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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 April, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Water In Biodegradable Milk Cartons

For hydration and calorie-saving, water is extremely good for you. But the billions of plastic bottles of water consumed by those who prefer bottled water generates a host of problems, just one of which is landfill.

According to the Container Recycling Institute, 86% of plastic water bottles used in the U.S. become garbage or litter. Four of every 5 bottles end in landfills, where they will not degrade for 1,000 years.

Today is the twenty-second Earth Day. The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970 (here’s the history). It led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Twenty-two years later, the need to save the planet is even greater. We’d like to present some facts and propose a solution.

 

How about packaging water in the same coated-paper cartons used for milk and juice? Photo courtesy Icebox.

 

  • Bottled water is growing at the expense of every other beverage category except sports drinks, according to The New York Times. It has overtaken coffee and milk in terms of volume consumed, and is closing in on beer.
  • Some 4 billion bottles end up in U.S. streams, costing $70 billion in cleanup and landfill costs.
  • A plastic water bottle takes 1,000 years to degrade; if burned in a furnace, it releases dioxins, harmful .
  • Landfill bottles, many of which are made with PET, leak toxic phthalates, into the groundwater.
  • Incinerating the bottles produces toxins: chlorine gas and heavy metal-laden ash.
  • If you buy bottled water, carrying a refillable water bottle is the easiest thing you can do to help save the environment. This Rubbermaid water bottle is inexpensive and contains a replaceable water filter to improve the taste of your tap water. You help the planet by cutting back on industrial emissions generated by making the bottle, and turning into toxin-generating garbage in landfills.
  •  
    A BETTER WATER BOTTLE: A CARTON

    A refillable water bottle is an excellent solution. But too many people can’t be bothered. Wouldn’t it be great to eliminate the plastic problem altogether?

    We really like this idea from Icebox Water In A Box. The company, based in Norway, sells spring water in the type of packaging used for milk and juice cartons, a 97% sustainable pressed paper box. The carton, which includes a plastic drinking/pouring spout, is 100% recyclable.

    Even with shipping from Norway, Icebox Water provides a 76% smaller carbon footprint than plastic bottles. The packaging has no BPAs and, because it’s not a bottle, requires no bottle deposit. The water, which is filled from an underground source, tastes wonderfully pristine. It’s available in three sizes, including a 500 ml (16.9 ounce) individual size.

    ONE REASON TO GET A REFILLABLE BOTTLE: THE COST OF TAP WATER VS. BOTTLED WATER

    According to the New York Times, if you drink eight daily glasses of water daily, the cost is 49¢ per year (possibly the biggest bargain in pricey New York City).

    If you buy bottled water, you could spend 2,900 times as much: about $1,400 yearly.

    For more information about Icebox Water, visit IceBoxWater.com.

    MORE FOR EARTH DAY

  • Green tips for Earth Day.
  • Carbon footprint trivia quiz.
  • Eco Glossary: 12 terms you should know.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Some Culantro & Recaito

    Making recaito: Simply blend culantro and other ingredients in a food processor. Photo courtesy BonniePlants.com.

     

    When we first saw the word “culantro,” we thought somebody had misspelled “cilantro.”

    But we looked it up: Culantro is a cousin to cilantro. They’re members of the same botanical family, Apiaceae, commonly known as carrot or parsley family.*

    Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum), which looks like flat leaf Italian parsley, and culantro (Eryngium foetidum), which has elongated leaves, have a similar (but not identical) flavor and aroma. Culantro is much stronger in flavor, and is used in smaller amounts.

    Easy-to-grow culantro is native to Mexico/Central America and is cultivated worldwide. It first grew wild at the edge of forests, so grows well in partial shade.

    Culantro can be used as you would use cilantro, and is an essential ingredient recaito, a Caribbean green salsa used to flavor numerous dishes.

     

    *The Apiaceae family includes angelica, anise, arracacha, asafoetida, caraway, celery, chervil, cumin, dill, fennel, parsley…and some 3,700 other plants.

     

    RECAITO & SOFRITO

    In the Caribbean, culantro is commonly called recao, which gives its name to recaito, a popular green sauce/salsa used to flavor a variety of dishes. Recaito is an aromatic purée of culantro (recao), green cubanelle peppers (similar in flavor to to bell peppers but longer, with thinner flesh and lightly more wrinkled), onions, garlic and ajies dulces (small red bell peppers).

