Mary

    Bloody Mary Crab Claw

    Garnished Bloody Mary

    TOP PHOTO: Aquavit Bloody Mary with beets, a half-sour pickle spear and fresh dill; photo Flavor & The Menu. MIDDLE PHOTO: Mary garnished with crab claw and dilly beans from Ramos House. BOTTOM PHOTO: Surf and Turf Bloody Mary with bacon and shrimp, plus an antipasto skewer and, as a nod to the past, a celery stalk. From The Wayfarer | NYC.

     

    As if everyone who drinks didn’t have enough on New Year’s Eve, January 1st is National Bloody Mary Day. Each year we feature a different Bloody Mary recipe.

    Some time ago we read about a famed Bloody Mary served at Ramos House in San Juan Capistrano, California.

    It was made with shochu instead of vodka, lower-proof and lower in calories. It was garnished with lots of dilly beans (pickled green beans) and a crab claw.

    So today’s tip is: Move past the celery stalk to more interesting Bloody Mary garnishes.
     
    RECIPE: ADAPTED FROM THE RAMOS HOUSE
    BLOODY MARY RECIPE

    Ingredients For 2.25 Quarts

  • 1 liter tomato juice*
  • .5 liter clam juice*
  • 1 bottle (750ml) vodka
  • 1 ounce prepared horseradish (from the refrigerator section
    of your market)
  • 1.5 ounces hot sauce
  • 1/4 tablespoon ground pepper
  • 6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • Zest of 1-1/2 lemons
  • 6 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Garnish: crab claws, lobster claws or shrimp; dilly beans and/or pickled asparagus†
  • Optional garnishes: bacon strips and/or “antipasto skewers” (a cheese cube, grape tomato mozzarella ball, olive, pickled onion, sausage chunk or other antipasto ingredients—see bottom photo above)
  • Optional: ice cubes
  • Optional: cocktail straws‡
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE ingredients (except for garnishes) in a pitcher and chill before serving.

    2. FILL glasses with ice cubes, as desired. We prefer to pre-chill the drink rather than dilute it with ice cubes. Another option: Make the ice cubes from tomato juice.

    3. POUR into tall glasses, 3/4 full. Arrange the garnishes on top.
    _______________________________________________
    *Mott’s Clamato Juice is packed with HFCS—so sweet you could churn it into sorbet (see our review). It’s easy to mix plain tomato juice with plain clam juice.

    †We buy Tillen Farms’ Crispy Dilly Beans and Crispy Asparagus by the case, but you can pickle your own vegetables in just an hour or two. Here’s how to pickle vegetables.

    ‡If you pack the top with garnishes, a straw makes it easy to get to the drink below. How about these red cocktail straws? You can also provide inexpensive bamboo cocktail forks if your guests are too formal to eat the garnish with their fingers.

     
    MORE BLOODY MARYNESS

  • Bloody Mary Drink Bar Or Cart
  • Bloody Mary Ice Pops
  • Bloody Mary History
  • Bloody Mary Variations: Bloody Bull, Bloody Maria, Danish Mary, Highland Mary, Russian Mary
    and numerous others
  • BLT Bloody Mary
  • Deconstructed Bloody Mary
  • Michelada
  • More Bloody Mary Garnishes
  •  
    If you have a favorite Bloody Mary creation, please share.
     
    HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THE NIBBLE!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Holiday Cupcakes

    December 15th is National Cupcake Day.

    When a holiday like this falls right before Christmas, there’s only one direction to pursue: Christmas cupcakes.

