THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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Archive for May, 2010

PRODUCT: Skinnygirl Margarita

What if you’re one of those “Real Housewives Of…” ladies, enjoy cocktails but have to watch every calorie (the camera adds 10 pounds)? With a typical four-ounce Margarita weighing in at 500 calories (the majority due to sugar in the liqueur or the cocktail mix), what’s a housewife do?

If you’re Bethenny Frankel, one of the Real Housewives Of New York (and a natural foods chef), you formulate a lower-calorie Margarita in an episode of your reality series. Then, when the most-asked quesiton on the entire Bravo website is “How to make a Skinny Girl Margarita,” you bottle it and sell it (find locations).

The open-and-serve bottled Margarita is all natural, made of 100% blue agave tequila, flavored with lime juice and sweetened with lower-glycemic agave syrup.

While some “slenderized foods” can pass for almost the real thing (SkimPlus milk, nonfat Greek yogurt and sugar-free ice cream are examples), here you know you’re drinking a Margarita Lite.

Nevertheless, many dieters will enjoy saving 75% of the calories, and Ms. Frankel is to be congratulated for providing a lower-calorie alternative to America’s most popular cocktail.

While we don’t like sugary-sweet drinks, to us, Skinnygirl Margarita is missing a bit of sweetness (although the more we drank it and became accustomed to it, the more we enjoyed it).

So we experimented and found ways to improve it!

Save 75% of Margarita calories. Photo

First we added a packet of non-caloric sweetener. A liquid sweetener would have been better because a white sediment from the fillers in non-caloric sweetener settled at the bottom of the glass. But we really liked the added sweetness and didn’t mind the sediment.

Next we tried adding more agave syrup. Ms. Frankel might have done the same, but for the desire to keep the cocktail to 100 calories/serving. Agave is a great, low-glycemic sweetener (it has an average glycemic index of 32, half that of sugar). While agave has the same calories as sugar (about 17 calories/teaspoon), it is 1.5 times sweeter—so your calories buy you more. You can spare it: Add another teaspoon of agave to Skinnygirl.

Finally, we rimmed the glass with sea salt (kosher salt is fine, too). Bingo!

Feel free to add a lime wedge or lime wheel as a garnish. It’s not typical with Margaritas (the salt rim is); but we like it as a virtually calorie-free “extra” to chew on.



PRODUCT: Whoopie Pie Pan

Have fun making whoopie pies at home.
Photo courtesy

If you’re enamored of whoopie pies—or inspired by our current Top Pick Of The Week, the whoopie pies from WannaHavaCookie—Wilton has just made your life easier.

The baking specialist has created a whoopie pie pan that makes it easy to get perfect cake “sandwich” halves. Otherwise, you have to drop batter with a cookie scoop onto a baking sheet, and pray that they’ll spread to even sizes. (Perhaps there’s so much filling in a whoopie pie to distract from the uneven cake layers.)

The nonstick pan is currently an exclusive at Sur La Table for $12.95. It makes 12 tops/bottoms, enough to make just 6 whoopie pies. That’s not a lot of output for all that effort of mixing, baking and cleanup: You’ll have to make a few batches to meet what will no doubt be great demand.

Recipes are included. After you’ve mastered them, you can check out the two whoopie pie cookbooks on the market.

Find more of our favorite cookies and recipes in our Gourmet Cookies & Brownies section.



TIP OF THE DAY: Peach Raspberry Lemonade

Peaches are in season. So are raspberries. And life always gives us lemons. So make an extra-special homemade lemonade. Per glass:

• 2 tablespoons peach purée (made from ripe peaches)
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 4 raspberries
• Lemon wedge for garnish
• Optional garnish: fresh mint sprig
• Ice

1. Muddle lemons, peach purée, raspberries and lemon juice in a water glass or collins glass.
2. Add ice and fill the glass with cold water. Mix well. Sweeten to taste (but don’t overdo the sweetener—the goal is to taste the peaches and raspberries).
3. Serve with a lemon wedge and a straw.

To make a whole pitcher, multiply the ingredients by the number of people you want to serve, muddle in the pitcher, add ice and water and stir vigorously.

