February 14 is National Creme-Filled Chocolates Day

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Fittingly, February 14, Valentine’s Day, is also National Creme-Filled Chocolates Day.

Cream-Filled chocolates were made possible by Jean Neuhaus, the Belgian chocolatier who invented the first hard chocolate shell in 1912. Using molds, it enabled fillings of any kind and consistency—creme, whipped cream, soft caramel, light ganache, liqueurs, etc.

Previously, only solid centers like caramels and nut pastes could be enrobed in chocolate—anything else would have leaked out. In enrobing, the center—marzipan, fruit jelly or nuts in caramel, for example—were hand-dipped into liquid chocolate. The center had to be solid enough to be held and hand-dipped.

With Neuhaus’ chocolate molds, chocolates could now be made in pretty shapes, too—flowers, butterflies, fleur-de-lis, crowns, berries and others that are now familiar to us.

Thanks, Jean Neuhaus, for vastly expanding our world of chocolate bonbons. Today, bonbons with chocolate shells are known as Belgian style, and dipped chocolates as French style.

Some chocolatiers work in only one style, some create a mixture of both. Chocolate shells have a thicker chocolate covering than dipped chocolate, so consumers have their preferences, based on whether they like more chocolate flavor or more flavor of the center.

February 14 is Saint Valentine’s Day

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Daily Food Fact: NECCO ‘conversation hearts” were first manufactured in 1866 called “Motto Hearts”

Events of February 14

Married on this day:

  • February 14, 1974, The Captain and Tennille were married.
  • February 14, 1984, Elton John and Ms. Renate Blauel
  • February 14, 1991, Leeza Gibbons, talk show host and Stephen Meadows
  • February 14, 1991, Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid
  • February 6, 1994, Brian Wilson, Beach Boys Founder and Melinda Ledbetter.
  • February 14, 1994 Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia (51) wed Deborah Koons
  • February 14, 1994, Roseanne Barr and Ben Thomas, her ex-bodyguard.
  • February 19, 1995, Pamela Anderson, Baywatch Star and Tommy Lee, Rock star
  • February 14, 1996, Prince/The Artist married Mayte Garcia.
  • February 14, 1998 Sharon Stone & Phil Bronstein, San Francisco Examiner Executive Editor

 

February 13 is National ‘Italian Food’ Day

Five Food Find about Italian Food

1. It was not until the 1700’s that tomatoes were first found in Italian dishes.

2. The ‘essential’ ingredients in Italian food include: olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, mozzarella, ricotta, parmigiana, capers, tomatoes, sausage and of course pasta

3. An average Italian meal is divided in two parts, primo piatto & secondo piatto; the primo include a pasta or risotto; the secondi  includes any meat and fish meals, complemented by a contorno, a side dish of vegetables.

4. The Italian dessert, Tiramisu, (ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with mascarpone cheese and egg yolks then flavored with liquor and cocoa) roughly translates to “pick-me-up.”  Did you know that this dessert did not appear until the late 1960’s and in the U.S. by the early 1980’s.

5.  Italians prefer their pasta cooked ‘al dente’  literally meaning “to the tooth.” The pasta should be a bit firm, offering some resistance to the tooth, but tender.

Daily Quote: 

“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.” ~ Yogi Berra

February 13 is National Tortellini Day

Tortellini

TORTELLINI
Tortellini (tor-teh-LEE-nee) is a small pasta stuffed with a variety of fillings, and a favorite pasta dish worldwide. It is also served in soups, as in the classic dish, tortellini in brodo. Tortellini originated in Bologna and is accompanied by a legend: When the goddess Venus stayed in a tavern on the outskirts of the city, the innkeeper spied on her through the keyhole of her room, but could catch only a glimpse of her navel. Spellbound, he went to the kitchen and, to capture this vision, shaped fresh egg pasta into the navel-sized tortellini.

