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TIP OF THE DAY: Red, White & Blue Ice Cubes For July 4th

Here’s an easy way to turn any cold drink into a July 4th drink: red, white (clear) and blue ice cubes.

You don’t have to purchase special star-shaped ice cubes trays, but they add to the fun. You can use whatever trays you have.

You can color ice for any occasion. McCormick even makes black ice cubes for Halloween! Ideas:

  • Orange and black ice cubes for Halloween
  • Fall leaf colors for Thanksgiving
  • Blue and white ice for Chanukah
  • Red and green ice for Christmas
  • Red and pink ice for Valentine’s Day
  • Green ice for St. Patrick’s Day
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    Yes, we do feel a bit silly providing the recipe for ice…but here it is:

    RECIPE: COLORED ICE CUBES

    Ingredients

  • Ice cube trays
  • Water
  • Food colors
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    Preparation

    1. MAKE one color at a time. First, measure the amount of water your ice cube tray holds. Fill the tray and pour the wanter into a glass measuring cup.

    2. USE food color to tint the water to the desired color. Pour it into the ice cube tray(s) and freeze.

    3. REMOVE the frozen ice to a storage bag, and repeat until you have the amount of ice that you need.
     
    OTHER WAYS TO COLOR YOUR ICE

  • ADD colored fruit to conventional ice: raspberries and blueberries for July 4th, cranberries and rosemary sprigs for Christmas, strawberries, raspberries and/or pomegranate arils for Valentine’s Day, and so forth.
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    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/red white blue jello ice cubes in glassshakentogetherlife 230

    Colored Ice Cubes

    Ice Cubes

    [1] Color your cubes for July 4th (photo courtesy MeetTheDubiens.com. [2] Three colors, one cube (photo courtesy OneMartiniAtATime.com). [3] You can make ice in any color (photo courtesy GlassShakenTogetherLife.com).

     

  • FREEZE the fruits, herbs or vegetables without the surrounding ice (i.e., just freeze the strawberries or use frozen strawberries, sliced peaches, etc.).
  • LAYER each ice cube with the colors. First freeze 1/2 or 1/3 of the individual cubes with one color; then add the second color. If you have the desire but not the patience, delegate the task to the kids.
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    RECIPE: Bacon Sticky Buns

    Here’s one of the easiest, tastiest “sticky buns” recipe. It was developed by the master bakers at King Arthur Flour.

    Simple biscuit dough is dropped atop a sweet and salty maple-bacon-brown sugar syrup. Once baked, the biscuits are turned out of the pan upside down, so the sticky topping drips down their sides.
     
    BACON STICKY BUNS

    Ingredients For The Syrup

  • 1/2 pound bacon, cooked until medium-brown
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  •  
    For 16 Small Biscuits

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) cold butter
  • 1 cup cold milk or cold buttermilk*
  •  
    Preparation

    1. Preheat the oven to 475°F. Lightly grease an 8″ square or 9″ round pan; whichever size you choose, make sure it’s at least 2″ deep, to prevent any boil-over.

    2. MAKE the syrup: Chop the cooked bacon into 1/2″ pieces. Combine the bacon with the remaining syrup ingredients, stirring until well combined. Spread in the bottom of the prepared pan.

    3. MAKE the biscuits: Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Work in the butter until the mixture is crumbly; some larger, pea-sized pieces of butter may remain intact. Add the milk or buttermilk, stirring to make a sticky dough.

     

    Bacon Maple Sticky Buns

    Maple Syrup

    Top: Bacon sticky buns. Bottom: Maple syrup and bacon go into the sticky bun syrup.

     

    4. DROP the dough in heaping tablespoonfuls atop the syrup in the pan. A tablespoon cookie scoop, slightly overfilled, works well here.

    5. BAKE the biscuits for 10 minutes. Turn the oven off, and leave them in the oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove the biscuits from the oven and immediately turn the pan over onto a serving plate. Lift off the pan, and scrape any syrup left in the pan onto the biscuits. Pull biscuits apart to serve.
     
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    *You can easily make buttermilk at home. For one cup of buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir, then let stand for 5 minutes. You can also use 1 cup of plain yogurt or 1-3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar plus 1 cup milk.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Biscuits & Gravy

    If you’re from the South, or have friends and family who hale from there, you know the pleasures of biscuits and gravy, a popular breakfast dish.

