Ginger Nuts or Ginger Snaps

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Sherlock Holmes eating ginger nuts

In the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, Australia, and New Zealand and most of the former British Empire, they are often called ginger nuts. Ginger nuts are not to be confused with pepper nuts, which are a variety of gingerbread, somewhat smaller in diameter, but thicker. McVitie’s ginger nuts was listed as the tenth most popular biscuit in the UK to “dunk” into tea.[4]

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Ginger nuts are the most popular biscuit in New Zealand, normally attributed to its tough texture which can withstand dunking into liquid. Leading biscuit manufacturer Griffin’s estimates 60 million of them are produced each year. This has become the title of a book, 60 Million Gingernuts, a chronicle of New Zealand records.[5][6][7]

Scandinavian ginger nuts, also called ginger bread or “brunkage” in Danish (literally meaning “brown biscuits”), pepparkakor in Swedish, piparkakut in Finnish, piparkūkas in Latvian, piparkoogid in Estonian and pepperkaker in Norwegian (literally, pepper cookies), are rolled quite thin (often under 3 mm (1/8-inch) thick), and cut into shapes; they are smooth and are usually much thinner and hence crisper (and in some cases, more strongly flavoured) than most global varieties. Cloves, cinnamon and cardamom are important ingredients of these, and the actual ginger taste is not prominent. Allspice was used formerly to season ginger biscuits, but cloves replaced it later.[8]

In the United States, the usual term is ginger snaps, and they are generally round drop cookies, usually between 3 mm (1/8-inch) and 6 mm (1/4-inch) thick, with prominent cracks in the top surface. One recipe for these cookies contains maple syrup.

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The British Tradition of Wearing Paper Crowns on Christmas day

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It is quite common for British people to wear King’s paper crown on Christmas Day and at Christmas dinner parties. Apparently, this tradition dates back to Roman times when participant to the Roman Saturnalia celebrations – held around 25th December – used to wear hats.

The idea of wearing paper crown probably derives from the Twelfth Night celebrations, where a King or Queen used to be appointed to supervise the proceedings.

Fusilli e Arugula Pignoli

Contributed by Michelle Karam

Luscious grains. Vibrant fruits and vegetables. Smooth velvety cheeses. Deep rich Olive Oils.  Sensory overload? No, just 2297950the abundant cuisine of the Mediterranean.  Not only is this cuisine a feast for your eyes and seriously delicious, but it turns out after all it’s provides those that follow it with some of the highest life expectancies around the world.  This is a lifestyle and a diet that provides all of the pleasures but none of the guilt!

So what exactly are the regions that this cuisine hails from? Traditionally it’s from Greece, but as it’s popularity has emerged you’ll find recipes from parts of Italy, Spain, Portugal, southern France and even Turkey, Morocco and the Middle East.

The warm sun, the fragrant sea, the azure sky… a taste of the Mediterranean. These recipes are a little bit of all of that. Now that’s a lifestyle that I wanna live.

 Ingredients

½ cup pignoli (or pine nuts)

4 cloves garlic

1 bunch arugula

1/3 cup olive oil

Coarse sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound fusilli

Directions

 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

 

In a skillet pan toast the pignoli nuts.  The nutty aroma from oils will begin to be released. Toast to a warm golden brown.

 

Then add pignoli nuts & garlic to the blender to form a paste.  Add the arugula and olive oil and pulse into the pignoli mixture.  The perfect texture you’re going to be looking for will be gritty and grainy, keeping the integrity of the pine nuts.

 

Add the fusilli to the water and cook until al dente.  Drain pasta and add Arugula Pignoli mixture and give it a stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

The simplicity of this dish is perfectly Mediterranean all the while keeping that balance of healthy, astonishingly easy and fresh.

Greek Wine Choices

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There are over 300 indigenous grapes grown in Greece with the major ones rocking names like Agiorghitiko, Roditis, and Limnio. Fret not, you really don’t need to pronounce these grapes to enjoy them. Greek wine spans the spectrum from light and crisp to heavy and sweet white wines and light, delicate to heavy and bold reds. This is a part of the wine world really worth exploring.

