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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Kitchenware/Tabletop

PRODUCT: Zoku Slush/Slushie Maker

Do the kids on “Glee” ever drink their slushies? We only recall slushie attacks, wasting the sweet, frozen drink by throwing it on a classmate.

Perhaps they each have a Zoku Slush and Shake Maker, where they enjoy slushies at home to their hearts’ delight.

This convenient device uses a cup that is pre-frozen in your freezer. Then, you add a liquid of choice and stir with a special spoon. The beverage freezes right before your eyes.

The frozen inner core fits into an outer sleeve that keeps your hands from getting cold (and your slushie from warming up). It’s easy to use and easy to clean.

By making your own, you can avoid the additives in, say, a 7-11 Slurpee, drink that consists of water and flavoring plus dextrin (a thickening agent), high fructose corn syrup (boo!) or erythritol (a noncaloric sugar alcohol used in Slurpee Lite), glycerin (a fat emulsifier), citric acid (a natural preservative that also adds a tart flavor), potassium benzoate (another preservative, that inhibits the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast), gum acacia (a stabilizer), quillaia extract (a foaming agent in some soft drinks), glycerol ester of wood rosin (an emulsifier and stabilizer) and food color.

Jeepers, would you feed that to your kids? Not to mention, if you have a refined palate, your own slushie made with quality juice will taste so much better.

   

zoku-slush-maker-ws-230

Make your own icy, slurpy, slushie. You can make a practically noncaloric version with Crystal Light or other diet beverage. Photo
courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

 

You can make frozen Margaritas and other frozen cocktails (a frozen Bloody Mary could be interesting on a hot day) and you can have fun experimenting with other recipes. We particularly enjoyed a slushie Thai iced tea).

You can also slush almond milk/coconut milk/rice milk/soy milk, chocolate milk, iced coffee, lemonade and your favorite juice or soda, lemonade.

When we slushed Crystal Light lemonade, it was like eating no-calorie granita. Perhaps the greatest boon to us is the ability to convert diet beverages into no-cal/low-cal frozen desserts!

While we haven’t tried it yet, the company says you can also make milkshakes. We’re quite happy with blender shakes.

 

orange-juice-slushie-230

Add a scoop of ice cream to an orange juice
slushie for a “Creamsicle” slushie. Photo
courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

 

There are a few caveats:

  • The cups hold only eight ounces. That‘s not good if you want a supersized Slurpee-style drink; but it is good news if you want to keep the calories down.
  • You need to store the inner core in the freezer. The instructions say 8 hours freezing time, but we found 24 hours is better (freezer temperatures vary).
  • The instructions underestimate the time required for slush. They say that it can take “as little as 7 minutes.” Freezer temperatures vary, and Zoku may have used a commercial freezer in their testing. But in our experience, it can take 15-20 minutes for the slush to fully form.
  • You need to be hands on. You add the cold liquid to the cup and let it sit for 3-5 minutes; as the slush forms, you push it down with the special spoon provided and wait for more slush to form. You repeat this process several times until the whole cup turns to slush.
  • It’s best for one person. While you can make two slushies from one frozen inner cup, it does take time. So either buy more than one unit, or plan to enjoy a solitary slushie while the second one is freezing. After that, the cup needs to go back into the freezer for many hours.
  •  
    Still, for a diet treat or a child’s snack (children can learn to make their own), this device can be a real find.

     

    ZOKU SLUSH VS. BLENDER DRINKS

    Why not make a frozen drink the old fashioned way, in a blender with ice cubes?

    The benefit of the Zoku Slush and Shake Maker is that there’s no ice to dilute your drink. It’s $19.95 at WilliamsSonoma.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Get A Food Ring

    crab-mango-avo-tower-theheatherman-portlandOR-230

    This fancy first course is not that hard to
    make. Photo courtesy The Heathman |
    Portland, Oregon.

     

    It isn’t hard to make fancy appetizers like the one in the photo. All you need is a food ring. It is also called a ring mold, although that term can also refer to a multi-serving container like the type used for gelatin molds.

    We admit to a fondness for molded, layered recipes, like this crab, mango and avocado stack served at The Heathman Restaurant and Bar in Portland, Oregon. Thanks to executive chef Michael Stanton for sharing his recipe, below.

