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FOOD FUN: Freeze Grapes To Use As Ice Cubes

White Wine With Frozen Grapes Instead Of Ice Cubes
[1] Frozen grapes keep chilled drinks (photo © Foods & Wines From Spain).

Mixed Colors Of Grapes
[2] A medley of grape colors looks best (photo © Melissa’s Produce).

 

Here’s a way to keep cool your glass of white wine or other cold drinks that are served without ice: Use frozen grapes as ice cubes!

They’re decorative, and when the drink is finished, tasty grapes that have taken on a hint of the drink are left to enjoy.

In addition to white wine, rosé, sparkling wine, use frozen grapes to chill:

  • Beer
  • Cider
  • Juice
  •  
    You can also use them in drinks that typically have ice:

  • Carbonated beverages
  • Cocktails and mocktails
  • Mineral water
  •  
    You can mix and max types of grapes, but make them seedless for more elegant consumption (i.e., no need to dispose of the pits).

    How do you eat the grapes at the bottom of the glass?

  • Long toothpicks
  • Iced tea spoons
  • Freestyle
  •  

     
     

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    Silver Hills Bakery & The Delight & Benefit Of Sprouted Bread

    Sprouted bread is typically a product sold in natural food stores. In our little municipality—the island of Manhattan—the supermarkets are very small and you have to go to a natural foods store to find anything sprouted.

    Fortunately, we have more than a few Whole Foods Markets which carry sprouted breads (check both the fresh bread and freezer sections).

    And Silver Hills Bakery is a sprouted brand worth seeking out. Their whole grain products are so much more delicious and nutritious than conventional whole-grain breads.

    And tastier than other sprouted brands we’ve tried.

    So if you’re already a whole-wheat guy or gal, try sprouted. And if you eat supermarket white bread (with allowances for baguettes, challah, focaccia, rustic Italian loaves, and artisan breads from bakeries)…you’re in for a taste treat.

    One that’s good for you!
     
     
    WHAT ARE SPROUTED FOODS?

    Sprouting, also known as germination, is a common practice used to improve the digestibility and nutritional value of :

  • Grains (barley, corn, oats, rice, wheat).
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, and others).
  • Pulses (beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas—the edible seeds of legume plants).
  • Seeds (chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, sunflower seeds).
  •  
    The sprouting process involves soaking the food for up to 24 hours, then draining and rinsing repeatedly over several days.

    It’s labor-intensive, but beneficial nutritionally (more about that in a minute).

    To make sprouted bread, sprouted whole grains are milled into flour. It’s that simple.

    We typically consume whole-grain breads instead of refined grains, but we’ve taken the next step.

    Beyond conventional whole-grain bread, we’ve become a convert to sprouted grain bread because… we’ve discovered that it’s delicious!

    In particular, a sample of sprouted breads from Silver Hills Bakery arrived, and we couldn’t stop eating them—especially the most textured, seed-loaded varieties.

    Silver Hills Bakery has converted us to sprouted-grain bread and is our Top Pick Of The Week.
     
     
    THE BENEFITS OF SPROUTED BREAD

    It’s great that a slice of sprouted bread has 22g or more of whole grains (depending on variety) and 6g of protein (there are 3.6g in regular whole-wheat bread).

    The USDA’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines recommends that Americans consume at least 3 servings of whole-grain foods daily, which adds up to 48 grams of whole grains. Two slices of Silver Hills bread will get you there, almost.

    Sprouted bread has 47% less gluten than regular bread, 75% of the carbohydrates, and about 40% of the fat of even conventional whole-grain bread. There’s a greater amount of naturally occurring fiber, vitamins, proteins, and other nutrients.

    As a bonus, sprouted bread is low glycemic, and more easily digestible.

    But we’re in it for the great flavor.

    Whether it’s avocado toast or toast with cream cheese or jam for breakfast, in a ham and Swiss or grilled cheese sandwich for lunch, or in the dinner bread basket, give us sprouted grains!
     
