Tasteful ways to eat lighter
Here's a play on a traditional Italian wedding soup. I build a soup with udon noodles and add mini pork meatballs, seasoned like dumplings. Scallions, fresh ginger, toasted sesame oil and soy sauce lend an Asian influence to a low-sodium chicken broth.
The meatballs and bok choy cook right in the broth, and the noodles are done in a separate pot. When they're combined in a single bowl, you've got a lunch or light dinner. For a more substantial dinner portion, double the amounts of meatball ingredients.
Asian supermarkets carry fresh udon noodles that have a limited shelf life, so I prefer to buy dried noodles and cook them myself. Be sure to follow the cooking directions on the package.
-- Stephanie Witt Sedgwick, The Washington Post
Gummy bears go gourmet
Bissinger's pomegranate white tea gummy pandas bring an exotic spin to the humble gummy bear, elevating that fine candy to a gift-worthy treat. The flavor is delectable, the texture oh-so-tender. A 4-ounce bag is $4; a 1-pound bag is $14 at Whole Foods Market, and by mail (www.bissingers.com or 800-325-8881).
A bottle with heart
Yes, we know we're not supposed to buy wine for the label -- but this one is so perfect for a romantic dinner. American artist Salvatore Principe's name and artwork adorn the bottle; inside (OK, that's what counts), is a rich, nicely balanced Argentine cabernet sauvignon waiting for a wine glass. It's $10 to $11 at all World Market stores and other merchants.
-- Renee Enna, Chicago Tribune
Better together: What to drink with breakfast
Waffles and pancakes drizzled with maple syrup typically are accompanied by orange juice or coffee at breakfast. But if you want your food and drink to work together, that might not be such a good idea.
Blame the acidity of the drinks. The overwhelming sweetness of the syrup tends to amplify the acidity of coffee and juice, and that makes the drinks taste bitter.
A better choice is milk, said Millie Norton, a longtime waitress at Becky's Diner in Portland, Maine. "It's strange. If people start off with coffee, once they get their waffles, they switch over to water or milk," she said.
At Bintliff's American Cafe, an upscale brunch restaurant in Portland, the bold and decadent choice is chocolate milk.
Prefer something hot? Try hot cocoa with whipped cream. The chocolate and the syrup will complement one another.
If you haven't had a gulp of chocolate milk since third grade and aren't inclined to relive those days, a more sophisticated pairing would be a Bellini (sparkling wine spiked with peach nectar) or a fruit smoothie made with yogurt.
-- Victoria Brett, Associated Press
Mac & cheese -- What's not to love?
Who doesn't love macaroni & cheese? Ask pretty much anybody to list their favorite comfort foods and good ol' M&C will be right up there with mashed potatoes, pot roast and PB&J.
It might be one of the only foods where meat lovers and vegetarians can find common ground. But when someone tells me they love macaroni & cheese, I have to ask -- Which one?
There is no one macaroni & cheese, any more than there is one American accent.
There's the creamy kind, usually based on bechamel with cheese stirred in.
There's the custard kind, with noodles floating in fluffy curds of egg-based sauce.
There's the crusty kind, topped with bread crumbs, crushed potato chips or an extra layer of cheese that bakes into chewy brown goodness.
And there's certainly the over-the-top kind.
I recently spent a morning working through the variations, and I can happily report that American cheese and canned evaporated milk can play just as much a role as heavy cream and sharp cheddar.
Maybe that's why macaroni & cheese stays so popular. In good times and bad, in indulgent moods and simple ones, macaroni & cheese can be whatever we need it to be.
-- Kathleen Purvis, Charlotte Observer
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