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Archive for January, 2010

RECIPE: Brandy Alexander

January 31st is National Brandy Alexander Day. We look at it as a transition out of Healthy Food Month at THE NIBBLE and to gird ourselves for Valentine’s Day carbs. The creamy cocktail was a favorite in our teenage years: When we turned 18, it was the legal drinking age in our state, so this was legal teenage drinking.

It’s dangerously good—like a spiked milkshake.

According to the Classic Cocktail Club of Milan, Italy, the Brandy Alexander was created in 1922 in London, “at the time of” the wedding of Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood to Henry, Viscount Lascelles (later, 6th Earl of Harewood).

So why is it called Alexander? It’s a variation of an earlier, gin-based cocktail called the Alexander.

Who was that Alexander? No one related to royalty, and an New Yorker to boot.

According to, one of the earliest known printed recipes for the Alexander dates to 1916. The cocktail is believed to have originated at Rector’s (est. 1899), a seafood restaurant in the New York theater district. The bartender there, one Troy Alexander, created the eponymous concoction in order to serve a white drink at a dinner celebrating Phoebe Snow.

Of course, in 1916 the singer Phoebe Snow (1950-2011) was not around. This was a fictitious advertising character Phoebe Snow, a railroad traveler who wore a snow-white dress. She graced an advertising campaign for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. The railroad was trumpeting that it powered its locomotives with anthracite, a clean-burning variety of coal—that would not in any way shed coal dust on that white dress.


Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1-1/2 ounces brandy
  • 1 ounce dark crème de cacao*
  • 1 ounce half-and-half
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Brandy Alexander Cocktail

Nutmeg Brandy Alexander

Top: A Brandy Alexander cocktail. Photo courtesy Bottom: With a rim of nutmeg and sugar. Photo | IST.

*The original Alexander recipe would have used white crème de cacao, for a snow white drink.

Preparation1. Fill a shaker halfway with ice cubes.

2. Add brandy, creme de cacao and half-and-half; shake well.

3. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with grated nutmeg. Or, rim the glass with a mixture of nutmeg and sugar.


Add a scoop of chocolate or vanilla ice cream and serve in a globe wine goblet or other alternative to a martini glass.



TIP OF THE DAY: Low Calorie Party


This barbecue pork loin saves many calories
with a sugar-free blackberry sauce. Here’s
the recipe. Photo courtesy The J.M.
Smucker Company.

Want to throw a get-together but fear for your strict diet? Have a pot luck diet lunch or dinner.

Everyone brings his or her best low-calorie dish, along with copies of the recipe to share and, if it’s a buffet, an index card to set in front of the dish, with the name of the dish and the cook, the ingredients and, if possible, calories per saving.

For more party fun, everyone can rank their top three dishes, and winners can be named.

The prizes?

Something low-calorie, of course! Or something no-calorie, like fancy brands of mineral water.

It’s a great party idea: Less cooking for you and the opportunity to try lots of new low-calorie recipes with your friends—who will be very thankful for all the new recipes they’ll be taking home.

This party concept works with any dietary restriction—fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, low carb, vegan, etc.



FOOD HOLIDAY: National Egg Month

It’s the last day of National Egg Month. So:


Eggs are an inexpensive and delicious source of nutrition. Think of how to integrate them into your menus—such as this mushroom and smoked salmon frittata. You can substitute sausage or other favorite meat, or make it all vegetarian.


These are real chicken eggs—no retouching.
They come from different breeds of heritage
hens. Photo by Hudson Bedell | IST.


TIP OF THE DAY: Sugar-Free Jigglers


Make Diet Jello-O a fun diet food with Jello-O
Jigglers molds. Photo courtesy Kraft Foods.

Our next-to-last diet tip for Healthy Food Month at THE NIBBLE:

If you’ve ever made Jell-O brand Jigglers for kids—Jell-O poured into egg-size molds that are particularly popular at Easter—those molds make colorful and tasty diet food when you fill them with Sugar-Free Jell-O, and are a treat any time of the year.

Choose your favorite flavors and make up a batch—we love cranberry, strawberry banana, orange, lemon and lime. You can serve the eggs whole or cut them with an egg slicer.