 

Four Cheese Chicken Florentine Tortellini Recipe

Chicken Florentine Tortellini

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, finely
    chopped
  • 2 cups white mushrooms, thinly
    sliced
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun dried
    tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon roasted garlic seasoning (Spice Hunter brand preferred)
  • 3 cups half and half
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups Italian blend shredded cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups white medium cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup smoked cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken breast (lightly seasoned with salt and pepper)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, coarsely chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add dry tortellini to boiling water and reduce heat. Cook for about 10 minutes or until al dente.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, bell pepper and mushrooms. Sauté for 4-5 minutes or until tender. Add spinach, sundried tomatoes and oregano; sauté for 3-4 more minutes or until spinach wilts. Remove from heat.
  3. Melt butter in a separate large pot over medium heat. Remove from heat and whisk in flour, salt, pepper and roasted garlic seasoning until smooth. Slowly whisk in half and half and milk. Bring to a boil while continuously stirring. Reduce heat, and then simmer for 1 minute. Stir in Tillamook Italian Blend, Vintage White Medium Cheddar, Mozzarella and Smoked Cheddar cheeses until melted and smooth.
  4. Stir in cooked tortellini, sautéed vegetables and chicken breast. Pour tortellini mixture into a greased 3-quart casserole dish. In a small bowl, combine the melted butter and bread crumbs. Toss to coat and sprinkle crumbs and pine nuts over top of tortellini. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crumbs brown

February 12 is National P B and J Day

Five Food Finds about Peanut Butter

1. It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.

2. By law, any product labeled “peanut butter” in the United States must be at least 90 percent peanuts. Below 90% and it should be labeled “peanut spread”.

3. The average American consumes more than six pounds of peanuts and peanut butter products each year.

4. Over 60% of consumers prefer creamy peanut butter over crunchy.

5. The peanut is not a nut, but a legume related to beans and lentils.

The difference between Jelly and Jam:  

Jelly is made strictly from the juice of fruit while jam is made from crushed fruit.

Daily Quote:

“Nothings spoils the taste of peanut butter and jelly quite like the unrequited love”~Charlie Brown (Peanuts)

 

 

How to Clean a Wood Cutting Board

Wood cutting boards are one of the most versatile kitchen tools you can have! Not only are they great for chopping meat or veggies, they also are lovely serving platters for cheeses, meats, and breads. But cleaning them thoroughly while also guaranteeing they live a long, beautiful life can sometimes be a challenge. Here are some great tips for making sure your board stays clean and gorgeous.

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First, before we begin: Don’t ever soak a wooden cutting board in water or put it in the dishwasher! It can cause it to warp, split, and/or crack.
Now that that’s out of the way…here are some basic things you can use to clean your beloved board: lemon, kosher salt, vinegar, and baking soda (and water, of course!)

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To clean the board: After you’re done slicing and dicing your meat or veggies, take the cutting board to the sink and wash it down with hot water and soap. Dry it immediately and stand it up so that air can circulate on all sides.

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To get rid of odors: Wood surfaces can really hang on to odors, especially if you’re chopping something potent like onions or garlic. While it might seem counter-intuitive, wiping down the cutting board with white vinegar will remove these strong odors. An once it’s dry, white vinegar has very little scent itself.

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To remove stubborn stains: It’s easy for cutting boards to get little stains here and there—it means you’re really using it! Just sprinkle baking soda on the surface of the cutting board, then work it into the surface stains with a lemon (which also makes the board smell amazing, by the way) or a gentle sponge or wash cloth. Rinse the board and dry it with a towel.

You can also rub kosher salt into the board with a lemon for both stains and odor. It’s a great natural abrasive, and it’s pretty gentle!

Engraved cutting boards with handles     Keep Calm 9x12 Personalized Chopping Board Handle Maple WoodMiss Mixer 9x12 Grooved Chopping Board

If your cutting boards get a lot of use and a lot of washing, they can start to look dull and dried out. Replenish the wood using mineral oil—just apply a small amount with very slightly damp rag.

And always remember: No matter what cleaning method you use, dry the cutting boards with a clean towel and stand them up to dry completely. You don’t want to lay them down right away, as moisture can be trapped underneath.

Happy chopping!  Browse our website.  You will find many beautiful boards to fit your need or desire.  http://store.cookbookpeople.com/cutting-boards-1/

February 11 is National Peppermint Patty Day

Five Food Finds about Peppermint Patties

1.  In 1940 York Cone Co. produces the first Peppermint Patties.

2.  Peppermint Patties were sold only in northeastern states until 1975.

3.  Peppermint Patties have one of the least about of calories and fat compared to other nationally popular candy bars.

4. Charles Schulz introduced “Peppermint Patty” to his Peanuts comic strip on August 22, 1966

5.  Patricia Reichardt is Peppermint Patty’s actual name.

Daily Quote : “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.”~Ogden Nash

 

February 11th is Peppermint Patty Day. You may indulge in the occasional York Peppermint Patty or box of Junior Mints (we do). But if you love peppermint patties, making them at home is easy.

