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Archive for Top Pick Of The Week

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Mochidoki, Ice Cream-Stuffed Mochi

Like ice cream? Get ready for a [relatively] new variation: ice cream mochi (MO-chee).

Mochidoki is a delightful ice cream treat—a sophisticated re-envisioning of a classic Japanese sweet made from rice dough: a dough of pounded, glutinous (but gluten-free) sweet rice flour that is steamed and kneaded until it becomes delightfully chewy and supple, with a velvet—like texture.

The resulting rice paste was often eaten plain and uncooked, pounded into a soft, chewy rice paste. There are still sweet and savory, uncooked and cooked versions.

Mochi is all about the texture. Centuries later, it was turned into dumpling-like sweets, exquisite little mouthfuls to accompany tea.

We love daifuku mochi, filled with sweetened red bean paste or other pastes, such as peanut and sesame. They can be served with tea (any kind) or coffee for an easy yet elegant snack (the different types of daifuku).

[SIDE BAR: Daifuku mochi are an ideal food for celebrations: Daifuku means good luck!]

The rice paste can be made into other forms, but today we focus on the sweet treat.

Like cookies and brownies, they are finger food; but like brownies and other bar cookies, they can be garnished simply—with sauces and/or fruit—to elaborate preparations like spun sugar.
 
THE HISTORY OF MOCHI

Ice cream mochi are a new, fusion food. The original mochi are Japanese sweet snacks, served as Americans might enjoy a cookie or two. Like a smaller, flatter jelly donut, the inside is filled with red bean (azuki) paste or other fruit-flavored bean paste, peanut or sesame paste. The rice outside is white or pastel-colored.

The exact origin of mochi is unknown, though it is said to have come from China. By the ninth century, it had become a New Year’s treat in Japan, and by the tenth century mochi were used as imperial offerings and in religious ceremonies (more).

It also became used as an energy food: from the battlefield, where it was easy for Samurai to carry and prepare; to the farm, consumed by Japanese farmers to increase stamina on cold days.

Our first experience with mochi was the classic daifuki mochi, a tea cake of rice dough filled with red bean paste. We live in a city with readily available Japanese confections; if you’re ever in Manhattan, head to Minamoto Kitchoan with branches in midtown and the World Trade Center, and 11 locations worldwide. They also sell the delightful pastries known as wagashi.
 
ICE CREAM MOCHI

Mochi Ice Cream is the best treat to serve at parties or events because they are delicious and convenient. Not only do they come in a variety of flavors so that your guests can discover their favorites, but they are also the perfect serving size! With the solid outer layer of rice-flour Mochi dough, they are easy to grab and carry around.

And centuries later, they were filled with ice cream.

Mochi ice cream has begun to expand nationwide in the U.S.

Mikawaya, a Japanese confectionary based in Los Angeles, started selling the product in Little Tokyo in the early 1990s. Building up a local following, it found its way to California-based Trader Joe’s, Albertsons, Ralphs and Safeway, and is now in their stores nationwide (you could buy pumpkin ice cream mochi for Thanksgiving).

The invention in Los Angeles was the casual idea of the Jewish husband of the third-generation owner of Mikawaya, Frances Hashimoto. Joel Friedman created the fusion food for snacking, wrapping spoonfuls of ice cream in plain mochi cakes.

Ms. Hashimoto developed her husband’s idea for retail. It took a decade of R&D to develop a rice dough that would remain chewy and tender after freezing. Commercial production began in 1993, with seven flavors: Chocolate, Green Tea, Kona Coffee, Mango, Red Bean, Strawberry and Vanilla.

Mikawaya’s pioneering efforts engendered supermarket competition from Little Moons, Maeda-En and Mikawaya’s sister brand, My-Mo.

But we prefer gourmet newcomer Mochidoki for its better-quality ice cream, broad variety of flavors and elegant, thinner mochi covering.
 
