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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.
  •  
    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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    FOOD FUN: “Stonehenge” Beef Carpaccio

    Stonehenge Beef Carpaccio

    Garden Beef Carpaccio From All'Onda

    Turn beef carpaccio into an homage to
    Stonehenge. Photos courtesy All’Onda | NYC.

     

    We’re starting the new year of Food Fun with this eye-catching, low calorie treat.

    We love the eye appeal of the food at All’Onda in New York City. Take this “Stonehenge” Beef Carpaccio. Cut beets are arranged in a circle in an homage to the giant standing stones of Stonehenge.

    Carpaccio (car-POTCH-yo) is a very popular first course in Italy. Paper-thin slices of beef tenderloin are topped with arugula and shaved cheese, traditionally Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a drizzle of olive oil. On top of those basics, the cook can add anything that he/she likes.

    So consider what else you’d like to include in your own carpaccio. How about baby spinach, pieces of blood orange, capers or caperberries, cherry or grape tomatoes, gourmet sprouts, onions/green onions/chives, and for those who are blessed financially, white truffles in season (the season is now). The chef at All’Onda chose baby beets and you can, too.
     
    For an outside-the-box surf-and-turf, top the beef with anchovies, caviar (salmon caviar is nice and affordable, wasabi tobiko has hot wasabi flavor and a great crunch) or thinly-sliced raw scallops.

    The dressing can be fine olive oil or herb-infused oil (basil or rosemary are best) with a slice of lemon or lime. It could be a vinaigrette; or it could be something fusion. We like ponzu sauce, which we used in our re-creation of this recipe.

    Serve the carpaccio with sliced baguette or crusty sourdough, plain or toasted, along with a peppermill.

     

    RECIPE: STONEHENGE CARPACCIO

    Total preparation time is 2 hours 35 minutes, of which two hours is chilling time in the freezer. The biggest challenge you’ll have is slicing the beef thinly and evenly. Sharpen that knife!

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 10 ounces beef tenderloin*
  • 2-3 cups handfuls baby arugula (substitute baby spinach)
  • EVOO (we used basil-infused) or balsamic vinaigrette
  • Baby beets in red and yellow, sliced to stand up
  • Kosher salt
  • Minced chives and/or small capers
  • Shaved Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese†
  •  
    ___________________________________________
    *Get the the tip end of the loin, which is narrower and a better shape for carpaccio.

    †American “Romano” cheese is a mild cheese not related to Italian Peorino Romano, which is salty and flavorful like Parmigiano-Reggiano. See our Cheese Glossary for more information.

     

    Preparation

    1. FREEZE the beef briefly to make it easier to cut. Cloak it tightly with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for 2 hours. Chill the plates in the refrigerator.

    2. REMOVE the beef from the freezer and thinly slice it into pieces approximately 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick. Lay out sheets of plastic wrap and place each slice onto the wrap as you slice it. Top the slices with another piece of plastic wrap and gently pound the meat with a mallet until the slices are paper thin.

    3. DIVIDE the beef onto the four plates, creating a neat circle or other artful layout. Toss the greens lightly in the balsamic vinaigrette. Arrange the beets into “Stonehenge.” pepper and/or

    4. TOP with the shaved cheese and serve, passing the peppermill and the bread.
     

    CARPACCIO VS. CRUDO

    Sometimes we see “Tuna Carpaccio” or other seafood carpaccio (octopus, salmon, scallops, etc.) on a menu. That’s incorrect; feel free to point it out to the chef. (Seriously: We once had to tell a two-star chef, via our waiter, that his menu featured bison, not buffalo).

     

    Carpaccio Recipe

    Don’t want to create Stonehenge? The same ingredients make a conventional beef carpaccio. This one, from Firenze Osteria, is slightly less conventional: It substitutes aïoli—garlic mayonnaise—for the olive oil.

     
    Just because they’re acclaimed doesn’t mean that they’re correct.)

    Carpaccio is raw beef filet, typically sirloin; crudo is the term for raw fish or seafood. Crudo is analogous to sashimi or tiradito, but the fish is cut differently.

