THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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TIP OF THE DAY: Turn Your Favorite Cake Into Mini Cupcakes

A new book, The Case Against Sugar, is pretty; scary.

For a synopsis, read the review in The New York Times. The one-sentence message: Beyond our diabetes and obesity epidemics (had these been infectious diseases, according to the book, sugar is probably related to heart disease, hypertension, many common cancers and Alzheimer’s.

But we’re not here to scare you. we’re here to offer one of our favorite work-arounds to eat less sugar: mini cupcakes with much less frosting.

Mini cupcakes are nothing new. It’s easy to find them, whether for kids or as an alternative to regular cupcakes, that are three- or four-times the size.

But rather than buy some average cupcake made with some average mix—even at a cupcake boutique—they’re so much better when you make them with your favorite cake recipe.

(Disclosure: We don’t like airy, fluffy cakes, preferring more dense styles like carrot cake, banana bread with chocolate chunks and chocolate cake enriched with sour cream).

This recipe from Kraft uses a cake mix for this recipe, but you can use your own.

Prep time is 20 minutes, bake time is 12 minutes; total time is about an hour.


Ingredients For 48 Mini Cupcakes

  • 1 package (2-layer size) carrot cake mix
    For The Frosting
    (See Our Alternative Frostings Below)

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

  • Mini muffin/cupcake pans
  • Paper liners

    1. PREPARE the cake batter as directed on the package. Spoon into 48 paper-lined mini muffin cups. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.

    2. COOL in the pans 10 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely. As the cupcakes cool…

    3. MAKE the frosting. Beat the butter and cream cheese in medium bowl with mixer until creamy. Blend in the vanilla. Gradually add the sugar, mixing well after each addition. Spread onto the cupcakes.


    Use a small (flat) amount of anything you like. The biggest caloric bargain is aerosol whipped cream, such as Reddi-Wip, at 15 calories per tablespoon.

    The idea is simply to spread it with a spatula, not mound it on! Some cupcakes can seem like a base for eating frosting!

  • Chocolate ganache
  • Greek yogurt, with agave or non-caloric sweetener and other flavorings (cocoa powder, lemon zest, etc.)
  • Ice cream, softened*
  • Reddi-Wip* or homemade with a canister
  • Stabilized whipped cream (recipe below)

    For color, flavor, and minuscule calories, top with a berry.


    Mini Carrot Cakes

    Chocolate Mini Cupcakes

    Lemon Mini Cupcake

    Angel Food Mini Cupcakes

    [1] For smaller portions, turn your favorite cake into mini cupcakes. The recipe for these carrot cake minis is below (photo courtesy Kraft). [2] The next step is to minimize the frosting. Chocolate ganache requires just a smear, not a pile (here’s the recipe from Life In The Lofthouse). [3] Another icing tip: Whipped cream has fewer calories because of all that air (photo courtesy Rose Bakes). [4] For the finale, add a fresh berry (here’s the recipe for these angel food cupcakes from Cooking Classy).

    *With “collapsible” frostings, frost the cupcakes immediately before serving, or bring the frosting to the table for self-service.

    We love stabilized whipped cream as a frosting and filling. It holds its shape for two days without collapsing.

    The stabilizing agent is typically stabilized with gelatin. Here, we use cream cheese.

    As you can guess, it’s richer in flavor and texture when you substitute cream cheese.

    This recipe makes enough to frost a cake; but there are only four tablespoons of sugar in all five cups!

    Add cocoa powder for chocolate frosting/filling.

    Ingredients For Five Cups

  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups heavy/whipping cream
  • 4 tablespoons powdered sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

    1. WHIP the cream cheese in a small bowl until soft and aerated. In a larger, chilled bowl, whip the cream until it forms soft, collapsible peaks that.

    2. ADD the cream cheese to the cream and continue whipping on high speed until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Beat in the sugar, vanilla and optional cocoa powder.

    3. REFRIGERATE until ready to use.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Fun With Rice Colors

    Tricolor RIce

    Tr-Color Rice Cake Recipe

    Brown Basmati Rice

    Italian Black Rice

    Red Rice

    Green Bamboo Rice

    [1] A tricolor rice dish made from white rice, using vegetables for color (photo courtesy Nephroplus). [2] These are the natural colors of brown rice, [3] black rice and [4] red rice. [5] Green bamboo rice is white rice infused with bamboo extract, combining the health benefits of chlorophyll with a delightful color (uncooked rice photos courtesy rice specialist In Harvest).