    Soft biscuits are smothered in:

  • Sausage gravy, made from the drippings of cooked pork sausage, white flour, milk, black pepper, and in the best recipes, bits of sausage, bacon, or ground beef. The gravy is often flavored with black pepper.
  • Sawmill gravy (a.k.a. country gravy, cream gravy, milk gravy, sausage gravy and white gravy) a carnivore version of béchamel sauce with meat drippings added to the roux, and black pepper plus bits of breakfast sausage or chicken livers (our fave!) added to the finished sauce.
  •  
    It’s loaded with with carbs and fat, but on a special day like Father’s Day, it’s a treat. While Biscuits & Gravy are a standalone main dish, you can serve smaller portions with eggs or other favorite breakfast foods.
     
    THE HISTORY OF BISCUITS & GRAVY

    Early European settlers to America had to rely on basic, simple cooking. During the best times they had meat, and every part of the animal that could be eaten was eaten.

    Biscuits and Gravy emerged as a Southern regional dish after the Revolutionary War (1775–1783), when foodstuffs and money were in short supply. Breakfast was necessarily the most substantial meal to fuel people for the work day. Biscuits covered in gravy made from meat drippings, and possibly bits of meat, fit the bill.

    This recipe, adapted from one in Breakfast: Recipes To Wake Up For by George Weld and Evan Hanczor.

    RECIPE: BISCUITS & GRAVY

    You can make the biscuits from scratch or buy refrigerated buttermilk biscuits. The biscuits are served warm.

    While some people make the gravy with cream, whole milk is rich enough.
     
    Ingredients Per Main Serving

  • 2 biscuits
  • 4 ounces fresh pork sausage (2 sausage patties or 1-2 large links)
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Optional topper: cooked bacon, ham, sausage patties or other meat
  • Optional topper: fried egg or side of scrambled eggs
  • Optional garnish: chopped fresh parsley, chives or other herb
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    Preparation

    1. SLICE sausage links in half, remove the meat and discard the casings.

    2. HEAT a small or medium stainless steel sauce pan (do not use nonstick) over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot (we use the water test*—see footnote below), add the sausage and use a spatula or wooden spoon to break it into chunks; then press down on the meat. As you brown the sausage, some brown bits will stick to the pan. This is the fond.

     

    Biscuits & Gravy

    Biscuits & Gravy

    Biscuits & Gravy Recipe

    Fried Egg, Biscuits & Gravy

    Top: Biscuits smothered in gravy from Chef George Weld (photo © Rizzoli). Second: You can go lighter on the gravy, with this recipe from Pillsbury. Third: Make more of a meal by topping the biscuits with sausage patties, ham, bacon or other meat (photo courtesy Pillsbury). Bottom: Top with a fried egg or serve scrambled eggs on the side (photo St. Louis Magazine).

     
    3. REDUCE the heat to medium and sprinkle the flour into the pan, stirring for 1 minute. Pour in the milk and scrape up the fond from the bottom of the pan. Bring the gravy to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the gravy thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. It should look velvety and have the thickness of heavy cream. Season the gravy with salt, black pepper and cayenne.

    4. COOK the optional eggs and bacon or other meat.

    5. Split the biscuits and arrange on plates or in shallow bowls. Top with the optional meat and eggs, pour the gravy over the biscuits and serve immediately. While fresh herbs are not a Southern tradition, we always sprinkle them as a garnish for flavor and color.
     
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    *THE WATER TEST: Drop 1/8 teaspoon water into the hot pan. If it forms into balls that sizzle, the pan is not hot enough. Keep heating, and when the water forms a single ball that rolls around the pan, it’s ready.
     
    DIFFERENT TYPES OF GRAVY

    Gravy is a sauce made in its simplest form from flour (a thickener), fat and seasonings (salt and pepper). Vegetables can be added, as well as wine and additional thickeners such as cornstarch.

    The word originally referred to a sauce made from the drippings (fat and uses) from cooked meat and poultry, there are now vegetarian and vegan gravies.

    Gravy has long used meat drippings (or in current times, a vegetarian substitute), as opposed to:

  • Sauces, which are made from fruits, vegetables and/or their juices.
  • Jus (pronounced ZHOO), the French term for a meat gravy that has been refined and condensed into a clear liquid.
  • Coulis, a thin fruit or vegetable purée used as a sauce.
  •  
    In American cooking, gravies are white or brown. Popular gravies include:

