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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

HALLOWEEN: Cheese & Pretzel Broomsticks

Who needs candy when there’s a clever Halloween snack like this? It was created by Angie Ramirez of LittleInspiration.com, who shares yummy food, easy DIY crafts, adventures of motherhood and everything in between on her blog.

This healthy Halloween snacks works for kids as well as for adults, with cocktails. The witch’s broomsticks are easy to make and look great on a party platter.

RECIPE: CHEESE & PRETZEL BROOMSTICKS

Ingredients

  • Pretzel sticks (ideally whole grain)
  • Block of hard cheese to shred
  • Baker’s twine or strips of dry corn husks
  •  

    cheese-broomsticks-naturebox-230

    Halloween fun, no sugar needed! Photo courtesy Little Inspiration | NatureBox.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. SHRED cheese the length of the block. (Pre-shredded cheeses are too short to make the broomsticks.)

    2. LAY down a piece of baker’s twine. Add a few shredded cheese pieces and a pretzel stick (see how it’s done here). Add a few more shredded cheese strips to cover the pretzel stick.

    3. KNOT the two ends of the twine.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Genmaicha Tea

    Loose_leaf_genmaicha_wiki-cha.co.uk-230

    Genmaicha, green tea mixed with toasted rice. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

     

    Genmaicha, pronounced gen-my-cha with a hard “g,” is one of our favorite green teas.

    The flavor of the sencha green tea base is secondary to the nutty, toasty flavor of kernels of toasted and popped brown rice that scattered among the tea leaves.

    The name translates as “brown rice tea”; it is also called roasted rice tea and popcorn tea, because a few grains of the rice invariably pop during the roasting process and resemble popcorn. To further confuse matters, different American tea packagers bestow names of their own. At Mighty Leaf it’s Kyoto rice tea; at Numi it’s toasted rice tea.

    The good news is that this tea, which for a long time was only available loose, can now be found in tea bags. And people who want to drink green tea for its health benefits, but don’t like the grassy and vegetal flavors, can try it and possibly really enjoy the nutty flavor (from the roasted rice).

    As a stocking stuffer or small gift, you can buy a box for as little as $5.49, on Amazon.com.

     

    ABOUT GENMAICHA TEA

    Genmaicha was originally drunk by poor Japanese. The rice was used as a filler and reduced the price of the tea; which is why it is also known as the “people’s tea.” Today it is enjoyed by everyone.

    Genmaicha is also sold with matcha (powdered green tea) added to it, called matcha-iri genmaicha (literally, “genmaicha with added powdered tea”). The flavor is often stronger and the color more green than pale yellow green of regular genmaicha. Rishi sells an organic version.

    DISCOVER THE MANY TYPES OF TEA IN OUR TASTY TEA GLOSSARY.

     

    numi-toasted-rice-aka-genmaicha-230

    Thinking ahead to stocking stuffers? How about a box of genmaicha tea? The organic Numi line is certified kosher by Natural Food Certifiers. Photo courtesy Numi Tea.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Trick Or Treat Scotch Sour

    trick-or-treat-scotch-sour-laphroaig-230

    A treat for the candy-hander-outers. Photo
    courtesy Laphroaig.

     

    If you need something spirited to get through an evening of handing out candy, how about a special Scotch Sour? This recipe, from Laphroaig (our personal favorite Scotch—we love that peat!)

    “Sour” refers to lemon juice, which is added to the whisky with sugar to create the drink.

    RECIPE: LAPHROAIG TRICK OR TREAT COCKTAIL

    Ingredients Per Drink

    • Ice cubes
    • 1-1/2 parts Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky, or other Scotch of choice
    • 3 parts apple cider (hard or non-alcoholic—see below)
    • 1 part fresh lemon sour (see below)
    • Garnish: lemon wedge
     

    Preparation

    1. BUILD the drink over ice in a collins glass, in order of the list above. Stir.

    2. GARNISH with a lemon wedge and enjoy.

     

    WHAT IS LEMON SOUR?

    Also called bar mix or sweet and sour mix, lemon sour is lemon-infused simple syrup. Instead of buying a commercial mix made with lemon juice concentrate, you can make it from scratch with fresh lemon juice; it keeps in the fridge for two weeks.

    Recipe: Lemon Sour Mix

    Ingredients

    • 2 cups water
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (or half lemon, half lime juice)
    • 2 tablespoons lime or lemon zest

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the water, sugar and zest in a saucepan; heat on low, stirring gently until the sugar has dissolved.