    All rice starts as a whole grain, which means that the germ and bran layer are intact. When these are removed, you have white rice.

    The most common bran layer for rice is brown; remove it and you have white rice. But there are also red and black rice brans. The darker the bran layer, the more nutritional value the rice has.

    Some rices are only partially milled, so some of the bran layer is left on. These rices tend to be light tan, pink or even a striated color. Our Madagascar Pink Rice is an example of rice that is partially milled. It still retains a high level of nutrition, but cooks faster and has a texture that is closer to white rice.

    But you don’t have to by naturally colored rices to serve colored rice. You can color white rice with vegetables, as in the recipe below.

    Tricolor rice is a popular dish in India, but we haven’t yet seen it in the U.S.—probably because it’s a bit more work.

    We did find a sweet dessert versions to join the savory rice below.

    You don’t have to use Indian flavors if it’s not your thing. Just add your own favorite herbs and spices, using the recipe template as a guide.

    This special-occasion recipe from as an Indian specialty called a rice sandwich.

    Since most of us in the U.S. don’t want to labor over six individual servings, we made it in one large Pyrex bowl.

    Prep time is 25 minutes, cook time is 25 minutes, baking time is 20 to 25 minutes. The wonderful aroma will have everyone waiting in anticipation!


    Ingredients For 6 Servings

    For The Orange Rice

  • 1-1/4 cups cooked rice
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tablespoon ghee
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 1 tsp finely chopped green chiles
  • 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt to taste
    For The White Rice

  • 1-1/4 cups cooked rice
  • 1/2 tablespoon ghee or unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped green chiles
  • 1/4 cup chopped paneer (substitute drained ricotta or small curd cottage cheese)
  • Salt to taste
    For The Green Rice

  • 1-1/4 cups cooked rice
  • 1/2 tablespoon ghee
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup cooked green peas
  • Salt to taste
    For The Green Paste

  • 1/2 cup chopped coriander
  • 2 green chillies, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon amchur (mango powder—substitute ginger powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • A bit of water

  • 2 teaspoons oil for greasing
  • 2 tablespoons milk

    For The Orange Rice

    1. COMBINE the tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of water in a deep non-stick pan. Cook over a medium flame for 5 to 7 minutes or till the tomatoes are soft.

    2. BLEND the tomatoes in a blender to a smooth pulp and strain it using a strainer; set aside.

    3. HEAT the ghee in a wide non-stick pan. Add the onions and sauté over a medium flame for 1 minute. Add the carrots and sauté for 1 more minute. Add the prepared tomato pulp, green chiles, sugar and salt. Mix well and cook on a medium flame for 2 minutes.

    4. ADD the rice, mix well and cook over a medium flame for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
    For The White Rice

    1. HEAT the ghee in a wide non-stick pan and add the caraway seeds. When the seeds crackle, add the green chiles and sauté on a medium flame for 30 seconds.

    2. ADD the rice and paneer, mix well and cook over a medium flame for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
    For The Green Rice

    1. HEAT the ghee in a wide non-stick pan. Add the onions and sauté on a medium flame for 1 minute.

    2. ADD the green paste and again sauté over a medium flame for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the rice, green peas and salt, mix well and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
    To Assemble

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 360°F. Grease a microwave safe baking bowl with oil and spread the green rice evenly over it using the back of a spoon. Add the white rice and spread it evenly using the back of a spoon. Top with the orange rice and spread it evenly using the back of a spoon.

    2. POUR the milk evenly over the rice, cover the bowl with a lid and bake for 15 to 20 minutes (or microwave on high for 5 to 7 minutes).

    3. SERVE: Turn the bowl upside down on a serving plate. Serve immediately.



    RECIPE: New England Clam Chowder

    January 21st is National New England Clam Chowder Day, with a cream base. There is no National Manhattan Clam Chowder Day, honoring the tomato-base version; but you can have your choice of recipes on February 25th.


    Chowder is a type of soup (see below for the major categories) made with potatoes and onions. It can include clams or other seafood, chicken, corn and creative variations.

    A friend of ours has an old family recipe from Maine for a haddock chowder. Feel free to combine fish and shellfish. How about a surf-and-turf chowder with both chicken and fish or shellfish?

    The word chowder has its roots in the Latin calderia, which originally meant a hearth for warming things and later came to mean a cooking pot. The word evolved to cauldron, which in French became chaudiere, a word that easily became chowder in English.

    The first chowders in our culture were fish chowders, made in cauldrons in fishing villages along the coast of France and in the Cornwall region of Southwestern England. When the fishermen came to the New World, they found clams in huge supply along the northern Atlantic coast, and clam chowder was born.

