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NOTEWORTHY : World Water Day

One of the 663 million people on earth without access to clean water. Photo courtesy Charity Water.

 

Sufficient water supply and sanitation has been one of man’s primary challenges since the dawn of civilization. Lack of good sanitation systems polluted water supplies, engendering disease and epidemics.

In the early 19th century, governments in developed countries began to implement ways to assure a safe water supply for drinking and, modern sanitation systems to contain disease. But a third of the world’s population still, in undeveloped countries, still lives under ancient, dangerous conditions.

March 22nd is World Water Day, which acknowledges this water crisis.

Even where there is sufficient river and lake water, it often carries harmful organisms that engender disease and death. (The same was true in Europe and elsewhere before the advent of monitored municipal water systems.)

When you live in a country with excellent tap water and sanitation, it’s eye opening to realize that:

  • One in 10 people—663 million—lack access to safe water.
  • One in 3 people—2.4 billion—lack access to a latrine or other toilet.
  • A staggering 4500 children die daily from preventable, water-related illnesses. [Source]
  •  
    If you want to help, head to Action Against Hunger, which has clean water and sanitation initiatives in some of the most remote places of the world.

  • $400 helps install a rain water harvesting system
  • $250 helps provide a latrine
  • $100 helps build a well
  • $25 provides a ceramic water gilter
  •  
    Any contribution helps.
     
    Donate by midnight today and your gift will be matched dollar for dollar by Pur Water Filtration Systems. Thanks!

     
      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: The History Of Ravioli For National Ravioli Day

    Lobster Ravioli

    Cutting Ravioli

    Fazzoletti Ravioli

    Ligurian Pasta

    Sardinian Ravioli

    Fried Ravioli

    Lobster & Crab Ravioli

    Chocolate Ravioli

    (1) A classic dish of ravioli with tomato sauce (photo courtesy CBCrabcakes.com). (2) An illustration of why ravioli is also called “pillow pasta.” (3) Fazzoletti, meaning “handker-chiefs,” at Osteria Morini | NYC. (4) Casoncelli, the twisted shape of Liguria (photo TripAdvisor.uk.co.). (5) Culurgione, Sardinian stuffed pasta shaped like wheat (photo It.Wikipedia). (6) Ravioli can be fried and served with a dipping sauce (at Giovanni Rana | NYC). (7) Lobster and crab ravioli in duo-tone pasta sheets (at Nuovo Pasta). (8) Chocolate ravioli for dessert. Here’s the recipe from Fashion Newbie.

     

    When we were growing up, our mom had access to an Italian restaurant supply store, from whom she purchased a copious amounts of ravioli: in pinked but uncut sheets, four layers to a cardboard carton. When tossed into boiling water and they’d magically separate for an brief swim, until ready to drain and sauce.

    Each week we had Ravioli Night. In those days it was meat or cheese with Mom’s homemade pasta sauce. Lobster ravioli, pumpkin ravioli, and even spinach ravioli were still in the future. She did, however, have a wedge of Parmesan cheese, which she grated over our dishes.

    There has always been ravioli in our life. But who invented ravioli?
     
    THE HISTORY OF RAVIOLI

    China gets the credit for inventing not only strand pasta—thin chow mein noodles like Italian angel hair, thin wonton noodles like Italian linguine, lo mein noodles like Italian pappardelle, and wide wonton noodles like Italian fettuccine—but filled pasta.

    Those stuffed wontons (boiled in soup or steamed separately) or pot stickers (pan-fried) wrapped wheat dough around a filling. Other Asian countries followed suit, and also made pasta from rice and from mung bean threads.

    When it arrived Italy, stuffed pasta was called ravioli (another name is pillow pasta). Some food historians believe the name derives from the old Italian word riavvolgere, to wrap. Others believe that the dish was named after a renowned 13th-century chef by that name, who lived in what is now the Italian region of Liguria), who is credited with the invention of the dumpling composed of two layers of thin pasta dough with a filling sealed between them.

