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JULY 4th RECIPE: American Flag Ice Cream Cake

This easy flag cake from McCormick is made from reddened brownie layers with vanilla ice cream and a blue-tinted whipped topping. You can cut 12 servings from the loaf.
 
RECIPE: AMERICAN FLAG ICE CREAM CAKE

Ingredients

  • 1 package (family-size) fudge brownie mix
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 bottle (1 ounce) red food color
  • 1 tub (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
  • McCormick Neon Food Colors & Egg Dye in blue and purple
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows, divided
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
  • Optional: 1 cup strawberries, thinly sliced
  •  

    brownie-ice-cream-cake-mccormick-230

    The “red” in this American Flag ice cream cake is food coloring added to the brownie. If you want more redness, add a layer of sliced strawberries over the top of the ice cream (photo courtesy McCormick).

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Empty the brownie mix into a large bowl. Add the sour cream, eggs and red food color; mix well.

    2. SPOON the batter into a greased, foil-lined 9×5-inch loaf pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with fudgy crumbs. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

    3. MAKE the frosting: Stir the whipped topping, lemon extract, 1 teaspoon Neon Blue and 5 drops Neon Purple food colors with a spatula until evenly tinted. Stir in 3/4 cup of the marshmallows. Set aside.

    4. LINE a loaf pan with foil, with the ends of the foil extending over the sides of pan. Cut the brownie loaf horizontally into 2 layers. Place the bottom layer in the loaf pan and gently spread with the ice cream and the optional strawberries.

    5. PLACE the top brownie layer over the ice cream and spread the whipped topping mixture over the top. Press the remaining 1/4 cup of marshmallows into the whipped topping. Cover carefully with foil.

    6. FREEZE at least 2 hours or until firm. Use foil handles to remove dessert from pan. Place on cutting board; let stand 10 minutes to soften. Cut into slices to serve.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Watermelon Steaks

    Grilled Watermelon Recipe

    Seedless Watermelon

    [1] Grilled watermelon steaks with walnut gremolata (photo courtesy McCormick). [2] Use seedless watermelon (photo courtesy Bridges Produce).

     

    We’ve previously recommended cauliflower steaks and grilled cabbage steaks. Today’s “field meat” steaks are made with watermelon. The sweet fruit is grilled with savory seasonings to create a special first course.

    Seedless watermelon is cut into thick “steaks”; marinated in a mixture of white balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and rosemary; and topped with a walnut gremolata.

    What’s gremolata? It’s a lively, fresh-chopped condiment that typically includes parsley and/or other green herbs, plus lemon zest and garlic. It’s the traditional accompaniment to osso bucco, braised veal shank; but it’s a tasty accent to many dishes. Bonus: Because it’s so flavorful, you can cut back on salt.

    Here’s more about gremolata, including the classic gremolata recipe.
     
    RECIPE: GRILLED WATERMELON STEAKS WITH WALNUT GREMOLATA

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 8 minutes. Some people like to cut the watermelon into rectangles, in line with the steak theme. You also can cut the grilled watermelon into bite-size squares and serve them as hors d’oeuvres.

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1/2 small seedless watermelon
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary leaves, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt (substitute kosher salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
  •  
    For The Gremolata

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT four 1-inch-thick, half-moon slices of watermelon. Reserve any remaining watermelon for another use.

    2. MIX the vinegar, oil, lemon juice, rosemary, salt and pepper in small bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons for drizzling over the grilled watermelon. Place the watermelon steaks in glass dish and add the rest of the marinade. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, turning the watermelon halfway through. Meanwhile…

    3. MAKE the walnut gremolata: Mix the walnuts, parsley and lemon peel in a small bowl and set aside. Remove the steaks from the marinade, reserving the leftover marinade for basting the watermelon during grilling.

    4. GRILL the steaks over high heat for 2 to 4 minutes per side or until grill marks appear, brushing with the leftover marinade after the 2-minute mark.

    5. SERVE: Cut the watermelon steaks in half. Drizzle with the reserved marinade. Sprinkle with the gremolata.
     
    WHICH IS BETTER: SEEDLESS OR SEEDED WATERMELON?

