THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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Archive for November, 2009

The First Thanksgiving

Photo courtesy There’s lots more
on the website!

What did they eat at the first Thanksgiving in 1621—which was not called Thanksgiving by the celebrants? It was probably referred to as a harvest festival. (President Abraham Lincoln declared the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1863.)

We know that in 1621, the governor of Plimoth Plantation sent four men fowling, and “they four in one day shot as much fowl.” Perhaps it was turkey, perhaps not. The native Wampanoag guests killed five deer. About ninety of them attended, and the feast lasted for three days.

There’s much to know about the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag People that we never learned in school. But Plimoth Plantation, a historical site, offers terrific education online.

Before or after Thanksgiving dinner, the website is a great alternative to football for young and old alike.


TIP OF THE DAY: A Sweeter Hostess Gift

Happy Thanksgiving! If you’re a guest at Thanksgiving dinner today, you’ve most likely picked up a gift for your host or hostess. But for future dinner parties, find out if anyone on the guest list is on a sugar-restricted diet.

Then, let other guests bring the traditional bottle of wine. You can help out the hosts by bringing a box of fine sugar-free cookies or candy that can be enjoyed for dessert by those with restrictions.


Curious Cookies sugar-free cookies.


COOKING TIPS: The Butterball Hotline (1.800.288.8372) & Turkey-Carving Video


Don’t thaw in the bathtub while bathing the kids.

For 10 months a year, the Butterball Hotline is an automated tip line. But for almost 30 years, live operators take over during peak turkey season, November and December, and a tidal wave of people (last year, around 100,000) phone for their advice. If we may cross over to fiction for a moment, even President Jed Bartlett called for help, in one of the more endearing scenes on “The West Wing.”

The 55 operators who staff Butterball’s Turkey Talk-Line know their stuff(ing): All have degrees in home economics, food science or nutrition. While some have been on the line since its inception, newbies are trained to address every situation, from the banal but necessary (optimal size turkey to buy, thawing techniques, cooking times and temperatures, amount of stuffing needed, how to use a meat thermometer, carving knives, presentation tips and food-safety concerns) to the erratic (you’d be surprised how many people thaw the turkey in the bathwater while bathing the kids).

More recently, everyone has had to come up the curve on deep fat frying a turkey, which has become a more popular way to prepare the holiday bird. (But don’t get too excited—it’s the least healthy way to prepare a turkey.)

The hotline, 1.800.288.8372, is available 365/24/7.

  • One thing you need a visual demonstration of is carving. See a video on how to carve a turkey, from Chef Daniel Humm of one of our favorite restaurants, NYC’s Eleven Madison Park (and a James Beard Foundation Rising Chef award winner).



TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Sprinkles Cupcake Mix

In greater Los Angeles, home to Sprinkles Cupcakes,* there is the usual discussion board controversy. You’ll read everything from they’re “the best there is” to “avoid at all costs.” We only know Sprinkles cupcakes from their mixes. We’ve made every one, and we stand firmly with “the best there is” crowd. Maybe your homemade cupcakes are as good, but they can’t be much better.

*The original store is in Beverly Hills. There are outposts in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Newport Beach, Phoenix/Scottsdale and Palo Alto, with 16 additional locations on the boards (see the website).

If you’re looking for a better cupcake than what you can buy…if you’re tired of trying recipes, only to find that they’re not what you were hoping for…we hope that your search, like ours, has come to an end. Your new favorite gourmet cake mix purveyor is Candace Nelson, co-founder (with her husband) of Sprinkles Cupcakes. Some day we’ll get to a Sprinkles bakery; until then, we can only judge the cupcakes made from the mixes as A to A+.


The best cupcakes in town are at your house,
with Sprinkles cupcake mixes. Photo by Victoria Pearson | Sprinkles.

We baked up all seven cupcake mixes: Banana, Dark Chocolate, Lemon, Pumpkin, Red Velvet, Spice and Vanilla. There’s also Chocolate Peppermint which, along with Pumpkin, is a seasonal mix flavor.

  • Read the full review to discover our favorites and how to make the best cupcakes in town.
  • Find more of our favorite cupcakes and recipes in THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet Cakes Section.



TIP OF THE DAY: Glamorous Garnishing


A bowl of tomato soup garnished with crab-
meat, fresh basil, shredded Grana Padano
and snipped chives. Photo courtesy

Remember when a garnish meant parsley? Today, part of the creativity in cooking is the choice of edible garniture. Just a bit of garnish makes any plate look better.

Try whole or halved cherry or grape tomatoes or actual grapes, caperberries with stems (or scatter small capers on the plate), beads of whitefish caviar, edible flowers….There are dozens of tasty choices whether your course is sweet or savory.

So whether you’re presenting the turkey, yams, stuffing, cranberries or other dishes tomorrow, consider whether sprigs of rosemary, orange peel, dill or other garnish (yes, even parsley) can make them even more of a visual “wow.”


GIFT: Thanksgiving Cookie Basket From Corso’s Cookies

We received a Thanksgiving cookie bouquet and, though surrounded by piles of food samples requiring tasting, took a moment from the work of the day to relax with a cup of tea and enjoy the hand-decorated turkeys, pumpkins and ears of corn.

