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TIP OF THE DAY: Beautiful Squash For Beautiful Recipes

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Acorn Squash Rings

Kabocha Squash Bowl

Butternut Squash

[1] A conventional stuffed squash recipe: half a squash, stuffed to the brim. [2] Adding a rim of vegetables (photos #1 and #2 courtesy Chef Eric Levine). [3] Don’t want to serve large portions? Cut the squash into rings with this recipe from [4] Turn the entire kabocha squash into a filled “squash bowl.” Here’s the recipe from Sunset magazine. [5] Butternut squash (photo courtesy


Certainly, a half of baked squash is attractive, not to mention delicious and good for you.

But you can elevate baked squash to a work of art.

The standard winter squashes in supermarkets are the acorn and the butternut. They have similar flavor, but the acorn is round while the butternut is boat-shaped.

While the butternut can be cut into rings or halved into a “boat,” the round, ridged squash have a natural beauty benefit.

Numerous types of winter squash are available in the U.S., in natural food stores and at farmers markets. But some species are particularly beautiful: acorn, blue hubbard, carnival, kabocha (buttercup), lumina (white with white flesh), pattypan, sweet dumpling and others (see more types of squash).

Combine your palate and your personality into your stuffing.

  • Fruits: apples, dried fruits (apricots, cherries, cranberries, raisins), pears, pomegranate arils, quince
  • Grains: barley, breadcrumbs, croutons, quinoa, rice and wild rice, etc.
  • Herbs: parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme
  • Nuts: halved, sliced or chopped as garnish
  • Proteins: bacon, mozzarella, tofu
  • Seasonings: cayenne, chipotle, coriander, cumin, flavored salt, nutmeg, pepper, ras-el-hanout, smoked paprika, zatar
  • Vegetables: brussels sprouts, celery, carrots and other root vegetables, mushrooms
  • Binders: broth, butter, nut oil, olive oil
  • Garnishes: dried cranberries, fresh herbs, shredded cheese (cheddar, gruyère, parmesan)
    Here’s a basic recipe that you can customize as you like.

    Squash is indigenous to Central and South America. It was introduced to the Spanish conquistadors in Mexico, spread via indigenous migration throughout North America, and was introduced by Native American populations to the English setters in Virginia and Massachusetts.

    Squash was easy to grow and hardy enough to store for months, providing a nutritious dietary staple throughout the winter (hence the name, winter squash). While there are many heirloom varieties, today the most commonly found in supermarkets are acorn and butternut squashes.
    Acorn Squash Vs. Butternut Squash

    Acorn squash (Curcubita pepo, var. turbinata) is so called because its shape resembles an acorn. The most common variety is dark green in color, often with a splotch of orange on the side or top.

    Some varieties are variegated (multi-color) and newer varieties include the yellow Golden Acorn squash and white-skinned varieties.

    Like the other popular winter squash, butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata), the skin of an acorn squash is thick and hard, and it is an effort to peel it. But either squash is easily cut in half with a large, sharp knife. It can then be baked, plain or stuffed with grain, meat or vegetable mixtures.

    Acorn squash are smaller than butternut squash (an acorn is one to two pounds, four to seven inches long), and half of an acorn makes a convenient individual portion. It is similar in flavor to butternut.

    Winter squash needs to be cooked.

    All winter squash can be baked, microwaved, sautéed or steamed.

    Don’t hesitate to add the cooked flesh to green salads, mixed vegetables, grains, omelets, and anyplace you’d like another level of flavor and color.

  • The seeds of the squash are toasted and eaten. Initially, the seeds were eaten instead of the flesh until plumper-fleshed varieties were bred.
  • The yellow trumpet flowers that are produced before the squash is fully developed are also edible. They are stuffed and considered a delicacy.
  • The green tops, about three inches’ worth from the end of freshly-harvested squash, are also edible (but not the prickly stem). The squash greens are a popular vegetable in the Philippines. Unless you grow your own or your local farmer doesn’t remove them, you aren’t likely to see them for sale in the U.S.
    Winter squash is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, with smaller amounts of vitamins C and B, magnesium, and manganese. Surprisingly, because of the color of the flesh, it is not a good source of beta-carotene.

    There are three species of squash, all native to the Americas.

  • Curcubita pepo includes acorn, butternut, pumpkin, summer squashes and others.
  • Curcubita moschata, represented by the Cushaw, Japanese Pie, Large Cheese Pumpkins and Winter Crookneck squashes, arose, like Curcubita pepo, in Mexico and Central America. Both were and are important food, ranking next to maize and beans.
  • Curcubita maxima includes Boston Marrow, Delicious, Hubbard, Marblehead and Turks Turban, and apparently originated near the Andes, or in Andean valleys.

  • The word “squash” comes from the Wampanoag Native American word, askutasquash, meaning “eaten raw or uncooked.” This may refer to the summer squash varieties, yellow squash and zucchini, which can be enjoyed raw.
  • Summer squash, which belong to the same genus and species as most winter squash, are small, quick-growing varieties that are eaten before the rinds and seeds begin to harden.
  • Before the arrival of Europeans, Curcubita pepo and Curcubita moschata had been carried to all parts of North America that were conducive to growth.
  • Many Native American tribes, particularly in the West, still grow a diversity of hardy squashes and pumpkins not to be found in mainstream markets.
  • Squash was unknown in the Old World until the 16th century, brought back by the returning conquistadors. The oldest known prin record of it is dated 1591.
  • Much of canned pumpkin consists of Curcubita moschata squash, not from the jack-o-lantern variety of pumpkin. The best commercially canned varieties are Boston Marrow and Delicious varieties.The flesh of these varieties is much richer and more nutritious than that of pumpkin.