     
    ABOUT SILVER HILLS BAKERY

    Silver Hills Bakery is a Canadian-based company that sells in Canada and the U.S. Its lines include loaves of bread, bagels, buns, and tortillas.

    They’re better-for-you bread options: sprouted whole grain nutrition, low-carb, gluten-free, and allergy-friendly.

    The products are:

  • Certified vegan
  • Certified kosher by Kosher Check, (the hechsher of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of British Columbia)
  • Verified Non-GMO Project
  • Whole Grains Council Certified
  • Certified organic options
  •  
    We’ve tasted the breads and bagels:

    The Loaves: There are 16 different loaves, of which the majority are organic. For the texture we love, pick Squirrelly (sprouted wheat stuffed with sesame and sunflower seeds) and The Big 16 (oat-topped sprouted wheat stuffed with 16 seeds and grains). A fan favorite we haven’t tried is Mack’s Flax (sprouted whole wheat with whole flax and ground flax).

    The Bagels: While the bagel textures are conventional—you wouldn’t know they’re sprouted, since the crumb* is smooth—we enjoyed them for their lower carb, low-glycemic profile. And the flavor is far better than the leading brand of frozen bagels! The flavors: Cinnamon Raisin, Everything, Plain, and Sesame Sunflower.

    Silver Hills products are sold fresh and frozen, depending on the variety and the store. Look for them at Target, Whole Foods, and on Amazon. Here’s a store locator.
     
    We’ve tried some other sprouted brands, but nothing tastes as good as Silver Hills. It’s worth seeing out.

    There are plenty of recipes on SilverHillsBakery.ca.
     
    ________________

    *Bakers use the term “crumb” to describe the interior consistency of breads and cakes. They can be light or dense, smooth or textured, etc.

     

    Loaf Of Silver Hills Bakery Sprouted Power Sprouted Bread
    [1] Sprouted power! Silver Hills Bakery’s lines are loaded with it (all photos © Silver Hills Bakery).

    Silver Hills Bakery Sprouted Bagels
    [2] Breakfast or snack? A sprouted bagel with peanut butter and fresh strawberries.

    Silver Hills Bakery Sprouted Bread French Toast On Cinnamon Raisin Toast
    [3] French toast with Silver Hill’s Cinnamon Raisin sprouted loaf.

    Avocado Sandwich On Sprouted Bread From Silver Hills Bakery
    [4] Sprouted power for lunch. Your sandwich will taste better, too.

    Silver Hills Bakery Sprouted Bread Snack Cheese & Cauliflower Spread On Toast
    [5] Snack or first course: cheesy cauliflower spread on toast. Here’s the recipe.

    Sprouted Grain Hot Dog Buns From Silver Hills Bakery
    [6] There are also sprouted hot dog and hamburger buns.

     

     
     

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    Onion Uses & Onion Trivia For National Onion Day

    Onion Types For National Onion Day
    [1] The three main types of onions: red, white, and yellow. But that’s just a start. Here are the different types of onions (photo © National Onion Association).

    Hot Dog With Onions For National Onion Day
    [2] A hot dog with raw onions, cilantro, and melted Swiss cheese (photo © Murrays Cheese).

    Enjoy Fried Onion Rings For National Onion Ring Day
    [3] Beer-batter onion rings wih horseradish dipping sauce. Here’s the recipe (photo © QVC).

    Potato & Caramelized Onion Pizza Recipe For National Onion Day
    [4] A caramelized onion, potato and Gruyère pizza with rosemary. Here’s the recipe (photo © Domestic Gothess).

     

    We’ve got onion uses and onion trivia for June 27th, National Onion Day. Onions are a vegetable we may not think a whole lot about. But Americans eat an average of 20-21 pounds per year.

    “It’s hard to imagine civilization without onions,” quoth Julia Child. How do we enjoy them?

