The Best Boar’s Head Cheeses

From mom and pop delis to grocery store mega-chains, you can’t avoid the snaggletooth pig: Boar’s Head brand is omnipresent. At delis it’s often the fancy choice, at high-end supermarkets it’s often something in between—perhaps the best, definitely not the worst, more likely the middling choice. Affordable and consistent is what this piggy banks on.

Many people truly enjoy Boar’s Head’s cheeses, myself included. They’re charmingly inoffensive (hello, endless varieties of Cheddar) and vaguely old-world European (Muenster, I see you), straddling the line between the sins of processed cheese and the salvation of “gourmet cheese” (as imagined forty years ago in a Brooklyn boardroom).

Hands down, what Boar’s Head does best is texture, making smooth, pliable cheeses with the consistency of cheese food product but made solely of milk, salt, rennet, and enzymes—no fillers (Boar’s Head calls this “all natural”). When they venture into “fancier” territory, they inevitably disappoint. A yodeler dies every time you eat Boar’s Head Gruyere, sheep Seppuku every time you eat Boar’s Head Manchego. Looking for sophistication is a boorish move.

Your best bet is to stick with their classic styles and flavored cheeses. There’s a time and a place for everything, and sometimes the cheese that’s everywhere is as good as it gets.

Cream Havarti

boars head cheese cream havarti

Likely found at the deli counter, cream havarti deserves a chance on your next sandwich.

Photo by Laura Murray

Consider this texture queen your entry point into the Boar’s Head oeuvre: it’s smooth as a greased pig. A buttermilk-like tang keeps things interesting enough to snack on solo or (better yet) melt in a grilled cheese. Say what you will about the humdrum of Havarti—but it’s a cheese that will please everyone. You won’t have leftovers.

Havarti with Dill

boars head cheese havarti dill

So good.

Photo by Laura Murray

This is perhaps Boar’s Head’s most iconic cheese, or at least its most beloved. In an informal survey, Havarti Dill overwhelmingly came in as the fan favorite among friends, and I agree. Thanks to flecks of dill there’s a whiff of freshly mowed lawn in every bite, and that signature texture is all Barry White.

Baby Swiss

Billed as a “friendly Swiss for all ages”, this twee nub of holey cheese has a nutty undertone and a hint of mustardy flavor. Of course that velour-like texture is front and center, making Baby Swiss an opportunity to do supermarket Swiss devoid of that typical dull wax personality.

Colby Jack

Colby Jack is an amalgam of Colby and Monterey Jack, which are both indigenous to American cheese culture. They eat like a mellowed Edam or Cheddar—mild, tangy, and very snackable. Its festive mottled look is always fun, and for a basic, approachable cheese it has a surprisingly vegetal undertone, with sweet carrot and yellow squash flavors.

Horseradish Cheddar

boars head cheese horseradish cheddar

Need.

Photo by Laura Murray

Spicy and candy-like, Horseradish Cheddar comes in a close second behind Havarti Dill for the ultimate flavored cheese. Horseradish lends a special kind of heat that primarily lives in your nose; it’s like getting clipped by a tipsy Englishman in a friendly bar rumble. This is a cheese one craves. Lean in.

Chipotle Gouda

boars head cheese chipotle gouda

That font means business.

Photo by Laura Murray

Boar’s Head does flavored cheeses right. They’re punchy and push just to the edge of aggressive. Chipotle Gouda is spicier than expected with a smoky/sweet flavor that, layered onto the Boar’s Head texture, is a pleasant surprise that beckons: keep eating.

Tia Keenan is the author of The Art of the Cheese Plate: Pairings, Recipes, Style, Attitude (Rizzoli). Read more of her columns for Bon Appétit here.

Related: The Best Cheeses at Trader Joe’s

Put that cheese to work:

No-Cook Peach Mousse

While peach mixture hangs out in freezer, whip 1½ cups cream and a pinch of salt in another large bowl with a whisk. You can do this in a mixer, but in a large bowl starting with cold cream, it should only take a few minutes by hand. Work in a vigorous figure-eight pattern, switching hands if needed, until cream firmly holds marks of whisk and gently slumps into a soft, cloud-like peak as it falls off whisk. Chill cream as you wait for peach mixture to thicken.

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How to Make Perfect Whipped Cream Every Time

We’re not sure where so many beginner home cooks got the idea that making homemade whipped cream without an expensive stand mixer would leave them with carpal tunnel, but we’re here to tell you there’s nothing to be afraid of. Whipped cream is about as simple of a dessert-topper as you’re gonna get, and adding a dollop of the homemade stuff to your next pudding, cobbler, or pie will make all the difference. (Now meringue is a different story, but that’s for another time.)

Here are a few simple steps you can take to make sure that you are, in fact, whipping it good.

1. The Setup

All you need is heavy whipping cream, a large bowl and a large whisk. (Pop the bowl in the refrigerator or freezer for a bit before you get started, as a cooler surface will help the whipped cream keep its shape.) The heavy cream should double in size as you whip it, so for every cup of cream you’ll wind up with about two cups of whipped topping. Try not to fill the bowl more than a quarter of the way, so as to give the cream plenty of room to move.

2. The Technique

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Whisk the cream in the shape of a figure-eight. Try to lift the cream out of the bowl in small arcs, which will allow more air to sneak inside.

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A good sign you’re getting there is when the whisk starts to leave a lasting trail in the cream.

3. Soft Peaks

Basically Whipped Cream 6
Photo by Laura Murray

Peaks refer to the shape the whipped cream takes when you lift the cream-covered whisk out of the bowl. After a few minutes, soft peaks—Bon Appétit‘s preferred consistency for most recipes—will begin to form. Soft peaks quickly lose their shape, slumping over in a soft, cloudlike texture.

4. Stiff Peaks

Basically Whipped Cream 8
Photo by Laura Murray

For some recipes, you may want a firmer whipped cream, which will form what are called “stiff peaks.” You’ll know you’ve got stiff peaks when the cream on the whisk approaches the consistency of cotton and is able to stand up in firm points. It’s a fine line between soft and stiff peaks, and even more so between stiff peaks and curdy, halfway-to-butter whipped cream. So easy, cowboy. You can always re-whip an under-whipped cream. But once it’s too far whipped, there’s no going back.

5. The finishing touch

For very sweet desserts, a one-ingredient whipped cream will do the trick. If you’re looking to sweeten up a tart dish, add one tablespoon of powdered sugar or maple syrup per cup of cream just before you’ve reached the desired consistency. (It may not seem like it, but even a few extra whisks can take you over the edge.) And voilà, you’ve got yourself homemade whipped cream! Now all you need is a cherry on top.

Now go make this No-Cook Peach Mousse:

Wait, What Is Gelatin, Anyways?

Real talk: What is gelatin? The one thing that most of us know about this mystery substance is that it’s somehow involved the making of Jell-O, the jiggly, bouncy treat of our childhoods. But there’s so much more to know about this magical ingredient. We’re here to figure out a) what the heck gelatin is, b) how it works, and c) how we can use it to its full potential at home.

Let’s start with the first part. If you have any vegan friends, you’ve probably heard them complain at some point that they can’t eat such-and-such food product because it contains gelatin, an animal by-product. Well, they’re not wrong! Gelatin is derived from animal tissue and is a form of collagen. You know how a particularly meaty soup, broth, or braise will turn into a wiggly, nearly solid mass after it’s been refrigerated for a while? That’s because the naturally occurring gelatin in the meat, bones, cartilage, and other bits has melted into the liquid it’s cooking in. That elasticity is what makes refined (as in, doesn’t taste like meat anymore) commercially-available gelatin, which comes in a powdered form, perfect for adding a bit of semi-solid jiggle to things that would otherwise be runny liquids—think fruit juice, dairy, or booze. (It’s worth noting here that gelatin is also sold in the form of translucent sheets, but they’re tough to find and need to be prepped in a specific way before incorporating them into a recipe. Stick with the powder!)

Whether you know it or not, gelatin is kind of everywhere. It turns a meringue into a powdery, chewy marshmallow. It makes sweetened cream into an indulgent panna cotta. And it transforms fruit juice into a gummy bears (with a mold to help create the shape).

Basically Gelatin Horizontal
Photo by Laura Murray

What is gelatin? It’s the semi-invisible stuff dissolving in that bowl! But it’s going to become something great.

That all sounds easy, but there is a science to making sure your gelatin does its job. First and foremost, powdered gelatin must be dissolved in cold water, and you’ll want to sprinkle it evenly across the surface of the liquid so every granule comes in contact with water and hydrates fully. Then you add the now-dissolved gelatin to a warm liquid, which gets the collagen molecules to loosen up and stretch out. It’s only when you transfer your mixture to a fridge for at least four hours (overnight is preferable, though!) that the gelatin molecules rebond and turn your liquid into a smooth, glossy, jiggly solid. Yay, science! As a rule, one packet of gelatin should be enough to get two cups of liquid firm, but still loose enough to get out of any mold you put it in.

Now that you know some gelatin basics, you can start using it at home with more confidence. Run with that and you’ll be making panna cottas and homemade marshmallows in no time. (Or, at the very least, our super-simple No-Cook Peach Mousse.)

