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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.

Archive for January, 2009

PRODUCT REVIEW: Healthy Harvest Freshness Extender

How often do you waste food, throwing out wilted and moldy produce…and how often are you angry that you don’t have usable food in the produce bin when you go to eat that romaine, those mushrooms, those berries? According a USDA study, American households throw out 25% of the produce they purchase because it has gone bad, an average of $600 of food per year per family.

Many fruits and vegetables give off ethylene gas as they ripen. That’s why one of the tricks to ripen fruit quickly is to put it in a closed paper bag overnight with a banana or an apple. That same ethylene gas in your produce bin—or even low levels of ethylene compounds wafting through the main body of your refrigerator—hastens the ripening, and wilting, of your produce.


The Healthy Harvest Freshness Extender keeps ethylene gas at a very low level, and will double or triple the shelf life of your produce. Just place one “egg” into each bin, and the contents are protected from ethylene gas. The contents of the Freshness Extender last for three months, and then must be replaced. Note well: It only works if you refill the egg every three months with a fresh packet of (non-toxic) crystals. But boy, does it work!

Read the full review on TheNibble.com.

Shop igourmet.com

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VIEWPOINT: Should You Buy Bottled Water?

Bottled water is a hotly-contested topic these days. After several years of impressive growth, sales have recently declined. Much of the the decline is attributed to environmental issues, specifically, the amount of plastic bottles going into landfill. Bottled water expert Michael Mascha explains the difference between commodity bottled water and naturally bottled water, and why you should consider buying one and not the other.

Much of the bottled water sold in the United States is really bottled municipal tap water. Government and industry estimates are that filtered municipal water comprises up to 40% of the bottled water sold. It makes no sense to buy this processed tap water. If you are not happy with the way your own tap water tastes, you would be much better off buying a water filter. You’d save money, gas, your own energy hauling, storage…not to mention the environmental benefit of reducing the amount of PET plastic bottles produced and disposed of by more than 40%.


Most consumers confuse two distinctly different types of bottled water: commodity bottled water and naturally bottled water. Read about the difference between each one, and make an informed decision, in the full article on TheNibble.com.

Soda Club USA

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PRODUCT REVIEW: New Zealand Natural Ice Cream


Dense yet restrained ice creams—plus a sorbet
and a frozen yogurt—in the basic, popular flavors.
New Zealand Natural Ice Cream is actually imported from New Zealand. It’s a different style of ice cream than Americans are used to; and if you like it, it’s better for you than your favorite superpremium (less sugar, less cream). The brand isn’t yet widely available in the U.S. and normally we don’t write about products that aren’t accessible to most readers, at least by mail order. But a number of people have asked about it, so here’s the scoop (pun intended).

New Zealand natural is natural, of course. The milk and cream come from rBGH-free cows, and there are no artificial ingredients or preservatives. It’s made with an egg custard. Thus far, it sounds like a lot of premium ice cream brands. Yet there is something very different about New Zealand Natural Ice Cream.

The product line uses less sugar and a lower percentage of cream (more milk) than a typical American premium recipe, making up the difference in the low overrun (air whipped into the ice cream). So you have a dense ice cream without the tongue-coating butterfat or the cloying sweetness.

Read the full review on TheNibble.com.

Stonewall Kitchen, LLC

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Uli Mana Raw Cacao

For everyone wondering about the healthy food picks of the last few weeks, January is “health month” at THE NIBBLE. That’s the brief hiatus between the six weeks of holiday eating that end the old year and the Valentine’s Day delights of the new year. During “health month,” we try not to tempt people away from their New Year’s resolutions. Both our Top Picks Of The Week and the regular reviews and articles on TheNibble.com are bursting with the most delicious “good-for-you” foods we can find.

Before you get tired of healthy foods, the indulgences begin again on January 26, with three weeks of Valentine gift recommendations. Or maybe they begin right now, as we show how chocolate can be wholesome, vegan, organic, raw, primitive…and delectable. We polished off every last morsel.

