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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 TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for July, 2011

FOOD HOLIDAY: Celebrate National Tequila Day With A Ruby Margarita

A Ruby Margarita is made with pomegranate
juice. Photo courtesy Tequila Herradura.

 

Celebrate today, National Tequila Day, with a Reposado tequila.

Most tequila cocktails are made with unaged blanco or silver tequila, the least complex expression.

Yet, the folks at Tequila Herradura hope that you will enjoy cocktails made with their Reposado tequila.

Herradura invented the Reposado category, and other tequila producers followed suit.

By law, to be classified as Reposado, a tequila must be aged a minimum of two months. Herradura Reposado is aged for 11 months, to create the perfect balance of wood, fruity notes, vanilla and spices.

Try these Margarita recipes, made with Herradura Reposado.

 

CLASSIC MARGARITA RECIPE

Ingredients For One Drink

  • 1½ ounces Herradura Resposado
  • 1½ ounces fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce Cointreau
  • 1½ ounces agave nectar*
     
    Preparation
    1. Salt the rim of a rocks glass by moistening rim and dipping into a plate of kosher salt.
    2. Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake vigorously and strain into glass.

    RUBY MARGARITA RECIPE

    Ingredients For One Drink

  • 1½ ounces Herradura Reposado
  • ½ ounce pomegranate juice (our favorite brands)
  • 1½ ounces agave nectar*
  • 1½ ounces fresh lime juice
     
    Preparation
    1. Salt the rim of a rocks glass by moistening rim and dipping into a plate of kosher salt.
    2. Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake vigorously and strain into glass.

    VARIATION

    To make a Chambord Margarita Royale, add 3/4 ounce Chambord (raspberry liqueur).

  • The history of tequila
  • The history of the Margarita
  •  
    *Simple syrup can be substituted for agave nectar.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Seasoning With Salt

    Today’s tip deals with something most of us do every day: seasoning with salt. The tip comes from THE NIBBLE’s test kitchen chef.

    Tip Part 1: Season meat with salt by sprinkling it from a height of roughly 6 to 8 inches.

    This ensures an even layer of salt, with no bland spots. Salt the meat right before or after you remove it from the heat. Otherwise, salt leaches moisture (juiciness) from the meat.

    Sprinkling at the end also preserves the delicate flavor of kosher salt or sea salt, which would dissipate in the cooking process.

    Rather than sprinkling from a salt shaker, take pinches of salt from a salt server (shown in the photo), or use a small, Tupperware-type container (or repurpose a plastic container from prepared food).

    Tip Part 2: Use kosher salt or coarse sea salt instead of table salt. These salts are no different nutritionally from table salt,* but chefs prefer them for their texture. The larger, irregular grains add a bit of crunch and hint of briny flavor.

     

    We take pinches of salt from this salt server. Photo courtesy RSVP.

     

    You also need less kosher or sea salt than table salt. Because table salt is processed into a very fine grain, a teaspoon of table salt contains as much salt as 1.5 teaspoons of kosher salt or sea salt.

    *All salt is at least 97.5% sodium chloride. The remainder comprises natural minerals found in the salt deposit (or sea water, if sea salt), or added minerals such as iodine in iodized salt. Table salt also includes a small amount of calcium silicate, an anti-caking agent that prevents clumping.

    See the many different types of salt in our Salt Glossary.

      

    Comments

    COOKING VIDEO: How To Seed A Pomegranate

     

    Many people steer clear of fresh pomegranates. Unlike taking a bite of an apple or plucking grapes from the cluster, eating a pom is not so user-friendly.

    Yet, in the Middle East, the pomegranate has been a popular fruit for millennia—long before well-honed knives, running water and fine mesh strainers were household basics, and long before people knew that pomegranate was a superfruit, high in antioxidants.

    If you know the easy technique shown in the video below, the pom’s thick outer layer (the pericarp*) is not really a problem. In the time it takes to peel an orange—and in less time than it takes to peel, core and slice a pineapple—you can be enjoying a pomegranate.

