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TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Marshmallow Designs

Valentine Marshmallows

Marshmallow Snowflakes

Heart Cookie Cutter

Blackberry Marshmallows

[1] Cut heart shapes for Valentine’s Day (photo courtesy Kavemania | Facebook). [2] Use cookie cutters to create special designs (photo courtesy Martha Stewart and [3] SXC). [4] These artisan marshmallows are delicious, but too tall and pillowy to cut into shapes (photo The Nibble).

 

If you have an eye out for delicious confections, you may see all flavors of artisan marshmallows—usually super-sized. If you want to cut them into more manageable pieces, don’t use a knife: It sticks.

HOW TO CUT MARSHMALLOWS

Instead, use sharp kitchen scissors. Dip them in warm water, or use a paper towel to apply a very thin coat of neutral cooking oil, like canola or grapes.

You can try both methods to see which you prefer.

Then, snip away and use the smaller pieces.

Slices can be placed into petal designs. If your palate and doesn’t like supermarket marshmallows (or prefer vegan marshmallows, sugar-free marshmallows, etc.), this is also the way to get mini marshmallows.
 
WAYS TO USE MARSHMALLOWS

Beyond garnishing hot chocolate, you can:

  • Add to pancake batter (how about Rocky Road pancakes?).
  • Add to peanut butter or PB-and-banana sandwiches.
  • Add to whole grain cereals for a better version of Lucky Charms.
  • Create a pie topper: Bake the pie at 400°F for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the marshmallows are toasted.
  • Dip in chocolate fondue.
  • Garnish ice cream.
  • Garnish sweet cocktails.
  • Garnish sweet potatoes.
  • Make ambrosia salad.
  • Make fruit and marshmallow skewers or marshmallows-on-a-stick.
  • Make rocky road brownies or cookies.
  • Make S’mores.
  • Toss coffee-flavored marshmallows into hot coffee.
  •  
    MAKE YOUR OWN MARSHMALLOW DESIGNS

    It’s easy to make flatter marshmallows in the shapes you like, as special garnishes. Use the marshmallows immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

    We adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart. The process is the same if you want regular size marshmallows. Just use fill a baking pan to the height you want, and cut the marshmallows into the size and shape you like.

    Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 2 envelopes (each 1 scant tablespoon) unflavored gelatin
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Optional: food color
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  •  
    Plus

  • 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Offset spatula
  • Snowflake cookie cutter (or shape of choice)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SPRAY the baking sheet with cooking spray; line with parchment paper and spray the parchment. Set aside.

    2. ADD the water to the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle with gelatin and let the mixture soften (about 5 minutes).

    3. PLACE the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and the second 1/3 cup water in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove lid; then cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the syrup reaches 238°F (soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer, about 5 minutes.

     
    4. TURN the mixer to low speed, whisk the gelatin mixture and slowly pour the syrup in a steady stream down the side of the bowl (this avoids splattering). Gradually raise the speed to high and beat until the mixture is thick, white, and has almost tripled in volume (about 12 minutes). Add the vanilla, and beat 30 seconds more to combine. If you want to color your marshmallows, add a drop or two of food color at this time.

    5. POUR the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and smooth with an offset spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.

    6. CUT: Coat a 1- or 2-inch snowflake-shaped cookie cutter with cooking spray to prevent it from sticking. Cut out individual marshmallows as possible, re-spraying the cookie cutter as needed. Use the marshmallows immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week. If they become hard, pop them in the microwave for 2-3 seconds (not longer or they’ll begin to melt).
     
    USING MARSHMALLOWS FOR KITCHEN TASKS

    A marshmallow can stop ice cream cones from dripping, soften brown sugar, steady tapers in candle holders, and more.

    Plus, tips to keep them soft, unstick th em and freeze them, and Check ‘em out.
     
    THE HISTORY OF MARSHMALLOWS

    The ancient Egyptians were the first to use sap from the root of the marsh mallow, a swamp plant, to make candy. (It was also used medicinally.)

    Here’s the history of marshmallows.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Jell-O Shots For Your Valentine(s)

    How about gelatin shots as a treat for Valentine’s Day? Use unflavored gelatin and other drink ingredients to turn your favorite cocktails into solid form.

    The alcohol-free version, Jell-O Jigglers, uses Jell-O for flavor and color; and engendered the return of a very old recipe—popular among young ladies in the 1860s, popular among all youth in the 1980s and beyond.