    HALLOWEEN RECIPE: Candy Corn Popcorn Balls

    Two years ago we published a recipe for orange-tinted Halloween Popcorn Balls, shaped like pumpkins.

    This new recipe was created by Meghan McGarry of Buttercream Blondie for

    We like it even better, because what Halloween celebrant doesn’t look forward to candy corn?

    The candy corn theme does double duty between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

    QUICK TIP: No time to make popcorn balls? Tao the candy corn and marshmallows with regular popcorn and a drizzle of honey or agave to bind them (or the candy corn will end up at the bottom of the bowl).

    Meghan created a sweet-and-salty recipe with salted peanuts. We used the honey roasted peanuts we had on hand, and added a few dashes of salt.

    If you don’t want to use nuts at all, substitute an additional 1/2 cup of candy corn, butterscotch baking chips, or Halloween M&Ms (they’re white and made in the shape of candy corn), etc.

    For gifting, you can wrap them like a pomander in orange curling ribbon, or in individual clear cellophane bags with a ribbon tie.

    Ingredients For 8-10 Popcorn Balls

  • 12 cups popped plain popcorn*
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup candy corn
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts (we used honey roasted peanuts)
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons Halloween sprinkles

    1. LINE a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Spray a large bowl and a spatula with cooking spray and add the popcorn. Set aside.

    2. MELT the butter in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Once butter begins to melt, add the marshmallows and stir continuously until melted. Then stir in vanilla extract.

    3. POUR the melted mixture over the popcorn and gently toss with the spatula. Add the candy corn and peanuts.

    4. SPRAY your hands with cooking spray and continue to mix by hand until everything is coated and combined. Add the sprinkles just before you’re almost done mixing.

    5. SHAPE the popcorn into balls and set on a parchment-lined sheet pan to cool.
    *If popping the corn from scratch, you need 6 ounces or 2/3 cup of kernels.


    Candy Corn Popcorn Balls

    Halloween Confetti

    Halloween Confetti

    [1] Candy corn popcorn balls from Meghan McGarry. [2] Halloween sprinkles from Halloween sprinkles from Dress My Cupcake. [3] Halloween confetti from Kreative Baking.




    TIP OF THE DAY: What To Use When You Don’t Have Pasta Sauce

    Pasta No Sauce

    Pasta Primavera

    Garlic Noodles

    Primavera Pasta

    [1] Got pasta but no red sauce or items that can be turned into it? Just check the pantry and the fridge (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [2] Check for fresh, canned or frozen vegetables and make Primavera with olive oil (photo courtesy Melissa’s). Bonus: some leftover chicken. [3] No veggies? No problem! Garlic, olive oil, chili flakes and some celery and cucumber from the fridge created this tasty dish (photo courtesy P.F. Chang’s). [4] This Primavera contains canned artichoke hearts and some strips of grated carrot (photo courtesy Grimmway Farms).


    October is National Pasta Month.

    Most of us have dry pasta in the pantry, an easy-cook dinner.

    But what if you have no pasta sauce—at least, no go-to red sauce, or the ingredients* from which to quickly make one?

    Recipes evolved because people used what they had on hand. You can do the same.

    These alternative sauces for pasta also work with grains and vegetables.

    No parmesan or other Italian grating cheese? Use any other grated or shredded cheese, ricotta or cottage cheese (these latter often used to stuff pasta). Even those that may seem and unusual pairing—Stilton or Gouda, for example—work.

  • Crumbled cheese, such as blue, feta or goat, work with a simple oil or butter dressing.
  • Or leave cheese out entirely. Pasta/noodle dishes are served the world over without grated cheese. In Sicily, a mixture of bread crumbs and chopped herbs (oregano, parsley, thyme, etc.)

    You can use any type of sauce you do have, from cheese sauce to salsa. Adding whatever vegetables—from sundried or cherry tomatoes to onions to any herb or spice on the shelf—gives added dimension. Check out these new Recipe Ready Tomato Paste Pouches from Hunt’s, and keep them in the pantry.

  • Asian sauces such as hoisin or ponzu or hoisin sauce create Asian-style noodles. You can also make Asian vinaigrette with sesame oil and rice wine vinegar; feel free to substitute the oil or vinegar with what you do have. You can also make a quick Asian dressing with soy sauce, vinegar and vegetable oil, a dash of garlic and/or ginger.
  • Butter, with cracked pepper or red pepper flakes, melts nicely on hot pasta. Just toss it for an instant sauce. Optional flavors include lemon zest, herbs or spices: ingredients found in any kitchen. If you have compound butter, great: Situations like this are exactly what it’s for.
  • Other dairy products provide additional options. You can use cottage cheese or ricotta straight or blended into a sauce; or make an herb sauce from milk, cream, sour cream or yogurt with whatever herbs or condiments you have on hand. You can also go international, flavoring these dairy products with anything: cumin, curry, dill, flavored salt, mustard, nutmeg, paprika, sage, tarragon, thyme, etc.
  • Meat, poultry and fish leftovers can be combined with any pasta or noodles. Leftover bacon? Sausage? Turkey? Just slice, dice and toss.
  • Olive oil or other oil is a substitute in many recipes. If you have a can of anchovies, clams, escargots, tuna or other seafood, it becomes both your topping and sauce. For a tonnato (tuna) sauce, pulse the tuna to the fineness you like.
  • Flavored olive oil makes an elegant sauce. You can add any ingredients you like, from capers and olives to garlic, jalapeño or lemon zest, chopped nuts or hard-boiled eggs.
  • Peanut sauce, the kind served on the popular Chinese appetizer, cold sesame noodles, can be made with only peanut butter Just dilute peanut butter with enough vegetable oil to the desired consistency. Season the sauce with sesame seeds, garlic and/or heat (hot sauce, chile flakes). Sprinkle with chopped green onions, chopped peanuts, and/or fresh herbs.
  • Salad dressings, whether olive oil and vinegar, mayonnaise, sour cream and bottled dressings, are used in different pasta salad recipes. So why not with hot pasta?
  • Vegetables—canned, fresh, frozen—combine with olive oil or melted butter into a primavera sauce. Use garlic or other seasoning as you prefer.
  • White sauce can be made in just 10 minutes. The recipe is below.

