THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
Also visit our main website,

Archive for November, 2009

PRODUCT: How Good Is Store-Bought Gravy?


Knorr + your pan drippings = easy, good gravy. Chart courtesy Consumer Reports.

With everything you’re doing on Thanksgiving, do you have to turn those drippings into gravy, too?

Consumer Reports did a taste test with commercial gravies to consider the options. The tasters tried 10 products—four dry mixes (add water, stir, and heat) and six canned or jarred gravies (just heat). They also tried them with and without the turkey pan drippings (minus the fat), which some products suggest—and which produced the best results.


  • Knorr is very good; in fact, guests might think it’s homemade. It has a big roasted-turkey taste, a fresh impression and slightly sweet, caramelized flavors nicely blended with herbs.
  • McCormick actually tastes freshly prepared, though it’s a bit starchy—and meat or potatoes could mask those.
  • Flaws increase as gravies fall lower on the list. Products rated “Fair” have even more drawbacks. The Franco-American is gelatinous; Simply Organic is also bitter; Serv-A-Gravy has little flavor, period.
As we always find when reviewing specialty products with THE NIBBLE, the same proved true with Consumer Reports’ test of supermarket brands: Neither packaging nor price was related to quality. The best and worst gravies were dry mixes, and that low-rated Franco-American was relatively pricey.

Per serving, most of the gravies have 20 to 25 calories, very little fat, and 260 to 360 milligrams of sodium. (The exception, Serv-A-Gravy, has 15 calories and 210 mg of sodium.) Many include a little fat, stock, or broth from chicken or turkey, plus a dairy product. Those without meat flavor, fat or dairy—Simply Organic and Serv-A-Gravy—were lowest-rated.

Bottom Line
Try Knorr with pan drippings (minus fat).



TIP OF THE DAY: Thanksgiving Table Decor

Most Thanksgiving dinner tables become too filled with food to hold large floral arrangements. If you receive large arrangements, place them on the coffee table or other central place where everyone can enjoy them. But if you’d like some decor on your table, opt for one of the following quick-and-easy ideas:

  • Cranberry-colored candles—either in candlesticks or pillars on the table.
  • Small cylindrical glass vases (think large tumblers—and you can use tumblers) filled with fresh cranberries and water, with one colorful Gerber daisy standing in each. Choose a contrasting seasonal color like orange.After the festivities are over, disperse the floral tumblers to add seasonal decor to small areas of the home—bathrooms and bedrooms, for example.
gerber daisy ii

Insert into a tumbler filled with cranberries.


ENTERTAINING: Thanksgiving Tea Party


Savor the aroma of a great cup of tea. Photo

Tea is a relaxing social tradition, where friends get together to talk and enjoy each other’s company. Why not invite friends over for tea during Thanksgiving weekend? Many people are in town to see their families, and tea is an easy way to bring people together.

Here are some ideas from THE NIBBLE and The Fitzgerald Hotel Group’s “Fitz to a Tea” November tea service.

  • Pumpkin Tea. Serve a “Pumpkin Tea” consisting of pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin scones. Have a some cranberry scones or muffins for those who don’t like pumpkin. Serve your favorite black tea, or try the Pumpkin Spice Tea from (KOF-K kosher) and Zhena Gypsy Tea (, organic, Fair Trade and KSA kosher). has a caffeine-free (rooibos) pumpkin tea.
  • Thankful To A Tea. No matter how busy we are, we all can lend a hand—and we all could use one. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, host a “Wish List Tea.” All the participants submit in advance one reasonable request they hope someone else in the group can fulfill. It can be a night of babysitting, a used bicycle, the loan or donation of a black cocktail dress or size 9 red pumps, someone to explain home equity loans, etc.Teas the season to be thankful…and to relax with friends over a good cup of tea.
  • See our Tea Glossary to learn more about tea.
  • Find more of our favorite teas in our Gourmet Tea Section.



TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Royale Cocktail

Along with all of the wine recommendations below, here’s our favorite holiday apéritif, a version of a Kir Royale (Champagne with framboise—raspberry liqueur).

