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PRODUCT: Mardi Gras King Cake Kit

King Cake

King Cake

Here’s what you can make from the King Cake Kit. You can use the icing and sparkling sugars to create your own special design. Photos courtesy King Arthur Flour.

 

Egad: It’s a perfect storm of food holidays! The Super Bowl is February 7th, Lunar New Year begins February 8th, Mardi Gras follows on February 9th, and Valentine’s Day is February 14th.

We’re tackling them one by one. Here, an easy and most delicious King Cake kit from King Arthur Flour lets you celebrate in style. It has everything you need to make a fine King Cake. You can even host a King Cake party, as many do in Louisiana.

Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are eaten in Louisiana during the Carnival season: at home, in offices and at King Cake parties.

While people in other parts of the country may order a King Cake from a baking company in Louisiana, making your own with a King Arthur product is likely to be tastier, not to mention less expensive and more fun.
 
THE KING CAKE KIT

What’s included:

  • 1-pound box of premium cake mix (an egg- and butter-rich yeasted sweet dough)
  • Almond paste for the filling
  • White icing mix
  • 2-ounce bag of each decorating sugar in the Mardi Gras colors of yellow, green and purple
  •  
    The traditional plastic baby is not included, but you can get one at the nearest party store (in the Baby Shower section).

    The kit is $19.95 at KingArthurFlour.com.

     
    ________________________________________
    *The colors were selected in 1872 to honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Alexis Alexandrovich Romanoff, whose house colors were purple, green and gold. Purple signifies justice, green represents faith and gold is for power.

     

    THE HISTORY OF KING CAKE

    The King Cake is an adaptation of the French Epiphany Cake. While an Epiphany Cake is subdued—a round of crisp brown pastry—the celebration cakes in New Orleans are decorated in the three official colors of Mardi Gras: purple, green and gold*.

    The cake itself is named for the three Wise Men, also called Magi or Kings. In France the Epiphany Cake is called galette des rois, king cake.

    The King Cake tradition is believed to have arrived in New Orleans around 1870. In France, puff pastry (pâte à choux) is filled with almond cream (frangipane). But in New Orleans, the concept took another direction.

    The first King Cakes for Mardi Gras were simple rings of yeast dough, some braided, with a small amount of decoration.

    The cakes became more festive over time, incorporating the Mardi Gras colors.

    In more recent years, the fillings have followed modern tastes. You can find them in chocolate, numerous fruit flavors, even cream cheese. Royal icing with the three official colors of sparkling sugar decorate the tops.

    Shapes have evolved, too: round, oval, square, and at fine restaurants, deconstructed. There are also cookie and macarons in purple, green and gold.

    The ubiquitous cakes range from garish supermarket options to elegant pastry from the best bakers.
     
    What About The Baby?

    The cake traditionally includes a small plastic baby representing Baby Jesus. The person who gets the piece of cake with the baby is said to have good luck for the next year.

    Note, however, that the lucky trinket has various privileges and obligations, which can include hosing next year’s party—or at least, bringing the cake.

    After the rich Danish dough is braided and baked, the “baby” is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar toppings in the Mardi Gras colors.

    Today, a tiny plastic baby is the common prize. At a party, the King Cake is sliced and served. Each person looks to see if their piece contains the “baby.” If so, then that person is named “King” for a day and bound by custom to host the next party and provide the King Cake.
     
    In earlier days, the baby might be made of porcelain, or even gold in wealthy homes.

    These days, since no one should bake plastic inside a cake, the trinket is typically inserted through the underside of the baked cake.

    In the past, as in France, other trinkets such as coins and charms could be baked into the cake. In humbler homes, a pecan, pea or bean could be baked in.

    Trinket or not, we look forward to a big slice of our King Arthur King Cake.

     

    King Cake

    Glamorous King Cake

    Deconstructed King Cake

    Baby Figurines

    Top: A nicely decorated King Cake from Hudson Valley Chocolates. Second: A glamorous King Cake from New Orleans confectioner Sucre. Third: Chef Ric Tramonto’s deconstructed King Cake at Restaurant R’evolution. Bottom: A baby figurine is inserted into the cake. These are from Wilton, but any party store should have them.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Egg Drop Soup

    Chinese Egg Drop Soup

    Fresh Cilantro

    Top: Egg drop soup is known for its strands
    of eggs. Bottom: A fresh herb garnish
    —chives/green onion, cilantro or parsley—
    makes a big difference. Photos courtesy
    Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     

    Chinese egg drop soup is a very simple concept: chicken broth with thin strands of cooked egg. The strands are created by pouring a thin stream of beaten eggs into hot broth at the end of cooking.