    Today, you can find pasta shaped in circles, novelty shapes (fish, hearts, stars, etc.), rectangles, squares, triangles and other shapes. But let’s start at the beginning.

    When Did Pasta Get To Italy?

    Many have credited Marco Polo, who returned from China in 1295 after 17 years of service in Kublai Khan’s court. But more recent archeological discoveries in Southern Italy have uncovered examples of square ravioli dating to the 9th century. They recipe initially arrived during the Arab conquests of Sicily in the 9th century, which also brought that iconic Italian food (via Arabia via China), spaghetti.

    Of course, in those days communications weren’t great over large distances, and it could be that the Venetians didn’t know about stuffed pasta until Marco Polo returned.

    Like the Chinese, Italians served ravioli (singular: raviolo) in broth, or with a pasta sauce—oil- or cream-based. Tomatoes, which arrived from the New World in the late 16th century, were used as houseplants, believed to be poisonous, and not eaten in Italy until the 18th century.
     
    The Creativity Begins

    By the 14th century, all kinds of pasta ripiena (filled pasta) began to appear throughout Italy. Each region would fill them with local ingredients and give them local names.

    The creative chefs of wealthy families expanded on the square ravioli idea shape to circles, half-moons, hats and other shapes, creating agnolotti, cappelletti, tortelli, tortellini, tortelloni and a host of other shapes. Affordable by all economic classes, stuffed pasta grew in popularity during the Middle Ages.
     
    Whatever the shape, stuffed pasta was made from very thin layers of a dough consisting of wheat flour, water and sometimes eggs (egg pasta was popular in the north and central regions, less so in the southern regions). A bottom sheet of dough was dotted with filling, the top sheet added and the individual pillows scored and crimped.

    Fillings could include:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese: Parmigiano and related cheeses (Asiago, Gran Padano), ricotta, sheep’s milk (pecorino) and other soft cheeses
  • Fish or seafood
  • Fruits, nuts, breadcrumbs
  • Herbs: borage, garlic, marjoram, parsley
  • Meat: boar and other game, beef, chicken, cured meats, deer, lamb, pork, sausage
  • Vegetables: mushrooms, pumpkin or other squash
  •  
    Regional Specialties

    Emilia-Romagna, called “the capital of filled pasta” by some, served tortellini (also called cappelletti or tortelli) in beef or capon broth. Other preparations included meat sauce (ragù alla Bolognese) and fresh cream with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Traditional fillings were mortadella or prosciutto with Parmigiano, nutmeg and pepper.

    Here are some of the numerous specialties from other regions:

  • In Abruzzo, tortelli abruzzesi di carnevale was served on the last Sunday of Carnival and other occasions. With a filling of sheep ricotta, eggs and cinnamon, they were cooked in a meat broth and served with grated pecorino cheese.
  • In Piemonte (Piedmont), agnolotti, stuffed, bite-size squares, were served in beef broth, sauced with the juices from roasted meats or tossed with browned butter with sage. The pasta was topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • In Liguria, casoncelli (a twisted shape reminiscent of Jewish kreplach) and pansotti (triangular ravioli) were popular shapes, served in beef broth.
  • In Lombardia (Lombardy), casoncelli were served with butter and sage. A famous dish from the region, tortelli di zucca [pumpkin] mantovani [from Mantua], was filled with pumpkin, crumbled amaretti biscotti and mostarda (fruit mustard).
  • In Molise, a traditional filled pasta was ravioli scapolesi (after a village called Scapoli). The egg dough filling was complex: chopped chard, roasted ground meat, sausage, beaten eggs, ricotta and pecorino cheese. These large ravioli were first boiled, then topped with a pork and sausage ragù, then baked.
  • In Sardinia, culurgioni were filled with fresh goat or sheep ricotta, eggs and saffron. Sometimes, pecorino cheese, chard or spinach were added. And then, something unique: They were molded to resemble the tip of a stalk of wheat, boiled and served—these days, with a fresh tomato and basil sauce. In Sardinia, the local aged pecorino is shaved on top instead of the Parmigiano of the continent. A variation of the filling uses fresh (day old) pecorino cheese, mashed potatoes and mint, onions or oregano.
  • In Toscana (Tuscany), tortelli alla lastra was originally cooked on a sheet of sandstone (lastra) over a fire. Large squares were filled with mashed potatoes, sometimes with added pancetta, and topped with a sauce made of braised carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes, garlic and sage.
  •  
    Today, the different shapes, fillings and sauces are available throughout Italy.