  • Baked, grilled, roasted, stir-fried
  • Burgers, sandwiches
  • Focaccia, flatbreads
  • Fried, including fried onion rings
  • Garnish: caramelized, raw, sautéed
  • Guacamole and salsa
  • Onion dip
  • Onion quiche and tarts
  • Omelets
  • Pickled
  • Pizza, especially the SMOG (sausage, mushrooms, onions, green bell pepper)
  • Relish, jam
  • Salad: green, egg, potato, tuna, etc
  • Soups, stews, casseroles, etc.
  • Vinaigrette
  •  
    Here’s a recipe you may not have made before, but it couldn’t be easier: Baked Onions.

    > The different types of onions and when to use which type.

    > The history of onions.

    And now…
     
     
    ONION TRIVIA

    Why do onions make you cry?

    Sulfuric compounds are released when the cells of the onion’s flesh are cut. To cut down on the crying, chill the onion and cut into the root end of the onion last. Our special tip: Wear swim goggles when cutting onions! The reason sweet onions don’t make you cry is because there’s little sulphur in the soil where they’re grown.

    One medium onion contains how many calories?

    Just 45 calories. A one-cup serving of raw onions contains 64 calories.

    What cocktail is garnished with an onion?

    The Gibson is garnished with a pickled pearl onion, called a cocktail onion. According to The Webtender, these lesser-known cocktails are also garnished with a cocktail onion: Gent Of The Jury, Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster #2, Patton Martini, and the Yellow Rattler.

    What should you eat to get rid of onion breath?

    Chew on parsley.

    What city was known as The Big Onion?

    Before it was known as the Big Apple, New York City was called the Big Onion because it was “a place from which you could peel off layer after layer without ever reaching the core” [source]. However, Chicago is more rightly called called the Big Onion: “Chicago” is the French interpretation of the local Miami-Illinois Nation’s word shikaakwa, which means “stinky Onion” after garlic (not onion) plant that grew along the Chicago River [source].

    More Onion Trivia

  • In addition to red, white, and yellow onions, other embers of the onion family include chives, garlic, leeks, and shallots.
  • According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest onion ever grown, in Sildsen, England, weighed 10 pounds 14 ounces.
  • In modern homeopathy, onion is used to treat asthma, bronchitis, and gastrointestinal disorders. In the Middle Ages, onions were prescribed for hair loss, headaches, and snakebites.
  • In the Middle Ages, onions could be used as currency, to pay for rent payments. They were also given as wedding gifts.
  • Yellow onions comprise more than 75% of the world’s production of onions.
  • The official state vegetable of Georgia is the Vidalia onion.
  • The official state vegetable of Texas is the Texas Sweet onion.
  •  
    We close with an old English rhyme:

    “Onion skins very thin, Mild winter coming in. Onion skins very tough, Coming winter very rough.”

    Trivia is courtesy of the National Onion Association.

     

     
     

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    What Is Cream Tea & The History (It’s National Cream Tea Day)

    The last Friday in June is National Cream Tea Day, which begs the question: What is cream tea?

    Most Americans might think the obvious: It’s adding cream to your tea. But no.

    It’s what now is the practice of adding jam or preserves (traditionally strawberry) and clotted cream to scones, which are served with a pot of tea at tea time*.

    Long before tea arrived in England—and long before farmers created clotted cream—people put cream and jam on bread.

    The custom appears to have begun in the 11th century, and we posit that in addition to being delicious in itself, it may have been a way to use cream to soften yesterday’s bread.
     
     
    TEA ARRIVES IN ENGLAND

    Tea from China arrived in the early 17th century, when Dutch traders from the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company sailed home to Europe with chests of it.

    The precious leaves arrived in England in the 1650s.

    At first, tea was a novelty, served in London’s relatively new coffee houses. Few people drank it.

    The famous diarist Samuel Pepys wrote about his first tea experience in 1660: “…and afterwards I did send for a cup of tee (a China drink) of which I had never drank before, and went away.”

    That’s the first written documentation of tea drinking in England.
     
     
    TEA BECOMES POPULAR

    Tea drinking got a boost in 1662 with the arrival of Portugal’s Catherine of Braganza, who became the wife of King Charles II.