    It’s the easiest dish you can make to celebrate the Chinese New Year—also called the Lunar New Year, since other countries in Asia celebrate the holiday. With no added fat or carbs, it’s also spot-on for new year’s diet resolutions—American or Chinese versions.

    The recipe below, from Good Eggs in San Francisco, is more sophisticated than what you get at Chinese restaurants in the U.S. Star anise and miso give the soup so much flavor, it becomes a knock-your-socks-off alternative to the standard American version—typically a bland, gummy (from too much cornstarch) soup.

    While you’re at it, make your own Chinese fortune cookies for dessert!
     
    EGG DROP SOUP HISTORY

    In China, the dish that we call egg drop soup is called egg flower soup. Food historians can’t pin a date on the emergence of the recipe, but the domestication of fowl for eggs was recorded as far back as 1400 B.C.E.

    Similar recipes combining chicken broth and eggs appear in other cultures as well.

  • In France, tourin, a garlic soup, is made with chicken stock that is drizzled with egg whites and thickened with an egg yolk. Unlike egg drop soup, the egg whites are whisked in rapidly to prevent strands from forming.
  • The Greeks added fresh lemon juice to create avogolemono soup. The eggs are added for body and don’t create strands.
  • In Italy, the addition of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese created stracciatella. As with egg drop soup, the eggs form strands.
  •  
    In China, versatility is the name of the game.

  • Tastes vary across regions, with southern Chinese preferring to thicken the broth with cornstarch, and northerners favoring a thinner soup without it.
  •  

  • Tomatoes, corn and green peas may get tossed in as well.
  • Other add-ins can include bean sprouts and tofu cubes.
  • Familiar garnishes may include black pepper, chopped green onions (scallions), and a drizzle of sesame oil, but that’s just the beginning of a whole slew of possibilities.
  •  
    In the U.S.:

  • The soup is thickened with cornstarch, as is done in southern China.
  • It is typically served without a garnish or extra add-ins—but make yours as customized as you like.
  • We like to add cooked chicken strips and chopped green onions, plus fresh cilantro or parsley—whichever we have on hand.
  •  
    As with any recipe, you can (and should!) make it your own.

     

    RECIPE: CHINESE EGG DROP SOUP

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.

    You can buy the broth or make it with this recipe.

    Ingredients For 2-4 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 leek, halved and sliced into thin pieces
  • 1 quart chicken broth/bone broth
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons miso paste
  • 4 eggs
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat in a big soup pot. When the oil is hot, add the leek and cook for about 6 minutes, until it is soft and starting to turn golden brown. At this point, turn the heat down to medium and carefully add the broth. Then whisk in the star anise, soy sauce and vinegar.

    2. ADD the miso: Pour a ladleful of the broth into a small bowl and add the miso. Whisk to incorporate, then pour the enhanced broth back into the pot. Simmer for about 15 minutes. While the broth cooks…

    3. WHISK the eggs vigorously in a mixing bowl that has a pouring spout, until the whites and yolks are completely (and we mean completely) combined. When the broth has simmered and you’re ready to eat, turn the heat to high and bring the broth to a boil. As soon as it’s boiling, turn the heat back down to low and wait until the broth is at a steady simmer.

     

    Star Anise

    Midget Corn

    Star anise is perhaps the most beautiful spice. Photo courtesy SilkRoadSpices.ca. Bottom: Customize your soup with ingredients like baby corn. Photo courtesy Alibaba.com.

     
    4. At this point, hold the bowl of eggs in your left hand and slowly stir the broth with a whisk in your right hand. Pour the egg into the broth in a slow and steady stream and watch it form an eggy ribbon as soon as it hits the broth. (If it doesn’t immediately form a ribbon, the broth needs to be hotter—so stop pouring and turn up the heat for a few minutes before trying again.) Continue to pour and stir slowly until all of the eggs are in. Let the broth stand for a few minutes for the eggs to finish cooking, then garnish with parsley and serve.
     
    WHAT IS STAR ANISE?

    Perhaps the prettiest spice, star anise (photo above) comes from an evergreen tree native to Vietnam and China. Although it is not related to the herb anise, it closely resembles anise in flavor since both contain the organic compound anethole.

    Star anise, the seed of the tree, is harvested from the star-shaped pericarp*.

    It is widely used in China, where it is a component of Chinese five-spice powder; in India it is a major component of garam masala. It is also prominent in Indonesian and Malaysian cuisines. In Vietnam, you’ll find it in our favorite soup, pho. It is widely grown for commercial use in China, India, and most other countries in Asia.