About that No-Cook Peach Mousse:

And if there are any vegans who’ve made it this far, some gelatin-free cookies for you:

This Eggplant Dip Is Smoky, Creamy Perfection

So you fired up the grill, cooked some steaks, and now you’re letting them rest until you can dig in. But what about that residual heat from your charcoal? Don’t let that fire go to waste. Get rid of your grate and start cooking directly on the coals.

Whole onions buried under some hot coals will pick up whispers of smoke, while its flesh becomes jammy. Corn still in its husk will become perfectly tender. But, the one ingredient that reigns supreme directly on coals is eggplant. The nightshade will sizzle once it hits the heat, but don’t be alarmed. The burning exterior will become leathery and will be of no use but will lightly smoke and perfume the interior, giving it the flavor of the grill, while the sweet flesh gets soft and creamy.

After the eggplant’s well-charred, peel it, scoop out the flesh, and turn it into this incredible dip.

I grew up eating mama Baraghani’s version, called borani bademjaan, a Persian eggplant and yogurt dip. She usually adds a bit of ground turmeric to the mashed-up charred eggplant before stirring in Persian-style yogurt, which has a consistency somewhere between Greek and American-style yogurt. She’ll top the dip with a sizzled mint oil, crispy garlic chips, more yogurt, and occasionally a few drops of saffron water accompanied with a stack full of warm lavash bread.

I usually take a much easier approach. If I’m building a fire and grilling for a few hours, I’m probably not going to go inside to turn on the stove to make garlic chips. My version consists of a few dollops of Greek yogurt, along with a few glugs of olive oil and a bit of grated garlic. Red pepper flakes may make a cameo, but lemon juice should not be forgotten, along with a fistful of torn mint to top it off. I’ll usually skip the flatbread and serve it with crunchy vegetables or use it as a spread on sandwiches.

And while I highly recommend cooking the eggplants directly on the coals, you can get away with cooking it on a gas grill or in the oven. You’ll be missing the whispers of smoke, but you’ll still get that lovely creamy interior.

Smoky Eggplant Dip

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Serve this dip with chips, as part of a meze platter, or slather it on grilled chicken thighs or lamb chops. This recipe is perfect after you’ve grilled dinner and the fire has mellowed—don’t let those coals go to waste! Your reward is this easy, smoky dip.

SEE RECIPE

5 New Jerkies, None of Them Are Beef

Coconut

You could pretty much serve this coconut jerky to anyone, regardless of dietary restriction: It’s raw, vegan, paleo, gluten-free, and soy-free. And its three flavors—chili lime, ginger teriyaki, and original—will distract you from the fact that it’s not meat.

Sausages with baked beans, French style

Introduction

Sausages with baked beans, French style

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What could be more basic than sausages and beans? This is a rustic French version using dried white haricot beans (or “mogettes”) that are first boiled fast, then left to cook slowly with tomatoes and smoked sausages.

The long cooking allows the smoky flavour of the sausages to gradually spread down into the beans – simply delicious!

Last modified on: July 26th 2017

6 Beers Made with Cereal—Not a Part of Your Complete Breakfast

As someone who drinks like it’s my job (because it is), I’ve seen beers made with everything from Oreo cookies to pig’s heads, and just about every fruit under the sun. But nothing captures my attention quite like cereal beers, which take me way back to Saturday mornings in front of the TV.

The process for creating a cereal beer varies depending on the brewer. Some throw the sugar-coated deliciousness straight into the boil, which is usually when hops and other flavorings get added, while others wait until after the boil and age their beer overtop. Regardless of technique, one of the biggest challenges when brewing with cereal is that it adds simple sugars. During fermentation, yeast eats sugar and produces alcohol, and too much sugar means the potential for over-carbonation. Another problem is getting the cereal in and out of the beer—a simple task when you’re talking about a box or two, but more difficult when you’re working on a commercial scale of 35 boxes of Count Chocula.

Thankfully, innovative brewers have worked through the problems of brewing with cereal to create fascinating beers. Get yourself a bowl and keep reading.

cerealiciously
Via Instagram/guzowski

Peanut Butter Crunch

Black Bottle Brewery, Fort Collins, Colorado

This beer uses 35 pounds of Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch. It’s part of the brewery’s Cerealiously series, which started with a Golden Grahams-based beer in August of 2013 and has since used Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Count Chocula, and Lucky Charms, among others. Like all the beers in the Cerealiously series, Peanut Butter Crunch is a milk stout at heart, medium-to-full bodied with a tan head. On top of the roasty aroma, it has the distinct scent of peanut butter. The beer drinks sweet with a dry, roasted, lingering aftertaste.

Puff Puff Shiv

Prison City Pub and Brewery, Auburn, New York

When Prison City messed up one of their beers, their head brewer Ben Maeso ran to Wegmans grocery store on a desperate rescue mission. He bought over 50 boxes of Cocoa Puffs and added them straight into the fermenter. The result was Puff Puff Shiv, a brown ale that tastes exactly like the milk left over after a delicious bowl of Cocoa Puffs. Prison City Bartender Frank Witkowski gave us tasting notes: smooth milk chocolate upfront with a little bit of hazelnut. Since that first delicious mistake, the brewery has made Puff Puff Shiv three times (the last was in 2016), but it’s Maeso’s least favorite beer to make because the cleanup is a beast, so a fourth batch isn’t likely. However, if Maeso were to brew another cereal beer—and that’s a big if—he’s said that he’d like to use Reese’s Puffs.

cereal milk beer brew rebellion
Via Instagram/strangerbrews

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Brew Rebellion, San Bernardino, California

The owners of Brew Rebellion recently starred on Amazon’s show “Barely Beer Barons,” but we know them for their Saturday Morning Cartoons series. The Fruit Loops version even has pieces of the cereal embedded in the wax covering the top of the bottle. The 5.6 percent stout beer pours an opaque black with a thin head and smells like the sweet cereal. We’re happy to report that although it’s faint, the beer does indeed taste like fruity goodness.

saturday morning cartoon beer
Courtesy of Somerville Brewing Company

Saturday Morning

Somerville Brewing Company, Somerville, MA

One of the more recent additions to the pantry of cereal beers, Somerville Brewing Company’s Saturday Morning was created earlier this year. The 9 percent Belgian tripel is made with 40 pounds of Cap’n Crunch Berries. Somerville Brewing Company shift lead Melanie Berman said that the beer basically tasted like the cereal, with a double dose of sweetness. Unfortunately, Saturday Morning appears to be a one-off, but we can always hope for a second batch.

Session IPA – Fruity Pebbles

McFate Brewing Company, Scottsdale, Arizona

In 2014, Scottsdale, Arizona-based McFate cask conditioned 10 gallons of their session on Fruity Pebbles. Travis Pack, the general manager of McFate’s original brewpub, remembers that most people thought it was a joke. Although the cereal didn’t make the beer particularly colorful, the flavor was unmistakable—bright and crisp upfront, with the Fruity Pebbles coming through as a sweetness on the finish. Around the same time, the brewery also made Puffs Imperial Coffee Milk Porter, which they cask conditioned over Cocoa Puffs, though Pack says the cereal didn’t come through as much because Puffs was a heavier beer.

hefewheaties
Courtesy of Fulton Brewery

HefeWheaties

Fulton Brewery, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Okay, the name is a misnomer—unlike the beers listed above, HefeWheaties doesn’t contain cereal, and it doesn’t taste like Wheaties. Instead, it’s a 4.7 percent ABV unfiltered hefeweizen that gets a slight citrus flavor from a combination of Rakau, Galaxy, Mandarina Bavaria, and Sorachi Ace hops. The name comes from Fulton Brewery’s partnership with General Mills, another Minneapolis-based company, which helped design the HefeWheaties can to look like the Breakfast of Champions. According to Fulton Director of Marketing Tucker Gerrick, the project came together when someone from Fulton and someone from General Mills were tossing around ideas at a local bar—within four months, they had a beer. The beer sold out so quickly that Fulton didn’t have enough to satisfy all their accounts. At present, there are no plans to brew HefeWheaties again, but Gerrick said Fulton is open to the idea if General Mills gives them a call…

Kenny Gould is the Editor in Chief of Hop Culture, an online craft beer magazine. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Experts review 25 cereal milks—whoa:

Clafoutis: The Lazy Summer Custard You Can Make on a Whim

Summer is a sanctioned time to be lazy, and this applies to desserts as much as it does to finishing your summer reading. I’ll get to it when I get to it! At first I thought a galette was the easiest summer dessert, but there’s something even easier that doesn’t require 1. Stirring with your tired arms 2. Ingredients that you’d have to add to a grocery list in order to remember, and 3. A rolling pin.

Clafoutis!

Cla-footi?

Cla-fow-ti?

Clah-foo-tee?

Even in our recipe archives, sometimes we spell it with an s, sometimes not. Either way, I definitely mispronounce it every time I say it aloud. But every time I say it in a muppet-like Julia Child accent and so should you.

Clafoutis is a baked custard with fruit, which sounds super boring when you read that in your head. But it’s not, I swear. It’s thrilling! It’s so damn easy. Fluffy, low-key French custard that doesn’t ask for much—other than the rest of the eggs in your fridge (three). And cherries! When you present this fancy-sounding, fancy-looking dessert to a table of people who assumed you were going to open a tub of supermarket Rocky Road and throw spoons at their faces, they’ll love it.

