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Archive for January, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: Filling A Pepper Mill

We didn’t heed our own device when refilling the pepper mill yesterday. The result: peppercorns all over the counter and floor.

There’s a better way to do it:

Fill a small plastic bag or even a paper envelope with the peppercorns. Snip off a corner. You’ll be able to better aim the peppercorns into the mill.

  • Now that you’ve mastered filling the pepper mill, master all the different types of peppercorns.
  • Pepper is not related to bell peppers or hot chile peppers. The term “pepper” was applied to the Chile by New World explorers, who related the hot and spicy flavor of chiles to the peppercorn they knew. Learn more about chile “peppers.”

Keep ‘em in the peppermill, not on the
counter. Photo courtesy SXC.

Find more tips like this in the handy book, Tips Cooks Love.



COOKING VIDEO: Baked Chicken Wings For The Super Bowl


Want to serve fresh, hot chicken wings at your Super Bowl party?

In this video, the chef demonstrates how easy it is to bake chicken wings and offers options for two different sauces: one based on Peruvian peri-peri sauce, the other on Thai sriracha sauce.



Now, you don’t have to wing it.


TIP OF THE DAY: Zest A Lemon, Lime Or Grapefruit

After you juice a grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange or other citrus, do you throw it away?

If so, you’re tossing out a delicious ingredient: the zest.

Zest is the outermost part of the rind/peel/skin. Before you juice the citrus, remove the zest for use in other recipes. Scraping or cutting it from the skin is known as zesting.

  • Add zest to your recipes: in baking, casseroles, marinades, rice, salad dressings, sauces, soups, stir frys and stews.
  • Perk up uncooked foods: from green salads and tuna/seafood salads to yogurt (plain and fruit-flavored).
  • Steep it with tea. A piece of lemon peel is traditionally served with espresso, so you can add some lemon zest in your coffee, if you drink it without milk (the acid in the fruit curdles milk).
  • Dry the zest for cooking and baking. Set it on paper towels or wax paper overnight; then store it in a recycled spice bottle. Save empty spice bottles so you can store different types of peel.

    Zesting a lime. Zest got its name from the “zestiness” it adds to food. Photo by Villy Fink Isaksen Wikimedia.

  • Make gremolata, a flavorful condiment of fresh lemon zest, minced garlic and chopped parsley. Here’s the recipe. Gremolata adds so much flavor, you can reduce the salt.
  • Make lemon butter: a compound butter that can be used atop grilled fish, shellfish and vegetables; on canapés; creating maitre d’hotel sauce and other uses.
  • Make zesty ice cubes. Keep a “lemon ice cube tray,” adding some zest to each compartment. As the ice melts, it adds flavor to cocktails, iced tea, soda and (of course) lemonade/limeade.
  • Add zest to sorbet. Along with the fruit’s juice, it will add intensity of flavor plus texture and eye appeal. Or, sprinkle store-bought sorbet with strips of zest.
    The fresher the zest, the more aromatic and flavorful; so don’t let it wane in the fridge.


    Be sure to wash and dry the fruit well before zesting. If you can, buy organic or unwaxed citrus.

    While some people use a paring knife, it’s much easier to use a zester (which creates julienne strips) or a zester grater like a Microplane, or the fine side of a box grater.

    First decide how you’re going to use your zest: grated or strips. If the zest will be used for flavor and then removed (marinades, steeping in tea) it doesn’t make a difference. For garnish/eye appeal, use a regular zester. To dissolve into recipes (vinaigrette, sorbet) use a zester grater. We love our Cuisipro box grater.

    If you’re going to buy a zester, get a combination zester-stripper, which also creates strips of peel for cocktails or garnish.

    What are your favorite uses for lemon zest?



    TIP OF THE DAY: Peel A Grapefruit Or Orange With Ease

    If you enjoy grapefruit regularly, treat
    yourself to this snazzy double grapefruit knife.
    Photo courtesy RSVP.

    Grapefruit and oranges are excellent snacks and ingredients. We love to add them to green salads and light sauces for fish and seafood. And we have a passion for grapefruit sorbet and granita.

    But grapefruit can be difficult to peel and pith (the pith is the white membrane).

    Whether you don’t like to eat it or you don’t want pith marring the look of your fruit salad, here are tricks to peeling and pithing.

    • Boil the grapefruit for 5 minutes. The pith will come away with the peel. Run the grapefruit under cold water if it’s too hot to peel.
    • Similarly, if the grapefruit is too difficult to peel, pour boiling water over it and let it stand for 5 minutes.
    • If you’ve already peeled the grapefruit and can’t easily remove the pith with a serrated grapefruit knife, dip the grapefruit in hot water for two minutes and try again.
    By the way, the pith is good for you. It contains pectin, a soluble fiber that has the potential to lower LDL cholesterol, improve insulin resistance and aid the gastrointestinal tract. Pith also contains bioflavonoids, powerful antioxidants that may help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease.

