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Make Designer Ice Cubes With The Ice Designer

Here’s a gift for the home mixologist who wants to produce stunning designer ice cubes: The Ice Designer.

It’s an innovative brass plate that helps you create ice cubes in five different designs.

Custom designs are also available.

And National Ice Cube Day is June 21st.

You make the pattern by pressing the ice cube onto the brass plate. The thick, deep grooves in the highly conductive metal plate emboss the ice cube quickly and are relatively long-lasting in a drink.

Plus, the novelty never wears off!

This device is pricey ($197) but pays off in a lifetime of elegance.
Head to
> The history of ice for drinks.
> Ice cube tray history.


Designer Ice Cubes
One of the five ice cube designs (photo © The Ice Designer).






Orange Shortbread Bars Recipe For National Citrus Month

Orange Shortbread Bars Recipe
[1] Luscious orange shortbread bars (all photos © Fruits From Chile).

Just Picked Navel Oranges
[2] Navel oranges fresh off the tree.

Halved & Whole Navel Oranges
[3] In addition to baking and cooking, navel oranges are a hand fruit.

Navel Oranges
[4] Why they’re called “navel” oranges. The appearance of the navel is the result of a mutation,” Moses says. The mutation created a conjoined twin, an aborted second orange at the opposite end of the stem. It looks like a human navel, but is in fact a small, second orange [source].


January is National Citrus Month, traditionally a time when oranges and lemons appear in more recipes—like this Orange Shortbread Bars recipe from Fruits From Chile.

In the cold months, when most fruits don’t grow in the U.S., Chile is a source of apples, apricots, avocados, blueberries, cherimoya, cherries, citrus, figs, grapes, kiwifruit, lucuma, nectarines, papaya, peaches, pears, plums, pomegranates, and raspberries.

This recipe uses Chilean navel oranges.

> The history of oranges.

> The history of navel oranges is below.

Cook time is 30-35 minutes for the shortbread crust, and an additional 30-40 minutes once the filling is added. Chilling time is 1 hour.
Ingredients For 24 Squares

For The Shortbread Crust

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup salted butter, chilled and sliced
  • Zest of 1 navel orange
    For The Citrus Filling

  • 2-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • Zest of 2 navel oranges
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed navel orange juice
  • Garnish: dusting of confectioner’s sugar

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Thoroughly butter a 9×13 inch glass baking pan.

    2. MAKE the shortbread crust. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and sugar. Add the slices of butter and orange zest.

    3. USING a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into the flour until you have a coarse crumb. Transfer the dough to your buttered baking dish. Use your fingers to press the crust pan. Transfer to the preheated oven. While the shortbread is baking…

    4. PREPARE the citrus filling. Stir together the flour and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Add the eggs, orange juice and zest, then whisk thoroughly to combine.

    5. BAKE the shortbread for 30-35 minutes, or until golden at the edges. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Then pour the citrus filling onto the partially-baked crust.

    6. RETURN the pan to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the topping is set—when you jostle the pan, the liquid should jiggle a bit, but not run.

    7. LET the pan sit on a rack until cooled to room temp. Then chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour, allowing the bars to be fully set.

    8. TOP the bars with a light dusting of powdered sugar. Slice and enjoy.

    The appearance of the navel is the result of a mutation that created a conjoined twin, an aborted second orange at the opposite end of the stem. It looks like a human navel but is in fact a small, second orange.

    It first appeared on a single branch on a sour orange tree in the garden of a monastery in Bahia, Brazil. There but for chance it might still be, unknown. But a Presbyterian missionary came upon it in the mid-1800s.

    It was intriguing to find an orange with a belly button and a baby orange inside. But more importantly, it was sweet and had no seeds.


    Because the mutant navel orange was seedless, all of the navel oranges that followed are genetically identical to the original orange. A seedless orange has no way to reproduce naturally, so a nurseryman has to graft sprouted buds onto another tree’s trunk and roots.

    The missionary took a cutting, propagated some little trees, and sent them to William Saunders at the USDA in Washington.

    Navel Oranges Come To America 

    Saunders had a neighbor named Eliza Tibbets who headed west to the new Riverside Colony in California around 1872. It had the Mediterranean climate that was great for citrus, and Tibbets joined others in growing subtropical fruits.

    Saunders sent his former neighbor two or three little starter trees that thrived and grew to maturity. Fruits from those trees won a citrus fair in the Riverside area, and were declared the most spectacular citrus fruit anyone had ever seen or ever tasted.