  • Brown gravy, made with the drippings from roasted meat or poultry.
  • Cream gravy is the white gravy used in Biscuits and Gravy and Chicken Fried Steak. It is a béchamel sauce made with meat drippings and optionally, bits of mild sausage or chicken liver. Other names include country gravy, milk gravy, sawmill gravy, sausage gravy and white gravy.
  • Egg gravy is a béchamel sauce that is served over biscuits, essentially cream gravy with a beaten egg whisked in. The egg creates small pieces in the gravy.
  • Giblet gravy is a brown gravy that includes the giblets of turkey or chicken, and is served with those fowl. It is the traditional Thanksgiving gravy.
  • Mushroom gravy is a brown or white gravy made with mushrooms.
  • Onion gravy is made from large quantities of slowly sweated, chopped onions mixed with stock or wine. Commonly served with bangers and mash, eggs, chops, or other grilled or fried meat which by way of the cooking method would not produce their own gravy.
  • Red-eye gravy is a gravy made from the drippings of ham fried in a skillet, a Southern specialty served over biscuits, grits or ham. The pan is deglazed with coffee, and the gravy has no thickening agent.
  • Vegetable gravy isa vegetarian gravy made with boiled or roasted vegetables plus vegetable stock, flour and fat. Wine and/or vegetable juice can be added.
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    And let’s not forget our favorite dessert gravy: chocolate sauce, made with fat (butter), flour, cocoa powder and sugar.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Crostini For Brunch

    Most people think of crostini as nibbles to be served with wine or beer—“cocktail food.”

    Crostini the Italian word for “croutons,” which refers to any toast breads. They can be medium or large slices, plain or garnished.

    They are not the miniature bread cubes that garnish green salads and bowls of soup. Instead, medium or large crostini, plain or garnished, would be served with the salad or soup.

    In fact, Italy’s crostini are appetizer size, for with drinks, soup, and snacking. Cheese crostini are Italy’s “grilled cheese sandwich.” A topping of olive oil and garlic is Italy’s “garlic bread.”

    Crostini are a scrumptious breakfast choice, too. We especially like DIY crostini, where we put out toasted bread along with bowls of toppings, and let each person construct his or her own.

    First, plan your toppings from the list below, or add your own.

    Next, get the best bread you can find. We like thick slices of a crusty rustic sourdough loaf for breakfast crostini. It makes a nicely crunchy toast.

    Remember that this is a do-it-yourself recipe, so you can serve sweet ingredients (fresh cheeses, fruits and honey, for example), savory ingredients (bacon, eggs, hummus, sautéed spinach), or some of each.
     
    TOPPING SUGGESTIONS

  • Breakfast fish: gravlax, marinated herring, smoked salmon, taramasalata
  • Breakfast meats: bacon, ham, sliced sausage or sausage patties
  • Breakfast spreads: avocado, hummus, spreadable cheese, yogurt, etc.
  • Cooked vegetables: sautéed or steamed kale, spinach, zucchini
  • Eggs: boiled, fried, poached
  • Fresh cheeses: burrata, cottage cheese, cream cheese, farmer’s cheese, fromage blanc, goat cheese, labné, Neufchatel, ricotta, quark (anything spreadable)
  • Fresh fruits: berries, citrus sections, diced pears, sliced figs, sliced stone fruits
  • Fresh vegetables: breakfast radishes, chopped green onions, sliced cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, sundried tomatoes marinated in olive oil
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    PLUS CONDIMENTS

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Butter
  • Chili flakes
  • Fresh herbs
  • Lemon or lime wedges
  • Olive oil
  • Salt (especially flake salt or seasoned salt) and pepper
  • Lemon or lime wedges
  • Sweet condiments: honey, marmalade, preserves
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    PREPARATION

    1. SET OUT the toppings.

    2. TOAST the bread; cook the eggs and breakfast meats. That’s it!
     
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    Photo credits: Top, Fig & Olive restaurant. Second, Safest Choice Eggs. Third: Mixed Greens Blog. Bottom: Locanda Verde Restaurant.

     

    Fig Crostini

    Egg Avocado Crostini

    Sundried Tomato Crostini

    Ricotta Crostini

    Top: Fresh figs, goat cheese and a drizzle of honey. Second: Mashed avocado and boiled egg with a drizzle of EVOO. Third: Ricotta topped with sundried tomatoes marinated in olive oil and herbs. Bottom: Serve plates of toast and ricotta, and let people top their own.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Can You Substitute Kosher Salt Or Sea Salt For Table Salt?

    Salt Comparison

    While salt can be ground into fine, medium or coarse textures, table salt (top) is always a fine grain, kosher salt (center) a coarser, flat grain, and sea salt anything from finely ground to naturally extra-coarse (bottom photo shows medium-coarse). Photo courtesy Saltworks.us.

     

    Certain recipes specify kosher salt or sea salt instead of table salt. What if you don’t have any? Isn’t all salt the same?