    Surprise: Sweet Accents

    Until the 16th century, pasta of all types was customarily served with a sweet accent—crumbled amaretti biscotti, currants, marmalade and/or sweet spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg). These ingredients could also be added to the filling.

    While cooking in broth was a common preparation, the ravioli could be fried and served with spices, sugar or honey.

     
    But today, full-fledged dessert ravioli is available, from chocolate and vanilla dough to fillings of chestnut, chocolate, fruit and tiramisu. We even have a recipe for peanut butter and jelly ravioli.

    And there’s no end in sight.

    Many thanks to Piergiorgio and Amy Nicoletti for their scholarship on the history of ravioli.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

    Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

    Dutched Cocoa Powder

    Top: Sweet and salty, chocolate and caramel: How can you resist? A recipe and photo from The Baker Chick. Bottom: Dutch process, or Dutched cocoa, is processed with alkali to neutralize cocoa’s natural acidity. It is milder in flavor and lighter in color than non-Dutched cocoa powder. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.

     

    Thanks to The Baker Chick for helping us celebrate National Chocolate Caramel Day, March 19th. We made her wickedly good Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies.

     
    RECIPE: SALTED CARAMEL PRETZEL BROWNIES

     
    Ingredients For 24 Brownies

    For The Pretzel Crust

  • 4 cups small pretzels, crushed into small pieces
  • 6 tablespoons of butter, melted
  •  
    For The Brownies

  • 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  •  
    For The Toppings

  • 1 cup salted caramel sauce (purchased or homemade)
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Fit a 9×13 pan with foil or parchment paper. Overlap two sheets, including two tabs that hang over the sides, so you can easily lift the brownies out of the pan.

    2. ADD the crushed pretzels to the bottom of the pan and drizzle with the melted butter. Set aside while you make the brownie batter.

     
    3. WHISK together the cocoa powder and boiling water in a large bowl, whisking quickly until just combined. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted. Add the oil, melted butter, eggs, yolks and vanilla, whisking after each addition. Add the sugar, mix until well-combined. Sprinkle the flour and salt over the batter and then fold in, mixing until smooth and well incorporated while not over-mixing.

    4. POUR the caramel sauce over the batter in lines going vertically, then horizontally. Use the tip of a knife or skewer to swirl the batter back and forth.

    5. BAKE for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let brownies cool completely before cutting into squares.

     
      

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    FOOD FUN: Idaho Potatoes

    Idaho potatoes are not a variety of potato; the term refers to any potato grown in Idaho.

    Idaho became known for its quality potatoes thanks to a growing season of warm days and cool nights, plenty of mountain-fed irrigation and rich volcanic soil. These factors combine to give Idaho potatoes a unique texture and taste.

    While some people think of Idaho potatoes as russets (bottom row), four key varieties are grown in the state:

  • Fingerling potatoes in red (French Fingerling variety), purple (Purple Peruvian) and yellow (Russian Banana), top 3 rows
  • Red potatoes (Cal Red, Red La Soda and Norland varieties), fourth row
  • Gold potatoes (Yukon Gold and Yukon Gem varieties), fifth row
  • Russet potatoes (Burbank and Norkotah varieties), bottom row
  •  
    Discover more, including lots of recipes, at IdahoPotato.com.
     
    FOOD TRIVIA: WHY ARE POTATOES CALLED SPUDS?

     

    Idaho Potatoes

    The Idaho Potato Commission created this collage of potatoes in the shape of Idaho.