MOCHIDOKI FLAVORS

Flavors change seasonally. You can get a 10-pack of one flavor, or a four-piece gift box featuring four different flavors.

The only problem is making a decision. We’re ready to place another order, and we don’t know where to start!

All are so very delicious. The current best-seller is Salted Caramel; but we adored every flavor, with a “wow” to the hot-and-cold Spicy Chocolate.

Fall-Winter flavors, available in 10-packs ($20), include:

  • Azuki Red Bean
  • Black Sesame
  • Frothy Chocolate
  • Ginger Zing
  • Lychee Colada
  • Mandarin Orange Cream
  • Matcha Green Tea Chocolate Chip
  • Matcha Green Tea Classic
  • Mochaccino Chip
  • Raspberry White Chocolate Crunch
  • Salted Caramel
  • Vanilla Chocolate Chip
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    Mochi Presentations, From Simple To Fancy

    Matcha Mochi

    Chocolate Mochi

    Decorated Mochi

    Salted Caramel Mochi Doki

    Mochi Doki

    Mochi Doki Gift Boxes

    [1] Mochi are small balls of ice cream covered in a velvety, chewy rice paste. Two classic flavors: Matcha Green Tea and Vanilla Chocolate Chip. [2] Dress up the plate with dessert sauce (plus, with chocolate, some cacao nibs). [3] Garnish halves with whipped cream and fruit. [4] The best seller, Salted Caramel, garnished with spun sugar. [5] Four-flavor gift boxes let you try more flavors. [6] Three gift boxes, 12 great flavors (all photos courtesy Mochidoki).

     

    Daifuku Mochi

    Mochi Yogurt Pops

    [7] Before ice cream mochi, the popular sweet version was (and still is) daifu-mochi, a dumpling-like cookie stuffed with red bean paste, peanut or sesame paste (photo courtesy Morgaer | Deviantart). [8] Bits of mochi rice dough now appear in everything from brownies to ice pops (photo courtesy Kirbie’s Cravings).

     

    MORE GREAT FLAVORS

    Four-Piece Gift Boxes ($10)

  • Cinnamon Eggnog
  • Spicy Chocolate
  •  
    Four-Piece Collections ($10)

  • Americana Collection: Frothy Chocolate, Raspberry White Chocolate Crunch, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Chocolate Chip
  • Signature Chip Collection: Matcha Green Tea Chocolate Chip, Mochaccino Chip, Raspberry White Chocolate Crunch, Vanilla Chocolate Chip
  • East Meets West Collection: Black Sesame, Matcha Green Tea, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Chocolate Chip
  • Exotic Collection: Lychee Colada, Mandarin Orange Cream, Matcha Green Tea Chocolate Chip, Mochaccino Chip
  • Taste Of Thailand Collection: Ginger Zing, Mango Thai Basil, Thai Iced Tea, Toasted Coconut
  • Tropical Collection: Lychee Colada, Mandarin Orange Cream, Passion Fruit, Toasted Coconut
  • The Classics Collection: Azuki Red Bean, Black Sesame, Ginger Zing, Matcha Green Tea
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    HEAD TO MOCHIDOKI.COM

    You can order as many boxes as you like for a flat rate of $15.00. They arrive frozen in dry ice and you can’t eat them immediately—they’re frozen solid.

    But 5-10 minutes at room temperature makes them just right.

    Order here.

    Hopefully, we’ll be seeing Mochidoki at retail soon. The brand was purchased by a private equity firm in 2015, with plans to bring mochi ice cream to a wider audience.

     
    WAYS TO SERVE MOCHI

    Mochi are neat to eat. You can snack on them as finger food, or add garnishes for an elegant dessert.

    You can eat them from the container or plate them, whole or halved, with garnish:

  • Berries or other fruit
  • Dessert sauces
  • Whipped cream
  • Anything from spun sugar to cookie crumbs
  •  
    Just let them sit for five minutes after you take them from the freezer.
     