    The pom is different from other fruits because the portion of edible fruit—actually sacs of fruit juice called arils, which surround the small, edible seeds—is tucked inside such a thick pericarp. Unlike an orange or grapefruit, you can’t simply peel it with your fingers and dig in to the fruit.

  • Watch the video.
  • There’s an even neater trick, not shown on the video: neater because you seed the pomegranate in a large bowl of water, so no juice bleeds onto your hands.
  • Do what’s shown on the video, but place the quarters (or halves) of the pomegranate into a bowl of cold water. The arils are heavier than the water, so they sink to the bottom, making it easy to drain off the water. (We make it even easier by draining into a large mesh strainer.)
  •  
    FOOD TRIVIA: The pomegranate, the edible fruit of a shrub or small tree, is botanically classified as a berry.

    MORE about the pomegranate: history, health benefits, and how to juice and store pomegranates.

    *The pericarp comprises the skin and protective layers under it. Think of the skin and pith of a lemon or other citrus, which protects the juice sacs—although in the case of citrus, the exocarp (skin), the outermost layer of the pericarp, is edible. The pomegranate is one of the few fruits where the entire pericarp is inedible.

       

       

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Green Tea Ale To Aid Japan Disaster Relief

    Stone Brewing Co., a California craft brewery known for its Arrogant Bastard Ale and other well-named, well-crafted artisan drinks, has released a new beer to support aid efforts for the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster. All proceeds will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

    The Japanese Green Tea IPA (India Pale Ale) is a collaboration between Stone Brewing, Ishii Brewing Co. of Guam and Baird Brewing Company of Numazu, Japan.

    Toshi Ishii, a former Stone brewer, contacted Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele shortly after the Japanese disaster with a proposal to make a beer that could help with recovery efforts. They circled in Bryan Baird, a brewer in Japan.

    The three brewers naturally selected green tea as an ingredient. IPA was chosen as a style that would accentuate the tea’s herbal character. The recipe includes Sorachi Ace, a variety of hops originally developed in Japan, as well as Pacifica, Crystal, Warrior and Aramis, a new hops cultivar from the Alsace region of France.

     

    Drink up and help the Japanese Red Cross.
    Photo courtesy Stone Brewing Co.

     

    The brew has a spicy, herbal hop character that blends exceptionally well with the herbal and grassy sencha tea flavors. The Japanese Sorachi Ace hops provide more spice and citrus hop notes.

    The ale is available in 12-ounce bottles with a suggested retail price of $2.49-$3.49. Find a distributor near you.*

    Party Idea

    Have a party to benefit Japanese disaster victims. Serve Green Tea IPA and collect donations for the Red Cross. You can make an online donation for Japan via the American Red Cross.

    While the March 2011 disaster is no longer in the news, the victims will need aid for many years to come.

    *The beer is available in AK, AZ, CA,CO, FL, IL, KY, MA, MN, NC, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, SC, TX, VA, VT and WA.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Wheat Beer Tasting

    Summertime and the livin’ is easy—with a
    refreshing wheat beer. Photo of German
    Weizenbier by Ukko | Wikimedia.

     

    In the heat of the summer, few people want to drink a full-bodied beer (except in a chocolate stout beer float).

    Summer beers have been brewed for centuries, pioneered by Belgian and German brewers. Recipes were developed to make the beer crisper and more thirst-quenching, with moderate alcohol (lower alcohol drinks are recommended as the temperature rises).

    First, a portion of the malted barley—often 50% or more—is replaced with wheat, which adds refreshing acidity and creates a lighter-bodied beer. The result is a category called witbier, weissbier or white beer, referring to the paler color of the brew.

