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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 September, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: What Makes The Best Granola Cereal

Many Americans start the day with a bowl of granola or a yogurt-granola combination, or carry bags of granola for a healthy snack on-the-go.

With all the brands on the grocer’s shelf, what constitutes the best granola cereal?

The best granola is a healthy granola. As with all foods, choose a brand that starts with the highest-quality natural ingredients, and scan the nutrition label for:

  • Fiber. Here’s your opportunity to start the day with fiber-rich whole grains. Breakfast granola should offer at least 25 grams of whole grains per serving, including 3 grams of fiber. The usual whole grain in granola is oats. The government recommends 48 grams of whole grains daily: See a list of whole grains.
  • Nutrition. Look at the nutrition label for calcium, magnesium and vitamin E. These nutrients will fuel you throughout the day.
  • Natural Sweeteners. Look for a naturally sweetened whole grain granola, which means agave, honey, maple syrup or molasses rather than refined sugar, corn syrup or HFCS.
  •  

    Read the nutrition label before buying
    granola. You want something healthy, like
    Bob’s Red Mill granola. Avoid granola that is
    as sweet as children’s cereals. Photo by
    Elvira Kaliste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Make Your Own Granola

    Many pre-made granolas have unnecessary added ingredients, such as preservatives, and too much added sugar. Making a healthier granola at home is easy and cost effective: Most ingredients can be bought for significantly less in the bulk foods aisle of your grocery store. If you want to limit your gluten intake, you can find gluten-free oats. You can even give containers of your special blend as house gifts, special treats and stocking stuffers.

  • Use natural sweeteners like agave or honey.
  • Add your favorite type of nut, seed and dried fruit.
  • Toss in a handful of flax seeds for added fiber.
  •  
    Why Are Whole Grains So Important?
    Check out this article on whole grains. It may change your eating habits. It certainly changed ours!

    Find more of our favorite cereal brands, plus recipes.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Tea Party For Kids

    Get a tiered stand and do it at home!
    Photo courtesy Russian Tea Room.

     

    Want an opportunity to teach children good table manners? A new idea for kids’ parties and mother-child events?

    How about a tea party?

    Every day in New York City, children arrive, dressed in their best, at the famed Russian Tea Room for afternoon tea. The tea, served from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m, is a special occasion providing a peek into a world of elegance.

    The tiered tea tray is filled with kid-friendly treats: PB&J on a blini (you can serve yours on bread with the crusts cut off), pig-in-a-blanket and a selection of grilled cheese sandwiches and tea sandwiches: BLT, cucumber with chive cream cheese, tuna salad and egg salad.

    The second course, the pastry tray, includes chocolate mousse with mixed berries, a red velvet cupcake, a traditional warm scone and fresh apple slices with creamy caramel.

     

    And there’s tea, of course. The six decaffeinated tea choices are chamomile, ginger tea, green tea, mint verbena, raspberry hibiscus and rooibos chai.

    Another treat: chocolate tea—teas made with real chocolate, yet are virtually calorie-free. Find a delicious sampler at The Nibble Gourmet Market.

    Don’t like tea? Have some hot chocolate with whipped cream.

    With a porcelain tea pot and a tiered serving dish, you can recreate the experience in your dining room (here’s another tea stand in white).

    You’ll find other uses for the tiered stand: from breakfast (use it to present croissants, danishes, muffins, scones and toast) to desserts. For lunch, make a few different types of sandwiches, cut them in diagonal halves or quarters and serve them on the stand.

    You can adapt the Russian Tea Room menu, add your favorite tartlets and even make the sandwiches a bit more special—like the classic watercress and sweet butter or cream cheese and smoked salmon.

    For more inspiration, treat yourself to a book on tea parties.
     
    Learn everything about tea in our Gourmet Tea Section.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Burnt Caramel Chocolate “Cakes”

    Here’s how to celebrate a chocolate lover’s special occasion:

    Send a box of cakes. Burnt caramel-filled chocolates decorated with cakes, that is.