    MAKE YOUR OWN MOCHI

    You can make daifuku mochi—the room temperature variety filled with bean paste. This recipe from The New York Times makes everything from scratch, including turning dry azuki beans into red bean paste.

    Note that the fresh dough will turn dry and stiff within a couple of days, so plan to eat your mochi in short order.

    If you want to make ice cream mochi, the shelf life is even shorter. Make them with this recipe, then freeze for two hours and eat. Otherwise, the homemade rice paste will freeze solid.

    Beyond the classic mochi, this article from Huffington Post shows how to use mochi (the dough) in conventional sweets: brownies, cakes, cookies, donuts, ice cream and ice pops.

    How trending is mochi? Check this website of baby names.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Aldi For Christmas Entertaining

    Recently, we went to our neighborhood specialty food store to buy appetizers for a get together with wine.

    Sure, the cheeses we picked were $25 a pound; our favorite crackers from La Panzanella and Raincoast Crisps aren’t inexpensive. And we do tend to buy too much.

    But when the cashier said, “$146.76 please,” we were floored.

    For this weekend’s entertaining, we took a car service to ALDI (we live in Manhattan, where most people don’t own cars). We paid $70 for a the same amount of food; so even with transportation we came out ahead. (And this group of friends doesn’t care about the difference between Fiscalini Bandage-Wrapped Cheddar and Cabot (our everyday brand).

    If you’re inviting friends and family, ALDI is the place to save big bucks on quality foods.

    From cheese and charcuterie to chocolate and desserts to an entire cooked ham, turkey or roast beef dinner: Everything is delicious.

  • There are also food gift items and wines, as permitted by state.
  • Weekly specials include dozens of food and non-food products at a great value: everything from small kitchen appliances and seasonal items to outdoor furniture and gardening tools.
  •  
    All are carefully curated and are backed by a double guarantee. If you’re not 100% satisfied, bring it back for a refund and a replacement product.
     
    ABOUT ALDI

    ALDI launched in 1961 in Germany, the world’s first first discounter. In 1976 they opened a U.S. store in Iowa, and how have more than 1,500 stores in 34 states, expanding to 2,000 stores by 2018. Worldwide, there are some 10,000 stores in 18 countries.

    Forbes Magazine calls ALDI “A Growing Menace To America’s Grocery Retailers.” The store is family-owned, and also owns Trader Joe’s.

    Everyone loves the low, low prices, which Aldi achieves through a no-frills approach to food retailing:

  • Basic inventory displays. As with Costco, merchandise is displayed in their shipping boxes to help save resources in restocking shelves.
  • Selective inventory: the basics, but not the universe (e.g., the 10 most popular cheeses, 1 brand of ketchup or yogurt instead of several choices). There are gluten-free and organic foods.
  • No credit cards: cash or debit cards only.
  • BYO bags or pay for them. As with Costco, you can take empty stock boxes as you find them.
  • Private label products. More than 90% of the inventory comprises store brands, guaranteed to be as good or better than national brands.
  • No non-essential services: no overhead of banking, check-cashing, pharmacy, etc.
  •  
    There is no e-commerce, but you can visit the company website, get the lay of the land and use the store locator to find the ALDI nearest to you.
     
     
    What Does ALDI Mean?

    The discount food business was founded by the two Albrecht brothers. The name is an acronym for (AL)brecht and (DI)scounter.

     

    Carved Ham

    Cheese Board

    Mini Linzer Tarts

    [1] Want an entire catered dinner? You’ll save a lot getting it at ALDI (photo courtesy ALDI). [2] From cheese and charcuterie to other nibbles, you’ll find what you need at ALDI (photo courtesy Cupcakes And Cutlery). [3] For dessert, there’s everything from the classics to the seasonal, like these mini linzer tarts (photo courtesy Aldi).

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Finally Ginger, Artisanal Ginger Cookies

    Finally Ginger Cookies

    Finally Ginger Gift Tin

    Finally Ginger Snack Pack

    [1] Finally Ginger artisan cookies are available in [2] gift tins and [3] snack packs (all photos courtesy Love From Cleveland).