    While crudo has been eaten for millennia*, carpaccio is a modern dish, created in Venice in 1963, at the time of an exhibition dedicated to Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio (1465-1526).

    The carpaccio dish was based on the Piedmont speciality, carne cruda all’albese, created by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice. Using fine Piedmontese beef (Piemontese in Italian), he originally prepared it for a countess whose doctors had recommended that she eat raw meat!
     
    _________________________________________
    ‡From the earliest times, fishermen have eaten their catch on board, with a bit of salt and/or citrus. Before man learned to make fire, some 350,000 years ago, the catch was de facto eaten raw. Here’s a list of raw fish dishes.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cacio E Pepe

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

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

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

    SUBSTITUTES

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

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

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

    Ingredients

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

    Cacio e Pepe

    Pecorino Romano

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Pouring Olive Oil

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

     

    ABOUT PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The New Bloody Mary Garnishes

    Aquavit Bloody Mary

    Bloody Mary Crab Claw

    Garnished Bloody Mary

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

     

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

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

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

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

    Ingredients For 2.25 Quarts

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
    MORE BLOODY MARYNESS

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

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Mimosa Cocktail

    Cranberry Mimosa Cocktail

    Make Cranberry Mimosa cocktails or mocktails. Photo courtesy Ocean Spray.

     

    There’s still time to create a signature drink for Christmas: a Cranberry Mimosa cocktail or mocktail. It combines cranberry juice with sparkling wine (or ginger ale), instead of the orange juice of a traditional Mimosa.

    Or use cranberry liqueur for a Cranberry Kir Royale, a.k.a. Kir Royale à la Canneberge (if you haven’t guessed, canneberge [can-BERZH] is French for cranberry). Note that using liqueur instead of juice creates a stronger drink.

    You can also serve a Mimosa mocktail with cranberry juice and ginger ale, and a diet version with diet cranberry juice and diet ginger ale.

     
    RECIPE: CHRISTMAS MIMOSA, CRANBERRY KIR ROYALE OR CRANBERRY MOCKTAIL

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces cranberry juice or cranberry liqueur
  • 4 ounces sparkling wine*, regular or rosé, chilled
  • Optional garnish: lemon curl, strawberry
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cranberry juice/liqueur and the sparkling wine in a Champagne flute or wine glass. Add the juice first. If you need to stir, do so gently, once, so as not to collapse the bubbles.

    2. GARNISH as desired and serve.
     
    *Well-priced sparkling wines include Asti Spumante and Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, Crémant from France and our Top Pick Of The Week, Yellow Tail Bubbly.

     
    THE HISTORY OF THE MIMOSA COCKTAIL

    The Mimosa, a cocktail composed of equal parts of orange juice and Champagne or other dry, white sparkling wine, was invented circa 1925 in the Hôtel Ritz in Paris, by bartender Frank Meier. Served in a Champagne flute, it is believed to be named after the the mimosa evergreen shrub (Acacia dealbata), which bears flowers of a similar color to the drink.

    The optional addition of a small amount of orange liqueur like Grand Marnier complements the juice and gives the drink more complexity.

    Because of the juice component, the Mimosa is often served at brunch. A Grapefruit Mimosa with grapefruit juice is a popular variation. A related drink, the Buck’s Fizz†, has two parts Champagne to one part juice—and sometimes a splash of grenadine. Created at London’s Buck’s Club by bartender Pat McGarryhe, the Buck’s Fizz predates the Mimosa by about four years.

    If you’re making Mimosas, fresh-squeezed orange juice makes a huge difference. One expert recommends trying different types of orange juice: The sweeter Navel juice vs. the more acidic Valencia, for example. Blood oranges, with their rosy color and raspberry notes, will provide a different experience entirely (and a wonderful one!).

    [Source]
     
    †Buck and mule are old names for mixed drinks made with ginger ale or ginger beer, plus citrus juice. They can be made with any base liquor. Why buck? Why mule? That answer is lost to history, but here’s a detailed discussion.
     