     
    Originally, a spud was a short knife or dagger, probably from the Dutch spyd. The first written reference we have dates to about 1440.

    The term evolved to include a sharp, narrow spade used to dig up potatoes and other root crops. In the mid 18th century, the term caught on as slang for the potato itself.

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: Pi Day

    Pizza Pie

    Pi Day Pie

    Top: You could have a piece of pie for Pi Day. We’ll have a pizza pie

    instead! Photo courtesy Ribalta Pizza | NYC. Bottom: Want a dessert pie? Try pumpkin pie. It must be better for you, since it didn’t make the list of the 16 worst pies. Photo courtesy FromTheMixedUpFiles.com.

     

    Mathematically, March 4th is Pi Day: 3.14. As we learned in high school geometry, the Greek symbol is used in mathematics to represent the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, a constant that begins with 3.14159.

    Food folks have co-opted Pi Day, turning it into Pi[e] Day and recommending that one celebrate it with a piece of pie.

    This might be the time to include one of the numerous “Top 10 Pies” lists; but this year, we have a twist: a list of the 16 worst pies in terms of calories, fat and sugar, as determined by EatThisNotThat.com. You can read the explanations for each pie here.

    The worst-for-you pie is #1, the best of the group is #16.

    1. Pecan Pie
    2. Key Lime Pie
    3. Vanilla Caramel Pie
    4. Turtle Pie
    5. Fruit-Topped Cream Cheese Pie
    6. Lemon Meringue Pie
    7. Mince Pie
    8. Banana Cream Pie
    9. Mixed Berry Pie
    10. Sweet Potato Pie
    11. Peach Pie
    12. Cherry Pie
    13. Apple Pie
    14. Pumpkin Pie
    15. Blueberry Pie
    16. Coconut Cream Pie
     
    Who would have thought that Coconut Cream Pie could be a “better for you” option?

    The choice is yours. Happy Pi Day.

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Ginger Ale

    March 13th is National Ginger Ale Day, time to enjoy a refreshing glass of ginger ale.

    You can buy a commercial brand, of course; but for something special, you can purchase ginger syrup and add it to club soda. If you like a hot and spice sizzle, pick up some ginger beer syrup.

    The syrups can also be used to flavor barbecue sauce, cocktails, desserts, dips, dressings, glazes, iced tea and other foods and beverages.

    Or, make your own ginger ale from scratch, using fresh ginger root simmered in water. The flavor is so much more vibrant: It sizzles.

    And, since St. Patrick’s Day is this week, you can color it green!

    We adapted this recipe from Epicurious. A squeeze of lime juice, not an ingredient in conventional ginger ale, adds terrific flavor complexity.

    The recipe makes about 1-1/2 cups syrup, enough for 4 to 6 drinks. Prep time is 10 minutes, total time including chilling is 3 hours.
     
    RECIPE: HOMEMADE GINGER ALE

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups (7 ounces) chopped peeled ginger
  • 2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 quart club soda or selter (the difference), chilled
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the syrup: Over a low simmer, cook the ginger and water in a small saucepan, partially covered, for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the ginger steep, fully covered, for 20 minutes.

    2. STRAIN the mixture into a bowl, pressing on the ginger to extract all liquid; then discard the ginger. Return the liquid to the saucepan, add the sugar and salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.

    3. CHILL the syrup in a covered jar until cold. To make ginger ale, mix 1/4 cup of ginger syrup with 3/4 cup club soda and 1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice. Taste and adjust the proportions as desired. Use up the syrup within one week.
     
    THE HISTORY OF GINGER ALE

    First came ginger beer, which originated in England in the 1800s. It was brewed like beer from ginger, sugar, water, lemon juice and ginger beer plant, a cluster of microorganisms like kombucha. It had an alcohol content of 11%. Today’s supermarket beers average 4%-6% and craft beers average 5.9%, although some styles are brewed with ABVs in excess of 11%).