You can garnish lemonade glasses with
sanding sugar—or, for the Margarita crowd,
salt! Photo courtesy Whole Foods Market.


PRODUCT: Fat-Free Half And Half

Half &half for people cutting calories and/or
fat. Photo by Jerry Deutsch | THE NIBBLE.

We love milk—and thanks to all of the cookies, cake and cereals we test at THE NIBBLE, not to mention all the cappuccinos and lattes—we drink a lot of it.

Our milk of choice is Special Request Skim Plus from Farmland Dairies. It adds additional milk protein to skim milk; the result tastes like 2% milk instead of 0%. It’s costlier because of the expense of the milk protein, but it’s more than worth it.

One cup of Farmland Special Request Skim Plus Milk contains 110 calories, no fat, 11 grams of protein and 405 milligrams of calcium. It’s not only lower in calories, but more nutritious than whole milk, which contains 149 calories, 8 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein and 302 milligrams of calcium found in whole milk. (Regular skim milk has 80 calories/cup; the extra calories in Skim Plus come from the added protein.)

Farmland Dairies dairy serves the East Coast, but other regional dairies have similar products. Try “super skim” and see how much more enjoyable milk-drinking can be. If you do live in the area, here’s a $1.00 coupon to try any of the products (good through October 31, 2010).

We recently tasted Farmland Dairies’ relatively new Special Request Fat-Free Half & Half. Other brands of FFH&H have failed to please. Check the labels—one prominent brand is made from nonfat milk, milk, corn syrup solids (sugar), artificial color and sugar.

But Farmland Dairy’s FFH&H is made only from skim milk and milk, enhanced with vitamins A and D. It really tastes good! As with the Skim Plus milk, more milk protein and calcium are added to create creaminess. The MSRP for a quart is $2.99.

Milk-Buying Tips From Farmland Dairies

• Make the dairy case your last stop before checking out. At the checkout counter, have milk packed next to other refrigerated or frozen foods to keep it cool.

• Don’t leave milk in a hot car while you run other errands. Fifteen to twenty minutes in a hot car is enough to raise the temperature of a carton of milk ten degrees and shorten the storage life of the milk.

• Refrigerate milk as soon as you get home, before you unpack your other groceries.

• Keep your refrigerator temperature at 40°F or lower. As the refrigerator temperature goes up, the storage life of milk goes down.

• After opening, ultra-pasteurized milk and all other milk products should be consumed within approximately seven days, regardless of the “sell by” date. Once the carton is opened, the air that is introduced contributes to spoilage and effectively voids the “sell by” date.

• Temperature control is critical: One degree will affect freshness. Don’t leave milk standing out on the counter. If you leave it at the table (in the carton, pitcher or carafe), put it in a dish of ice.



TIP OF THE DAY: Fluffier Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled eggs are one of our favorite breakfast foods. In March we posted a tip for making fluffier scrambled eggs.

But our mother—who makes the fluffiest scrambled eggs—reminds us that we left out one important tip:

• Eggs at room temperature will take in more air than cold eggs. If you don’t have time to let them come to room temperature, put the whole eggs in a bowl and cover them with hot water for five minutes.

• Add a tablespoon of milk per two eggs. (Half and half or cream will make richer eggs—but scrambled eggs in butter are, in our opinion, rich enough.)


For fluffier scrambled eggs, beat in lots
of air. Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian | SXC.

• Beat vigorously. Mom used a hand beater; we use our electric egg beater. Restaurant cooks typically use a whisk.

• Don’t salt the beaten eggs (salt toughens eggs); wait until they have set in the pan before sprinkling with salt.

• If you have herbs, add them to the mix. We love snipping tiny bits of chive into our scrambled eggs. And if you have any shreds of smoked salmon to add… (Fade in Fred Astaire singing, “Heaven, I’m in heaven….”)*

Find more egg recipes and tips in our Eggs Section.

*From “Cheek to Cheek” by Irving Berlin.


RECIPE: German Potato Salad

Instead of mayo, make potato salad with
bacon vinaigrette. Photo by J.Java | Fotolia.

Making potato salad this weekend? Hold the mayo!

