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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 October, 2011

PRODUCT: A Handsome Stainless Steel Water Filtration Pitcher

If you use a water filtration pitcher, your choice has been limited to plastic.

Until now. Base Brands has introduced the Reduce Vision pitcher, the first stainless steel water filter pitcher and possibly the best water filtration pitcher.

The stainless steel doesn’t scratch as readily as the plastic pitchers we’ve had, and it’s lightweight and ergonomic. Stainless steel is also naturally bacteria-resistant.

Water pitcher filter cartridges typically filter out the same elements—we haven’t found any difference in taste when using different brands. The Reduce Vision pitcher accommodates most major brand filters, including Brita and Pur.

The 18/8 stainless steel pitcher has a 10 cup capacity and comes with one 60-day filter.

 

The sleekest water filtration pitcher is
made from stainless steel. Photo courtesy Base Brands.

 

At $36.47 on Amazon, it’s a bit more than the plastic water filtration pitchers—but worth it.

We keep one on our desk, where it fits in far more elegantly than a plastic water pitcher.

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Garnish With Decorative Gourds

Use a decorative gourd as a food garnish.
Photo by FunWithFood | IST.

 

We enjoy decorating with gourds in the fall-to-winter months.

From still lifes on tables to place settings for dinner, these colorful ornamental varieties of squash and pumpkins perk up their surroundings.

Take them one step further: Use them to decorate your snacks and serving dishes, too.

On the rims of platters or in the center of dishes, they’ll turn any food into fun food.

Hardshell gourds have been used since the dawn of man as containers, cooking and eating vessels, plus numerous nonfood purposes.

Softshell gourds are the thinner-skinned, ornamental gourds grown for their bright colors.

 

Here’s a fun fact: The loofa or luffa is actually a third category of gourd. Also called a vegetable sponge, the exterior is cucumber-shaped. The dried, fibrous interior is used as a sponge.

Find more of our favorite vegetables and recipes in our Vegetables Section.

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Take The Chicory Challenge

Cichorium is a genus of plants that resemble wildflowers, with beautiful lavender or pale blue blossoms. But two of the six wild species, native to Europe, are cultivated for food: chicory and endive. They can be enjoyed raw or cooked.

  • Common chicory, Cichorium intybus, is grown for its leaves, variously known as Belgian endive (red and white), endive, French endive, leaf chicory, radicchio or witloof. Some varieties are grown for their roots, which are used as a coffee substitute.
  • True endive, Cichorium endivia, is grown as a salad green. Curly endive (frisée or chicory frisée) and the broad-leafed escarole are also true endives.
  •  
    Though it is common to find chicories in restaurant dishes, they are far less often embraced by home cooks.

    Why? They are not excessively costly, nor are they particularly hard to find. And they’re a particularly healthy food: a good source of dietary fiber, folate, iron, potassium and vitamins B6, C, E and K.

     

    Some of the chicory group. From top left: escarole, leaf chicory, frisée (curly chicory), radicchio di Chiogga, radicchio di Treviso and Belgian endive. Photo courtesy Endive.com.

     

    The fact is, a lot of people don’t seem to like chicories, possibly due to their inherent bitterness. Perhaps in our country, where sugar is dumped into everything from bread to mustard and governments are looking at regulating the excessive amount of salt in prepared foods, people have been weaned away from the bitter flavor.

    Bitterness is an important taste in cooking and it has its place in balancing the saltiness, sweetness and acidity in many recipes. Give it a chance.

    How To Tame The Bitterness In Chicory

    The easiest way to soften the bitterness in chicories is to shock them in an ice bath. Simply plunge the vegetables into icy water (add ice cubes to cold tap water or refrigerated water) and leave them there for an hour or so. Then, give them a little nibble. If they’re still too bitter for your taste, repeat; continue to do so until you’re happy with the result. Then, remove and spin the leaves dry (if you don’t have a salad spinner, air drying is fine). You will be shocked (pun intended) at the difference it makes.

    If you are using the vegetable raw, remove the core from the head—the core is the most bitter part. With Belgian endive and radicchio, the easiest method is to cut the head in half lengthwise and then cut away the core.

    How To Use Chicories

    In addition to salad, you can cook chicories in any number of ways. Their heartiness allows them to stand up to most cooking methods, even grilling. Grilled radicchio is delicious, finished with nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil, a squirt of lemon, a few pinches of coarse salt and some freshly ground pepper. Escarole sautéed with garlic in olive oil is a simple pleasure. Belgian endive, frisée (curly endive) and radicchio are beautiful in salads.