    Recaito is used in bean and rice dishes, soups and stews, often added toward the end of cooking as a finishing touch to the recipe. Add a tablespoon of it to your next rice or bean dish; you’ll love the bright flavor.

    Culantro is also the base of sofrito.

     

    If you see a culantro plant for sale, grab it. Or grow your own from seeds. Photo by Maxintaft | Wikimedia.

     

    The difference between recaito and sofrito: Recaito is an uncooked green salsa; sofrito uses recaito as a base, sautéed with tomatoes. As with any recipe, there are regional differences (not to mention household diffrences). For example, Puerto Rican cooks typically don’t use tomatoes in their sofritos.

    RECAITO RECIPE

    Ingredients

    If you can’t find all of the ingredients, substitute green and red bell peppers for the cubanelle and aji dulce peppers; and substitute cilantro for culantro.

  • 2 medium green bell, seeds removed
  • 2 medium onions, peeled
  • 1 bulb of garlic, peeled
  • 1 bunch culantro leaves, washed and patted dry
  • 6 small red bell peppers
  •  
    Preparation

    Simply chop and blend the ingredients in a food processor or blender.

    Culantro By Any Other Name

    Culantro is known by many names. In addition to recao (Spanish), which gives its name to recaito, there are: false coriander, long coriander, bhandhanya (Hindi), langer koriander (German), ngo gai (Vietnamese), pak chi farang (Thai).

    We know people who don’t like cilantro. There’s even a website, IHateCilantro.com, the opening line of which is, “Cilantro. The most offensive food known to man.”

    Let’s hope those folks don’t discover culantro.

      

    Comments

    EVENT: Best Food Films Online

    Immigrants with pushcarts try to sell fresh
    fruit to people who really need it. Photo
    courtesy Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.

     

    Launching on Sunday. April 22—Earth Day 2012—the Do Something Reel Film Festival affords the opportunity to watch some of the best food-focused documentaries online.

    It’s sponsored by Whole Foods Market and partners that include Applegate Organic & Natural Meats, Earthbound Farm Organic and Siggi’s Cultured Dairy Products.

    Each year, a number of terrific food films are released but get limited distribution. Even we, who would love to see them for professional reasons, don’t have the time to get to wherever they may be showing.

    But stream them online at DoSomethingReel.com, and we’ve got a whole month to tune in.

    The Do Something Reel Film Festival is a much-needed showcase for provocative films about food and environmental issues. Viewing is on a pay-per-view basis. Ticket sales help to fund filmmaker grants for new projects.

     

    Launching This Sunday

    The online film festival opens on April 22, with a live screening of “The Apple Pushers,” narrated by the actor Edward Norton. It will be followed by a panel discussion with the film’s writer/director, producer and other experts.

    While there is a charge to watch the film, the panel discussion can be viewed free online from April 22nd to April 30th.

    The film follows five immigrant street-cart vendors who sell fruits and vegetables in New York neighborhoods where fresh produce isn’t widely available. The vendors personify what it means to be an American entrepreneur, and their stories shed new light on the nation’s food crisis and skyrocketing obesity rates.

     

    A New Film Each Month

    Each month the festival will showcase a different film online. Following “The Apple Pushers,” the films currently slated are:

  • MAY: “Watershed,” which follows a Rocky Mountain National Park fly fishing guide and six others living and working in the Colorado River basin. The film illustrates the river’s struggle to support 30 million people across the western U.S. and Mexico.
  • JUNE: “Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?,” a profound journey through the catastrophic disappearance of bees around the world, uncovering the long-term causes that could create one of our most urgent food crises.
  • JULY: “King Corn” and “Truck Farm,” the first film spotlighting the tragedy of our country’s corn crops and the second focusing on mobile gardens.
  •  

    The struggle of one watershed to support 30 million people. Photo courtesy Kontent Films.