  • Combine 1 pound confectioner’s sugar, 3 tablespoons softened butter, 3 teaspoons peppermint extract and 1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract.
  • Mix in 1/4 cup evaporated milk. Roll into 1-inch balls, place on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet and chill for 20 minutes.
  • Flatten the balls with the bottom of a glass to 1/4″ thick, so they look like peppermint patties.
  • Next, prepare the chocolate coating in a double boiler: 12 ounces of good-quality semisweet chocolate (you can use chocolate morsels, but the key is to get the best-tasting chocolate you can find, like Guittard or Valrhona) with 2 tablespoons shortening.
Peppermint Patties

Make a batch of peppermint patties for yourself,
plus more for gifts. Yours may not look this
perfect (these are from the Wisconsin Cheeseman) but they’ll taste great.

Dip the patties and place them back on the waxed paper to harden.
If you want to go all out, you can decorate the tops of the patties with candied mint leaves: Dip tiny leaves or cut pieces of leaf and crystallize in sugar syrup.

This recipe makes about 5 dozen peppermint patties. Be sure to make extra for friends and family—they’re are so good, you’ll want to eat the whole batch.

PATTY OR PATTIE?

To be perfectly correct, the spelling is patty. Patties is the plural form, so many folks assumed the singular to be pattie. The word first appeared in English around 1700, from the French pâté.

February 10 is National ‘Have a Brownie’ Day

Five Food Facts about Brownies

1. It is said that the brownie was created at the Palmer House Hotel during the 1893 Columbian Exposition( The largest World’s Fair of it’s time) when the owner Bertha Palmer asked the chef to make a ‘ladies dessert’.

2. The word ‘brownie’ became so popular that soon after the Expedition even Kodak named one of it’s first hand held cameras after them, the little ‘brownie.’

3. Brownies were one of the very first prepackaged food ‘mixes’ ever sold. First appearing in the Sears, Roebuck catalogue in 1897.

4. Fannie Farmer, the First Lady of American Cookery, published the first written recipe for brownies in 1896.

5.A popular turn of the century alternative was considered of equal importance, the ‘blondie‘, which used many of the same ingredients except chocolate. Many believed chocolate to be a ‘vice’ on the same level as alcohol and even coffee.

Daily Quote:

“A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges.”
Benjamin Franklin

 

Cream Cheese Brownies

Cream Cheese Brownies

Introduction

Cream cheese brownies are made by folding a cream cheese batter into a brownie batter. The result is a beautiful black-and-white swirl pattern.

While the cream cheese batter adds a cheesecake element, cream cheese brownies are different from “zebra” brownies, in which a cheesecake layer rests atop a brownie layer.

Instead of making the brownies even richer, the cream cheese swirl lightens the recipe, providing a smoother texture and a counterpoint to the heaviness of the chocolate.

Cream Cheese Brownies Recipe

The key to making these brownies shine is to use the best quality chocolate. While we don’t like to disparage products, the ubiquitous Baker’s unsweetened chocolate doesn’t do the job for us.

Makes 1 dozen brownies.
Ingredients: Brownies

Ingredients: Cream Cheese Batter

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature (we use organic
    cream cheese; lowfat or nonfat won’t work)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F with rack at lower middle level.
  2. In a small bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. Spray an 8-inch-square baking pan with cooking spray (we use this Wilton cake pan). Fit a 16″ by 18″ piece of aluminum foil into the the pan. Tamp down, allowing the extra foil to hang over the sides. Spray foil lightly.
  4. In a saucepan over very low heat, melt together the unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate and the butter. Stir occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat; set aside to cool.
  5. When cool, whisk sugar and vanilla into the chocolate mixture.
  6. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next.Add flour mixture; whisk to combine.
  1. Add flour mixture; whisk to combine.
  2. In a small bowl, beat together until smooth the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and egg yolk.
  3. Add half the brownie batter to the pan. Top with half the cream cheese batter, dropped by the spoonful. Repeat with the remaining chocolate batter and spoonfuls of cream cheese mixture.
  4. Using the blade of a table knife, gently swirl the batter and filling, creating a marbled effect.
  5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with several crumbs clinging to it.
  6. Cool brownies in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove from pan (use the foil to lift the square.)
  7. Place the baked square on a wire rack and allow to cool. Chilled for 3 hours in the fridge or 90 minutes in the freezer. Cut into squares and serve.

