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TIP OF THE DAY: Taco & Wing Bar For Easy Entertaining

DIY Taco & Wing Bar

DIY Taco Bar

Just walking up to a spread like this is exciting! [1] DIY taco and wing bar from Burlap + Blue. [2] Taco bar fixings from Ebay.

 

The weeks prior to the Super Bowl, we get dozens of pitches from PR firms presenting their clients’ products and recipes: for platters of wings, tacos and other crowd-pleasing game foods.

So we decided to combine the ideas into what morphed from the help-yourself buffet into the DIY food bar.

All the food can be easily prepared in advance and served at room temperature. Proteins, rice and beans can be kept on a warming tray, in a slow cooker, or whatever you have (or can borrow).
 
FOR DIETARY PREFERENCES

  • If your group includes vegetarians or vegans, include Morningstar MorningStar Farms Grillers Crumbles for the tacos, and MorningStar Farms Buffalo Wings for the wings. These vegetarian products are delicious, and after you’ve included all the toppings it’s tough to tell the difference. (Can you tell that the sofritas at Chipotle aren’t meat?)
  • Provide a large bowl of lettuce and have refills available, so those who prefer a big salad can make one, with plenty of choice of toppings). Add oil and vinegar to the table.
  •  
    To drink:

  • Beer
  • Bloody Marys
  • Micheladas (beer, lime juice and hot sauce in a salt-rimmed glass
  • Selter with lime and jalapeños (alas, Polar Seltzer’s Jalapeno Grapefruit Margarita Seltzer was a limited edition)
  •  
    INGREDIENTS FOR A TACO BAR

    Make a selection from these ingredients. If we’ve left out any of your favorites, please let us know!

  • Tortillas: corn tortillas, flour tortillas, taco shells, tostadas
  • Fillings: ground cooked beef*, sliced chicken, fish fillets
  • Toppings: chopped tomato, guacamole, shredded iceberg lettuce or romaine, sour cream, salsa
  • Garnishes: salsa, shredded cheese (cotija, cheddar, Mexican blend, pepperjack
  • Extras: cilantro, corn and bean salad, diced avocado, diced onions, hot sauce, lime wedges, sliced jalapeños, sliced olives
  •  
    Plus: rice and beans.

  • Check out this recipe for Cilantro Lime Rice.
  • If you have enough guests, serve both black beans and pinto beans.
  • ________________

    *If you’ve never made taco beef, it couldn’t be easier. Just cook and crumble the ground beef over medium high heat, sprinkling with taco seasoning as it cooks. Drain the grease; that’s it.

     

    INGREDIENTS FOR A WING BAR

    This is a lot simpler, since wings are a DIY dish in the first place: a platter of wings, celery sticks, hot sauce and blue cheese dressing†.

    There are many ways to make wings. By varying the seasonings on the wings and the types of sauces, Food Network came up with 50 wing recipe variations.

    You’re probably not up for making two, much less 50, variations; but here’s what you can do to make your wings special:

  • Homemade dressings. Make your own blue cheese and ranch dressings, check out the recipes from Burlap + Blue.
  • Different dressings/sauces. In addition to the traditional blue cheese and ranch: aïoli: (garlic mayonnaise—or other flavored mayo)Asian chili sauce, horseradish sauce, mole sauce, peanut sauce, pesto, marinara, steak sauce, teriyaki or ponzu sauce, whatever you have.
  • Different hot sauces: Sriracha, Tabasco, Garlic Tabasco, etc.
  • Spices: Set out black pepper, cayenne or red chili flakes, celery salt, chipotle, cumin, curry, Italian seasoning, jerk seasoning, Old Bay seasoning, whatever you have that makes sense
  • Something sweet: barbecue sauce, honey, maple syrup, peach preserves, pineapple slices/chunks, sliced mango, etc.
  • More veggies: In addition to celery sticks†: bell pepper strips, carrot sticks, fennel sticks, kimchi, pickles, scallions, sliced radishes, sugar snap peas.
  • ________________

    †Buffalo wings were invented in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, as an impromptu, thrown-together midnight snack. Co-owner Teressa Bellissimo fried the wings, covered them in hot sauce and served them with a side of blue cheese and celery—because that’s what she had available. Here’s a longer history of buffalo wings.
     