    For the record:

  • Jell-O shots are made with Jell-O and alcohol. The flavor comes from the Jell-O; alcohol is substituted for one-third to one-half of the cold water. Any spirit can be used; vodka and tequila seem to be in the majority of recipes.
  • Gelatin shots or jelly shots are made with unflavored gelatin. Spirits and other flavorings are added to emulate a cocktail or punch.
  • Jell-O Jigglers are made with no alcohol: just Jell-O made with much less water, promoted by Jell-O in fun shapes, although jiggly cubes are fine.
  •  

    THE HISTORY OF JELL-O SHOTS

    Many of us think of Jell-O shots as the creation of fraternity culture in the late 1980s. But the first published recipe is more than 100 years older: alcoholic punch turned solid with gelatin. You can find it in the original cocktail recipe book published in the U.S.: Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide of 1862. You can still buy it (reprinted) on Amazon.com.

    That recipe used generic, unflavored gelatin. Thanks to some pretty crafty sleuthing on the part of JelloShotRecipe.Blogspot.com, you can see a photocopy of the first known recipe for a molded gelatin-alcohol combination.

    They may have been forgotten by the cocktail culture, but in the U.S. Armed Forces in 1950s, they were made as a subterfuge to consume alcohol on the alcohol-restricted Army bases.

    The brand of flavored, colored gelatin called Jell-O was invented in 1897. Marketed as a light dessert, the product’s success began to wane in the 1960s; by the 1980s the company needed to revitalize the brand.

    The marketing team pored through older cookbooks and discovered what they renamed Jigglers, adding new excitement to the brand with the fun-shaped finger food snacks.

    The fun molds created for Jell-O Jigglers charmed children. The concept enticed teens and young adults to add alcohol to the Jell-O and call them Jell-O shots. Simple squares cut from a baking pan sufficed.

    Back in 1862 Jerry Thomas advised: “The strength of the punch is so artfully concealed by its admixture with the gelatine, that many persons, particularly of the softer sex, have been tempted to partake so plentifully of it as to render them somewhat unfit for waltzing or quadrilling after supper.”

    Refined ladies of the time could not be seen downing drink after drink, but the “gelatine punch” nibbles had the same effect as they have today (a.k.a., “drunk on Jell-O shots).

    MODERN JELL-O SHOTS

    Today, Jell-O shots are made in baking pans and cut into squares or fingers; made in theme-shape ice cube trays (hearts, stars, shamrocks, etc.), garnished with edible glitter, coated in hard chocolate, tiered in two or three colors, embedded with berries or cherries, and so on.

    You’ll find endless recipes on line. Note that many, like the one immediately below, are made with plain gelatin as opposed to Jell-O; and are thus technically gelatin shots.
     
     
    RECIPE #1: COSMOPOLITAN JELL-O SHOTS

    Eat your heart out, Carrie Bradshaw! Other people are enjoying their Cosmos in solid form—and they’re spill-proof.

    We adopted this recipe from Jelly Shot Test Kitchen.

    Prep time is 20 minutes plus setting in the fridge; total time 4 hours.
     
    Ingredients For 32 Pieces

  • 1-1/4 cup cranberry juice cocktail
  • 2-1/2 envelopes plain gelatin
  • 1/4 cup Rose’s lime juice (or preferably, fresh lime juice with a half teaspoon of simple syrup)
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • 3/4 cup orange flavored vodka
  • Garnish: 1/4 cup lime zest
  •    

    Pink Champagne Jello Shots

    Cosmopolitan Jello Shots

    Jello Shots Ingredients

    Chambord Jello Shots

    Jello Shot Recipe Book

    [1] It takes more time to turn out a good supply, but heart-shape shots are an extra treat (here’a the recipe from That’s So Michelle). [2] A favorite American cocktail, the Cosmopolitan, transformed into a solid state (photo courtesy Jelly Test Shot Kitchen). [3] Look for fancy ice cube molds locally or online (photo courtesy Craftster). [4] What to do with that bottle of cassis, Chambord or framboise: Make gelatin shots (photo courtesy Sugar And Cream). [5] Get a copy of Jelly Shot Test Kitchen: Jell-ing Classic Cocktails—One Drink at a Time (photo courtesy Running Press).

     
    Preparation
     
    1. COMBINE the cranberry and lime juices in a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let it set for a few minutes; then place over low heat, stirring constantly until the gelatin is fully dissolved (about 5 minutes).

    2. REMOVE from the heat and stir in the liquors, blending thoroughly. Pour into a pan or molds and chill until set, several hours or overnight. To serve…

    3. CUT into the desired shape and garnish with lime zest. They can be served on a plate or tray, or placed in mini-cupcake wrappers immediately before serving.
     
