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Meringue ghosts

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You won’t be able to resist these sweet, light, and crispy ghosts. Decorate them yourself or with someone you love.

Ingredients
Yield: 16

• 3 egg whites
• 3/4 cup white sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1 tube of black or brown gel icing

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 200 F and prepare a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pour about a cup of water into a saucepan and bring to a boil.

2. In a large metal bowl, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar. Place the bowl over the pot of boiling water to create a double boiler. Make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

3. Heat the mixture, constantly whisking, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and whip with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Carefully pour the mixture into a pastry or resealable plastic bag with a cut corner.

4. Pipe 16 ghost shapes. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake for three hours. Turn off the oven and leave the door slightly ajar to let the meringue ghosts dry for at least two hours. When the meringues are completely cooled, decorate them with gel icing.

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Gravy Mastery: Perfecting the Heart of the Feast

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No More Gravy Fiascos: Tips to Achieve the Perfect Consistency and Flavor.

Gravy – the luscious, velvety accompaniment that can elevate a meal from good to grand. However, achieving the perfect homemade gravy can sometimes feel akin to culinary alchemy. Whether it’s the consistency, flavor, or those dreaded lumps, something always seems amiss. Fear not, for we bring you tried and tested solutions to common gravy conundrums, ensuring your next pour is nothing short of perfection.

The allure of homemade gravy lies in its potential for perfection. With just the right touch, it can accentuate the flavors of your dish, binding together the diverse elements of a meal. Here’s a breakdown of common challenges and their solutions:

  • Consistency Matters:
    • Too Thin? Patience might be your best ally. Allow the gravy to simmer until the liquid reduces. Alternatively, a slurry made by dissolving 1-1/2 tablespoons of flour or 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in cold water, then stirred into your gravy, can work wonders in thickening it.
    • Too Thick? A simple fix involves thinning with a bit of water or stock. For white gravies, milk can do the trick.
  • The Dreaded Lumps: A frequent error made by many is adding flour or cornstarch directly to a hot mix, which almost always guarantees lumps. Should this mishap occur, don’t despair. A sieve or a fine mesh strainer can be your saving grace. Just strain the gravy to achieve that desired smooth texture.
  • Flavor Fixes: A taste test is crucial before serving. If your gravy seems a bit bland:
    • Sprinkle some salt and pepper.
    • Enhance richness by adding more pan drippings from your roast.
    • A dash of red wine can add depth.
    • Bouillon crystals can also boost the flavor but remember – these often contain salt, so adjust accordingly.

Gravy, when made well, is more than just a side – it’s a statement. With these tips in your culinary arsenal, gone are the days of gravy woes. Whether it’s a Sunday roast or a festive family dinner, let your gravy shine, assuring your spot as the host with the most!

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The Forbidden Feast: A Journey Into America’s Off-Menu Delicacies

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Exploring the Risks and Allure of Banned Foods You Won’t Find Stateside.

For the adventurous eater, an array of tantalizing dishes exists that push the boundaries of culinary norms. But there are some flavors you simply can’t savor in the United States, owing to safety regulations and ethical considerations. From the notorious Epoisse de Bourgogne cheese to the potentially lethal puffer fish, these banned foods come with their own blend of allure and caution. y

Epoisse de Bourgogne Cheese


This French cheese, known for its earthy aroma and pungent taste, is made from unpasteurized milk. Due to the risk of listeria, it can only be imported if it’s less than 60 days old. While it may tantalize your taste buds when paired with a Belgian white ale, it’s probably best to stick to pasteurized alternatives within the U.S.

Horse Meat
Horse meat might be a common ingredient in various global cuisines, but don’t expect to find it at your local American eatery. The federal government prohibits its commercial slaughter due to health risks associated with medications commonly given to U.S.-raised horses. Although private slaughter is technically legal, the potential toxicity of these drugs to humans makes consuming horse meat a dangerous endeavor.

Fresh Ackee


Native to West Africa, this pear-shaped fruit is beloved in various Caribbean cuisines. However, its unripe form contains the toxin hypoglycin, which can result in life-threatening blood sugar drops. Hence, the U.S. only permits the import and sale of canned or frozen varieties, as these are deemed safe.

Casu Martzu

A traditional Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese, Casu Martzu teems with live maggots and a robust, spicy flavor. While it is illegal even in its home country of Italy, many argue that it’s safe if consumed properly. Despite its illicit status, it offers an intriguing glimpse into the culinary habits of the Roman Empire.