    Celebrate today—or any day demanding a hearty soup—with this yummy clam chowder.


    This one-pot recipe, adapted from Bon Appetit, can be made a day in advance, up to Step 5. Bring the chowder to a simmer before adding the clams on the second day.


    Whichever clams are freshest are the ones to use. We’ve used razor clams, and actually prefer them for the surprise factor and arty appearance.

    If you have no access to fresh clams, you can substitute two 10-ounce cans of baby clams, plus 6 cups of bottled clam juice (not clam juice cocktail) for the broth.

    Ingredients For 8 One-Cup Servings

  • 8 pounds clams in shell*, scrubbed
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, minced
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold† potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Garnish: chopped fresh chives or parsley
  • Oyster crackers or saltines

    1. BRING the clams and water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Cook until the clams are just open, 8-10 minutes; discard any that do not open. Drain, reserving the broth. Transfer the clams to a baking pan, rimmed sheet or platter; let cool until comfortable to handle, remove the meat and discard the shells. This step can be done 1 day ahead. Cover the clams and broth separately and refrigerate.


    New England Clam Chowder

    New England Clam Chowder

    Clam Chowder Bread Bowl

    [1] The clam chowder recipe with bacon from Bon Appetít. [2] Some recipes are heavier on the cream, but that gives you more cream flavor, less clam-vegetable flavor (photo courtesy Mackenzie Ltd.). [3] Clam chowder in individual bread bowls at Arch Rock Fish of Santa Barbara (alas, now closed).


    2. CHOP the clams into bite-size pieces. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large bowl. Add water to measure 6 cups.

    3. MELT the butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the bacon begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the celery, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

    4. ADD the reserved broth, potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes.

    5. COMBINE the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl to form a slurry, and stir it into the chowder. Return the chowder to a boil to thicken. DO day ahead. Let cool; discard the bay leaf.

    6. STIR in the clams and cream. Taste and season with salt as needed (some clams are brinier than others) and pepper; or allow diners to season their own. Divide the chowder among bowls. Garnish with chives or parsley. Serve with and oyster crackers.

    *Discard any uncooked clams with broken or opened shells; these can collect bacteria. Conversely, discard any cooked clams with shells that have not opened.

    †Substitute Baby Dutch potatoes or other waxy potato (here are the different types of potatoes).


    Manhattan Clam Chowder

    Rhode Island Clam Chowder

    Razor Clams

    [4] A beautiful Manhattan Clam Chowder from an Australian cooking competition, MasterChef. [5] Rhode Island Clam Chowder has a clear base. Here’s the recipe from The New York Times. [6] Sweet-flesh razor clams can look exotic, yet beautiful, in a clam chowder (photo courtesy The Fish Society).


    Types Of Clam Chowder

  • New England Clam Chowder. If you like creamy soups, the New England style may be more of your cup of soup. It’s milk- or cream-based (with flour as a thickener), and splattering it is unlikely to permanently ruin that shirt or tie.
  • Manhattan Clam Chowder. If you want to save calories or cut back on cholesterol, Manhattan Clam Chowder is based on broth and tomatoes. It is actually an Italian clam soup, arriving on these shores with Italian immigrants in the late 1800s. It tends to be seasoned with oregano, from its Italian heritage. The original Italian soup achieved broader appeal with the name of New York Clam Chowder, which evolved to Manhattan Clam Chowder.
  • Rhode Island Clam Chowder. This variation, found chiefly in Rhode Island, is made with clear broth.