It’s classic–and having a moment in the BA test kitchen. On one weekend this summer, both food director Carla Lalli Music and senior food editor Claire Saffitz (hers is pictured up top) made it unbeknownst to each other. Now that’s what I call a sign.

cherry clafoutis carla

Carla’s July 4th clafoutis and a tiny child hand.

Photo by Carla Lalli Music

After I watched Carla demonstrate how to make it on Facebook Live, I woke up the next day and made one myself—because I wanted breakfast custard and have a misplaced sense of priority. She used this simple recipe from the excellent blog (now on hiatus! Come back, Joe!) Joe Pastry that calls for: 1¼ cups milk, ⅓ cup white sugar, ⅓ cup light brown sugar, 3 eggs, 2 teaspoons vanilla, almond extract that I skipped, ⅛ teaspoon salt, ½ cup flour, and a pound of cherries. I had these random tart Japanese green plums so I used those instead. (Other fruits you can play around with: blackberries, blueberries, fresh figs cut in half, prunes, Italian plums, and pears. But not strawberries or raspberry because they’re too juicy and won’t hold their shape.)

cherry clafoutis prep claire

Carla’s clafoutis before a dousing of custard.

Photo by Carla Lalli Music

How easy is this? You cut the fruit. Or pit the cherries (or not?! Some people don’t like the way the color bleeds when they’re pitted and apparently like to test the molars of dinner guests—and also claim the pit adds an almond-y flavor but come on, that can’t be fun to eat). You throw everything but the fruit in a food processor or blender and press HIGH (if you want you can whisk it but I prefer to let my arms rest up before the winter). Put the fruit in a buttered dish or cast iron. Pour the thin, crepe-like mixture on top and throw in the oven for an hour. If you’re having people over, you sprinkle powdered sugar on top, but I was too lazy to get the ladder I need to reach it in my pantry. I just wanted eggy custard, let me live.

Watch Carla make a cherry clafoutis here:

You Need a Big Cutting Board

There are a lot of bad cutting boards out there. Glass? Throw that garbage out. Those “cool” ones in the shape of your home state? Hang it on the wall if you must, but don’t bring it close to my kitchen.

If you only have space for one cutting board, make it a decent-sized one, like this one from OXO. (If you want to go fancy and get a wooden board, we like Boos). It sounds dramatic to say that it’s changed my cooking life, but it’s the truth.

A big cutting board allows me to prep a whole meal at once without having to throw various chopped ingredients in bowls to make space on the board. (You do realize you’re going to have to wash all those little bowls later, right?) I can dice onions, smash garlic, chop carrots, and mince herbs all on the same surface, parking each prepped ingredient around the perimeter before moving on to the next task.

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Peden + Munk

Who has time to wash all those bowls?! Not me. Not you. Not nobody.

I don’t have to clutter my counter with bowls of chopped celery and torn basil anymore. They just stay on the cutting board.

Look, I’m not swimming in counter space here—the big cutting board pretty much takes up everything I’ve got. But it’s worth it, even if cleaning it is a pain in the ass because it doesn’t really fit all the way into the sink. (Again: less of a pain in the ass than washing eight little bowls.)

Over the years, I’ve tried to convince my mother about a lot of various strong-held food opinions that I have. (Skim milk is not, in fact, the best milk; you should never buy bottled salad dressing because making it from scratch is so easy; please for the love of God stop using small knives and dust off the nice chef’s knife you have instead.) And while most of my pleas have fallen on deaf ears (and, fair enough, she pretty much never has to listen to me given all those dishes I never washed as a kid…) except for one thing: She just traded all of her tiny cutting boards for a big, handsome one. Mom knows best, after all.

With a big board like that, there’s plenty of room to practice your knife skills:

A Knife Set Is Not the Answer

We pay for a lot of things we don’t need. Exhibit A: The second tube of whatever fancy facial cream resides in your bathroom cabinet. Exhibit B: Anything from any infomercial ever. Exhibit C: Knife sets, those 14-piece cutlery displays that sit in blocks of wood on kitchen counters across the world. The ones that are full of knives that we will probably never find a use for.

We get it though. The knife set seems like a great deal. All of those knives, including some that have no concrete purpose or name, in one convenient package, for a very reasonable price. But we’ll let you in on a little secret. The home cook, when it comes down to it, only needs three knives in the kitchen. You can accomplish just about everything with an 8” chef’s knife, a 3-4” paring knife, and a serrated bread knife.

You don’t really need carving knives or any number of other highly specific, purpose-built blades when you’re just starting out. Not that those knives aren’t useful or do what they’re built to do extremely well—it’s just that you probably don’t need a thin, flexible knife made for filleting fish if you don’t, you know, ever fillet fish. Knife sets seem to tack on things like kitchen shears, historically terrible steak knives, and bird’s beak paring knives in order to give you more bang for your buck. Really, you shouldn’t be paying for them at all. There is no bang; only your buck.

But easily the worst thing about knife sets is that there’s no freedom to choose. When you commit to a set, you’re committing to one brand making every single knife you own. You might absolutely love the chef’s knife that one brand makes, but feel totally weird holding the same company’s paring knife. Which brings us to the most important piece of advice: You should always hold a knife before you buy it. You should make sure you’re comfortable with the way it feels in your hand. If you’re buying knives at a store that won’t take one (or several) out, talk to you about it, and let you feel the weight of it in your hand before dropping dime on it, you’re at the wrong store. You wouldn’t buy pants without trying them on, right? Even if you got an extra pair for half the price, you’d be walking around looking pretty foolish. Let’s take that same try-it-on approach with knives. Well, almost. For the safety of your legs, we don’t suggest you actually wear them.

And on top of all that, those clunky wooden knife blocks that the knives are meant to be stored in take up a very solid chunk of real estate on your counter. We’re not counter space millionaires here; we’re not rolling in extra acreage. Every bit of room we can save on the counter for the dishes we’re not doing or the bottles of wine we’re drinking is precious. So let’s keep our knives off of the counter. Senior food editor Claire Saffitz says to throw them in a drawer, but only with proper knife guards, or mount them on a magnetic strip on the wall in order to save space.

A tighter, more thoughtful knife lineup saves space and money, but really it’s about getting you comfortable with the bare minimum of knives you need and learning to use them to their full potential. You’re not going to become an onion-chopping expert by practicing the process with six different knives. You’re going to get there by using one.

One day, your knife skills will be like Jacques’. One day.

The Unicorn Pepper Mill Is So Much Better Than the Rest

The Unicorn Pepper Mill is good. Really good. But part of what makes it shine so brightly is how bad the competition is. Pepper mills (aka pepper grinders) rank just behind knives as primary causes of horrific kitchen accidents, according to an unofficial study that occurred in my life experience. I have lost the top screws to other pepper mills in the middle of restaurant service and watched them roll to a stop several feet behind 500 degree ovens. I have had them fall apart in my hands and dump hundreds of peppercorns into a cauldron of soup and then had to fish every single one out. I have also seen some genuine crimes against design out there that wouldn’t belong at the bottom of a kitchen drawer, let alone out in plain sight on a countertop.

Like meeting someone nice and sane after dating a series of crazies, the Unicorn, made by Tom David, Inc on Nantucket Island of all places (but using Italian-built grinding mechanisms), earns its name by actually being as special as you hope it will be. It is sleek, black or white, and understated, with an oversized opening for adding peppercorns that twists closed seamlessly. The only screw is on the bottom, used for adjusting the grind size, and is easy to twist by hand and yet never seems to loosen, the way some grinders start out making pepper dust but after a day’s grind are dropping out whole peppercorns onto your salad.

Salt & Pepper Rib Eye

This salt-and-pepper rib eye is a good recipe to “test” your new unicorn on.

Francesco Tonelli

It is that rare pepper mill that does what it is supposed to do. It a) holds a lot of peppercorns without looking like a prop from a kitschy Italian restaurant b) allows easy and precise grind-size adjustments c) allows easy access to the peppercorn reservoir without the need for unscrewing anything so you can have access to whole peppercorns in seconds without needing to rummage around in the spice cabinet. That means you might actually find yourself using whole peppercorns when you should, like intentionally sprinkling some into a stock destined for soup duty, or cracking some on a cutting board to finish off a grilled steak. With the right grinder you will d) look like a badass and e) your food will be all the more delicious.

Pick one up here and see the magic for yourself

These cacio e pepe chips need a lot of pepper:

Fresh Lemon Juice Is the Most Powerful, Versatile Ingredient Ever

Life doesn’t give you lemons; you have to buy them. And you should: by the bagful, the armful, the case if you can. Because fresh lemon juice—as in, the stuff you squeeze out of actual fruit, not the plastic lemon-shaped bottle—might just be the most powerful, versatile ingredient in your kitchen ever.

See, no matter what you’re cooking—sweet or savory—you’re almost always going to need to add acid. (When we say “acid” in this case we mean anything tart and tangy: vinegar, pickle brine, citrus juice, basically anything sour.) Whether you’re making a blueberry pie, searing a steak, or whisking together a quick yogurt sauce, acid is the essential foil to fat, salt, and sugar in a given dish, balancing out other intense flavors while also adding a mouthwatering lift. And while we love and adore all of sources of acid in our kitchen, fresh lemon juice is the queen of them all.