    Whether you bake them from scratch or buy plain cupcakes to decorate, here are 10 easy approaches:

  • Candy cane cupcakes: Crushed red and white peppermints on chocolate or vanilla iced cupcakes (see photo).
  • Coconut “snowball” cupcakes: Chredded coconut on vanilla icing, plain or decorated with a mini candy cane or other Christmas candy.
  • Cone Christmas tree cupcakes: Cover a small ice cream cone with green frosting and invert on top of a cupcake. Add sprinkles or dragées for “ornaments.”
  • Dragée-dotted cupcakes: A sophisticated approach using metallic-colored gold and/or silver balls.
  • Frosty The Snowman cupcakes: Use black and orange gels or icing to create Frosty’s face atop flat-iced white cupcakes: eyes, nose and mouth (see photo).
  • Holly cupcakes: Use real or candy mint leaves and mini red candies to create a holly sprig.
  • Red and green icing: Use food color to tint icing, store-bought or homemade. Serve as is or with decorations of choice. Check out the special Christmas-wrap Hershey’s Kisses.
  • Rudolph cupcakes: To a chocolate-frostrf cupcake, add white frosting eyes or candy eyes, a red candy nose and pretzel antlers (see photo).
  • Sprinkles cupcakes: Garnish iced cupcakes with red and green sprinkles, confetti, stars or Christmas trees.
  • Star cupcakes: Crown cupcakes with foil-wrapped chocolate stars or red and green gummy stars.
  •  
    CUPCAKE HISTORY

    Before the advent of muffin tins, cupcakes were baked in individual tea cups (hence “cup” cakes) or ramekins. The first reference to the miniature cakes dates to 1796, when a recipe for “cake to be baked in small cups” appeared in the cookbook, “American Cookery.” The earliest documentation of the term “cupcake” was in Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook in 1828 (receipt is an earlier term for recipe). [Source]

    Back then, cupcakes were easier to make than cakes because they cooked much faster. It took a long time to bake a cake in a hearth oven; cupcakes were ready in a fraction of the time. [Source]

     

    Candy Cane Cupcake

    Snowman-Cupcake-c-createdbydiane-230b

    Reindeer Cupcake

    TOP PHOTO: Crushed peppermint and a mini candy cane, at Trophy Cupcakes. MIDDLE PHOTO: Snowman cupcakes © CreatedByDiane.com. BOTTOM PHOTO: Rudolph cupcake at Trophy Cupcakes,

     
    Muffin tins (doing double duty as cupcake tins) became widely available around the turn of the 20th century, and offered a new convenience to bakers of muffins and cupcakes. But the next convenience took a while longer:

    For easier removal of cupcakes from the pan, paper and foil cupcake pan liners were created after World War II. An artillery manufacturer, the James River Corporation, began to manufacture cupcake liners when its military markets diminished. By 1969, they left artillery manufacturing behind and became a paper manufacturer.

    During the 1950s, the new paper baking cup gained popularity as U.S. housewives purchased them for convenience. Their flexibility grew when bakers realized that they could bake muffins as well as cupcakes in the baking cups. [Source]

    Cupcakes evolved into children’s party fare, but in the last decade have taken a more sophisticated turn. First, some younger couples began to choose “cupcake trees” instead of conventional wedding cakes. This prompted a flurry of cupcake articles and recipes, and ultimately the opening of boutique cupcake bakeries nationwide, offering what has become an everyday treat.

    In 2005, Sprinkles Cupcakes, the first cupcakes-only bakery in the world, opened in New York City in 2005. Now, cupcake boutiques are ubiquitous. Get your share, and have a happy National Cupcake Day.
     
    ___________________________

    *Both receipt and recipe derive from the Latin recipere, to receive or take. Receipt was originally used in medieval English to designate a formula or prescription for a medicinal preparation, and the symbol Rx emerged in medieval times. The sense of receipt as a written statement that money or goods have been received emerged later, at the beginning of the 17th century. In terms of cooking instructions, recipe became an alternative to receipt in the 18th century, gradually replacing it over time. Here’s more.

      

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    RECIPE: Sausage Sliders & Winter Lager

    Sausage Sliders

    Samuel Adams Winter Lager Tap

    TOP PHOTO: The National Pork Board recommends these sliders with your lager. BOTTOM PHOTO: Samuel Adams Winter Lager, in bottles, cans and on tap.

