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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s Molasses Bar Day

Molasses
Dark molasses.
 

If you’d like to bake molasses bars to celebrate National Molasses Bar Day (February 8th), you can find many recipes online. But first: What is molasses?

Known in the U.K. as treacle, it’s a thick syrup produced as a by-product during the refining of sugar cane. Molasses is the residue that is left after the sugar crystals are extracted (i.e., molasses is produced when no more sugar may be economically crystallized by conventional means).

Molasses is predominantly sucrose, with some glucose and fructose. It is 65% as sweet as sugar. About 80% of the world’s molasses comes from sugar cane, with the remaining 20% coming from sugar beets.

 
The better grades, such as New Orleans drip molasses and Barbados molasses, are unreprocessed and contain more sucrose, making them lighter in color> They are used in cooking and confectionery and in the production of rum.

  • Light molasses comes from the first boiling of the cane; it is also called sweet molasses and is used as pancake syrup or a sweetener.
  • Dark molasses from the second boiling; it is more flavorful and less sweet than light molasses, and often used for gingerbread and spice cookies.
  • lackstrap molasses, the lowest grade, comes from the third boiling; it is strong and bitter, and mainly used in mixed cattle feed and in the manufacture of industrial alcohol.
  • Sulfured molasses, has had sulfur dioxide added as a preservative (or, the sulfur in the manufacturing process is retained in the molasses).
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    Read more in our Sugar & Syrup Glossary.
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Elvis’s Favorite, Bananas & Peanut Butter

    February 8th is Elvis Presley’s birthday, and Elvis’s favorite snack was a peanut butter and “nanner” sandwich—mashed bananas and PB on white toast, fried in butter. (Perhaps it never occurred to him to throw some chocolate morsels on that as well.) We prefer a slightly more gourmet version: PB Loco’s yummy Peanut Butter with Jungle Banana on toasted brioche or raisin bread. Read our review of PB Loco’s flavored peanut butters, and celebrate Elvis’s birthday by ordering a few jars. If you have like sweet PBs, don’t pass up the White Chocolate Raspberry Peanut Butter or the Sumatra Cinnamon & Raisin Peanut Butter—the best raisin PB we’ve ever had. On the savory side, Sun-Dried Tomato Peanut Butter is an exceptional experience. We use it for everything from canapés and tea sandwiches to regular roast beef, turkey, chicken or ham sandwiches; and on linguine or fettuccine as Sun-Dried Tomato Peanut Butter Sauce. Asian Curry Spice Peanut Butter is serious business. Spread some on a roast beef, chicken or duck sandwich for a Thai turn. Find more of our favorite PBs reviewed in THE NIBBLE online magazine   Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter - PB Loco
    P.B. Loco makes 10 flavors plus the basics (creamy and crunchy). Jungle Banana and CocoBanana will help you make a quick “Elvis Sandwich.”
     

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    NEWS: The Year Of The Rat & Chocolate Mice

    Chocolate Mice
    Celebrate the Year Of The Rat, a.k.a. Mouse.
      Today is the first day in the Chinese lunar year; the year ends on January 25, 2009. In China, the year is 4706, not 2008, and it is a Year of the Rat. The Chinese Lunar cycle is not based on 12 repeating lunar months that follow the movements of the sun, as in the Western calendar, but on a 12-year repeating cycle with roots based on the movements of the moon. There is an animal zodiac; each astrological animal symbol represents an entire year. In Chinese, the character for “rat” may refer to either the rat or the mouse; the words are interchangeable. The New Year celebration extends through February 21st. So, celebrate and treat yourself to our favorite gourmet mouse product, these chocolate mice from Burdick Chocolate. While the mice are available year-round, these have a special Chinese New Year flavoring and packaging. The wood boxes are sealed with a gold wax Gung Hay Fat Choy seal (“Best Wishes And Congratulations”), and the chocolate mice have almond ears and tails of red and gold silk. Dark chocolate mice have tangerine and Chinese tea ganaches; milk chocolate mice are filled with mango coconut or hot pepper hazelnut.
    Thanks, Year Of The Rat, for inspiriing these divine mice flavors, Nine mice, $30.00, 16 mice, $46.00. Read our full review of Burdick Chocolate, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.

