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Archive for June, 2012

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Crunchies Healthy Snacks

Addictively good and good for you snacks. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


Crunchy, freeze-dried vegetable and fruit snacks have been growing in popularity. They taste good, provide the crunch factor, are full of fiber and moderate in calories. If you haven’t tried them, you’re missing out.

One of our favorite brands is Crunchies, A selection of all natural snacks that are gluten free and available in kosher-certified and organic-certified versions.

Fresh fruits and veggies are placed in a refrigerated vacuum chamber that removes up to 97% of the moisture. The process retains a high percentage of the nutritious enzymes that are lost through conventional heat-drying dehydration and provides an extra-crunchy texture.

While snacking on the crunchy delights by the handful is the original intent, they make most excellent additions to everyday foods and recipes, from yogurts and salads to tea and hot chocolate.

Read the full review to see all the different ways we’ve used Crunchies in recipes.

See all of our favorite snacks in our Gourmet Snacks section.




TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Corned Beef & Pastrami

Some home cooks just like to go the extra yard. Why buy corned beef and pastrami when you can make your own?

You can create the complex flavors and tender texture that will bring kudos from others at the dinner table while you get deeper in touch with your inner chef.

The first time you make corned beef or pastrami from scratch, you may want to rely on a kit of ingredients and instructions that walks you through the process of curing and cooking a brisket (the base of corned beef and pastrami). Even professional chefs use this Corned Beef & Pastrami Kit from Leener’s.

The kit comes with everything you need except the brisket: Morton Tender Quick, a very effective meat tenderizer, curing salts, plus spices, wood chips and a tenderizing tool. While you can certainly come up with your own tenderizer, black pepper, garlic powder, mustard seed, paprika and and other spices, this Make It kit is a turnkey cookbooks with simple instructions.


BYO brisket and make corned beef and pastrami with this kit. Photo courtesy Leeners.


There’s enough in each kit for up to 10 pounds of brisket. The only caveat is that you need to cure the seasoned meat in the fridge for five days per each inch of meat thickness. In our packed apartment-size fridge, we’d have to toss all the condiments to make space!

It took Leener’s, which specializes in “Make It” kits, six months to perfect the Corned Beef and Pastrami Kit. “We tried many recipes and methods of making corned beef and found that the traditional brine method produces the highest quality corned beef possible,” says company president Jim Leverentz. “Our goal is to bring back the old-fashioned goodness and flavors of a more patient time along with the satisfaction of making it yourself. You will be enjoying the best corned beef and pastrami sandwiches you have ever eaten.” (EDITOR’S NOTE: Although it goes without saying, you also need a top-quality brisket.)

In fact, the company also makes kits for the other ingredients of a Reuben sandwich: an Artisan Bread Kit to make deli-style rye, a Sauerkraut and Dill Pickle Kit, a Deluxe Cheese Kit for the Swiss cheese and a Mustard Making Kit. Pair the Reuben with your choice of brews from Leener’s Home Brewery System.

The Corned Beef & Pastrami Kit is sold in a four-pack for $32.95, or $8.00 and change per brisket. You can give any extra kits to people who invite you over for barbecue or other meat-centric meals. Kits are also fun gifts for anyone who likes to cook.

Get your kits now.

BRISKET 101: A beef brisket consists of two parts, the flat and the point. Traditionally the flat is used to make corned beef for slicing. The point, while cured in the same way, is smoked to make pastrami.



FOOD HOLIDAY: National Catfish Day & Grilled Catfish Recipe

Parsley leaves, cherry tomatoes and lime
juice make a salad topping for catfish. You
can do a mixture of parsley and cilantro, as
well. Photo and recipe from Whole Foods
; get the recipe. A second recipe is


Chefs nationwide are adding catfish dishes to their menus today, National Catfish Day.

The catfish, one of the world’s least attractive fishes, gets its name from the long barbels (feelers) hanging down from around its mouth, which resemble whiskers (but far less cute). Catfish is found worldwide: Most catfish are freshwater, though there is also a saltwater variety found on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

The majority of catfish sold today in the U.S. are farmed in ponds in the Mississippi Delta.

Looks apart, catfish is a tasty fellow, lowfat with firm, mild-flavored flesh (though the tough, inedible skin must be removed before cooking). Catfish is versatile, suited to most manners of preparation, including soups and stews. Much of the time, it’s filleted and fried, grilled or sautéed.

At the Grand Central Oyster Bar (the seafood restaurant located “below sea level” at Grand Central Terminal in New York City), executive chef Sandy Ingber shares his National Catfish Day recipe so you can whip it up at home (we got our catfish at Whole Foods Market).



Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 6 catfish filets, 5-6 ounces each, skin off (either wild or farmed)
  • Espresso-ancho rub (recipe below)
  • Soy or other oil for grilling
  • Lemon-cayenne sauce (recipe below)

    1. Rub all catfish filets with the espresso-ancho rub (below). Shake off excess.

    2. Heat grill to medium hot. Dip rubbed filets into a small amount of oil and place on grill. Cook fairly slowly until browned on one side, about 5 minutes, being careful not to burn. Flip over and repeat. Catfish should be cooked all the way through.

    3. Put on a plate and serve with 2 ounces of sauce per person. Serve with brown rice and cornbread—both whole grain foods—and a side salad.



  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

    Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. The rub can be made up to one week ahead, covered and stored at room temperature.


    Vin blanc is one of the mother sauceswe presented a few months ago. It’s a key ingredient of Coquilles St. Jacques and Oysters Rockefeller. After you make it the first time, you’ll find many ways for to use it with fish, seafood and poultry. This recipe makes about 1-1/3 cups.


  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1¼ cups water
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons instant fish bouillon
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste

    1. Combine the wine and shallots in a saucepan and bring to a full boil. Reduce by half. Add the water, cream and bouillon and return to a boil.

    2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until it smells toasty, about 1 minute. Don’t let the flour brown. Now you have a roux (pronounced ROO).

    3. Add about half of the liquid and stir well to dissolve the roux. Stir in the rest of the liquid and bring to a simmer.

    4. Add cayenne pepper, that you liquefy with 1 teaspoon of water. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Finish with the lemon juice. Strain the sauce through a fine strainer.

    Let us know if you think it’s the cat[fish]’s meow.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Summer Ice Cream Desserts

    “Summertime is about simplicity,” says TV chef and “Chopped” judge Alex Guarnaschelli, as she shared these summer dessert ideas with us (originally published in The Daily Meal).

  • Ice Cream: Buy lemon verbena or five varieties of mint, mash the leaves and stir them into ice cream. EDITOR’S NOTE: We also use basil. Purée the leaves of the herb and blend 1/4 cup of purée into a pint of softened vanilla ice cream. If you want a more intense flavor, add more purée.
  • Ice Cream Or Sorbet Pie: Ice cream pie is the new ice cream cake, says Guarnaschelli. Fill a pie shell with raspberry sorbet, pack it down and top it with a “sauce” of warmed raspberry jam. EDITOR’S NOTE #1: Warm the jam in the microwave and drizzle or spread with a spatula. You don’t want the jam hot, or it will melt the sorbet. EDITOR’S NOTE #2: A garnish of fresh rasperries—or sliced strawberries with strawberry ice cream, blueberries with blueberry ice cream, peaches with peach ice cream, etc.—make this dessert even more festive.
  • Wild Card: Guarnaschelli sautés small cherry tomatoes (or grape tomatoes) and tops with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a squeeze of lemon juice. Or, take cinnamon ice cream (you can blend cinnamon into vanilla) and top with brown sugar, honey and a squeeze of lemon or orange juice.

    A strawberry ice cream pie, topped with sugar-dipped strawberries. Photo courtesy Miki’s Recipes. Get the recipe.


    “All of a sudden,” says Guarnaschelli, “you’ve created this whole new universe, and yet it’s so easy.”

    Here’s another recipe for a Strawberry Daiquiri Cocktail Pie from Miki’s Recipes.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Switch Wines For Summer

    Enjoy affordable, sparkling Prosecco all
    summer long. Photo by Marcelo Terraza |


    In the hot weather months, we eat lighter foods and drink lighter styles of beer.

    How about wine?

    In addition to pairing well with lighter foods, consider three summer-appropriate wines—Albarino, Malbec and Prosecco—that are also lighter on the wallet ($10 to $15 a bottle). And, they’re vinified to be drunk as soon as you buy them—no aging required.

    VERO restaurant and wine bar in New York City is highlighting three wines on its summer menu: red Malbec, white Albariño and sparkling Prosecco.

    They work with lighter summer foods, as well as with bold-flavored favorites—such as beef and spicy dishes—that we enjoy year-round, and which require wines that are equally intense and full-flavored.

    So instead of sticking with the tried and true, embrace the joy of wine and discover new favorites.


    Argentinean Malbec instead of Cabernet

    Both red wines are robust in body and flavor, with firm tannins that pair beautifully with grilled meats. But Malbec is vinified to be drink younger than Cabernet Sauvignon.