If you don’t have a mold, you can prepare the Egg Jiggler recipe in a 9″x13″ pan and then cut shapes with cookie cutters.

Serve Sugar-Free Jiggers with fruit, yogurt and cottage cheese, for light meals, snacks or dessert. Fun food takes the sameness out of dieting; and at just 10 calories a serving, Sugar-Free Jell-O is a caloric bargain.

  • To buy the Jigglers mold: There’s a plain egg plus five fancy versions, from footballs to racing cars. Consider making low-calorie snacks for the kids, as well. ($3.50 each)
  • The Jigglers recipe is usually on the carton, but here’s the recipe: Use vegetable oil or PAM to barely moisten the insides of the molds; wipe with a paper towel. To 1 package (8 serving size) or 2 packages (4 serving size) JELL-O Sugar-Free Gelatin Dessert, stir 1-1/2 cups boiling water (no cold water). Stir at least 2 minutes until completely dissolved (we use a whisk). Pour into measuring cup with pour spout. Using a funnel, carefully pour gelatin into mold through the fill holes until each egg is filled just to the top of the mold. Refrigerate at least 3 hours.
  • Find more of our favorite diet foods in our Diet Nibbles Section.



ISSUES: Kids’ Nutrition

If you read THE NIBBLE, you enjoy good food. But how about what children eat, especially at school? And what of the families who don’t understand nutrition? (Their is no protein in toaster pastries, and juice drinks don’t substitute for milk.)

Even if you don’t have kids, many experts believe that nutritious food helps improve school performance and helps to create healthy eating habits that will be carried into adulthood and passed on to the next generation. That impacts all of us as employers, supervisors, colleagues, neighbors and citizens. Nutrition also plays an important part in helping to reduce obesity, diabetes and other food-related diseases.

During the next two months, Congress will consider a Child Nutrition Reauthorization that will establish the budget and priorities for school lunches for years to come. Now is the time to let our representatives know that we care about the type and quality of food served in our nation’s schools.

Let your voice be heard; tell Congress you want schools serve better lunches to our kids:


If you don’t enjoy good nutrition at home,
maybe you can learn it at school. Photo
courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

  • Provide $1 more per day per child for better school food.
  • Strengthen nutritional standards regarding all the food offered in schools.
  • Provide funding for healthy eating education and regional farm to school initiatives.

President Obama has committed $1 billion more to the cause of child nutrition, but it’s a big country: an extra dollar per day per child is needed. But funding for anything at this point is tight. You can let Congress know that America’s kids need more…$1 per day per child… for their school food. This is where you can help.


VALENTINE’S DAY: Roses & Chocolate Truffles


Chocolate truffles covered with rose petals.
Photo courtesy

Edith Piaf sang “La Vie en Rose,” which in French means means “life in pink” (literally), or life through rose-colored glasses.

Now, you can take a literal bite of it, with the new Le Chocolat en Rose truffle collection from Vosges Haut Chocolat.

The pink Champagne truffles are made from 65% cacao dark chocolate flavored with Piper Heidsieck brut rosé Champagne, then rolled in fragrant rose bud poudre (crushed rose petals). Twelve pieces of Le Chocolat en Rose truffles are $39, 20 pieces are $53, at

If you’re not familiar with edible roses, they’re a delicacy used to make jams, sorbets, pastries, confections and other foods throughout the Balkans, India and Iran (or more romantically, Persia). But as those countries don’t have a tradition of chocolate-making, creative American chocolatiers have incorporated rose water and/or rose petals—with delicious results.

We can recommend plenty of beautiful Valentine chocolates without roses, too.

If you’d like a good inexpensive rosé bubbly to celebrate Valentine’s Day, try [yellow tail] Bubbles Rosé (yes, it’s spelled with brackets), which has a beautiful rose color to match the delicious flavor.



TIP OF THE DAY: Tzatziki, A Low Calorie Sauce & Spread

Greek tzatziki, like Indian raita, is a cool and refreshing yogurt-cucumber sauce. In Greece, where it is accented with garlic and dill, it is also served as a meze, or appetizer, and is spread onto pita.

The cucumbers can be puréed and strained, or seeded and finely diced; then mixed with yogurt, herbs, and sometimes, olive oil.