    And thus, was the beginning of what became the immensely successful commercial navel orange industry in California.

    One of Tibbets’ two trees still stands and bears fruit, at the corner of Magnolia and Arlington in the middle of Riverside.

    Its roots have been swapped out, and its old-age fruit is small these days, but it still holds quite a story [source].




    Irish Coffee Recipes For National Irish Coffee Day

    January 25th is National Irish Coffee Day, and the entire week has been designated National Irish Coffee Week. So get the Irish whiskey from the cupboard, brew the coffee, and whip the cream.

    It’s so easy to make that you can invite the gang over after work today for a mug or two. You can also rent a movie starring your favorite Irish actor (the many choices include Daniel Day-Lewis, Colin Farrell, and Liam Neeson).

    > The history of Irish Coffee.

    > The original recipe.

    > What is Irish whiskey?


    Thanks to McCormick for the recipe (photo #3).
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces Irish cream liqueur
  • 2 ounces Irish whiskey
  • 2 ounces chilled brewed strong coffee
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: green sprinkles

    1. FILL a cocktail shaker half full with ice. Add the first 4 ingredients; shake until well mixed and chilled. Strain into a Martini glass.

    2. TOP with a dollop of whipped cream and green sprinkles.

  • Iced Irish Coffee
  • Irish Coffee Cheesecake
  • Irish Coffee Martini (recipe above)
  • Irish Coffee With Coffee Ice Cream
  • Irish Cream Icing
  • Irish Espresso
  • Irish Hot Chocolate
  • Irish Whiskey Cocktails
  • Irish Coffee Shots
  • Irish Coffee Variations
  • Tim Herlihy’s Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Coffee



    Irish Coffee With Whipped Cream
    [1] Irish Coffee with extra whipped cream (photo © Maria Orlova | Pexels).

    Irish Coffee Shots Recipe
    [2] Irish Coffee shot. The recipe is below (photo © Rogers & Cowan PMK).

    Irish Coffee Martini
    [3] Irish Coffee Martini. The recipe is above (photo © McCormick).




    Dean’s Sweets For Your Valentine (Or For Yourself!)

    Dean's Sweets Artisan Chocolate
    [1] Four tiers of truffles, caramels, and buttercreams in a keepsake box (all photos © Dean’s Sweets).

    Dean's Sweets Chocolate Conversation Hearts
    [2] Conversation hearts in fine chocolate.

    Dean's Sweets Valentine Marshmallows
    [3] Homemade marshmallow hearts.

    Maple Truffles From Dean's Sweets
    [4] One of the seasonal flavors of truffles: maple.


    There are more than a few reasons to visit Portland, Maine: the Old Port waterfront, the Western Promenade with stunning river and mountain views, the West End, a neighborhood of Victorian-era homes, including the Victoria Mansion museum.

    And then, there’s Dean’s Sweets, our Top Pick Of The Week.

    Dean Bingham started making chocolate as a hobby, and friends and family said what many artisan food makers hear: “These are so good. You should start a business.” Dean’s Sweets was born.

    Dean and his wife Kristin went from making truffles in their home kitchen in 2004 to operating a 1,200-square-foot professional kitchen and two retail stores in Portland.

    Fans across the country know that more than 30 varieties of truffles, caramels, and buttercreams are only a few clicks away.

  • The facility and stores are completely nut-free.
  • Most of the chocolates are gluten-free.
  • There are also dairy-free/vegan chocolates.
  • Everything is handcrafted using only the best local ingredients*, plus our favorite Callebaut couverture chocolate from Belgium.
    Each and every bite is splendid, luxurious, and certain to please your Valentine(s).

    Red Jewel Case.  Open the top of this reusable gift box (photo #1) to savor four tiers of elegant hand-dipped chocolates. There are two sizes, 32- or 64-piece bounty of truffles, caramels, and buttercreams, a mix of dark and milk chocolate

    Conversation Hearts. Turn nostalgia into fine confections, with little conversation hearts crafted in dark, milk, and white chocolate (photo #2). You’ll never want the “original” version. With Dean’s version, you get bites of fine chocolate. So TXT Me, Q T Pie, U R Cute—and send chocolate!

    Chocolate Enrobed Marshmallow Hearts. Homemade marshmallows are dipped in luscious shells of 70% dark chocolate and decorated with creamy milk chocolate Xs and Os (photo #3). We X and O them.