 

February 9 is National Bagel and Lox Day

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Today’s five things to know about Bagel and Lox:

  1. The word Bagel is often thought to have derived from the ‘buckle‘ shape it has, but actually it is from a Yiddish word ‘beygl‘ meaning ring or hole.
  2. Bagels are one of the few breads that are boiled then baked. creating the sought inside while retaining a crisp exterior.
  3. Over a Billion dollars a year are spent on bagels in the US alone.
  4. The top selling bagels are Plain(#1), Whole Wheat(#2) and Sesame Seed(#3)
  5. Originally bagels were baked and sold by street vendors. They would have been carried around on a long string draped over the sellers’ shoulders.

What’s a lox? Lox is thinly sliced smoked salmon

Bagel & Lox are typically bagels with cream cheese, onions,  and smoked salmon. Other variations often include  tomatoes, cucumbers, capers, and/or scrambled eggs

Daily Quote: “Sandwich every bit of criticism between two layers of praise”~Dixie Carter

February 8 is also National Potato Lovers Day

If you are a fan of the spud, then today is for you. For centuries they have been sliced, fried, boiled, baked, puréed, and served.

potatoe

Potato Facts:

A. The word , potato, is derived from a Native American word “Batata”

B. The first cultivated potatoes date back to 500o BC in Peru. Originally, they were purple. When cooked they turn a deep blue color.

C. Most of the nutrients found in potatoes are in the skin.

D. Sweet potatoes are distant relatives of the common potato, while Yams are not potatoes at all, they  botanically are considered lilies.

E. The average American eats 140 pounds of potatoes per year.

F. The word spud actually means “to dig a small hole in the ground, similar to spade, a tool to dig small holes.

G.  The Spanish claim that they first introduced the potato to Europe in 1550 while the Irish say that it was in 1585 when Sir Walter Raleigh introduced the potato to Europe.

Daily Quote:

My idea of heaven is a great big baked potato & someone to share it with.” ~Oprah

February 8 is Molasses Bar Day

t’s National Molasses Bar Day, so consider whipping up a batch of chewy molasses bar cookies.

This recipe, from Grandma’s Molasses, ups the chewiness and nutrition by adding nuts and dried dates. Walnuts are popular, and pistachios and dates are a classic Middle East combination; but you can use any nut you favor.

For a special dessert tonight, top a bar with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

RECIPE: DATE NUT MOLASSES BARS                                 

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Ingredients For 32 Bars

  • 1 cup enriched flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup shortening, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup nuts, chopped
  • 1 package/7 ounces pitted dates, finely chopped
 

 

Preparation

1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

2. SIFT together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

3. COMBINE the egg, sugar, molasses, shortening and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture, nuts and dates.

4. LINE a 9 x 9 x 2-inch pan with wax paper, greased and lightly floured. Pour in the batter and bake 40 minutes or until done.

5. TURN out onto cooling rack; remove the wax paper. When cool, cut into 32 bars. Store in an airtight container.

 

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WHAT IS MOLASSES?

Molasses is 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. The better grades of molasses, 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 comes from the second boiling. It is more flavorful and less sweet than light molasses, and often used for gingerbread and spice cookies.
  • Treacle is the British term for dark molasses; light molasses is called golden syrup.
  • Blackstrap 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).

February 7 is National Fettuccine Alfredo Day

My Favorite!

Who would not want to celebrate at least once a year a wonderful plate of ribbon pasta cooked with butter and parmesan cheese?  Most don’t know that pastas was actually seldom served at American tables 100 years ago.  The age of mass production of foods and their distributions coincided with the discovery of Italian foods. The rest is history.

Fettuccine Facts:

A. Fettuccine  is a flat thick noodle made of flour and egg.(literally meaning “little ribbons” in Italian)

B. The original recipe for Fettuccine “Alfredo” is pasta made from fettucine noodles tossed with one part parmesan cheese and 3 parts butter.  Alfredo sauce is the emulsified  liquids that form the smooth and rich coating on the pasta.

C. It was named by an Italian restaurateur at his restaurant Alfredo on the Via della Scrofa in Rome in 1914. Said to have been a dish he made at home but for years was too reluctant to sell to his customers because it was so rich.

D. Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, early movie stars, fell in love with the dish while on their honeymoon in 1927. This helped to make the dish and Alfredo world famous.

E. There are authentic “Alfredo’s” restaurants in the US, Alfredo’s at Rockefeller Center in New York City is the most well known.