Instead, serve Cranberry Royales as an apéritif this holiday season, a combination of cranberry liqueur and any sparkling wine.

1. First pour the cranberry liqueur into a Champagne flute—an inch or more, depending on how sweet you like your cocktails.
2. Then fill the flute with sparkling wine.
3. Don’t stir, or else give half a gentle stir with a swizzle stick (stirring destroys the bubbles).

You can make your own cranberry liqueur with two weeks’ lead time: There are many recipes online. You’ll have it in time for Christmas!


Serve Cranberry Royales before Thanksgiving
dinner. Photo courtesy SXC.


WINE: Wine For Thanksgiving


Lots of food needs lots of wine. Photo

Red wine, white wine, rosé, bubbly…which wine should you serve with your turkey? No matter what the book says (a fruity red), your guests may not “read the book.”

Since some people are inveterate white wine drinkers, the best option is to offer both red and white with the turkey. We’ve provided some suggestions from THE NIBBLE and the National Turkey Federation:

In addition to the familiar names below, three transplants from the Alsace region of France—Gewürtztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Riesling, are widely grown in the U.S. and vinified for American palates. They’re reasonably priced, too. Your wine store clerk can guide you to great choices.

Suggestion: Why not serve several different wines and turn your Thanksgiving into a mini wine tasting, with votes on which wine goes best? Since guests often ask what they can bring, can assign a different wine to different guest.


  • Chardonnay. A perennial crowd favorite; just don’t try to pair a highly-oaked Chardonnay with turkey. Ask the wine store clerk for a non-oaked or lightly-oaked wine.
  • Gewürtztraminer. One of our favorites, this fruity, spicy wine complements smoked turkey and other bold flavors.
  • Pinot Blanc. This lesser-known but charming dry white wine has broad appeal.
  • Riesling. Not the classic sweeter-style Alsatian or German Rieslings that pair so well with foie gras, American Rieslings are dry-vinified.
  • Sparkling Wines. These range from pricier Champagnes to inexpensive Cavas from Spain. Either way, most people love a glass of bubbly. You can serve a glass as an apéritif as well as at the table.


For roast turkey (or chicken), you want a red that doesn’t overwhelm the turkey—one without heavy tannins.

  • Beaujolais. This French wine is a favorite among those who like lots of jammy fruit. While regular Beaujolais ages in barrels before its release, 10 days or so before every Thanksgiving, Beaujolais Nouveau—the unaged, fresh wine—arrives in the United States. It’s very light and fruity. Read more about it.
  • Pinot Noir. Our personal favorite and the top choice for Thanksgiving wines, based on a survey by readers of Wine Spectator. This medium-bodied wine pairs well with white meat, dark meat, and all of the dishes.
  • Zinfandel. Many wine connoisseurs serve this wine with their turkey—an American grape for the quintessential American holiday. It’s the most full-bodied and richest of the wines on our list.


See our chart on wine and dessert pairings.



TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Mayo

Enjoy those turkey sandwiches (or turkey burgers, veggieburgers or regular burgers) with cranberry mayonnaise instead of other condiments.

Just blend regular mayonnaise with cranberry sauce in a 3:1 proportion. Some people like even more cranberry—experiment down to a 2:1 proportion.

  • Find more condiment ideas in our Gourmet Condiments

Mix some of the leftover cranberry sauce into
mayonnaise, and you’ve got a great sandwich
spread. Photo courtesy GranGala orange liqueur.


TIPS: How Do You Properly Cook A Turkey?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 80% of foodborne illnesses are linked to meat and poultry. Since we want to give thanks for our health, NSF International, a public health and safety organization, has provided food safety tips to help you properly thaw, cook and store your holiday turkey. We’ve combined them along with some of our own turkey-cooking tips.

Whether you’re a seasoned cook who would like a refresher or it’s your first time preparing the big bird (sorry, Big Bird!), these tips will help you follow proper food safety guidelines for a safer Thanksgiving and a tastier bird:

  • Buying The Turkey. Don’t let uncooked turkey sit at room temperature. Put the turkey in the cart last and get it home and refrigerated promptly. Bag the turkey separately and place it below other food in the refrigerator. For crisper skin, unwrap the turkey the night before roasting and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator.