0317 ba basics lemon garlic roasted chicken 9
Alex Lau

No-Fail Roast Chicken with Lemon and Garlic. Chicken loves lemon. Lemon loves chicken. We love them both.

Why? Well for one, the flavor is brighter and more complex than even the fanciest vinegar money can buy. That’s because when you squeeze a lemon you’re not just getting juice, but the fragrant essential oils trapped in the peel, too. (Ever wonder why people cook with lemon zest? That’s why!) The intoxicating combo of the juice’s tartness with the aromatic qualities of the oil is the thing that wakes up just about everything it touches, from a fruit salad to a can of sardines.

But here’s the other thing. Fresh lemon juice isn’t just key for balancing all the other elements in a dish—it’s a beautiful, delicious flavoring all its own. If you’ve got lemons, you’ve got the makings of lemon bars, a lemon vinaigrette—our desert island dressing for everything from green salad to grilled fish to blanched asparagus—and any of the stupid-simple citrus-based cocktails in the sour family. Unlike, say, red wine vinegar, lemon is more than an accent; it’s everything. Ever heard of red wine vinegar-ade? Didn’t think so.

So here’s the move: Whenever you’re at the store, buy lemons. Not one or two, but a good bagful. Never mind that you might have a few left at home. If you end up with too many lemons, you can always just make a batch of lemon curd, mix up a tall pitcher of healing tonic, or, if you’re feeling all fancy, preserve them. But if you end up with no lemons? Well, then you’re just screwed.

Another good reason to buy a few extra? Lemon. Pigs.

Coconut-Chile Palapa Sauce

Heat oil in wok over medium-low. Cook garlic, ginger, and scallions, stirring constantly, until very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in chopped chiles, mushroom powder, toasted coconut, lime leaves, sugar, and salt. Cook, stirring often, until golden brown and very aromatic, about 5 minutes. Let cool before serving.

This Palapa Recipe Is Sweet, Spicy, Garlicky and Just Ridiculously Good

Step inside Washington DC’s Bad Saint, and you will be treated to the kind of welcoming hospitality that usually only exists in people’s homes. Despite an LA-worthy line that forms outside the restaurant every night they are open, (and possibly their nights off as well so people can get a jump on the next day), the warmth of co-owner Genevieve Villamora’s beaming smile when you enter makes you forget that you are even in a restaurant.

It was fitting then, that when Bad Saint’s staff rolled into the BA Test Kitchen along with the other 2016 Hot 10 winners for a welcoming party, they came bearing hostess gifts, as though they were dropping by our house for a dinner party. The three condiments they brought were all amazing: a chile vinegar, an XO sauce, and one that was mysteriously labelled “Palapa.”

While all were waaaaaay better than good, that Palapa was straight-up beguiling—the word I use when I taste something delicious but have no idea what it is. Spicy, sweet, earthy, and garlicky; we knew there was coconut, garlic, and chiles in it but not much else. Despite starting with a large jar, the amount of palapa steadily decreased over the next month as it topped virtually every family meal in the test kitchen, from scrambled eggs to rice, sandwiches, and every protein. It went with everything, like a sprinkle-able hot sauce, but one with texture and a range of aromas and tastes that went far beyond just heat.

We did what any good host would do after being given a great present: We asked for more. Genevieve sent some, but it got lost in the mail (allegedly). Maybe the post office smelled it through the bubble wrap and intercepted it, or maybe Genevieve realized we had become Palapa-dependent and wanted us to detox. We asked for the recipe, determined to make our own Palapa, but that never showed up either. We don’t ever blame chefs for guarding their secrets, but, in this case, we had opened up our palates to a new condiment, and life without it was so much worse.

After another round of pleading, Genevieve persuaded chef Tom Cunanan to finally give us the recipe. It was game on. The recipe had several surprises, the first being that it starts with fresh shredded coconut, not dried. I was wearing my coconut-cracking goggles in no time, and my test kitchen colleagues didn’t even dare to laugh at me for once because that is how bad they wanted more Palapa. First step, toasting the shredded coconut, which takes longer when it is fresh but yields crispy-chewy strands that get golden as they toast in their own oil without needing any extra fat. Then I gently sweated some garlic, ginger, and scallions (Tom uses spring garlic when it is in season) before adding salt, sugar, shiitake mushroom powder (never would have guessed, and you can make your own from dried shiitakes in a spice grinder), Thai chiles, and makrut lime leaves. That’s it. Add the toasted coconut back in, cook it all together for a few minutes, and it becomes a superstar condiment that will last for months in the fridge.

Once they agreed to send the recipe, Genevieve also provided a torrent of information to go with it. She explained: “Palapa is staple condiment in Maranao cuisine, in the predominantly Muslim southern Philippines (Mindanao). There are various forms of palapa: 1) fresh or raw palapa (like we used in the palapa salad) and 2) cooked palapa, which is often used to marinate or finish cooked meat—that’s the condiment that you all have.”

The amazing thing about it is that it doesn’t need to be a condiment at all. You can toss it right into a stir-fry with some vegetables and it saves the work of needing to chop up any aromatics like garlic and ginger. It can similarly flavor a stew or braise, or even work as a dry marinade for proteins like shrimp or fish with no need to remove it before cooking.

Palapa supply now secure, we are considering pushing our luck by asking for Bad Saint’s XO sauce. Just don’t even think about cutting us in line.

Coconut-Chile Palapa Sauce

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This spicy-sweet-funky Filipino condiment is delicious on grilled fish, chicken, tacos, sandwiches, grain bowls, noodles, eggs, burgers… pretty much anything you can think of will be improved by a dab or two.

SEE RECIPE

The Best Balsamic Vinegars You Can Buy at the Grocery Store

Balsamic vinegar is like the PB+J of vinegars: You know it, you’ve had it, you can pretty much find it anywhere. But, like most ubiquitous food products in the U.S., the quality can vary widely. When it comes to good quality balsamic vinegar, there are three terms you need to know: D.O.P., Condimento, and IGP. According to Michael Harlan Turkell, author of Acid Trip: Travels in the World of Vinegar, if one of these three words is on the label, you’re making a decent choice.True balsamic vinegar is always labeled “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale” and has a D.O.P. stamp, which basically guarantees that the origin and location of production (Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy) has been verified. Although we would all love to drizzle the finest balsamic from Modena on every one of our salads, that may not be realistic. “When we find them, they’re quite expensive”, says Turkell.Condimento is your next tier of balsamic. The term legitimizes good quality balsamic that was not supervised as closely as a D.O.P. or did not age as long as a typical D.O.P. Still, this type of balsamic vinegar is typically aged for 3-7 years.There’s not enough D.O.P. and Condimento balsamic to meet the world’s demand, so the term I.G.P. confirms that the grape used to create the balsamic is similar to the grape from the region of Modena in Italy. I.G.P. balsamic vinegar is likely to be your best supermarket bet: a mass-produced balsamic that still maintains some quality standards.We tasted over a dozen affordable brands of balsamic and, with Turkell’s guidance, chose five we’d keep on hand for cooking, drizzling, and all-purpose use. Consider these balsamics your gateway to the “good stuff.”

Your New Go-To Pairing for Sauvignon Blanc Is a Farmers’ Market Dream

Nothing says summer like a delicious, light, and crispy vegetable tart that showcases the season’s fresh vegetables. And when they’re fresh from the farmers market and in their season’s peak, you don’t have to do much to make them shine. Whipping up something that’s just as good at room temperature as it is fresh out of the oven makes an anytime dish that’s easy to prepare. Pair it with a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc and you have a perfect meal to enjoy with family and friends al fresco, to take in the warmer weather. Match this mouthwatering Zucchini, Corn and Goat Cheese Tart recipe from BA Executive Chef Mary Nolan with the crisp acidity and bright citrus fruit notes in the Tom Gore Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. Gather your fresh veggies, pour a glass, and enjoy.

Grilled Lamb and Blackberries? It’s Going to Be Your New Favorite Flavor Combo

When late summer rolls around, the farmers market is full of delicious produce at the prime of ripeness. It’s the perfect time to pair these brilliant flavors with grilled lamb chops and a rich and full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. BA Executive Chef Mary Nolan created a mouthwatering recipe with a jammy pan reduction made with blackberry, shallots, fresh rosemary, and a splash of Tom Gore Vineyards wine to balance the dish. It’s a tasty accompaniment to a bright, peppery arugula salad that’s dressed in a simple lemon and olive oil vinaigrette, alongside a nutty rice pilaf with herbs. Our pro tip? Using some of the wine in the pan sauce along with the blackberries accentuates their flavor and pairs beautifully with the Tom Gore Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.

Steak, Wine, and Summer’s Best Tomatoes Are a Match Made in Heaven

Warm weather, grilled steaks, fresh basil, and colorful tomatoes that are bursting with flavor—what’s better? The answer (of course) is not much! BA Executive Chef Mary Nolan’s favorite season is summer, mainly due to beautiful ingredients that are available and in their prime during these months. She created a winning grilled rib-eye recipe with heirloom tomatoes and an herb butter that pairs perfectly with the rich and full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from Tom Gore Vineyards. The acidity of the tomatoes and the cream in the basil butter will pair well with the mouthfeel of the wine. Serve with grilled bread that’s slathered with extra basil butter, and this is a winning dish you can devour any night of the week!

