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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,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for February, 2010

PRODUCT: Cowboy Candy, A Hot & Sweet Treat


We’re one happy buckaroo with Cowboy
Candy. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky |


Cowboy candy refers to candied jalapeño chiles, used as a relish. Sweet and hot is an irresistible combination, especially in the jar we received from Uncertain Farms, a Texas operation that produces jellies, pickles and salsas under the M Circle M brand.

Bob Mischler, the “M,” retired from long-haul trucking to a settled life in Seguin, Texas, a short haul (36 miles) from San Antonio. He grows cucumbers, cantaloupe, tomatoes, squash and watermelon, practicing sustainable agriculture (which uses non-chemical pesticides and other techniques that protect the environment).

The ex-Marine is a tough guy: He only put in electricity 18 months ago, and only in order to operate his commercial kitchen. And are we glad, since we love the rush of his Cowboy Candy.

  • It’s a shoo-in for burgers, hot dogs, tacos and sandwiches, but it also gives a jovial jolt to just about anything.
  • Add some to salads, eggs and vegetables (try beans).
  • Use it as a soup garnish.
  • Eat it straight from the jar.
  • If jalapeño is too gringo for you, try the Buck Snort, with added habaneros. We’re ordering a mixed case for gifts, along with the pepper jellies, Cowboy Hots Bread ‘n Butter Pickles (with crushed red peppers) and Cowboy Firesticks—dill and garlic carrot sticks with crushed red peppers.

    The Westin La Cantera Resort in San Antonio has created Jalapeño Bubbly, a glass of Champagne garnished with a few pieces of Uncertain Farms Cowboy Candy. (Another creative idea: their Rio Grande Mimosa is Champagne with a round ice cube made of grapefruit juice—but you can use any theme-shaped ice cube tray—Christmas tree, heart, shamrock, etc.).

    The only thing we don’t like is the name: Uncertain Farms. Uncertain if they’ll be here next year, opined one taster? Uncertain if the stuff tastes good, said another?

    However, that’s exactly why Bob Mischler named the farm. “I was uncertain I would ever pay for it,” he said. “Farming is an uncertain business.”

    Fear not, dear reader: Both items we tried were certainly worth sending for:


    CHERRY TIP OF THE DAY: Hot Tea Russian-Style

    Russians have traditionally sweetened hot tea with a spoonful of cherry preserves instead of sugar. It’s delicious.

    If you want the experience without the calories, look for a sugar-free cherry preserves. Chukar Cherries’ No Sugar Added Red Sour Cherry Preserve is so good, you can’t even tell that there’s no sugar added!

    For zero calories, you can purchase a cherry-flavored tea blend; but if you can, try your hot tea Russian-style. If you have Irish coffee mugs or other glass-handled cups or mugs, use them to enjoy the visual effect.



    Try a spoonful in your tea. Photo


    PRODUCT: Kathryn’s Cottage Salad Dressings


    Best of class: These salad dressings are
    perfection. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky |


    We hardly ever buy prepared salad dressings. Dressing is quick and easy to make, and our homemade dressings taste better than what we could buy.

    Except for Kathryn’s Cottage. Proprietor Nancy Little Hucks makes perfect Bleu Cheese and Thousand Island Dressings—even better than ours. We’re in love with them.

    Kathryn’s mother was a blue cheese dressing fanatic (like us) and tried it everywhere she went (like us). Never finding one that was ideal, she experimented over the years to perfect her own recipe. It contains mayonnaise, cream cheese, cottage cheeese, blue cheese, buttermilk, onions, lemon juice, vinegar and spices, including a touch of dill. It might take us years to crack the recipe; in the interim, we’ll keep buying Kathryn’s.

    Why are Kathryn’s Cottage dressings perfect?

    The Bleu Cheese Dressing has just the right body—not thick, as so many blue cheese dressings are. It has just the right amount of cheese—not too little, as with many dressings, nor too much so to be overly cheesy. It is made with the finest ingredients and no preservatives. It tastes like the best recipe was just whipped up in your kitchen.