A fresh, organic, free-range turkey from

  • Thawing The Turkey. Don’t attempt to thaw a frozen turkey quickly by leaving it to sit overnight on the kitchen counter—bacteria will grow. Either place the covered turkey in a shallow pan on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator (the safest method—but note that it takes approximately 3 days for a 20 pound turkey to fully defrost) or place the plastic-wrapped turkey in a pan of cold water, changing the water about every 30 minutes. Another option is to completely submerge the turkey under a stream of lukewarm (70°F) running water, but that’s not a good use of water.
  • Avoiding Bacterial Contamination. To avoid bacterial contamination, never place the turkey (or any raw poultry) directly on the counter. Keep it on a platter or in a roaster. Clean and sanitize the counter and utensils after handling raw turkey. Don’t use turkey utensils for other purposes until they have been cleaned. Similarly, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw turkey, using plenty of warm water and soap.
  • Roasting. Trussing also helps any bird roast more evenly. Then, coat the skin with olive oil or other vegetable oil, season with salt and pepper and tightly cover the breast with aluminum foil to prevent drying. About 45 minutes before the turkey should be done, remove the foil from the breast to allow it to brown. Don’t open the oven to baste; it isn’t needed, and the temperature fluctuation only increases cooking time and dries out the bird.
  • Stuffing. Wait to stuff the turkey until right before putting it in the oven. Use only pre-cooked meats and vegetables in the stuffing mixture. Don’t pack the cavity; the turkey will cook more evenly if it is not densely stuffed. Cook overflow stuffing in a casserole dish—or cook all the stuffing in a separate casserole—it makes serving easier. Then, instead of stuffing, place some aromatic vegetables in the cavity (carrots, celery, garlic and/or onion) and tuck some fragrant herbs under the skin (we love rosemary). If cooked inside the bird, cook the stuffing until it reaches at least 165° F at the center. A Consider adding flavor by loosely filling the cavity with work nicely — or by carefully tucking fresh herbs underneath the breast skin. For the stuffing lovers, cook the dressing in a casserole dish on the side.
  • Is It Ready? At 350°F, a defrosted turkey should take about 20 minutes per pound, and a fresh turkey 10-15 minutes per pound. Use a meat thermometer to check the turkey for doneness, even if the turkey has a pop-up timer. When the temperature reaches 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone (that deep spot between the leg and the breast), the turkey should be done. Remove it from the oven, tent it with foil and let it rest for about 15 minutes before carving to preserve the juices.
  • Carving Knife. Is your carving knife sharp? Dull knives cause accidents. There’s still time to sharpen those blades before the big day.
  • Turkey Leftovers. For food safety, refrigerate any leftovers immediately. Large portions should be separated into smaller containers and covered loosely to speed cooling.

A tip from THE NIBBLE: For a moister, juicier turkey, consider brining. We’ll try to post instructions; or else, they’re easy to find online.

Need More Help With Your Turkey? Foster Farms, producers of both fresh and frozen turkeys, has its Foster Farms Turkey Helpline experts on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, now through November 30, including Thanksgiving Day. They can be reached at 1.800.255.7227.



TIP OF THE DAY: Protect Yourself From Stove Fires


Tundra from First Alert: your first defense
against kitchen fires.

Cooking for Thanksgiving? Stove fires are the number one cause of home fires in the U.S. We’ve had one in THE NIBBLE kitchen.

Here’s an important tip from The National Consumers League: Keep an oven mitt and a large pot lid next to the stove. If a small fire starts in a pan, turn off the burner. Wear the oven mitt while carefully sliding the lid over the pan to smother the flame.

Never pour water on a grease fire and never use a fire extinguisher on a pan fire—it can spray or shoot burning grease around the kitchen and end up spreading the fire.

Also make sure you have a kitchen fire extinguisher nearby. When our fire started, we lost valuable minutes trying to figure out how to work the fire extinguisher. That’s why we were thrilled to discover the Tundra—a push-button aerosol can that anyone, from children to the elderly, can handle. We’ll never be without it again.