    Yes and no. All salt is virtually 100%* sodium chloride (NaCl), so in this sense they are the same. Table salt and kosher salt come from salt mines. The salt was deposited when ancient seas dried out, leaving behind the salt that had been dissolved in the water. After mining, the salt is refined and ground to size, with anti-clumping additives added to table salt.

    Sea salt is evaporated from sea water. Each body of water contains different levels of trace elements, so the salts are different from each other and from mined salts.

    And, each type of salt has a different level of saltiness, so they are not interchangeable in recipes. Recipes developed with one type of salt need to be adjusted if another type is used.

  • Table salt is mined, refined and ground finely, to fit into salt shakers. It dissolves a bit more quickly in liquid, and sticks better to food when sprinkled on top. Look at it under a microscope and you’ll see tiny, even cubes, shaped to enable the grains to pack together tightly. Table salt has Table salt has a sharper, more chemical flavor, than kosher and sea salts. It is the least expensive salt.
  • Kosher salt is a coarse-grained salt. Grains of mined salt have been compressed, creating a flatter flake that cannot be tightly packed. Different companies produce different size grains; for example, Morton’s Kosher salt flakes are smaller than Diamond kosher salt. Kosher salt is more expensive than table salt, but still affordable for everyday use.
  • While all salt is kosher, the product got its name from the practice of koshering meat. Salt with a coarse and rough surface adheres to the meat easily, enabling the blood within to be drawn out (this, plus killing technique, makes it kosher).
  • Kosher salt is saltier than table salt and it dissolves more easily on a food (when seasoning a protein); thus many chefs prefer it. Its larger, visible flakes also make good toppers for food like pretzels; and its adhering qualities make good salt crusts on fish and rims on cocktail glasses. Kosher salt is not iodized. Most kosher salt sold is not sea salt, although some specialty producers do make kosher sea salt.
  • Sea salt is a broad term that refers to unrefined or minimally refined salt that is naturally evaporated from a living ocean, sea or bay. It is harvested by channeling ocean water into large clay trays and allowing the sun and wind to evaporate it naturally. Sea salt contains minute amounts of trace elements*, which vary based on the particular sea water from which the salt was evaporated.
  • The terroir of the water also makes the crystals different in shape, size and color. Sea salt is a premium product, for its purity, texture and crunch; and is thus pricier than table and kosher salts. Some salts are quite beautiful and can be used as garnishes: black and red lava salts from Hawaii; pink Himalayan and Peruvian sea salts; pyramid-shaped Maldon and Cyprus sea salts; and long-standing favorites of French chefs, crunchy Fleur de Sel and Sel Gris (grey salt) from Brittany.
  • Artisan salt is a relatively new category of sea salts, which adds flavor. The salt can be smoked over wood fires or infused with “gourmet” seasonings such as fennel, saffron, thyme and truffles. Some vendors of mined salt also sell salt blended with flavors like barbecue, chipotle and mesquite.
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    COMPARISON BY WEIGHT†

  • Table Salt: mined; small-grained cubes; 10 ounces/280 grams per cup
  • Morton’s Kosher Salt: mined; small flakes; 8 ounces/225 grams per cup
  • Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt: mined; wide flakes; 5 ounces/140 grams per cup
  • Maldon Sea Salt (from the Maldon, England); large, flaky pyramids; 4 ounces/115 grams per cup
  • Fleur de Sel Sea Salt (from Brittany, France); large crystals; 8 ounces/225 grams per cup
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    When the different salt types are dissolved in water, they will taste identical.

    THE DIFFERENCE IN USE

    However, if you are measuring by volume for a recipe, the different types of salt are not interchangeable because of the difference in size. The finer the salt, the more will fit into a measure (teaspoon, cup, etc.). A measure of table salt, finely ground, will have twice the saltiness of the same measure of kosher salt.

    On the other hand, fine-grained sea salt can substitute for table salt, and coarse-grained sea salt can substitute for kosher salt.

    If a recipe calls for kosher salt, you need to cut the amount by half to get a similar level of saltiness. Similarly, you need about 1-1/8 to 1-1/4 teaspoons of kosher salt to substitute for table salt or fine-grain sea salt.

     
    FOR MORE ABOUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SALT—SEE OUR SALT GLOSSARY.
     
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    *Some 85 trace minerals have been found in sea salts, depending on the water from which it was evaporated. They includeboron, bromine, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, silicon and zinc, among others. Mined salt is refined and its trace minerals are removed. It is available plain or iodized, the latter to counter goiter (enlarged thyroid gland from iodine deficiency), which is easily prevented by iodine. Since table salt has additives to prevent caking, some health-conscious people prefer sea salt.

    †Information from SeriousEats.com.

     
      

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