     

    What a joy: delicious ginger cookies we didn’t have to bake at home.

    Cookies freshly-baked just for us, because they’re baked to order.

    Cookies with sugar and spice and everything nice. With three kinds of ginger: crystallized ginger, ginger root and ground ginger.
     
    Ginger cookies baked in five delicious flavors that will sizzle on your palate:

  • Ginger & Chocolate Chunk
  • Ginger & Lemon
  • Ginger & Oatmeal Cranberry
  • Ginger & Orange
  • Original Ginger
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    All are delicious and very special. Who’d have thought that a classic ginger cookie, popular since the Middle Ages, could be improved?
    Options include:

  • 12-Piece Cookie Gift Tins, choice of 2 flavors: $24.00
  • 24-Piece Cookie Gift Tins, choice of 4 flavors: $48.00
  • Subscriptions: 3-month subscription, $75; 6-month subscription, $150.00
  • 12 Two-Cookie Snack Packs (24 cookies, no gift tin) $36.00
  •  
    The tins are great for storing tea when the cookies are gone.

    Head to FinallyGinger.com to place your order.
     
    DIFFERENT TYPES OF GINGER COOKIES & HISTORY

    While Finally Ginger calls itself a ginger cookie, it is a hybrid—a hard cookie with a snap, with a textured surface dotted with sparkling sugar.

  • A ginger cookie is a soft, molasses-type cookie that is flavored with ginger and other spices. It is larger than, and otherwise differs from, a gingersnap Crusaders returning from the Middle East brought ginger and other spices.
  • A gingersnap is a thin, plain round cookie with a hard, smooth texture like a gingerbread cookie. It is a smaller version of the traditional German Christmas cookie known as Lebkuchen. Like a gingerbread cookie, ginger snaps break with a “snap.” Gingersnaps contain a larger amount of ginger, and thus are spicier, than the chewier ginger cookies.
  • Gingerbread is a fancier affair, often cut into special shapes (cottages, flowers, hearts, horses, people, trees, etc., along with 3-D houses and carousels) and hand-decorated with icing and candies. Monks made the first gingerbread for holidays and festivals. The tale of Hansel and Gretel, published in 1812 (as part of Grimm’s Fairy Tales), vastly increased the popularity of gingerbread cookies and other treats, such as gingerbread Christmas cards. Gingerbread men and animals became popular Christmas tree ornaments.
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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK & GIFT OF THE DAY: SuperSeedz Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds

    Superseedz Super Spicy

    Polenta With Pumpkin Seeds

    Spaghetti With Pumpkin Seeds

    [1] SuperSeedz is made in nine flavors, from sweet to savory to hot and spicy (photo SuperSeedz). [2] In addition to snacking, SuperSeedz make delicious garnishes and mix-ins; here, mixed into a vegetable garnish for polenta. Here’s the recipe for the polenta and the spaghetti from Taste With The Eyes. [3] Add some Tomato Italiano SuperSeedz—or Curious Curry or Somewhat Spicy—to your favorite pasta.

     

    Over the past 12 years of nibbling, we’ve had lots of Top Picks Of The Week. All are wonderful foods, but some become part of our everyday lives—because they’re what we usually eat.

    SuperSeedz, gourmet shelled pumpkin seeds that we first discovered in 2007, is one of those.

    A better-for-you, nutritious, fiber-filled and very flavorful, crunchy snack, we also love it as a garnish.

    At $4.99, the five-ounce bags make really nice Thanksgiving favors and stocking stuffers, and are great for everyday grab-and-go.

    SuperSeedz are non-GMO verified, cholesterol- and trans-fat free, gluten-free, vegan and allergen friendly.

    Each one-ounce serving has 7 grams of protein and a good hit of iron and zinc.