Starbucks Apron Colors Have Secret Meanings

Next time you’re ordering your daily Caramel Macchiato, stop to notice what color Starbucks apron your barista and cashier are wearing. If you assumed it will always be that signature green shade, think again.

It turns out that there are hidden codes in the different colors the baristas wear. (Mystery! Intrigue! Dan Brown, can’t wait to read your bestseller about it.) Although most employees don the green, there are also black, orange, red, or even purple aprons behind those coffee counters. So what does it all mean??

According to a new blog post on the Starbucks website, any employee can wear the green Starbucks apron, but employees who have served in the military also have the option of getting their aprons embroidered with an American flag. In addition, those baristas who have graduated from the Starbucks College Achievement Plan receive an apron embroidered with a mortarboard. If you’re a deaf barista, the company will embroider the word “Starbucks” in sign language on the fabric. If you’re looking to find the Holy Grail, you get an apron painted with The Last Supper. Yes, that was a Da Vinci Code joke in 2017. Please go with it.

More on those little-known color schemes: Some Starbucks apron colors are one-time specials, like the orange aprons in the Netherlands to celebrate King’s Day or the pale blue aprons for the launch of Frappuccino Happy Hour, and a rare purple apron for “barista champions” (every year, only 26 baristas worldwide win one). The black apron is more common than the rare colors and is reserved for Coffee Masters, a.k.a those who are “certified in expert coffee knowledge.” In 1997, when the now-infamous holiday cups were created, two red aprons were given to each store—making them almost as rare as a red cup design.

The more you know.

Related:What Happens When Starbucks Wants to Sell Your Baked Goods?

Life skills:

6 Peach Desserts That Are the Definition of Summer

There are few things more demoralizing in this world than watching an overly-ambitious haul of peaches sit in the fruit bowl growing old and bruised. As summer takes its last lap, get familiar with these six simple peach desserts by senior food editor Andy Baraghani—as delicious as they are doable—and we can guarantee that no peach will ever get left behind in your kitchen again.

When buying peaches, Andy asks the sellers at the farmer’s market for freestone peaches, versus cling peaches, which are exactly what they sound like. A freestone peach can be cut in half cleanly, as the pit falls right out. Cling means the peach is sort of stuck in there. The taste is the same, he just likes the way the freestone peaches look when presented in a beautiful dessert. Tip #2: Don’t get frustrated if you want a peach dessert tonight and your peaches are a little underripe. In that case, make a recipe in which they’ll get cooked down, because the sugars will concentrate and be as sweet as if they were ripe. The cobbler recipe below is perfect for that.

The question of the hour: Can I just use nectarines interchangeably in these recipes? Yes, but hold on. Nectarines are slightly smaller than peaches, so for a recipe that calls for three peaches, Andy would use four nectarines. You’ll have to use your own judgment, but we have a feeling everything will turn out wonderful. Now let’s take a look at those recipes:

Meringue Clouds with Peach Curd

meringue clouds with peach curd
Elizabeth Cecil

With dreamy clouds of meringue, just a hint of sweetness, and a healthy dose of rum, this is a grown-up dessert if we’ve ever seen one. And if you—god forbid—find yourself with a little too much leftover peach curd, you can have yourself a better-than-usual breakfast the next morning by drizzling it over a stack of pancakes, or mixing it into your late afternoon yogurt snack.

Peach and Raspberry Cream Pops

peach and raspberry cream pops
Elizabeth Cecil

Peaches and raspberries may be the heart and soul of this recipe, but milk powder is the secret ingredient that sends it over the top, with all the creamy flavor of a Creamsicle with none of the artificial, store-bought taste.

Peaches with Ginger Syrup and Buttermilk

peaches with ginger syrup and buttermilk
Elizabeth Cecil

Peaches and cream gets a sophisticated upgrade with this combination of buttermilk, cream cheese, and ginger-marinated peaches. And in case you’re feeling a little too sophisticated, don’t forget the crumbled sugar cone, which will make you feel like a kid again.

Tapioca Pearl Pudding with Grilled Peaches and Pistachios

tapioca pearl pudding with grilled peaches and pistachios
Elizabeth Cecil

Name a more iconic duo than peaches and pistachios. I’ll wait. Oh, grilled peaches and pistachios? Fair enough. This Mediterranean-inspired dessert adds soft pudding and aromatic cardamom to the mix to play off the pistachios’ crunchiness and the peaches’ sweetness. Sounds to us like a dessert match made in heaven. But wait, there’s more—you can honestly make this with ANY nut, so if you’re a peanut person, feel free to swap.

Peach Tarte Tatin

peach tarte tatin
Elizabeth Cecil

Light, flaky crust, meet soft, juicy, caramelized peaches. Bring this make-ahead recipe to your next summer party, and we guarantee it’ll be the most popular dish at the dessert buffet. Just make sure your greedy friends don’t gobble up the whole thing before you get your slice.

Peach and Berry Cobbler with Cinnamon Cream

peach and berry cobbler with cinnamon cream
Elizabeth Cecil

Sometimes you can’t beat a classic. But you can find the gold standard recipe for said classic, like this simple cobbler, which combines a three-ingredient biscuit with a juicy mix of fruits and a dollop of next-level whipped cream on top. Buttery, tart, creamy, and sweet. Need we say more?

Another easy peach dessert—grill them while camping with Brad:

Tapioca Pearl Pudding with Grilled Peaches and Pistachios

Meanwhile, bring half-and-half and cardamom to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar and salt, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring often, until reduced by one-third, 8–10 minutes. Add tapioca and cook until mixture is the consistency of a thick soup, 6–8 minutes. Let cool, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Meringue Clouds with Peach Curd

Preheat oven to 200°. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until frothy, about 1 minute. With the motor running, add ½ cup sugar, 1 Tbsp. at a time, and beat until medium peaks form, about 5 minutes. Continue to beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, 10–12 minutes.

Peach Tarte Tatin

Remove skillet from heat; mix in butter, then gradually add bourbon, stirring constantly. Caramel will seize initially but smooth out again later, so don’t worry. Add salt and scrape in vanilla seeds; reserve pod for another use. Set skillet over medium-low heat and stir until any hardened caramel is dissolved, about 4 minutes. Scrape peaches into skillet and cook, gently stirring occasionally, until they’ve softened and released more juices, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer peaches to a medium bowl and continue to cook caramel in skillet until there is just enough to cover surface, 6–8 minutes. Return peaches to skillet and arrange skin side down; remove skillet from heat.

Peach and Raspberry Cream Pops

Meanwhile, heat milk, milk powder, and remaining ⅓ cup sugar in a small saucepan over medium, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes; let cool.

Peaches in Ginger Syrup with Buttermilk

Using the tip of a paring knife, score an “X” in the bottom of each peach. Cook peaches in a medium pot of boiling water just until skins begin to peel back where cut, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl of ice water and let cool. Carefully peel peaches, then quarter lengthwise. Transfer to a medium bowl.

Wedding Cake Trends of 2017: Goodbye Ombré, Hello Watercolor Frosting

As we see it, a stunning, drool-inducing wedding cake is the single most important part of any reception—well, second most important, after a happy couple. (Okay, debatable.) Whether you’re planning your own nuptials or curious about what you’ll be served a slice of on five consecutive Saturdays this summer, we’ve got you covered. We asked three of the country’s most sought-after bakers, capable of nothing short of pastry-bag wizardry, to look in their blown-sugar crystal balls and tell us what wedding cake trends are in store for 2017 and beyond.

I’m in Love with the Shape of Cakes

Said Amy Berman of Vanilla Bake Shop in Santa Monica and Pasadena, “What’s starting to emerge a little bit is different shapes of cakes. Most wedding cakes are either round or square, but I’ve seen and done some hexagonal and rectangular cakes that were really cool and different, stacked in different ways and in unusual heights.”

wedding cake trends sizes

A wedding cake with hard-edged fondant by Vanilla Bake Shop and smaller options like icebox shots and tarts.

Photo by Jenny Smith & Co.

That Frosting Tho

Amy Beck of Amy Beck Cake Design in Chicago has baked “forever,” more than 30 years—all the way back to the blue-ribbon-winning clown cake she made in the 4-H club as a kid. “The biggest major, major, major change that I have seen is in fondant cakes,” Beck told me. “They went from very chunky and whimsical to very streamlined, with very hard edges on the fondant. Even when people show me cakes that are a couple years old, I ask them, ‘Can we update it a little bit?’ Those hard edges make it look like it’s more 2017. It’s a much more clean, elegant wedding cake that’s coming out now.”

wedding cake trends macarons
Photo by Stewart Uy

Pretty Please, with Cookies on Top

Katie Page has been decorating cakes for Baked in Red Hook, Brooklyn for five years. “When I first started, there were a lot more fondant flower decorations on cakes,” she said. “People are veering away from that.” Now, in her experience, fresh flowers and bold metallic embellishments are very much in. Berman reports seeing quite a few French macarons deployed as wedding-cake accents, in case your sweet tooth has a sweet tooth.

wedding cake trends naked cake

A naked cake with succulents from Baked NYC (green + white is another very 2017 wedding cake trend).