    The French use it in mulled wine (vin chaud).
     
    *Pericarp is a type of plant tissue, the outer layer of the flower’s ovary wall. It surrounds the seeds, in this case, the star anise.
      

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    RECIPE: Bhaji, Indian-Style Onion Rings

    Onion Rings Indian Style

    A yummy twist for onion ring fans: spiced onion rings with spicy ketchup. Photo colurtesy Maya Kaimal.

     

    If you’re looking for interesting Super Bowl fare, add a spin to onion rings with this recipe from Indian food doyenne Maya Kaimal.

    Serve it with spicy ketchup—store bought or home made, by mixing some heat into your regular ketchup.

    RECIPE: BHAJI, INDIAN-STYLE ONION RINGS

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 3 to 4 cups vegetable oil for deep frying, or as needed
  • 2 cups chickpea flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 large sweet onion (such as Vidalia), peeled, cut into ½-inch thick rings
  • Maya Kaimal Spicy Ketchup or make your own spicy ketchup
  • Preparation

    1. HEAT the oil in a wok or 4-quart pot over medium heat, to 350°F.

    2. MIX the chickpea flour, cumin, cayenne, turmeric and salt in a medium bowl. Add the water and stir until batter is formed. It should be just thick enough to coat an onion ring without sliding off too quickly. Adjust with more water if necessary.

    3. DIP the onion rings into batter and coat each thoroughly. Deep-fry the rings, in 3 or 4 batches, in the oil until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

    4. SERVE with spicy ketchup.

    FIND MORE RECIPES AT MAYAKAIMAL.COM.

     
      

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    SUPER BOWL RECIPE: Football Calzone

    What have you planned for the Super Bowl? How about this Football Calzone: layers of pizza crust topped with pepperoni, sauce and mozzarella.

    It was created by Beth of HungryHappenings.com for Tablespoon.com, part of Pillsbury. Beth who says that it is “super simple” to make and recommends it as a hearty appetizerg.

    First, you’ll need a Wilton First And Ten Football Pan. Made for cakes, it’s also happy to bake your calzone.

    A calzone is essentially a “pocket pizza”: It has the same ingredients as pizza, but the crust is folded over, similar to an empanada or turnover.

    You also can stuff more ounces of ingredients into a calzone than you can add to a pizza crust. Although Beth doesn’t include ricotta in this recipe, we love to pile in ricotta as well as mozzarella.

    RECIPE: FOOTBALL CALZONE

    Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 20 mimutes.

    Ingredients For 12 Servings

  • Cooking spray
  • 4 tubes Pillsbury refrigerated thin pizza crust
  • 3 ounces pepperoni, sliced
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1-1/2 cups pizza sauce
  • 1 string cheese
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Spray a football-shaped cake pan with cooking spray.

    2. UNROLL 2 pizza crusts onto baking sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Cut football shapes out of crusts, one larger than the other, which will fit inside the cake pan. Tip: First cut a football shape from parchment, check the size against the pan, and use it as a cutting template.

     

    Football Pizza

    string-cheese-daytondailynews-shutterstock_46018177-230

    Top and middle: Football Calzone. Photos courtesy Tablespoon.com. Bottom: String cheese for the football laces. Photo courtesy DaytonDailyNews.com.

     
    3. UNROLL and drape the third tube of pizza dough over the inside of football pan. Sprinkle on 1/3 of the pepperoni, cheese, and sauce. Top with the smaller football crust. Sprinkle on 1/3 of the remaining pepperoni, cheese, and sauce. Top with larger football-shaped crust. Sprinkle on the remaining pepperoni, cheese, and sauce.

    4. UNROLL and drape the fourth tube of pizza dough over top of the pan. Cut off the dough around the edge of pan and pinch the dough together along the edge.

    5. BAKE for 15 minutes. Then turn the oven off, cover the calzone with foil, and leave in oven for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the string cheese to create the laces of the football.

    6. REMOVE the calzone from the oven and un-mold it onto a serving platter. Add “laces” of string cheese. Serve hot.

     
    HERE ARE STEP-BY-STEP PHOTOS AND INSTRUCTIONS.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Rebel Fish Salmon Fillets

    THE NIBBLE has always written about better-for-you foods. But each January, when people make their resolutions to eat better in the new year, we declare it Healthy Food Month.

    In January, we don’t tempt you with gourmet potato chips, artisan chocolates or lemon meringue pie. Instead, we show that it really is easy to find or make delicious foods that are good for you.