When we first set eyes on Uli Mana, its packaging did not look like manna from chocolate heaven. But then we tasted the organic chocolate truffles, brownies, chocolate spread and more. Raw cacao was never more divine. And with nary a drop of refined sugar: It’s all sweetened with lower-glycemic agave syrup. There’s no cream, no butter, and more antioxidants than in regular chocolate. How could our New Year’s diet disapprove?


Truffles made from raw cacao, covered with raw
cacao nibs, have intense, bittersweet chocolate
flavor. You are mano a mano with the cacao.
Wow!

In Uli Mana’s hands, raw cacao is a wow. This is food for serious foodies—though they may wish to share it with their raw foodist and vegan friends. Read the full review, including more about raw cacao, on TheNibble.com.

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BOOK: Great Chefs Cook Vegan

Great Chefs Cook Vegan by Linda Long How popular is veganism? Popular enough to have inspired a gorgeous new cookbook, Great Chefs Cook Vegan, by Linda Long, with recipes by 25 of today’s most lauded chefs, including Dan Barber, David Burke, Cat Cora, Daniel Boulud, Todd English, Suzanne Goin, Thomas Keller, Gabriel Kreuther, Eric Ripert, Marcus Samuelsson, Charlie Trotter and Jean-George Vongerichten. Each chef contributes a three- or four-course vegan meal with beautiful photographs of each recipe. Examples include Baby Beet Salad With Pistachio Vinaigrette & Chickpea Fritters, Sweet Pea Ravioli With Sautéed Pea Leaves, Stuffed Baby Bell Peppers With Sunflower Seed Risotto, and Chocolate Cake With A Chocolate Truffle Molten Center. Yum—what time shall we be there for dinner?

A vegan diet is more restrictive than a vegetarian diet. Vegans exclude any type of animal product, including eggs, dairy and honey. The diet focuses on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes, is low in fat, contains no cholesterol and is rich in fiber and nutrients. And, in the hands of great chefs, the food tastes as wonderful as anything else they cook, as you’ll see when you start cooking up a storm from this cookbook.

Get a FREE Backpack when you spend $100 or more.

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Bosch Tassimo Coffee System

When we last tried the Tassimo Hot Beverage System in 2005, it was fresh out of development with a huge ad campaign, and a few flaws. Since then, it has a new manufacturer and a vastly improved delivery.

It also has what environmentalists might consider a flaw. Given the green movement and the desire of many people not to throw more plastic into landfills, the hard plastic cups that enclose the coffee or other beverage ingredient (here called T discs—other systems have different configurations and different names—for example, the Keurig system’s are K cups) make them distinctly ungreen. If that is your concern, you can go to an instantly degradable paper pod system as is used in the Senseo system. (There is a green offset: If you drink your coffee at home, you don’t waste a paper or [gasp] styrofoam cup, plastic lid, stirring stick, etc. with takeout.)

But if you’re not an avid recycler, one small plastic cup is the least of your landfill contributions, and we highly recommend the Tassimo for convenience, speed and delivery of a great-tasting cup of coffee…plus good hot chocolate and passable tea, the latter two major improvements on the original version.


In brief, single-serve coffee systems produce a very fast, generally quite good cup of coffee—unless you’re an aficionado who buys and grinds fresh beans weekly and has a palate that knows when a brewed pot has been on the burner longer than 20 minutes. It’s the perfect solution for people who just need one or two cups in the morning and don’t need a whole pot. And it couldn’t be easier: Just make sure the water well is filled with water—you can keep it filled so you don’t even have to exert the effort in the morning. Then, just insert a coffee-, tea- or chocolate-filled disc into the machine and press a button. In an amazing 60 seconds, your cup is filled with a steaming hot beverage. You pay for the convenience, 62¢ or more per cup. But that’s far less than you’d pay at retail, and you have steaming hot coffee in your cup in about a minute with virtually no cleanup beyond tossing the used disc in the trash.

