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TIP OF THE DAY: Make Sugar Plums

“Visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.”

So goes a line from the immortal poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” more commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas.”*

Yet how many of us have recited or sung that line without knowing exactly what a sugar plum was?

No matter what today’s confectioners sell as sugar plums—purple, plum-flavored, gumdrops and gummy candies are among them—here’s the real story.
 
 
THE HISTORY OF SUGAR PLUMS

Let’s start with the fact that sugar plums are not plums coated in sugar. And that they are descended from comfits: seeds and other small centers that were sugar-coated through the technique known as sugar panning.

In fact, the predecessors of sugar plums contained no fruit, but were instead hardened sugar balls with a seed, nut, or spice inside.

They began as medieval comfits (the French word is dragées, drah-ZHAY), confectionery consisting of dried fruits, nuts, seeds or spices coated with layers. They are known as pastilles in the U.S. (or sometimes, they’re called pastels, an erroneous reference to the colored sugar).

The confections were (and are) made by coating a small seed—anise, caraway, coriander, fennel—or diced ginger—with melted sugar (photo #1). Licorice pastilles (photo #2) were also popular—the forerunners of Good & Plenty.

Almond comfits, also known as sugar almonds or Jordan almonds†, became popular favors for guests at baptisms and weddings.

In the Middle Ages, all of these candies were coated in plain white sugar. The rainbow of colors came later.

Small aniseed (and other) comfits evolved into larger aniseed balls, also sugar-coated. They were later joined by balls of spiced dried fruits and nuts fruits…which became known as sugar plums (photos #3 and #4).
 
 
WHY CALL THEM “PLUMS?”

The term sugar plum came into general usage in the 1600s. “Plum” referred to the small size and spherical or oval shape of the confection.

Before technology mechanized the process, the seeds and other centers were coated in a pan by adding layer by layer of melted sugar to build up the hard shell. It was a slow and labor-intensive process, and often took several days.

Thus, these little candies were “luxury products.” It took a significant effort to make at home, and they were not inexpensive to purchase from the confectioner. (In fact, in the 18th century, the word “plum” became British slang for a large pile of money or a bribe [source].)

By the 1860s, the Industrial Revolution engendered manufacturing with steam heat and mechanized rotating pans, comfits were now affordable for mass consumption.
 
 
CONTINUE THE TRADITION

It’s not no more difficult to make sugar plums than to make cookies from scratch.

Here are two recipes for starters. There are many more online.

And if your sugar plums are for adults only, consider adding a splash of liqueur or brandy.

  • Sugar Plums Recipe (photo #3): dried apricots, dates, prunes and walnuts, orange zest, spices, honey
  • Sugar Plums Recipe (photo #4): apricots, dates, figs, pistachios, brandy, spices, dried orange peel
  • Sugar Plums Recipe: figs, almonds, cocoa powder, cinnamon, honey, orange zest
  •  

    Candy Coated Fennel Seeds
    [1] Candy-coated fennel seeds have been a popular comfit since the Middle Ages. Many Indian restaurants have bowls of them, serving as an after-dinner breath freshener (photo courtesy Collective Pearls | WordPress).

    Licorice Pastilles
    [2] Pastilles is a modern word for comfits. They’re most often found these days as licorice pastilles. Good & Plenty candy is a larger-size (photo courtesy Jet.com).

    Sugar Plums
    [3] Comfits engendered sugar plums, sweet balls of dried fruits, nuts and spices; here, apricots, dates, prunes and walnuts (here’s the recipe from Savory Moments Blog).

    Sugar Plums

    [4] This sugar plums recipe has figs, pistachios and cocoa powder. Here’s the recipe from Katie At The Kitchen Door.

     
    ________________

    *Also called ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” from its first line, the poem was first published anonymously in 1823 and much later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, who claimed authorship in 1837. Modern scholars now attribute the poem to Henry Livingston, Jr., a Poughkeepsie army major and landholder (1748–1828).

    †English speakers call these sugar-coated almonds Jordan almonds, but they come from Spain. The word is a corruption of the French word for garden, jardin (zhar-DAN), which refers to the particular large variety of almond.