Puffer Fish (Fugu)


This delicacy might be the ultimate game of Russian roulette for food enthusiasts. Puffer fish contains a poison 1200 times more potent than cyanide, and while not banned entirely in the U.S., its import and preparation are tightly regulated. It can only be handled by a select few certified chefs, and even then, it has its detractors; one New York Times diner described its taste as “bland.”

In today’s age of exotic food hunts, these forbidden foods could be a goldmine for advertisers and influencers looking to tap into the niche market of thrill-seeking foodies. Yet, the line between adventurous marketing and irresponsible encouragement is blurry, especially when lives are potentially at risk.

While America’s vast culinary landscape offers an array of choices, these forbidden dishes remind us that not all foods meet the stringent safety and ethical standards set by federal agencies. They serve as a testament to the rich diversity of global culinary traditions, as well as the serious implications surrounding food safety. Whether driven by thrill-seeking or cultural curiosity, those interested in these off-menu items must weigh the risks and ethics carefully. After all, the ultimate cost might be far greater than the price tag.

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Paninis: Italy’s Classic Sandwich Gets a Modern Twist

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The Evolution of Panini: From Classic Toasted Delight to Global Phenomenon.

Paninis, the quintessential Italian toasted sandwich, have traveled through time and cultures, garnering aficionados across continents. The journey of this delectable delight, from a simple meat and cheese stuffing to a versatile culinary canvas, embodies the beauty of fusion cuisine.

Originally, a panini sandwich was nothing more than an Italian ‘toast’ filled predominantly with prosciutto and cheese, distinctly marked by the grill lines of the panini press. As the panini ventured out of its homeland, it began to acquire a myriad of flavors and fillings influenced by regional preferences.

Take central Italy, for instance. Their paninis are a carnivore’s delight, brimming with luscious roasted pork. While the core essence remains the same – cheese and meat, toasted to perfection – the variations are endless.

Today’s paninis, though true to their roots with the characteristic grill lines and rich fillings, have been revitalized. The type of cheese, the choice of meat, and the addition of vegetables and condiments are all open to interpretation. Local flavors and ingredients often dictate the panini’s stuffing, making it a globally relatable yet distinct culinary experience.

For the adventurous souls who wish to dabble in crafting their own panini masterpiece at home, here’s a tantalizing recipe for the ‘Hot Sicilian.’ This recipe not only offers rich flavors reminiscent of Italy but also adds a spicy kick.

Hot Sicilian Panini Recipe

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 loaf Italian bread (eight half-inch slices)
    • ½ pound deli shaved ham
    • Packages of hard salami & sandwich pepperoni
    • 8 slices provolone cheese
    • 1 medium tomato (thinly sliced)
    • 1 medium red onion (thinly sliced)
    • Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, olive oil
    • Optional: banana pepper slices (pickled or fresh).
  • Procedure:
    1. Lay out the bread slices. Begin with a slice of provolone on each piece.
    2. Top four slices with salami, ham, and pepperoni, while the remaining four get the tomato, onion, and optional pepper rings.
    3. Season all slices with parmesan, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Combine the halves to form four sandwiches.
    4. Toast using a preheated panini press or a skillet, pressing down with a spatula. Check every two minutes until golden brown.

The panini, a testament to the timelessness of Italian cuisine, serves as a reminder of how classics can be both preserved and innovated upon. Whether you’re enjoying one in a quaint Italian café or whipping up your own ‘Hot Sicilian’ at home, the panini guarantees a bite of Italy’s rich culinary history with every crunch.

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The Remarkable Health Advantages of Chicken: More Than Just Protein

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September Marks National Chicken Month: Unpacking the Nutritional Powerhouse that is Chicken.

This September, as families gather around the dining table to celebrate National Chicken Month, it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge more than just the taste of this staple ingredient. Chicken is not merely a versatile culinary option but also a nutritional powerhouse that can contribute to an overall healthier lifestyle. From weight management to mood enhancement, here are some compelling reasons why chicken should be a regular feature on your plate.

Chicken is an excellent source of protein, containing all the essential amino acids necessary for the body’s daily function. Consuming a single chicken breast provides several ounces of lean protein, essential for building muscle tissue. Protein isn’t just for athletes; it plays a crucial role for people of all ages. Research shows that eating a diet rich in protein can help strengthen bones, thereby reducing the risk of age-related conditions like osteoporosis.

Dr. Samantha Lewis, a leading nutritionist, elaborates: “The amino acids in chicken are the building blocks for muscle and bone health. Incorporating chicken into your diet can improve bone density and muscle strength, which is especially important as we age.”

Maintaining a healthy weight is a concern for many, and chicken can play an essential role in this endeavor. A high-protein diet is known to boost metabolism and induce satiety, helping you consume fewer calories throughout the day. The lean protein in chicken provides a feeling of fullness, which is crucial for weight management. Keeping weight within a healthy range has numerous benefits, including lowering the risk of hypertension and heart disease.