     

  • AUGUST: “Lunch Line,” a fresh perspective on the politics of food and child-nutrition through an examination of the surprising past, uncertain present and possible future of the National School Lunch Program.
  • So mark your calendar for a monthly movie night with the Do Something Reel Film Festival. It’s your opportunity to connect with these important films and their thought-provoking issues. And you’ll see how your everyday decisions and purchasing power can make a difference.

    For additional information, a complete schedule of events and details about the grant program, please visit DoSomethingReel.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Grow Some Mint ~ You’ll Find Plenty Of Uses For It

    Jumbo rosemary planters at the Getty
    Museum in Los Angeles (the white flowers
    are and allysum. Photo courtesy
    GardenSnob.com.

     

    Last night we tried a new restaurant. At the table, folded into our napkin, was a sprig of rosemary. There was a sprig of rosemary in our water glass. The food we ordered came garnished with rosemary.

    “There must have been a sale on rosemary this week,” we said to our companion.

    “No,” he said, “the planters out front are full of it.”

    We looked, and rosemary was indeed growing high in terra cotta pots on the outdoor patio. Had we been moving so quickly that we forgot to stop and smell the rosemary?

    We decided to hunt down a rosemary plant this weekend, to see how many different things we could do with the sprigs. Then, we received a tip on growing mint that caused us to switch gears. We’ll get to the rosemary later; today’s tip is an encouragement to use more mint—and different types of mint.

    The mint you plant will soon bear enough leaves to keep you in beverages (including cocktails), desserts, salads, soups and garnishes for the entire growing season.

     

    TYPES OF MINT

    Much of what you find in the market is spearmint. But there are other wonderful varieties of mint to enhance your cooking: Head to your gardening store.

  • Apple mint, with fuzzy leaves and fruity tones, is popular in mint jelly (which is also called apple mint jelly), but has universal applications.
  • Chocolate mint has a delightful minty chocolate flavor that has been compared to Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies. It rocks dessert recipes and chocolate mint tea.
  • Orange mint tastes like candied orange peel with lavender notes (two of our favorite flavors).
  • Peppermint has a strong, classic menthol taste.
  • Spearmint, also called yerba buena, is a strong and popular flavor and fragrance that is easily released with light crushing or bruising of the leaves.
  • Sweet mint has extra-large leaves that many cooks prefer for easier chopping.
  •  
    GROWING MINT

    Mints are fast-growing, spreading plants. You need to give them room to grow outdoors, or you can contain them in a pot—outdoors or indoors.

    Mints send out runners that spread above and just under the ground, quickly forming large, lush green patches. In the right place, mint makes a sensational, seasonal ground cover. You can also contain mint in tight places such as between pavers of a walkway.

    Mint perfumes the air wherever it is planted: It delivers an aromatic treat each time you walk past it.

    Here are mint-growing tips from Bonnie Plants, a national plant wholesaler committed to green gardening. The company makes eco-friendly gardening products and biodegradable peat pots and fiber pots that have already prevented millions of pounds of plastic from entering landfills.

     

    MINT GROWING TIPS

    1. POT IT. The most popular way to grow mint is in a pot where you can keep it contained and handy near the kitchen for a constant supply of sprigs. Choose a potting mix that retains water to be sure soil stays moist.

    2. PLANT IT. If you have outdoor space, select a damp area in your garden in either full sun or partial shade. Mint prefers fertile soil with a pH from 6.0 to 7.0. It is vigorous on its own but will appreciate a little fertilizer every few weeks, especially if you harvest a lot of mint.

    You can also mulch around the plants to keep roots moist; plants will die back in dry soil. Keep plants in check by harvesting the tips regularly and pulling up wayward runners in the garden. Mint’s small flowers bloom from June to September. Trim them before the buds open to keep the plant compact.

     

    A pot of mint ornamenting the front lawn. It can also grow inside. Photo courtesy BonniePlants.com.

     

    WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR BOUNTY OF MINT

    When cooking with mint, it’s best to use the leaves. Mint stems are tougher than leaves and not as flavorful.