    Check the fridge and the pantry. You may find adobo, barbecue sauce, chili sauce, chimmichurri, chutney, pesto, piri-piri, sriracha ketchup and so on.

    Turn them into a pasta sauce by blending with oil, sour cream, yogurt, etc.


    You can make a classic white sauce in just 10 minutes. Use it as is, or add whatever seasonings you like, from olives to nutmeg.

    With grated Parmesan, it would be Alfredo Sauce.

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of white pepper (substitute black pepper—white is used simply so there are no dark flecks in the sauce)
  • 1 cup 2% or whole milk

    1. MELT the butter over medium heat in a small pan. Add the flour, salt and pepper, whisking until smooth.

    2. SLOWLY WHISK in the milk and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until thickened. Use immediately or refrigerate, tightly covered.

    Check out the different types of pasta in our photo-packed Pasta Glossary.

    *You can turn the following into red sauce: canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, tomato paste.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Grandma Hoerner’s Apple Pouches

    Grandma Hoerner’s is a company that makes Big Slice Apples, one of our favorite new snacks and toppings.

    Big Slice Apples were first cooked in Grandma Hoerner’s farm kitchen in Kansas in the late 1800s, made from apples straight from the orchard.

    Grandson, Duane McCoy, rcalling the wonderful big slices of cooked apples from his youth, could find no commercial product like it. In 1987, after experimenting to replicate her recipe, he was ready to bring them to the world.

    Big Slice Juicy Cooked Apples may be the best apple “sauce” you can buy. Thick slices of kettle-cooked apples resting in an a sauce made from reduced apple juice.

    It is the way it was originally made with big slices of fresh apples, slow cooked, with only natural ingredients added. These are chunky apples that can be eaten with a fork, although a spoon will do.

    The Big Apple Slices are all natural, non-GMO, HFCS free and slow cooked, using domestic apples—just as Grandma Hoerner made them. They are both a luxurious dessert or topping and a healthful grab-and-go snack—a great source of vitamin C and naturally gluten free.

    The product, originally (and still) sold in 19.5-ounce jars, is now available in grab-and-go pouches—lots of them—in 4.5-ounce portions, 80 to 90 calories depending on flavor, for $2.50. We found 16-packs on Amazon, but not on the Grandma Hoerner’s website.

    Three flavor lines focus on flavor profiles:

  • Pure Line, simply flavored: Apricot, Blueberry Pomegranate, Chai, Cherry Vanilla, Natural, Orange Ginger
  • Fit Line, with added nutrition: Banana, Mango & Hemp Seed; Peach, Green Tea & Aloe; Honey Berry Chia; Pineapple, Passion Fruit & Fiber, Raspberry Hibiscus & Green Coffee Extract
  • Luxe Line, with indulgent additions: Boysenberry Chocolate, Caramel, Cinnamon Candy, Cinnamon French Toast, Peach Bellini
    The only challenge is where to begin. We received samples of each flavor, and can’t decide what to re-order. We may have to proceed alphabetically!

    For starters, here’s how we enjoyed the different Big Slice flavors:

  • Breakfast: with cottage cheese, French toast, omelets, porridge, toast, yogurt, pancakes, waffles
  • Lunch & Dinner: as a condiment or side with fried chicken, ham, pork, turkey
  • Dessert: crêpes, ice cream/sorbet, parfait, pound or angel cake, tartlet shells
  • Snack: straight from the pouch, on a rice cake

    Grandma Hoerner's Big Slice Apples

    Pancakes With Grandma Hoerner's Apples

    Big Slice On Yogurt

    [1] A great grab-and-go snack. [2] A topping for pancakes and other breakfast foods. [3] A yogurt mix-in or topping (photos courtesy Grandma Hoerner’s).


    Apple Tartlets

    [4] Time for dessert or company for tea? Fill tartlet shells for dessert (photo courtesy Grandma Hoerner’s).



    The pouches are available at Costco, H -E-B, Hy-Vee. Kowalski’s, Meijer, Price Chopper, Publix, Sprouts, Whole Foods Market, and more than 7,000 food stores nationwide. Here’s a store locator.

    You can buy them online at and in multipacks at

    A portion of the purchase to the A Sparkle Life, a non-profit organization aiding women in need.