    And you thought you were eating grapefruit for the flesh (which contains the antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin C, plus lots of potassium)!

    This tip is courtesy How To Repair Food, a handy little book.



    VALENTINE’S DAY: Custom Chocolate Bars

    Customized chocolate bars are a fun and inexpensive way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with friends and family (plus teachers, doctors, hairdressers and anyone else on your list).

    Made by hand to your precise specifications, you can show your chocolatier skills by creating a signature chocolate bar for Valentine’s Day 2011.

    Or, make each bar with a special touch for the recipient: milk chocolate, almonds and fleur de sel sea salt for Dad; dried cherries and cranberries in dark chocolate for Mom (the “antioxidant bar”).

    Depending on how many toppings you add, the bars cost from $5.00 to $10.00.

    Special toppings for Valentine’s Day include pink chocolate drops, strawberry and raspberry bits, marzipan roses, smiley hearts, mini hearts, candied lilacs and rose petals, and banners that say “My Valentine” and “I Love You.”

    You’re the chocolatier: Design your
    ideal chocolate bars. Photo courtesy

    The only catch: You’ve got to order by the end of Monday, January 31 to get your chocolate bars in advance of Valentine’s Day.

    You’ve got the weekend: Start designing!



    TIP OF THE DAY: Sugar Snap Peas

    Sugar snap peas. Photo by Louis Hiemstra |

    Almost everyone loves peas, but few people serve snap peas—even though they’re available year-round.

    Sugar snap peas are a cross-breed of the English pea and the Asian snow pea, delivering the best traits of both. Completely edible like snow peas (but with a crunchier pod), the sweet pea pods are filled with plump, round green peas.

    And they’re a culinary bargain.

    • There are two grams of dietary fiber and 35 calories per 2/3 cup serving of sugar snap peas.
    • Sugar snap peas are rich in minerals, with high concentrations of magnesium and calcium.
    • They’re also a good source of potassium and phosphorus.
    • One serving provides a 90% of the RDA of vitamin C, along with niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and vitamin A.
    • They have no cholesterol or fat, and very low in sodium.
    Sugar snap peas can be eaten raw or cooked (boiled, microwaved, steamed or stir-fried). They can be enjoyed plain, with a dab of butter or a sprinkle of soy sauce (we like a mix of low-sodium soy sauce and yuzu juice).

    We serve them alongside fish, meat and poultry:

    Try this recipe for Seared Wild King Salmon with Sugar Snap Peas, Avocado and Tangerine-Fennel Beurre Blanc. More ideas:

    • Toss them into a green salad or a salad with radishes and cucumbers with ginger dressing, or tossed in a 4:1 vinaigrette of olive oil and yuzu or lime juice.
    • They’re delicious with asparagus, steamed as a side or in a salad.
    • Add them to pasta with shrimp or scallops.
    • Steam them as part of a mixed vegetable medly.

    You’ll enjoy the snap in your recipes.



    SUPER BOWL FOOD: Best Chex Recipe

    Last fall, we tasted the five finalist recipes (out of 1,000 entries) in Chex Party Mix’s annual competition for the best 15-minute microwaved recipe. The 2010 winner has just been announced.

    Our favorite of the five, Chex PB and Chocolate Blast, did not grab the gold. But here’s the recipe, made with Reese’s Pieces and white chocolate.

    Karen Fisher’s winning Chex Cajun Kick snack mix recipe includes Creole seasoning and hot sauce.

    (Future contestants please note: The 2009 winner was Buffalo Chex Mix with hot sauce. The recipe voters seem to like heat.)

    You’ve got 15 minutes: Make some Chex mix. It can be made up to 2 weeks in advance.



    • 2 cups Corn Chex cereal
    • 2 cups Rice Chex cereal
    • 2 cups Wheat Chex cereal
    • 2 cups bite-size pretzel twists
    • 2 cups mixed nuts
    • 1/3 cup butter
    • 2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
    • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (like Tabasco)

    The winning Chex mix recipe adds spice
    to football night or movie night. Photo
    courtesy Chex.

    1. In large microwavable bowl, mix cereals, pretzels and nuts.
    2. In 2-cup microwavable measuring cup, microwave butter uncovered on High, about 40 seconds or until melted.
    3. Stir in Creole seasoning and hot sauce. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated.
    4. Microwave uncovered on High 6 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes.
    5. Spread on waxed paper or foil to cool. Store in airtight container.