    Take salmon. We all should eat more of it; but buying fresh fish or defrosting frozen fish, then cooking it, takes time and planning. You have to cook the fresh or defrosted fish in a day, before it starts to go “fishy” and deteriorates.

    (NOTE: Do not thaw frozen seafood at room temperature; it enables bacteria to multiply. Instead, thaw it in the fridge, allowing one to two hours per pound; or defrost it in the microwave right before cooking).
     
    BETTER EATING WITH REBEL FISH

    We have become very fond of Rebel Fish, the first U.S. branded line of fresh salmon that comes prepackaged with seasoning packets.

    Always fresh, never frozen and of very high quality, the product should become an instant favorite with consumers. A scrumptious fish fillet can be cooked in 90 seconds. It’s all natural: no artificial flavors or preservatives.

    The founders of Rebel Fish believe that we would eat more fresh fish if it were easier to buy and prepare. They’ve made it super easy.

  • The salmon is packaged in an innovative way that preserves freshness. The shelf life is 7 days or longer.
  • The fillet rests in a plastic tray inside the outer carton. All one need do is roll back the plastic and place the tray in the microwave. It’s fool-proof.
  • It can be cooked on the stove top or in the oven, but you can’t beat the 90-second microwave technique.
  •  
    The result: moist, silky, flaky salmon that’s the best we’ve ever cooked at home. We don’t even use the seasonings. We prefer the fish plain (that’s how tasty it is), or with a touch of freshly-ground pepper.
     
    WHAT YOU GET

    Inside each Rebel Fish carton is a 6-ounce salmon fillet and a packet of seasoning that you can sprinkle on it. Choices include:

  • Barbeque
  • Cajun Blackened (our favorite)
  • Cilantro Lime
  • Lemon Pepper Herb
  • Maple Mesquite
  • Smoked Sea Salt
  • Thai Chili
  •    

    Rebel Fish Packages

    Raw Salmon Fillets

    Grilled Salmon Nicoise

    Top: Each flavor is packaged in a different bright color. Second: What’s in the package? One six-ounce salmon fillet and a seasoning packet. Bottom: A 90-second cooked filet atop salad greens. All photos courtesy Rebel Fish.

     
    The only difference is the seasoning packet. Frankly, the blends are not our cup of tea—too complicated, with (egad!) added sugar. We, and likely most retailers, would prefer only one SKU (stock keeping unit*, more in the footnote at the bottom).
     
    The MSRP is $5.99 per serving. We’re more than happy to pay it.
    ___________________________
    *SKU, stock keeping unit, is a retailer identification that allows a product to be tracked for inventory purposes. Each size, flavor, etc. has a different SKU. Thus, the six different flavors of Rebel Fish require six SKUs.

     

    Grilled Salmon With Bowtie Pasta

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/salmon on vegetable bed rebelfish 230

    Salmon With Mixed Vegetables

    Top: Salmon atop bow tie pasta. Middle:
    With a Mexican influence: corn kernels, diced
    bell pepper and crumbled cotija cheese. Bottom: With asparagus and baby potatoes. Photos courtesy Rebel Fish.

     

    WHERE DOES THE SALMON COME FROM?

    Rebel Fish salmon is raised in pristine Pacific Ocean waters. It is farmed rather than wild, but the fish are isolated and contained in a pure environment that nearly replicates the wild and may be even better: guaranteed food, clean water, space and habitat without predators.

    Conditions are ideal for producing premium salmon with great flavor and delicate texture. Farming ensures a reliable year-round supply of fresh salmon.

    Rebel Fish salmon are nurtured throughout their natural growth cycle to ensure their welfare, as well as to guarantee high quality. State-of-the-art, stress-free farming practices are both sustainable and healthier for the fish.

    The program is SQF certified, which assures wholesale buyers and retail customers that food has been produced, processed and handled according to the highest standards.

    SQF is a food safety program that is recognized globally for food safety certification, and is the only program that the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) endorses for food production, manufacturing, storage and distribution agencies.

    The brand’s parent company is Marine Harvest Group, the world’s leading seafood company and largest producer of farmed salmon, with top certification.
     
    SALMON NUTRITION

    Farmed salmon is as nutritious as wild salmon. In fact, a recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that farmed salmon typically has more omega-3† fatty acids than wild salmon.

    Note that actual amounts can fluctuate as they are influenced by factors such as species of salmon, water temperature, type and availability of food, and stage of maturity. One big difference is that farmers can create consistent levels of omega-3s in their salmon by controlling the amount and composition of the feed to produce consistently nutritious salmon.