    We turned to the National Watermelon Board to learn that:

  • There’s really no difference between seedless and seeded watermelon when it comes to taste. Most people prefer not having to deal with seeds, as opposed to those who enjoy seed-spitting contests.
  • A watermelon’s flavor is impacted by different factors, and seeds aren’t really one of them. Flavor can be greatly influenced by seed variety, the time of year the fruit was harvested, the amount of rain the crop received, the general climate it was grown in, how much direct sunlight it got, the type of soil, and other variables.
  • All watermelon grown for retail sale must meet a minimum brix level, a measurement of sweetness. Most watermelons exceed that level.
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    FOOD FUN: Hawaiian Ham Sandwich

    Hawaiian Ham Sandwich Recipe

    Aloha, Hawaii: a sandwich of ham, pineapple and mashed sweet potatoes (photo courtesy Arnold Bread).

     

    Here’s a fun summer sandwich idea from Arnold Bread, using the company’s Healthfull Steel Cut Oats and Honey bread:

    We baked the sweet potatoes in the microwave (4 minutes). They mash very easily.

    RECIPE: HEAVENLY HAWAIIAN HAM SANDWICH

    Ingredients For 2 Sandwiches

  • 4 slices oat bread or other bread
  • 1 cup cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
  • 2 tablespoons green salsa
  • 2 slices lean cooked ham
  • 2 pineapple rings
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE 2 slices of bread on the work surface. Spread half of the mashed sweet potatoes on one slice of bread. Add 1 tablespoon salsa on top of the potatoes.

    2. TOP with 1 slice of ham and 1 pineapple ring. Cover with the remaining slice of bread. Repeat for the second sandwich.

     
      

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    FOOD FUN: Whimsical Mac & Cheese Recipe

    Fully Loaded Mac & Cheese

    Baked Macaroni & Cheese

    Take your choice: innovative Mac & Cheese (photo courtesy Chef Eric LeVine) or a conventional preparation (photo courtesy Dietz and Watson).

     

    What’s on this plate?

  • A base of macaroni and cheese.
  • Surrounded with a ring of duck and mushrooms in hoisin sauce.
  • Topped with 5 jumbo grilled, bacon-wrapped shrimp.
  • Garnished with fresh rosemary (substitute chopped green onions or chives.)
  •  
    This may be just the thing for a fun food-loving dad on Father’s Day.

    The concept is from one of our favorite innovative chefs, Eric LeVine.

    Chef Eric is the author of Small Bites Big Flavor: Simple, Savory, And Sophisticated Recipes For Entertaining.

    This imaginative cookbook is written for home chefs who want to expand their repertoire with fun and unconventional dishes.

    The 100+ recipes also include mid-sized, larger and sweet bites, and even some signature cocktails. It demonstrates how much fun it can be to prepare, present, share, and of course, eat food.
     
    MORE FUN MAC & CHEESE RECIPES

    These are a bit more conventional, yet still fun food:

  • Apple, Texas & Truffle Mac & Cheese Recipes
  • DIY Mac & Cheese Party Bar
  • Macaroni & Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  • Mac & Cheese Potato Skins
  •  

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Off-Season Coconut Macaroons

    Chocolate Dipped Macaroons Recipe

    Coconut Macaroons

    Coconut Macaroon Inside

    Top: Chocolate-dipped macaroons (photo courtesy McCormick). Center: Plain coconut macaroons (photo courtesy Recchiuti Confections). Bottom: Up close (photo by Georgie Grd | Wikipedia).

     

    If you like coconut, don’t wait until Passover* to make coconut macaroons. They’re a great treat year-round, and gluten-free. Bring them as house gifts: They travel well without breaking.

    We adapted this recipe from one by Serena Rain of VanillaQueen.com, purveyor of top-quality vanilla beans, extracts, pastes, powders, sugars and salts.
     
    RECIPE: COCONUT MACAROONS

    You don’t need to add chocolate to macaroons; but if you want to, there are two options:

  • Dip the macaroons in a chocolate glaze.
  • Mix chocolate chips into the dough. This is an especially good option for warm-weather months.
  •  
    Ingredients For About 24 Cookies

  • 3 cups unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup almond meal†
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: 4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (for the dough)
  • Optional: 4 ounces quality chocolate bar (for a glaze)
  • Option: 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  •  
    Preparation

    You can incorporate the orange peel into the dough or the glaze. We like the “lift” it gives to the recipe.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line baking pans with parchment paper.

    2. COMBINE the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until well incorporated. Use a spoon to scoop tablespoon-sized mounds of the coconut “dough.” Shape into round balls and place on the parchment paper. Alternative: You can drop the dough as unshaped mounds. See the difference between the top photo (dropped) and the bottom photo (shaped).