    Chef Stanton tops his dish with wild arugula. In the northwest and elsewhere, wild arugula is often found growing in streams, there for the picking. You can substitute cultivated arugula from the market. More substitutions are offered below.

    In fact, part of the fun of cooking is taking the recipe in a different direction, with a substitution. No mango? How about fresh pineapple? No avocado? How about tuna tartare?

     

    RECIPE: DUNGENESS CRAB MANGO SALAD

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1/2 cup mango, chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1 cup Dungeness or other crab meat
  • Chive oil or other herb-infused olive oil (basil, rosemary)
  • 1 cup wild or cultivated arugula
  • Fresh press olive oil (to taste)
  • Food ring
  • Garnishes: citrus vinaigrette (recipe below) and chive oil*
  •  
    *If you don’t have/can’t find chive oil, use basil oil or rosemary oil.

     

    RECIPE: CITRUS VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons fresh citrus juice (lemon and/or orange, lime or yuzu)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 leaves fresh basil, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK ingredients together until well-blended.

     

    food-ring-HICbrands-230sq

    The only food ring you’ll need: This one can be adjusted to different diameters. Photo courtesy HIC Brands.

     
    Assembly

    1. MOLD the chopped avocado in 2-3 inch ring atop the serving plate. Place the mango on top, followed by the crab.

    2. REMOVE the ring mold, swirl the vinaigrette and chive oil around the plate. Toss wild arugula in fresh olive oil and place on top.
     
    MORE AT THE HEATHMAN

    If you’re in Portland, stop by for afternoon tea. It’s served in the hotel’s historic Tea Court Lounge; reservations are required.

    The traditional tea menu, created by pastry chef John Gayer, includes Smoked Salmon Napoleon, Paté Maison, John’s Famous Lanai Banana Bread and Parisian Opera Cake, along with a wide selection of teas from Fonté Coffee and Tea Company, a Northwest micro roaster based in Seattle.

    The children’s Peter Rabbit Tea for Little Sippers sports Ants On A Log, Snickerdoodle Cookie, Devil’s Food Chocolate Cupcake and Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwich.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: BerryBreeze Refrigerator Air Purifier

    Even if you don’t need an air purifier for your home, you may need one for your fridge.

    BerryBreeze is a 21st-century improvement on the open box of baking soda, left in the refrigerator or freezer to filter migrating aromas from raw and cooked foods.

    But BerryBreeze does more.

    The same process that neutralizes odors also preserves produce, by destroying harmful bacteria and mold that cause fruit and vegetables to decay. The manufacturer claims it will keep produce fresher for up to 10 days, or two to three times longer. The benefit: less waste of food and money, less to toss into the landfill.

    BerryBreeze is a rebranding of a machine called the Ozonator, which you may have seen on TV.

    It runs on four D batteries. The device converts the oxygen in the fridge to ozone (activated oxygen), a powerful oxidizing agent that destroys surface molecules of bacteria and mold. It also defuses ethylene, a gas emitted by numerous fruits (including apples and melons) which speeds up the ripening and rotting of foods.

     

    berry-breeze-230

    The same process that purifies the air helps produce last longer. Photo courtesy BerryBreeze.

     
    We tried it and it did seem to extend the life of fragile raspberries. The fridge smelled better, but the machine isn’t a miracle worker: You have to do your part to tightly cover odorous items and police for rot.

    BerryBreeze is available at retailers nationwide, including Bed, Bath & Beyond and Whole Foods Markets. You can also buy it online at BerryBreeze.com.

    The retail price is $49.95; you supply the batteries.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Keep Your Water Bottle Cold

    Record high temperatures and humidity nationwide today mean that no one should leave home without a water bottle or other hydration.

    But what happens if you don’t have a bottle chilling in the fridge…or even if you do?

    You wouldn’t think that a tip would be needed on how to chill a water bottle. But if your technique is simply to put the bottle in the fridge to chill down the water, you find that it warms up pretty quickly on a hot summer day.

    Here are some tips to keep that bottle of water colder, longer.