  • Cocktails: Spearmint is popular in both the Mint Julep and the Mojito. For other drinks, match the flavors of mint to the flavors of the cocktail (orange mint in citrus-based cocktails, for example).
  • Desserts: Dry the leaves to flavor desserts: cake, ice cream/sorbet/granita, meringues and other cookies, and quick breads (chocolate mint is especially wonderful with desserts).
  • Hot Chocolate: You can steep sprigs of mint in the milk before you add the cocoa powder or chocolate; or crush a sprig into the finished cup as a flavorful garnish.
  • Garnish: Mint is one of the most popular garnishes—and you’ll have lots of it!
  • Hot Tea: Steep in hot water for an uplifting herbal tea. Mint tea has been a home remedy for millennia: to alleviate stomach pain and as a mild decongestant for the common cold and allergies. During the Middle Ages, powdered mint leaves were also used to whiten teeth; the legacy remains in mint-flavored toothpaste.
  • Iced Tea: If you make your iced tea from scratch, steep mint in the hot water. Otherwise, add a sprig to the cold tea. Crush the sprig in your hand before adding to the glass or pitcher: It releases the oils that contain the aroma and flavor.
  • Jelly: Use fresh leaves to make mint sauce for fish or lamb, or dry the leaves to make mint jelly. Orange mint and apple mint are especially lovely in these applications.
  • Salads: Add fresh leaves to salads. We snip the mint into small pieces with a scissors. It adds spark to each bite of salad.
  • Sauces: Add leaves to savory or sweet sauces. Chopped mint and garlic in Greek yogurt makes a delicious and cooling sauce; add cucumber and dill to turn it into the popular spread, tzatziki.
  • Water: Crush fresh leaves into water for a refreshing cold beverage. You can also freeze fresh mint leaves/sprigs into ice cubes.
  •  
    If you have lots of mint, share the wealth with neighbors and friends.

    For more info and tips on mint and other herbs visit BonniePlants.com.

      

    Comments

    COOKING VIDEO: Easy Chocolate Covered Strawberries Recipe

     

    Who wouldn’t enjoy chocolate-covered strawberries for Mother’s Day?

    They’re easy to make and delight just about everyone, as a light dessert or as gifts for the moms.

    You can use your favorite chocolate (dark, milk, white or all three). You can leave the chocolate-covered berries plain or decorate them with your favorite toppings: chopped nuts, crushed toffee, granola, mini-morsels, shredded coconut or sprinkles.

    For the most elegant touch, decorate with gold or silver dragées or some opalescent sanding sugar.

    TIP #1: QUALITY CHOCOLATE COUNTS. Your chocolate-covered strawberries will taste better, the better the chocolate you use. We buy fine quality chocolate bars, which are very well priced at Trader Joe’s.

    TIP #2: SO DO DRY STRAWBERRIES. The chocolate won’t adhere well if the berries are moist from a thorough washing. Instead of washing the strawberries under running water, pat them with a damp towel to clean; then pat them dry and let them air dry (you can also use a hairdryer on the cold setting).

    Mmm…we can’t wait until Mother’s Day.

       

       

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Very Different Margarita Recipe

    Some chefs are inspired to go beyond classic recipes and create their own unusual take on a dish—or a drink.

    Chef Julio Medina, who has an empire* of refined Latin cuisine restaurants in New York City, likes to create special menus, including specialty Margaritas, for each location.

    His latest creation, for Toloache, is an homage to spring and Cinco de Mayo that combines traditional Mexican flavors with his classic French culinary training.

    *The restaurants include Coppelia, Toloache 50, Toloache Taqueria and Toloache 82, Yerba Buena Avenue A and Yerba Buena Perry.

    †Today Cinco de Mayo is primarily a regional holiday celebrated in the Mexican state of Puebla on May 5th. It is actually a bigger event in the United States than it is in Mexico, thanks to American promotional know-how, a large population of Mexican-Americans and other Americans who like Mexican food, music and a good celebration.

     

    A different but really good Margarita. Photo courtesy Toloache 50 | New York City.

     

    The homage to Cinco de Mayo is the name of the drink: Invaciones Frances Margarita, French Invasion Margarita. The holiday of Cinco De Mayo† commemorates the 1862 victory of a small and poorly-equipped Mexican militia led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, over the much larger French army at The Battle Of Puebla. It temporarily stopped the French invasion of the country.

    The homage to spring: the fresh spring peas and tarragon in the mixture.