     

    December 10th is National Lager Day; the entire second week in December is Lager Beer Week. Here’s a special slider recipe from the National Pork Boardto go with your lager.

    The recipe combines the retro appeal of deviled eggs with the modern fondness for sliders, although the recipe makes an egg salad instead of a filling for hard-boiled egg white halves.

    You can make the sliders for brunch, lunch or game day snacking.

    Don’t like sausage patties? Substitute bacon, Canadian bacon or thick-sliced ham for the sausage. Don’t like cilantro? Use baby arugula or watercress.

    Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.

    RECIPE: SAUSAGE & DEVILED EGG SALAD SLIDERS

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 8 breakfast pork sausage patties (about 12 ounces total), about 3 inches in diameter*
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha or other hot chili sauce, or more to taste
  • Salt
  • 2 cups cilantro sprigs (leaves and tender stems)
  • 8 soft dinner rolls, split horizontally
  • Optional garnish: gherkins or olives (with toothpicks)
  •  
    *If you can’t find ready-made patties, shape 12 ounces of loose breakfast sausage into eight 3-inch patties. Or substitute bacon, Canadian bacon or thick-sliced ham.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the eggs in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from the heat, and let stand 15 minutes. Meanwhile…

    2. COOK the sausage patties in a large skillet over medium heat, until browned and cooked through (2 to 3 minutes per side). Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and cover loosely to keep warm.

    3. DRAIN the eggs and transfer to a bowl of ice water. When cool enough to handle, peel and coarsely chop the eggs. In a large bowl, combine the chopped eggs, mayonnaise, chives, mustard and sriracha. Season with salt, taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Set aside.

    4. ARRANGE the cilantro sprigs on the bottom halves of the rolls. Top with the sausage patties, egg salad and top halves of rolls. Add the optional olive or gherkin and serve.

    NOW FOR THE LAGER

    We’ll publish an article on winter beers on the first day of winter, but here’s an advance preview of winter lager. Numerous craft breweries make them.

    The easiest one to find is Samuel Adams Winter Lager; but also look for Mustang, Wolverine, Stark and possibilities from y your local breweries.

    You’ll also find “Christmas ale” or seasonal beers and ales from other brewers that are similar: brewed with winter spices (cinnamon, orange peel, maple syrup, nutmeg or whatever the brewer favors). A quick search turned up beers from Blue Moon, Brooklyn Brewery and Great Lakes Brewing Co.

    Other beer types are also “wintrified,” including the fancifully named Abominable Ale from Hopworks, Old Man Winter White Ale from Southern Tier Brewing, Brrrr Red Ale from Widmer Brothers and Siberian Night Imperial Stout from Thirsty Dog.

    But it’s National Lager Day. We raise a glass to the German and Bohemian immigrants who brought lagering to the U.S.A., which previously had only ale†. The first lager brewmaster appears to have been one John Wagner from Bavaria, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1840, carrying with him a supply of lager yeast. The rest is history.

    †Yeast that enables lagering was not discovered until the 1700s, believed to have been unwittingly transported on a ship from South America. The written record on ale dates to ancient Mesopotamia.
     
      

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    RECIPES: Christmas Cookies

    December 4th is National Cookie Day, and what better cookies to enjoy than Christmas cookies.

    Some people bake the same family favorites every year, others look for new recipes. We loved these three fun ideas from Pillsbury.

    All three begin with a package of refrigerated cookie dough. With the time you save mixing and cutting cookie dough, you can focus on the elaborate decorations.

    RECIPE: MELTING SNOWMEN COOKIES

    Prep time for these cuties is 30 minutes, total time is 1 hr 30 minutes.