    Fans of fine confections will enjoy perusing the entire website. Some of our favorites:

  • Bacon Buttercrunch
  • Chocolate Bars: Brandied Orange Peel, Maine Potato Chip, Mocha Latte
  • Peppermint Bark
  • Subscription Boxes
    The latter is the treat to end all treats: a large assortment of chocolates sent monthly (or for as many months as you choose).

    Head to and make someone happy!
    *Beer from Allagash Brewing in Portland, butter from Casco Bay Creamery in Scarborough, coffee from Coffee by Design in Portland, cream from Misty Brook Farm in Albion, organic maple syrup tapped in Madison, potato chips from Fox Family in Mapleton, sea salt from Marshfield, and spirits from Cold River Vodka in Freeport.





    The Different Types Of Oatmeal For National Oatmeal Month

    January is National Oatmeal Month, a whole-grain cooked breakfast cereal that’s an excellent source of niacin, riboflavin, and iron, and helps to bolster energy levels.

    Athletes and diabetics eat oatmeal for its high content of complex carbohydrates and fiber, which abet slow digestion and stable blood glucose levels.

    Oats are the grain, and oatmeal is the porridge made of coarsely ground, unsifted oats.

    In case you read through all of those childhood fairy tales without a true understanding of the word, porridge is a soft food made of oats, or other cereals, boiled to a thick consistency in water or milk. Optional flavorings can be added, from spices to fruits or cheese.

    Porridge is usually served hot for breakfast, in a bowl or dish. It may be sweetened with sugar or served as a savory dish (cheese grits is an example).

    Any cereal grain can be turned into porridge. Buckwheat, oats, wheat (Cream of Wheat, Wheatena), and rice (Cream of Rice) are most popular in the U.S. Worldwide, barley, fonio, maize, millet, rice, rye, sorghum, triticale, and quinoa are also made into porridge.

    Gruel, a word well-known to those readers of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, is a thin, watery porridge fed to those not affluent or deserving enough for the good stuff.

    Early in the English language, “porridge” referred to a soup of meat and vegetables, from the Middle English porreie (which derived from Old French poree, leek soup, via the Latin porrum, leek).

    Check out the different types of oats below. But first:

    Oats are an ancient grain with a long history of sustenance.

    Hunter-gatherers ate wild oats as far back as 32,000 years ago—long before farming began, which was some 12,000 years ago.

    It was one of the first cereals cultivated by man. Evidence of oat cultivation in China dates far back as 7,000 B.C.E.

    The ancient Greeks are believed to be the first to make porridge from oats.

    The Romans followed the Greeks in cultivating oats and introduced them to other countries as they conquered Western Europe. They named oats and other crops “cereals” after Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture.

    The first record we have that associates porridge with oatmeal is a Scottish reference from 1643. Scotland was a big oat-growing country—the climate favors oats over corn and wheat.

    In Scotland, Ireland, and elsewhere, most households held stores of oats to use for bread, porridge, and as a key ingredient for making black pudding (blood pudding)*, a type of blood sausage.

    Up until the 1800s, milled oats were a coarser grain than the oats we know today. The Industrial Revolution enabled machine milling, which produced finer oats.

    In the 19th and 20th centuries, porridge became a more popular breakfast dish. Oatmeal for breakfast was promoted by the oatmeal producers like Flahavan’s.

    Since then, oatmeal has become a favorite breakfast food in the United Kingdom and the United States, although only one in five Americans eat it, according to the NPD Group, an independent research firm.

    Tastes change over time and porridge is now mostly made with the finer-milled oat flakes we all have in our kitchen cupboards [source].

    All generations should be eating more of it—for its whole-grain fiber and heart-healthy ability to reduce cholesterol. Kids should eat it instead of less-nutritious breakfast cereals or childhood-obesity-inducing breakfast pastries.

    Oatmeal, warm and comforting, can be dressed up in so many ways, both savory and sweet.

    After harvest, the hull (husk) is removed from the oats and the groats (kernels) are toasted to stabilize enzymes that cause rancidity.

    Then, they are variously coarsely ground into meal (crushed oats), steamed and rolled on steel or stone rollers to make rolled oats, or cut into small pieces to make steel-cut oats.

    While whole oat groats can be purchased, and are more nutritious because they are minimally processed, they require a long time to cook and are very chewy—not the soft food that we know as oatmeal.