Daily Quote:

“Life is too short, and I’m Italian. I’d much rather eat pasta & drink wine than be a size 0.”~Sofia Bush

 

February 5 – World Nutella Day and National Chocolate Fondue Day

World Nutella Day

 

 

Nutella Facts:

A.  Nutella, a chocolate & hazelnut spread, outsells ALL brands of peanut butter worldwide

B.  Hazelnuts were originally used as an inexpensive filler. sales increased and soon became it’s trademark flavor.

C.  In the aftermath of World War 2 Italian stores offered a service called “smearing”, which allowed local children to bring in a slice of bread on which they could have some Nutella spread.

D. In Europe the Nutella jar is usually made of glass, whereas in North America it is made of plastic.

 

Chocolate Fondue

Chocolate Fondue

Overview

Chocolate fondue is an exciting dessert: rich, luscious, sexy. It has appeal to children and adults alike (don’t call it sexy in front of the kids, though). Chocolate fondue is so simple to prepare: Why don’t we have it more often? It’s light enough to provide a small amount of sweetness at the end of a meal (fresh fruit dipped in just a tiny bit of chocolate), and lavish enough to cure anyone’s hankering for a chocolate hoe-down.

What could be better than chocolate fondue? A pot of white chocolate fondue, right next to it! The key to good fondue is good chocolate, and good dippers. And good company, of course—fondue is a dish to share.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream (reserve 1/4 cup to thin if the fondue
    begins to thicken)
  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto or Kahlua liqueur (optional)
  • 1/4 cup finely-chopped nuts such as walnuts or almonds (optional)

Preparation

  1. Heat 3/4 cup cream in a heavy non-reactive saucepan or in double-boiler over moderate heat, until the cream comes to a simmer.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. Let the chocolate stand in the hot cream 3 minutes to soften, then whisk the chocolate together until smooth.
  3. Stir in the liqueur and/or chopped nuts and transfer the fondue to a fondue pot. If you don’t have a fondue pot or a brazier, use a ceramic bowl on a rack above a lit votive or tea candle.
  4. If the fondue becomes too thick, stir in the reserved cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, to the desired consistency.

Note

Like any recipe, your chocolate fondue will taste better when you use the finest ingredients. White chocolate is especially dicey: some of less expensive brands are made with vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter, which is one of the reasons some people don’t like white chocolate—the vegetable oil versions lack the flavor of chocolate, which, in white chocolate, comes from the cocoa butter because no cocoa solids are used. Read the label before you buy the chocolate, and avoid any chocolate that contains vegetable oil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 4 – National Homemade Soup Day & Stuffed Mushroom Day

MyRecipes

Ingredients

1 pound split peas, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preparation

Place the peas in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and set aside for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Drain the peas and add them to the vegetables along with the broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently until the peas are softened, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Transfer some of the soup to a blender, filling it no more than halfway. Puree until smooth. Repeat with the remaining soup. Return the soup to the pot and place over medium heat until warmed through, about 10 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into individual bowls.

In Advance: Refrigerate the soup for up to 2 days. Warm it over low heat.

Five things you should know about

Soup

  1. Women are more than twice as likely to eat soup as men, 9.67% vs. 4.0%.
  2. The Middle English word soupen meant “to drink in sips”, which is how most soups were consumed. The words “soup,” “supper,” “sip,” and “sop” are derived from this term.
  3. Andy Warhol(who’s real name was Andrew Warhola) is famous for his Campbell ‘s soup can art of the 1960’s. Did you know his first works sold for around 100 dollars? Today they sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 

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For a meaty vegetarian entree, stuff a grilled portabella mushroom. The stuffing can be simple, from breadcrumbs to cheese to salad.

Or, it can be a complex layering of flavors, as in the recipe below for Grilled Portabella Mushrooms Stuffed with Bacon And Caramelized Onion Purée, Mashed Potatoes, Wisconsin Fontina Cheese And Sliced Italian Prosciutto.

The recipe, by Chefs Michael Smith and Debbie Gold, is courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com. While there are several steps, they are easy ones (caramelize the onions, mash the potatoes).

PORTABELLA, PORTABELLO OR PORTOBELLO?

How can one mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, be known by so many names? All three spellings are used; we prefer portabella, which flows off the tongue most easily.

Portabellas are mature cremini mushrooms, tan to brown in color. The immature cremini is variously called a baby portobello, baby bella, brown mushroom, crimini, Italian mushroom, mini bella, portabellini, Roman mushroom, Italian mushroom, or brown mushroom.

Whew!

Portabellas are meaty in both taste and appearance, with more complex flavors than the young creminis. They can be 3 to 10 inches in diameter; the large portabellas can be grilled or stuffed as an entrée.