    Peas and tarragon in a Margarita? Absolutely—and absolutely delish. We present, for your pleasure, the French Invasion Margarita.

    THE FRENCH INVASION MARGARITA

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1¼ ounces blanco Tequila
  • ½ ounce Cointreau (you can substitute another orange liqueur)
  • ½ ounce Remy V (you can substitute Pisco Portón—see below)
  • 1 sprig tarragon (3 inches long)
  • 3 bar spoons (teaspoons) spring peas
  • 1 ounce simple syrup (recipe)
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • Ice
  • Garnish: Small sprig of tarragon
  •  

    Remy Martin’a unaged eau de vie, V
    (pronounced “vee”). Photo courtesy Remy
    Martin.

     

    Preparation

    1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle together 1 sprig tarragon and the peas. Add the remaining ingredients with ice and shake well.

    2. Double strain the Margarita into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a small sprig of tarragon.
      
    WHAT’S REMY MARTIN V (PRONOUNCED VEE)?

    Produced by the great Cognac maker, Remy V is not a Cognac but an eau de vie. Eau de vie (plural, eaux de vie) is the name given to a spirit distilled from grapes and other fruits that has not yet been aged. At this point it is a clear liquid, like vodka.

    It is through aging in oak barrels for at least 2-1/2 years that eau de vie takes on the complex aromas, color and flavors of Cognac. Instead, Remy Martin V is finished with a cold filtration process, like vodka.

    Hence the name “V,” a reference to eau de vie (also pronounced “vee,” and meaning “water of life”). It’s unaged Cognac.

    And now the challenge: Where to find it. Remy Martin V has limited retail distribution in the U.S.

    So here‘s our recommendation: Substitute pisco, a clear, distilled grape spirit from Peru that, like Remy Martin V, is produced in the manner of Cognac. Pisco Portón is an excellent brand, with good distribution.

     

    WHAT’S A BAR SPOON?

    A bar spoon is a teaspoon on a long handle, typically 11 inches in length. It is used to measure ingredients and to layer drinks (by pouring the different layers of alcohol over the back of the spoon, where they flow gently into the glass).

    The long handle lets the bartender dip deep into jars to scoop up olives and cherries. If you don’t have a bar spoon, it’s inexpensive and doesn’t take up much room. Here’s a good bar spoon.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: For Dessert, Try A Sweet Grilled Cheese Sandwich

    Have you ever had a grilled cheese sandwich for dessert?

    There are more than a few sweet grilled cheese sandwich recipes out there, perfect for dessert or a sweet snack. We’ll start you off with two, courtesy of the Grilled Cheese Academy, the best grilled cheese website, sponsored by the great cheese makers of Wisconsin.

    THE BIANCA: A SWEET GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH WITH DULCE DE LECHE

    Ingredients

    Sink your teeth into this delightful combination of mascarpone, homemade dulce de leche and raspberry preserves on cinnamon raisin bread. Makes 4 servings.

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened, condensed milk (or, you can use prepared dulce de leche)
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 8 slices unfrosted cinnamon raisin bread
  • 4 tablespoons raspberry preserves
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream
  • Optional garnish: fresh red raspberries
  •  

    Here, mascarpone is the grilled cheese. Photo courtesy Grilled Cheese Academy.

     

    Preparation

    1. To make dulce de leche, place a can of condensed milk in a deep pot and cover with water; bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 90 minutes. Turn burner off and let the can sit in the water until cool. Dry and open the can. The contents will be caramel-colored (and hard to resist eating).

    2. Mix mascarpone with vanilla; stir to incorporate air and lighten the cheese.

    3. Heat skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Butter bread slices on one side; place in pan, butter-side down and grill until golden brown and crisp.

    4. Remove and spread the unbuttered sides of 4 slices of bread with 1 tablespoon raspberry preserves, 2 tablespoons mascarpone and 1 tablespoon dulce de leche, in that order. Top with another toasted piece of bread, browned-side up, and more dulce de leche. Garnish with whipped cream and fresh raspberries, if desired.

     

    Bananas, bacon and peanut butter were a favorite of Elvis. But because there is already an Elvis sandwich, this one is called the Lisa Marie. Photo courtesy Grilled Cheese Academy.