Greek: Recipe for Bodino Stifado (Beef Stew with leeks)

I recently got exposed to the culinary stylings of Chef Michael Psilakis at the Buick Discovery Tour near the Los Angeles beef stewarea.  Chef Psilakis  has a number of restaurants in New York featuring Greek Cuisine.  Additionally, he competed against fellow Greek and Iron Chef Michael Symon.  Here is his recipe for Bodino Stifado. (Beef Stew with leeks)

Serves 4 to 6 family-style with potatoes, rice, or orzo
Braises like this are perfect for meat with tough muscle tissue and tendons (which come from the part of the animal that works hard), a great example of poverty cooking. This less expensive cut of meat develops its own natural and luscious sauce as it cooks. You want a little marbling in the meat, because it melts down as you cook and adds a lot of flavor to the sauce. You can use brisket, shanks, shoulder – all fairly tough meats – but save the filet mignon for the grill or a pan. It takes a little time to cook and become tender, but it’s a relatively easy setup, and once you get it onto the stove you don’t have to worry about it for about an hour. So you can do your laundry, or walk the dog, or make a salad.
A couple of days later, if you have any leftovers, you can shred the meat, then return the meat to the sauce and add your favorite pasta. The resulting dish is a Greek version of beef stroganoff.
The herbs are very important to the flavor development here, since I’m using water instead of stock, so use fresh herbs if possible.
Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons blended oil (90 percent canola, 10 percent extra-virgin olive)
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 ½ – inch chunks
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • ½ large Spanish or sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large leek, cut into thick rounds, washed well in cold water, drained
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 to 5 cups water
  • 1 fresh bay leaf or 2 dried leaves
  • 1 large sprig rosemary
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 sprig sage
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped parsley

See Directions

Italy: Panna Cotta History & Recipe

Panna cotta (from Italian cooked cream) is an Italian dessert made by simmering together cream, milk, and sugar, mixing this

Click here for Taste of Home Recipe for Panna Cotta.

with gelatin, and letting it cool until set. It is generally believed to have originated in the Northern Italian region of Piedmont,[1] although it is eaten all over Italy, where it is served with wild berries, caramel, chocolate sauce, or fruit coulis. It is not known exactly how or when this dessert came to be, but some theories suggest that cream, for which mountainous Northern Italy is famous, was historically eaten plain or sweetened with fruit or hazelnuts.

Bangers & Mash History & Recipe

Bangers and mash

British dish made of mashed potatoes and sausages, the latter of which may be one of a variety of flavoured sausage made of pork or beef or a Cumberland sausage.

The dish is sometimes served with a rich onion gravy. It can also often be found served with fried onions.

This dish may, even when cooked at home, be thought of as an example of pub grub — relatively quick and easy to make in large quantities as well as being tasty and satisfying. More up-market varieties, with exotic sausages and mashes, are sold in gastropubs, as well as less exotic alternatives being available in regular public houses.

Along with jellied eels and pie and mash, the dish has particular iconic significance as traditional British working-class dishes.

Although it is sometimes stated that the term “bangers” has its origins in World War II, the term was actually in use at least as far back as 1919.[1] The term “bangers” is attributed to the fact that sausages, particularly the kind made during World War II under rationing, were made with water so they were more likely to explode under high heat if not cooked carefully; modern sausages do not have this attribute.

See Bangers and Mash Recipe:

Germany: Pumpernickel History and Recipe

Pumpernickel (English pronunciation: /ˈpʌmpərnɪkəl/German: [ˈpʊmpɐˌnɪkəl]) is a typically heavy, slightly sweet rye bread traditionally made with coarsely ground rye.

Pumpernickel has been long associated with the Westphalia region of Germany, first referred to in print in 1450. Although it is not known whether this and other early references refer to precisely the bread that came to be known as Pumpernickel, Westphalian pumpernickel is distinguished by use of coarse rye flour—rye meal and a very long baking period, which gives the bread its characteristic dark color. Like most traditional all-rye breads, pumpernickel is traditionally made with an acidic sourdough starter, which preserves dough structure by counteracting highly active rye amylases. That method is sometimes augmented or replaced in commercial baking by adding citric acid or lactic acid along with commercial yeast.[1]

A slice of Polish malt colored pumpernickel

Traditional German Pumpernickel contains no coloring agents, instead relying on the Maillard reaction to produce its characteristic deep brown color, sweet, dark chocolate, coffee flavor, and earthy aroma. To achieve this, loaves are baked in long narrow lidded pans 16 to 24 hours in a low temperature (about 250°F or 120°C), steam-filled oven. Like the French pain de mie, Westphalian pumpernickel has little or no crust. It is very similar to rye Vollkornbrot, a dense rye bread with large amounts of whole grains added.