     
    RECIPE #2: JELL-O JIGGLERS

    Because there’s no alcohol for flavoring, Jigglers simply need Jell-O. Here’s the recipe via Craftster.org:

    If you don’t have a flexible mold, you can always make Jigglers—or shots—in an old-fashioned ice cube tray (using the bottom only) or a small square or rectangular pan.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1 package red Jell-O
  • 1 flexible ice cube tray
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • Pam cooking spray
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SPRAY the mold with Pam, blotting any excess cooking spray.

    2. DISSOLVE the Jell-O in the boiled water, stirring to dissolve. Add the cold water, blend, pour into the mold and refrigerate until set, two hours or longer.

    3. POP them out of the molds (the joy of silicon!), plate and serve.
     

     

    Molded Jello Shots

    Maraschino Jello Shots

    [6] For dessert: Turn the recipe into a mold, slice and serve with berries and crème fraîche or mascarpone. This molded “punch” includes crème de cassis, sloe gin and St-Germain elderflower liqueur. Here’s the recipe from Jelly Shot Test Kitchen). [7] For maraschino lovers: a creative idea for shots or jiggles (no alcohol—here’s the recipe from That’s So Michelle).

     

    RECIPE #3: CHAMPAGNE & CHAMBORD GELATIN SHOTS

    This recipe is from Sugar and Charm.
     
    Ingredients

  • 5 cups Champagne or other sparkling wine, regular or rosé
  • 9 packs gelatin
  • 1-1/4 cups Chambord
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • Optional: red food coloring for a darker color
  • Optional garnish: edible glitter
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the Champagne, sugar and lemon juice in a sauce pan. Add the packets of gelatin and let proof for a few minutes. Once bloomed, put the pot over medium heat and bring to a slow boil until the gelatin is dissolved.

    2. REMOVE from the heat and add the Chambord. Pour into a square baking dish or cake pan and refrigerate, covered, for a few hours until set. After half an hour, add the optional glitter.

    3. CUT into squares or fingers.
     

    THE HISTORY OF GELATIN

    Gelatin (also spelled gelatine) has been made since ancient times by boiling animal and fish bones. Aspic, a savory, gelatin-like food made from meat or fish stock, was a French specialty centuries before the dawn of commercial gelatin.

    Beginning in the 1400s, gelatin (protein produced from collagen extracted from boiled animal bones and connective tissues) had been used to make fancy aspics and desserts.

     
    It was a laborious process, undertaken largely by the kitchens of the wealthy, which had the staff resources to undertake it. It relied only on the natural gelatin found in the meat to make the aspic set.

    The next development, commercial gelatin sheets, was easier but still cumbersome: Gelatin was sold in sheets and had to be purified first, a time-consuming process.

    Powdered gelatin was invented in 1682 by Denis Papin. Here’s a longer history of gelatin and Jell-O; and a much longer discussion on Wikipedia.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Updated Chicken Noodle Soup

    chicken-noodle-soup-goodeggs-230r

    Chicken Noodle Soup

    Asian Chicken Soup

    Chicken Noodle Soup

    [1] The original soup has flat noodles, but try some of the many fun shaped pastas (e.g. bow ties, corkscrews, wagon wheels; photo courtesy Good Eggs. [2] Turn soup into a meal by packing in the chicken, pasta and veg (here’s the recipe from Gotta Want Seconds). [3] How about chicken noodle soup Asian-style, with ramen noodles and sliced chicken? You can use traditional American vegetables—celery, carrots, onions—and stock; or accent the stock with ginger, soy sauce, plus bok choy and napa cabbage (here’s the recipe from Recipe Tin Eats). [4] Got glass mugs or Irish coffee glasses? Use them! (here’s the recipe from A Family Feast).

     

    For February 4th, National Homemade Soup Day, calls all of us to make a pot of soup.

    If you haven’t made homemade soup, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is—especially a broth-based soup. Just add the ingredients to a pot of water or stock, bring to a boil and simmer. That’s it in a nutshell (with details depending on individual recipes).

    We couldn’t decide which soup to make, so we turned to the numbers: America’s #1 favorite is chicken noodle soup.

    Our grandmother made this classic comfort soup from scratch with fine egg noodles (photo #4). Our mom preferred wide egg noodles.

    But why not have fun with it and use one of the many fun shapes: bowties, corkscrews, shells, wagon wheels, etc.?