    Definitely start by keep your water bottle in the fridge; but “layer” that cold water with one of these techniques:

    3+ WAYS TO CHILL A WATER BOTTLE

    The Right Ice

  • Get a water bottle ice cube tray and add an ice stick to the bottle. Don’t buy the small round ice cubes or smaller sticks: The smaller the piece of ice, the faster it melts.
  •    

    vacu-vin-water-bottle-chiller-230

    A water bottle chilling jacket makes room temperature water cold, or keeps chilled water cooler, longer. Photo courtesy Vacu Vin.

     

    water-bottle-ice-cube-tray-progressiveIntl-230

    Ice cube trays designed for water bottles.
    Photo courtesy Photo courtesy Progressive
    International.

     

    Insulated Jackets

  • Use Rapid Ice, a pre-frozen jacket that goes over a wine bottle to chill it. It fits large bottles of water perfectly, and also helps keep 16-ounce bottles cool. It will extend the coldness of your water, which hopefully is pre-chilled with an added stick of ice. Place the sleeve back in the freezer when you return, and you can also use it to chill wine until you need it again for water.
  • Rapid Ice also makes a can chiller, to fit over beer and soda, which can help keep your water cool.
  • Rapid Ice competitor Vacu Vin makes a water bottle chiller jacket for a 16-ounce water bottle. It will also chill a room temperature bottle of water in five minutes.
  •  
    Other Techniques

  • Freeze the bottle, making sure it isn’t full to the top so the water can expand. Remove the bottle when you get up in the morning so the ice will start to melt
  • Use a good old-fashioned thermos bottle.
  •  
    More Ideas?

    If you’ve got them, share them!

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Fanciful Sweet Or Savory Pockets

    Here’s an easy way to add fun to everyday or special occasion fare. This Pocket Maker set from Kuhn Rikon lets you creating “pocket meals.”

    Each of the three fun shapes is 3.5 inches in diameter, and stamps out the dough to make mini pies, pizza pockets, filled dumplings and more.

    Just press the stamp to cut the dough, fill and press down on the lever to crimp the pocket edges together. Any dough works (think pasta dough, phyllo dough, pie dough, pizza dough), or use sandwich bread or tortillas.

    The Pocket Makers create savory or sweet fun foods, from spicy chicken empanadas for a first or main course to individual apple pies for dessert. Our favorite idea: jumbo ravioli.

       

    kuhn-rikon-pocket-maker-set-230

    An easy way to make fun food. Photo courtesy Kuhn Rikon.

     

    kuhn-rikon-pocket-maker-stuffed-pockets-230

    Stamp, fill, bake and serve. Photo courtesy
    Kuhn Rikon.

     

    Each set includes three red pocket makers in flower, heart and round shapes, plus a recipe book filled with tasty ideas for every day and special occasions.

    This gadget set could be just the thing to coax a young person into baking…or give new inspiration to a seasoned baker.

    Pocket Makers are constructed of BPA-free plastic stamps are dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.

    The Kuhn Rikon Pocket Maker Set has a suggested retail price of $16 and is available at Amazon.com and Sur La Table stores.

    Discover more delightful products at KuhnRikon.com.

     

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Grow Vegetables Into Hearts & Stars

    It’s too late to grow vegetables in star shapes for this July 4th, but you can plan ahead for next year. While you’re at it, plan to grow and freeze some heart-shaped slices for Valentine’s Day or anniversaries.

    If only we had a small plot of land, we’d grow cucumbers and tomatoes just so we could create these heart- and star-shaped vegetables. What fun for crudités, salads, cocktail garnishes and general garnishes.

    The long plastic tube-shaped, snap-on molds are placed over young vegetables; as they grow, they take on the heart and star shapes of the tubes as the fruits grow and mature.

    They’re ideal for cucumbers, plum tomatoes and summer squash.

    When the veggies are mature, simply open the mold and harvest the fruits. Slice them diagonally to reveal the shape of hearts and stars. The plastic molds can be reused year after year.

  • Fun gift for your favorite vegetable gardener.
  • Inspiration for the kids to grow vegetables.
  •    

    tomato-hearts-stars-burpee-230

    Tomato hearts and stars. Photo courtesy Burpee.com.

     

     

    heart-zucchini-burpee-molds-230

    Grow your own: Crunchy cucumbers are
    shaped into stars. Photo courtesy
    Burpee.com.