    Rebel Fish Salmon is an excellent source of protein and vitamin D that contains natural omega-3 fatty acids in addition to other critical vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc, and vitamins A and B. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon, at least twice a week to ensure you get plenty of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
     
    What about the name? The company says that it encourages consumers to “rebel against the ordinary” when it comes to meal preparation.

     
    ____________________________________
    †Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that may promote brain development, heart health and may also reduce the risk of chronic disease. Seafood is a natural source of two healthy omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Since our bodies cannot make omega-3, it’s important to regularly include them in our diets. The American Heart Association recommends that adults have two servings of omega 3 per week to maintain optimal health benefits.

      

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    RECIPE: Easy Roasted Spiced Carrots

    Love roasted root vegetables? Who doesn’t!

    Turn a humble bag of carrots into delicious roasted carrots, spiced and fragrant with cinnamon, cumin and ginger.

    RECIPE: CUMIN-SPICED ROASTED CARROTS

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound carrots
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground ginger
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F.

    2. DICE the carrots into ½-inch thick pieces. Leave the skin on as desired.

    2. MIX all ingredients together and bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

     
    WHAT IS CUMIN?

    Cumin is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, a member of the parsley family. Its botanical family, Apiaceae, is also known as the celery or carrot family, a family of mostly aromatic plants with hollow stems.

    Caraway and dill are also members of the family.

     

    Cumin Spiced Carrots

    Cumin

    Top: Cumin-spiced carrots from Evolution Fresh. Bottom: Whole and ground cumin seeds. Photo courtesy Silk Road Spices.

     
    Cumin grew wild from the east Mediterranean to India, and is common in the cuisines of those areas. Seeds excavated in Syria have been dated to the second millennium B.C.E. Cumin seeds are also found in ancient Egyptian archaeological sites.

    Flavorful and aromatic, cumin was popular throughout the ancient world.

  • It is mentioned in both the Old Testament (Isaiah 28:27) and the New Testament (Matthew 23:23) of the Bible.
  • The ancient Greeks kept cumin in a container on the dining table, much as we keep pepper today.
  • Cumin was also used heavily in ancient Roman cuisine.
  • In India, it has been used for millennia as an ingredient and is part of curry powder and garam masala spice blends.
  • It is also added to other spice blends, including achiote, adobo, bahaarat, chili powder and sofrito.
     
    Cumin was brought to the New World by Spanish and Portuguese colonists, and has become a popular ingredient in Latin American cuisines.

    Several different varieties of cumin are cultivated today, the most popular of which are are black and green cumin.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: An Apple A Day

    Pinata Apple

    Apple Compote

    Sauteed Apples

    Applesauce Bar

    Apple  Pie

    Top: The Piñata apple from Stemilt is a crisp, juicy eating apple. Second: Try it in a warm compote, plain or with ice cream. Photo courtesy Ziploc. Third: It’s also a great cooking apple. We love sautéed apples with a pork roast or ham. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma. Fourth: Is there anything better than homemade applesauce? Photo courtesy U.S. Apples. Bottom: Perhaps everyone’s favorite way to eat apples: apple pie! Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    It’s the last day of January. How are you doing on those new year’s resolutions?

    If you’re like most food lovers, you haven’t done as well as you’d like with regard to eating more of the better-for-you foods.

    So here’s what may be the easiest resolution of all: an apple a day. Not because it keeps the doctor away, but because they’re yummy. And new varieties are always coming onto the market.

    Take the Piñata apple. Named Apple of the Year in Germany in 2001, it caught the notice of U.S. growers and is now available nationwide. The name Piñata comes from combining syllables of the apple’s two European names, Pinova and Sonata. Pinova is the cultivar of apple trees that produce Piñata apples.

    Why do we need a new apple? Don’t we have enough Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, etc. etc. etc.?

    The answer is marketing. Food-oriented folk are always looking for something new, and retailers want to give it to them. We remember rushing to try the first Gala apples* and the first Honeycrisps*.
     
    HOW TO CREATE A NEW APPLE VARIETY

    Apple varieties take decades to develop. They are typically developed at university agricultural schools, although independent companies and individual growers may also develop them.

    First, existing varieties need to be cross-bred, or mutations need to be propagated. The Piñata originated way back in 1970, after researchers in Germany crossed three varieties: the Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin and the Duchess of Oldenburg, an Orange Pippin variety from 18th century Russia. (The latter two provide the vibrant orange-ish hue to the peel). You want a new apple not only to taste special, but to look special, too.
     
    The root stock is tested in different soils and climates to determine where the sweetest fruit will grow. Then, the saplings need to be planted.