    TIP OF THE DAY: It’s Easy To Bake A Caribbean Rum Bundt Cake

    Caribbean Rum Cake

    Caribbean Rum Cake

    Caribbean Rum Cake

    Butter Rum Flavor Lorann

    [1] A rum cake bundt, heavy on the rum (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [2] The rum is poured onto the cake and sits overnight to sink in. This recipe adds cinnamon to the rum syrup (photo courtesy [3] Lots of rum syrup make this cake very moist (photo courtesy [4] This butter-rum oil (not rum extract) adds another layer of deliciousness (photo courtesy Lorann Oils).


    Rum cake is a year-round treat, but we tend to make them in the fall. They go well with a hot cup of tea, and are welcome gifts.

    In the Caribbean, rum cakes are a traditional holiday dessert, descendants of figgy pudding and other Christmas puddings*.

    Rum cakes are descended from British holiday puddings, such as figgy pudding (plum pudding) and fruit cake. Traditionally, dried fruit is soaked in rum for months; but in modern recipes, just an overnight soak suffices.

    “If you’ve ever traveled to the Caribbean,” says King Arthur Flour, the premium baking ingredients company that sent us this recipe, “chances are you’ve had the amazing rum cakes that the islands are famous for. Sadly, these cakes are not often found in northern latitudes but this recipe is the closest we’ve ever had to the ‘real’ thing.

    “Yes, there is a lot of rum in this cake, definitely not for the faint of heart; but the texture and flavor are unbeatable—moist, rich and deeply satisfying. Whisk yourself away to white sandy beaches with this incredible cake.”

    Yes, this is definitely a potent cake (all real rum, no “rum flavor”), very moist and fragrant.

    If you have half an hour, whip one up. Prep time is 30 minutes to 40 minutes, bake time is 50 minutes to 55 minutes.

    In fact, make two: This cake freezes beautifully.


    Ingredients For 1 Large Bundt Cake
    For The Rum Cake Base

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup pastry cream filling mix or instant vanilla pudding mix, dry
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup white or golden rum
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon butter rum flavor (recommended—this is not extract but oil)
  • 1/4 cup pecan or almond flour, for dusting baking pan

  • Cooking spray
  • Almond flour to coat pan
    For The Rum Soaking Syrup

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup white or golden rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    Optional For Serving

  • Crème fraîche
  • Mascarpone
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Whipped cream (we use half the sugar)

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Spray a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle in the almond flour and turn the pan to coat evenly. Set aside.

    2. PLACE all of the cake ingredients except the rum, vanilla and butter rum flavoring in the bowl of a stand mixer. Blend on medium speed for 2 minutes scraping down the bowl after one minute.

    3. ADD the rum, vanilla and butter rum flavor to the batter and blend for another minute. Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan and spread level with a spatula.

    4. BAKE the cake for 50 to 55 minutes. You may smell the nut flour toasting at first, especially that which is not covered by the cake batter. When done, the cake will test clean on a cake tester. Bundt cakes, much deeper than layer cakes, are difficult to test properly with a short toothpick. If you don’t have a 7-inch cake tester (or longer), try a piece of dry, uncooked spaghetti or linguine. Let the cake rest in the pan to cool slightly while you prepare the soaking syrup.

    5. COMBINE the syrup ingredients, except the vanilla, in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil; then reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the syrup thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

    6. POKE holes all over the cake with a skewer. Pour about 1/4 of the syrup over the cake while still in the pan. Allow the syrup to soak in, then repeat again and again until all the syrup is used. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow the cake to sit out overnight to soak in the syrup. When ready to serve…

    7. LOOSEN the edges of the cake and invert it onto a serving plate.



    Most serious bakers use unbleached flour, which is aged. But why did manufacturers start bleaching flour in the first place?

    Freshly-milled flour isn’t yet ready for baking. It improves with some aging.

    During aging, oxygen in the air reacts with the glutenin proteins, which eventually form gluten, to form even longer chains of gluten. These longer chains provide more elasticity and structure, the latter important for cakes.

    During this aging process—around four months—the fresh flour, which is slightly yellowish from carotenoid pigments in the endosperm, becomes paler as the pigments oxidize. This has no impact on the flavor or performance of the flour.

    Around the beginning of the 20th century, it became common for mills to use chemicals to speed up the aging process, producing more flour and requiring less storage space. Potassium bromate was commonly used, followed by bleaches like benzoil peroxide and chlorine dioxide, to approximate the whiteness of naturally aged flour.

    More recently, health concerns over the consumption of potassium bromate have led to its replacement with ascorbic acid.

    Here’s more about aged flour.


    Unbleached Flour

    [5] Bleached and unbleached flour can be used interchangeably in many recipes, but cakes and some breads require the springiness provided by the longer gluten chains in unbleached flour. Here’s a further explanation from Better Homes & Gardens.

    *Far from the creamy dessert puddings popular in the U.S., British puddings are cake-like, and can be baked, boiled or steamed. Savory puddings with meat were served as a main dish; sweet puddings evolved as desserts. In the 19th century, the boiled pudding evolved into today’s cake-like concept, such as the Christmas pudding that remains popular. While “pudding” is a generic term for dessert in the U.K., it has no relationship to the creamy milk-based American puddings. Here’s the difference.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Stop Apples, Bananas & Pears From Browning

    Sliced Apple

    Sliced Banana

    Sliced Pears

    Sliced Red Grapefruit

    What do these fruits have in common? Once sliced, they begin to discolor quickly. [1] Sliced apples (photo courtesy US Apple Association). [2] Sliced banana (photo courtesy [3] Sliced pears (photo courtesy USA Pears). [4] Squeezing citrus juice on cut fruit is just one of 6 techniques (photo courtesy Texasweet).