    The first non-alcoholic ginger ale was created in Ireland in 1851. But modern-style ginger ale was born in 1907 when a Canadian, John McLaughlin, invented what eventually became Canada Dry Ginger Ale.

       

    Homemade Ginger Ale

    Ginger Syrup

    Fresh Ginger Root

    Top: Homemade ginger ale (photo courtesy Malibu Rum). Center: Ginger syrup. Mixit with club soda to make ginger ale (photo The Ginger People). Bottom: Use fresh ginger root to make ginger syrup from scratch (photo Jan Schone | SXC).

     
    It was available in two versions: dry ginger ale, the style of modern ginger ale—pale color, mellow ginger flavor—and golden ginger ale, with a much deeper ginger flavor and golden color.

    Canada Dry ginger ale was introduced in 1907; the “dry” style prevails today. It gained favor around the time of Prohibition (1920-1933).

    Today, the golden style—deeper color and flavor—survives as non-alcoholic ginger beer. While modern ginger beers do have a touch of alcohol from the fermentation, they are categorized as non-alcoholic drinks in the U.S. because their alcohol content is less than 0.5% (this meets FDA requirements for a non-alcoholic beverage).

     

    Old Ginger Ale Bottle

    Launched in 1907, Canada Dry is the “father” of modern ginger ale. This bottle is from the 1940s. See more old soda bottles at Printmag.com.

     

    Ginger ale was the most popular soft drink in the U.S. until the 1930s, when it was surpassed by Coca-Cola (first was bottled for distribution in 1899).
     
    Modern Ginger Ale Vs. Modern Ginger Beer

    The main differences between today’s ginger ale and ginger beer are the sweetness and spiciness.

    Ginger beer is less sweet than ginger ale, and has a sizzling ginger kick. The spicier ginger beer provides a bite to cocktails and food pairings (any spicy or highly-seasoned foods, as well as foods with sweet glazes and sauces like barbecue or glazed ham). The lighter ginger ale provides more sweetness and effervescence as a soft drink or cocktail mixer.

    Production processes differ. Ginger beer is brewed (naturally fermented), a reason for the higher price. Ginger ale is a soft drink made from flavored carbonated water.

    Historically, both were fermented. Today only ginger beer is fermented, a reason for the higher price.

  • The natural fermentation of ginger beer yields less carbonation.
  • Ginger beer can have a beer-like head when poured into a glass.
  •  
    Now, the exception: Some artisan soft drink makers, including Reed’s Original Ginger Brew in the U.S. and Fentinman’s in England, ferment their soft drinks for more flavor and complexity.

    Will this become a trend? Stay tuned?

     

      

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    FOOD FUN: Lucky Charms Pudding Parfait

    Lucky Charms Parfait

    Lucky Charms Parfait for St. Patrick’s Day. Photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers.

     

    We love this idea from Elegant Affairs Caterers: a St. Patrick’s Day dessert or snack with Lucky Charms!

    Just use a green filling layer: pistachio Jell-O pudding, vanilla pudding or whipped cream tinted green, mint chip ice cream, etc.

    RECIPE: LUCKY CHARMS PARFAIT FOR ST. PATRICK’S DAY

    Ingredients

  • Cake layer: brownie or chocolate cake cubes, crushed chocolate cookies or non-chocolate alternative
  • Filling layer: green pudding, whipped cream, ice cream
  • Optional: chocolate sauce or other dessert sauce
  • Garnish: Lucky Charms cereal
  • Optional garnish: gold foil chocolate coins
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the optional chocolate coin at the bottom of a sundae or parfait dish. You can use any other glass vessel, from a mug to a goblet wine glass.

    2. ALTERNATE layers of cake, filling and optional dessert sauce.

    3. GARNISH and serve.

     
    This is not just kid stuff. Adults will love it, too: It’s magically delicious!

     
      

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    RECIPE: Korean Spaghetti & Meatballs

    Korean Meatballs

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/rice noodles indochine kitchen 230r

    Peacock Rice Spaghetti

    Top: Spicy Korean meatballs from Noodles & Company. Center: Cooked rice noodles from Indochine Kitchen. Bottom: Peacock Brand rice noodles, one of our favorites.