Like meat, portabellas release juices when cooked. Vegetarians enjoy them grilled in lieu of beef, and they make wonderful grilled vegetable sandwiches. They can be served whole or sliced, stuffed or as “burgers.”

For a simple starter, serve sliced grilled portabellas drizzled with a balsamic reduction. They are available fresh from December to March and cultivated year round.

RECIPE: GRILLED STUFFED PORTABELLA MUSHROOMS

This recipe is made with “baby bellas,” three-inch diameter portabellas, and can be served in appetizer portions. But you can use larger portabellas for an entrée.

Ingredients

For The Bacon Purée

  • 1 cup diced bacon (about 6 ounces)
  • 4 cups sliced yellow onions

 

For The Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled, diced (about 1-1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, diced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • White pepper

For The Grilled Mushrooms

  • 4 baby bella mushrooms, 2-1/2 to 3-inch diameter
  • Olive oil
  • 4 slices Wisconsin fontina cheese, 3 inches square (substitute Emmental, Gruyère, Provalone
  • 4 slices Italian prosciutto
  • 4 wedges radicchio lettuce
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
 

 

Preparation

1. MAKE the bacon purée: In large heavy skillet, combine bacon and onions. Cook over medium heat until onions are very soft and dark brown. While hot, purée in food processor. Set aside and keep warm. You will need 1 cup purée for this recipe.

2. MAKE the mashed potatoes: Boil potatoes in salted water until tender. Meanwhile, scald heavy cream. Drain and rice potatoes in food mill. Transfer potatoes to large bowl, add cream and stir vigorously. Add butter, continuing to stir potatoes. Stir in olive oil. Adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper. Set aside and keep warm. You will need 3 cups for this recipe.

3. GRILL the mushrooms: Prepare a hot grill. Remove stems and gills from mushrooms. Brush mushrooms with olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from grill.

4. STUFF the mushrooms: Fill mushrooms with bacon purée. Spoon a good size dollop of mashed potatoes over the bacon. Top with a slice of cheese and a slice of prosciutto, pleated to fit. Place mushrooms on cooler part of grill until cheese is melted and gooey. While mushrooms are warming, season radicchio with salt and pepper. Grill both sides until slightly wilted and starting to turn brown.

5. DRESS the salad: In medium bowl, toss grilled radicchio, arugula, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Divide onto four plates. Top each with a stuffed mushroom. Serve immediately.

 

February 3rd is National Carrot Cake Day

Carrot Cake

Ginger Carrot Cake

A Carrot Cake Developed By Pastry Chef & Chocolatier Michael Recchiuti Just Might Be The Best Carrot Cake

Overview

San Francisco chocolatier Michael Recchiuti searched his city for perfect carrot cake. The best he found was in North Beach—at Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store (a cappuccino café). However, North Beach is not so easy for people from other ‘hoods to get to—including Michael Recchiuti (whose own chocolate shop is so conveniently located in the Ferry Building, San Francisco’s must-see food hall). So the chocolatier/pastry chef did the obvious: He developed his own recipe. And, he likes it as much as Mario’s.

Not your average carrot cake, this one has chunks of crystallized ginger for flavor and crunch; and there are pecans in both the cake and the filling.

NOTE TO BAKERS: Michael insists that you serve this cake at room temperature. (He obviously is surrounded by so much of his own goodies, that he’s never had to eat cake straight from the freezer!)

You may want to try the carrot cake with a glass of Campari, like they serve it at Mario’s. And check out Recchiuti Confections, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week. What could be better than carrot cake with a chocolate chaser?

Ingredients

Carrot Cake

  • 1-1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups granulated cane sugar
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 4 cups grated carrots (about 8 large)
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely
    chopped
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely
    chopped
  • 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely
    chopped
Don’t buy the cheapest carrots you can find,
just because they’re going to be “ground up
in a cake.” Moist, fresh carrots will give you
a better cake than dried-out carrots in a cello
bag. 

Pecan Filling

  • 1-1/2 cups granulated cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, preferably Madagascar (Bourbon) vanilla
    (see THE NIBBLE’s favorite vanilla extracts)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room
    temperature (try an organic brand,
    without the extra gums)
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, at room
    temperature
  • 1 cup powdered (confectioners’)
    sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract,
    preferably Madagascar (Bourbon)
    vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded coconut, toasted
 

Quality cream cheese makes a big difference. We always use an organic brand.

