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Archive for September, 2011

PRODUCT: Gourmet Granola Snack

Quite a few people enjoy snacking on granola. One artisan food company has taken the concept to the next level, with an innovative snack product.

Granola Snacks offers seven different flavors of granola snacks, blended by hand. The ingredients are made from scratch: the caramel for Caramel Nut Granola and Carrot Cake Granola is homemade, for example. The cinnamon and nutmeg are hand-ground, and the peanuts are roasted in-house.

The result is bite-size chunks of granola—think of a free-form cookie made only of granola and the ingredients that flavor it:

  • Caramel Nut Granola Snack. The company’s signature flavor shows off the homemade caramel amid almonds, bananas, dates, golden raisins and honey.
  • Carrot Cake Granola Snack. Carrots, Flame raisins (a large, seedless variety), roasted walnuts and pineapple are spiced with freshly ground cinnamon. The enticing aroma is like a fresh carrot cake.

    The first and most popular granola snack
    flavor: Caramel Nut. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


  • Golden Memphis Granola Snack. Calling Elvis Presley fans: This one’s for you. The King’s favorites, banana and peanut butter, are mixed with roasted pecans and peanuts, caramel and a touch of nutmeg.
  • Hound Dog Mint Granola Snack. This flavor is named for blues legend Hound Dog Taylor. Chocolate mint lovers will appreciate the deep chocolate and real crème de menthe.
  • Kalua Luau Granola Snack. There’s no Kahlúa coffee liqueur in this coffee-inspired granola, but there is a touch of rum accenting the fresh-ground coffee, semisweet chocolate, almonds, bananas and dates, all mixed with fresh-ground ground nutmeg and drizzled with caramel.
  • PB&J Granola Snack. The peanut butter and jelly flavors are enhanced with dried cranberries and golden raisins, plus whole Virginia peanuts.
  • Rocky Road Granola Snack. The depth of chocolate flavor is due to 60% cacao chocolate. Each chunk is sprinkled with marshmallows and chocolate-coated almonds. It’s as satisfying as any candy bar, and can hold its own against a good brownie or chocolate cookie.
    For those worried about their teeth, the tasty granola nuggets are a bit on the hard side. But the benefit is that it takes you longer to enjoy each one, so you may enjoy a few less each time you open the bag.

    While the ingredients are healthy ones—oats with nuts and fruits—there are 10g of sugar per serving and 1g of fiber. This is a wholesome snack (give or take the butter and brown sugar), but it is not health food. It is, however, a new, tasty world of granola.

    For more information and to purchase Granola Snacks online, visit

    Find more of our favorite snacks and snack recipes.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Know Your Chicken Parts & Make A New Recipe For National Chicken Month

    You can buy cubed chicken for kebabs and
    stir-frys, or you can cut them yourself from boneless breasts. Photo by G. Vision | SXC.


    Do you know the difference between a boneless chicken breast and a cutlet? A broiler and a roaster? Chicken nuggets versus chicken popcorn?

    A reader recently asked us to create a glossary of chicken parts. We were happy to oblige and have just launched it to celebrate National Chicken Month (September).

    Wild chickens were domesticated in Asia, possibly as far back as 7000 B.C.E. Easy to transport and care for, the tasty birds were next transported to Africa, and from there to Europe.

    Celebrate National Chicken Month by trying a new chicken recipe. You can find one from just about every cuisine in the world.

    Email friends for their favorite chicken recipes, cut and paste them together in a Word document and send the compiled recipes back to everyone who contributed.


    Find our favorite chicken recipes and product reviews.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Pick Up A Food History Book

    Ever wonder where our foods came from? Fascinated by facts?

  • The tomato originated in Peru as a yellow cherry tomato, and was brought back to Europe by the Conquistadors. But Europeans refused to eat it, thinking it was poisonous, so it was used as an ornamental houseplant for centuries until a famine drove desperate peasants to eat it—and live to tell about it.
  • The lemon originated in the Assam region of northern India and northern Burma, then traveled through China and Persia to become an ornamental plant in the Arab world. It arrived in Rome in the first century C.E.
  • The original macaroni and cheese comprised sheets of pasta dough cut into two-inch squares, boiled and tossed with grated cheese (probably Parmesan).
  • The dog was the first domesticated animal, used for work and companionship, but the first food animal to be domesticated was the sheep (as far back as 11,000 B.C.E.), followed by the pig (9000 B.C.E.), goat and cow (both about 8000 B.C.E.).