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: Cappuccino History For National Cappuccino Day

    Cappuccino
    [1] Pouring the hot, foamed milk into the espresso (photo © Olesyk | Pinterest).

    Cappuccino
    [2] A standard cappuccino (photo courtesy Truvia | Erika Dodge).

    Nespresso Aeroccino Milk Frother

    [3] Nespresso Aeroccino Milk Frother, an electric frother (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma).

    Aerolatte
    [4] Aerolatte milk frother wand, a battery-operated frother (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma).

     

    November 8th is National Cappuccino Day, a beverage that has been widely known in the U.S. only since the 1990s.

    THE COMPONENTS OF CAPPUCCINO

    Cappuccino is an espresso-based drink topped with hot milk and milk foam (photo #1). Sometimes there is a sprinkle of cinnamon or cocoa powder.

    Because of the technology needed to make the espresso and foam the milk, cappuccino is not an ancient drink: It is little more than hundred years old.

    Before there was cappuccino, there had to be espresso.

    While modern coffee culture has been around since the 15th century (the history of coffee), it took a few more centuries for espresso to appear.

    The espresso coffee machine was invented in Italy; the first patent was filed by Luigi Bezzera in 1901.

    Espresso grew in popularity, and improvements were made to the original machines. The machines were complicated and bulky, thus limited to cafés with trained baristi. Sitting at a café, conversing or reading with an espresso, cappuccino or latte, became a leisure activity.

    The first record of the term “cappuccino” dates to the 1930s [source].

    It seems to have been served Viennese style, topped with whipped cream and cinnamon or chocolate shavings.

    After World War II, the development of better and more widely-available espresso machines created a thick crema on the top of the espresso (which was and is drunk black). From there, a the leap to foamed milk occurred.

    The stage was set for the modern cappuccino, a base of espresso and crema, topped with one-third steamed and frothed milk, in a steam-heated porcelain cup (photo #2).

    Espresso machines were developed with built-in steam arms to easily steam and froth milk in small pitchers. Today, with improvements in technology, every home with $100 to spare can have a basic espresso machine with a frothing arm.

    A BREAKFAST DRINK

    In Italy, cappuccino is traditionally a breakfast drink, often eaten with a croissant or a breakfast pastry. Casually, it is referred to as cah-POOCH, as in un cappuch, per favore.

    Generally, Italians do not drink cappuccino after 11 a.m. But beyond Italy, anything goes. We personally enjoy cappuccino as comfort food whenever we want milky, foamy coffee. On some diet days, we can drink three or four!

    Since that can be a pricey habit at coffee bars, we have a Nespresso espresso machine.

    We also have a separate milk frother from Nespresso, called the Aeroccino (photo #3). For a modest investment, there are simple frothing wands from Aerolatte (photo #4) and other manufacturers.

    CAPPUCCINO COMES TO AMERICA

    While cappuccino spread throughout Europe, Australia, South Africa, South America, it was limited to the more cosmopolitan regions of North America in the 1970s and 1980s, until the mid-1990s.

    Then, coffee bars began to spring up everywhere, serving espresso, cappuccino, latte and other Italian coffee-based drinks and espresso-based drinks.

    HOW CAPPUCCINO GOT ITS NAME

    Cappuccino takes its name from the order of Franciscan Friars Minors, nicknamed “cappuccini” (Capuchin monks) from their hooded frocks (cappuccio means hood in Italian, but it is particular the reddish-brown color of the frock that engendered the name).

     
    There is a myth that a 17th century Capuchin monk, Marco d’Aviano, invented cappuccino after the Battle of Vienna in 1683, and that it was named after him.

    This is as much a myth as the invention of the croissant to honor Viennese victory in that same battle (history of the croissant). Both croissant and cappuccino are 20th century creations.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Servings Planner

    If you’re like us, you never know exactly how much food to make, so you make—much too much.

    In our family, one of the greatest social sins is to run out of food.

    This year, we’re using this servings planner from Whole Foods Markets.