    When her ship docked in Portsmouth on May 14, 1662, the travel-weary royal asked for a cup of tea. There was none to be had in Portsmouth.

    But among the goods she brought from Portugal was a chest of tea, the favorite drink of the Portuguese Court.

    Catherine popularized the drink at court among the British nobility, which was then embraced by the wealthy gentry.

    As more tea arrived from China and it became more affordable, it trickled down to the yeomanry, the middle class‡.

    But it was still so pricey, that it was kept in small locked tea chests, with the key carried on her person by the lady of the house.

    By the late 18th century, tea was considered the “national drink” of England [source].
     
     
    WHAT DID THE ENGLISH DRINK BEFORE TEA?

    Before tea arrived, there was coffee. But coffee was also a relatively recent arrival.

    Coffee became available in England, also via the Dutch traders, no later than the 16th century.

    According to a 1583 account, the first coffeehouse in England was opened in St. Michael’s Alley in Cornhill, the historic nucleus and financial center of modern London.

    In 1650 The Grand Cafe opened in Oxford. It’s still open today but as a wine bar.

    Oxford’s Queen’s Lane Coffee House, established in 1654, is still serving coffee today.

    By 1675, there were more than 3,000 coffeehouses throughout England.

    However, women were banned from them in England, and other countries as well [source].

    According to this British wiki on coffee culture, “as their husbands, brothers, fathers and friends began to spend more and more time in coffeehouses,” they became something of a clubhouse, open to all…except women.

    “Although the lower and middle-class men were getting a chance to speak up and discuss current issues with scholars and journalists, women were still excluded from this vital part of society [ibid.].
     
     
    CLOTTED CREAM ARRIVES

    Clotted cream is a thickened cream made by heating full-cream cow’s milk using steam or a water bath and then leaving it in shallow pans to cool slowly.

    As it cools, the cream content rises to the surface and forms “clots,” hence the name [source].

    Some stories say that the Benedictine monks of Tavistock Abbey in Devon were making clotted cream in the early 1300s.

    Some give an earlier date: the 10th century. After their abbey was ransacked by Vikings in 997 C.E., the monks rebuilt their abbey with the help of Ordulf, Earl of Devon, who had founded the abbey in 974.

    The monks treated the workers were who were helping with the restoration to bread, clotted cream, and strawberry preserves [source].

    Although its origin is uncertain, clotted cream is commonly associated with dairy farms in South West England, and in particular the counties of Devon and Cornwall.

    It was originally made by dairy farmers to reduce the amount of unused milk in the long era before refrigeration.

    It has long been disputed whether clotted cream originated in Devon or Cornwall, and which county makes it the best.

    Cornwall struck a blow in 1993 by applying for the term “Cornish clotted cream” to have a Protected Designation of Origin (P.D.O.) in the European Union.

    The designation was granted in 1998. Cornish clotted cream must be made from milk produced in Cornwall and have a minimum butterfat content of 55%. It is slightly yellow, due to the high carotene levels in the grass eaten by the cows.

    The 1658 cook book, The Compleat Cook had a recipe for “clouted cream” [source].

    So, 364 years later, celebrate the day with your own cream tea. It’s a delicious breakfast, morning, or afternoon snack.
     
     
    > CREAM GLOSSARY: THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CREAM
     
     
    ________________

    *Afternoon tea originated as an elaborate snack served between the light lunches and late dinners served in the early 1800s. It is usually served between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. It was a large spread with finger sandwiches and scones, cakes, macaroons, and other tidbits. Many people mistakenly call this “high tea,” which is not an elegant affair but a simple workman’s dinner (with a cup of tea, of course). Here’s more about afternoon tea, a tradition begun by a very hungry duchess.

    †What did the English drink before coffee? Beer, cider, milk. The eater supply was often polluted and disease-bearing, so only boiled water could be safely consumed.