There are variations of tzatziki throughout the Middle East, where the sauce is used as a side dish to meals with meat (another of its many names is tarator). The acidity of the yogurt is a counterpoint to the fat of the meat. Tzatziki is also used to top souvlaki and gyros (in the U.S. tahini, a sesame seed sauce, is more often used with these sandwiches).

The classic yogurt-cucumber spread is a new way for Americans to accent a chicken, turkey, pork, ham or veggie sandwich, or as a side or sauce with the meat. Instead of using whole-milk yogurt tzatziki, it is quite low-calorie when made with fat-free yogurt.

  • Click here for a tzatziki recipe. You can be creative with it, adding your favorite herbs (such as mint) and chopped olives.
  • There’s also a raita recipe, and an explanation of the differences between tzatziki and raita.



A pork chop with low-calorie yogurt-
cucumber sauce. Photo courtesy National
Pork Board.

Try it: Tzatziki just may be the new low-calorie sauce and spread you’ve been looking for.


SUPER BOWL PARTY: Jambalaya Recipe


Jambalaya, a Creole and Cajun dish adapted
from Spanish paella. Photo courtesy National
Pork Board.

Planning a Super Bowl Party? Or have you volunteered to bring a dish to someone else’s?

Jambalaya is fun, filling and easy to make for a crowd.

Jambalaya was created when Spaniards living in the Latin Quarter of New Orleans couldn’t afford saffron, due to the high import costs.

So they created a New World version, which became jambalaya (jamón and jambon are the words for ham in Spanish and French, respectively; “alaya” came from “paella”).

  • Get a yummy jambalaya recipe as well as a brief history of this popular Creole and Cajun dish.


TIP OF THE DAY: “Skinny” Cheese Course

Cheese courses have become very popular as the end to a good dinner. But cheese is high-caloric and high-fat: It has more fat than protein (except for reduced fat and fat-free varieties—see the ratios of fat to protein in your favorite cheeses).

So, serve a “skinny” cheese course. If you present self-serve selections—large wedges or wheels on a tray—the temptation exists for people to help themselves to 500 calories or more of cheese (not to mention the bread or crackers).

Instead, pre-plate the cheeses for everyone, with a one-ounce slice of one great cheese and a bit of gourmet salad greens lightly tossed with vinaigrette. Put one large crouton (a slice of toasted baguette) or specialty cracker on each plate to avoid the temptation of a bread basket.

  • Drizzle a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano with aged fine balsamic vinegar and a small frisée salad.
  • Serve a fine blue cheese or a goat cheese with a drizzle of quality honey, some red grapes and dressed field greens.
  • How about a wedge of Brie or Camembert with a plump fig and a few walnut halves with a baby arugula salad; or your favorite Cheddar with a fan of apple slices and red-leaf lettuce?



Serve large wedges of cheese and people will
help themselves to large portions. Instead,
pre-cut and serve just one or two slices to
everyone. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

You can have your cheese and eat it too: a small piece of a rich food is satisfying.

Have fun devising your own combinations and garnishes. Add a basket of fresh fruit to the table to finish your meal.



FREE: New Chocolate “Pieces” From Hershey’s

Reese’s Pieces candy, the peanut butter candies in the crunchy shell that shot to stardom in the movie E.T.—The Extra-Terrestrial, now has three siblings. Yes, there’s a whole line of bite-sized, snackable Pieces Candies.

Now, lovers of the Hershey’s classics Almond Joy, Hershey’s Special Dark and York Peppermint Pattie can enjoy their favorites as hard-coated Pieces Candies. We love all the originals, so can’t wait to try the new versions.

For the next two weeks, you can mail in a full-size candy bar wrapper from Almond Joy, Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Bar, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or York Peppermint Pattie. If you are one of the first 25,000, you’ll get back a coupon to exchange for a free bag of the corresponding Pieces. Now if that’s not a reason to go out to buy a candy bar, what is?

E.T., come back. There are three more kinds of Pieces waiting for you to try!

Find more of our favorite candies in our Candy Section.


Reese’s Pieces now has three crunchy, chocolaty siblings! Photo courtesy of Hershey’s.


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