    MORE DIY FOOD BARS

    Cocktails, Hors D’Oeuvre & Appetizers

  • Antipasto Bar
  • Apple Cider Party Bar
  • Bacon Party Bar
  • Bloody Mary Bar
  • Bruschetta Bar
  • Flavored Shots Party Bar
  • Gazpacho Bar
  • Guacamole Bar
  • Shandy Bar
  • Stuffed Avocado Bar
  •  
    Main Meals

  • Breakfast Or Brunch Bar
  • Coconut Bowl Bar
  • Lunch Or Dinner Bar
  • Tapas Bar
  • Temaki Bar (Sushi Hand Rolls)
  •  
    Desserts & Snacks

  • Assorted Desserts Bar
  • Brownie Bar
  • Frozen Yogurt Bar
  • Ice Cream Bar
  • Pudding Party Bar
  • S’mores Bar
  • Popcorn Bar
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    Buffalo Wings

    Buffalo Wings

    Buffalo Wings With Chiles

    Thai Buffalo Wings

    [1] Classic, casual Buffalo wings became such a favorite—rolling out across America—that chefs at all types of restaurants created their own versions of wings. Previously, plates of wings had not been a restaurant menu item. Here’s a classic take from Bon Appetit. [2] An elegant take from Distilled NY. [3] Italian spices and hot chiles (photo courtesy Carrabba’s Italian Grill). [4] Thai-spiced wings with fresh mango (photo courtesy Spice Market | NYC).

      

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    FOOD TRENDS: Top Chinese Dishes

    General Tso's Chicken

    Crab Rangoon

    Best Wonton Soup

    2017 Year Of The Rooster

    [1] The most popular Chinese dish in America, per GrubHub results: General Tso’s Chicken (here’s the recipe from Spicy Southern Kitchen). [2] Crab Rangoon, a made-in-america concoction of cream cheese and imitation crab (here’s the recipe from Rasa Malaysia). [3] Wonton soup, fully loaded (here’s the easy recipe for this beauty from recipe Jessica Gavin). [4] Check out your Chinese horoscope here.

     

    It’s Chinese New Year, more properly called the Lunar New Year, celebrated in Asia far beyond China.

    The celebrations will start today and continue for through February 2nd.

    It’s the Year of the Rooster, the animal sign for those born in 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005 and 2017 (the next Rooster year is 2029).

    We’re not much into horoscopes, but we are into food and celebrating. Numerous Chinese restaurants feature special dishes or menus, if you don’t want to celebrate at home.

    We find this a good occasion to take a look at the most popular everyday Chinese dishes in America.

    GrubHub analyzed a year’s worth of ordering data from its 30,000 participating restaurants in more than 800 cities, serving 172,000 take-out orders and 4.57 million diners (survey data from 2015).

    The most popular Chinese dish, General Tso’s Chicken, is also the fourth most popular dish among all the cuisines ordered on GrubHub. And the first and second aren’t even based in China: They are Chinese-American creations.

    THE MOST POPULAR CHINESE DISHES IN AMERICA

    1. General Tso’s Chicken (deep-fried chicken chunks with hot chiles and sweet and sour sauce)

    2. Crab Rangoon (fried wontons stuffed with cream cheese and [usually imitation] crab)

    3. Egg Roll

    4. Sesame Chicken

    5. Wonton Soup

    6. Fried Rice

    7. Sweet and Sour Chicken

    8. Orange Chicken (made with orange peel)

    9. Hot And Sour Soup

    10. Potstickers (leftover steamed dumplings that are fried)

    Are your favorites on the list?
     
    HOW REPRESENTATIVE IS THE LIST?

    While you can’t argue with the data, note that the results may be skewed.