    Recipes

  • Radicchio overview and recipes
  • Festive radicchio salad recipe
  • Pear salad with blue cheese and radicchio recipe
  • Spinach, citrus and radicchio salad recipe
  • Grilled bitter greens with caraway peach dressing recipe
  • Angel hair pasta with scallops and escarole recipe
  •   

    Comments

    COOKING VIDEO: How Is Candy Corn Made

     

    October 30th is National Candy Corn Day. According to the National Confectioners Association, more than 20 million pounds of candy corn are sold during the Halloween season.

    The iconic Halloween confection was created in the late 1880s by George Roniger of the Wunderlee Candy Company, in Philadelphia. The first three-layer candy, it was made laboriously, by hand.

    Even with today’s machinery, it takes 4 to 5 days to create each piece of candy corn. Each kernel has 3.57 calories, and they’re all sugar (the ingredients are corn syrup, honey, sugar and food coloring, coated with carnauba wax, a wax from the leaves of a Brazilian palm tree).

    The orange, yellow and white colors of the candy corn can actually be found in fresh corn kernels—though the colors are intensified by the candymakers. Some companies create an “Indian corn” version, substituting brown for the yellow base color.

    See candy corn being made in the video below.

    CANDY CORN TRIVIA
    The leading manufacturer of candy corn is Brach’s. Each year, the company sells enough candy corn to circle the earth 4.25 times.

       

       

    Find more of our favorite candy in our Gourmet Candy Section.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Serve Pumpkin Soup In A Pumpkin Tureen

    You can buy a ceramic pumpkin tureen for the holiday season.

    Or, you can make one out of a real pumpkin, and have pumpkin soup to boot.

  • Select a handsome pumpkin of a size that suits your needs. Wash the pumpkin.
  • With a sharp knife, cut the “lid” off of the pumpkin.
  • Scoop the flesh out with an ice cream scoop. Scoop the flesh from the lid as well.
  • Toss the membrane; save the seeds to toast as a soup garnish.
  • Make soup from the flesh (recipes below).
  •  
    If you’re making the soup in advance, you can keep the tureen in the fridge or a cool spot. We’d love to save and re-use the tureen, but we’ve never had enough freezer space to see how it freezes. If you do, wash the pumpkin tureen after you’ve served the soup, let it dry, freeze it and please let us know how it goes!

     

    Serve soup from a real pumpkin tureen. Photo by G.M. Vozd | IST.

     

    Decorate Your Tureen
    The most breathtaking pumpkin tureen we’ve seen is on the website Phoo-d. The rim is circled with fresh flowers. If you have the time and energy—or simply want to see a beautiful photo—take a look.

    Pumpkin Soup Recipes

  • Recipe #1: Pumpkin soup with chicken stock and milk
  • Recipe #2: Pumpkin soup with chicken stock, half-and-half and cocoa croutons
  • Recipe #3: Pumpkin soup with anise and Pernod-flavored cream cheese “sorbet”
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Try The White House Recipe For Honey Cupcakes

    Dress up a plain white cupcake for
    Halloween. Photo courtesy McCormick.com.

     

    Given the focus on fitness at the White House, does the First Family participate in the national cupcake craze?

    A White House Garden Cookbook—which includes a collection of recipes and gardening tips from First Families—features a recipe for honey cupcakes enjoyed by the Obamas.

    With less sugar and fat—better-for-you honey is substituted for most of the sugar—this recipe, when baked at the White House, uses honey gathered from the Executive Bee Hive at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But if you’re not connected to Charlie Brandt (the White House beekeeper) or Michelle Obama, the honey in your cupboard works just fine.

    You can make these cupcakes for Halloween, decorating with candy corn, orange sprinkles or other seasonal decorations.

     

    WHITE HOUSE HONEY CUPCAKES

    Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, left out on the counter for approximately 1 hour to soften
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Optional decorations
  •  

    Icing Ingredients

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
     

    Cupcake Preparation

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

    2. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer on high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. On medium speed, mix in the honey, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla until blended.

    3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. On medium speed, mix into the batter until just blended. Scoop the batter evenly into the lined muffin cups.

    4. Bake about 20 minutes. Cupcakes are done when the tops spring back lightly to the touch or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    Icing Preparation

    1. Place the icing ingredients in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, whisk the ingredients until the sugar and honey dissolve together. Keep whisking to avoid clumps.