    Ingredients For 24 Cookies

  • 1 package (16 ounces) Pillsbury Ready To Bake! refrigerated sugar cookies
  • 12 miniature creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookies
  • 24 miniature chocolate-covered peanut butter cup candies, unwrapped
  • 1 container (1 pound) vanilla creamy ready-to-spread frosting
  • 12 large marshmallows
  • 48 miniature chocolate chips (for eyes)
  • 2 Dots orange gumdrop candies, cut into small carrot-shaped triangles (for noses)
  • 1 pouch black cookie icing
  • 24 pieces red string licorice, 7-1/2 inches long, clipped on ends for fringes of each scarf
  •  
    Preparation

       

    Melted Snowman Cookies

    Santa Belly Cookies

    TOP PHOTO: Melted snowmen cookies. BOTTOM PHOTO: Santa Bellies. Photos courtesy Pillsbury.

     

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the cookie dough rounds 2 inches apart on 2 ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until edges are light golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack to cool completely. Meanwhile…

    2. MAKE the hats. Remove the creme from sandwich cookies and save. Attach a miniature peanut butter cup to one half of the sandwich cookie, using a small amount of the saved vanilla frosting. Continue for the remaining hats.

    3. CUT the marshmallows in half, and place one half on top of each cookie, cut side down. In a small microwavable bowl, microwave the remaining frosting, uncovered, on medium (50%) for 20 to 40 seconds, until slightly warm (stir halfway through). Spoon the frosting on top of the marshmallow/cookie to look like melting snow. Attach a hat to the top of each cookie. Attach the miniature chocolate chips and orange gumdrop candy for the eyes and nose. Allow to set for 20 minutes.

    3. USE black cookie icing to pipe arms on each snowman cookie. Wrap one piece of licorice around the neck for the scarf. Allow to set completely before serving, about 30 minutes.

    Store in an airtight container.

    You can see step-by-step photography and a video of this preparation here.

     

    Reindeer Cookies

    These reindeer are delicious. Photo courtesy
    Pillsbury. The recipe is below.

     

    RECIPE: SANTA’S BELLY COOKIES

    The photo for these is above. Prep time is 40 minutes, total time is 1 hour 20 minutes.

    Ingredients For 24 Cookies

  • 1 package (16 ounces) Pillsbury Ready To Bake! refrigerated sugar cookies
  • 24 large marshmallows
  • 1 container (1 lb) vanilla creamy ready-to-spread frosting
  • Red, yellow and black gel food colors
  • 48 white vanilla baking chips (for Santa’s suit buttons)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. On two ungreased cookie sheets, place the dough rounds 2 inches apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Meanwhile, slightly flatten marshmallows.

    2. REMOVE from the oven and top each cookie with a marshmallow. Return to the oven, and bake 1 to 2 minutes or until slightly softened.

    3. REMOVE the cookies from the cookie sheets; cool completely on cooling racks. Meanwhile, separate frosting into 3 small bowls, using 1-1/4 cups to make red frosting, 1/4 cup for yellow frosting and 1/4 cup for black frosting. Add food color to each, and mix to get desired colors (red, yellow and black). Frost and decorate cookies to look like Santa’s belly, using photo as a guide.

    Store in an airtight container.

    You can see step-by-step photography and a video here.
     

    RECIPE: CUTE REINDEER COOKIES

    Make these reindeer in 30 minutes of prep time, 1 hour 5 minutes total time. See the photo above.

    Ingredients For 24 Cookies

  • 1 package (16 oz) Pillsbury Ready to Bake! refrigerated sugar cookies
  • 10 oz chocolate candy coating, cut into pieces (from 20-oz package)
  • 24 small white fudge-covered pretzels, halved (from 5-oz bag)
  • 48 candy eyeballs
  • 24 Junior Mints or other chocolate-covered creamy mint candies (from 1.84-oz box)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Place thr cookies 2 inches apart on two ungreased cookie sheets. Shape each cookie into oval, but do not flatten.

    2. Bake 11 to 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 20 minutes.

    3. MELT the candy coating as directed on the package. Working with one cookie at a time, dip the top side of cookie into the melted candy coating, covering fully and letting excess drip off. Place 2 pretzel halves on top of cookie for antlers, 2 candy eyeballs for eyes and 1 mint candy for nose. Repeat with remaining cookies.

    Store in an airtight container.

    Head here for a step-by-step photographs and a video.