     

    Tiered Tea Stand For Cream Tea
    [1] A fancy afternoon tea. For a simple cream tea, look at the middle tier: scones, clotted cream, and strawberry preserves (photo © Perth Product Photography | Pinterest).

    Scones With Strawberry Jam For Cream Tea
    [2] Scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves, plus a pot of tea, creates cream tea (photo © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog).

    Scones With Blueberry Jam For Cream Tea
    [3] You can serve any flavor of preserves or jam you prefer. While strawberry remains the favorite, apricot and raspberry are popular. Above: blueberry preserves (photo © Alexandra Kusper | Unsplash).

    Clotted Cream For Cream Tea
    [4] Clotted cream, one of the four components of cream tea (with scones, preserves, and tea). Here’s how to make your own from heavy whipping cream (photo © Cupcake Project).

    Clotted Cream For Cream Tea
    [5] You can purchase clotted cream, which does well in a pinch, if not as good as fresh (photo © iGourmet).

    Catherine Of Braganza, Queen Of England, who popularized tea in England
    [6] Catherine of Breganza, who popularized tea in England (photo via Wikipedia).

     
    ‡By the 18th century, the popularity of tea had grown so much that everyone wanted it. But it was still too expensive for people of modest means. Smugglers began bringing tea into the country illegally, to avoid the tea tax and thus sell it for less. Eventually, as it wa estimated that more illegal tea was brought into the country than legal tea, Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger slashed the tea tax from 119% to 12.5% in 1783. That eliminated the illegal smuggling trade, and with affordable tea, consumption skyrocketed [source].

     
     

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    Cheese & Charcuterie Boards: The Difference & How To Make Them

    French Charcuterie Board
    [1] A French charcuterie board. Here’s the “recipe” (photo © Domino).

    German Charcuterie Board
    [2] A German charcuterie board. Here’s the “recipe” (photo © Schneiders).

    Italian Charcuterie Board
    [3] Italian charcuterie board. Here’s the “recipe” (photo © Harry And David).

    Spanish Charcuterie Board
    [4] Spanish charcuterie board. Here’s the “recipe” (photo © My Kitchen Love).

    Charcuterie Board
    [5] A charcuterie board doesn’t have to be as elaborate as the ones above. Here’s a simpler version for a group of four (photo © Castello Cheese).

     

    One of the easiest ways to entertain is with beer, cocktails, and/or wine and a cheese board. Or a charcuterie board. What’s the difference?

    Simply stated, a cheese board is cheese plus accompaniments (fruit, condiments, bread, etc.). A charcuterie board can be meat and accompaniments-only or can include cheese as well.

    A bit of history:

    Cheese. According to the Dairy Farmers Of Wisconsin trade association, cheese has been around for many centuries, potentially dating back to 1200 B.C.E. (Most recently, in 2018, a salty cheese similar to feta was found in a 3,200-year-old Egyptian tomb. Here’s more history of cheese.

    Charcuterie. Charcuterie, on the other hand, is a more recent invention—relatively speaking.

    While using salt to cure meats dates back to the Roman Empire (625 B.C.E. to its fall in 476 C.E.), the concept of a modern-style platter of different cured meats was pioneered in 15th century France.

    Literally, charcuterie means pork-butcher’s shop, from Middle French chaircuiterie, from chaircutier, pork butcher, from chair cuite, cooked meat. It is both the name for the shop and its products.

    It was (and is) the charcutier’s skill that turned a butchered pig into bacon, ballotines*, confit, galantines*, ham, pâtés, rillettes‡, sausages, and terrines†.
     
     
    CHEESE & CHARCUTERIE MEET UP

    Given the French breadth of cheesemaking, it likely didn’t take long to add cheeses to a plate of cured meats, along with some delicious French bread, fresh and dried fruits, nuts, and condiments.

    While condiments included such standards as mustard, mostarda, and savory jams (e.g. onion, tomato), straight sweetness was introduced via sweet jams, honey, and membrillo (quince paste fron Spain).