    3. BAKE for about 20 minutes or until golden brown (aim for the color in the center photo). Let cool.

    4. MAKE the glaze. Place the chocolate in a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir, and if necessary, heat for 30 more seconds until fully melted. Dip the bottoms of the cooled macaroons into the chocolate. Alternatively, place the cookies on a tray lined with parchment paper and drizzle the tops with chocolate; let cool until set. Some people prefer the glaze on top: a chocolate dome. Take your pick.

     
    THE HISTORY OF MACAROONS

    Macaroons appeared in the late 15th or early 16th century in Italy. The historical record isn’t clear, but they are believed to have been created by monks. There were thousands of monasteries in medieval Europe, and monks created different types of beers, brandies and liqueurs, cheeses, pretzels, sweets, wines and spirits.

    The first macaroons were almond meringue cookies similar to today’s amaretti cookies, with a crisp crust and a soft interior. They were made from egg whites and almond paste.

    Italian Jews adopted the cookie because it had no flour or leavening‡, so could be enjoyed during the eight-day observation of Passover. It was introduced to other European Jews and became popular as a year-round sweet. Over time, coconut was added to the ground almonds and, in some recipes, replaced them. Today in the U.S., coconut macaroons are the norm.

    Macaroons came to France in 1533 with the pastry chefs of Catherine de Medici, wife of France’s King Henri II. In France they evolved into delicate meringue cookie sandwiches filled with ganache or jam.

    Here’s more about the different types of macaroons.
     
    _____________________
    *During the week of Passover, in April, celebrants eat no leavened grains. Macaroons (all varieties) are grain free.

    †Almond meal, or almond flour, is ground from whole, blanched sweet almonds. The nuts are very low in carbohydrates and very nutritious.

    ‡Leavening is the agent that raises and lightens a baked good. Examples include yeast, baking powder and baking soda. Instead of these, macaroons (all types) are leavened with egg whites.
     
      

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    FOOD FUN: Birthday Shots

    What a nifty idea for birthdays! It’s from Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat, the sisters who authored Bite Me. This recipe is from their second book, Bite Me Too. Their latest book, Lick Your Plate, has recently hit the shelves.

    Combine vodka, chocolate liqueur, cream and white cake mix, and top it with whipped cream and sprinkles. That’s a celebration!

    And you don’t have to wait for the birthdays of friends and relatives. You can find hundreds of famous people any any given month. In June alone, there are:

  • Adam Smith, economist
  • Alan Turing, mathmetician
  • Alanis Morisette, musician
  • Allen Iverson, NBA star
  • Angelina Jolie, actor
  • Anne Frank
  • Anthony Bourdain, chef and television host
  •  
    Here’s the full list.

     

    Birthday Shots

    Celebrate birthdays with these yummy Birthday Shots (photo courtesy McArthur & Co).

     
    And that’s just a small portion with a first name beginning with A.
     
    RECIPE: BIRTHDAY SHOTS

    Ingredients Per Shot

  • 1/2 ounce vodka
  • 1/2 ounce chocolate liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce cream
  • 2 tsp dry white cake mix
  • Garnishes: whipped cream and sprinkles
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX the first four ingredients in a shaker with ice; strain into a shot glass. Garnish with whipped cream and top with sprinkles.
     
    Variation

    If there are children in attendance, give them chocolate milk or a shake, garnished with the whipped cream and sprinkles.
     

    DISCOVER MORE AT BITEMEMORE.COM.

      

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    RECIPE: Sweet & Sour Cucumber Salad

    June 13th is National Cucumber Day. How about a refreshing cucumber salad? It’s a perfect accompaniment to almost everything: a great sandwich side, hot dog topping, cookout and picnic fare, and a complement to grilled foods and Asian dishes.

    This recipe is from Sunset Growers, which used their One Sweet mini cucumbers. The mini cukes are seedless or have limited seeds, and the petite slices are nice visually. But conventional cucumbers are fine.

    It’s also much lower in calories and higher in fiber than mayonnaise-based side salads.

    This cucumber salad is dressed with a yummy sesame vinaigrette. You can make the recipe a day before serving. Turn it into a first course or luncheon salad with cooked shrimp.
     