      

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    RECIPE: Eggnog Martini

    For Christmas or New Year’s Eve, how about a fun and flavorful Eggnog Martini?

    You can buy eggnog in the supermarket and mix multiple portions in a pitcher.

    RECIPE: EGG NOG MARTINI

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 3-1/2 ounces eggnog
  • 1-1/2 ounces vanilla vodka (make it or buy it)
  • Splash of cinnamon liqueur (see below)
  • Garnish: dash of nutmeg or rim of crushed graham crackers
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. FILL a 5-ounce Martini glass with ice to chill it.

    2. COMBINE the eggnog, vanilla vodka and cinnamon liqueur in a shaker with ice, and shake to blend.

    3. DISCARD the ice in the glass and strain the cocktail into it.

    4. GARNISH as desired and serve.

       

    Eggnog Martini

    An Eggnog Martini with a rim of crushed graham crackers. Photo courtesy Cedar Mill Liquor.

     

    Goldschlager Cinnamon Liqueur

    Dramatic and delicious: Goldschläger
    cinnamon schnaps with gold flakes. Photo
    courtesy Global Brands.

     

    MAKE VANILLA VODKA

    Infusion method: Add a vanilla bean to a bottle of decent vodka. Cap tightly and let the vanilla infuse for 1-2 weeks in a cool, dark place. Gently shake the bottle every other day.

    Quick solution: Add vanilla extract to vodka, 1/4 teaspoon per two ounces. For a 750 ml bottle of vodka, that’s 3 teaspoons. Shake well to blend.

     
    CORDIAL, EAU DE VIE, LIQUEUR, SCHNAPPS:
    THE DIFFERENCE

    Cinnamon liqueur can be added to coffee and tea (hot or cold), made into adult hot chocolate, sipped on the rocks, drunk as shooters and mixed into cocktails. If you buy a bottle for this recipe, you’ll find numerous opportunities to use it

    Some brands are meant to burn like Red Hots candy. You want something more elegant. Our favorite is Goldschläger cinnamon schnaps with gold flakes. It looks magical in shots and clear cocktails.

     
    So what’s the difference between cordial, eau de vie, liqueur and schnapps?

    While many people use these terms interchangeably, and they are all flavored spirits, there are differences in terms of sweetness and color.

  • Liqueur (lih-CUR, the French pronunciation) is made by steeping fruits in alcohol after the fruit has been fermented; the result is then distilled. Liqueurs are typically sweeter and more syrupy than schnapps.
  • Schnapps (SHNOPS) is made by fermenting the fruit, herb or spice along with a base spirit, usually brandy; the product is then distilled. This process creates a stronger, often clear, distilled spirit similar to a lightly flavored vodka. “Schnapps” is German for “snap,” and in this context denotes both a clear brandy distilled from fermented fruits, plus a shot of that spirit. Classic schnapps have no added sugar, and are thus less sweet than liqueur. But note that some manufacturers add sugar to please the palates of American customers.
  • Eau de vie (oh-duh-VEE), French for “water of life,” this is unsweetened fruit brandy—i.e.,schnapps.
  • Cordial has a different meaning in the U.S. than in the U.K., where it is a non-alcoholic, sweet, syrupy drink. In the U.S, a cordial is a sweet, syrupy, alcoholic beverage: liqueur.
  •  
    In sum: If you want a less sweet, clear spirit, choose schnapps/eau de vie over liqueur. For something sweet and syrupy, go for liqueur/cordial.
     
    FOOD 101

    THE HISTORY OF EGGNOG

    THE HISTORY OF THE MARTINI
      

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    INNOVATION: A New Way To Enjoy Breakfast Cereal

    What’s new in breakfast? How about some of America’s favorite breakfast cereals, served with spicy Chinese food? It’s a unique fusion experience, and it’s DEE-licious!

    The concept is a joint venture between Kellogg’s and innovative Chinese chef Danny Bowien.

    Chef Danny is a James Beard Rising Star Chef Award winner, chef/co-founder of the acclaimed restaurants Mission Chinese Food in New York and San Francisco and Mission Cantina in New York, and co-author of The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook.

