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FOOD HOLIDAY: Corn Chips Vs. Tortilla Chips

January 29th is National Corn Chip Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  •  

    Fritos Corn Chips

    Bag Of Fritos

    old-fritos-bag-flashbackdallas-230

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

     

      

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    RECIPE: Happy Salad For Sad Weather

    Colorful Salad

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

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

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

    RECIPE: BURST OF SUNSHINE SALAD

    Ingredients

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

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

     
    THE HISTORY OF SALAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
      

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

    Emmer Wheat

    Brown Turkey Figs

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    HOW DID FARMING BEGIN?

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

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

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

    Fresh Chickpeas

    Just Picked Olives

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

     
    And the rest is [agriculture] history!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Granola Bars

    Granola Bars

    Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars

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

     

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

    HISTORY OF THE GRANOLA BAR

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

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

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

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

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

     
    RECIPE: GRANOLA BARS

    Ingredients

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Coconut Cranberry Granola Bar

    Apple Pie Granola Bars

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

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

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

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Almond Milk

    Homemade Almond Milk

    Homemade almond milk. Photo courtesy
    Juice Queen.

     

    Here’s a fun project for the weekend: homemade almond milk. All you need are almonds, water, cheesecloth and a jar.

    Almond milk is a dairy-free milk alternative, favored by the lactose-intolerant, vegans, raw foodists and as a kosher (pareve) milk alternative. Others simply like the creaminess and hints of almond on the palate.

    Almond milk is the number one nondairy milk in the U.S. It can be used anywhere cow’s milk is used, from morning cereal to afternoon smoothies to after-dinner coffee. (Here’s a nutrition comparison.)

    In just five minutes (plus eight hours soaking time), you can make a batch, From there, you can make flavored almond milk, like vanilla or cocoa. You can add a sweetener of choice—agave, honey, maple syrup, noncaloric sweetener, sugar—or drink it as is (it has its own natural sweetness).

    You can even give a cocoa almond milk kit to a child, useful for everything from Show and Tell to inspiring the joy of cooking.

     

    But today’s project is making a batch of plain almond milk. Sure, you can buy it ready made. But making your own is not only fun; it tastes a lot better than the manufactured, shelf-stable product, which typically contains additives and preservatives.

     

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE ALMOND MILK

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • Jar
  • Water
  • Cheesecloth
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the almonds in a large bowl or jar and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Cap the jar or cover the bowl with a dish towel, and let the almonds soak for at least 8 hours and up to 2 days. The almonds will plump as they absorb water. The longer you soak them, the creamier the milk will be. If you plan to soak them for more than 8 hours or overnight, put the bowl in the fridge.

    2. STRAIN the almonds in a colander, thoroughly rinse them with cold water and place them in a blender. Pulse them to break up the almonds. Add 4 cups of water and blend on high until the mixture is very smooth, 2 to 4 minutes. The almonds should break down into a very fine meal and the water should be white and opaque.

    3. PLACE the cheesecloth in a large strainer over a bowl. If you don’t have a strainer, gather the edges of the cheesecloth in one hand so as to create a well. Carefully pour the water and almond mixture into the cheesecloth, taking pains to not let any spill out of the sides. When all of the mixture has been poured…

    4. SQUEEZE the remaining almond meal in the cheesecloth to extract any remaining liquid. You can wring the cheesecloth to get every last drop. See below for what to do with the leftover almond meal. At this point you can taste the almond milk and sweeten to taste. It has natural sweetness, so we don’t add anything more.

    5. STORE the almond milk in an airtight container in the fridge. Since it has no preservatives and isn’t pasteurized, it only keeps for two or three days. Because there are no emulsifiers, the milk can separate. Just shake the bottle.

    If you’ve had commercial almond milk, you’ll be wowed by the fresh flavor.

     

    Make Almond Milk

    Making Almond Milk

    Top: Soaking the almonds. Bottom: Wringing the last delicious drops from the cheesecloth. Photos and recipe courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     
    If you’d like a thinner milk, use more water next time; for thicker milk, use less water.

    If you plan to make almond milk regularly, buy a nut milk bag from a health food store or online. It’s easier to work with than cheesecloth.

    HOW TO USE THE LEFTOVER ALMOND MEAL

    You can toss or compost it, of course. But you can also:

  • Add it to oatmeal, muffin batter or smoothies for extra protein.
  • If you want to keep it for future baking, dry it by spreading it onto a baking sheet and baking it in a low oven (275°F to 300°F) until completely dry, 2 to 3 hours. You can then freeze it for up to 6 months.
  •  
    MAKING ALMOND MILK: BLENDER VS. FOOD PROCESSOR

    You can use either a blender or a food processor to make almond milk. The differences:

  • With a blender, the milk has a silkier texture and subtly sweet flavor notes.
  • With a food processor, the milk is a bit thicker with a nuttier flavor. It may contain some the bits of ground almonds.

     
    ALMOND MILK HISTORY

    In the Middle Ages, almond milk was made in Europe to East Asia. It was a staple because it kept longer than cow’s or goat’s milk; and it was appropriate for consumption during Lent and fast days.