    RECIPE: ASIAN CUCUMBER SALAD

    Ingredients For 4 to 6 Side Servings (3-1/2 Cups)

  • 6 mini cucumbers or 1-1/2 large convention cucumbers
  • 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • Optional: dash of Asian chili sauce
  • 1 green onion (scallion), very thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup tiny-diced red or yellow bell peppers
  •  
    For A Luncheon Salad Or First Course

  • 8 ounces cooked shrimp
  • Green salad for base (we use mesclun)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the vinaigrette. Heat the oil in a small saucepan heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the sesame seeds and stir until toasty, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and add the vinegar, sugar and salt. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Cool to room temperature; then stir in the chili sauce. Meanwhile…

    2. THINLY SLICE the cucumbers. Combine the cucumbers, green onions and bell peppers in a bowl and add the cooled sesame dressing. Toss well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve using a slotted spoon.

    3. ADD the greens for lunch or an appetizer, top with the cucumber salad and garnish with the shrimp.

     

    Asian Cucumber Salad Recipe

    Mini Cucumbers

    Gulf Shrimp

    Top: Cucumber is refreshing, versatile and low in calories: a win-win-win. Center: OneSweet mini cucumbers (photos courtesy Sunset Growers). Bottom: Cook some shrimp for a luncheon salad or first course (photo courtesy I Love Blue Sea.

     
    MORE FOR NATIONAL CUCUMBER DAY

    Here’s a cucumber cocktail recipe—Cucumber Lemonade made with gin—and the different types of cucumbers.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Savory Mashed Potato Waffles

    Mashed Potato Waffles Recipe

    Pineapple Jalapeno Salsa

    Top: Turn leftover mashed potatoes into waffles for breakfast or brunch (photo Idaho Potato Commission. Bottom: Top the waffles with salsa, syrup or this pineapple-jalapeno salsa recipe from Whole Foods Markets.

     

    What to do with leftover mashed potatoes? You can heat them up, make Shepherd’s Pie, or whip up these Mashed Potato Waffles for breakfast or brunch.

    This recipe, from the Idaho Potato Commission, was This was created as a vegan recipe. We used conventional buttermilk (homemade!), cheese and eggs. could be sweet instead of savory, but savory waffles with garlic, cheese and scallions are a nice change of pace. It can also be used with mashed sweet potatoes.

    We served them with a side of Applegate sausage and a baby arugula and spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette.
     
    RECIPE: MASHED POTATO WAFFLES

    Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup vegan buttermilk (see Step 1) or regular buttermilk
  • 2 egg replacers* or two large eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups leftover mashed potatoes†
  • 3 tablespoons chopped scallions or chives (omit if your mashed potatoes already have herbs or onions)
  • ½ cup shredded vegan or regular cheddar cheese
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon garlic powder†
  • 1 cup all-purpose or gluten free flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: vegan or regular breakfast meat
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • Vegan or regular sour cream
  • Chopped chives, scallions, parsley
  •  
    Optional Condiments

  • Chutney
  • Maple syrup
  • Salsa
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the vegan buttermilk. Combine ¼ cup non-dairy milk with ¼ teaspoon lemon juice; allow to sit for 15 minutes.

    2. PREHEAT the waffle maker and grease it with cooking spray.

    3. WHISK together the oil, vegan buttermilk and egg replacer, in a large bowl. Stir in the mashed potatoes, scallions and cheese until well-combined. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder, if using.

    4. WHISK together in a small bowl the baking powder and baking soda. Fold the flour mixture into the potato mixture until well-combined.

    5. SCOOP 1/2 to 2/3 cup of the mixture (depending on the size of your waffle maker) into the prepared waffle maker, spreading it into an even layer. The potato mixture will not spread or expand as much as a regular waffle, so take care to spread it evenly.) Close the lid and let the waffle bake until golden brown.

    6. REPEAT with the remaining potato mixture. NOTE: If the waffle is too wet, add more flour to the mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time until you get a doughy consistency.

    7. TOP the waffles with vegan sour cream, garnish and serve.

     
    _____________________
    *The Idaho Potato Commission recommends Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg. You can also use EnerG or make your own: For the equivalent of one egg, combine 1 tablespoon ground chia/flax seed mixed with 2 tablespoons of warm water. Allow to thicken.

    †If your mashed potatoes are plain, add in 1 teaspoon powdered garlic as well as salt and pepper, to taste.
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Use Egg Molds Or Cookie Cutters For Pancakes

    Whether Dad likes pancakes or fried eggs for breakfast, make Father’s Day special: Shape his breakfast with egg/pancake molds.