    Lemons originated in Assam, but arrived in the Middle East around 600 C.E. as ornamental plants. Eggplant is also native to India, cultivated from prehistoric times, but it didn’t reach Europe until about 1500 C.E. This book tells all.


    Any food lover who wants to know where our foods originated—including the how and the why—should pick up a book or two on the history of food. While Michael Pollan’s books, such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma, are very popular (and very worthwhile reads), they just touch on the fascinating history of our food.

    Numerous books on food history can be more academic—which is to say, dry—than others. But two we like very much—and often give as gifts—are from authors who are not just expert in their topics, but gifted storytellers as well. They’re page-turners that provide many a happy hour of exploring our food history:

  • A History Of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat. First published in France in 1987 and now in its second edition, this is the go-to tome for people who want the facts. The information is staggering: not just how bread came to be, but the social history of who was able or allowed to eat what.
  • Moveable Feasts: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat, by Sarah Murray. Journey through the fascinating history of food. Even with rickety boats, peppercorns from India were delivered to demanding ancient Romans. The invention of the barrel in third-century Rome revolutionized transcontinental trading and vastly improved the art of winemaking, which previously relied on clay amphorae. And yes, there’s a lot that takes place in Rome—there’s nowhere else like it.
    If you’d like to browse, head to your nearest bookseller or to



    TIP OF THE DAY: Plan An Apple Picking Party

    Spend a lovely afternoon in an apple
    orchard. Photo courtesy


    How can you entertain without having to tidy up the house?

    Head off premises: go to the nearest apple orchard.

    It’s a winning way to spend an afternoon with friends and family; you’ll enjoy the fresh air, exercise and new opportunities to bond in a beautiful orchard. Then there’s the bonus of taking home the fruit of your labors (pun intended).

    In case the weather isn’t great on the day of your event, pick a rain date. And if it’s still raining, have a Plan B: Find an activity that can be done at home, like Pictionary. Order in pizza and have a bowl full of apples as a consolation prize.

    But let’s plan for good weather:


  • Look online to find an apple orchard that lets you pick your own. Check to see if they have picnic facilities (most do).
  • Tell everyone to dress in layers and wear shoes that are suitable for uneven and damp terrain. Bring a cap, scarf and gloves to be on the safe side.
  • Plan a picnic spread. In addition to cold drinks, include a thermos of herbal tea or soup in case the group gets chilly.
  • Establish a carpool plan.
  • Send a confirmation to all participants, including departure time and driving instructions.
  • Invite people to bring their favorite apple recipe, with enough copies for all the adults.
    And have a terrific time!



    TIP OF THE DAY: Farmed Vs. Wild Salmon

    Like salmon?

    Millions of Americans are fans of the firm, orange-fleshed fish—so much so that most of the salmon at food stores and restaurants is farmed to meet demand.

    While fish farming provides a plentiful supply, it comes with issues: toxins in the fish and damage to the environment, among other concerns.

    Take a look at the issues: They may impact your purchase decisions.

    After you read about the difference, find a new salmon recipe.

    And for fun, take our Wild Salmon Trivia Quiz.


    It’s true that salmon return to the exact spot where they were born to spawn the next generation. Tracking studies have proven this homing behavior, which scientists have determined depends on olfactory memory.


    It looks so tasty! Does it matter if the salmon is farmed vs. wild? Photo by Kelly Cline | IST.



    Fish farming was invented in China, as far back as 2500 B.C.E. Carp were bred in artificial lakes and ponds. This ancient practice was perhaps the earliest example of sustainable farming, designed to increase food supplies while diminishing the environmental impact.

    According to, some 80% of the world’s fish farming takes place in Asia.