  • Try a Belgian witbier. Low on hops, witbier uses spice and fruit peel (traditionally, coriander and bitter orange) for flavor and aroma.
  • German Weissbier, weizen or hefe-weizen is brewed differently. German brewers still brew according to the German Beer Purity Law of 1516, which prohibits any flavoring other than hops. Instead, they employ various strains of yeast that generate a wide range of spicy and fruity flavors. These wheat beers are known as weizenbier (wheat beer) in the western and northern regions of Germany, and weissbier in Bavaria. Hefeweizen (“hefe” means yeast) is an unfiltered wheat beer, while kristallweizen (“kristall” means crystal) is filtered wheat beer.
  •  

    American brewers make many beers based on these two styles.

    Get to know wheat beer by having a wheat beer tasting.

    You can have a dedicated beer tasting, or combine it with a cookout. It’s a fun and enlightening summer event.

    1. Check out the selection at your local market. We find that the best number for a tasting is a dozen, but try fewer if you prefer.

    2. Look for imported witbier, weissbier, hefeweizen and kristallweizen. American brews are called wheat beer or summer beer—for example, Samuel Adams Summer Ale. It’s brewed with malted wheat, lemon peel and grains of paradise (melegueta pepper), a rare African spice related to cardamom that was first used for brewing in the 13th century.

    3. Set the beers on a table with small tasting cups (two-ounce plastic cups work well).

    4. Do some online research and print out descriptions of each beer, including name and price. Tape them onto the table in front of each beer.

    5. Provide index cards or blank paper, plus pens, so guests can write down their favorites along with tasting notes.

    Catch up on the different types of beer in our Beer Glossary.

      

    Comments (2)

    PRODUCT: Activate Workout Vitamin Drink

    We generally don’t review sports drinks and vitamin drinks. It’s not our sweet spot; we focus on beverages that are delicious.

    We’ve tried a few vitamin water drinks over the years, where either a tablet or a powder is added to a bottle of water immediately before consumption. Every one we tried tasted, well, yucky.

    The first brand we’d drink because it actually tastes good is Activate Workout. It’s produced by The Rising Beverage Company, which makes other enhanced waters as well.

    According to the company, which conducted research with an independent analytical laboratory, vitamins and other active ingredients lose their potency sitting in water.

    So they created a release-top bottle cap. Twist the cap and the active ingredients fall into the water. Shake the bottle and drink.

    We tried two of the four flavors, which include Grape, Lulo Pear,* Passionfruit and Pink Grapefruit.

    *Lulo, also known as naranjilla or “little orange,” is a South American fruit that tastes like rhubarb and lime—perhaps with a hint of pineapple.

     

    Activate Workout with a vitamin-filled
    cap. Photo by Jacklyn Nussbaum | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Both Lulo Pear and Pink Grapefruit were delicately charming—the pink grapefruit perhaps too delicate (add more grapefruit flavor!!).

    One serving (8 ounces) provides 50% DV of vitamins B6, niacin (B3), pantheonic acid (B5) and vitamin B12, plus 240% DV of vitamin C. By consuming the full bottle, you’ve had your DV of these five vitamins, plus small amounts of vitamins A and E.

    That being said, we never really “got” vitamin-infused water, except as a marketing ploy. None of the brands we’ve seen provides a well-rounded complement of vitamins. It’s more about feeling good that you’ve made a healthy choice. (And a lot of people feel good about it: Vitamin-enhanced waters is a sizable and growing category.)

    Activate Workout contains 0 calories and no preservatives. It is naturally (and pleasantly) sweetened with stevia. The line is certified kosher by OU.

    There’s a store locator on the website. You can download a coupon there, or purchase from the website.

    The company is also a good corporate citizen:

  • A percentage of each sale goes to Nourishing America, which provides vital prenatal nutrients to pregnant women in need.
  • You can purchase extra caps and refill the bottles with water. The bottles are 100% post-consumer recycled plastic.
  •  
    We like the colorful bottles, and have repurposed them as water bottles. As for the vitamins, we’ll continue to take what we need in tablet and capsule forms.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Grill Extra Steak

    Steak salad: our favorite way to enjoy
    leftover steak or other grilled meat on a
    hot summer day. Photo and recipe courtesy
    McCormick.com.