     

    sweet-and-sour-bar-mix-sheknows-230

    Homemade sour mix. Photo courtesy SheKnows.com.

     
    2. REMOVE from the heat and add the fresh lemon/lime juice. Strain the mixture into a 32-ounce bottle (a clean wine bottle, 750 ml [25 ounces], will do).

    3. CHILL for at least an hour before using.
     
    APPLE CIDER VERSUS APPLE JUICE: THE DIFFERENCE

    Since Prohibition, which began in the U.S. in 1920, “cider” has referred to the unfermented, unpasteurized apple juice, with “hard cider” used to indicate the alcoholic beverage. In the U.K. it is the opposite, with “cider” indicating the alcoholic drink for which special cider apples are used.

    • Hard cider is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from the unfiltered juice of apples. The alcohol content varies from a low 1.2% ABV* to 8.5% or higher—some imported ciders can be up to 12% ABV, an average level for table wines.
    • Fresh apple cider is raw apple juice, typically unfiltered. Thus, it is cloudy from the remnants of apple pulp. It is also typically more flavorful than apple juice—although of course, the particular blend of apples used in either has a big impact on the taste.
    • Apple juice has been filtered to remove pulp solids, then pasteurized for longer shelf life.

     

    WHISKEY VS. WHISKY

    The use of the e, or not, is an Irish vs. Scots spelling choice. Some scholars claim that the Irish were the true innovators of whiskey and that they introduced it to the Scots; others claim the reverse.

    Scholars can’t determine why the “e” was dropped by the Scots. One theory is that the Irish made whiskey first and pronounced it with a broad “e.” When the Scots began to make it, they dropped the “e” to differentiate their product.

    In Ireland and the U.S., the word whiskey is spelled with an “e,” while the British, Scots and Canadians usually opt to drop it.

    At THE NIBBLE, we prefer adding the “e” for visual elegance. Here’s more on the history of whiskey.

     
    *ABV is alcohol by volume. It is doubled to get the proof. For example, a 40% ABV spirit is 80 proof.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Skeleton Gingerbread Cookies

    skeleton-gingerbreadmen-grandmasmolassesFB-230

    Try your hand at making skeletons from royal
    icing. Photo courtesy Grandma’s Molasses |
    Facebook.

     

    If you only use your gingerbread people cookie cutters for Christmas, you’re missing out on another holiday application: gingerbread skeletons for Halloween, the skeletons piped on with royal icing.

    We don’t have the skill that of the professional who created these nifty skeleton designs, but we used the opportunity to practice, practice, practice (and although we still need a lot of practice, the cookies taste great). You can also try a paint brush instead of piping.

    RECIPE: HALLOWEEN SKELETON GINGERBREAD COOKIES

    Ingredients

    For The Gingerbread

    • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
    • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
    • 1/4 cup molasses
    • 1 egg
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 3 cups unbleached flour
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
    • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
     
    For The Royal Icing

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 large egg whites, beaten
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CREAM the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the molasses and beat well. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again to thoroughly combine.

    2. SIFT the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.

    3. DIVIDE the dough into three balls and flatten slightly. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and chill thoroughly: at least an hour (or you can do this part a day in advance).

    4. ROLL out the dough and use your cookie cutter to create the forms. Bake at 350°F for 9 minutes. Cool and ice.

    5. MAKE the icing: Sift the powdered sugar and cream of tartar in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat in the beaten egg whites, for about 5 minutes or until the icing is thick enough to hold its shape. Use immediately.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Halloween Ice Cream

    While crafty cooks are inspired to turn ice cream cones into witches’ hats and use candies to create ghost and black cat faces on a scoop of vanilla or chocolate, specific Halloween ice cream flavors don’t typically come to mind. (When did you last see pumpkin ice cream?)

    Baskin Robbins will sell you an ice cream cake in the shape of a jack o’lantern or a haunted house.

    But our friends at Talenti inspired us by carving a jack o’lantern face into their Alphonse Mango Sorbetto, naturally colored like a harvest moon.

    Perfect, we thought; and promptly bought a few pints to carve and then pass, lid on, around the dinner table as a Halloween surprise.

    With its deep orange color, we nominate mango a Halloween flavor, served plain or with a scoop of vanilla for a delicious “Creamsicle” effect. For extra panache, layer the flavors in a glass parfait or sundae dish or a wine goblet.