    Now that we’re into the cooler months and stone fruit and blueberry seasons are over, many people turn to apples, bananas and pears.

    You can eat them whole as hand fruit; or slice them to use them as garnishes, in fruit salads, etc. Or, you may be slicing them to prepare a pie or tart.

    But how do you stop them from turning brown?

    Browning of fruit is caused by the exposure of the flesh to oxygen. Enzymes in certain fruits react quickly with the oxygen in the air to oxidize, which turns the flesh brown. The discoloration doesn’t effect taste, but appearance.

    The solution is to limit that exposure.

    Anyone who has read a pie recipe knows to coat the cut surfaces with lemon juice, the strongest edible acid that can stop the enzyme reaction.

    This may be the best technique, but there are other techniques as well.


    Lemon juice is the standard in recipes and food articles, but other juices work, too. If you don’t have lemon juice, try:

  • Any other citrus juice—grapefruit, lime, orange, etc.—fresh squeezed, bottled or canned
  • Apple juice
  • Pineapple juice
    A half cup of juice will sufficiently cover two apples, bananas or pears. We brush the juice onto the sliced fruit with a pastry brush; a friend uses a small spray bottle (the travel-size used for cosmetics).

    You can also toss or immerse the fruit in the juice for a few minutes; but when they soak up the juice, they also soak up the flavor. If you don’t want tart flavor from lemon or lime juice, e.g., you can add some sugar.

    Once they’re coated in fruit juice, the slices will take much longer to turn brown. They will last without refrigeration in a plastic container for a few hours, but are best consumed the same day.
    In Fruit Salads

    The way to stop apples, bananas and pears in fruit salads from browning is to mix them with high-acid fruits: grapefruit, mandarins and oranges (the difference), pineapples, tangerines.

    Save the juices from slicing these fruits and add them to the bowl. They’ll stop the sensitive from browning.

    Lay the cut fruit on a plate or tray. Cut a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper to cover, and press it over the top of the slices, creating a shield from the air. This works best when the slices are roughly the same size.

    If you have a vacuum storage system—whether a heat-sealing system like InLife or hard a vacuum pump like Food Saver, you can create an air-free storage bag.

    A hack is to put the slices in a storage bag and squeeze out the air. Refrigerate until ready to use. If you have a bit of lemon juice to sprinkle in, so much the better.

    As a last resort, use club soda, seltzer water, soda water (the differences), or just plain water.

    Flavored waters can even add a hint of extra flavor.

    Soak the slices in the water/club soda. They don’t add flavor, so you can keep them in a lidded container until ready to use.

    Apples, bananas and other quick-to-brown fruits can also be coated with mayonnaise or salad dressing. These coatings block out the oxygen, which will also stop the browning process.

    If you’re making this type of recipe, you’re covered.


    Citric acid is the chemical in citrus juices that keeps cut fruits from browning (and also makes the fruit taste sour).

    It is sold in a purified form as a canning additive, to keep the cut fruits in the cans or jars from discoloring. Check at a health food store or a hardware store.

    However, we mention this as an FYI. It’s easier for home kitchens to use any of the above.

    Powdered vitamin C, used as a cold-fighting supplement, is a similar option. Dissolve it in water according to the package directions, and soak the fruit. You can also grind up a vitamin C tablet.

    Help is at hand: Immerse the discolored fruit slices in pineapple or grapefruit juice for 10-15 minutes.

    They won’t return to their pristine whiteness, but will lighten and look fresher.



    TIP OF THE DAY: French Toast With Pumpkin Swirl Bread

    One of our favorite comfort foods is French Toast. It’s easier to make and clean up after than pancakes and waffles, and we like the eggy factor. We can eat it for any meal of the day.

    Yesterday we made our first Pumpkin French Toast of the season, using Pepperidge Farm’s Pumpkin Swirl Bread, a seasonal limited edition.

    There are plenty of recipes for Pumpkin French Toast, You avoid time-consuming steps in from-scratch recipes: pumpkin puree, spices, raisins.

    There are even recipes to bake pumpkin swirl bread from scratch, as our friend Linda does (she also bakes her own cornbread for stuffing!).


    This aromatic, make-ahead French toast casserole combines cinnamon swirl bread and dried cranberries for a breakfast or brunch treat. You can reheat leftovers or serve them warm or chilled for dessert, with ice cream of whipped cream.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, chill time is 1 hour, bake time is 45 minutes. You can make most of it the day before and just bake it prior to serving.
    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1 loaf (16 ounces) Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Swirl Bread, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries or raisins
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups half and half or milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar or confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoon whipped butter
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup

    1. PLACE the bread cubes and cranberries/raisins into a lightly greased 3-quart shallow baking dish.

    2. BEAT the eggs, half-and-half and vanilla extract in a medium bowl with a fork or whisk. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes. Stir and press the bread cubes into the egg mixture to coat.

    3. REFRIGERATE for 1 hour or overnight. Preheat oven to 350°F and bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar. Serve with the butter and syrup.


    No matter what bread you use, this is our quick technique on the stovetop.

    We use ReddiEgg, a liquid egg product that has removed all cholesterol. It saves the time of cracking and whisking the eggs with milk, with “cholesterol-free” as a bonus.

  • 1 loaf (16 ounces) Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Swirl Bread
  • 1 small container egg substitute, e.g. ReddiEgg or Egg Beaters
  • Butter for pan
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Optional garnish: butter pats, raisins, sliced almonds

    1. HEAT a fry pan or griddle and melt the butter. While the pan is heating…

    2. POUR the liquid egg into shallow dish and soak the bread slices thoroughly on each side. (Note: We like very eggy French toast. If you prefer the drier, crisper variety, soak briefly).