    COOKING VIDEO: Apple Pie With Cheddar Crust


    Not long ago, we overheard a conversation among a group that was seated next to us at a New York City restaurant. One person was recounting a dinner he had had at a colleague’s home. He had been served a slice of apple pie with a wedge of Cheddar cheese, and was “flabbergasted” by the “bizarre” combination.

    “Is there whipped cream or ice cream?” the storyteller asked his host. “This is how we serve it in Vermont,” the host responded.

    The group continued to discuss this “weird” combination as we restrained ourselves from butting in. Not only is a sharp slice of Cheddar a delicious counterpoint to sweet apple pie, but the popularity of the combination led to the creation of a Cheddar crust for apple pie—adding shredded Cheddar to a standard crust recipe. The video recipe is below, and yes, you can still serve a wedge of Cheddar with a Cheddar-crust pie.

    And don’t limit yourself to the traditional version. If you enjoy blue cheese, serve a wedge with pie, or crumble it atop the pie (we particularly like blue cheese with blueberry pie). We often serve a circle cut from a fresh goat cheese log with fruit pie. There’s no rule book: Try whatever cheese you like with any fruit pie. The chocolate goat cheese log from Capri is exquisite with chocolate, coffee and nut-themed pies. It tastes like chocolate cheesecake.

    Cheese with fruit pie is a variation of the cheese, fruit and bread combination that has likely been popular since man first learned to make cheese and bread (in prehistoric times—see the history of cheese and the history of bread for more information).

    How Did The Pairing Of Apple Pie & Cheddar Begin?

    In the affluent households of ancient times, cheese was thought to aid digestion† and was often served at the end of a meal with fruits and nuts. Finishing an evening meal with a cheese course became customary throughout Europe. According to, the wealthy, whose dinners comprised many courses, enjoyed the practice until the 19th century.

    Even after a sweet dessert* course became a popular way to end a meal, the cheese course was served before it. This custom continues today.

    Skipping back to the 1600s: Both apples and Cheddar were brought by British settlers to what is now New England. In pre-refrigeration times‡, no one had a freezer for ice cream, and cream needs to be chilled to whip well. So what better way to garnish the pie than with a slice of locally made Cheddar cheese—no refrigeration required.

    Enjoy this delicious Cheddar crust apple pie recipe, a perfect fall dish.



    *Ironically, we now know that cheese is one of the hardest foods to digest. For more information visit

    †The custom of enjoying a sweet at the end of the meal evolved comparatively lately. Those with access to fresh fruit ended the meal with it, but honey was expensive and baking was primitive (think of a metal box over a fire). But with more access to sugar (Sugarcane was cultivated in the New Guinea area around 8,000 B.C.E. for its juice. Later, it was refined into sugar in India and in Persia, after India was invaded by Darius in 510 B.C.E., and then by the Arabs who invaded Persia in 642 C.E.), the cooks and bakers employed by the wealthy experimented with sweets. Cakes were baked in royal palaces in Arabia, and following the Crusades (1095 to 1291), the cooking techniques and ingredients were brought back to Northern Europe. Beginning in the 14th century, Renaissance cookbooks are filled with recipes. The word “dessert” originated in France between 1780 and 1790, derived from desservir, to clear the table.

    ‡In the millennia before the invention of the mechanical ice box, people kept food cold with ice and snow, saved during the winter months or brought down from mountaintops. The first “refrigeration” consisted of a hole dug into the ground and lined with wood or straw. It was then packed with snow and ice. Ice boxes existed from the mid-19th century, a response to the ice harvesting industry in America. The devices had hollow walls that were lined with tin or zinc and packed with insulation (cork, sawdust, straw, e.g.). A large block of ice was placed in a compartment near the top of the box, enabling cold air to circulate down into the storage compartment(s) below. Fresh ice was delivered by an iceman. While commercial refrigeration was available by the late 1800s, the home electric refrigerator didn’t arrive until 1930.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Hummus Flavor

    What’s better than a healthy snack of hummus?

    Our answer: Hummus that’s been garnished with something just as healthy, for additional layers of flavor.

    That’s the latest good idea from Tribe Mediterranean Foods. Their newest line, Tribe With Toppings (formerly called Tribe Origins), offers a “topped” line of hummus in seven delicious varieties. All-natural and extremely creamy (research showed that was what consumers wanted), the line uses Tribe’s Classic Hummus as a base.