While true Pumpernickel is produced primarily in Germany, versions are popular in the Netherlands, under the name Roggebrood, where it has been a common part of the diet for centuries.

Click to See Rec ipe

Kinderpunsch at Germany’s Christkindlmarkets

Newsflash…it’sofficially getting colder. As the frigid temperatures settle in for the season, you may have to dress in layers and keep up with those runaway gloves, but the cold weather isn’t all bad; it also brings delicious drinks that are great for warming the body and the spirit. One such beverage is Kinderpunsch, (also called “children’s punch”) and it is a Christmas tradition in Germany.

At Christmastime, Germany. is filled with holiday spirit. There are over 2,500 Christmas markets (also calledChristkindlmarket) throughout the country. Dating back to 1393, these markets have provided a healthy dose of merriment in the advent season. What’s not to like?  There’s food, drinks, and all manner of hand-crafted items including nativity scenes and hand blown glass ornaments. Every region produces a unique Christkindlmarket, filled with food and drinks representative of their town. One thing that is common to them all is Kinderspunsch, a non-alcoholic warming drink, traditionally made with apple or grape juice, cinnamon, and ground/whole cloves. Sold primarily at German Christmas Markets, market-goers drink Kinderpunsch as they traipse around in frigid temperatures looking for their rare treasures.

Here’s a simple recipe from Sallyberstein.com: Pour one quart of red grape juice into saucepan or slow cooker. Add about 1/4 cup honey (or to taste); 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces; 3 whole cloves; and the peels of half a lemon and half an orange. Heat, but do not boil. Strain into glasses and serve.

The Christmas Caroling and Figgy Pudding Connection

We wish you a Merry Christmas,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “ Hark the Heralds Angels Sing” – what is your Figgy puddingfirst thought when you hear these titles? Christmas carols, right? Oh how we love to sing these songs at this most wonderful time of the year. We are instantly filled with the joy of the season as we sing along on with the local radio station that has now converted its programming to Christmas carols 24-7. However, don’t be mistaken everything you hear on these stations is not considered a Christmas carol; some are merely Christmas songs.

Once upon a time people went out a-wassailing, going from door to door sharing good cheer and merriment. The practice of Christmas caroling as we know it dates back to the 19th century in Victorian England. Before the culture of carols, wassailing, a word deriving from the Old English term that encouraged good health for your neighbors, had  an ulterior motive. Behind the door-to-door singing,  for instance, in the song “Here We Come-A-Wassailing,” (now known as ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’) the intent stated tells neighbors to “Bring us some figgy pudding.” And they meant it! Figgy pudding is a dessert dating back to the 16th century in England. It is a white Christmas pudding containing figs, which can be boiled, baked, steamed in the oven or fried. It is also considered a spice-cake-like souffle (See the recipe).

For as much as we see commercials with carolers caroling about the latest deals for the holidays, and for as much as we sing Christmas carols on the radio,  the days of caroling are almost extinct as an every-man custom. Of course there are some that keep the tradition alive.  Groups like A Little Dickens Carolers went from a group of four friends performing at charity events to over 30 carolers performing at over 100 events per year. A Little Dickens Carolers are based out of Los Angeles and perform at local and celebrity events . On the East Coast in New York,  you can find The Dickens Victorian Carollers.  These professional carolers have performed for four presidential administrations including: father and son Bush, Clinton and a private function for the Obama’s.

Caroling doesn’t have to go the way of the VCR and 8-track tape. If caroling is something that you love, round up a few of your friends and organize a caroling party. You might want to center it around your tree-decorating, and in the old wassailing tradition ask everyone to bring an ornament or maybe some kind of Christmas treat. Make it fun and festive with traditional Christmas desserts and drinks.

If you are feeling adventurous and ready for a fun-filled experience of bringing good cheer to your neighbors, find a safe place to go in your neighborhood, bring some hot apple cider,hot cocoa or tea and Fa –la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la with your friends and family.  You never know, you might get some figgy pudding out of it!