  • Bisque: A thick, creamy soup that traditionally was made from puréed shellfish. Today bisques are also made from fruits, game fish and vegetables.
  • Broth & Stock: Liquids in which meat, fish, grains or vegetables have been simmered. The difference between a broth and a stock is that broth is made from the desirable ingredients; stock is made from “leftovers” such as bones and skin; thus broth is richer and more nourishing than stock. Both are used as a base for soups and gravies.
  • Chowder: Chunky soups thickened with flour. The main ingredient chowder can range widely, including chicken, corn, fish and seafood.
  • Consommé: A broth that has been clarification. This means that egg whites or other ingredients are boiled in the broth to coagulate the sediment, resulting in a clear, elegant-looking soup.
  • Gumbo: A dish that can fall into the soup or stew category, a strong stock of meat and/or fish/seafood, with pieces of the protein and a variety of vegetables, served over rice. Gumbo is traditionally thickened with okra or filé powder (from the sassfras tree) and vegetables. A gumbo is traditionally served over rice.
  • Gravy: Gravy is not a soup, but a sauce; although Americans have often turned canned soups into sauces. Gravies are made from the juices of cooked meat or vegetables after they have been cooked. Almost all gravies start with a roux (ROO), a mixture of flour and butter; and are thickened with starch (flour, corn starch, arrowroot, etc).
  • Purée: Some soups are puréed into smoothness. A purée can be considered a vegetable or grain/pulse counterpoint to a bisque. The technique also produces smooth apple sauce, whipped potatoes and puréed vegetables (carrot purée, broccoli purée, etc.).
  • Ragout: The French term for a main-dish stew. Note that in Italian, n Italian cuisine, ragù is a meat-based pasta sauce.
  • Soup: Any combination of ingredients cooked in a liquid base: fish/seafood, fruit, meats, starches and vegetables. Soups can be thick and hearty or thin and delicate. While cooked ingredients can remain in the soup, the objective of the ingredients is to flavor the liquid. Soup can be served warm, room temperature or chilled. Fruit soups can be served for starters or desserts.
  • Stew: A hearty dish made from proteins, vegetables, pulses, etc., simmered in a liquid (water, broth, stock, wine, beer) and then served in the resulting gravy. Stewing is a technique to cook less tender cuts of meat: The slow cooking method tenderizes the meat and the lower temperature allows the flavors to combine. There is a thin line between soups and chunky soups; generally, stews contain less liquid. Sometimes the name is adopted for a soup. Oyster Stew, for example, is a thick soup with butter and milk or cream, like a bisque.





    TIP OF THE DAY: Cook Sorghum For Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

    When we first saw the word sorghum, it was as a tween, in the reading of “Gone With The Wind.”

    There was no sugar available in the blockaded, war-torn South, so Scarlett O’Hara sweetened her coffee substitute, chicory, with sorghum syrup, a molasses substitute.

    For decades, we thought of sorghum as a sweetener. After all, it’s not something you come across in the American diet.

    That is changing, with the rise in demand for gluten-free whole grains.

    Sorghum is an ancient Old World whole grain that has been cultivated for millennia.

  • It’s an energy food that’s gluten free, cholesterol free and non-GMO.
  • It’s a good source of fiber and iron.
  • It has 5g of protein per serving.
  • Its neutral flavor can be paired with any foods; it can be substituted for rice or lentils in dishes like paella and biryani.
  • You can find whole grain sorghum, pearled sorghum, sorghum flour and sorghum-based flour mixes.
  • It cooks, freezes and reheats easily.
    You can also pop sorghum seeds. The result looks just like popcorn.


    Click to the links featured in the photos, and/or pick up a sorghum cookbook.


    Sorghum is a genus of plants in the grass family—the family that includes the other grains (see the list below).

    Seventeen of the twenty-five sorghum species are native to Australia. One species, Sorghum bicolor, native to Africa, has become an important crop worldwide.

    Most varieties of sorghum are drought- and heat-tolerant, and are especially important crops in arid regions, where the grain is a dietary staples for the poor and rural populations.

    Sorghum is not only used for food (as grain and sorghum syrup, similar to molasses), but is brewed into alcoholic beverages, used as animal fodder, and made into biofuels.

    Nutritionally, it is similar to raw oats. A serving contains 20% or more of the Daily Value of protein; the B vitamins niacin, thiamin and vitamin B6; and several dietary minerals, including iron (26% DV) and manganese (76% DV).


    When you see a grain labeled “hulled,” such as barley or sorghum, it indicates a whole grain.

    Hulled means that the the three parts of the seed—the bran, germ and endosperm—are intact, or “whole.” A whole grain provides optimum nutrition—vitamins, minerals and fiber.

    Only the inedible outermost layer, the hull, has been removed. This is true for all grains for human consumption: We can’t digest the hulls.

    Pearled grains are processed, like white rice. The polishing (pearling) removes the nutritious bran layer. The flavor is more delicate, not earthy; and it cooks faster. But a good amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber are lost in the process.

    Here’s more about whole grains and their nutrition.

    In 2012 Patricia Alemdar was given a taste of crushed sorghum from Haiti, where it’s considered a medicinal food. Although she liked the taste, she didn’t really care for the texture.

    (The common variety of sorghum is too dense to be cooked whole, so it needs to be crushed.)

    After months of research and testing, she and her mother produced a better, premium version of sorghum.