    Pumpkin Swirl Bread Pepperidge Farm

    Baked French Toast

    Pumpkin French Toast

    ReddiEgg Carton

    [1] A seasonal favorite: Pumpkin Swirl Bread. [2] Got time? Make Baked French Toast, a rich breakfast casserole (photos #1 and #2 courtesy Pepperidge Farm). [3] Quick French Toast: Just dip and fry (photo courtesy [4] ReddiEggs are ready to pour and have no cholesterol (photo courtesy NuLaid).

    3. FRY until golden brown on each side, turning once. Garnish as desired and serve immediately with butter and syrup. If you like the artistic touch (photo #2), slice and stack the French toast triangles.

    Nope! Here’s the history of French Toast, and more French Toast recipes.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Fluffernutter & Fluffernutter Cookies For National Fluffernutter Day

    Fluffernutter Sandwich

    Marshmallow Fluff

    Kerfluffle Gourmet Fluffernutter

    Marshmallow Plant & Root

    [1] The classic Fluffernutter sandwich: peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff on white bread (photo courtesy Quaker). [2] Marshmallow Fluff was first sold commercially in 1910 (photo courtesy [3] Kerfuffle, a ready-to-spread all natural Fluffernutter blend (photo courtesy Kerfluffle Nut Butter). [4] The marsh mallow plant has pretty flowers, but the sap in the root makes marshmallows (or it did, until it was replaced by gelatin). Photo courtesy


    National Fluffernutter Day is October 8th, honoring the classic peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwich on white bread (photo #1).

    The original Marshmallow Fluff was introduced more than 75 years ago and is still made by Durkee-Mower Inc. Some brands call it marshmallow cream, others marshmallow creme.

    What’s the difference between cream and creme? Just the spelling. Creme is an Americanization of the French word for cream, crème? (pronounced KREHM).

    Why adapt a French word instead of good old American cream? Most likely adapted to make the dish sound more special. There’s no need to misspell and mispronounce another language’s word for cream. Unless it’s a French recipe, such as Coeur à la Crème, stick to cream.


    Marshmallow dates back to ancient Egypt. The marsh mallow plant that was plentiful along the banks of the Nile has a slippery sap that forms a gel when mixed with water. The Egyptians mixed the “juice” with honey to make a confection, reserved for the wealthy and the gods.

    The Roman scholar Pliny the Elder credited the sap with curing all sorts of diseases, and encouraged people to drink the juice daily, although it wasn’t very palatable (what happened to the honey?). Still, for centuries the sap was used to treat sore throats, skin conditions and other maladies.

    Marsh Mallow Sap Gets Replaced With Gelatin

    In the mid-19th century, a pharmacist in Paris came up with the idea of whipping the sap with sugar and egg whites into a light, sweet, fluffy throat remedy. A variation soon became popular as marshmallow candy.

    By the late 19th century, confectioners had determined how to mass-produce marshmallows, which included eliminating the sap entirely and replacing it with gelatin.

    Prepared gelatin was patented in 1845. In addition to setting aspics, it was desirable as glue, a use that also dates back to the marsh mallow plants of ancient Egypt.

    Prior to 1845, it was laborious to render and clarify gelatin from cattle and pig bones, skin, tendons and ligaments.

    Marshmallow sauces were popular in the early 20th century (see Marshmallow History). But to make marshmallow sauce or frosting required that the cook first make marshmallow creme.

    It was a two-step process: make a sugar syrup, melt marshmallow candy in a double boiler, and combine them with the syrup. But, the popularity created an opportunity.
    Commercial Marshmallow Cream Arrives

    In 1910 a marshmallow cream called Marshmallow Fluff was sold to ice cream parlors by Limpert Brothers, a company that still exists in New Jersey. You can see the original packaging here.

    Call greater Boston the home of marshmallow cream!

  • Brother and sister Amory and Emma Curtis of the Curtis Marshmallow Factory in Melrose, Massachusetts, created Miss Curtis’ Snowflake Marshmallow Creme in 1913. It was the first commercially successful, shelf-stable marshmallow creme. Curtis ultimately bought the Marshmallow Fluff brand from the Lippert Brothers (details).
  • In 1917, Archibald Query invented a creation he called Marshmallow Creme in Somerville, Massachusetts.
  • Marshmallow Fluff wasn’t the first marshmallow cream, but it’s the one that endured. More than 100 years later, the brand is still thriving.
    Unlike conventional marshmallows, which require gelatin (an animal product) or a seaweed equivalent to set, todays large marshmallow brands are kosher products made from corn syrup, sugar, water, egg whites, artificial flavor, cream of tartar, xanthan gum and artificial color.

    Marshmallow Fluff is certified kosher by OU, Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme by OK Kosher.

    Ricemellow Creme, manufactured by Suzanne’s Specialties, Inc., is a vegan equivalent.


    In 1917, during World War I, Emma Curtis published a recipe for the Liberty Sandwich, which consisted of peanut butter and Snowflake Marshmallow Creme on oat or barley bread. The recipe was published in a promotional booklet sent to Curtis’ customers in 1918, and is believed to be the origin of today’s Fluffernutter sandwich.


    You can make your own version of Fluff at home, with this recipe.

    Beyond the original (vanilla), you can make chocolate “Fluff,” gingerbread, etc.