    For years, San Francisco chocolatier Michael Recchiuti has featured the work of local artists on his acclaimed chocolate-covered burnt caramels (the caramel has a smokier flavor than conventional gourmet caramels).

    This special edition of caramels is even guilt-free: For each box sold, $2 is donated to Creativity Explored, a nonprofit visual arts center where artists with developmental disabilities create, exhibit and sell their art. How can you not want to help out?

    The gift box of caramels—eight pieces, 3.5 ounces—is $21.00. Buy the chocolates online at Recchiuti.com. If you miss the special edition period, the burnt caramel chocolates without the art are available year-round (they’re one of Recchiuti’s most popular confections).

    Want something other than chocolate?

     

    Celebrate with “chocolate cake.” Special
    edition burnt caramel-filled chocolates
    from Recchiuti Confections.

     

    Check out The Nibble Gourmet Market: THE NIBBLE Editors’ favorite gift foods and personal treats, conveniently organized in one location.

    We don’t recommend everything: Just the best!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Low Cal Spices Spice Up Your Recipes

    Use different spices to add excitement to
    your favorite dishes, like these Cinnamon-
    Jerk Pork Chops. Photo and recipe
    courtesy McCormick.com.

     

    This list of foods should come as no surprise, but the Top Ten most-searched family dinner recipes on the McCormick.com website are:

  • Spaghetti
  • Tacos
  • Pork Chops
  • Pizza
  • Chicken Soup
  • Enchiladas
  • Meatloaf
  • Lasagna
  • Chili
  • Beef Stew
  •  

    These recipes are popular for a reason: They’re tasty and easy to make. Take pork chops, for example. You can quickly season them with salt, pepper and maybe some garlic or onion salt, then broil and serve.

     

    Or, you could make them more special with a mix of seasonings that includes allspice, chipotle, cinnamon, grated lime peel and thyme: the delicious recipe in the photo above.

    Low In Calories, High In Antioxidants

    In addition to flavor, there are two important reasons to season your food with spices instead of fat-laden sauces, grated cheese, salt and other less-good-for-you options:

    1. Low Calories. Herbs and spices have a negligible amount of calories. An entire teaspoon of most spices and herbs contains fewer than 10 calories. An entire cup of fresh parsley has 22 calories.

    2. High Antioxidants. Herbs and spices also add an antioxidant bonus to your recipes. We hasten to add that it’s a small bonus, since the amount of herb or spice consumed is rather small. But the benefit builds up with frequent use.

    See the seven highest-antioxidant spices and the highest-antioxidant foods overall.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How Much Wine Per Person Do You Need?

    If you’re planning a party, how much wine do you need? Wine quantities will vary depending on the type of party you’re having.

    Gary Sitton, winemaker at California’s Clos du Bois winery, offers these general rules of thumb:

    A standard bottle of wine (750ml, or 25.3 ounces) provides five five-ounce glasses of wine.

  • For a sit-down dinner party, plan on half a bottle of wine per guest. Then, buy an extra bottle or two, just in case the festivities go on longer than anticipated, or guests want a glass of wine before or after dinner.
  • For a cocktail party with a caterer or wait staff, plan on one-third to one-half bottle of wine per person, per two-hour period. If you’re also serving hard liquor and your guests are divided in their preferences, go for the smaller amount.
  •  

    A wine pourer helps to pour without dripping. Photo courtesy Rosendahl.

  • For cocktail parties with an open bar or where guests serve themselves, plan for 10% percent more than with waiter service.
  •  
    Now that you’ve got a handle on the wine, here’s how to calculate the amount of hors d’oeuvre.*

    *In French, the singular and plural word forms are the same: hors d’oeuvre.

