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Archive for October 11, 2011

HALLOWEEN: Cocktail Drinks For A Spooktacular Party

You don’t have to throw a monster mash for Halloween. Inviting friends for Halloween-themed cocktails—costumes optional—will do just fine.

Here are our choices for a creaky cocktail party menu:

Bloody Cocktails

  • Blood Orange Cocktails
  • Bloody Vampire Cocktail
  • Bloody Eyeball Martini & Bleeding Brain Martini
  •  
    Pick Your Favorite “Spirit” Cocktails

  • Halloween Brandy Cocktails
  • Halloween Gin Cocktails
  • Halloween Kahlúa Cocktails
  • Halloween Vodka Cocktails
  •  
    What To Serve With The Cocktails

  • Spooky Halloween Cheeses
  • Spookadillas (Halloween quesadillas)
  •  
    More Halloween recipes will be arriving later this week.

     

    This Bloody Vampire Martini is a citrus Martini
    with blush of “blood” and an impaled cherry.
    Photo courtesy Betty Crocker | General Mills.

     

    For Ambiance: Halloween CDs

  • The classics: Monster Mash, Ghostbusters, The Addams Family theme, Martian Hop and more; or this CD which includes The Reaper, Time Warp, Monster Mash, Ghostbusters and Witch Doctor
  • Halloween Music Collection by Midnight Syndicate
  • How can you pass up 100 Halloween Hits?
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    FOOD HOLIDAY: Non-GMO Month

    Tomatoes are genetically altered to improve
    flavor and shelf life. Photo courtesy
    WholeSoyCo.com.

     

    What are GMOs, and why should you care?

    GMOs, genetically modified organisms, are plant and animal organisms that have been created through gene-splicing, a biotechnology technique also known as genetic engineering (GE).

    This relatively new science allows DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant or animal DNA that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods (fish genes have been spliced into tomatoes, for example). Successful experiments have been introduced commercially.

    Why do companies create GMOs?

    To create foods that better meet production goals. The goals can be anything from tomatoes that are resistant to rot to lambs that can grow larger and produce bigger lamb chops (more examples here).

     

    While not all varieties of any particular type of food are genetically engineered, here are the foods to question:

    Top 10 Genetically Engineered Food Crops
    1. Corn
    2. Soy
    3. Potato
    4. Tomato
    5. Canola
    6. Cottonseed Oil
    7. Papaya
    8. Radicchio
    9. Summer Squash
    10. Salmon

    See why these crops have been genetically engineered, and how likely you are to run across them. Note: while natural foods may label themselves “Non GMO,” there is no requirement for a genetically engineered food to label itself as such.

    Needless to say, many in the consumer and industrial communities are against genetic engineering.

    What’s The Issue?

    According to Discovery News, “For years, opponents have argued that genetically engineered plants wreak havoc with human health and nature, and accuse plant biotech companies, such as Monsanto, of putting profits before people. On the other hand, agricultural biotech proponents argue that engineered crops enable farmers to grow [more food] at a time of global food shortages, insidious pests, weeds and extreme weather.”

    It’s a complicated issue. While the FDA believes that GMOs are safe and allows them in America, some 30 other countries, including Australia, Japan and the entire European Union, restrict or outright ban the production of GMOs—because they are not considered to be proven safe.

    The FDA approved commercial production of GMOs based on studies conducted by the very companies that created them and profit from their sale. Many health-conscious shoppers find the lack of rigorous, independent, scientific examination on the impact of consuming GMO-based foods to be cause for concern.

    It will require many decades of eating engineered food before we know if GMOs cause problems in humans. While we at THE NIBBLE are unqualified to have an opinion on their safety, we do have an opinion on lobbyists and the power they exert over our elected and appointed officials to gain approval and pass legislation on behalf of their employers.

    So the next time you’re making a purchase decision, consider the package that says “non-GMO.”

    How Can You Avoid GMO Food?

    An organization called True Food Now offers a free mobile app for iPhone and Android. It is a guide to common genetically engineered ingredients, brands to look for (and look out for) and common sense tips.

    For more information about GMOs, visit The Non GMO Project.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Eat & Drink, Or Give A Gift, For The Cure

    October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

    Some food and drink companies are doing their part to generate research dollars for the cure, making a contribution from sales of special editions of their products.

    The packaging—or sometimes the food itself, like the chocolates in the photo—bears the the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s pink ribbon.