    Malbec has been called “the more rustic cousin of Merlot” by wine expert Jancis Robinson. The primary red grape of Argentina, Malbec is deep purple in color and lush with ripe, juicy berry and plums flavors. Some yield herbal, licorice/anise and violet notes. VERO is serving the 2010 Callia Alta Malbec (black cherry and plum flavors with hints of oak and spice, around $10 in stores) with a seared New York strip of beef and fries, finished with a smoked chili aïoli.

    Spanish Albariño instead of Sauvignon Blanc

    The grapefruit notes of both of these white wines compliment appetizers, grilled fish, shellfish, poultry and vegetarian dishes, as well as spicy seafood-based foods such as jambalaya (recipe).

    Albariño is the primary white grape grown in the Rias Baixes wine region, in the northeast corner of Spain (the part that sits on top of Portugal). The wines are highly aromatic with excellent acidity, an attribute that makes them very food-friendly. The palate yields apple, citrus and/or pear notes.

    VERO is serving the 2010 Morgadio Albariño (kiwi and mineral flavors, around $15 in stores) with pan seared mahi mahi over creamy polenta, with roasted tomatoes, baby fennel and sundried tomato vinaigrette.

    Prosecco instead of Champagne

    The effervescence of both sparklers is charming. But whereas Champagne’s sophisticated profile is heavy on yeast and breadiness/toastiness, Prosecco is light and fruity on the palate, with a nose of almonds, apples, and pears. Because it is meant to be drunk young, it is typically non-vintage. Serve it with charcuterie, salads, fish and seafood and spicy Asian foods. It is a very food-friendly wine.

    VERO is serving the Ricardo Pasqua Prosecco (an extra-dry spumante with a nose of sweet almonds, about $11 in stores) with a rock shrimp tempura and yuzu chili aïoli.

    So hit the wine store and start trying different bottles to find your favorite producers. Remember that you can search for reviews online to match up the specific wine producer’s profile with your tastes.

    *Champagne is unique among wine regions. The bottlings are usually a mixture of wines from different vintages (called non-vintage or NV). Vintage Champagne is a blend of wines from that one particular year indicated on the label, when the quality of the harvest, measured by the sweetness of the grapes, meets the requirements to declare a “vintage.” True vintage years may happen three or four times a decade, or fewer; vintage Champagnes need to be laid down for a longer period of time to mature. Because vintage Champagne commands a significantly higher price, some Champagne houses “declare” a vintage in a year when others do not feel the quality of the harvest merits it. This doesn’t imply that nonvintage Champagnes are inferior; in fact, in non-vintage years, wines are blended together to create the house’s “perfect” recipe.



    PRODUCT: Chocolate Pudding, Lactose Free & Cholesterol Free

    People who are diagnosed with a food allergy have to give up some favorite foods or turn to less-than-tasty substitutes. But enough Americans are diagnosed with allergies that businesses are rising to the occasion to make good-tasting alternatives.

    Often, allergen-free products are made because a family member develops the condition. In one of the more ironic situations, the Coffins, a Montana farm family that has been dairying for generations, had to remove all dairy products from the diets of mom and the kids.

    After trying the less-than-satisfactory alternatives the family began to create their own substitutes, tasty enough that everyone—including the non-allergic—could enjoy. The WayFare line of puddings, cheese spreads (regular, Mexican and smoked, our favorite) and sour cream was the happy result. Ice cream is currently under development.

    The “secret” ingredient in the line is certified gluten-free, whole grain oatmeal. In the course of using oatmeal to replace the body of milk, the products also became cholesterol free and vegan.

    The line is 100% dairy-free, soy free, cholesterol free, trans-fats free and non-GMO. The products are certified kosher by Star-K.


    WayFare lactose-free puddings. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    So how do they taste?

    The butterscotch and chocolate fare well; the vanilla, to us, doesn’t have significant vanilla flavor and works better as a hard sauce or creamy topping.

    There’s a store locator on, and information for retailers who want to amp up their lactose free foods.


    There’s an economic opportunity in products that address food allergies. Anheuser-Busch makes a gluten-free beer, the Girl Scouts sell three varieties of milk-free (lactose-free) cookies and General Mills reformulated Rice Chex earlier this year to be gluten-free. Kellogg’s makes its Pop-Tarts in nut-free factories. If vodka is your drink of choice, look for products distilled from non-grains, such as grapes and potatoes.

    An estimated 12 million people in the U.S. have food allergies; 2 million more have celiac disease, a potentially deadly form of gluten allergy.

    Medical experts don’t know why the number of people with food allergies is increasing. Theories include reduced contact with germs, exposure to certain environmental pollutants and, in the case of peanut allergies, the way peanuts are processed and at what point they are introduced into a person’s diet. Much research is needed; there is very little of it, even though allergic reaction to food causes about 30,000 emergency room visits and 150 to 200 fatalities each year.