    We’ve purchased different hummus brands in some 20 different flavors, from artichoke and Kalamata olive to sundried tomato. The flavors are blended into the hummus. We love them, but we equally love the festive look of Tribe With Toppings. There’s no reason you can’t combine the two concepts.

    So grab some pita bread, lentil chips or a spoon, and dig in.

    While we don’t know the secret Tribe With Toppings recipes, we tasted them, looked at the ingredients, and then made our own versions, patterning them after the Tribe flavors.


    Prefer black olives to green olives? Then
    customize your own topping for hummus.
    Photo of Tribe With Toppings Olive Tapenade Hummus by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    Everything should be finely chopped, but otherwise, you have free rein to use chipotle, jalapeño, horseradish, lemon zest or whatever else grabs you. While Tribe With Toppings has a base of plain hummus, you can use flavored hummus to create your own innovative recipes. And remember: fresh herbs make everything taste better.

  • Cilantro Chimichurri Hummus. Make a blend of fresh parsley and cilantro in olive oil. Season with roasted garlic, dried garlic, onions, spices, lime juice and jalapeño.
  • Mediterranean Style Hummus. Top hummus with a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a dusting of paprika with herbs (try oregano and thyme plus fresh parsley).
  • Olive Tapenade Hummus. Tribe uses chopped green olives, but feel free to substitute black olives. Add roasted garlic, dried garlic and your favorite spices and herbs to a red bell pepper purée.
  • Roasted Vegetable Hummus. Try a base of tomato purée flavored with roasted garlic, diced carrots, diced red bell pepper and your favorite spices. Tribe doesn’t use onions, but you certainly can.
  • Savory Mushroom Hummus. Earthy mushroom flavors pair well with hummus. Finely dice the mushrooms, sauté lightly and combine with roasted garlic, dried roasted garlic, onion and spices. You can purée half of the mushrooms for a base, or simply sprinkle the combined ingredients atop the hummus.
  • Spicy Red Pepper Hummus. We made our home version with red pepper purée, using a jar of roasted red peppers/pimentos and red pepper flakes. Minced fresh parsley made it even perkier.
  • Zesty Spice & Garlic Hummus. Blend minced garlic and your favorite spices into tomato paste.
    You can also use hummus with toppings in a delicious hummus sandwich.

    Let us know what you create!



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Fabulous Cocktail Glass Rimmer

    This drink rimmer uses neither sugar nor
    salt, just a touch of herbs. Photo
    courtesy Haru Restaurant.


    Several specialty food companies make cocktail glass rimmers that add color, flavor and festivity to the rim of the glass.

    Beyond cocktails, a glass rimmer can be used with almost any drink, from iced coffee to hot chocolate to milk.

    But why buy them, when it’s easy to make your own—and to customize the rimmer to each cocktail recipe?

    Depending on whether you’re making a rimmer for a sweet or savory drink, you can start with a base:

  • Base: Add sugar or sea salt to a plastic sandwich bag or quart bag. Try different textures, from superfine to coarse to sparkling options like sanding sugar, to see which effect you prefer.
  • Color: For color, you can use colored sanding sugar instead of regular sugar. Other cookie and cake decorations that work in rimmmers include confetti, crystal sugar, glitter, gold or silver flakes, jimmies and non-pareils. You can also make a simple colored sugar or salt by adding a drop of food coloring to the bag. Shake to infuse the color, then allow the mixture to dry. Spreading it on a paper towel or a plate will speed up the process.

  • Flavor, Sweet: Look at your spice rack and pick one to mix into your base: anise, cardamom (ground), cinnamon, clove, crystallized ginger (crushed), coconut (ground), ginger, nutmeg or other favorite. Add a half teaspoon per cup of sugar, then taste and add more if you prefer.
  • Flavor, Savory: Add a teaspoon or more of a complementary herb, dried or fresh-minced (the latter provides more vibrant flavor). We love chopped basil, celery salt, coriander, cumin, dill, herbes de Provence, paprika, pepper, rosemary, thyme and toasted sesame seed. Get more daring with spices such as chipotle and curry (try them with Bloody Marys and Martinis). You can also try citrus zest with both sweet and savory drinks, mixed with an herb or spice.
  • Creative Alternatives:
  • Use a base of crushed hard candies or cookies, instead of sugar. Add a spice for dimension. For a beautiful presentation, use edible flowers.