ENTERTAINING: Vegetarian Thanksgiving Guests

According to a 2009 Vegetarian Resource Group/Harris Interactive survey, about 3% of the U.S. adult population is vegetarian. If you’ve invited a vegetarian to enjoy your turkey dinner, plan ahead with these tips from nutrition expert Gary Null.

  • If you don’t know if certain guests eat meat and other animal products, phone or email ahead of time. Then you can plan to have a main-course option to offer, such as a Tofurky (a tofu turkey) or our favorite, the Celebration Roast from Field Roast Grain Meat Company, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week. (By the way, this also works for guests who may have food allergies or medical restrictions, such as low cholesterol/no butter.)
  • In fact, most vegetarians do not expect the host to make special accommodations. They may even offer to bring a vegetarian dish that they and others can enjoy. But providing a few things they can eat (crudités before dinner, potatoes and other sides made without butter, for example) will make for a better experience. Don’t hesitate to discuss options with them.

A vegetarian does not eat any type of animal flesh, whether from fish, fowl or other animals, although some individuals choose to eat dairy and/or egg products. This includes lard, chicken and beef stock and some prepared salad dressings.


With the vegan Celebration Roast, you still
get leftovers for sandwiches the next day. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

A vegan (pronounced VEE-gun) eats no animal-derived products, including honey, gelatin (used in desserts and marshmallows) and red food dyes derived from cochineal. If there is an animal-derived ingredient in a dish, no matter how small the amount, be certain to let your guest know.

Most importantly, the Thanksgiving dinner table is not the time to discuss why someone is a vegetarian. Some choose this diet for ethical or animal rights reasons. Others may be motivated by religious, environmental and/or health considerations. Some simply don’t like meat. If you really want to know why your guest has made this choice, ask another day—and if anyone else brings up the topic, steer the conversation to reasons everyone should be thankful!



NEWS: Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrivé!


Posters given to retailers and restaurants celebrate the arrival of the new Beaujolais vintage.

As of today, the global phenomenon that is Beaujolais Nouveau will once again be in full swing. Perhaps the greatest marketing concept in the history of wine, Beaujolais Nouveau is a category promoted to international fanfare by George DuBoeuf, one of the largest wine merchants in France. The fanfare surrounding the release of Beaujolais Nouveau, a young, simple wine, was invented by DuBoeuf as a marketing gimmick to get cash flow in while the “real Beaujolais” aged for months in casks. It is marked by festive parties and celebrations all around the world, public relations efforts and marketing materials at retailers and restaurants, including colorful window posters like the one shown here.

Beaujolais, which is made from Gamay grapes, had always made a vin de l’année to celebrate the end of the grape harvest. But the wine was only for local consumption and, after the wine was declared an AOC, it could only be officially sold after December 15th of the harvest year. These rules were changed in 1951, and November 15th was set as the release date for what would henceforth be known as Beaujolais Nouveau (the new vintage is now released on the third Thursday of every November).

While it is a November release, Beaujolais Nouveau is the essence of a great summer sipper, made by a method called carbonic maceration, which produces a wine of moderate acidity; low tannin; and simple, overt fruitiness, even with a bit of spritz. Sadly, since Nouveau is meant to be consumed by the end of December, one would be hard pressed to find a bottle in late spring, and if one did, it would likely be over the hill.

The aromatic, unpretentious and fruit-forward wines are light on tannin and complement many different foods and cuisines, making it the ideal choice for pairing with a wide spectrum of dishes and flavors. Although it boasts a two thousand year-old history, the popularity of Beaujolais Nouveau continues. This is a testament to the unpretentious, fun and easy-drinking wine that has inspired annual celebrations in many different countries and cultures for generations.

Beaujolais Nouveau is made by winemakers in the appellations of Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages. To get to know fine Beaujolais, skip the Nouveau and try the ten Crus: Brouilly, Chiroubles, Chénas, Côte-de-Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin à Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour. These are far more complex wines that make excellent food partners. So, when the Beaujolais Nouveau celebrations of 2009 have passed, you can look forward to aged bottles to hit the shores; however, you’ll have to create your own fanfare.



© Copyright 2005-2016 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. All images are copyrighted to their respective owners.