    Statistics from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) reveal that in the U.S.:

  • Some 8% of children have a food allergy: an estimated 5.9 million children, of whom 38.7% have a history of severe reactions. Peanut is the most prevalent allergen, followed by milk and then shellfish.
  • The prevalence of food allergy among children under the age of 18 increased 18% percent from 1997 to 2007 (peanut allergy doubled from 1997-2002).
  • Some 3% to 4% of adults have one or more food allergies. Six and a half million Americans (2.3% of the general population) are allergic to seafood; more than 3 million people are allergic to peanuts, tree nuts or both.
  • Food allergies account for 35% to 50% of all cases of anaphylaxis. Mayo Clinic studies estimate that the number of cases more than doubled, from 21,000 in 1999 to 51,000 in 2008. Fatal food anaphylaxis is most often caused by peanuts (50%-62%) and tree nuts (15%-30%).
    So read the labels, and look for more good food coming from allergen-free manufacturers.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Alternative Ice Cream Sandwiches

    Donut sandwiches are the new ice cream sandwich. Photo courtesy Schwan’s.


    We love ice cream sandwiches. We typically make ours with chocolate chip cookies or sliced pound cake.

    But these ideas from Schwan’s have us thinking in new directions. You can whip them up and serve them immediately, or store them in the freezer.

  • Donut Ice Cream Sandwiches. Cake-style ring doughnuts, regular or mini, make excellent uppers and lowers with an ice cream filling. More dense than the airy, yeast-leavened doughnuts (like Krispy Kreme), cake doughnuts are leavened with baking powder or baking soda. Look for a plain doughnut without frosting or glaze, like a cinnamon sugar doughnut. Cut it in half with a serrated knife and fill with ice cream.
  • Rice Krispie Treats Ice Cream Sandwiches. Slice a rice krispie treat in half, fill with ice cream and cut away the excess ice cream. (Don’t throw away the trimmings; snack on it.)
  • Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches. Toast two toaster waffles and let cool before filling (or the heat will begin to melt the ice cream).



    You can add another layer of flavor before sealing with the top sandwich layer:

  • Caramel, chocolate or fruit sauce
  • Sliced bananas, strawberries or other fruit (mango is delicious with vanilla ice cream, orange segments or marmalade creates a “Creamsicle” effect)
  • Chopped nuts
  • Morsels (butterscotch, chocolate, mint, peanut)
    You can roll the ice cream edges in sprinkles, mini chips or confetti (as shown in the photo).

    Whatever you do, you’ll have fun.

    If you’d like to have these treats delivered to you, visit the Schwan’s website.


    Photo courtesy Schwan’s.


    PRODUCT: La Pan’s Gourmet BBQ Sauce

    The number one product we receive over the transom (unsolicited) is barbecue sauce. We get so much, that we joke that aliens from another planet who happen into THE NIBBLE offices would think that earthlings live on barbecue sauce.

    On a less jocular note, most of the barbecue sauces sent to us are simplistic recipes of what we pejoratively call “meat sugar”: ketchup (there’s already plenty of it in the ketchup), more sugar or high fructose corn syrup, and some onion and garlic powder that aren’t strong enough to cut through the sweetness.

    Every now and then, we receive a barbecue sauce that we enjoy. It has complex flavors and a smaller dose of sweeteners.

    So it was a good day when a box of samples from Le Pan’s arrived.

    All natural La Pan barbecue sauces have more layering of flavors than we’ve seen just about anywhere.


    Spicy and regular barbecue sauces hit the spot. Photo courtesy La Pan’s.


    Prior to developing his own line, Jon La Pan of Ladera Ranch, California was a foodie who liked to tinker with recipes to turn them into his vision of perfection. When he started to make barbecue sauce, his goal was “…to help anyone…turn a $5 piece of meat into a $50 steak.”

    As tasty as the sauces may be, they won’t tenderize a $5 flank steak into anything resembling a $50 strip steak; but the sauces will taste good on just about anything.

    Enjoy them with meat, poultry, hearty fish or tofu. Jon Le Pan uses them as a bread dipper, too. We prefer them with fries, instead of ketchup.

    Foundation Gourmet BBQ Sauce

    The first four ingredients in this barbecue sauce, are common to many recipes: water, tomato paste, sugar and brown sugar, along with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper and vinegar, Worcestershire Sauce and yellow mustard. More complex sauces add ingredients such as apple cider vinegar, molasses and natural smoke flavor. Spicy versions add cayenne pepper, chipotle and other chiles and hot pepper sauce,

    But La Pan’s further layers on celery salt, cinnamon, coffee, cumin, honey, lemon juice concentrate, maple syrup, oregano, turmeric, and and raspberry juice concentrate.