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: Recipes For National Lemon Cream Pie Day

    Lemon Cream Pie

    Frozen lemon cream pie with a hit of lemon-flavored vodka.

     

    National Lemon Cream Pie Day is November 29th. This year, we’re serving up something special courtesy of a recipe from New Amsterdam Vodka: a frozen pie with vodka.

    Don’t want the alcohol? Don’t want a frozen pie? There’s a very creamy lemon cream pie recipe below.

    RECIPE: FROZEN LEMON VODKA CREAM PIE*

    Ingredients For 1 Pie

  • 2 cups lemon sherbet
  • 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 12 ounces frozen lemonade
  • 2 ounces lemon-flavored vodka or plain vodka
  • 1 pie crust (we used a graham cracker crust)
  • Garnish: whipped cream
  • Optional garnishes: berries, lemon zest, mint leaves
  •  
    *A.K.A. New Amsterdam Frozen Lemonade Pie.

     
    Preparation

    1. BLEND the ingredients together thoroughly, and scoop into the pie crust. Freeze.

    2. SERVE with whipped cream and a sprinkle of lemon zest. Berries are optional but they provide a nice hit of color.

     

    RECIPE: LUSCIOUS LEMON CREAM PIE

    This recipe from Pillsbury gets its creaminess from sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream (whippping cream).

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1 pie crust (9 inches)
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 to 3 medium lemons)
  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • 4 drops yellow food color, if desired
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oven to 450°F. Bake the crust 9 to 11 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.

     

    Lemon Cream Pie - Pillsbury

    Now that’s a lemon cream pie! Photo courtesy Pillsbury.

     
    2. MIX the condensed milk, lemon peel and lemon juice in a medium bowl; set aside.

    3. BEAT beat 2 cups of the whipping cream and the food color in large bowl, with the electric mixer on high speed, until stiff.

    4. FOLD the lemon mixture into the whipped cream until just blended. Spoon it into the crust. Cover; refrigerate at least 3 hours until set.

    5. BEAT the remaining 1 cup of whipping cream in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high speed, until stiff. Spoon dollops on top of the pie or on slices of pie when serving. Store the pie covered in the refrigerator.
     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EVAPORATED MILK AND SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK

    The quickest explanation is in the names: sweetened condensed milk has added sugar and evaporated milk doesn’t. It is also much thicker: Evaporated milk pours like regular milk, but sweetened condensed milk pours like molasses. They are not interchangeable in recipes, but both can be used in coffee.

  • Evaporated milk is fresh cow’s milk from which about 60% percent of the water has been removed by evaporation. It’s then homogenized, fortified with vitamins and stabilizers, canned and sterilized. The heat from the sterilization gives the milk a bit of a caramelized flavor, and makes the color slightly darker than fresh milk. Evaporated milk was originally called unsweetened condensed milk, although that term is no longer used.
  • Sweetened condensed milk also has about 60% percent of the water removed, then sugar is added as well as vitamin A. Condensed milk contains 40% to 45% sugar, but it means that no (or less) added sugar is required in the recipe. Condensed milk requires no sterilization, since sugar is a natural inhibitor of bacteria growth. It is darker and more yellow in color than evaporated milk.
  •  
    WHO INVENTED EVAPORATED MILK & SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK?

    Both were invented by Gail Borden, who subsequently formed the dairy company that bears his name. In 1852 he was traveling transatlantic when the cows aboard ship became too seasick to provide milk (and there was no refrigeration in those days to keep milk fresh). He began to experiment, and two years later produced a canned milk that did not go sour at room temperature for three days after the can was opened.

    Borden received a patent for sweetened condensed milk in 1856 and began commercial production the following year. Unsweetened condensed milk, now called evaporated milk, took more time to perfect since it didn’t have the sugar to inhibit bacteria growth. It was finally canned successfully in 1885.