Courtesy of Baked NYC

Get Naked

Every baker I spoke to told me that “naked” cakes are among the most frequent requests they’re fielding. Last year, Page told me, the frosting-free confections were just beginning to take off, but this year, they’re absolutely everywhere. “Every other consultation that I have with couples, they’re interested in that design,” she said. But just because they’re exposed doesn’t mean these cakes aren’t a canvas crying out for some creative decoration: “Maybe they’re accented with really yummy fresh fruit and elements that tell you what’s inside the cake,” Berman said.

wedding cake trends 2017

A bas relief textured frosting by Honeycrumb Cake Studio

Blue Rose Photography

The (Literal) Icing on the Cake

Speaking of what’s inside the cake, Berman has witnessed an uptick in experimental flavors, including, delightfully, more and more clients requesting Funfetti-style confetti cake. “They’re like, ‘Let’s be playful. Weddings don’t have to be so stuffy.’” For summertime wedding cakes, Amy Beck Cake Design has had mouthwatering success with a vibrant passionfruit curd. And when frosting is in play, Beck reports, decorators are making buttercream more interesting than ever before, with textures like ridges, spirals, and swirls. “You can do very, very elegant wedding cakes with textured buttercreams. Even now when people say, ‘We want a smooth buttercream,’ a lot of times they end up seeing the textured and want to go with the textured. It’s the style these days,” she said.

wedding cake trends jordan lewis

Rose gold ombré on a cake from Vanilla Bake Shop.

Photo by Jordan Lewis

Rose Gold Is the New Gold Gold

Other by-now-familiar cake trends aren’t fading, exactly, but changing. “You’re seeing still tons of metallics, but not as much the same 14-carat gold,” Beck said. “It’s kind of moving into a rose gold, copper-ish. Although, don’t get me wrong, we’re still seeing tons of gold. It’s so easy at a wedding. It looks so beautiful.” Super-striking geode cakes are evolving, too. As Berman said, “Instead of doing a geode carved out of the cake, we might use little clusters—it’s rock candy we use—on alternating corners of the cake. It’s a bold, very specific look to do the whole thing. We get those, but it’s here and there.” Marble cakes are also holding strong. “It’s all about the tones that you use and the palette,” Berman said. “Subtlety is always what makes them so striking, not being too heavy-handed with the decorating.”

ombre wedding cake maggie austin

Ombré flowers on a wedding cake by the one and only Maggie Austin.

Photo by Kate Headley

Ombré Is Dead, Long Live Ombré

Last summer, Baked made a lot of ombré cakes—either with fondant decorations or with the buttercream itself—but as far as Page can tell, that trend seems to be cooling off. “One of the cakes that we feature [on the Baked site] has ombré cascading fondant roses. We were doing a lot of that last year, and this year, I don’t think I’ve done a single one yet,” she said. Berman advised that couples consider an ombré with neutral colors, like taupe or peach. “It adds this cool modern edge to the cake,” she said.

wedding cake trends bas relief

Cake trend trifecta: real flowers, little pearl accents, and bas-relief frosting.

Courtesy of Amy Beck Cake Design

Looking ahead, Beck hopes we’ll soon see a rise in cakes decorated with a bas-relief texture, crediting cake designer and author Maggie Austin for pioneering the style. She likens the gorgeous three-dimensional look, inspired by the techniques of classical sculpture and created with custom molds, to a vintage china vase. “For the minimalist, you can do a beautiful bas-relief design that sort of creeps up the side of the wedding cake, or is on a little bit of the tiers,” Beck said. “Then you can accent it with an antique-ish gold, you can accent it with silver, or you can keep it pure alabaster white with no hints of metallic.”

wedding cake trends watercolor

A Vanilla Bake Shop cake with watercolor frosting pattern.

Photo by Stewart Uy

What’s Next?

Berman’s excited by the prospect of incorporating graphics into cakes, citing a striking black wedding cake with a delicate floral overlay that was recently masterminded by one of Vanilla Bake Shop’s designers. “You can take a pattern from your wedding invitation and print it, then we paint over it a little bit. It brings it to life. It looks more hand-touched,” she said. She’d also love to work with more cakes painted with watercolors, a “really gorgeous” look. “It’s very specific decorators who have that skill set,” she said.

But now more than ever, brides and grooms are feeling free to smush whatever kind of cake makes their heart sing into their beloved’s face. “[Clients are] loosening up in regards to their wedding and their wedding cake choices,” Berman said. “People are having a lot more fun.” Mazel tov!

Want to look at more cakes? Yes you do: 9 Stunning Cakes That Belong in a Museum

Prepare to be mesmerized:

Rob Corddry Ate This Italian Sandwich Every Week for Decades

In our new series Hometown Hero, we ask stars to share their favorite nostalgic childhood dish—and the memories behind it.

Rob Corddry has something to get off his chest: he’s pro-sandwich. When Bon Appétit sat down with the comedian and actor—who made you laugh on The Daily Show, Children’s Hospital, Hot Tub Time Machine, and Ballers (season three on HBO now)—he talked for 45 minutes straight about how much he loves sandwiches. Although a classic turkey and American cheese that he “just kills with mayonnaise” is enough to satisfy him, it’s one particular sandwich from his hometown, right outside of Boston, that keeps him up at night. Possibly quite literally, because he ate the meat-stacked Italian sub from That’s Italian Too in Weymouth, Massachusettsevery week for more than a decade.

“To this day, it’s the best sandwich I’ve had in my entire life—and I’ve eaten a lot of sandwiches,” Corddry says with a laugh. “I can remember the first time I had it, clear as day. It was during the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, which my dad taped on our new VCR, and it sat on our shelves until we sold the house. It was a little snowy outside, yet sunny, and while watching ski jumping, my dad surprised us with these sandwiches that blew my mind and changed my life.”

italian sub

A close-up of the Italian sub.

Courtesy of That’s Italian Too

Closing his eyes to picture the sandwich, Corddry walks us through every layer of it. First is a foot-long white sub roll and Gielow Pickles’ hot pepper chile relish. Then comes salami, pepperoni, and mortadella, which is stacked on flat so it “feels like you’re biting into a deli-meat steak,” and Provolone cheese. The chopped Cara Donna Provisions’ sour pickles and cubed tomatoes and onions are what really do it for him. He explains “It’s like biting into bubbles of delicious tastes. The caviar of sandwiches!”

A drizzle of olive oil and vinegar pushes it over the top (of greatness): “This is my favorite sandwich in the world, but it can kind of stress me out because I’m a neat freak. It’s…drippy.”

thats italian too

A look inside That’s Italian Too deli.

Courtesy of That’s Italian Too

How to make Italian heroes at home:

Baking Soda vs Baking Powder: What’s the Difference?

It’s OK: We all make mistakes. But you know what’s less OK? Not learning from them. Welcome to Effed It Up, a semi-regular column where you, the Basically reader, write us with stories of your…less-than-proud kitchen moments, and we try to figure out how to, you know, not do that again. Got a burning question or a shameful story to share? Hit us up at eatbasically@gmail.com.

Even an experienced baker like me has done it: mixing up baking powder and baking soda. If you’ve ever had a baking disaster, like a cratered cake or an overflowing quick bread, it’s probably happened to you, too. Never again! Let’s break down the key differences between the two ingredients, and talk about when to use one, the other, or both.

Baking powder and baking soda have a lot in common. They’re both types of chemical leaveners, meaning they generate gas during the mixing and baking of a batter or dough that “raises” or aerates the baked good. Cakes, muffins, biscuits, quick breads, and basically anything you’re baking that doesn’t include yeast relies on these compounds to produce a light texture or “crumb.” You just have to know how to use them.

BLUEBERRY-MUFFINS1

You could keep reading. You could also stop and make BA’s Best Blueberry Muffins. Your call.

On a nerdy, chemical level, baking soda is the commercial name for sodium bicarbonate. When sodium bicarbonate comes into contact with both a liquid and an acid—think buttermilk, yogurt, molasses, coffee, citrus juice, or vinegar—it produces carbon dioxide gas, and those bubbles produce the lift that you’re looking for. (Remember those papier maché volcanoes you made in middle school science class? Same thing!) The important thing to remember is that this reaction starts as soon as the ingredients are mixed together, so you want to get baked goods that call for baking soda into the oven as soon as possible before the reaction peters out.

Baking powder is also made of bicarbonate of soda but with a powdered acid—often cream of tartar—mixed right in. What this means is that all baking power needs is moisture for a reaction to occur, no added acid necessary. Much of the baking powder you find on the market is called “double-acting,” meaning it has a two-part reaction. The first occurs immediately when the powder dissolves in the batter, but the second occurs more slowly when heated. Baking powder allows for more flexibility because you can let the batter or dough sit for a little while before baking and still get the rise you’re after.

So, if it’s really as simple as whether or not a recipe has an acid in it, then why all the fuss about powder vs. soda? The answer is that recipes vary widely in acidity levels and very often you need both kinds of reactions to achieve the right overall balance of flavor and texture. When baking soda reacts with an acid, it neutralizes it and makes the batter more alkaline. This takes away the sour flavor that the acid lends, and sometimes you actually want a little tartness. If there is additional bicarbonate of soda leftover after a reaction, it gives the baked good an unpleasant soapy flavor. Not good, right? The amounts of acid and sodium bicarbonate in a recipe need to be in some sort of balance, and you need to achieve the right level of airiness. In most cases that means soda plus powder.

bas-best-buttermilk-biscuits
Alex Lau

Big ups to baking powder and baking soda for that biscuit’s fluffy layers.