    That’s a lot of measuring, but the result is worth it.

    Fiery Fusion BBQ Sauce

    An excellent balance of fruit and medium heat, this sauce makes things interesting with the addition of apricot, mango, pineapple and habanero. Many spicy sauces just ratchet up the spice level on the basic sauce.

    Don’t choose: try both. A 16-ounce bottle is $8.00 at

    The company also makes seasoning and Bloody Mary mix.

    Find more of our favorite barbecue sauces.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Bloody Mary Ice Pops

    Bloody Mary ice pops. Photo by Elvira
    Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    Yesterday we proposed diet ice pops, made from diet fruit soda.

    This time, it’s serious: Bloody Mary ice pops.

    You can turn any juice-based cocktail into an ice pop. We especially like Bloody Mary ice pops because they have no sugar (guilt free!) and because the kick of spices in the ice is very refreshing indeed.

  • Make your from-scratch Bloody Mary base or use a mix. We make our own, from Knudsen’s Tomato Juice, horseradish, hot sauce and fresh lime juice. Play with the proportions to decide how spicy and citrusy you like it (we also add a half teaspoon of lime zest). We use two teaspoons of horseradish, a tablespoon of lime juice and four shakes of hot sauce per six ounces of tomato juice. (We prefer to get the heat from the horseradish than from hot sauce.)
  • Start with a tablespoon of vodka per pop. The amount you use will depend on the volume of your pop molds. Water freezes at 32°F, but the freezing point of ethanol alcohol is -173.2°F. Thus, too much alcohol impedes freezing—you’ll end up with a slushie (not a bad idea!).

  • You can conduct a test with your first batch. Add different amounts of vodka to each of the pop molds and see which works for you.
  • Or, substitute shochu for vodka. Shochu, called “Japanese vodka.” has half the proof of vodka—40 proof compared to 80 proof. Thus, it freezes more easily: The lower the proof, the higher the freezing point. More about shochu.
    Of course, you can also make Virgin Mary ice pops. They’re equally delicious.

    Whether pop or slushie, enjoy!



    TREND: The “Official Cocktail”

    “Official cocktails” are not news, but they could become a trend.

  • The Sazerac, a combination of cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe and bitters, is the official cocktail of New Orleans.
  • The Fire & Ice Boom from Buffalo combines vodka, triple sec, hot sauce, lemon juice and Sprite.
  • The Mint Julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. The Black Eyed Susan is the official cocktail of the Preakness—a combination of vodka, Kentucky whiskey, orange juice and sour mix. And the triple crown of cocktails concludes with the Belmont Jewel: Bourbon, lemonade and pomegranate juice.
  • The Bacardi Mojito is the official cocktail of Miami.
    And on the west coast of Florida, Naples has selected the Coquito Mojito.

    The Coquito Mojito was chosen among six cocktails created by a mixologist who was retained by a group Naples restaurateurs, called the Naples Orignals, seeking an official cocktail. It has been renamed the Naples Original.


    The Coquito Mojito won a contest to become the official cocktail of Naples, Florida. Photo courtesy Naples Originals.


    Coquito is an eggnog-like beverage, a traditional holiday drink in Puerto Rico. It is made with coconut cream, coconut milk, egg yolks, rum, sweet condensed milk and holiday spices: cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

    The Coquito Mojito combines the two concepts, taking the basic Mojito recipe (rum, mint, lime juice, sugar and club soda) enhanced with coconut-flavored rum and cream of coconut, omitting the sugar.


    Ingredients Per Drink

  • .75 ounces rum
  • .75 ounces coconut flavored rum
  • .75 ounces fresh squeezed lime juice
  • .75 ounces Coco Lopez Coconut Cream
  • Splash of club soda
  • 3 sprigs fresh mint, plus one for garnish
  • Ice cubes
  • Optional garnish: lime wheel

  • Cocktail shaker
  • Muddler
  • Cocktail strainer

    1. In the cocktail shaker, lightly muddle the mint in the coconut cream. Add lime juice, rum and coconut flavored rum.

    2. Fill with ice to the top, cap the shaker and give it a long, hard shake. Pour through a strainer into a glass over ice.

    3. Add a splash of club soda. Garnish with mint sprig, lime wheel and coconut flakes.

    If you’d like an official cocktail for your town, approach the Chamber Of Commerce and volunteer to be on the committee. You could find yourself with some new, civic-minded drinking buddies.

    Find more of our favorite cocktail recipes.



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