  • Data from 800 cities across the country may not be the same as data from, say, the 30 cities in the U.S. that have Chinatowns, and thus a broader selection of authentic Chinese food.
  • Peking Duck, our favorite Chinese dish and often the priciest item on a menu, isn’t a typical take-out order.
  • Where are the great noodle dishes (low mein, chow fun)?
  • While American dietary choices may not reflect them, don’t overlook the delicious greens, such as sautéed bok choy, Chinese broccoli and napa cabbage).
  • Ditto for the tofu and eggplant dishes.
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    OUR TOP 10 FAVORITE CHINESE DISHES

    In alphabetical order, we hunger for:

  • Chow Fun (with Chinese broccoli and lamb or pork)
  • Eggplant With Garlic Sauce
  • Mai Fun Singapore Style (angel hair pasta with curry, pork and shrimp plus shredded bell pepper, carrot, Chinese cabbage and scallions or onions )
  • Mapo Tofu (with spicy ground beef and chopped scallions)
  • Peking Duck (roasted and served with pancakes, scallions and hoisin sauce)
  • Salt & Pepper Squid, or Squid In Black Bean Sauce
  • Spicy Sichuan-Style Lamb
  • Steamed Dumplings
  • Steamed Greens With Oyster Sauce
  • Wonton Soup (with lots of vegetables, including bamboo shoots, bok choy, mushrooms, snow peas, and non-authentic but delightful spinach and/or watercress—and for an extra treat, add shrimp [recipe])
  •  
    We very much like Hot And Sour Soup, Orange Chicken, a good egg roll and fried rice, but kept our list to 10 to match GrubHub’s.

    This has made us so hungry, we can’t wait until dinner. We’ll be calling GrubHub to deliver lunch!

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pho & Ramen Breakfast…Or Perhaps Some Miso Soup?

    Asians drink soup for breakfast: Japanese miso soup and Thai pho, for example. Americans looking for something quick, hot, nutritious and comforting should consider the option.

    Both can be packed with vegetables, and carried in a travel mug or thermos.

    Your soup supply can also be part of a low-calorie, healthful lunch or snack.

    EASY BREAKFAST MISO SOUP

    Miso soup for breakfast? Sure: That’s how millions of Japanese people start the day.

    All you need to make a bowl of miso soup is hot water and a spoonful of miso paste, available in many supermarkets as well as in Asian food stores. Seriously, it’s as easy as instant coffee.

    You can have it plain, add tofu cubes as served at Japanese restaurants, or add vegetables of choice, as shown in this video.

    The tofu can be cubed in advance; in fact, the whole soup can be made in advance and microwaved in a minute, which is especially convenient if you want your soup with cooked veggies.

    There are also instant versions in packets with freeze-dried tofu cubes, which just require water and heating.

    We were heartbroken when Pacific Organics discontinued their terrific pho soup base. It was so easy to whip up a delicious, nutritious noodle and egg soup that can be served for breakfast, lunch or a light dinner.

    Pho is one of our favorite foods in the world, especially when the broth is cooked for days to extract amazing layers of flavor (go to a Vietnamese restaurant that makes it from scratch, not from a commercial base. It may be one of your life’s memorable food moments.)

    Since then, we’ve discovered Nona Lim’s flavorful broths: pho, miso ramen and spicy Szechuan.

    All can be drunk straight or enhanced with noodles, eggs and vegetables. You can add meat for a hearty lunch or dinner dish, and top it with fresh herbs for color and more flavor.

    Savory Choice, which for years has been our go-to chicken broth base, now makes pho concentrate packets in beef, chicken and vegetable.

    You can also find powdered concentrates in Asian food stores and online.

    So what’s stopping you from making a delicious Asian breakfast?

    RECIPE: PHO & RAMEN BREAKFAST

    Ingredients For 4 To 6 Servings

  • 12 ounces Nona Lim plus one cup water or other equivalent* pho broth (substitute Szechuan broth or miso soup)
  • 5 ounces ramen (one packet)
  • 1 head bok choy or ½ head chard or kale, sliced into ½” ribbons
  • 3 green onions/scallions, green and white parts, chopped roughly
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped roughly (substitute basil, chervil, mint or parsley)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ADD water to the the broth concentrate per package directions, then heat. When it boils, add noodles and cook for 2-3 minutes.

    2. ADD the greens and scallions and simmer for another 3-5 minutes, until the greens are bright and tender but still have texture.

    TIP: If you have wilting veggies in your crisper, or a piece of uncooked chicken or fish that needs to be used, this is a perfect way to use them up. Just shred/slice and toss ‘em in!)

    3. BRING a small pot of water to a boil, then add the eggs and simmer for 7 minutes and 20 seconds. Remove from water and place in an ice bath; peel when cool.

    4. LADLE out bowls of noodles and broth, adding a handful of fresh herbs and a halved egg to each.
    ________________

    *The Nona Lim package plus the water equals 16 ounces of broth.