    Just enter the number of guests, and the tool will calculate how much you should serve.

    Whatever you’ve making, just put in the number of people and it will tell you how much you need in:

  • Wine
  • Hors d’Oeuvres
  • Dips & Spreads
  • Cheese
  • Olives & Antipasti
  • Soup
  • Turkey
  • Gravy
  • Potatoes & Stuffing
  • Vegetables & Sides
  • Rolls
  • Pie
  •  

    Thanksgiving Dinner

    How much of everything do you really need (photo 1ThanksgivingDay)?

     
    If your guests are big eaters, or if you want lots of leftovers of a particular item, plan for 20% or 30% more—but not double the amount needed, as we have done.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Chocolate-Covered Nuts & Nut Clusters

    Chocolate Covered Almonds
    [1] Chocolate-covered almonds with sea salt. Photo courtesy Paleo Leap.

    Chocolate Covered Nut Clusters
    [2] For a bigger bite (and they’re even easier to make): chocolate-covered nut clusters (photo courtesy Lindt USA).

    Chocolate Covered Almonds
    [3] Nuts setting on parchment paper (photo courtesy Paleo Lezap).

     

    November 7th is National Bittersweet Chocolate With Almonds Day, which made us think:

    Why don’t we make chocolate-covered nuts as gifts…and, not selflessly, for our own snacking. You need only two ingredients: chocolate and nuts.

    Melt the chocolate, toss in the nuts: It’s that easy.

    Among the choice of confections, we think of chocolate-covered nuts as almost guilt-free.

  • The FDA supports a daily serving of 1.5 ounces of heart-healthy nuts.
  • Chocolate-dipped nuts have much less chocolate than the 1-2 ounces of dark chocolate generally considered to be an acceptable portion.
  •  
    You can use any nuts you wish, but the “magnificent seven,” those with the lowest saturated fats, are:

  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachio nuts
  • Walnuts
  •  
    You can use your chocolate of choice—dark, milk, white—but the darker the chocolate, the more flavonoids—the antioxidants that provide health benefits*. Milk chocolate doesn’t have much of them.

    The following recipe makes individually-covered nuts, but it’s even easier to make clusters:

    You don”t have to remove individual nuts from the chocolate. Just scoop the chocolate-covered nuts out with a tablespoon.
     
     
    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE COVERED NUTS

    This recipe is from Paleo Leap.

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 10 minutes.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 8 ounces dark chocolate
  • 2 cup unsalted raw nuts
  • Optional garnish: sea salt (substitute chili powder, cinnamon or other spice)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COVER a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat, stirring until fully melted. Stir the almonds into the chocolate, and toss until well coated.

    2. REMOVE the nuts with a fork or a slotted spoon (shake to eliminate excess chocolate) and place onto the baking sheet and sprinkle almonds with sea salt. Set aside until the chocolate is set.

    To make nut clusters: Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet.

    3. STORE in the fridge until ready to serve.

     
    ________________

    *Flavonoids have anti-inflammatory benefits, cardiovascular system benefits, and support a healthy nervous system (nerve regeneration, cognitive function, etc.).

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 12 Uses For Bone Broth

    WHAT IS BONE BROTH

    Bone broth is an alternative to stock, a flavorful liquid made by slowly simmering bones, cartilage and tendons, with some bits of meat that remain attached.

    The difference between stock and bone broth is that while stock can be made in three or four hours, bone broth is simmered for 24 hours or more, extracting the maximum amount of collagen (protein) and other nutrients from the bones.

    Bone broth can be made from any type of animal bones, from whatever carcass has been butchered—beef, bison, chicken, lamb, turkey—and fish bones. The broth is typically seasoned with onions and herbs.