    The dressing was served from 1968-1995 in Ms. Hucks’ parents’ restaurants, The Little Kitchen in Mooresville, N.C. and Little’s in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

    A 12-ounce jar is $9.95 (but given the amount of quality blue cheese inside, it’s worth it). Tell your specialty grocer to order some; or you can buy them directly from

    We don’t mean to give the Thousand Island Dressing short shrift. Made of mayonnaise, chili sauce, ketchup, relish, spices and Worcestershire sauce, it is also a perfect rendition of a popular recipe. On salads, in dips and sauces, both dressings rock!

    The dressings are made fresh with the finest ingredients and no preservatives. They are shipped chilled in an insulated container and must be refrigerated. You should consume it in a couple of weeks; but you’ll have zero problem with that, we promise!

    CULINARY QUESTION: Why do some people write “blue cheese” and others, “bleu cheese?”

    “Bleu” is the French word for blue; the French word for cheese is “fromage.” So “bleu cheese” is an incorrectly-conceived term: half French, half English. However, the French do not refer to blue cheese as “fromage blue.” Instead, they call it persille or fromage à pâte persille.

    “Persille” is the French word for parsley, so why is blue cheese called “parsley” or “parsley paste cheese?”

    Because long ago, the blue veins in blue cheese reminded someone of parsley leaves! Paste refers to the interior of the cheese—what’s inside the rind.

    More food trivia: The pineapple on the label of Kathryn’s Cottage dressing is a sign of hospitality. That’s because until the era of modern shipping, pineapples were so costly in Europe that to serve one to guests was the sign of a very generous host.

  • Learn more about cheese in our Cheese Glossary.
  • Comments

    CHERRY TIP OF THE DAY: Cherry Salad Garnish

    Toss some dried cherries into a salad for flavor, color and a higher antioxidant burst.

    Cherries complement just about any salad, from plain greens to salads with blue cheese or goat cheese to chicken and tuna salad. Combine dried cherries along with the raisins in curried chicken salad for a show-stopper.

  • Speaking of which, try this recipe for curried chicken salad wraps—with dried tart cherries, of course!
  • What’s for dinner? Here’s a recipe for pork chops with orange cherry sauce.


    Add dried cherries to chicken salad—or any
    salad. Photo courtesy Cherry Marketing Institute.


    PRODUCT: DiGiornio 200-Calorie Pizza “Without The Guilt”


    A great, 200-calorie pizza fix. Photo by
    Evan Dempsey | THE NIBBLE.


    Love pizza but avoid it because of the calories? Love pizza but don’t have enough “takers” to order an entire pie? Love pizza and wish you could have it more often? Need something quick to feed the kids?

    DiGiorno has a solution you’re sure to love:

    New DiGiornio 200 Calorie Portions are individually-wrapped pizza slices that go from the freezer to the microwave when desire calls. Calorie (and carb) watchers know exactly what they’re getting…and everyone gets to eat truly delicious home-cooked pizza.

    Unlike warmed-over microwave pizza, these DiGiorno slices emerge with a crisp crust, not to mention fragrant and delicious.

    More than 12,000 products are introduced into supermarkets each year. Most don’t sell enough and disappear from the shelf (brown sugar Sweet ’n Low, to recall an oldie).

    DiGiornio 200 Calorie Portions deserve to stick around forever! Pick some up on your next shopping trip. (If they’re not in your store’s pizza freezer, ask the store manager to order them.)

    In Cheese and Tomato, Chicken with Peppers and Onions, and Pepperoni, the suggested retail price is $3.19. Each package contains two individually-wrapped, three-ounce servings.

  • Read the history of pizza, plus 12 gourmet pizza recipes and pizza-making tips.
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Measuring Cherries

    Cooking with cherries?

  • It takes about 4 cups of tart cherries to make one 9″ pie.
  • There are about 3 cups of frozen cherries in a pound.
  • Using a cherry pie filling?

  • There are about 2 cups of filling in a 16-ounce can.
  • Try this recipe for pulled pork in a tart cherry sauce.



    Montmorency (tart) cherries. Photo courtesy
    Cherry Marketing Institute.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Deep Freeze Cherry Pie


    Chukar Cherrie’s Triple Cherry Cobbler & Pie
    Filling. Photo by Corey Lugg | THE NIBBLE.