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    TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Fettuccine Alfredo Day

    Fettuccine Alfredo is rich comfort food, made from fettuccine, ribbon-shape strands of pasta (fettucce means “small ribbons” in Italian).

    Wider than the other popular flat shape, linguine, fettuccine provide a better surface for catching rich and creamy sauces.

    (Fettuccine is similar to tagliatelle, the flat pasta from the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, but is narrower. See our Pasta Glossary for more shapes.)

    To make Fettuccine Alfredo, the pasta is tossed with cream, butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

    The cheese melts when tossed with the hot pasta, cream and butter, creating a sauce (at home, the ingredients are simply stirred on the stovetop.

    In a restaurant, tossing at tableside is part of the experience.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF FETTUCCINE ALFREDO

    The original recipe was created in 1914 by Alfredo Di Lelio, owner of Alfredo alla Scrofa, a restaurant in Rome.

    It is simply a variation of traditional Italian recipes, fettuccine al burro (fettuccine with butter) and fettuccini al burro e panna (with butter and cream)—both served, of course, with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

    Alfredo tweaked the traditional recipe slightly.

    When butter is added both before and after fettuccine is put in the serving bowl for tossing, it is known as doppio burro, double butter.

    Di Lelio doubled the amount of butter in the bowl before the fettuccine was added, creating a triplo burro, triple butter, recipe: more butter made more of a sauce.

    Why? The chef created the dish to entice his pregnant wife, who had lost her appetite. He served it with egg fettuccine, hoping that the “nutritious dish” would do the trick.

    Today, we know that a typical serving of the “nutritious dish” has 455 calories, 38g of fat, 291mg of sodium and 143g of cholesterol.

    But for people who love rich, creamy food, it hits the spot!
     
     
    FETTUCCINE ALFREDO COMES TO AMERICA

    According to Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood, the recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo was brought to America by silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbank.

    While honeymooning in Rome in 1920, they dined at Alfredo alla Scrofa, had the dish, and liked it so much that they asked for the recipe.

    They brought the recipe back to Los Angeles, to Musso and Frank Grill, which had opened the year before. Not surprisingly, it became a hit (source).

    It became known as Fettuccine Alfredo.

    By the way, in Italy, fettuccine Alfredo and Alfredo sauce are not common terms. Instead, order fettuccine al burro e panna—triplo burro.

    In the U.S., additions proliferated: green peas, chicken, lobster and other seafood, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes.

    One of our favorites is salmon caviar.

    In addition to the parmesan, you can add an extra cheese: crumbled blue cheese, for example.

    For something different, try these recipes:

  • Fettuccine Alfredo with Goat’s Milk and Goat Cheese—if you like goat cheese, you’ll like this variation.
  • Blue Cheese Alfredo (a recipe for traditional Alfredo sauce is included).
  • Dessert Fettuccine Alfredo, with crème anglaise instead of cheese sauce.
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    [1] The original Fettuccine Alfredo was a triple butter and cream sauce. Here’s the recipe from Cooking Classy (photo © Cooking Classy).


    [2] Seafood Alfredo, with lobster, scallops and shrimp (photo © Mackenzie Ltd).


    [3] Pumpkin Fettuccine Alfredo. Here’s the recipe from Pinch of Yum (photo © Pinch Of Yum).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cherry Bonanza

    Montmorency Cherries
    Dried tart (Montmorency) cherries from Chukar Cherries.
      It’s National Cherry Month. Even though fresh cherry season is in July, you can guess that National Cherry Month in February honors George Washington. Celebrate with delicious dried cherries, made from last summer’s harvest. We put them in everything from breakfast yogurt, cereal and pancakes; to luncheon salads; to sauces for meats and poultry at dinner. For snacks, make cherry caramel corn by tossing hot popcorn with sweet butter and adding dried cherries and honey-roasted pecans; then drizzle with caramel. There are more than 1,000 varieties of cherry tree. The cherry is believed to have originated around the Black and Caspian seas, which may explain why Russians prefer cherry preserves to sugar in their tea!

    Learn all about cherries
    Find cherry recipes in the February issue of THE NIBBLE online magazine: Caramelized Salmon With Cherry Mango Salsa, Carrots With Cherry Glaze, Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cherry Turkey Chili, Curried Cherry Chicken Salad Wraps, Pork Chops With Orange Cherry Sauce, Sweet Potatoes With Cherry Glaze

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