     

    When you’re grilling steak, lamb, pork or chicken, grill enough meat to enjoy in a cold salad the next day.

    For example, the recipe below, for a balsamic-marinated steak salad, was meant to be served warm. We doubled the recipe and enjoyed the dish again two days later, with the meat cool (it warmed up on the counter). The basic recipe for four uses one pound of steak. If your family eats larger portions, plan accordingly.

  • The recipe takes advantage of fresh summer blueberries, using them both as a salad ingredient and for the dressing. We made our steak salad dressing with just a teaspoon of sugar, because the blueberries had lots of natural sweetness and we don’t like overly sugary dressings.
  • On the second day, out of blueberries, we added diced cantaloupe, honeydew and grape tomatoes to the steak salad, with blue cheese instead of feta. It was delicious.
  • We also added some leftover wild rice, mounding it under the steak. Any rice or grain (barley, quinoa) would work as well. Change it up with sliced boiled potatoes.
  • On the third day, we served the salad portion with duck breast from Maple Leaf Farms, using fresh goat cheese instead of feta. Wonderful.
  • And just as wonderful, we also tried the recipe with grilled salmon and feta.
  •  

    BALSAMIC STEAK SALAD WITH BLUEBERRY DRESSING

    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Marinate Time: 30 minutes (longer if you can)
    Cook Time: 16 minutes
    Serves: 4

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups blueberries, divided
  • 1/2 cup Lawry’s Balsamic Herb Marinade, divided (you can substitute balsamic vinaigrette and your choice of herbs: 2 tablespoons balsamic to 6 tablespoons olive oil)
  • 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar (we used one teaspoon)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 pound skirt steak (or other cut)
  • 1 package (5 ounces) mixed salad greens
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (can substitute blue cheese or fresh goat cheese)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  •  
    Preparation
    1. Make dressing: Place 3/4 cup of the blueberries, 2 tablespoons of the marinade, sugar, water and lemon juice in food processor. Cover and process until smooth. Refrigerate dressing until ready to serve.

    2. Place steak in large resealable plastic bag or glass dish. Add 1/4 cup of the remaining marinade; turn to coat well. Refrigerate 30 minutes or longer for extra flavor. Remove steak from marinade. Discard any remaining marinade—it will contain bacteria from the raw meat.

    3. Grill steak over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes per side or until desired doneness, brushing with the remaining 2 tablespoons of marinade. Let steak rest for 15 minutes; cut into thin slices.

    4. Divide salad greens evenly among 4 serving plates. Top each with steak slices. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup blueberries, feta and onion. Serve with dressing.

    MORE GRILLED SALAD RECIPES

    Grilled Thai Lamb & Asparagus Salad
    Lamb Salad With Cucumber & Watercress
    Thai Beef Salad

      

    Comments

    RESTAURANTS: A Great Wine Pairing Dinner At The Capital Grille

    There are more than 40 The Capital Grill restaurants in the U.S. We’ve only been to one, and it’s a class act. It has become our restaurant of choice when we’re going to dinner with people who want a steak-and-seafood evening with good wine.

    If this is up your alley, The Capital Grille is offering the best wine tasting deal we know of:

    Now through September 4th, for just $25 with dinner, you can have as much as you want of nine sparkling, white and red wines, including a Port-style dessert wine from Australia (charmingly called The Portly Gentleman). Known as the Generous Pour, if purchased by the bottle, the wine tab would be almost $800.

    At a recent dinner, we opted in and tried all nine Generous Pour wines. We declare it the best $25 restaurant wine experience—as well as an enlightening, fun and delicious evening.

    You can have your wines any way you want them, including pours of any and all nine wines and refills of your favorites.

     

    Days later, we’re still enjoying the Generous
    Pour experience at Capital Grille. Photo
    courtesy Capital Grille.

     

    We started the evening with a Marquis de la Tour Crémant de Loire, a lovely French sparkler that was the apéritif. We asked for more to go with the yummy pan-fried calamari with hot cherry peppers. The buttery St. Jean Belle Terre chardonnay went better with the lush lobster mac and cheese.