    2. Using a spoon, drizzle icing over the tops of the cupcakes, or carefully pour over the cupcakes. Decorate as desired.

      

  • Comments

    BOOK: What You Should & Shouldn’t Make From Scratch

    When Jennifer Reese lost her job as a book editor for Entertainment Weekly, she looked for ways to economize. She began with the family’s food bill. Is it cheaper to buy or make your own bagels, cream cheese, jam, crackers, yogurt and granola, she wondered.

    She began a cost-benefit analysis on how much she might save by making from scratch six of the everyday foods she typically purchased from the supermarket and the bakery. Her initial experience gave way to Make The Bread, Buy The Butter, a delightful book with 120 recipes.

    The author priced everything down to the last grain of salt as well as the cost of the utilities (in her city, 32 cents per hour to run an electric oven, 9 cents per hour to melt on a gas burner, 14 cents per hour to boil water). She did not include the cost of her labor.

     

    You’ll laugh, you’ll ponder, you just might buy a goat. Photo courtesy Free Press.

     

    Ms. Reese found some cost efficiencies that were worth it, and some that weren’t. The bagel recipe she used—the best bagel she’s ever had—costs 15¢ per bagel. A Thomas’ bagel is 45¢; a fresh bagel from Noah’s in San Francisco is 75¢.

    Cream cheese, on the other hand, is something better bought—no matter what the savings. Home-made cream cheese just doesn’t approximate the thick brick we all know and love.

    This energetic woman not only made her own jerky and Worcestershire sauce, but she also raised chickens in her backyard and attempted to raise goats to make cheese. (They ended up as beloved pets but have contributed no milk.)

    You’ll chuckle at the adventures of this executive-turned-farmer as she lacto-ferments pickles on the kitchen counter, ripens cheese in the closet and tends to chickens, ducks, baby goats and a beehive in a suburban back yard. As for buying a pair of turkeys to join the menagerie in advance of Thanksgiving (to butcher and clean), “…the mountain of gore was chilling to behold…It felt more like cleaning up a crime scene.” The experience cost more than buying turkey at the supermarket—and the meat was much drier.

    Jennifer Reese will entertain you. She will inform you. She may even convince you to try your own hand at “make it or buy it.” And you just might want to get your own baby goat.

    Order a copy.

    Read Jennifer’s further adventures at TheTipsyBaker.com.

      

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    PRODUCT: Gourmet Marshmallows From America’s Youngest Confectioner

    Ethereal, melt-in-your-mouth marshmallows from The Marshmallows Company. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    What do you say to an eight-year-old CEO? How about, “Congratulations!”

    When Canaan Smith was just three years old, he was scrambling his own eggs for breakfast and watching the Food Network instead of morning cartoons.

    One day at age 4, Canaan commented on how clouds looked like marshmallows. He then began thinking about different flavors of marshmallows. He and his mom, Megan, made a batch of peach marshmallows that were a big hit.

    At age 5, Canaan sold his first marshmallows to family friends. He decided to launch his own marshmallow company, and within a few months he was selling to a local coffee house. By the following year, 2009, he was selling both retail and wholesale.

    Canaan was featured in the local newspaper, the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald Leader. It led to an appearance on The Suze Orman Show earlier this year. He’ll be back in December as one of Suze’s favorite guests of the year.

     

    The marshmallows are absolutely terrific: among the most tender marshmallows we’ve ever had, with excellent vanilla flavor.

    These all-natural pillows of paradise truly melt in your mouth. As marshmallow connoisseurs who have tasted the wares of some of America’s finest marshmallow artisans, we urge you to try them. They’re as gourmet as it gets.

    The marshmallows are a wonderful light snack or a topper for hot chocolate. For a special dessert, dip the tops into melted chocolate and decorate them (with mini chips, coconut or graham cracker crumbs, for example). Make the best s’mores with these marshmallows and the best graham crackers and chocolate bars you can find.

    A good corporate citizen, the Marshmallows Company donates 10% to Heifer International and sends marshmallows overseas to our fighting troops. The CEO’s next focus is on green energy to produce environmentally friendly marshmallows.

    Get yours at TheMarshmallowsCompany.com.

    MORE MARVELOUS MARSHMALLOWS

  • The history of marshmallows, including recipes.
  • Reviews of our favorite artisan marshmallows.
  •  
    Want flavored marshmallows? We’ve got them at The Nibble Gourmet Market.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Garlic Confit And Whole Roast Garlic

    Dating back more than 6,000 years ago to central Asia, garlic took the culinary world by storm. It is used in cuisines on all the world’s continents and is one of America’s most popular herbs. (An herb is a plant that is used to flavor or scent other foods.)