  • In every phase of development, it takes 5 to 8 years for a tree to bear fruit. (One tree yields 4 to 5 bushels of apples per year.)
  • Development takes much longer than you’d think. From its start in 1970, the Piñata was first released in 1986 to European growers. Some varieties take even longer. Honeycrisps were first developed in 1960, but not released commercially until 1991.
  • Before it purchases the right to grow the apples from the developer, a grower needs to test the apple in its own orchards: another 5 to 8 years of growing, which may or may not produce the apple qualities the grower is hoping for.
  •  
    Then, the apple variety must be licensed from the developers, and a name chosen and trademarked. Licensing is how the developer gets paid back for years of development.

  • In the U.S., Stemilt Growers in Washington holds the exclusive rights to grow and market Piñata apples. Why “Piñata?” In English, Piñata sounds more alluring than Pinova.
  • The grower plants the stock and waits, yes, 5 to 8 years for the first commercial crop.
  • Only then does a new variety make its way to your market. Hopefully, you’ll appreciate its long journey and enjoy each bite even more.
  • ________________________________________
    *Gala apples are a cross between Golden Delicious and Kidd’s Orange Red, first planted in New Zealand in the 1930s. In turn, it was bred into dozens of other varieties, including the Royal Gala and the Scarlett Apple. Honeycrisps are a hybrid of Macoun and Honeygold varieties, were developed at the University of Minnesota in 1960. They were patented in 1988 and released commercially in 1991.
     
    PIÑATA APPLE FACTS

    The Piñata apple thrives in eastern Washington’s arid climate and is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after apples, thanks to its unique tropical flavor and culinary attributes. The stripy red skin over an orange background has eye appeal. The flesh has a blend of high sugar and high acid levels, producing a welcome tangy taste.

    The apple is super crispy and juicy. Its classic apple flavors are complemented by nuances of tropical fruits.

    Piñata is one of the most versatile apples on the market. Its crisp bite and great flavor make it ideal for eating out-of-hand, while its thin skin and fine-grained flesh make it a delight in salads and baking.

    Use Piñata apples any way you like: baking, cooking, juicing, salads and snacking (known as hand fruit in the industry). Here are recipes from the grower. You can also download their e-book of savory soups and sides recipes.

    The season for Piñata apples is November through May. So what are you waiting for?

     
    Here’s more about Piñata apples from the grower at Stemilt.com.

    And if you want to know what an apple a day does for your health and well-being, here’s the scoop from the U.S. Apple Association.
     
    THE TOP TEN APPLES IN THE U.S.

    According to the U.S. Apple Association, the 10 most popular apples in the U.S. based on sales are, in order, Red Delicious, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Rome, Empire and Cripps Pink (Pink Lady).

    Of course, the popularity is retailer-driven. Retailers want to buy varieties that will sell, and customers can only buy what the retailer has. Personally, we’d like to see fewer Delicious apples (they haven’t been exciting in a long time) and more new varieties.

    But keep those apples handy, whatever the variety, and you won’t even notice that they are helping you with your better-eating resolutions.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Snow Cream (Snow Ice Cream)

    AN ANCIENT TREAT

    Although the crank ice cream freezer wasn’t invented until 1843, and the first large-scale commercial ice cream plant in 1851, esearch shows that ice cream was first created in the cold regions of China more than 4,000 years ago. There, milk and cream, perhaps some overcooked rice, and spices were packed in snow to harden.

    Fruit ices were also developed, prepared with fruit juices, honey and aromatic spices. Snow and saltpeter served as an ancient ice cream maker to freeze ingredients in a container.

    Through trade routes, the frozen desserts were introduced to Persia about 2,500 years ago. The Persians called the frozen concoction sharbat, “fruit ice” in Arabic and the origin of sherbet, sorbet and sorbetto.

    Alexander the Great, who battled the Persians for 10 years before finally toppling the Persian Empire in 330 B.C.E., discovered fruit “ices” sweetened with honey and chilled with snow. He returned to Greece with the knowledge; and within three centuries, Emperor Nero was serving fruit juices mixed with honey and snow at his banquets.

    Here’s more on the history of ice cream.

    Turn history into fun: With the next fresh snowfall, you, too can make sharbat—or snow ice cream, also called snow cream. Transport yourself back to ancient China, or to Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia. (Nero’s banquets? Maybe not so safe!)

    First up is a simple recipe from Julie Blanner for strawberry snow cream, ready in just three minutes.