    Danny worked with Kellogg’s to create original approaches to breakfast cereal, combining American cereal with popular Chinese dishes from his menu. We were lucky enough to be invited to taste his creations (just $6 each!). They’re a revelation, and an inspiration for all of us to create our own innovative cereal combinations.

    The result:

    The marriage of familiar and unexpected flavors, the sweet and crunchy Kellogg’s cereals with the soft and spicy Mission Chinese cuisine, is a winner! We loved every one.

    In fact, we went home and re-created Danny’s pairings as best we could, with the ingredients we had on hand. Since all the thinking had been done for us, it was pretty easy, although with a less refined result than the master’s.!

    The limited-time specialty breakfast menu is available from December 18th to 20th; proceeds (with a minimum donation of $25,000) will benefit The Bowery Mission, which provides meals to homeless men and women in New York City.

     
    THE BREAKFAST MENU: 5 NEW & NIFTY COMBINATIONS

    Each pairing is a conventional cereal course, accompanied by a Chinese dish.
     
    Corn Flakes + Westlake Rice Porridge

    The Cereal: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, yogurt and berries.
    Paired With: Westlake Rice Porridge, essentially the wonderful Chinese dish of congee with chunks of oxtail meat, Dungeness crab and a soft-cooked egg.
    Our Home Version: Corn Flakes, yogurt, berries, Cream Of Rice cereal with a swirl of sriracha.
     
    Corn Pops + Thrice Cooked Bacon

     

    Westlake Rice Porridge With Corn Flakes

    Kellogg's Mini Wheats With Cashew Butter

    Frosted Flakes With Matcha Milk

    TOP PHOTO: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes with rice porridge (congee). MIDDLE PHOTO: Kellogg’s Mini Wheats with cashew butter and persimmon jelly. BOTTOM PHOTO: Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes with matcha powder, matcha milk and matcha noodles. Photos courtesy Mission Chinese Food.

     
    The Cereal: Kellogg’s Corn Pops with bacon-infused soy milk, topped with a fried egg.
    Paired With: Thrice cooked bacon with stir-fried rice cakes, bitter melon and chili paste.
    Our Home Version: Corn Pops, bacon and eggs with chili paste-braised tofu (alas, we had no rice cakes).
     
    Frosted Flakes + Green Tea Noodles

    The Cereal: Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes dusted with matcha (green tea powder).
    Paired With: A carafe of matcha-infused milk and a side of matcha noodles.
    Our Home Version: Frosted Flakes dusted with matcha, green tea soy milk and angel hair pasta tossed with olive oil and matcha “pesto.”
     
    Frosted Mini Wheats & Beef Jerky Fried Rice

    The Cereal: Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats on a bed of cashew butter and persimmon jam.
    Paired With: Beef Jerky Fried Rice, peanut-infused milk and a scattering of roasted peanuts.
    Our Home Version: Mini Wheats with peanut butter and fig jam. Next time we’ll make cashew fried rice to go with it.
     
    Raisin Bran + Mapo Tofu

    The Cereal: Kellogg’s Raisin Bran quickly braised in warm almond milk, agave and lime.
    Paired With: Spicy Mapo Tofu—tofu set in a spicy chili-based sauce.
    Our Home Version: Raisin Bran with more of the chili paste-braised tofu and a squeeze of lime juice.
     

    For more ideas on how you can innovate with cereal, visit the Kellogg’s site StirUpBreakfast.com.

    Our fondest wish: that this breakfast menu gets a regular gig.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Tree & Wreath Christmas Crudités

    Crudites Christmas Wreath

    Christmas Tree Crudites

    Give the crudités some Christmas spirit. Top
    photo courtesy Superhealthykids.com; bottom
    photo courtesy MomEndeavors.com.

     

    Recently we showed how to Christmas-ize your breakfast, lunch and dinner. But we saved the crudites for last.