    You can start mixing now: It’s nine days to Super Bowl Sunday.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Better Super Bowl Food

    Turkey chili saves calories and fat.
    Get the recipe from McCormick.

    As you’re watching the Steelers face the Packers on Super Bowl Sunday, will you be feasting on the “standard” artery-clogging, fat-building, colon-wrenching fare?

    The choice is yours, but you can feast just as well on better-for-you food with the same amount of prep time. And no one will notice the difference.

    We have suggestions from Carl Germano, RD, CDN, a Board-certified clinical nutritionist and the Chief Science Officer of Inergetics, makers of SURGEX, a muscle- and power-generating shake. As someone who spends his days focusing on nutrition, Germano recommends these switches.

    Standard: Beef Sliders with Cheese
    Smarter: Turkey Sliders with sliced tomato

    Standard: Franks in Blankets
    Smarter: Chicken Teriyaki Skewers

    Standard: Nachos with Cheese & Jalapeños
    Smarter: Baked Nachos with Guacamole, Tomatoes and Jalapeños

    Standard: Fried Cheese Bread Sticks
    Smarter: Sourdough Bread Bowl with Low Fat Spinach Dip (use nonfat Greek yogurt) and Crudités (raw vegetables)

    Standard: French Fries, Onion Rings
    Smarter: Baked Potato Skins with Tomato/Basil Bruschetta

    Standard: Beef Chili with Shredded Cheese and Sour Cream
    Smarter: Low Fat Turkey Chili with Black Beans, Corn & Salsa and Nonfat Greek Yogurt

    Standard: Fried Buffalo Wings with Ranch Dip
    Smarter: Baked Chicken Wings with Hot Sauce Dip

    Standard: Regular Pizza with Pepperoni
    Smarter: Whole Wheat Margarita Pizza

    Standard: Chips
    Smarter: Air Popped Popcorn, Whole Wheat Pretzels or Oat Pretzels

    Standard: Cookie & Brownie Platter
    Smarter: Fresh Fruit Platter

    Standard: Beer, Soda, Juice
    Smarter: Light Beer, Diet Soda, Flavored Seltzer, Mineral Water



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Low Fat Donuts

    Who couldn’t to discover that their favorite snack pastry is low in fat with half the calories? Today’s a lucky day: We’ve found delicious low fat donuts and cinnamon buns.

    You can have your cake and eat it too, thanks to Holey Donuts!. The secret is in the process: they use a method that takes 22 steps to make and avoids deep fat frying.

    You can order donuts in just about type you can imagine, including filled donuts (our favorite and the best sellers) and filled donut holes.

    What are you waiting for? Stock up!

    Low fat and delicious. Photo by River
    Soma | THE NIBBLE.


    FOOD HOLIDAY: Chinese New Year Gifts

    America’s chocolatiers celebrate The Year
    Of The Rabbit. Photo courtesy
    Charles Chocolates.

    It seems that everyone we know celebrates the Chinese New Year (lunar new year) with a Chinese banquet.

    Some of America’s chocolatiers have joined the festivities, creating special confections for the holiday: this year, celebrated on February 3rd.*

    *Chinese New Year begins according to the Chinese calendar, which consists of both Gregorian and lunar-solar calendar systems. Because the track of the new moon changes from year to year, Chinese New Year can begin anytime between late January and mid-February.

    To celebrate the Year Of The Rabbit, Charles Chocolates offers a gift set that includes a box of 10 orange ganache rabbits and a box of 20 tea-infused truffles, each topped with a Chinese character that indicates the type of tea inside. (If you don’t read Chinese, a guide explains which are baochong, jasmine, lichee, osmanthus and oolong.)

    If you only want one item, go for the rabbits. It is, after all, the rabbit’s year.

    Purchase both boxes for $45.00 (a $5.00 savings) or the rabbits only for $20.00, at


    We love to give gifts from Burdick Chocolate. The flavors are sophisticated and the wood boxes are keepers after the chocolate is gone.

    For Chinese New Year, the box is filled with five chocolate rabbits and eight honey and lemon pepper truffles. The milk chocolate rabbits are filled with a spicy almond ganache; the dark chocolate rabbits with tangerine ganache.

    The box is stamped with a gold “Good Luck” wax seal and tied with a red-and-gold ribbon imprinted with “Gung Hay Fat Choy” in Chinese characters (which means “wishing you great happiness and prosperity”).

    The box is $25.00 at

    Celebrate with either or both. Just be sure to get your order in now so the rabbits arrive in time for the Year Of The Rabbit.

    Rabbits and truffles with elegant flavors.
    Photo courtesy Burdick Chocolate.


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