    RECIPE: SNOW ICE CREAM (SNOW CREAM)

    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Strawberry Nesquik*
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups clean snow
  • Optional garnish: fresh or frozen/thawed strawberries
  •  
    *Instead of Nesquik, you can purée frozen strawberries and add sweetener as desired.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the Nesquik and milk, and pour over the snow. Blend as desired.
     
    RECIPE: SHARBAT

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fruit juice
  • 2 cups clean snow
  • Optional sweetener: agave or honey
  •  
    Prepare as above.
     
    Variations

  • Sweeteners: try whatever you like, from honey and maple syrup to lower-glycemic sweeteners like agave and sucralose (Splenda).
  • Flavors: Instead of fruit or juice, add an extract to the snow: coffee, lemon, mint, vanilla, etc.
  •  

    Ice Cream

    Making Snow Cream

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/snow ice cream strawberry julieblanner 230

    Top photos: An ancient recipe with modern decorations, and the preparation process, from GimmeSomeOven.com. Bottom: Strawberry snow ice cream from Julie Blanner.

  • Milk type: You can use almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, and other nondairy options; and can add more flavor with the flavored varieties (chocolate, coffee, green tea, vanilla, etc.).
  •  
    DIFFERENT TYPES OF FROZEN DESSERTS

    Ice cream and sorbet are just two types of frozen desserts. Discover more in our Frozen Desserts Glossary

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Drink Kefir, Delicious & Very Healthy

    Strawberry Kefir

    Green Valley Lactose Free Kefir

    Lifeway Frozen Kefir

    Top: Kefir as a midday snack or even a better-for-you dessert. Photo © Viktorija | Fotolia. Middle: Green Valley Organics makes lactose-free dairy products, including kefir, yogurt, sour cream and cream cheese. They’re a godsend to dairy lovers with lactose intolerance. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE. If you’re sensitive to cow’s milk, or simply prefer goat’s milk, turn to Redwood Hill Farms kefir. Photo courtesy LAFujimama.com. Bottom: Frozen kefir is an alternative to frozen yogurt with a higher probiotic content. Photo by River Soma | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    Media attention is so interesting. In terms of “healthier options,” we’re blanketed with pitches for kale and quinoa, hummus and Greek yogurt, even juice bars.

    But we haven’t heard anything on probiotics in ages. In case you don’t remember: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help to promote digestive health and enhance the immune system. Five years ago, probiotics were the “it” food ingredient.

    Today’s tip is to take a look at kefir, a highly probiotic beverage that is also highly delicious.
     
    WHAT IS KEFIR

    Kefir, pronounced kuh-FEAR, is a tart fermented milk beverage. It is often called “drinkable yogurt,” although the recipes for yogurt and kefir vary (see below).

    In fact, kefir is even healthier than yogurt. It has been called “super yogurt,” since it is up to 36 times more probiotic than yogurt.

    Kefir is believed to have originated some 2,000 years ago among the shepherds of the Caucasus Mountains region—today’s Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. In more modern times, it has long been enjoyed instead of milk, tea or other beverages in northern and middle Europe and the countries of the former USSR.

    As our “January Healthy Foods Month” winds down, we offer up kefir as a must-try. You can drink it at breakfast, lunch and snack time—or enjoy frozen kefir for dessert.
     
    MODERN KEFIR

    Kefir drinkers have benefited from the the explosion of the yogurt category over the last few decades. What was once only plain, rustic kefir is now a vibrant category of yummy, lowfat, probiotic smoothies, so satisfying that you can substitute them for milkshakes when you want a sweet treat.

  • You can find all the standard fruit flavors (banana, berry, peach and pomegranate, for example) as well as seasonal ones. Lifeway Kefir alone offers Cranberry, Eggnog, Pumpkin Spice and Watermelon flavors.
  • There are veggie flavors, too. Lifeway makes vegetable kefirs in Beet, Cucumber and Tomato.
  • There are conventional lines and organic brands.
  • For frozen yogurt lovers, there’s Lifeway Frozen Kefir.
  •  
    KEFIR AS A HEALTH FOOD

    Kefir is not only delicious, it’s therapeutic. It contains millions of live and active probiotic cultures that clean and strengthen the intestines and help the body with healing and maintenance functions.

    People have been touting the numerous healing effects of kefir since the early 18th century. It has been used to treat allergies, atherosclerosis, cancer, candidiasis, digestive disorders, heart disease, hypertension, HIV, metabolic disorders, nervous system disorders, osteoporosis and tuberculosis.

    While kefir isn’t the panacea many believed it to be, it is a very healthy food, chock full of beneficial bacteria and yeast.