It turns out that eating chicken can also affect your mental health positively. Chicken contains tryptophan, an amino acid that stimulates the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin, commonly referred to as the “feel-good hormone,” plays a significant role in mood regulation.

Dr. Emily Thompson, a psychologist specializing in nutrition and mental health, says, “The correlation between diet and emotional well-being has been a subject of research for years. The tryptophan in chicken contributes to increased serotonin levels, providing a natural mood booster.”

Besides protein, chicken is packed with essential nutrients that can significantly benefit your health. For instance, chicken is a rich source of vitamin B12, which is crucial for brain development and function. Other valuable nutrients like choline, zinc, iron, and copper also abound in this versatile meat.

However, the health advantages can vary depending on which parts of the chicken you consume and how you prepare it. Generally, white meat cuts like breast are lower in calories compared to darker cuts like thighs and drumsticks. To optimize health benefits, experts recommend baking or boiling chicken instead of frying and removing the skin, which is high in saturated fat.

In celebrating National Chicken Month this September, consider not just the culinary diversity that chicken brings to the table but also the plethora of health benefits it offers. From muscle and bone strengthening to mood enhancement and vital nutrient provision, chicken proves itself to be more than just another piece of meat. So why not make the most of this versatile, nutritious food not just this month but all year round?

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The Sweet and Simple History of Jams and Jellies

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The delectable spoonful of jam or jelly that you spread across your toast every morning is more than just a sweet indulgence. It’s a quick source of energy, a delightful treat, and a fascinating piece of food history that has evolved over the centuries to become an integral part of our breakfast routines.

Jams and jellies, despite their sweet nature, are surprisingly light on your health and your wallet. They provide a low-calorie alternative to many traditional spreads like butter. A report by the International Jelly and Preserve Association reveals that a tablespoon of butter has 102 calories and 12 grams of fat, while an equivalent amount of jelly contains only 48 calories and no fat. It’s a sweet trade-off, indeed.

The story of these sweet spreads in the U.S. begins with Jerome Smucker in 1897. Smucker started his company with an Ohio cider mill, pressing apples to make apple butter. It was a humble beginning for a company that would eventually become synonymous with a wide variety of sweet jams and jellies.

In 1917, another sweet success story unfolded when Paul Welch, the founder of a now-famous brand, got the first patent on grape jam. His unique recipe for “grapelade” was sold to the U.S. Army and quickly gained popularity among soldiers, a testament to the universal appeal of these sugary spreads.

Fast forward to today, and the market is flooded with a plethora of jams and jellies. From the traditional flavors like grape and strawberry, which remain the most popular flavor, the spectrum has expanded to include exotic variants such as kiwi, pomegranate, and even dandelion. The evolution of jams and jellies reflects our changing tastes and willingness to experiment with flavors.

Jams and jellies, once simple fruit preserves, have grown into a diverse array of flavor profiles that cater to every palate. Their low-calorie content and sweet taste make them a favorite addition to our daily meals. The next time you slather your toast with jam or jelly, remember the sweet history that makes each bite possible.

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Cool Off With Our Cold Pea and Mint Soup

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This refreshingly smooth soup is the perfect light snack on a hot day! Share this delight with friends and family.

Servings: 6

Ingredients

• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 4 cups fresh or frozen peas, thawed
• 30 ounces of chicken or vegetable stock
• 1/3 cup fresh mint, coarsely chopped
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 4 ounces whipping cream or plain yogurt
• A few mint leaves for garnish
• Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
1. In a large saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat and sauté the onions for about 10 minutes. Don’t let them brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
2. Add the peas and stock to the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Add the mint and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Blend in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add a little water or stock if necessary. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
5. Whether serving the soup warm or cold, add a splash of cream and a few mint leaves as a garnish.

This recipe can be frozen (without the cream) or stored in the refrigerator for three days.

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Sep
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Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
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Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
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Fall Wild Edible Plants: Earth C... @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Fall Wild Edible Plants: Earth Connections Series @ Sky Meadows State Park
Carriage Barn in the Historic Area. Join professional outdoor instructor Tim MacWelch to learn about the remarkable seasonal wild edible and medicinal plants of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This full-day hike will cover native and[...]
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
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Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
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The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 7 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
1:00 pm Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
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Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
New Bluegrass and traditional music jam the first Saturday of each month starting Feb. 4th, from 1pm till 4pm. All levels of playing invited to attend.
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The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
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The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Oct 11 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
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11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
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The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
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Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
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11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 15 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]