Read the full review of the Bosch Tassimo System on TheNibble.com.

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PRODUCTS: Gluten-Free Food


Chocolate cashew Cupola Clouds offer very
low-calorie crunch.

How pervasive is gluten allergy? Although celiac disease affects approximately one percent of the population, a larger number of people have gluten sensitivity, which causes gastrointestinal complaints. In November, Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month, Uno Chicago Grill tested the nation’s first gluten-free chain pizza (cheese and pepperoni) in its northeast region. Response was so great, they’re rolling it out nationwide.

This month, THE NIBBLE reviews gluten-free Cupola Cookies and Cupola Clouds cheese bites. An index to all of our gluten-free foods can be found in our Diet Nibbles Section.

New VitaTop flavor

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RECIPE: Grapefruit Granita

Granita is light, low-calorie and crunchier than sorbet. You don’t use an ice cream maker; instead, the ice crystals form in a pan in the freezer and are broken up every few hours.

This recipe uses Texas Rio Star Grapefruit, grown in the Rio Grande Valley in southernmost Texas. They are more red in color than Ruby Red grapefruit, so have a more lovely color. If you can’t obtain them, you can substitute other red or pink grapefruit, but they may not have the same sweetness.

Makes 4 half-cup servings.

Ingredients

-3 Texas Rio Star Grapefruit, juiced
-1/2 cup sugar
-Mint leaves for garnish


Directions

1. Combine grapefruit juice and sugar and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
2. Let the mixture cool down and pour it into a flat pan with high sides. Place in freezer.
3. Once ice crystals start to form, take a fork and stir vigorously, breaking the crystals up, and return to the freezer. Do this every half hour for about four hours.
4. Once the granite is totally frozen, fluff it with a fork and give it another half hour in the freezer to solidify. Serve with a mint leaf garnish.

Shop igourmet.com

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TRENDS: Flavor Combinations For 2009

Looking for palate excitement this year? McCormick, the world’s largest spice company, has developed cutting-edge flavor combinations that are sure to inspire. International influences and natural foods figure prominently in the company’s Top 10 Flavor Pairings for 2009, allowing for flavorful yet healthy dishes. After reviewing the introductions to each flavor pairing, you can click through to a delicious recipe that expresses those flavors. If you love these innovative pairings as much as we do, you can still enjoy the wonderful recipes from Flavor Trends 2008, as well.

How does a spice company decide what’s hot? McCormick draws on the expertise of sensory analysts, chefs, trend experts and food technologists. Joined by some of today’s most innovative and cutting-edge restaurant chefs, cookbook authors and TV food personalities, this collective culinary vision helps chart a delicious course for the year ahead.


Saké and mixed peppercorns: one pairing to wake
up flavor in 2009.
Influencing the flavors of 2009 are Asian-infused and internationally influenced tastes, a desire for all-natural foods and a craving for favorite ingredients reimagined with contemporary whimsy. McCormick explored these and other trends to develop the top 10 flavor pairings for 2009. See which one of the following you’d like to try first:

-Pairing 1: Cayenne & Tart Cherry
-Pairing 2: Chinese Five Spice & Artisan-Cured Pork
-Pairing 3: Dill & Avocado Oil
-Pairing 4: Garam Masala & Pepitas
-Pairing 5: Mint & Quinoa
-Pairing 6: Peppercorn Mélange & Saké
-Pairing 7: Rosemary & Fruit Preserves
-Pairing 8: Smoked Paprika & Agave Nectar
-Pairing 9: Tarragon & Beetroot
-Pairing 10: Toasted Sesame & Root Beer

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ENTERTAINING: Cheese Wafers With Cocktails

Planning a party to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday? Why serve another “same old, same old” cheese plate, when you can thrill your guests with Mamie’s Cheese Wafers? Cheese wafers are a southern favorite. Dr. King would approve.

-Read the review of Mamie’s Cheese Wafers.

-Find more snacks in our Hors D’Oeuvres & Cocktail Snacks Section.

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