    In nine flavors, sweet, savory and hot, there’s a choice for everything.

    SAVORY SUPERSEEDZ

  • Curious Curry: beloved even by non-curry lovers.
  • Really Naked: totally plain.
  • Tomato Italiano: tomato, basil, garlic, onion, oregano, pepper, sea salt (the company calls it “bruschetta on a pumpkin seed).
  • Sea Salt: the original.
  • Somewhat Spicy: a just-enough-spice blend of aged cayenne pepper, garlic, sea salt.
  • Super Spicy: black pepper, cayenne, garlic, habanero, red crushed pepper, sea salt (be warned, it’s hot).
  •  
    Beyond Snacking…

    As A Garnish, Use Them On:

  • Dips, including hummus
  • Eggs
  • Fresh cheeses (cottage cheese, goat cheese, ricotta)
  • Grains and grain bowls, polenta
  • Grilled chicken and fish
  • Indian and Tex Mex dishes
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Pasta and pizza
  • Salads
  • Soups
  • Vegetables (especially green beans and winter squash)
  •  
    As A Mix-In To:

  • Breads and corn muffins
  • Dips
  • Rice and other grain dishes
  •  
    SWEET SUPERSEEDZ

  • Cinnamon & Sugar, like cinnamon toast without the toast.
  • Coco Joe, following the trend of salted chocolate.
  • Maple Sugar & Sea Salt, new and noteworthy.
  •  

    Beyond Snacking…

    As A Garnish On:

  • Cake and cupcake frosting
  • Cold and hot cereal and granola
  • Fresh cheeses (cottage cheese, goat cheese, ricotta)
  • Fruit salad
  • Ice cream
  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Puddings and mousse
  • Yogurt
  •  
    As A Mix-In To:

  • Carrot and zucchini cakes/breads
  • Chocolate bark
  • Cookie and brownie batter
  • Ice cream
  • Muffins
  • Trail mix
  •  

    Superseedz Snack

    Superseedz Tomato Italiano

    [4] Fill up a bowl for snacking. [5] Sprinkle Tomato Italiano on pasta, pizza or polenta. Or roll a log of goat cheese in it (photos courtesy SuperSeedz).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Epicurean Butter & Holiday Compound Butters

    Sophisticated cooks know how to make magic with compound butters.

    Many casual cooks discovered the joy of strawberry butter at restaurant brunches, and learned how easy it is to make at home (here’s more about compound butter, also called flavored butter and finishing butter).

    Epicurean Butter is a terrific line that makes anyone an instantly-better cook. But before we get to it, a seasonal message:

    Now that it’s holiday season, go for holiday flavors: brandy, cranberry, hazelnut, pecan, pumpkin spice, sage, and so on. We have a variety of recipe variations below, but we’ll start with one that few people can resist: Cranberry Orange Butter.
     
    COMPOUND BUTTER: SWEET OR SAVORY

    Sweet compound butters are delicious on breakfast foods: bagels, muffins, toast, pancakes, waffles etc. They also are delicious on crackers or biscuits for snacks or with a tea break.

    Savory compound butters are used to give flavor to proteins and vegetables, and to make quick pan sauces.

    All compound butters can be made in advance and kept in the fridge, rolled into a log and covered with plastic wrap. This is what professional chefs do. When they’re needed, you simply cut off what you need.

    The following recipe, by Baked Bree, was sent to us by Go Bold With Butter.

    Also check out Bree’s Cranberry Walnut Pie, another seasonal treat.
     
    RECIPE: CRANBERRY COMPOUND BUTTER

    You can make this ahead and store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
    Make extra to bring to family and friends.

    You can also make our version, Cranberry Maple Butter, with maple syrup. The recipe is with the variations below.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup cranberries, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Zest of one orange
  •  
    Preparation

       

    Cranberry Compound Butter

    Cranberry Flower Arrangements

    [1] Cranberry butter, a sweet spread for the holidays. [2] Use the leftover cranberries to create eye-catching flower vases and tea candle holders (both photos courtesy Baked Bree).