    You’ll love the flavor from pure vanilla extract; and can make gift batches for Fluff-loving friends and family.



    Christine Fischer of Wry Toast created these Fluffernutter cookies and sent them to PB & Co., producers of gourmet peanut butters.

    Here are step-by-step photos on

    Prep time is 15 minutes for 15 sandwich cookies.

    We made substitutions, as noted below, to trade the salty elements (butter crackers, bacon) for sweeter ones (cookies and banana chips).

    Ingredients For 15 Cookie Sandwiches

  • 30 butter crackers (Ritz, Town House, etc.)
  • 5 tablespoons Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter (from PB & Co.)
  • 1/4 cup Marshmallow Fluff or other marshmallow cream
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled bacon, cooked

    1. LINE a medium-size baking sheet with parchment paper.

    2. SPREAD a small amount of peanut butter on half of the crackers/cookies, then a small amount of fluff on the other half. Sandwich together, then transfer to baking sheet. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

    3. COMBINE the chocolate chips and coconut oil in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for approximately one minute until melted, stirring at the 30-second mark to avoid burning.

    4. REMOVE the frozen sandwiches from the freezer. Dip each halfway in melted chocolate, then return to baking sheet and sprinkle the bacon on top. Repeat until all sandwiches have been coated and topped, then return to the freezer until the chocolate is set, at least an hour.

    For The Crackers

    We tried these, all with very satisfactory results:

  • Graham crackers
  • Le Petit Écolier (Little Schoolboy) cookies (omit the chocolate chips)
  • Shortbread
  • Social Tea Biscuits
    For The Coconut Oil

  • Melted butter
    For The Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter

  • Plain PB or any flavor that beckons
    For The Marshmallow Cream

  • Actual marshmallows
    For The Bacon

  • Banana chips
    You’ve got a few days before National Fluffernutter Day to determine your favorite combination.


    Fluffernutter Cookies

    Fluffernutter Cookies

    Little Schoolboy Cookies

    Social Tea Biscuits

    [5] Fluffernutter cookies topped with bacon from Christine Fischer. [6] Preparing the cookie sandwiches (photos #1 and #2 courtesy Wry Toast Eats). [7] Le Petit Écolier biscuits topped with a chocolate bar were our favorite variations (photo courtesy LU). [8] Social Tea Biscuits are similar to Le Petit Écolier, without the chocolate bar (the recipe’s chocolate chips provide the chocolate (photo courtesy Nabisco).




    TIP OF THE DAY: Jarlsberg Cheese From Norway

    Jarlsberg Cheese Plate

    Jarlsberg Cheese Crisps

    Jarlsberg Wheel

    [1] Jarlsberg from Norway: the top special cheese in the U.S. [2] Jarlsberg Cheese Crisps in four flavors: Chipotle, Garlic & Herb, Mediterranean Sea Salt and Rosemary & Olive Oil. We’ve been enjoying them plain, with soup and salads, and with dips. [3] “What big eyes you have,” said Goldilocks to the Jarlsberg. Eyes is the industry term for what consumers call holes (photos courtesy Jarlsberg).


    Sixty years ago, a group of students and scientists at the Agricultural University of Norway decided to explore old legends and cheese-making traditions, and to create an old cheese with modern cheese-making technology.

    The origin of the modern cheese they created traces back to the early 1800s when Swiss cheese makers came to southern Norway to teach Norwegians how to make cheese.

    Norwegians began to produce their own cheese similar to Swiss cheese, but after the departure of the Swiss, the particular style did not endure.

    Fast forward: 1956 arrives, along with the students who had a project under the direction of their professor, Ole Martin Ystgaard of the Dairy Institute at the Agricultural University of Norway. Their project: to revive an old-style cheese.

    They studied ancient texts and recipes, experimented, and created a wonderful cheese they named Jarlsberg® (pronounced YAHRLS-berg).

    It was named after Count Vadel Jarlsberg, whose countship was created in 1673. His estate was located near where the earlier version of the cheese was first produced.

    A mild, semisoft, part skim, pasteurized cheese made from cow’s milk, Jarlsberg has been beloved from the beginning for its mild, sweet and nutty taste and the appeal of its large round holes (eyes).

    It is Norway’s most famous edible export, the #1 cheese imported to the U.S., and the #1 specialty cheese* brand in the U.S.

    As a bonus to millions of Americans, it’s also lactose-free†.

    Bravo, Professor Ystgaard and team. Who wouldn’t love bragging rights to this creation: for oneself and for generations to come!

    Jarlsberg is one of the most versatile cheeses. More than a table cheese and sandwich cheese, it can be:

  • Melted for cheese sauces, fondues, gratins, grilled cheese sandwiches and rarebits/rabbits (here’s how to melt cheese).
  • Shaved as a garnish for salads and soups.
  • Used for cheeseburgers (so much tastier than American cheese!), mac and cheese, omelets, quiche and other cheese tarts.
    The line has expanded to include:

  • Hickory Smoked Pre-Sliced Jarlsberg.
  • Grab-and-go mini cheeses for snacking (voted Men’s Health Best Snack Award for 2014 and 2015).
  • Jarlsberg Cheese Snacks (shaped like string cheese).
  • Jarlsberg Lite, a reduced-fat rindless cheese (not a good melter—you need more fat to melt well).
  • Cheese crisps: cheese crackers in four flavors (photo #3).
    For starters, see some of the recipes below.
    *Specialty cheese is defined as a cheese of limited production, with particular attention paid to natural flavor and texture profiles. The opposite is factory cheese, mass-produced.