Preparation

Bake The Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Butter and flour one 9-inch cake pan.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil and sugar. Add half of the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add the remaining dry ingredients in four parts, adding an egg between each addition.
  4. Fold in the pecans, crystallized ginger and carrots.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pan, filling the pan 3/4 of the way high. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 70 to 75 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Make The Filling

  1. In a heavy saucepan combine the sugar, flour and salt. Gradually add the cream, stirring until blended.
  2. Place the saucepan over low heat and add the butter. Stir until the butter has melted, then let simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.
  3. Stir in nuts and vanilla. Let cool completely until needed.

Make The Frosting

  1. Cream the butter with cream cheese and beat until blended.
  2. Sift in the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla.
  3. The frosting must be firm enough to spread without running. Refrigerate to firm as needed.
We prefer Chinrose Chinese Crystallized Ginger in the chips, above, which are the
perfect size for cakes, scones, muffins, cookies, trail mix, etc. Chinese Ginger is considered the
finest in the world—less fibrous, more golden in color and more intense in flavor.

Assemble The Cake

  1. Loosen the cake from pan and invert onto a plate. Split the cake into two horizontal layers using a serrated knife.
  2. Spread the pecan cream filling between the layers of the cake and then cover the top and sides with the cream cheese frosting.
  3. Finish by pressing the toasted coconut around the side of the cake.
  4. Serve at room temperature.

 

 

February 2 is Heavenly Hash Day – The Fruit Salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 2 is National Heavenly Hash Day. But which heavenly hash?

If someone offers you Heavenly Hash, you may want to clarify:

Is it a fruit salad bound with sour cream or whipped cream, or a chocolate confection or baked good filled with marshmallows and nuts?

Heavenly Hash: The Fruit Salad

The fruit salad version of Heavenly Hash is a traditional Southern dish. It began as a Christmas recipe with red maraschino cherries, green grapes, pecans and other ingredients folded into whipped cream.

Over generations the recipe evolved, with everyone inventing his or her own hash (the term, after all, indicates a jumble or muddle of ingredients).

So today the recipe for heavenly hash essentially requires some kind of fruit—fresh, canned and/or candied—in some kind of creamy white binder.

Here are just a few of the combinations we perused:

  • Fruit cocktail and maraschino cherries
  • Cherry pie filling and crushed pineapple
  • Shredded coconut and/or bananas
  • Grapes and mandarin orange segments
  • Enhanced with marshmallows and nuts
  • Flavored with lime Jell-O or vanilla pudding
  • All folded into sour cream, whipped cream or Cool Whip

We make Heavenly Hash with fresh fruits (strawberries, bananas, pineapple, peaches) and nuts (a mix of pecans, pistachios and walnuts), folded into crème fraîche or slightly sweetened sour cream. If the whole concept sounds odd to you, know that Heavenly Hash is very much a comfort food to its fans.

Heavenly Hash: The Candy/Cake/Cookie/Ice Cream

Folks liked the concept of heavenly hash so much, they ported it into other sweets called Heavenly Hash:

  • A sweet, fudgy chocolate candy, made of marshmallows, evaporated milk and chocolate chips (which are melted to form the candy base), chopped nuts, corn syrup and sugar
  • A cookie version, folding miniature marshmallows, chopped nuts and coconut in a chocolate cookie dough
  • A chocolate cake version
  • An ice cream version: chocolate ice cream with a marshmallow swirl, chopped nuts and chocolate chunks (or, use the ingredients with chocolate ice cream, parfait-style)
  • Fudge with miniature marshmallows and nuts

So enjoy Heavenly Hash Day your style, with one of the ideas above; or freestyle it to create something new.

February 1 is National Baked Alaska Day

An Ice Cream Cake Elevated To A High Peak

You don’t have to wait for February 1st, National Baked Alaska Day, to make this dazzling dessert. With store-bought ice cream and pound cake, it’s easy to make any day of the year.

Baked Alaska Overview & History

Baked Alaska is a masterpiece of chemistry: an ice cream cake topped with meringue and baked in the oven until the meringue browns. (Yes, frozen ice cream is baked in an oven!)

The concept (and execution) is simple. Ice cream, mounded on a pie plate or in a rectangle, is covered on all sides with slices of sponge cake or pound cake; this is then covered with meringue. The entire dessert is then placed in a 500°F oven just long enough to firm the meringue—three or four minutes. The meringue is an effective insulator, and in the short cooking time needed to finish the dessert, it prevents the frozen ice cream from melting in the hot oven.

