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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2011

MORSELS

Run, run, to catch a gingerbread prize

BY DAN NEMAN
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

Can we all agree that eating gingerbread men is just a little weird?

The problem isn't the gingerbread, which is delicious (although we can't all agree to that). The problem is the men. These are cookies shaped like people. You bite off the head first thing, and proceed to devour the rest of the body.

Weird.

But gingerbread is a Christmas tradition, in both its men and house forms. So the Michigan-based Meijer grocery store chain is sponsoring a contest on Facebook for people to send in pictures or videos of gingerbread men or women (or their houses) in different scenes or settings. Prizes, worth hundreds of dollars in Meijer gift cards, will be awarded to the best entries in three categories: most original gingerbread man, most interesting predicament a gingerbread man finds himself in, and most entertaining video of kids eating or decorating their gingerbread creations.

Time is short: The deadline is Dec. 18.

To get you into the mood, the company sent along a number of gingerbread facts, including:

● Gingerbread houses were popularized in 1812, when the Brothers Grimm wrote Hansel and Gretel, which had a gingerbread house prominently in its plot.

● The first gingerbread men are credited to Queen Elizabeth I, who had them made and decorated to resemble her favorite members of her court.

● The world's largest gingerbread house was made at the Mall of America (which used to be the largest mall in the world, but is no longer even in the top five). It was made from 14,250 pounds of gingerbread, 4,750 pounds of icing, 1,800 Hershey's chocolate bars, 2,800 Pearson's nut rolls, 1,200 feet of Twizzlers, 100 pounds of Tootsie Rolls, 300 pounds of Dots, and 100 extra-large Whirly Pops, whatever those are, and thousands of other candies.

● In related news, the world's biggest gingerbread man stood 26 feet, 2 inches tall. Presumably, you could run, run as fast as you could, but you could never catch him.

GINGERBREAD COOKIE RECIPE

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened

3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 cup molasses

1 egg

Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in large bowl. Beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses and egg; beat well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Press dough into a thick flat disk; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness on lightly floured work surface. Cut into gingerbread men shapes with 5-inch cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges of cookies are set and just beginning to brown. Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Decorate cooled cookies as desired.

Yield: 24 servings

Source: Meijer

 

Happy healthy meals

McDonald's is trying to be healthier. They really are. At least when it comes to kids.

Starting last month, the mega-chain has begun to include apple slices with every Happy Meal (but not a lot -- it's just one-quarter cup, which is one-half of a serving). The whole range of beverage choices are also part of the meal, including a fat-free chocolate milk and 1 percent white milk. The bag of french fries that comes with the meal will also be smaller (1.1 ounces), and another side dish of apples may be substituted for the fries.

It's a start. But customers may be slow to come around.

Apples have been available as a choice in the Happy Meals since 2004, and 88 percent of the customers have apparently known it. Still, apples were chosen in only 11 percent of Happy Meal purchases.

Now they will be in every one.

 

Produce news

Ever look at, say, a cantaloupe at the grocery store and wonder when it was picked and how far it has traveled?

There is an app for that.

HarvestMark, which calls itself "the leading fresh food traceability solution," has come out with an application for iPhones for consumers to learn the path that produce has taken from the farm to the store. Simply scan the 16-digit code on certain brands of fruit, vegetables, and poultry and you can learn information about that particular harvest, including whether that specific food has been recalled. In addition, the Talk to the Farmer feature allows the customers to ask questions or leave comments for the farmers that grew the produce.

The app is free, and more than 3,000 farms and ranches participate in the program so far. To date, according to the company, more than 3 billion items of fresh food have had the code on them.

To download the app (remember, it's for iPhones only), visit: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/harvestmark-food-traceability/id355362341.

Items for Morsels may be submitted up to two weeks before an event to food@theblade.com.



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