    THE BENEFITS OF BONE BROTH

    Over the past few years, drinking cups of bone broth has become a healthy habit for those seeking a variety of healing benefits:

  • Gut health: Bone Broth helps to seal the mucosal lining of the gut, limiting leaky gut syndrome and easing chronic diarrhea, constipation, even some food intolerances.
  • Joint health: Bone broth contains glucosamine, and unlike pill supplements, the broth offers other nutritional benefits that can help reduce pain.
  • Skin improvement: Bone broth is a rich source of collagen, which has shown an improvement in skin’s elasticity.
  • Fatigue reduction: Research has shown that glycine, found in bone broth, may help improve sleep and ward off fatigue. During the day, it’s a protein-packed drink.
  • Immune system health: Bone broth’s high concentration of minerals can strengthen the immune system.
  • Bone strength: The calcium, magnesium and phosphorus that are transferred into the broth from animal bones are great for human bones.
  • Protein supplement: Bone broth contains essential amino acids, which are important for muscle recovery and energy source.
  • BONE BROTH IN COOKING

    But before we heard of bone broth as a health food darling, we used it for cooking:

  • As a cooking broth.
  • As a soup base.
  • As a nutritious diet soup and hot beverage.
  •  
    Weight Watchers began recommending bone broth* as “free food” (have all you want) when the program began back in the 1960s.

    Calories will vary by producer, but estimate 66 calories per eight-ounce cup.

    You can make your own bone broth from scratch, but most people would rather buy it than watch a simmering pot for a day.

    HOW TO ADD MORE BONE BROTH TO YOUR DIET

    What can the home cook do with bone broth, beyond heat it in the microwave to drink?

    We recently asked Bonafide Provisions, the first USDA-approved organic bone broth on the market, to shared their favorite uses for bone broth. Here are their recommendations.

    1. FROZEN CUBES. Start by freezing bone broth in ice cube trays. You’ll be ready to add extra collagen protein into soups, stews, even your simplest recipes is by dropping a cube of bone broth into them.

    2. BREAKFAST. Take your pick:
    Instead Of Coffee: For a start-the-day drink, make a bone broth “latte” instead. The collagen protein in the bone broth will fill you up. This recipe (photo #1) combines chicken bone broth, coconut milk, fresh basil and lime juice for a Thai-inspired bone broth latte.
    Pancakes & Waffles: You can “secretly” add bone broth protein to carb-laden favorites like pancakes and waffles. Here’s a recipe (photo #2).
    Breakfast Broth: Soup is a popular breakfast item in Southeast Asia. Here’s a recipe for an Asian-style breakfast soup that can be enjoyed all day.

    3. BRUNCH COCKTAILS & COCKTAIL HOUR. Become a bone broth mixologist Using bone broth in our recipes is no exception. A favorite is a bone broth Bloody Mary (photo #8), recipe below.

    4. BOILING. Use bone broth in place of water or stock for cooking. Bone broth makes a delicious and nutrient-packed alternative to water in most recipes. Cooking grains in bone broth dishes adds not only flavor, but gut-supporting collagen protein.

    5. BRAISING LIQUID. Bone broth makes a great braising liquid for vegetables, short ribs and other braises (photo #4).

    6. SAUTÉS & PAN SAUCES. Use it for all sauté and braising needs. Add a few tablespoons to ¼ cup of bone broth to deglaze the pan to make a sauce for meat. for a sauce for meat.

    7. SLOW COOKING. Create delicious and easy meals in a slow cooker. It’s as easy as adding a a protein, your favorite spices, chopped veggies and a bag of beef bone broth to your slow cooker for a fuss-free, effortless stew.

    8. SOUPS. It’s easy to add bone broth protein to just about any soup (photo #3). Using bone broth as a base for all of your soups and stews takes the hard work out of crafting a soup from scratch. Create easy blender soups with roasted vegetables. Check out these recipes from Bonafide.

    9. PROTEIN ENHANCER. Hide bone broth in foods for picky eaters who aren’t getting enough protein. Check the recipes for everything from enchiladas to potato wedges.

    10. SNACKS. Heat up 8-10 ounces of our bone broth with your favorite spices. The saltiness is satisfying and the collagen protein provides satiety.

    11. SMOOTHIES. We love to add 2 cubes of bone broth to our morning smoothies (coconut milk, spinach, berries) as a way to boost the amino acid content and add in some extra protein.