    Experiment with whatever appeals to you:

  • Dill and cracked pepper as a Bloody Mary glass rimmer
  • Lemon zest and basil as a Martini glass rimmer
  • Lime zest and sparkling sanding sugar as a Margarita glass rimmer
  • Cocoa drink mix and shaved chocolate on any chocolate cocktail
  • Crushed peppermint candies or ginger snaps for a holiday touch
    Share your favorite inspirations with us!

    Also consider matching your cocktail snack to the rimmer. For example, with a dill rimmer, serve a dip flavored with dill or a complementary flavor like basil.

    Adding The Rimmer Mix To The Glass

    Place the rimmer on a flat plate next to a small bowl of water. Dip the rim of the glass into the water and then into the rimmer mix. Twist the glass against the mix to evenly coat the rim. Pour in the cocktail and serve.



    NEWS: Recycling Nespresso Capsules

    We love our Nespresso espresso machine and the many different varieties and flavors of espresso it enables us to enjoy. (Espresso isn’t a type of bean, but a type of roast that can be applied to any bean. Drill down in our Espresso Glossary.)

    But some environmentally conscious espresso lovers have told us that they limit themselves to drinking one cup a day, because they can’t recycle the aluminum capsules.

    Now they can go “from brew to renew.”

    In response to consumer wishes, Nespresso has launched recycling programs in Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas. You can bring spent capsules to participating Sur La Table stores. Sur La Table, a big seller of Nespresso machines, will send them to a recycling center. The aluminum will be recycled and the coffee grounds will be composted.

    Learn more about the Nespresso recycling program.


    Nespresso’s extensive choices enable
    espresso lovers to try different origins and different flavors. Photo courtesy Nespresso.


    Learn more about coffee in our Gourmet Coffee Section.


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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Popchips Healthy Potato Chips


    In 2007, we were one of the first to discover Popchips and make it a Top Pick Of The Week.

    Over the years, we’ve had many a potato chip, but none as guilt-free and delicious as Popchips. They have half the fat but all of the flavor. Super-crunchy, they’re fun as well as fabulous.

    Instead of frying potato slices to make chips, Popchips are made with proprietary process. The potatoes are cut into small pieces, then popped under heat and pressure—no fat.

    After the chips are popped, some fat is required for the seasonings to adhere. That’s why these delicious chips have half the fat of conventional chips. Compare one-inch servings:

  • Popchips: 23 chips, 120 calories
  • Lay’s Original Potato Chips: 15 chips, 160 calories
  • Lay’s Baked Potato Chips: 15 chips, 120 calories
    You get a lot more Popchips per serving!


    Popchips are available in eight flavors: Original Popchips, Barbeque Popchips, Cheddar Popchips, Jalapeño Popchips, Parmesan & Garlic Popchips, Salt & Pepper Popchips, Sea Salt & Vinegar Popchips and Sour Cream & Onion Popchips.

    Read the full review and TRY THEM! The line is gluten-free, non GMO and certified kosher, and is available at retailers nationwide.

    Potato Chip History

    The first potato chips were born in the U.S.A.—by accident, in the course of a “food fight” between a fussy restaurant patron and a cranky chef. Check out the story.

    What Are The Best Conventional Potato Chips?

    Our favorite conventional chips are the original Saratoga Chips, first made at the Moon Lake Lodge in Saratoga Springs, New York.

    A few years ago, local entrepreneurs began to produce Saratoga Chips. Small, curly and elegant, they’re terrific for everything from snacking from the box to nibbling with a Martini.

    The company’s luscious dip mixes are also noteworthy. Packaged in a reproduction of the original chip box, Saratoga Chips are a great gift for the chip lover. Small, individual-portion size makes a great party favor or stocking stuffer.



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