    Much more has been added since then. Today, you can find an even greater variety of goodies on charcuterie boards:

  • Chutney
  • Crudités
  • Crisps, fine crackers, crostini, and breadsticks
  • Gherkins, peppadews, and other pickled vegetables and fruits
  • Olives
  • Spreads
  • Sweets: bonbons, caramels, chocolate bars, nut brittle, nut clusters
  • Specialty breads: cornmeal, raisin, walnut, etc.
  • Anything else that appeals to you (we’ve seen deviled eggs, Inca corn, and stuffed grape leaves, for example)
  •  
    We love charcuterie boards and can easily make a meal of them.

    They can serve as brunch, lunch, or a light dinner. You simply assemble the ingredients: no cooking required!

    Charcuterie boards are also a great complement to wines of all types.
     
     
    BEYOND FRENCH CHARCUTERIE

    While Greece and the Middle East have pastirma (also spelled basturma, highly seasoned, air-dried cured beef), sujuk (dry, spiced sausage), feta, halloumi, labneh, and much more to snack upon, they have a focus on mezze (a great idea for a brunch, lunch, dinner, or party).

    But other countries provide ways to create charcuterie boards from their meat and cheese specialties. Here are three of them.

  • German Style: Serve German ham, sausages (Liverwurst, Mettwusrst [pork sausage], Bierschinken Wurst [pickled pork sausage) Landjäger [smoked and dried pork sausage]), and cheeses such as Bergkäse, Butterkäse, Cambozola, Limburger, with gherkins, pickled beets, sauerkraut, soft pretzels or pretzel bread, dark rye bread—and a selection of German beers.
  • Italian Style: There’s a wealth of cured meats and sausages: capicola, lardo, mortadella,‘nduja, pancetta, prosciutto, salami, and soppressata. Compliment the meats and cheeses—orgonzola, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pecorino, ricotta salata, and the ever-popular marinated bocconcini (mozzarella balls)—with olives, marinated artichoke hearts, pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, ciabatta, focaccia, grissini (breadsticks), or other Italian breads. Pick Italian red and white wines, and don’t forget the bubblies, like Asti and Prosecco.
  • Spanish Style: Spain has tapas, which are individual dishes. You can easily have a tapas party with vermouth—a popular Spanish custom for brunch or cocktail party. But you can also create a charcuterie board with serrano (dry-cured Spanish ham), chorizo sausage), and cecina, another salt-cured, air-dried meat that is made from the hind legs of a cow. Manchego is Spain’s best-known cheese, but also look for Cabrales, Idiazábal, Mahón, and Ronca. Add green olives, membrillo (quince paste), Marcona almonds, and figs. If you can find it, serve with a Spanish-style baguette, pan de barra (French-style baguette will do). There are plenty of wonderful dry red Spanish wines—and for a sweeter touch, a pitcher of sangria.
  •  
    Of course, you can mix and match national specialties. Enjoy every bite (and sip)!
     
     
    > The Different Types Of Charcuterie

    > The Different Types Of Cheese

    > More Cheese Condiments
     
     
    ________________

    *A ballotine is traditionally a de-boned thigh and/or leg part of a chicken, duck, or other poultry. It is stuffed with forcemeat (ground or sieved meat and other ingredients), which can include ground pork.

    A galantine is a dish of boned stuffed meat, typically poultry, that is usually poached and served cold, often covered with aspic. Galantines are often stuffed with forcemeat (which can include pork) and pressed into a cylindrical shape.

    The difference: A galantine is usually cylindrical in shape, making it easier to slice. Galantines are also usually wrapped in cloth and poached in their own stock. Ballotines can be either poached or braised and are usually served in a broth made from leftover cooking liquid.

    A terrine is a meat, fish, or vegetable mixture that has been cooked and set in an oblong shape container. It is typically unmolded and served in slices.

    Rillettes are pork or other meat or fish, preserved with a method similar to confit, where the meat is seasoned then slow-cooked submerged in fat, and cooked at an extremely slow rate for several hours. The meat is then shredded, packed into containers, and covered in fat.

     

     
     

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