    If you can’t pick up molds in time, you can use cookie cutters. Since they don’t have handles, you’ll need a spatula, kitchen tongs and dexterity to lift the cooked eggs.
     
    HOW ELSE CAN YOU USE THE MOLDS?

    We’ve molded:

  • Cheeses that fry without melting: halloumi (Greece), paneer (India), queso blanco or queso para frier (Mexico)
  • Chocolate, melted and shaped into a medallion for topping an iced cake
  • Dough (use the egg molds as cookie cutters in a pinch [the edge is not as sharp for cutting as a cookie cutter])
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Meat loaf
  • Rice or other grains
  •  
     
    WHAT WOULD YOU MOLD?

    We’d love to have a longer list of foods to shape with our egg/pancake molds.

     

    Chocolate Heart Pancakes

    Fried Egg Molds

    Top: I [heart] you, Dad (photo and recipe from The Baker Chick). Bottom: A set of molds from Neon, available on Amazon. The handles fold down for easy storage.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Pick The Best Live Lobster

    Live Lobster

    Steamed Lobster

    Portuguese Lobster

    Top: One sign of a good lobster: long antennae (photo courtesy I Love Blue Sea. Center: Mmm, mmm: a lobster Platter at North River Lobster Company. Bottom: Different lobster have different colors, both live and when cooked. This one is from Portugal (photo courtesy Vermillion Restaurant).

     

    Planning to buy live lobsters for National Lobster Day (June 15th) or Father’s Day (June 19th)? Here are tips from Executive Chef Cenobio Canalizo of Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C.

    HOW TO PICK THE BEST LIVE LOBSTER

    1. FEEL THE SHELL. There are hard-shell and soft-shell (new-shell) lobsters. It’s just a function of whether the lobsters have recently molted (shed their shells), an annual process.

  • On a soft-shell (new shell) lobster, the claws will look pristine. On a hard-shell lobster, the claws will have have scrapes from banging against rocks over the course of the year.
  • The meat in soft-shells is a bit sweeter and more tender, but a lobster with a softer shell is likely to have more water weight and less meat. They’re not as hardy, so they don’t travel as well as hard-shell lobsters. Similarly, hard-shell lobsters have more meat, but they can be a bit tougher.
  •  
    2. GIVE IT A SNIFF. A live lobster should not emit any odor.

    3. PICK A LIVELY LOBSTER. The more active the lobster, the more tender the meat. If the lobster is limp when you pick it up, it’s on its last legs. If it isn’t moving at all, it may be dead. Here’s an easy test: If you straighten out the tail, it should swiftly curve back under the body.

    4. LOOK FOR LONG ANTENNAE. The longer the antennae, the fresher the lobster. Lobsters in a holding tank will often eat each other’s antennae. If a lobster has been there for a long time, its antennae can be nibbled down—often to the base.

    5. DON’T MIND THE COLOR. The top shells are usually dark green or greenish-brown, but they can be black, blue, orange, red, white or yellow. The underbody of a live lobster, particularly the claws, are usually a vibrant red.

    6. SIZE MATTTERS. The larger the lobster, the tougher the meat. Chef Cenobio prefers lobsters under two pounds for the most tender and flavorful meat.

    7. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. There are many different species of lobster in the world’s oceans, but Chef Cenobio says the best come from Canada and Maine.

    8. GENDER DOESN’T COUNT. Most aficionados agree that there is no difference in flavor or texture between male and female lobsters. Females have a small, hard, edible roe called the coral (because of its color). These are the unfertilized eggs of the female. Both genders have the soft, greenish, edible tomalley, which serves as both the liver and pancreas.

    9. PAY ATTENTION TO PRICE. Live lobster costs between $9 to $11 dollars per pound. If the price is lower, often the quality is lower as well.
     
     
    LOBSTER RECIPE IDEAS and LOBSTER TRIVIA: Check ‘em out.

     
    ABOUT MICHAEL JORDAN’S THE STEAK HOUSE N.Y.C.

    Michael Jordan’s is uniquely situated, on the balcony overlooking the Main Concourse of Grand Central Terminal. In addition to fine food, you can enjoy the beautiful Concourse architecture and the elaborate ceiling, picturing the constellations. The Terminal, which opened in 1913, is an example of “They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.”

     
      

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