      

    Comments

    COOKING VIDEO: Homemade Potato Chips

     

    It’s easy to whip up a batch of scrumptious homemade potato chips in a mere five minutes. All you need are:

  • A mandoline slicer,* to cut very thin slices of potato.
  • A deep fat fryer (the newer ones have built-in digital thermometers), or any deep pot plus a thermometer to let you know when the oil hits 375°F.
  • Peanut oil or substitute, plus seasonings. Peanut oil imparts a nice flavor that bland oils like canola, grapeseed and safflower lack—see our Cooking Oils Glossary.
  • Paper towels for drying the potato slices and draining the chips.
  •  
    Include The Kids
    This is a fun activity to do with kids, so they won’t grow up thinking that their favorite snacks only come in packages from the supermarket. It’s also a special treat for a weekend family dinner and for TV snacking (not to mention beer and cocktails).

    While some children are not old enough to learn how to slice or fry the potatoes, anyone older than four years of age can learn how to clean potatoes, pat the slices dry before cooking and flip them as they drain on paper towels. When the kids know there will be warm potato chips at the end of the activity, cooking becomes an exciting adventure they want to participate in.

    Seasoning The Chips
    This video recipe uses a special seasoning of paprika, onion powder, salt and sugar. Personally, we’d omit the sugar (if you must, use only a pinch): There’s no need to add more refined sugar to anyone’s diet. We also prefer sea salt, which is unrefined or minimally refined salt. It contains trace minerals that have been removed from refined salts (see our Salt Glossary).

    Feel free to add your own favorite seasonings to the mix—cayenne, chipotle, garlic or parsley—or season the chips simply with salt.

    Serve your delicious homemade chips with a dipping bowl of top-quality ketchup. See our review of the best ketchup brands, which includes the history of ketchup! Another tip: warm the ketchup in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds, or however long it takes to get to “very warm” in your microwave.

    Consider Them A Reward
    Homemade chips may become so popular in your household that you’ll be able to use them as a reward for tasks well done.

    *If you purchase a mandoline, look for one with adjustable thicknesses and a nonskid base. The Progressive model also has underside grooves to keep it stable on top of a bowl.

       

       

    Want more ideas?
    See our recipe for homemade potato chips on TheNibble.com.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cupcake Tower, Cake Pop Stands & Other Presentation Pieces

    The Cupcake Tower holds cupcakes; this
    reversible Cake Pops tower holds both.
    Photo courtesy The Cupcake Tower.

     

    You don’t have to spend a lot of money to create a wow factor for parties.

    Keep an eye out and you can find a few great presentation pieces that aren’t too expensive, or are on sale. (We do our best hunting on closeout tables in top department stores.)

    The right presentation piece can make everyday foods look better, and special foods will look spectacular.

    For example, for $65.00 you can buy a Cupcake Tower (the Cake Pop Tower in the photo is $89.00 and reversible—a solid side for cupcakes and a side with holes for cake pops).

    If that’s not in your budget, consider co-buying it with a friend.

    You can change the color scheme with dozens of elastic ribbon choices that cover the edges of each tier—orange and black for Halloween, for example.

    And since it’s made of component parts, one or all of the tiers can be passed around, like trays. Plus, the bases that support the tiers come apart, so the unit doesn’t require a lot of storage space. Learn more at TheCupcakeTower.com.

     

    Most presentation pieces are multi-taskers. A relish tray, for example, can be used to serve candy and nuts, or for purposes as far from relish as holding used tea bags.

    The Cupcake Tower, too, can be used for more than just cupcakes.

  • Use it as an all-purpose dessert, for everything from pastries to cake and pie slices to dishes of mousse and crème brûlée.
  • Similarly, brunch can be more fun with tiers of scones, croissants and muffins.
  • Use it as a condiment tower, with tiers of pickles, relishes, chutneys, mustards, mayos, spices, etc.
  • Use it in the bar area to set out shooters or cocktails.
  •  
    How else would you use the Cupcake Tower?