     
    1. WHIP the butter and honey with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients and fold in until combined.

    2. TRANSFER to a small serving bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Bring to room temperature before serving.
     
    Variations

  • Brandy Butter: 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup superfine sugar, 3 tablespoons brandy, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Cream the butter until light and fluffy, then beat in the sugar a bit at a time. When the mixture is very white and frothy, beat in the brandy and vanilla. Makes 3/4 cup. Substitute rum or Grand Marnier.
  • Cinnamon Butter: 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup honey (substitute superfine sugar if you don’t like honey), 1 tablespoon cinnamon (add more to taste). Makes 1.5 cups.
  • Cranberry Butter #2: 1 cup butter 1/3 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen) 1/4 cup maple syrup 1 tablespoon orange zest (optional) Makes 1.5 cups. Great for pancakes and waffles.
  • Ginger Orange Butter: 1/2 cup butter 1/2 cup orange marmalade, melted over low heat 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, finely chopped.
  • Maple Butter: 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup maple syrup. Makes 1.5 cups.
  • Pecan Butter: 1 cup butter, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar or 1 teaspoon honey, 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans. Makes 1.5 cups. Substitute almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts. To toast nuts: Spread nuts in a pan or on a baking sheet and place in a 400°F oven for 10 minutes. Cool, remove any skin from the nuts and chop them. For a savory version for potatoes, vegetables and proteins, use 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest instead of the sugar. Makes 1 cup.
  •  
    MORE FLAVORED BUTTER RECIPES

     

    Epicurean Butter Flavors

    Cocoa Coconut Epicurean Butter

    Corn On The Cob With Flavored Butter

    [3] Epicurean Butter: We have several different flavors in our fridge right now. [4] Organic Cocoa Coconut Butter won the top prize in its category at this year’s Fancy Food Show (photos courtesy Deli Market News). [5] Beyond sophisticated uses, simply spread savory compound butter on bread and vegetables (photo courtesy Kraft).

     

    TOP PICK: EPICUREAN BUTTER

    We have long been enamored of Epicurean Butter, a line of compound butters created by a professional chef for the home cook.

    The flavors cater to both classic and contemporary cuisine, with butters in savory and sweet flavors.

    The home cook is now empowered to finish and present meals like a fine chef, just by taking the lid off the tub of butter. People who think they have modest cooking talents should not be surprised to hear applause at the table—just by adding a pat to a grilled protein or making a quick pan sauce simpy by deglazing the pan.

    Not to mention, serving the butters as gourmet bread spreads.

    The company makes an assortment of flavors:

  • Sweet Compound Butters: Caramel Sea Salt, Cinnamon & Brown Sugar, Coconut Lemon, Maple Syrup, Organic Cocoa Coconut, Pumpkin Spice
  • Savory Compound Butters: Chili Lime, Lemon Garlic Herb, 100% Organic Roasted Garlic, Roasted Garlic Herb, Sea Salt & Black Pepper, Tuscan Herb, Black Truffle, White Truffle
  •  
    A few of these makes a great gift for a cook.
     
    Yummy With The Bread Basket Or A Glass Of Wine

    In addition to topping savory foods, savory compound butters can be used as a bread spread at the dinner table or with drinks.

    We especially enjoy serving them as an easy hors d’oeuvre with aperitifs, spread on thin slices of baguette or fancy crackers and topped with a garnish (capers, chopped fresh herbs, olive or peppadew half, etc.).

    You can pre-spread the bread or crackers and serve them on a tray; or place the butter(s) in a ramekin in the middle of the bread/crackers and let people spread their own.

    that finishing and compound butters are what often take a normal at-home meal up to restaurant quality. Available in 3.5 oz. tubs and some in the newly introduced 1 oz. single-serve packets, these butters are all rBST-free

    Head to EpicureanButter.com for more information.

     

      

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