Given America’s desire for all things bacon, put German Potato Salad on your menu. Made with bacon and onions or scallions, it can be enjoyed hot or cold.

Here‘s the recipe.

Find more potato salad recipes.

By the way, in Germany this dish is just called “potato salad” (or Kartoffelsalat).


TIP OF THE DAY: Make Chocolate Bark

We found ourselves with a pile of quality chocolate bars. But with all the other things demanding to be eaten for reviews, the chocolate just sat there, month after month.

Taking a page from the adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” we decided to make the chocolate bars more alluring by turning them into chocolate bark with our favorite inclusions (the professional word for mix-ins).

Nuts, dried fruit, candies and other chocolate can be mixed in. We adore pistachio nuts and happened to have a supply of Guittard’s superior chocolate chips (dark, milk and white chocolate chips plus butterscotch, cappuccino, mint—available at

It’s a long weekend—enough time for you to become a chocolatier, and to bring the [chocolate and] fruits of your labor to a Memorial Day party.

You don’t need a pile of chocolate bars—just 14 ounces of quality chocolate. See the recipe and start chopping!

If you’re attending parties this weekend, bring some as a gift to the hosts.

This version has raisins, sultanas, cashews,
crystallized ginger and orange peel. Photo by
Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.


RECIPE & GADGET: Make Jalapeño Poppers

Treat family and friends to jalapeño
poppers. Photo courtesy


Did you know you had the need for a Chile Pepper Grill Rack and Corer? We didn’t, until we saw it at

Last month there were 49,000 Google searches for the term “jalapeño poppers.” Evidently, the cheese-stuffed chiles have become so popular, there’s a market for popper racks.

Developed by Steven Raichlen, author of The Barbecue! Bible and How to Grill, this stainless steel, dishwasher-safe device makes it easy to impress your friends with poppers and anything else you can think to do with it. It comes with a chile corer that makes removing the membrane and seeds a snap.

The only problem is that the stainless steel rack holds only 18 chiles. We can easily demolish a large portion of that. Guess we’ll have to get a second rack for guests.


While we’re at it, we’ll pick up another two popper racks as summer house gifts for our favorite grill masters.

  • An 18-jalepeño rack, and the recipe for jalepeño poppers, are at A double-size rack, holding 36 jalapeños, can be bought on
  • What’s the difference between a jalepeño, a chipotle and a habanero chile? Find out in our Chile Glossary.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Mustard Mash-Up

    There will be a lot of mustard served this weekend at barbecues across America. It’s your opportunity to try something new and exciting in this low-calorie-condiment category.

    Even though you think the crowd likes yellow ballpark mustard, delve into the more exciting types of mustard.

    Bring out the Dijon, the flavored mustards and the old-style grainy mustard. You can even bring a selection of gourmet mustards to your barbecue hosts.

    See the many different types in our Mustard Glossary.

    Find more of our favorite condiments—chutney, hot sauce, mayonnaise, olives, pickles and more—in our Gourmet Condiments section.

    How about some blue cheese mustard?
    Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.


    Sex And The City 2: “Rock The Casbah” Cosmo Cocktail

    Enjoy a Cosmo with a Middle Eastern
    twist. Photo courtesy The London NYC Hotel.

    Just about every spirits manufacturer we know developed a line of cocktails to celebrate the premiere of the film, Sex And The City 2. The typical suggestions we received had a cocktail named for each character—some just for the girls, others for every recognizable character in the film.

    If we had tried them all, we wouldn’t have been sober enough to write about them! And in truth, most were just spins on familiar cocktails with SATC2-appropriate names: Carrie’s Cosmo Caper, Samantha’s Seduction and so forth.

    One single recipe, though, came from the mixologists at The London NYC hotel—also home to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. “The Sexy London” was so different and tasty, with real Middle Eastern flavors—cardamom, rose syrup and mint, we decided that it was our SATC2 cocktail.

    If “Sexy London” doesn’t sound right for your crowd (we renamed ours the “Rock The Casbah Cosmo”), call it whatever you want. Just don’t call it late for dinner.


    Get the recipe and start infusing the vodka!

    The London NYC is located at 151 West 54th Street between 6th & 7th Avenues, convenient to the theatre district and Rockefeller Center.


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