      

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    RECIPE: Homemade Tomato Soup With Goat Cheese Crostini

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

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

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

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE TOMATO SOUP

    Ingredients For 6 To 8 Portions

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

    Sundried Tomato Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Goat Cheese Crostini

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

     

    RECIPE: GOAT CHEESE CROSTINI

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

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

    1. TOAST the baguette slices.

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

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

     

      

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    PRODUCT: Scotch Whisky Chocolates For Burns Night

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

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

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

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

     

    Burdick Scotch Whiskey Chocolate

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      

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    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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    FOOD FUN: Why Ask Why? Food Trivia

    Water Crackers

    Red Stripe Peppermints

    Top: Crackers have pin holes so the air
    escapes and they don’t rise. Photo courtesy
    PantryPacker.com. Bottom: A checmical in
    mint tricks the brain info feeling coolness.
    Photo by Jeffrey Collingwood | SXC.

     

    Here are some fun food facts adapted from TodayIFoundOut.com

    Why Chiles Taste Hot

    The heat in chiles comes from a colorless, odorless chemical called capsaicin, which is found mostly in the seeds and ribs of the chiles.

    Capsaicin binds with certain sensory neurons in the mouth to trick the body into thinking it is burning—although no physical burning takes place. Details.
     
    Why Crackers Have Holes

    The holes allow steam to escape during cooking, which keeps the crackers flat. Otherwise, they’d rise like a biscuit.

    Adding holes is an art: If they are too close together, too much steam/moisture escapes and the crackers will be dry and hard. If the holes are too far apart, parts of the cracker will rise. Details.
     
    Why Milk Is White

    Milk is composed of 87% water and 13% solids—fat and proteins. The chief protein is casein, which comprises some 80% of the proteins in milk. The casein proteins and some of the fats deflect light, which results in milk being fairly opaque and appearing white to our eyes. Details.
     
    Why Mint Tastes Cold

    Menthol, a chemical in mint, binds with cold-sensitive receptors and tricks the brain into thinking that you are feeling a cold sensation. In fact, everything is the same temperature as it was pre-menthol. Details.

     

     

    Why Onions Make Your Eyes Water

    Onions absorb sulfur from the soil. When chopped, the cells are broken and release enzymes which react with the sulfur. When this substance comes in contact with the moisture in the eye, it triggers a burning sensation, which then engenders tears.

    Sweet onions grow in low-sulphur soil, which is why they don’t emit fumes when cut. Details.
     
    Why Popcorn Pops

    Popcorn is the only variety of corn that will pop. When the kernels are heated up, the water inside begins to steam. Eventually, the pressure of the steam gets so great that the shell bursts. When some kernels remain unpopped, it is likely that they are low in moisture. Details.

     
    Why Swiss Cheese Has Holes

    Some of the microbes added to the milk in the cheese-making process produce significant amounts of lactic acid, which is consumed by other microbes. These microbes produce carbon dioxide as a byproduct, which creates bubbles within the cheese.

    Rather than pressing them out, the cheese makers leave them as a distinctive feature of the cheese. Details.

     

    Red Onions

    Popcorn Kernels

    Top: The sulphur in onions makes your eyes water. Photo courtesy Burpee. Bottom: Popcorn is the only corn kernel that pops. Photo courtesy Belle Chevre.

     

      

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    NEWS: New USDA Nutrition Guidelines

    Kale Chips

    Thai Collard Wrap

    Kale is the current nutrient-dense darling, but collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, Swiss chard and watercress have the same top score on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). Top: kale chips (here’s the recipe). Bottom: Use collard greens instead of other sandwich wraps. Here’s how. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     

    Every five years the USDA reviews and releases its recommended nutrition guidelines, which change over time as science generates more information. Here is the full report.

    None of it will be news to anyone. Here’s what you should eat:

    More fruits and vegetables; grains, especially whole grains; low-fat or fat-free dairy products; seafood, lean poultry and meats; beans, eggs, and unsalted nuts. Limit solid fats, cholesterol and trans fats; consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fats. Limit salt (sodium) and added sugars. And exercise regularly.

    Here’s the summary of the guidelines:

    THE GUIDELINES

    1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across your lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease. (Editor’s Note: It’s never too late to start.)

    2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts. (Editor’s Note: Nutrient dense foods are those that provide the most nutrients for the fewest calories. Here’s a guide to the most nutrient-dense foods in every category.)

    3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats and sodium (salt). Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.

    4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.

     
    5. Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.

     

    KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

    The Dietary Guidelines’ Key Recommendations for healthy eating patterns should be applied in their entirety, given the interconnected relationship that each dietary component can have with others.

    1. Consume a healthy eating pattern that accounts for all foods and beverages within an appropriate calorie level.

    A healthy eating pattern includes:

  • A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starches.
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits.
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grains.
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages.
  • A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), nuts, seeds, and soy products.
  • Oils.
  •  

    Baked Salmon With Quinoa

    Fish is the most nutrient-dense protein, with wild salmon at the top of the list. Second- best is chicken breast. Shown here is baked salmon atop a bed of quinoa; photo courtesy Nestlé.

     
    2. A healthy eating pattern limits saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium. The following components are of particular public health concern in the United States, and the specified limits can help individuals achieve healthy eating patterns within calorie limits.

  • Consume less than 10% of calories per day from added sugars.
  • Consume less than 10% of calories per day from saturated fats.
  • Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium.
  • If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age.
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    PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

    In tandem with the recommendations above, to help promote health and reduce the risk of chronic disease, Americans of all ages—children, adolescents, adults, and older adults—should meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Americans should aim to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. The relationship between diet and physical activity contributes to calorie balance and managing body weight.

    Editor’s Note: You knew all of this; now you just have to make small adjustments to get closer to the ideal. Good luck to us all.

      

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