    The longer you cook oats, the more texture, and flavor they have.

    The longest-cooking are steel-cut oats, then rolled oats, then quick oats, then instant oats.

    Crushed Oats 

    Crushed oats are groats that are lightly ground in a hammer mill, creating a meal-type product. It’s unusual to find them in U.S. markets. Boiling crushed oats creates a porridge with a farina texture.

    Uncooked, crushed oats are also a favorite food of the equine and bovine populations (only 5% of the oats grown in the world are consumed by humans). Crushed oats are also used in oatmeal-based health and beauty aids.

    Rolled Oats 

    Rolled oats are what most Americans think of as oatmeal. Quaker Oats’ standard product is called Old Fashioned Oats, a term used by other companies as well for their standard rolled oat products.

    Standard rolled oats are also known as flaked oats and oat flakes: the groats are steamed and then rolled and flaked. The calibration of the rollers produces a spectrum of products, including instant oats, quick oats, rolled oats/old-fashioned oats, and thick-rolled oats. The thinner the oats are rolled (i.e., the thinner the flake), the more surface area, and the quicker they cook because of the greater surface area of the grain. Rolled oats cook for five minutes.

    Instant Oats 

    If you don’t have time or the facility to cook, instant oatmeal is made from oats that are rolled very thin and precooked, then dehydrated. They are generally packaged in single-serve packets and need only be mixed with a hot liquid to plump up into oatmeal.

    While you can’t beat the convenience, they lack the texture and flavor of cooked oats (although the nutrition is about the same, and some brands like Quaker enrich their product with extra vitamins and/or calcium).

    We like keeping boxes of these in our desk drawer at work, for a healthier breakfast than a bagel or other workplace option, and a nutritious snack any time of the day or night. They cook “instantly” when boiled water or milk is added; or can be cooked in the microwave with cold water for 90 seconds.

    Overnight Oats

    Overnight oats are a way of preparing oatmeal by soaking the oats overnight, instead of cooking them. Raw oats are soaked in your choice of liquid: drinkable yogurt or kefir, milk or nondairy milk (almond milk is splendid), water, yogurt/water mix, or whatever. The soaking turns oatmeal into a cold breakfast cereal, although you can certainly heat it.

    Here’s a recipe (photo #7).

    Quick Oats 

    Quick oats are rolled oats that are thicker and thus chewier than instant oats, but not as thick as regular rolled oats. They cook in one minute.

    Steel-Cut Oats 

    Oatmeal imported from Ireland and Scotland tends to be steel-cut oats. Steel-cut oats are also called cut oats, Irish or Scottish Oats, and coarse-cut oats. The groats have been cut into very small pieces, not rolled into flakes.

    Cooking time is considerably longer than for rolled oats—30 minutes—but the cooked oatmeal has a nice texture to it—it’s more al dente than rolled oats.

    While they take considerably longer than rolled oats to make, they deliver a firmer texture (it’s a great texture) and a slightly nutty taste.

    A unique milling process cooks the oats twice, then carefully rolls them to retain their distinctive texture and creamy taste.
    *Made from pork blood, with pork fat or beef suet, and oatmeal, oat groats, or barley groats. It was a staple in the Irish and English diets.


    Oatmeal With Nuts Topping
    [1] Oatmeal, slivered almonds, and maple syrup (photo © K8 | Unsplash).

    Oatmeal  With Fruit
    [2] Oatmeal blended with cashew butter (photo © Crazy Richard’s Natural Peanut Butter).

    Bowl Of Oatmeal With Maple Syrup
    [3] Strawberries and cream baked oatmeal. Here’s the recipe (photo © Driscoll’s Berries).

    [4] Blueberry and almond baked oatmeal. Here’s the recipe (photo © Pip And Little Blue).

    Oatmeal With Pistachio Nuts & Pomegranate Arils
    [5] Oatmeal with chopped pistachios and pomegranate arils (photos #5 and #6 © King Arthur Baking).

    Oatmeal With Peanut Butter & Jelly
    [6] Oatmeal with swirls of peanut butter and raspberry jam.

    Overnight Oats
    [7] Overnight oats. Here’s the recipe (photo © A Pumpkin And A Princess).

    Oats In Husk
    [8] The inedible husks (hulls) house the cereal grains (photo © True Leaf Market).

    Field Of Oats
    [9] Oats ready to harvest (photo © Morgan Hill Life).





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