The concept of baked ice cream was developed by the Chinese, who used pastry as the insulator; a Chinese delegation introduced it to Paris in the nineteenth century. In 1804, the American physicist Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford) then investigated the heat resistance of beaten egg whites, and demonstrated that beaten egg whites were a better insulator.

Thompson’s dish was named Omelette Surprise or Omelette à la Norvégienne, the Norwegian attribution owing to the “arctic” appearance and cold center. Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City renamed it named Baked Alaska in honor of the newly acquired Alaska territory, and the name stuck.

Make a Baked Alaska with this recipe (it’s easy when you use store-bought ice cream and pound cake instead of making/baking your own from scratch)

Baked Alaska Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts ice cream, softened (you can make it all one flavor, or make half the pie with one flavor and half with another—in which case, get 1 quart of each flavor)
  • 1 loaf pound cake (or you can bake your own pound cake or chocolate pound cake)
  • 1 cup chocolate wafer crumbs (about 17 crushed wafers), optional
  • Vegetable oil, for brushing mold
  • Optional garnish: raspberry or strawberry coulis (recipe below), caramel or chocolate sauce, fresh berries

Meringue Ingredients

  • 1 cup egg whites (about 6 large), at room temperature (reserve the yolks for homemade mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce or other recipe)
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 cup sugar

Cake Preparation

  1. Brush a 3-quart metal bowl with vegetable oil; line with plastic wrap. Fill the bowl with the ice cream.
  2. As you go, place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the ice cream and press down to close the gaps. When you’re finished filling the bowl, use the plastic wrap to cover the ice cream as you press to even out the surface.
  3. If you want to use the cookie crumbs in the recipe (they add more complexity and crunch), sprinkle the ice cream with wafer crumbs and cover the ice cream mass with the plastic wrap, pressing the crumbs in gently. As a next step after #4 below, you will also need to add more ice cream on top of the crumbs for the cake to adhere to, then freeze again for 30 minutes. If you don’t have the time, you can eliminate the cookie crumbs.
  4. Freeze until set, for 30 minutes.
  5. While the ice cream freezes, cut the pound cake into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
  6. Remove the plastic wrap from the ice cream. Completely cover the ice cream on all sides with the cake slices, trimming the “seams” as needed. Be sure the ice cream is completely insulated; then cover the ice cream cake with fresh plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  7. Twenty minutes before serving time, make the meringue and Preheat the oven to 500°F.
  8. Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until foamy, about 2 minutes.
  9. Gradually beat in the sugar on high speed until the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks.
  10. Remove the plastic wrap from the ice cream cake, then invert the cake onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a spatula, cover the ice cream completely with meringue, making the dome-shaped top slightly thicker than the sides.
  11. Form whirly peaks in the meringue using the back of a spoon. Freeze for at least 3 more hours.
  12. Bake the cake until the meringue peaks are golden, about 4 minutes (you can also brown the meringue with a kitchen blowtorch).
  13. If the cake is too hard to cut, let it soften at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.
  14. You can use a bit of raspberry or strawberry coulis, or a swath of caramel or chocolate sauce, before you plate the cake. But a Baked Alaska is exciting enough to serve plain—perhaps with a garnish of a fresh berry or two.

Creamy Crockpot Hot Cocoa {Best Ever!}


Ingredients

1.5 cups whipping cream
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
6 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups of chocolate chips (milk chocolate OR semi-sweet depending on how sweet you like it. I have a heck of a sweet tooth, and I love the milk chocolate, but others prefer the semi-sweet)

Instructions

Stir together the whipping cream, milk, vanilla, and chocolate chips in a crockpot.
Cover and cook on low for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until mixture is hot and chocolate chips are melted. Stir again before serving. Garnish as desired.

 

 

January 31 is National Hot Chocolate Day

What’s the difference between Hot Chocolate and Hot Cocoa?

Hot Chcolate uses milk or milk chocolate while Hot Cocoa uses only powdered cocoa

Daily Fact: Chocolate is the 3rd most traded commodity in the world. 1st is oils, 2nd is coffee.

 

 

January 30 is National Croissant Day

https://foodimentaryguy.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/croissant21.jpg

Daily Facts: Each croissant rolls are made of 50 or more thin layers of pastry & butter.

According to legend, it was Marie Antoinette (Austrian Princess who married Louis XVI), introduced the croissant to France.

French Proverb: “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”

On ne fait pas d’omelette sans casser des œufs.