    A member of the onion genus, Allium, garlic’s cousins include the chive, green onion/scallion, leek, onion and shallot. (Allium is the Latin word for garlic.)

    There are festivals dedicated to garlic, restaurants centered around it, and very few savory foods that don’t go with it.

    The most common use of garlic involves crushing or mincing a few cloves and adding the raw garlic directly into a recipe. But you can change it up and cook entire bulbs or whole cloves of garlic as a side or a garnish to please your favorite garlic lovers.

    There are two principal ways to do this, each delivering different flavors and textures.

     

    Turn whole garlic bulbs or peeled cloves into a baked treat. Photo by SensorSpot | IST.

     

    Roast Garlic

    Roasting heads of garlic is the simpler of the methods.

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Slice horizontally into the top of a bulb (also called a head) of raw garlic, stopping before you cut completely through, to leave a “hinge.” Then close the hinge and wrap the entire head in aluminum foil.
  • Place the packet in the oven and bake for at least forty-five minutes. It’s ready when you can squeeze the bottom of the head and the sweet, caramel-colored garlic oozes out the top like toothpaste.
  •  
    Roast garlic is a hearty side with roasted meats and poultry. You can eat it from the clove or squeeze it onto bread, toast or directly onto your fork. You can give each garlic lover his/her own roasted garlic bulb or share a number of bulbs.

    If roast garlic becomes a family favorite, consider a baking dish specially designed with a garlic theme—or an electric countertop garlic roaster.

    Garlic Confit

    Using peeled garlic cloves instead of the whole bulb, the confit* method develops a flavor similar to roasting, while bringing out the garlic’s sweetness. The garlic-flavored oil that remains after cooking is incredibly useful as a quick flavor booster in almost any recipe that requires oil—including a vinaigrette for the meal’s salad course, marinades or bread-dipping.

    Because you can freeze or refrigerate the confit for future use, feel free to make a lot at one time.

    First, a trick to peel the cloves: Soaking the unpeeled cloves in cold water for five minutes loosens the skin and make it much easier to keep the cloves intact while peeling. Slice off the root and tip with a sharp paring knife, then use the knife to lift off the papery skin.

  • Preheat oven to 225°F.
  • Place peeled garlic cloves in an oven-safe dish with high sides (a small casserole dish works well), then cover completely with olive oil. Stir lightly to make sure the garlic is completely submerged in oil.
  • You can also add aromatics (herbs such as chives, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme), lemon zest, or chiles to the oil.
  • Cover and bake for at least an hour, or until the cloves become soft enough to squish effortlessly between your fingers.
  • Remove from the oven and strain off the oil into an airtight jar or other container. Store the garlic in the fridge. The oil can stay at room temperature.
  •  
    Use the garlic confit as a topping or side garnish for meat, poultry and grilled fish; with eggs; to top burgers and sandwiches; as part of a condiment tray with pickles; or any way that inspires you. One of our favorite uses: mash the confit into mashed potatoes, for a yummy “garlic mashed potatoes.”

     
    FOOD 101: ELEPHANT GARLIC
    What is elephant garlic? It‘s bigger in size, but does it have more flavor, too?

    No: It’s just the opposite. Elephant garlic is more closely related to the leek than to garlic. It may look like an enormous bulb of garlic (some can weigh as much as a pound), but it has only a very mild garlic flavor and a texture that’s more potato-like.

    Use it when you want only a subtle hint of garlic (in soups and stews, for example), slice it raw into salads or lightly sauté it as a garnish (be careful not to overcook—it can turn bitter).

    *Confit is a method of preservation whereby something (usually meat, as in duck confit) is cooked slowly in fat (in the case of duck confit, in its own fat). It is then submerged and stored in the fat, where it will last for months. This method of preservation was used extensively prior to the availability of refrigeration.

      

    Comments

    COOKING VIDEO: Spicy Vietnamese Soup

     

    Next week’s Top Pick focuses on a ready-made base for for phö—one of the world’s great soups.

    But if you’ve got time on your hands this weekend, you may want to make some from scratch.

    This recipe starts with beef shanks, oxtail, onions, ginger and star anise in a stock pot. Sliced beef and optional tripe make it meaty.

    While Chef John Mitzewich of FoodWishes.com spends time bemoaning the fact that he didn’t buy oxtail for his soup, he gives you the “correct” recipe.

    And with all due respect, you can ignore Chef John’s comment that phö is supposed to be a “painfully hot dish.” As with many recipes that come from the Pacific Rim, you should adjust the level of heat for your American palate.

       

       

    Find more of our favorite soup recipes in our Soups & Stocks Section.

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