     

    March 9th is National Meatball Day. Suggestion: Try something different, instead of the very familiar Italian-American pork blend meatballs with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese.

    How about a Korean interpretation of Meatballs & Spaghetti? The meatballs are flavored with spicy gochujang sauce (pronounced Go-CHOO-jang); the spaghetti is made from gluten-free rice noodles.

    The meatball and sauce recipes are from Executive Chef Nick Graff of Noodles & Company. THE NIBBLE put them together rice noodles to create the Meatballs & Spaghetti. The substitutions are:

  • Korean BBQ sauce instead of tomato sauce
  • Rice noodles instead of wheat noodles
  • Shredded basil or chopped cilantro instead of grated cheese
  •  
    Don’t want spicy Korean meatballs? Try this Italian-influenced veal meatball recipe.
     
    RECIPE: KOREAN MEATBALLS & SPAGHETTI

    Ingredients For 32 One-Ounce Meatballs

  • Korean BBQ sauce (recipe below)
  • Meatballs (recipe below, or use your favorite recipe)
  • Rice noodles (spaghetti or vermicelli—Peacock Brand rice noodles are available at Amazon, Walmart, Wegmans and retailers nationwide)
  • Garnish: black and white sesame seeds, fresh basil chiffonade or cilantro
  •  
    Ingredients For The Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  •  
    Ingredients For The Korean BBQ Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled & minced
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang sauce/paste (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the ground chicken and beef with the eggs, salt and white pepper. Portion and roll into 1 ounce-size balls (the size of golf balls) and place on an oiled sheet pan. Bake for about 20 minutes.

    2. MAKE the BBQ sauce. Place the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, gochujang paste and red chili flakes in a pan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile…

    3. WHISK the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl and add to boiling sauce. Stir until thickened. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the heated meatballs and toss to coat completely with the sauce.

    4. COOK the rice noodles according to package directions, while the BBQ sauce is coming to a boil.

    5 COMBINE the spaghetti, meatballs and sauce, garnish and serve.

     
      

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    FOOD “HOLIDAY”: Caffeine Awareness Month

    Coffee Cup & Beans

    Cold Brew

    Top: People with no conflicting conditions can enjoy coffee 4 cups of brewed coffee daily. Want more? Switch to decaf (photo La Panineria). Bottom: Cold brew coffee, growing in popularity, has the most caffeine by a long shot (photo Seaworth Coffee).

     

    March is Caffeine Awareness Month. The National Consumers League (NCL) shared these facts on the world’s most consumed pick-me-up:

  • Caffeine has been consumed by humans for thousands of years. Tea was first consumed in China as early as 3000 B.C.E., and coffee consumption in Ethiopia appears to have commenced in the 9th century C.E.
  • Caffeine is found naturally in more than 60 plants. It is also produced synthetically and added to products including soft drinks and energy drinks. The actual source of caffeine—natural or synthetic—does not matter to performance or health.
  • Six beverages contain natural caffeine. Can you name them? The answers are below.
  • We are a nation of caffeine consumers. Some 85% of Americans drink at least one caffeinated beverage per day.
  • The caffeine intake of American adults ranges from 110 mg/day (for women ages 19-30) up to 260 mg/day (for men ages 51-70). National caffeine intake has remained steady over the past decade. It is much higher in the world’s top caffeine-consuming nations: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
  • Most caffeine intake in the U.S. comes from coffee, tea and soda. Caffeine is sometimes found in surprising places like orange soda, lemonade and enhanced water beverages. Read the labels!
  • Moderate coffee consumption—up to 400 mg/day of caffeine—can be part of a healthy eating pattern, according to the recently released 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. This amount has also been found to be safe by Health Canada and the European Food Safety Authority.
  • Here’s what 400 mg of caffeine comprises:
  • – 16.6 servings of green tea (24 mg caffeine/8 fl. oz.)
    – 11.5 servings of a cola soft drink (average 35 mg caffeine/12 fl. oz.)
    – 8.5 servings of black tea (47 mg caffeine/8 fl. oz.)
    – 5 servings of Red Bull energy drink (80 mg caffeine/8.4 fl. oz.)
    – 4.2 servings of regular brewed coffee (95 mg caffeine/8 fl. oz.)
    – 2.2 servings of coffee house coffee (180 mg caffeine/8 fl. oz.)
    – 2 servings of 5-Hour Energy (200 mg caffeine/2 fl. oz.)
    – 1 serving of 10-Hour Energy shot (422 mg caffeine/2 fl. oz.)