     

    Get yours at Burpee.com.

    Then, plan your “molded” garden:

  • Bell peppers
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Plum tomato
  • Yellow squash
  • Zucchini
  •  
    Any other ideas for what might work?

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Beer Glasses ~ Stout Glasses

    stout-glass-spielgau-230

    Stout has never tasted better. Photo courtesy Spielgau.

     

    For decades, connoisseurs of fine wines and spirits have been able to enjoy them in glasses engineered by Riedel, to bring out every last nuance of flavor and aroma. If you’ve ever compared drinking a wine from the correct varietal-specific Riedel glass (Bordeaux, Brandy, Chardonnay, Tequila, etc.) and a generic wine glass, you know the results are amazing.

    Last year right before Father’s Day, we featured the first variety-specific beer glass, an IPA glass from Spielgau, specially contoured to enhance the flavors and aromas of IPA beer.

    This year, Spielgau—a 500 year-old company that was purchased by Riedel in 2004—adds the world’s first stout-specific glass. The company hopes to do for beer what its parent company has done for wine.

    Stout is a heavier style of beer characterized dark color, malty flavor, and thick, foamy head. The wide mouth of the 21-ounce Spiegelau Stout glass is conducive to pouring a strong head, while the flared base helps focus the beer’s aromas, which can then emanate from the glass’s wide opening. (See the different types of beers.)

     

    The stout glass was developed and tested with two American craft brewers of stout: Left Hand Brewing Company of Colorado and Rogue Ales of Oregon. A set of two glasses is $25 at SpielgauUSA.com. Branded versions of the glass with brewery logos are available through LeftHandBrewing.com and Rogue.com, respectively.

     

    HOW THE SPIEGEL STOUT GLASS WAS DEVELOPED

    Hundreds of glasses pulled from Spiegelau’s glassware archive were tested against a variety of the brewers’ own stouts to find the glass shape that had the most profound effect on the aromas and flavor profiles of each stout beer. After narrowing the options to a handful of shapes, Spiegelau’s German factory created six final prototypes for testing all stouts, varying by several millimeters in height, bowl width, angle and capacity.

    After many deliberations, Left Hand Brewing Company and Rogue Ales separately and unanimously determined that the Prototype “C” stout glass delivered the optimal taste, aroma and mouth feel to enhance stout beers. The winning shape has:

  • A voluminous, open bottom glass base that drives beer and aromatic foam upward into the main bowl.
  • A wider, conical bowl that significantly amplifies aromas and also provides superior flow to mid palate, improving the taste, mouth feel and finish of complex stout beers.
  • A stark, angular shape and open base that create dramatic visual cascading effect into the glass as the beer is poured.
  • Ultra-pure quartz material, that makes for unsurpassed clarity and flawless, true color presentation of stout beer.
  •  
    So the next great gift for a beer lover: Spielgau stout glasses with a selection of artisan stouts.

     

    rogue-stout-glass-proofbrewingco-230

    The two “developer” breweries offer branded versions of the stout glass. Photo courtesy Proof Brewing Co.

     

    ABOUT STOUT

    The darkest and heartiest of beers, a stout is top fermented and differentiated from a regular ale by its brown-black color, chocolate-coffee flavors and fuller body. This is achieved by brewing with barley that has been dark-roasted to the point of charring (think of espresso beans, compared to a medium-roast coffee). Stout is thus both darker and maltier than porter, has a more pronounced hop aroma, and may reach an alcoholic content of 6% to 7%.

    Stout originated in Ireland, where most traditional stouts are very rich, yet sharp and slightly bitter. Stout is well-paired with strong cheese and a spicy sausage such as andouille. There are different types of stout:

  • Chocolate stout is a sub-category that uses different malts for an even more pronounced chocolate flavor. These days, some brewers add actual chocolate into the brew, or brew over cacao beans, or both.
  • Coffee stout uses dark roasted malts to add a bitter coffee flavor. With the tandem growth of interest in microbrews and fine coffee, craft brewers have added specific ground beans to create, for example, “Breakfast Coffee Stout,” “Espresso Stout” and “Guatemalan Coffee Stout.”
  • Cream stout or milk stout is a style made sweeter with unfermentable lactose (milk sugar).
  • Dry stout or Irish stout is very dark and toasty or coffee-note style, exemplified by the world-famous Guinness.
  • Imperial stout, Russian stout or Russian imperial stout has more of a rich, roasted quality and a higher level of alcohol. These are potent beers that can be almost as thickly textured as liqueur. Examples include Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout at 7% alcohol and Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout, at 8.7% alcohol. The alcohol content of imperial stouts can go to 9% and 10%.
  • Oatmeal stout adds oatmeal to the mash, which gives a smoothness and creaminess to the stout. It has more restrained flavors and less alcohol than Imperial stout. Samuel Smith makes a benchmark oatmeal stout, with notes of fruit, licorice, chocolate and toffee.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Nogent Knives

    nogent-serrated-w-bread-230sq

    If you use your serrated “bread knife” to slice
    much more than bread, check out the
    Nogent line of knives, where the other knife
    styles are microserrated. Photo courtesy
    Nogent.

     

    Some people use their serrated knives, often called “bread knives,” for slicing bread.

    Other people have discovered that, beyond bread, a serrated blade cuts tomatoes, meat and other foods better than the chef’s knife, utility knife or other choice from the cutlery set.

    We’re one of those “other people.” We used our bread knife for much more than bread.

    And then we discovered Nogent, a French cutlery manufacturer founded in 1923.

    The bread knife (photo at left) has a familiar serrated edge; but all of the other knives are micro-serrated.

    Almost invisible to the naked eye, these precision edges comprise 100 micro-serrations per inch and are terrific for anything—chopping, dicing, mincing and slicing. We can slice a tomato thinner with our Nogent chef’s knife than with any other knife we own.

     

    We only have one Nogent knife—a gift received at a trade show. But we use it almost exclusively, ignoring the fine cutlery we own for many times the price.

    The knives never have to be sharpened! We’ve been using our knife for three or more years, and it’s as sharp as ever.

    The blades are handcrafted of molybdenum, a compound that is used in high-strength carbide steel and carbon stainless steel.

    The handles are molded polymer of an design. The polymer feels good in the hand, as does the ergonomic grip.

     

    If there’s anything to mar perfection, it’s that the handles are plastic and “authentic hornbeam wood” that looks like plastic.

    Our chef’s knife is two-toned ecru and what looks like faux wood but is actually real (see photo above). To us it looks very dated, like those beige and faux wood station wagons from the Eisenhower era.

    But, Nogent has since moved to modern, if nondescript, black polypropylene handles, among other choices. They’re a much better look.

     

    knives-tomatoes-230

    You can still find some of wood handles, but the new handles are a preferable “basic black.” Photo courtesy Nogent.

     

    WHERE TO FIND NOGENT

    Nogent makes a complete range of cutlery, from peelers and paring knives to boning and carving knives. The challenge is to find them!

    We found the chef’s knife on Amazon.com for $58.99.

    The utility knife is $25.74.

    The paring knife is $15.20; we also spotted the boning knife, bread knife, carving knife, steak knife, peelers and other pieces of the line.

    The prices vary based on the line, which seems to be differentiated by handle material.

    Looking for a gift for someone who likes to cook—or is starting to learn? One or more Nogent knives will make cooking so much more pleasurable.

    Just as important, treat yourself to the chef’s knife. Then, book a vacation to France, and bring home knives instead of less useful souvenirs.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Pink Or Red Food Dehydrator

    A growing number of people are switching to good-for-you snacks. If they like to make their own, an unusual and generous Valentine gift is a food dehydrator from Excalibur, in red or pink.

    According to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Americans consume a third of their daily calories from snacks. Many pre-packaged bars, cookies, dried fruit and jerky are high in salt, sugar, preservatives and additives.

    Dehydrating your own food allows you to swap out those questionable ingredients for healthy, nutrition-dense alternatives that allow the true flavors of natural foods to shine through. Think dehydrated fruits and vegetables, or meats and fish jerky.

    You can also dry herbs and flowers (to decorate cakes or make your own potpourri and sachets) and make granola. It’s easy to get hooked on dehydrating.

     

    excalibur-red-dehydrator-230b

    Instead of roses: a bright red food dehydrator. Photo courtesy Excalibur.

