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The surprisingly messy history of flag cake

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When you picture a Fourth of July cake, there’s only one that comes to mind for most people — a rectangular cake with white whipped cream icing, red stripes made of strawberries, and a field of blueberries in the upper left corner.

Both Ina Garten and Martha Stewart claim to have invented it, but the truth is that nobody knows for sure where the iconic American flag cake, beloved of so many backyard barbecues, really came from.

Patriotic cakes are nothing new in America. Even before the Revolutionary War, innkeepers and industrious housewives baked spicy, yeasty “election cakes” to feed farmers who came to town to train as soldiers or, later, to vote in America’s first elections. In the early 19th century, Americans snacked on cakes that paid tribute to George Washington and other beloved heroes, though cake-baking, on the whole, hadn’t evolved enough for the cakes to actually resemble the father of America.

By the early 20th century, Americans were in love with patriotically decorated petit fours, tinted with blue and red dye from indigo and dried beetles. Other cakes paid tribute to Washington and Lincoln on their birthdays. One 1940 recipe suggested a Fourth of July cake with pink frosting and patriotic “ornaments.”


The iconic flag cake seems like it’s been around forever, but really, it was likely invented in the 1950s as a marketing push for cake mixes. Other manufacturers and fruit companies jumped on board to add their own spins and advertise their particular products. The rest is history, and perhaps you were alive to experience it all.

By 2016, Betty Crocker alone had at least 14 different flag cake recipes available online. So this year, if you’re in charge of making your grandma’s classic flag cake, take a few extra minutes to appreciate how long and how far the patriotic cake traveled to get to where it is today.

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Ice palace cocktail

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This bright blue cocktail combines an array of tropical ingredients to warm your soul on a cold winter night.

Servings: 2

Ingredients
• 1/4 cup coconut cream
• 2 tablespoons shredded sweet coconut
• 12 ice cubes
• 1/4 cup pineapple juice
• 1/4 cup blue curaçao
• 1/4 cup white rum

Directions
1. Dip the rim of 2 cocktail glasses in coconut cream and then in the shredded coconut. Set aside.


2. In a blender, pour the remaining coconut cream, ice cubes, pineapple juice, curaçao, and rum. Blend on high for 30 seconds or until smooth. In the 2 glasses, pour the blended cocktail and serve.

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How to safely deep-fry a turkey

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Deep-fried turkey is actually a Cajun tradition and is an increasingly popular way to cook the main course.

It’s not the safest way — in fact, many people have burned their houses while attempting to do it. The number of burn victims from deep-frying reaches into the hundreds each year. The National Fire Protection Association and the American Burn Association discourage cooking a turkey in this manner, but because it produces a more flavorful bird with crispy skin, people continue to deep-fry.

Some advice from Underwriters Laboratories:

* Get a sturdy turkey fryer with four legs and a built-in thermostat, so the oil maintains the proper temperature.
* Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and dry, or you could be spattered with oil and severely burned.
* Fry outside and far away from your house.
* Follow instructions on the size of turkey to put into your fryer and how much oil to use. Splashing oil can ignite and turn your fryer into a flamethrower.
* Wear gloves designed for deep-frying.
* Never leave the fryer unattended.


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Raking leaves? You might be missing a treat

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Autumn leaves are a beauty — and a chore to rake — in autumn, but in Japan’s city of Minoh, they are also a snack.

According to legend, around 1,300 years ago, a traveler to the Minoo Taki waterfall in Osaka’s Hokusetsu region was so enamored of the beauty of autumn maple leaves that naturally, he decided to fry them. Thus, a new treat was born.

Maple leaves are picked from the tree, soaked in salt water for a year, then coated with a tempura batter, sesame seeds, and sugar before they’re fried in oil.

The first maple leaf store opened in 1910 in Minoh, 10 miles north of Osaka.


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Turkish delight: A timeless treat

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The Haci Bekir sweet shop in Istanbul has been selling Turkish delight — known as lokum in Turkish — since 1777 when the shop’s founder invented the sweet treat.