     

    Ramen - Egg Soup

    Nona Lim Pho Broth

    Savory Choice Beef Pho

    Kikkoman Instant Tofu Miso Soup

    [1] A delicious Asian breakfast, this soup triple-tasks for lunch and dinner. [2] Ready to heat: Nona Lim’s pho base (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [3] We alternate using both Nona Lim and Savory Choice concentrate packets (photo courtesy Grub Market). [4] A quick substitute: instant miso soup packets. There is also a version with tofu and spinach (photo courtesy Kikkoman).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Eat Something Australian

    January 26th is Australia Day, the official National Day of Australia.

    It marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip.

    In modern Australia, celebrations reflect the diverse society* and landscape of the nation, and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history, official community awards, and citizenship ceremonies welcoming new members of the Australian community.

    *Editor’s note: Some indigenous Australians, may not be celebrants Australia Day. Having been pushed aside by the British, they label Australia Day as “Invasion Day,” and stage protests instead. Here’s the history.

    Honor it by eating something Australian. Suggestions:

  • Barramundi fish.
  • Burger and beetroot. Yes, instead of a slice of cheese, a slice of beet is a favored burger topping.
  • Dukkah, a seasoning mix popularly served with olive oil and bread.
  • Kiwifruit (photo #1).
  • Lamb.
  • Lamingtons (photo #2), a chocolate-dipped sponge covered with desiccated coconut, another happy kitchen accident. A maid accidentally dropped the Governor of Queensland’s (Lord Lamington) sponge cake into chocolate. It can be served in squares or turned into a layer cake. Here’s a recipe from Jamie Oliver.
  • Macadamia nuts.
  • Pavlova (photo #2), a meringue shell filled with fresh fruits. Here’s a recipe from Jamie Oliver.
  • Shrimp on the barbie.
  • Tim Tam Biscuits, a beloved chocolate biscuit is made up of two layers of chocolate-malted biscuit, separated by a light chocolate filling and coated in melted chocolate
  • Vegemite (photo #4), the iconic Australian sandwich spread. See more below.
  •  
    Also Look For…

  • Beer: We haven’t seen these top-rated Australian beers on our store shelves, but maybe you’ll have some luck.
  • Finger limes.
  • Lemon myrtle, a relative of lemon verbena.
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    WHAT EXACTLY IS VEGEMITE?

    As with Shake ‘n Bake, a product created as a way to use up Grape-Nuts crumbs that were sifted out during production, Vegemite was born of the desire to use, rather than toss, manufacturing leftovers.

    In 1922 an Australian businessman commissioned a young chemist, Cyril Callister, to develop a spread from used brewer’s yeast that was dumped into the trash. The British had a similar, successful product, Marmite.

    The name Vegemite was drawn from a hat of entries from a national naming competition.

    The spread was marketed as “delicious on sandwiches and toast, and improving the flavours of soups, stews and gravies.” Since then, it has become a go-to spread for breakfast toast and for sandwiches.

    More modern additions include Vegemite-cheese sandwiches, Vegemite and avocado toast, Vegemite pizza, and Vegemite scrolls, rolled biscuits with Vegemite and grated cheese.

    The “Happy Little Vegemites” jingle was first heard on the radio in 1954. The subsequent television commercial is below.
     
    AUSTRALIA TRIVIA

  • By total area, Australia is the sixth largest contry in the world, with the world’s thirteenth largest economy and the fifth highest per capita GDP.
  • Well-known Australian fauna are the monotremes: platypus and koala.
  • The name Australia is derived from the Latin australis, meaning southern.
  • Australia has the most reptile varieties of any country, with 755 species.
  • Before Michael Phelps was the world’s swimming hero, there was Ian Thorpe, fondly called the “Torpedo.” Thorpe won five Olympic gold medals, the most won by any Australian. At the 2000 Olympics, he won three gold and two silver medals, and was the most successful athlete at those Olympics. He also became the first person to win six gold medals in one World Aquatics Championships, in 2001.
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    Golden Kiwi

    Lamington Cake

    Strawberry Pavlova

    Vegemite

    [1] The most recognizable Australian food in the U.S. is the kiwi, which is available in both green and gold varieties (photo of SunGold kiwi courtesy Zespri). [2] Lamington is a sponge cake topped with chocolate icing and desiccated coconut. Here’s a recipe from Jaime Oliver. [3] Pavlova is a meringue ring filled with fruit, created to honor the ballerina Anna Pavlova (here’s the recipe from Jamie Oliver). [4] Vegemite: as important to Australians as peanut butter is to Americans (photo courtesy Dean-Wilmot-Bauer Media).