    The ability to try so many wines with dinner—to compare and contrast—is a wonderful experience. Do you prefer the La Cana albariño or the St. Jean chardonnay with oysters on the half shell? Try it and decide (we preferred the albariño).

    We had both whites, the Crémant and a Byron Bay pinot noir with our salmon—and confirmed that we continue to prefer pinot noir to white wine for pairing with salmon.

    Those who ordered steak had five different reds to compare, both international and from California. We accepted “donations” of meat from their generous portions to try with the reds.

    At this point we should have called it quits and let The Portly Gentleman suffice as dessert.

    But no: We allowed ourselves to be seduced by the rich dessert menu (cheesecake, coconut cream pie, crème brûlée, flourless chocolate espresso cake and some lighter temptations).

    A wine pairing dinner is a wonderful way to spend an evening with friends or colleagues, sharing good food and wine adventures. The wine selection was specially chosen by Master Sommelier George Miliotes to complement both the menu and the season.

    You can send someone a gift card to the Capital Grille. What a great gift (hint, hint)!

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Lollipop Day

    See’s gourmet Lollypops are made from
    heavy cream, butter and flavors, in
    butterscotch, chocolate, coffee and vanilla.
    There are root beer lollys, too. The line is
    certified kosher.

     

    It’s National Lollipop Day. Read this history of the lollipop as you enjoy one or two.

    According to the National Confectioners Association, eating sugar from a stick likely dates to prehistoric man, who licked honey off the stick he used to scrape it from the beehive.

    The ancient Arabs, Chinese and Egyptians made fruit and nut confections candied in honey, which may also have been eaten from sticks, owing to the stickiness of the confection.

    But what we think of as a lollipop may date to Europe in the Middle Ages, when sugar was boiled and formed onto sticks as treats for the wealthy—the only people who could afford sugar.

    By the 17th century, sugar was plentiful and affordable. In England, boiled sugar (hard candy) treats were popular. The word “lollipop” (originally spelled lollypop) first appears in print in 1784, roughly coinciding with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

     

    Beginning in the later part of the 18th century, industry, including confectionery, became mechanized. Horehound drops, lemon drops, peppermints and wintergreen lozenges became everyday candies.

    While we don’t know the inventor of the modern lollipop, the first automated lollipop machine was invented in Racine, Wisconsin in 1908. The Racine Confectionery Machine Company’s machine put hard candy discs on the end of a sticks, producing 2400 lollipops per hour, 57,000 per day (Today’s machines can produce 3 million lollipops daily).

    Far beyond the Tootsie Pop of childhood, today’s lollipops come in all shapes and sizes, from hand-crafted works of sugar art to caffeinated Java Pops and bacon lollipops.

    Find reviews of our favorite old-fashioned candies.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Sweet Tea Cocktail

    Here’s a summer refreshment for tea lovers over the age of 21: sweet tea vodka.

    Created by Chris Cason, co-founder of Tavalon Tea, it combines two summer favorites: sweet iced tea and a vodka cocktail.

    The tea-infused vodka is delicious straight up or on the rocks, but it’s also a good mixer.

    For example, a 1:1 ratio of sweet tea vodka to fresh-squeezed lemonade makes a Spiked Arnold Palmer (fresh lemonade recipe).

    You can serve it as an “iced tea cocktail.” Or for fun, serve it in a teacup with a wedge of lemon.

    HOMEMADE SWEET TEA VODKA

    Ingredients

  • 1 quart vodka
  • 1-1/2 cups simple syrup (recipe)
  • 1/4 cup English Breakfast or Irish Breakfast Tea,
    loose
     

  •  

     

    Preparation
    1. Combine all ingredients in a quart container (or larger container) with a tight seal.
    2. Shake well to thoroughly mix. Allow to “steep” for 45 minutes, shaking occasionally. Strain.
    3. Serve chilled.

    Find more Cocktail Recipes.

      

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