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Archive for December, 2010

TIP OF THE DAY: Toasty, Nutty Pasta

Make your pasta recipes even better in the New Year by toasting it.

Say what?

Yes, indeed: Toasting dry, uncooked pasta in a dry pan over medium heat adds a nutty depth of flavor.

You can toast any dry shape, from elbows to bow ties to orzo to wagon wheels. Place the pasta in a dry heated pan over medium heat and use a wooden spoon to move the pasta around for a few minutes. The pasta will turn a browner shade and will give off a toasty aroma.

Then, simply cook the pasta as you normally would, in boiling salted water.

When everyone asks what’s “different” about the pasta, clue them in to toasting.

Before you boil or bake it, toast it! Photo
by Suzsanna Kilian | SXC.



PRODUCT: “Instant” Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake

Exquisite warm chocolate “pudding,” or
steamed cake. Photo by Jody Horton | Sticky
Toffee Pudding Co. Garnishes not included.

The New Year’s diet starts tomorrow, but today we’re celebrating with the new Warm Chocolate And Almond Pudding from the Sticky Toffee Pudding Company, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.

These English “puddings” are steamed cakes. Steaming—instead of conventional baking—creates a super-dense and super-moist cakelike dessert that is simply irresistible. One can only wonder why steamed puddings haven’t replaced the ubiquitous chocolate lava cake on restaurant menus.

We love every product from the Sticky Toffee Pudding Company, which include English Lemon Pudding, Molten Chocolate Baby-Cake, Sticky Ginger Pudding and Sticky Toffee Pudding. The new Warm Chocolate and Almond Pudding is just as spectacular—even more so for chocolate lovers. It’s a celestial chocolate experience, worth going out of your way for. (Warning: THE NIBBLE is not responsible for any addiction that ensues—we’ve got our own to deal with.)

These desserts are the epitome of “rich and moist.” With its intensely fine chocolate flavor, Warm Chocolate And Almond Pudding is worthy of being our last indulgence of 2010. It is an ultimate chocolate experience. (The almond component is the rich and flavorful almond meal used instead of white flour.)

The individual puddings are easy to heat in their ovenproof containers in a microwave or conventional oven.

More good news: The desserts are shelf stable, although refrigerating upon arrival is recommended to extend the shelf life. The puddings can be refrigerated for four weeks, and freeze beautifully for up to 6 months. Plan ahead and you’ll always have a pudding in the fridge or freezer when you need a great dessert.

If you owe someone a belated holiday gift, he/she won’t complain that these arrived late.



TIP OF THE DAY: Ice Cream Cupcakes

Create a fun and easy party dessert, a variation on the ice cream cupcake.

All you need are cupcake liners, a muffin tin, chocolate wafer cookies, a quart of your favorite ice cream (we like a pint each of chocolate chip or mint chocolate chip, but any flavor is delicious) plus the chocolate whipped cream topping: heavy cream, cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar.

While these “cupcakes” use cookie crumbs to simulate the cake, you can substitute actual cake or brownies, using a cookie cutter to cut rounds that fit into the cupcake wrappers.

Makes 12 cupcakes.


1. Leave ice cream on counter to soften slightly (or you can microwave a quart for 20 seconds).

Turn ice cream and cookie crumbs into an
Ice Cream Cupcake. Photo courtesy
Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

2. Place 24 wafer cookies in a large plastic storage bag and seal. With a rolling pin, turn the cookies into coarse crumbs.

3. Insert 12 cupcake wrappers into a large muffin tin. Line each cupcake wrapper with cookie crumbs, 2 to 3 tablespoons per cupcake.

4. Scoop ice cream into large round balls and add a ball to each cupcake wrapper. (If you can’t make the scoops round enough, shape them with your hands.) Place muffin tin in freezer.

5. Make whipped cream topping: Sift 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar and 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa onto a sheet of waxed paper. Begin to whip 1 cup of cold, heavy cream, gradually adding in the sugar-cocoa mixture. Whip for approximately 4 minutes, until the whipped cream is the consistency of shaving cream.

6. Using a spatula, frost the ice cream cupcakes with the whipped cream and sprinkle the whipped cream with any remaining cookie crumbs. (You can use other garnishes you have at hand: chocolate chips, coconut flakes, nuts and so forth.) Return cupcakes to freezer until ready to serve.