    Cheddar and authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano are the other two cheeses that are 100% lactose free.



    Each of the world’s cheeses is made from a specific recipe, which includes both the type(s) of cheese cultures and the production techniques. Both combine to deliver each cheese’s unique flavor, aroma and appearance.

    Jarlsberg enchants not only with its flavor, but with its eyes.

    Emmental, the first cheese with large eyes, is what Americans think of as Swiss cheese—although there are more than a dozen different types of Swiss cheese, including Appenzeller, Raclette, Gruyère, Tête de Moine, Tilsit and Vacherin Mont d’Or. (Emmental, Gruyère and Vacherin Mont d’Or are also made in France.)

    Some Swiss have eyes, some don’t.

    Some people find Jarlsberg similar to French Gruyère, which has holes. Modern-style Swiss Gruyère does not.

    The larger the holes, the more mature the cheese. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a stipulation that the “eyes” in “grade-A Swiss” can be no larger than 13/16 of an inch in diameter.

    Why? Because larger eyes can make the cheese difficult to slice on modern cheese-slicing equipment. The blades were catching on the large holes and shredding the cheese rather than slicing it.
    Why Does The Cheese Have Holes?

    The holes in cheese are a deliberate byproduct‡ of fermentation, the process by which milk is turned into the curds that are used to create cheese.

    They are the result of propioni bacteria, which cause gas to expand within the curd and create the holes’

    The longer cheese ages, the bigger the holes get, and the more intense flavor is developed.

    Head to for dozens of new and familiar recipes, such as:

  • Artichokes au gratin
  • Breakfast sandwiches
  • Cannelloni and other pasta dishes
  • Cheese and corn muffins
  • Crab fondue
  • Jarlsberg soufflé
  • Gravlax Eggs Benedict
  • Kale salad, chicken salad and other salads
  • Mac and cheese
  • Gratin, mashed and twice-baked potatoes
  • Nachos
  • Onion soup
  • Sliders
  • Waffle grilled cheese
  • White Pizzas

    Jarlsberg Eggs Benedict

    Jarlsberg Cheese Plate

    [3] Jarlsberg Eggs Benedict. [4] A Croque Monasieur sandwich made with Jarlsberg instead of Gruyere (photos courtesy Jarlsberg).


    ‡In recent centuries the eyes a deliberate part of recipes, and can be created larger or smaller. In the beginning, the eyes were a happy accident. They certainly do have eye appeal! (Pun intended.)



    COCKTAIL RECIPE: Pumpkin Martini


    Pumpkin Vodka

    [1] Pumpkin Pie-tini. Photo courtesy SandAndSisal, which uses a different recipe from ours, with whipped cream vodka, pumpkin eggnog and a rim of brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. [2] Pinnacle is one of the brands of pumpkin-flavored vodka on the market. Pumpkin is a seasonal offering.


    Today is National Vodka Day, and it’s fall. So what better than a pumpkin martini?

    To make a true pumpkin martini, you’ll need a bottle of clear, pumpkin-flavored vodka and the other ingredients for your favorite martini recipe. We picked up a bottle of Pinnacle Pumpkin Pie Vodka, which gave a pumpkin-pie-spice accent to a standard martini. For garnish, we floated a star anise on top.

    Otherwise, you can make a Pumpkin Pie-tini with vanilla vodka and real pumpkin purée (top photo). If you want a spicier drink, use pumpkin pie filling instead of purée; pie filling includes the pumpkin pie spices.


    Make one of these as a test drink. You can then decide to vary the ingredients—more or less of something, pumpkin vodka, etc.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 ounce cream, milk or eggnog
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin purée or pumpkin pie filling
  • ½ ounces vanilla vodka
  • 1½ ounces crème de cacao or vanilla liqueur
  • Ice and shaker
  • Optional glass rim: maple syrup, honey or water plus crushed biscotti, graham crackers or vanilla wafer crumbs
  • Optional garnish: sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice with or without whipped cream, or a cocktail pick with candy corn

    1. PURÉE the purée. Why? Pumpkin purée can be slightly grainy. For a smooth cocktail, run the pumpkin through a food processor or use an immersion blender in the can.

    2. CREATE the glass rimmer. Using a small amount of maple syrup, honey or water on the rim of the glass, place the rim on a plate of cookie crumbs and twist until the rim is coated.

    3. SHAKE the cream/milk and pumpkin puree with ice to combine. Add the remaining ingredients and shake well. Strain into the martini glass.


    All you need are vanilla beans and vodka…and 10 days to let them infuse.

    If you’ve had the vanilla beans for a while, check to see that they’re not dried out. If they are, get new beans and stick the old ones in a sugar jar, where they’ll lightly scent the sugar.

    If you don’t need an entire bottle of vanilla vodka, make half a bottle.

  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 750 ml vodka
  • Empty glass quart jar with cap

    1. CUT the vanilla beans in half lengthwise to expose the interior as possible (that’s where the flavor is).

    2. POUR the vodka into the glass jar, retaining the original bottle for the final product.

    3. PLACE the vanilla beans in the jar, cap it tightly and shake gently. With a quart jar, the top 20% should be empty. Then put the bottle in a cool, dark place to infuse.

    4. STRAIN the vodka after 10 days. Use a funnel and a fine sieve, coffee filter or cheesecloth to strain the vanilla vodka into its original vodka bottle. You’re ready to go!


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