     
    WHO’S DEHYDRATING FOOD?

    Man has been dehydrating for thousands of years, initially to preserve meat and other foods in the millennia prior to refrigeration. Today, our most commonly enjoyed dehydrated foods include jerky and bottled herbs. Many “practitioners” dehydrate summer crops—berries, peaches, tomatoes—for enjoyment through the winter.

    Dehydration is used everywhere from hunters’ cabins to Michelin-star kitchens.

    Grant Achatz, Ferran Adrià, Dan Barber, Matthew Lightner, Sam Mason, Sarma Melngailis, Iliana Regan, Rich Torrisi and Ming Tsai dehydrate ingredients to intensify and concentrate flavors, decrease marinating time, thicken sauces and soften saturated fats like coconut oil or cacao butter.

     

    excalibur-pink-230

    Radiant Raspberry is another option, along
    with Antique Copper, Copper, Radiant
    Blueberry, Radiant Cherry and Twilight Black.
    Photo courtesy Excalibur.

     

    THE EXCALIBUR DEHYDRATOR

    Compact enough to fit on your kitchen counter, the Excalibur Dehydrator has a patented airflow drying system to optimize speed in drying, among other features. It is up to 10 times faster than common round dehydrators, and available in a variety of color finishes and sizes, including commercial and non-commercial grade units.

    You pay for quality, of course. Excalibur machines are top of the line, and these are $349 at ExcaliburDehydrator.com.

    But if you enjoy kale chips, carrot chips, apple chips and the like, it will pay for itself in less than a year. Instead of baking cookies, bring your hosts your homemade snacks.

     
    While even pricier than those pricey red or pink roses, it will be a permanent change in better-for-you food preparation.
     

    You can package the dehydrator with a book:

  • Dehydrating Food: A Beginner’s Guide, with 167 recipes
  • The Dehydrator Guide, with more than 400 recipes
  •   

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Chopsticks Day

    It’s National Chopsticks Day, a reason to enjoy a Chinese meal or two. We’re making homemade dumplings with this easy video recipe.

    As we contemplate the history of chopsticks, the eating utensil of choice in Asia, let’s compare them to the history of the forks, knives and spoons used at table in the West.

    This information is adapted from a wonderful exhibit, The History Of Eating Utensils, at the California Academy Of Sciences, much of which is available online.

    No matter what the country of origin, utensils were historically made in costly materials for the wealthy, and humble materials for everyone else. Table utensils have been made from metals (gold, silver, and pewter—and today, stainless steel), bone, crystal, horn, ivory, lacquered wood, porcelain, pottery, shell and wood. And today, plastic.

    HISTORY OF CHOPSTICKS

    Chopsticks were developed about 5,000 years ago in China. Historians believe that people cooked their food in large pots which retained heat well; hasty eaters then broke twigs off trees to retrieve the food. The twigs evolved into chopsticks.

     

    singapore-noodles-NewAsianCuisine

    Singapore Hokkien noodles. Photo courtesy New Asian cuisine.

     
    By 400 B.C.E, a large and growing population taxed the fuel supply. Food was chopped into small pieces that cooked rapidly, requiring less fuel. Small pieces also meant that knives were not needed at the dinner table—a cost savings, among other benefits. By 500 C.E., chopsticks spread to present-day Vietnam, Korea and Japan.

    Chinese chopsticks, called kuai-zi (“quick little fellows”), are 9 to 10 inches long and rectangular with a blunt end. The English word “chopstick” was likely derived from the Chinese Pidgin English words “chop chop,” meaning fast.

    In Japan, chopsticks are called hashi (the word means “bridge”). The earliest chopsticks used for eating looked like tweezers; they were made from one piece of bamboo that was joined at the top. Known as tong chopsticks, today they are used as “training chopsticks” for children. See them here. Japanese chopsticks differ in design from Chinese chopsticks: They are rounded and have a pointed end. They are also shorter—8 inches.