    More Halloween ice cream ideas:

       
    talenti-mango-jack-o-lantern--230

    Mango sorbet: a great holiday color. Photo courtesy Talenti.com.

     

     

    Carmel-Apple-Pie-talenti-230

    Another seasonal option: Caramel Apple Pie.
    Photo courtesy Talenti.

     
    • Substitute orange sorbet for mango, or serve them together.
    • Freeze orange or mango sorbet into balls and make jack o’lantern faces with a tube of black decorating gel.
    • Top ice cream with a Halloween cookie, such as Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Oreos, Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies (soft, oversize cookies you can use as a base for the ice cream), or Lucy’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Patch Cookies. We also discovered a local brand of ginger snaps shaped like jack o’lanterns (plain ginger snaps will do) and pumpkin spice cookie mixes from Betty Crocker and Pillsbury.
    • Candy corn: a few kernels create a seasonal garnish for vanilla or chocolate ice cream.
    • Try eyeball candy instead of a maraschino cherry.

     
    Other ideas? Let us know!

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pumpkin Spiced Almonds

    The roasted almonds are sweetened with sugar, brown sugar and honey, and spiced with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and pumpkin powder (dried, ground pumpkin—look for it at natural food stores or online). The 19.75-ounce can

      It’s easy to make spiced nuts—almonds, pecans, walnuts or other favorite—to enjoy:

    • With cocktails
    • As snacks
    • As garnish for cakes, cupcakes, puddings, ice cream and other treats
    • In green salads with goat cheese or blue cheese
    • As sides with coffee, tea and hot chocolate
    • As gifts, in a small tin, plastic container or cellophane bag tied with ribbon

     
    RECIPE: PUMPKIN SPICED NUTS

    We adapted this recipe from one by Spice Islands. The nuts can be made up to three days ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. If you’re making a lot, it’s best to make them in small batches to ensure that the nuts are thoroughly coated.

       

    pumpkin-spice-almonds-can-planters-230

    Limited Edition Planters Pumpkin Spice Almonds. Nuts are better-for-you for snacking; these Planters nuts have 5 grams of protein in every serving.

     

    planters-pumpkin-spice-nuts-kaminsky-230

    Seasonal snacking: Planter’s Pumpkin Spiced
    Almonds. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    Ingredients

    • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
    • 1 tablespoon white sugar
    • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons pumpkin powder
    • 1/8 teaspoon finely-ground pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground clove or nutmeg
    • 2 cups almonds

     
    Varying The Spices

    Instead of a pepper-allspice blend, you can use cayenne and other favorites. There is no right or wrong combination: just what you like. For an herbal edge, we often add rosemary or sage. Consider adding:

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ground orange peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 325°F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

    2. COMBINE corn syrup, sugar, salt, black pepper, allspice and white pepper in a bowl. Add pecans; stir gently to coat. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.

    3. BAKE almonds for 5 minutes; stir. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes more, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer pecans to a sheet of wax paper. Separate nuts with a fork. Cool.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Candy Corn Macarons

    Dana’s Bakery makes delicious macarons; they’ve been a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week, and a favorite gift we send to macaron lovers (the Macaron Of The Month Club is a luxurious gift for the connoisseur).

    The cookies are both tender and tantalizing, thanks to Dana’s eye for color and palate for flavor. We haven’t found more creative offerings anywhere.

    The “Flavor of the Month” for October is Candy Corn, is a vanilla macaron in candy corn colors—orange, white and yellow. And surprise: There’s a piece of candy con embedded in the filling.

    Candy Corn macarons are available until October 31st at DanasBakery.com or by calling 1.800.477.1816 ($30 for twelve).

    Bonus: All macarons are made with gluten-free almond flour.

     

    candy-corn-macarons-danasbakery3-230

    A sophisticated macaron interpretation of candy corn. We love it! Photo courtesy Dana’s Bakery.

     

    THE HISTORY OF MACAROONS & MACARONS

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Pumpkin Cider

    pumpkin-cider-hkaminsky-230

    Pumpkin cider, with or without rum. Photo ©
    Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    People speak of comfort foods; this is a comfort drink. Thick, flavorful, fragrant pumpkin cider made with pumpkin purée is a seasonal treat that can be served to kids or turned into a cocktail with spiced rum.