    Love cherry pie? Most people make it from any old canned supermarket cherry goop, which tastes as much of cloying sugar as it does of cherries.

    You can make a much more flavorful cherry pie with frozen tart cherries, or with a specialty brand of cherry pie filling.

    Keep in mind: Sweet cherries like the Bing and Royal Anne are snacking cherries. Tart cherries like the Montmorency yield the best results in cooking and baking.

  • Click here for our review of Chukar Cherries pie fillings, our favorites. (They’re certified kosher by KOF-K.)
  • Learn about the different types of cherries.
  • Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Mad Hectic Oatmeal

    Mad Hectic Oatmeal is for people who don’t like a bowl of healthy oatmeal. And it’s for people who love it.

    Many people just don’t like plain oatmeal, although they buy into its health benefits. That’s why the best-sellers include the fruit-flavored, sugary instant oatmeals.

    Alas, those packets do not contain healthy food. They’re full of sugar, and many of the nutrients have been stripped in the processing.

    Mad Hectic Oatmeal provides a solution. Improving on the concept of those instant oatmeals, Mad Hectic Oatmeal is flavored and alluring. But it’s also organic oatmeal mixed with nutritious whey protein powder and flaxseed meal with Omega-3 fatty acids and lignans (which have antioxidants and fiber).

    Antioxidant, nutritious and heart-healthy sesame seeds are also added, topped off with whole freeze-dried berries, nuts and some cane sugar. It emerges hot from the microwave in just 60 seconds. That’s fast and tasty oat nutrition for your mad hectic life (and for you folks who have it easy, too).

    Mad Hectic Oatmeal is more like hot pudding (think Indian pudding) than hot cereal. With fruit and nut combinations—and chocolate oatmeal—you’ll be feeling your oats soon after (translation: you’ll be energetic and playful).



    Strawberry Pecan Oatmeal lets you feel your
    oats in a delicious new way. Photo by
    Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

    Flavors include Almond Pecan, Raspberry Almond, Red Raspberry and Strawberry Pecan plus the very kid-friendly varieties: Chocolate Raspberry and French Chocolate. Read the full review below, including the health benefits of oatmeal, to see why you should make Mad Hectic Oatmeal part of your daily meal plan.

  • Read the full review to see how we enjoyed the flavors, and discover the health benefits of oatmeal.
  • Comments

    CHERRY TIP OF THE DAY: “Instant” Cherry Cake With Dried Cherries


    Turn your favorite cake into a cherry cake
    with dried cherries. Photo by Melody Lan |


    Turn your favorite cake recipe—chocolate cake, pound cake, even carrot cake—into a cherry cake, just by mixing a cup of dried cherries into the batter.

    Or, stir 1/4 cup of died cherries into the filling or frosting.

    Instead of making cherry cheesecake with a cherry topping, stir dried cherries into the batter.

    Any way, you’ve got a new variation on a favorite recipe, with no more effort than measuring out the cherries.

    While you’re at it, sprinkle some dried cherries atop the icing of other cakes and cupcakes. They make a pretty, tasty and healthy garnish. Montmorency (tart) cherries are among the highest-antioxidant foods.

    Read our review of Chukar dried cherries: Dried Bing, Columbia River Tart (Montmorency) and Rainier Cherries. They’re certified kosher by KOF-K.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Go Nuts With Almonds

    It’s National Almond Day. If you’ve been laying off the nuts because you think they’re not healthy, you need some facts:

    Nuts are a good protein food. Yes, they have fats, but they’re largely unsaturated, heart-healthy fats. In 2003, the FDA approved the following claim for seven different types of nuts—almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts:

    “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

    We snack on raw almonds (endorsed by nutritionists and physicians) every day, and love them. Buy raw and toasted almonds to see which you prefer. You can also season your snack with your favorite spices: garlic almonds, curry almonds, chipotle almonds, etc.



    Almonds are heart healthy. Photo by Maria Li | SXC.

    And on that healthy note, we’re not even going to mention the almond toffee, almond biscotti and other almond treats you could select to celebrate National Almond Day.


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