Find more recipes in our Ice Cream Section.



RECIPE: Savory Cheesecake

Basil Cheesecake Recipe

Nacho Cheesecake Recipe

[1] Nacho cheesecake (photo courtesy [2] A no-bake savory basil cheesecake (photos courtesy Eat Wisconsin Cheese).


What’s a savory cheesecake?

Using a base of cream cheese—just like dessert cheesecake—it’s a nonsweet cheesecake that combines savory ingredients: herbs, vegetables, seafood and/or other cheeses.

A savory cheesecake:

  • Can be a spread for party bread and crackers.
  • Can be a first course or cheese course consisting of a slice of cheesecake eaten with a fork. (We serve ours on a plate with a mesclun salad and vinaigrette.)
  • Can be a large cheesecakes or individual cheesecakes.
  • Can combine just about any flavors, from shrimp to jalapeño to roquefort.
  • Are great for special occasions.
  • Are always a big hit, because few people have ever had one.
    Try these delicious recipes, courtesy of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, representing the dairy farmers who create some of the world’s best cheeses. Just take a look at the photos: You’ll want to make them all!

  • Blue Cheese Cheesecake Recipe
  • Cool & Creamy Tuna Cheesecake Recipe
  • Grand Cru Gruyère & Lobster Cheesecake Recipe
  • Nacho Cheesecake Recipe
  • No Bake Savory Basil Cheesecake Recipe
  • Provolone & Corn Cheesecake Recipe

    Head to our Cheesecake Section on, and pull down the Gourmet Foods menu for the blog, above right.




    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Best Sweet Gourmet Foods Of 2010 (PART II)

    Our favorite sweet treats of 2010 are luxurious but very affordable—most under $10.00.

    The honors go to:


    If you missed Part I, Best Savory Gourmet Foods Of 2010, here they are.

    Wishing you a cornucopia of treats in the New Year!

    Indulge Caramels in Cinnamon. Photo
    by Evan Dempsey | THE NIBBLE.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Salted And Unsalted Butter

    The only salted butter we buy. Photo
    courtesy Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery.

    Some people prefer salted butter, others prefer unsalted butter. Can you use them interchangeably in baking and cooking?

    • Use unsalted butter for baked goods such as cake, cookies, pastry and pie crusts, and salted butter for general cooking.
    • If you are using salted butter in a recipe that specifically calls for unsalted butter plus additional salt, simply omit 1/4 teaspoon of salt per 1/2 cup of butter.


    The salt in salted butter acts as a preservative, allowing for a slightly longer shelf life; but that’s not a concern with modern refrigeration.

    We prefer to keep just one type of butter—unsalted—adding salt to recipes as needed. We keep a cellar of coarse-grained sea salt at the table. Those who want to salt their butter can add a pinch—which also adds a delightful crunch.

    • Our favorite salted butter—the best we’ve ever had—is from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery. Made in the style of the finest European butters (higher in butterfat than standard U.S. butters), it has a salt content significantly lower than typical salted. The “less is more” approach produces a spectacular salted butter.
    • How many types of butter are there? See our Butter Glossary.
    • Check out the history of butter.



    RECIPE: Deviled Eggs For New Year’s Eve

    Why do deviled eggs endure as a party favorite?

    Of all the retro hors d’oeuvre—including stuffed celery and rumaki, a skewered chicken liver and water chestnut invented by “Trader Vic” Bergeron—deviled eggs keep holding their own.

    Even people who rarely, if ever, eat a boiled egg can’t help plucking a stuffed egg off the tray. And speaking of trays: how many other hors d’oeuvre have specially designed trays? There are even carrying trays, to help you safely transport your eggs to the party; and Spode porcelain trays shaped like Christmas trees and a Lenox butterfly stuffed egg platter.

    So join the stuffed egg lovers parade, and make a recipe for New year’s Eve:

  • Deviled Eggs With Smoked Okra
  • Crabmeat, Sturgeon & Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs With Caviar Caps
  • Mix & Match Deviled Egg Stuffings

    A party favorite with many recipe variations.
    Photo courtesy Zabar’s.


    Here’s a tip from Andrea Watman, catering manager at Zabar’s in New York City, to boil the perfect egg:

    The day before I am going to hard boil the eggs, I turn the carton on its side. First, make sure the carton is closed securely and second, be careful because eggs are more likely to crack on their side. (It has to do with Mother Nature protecting the eggs: The shells are harder vertically to protect them when they are laid).