     

  • Amounts of caffeine in cold-brew coffee can be astonishing: as much as 2,160 mg of caffeine in a 32 fl. oz. bottle, or 540mg per eight-ounce cup. It equates to about 23 cups of home brewed coffee, 62 cans of cola or 45 cups of black tea.
  • Scientific consensus is that everyone is different when it comes to the effects of caffeine. Children and teens should generally consume less caffeine due to their lower body weights.
  • Moderate caffeine consumption in healthy adults is not associated with an increased risk of major chronic diseases (e.g., cancer, heart disease) or premature death, according to the Dietary Guidelines.
  • The Dietary Guidelines are silent on most population groups, but advises that pregnant women, those who may become pregnant, and those who are breastfeeding should consult their health care providers for advice concerning caffeine consumption.
  • Dogs, cats, and birds cannot metabolize caffeine, so don’t feed them chocolate or anything else with caffeine.
  •  

    LABELS DON’T TELL ALL

    The FDA currently requires food labels to disclose added caffeine as an ingredient, but the label is not required to provide the amount of added caffeine or to list natural caffeine.

    As a result, very few products voluntarily list the total amount of caffeine they contain; although some companies, like Red Bull and Monster, and some soft drinks, provide this information voluntarily.

    The NCL is an advocate for transparency. To be able to moderate their intake, says the organization, consumers need to know how much caffeine is in the foods and beverages they consume.

    The NCL believes that all products containing caffeine should declare the amount of caffeine per serving-and per container-on the label—and we agree.
     
    And The Answers Are…

     

    Hot Chocolate With Marshmallows

    Not so innocent: Cacao beans, and the cocoa powder made from them, contains caffeine. Photo courtesy La Panineria.

     
    The six foods/beverages that contain natural caffeine are: cacao/cocoa, coffee, guarana, the kola nut, tea (black, green or white Camellia sinensis but not herbal tea, which has no caffeine) and yerba maté.

      

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    RECIPE: Tricolor Jello Fingers For St. Pat’s, July 4th, Halloween, Christmas & More

    Green Jello Squares

    Jell-O Treats

    Tricolor Jello Mold

    Top: St. Patrick’s Day themed Jell-O from TheModernRoost.com used food color to create the darkest green layer. Center: The recipe for this Halloween Jell-O from SomethingNewForDinner.com. Bottom: Christmas Jell-O from Due Forni | Las Vegas.

     

    You’re never to old to enjoy a fancy Jell-O dish. Call it retro, call it Jell-O art; just call it to the table.

    Multi-layer jello finger food (no fork or spoon required), called finger Jell-O, ribbon Jell-O or Jell-O squares, is the type of food fun that the family can look forward to with each holiday. Simply match the colors to the occasion.

    You can make as many layers, and as many colors, as you like. The Pioneer Woman makes an even snazzier version. So does the Brown-Eyed Baker.

    You can slice this into what is known as “finger Jello,” because you can pick it up and eat it with your fingers. Extra gelatin is added to the Jell-O to create a firm texture.

    You can make it in any colors; for example:

  • Green and white for St. Patrick’s Day (one layer of Lime Jell-O, one layer of Melon Jell-O)
  • Red white and blue for Memorial Day and Independence Day
  • Blue and white for Chanukah
  • Orange and Peach or Black Cherry for Halloween
  • Black Cherry red and Raspberry red for Valentine’s Day
  • Team colors for the Super Bowl (use food color to tint as needed)
  •  
    Check out the different flavors and colors of Jell-O.
     