If you can’t make it to Istanbul to pick up their version, you can try it yourself at home and impress your holiday guests with Turkey’s favorite candy. You may want a second set of hands to help you with this challenging but worthwhile recipe. Make sure to follow each step carefully to ensure that your Turkish delight sets up correctly.

Ingredients:
4 cups granulated sugar
4-1/2 cups water, divided
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1-1/4 cups cornstarch
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1-1/2 tablespoons rose water or orange flower water
2 drops red or orange food coloring (optional)
1 cup powdered sugar

Line a 9 by 9-inch pan with aluminum foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Combine the sugar, 1-1/2 cups of water, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, and the mixture boils. With a wet pastry brush, brush down the sides of the pan to discourage crystallization and insert a candy thermometer to track the temperature. Allow the sugar to continue boiling, but do not stir, until it reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer, which will take up to an hour. Meanwhile, gather the rest of the ingredients and start cooking the other components when the sugar reaches about 225. Combine the remaining 3 cups of water with the cornstarch and cream of tartar in a larger saucepan and whisk until the starch dissolves and no lumps remain. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil while constantly whisking — the mixture will become thick and paste-like.


When the sugar syrup reaches 240, remove it from the heat and immediately start slowly and carefully pouring it into the cornstarch mixture while whisking to incorporate. Slow whisking will help you avoid lumps.

Reduce heat and simmer on low for about an hour, whisking every 8 to 10 minutes until the candy turns a light golden color and the consistency is thick and gluey. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rose water or orange flower water and the food coloring. Pour the candy into the prepared pan and leave it uncovered to set overnight.

The next day, dust a clean counter or cutting board with powdered sugar, then lift the candy from the pan using the foil to help you. Flip it facedown into the powdered sugar, then peel the foil away and dust with more sugar. Slice the candy into small squares with an oiled knife and dust the sides of each square with additional powdered sugar to prevent sticking. Eat as soon as possible. Store in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper.

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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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Ratatouille

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Have you harvested lots of delicious vegetables from your garden or stocked up on produce at your local farmers’ market? Whip up this fall classic and get ready to enjoy!

Ingredients
Servings: 6

• 4 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• 1 orange bell pepper, finely diced
• 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
• 1 can of diced tomatoes
• 10 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
• 2 yellow zucchinis, cut into thin slices
• 2 green zucchinis, cut into thin slices
• 2 eggplants, cut into thin slices
• 4 Roma tomatoes, cut into thin slices
• 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
• 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
• 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
• Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a large oven-safe pan, sauté the onion and 4 cloves of garlic in half the olive oil. When the onion is translucent, add the peppers and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the diced tomatoes and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon to create a smooth sauce. Season the sauce with half the basil.
2. In the same pan, lay the vegetable slices flat, alternating to create a spiral.
3. Coat them with remaining olive oil, basil, last garlic clove, parsley, thyme, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil. Place in the oven for 40 minutes, then uncover and continue cooking for another 20 minutes.


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Upcoming Events

Dec
10
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10:00 am 10th Virginia Infantry Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
10th Virginia Infantry Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 10 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
10th Virginia Infantry Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area Journey back in time and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of a Civil War Encampment during the holidays. Interact with the 10th VA Infantry, also known as the Valley Guards,[...]
Dec
14
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 14 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
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[...]
Dec
17
Sat
1:00 pm The Nutcracker 2022 @ Skyline High School
The Nutcracker 2022 @ Skyline High School
Dec 17 @ 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
The Nutcracker 2022 @ Skyline High School
Italia Performing Arts is pleased to announce its own student production of the seasonal ballet The Nutcracker, to be presented in Front Royal, VA, on Saturday December 17th 2022. Tickets: $35 and $25 Under 16:[...]
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21
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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
Dec 21 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
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[...]
Dec
28
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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
Dec 28 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
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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First Day Hikes at Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jan 1 @ 5:30 am – 3:00 pm
First Day Hikes at Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. While the American tradition of celebrating the New Year occurs at midnight on New Year’s Eve, other cultures celebrate by enjoying the sunrise on New Year’s Day. As part of the continuing American[...]
Jan
4
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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
Jan 4 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
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[...]