    For treats or gifts, consider these for-the-cure products from some of our favorite producers:

  • Chocolate Céleste offers ganache-filled bonbons (see photo) that are also an emotional cure for whatever ails you. To order, call 1.877.644.3823. Read our review.
  •  

    Delicious chocolates for the cure. Photo courtesy Chocolat Céleste.

  • Food Should Taste Good makes flavored corn chips that were a Nibble Top Pick Of The Week. The company thinks that “food should do good,” too. They have earmarked $100,000 for various breast cancer organizations supported by the company and its retailers. Through the end of October, the special-edition bags are available at stores nationwide in Multigrain and Sweet Potato flavors. Here’s a store locator.
  • Republic Of Tea enables you to sip for the cure, with six different teas in giftable canisters. The special-edition teas comprise green, herbal and white teas with fruit flavors, including apple, cherry, grapefruit, lemon, pomegranate vanilla and strawberry hibiscus. Here they are. Read our review.
  • Sweet Sally’s Bakeshop changes up classic black-and-white cookies with delicious pink-and-white cookies. Take a look.
  •  
    When the cause is this important, all of the above qualify as guilt-free eating.

      

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    PRODUCT: Bertolli Premium Meal Soups For Two

    Beefy goodness: our favorite from the new
    Bertolli Premium Meal Soups. Photo courtesy
    Bertolli.

     

    Have you seen the “soup opera” chefs in TV commercials, extolling the virtues of Bertolli Premium Hearty Soups?

    The soups look just as good in person as they do on TV, and live up to the advertising claims that they’re chock full of fresh-tasting ingredients.

    Indeed, the large chunks of mushrooms and zucchini we bit into tasted just-cooked and were full of flavor. All frozen foods included in the soups are flash-frozen to “maintain peak freshness.” As Bertolli has proved, when the ingredients going into the flash freezer taste great, they taste just as good when cooked.

    Cooking is simple: Add the contents of the bag into a cup of boiling water and simmer. Five minutes later, you’ve got a pot of hearty soup.

    We recently went to a tasting of the new line of soups, introduced by one of our favorite Top Chef contestants, Fabio Viviani. Having added professional spokesperson to his résumé, Fabio said that he’s now on the road 300 days a year.

     

    Yet despite the unenviable travel schedule, Fabio was as energetic and charming as he was on Top Chef (or even more so, since he wasn’t battling other cheftestants and facing panels of judges).

    Here’s the soup menu (garnish with fresh herbs and/or a spoonful of grated Parmesan cheese):

  • Chicken Minestrone: Roasted white meat chicken, beans, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, tomatoes and pasta in a hearty vegetable broth.
  • Roasted Chicken & Rotini Pasta: Roasted white meat chicken, pasta, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots and celery in a chicken broth.
  • Tomato Florentine & Tortellini with Chicken: Cheese tortellini, large chunks of white meat chicken, spinach and tomatoes in a rich tomato bisque with a hint of basil (basil freak that we are, we topped it with a chiffonade of fresh basil).
  • Tuscan-Style Beef with Vegetables: Large chunks of beef, mushrooms, yellow squash, zucchini, carrots and celery with bowtie pasta in a beefy broth.
  •  
    We happily consumed them all. The two we’ll buy again are the velvety Tomato Florentine & Tortellini with Chicken and the hearty Tuscan-Style Beef & Vegetables.

    Why not the chicken soups? We make a large pot of chicken soup every other Sunday and prefer our own. But those who buy chicken noodle soup now have a more sophisticated option.

    Three points about the soups:

  • “Meal” Soups: The 24-ounce packages, with the addition of one cup of water, yield 32 ounces of soup—enough for two adults. But unless you’re a light eater, you’ll need more to fill up on: a large salad, for starters. Bertolli paired the soups with different artisan breads, a nice touch.
  • Price: The soups aren’t inexpensive: The bag will cost $8.59 or so. But the price is justified by the quantity and quality of the ingredients you’ll be digging into.
  • Sodium: As with almost all prepared foods, there’s a ton of salt—mostly hidden, as the soups taste just fine. But one serving comprises 45% of your DV of sodium.
     
    Still, with the cold days of winter approaching, you know that you can walk into the house, open the freezer and enjoy hot and hearty soup in about 10 minutes. Start boiling the water before you hang up your coat.

    Learn more at VillaBertolli.com.

    Find more of our favorite soups and recipes in our Gourmet Soup Section.

    How many types of soup have you had? Check out our photo-filled Soup Glossary.

      

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