    It didn’t have to be crushed to be eaten whole. It had the softest bite and fastest cooking time. They launched it in 2014, and branded it Wondergrain.

    It’s a delicious addition to our table! The line is certified kosher by OU.

    Discover more at

  • Amaranth
  • Barley (but not pearled barley)
  • Buckwheat (Kasha®)
  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Chia/Salba®†
  • Corn (whole grain corn or cornmeal, yellow or white)*
  • Farro (emmer wheat)
  • Flaxseed
  • Grano
  • Hemp
  • Kamut® (Khorasan wheat)†
  • Millet
  • Oats (oatmeal, whole or rolled oats)
  • Popcorn
  • Quinoa
  • Rice: black, brown, red, wild
  • Rye (whole)
  • Spelt
  • Sorghum
  • Teff
  • Triticale (barley/wheat hybrid)
  • Whole wheat
  • Wild rice
  • ________________
    *Grits are refined and are not whole grains.



    Pearled Sorghum

    Sorghum Hot Cereal

    Sorghum Grain Bowl

    Sorghum Salad

    Roast Chicken With Sorghum

    Sorghum Squash Pilaf

    [1] Sorghum (photo courtesy Wondergrain). [2] Pearled sorghum cooks faster, but is not a whole grain (see the discussion below—photo courtesy Healthy Nibbles And Bits). [3] BREAKFAST: A bowl of hot sorghum (here’s the recipe from Clean Eating Magazine). [4] LUNCH: Sorghum grain bowl with beans and avocado (here’s the recipe from Street Smart Nutrition). [5] Sorghum salad with kale pesto (here’s the recipe from Healthy Nibbles & Bits). [6] DINNER: Serve chicken or fish with a side of sorghum (here’s the recipe from Bon Appetit). [7] Add some grated cheese to this sorghum and squash pilaf (here’s the recipe from Cooking Light).

    †Salba is a trademarked name for chia, Kamut® is a trademarked name for khorasan wheat.



    PRODUCT: Scotch-Infused Chocolates For Burns Day

    Scotch-Infused Chocolate Truffles

    Whiskey Truffles

    Laphroaig & Dark Chocolate

    Chocolate for Burns Night. If you need something more simple, grab a quality dark chocolate bar (photos #1 and #2 courtesy Burdick Chocolate, photo #3 courtesy Laphroaig).


    Luke Scotch? Like chocolate? Combine both on January 25th.

    On that day, the birthday of the great Scottish romantic poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) is celebrated. Family and friends gather for Burns Night, an evening of good food and company.

    A traditional Burns’ Supper (Scottish supper) is served. It can consist of beef pie, cock-a-leekie soup, colcannon, haggis, nettles and tatties, smoked haddock and more.

    Perhaps, some of Burns’ most popular poems are read: A Red, Red Rose; To a Louse; To a Mouse; Tam O’Shanter, Ae Fond Kiss and perhaps most appropriate to the occasion, Address to a Haggis.

    You could celebrate with dinner, with a cup of tea and some shortbread, or with a dram of Scotch.

    But that dram would be so much better with a box of the Robert Burns Whisky Bonbons from L.A. Burdock Chocolate.

    Available for just a few weeks, these chocolates are infused with a variety of fine Scotches, including Macallan, Glenfarclas, Talisker, Springbank, Highland Park and Lagavulin.

    A half pound gift box is $42.00.

    Don’t tarry: Order yours today at Burdick Chocolate.

    Finish the evening with Burns’ most famous poem, set to a folk song:

    Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
    And never brought to mind?
    Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
    And days of auld lang syne?
    And days of auld lang syne, my dear,
    And days of auld lang syne.
    Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
    And days of auld lang syne?

    We twa hae run aboot the braes
    And pu’d the gowans fine.
    We’ve wandered mony a weary foot,
    Sin’ auld lang syne.
    Sin’ auld lang syne, my dear,
    Sin’ auld lang syne,
    We’ve wandered mony a weary foot,
    Sin’ auld ang syne.
    We twa hae sported i’ the burn,
    From morning sun till dine,
    But seas between us braid hae roared
    Sin’ auld lang syne.
    Sin’ auld lang syne, my dear,
    Sin’ auld lang syne.
    But seas between us braid hae roared
    Sin’ auld lang syne.

    And ther’s a hand, my trusty friend,
    And gie’s a hand o’ thine;
    We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
    For auld lang syne.
    For auld lang syne, my dear,
    For auld lang syne,
    We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
    For auld lang syne.


    You can sing along with this bagpipe version of Auld Lang Syne from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.



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