    ADD AT LEAST ONE GARNISH

    Some garnishes—like cheese and sour cream—don’t work well with broth-type soups. But here’s what does—and you can add as many of them as you wish:

  • Herbs: Chopped or minced fresh herbs taste best, but sprinkle dried herbs—including garlic or onion chips—if that’s what you like.
  • Spices: From black or colored peppercorns to red chili flakes—or maybe a dash of curry powder—check your spices for something that adds flavor and color.
  • Raw vegetables: There are vegetables in the soup already, but a topping of crunchy matchsticks—carrots, celery, daikon, jicama—or scallion slices is a welcome addition. For color, add diced bell peppers—ideal a mix of red, green, orange and/or yellow.
  • Bonus: More chicken—diced, pulled or sliced. Adding a mound of chicken to the center of the bowl turns the soup into a main meal.
  • Plus: Better bread and crackers: Raisin semolina bread? Walnut bread? Flatbread? Breadsticks? Crisps? Pick an artisan bread or gourmet crackers. Or, serve crostini: toasted baguette slice spread with anything from “bruschetta topping” to pimento cheese.
  •  
    RECIPE: CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

    We make our chicken soup from scratch (here’s a recipe), but you can do it faster with a box of chicken stock and pre-cooked chicken breasts.

    We use lots of fresh dill and parsley in our stock, but some people prefer thyme.

    Ingredients

  • Chicken stock
  • Noodles/pasta of choice
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Fresh herbs
  • Salt and pepper
  •  
    Garnishes

    Pick one or two; or set out several and let each person customize his/her own bowl of soup.

  • Chopped fresh chives and/or parsley.
  • Gremolata.
  • Sliced jalapeños or a sprinkle of red chile flakes.
  • Chinese-style fried noodles or wonton strips (here’s an easy recipe) for homemade wonton strips.
  • More chicken: pulled, sliced or diced.
  •  
    Here are garnishes for other types of soups.
     
    Preparation

    1. DICE the carrots and celery, slice the onions, mince the herbs and cook them all in the stock until the vegetables are al dente. If you’re using raw chicken breasts, add them as well. You can make the recipe up to this point in advance and refrigerate; first remove the chicken breasts and tightly wrap them separately. When ready to serve…

    2. COOK the noodles according to package instructions. While it cooks, dice, slice or shred/pull the cooked chicken. Taste and add salt and pepper to the stock as desired.

    3. PLACE the drained, cooked pasta and the chicken in serving bowls. Ladle the stock and vegetables over them. Garnish as desired.

     
    BEYOND CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

    Check out our Soup Glossary for the different types of soups to make.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Radishes, A Valentine Vegetable

    Have you ever roasted radishes? Few of us do; but like other root veggies, roasted vegetables can taste even more glorious than raw ones.

    We liked this particular recipes for “Valentine veggies.” We adapted the recipe from Duda Fresh, using their Dandy Radishes.

    We adapted this recipe from Duda Farm Fresh Foods of Florida, using their quality produce.

     
    RECIPE: ROASTED RADISHES WITH ORANGE & ROSEMARY

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound radishes, trimmed and halved—but don’t toss the greens!
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced
  • Salt
  • 1 orange, peel* and pith removed, cut into slices
  • Garnish: rosemary sprigs
  •  
    ________________
    *Save the peel for drink garnishes. You can cut it into strips and freeze it. Alternatively, you can zest the peel and toss with the radishes and olive oil. You can also freeze extra zest.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Line a baking pan with foil and set aside.

    2. TOSS the radishes in a large bowl with the olive oil and rosemary. Place on the baking pan and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 25-30 minutes until tender and lightly browned in spots.

    3. REMOVE from the oven and cool slightly. Serve warm with the orange slices.

     
    MORE WAYS TO COOK RADISHES

    You can cook radishes as you would cook any vegetable, with just about any technique.

  • Here’s how to grill radishes to add smoky flavor.
  • Here’s how to roast radishes for caramelized sweetness.
  • Here’s how to stir-fry radishes.
  • Here’s how to pickle radishes: quick radish pickles.
  •  
    12 MORE WAYS TO SERVE RADISHES

    They’re great at breakfast, lunch and dinner. We haven’t figured out a radish dessert, yet.

    Check ‘em out.

    HOW TO USE RADISH GREENS (RADISH TOPS)

    The green tops of root vegetables are edible—by humans as well as the bunnies and hamsters who love to nibble them.

    We especially like beet, celery root, radish and turnip greens; and like the feathery carrot greens as garnish.