  • It contains numerous vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes, including healthy doses of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamins A, B2, B12, D and K.
  • Kefir contains a substantial amount of tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids that is known for its relaxing effect on the nervous system. Some people see it as a “calming” drink.
  •  
    But the reason most people seek out kefir is for digestive health: help from the millions of probiotic bacteria in each serving.

    Probiotic bacteria, which are live and active cultures, occur naturally in the digestive tract, where they help promote a healthy balance, good digestion and overall intestinal vitality. People with digestive problems need more of these cultures than their systems naturally contain.
     
    KEFIR FOR THE LACTOSE-INTOLERANT

    Raw kefir. Some mildly lactose-intolerant people can enjoy kefir, as long as it is is raw and not cooked (cooking destroys the lactase enzyme, which digests the milk sugar, lactose). Read the labels, and if you can’t find raw kefir in your regular market, check the nearest health food store.

    Lactose-free kefir. There’s lactose-free kefir for people with a higher degree of lactose intolerance. Green Valley Organics, a brand of lactose-free dairy products we can’t live without, makes not just kefir and yogurt, but cream cheese and sour cream.

    Goat’s milk kefir. For those who prefer goat’s milk, there’s Redwood Hill goat kefir. People who are mildly lactose intolerant can often tolerate goat’s milk products. Lovers of fresh goat cheese may like the affinity.
     

    THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN KEFIR & DRINKABLE YOGURT

    There are several differences between yogurt and kefir, including how each is made, the types of bacteria present in each, and the flavor and consistency.

    Of greatest interest to those who seek probiotics for digestive health, is that kefir and yogurt contain different types of probiotic bacteria, which perform differently. And, as noted earlier, kefir has up to 36 times more beneficial bacteria. Net net, kefir is better for digestion.

  • Yogurt. The beneficial bacteria in yogurt help keep the digestive tract clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria found in a healthy gut. They pass through the digestive tract and are called transient bacteria.
  • Kefir. The bacteria in milk kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract and team up with the beneficial bacteria that live there. Kefir also contains contains some yeasts.
  •  
    If you’d like to drill down into the details of the differences, a great source is CulturesForHealth.com. The website can also guide you to making your own kefit, yogurt, and other cultured products at home.
     
    MORE TO DISCOVER

  • All about probiotics in our Probiotics Glossary.
  • All the different types of yogurt and kefir products in our Yogurt Glossary.
  •   

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: Corn Chips Vs. Tortilla Chips

    January 29th is National Corn Chip Day.

    Before THE NIBBLE, we thought that corn chips and tortilla chips were synonymous. They aren’t, as you’ll see below.

    The best-known corn chips in America are Fritos, which were created in 1932 by Charles Elmer Doolin of San Antonio.

    Dolan was the manager of the Highland Park Confectionery in San Antonio. As the story goes, he found a local man who sold deep-fried corn snacks and had 19 retail accounts. He purchased the recipe, the accounts and a handheld potato ricer for for $100, which he borrowed from his mother.

    Doolan and his mother perfected the recipe in their kitchen, and Doolan created the Frito Corporation. [Source]

    In 1948, Doolin invented Chee-tos. In 1961, a merger between The Frito Company and H.W. Lay & Company, makers of potato chips in 1961 to form Frito-Lay. In 1965 Frito-Lay became a subsidiary of The Pepsi-Cola Company.

    Here are more photos from the early years of Fritos, on FlashbackDallas.com.
     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CORN CHIPS & POTATO CHIPS

    Corn chips and tortilla chips are made in very different ways.
     
    Corn Chips

  • Corn chips are made from corn meal (ground corn, or masa), which has been is mixed with salt and water, extruded (shaped) and fried.
  •  
    Tortilla Chips, A.K.A. Taco Chips

  • The corn in a tortilla chip undergoes a process known as nixtamalization, in which the corn is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution such as lime water, and then hulled, ground and made into tortillas.
  • The tortillas are then sliced and fried into crispy chips.
  • This ancient process was developed by the peoples of what is today Mesoamerica.

  • Tortilla chips, however, were invented in the late 1940s in Los Angeles. Here’s the history of tortilla chips.
  • National Tortilla Chip Day is February 24th.
     
    HERE ARE ALL THE AMERICAN FOOD HOLIDAYS.

  •  

    Fritos Corn Chips

    Bag Of Fritos

    old-fritos-bag-flashbackdallas-230

    Fritos, America’s most famous Corn chips. Top photos courtesy Frito-Lay. Bottom photo courtesy FlashbackDallas.com.

     

      

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