Buttermilk biscuits are a useful example. If you’re thinking, “buttermilk is acidic, you should use baking powder,” I hear you. But here’s the thing—you want to be able to taste a little tang from the buttermilk in the finished biscuit, so you don’t want to neutralize all the acid in the recipe with baking soda. Using a little bit of soda works because the immediate chemical reaction with the buttermilk gives the biscuits a big lift right out of the gate. But then you also have to add baking powder, which kicks in to leaven the biscuits even more and carry them into the end zone. (I’m mixing metaphors here, but you get the idea.) Mixing the two produces a biscuit that is both light and tangy. In baking as in life, it’s all about balance.

Baking soda also enhances browning, which is another reason you might want to use a mix of the two even if the powder is doing most of the heavy lifting—it gives baked goods their appealing golden hue. (Baking soda also does things during baking like weakening gluten and helping cookies spread, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

OK, so, TL;DR, right? At the end of the day, here’s what you need to remember. Baking powder and baking soda are different things with the same primary objective—making you baked goods light and fluffy—and they do that in different ways depending on the recipe. They can’t be substituted for one another, and most of the time they work together. Which is another way of saying that, if you’ve ever seen both on an ingredient list and wondered if you really have to go back to the store to pick up another box of the one you ran out of, the answer is, forever and always: yes.

Now, go forth and bake!

Seared tuna with lemon and lime

Introduction

Seared tuna with lemon and lime

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This is a very simple way to prepare and cook tuna – a fish that tends to dry out very quickly if you are not careful about how you cook it.

In this recipe the tuna medallions are marinated in a mixture of olive oil, lemon and lime, before being seared briefly on both sides.

Serve with rice cooked beforehand, then just heated through in the left-over marinade.

Last modified on: July 23th 2017

Dried apricots

Introduction

Dried apricots

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Making your own dried apricots at home is perfectly feasible. It’s really quite simple, though it takes a long time.

Basically, the apricots need to be cut in half, destoned, then the halves put to dry slowly for several hours in a cool oven.

Last modified on: July 19th 2017

Framboisier

Introduction

Framboisier

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This is a classic French raspberry-flavoured dessert. It generally consists of raspberries in cream sandwiched between two layers of cake.

In this version, the cake is genoa sponge and the cream is vanilla-flavoured and mixed with mascarpone.

This is just as good made as a large rectangle or, as here, in smaller round individual servings.

Last modified on: July 16th 2017

Galette Charentaise

Introduction

Galette Charentaise

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This is a traditional cake from France’s Charente region.

The recipe is straightforward and the cake is slightly dense in texture, but quite delicious.

Last modified on: July 9th 2017

Raspberry sorbet

Introduction

Raspberry sorbet

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To make a seriously good raspberry sorbet, the fruit must be of the best quality, of course, but there is another little secret: you need to remove all the seeds to make a really smooth coulis.

It is this smooth coulis that makes the sorbet so deliciously velvety.

Last modified on: July 5th 2017

Kérinou slices

Introduction

K

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These toasted slices are topped with sauted vegetables (courgette and mushrooms), covered with a slice of smoked ham and then slivers of cheese.

Once the cheese is melted and browned in the oven, the slices should be served piping hot.

Last modified on: July 2nd 2017

Langoustine gratin

Introduction

Langoustine gratin

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This elegant gratin has a layer of brunoise vegetables in the bottom, with langoustine tails (scampi) cooked in two stages on top, finished with a thick creamy sauce, made with the “fumet” from the langoustines.

This recipe is quite long to make, but can be prepared in stages over a number of days. The end result is well worth all the effort.

Last modified on: June 28th 2017

Red mullet fillets with a reduced white-wine sauce

Introduction

Red mullet fillets with a reduced white-wine sauce

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For this recipe, the red mullet fillets are fried in a large saucepan, then removed and kept hot.

The “jus court” sauce is made by reducing dry white wine with spring onions in the pan used to cook the fish.

The small quantity of sauce left (its French name literally means “short juice”) is very concentrated and flavoursome, so you only need serve a tablespoonful to each guest.

Last modified on: June 25th 2017

Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

Photo: Robbie Caponetto, Iain Bagwell; Styling: Lydia Degaris Pursell

See what research says about the health benefits of eating kimchi and other fermented foods.

August 26, 2014

Refrigerated raw sauerkraut, Korean kimchi, tempeh, kefir, and yogurt–these fermented foods all have something healthy in common. They harbor live active cultures of “good” bacterial strains that can keep the gut robust and strong. In fact, studies suggest these probiotic foods might do everything from boost mood to stimulate the immune system to fight cancer. Some benefits are exaggerated, so here’s a look at where the research stands. (Shopping tip: pasteurization kills “good” bacteria so unrefrigerated jars of sauerkraut on supermarket shelves aren’t probiotic-rich.)

Immune Booster: Yes.

Scientists estimate that over 100 trillion microbes reside in the large intestine of adults. Since the gut accounts for the largest part of your immune system, keeping the gut populated with a healthy balance of “good” bacteria will keep the immune system functioning optimally.

Weight loss aid: Looks promising.

It’s well documented that obese people have less microbial diversity in their guts than lean people. But a Washington University study goes one step further, making a strong case for including fermented foods as part of a weight loss strategy. These researchers took gut microbes from lean and obese twins and introduced them into the g.i. tracts of mice. The animals populated with lean bacteria stayed slim while mice taking in bacteria from obese people quickly gained weight, even though both groups ate the same amount of food.

Cancer Fighter: Maybe.

While studies show that “bad” bacteria in the gut can produce compounds that promote colon cancer, it’s not a slam-dunk conclusion that healthy doses of “good” bacteria will reverse the cancer process according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. More research is needed.

Mental Health Aid: Stay tuned.

Preliminary studies find that people taking oral probiotics, or doses of “good” bacteria, can reduce anxiety and improve mental outlook. In fact, Harvard scientists speculate that microbes in fermented foods, strains like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, may influence many areas of brain health and even impact illnesses like depression.

*Shopping tip: pasteurization kills “good” bacteria so unrefrigerated jars of sauerkraut on supermarket shelve aren’t probiotic-rich.

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Health Benefits of Pairing Protein with Carbohydrates

Eating protein builds muscle. Eating simple carbs–sugary candy, sodas, white bread–sends blood sugar levels soaring, does a number on health, and wreaks havoc with weight loss plans. That’s just basic nutrition chemistry 101, something most of us already know. What you might not realize, however, is that pairing these two macronutrients together, choosing the right carbs and the healthiest proteins, can be a match made in health heaven. At least some of the time. Here’s why.

Weight Loss Aid: Yes.

Pairing protein with carbs delivers a double whammy when it comes to shedding pounds. First, the body spends more energy (calories) digesting protein than it does carbs. Secondly, protein helps shut down appetite and promote feelings of fullness at, and long after, meals. The key is to choose healthy plant or animal proteins-nuts, lean meats, fish, dried beans–and pair them with slow-digest (less processed) carbs like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Blood Sugar Stabilizer: No.

Alas, it’s a common misconception that adding protein to a meal helps keep blood sugar levels balanced. Again and again, research shows the main determinant of blood sugar levels after a meal are the carbs–amount and type–you eat. However, experts at Harvard School of Public Health do see an advantage to PC pairing. It makes it less likely you’ll gobble up overly processed carbs like cookies, crackers, and white bread.

Better Athletic Performance and Endurance: Maybe.

Endurance athletes have long depended on carbs as their primary fuel both during and post exercise. Preliminary new studies suggest an advantage to pairing a small amount of protein with that carbs. The dynamic duo, it seems, can boost performance, decrease muscle damage and improve recovery better than carbs alone. Experts would like to see more research, and more consistent findings, before making firm recommendations. Oh, and one caveat: when experts recommend pairing protein with carbs, they’re not talking about eating a high-protein, low-carb diet. Studies confirm that normal amounts of protein, or the recommended 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight (about 54 grams for someone weighing 150 pounds) are more than enough to create health benefits when matched with healthy carb choices.

Health Benefits of Kohlrabi

With a handful of stems jutting out from a round apple-sized bulb, kohlrabi works a “u.f.o. of vegetables” kind of vibe. At first glance, who doesn’t wonder, what the heck is that? Well, it’s a close cousin to stem cabbage veggies (crucifers), and its flavor and crunchy texture seem like a cross between turnips and broccoli. In addition, like its cruciferous cousins, its health benefits are numerous.

Cancer Fighter: Definitely.

That hallmark pungent aroma and strong flavor found in kohlrabi (and other cruciferous veggies) comes from potent cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates. Also a plus are a whole laundry list of healthful nutrients, including a generous amount of blood-pressing lowering potassium, and multiple disease-fighting chemicals including eight different glucosinolates, twelve anthocyanins, two carotenoids (mostly in vegetable skins), and seven phenylpopanoids. We call that power-packed.

Immune Booster: Maybe.

Although ounce for ounce it has more Vitamin C than O.J., kohlrabi isn’t being studied for it’s immune strengthening powers. Still, it’s easy to piece together a positive role. First, it’s well known that ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is a potent antioxidant. Add to that findings that oxidative damage is at the root of many chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer, and any food that delivers a big vitamin C payoff is on the list of potential friend to immunity and good health.