    In the days before refrigeration, both evaporated and sweetened condensed milk were used more than fresh milk because they were less likely to spoil and harbor harmful bacteria.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Easy Rum Raisin Ice Cream

    Haagen-Dazs Rum Raisin Ice Cream

    Haagen-Dazs Rum Raisin Pint

    Look for it in stores or make your own Rum Raisin ice cream. Photos courtesy Häagen-Dazs.

     

    Our favorite Thanksgiving ice cream flavor is not Pumpkin, but Rum Raisin. It’s an old-fashioned flavor that seems very American (as rum was produced close to home, in the Caribbean). Actually, its roots are in Sicily; the history is below.

    It’s easy to make Rum Raisin from basic Vanilla ice cream:

    Marinate the raisins overnight in rum and sugar. Drain and stir the raisins into softened vanilla ice cream. Return the ice cream to the freezer to harden.

    Even easier: Use the rum-soaked raisins as a topping on vanilla ice cream, or interspersed in a parfait.

    TIP: We usually have a jar of rum-soaked raisins in the fridge, and give jars of it as gifts. It’s better visually to mix purple and golden raisins (sultanas). For Christmas, we add some dried cranberries; and also make a separate concoction of dried cranberries in a mix of rum and cranberry liqueur. All versions are delicious in a cup of hot tea.

    If you want to make Rum Raisin Ice Cream from scratch, here’s a recipe from Saveur.
     
    FAVORITE PAIRINGS WITH RUM RAISIN ICE CREAM

    It’s so much more special than vanilla ice cream, with:

  • Apple pies and tarts
  • Sundaes and waffle sundaes with caramel or hot fudge
  •  
    Use the marinated raisins themselves as a topping on:

  • Bread puddings
  • Poached pears, compotes and other cooked fruit dishes
  • Rice pudding and other puddings
  •  

    THE HISTORY OF RUM RAISIN

    In Sicily, where it originated, what we call Rum Raisin is known as Málaga. The Sicilians were the first to create Rum Raisin gelato, which was originally made with the local Marsala wine instead of rum.

    The raisins were soaked overnight in the wine and then mixed into vanilla gelato*. The sweet Málaga raisins with a burst of alcohol were a hit, and led to Rum Raisin/Málaga flavors in other desserts. Bread puddings, cakes (especially fruit cakes and pound cakes), cookies, custards, pastries, pies and puddings were all enhanced with rum-soaked raisins.

    A grass originally from the the Pacific islands of Melanesia and Polynesia, sugar cane was introduced to the Caribbean in 1493 by Christopher Columbus [sugar history and source].

    By the 17th century, the Caribbean had become the major source of sugar for the West. Molasses is a by-product of refining the cane juice into sugar. Rum was first made from fermented and distilled molasses, most likely on the island of Barbados, where plantation slaves discovered that molasses could be fermented into an alcoholic beverage and then distilled to remove its impurities.

    Fast forward to ice cream: As flavors proliferated in the U.S., rum-soaked raisins were as much a hit as they had been in Italy (the history of ice cream).

    According to FoodTimeline.org, alcohol and ice cream were “pondered in the 18th century; commercially achieved in the USA during the 1930s.” A 1932 newspaper display ad in the Ardmore [Oklahoma] Daily Admoreite of January 14, 1932 declared, “Extra Special. Rum Raisin Ice Cream. Entirely New.” In 1970, President and Mrs. Richard Nixon gave a dinner in honor of President and Madame Georges Pompidou of France, which included pistachio and rum raisin ice creams in the shape of a melon.”

    In the early 1980s, Häagen-Dazs made sure almost all Americans could taste Rum Raisin, by launching the flavor—its fifth, after chocolate, coffee, strawberry and vanilla. It became a hit, but the company now has 24 basic ice cream flavors plus 9 gelato flavors, 7 artisan flavors and 4 sorbets. As a result, Rum Raisin has become a fall season flavor.

    But, just keep that jar of rum-soaked raisins in the fridge and vanilla ice cream in the freezer, and you can have it whenever you want.
     
    *The difference between gelato and ice cream.

      

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