    12. BEDTIME RELAXER. Sip bone broth as a tea before bed. It’s not only a comforting, warm snack, but the amino acid, glycine, found abundantly in bone broth, helps support a deep, restful sleep.

    DO YOU HAVE MORE SUGGESTIONS FOR HOW TO USE BONE BROTH?

    Let us know!

    There are bone broth recipes for every meal of the day on the company website.
    ________________

    *Then in the form of bouillon cubes.

       

    Bone Broth Latte
    [1] Breakfast or snack: bone broth latte with coconut milk. Here’s the recipe (all photos courtesy Bonafide Bone Broth).

    Bone Broth Waffles
    [2] Add protein to breakfast: Sneak bone broth into waffles. Here’s the recipe.

    Parsnip Soup
    [3] For lunch or dinner, add bone broth to soups (here’s the recipe for this parsnip-garlic soup).

    Braised Short Ribs
    [4] Use bone broth in your braises. Here’s the recipe for braised short ribs with cauliflower purée.

    Salty Dog Cocktail
    [5] Cocktails from classics to your own creations have enhanced flavor and protein with the addition of bone broth. Here’s the recipe for this Salty Dog cocktail.

    Bonafide Bone Broth

    Bonafide Bone Broth
    [6] and [7] The four flavors of Bonafide Bone Broth.

     
    RECIPE: BONE BROTH BLOODY MARY

    A Bloody Mary with beef broth has been made for a half century or longer. It is also known as a Bloody Bull, Bull Shot and Beefy Mary.

    The saltiness of the broth gives this Bloody Mary variation a rich flavor, not to mention, collagen protein.

    Want something fruitier? Here’s a Salty Dog cocktail with bone broth.
     
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces beef bone broth
  • 3 ounces tomato juice
  • 1.5 ounces vodka
  • 1/2 a lemon, lightly squeezed
  • 1/2 a lime, lightly squeezed
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • Ice cubes
  •  

    Beefy Mary
    [8] Cocktails from classics to your own creations have enhanced flavor and protein with the addition of bone broth. The recipe for this Beefy Mary/Bloody Bull is below.

    Ranch Dip

    [9] Want to serve crudités with your Bloody Marys? Make this protein packed ranch dip recipe.

     

    For The Rim

  • Lime wedge
  • Coarse salt or Tajin or other seasoned salt
  • Optional: Minced dill and/or lemon zest
  •  
    Garnishes

    Select your own favorites. Some suggestions:

  • 1/2 stalk celery or fennel
  • Rib of romaine heart
  • Strip of bacon
  • Stuffed olives
  •  
    Here are 11 more Bloody Mary garnishes

    Preparation

    We like to mix the salt with lemon zest and/or minced dill.

    1. PLACE the salt or seasoning on a dish, rub the lime around the rim of a large glass, and twist it in the salt.

    2. COMBINE all of the drink ingredients in a mixing glass or pitcher and stir well. Taste and add horseradish, Worcestershire, salt and pepper to taste.

    3. ADD ice cubes to the glass. Add the mixed drink. Garnish with items of choice and serve.
     
     
    ABOUT BONAFIDE PROVISIONS BONE BROTH

    Bonafide Provisions was founded in 2011 when Sharon Brown, a clinical nutritionist and certified GAPS practitioner, noticed a reluctance from her patients to make their own bone broth (it’s time consuming). But her GAPS program clients were reluctant to make their own bone broth.

     
    Sharon approached her husband, a professionally-trained chef, and her niece, a nutritional therapist and CrossFit coach; together they created Bonafide Provisions.

    Products include Beef, Chicken, Turkey and Frontier Blend (beef, bison, lamb, turkey) organic bone broths. A second line, Drinkable Veggies, comprises five different blends of organic vegetable juices and bone broth, with 6-11 grams of protein per serving.

    Bonafide Provisions Certified Organic broth and Drinkable Veggies have no grains, sugar or dairy and are Whole30 approved.

    Learn more and use the store locator at BonafideProvisions.com.

      

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