    Then, place the eggs in a sauce pan and cover with cold water and add one tablespoon of salt. Bring water to a full boil, turn heat down and boil for one minute. Turn off heat and allow eggs to stay in pan for 15 minutes. Rinse eggs in cold water for 5 minutes. Peel the eggs under cold running water.

    There’s a key difference between “stuffed eggs” and “deviled eggs.” Deviled eggs refer to the use of hot spices or condiments in a recipe—paprika, mustard, hot sauce, horseradish, chiles, etc. The concept originated in 18th-century England.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: The Best Gourmet Food Of 2010, Part I

    The Brilliant Burger, above, is stuffed with
    prosciutto. Photo courtesy

    We end each year by naming “The Best Of 2010”: truly the “best of the best” of everything we tasted this year. Otherwise stated: If you don’t try them, you’ll be missing out.

    First we share, in alphabetical order, our favorite savory foods. Next week we’ll present the sweets.

    Just click on the links to read the original reviews and why these foods have become our favorite gourmet gifts and treats.


    Can’t wait for Part II, the sweet food winners? Here it is!

    See all of the Top Picks from 2010 and prior years.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Healthy Drinking On New Year’s Eve

    Cheryl Forberg, James Beard Award-winning chef and nutritionist on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, has created a “Do List” for your New Year’s celebration.

    The top line: Wine is your friend, a wine spritzer is an even better friend. And some popular drinks are nobody’s friend because they’re packed with loads of calories and saturated fat.

    • One cup of eggnog has 343 calories and a whopping 19 grams of fat (11 g saturated fat). Even a Starbucks non-alcoholic grande eggnog latte made with nonfat milk has 450 calories and 18 grams of fat (11 g saturated).
    • A Long Island Iced Tea has more than 500 calories.
    • A White Russian has 425 calories.


    So, how do you party on without going overboard?

    Flutes of Champagne are your best caloric
    bet on New Year’s Eve. Flutes from Amazon.

    1. Do drink conservatively. Limit yourself to one or two drinks interspersed with water and healthy nibbles over a period of time.

    2. Do drink a big glass or two of water prior to drinking anything alcoholic. A recent study published in the journal Obesity compared weight loss for two groups of dieters; the group that consumed two cups of water prior to meals dropped more pounds. Water not only makes you feel more full; it provides your body with the hydration that alcohol depletes.

    3. Do choose wine instead of hard liquor cocktails. Wine has calories, but no fat; and it contains health-boosting antioxidants. A 4-ounce flute of Champagne has 78 calories, while a 5-ounce glass of red wine has 127 calories and contains the powerful antioxidant resveratrol. Just make sure you’re drinking a single four-ounce serving; some oversize wine glasses can hold 12 ounces or more (that’s 300 calories).

    4. Do try a white wine spritzer (wine mixed with sparkling water), the lowest-calorie alcoholic beverage. You’ll cut the calories in half and still get some of beneficial antioxidants.

    5. Do opt for sparkling water or club soda with a slice of lemon or lime if you need to have a drink in hand at the cocktail party. No one will know it’s not a gin and tonic! And it’s zero calories.

    6. Do skip creamy drinks like eggnog, Piña Colada and Irish cream liqueurs. They are loaded with calories and fat.

    7. Do allow yourself some fun indulgences. Just make sure you balance the excess calories with an additional walk or extra time at the gym.


    Comments (2)

    RECIPE: Bacon Vodka & BLT Bloody Mary

    Bacon vodka makes a BLT Bloody Mary.
    Photo courtesy Bull And Bear Bar Chicago.

    Sure, there will be egg nog and Champagne on New Year’s Eve. But what about that sexy signature cocktail?

    There’s still time for you to make a bottle of bacon vodka and treat everyone to Bacon Bloody Marys. And we actually have two different recipes!

    • The first, which is a bit tricky (lettuce foam, for example), is a molecular gastronomy take on a B.L.T. Bloody Mary from the Hotel Jerome in Aspen.
    • The second recipe, which can be made by anyone who can cook bacon, is from Bloody Mary specialist Greg Tooke of

    Either way, your Bacon Bloody Mary will be a blast!

    Check out the history of the Bloody Mary.


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