    Proper Use Of Chopsticks

  • Chopsticks are traditionally held in the right hand, even by left-handed people. This practice prevents a left-handed user from accidentally elbowing a right-handed seated next to him/her.
  • It is a huge breach of etiquette to impale a piece of food with a chopstick.
  •  
    HISTORY OF FORKS

    Forks trace their origins back to the time of the Greeks. The original forks were large service forks with two tines, to aid in the carving and serving of meat. That design survives today in carving forks.

    By the seventh century C.E., smaller forks for individual use appeared in royal courts of the Middle East. They spread to use by the wealthy in Byzantine Empire*; in the 11th century, a Byzantine wife of a Doge of Venice brought forks to Italy. The Italians, however, were slow to adopt their use. Forks were not widely adopted until the 16th century.

    In 1533, forks were brought from Italy to France by Catherine de Medici, bride of the future King Henry II. The French, too, were slow to accept forks, thinking them to be an affectation.

    An Englishman named Thomas Coryate brought the first forks to England from Italy, in 1608. The English ridiculed forks as being effeminate and unnecessary. “Why should a person need a fork when God had given him hands?” was a refrain. Yes, it wasn’t all that long ago that even “civilized” people ate with their hands, spoons, impaled their food on knives or used bread to scoop it up.

     
    *The Byzantine Empire, which existed from approximately 330 C.E. to 1453 C.E., comprised the predominantly Greek-speaking continuation of the Roman Empire. Its capital city was Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), originally known as Byzantium. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe.

     

    beef-wellington-SFA-Allen-230

    Imagine eating without a fork. Yet, it was
    ridiculed and rejected by the British, French
    and Italians. Photo courtesy Allen Bros.

     

    But by the mid 1600s, eating with forks was considered fashionable among wealthy British.

    Early table forks were modeled after kitchen forks with two tines that ensured that meat would not twist while being cut. However, small pieces of food regularly fell through the tines or slipped off easily. In late 17th century France, larger forks with four curved tines were developed to solve the problem. The curved tines—used today—served as a scoop so people did not have to constantly switch to a spoon while eating. And forks were more efficient for spearing food than the knife.

    But the fork did not become common in northern Europe until the 18th century and was not common in North America until the 19th century.

    See the beautiful forks in the California Academy of Sciences exhibit.

     
    HISTORY OF SPOONS

    Spoons are the oldest eating utensils, in use since Paleolithic times. These prehistoric peoples—the first modern humans—probably used shells or chips of wood as eating and serving utensils. In fact, both the Greek and Latin words for spoon are derived from cochlea, a spiral-shaped snail shell (that also gives its name to the spiral-shaped cavity in the inner ear), suggesting that shells were commonly used as spoons in Southern Europe. The Anglo-Saxon word spon, predecessor of spoon, refers to a chip or splinter of wood.

    In the fist century C.E., the Romans designed two types of spoons:

  • The ligula was used for soups and soft foods. It had a pointed oval bowl and a handle ending in a decorative design.
  • The cochleare was a small spoon with a round bowl for eating shellfish and eggs. As a result of the Roman occupation of Britain (43 to 410 C.E.), the earliest English spoons were likely modeled after these spoons.
  •  
    See the beautiful spoons in the California Academy of Sciences exhibit.
     
    HISTORY OF KNIVES

    Knives have been used as weapons, tools and eating utensils since prehistoric times. Only fairly recently were they adapted for table use.

    In the Middle Ages in Europe, hosts did not provide cutlery for their guests; most people carried their own knives in sheaths attached to their belts. These knives were narrow and their sharply pointed ends were used to spear food and then raise it to the mouth.

    The multi-purpose nature of the knife—weapon and eating utensil—always posed a threat of danger at the dinner table. Once forks began to gain popular acceptance, there was no longer any need for a pointed tip at the end of a dinner knife. In 1669, King Louis XIV of France decreed all pointed knives on the street or the dinner table illegal, and he had all knife points ground down to reduce violence. That’s why today we have blunt-tipped “table knives” and separate “steak knives.”

    At the beginning of the 18th century, very few forks were being imported to America. However, knives were imported and their tips became progressively blunter. Because Americans had very few forks and no longer had sharp-tipped knives, they had to use spoons in lieu of forks. They would use the spoon to steady food as they cut and then switch the spoon to the opposite hand in order to scoop up food to eat. This distinctly American style of eating continued even after forks became commonplace in the United States.

      

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