    RECIPE: SPICED PUMPKIN CIDER

    Ingredients For 2 Drinks

  • 1 cup pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie mix, which is seasoned)
  • 2-1/2 cups apple cider
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • Cinnamon stick
  • 1/3 cup spiced rum (or substitute more apple cider)
  • Garnish: whipped cream, fresh-ground nutmeg
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the pumpkin, cider, spice and cinnamon stick in a medium-large pot. Bring the mixture to a boil; then simmer for 20 minutes. If you’d prefer a thinner drink, add more cider to achieve desired consistency.

    2. REMOVE the cinnamon stick; strain the mixture to remove any clumps. Add the rum stir. Garnish with optional whipped cream or nutmeg. Serve warm.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pumpkin Burger

    Pumpkin is the not-so-secret ingredient in these veggie burgers, which have real nutritional heft thanks to the addition of chickpeas and pumpkin seed protein powder.

    Whether you’re determined to keep the spirit of summer alive or looking to transition into more autumnal foods, these pumpkin burgers span both worlds. You can make a double batch: The finished patties freeze beautifully.

    The recipe was developed by Hannah Kaminsky.

    RECIPE: PUMPKIN PROTEIN BURGERS

    Ingredients For 6-8 Burgers

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 14-ounce can (1-3/4 cups cooked) chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seed protein powder
  • Salt and pepper
  •    

    pumpkin-burger-kaminsky-230

    Make your veggie burger a pumpkin burger. Recipe and photo © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

  • Optional condiment: pumpkin hummus (mix pumpkin purée into plain hummus)
  •  

    organic-pumpkin-puree-can-farmersmarket-230

    We like this organic pumpkin purée. Photo
    courtesy Farmer’s Market Foods.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lightly grease and set aside.

    2. HEAT the olive oil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. When it is shimmering, add the garlic and onions, sautéing until aromatic and lightly golden brown. This should take no more than 6 to 8 minutes; be careful not to overdo it or you could burn the garlic.

    3. DEGLAZE the pan with the balsamic vinegar, turn off the heat and let the mix cool for 10 minutes.

    4. ROUGHLY MASH the chickpeas in a separate bowl, with a fork or potato masher. Keep the texture fairly coarse so that the burger maintains a satisfying bite. Add in the pumpkin purée, mustard, spices and herbs, mixing well to incorporate. When cool enough to handle…

    5. ADD the sautéed vegetables and pumpkin seed protein powder; stir to combine. Mix thoroughly, making sure that there are no pockets of dry ingredients. The mixture should be soft but manageable—something you can fairly easily mold into patties that will hold their shape. Season with salt and pepper to taste. With slightly moistened hands…

     
    6. MEASURE between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of the burger mixture for each patty, and form into round, flat pucks. Space them out evenly on the sheet at least 1 inch apart. Bake for 15 minutes, flip and bake 10 more minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from the sheet.

    7. SERVE while still hot, or cool completely before freezing and storing (for up to 6 months).

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Gouda Cheese With Spicy Pumpkin Seed Brittle

    Who but the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (EatWisconsinCheese.com) would come up with this innovative pairing: Gouda cheese with pumpkin seed brittle! Serve it as dessert during “pumpkin season.”

    The result, while seemingly simple, is a complex dessert that is creamy, crunchy, spicy and sweet. (If you don’t like spicy foods, leave out the pepper.)

    RECIPE: SPICY PUMPKIN SEED BRITTLE

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup (4 ounces) hulled spicy roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and/or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Gouda or other favorite cheese
  •  

    A seasonal “cheese course.” Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    Preparation

    1. STIR together the baking soda and melted butter; set aside. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside a second sheet the same size. Butter the parchment on one side.

    2. COMBINE the sugar, water and salt in a heavy 2-quart saucepan; bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; wash down any sugar crystals on sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Simmer the syrup 10 to 12 minutes until it reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat. With a wooden spoon, add the pumpkin seeds and pepper.

    3. RETURN the pan to medium-low heat while stirring; melt again until mixture turns amber brown and reaches 290°F (if the syrup becomes granular during cooking, continue to cook until it remelts). Remove from heat; stir in butter-baking soda mixture with wooden spoon.

    4. POUR the mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet; cover with the second parchment sheet. Press the mixture with a rolling pin to 1/4-inch thick. Remove the top layer of parchment; cool completely; crack brittle.

    5. STORE the brittle between layers of parchment in a sealed container for up to two weeks. Plate with a wedge of Gouda cheese, or serve alongside a platter of assorted cheeses.

      

    Comments

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