    You can make a diet version with sugar-free Jell-O, and swap the sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk that you sweeten with a non-caloric sweetener.

    RECIPE: JELL-O SQUARES

    In this recipe, adapted from Taste Of Home, the Jell-O is firmed into “finger Jell-O” or “Jell-O squares” with the addition of extra gelatin. Prep time is 30 minutes, plus 90 minutes chilling/firming time.

    Make the recipe on a day when you can let each mixture come to room temperature at its own pace, and firm up each layer in the fridge for more than 30 minutes. Don’t skimp on the cooling and firming times, or you won’t be pleased with the results.
     
    Ingredients For 32 Pieces

  • 1 box (6 ounces) Lime Jell-O
  • 1 box (6 ounces) Melon Fusion Jell-O
  • 4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • Boiling water, cold water
  • Preparation

    1. SPRAY a 9×13-inch baking pan (ideally Pyrex) with nonstick spray.

    2. MAKE the bottom layer: In a medium bowl, mix the green Jell-O with 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin. Add 2 cups boiling water and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature and pour into the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    3. MAKE the center layer: In a clean bowl, mix the sweetened condensed milk with 1 cup boiling water. In a separate small bowl, sprinkle 2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin over ½ cup cold water. Let the gelatin stand for 4 minutes and then add ½ cup boiling water to dissolve it. Add to the condensed milk mixture and stir to combine. Cool to room temperature and pour over the bottom layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    5. MAKE the top layer. In a medium bowl, mix the red Jell-O with 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin. Add 2 cups boiling water and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature and pour over the middle layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    6. SLICE into individual pieces, plate and serve.

     

    THE HISTORY OF JELL-O

    Gelatin (also spelled gelatine) has been made since ancient times by boiling animal and fish bones. Aspic, a savory, gelatin-like food made from meat or fish stock, was a French specialty centuries before the dawn of commercial gelatin. It was very difficult to prepare, relying only on the natural gelatin found in the meat to make the aspic set.

    Powdered gelatin was invented in 1682 by Denis Papin. But the concept of cooking it with sugar to make dessert dates to 1845 and an American inventor named Peter Cooper. Cooper patented a dessert product that was set with gelatin, but it didn’t take off.

    In 1897, Pearle Wait, a carpenter in Le Roy, New York (Genesee County), experimented with gelatin and developed a fruit flavored dessert which his wife May named Jell-O. The first four flavors were orange, lemon, strawberry and raspberry.

    Wait tried to market his product but lacked the capital and experience. In 1899 he sold his formula to a townsman and manufacturer of proprietary medicines, Orator Frank Woodward, for $450. The Jell-O itself was manufactured by Andrew Samuel Nico of Lyons, New York.

    Alas, sales were slow and one day, Wait sold Sam Nico the business for $35. In 1900, the Genesee Pure Food Company promoted Jell-O in a successful advertising campaign, and by 1902 sales were $250,000. In 1923 the owners created the Jell-O Company, Inc., which replaced the Genesee Pure Foods Company. The purpose was to protect the Jell-O trade name and to keep it from becoming a generic term.

    That same year, the Jell-O Company was sold to the Postum Cereal Company, the first subsidiary of a large merger that would eventually become General Foods Corporation. Lime Jell-O was introduced in 1930.

     

    Old Strawberry Jello Box

    Strawberry Jello Box

    Top: A box of strawberry Jell-O from the 1890s, courtesy eBaumsWorld.com. Bottom: Strawberry Jell-O today. Photo courtesy Kraft Foods.

     

    Today Jell-O is manufactured by Kraft Foods, a subsidiary of Phillip Morris, which acquired both Kraft and General Foods in the 1980s and ultimately merged the two companies. There’s a Jell-O Gallery Museum in Le Roy, New York.

      

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