Weight Loss Aid: Probably.

Not surprisingly, there’s not a single study that includes, or singles out, the crucifer called kohlrabi as a boon to dieters. Still, the nutrition profile of this crunchy veggie seems like an advertisement for shedding pounds. At a measly 36 calories per cup, and sporting a whopping five grams of filling fiber, kohlrabi might just be the next diet superstar. Munch it. Shred it into salad. Tuck it into sandwich wraps. It will surely fill you up, not out.

See:How to Prepare Baby Kohlrabi

Gluten-Free Cookies

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Gluten-Free Holiday Appetizers and Desserts

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15 High-Fiber Breakfasts

Amp up your fiber intake with these tasty breakfast dishes. Each provides 5 g or more of dietary fiber while clocking in at 500 calories or less. Fiber can help with weight management and blood sugar control, making these meals extra friendly to your waistline. So go ahead, rise, shine and reap the benefits.

Health Benefits of Coconut Water

Photo: Levi Brown

Coconut water may be the new “it” beverage, but is it really better for you than regular water?

January 22, 2014

Numerous health claims are helping launch coconut water as the “It” drink for health, aging, and exercise. But the big question: does it deliver? Not exactly. While the liquid extracted from young (green) coconuts does sport less sugar than fruit juice, it’s no superfood. Here’s a quick recap of what to expect from this tropical newcomer.

Sports Drink. Yes.

For the prolonged exerciser who needs to replace some of the sodium lost in sweat, coconut water is too low in sodium to be of much help. But for the average Joe or Jane “working-out” for an hour or less, it’s an ok rehydration drink, no better or worse than any other sports beverage or plain water. On the plus side: A cup of the 60-calorie beverage delivers a good source of the mineral potassium, something missing from the diets of people who don’t eat many veggies.

Hangover Cure. No.

Google “hangover cure” and coconut water pops up often as a remedy for a spirited night of overindulgence. Problem is, the advice is all anecdotal. Not a shred of scientific proof helps prove this urban myth.

Cancer Fighter. No.

While it’s rich in antioxidants like the mineral selenium, coconut water is a no-go as a cancer-fighter according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. The main reason: no hard research to back up the claim.

Cholesterol Lowering Agent. Too early to tell.

A couple of small studies with animals show that coconut water can help lower lipid levels in rats fed fat and cholesterol enriched chow. But it’s a giant leap to go from preliminary research with animals to saying coconut water could lower cholesterol levels in people eating high-fat, high-cholesterol diets. Stay tuned.

Recipe:Energy Upper

This smoothie recipe features coconut water that’s blended with canned lychees and frozen peaches and provides a source of natural fruit sugars to give you a boost.

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Health Benefits of Honey

Photo: Will Dickey

Find out what the research actually says about the health benefits of honey.

January 22, 2014

These days, honey is proving to be more than just a sweet treat to drizzle over yogurt, pancakes, or toast. It’s also good medicine. Of course, sometimes this nectar of the bees benefits are a bit overhyped. So here’s a quick recap on how honey can and can’t improve health.

Wound Healer: Yes.

A huge body of research confirms honey is a potent broad-spectrum antibacterial agent that can treat ulcers, burns, or any unhealed wound. Scientists speculate it could be honey’s acidity, it’s nutritional and antioxidant content, or a yet-to-be identified component that helps with healing.

Cough Suppressant: Yes.

Giving kids aged 2 or older two teaspoons of honey at bedtime helps reduce nighttime coughing and improve sleep according to Penn State researchers. In fact, honey proves just as effective as the active ingredient (dextromethorphan) in over-the-counter cough suppressants. (One caveat: Due to the risk of infant botulism, it’s never a good idea to give honey to a child younger than age 1.)

Allergy Remedy: Probably not.

Locally made honey is supposed to fight seasonal allergies. But when a 2002 University of Connecticut study compared two types of honey and a placebo syrup (made to taste like honey) neither the honey, nor the placebo, helped relieve allergy symptoms. Experts suggest that seasonal allergies are more often triggered by wind-borne pollens, not the pollen spread by insects.

Healthier Sweetener for Diabetics: No.

Granulated sugar, brown sugar, or honey- they all impact blood sugar in much the same way. Any slight differences in calories or sweetness levels are not worth worrying over. As with all sugars, moderation is key.

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Health Benefits of Ginger

Photo: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Ana Kelly, Mindi Shapiro

Find out what the scientific research says about how ginger can improve your health.

January 13, 2014

A pungent knotted beige root, ginger adds a peppery, spicy “kick” to stir-fry dishes, candies, and even beverages. It’s also one of the most revered ancient herbal remedies. So while researchers continue to try to tease out ginger’s beneficial compounds- there are at least 115 of them- here’s what the latest science shows.

Anti-Nausea Treatment: Yes.

Solid evidence supports ginger (about one gram) as a treatment for the nausea that comes from motion sickness, pregnancy, and chemotherapy. And while it’s generally recognized as safe, talk to your doctor before taking ginger if you are pregnant, have gallstones, heart disease, diabetes, or take blood thinners. (Do not use ginger for children under the age of two.)

Osteoarthritis Treatment: Maybe.

Studies are mixed bag here. One recent report found that 261 people with osteoarthritis of the knee experienced noticeable pain relief when taking a ginger extract two times a day. Another study concluded that ginger was no more effective at pain relief than over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen or a placebo. Bottom line: more research is needed.

Cholesterol Lowering Agent: Maybe

Preliminary studies with both animals and people find that ginger- in this case the powdered form- helps improve blood lipids. Seems it not only helps lower total cholesterol, but also “bad” or LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

Cancer Fighter: To early to tell.

Multiple studies are looking at how ginger, or its beneficial compounds, might prevent or even suppress cancers including lymphoma, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer. But so far most of the work is being done on animals and in the lab. There’s nothing concrete to report.

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Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Oxmoor House

Here’s a look at the current research about the health claims for apple cider vinegar.

January 10, 2014

One of the most talked about natural treatments, apple cider vinegar (ACV) is purported to cure just about anything that ails you. Trouble is, the science to back up these claims is sadly lacking. So here’s a look at current research findings for this liquid gold elixir, something to consider before you start sipping the cure.

Blood Sugar Remedy. Maybe.

Several preliminary reports find that eating foods with small amounts of vinegar (a vinaigrette, a pickled food) can help reduce after-meal blood sugars or blunt the impact of carb-rich foods that typically ratchet up blood sugar (rice, white bread, sugar.) One hitch for diabetics: the chromium in vinegar can alter insulin levels so talk to your doctor first before trying any vinegar remedies.

Weight Loss Aid: No

Sorry to bust this weight loss myth. But drinking a small amount of ACV at meals won’t burn fat or kill your appetite despite what some folks claim. What it will do, if you sip it straight, is irritate your throat and esophagus. What about ACV pills? They’re probably a waste of money. Studies show that supplements contain wildly varying amounts of vinegar or sometimes none at all.

Wart, Lice, & Fungus Destroyer. No

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, may have used vinegar to treat wounds and infections back in 400 BC. But scientific studies today show ACV’s a bust when it comes to treating head lice, toenail fungus and warts. Still want to try a vinegar cure? A word of caution: ACV is a strong acid that can burn the skin if not diluted.

While apple cider vinegar may not be a proven health remedy, it’s certainly a fat-free, sodium-free way to add flavor to recipes and a versatile ingredient to keep on hand in the kitchen.

Recipe:Apple Cider Vinaigrette

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Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Photo: Beau Gustafson; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

Find out which health claims about cinnamon are true and which ones have yet to be proven by scientific research.

January 10, 2014

A much-loved spice for baking and for savory dishes- curries, Greek cuisine, and Mexican moles- cinnamon is considered potent medicine in natural medicine circles. Both varieties, spicy-sweet Cassia cinnamon and less sweet Ceylon cinnamon, show scientific promise as potential adjunct therapies to some conventional treatments.

Blood Sugar Lowering Agent. Yes.

Numerous small studies confirm that cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels in some people with type 2 diabetes. The key words here: some people. Experts at the Harvard Health Letter speculate that compounds in the spice may help glucose get into cells and out of the blood. Yet, more research is in order, this time with much larger population samples, before docs can suggest an appropriate treatment dose.

Blood Cholesterol Lowering Agent: No

Experts at the Mayo Clinic don’t recommend cinnamon to treat high cholesterol levels for one simple reason: lack of evidence that it works. Their advice for people looking to lower blood cholesterol is to go with proven lifestyle cholesterol-lowering strategies: losing excess weight, quitting smoking, exercise, heart-healthy eating.

Infertility. Maybe.

Preliminary findings earlier this year suggest cinnamon supplements (1500 milligrams per day) might help improve irregular menstrual cycles in women with a common infertility disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome. Researchers want to do larger clinical trials with more women to confirm the findings but say supplements are safe and relatively cheap to try.

GI Problems. No.

Anecdotal reports suggest that cinnamon can help with bloating, intestinal gas, diarrhea and vomiting. But the government’s Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, which reviews the scientific findings for natural remedies, says there is insufficient evidence. Nor is there evidence cinnamon helps combat impotence, kidney problems, cancer, bed wetting or the common cold.

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Make-It-Light Thanksgiving

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Stir-Fry Recipes Under 300 Calories

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Casseroles Under 300 Calories

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