     

    THE LISA MARIE: A SWEET GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH WITH HOT FUDGE

    Ingredients

    Bananas, peanut butter, butterkäse cheese and chocolate-sauced bacon caramelized with brown sugar and maple syrup: Wow! Makes 4 servings.

    Butterkäse originated in Germany. A very mild and creamy cheese with a buttery texture, the name literally means butter cheese. If you can’t find it, substitute cream cheese or mozzarella.

  • 8 slices bacon
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 4 thick slices firm white bread
  • 8 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 4 1½-ounce slices butterkäse cheese
  • 2-3 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 1 cup hot fudge or chocolate sauce
  •  

    Preparation

    1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

    2. Place bacon slices on baking sheet pan with sides (a jelly roll pan) and bake until lightly browned and starting to crisp, about 5-6 minutes.

    3. Meanwhile, mix brown sugar and maple syrup until smooth. Using a pastry brush, brush the hot bacon slices with mixture. Return to the oven for another 5-6 minutes, turning once and being careful not to burn the sugar. Remove to cooling rack and let cool.

    4. Heat griddle or sauté pan over medium heat. Butter one side of the bread slices. Spread other side with peanut butter. Top each slice, peanut butter-side up, with 1 butterkäse slice and some banana slices. Place butter-side down on griddle and grill until sandwich bread bottoms are light golden brown.

    5. Meanwhile, heat chocolate sauce until warm (the microwave is perfect for this). Dip each slice of bacon into warm chocolate to cover half of strip and place over bananas. To serve, drizzle sandwiches with additional chocolate sauce.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Talenti Gelato

    Gelato is the original ice cream, invented in Florence in the 16th century. The key differences vis-à-vis ice cream are less cream/more milk and less air (overrun). This combination enables a more intense showcasing of the fruits, nuts and other flavors.

    Talenti Gelato is named for Bernardo Buontalenti, the impressario who first created gelato for a Medici banquet. We think the Tahitian Vanilla is the best vanilla gelato or ice cream out there.

    Five new flavors launched this month include Banana Chocolate Swirl gelato with chocolate flecks and a dulce de leche swirl, and Black Raspberry Chocolate gelato, a heartbreaking raspberry with chocolate flecks. The heartbreak comes when your store doesn’t carry it.

    Peanut butter lovers can dig into Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Gelato, PB ice cream with an organic peanut butter swirl and chopped miniature chocolate peanut butter cups. It’s not gimmicky, just great.

     

    Talenti: a great gelato experience in 19 flavors (plus 3 sorbetti). Image courtesy Talenti Gelato.

     

    The Joy Of Gelato

  • Read the full review of Talenti Gelato.
  • The difference between ice cream and gelato.
  • Find more of our favorite gelato and ice cream brands, plus recipes.
  • Check out all the different frozen desserts in our Ice Cream Glossary.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Flavored Kefir Instead Of A Smoothie

    You can blend your own smoothie or pour it
    ready-to-drink from a bottle of flavored
    kefir. Photo courtesy RevivalSoy.com.

     

    Many people think that kefir is the same as drinkable yogurt. That’s close, but not exact. Kefir is even healthier than yogurt. In fact, kefir is often called a “super yogurt,” since it is up to 36 times more probiotic than yogurt.

    While the recipes are similar, kefie has even more live and active cultures (naturally occurring bacteria and yeasts) and is loaded with vitamins and minerals. It contains easily digestible, complete proteins, and is recommended for those with digestive issues, including colitis, Crohn’s disease, IBS and lactose intolerance.

    The once-exotic drink is now available in supermarkets nationwide. It’s available in luscious fruit flavors in addition to plain.

    The addition of fruit creates what we think of as a kefir smoothie (to differentiate it from a conventional yogurt smoothie). It’s just as delicious and better for you. And it’s more drinkable—less thick—than smoothies made with non-drinkable yogurt.

     

    Our favorite flavored kefir, from Green Valley Organics, is made with lactose-free milk that is Certified Humane® plus a probiotic-rich combination of 10 live and active cultures. A blend of strawberry, pomegranate and açaí, It has less added sugar than many flavored kefirs. Also available in plain, the kefir is kosher-certified, organic and gluten free.