While many cookie bouquets are sugar cookies—hard and pretty flavorless—Corso’s Cookies produces softer, higher-quality shortbread, made with butter and almond flavoring. Even after a big lunch, they were popular with our group of Nibblers.

If you’ve missed the opportunity to send a Thanksgiving bouquet prior to the big day, there’s still time to send some for weekend enjoyment—or a Thank You bouquet to your dinner host. And of course, there are Happy Anything Else, Congratulations Get Well and many more cookie greetings. With the skyrocketing cost of paper greeting, cookie bouquets may become the new standard way of messaging.


We gobbled them up! Photo courtesy



RECIPE: Ice Cream (Or Frozen Yogurt) Pumpkin Pie


Here’s a different pumpkin pie for your
holiday: made with pumpkin ice cream
or frozen yogurt.

If you’re looking for something special beyond the traditional pumpkin pie, how about an ice cream or frozen yogurt pumpkin pie? This recipe, created by Louise McLane, comes to us from our favorite frozen yogurt purveyor, Sweet Scoops (read the review of this fabulous probiotic yogurt). Just scoop the ice cream or frozen yogurt into a pie shell and top with toffee bits, chopped walnuts and a chocolate drizzle.

Gingersnap Crumb Crust Ingredients
– 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
– 1½ cups gingersnap crumbs (24 small gingersnaps, crushed and pulsed in a food processor until finely ground)
– 2 tablespoons sugar
– 1/8 teaspoon salt


1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Lightly butter a 9″ pie pan. Stir together all ingredients in a bowl and press evenly on bottom and up side of pie pan.
3. Bake until crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on a rack to room temperature.

Filling Ingredients
– 2 pints Sweet Scoops Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt or your favorite pumpkin ice cream, softened until spreadable

1. Spoon softened frozen yogurt evenly into pie shell.
2. Place in freezer while preparing topping.

Topping Ingredients
– 1 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
– 1 cup toffee bits (you can use a Skor bar)

– Mix together walnuts and toffee bits. Sprinkle liberally and evenly on top of pie.
– Press slightly into frozen yogurt or ice cream to adhere. Return pie to freezer while preparing glaze.

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze Ingredients
– 2 ounces (2 squares) bittersweet chocolate
– 2 tablespoons butter

1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a small bowl over hot water on moderate heat (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water), stirring until completely smooth.
2. With a spoon, drizzle spoonfuls of the glaze over the pie in a zigzag pattern.
3. Return pie to freezer for a half hour before serving, or until glaze starts to look dull.
4. Alternative: Instead of chocolate glaze, serve with a drizzle of your favorite chocolate sauce.



GOURMET GIVEAWAY: Superseedz Flavored Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin scones—what’s the healthiest way to enjoy pumpkin? None of these! But if you win this week’s Gourmet Giveaway prize from Superseedz, you’ll have a healthy and delicious pumpkin snack—lots of it!

A a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week (read the review and see close-up photos), Superseedz, a Gallo Prize Winner, are artisan-roasted and flavored with cinnamon, curry, sea salt or spice. Besides being iron-rich, healthy, snackilicious and guilt-free, there’s no spitting required: It’s all part of the Superseedz magic. Even if you don’t win, you should order up a bunch of bags for stocking stuffers (the small bags are just $2.00).

The Prize: A Gift Basket Of Superseedz Flavored Pumpkin Seeds

One winner will receive six large bags and four small bags of Superseedz Flavored Pumpkin Seeds in each of the four flavors: Cinnamon & Sugar, Original Curry, Sea Salt and Somewhat Spicy. The pumpkin seeds will arrive in a gift basket prepared by Well Baskets, a specialist in healthy gourmet gift baskets. Approximate Retail Value: $55.00.


Always be prepared at snack time with a tasty, healthy bag of pumpkin seeds!


To Enter This Gourmet Giveaway:

  • See THE NIBBLE’S Gourmet Snacks Section, where you’ll discover more of our favorite snacks.
  • Click on the link at the bottom of the page by noon on Monday, November 30th, to enter your email address for the prize drawing. (Privacy is observed; your email address will not be used for any other purpose.)




TIP OF THE DAY: Holiday “Mocktail”


Photo by M. Gillow | IST.

For an alcohol-free cocktail for adults and minors during holiday celebrations, mix equal parts of cranberry juice, apple cider and club soda (or ginger ale for a sweeter drink for the kids). Serve the “mocktail” in a wine goblet with an optional cinnamon stick.

You can turn the drink into a real cocktail by substituting an ounce of vodka and a 1/2 ounce of Calvados (apple brandy) for the club soda or ginger ale.


KITCHENWARE: Need An Extra Oven For Thanksgiving?

If you have just one oven but lots of side dishes to cook for Thanksgiving, this clever, multi-tiered oven rack may work for you. You can cook multiple dishes at once—the yams, Brussels sprouts and stuffing, for example.

The rack, which is 15″ x 11″ x 8¼”, holds up to three levels of heavy casserole dishes and then folds flat for storage. This rack is from Sur La Table (online at; but you may be able to find one locally as well. Easy assembly required.


Why didn’t we think of this one? Photo


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