     

    Roasted Radishes

    Fresh Radishes

    Radish Hors D'Oeuvre

    [1] Roasted radishes look like edible valentines (photo courtesy Duda Farm Fresh Foods). [2] Look for the freshest radishes, with green tops—and never buy the sad, peeled versions in cellophane (photo courtesy The Chef’s Garden). [3] Great with Bloody Marys and Martinis: radishes dipped in cultured butter and topped with a few flakes of crunchy sea salt (here’s the recipe; photo courtesy Vermont Creamery).

     
    Just like the bottom globes, the radish greens have a peppery in taste. Even older greens, which can grow more bitter, provide a nice bite to a lettuce salad.

  • Make pesto: Blanch the leaves and blend with garlic, pignola (or other) nuts and Parmesan (here’s a recipe template).
  • Sauté them.
  • Stir-fry them.
  • Wilt them and serve as a side, in pasta and grain dishes, soups and stews.
  •  
    Go rad with new approaches to the radish.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Grapefruit Basil Cocktail To Chase The Winter Blues

    Grapefruit Vodka Cocktail

    Orange Peel

    Lemon Channel Peeler

    Orange Peel Cocktail Garnish

    [1] Grapefruit basil cocktail (photo courtesy Tommy Bahama). [2] Create a twist with a channel peeler (photo courtesy Two Tarts). [3] Get yourself a channel peeler (photo courtesy 1 Easylife | Amazon) [4]. You can knot a long strip of peel (photo courtesy Bar Boulud | Boston).

     

    Each weekend we try a different cocktail from the many recipes we receive.

    This one from Tommy Bahama had previously caught our eye; and when we passed by a bottle of fresh-squeezed red grapefruit juice at our specialty produce store (and February is National Grapefruit Month), we knew it was time to try it.

    Tommy Bahama calls this a Grapefruit Basil Martini, but allow us to offer a correction: A Martini is a savory drink, originally just gin and vermouth (here’s the history of the Martini).

    You can tweak a Martini recipe while still retaining the savory character of the drink. There are Vodka Martinis, Dirty Martinis, dill martinis and a variety of garnishes, from the classics to the modern (like gherkins or pickled habaneros).

    But adding juice and sugar to vodka does not make it a Martini. (Nor would substituting grapefruit juice for the tomato juice create a Grapefruit Bloody Mary, et cetera, et cetera and so forth).

    So why do some call anything with vodka a Martini?

    Because “Martini” is a familiar name and sells better than other descriptions. We like to keep the record straight (avoid alternative facts, as it were).

    RECIPE: GRAPEFRUIT BASIL COCKTAIL

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2½ parts vodka
  • 1¼ parts fresh red grapefruit juice*
  • ¾ part simple syrup
  • 1 fresh basil leaf
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: fresh basil leaves, grapefruit peel
  • ________________

    *You can substitute pink or white juice; but the redder, the better looking the drink.
    ________________
     
    For The Simple Syrup

    You can purchase simple syrup; but it is so easy to make. Why spend $7.00 and up for a bottle?

    For other cocktails, you can infuse the simple syrup with whatever flavor you’d like: ginger, habanero, fruit, lavender, rose, vanilla, etc.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Optional flavoring: 1 loose cup basil leaves, 2 cups fruit, ¼ cup chopped peeled ginger, etc.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the simple syrup. Combine the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to boil and simmer until the sugar is fully dissolved, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool, 20 minutes or more. Strain out the flavoring and keep in the fridge in a lidded jar. The syrup can be made up to two weeks in advance.

    2. PREPARE the cocktail. Muddle a large basil leaf with simple syrup in a mixing glass. Add the remaining ingredients and the ice. Shake well until chilled.

    3. STRAIN into a glass and garnish with a fresh basil leaf and or grapefruit peel.

    HOW TO MAKE A GRAPEFRUIT PEEL TWIST

    This works for any citrus fruit. All you need is a channel peeler.

    1. SCRUB the fruit to remove any pesticides. Using the channel peeler, cut a spiral around the top of the fruit, trying to avoid the bitter white pith.

    TIP: At this point you can take the peel and rub it along the rim of the glass. This touch of citrus oil on the rim is particularly effective for drinks such as the martini or other less fruity cocktails. Thanks to Two Tarts for this tip.

     
    2. WRAP the strip of peel in a tight spiral around your finger or a round kitchen implement (like the handle of a spatula). Hold it for a few seconds; then place it onto your cocktail.
     

    Here are more ways to use the peel.

      

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