     

    *The original Vegemite television commercial, which the person who posted it on YouTube calls
    “possibly THE all-time classic Aussie TV ad.”

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Tom Kha Gai Soup

    Our neighborhood Thai restaurant closed on December 31st, victim to a(nother) heartless New York City landlord.

    It left us without our weekly supply of tom kha gai—and at the start of National Soup Month, no less.

    Tom kha gai, literally “chicken galangal soup,” is a spicy and sour hot chicken soup with coconut milk.

    In Thailand, most tom kha gai/kai recipes include coconut milk, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, Thai chili peppers, cilantro (dill weed in Laotian versions), straw mushrooms (or shiitake or other mushrooms), chicken, fish sauce and lime juice.

    Fried chiles are sometimes added, for a smoky flavor as well as texture, color, and heat—just a touch so they don’t overwhelm the other flavors.

    Other versions substitute seafood, pork or tofu for the chicken. We adapted this recipe from the Long Grain restaurant in Camden, Maine.

    The soup is very easy to make. The challenge for people who don’t live near Asian markets is to find some of the ingredients. We’ve suggested substitutes.

    Don’t want to chase after ingredients? Don’t like ginger or lemongrass? Try this recipe for Spicy Sea Bass Chowder With Coconut Milk.

    RECIPE: TOM KHA GAI, THAI CHICKEN & COCONUT MILK SOUP

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 1” piece ginger root, peeled
  • 10 kaffir lime leaves (substitute 1 tablespoon lime zest and ¼ cup lime juice)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1½ pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1” pieces
  • 8 ounces shiitake, oyster, or maitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce* (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 1 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, tough outer layers removed (substitutes†)
  • Garnishes: sliced chiles or chili oil, chopped cilantro, lime wedges
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LIGHTLY SMASH the lemongrass and ginger with the back of a knife. Cut the lemongrass into 4” pieces. Bring the lemongrass, ginger, lime leaves and broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer until flavors are melded, 8–10 minutes. Strain the broth into clean saucepan; discard solids.

    2. ADD the chicken and return to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the mushrooms, and simmer, skimming occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and mushrooms are soft, 20–25 minutes. Mix in the coconut milk, fish sauce, and sugar.

     

    Tom Kha Gai Soup

    Tom Kha Gai Soup

    Lemongrass

    Tom kha gai, Thai coconut soup. [1] Photo by Evan Joshua Swigart | Wikimedia. [2] A more elegant presentation from DC Cuisine. [3] Lemongrass: top, with the outer leaves, which are removed (center).Photo courtesy Keirsten’s Kitchen.

     
    3. DIVIDE the soup among bowls. Garnish with cilantro; serve with chili oil and lime wedges.

    MORE FOR NATIONAL SOUP DAY

  • Different Types Of Soup: A Soup Glossary
  • The Different Styles Of Soup: Bisque, Broth, Chowder, Consommé, etc.
  • Soup Garnishes
  • Drizzled Soup Garnishes
  • Start A Soup Club
  • Soup In A Tea Cup
  • How To Finish Soups In A Blender
  • How To Puree Soup With An Immersion Blender
  • The History Of Soup
  •  
    ________________
    *Your supermarket probably carries the Thai Kitchen brand. It’s inexpensive and functional; but if you’ll be using fish sauce frequently, spring for one of the better brands from Thailand or Vietnam.

    †There is nothing like fresh lemongrass. Trim the outer leaves and the bottom (see photo above) and use the first six inches of the base. You can buy fresh lemongrass online and you may find frozen lemongrass locally, which is almost as good. Dried lemongrass is as pale a substitute as dried basil, parsley and other herbs. You can steep any leftover lemongrass, including the trimmed tops, into a delicious herbal tea. To substitute: Zest from 1 lemon = 2 stalks lemongrass. You can also use fresh lemon verbena, lemon balm or lemon leaves.

      

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