    It is so delicious, an eight-ounce serving (150 calories, 20 from fat) satisfies our craving for ice cream or frozen yogurt, which has more than twice the calories and typically, none of the healthy components.

    Another brand, Lifeway Kefir, makes Blueberry, Cherry, Peach, Pomegranate/Açaí, Raspberry and Strawberry kefir flavors, in addition to plain.

     

    You can make your own kefir smoothie by blending two cups of kefir with a cup of fruit (frozen fruit is just fine) and 2 tablespoons of sweetener (you can use noncaloric sweetener or lower-glycemic such as agave nectar, honey or maple syrup).

    More Kefir Magic

  • The health benefits of kefir.
  • Another way to enjoy kefir: frozen kefir, like frozen yogurt.
  • Check out all the different types of yogurt in our Yogurt Glossary.
  •  

    Just remove cap and pour yourself a delicious strawberry-pomegranate-açaí “smoothie.” Photo courtesy GreenValleyOrganics.com.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Some Chocolate Dragées, A.K.A. Panned Confections

    The original dragées* (drah-ZHAY) are sugar-coated almonds. Technically, the nuts are encapsulated in a hard-shell coating. English speakers call them Jordan almonds—not because they’re from Jordan (they’re from Spain). It’s a corruption of the French word for garden, jardin, which refers to the large variety of almond). The almonds can also have a chocolate coating under the sugar. The key is the hard sugar shell.

    In America, we see the word used to refer also to panned products. It’s not correct—they’re two different types of coating, dragées having a very hard (and potentially tooth-breaking) sugar shell and panned products having a softer chocolate shell.

    Panning is one of the four† basic methods of coating chocolate onto a center (typically hard centers, such as nuts and crystallized ginger). In panning, chocolate is sprayed onto the centers as they rotate in revolving pans (think drums); cool air is then blown into the pan to harden the chocolates.

    On a small scale (and before the industrial revolution), nuts are coated on a pan on the stovetop; hence “panning.” The centers can be rolled in cocoa powder or other coating before they harden.

     

    Sophisticated malted milk balls that multitask. Photo courtesy Recchiuti Confections.

     

    *In French, the word also refers to nonpareils and is slang for bullets (small shot). Dragée à la gelée de sucre is a jelly bean.
    †The other methods are enrobing, panning and molding or shell molding.

    RECCHIUTI CONFECTIONS MALTED DARK MILK REVOLUTION

    One of our favorite chocolatiers, Recchiuti Confections, sent us a new product, called Malted Dark Milk Revolution. The confection looks like chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, but the centers are crunchy malted cookies (think malted milk balls) accented with fleur de sel. The centers are then coated with layers of dark milk chocolate (high-percentage cacao milk chocolate, typically 38% or more).

    There’s no hard sugar shell, so they’re easy on the teeth.

    Recchiuti calls these gourmet malted milk balls are a revolution because they use dark milk chocolate and an accent of fleur de sel, which provides a nice counterpoint to what in other hands can be a too-sweet confection.

    For us, the concept of chocolate-coated malted milk centers has been around for a while, regardless of what type of chocolate or seasonings are added. So instead, we think of the name as a pun on the number of times the centers go around in the drum—from 20 to 60 “revolutions,” according to Recchiuti.

    We immediately used the little bites:

  • With after-dinner espresso and coffee, instead of a cookie or a carré/napolitan of chocolate (they more than satisfy).
  • As a topper for ice cream and frozen yogurt—much more delicious than a maraschino cherry.
  • As a quick chocolate fix. (Full disclosure: We love good malted milk balls. Our favorites are these mint malt balls from Marich.
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    A YUMMY GIFT

    Malted Dark Milk Revolution is a lovely small gift, especially for those who like the play of sweet and salty. It’s available in two sizes at Recchiuti.com: a 5-ounce box for $11.00 and 12-ounce box for $19.00.

    Recchiuti also has a sampler of panned products (called the Dragée Sampler) that we love for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifting, 12 ounces, $29.00. It includes Recchiuti’s heavenly Burnt Caramel Almonds, Burnt Caramel Hazelnuts, Peanut Butter Pearls and Cherries Two Ways.

    Learn more at Recchiuti.com.

      

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