    Hungry for a piece of cake? Check out our Cake Glossary.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Perky Jerky Part 2, Turkey Perky Jerky

    Last year we wrote about Perky Jerky, a multitasking winner of a snack.

    Called “the world’s first all-natural performance enhancing meat snack” by its producer, the 100% beef Perky Jerky is caffeinated.

    More specifically, guarana, a natural energy booster with about twice the caffeine content of a coffee bean, is infused into the meat. You can have a protein snack and stay awake. No energy drink is required. (In fact, have a double dose of guarana at your own risk).

    Just tear open a portion-controlled package of Perky Jerky and enjoy a flavorful snack full of nourishment and energy.

    By the way, the jerky is tender and flavorful, as well as energizing!

    And now there’s Turkey Perky Jerky.

    You can buy Perky Jerky online, at Amazon.com or PerkyJerky.com.

     

    Beef Perky Jerky has a sibling: Turkey Perky
    Jerky. Photo by Jerry Deutsch | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Or head over to Corner Store, Home Depot, Mapco, Publix, Target, 7-Eleven or other retailers. There’s a store locator on the website.
     
    Find more of our favorite snacks.

      

    Comments

    EATING TRENDS: What Type Of Eater Are You?

    Are you an experimental eater? If so,
    this tuna tartare topped with wasabi-tobiko
    and salmon caviars might be just up
    your alley. Photo by | IST.

     

    What type of eater are you?

    According to a national survey conducted by LivingSocial.com, we’re not the carnivores that we were a generation ago. In those days, before global cuisines and health foods (even yogurt) were widely available in the U.S., most people would have seen themselves as meat lovers.

    Nowadays, when asked to choose (multiple categories could be selected), responders revealed themselves to be:

  • Meat Lover: 45%
  • Experimental: 35%
  • Foodie: 25%
  • Sweet Tooth: 21%
  • Fast Food Junkie: 19%
  • Health Nut: 18%
  • Locavore: 11%
  • Vegetarian/Vegan: 5%
  • Food Trucker: 4%
  •  

    Responders were consumers in the top 20 media markets, 18 years of age or older, who had made an online purchase or were “very likely” to make one within the next six months (online purchases include social media coupons).

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Crunchy & Sophisticated, Japanese Rice Crackers As Cocktail Snacks

    People are coming over for drinks—just drinks. What should you serve as a nibble?

    Our favorite from-the-bag cocktail snack has got to be Japanese rice crackers, specifically the chic little rolls wrapped in seaweed. They’re called nori maki arare in Japanese: seaweed roll cracker.

    While we’ve never met a rice cracker we didn’t like—they are a delightful change of pace from bowls of nuts, pretzels and chips—these look and taste different.

    The super crunchy crackers are high on texture and nuances of flavor. In addition to the ocean-brininess of the seaweed, the soy sauce, used instead of salt, adds sophisticated flavor. There is a tiny hint of heat and the faintest taste of sweetness.

    Consider these Japanese rice crackers a gourmet crunchy snack.

    And they’re not just for cocktails. A few crackers make a tasty snack with beer, green tea or straight black tea. (We drink our tea Asian-style, without milk or sugar. For sugared tea, a cookie is a better companion).

     

    These sophisticated rice crackers are our
    favorite crunchy cocktail snack. Photo by
    Jaclyn Nussbaum | THE NIBBLE.

     

    As with any seductive salty snack, it’s easy to polish off an entire bag while enjoying one’s wine or beer.

    You can also find fancy rice crackers (as opposed to the round, flat crackers) flavored with wasabi or shrimp, among other varieties. If you love this type of rice snack nugget, keep trying different types in order to discover your favorites.

    If your supermarket has a Japanese products section, look for them there; you can also find them at Asian products specialty markets or online.

    Find more of our favorite salty, crunchy snacks in our Gourmet Snacks Section.

      

    Comments

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