    At any holiday gathering, it’s a good idea to have a raw vegetable platter (the French term, crudités, pronounced crew-dee-TAY, sounds much more interesting), along with hummus or a nonfat yogurt-based dip.

    But what can you do that’s special for Christmas?

    Turn the crudités into a Christmas tree or wreath.

    You can do it flat on a platter, or turn into a craft project with a styrofoam base: a cone for a Christmas tree or a ring for a wreath.

    And, you can assign it to the kids for their contribution to the festivities.
     
    WHAT TO BUY

    Broccoli florets make the best base because they evoke an evergreen tree; but decorate your tree or wreath with:

  • Celery sticks (for the trunk)
  • Bell pepper strips for garlands (orange, red, yellow)
  • Carrot circles (use a crinkle cutter)
  • Cauliflower florets
  • Ciliegine (cherry-size mozzarella balls)
  • Grape tomatoes (red and yellow)
  • Mini cucumber and/or zucchini slices
  • Pearl onions
  • Peppadews (red or yellow-orange)
  • Pimento-stuffed olives and
  • Red gaeta, niçoise or other red olive variety
  • Starfruit (carambola) or a yellow bell peppers to make a star (an inexpensive mini cookie cutter set is a great asset, with star, heart, raindrop, flower, triangle and other shapes)
  • Water chestnuts
  •  
    Provide toothpicks to spear the mozzarella balls, olives, etc.
     
    WHAT ABOUT DESSERT?

    For dessert, you can serve a low-calorie wreath or tree of fruit, like this fruit Christmas tree we featured previously.

    But it’s only one of the many options that creative cooks have put together. Here are more designs for fruit Christmas trees.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Christmas Peppermint Hard Candies

    Peppermint Stars

    Peppermint Christmas Trees

    Use your holiday cookie cutters to make these fun mint shapes from conventional peppermint candies. Photos courtesy Reynolds Kitchens.

     

    We love the recipe developers at Reynolds Kitchen, who often surprise us with their creativity. Just by looking at the photos, you can see what they’ve done with an everyday bag of striped peppermint candies.

    The result is like candy canes, but as Elle Woods would say, the shape is more funner.

    It’s also funner to make them with mints in both holiday colors, red and green. Brach’s makes their striped Starbrite Mints in both colors, as well as a sugar-free red and white mint*.

    So pick up the mints and get out every shape and size of cookie cutter that works for the holidays. Then, serve the mints:

  • On a platter, with after-dinner coffee
  • As decorations on holiday cakes and cupcakes
  • Wrapped in cellophane as stocking stuffers or party favors
  •  
    We’d suggest making them as tree ornaments, but can’t figure out how to affix something so that they hang evenly. We tried making holes with an ice pick before the shapes fully hardened, but it wasn’t neat. Ribbon didn’t stick to the peppermint with the glues we had at hand.

    Any other ideas?

    RECIPE: HOLIDAY SHAPE PEPPERMINTS CANDIES

    Ingredients

  • All of your holiday-appropriate metal cookie cutters (borrow as needed)
  • Cookie sheet and parchment paper
  • Baking spray (or bland cooking spray)
  • A bag of red and white and a bag of green and white hard mints
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with Reynolds Parchment Paper.

    2. SPRAY oven-safe, metal cookie cutters with non-stick cooking spray, then place on the cookie sheet. Fill each cookie cutter with peppermint candies. Break the candies into smaller pieces to fill in the smaller areas of the mold (we used a meat mallet).

    3. BAKE for 3–9 minutes until the candies melt into cookie cutter shapes. Remove the sheet from the oven and let the candy harden. Stretch the cookie cutter a bit to remove the candy.

     
    TIP

    This concept works for Valentine’s Day, too. Collect a bunch of heart-shaped cookie cutters.

     
    *We haven’t tested the recipe with sugar-free mints, but guess that they’ll melt in a similar fashion to the conventional variety.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Holiday Cupcakes

    December 15th is National Cupcake Day.

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Candy Cane Cupcake

    Snowman-Cupcake-c-createdbydiane-230b

    Reindeer Cupcake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      

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