THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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Archive for August, 2012

COOKING VIDEO: Grilled Clams & Mussels

 

While the coals are hot, make grilled clams and mussels as a healthful and low-calorie Labor Day treat.

This video shows how easy it is:

   

   

Find more of our favorite seafood recipes.

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TIP OF THE DAY: Things To Do With Lemon Juice

What’s your favorite way to use lemon juice? Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

 

August 29th was National Lemon Juice Day. We had a basket full of lemons on the kitchen counter, so we turned on the electric juicer and set out to see how many different things—edible things—we could do with lemon juice.

There are many uses for lemon juice in the home. A partial list includes: household cleaner, copper cleaner, stain remover, room deodorizer, laundry brightener, hair shiner, nail treatment, sore throat gargle and digestive aid.

Our focus was on food. But first:

HOW TO GET THE MOST JUICE FROM A LEMON

Before you begin, here are juicing tips to get more juice from your lemons (and other citrus):

  • Room Temperature. Juice the lemons at room temperature. If you don’t have time to let them warm naturally, microwave them one at a time for 20 seconds on high.
  • Roll ‘Em. Roll the whole lemon under your palm on the countertop, pressing down.
  • Electric Juicer. For $25.00 or so, you can get an electric juicer that extracts every last drop with almost no effort.
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    Yield: 1 medium lemon yields 2-3 tablespoons of juice; 5-6 lemons will yield 1 cup of juice.

    Zest: Don’t forget to save the zest. Here’s what to do with lemon zest or other citrus zest.
      
    FOOD USES FOR LEMON JUICE

    Beyond use in recipes, here are ways that lemon juice will make your life easier:

    Anti-Browning Agent. Keep cut fruit and vegetables such as apples, avocados/guacamole, fruit salad, pears and potatoes from turning brown by sprinkling, tossing or brushing with a little bit of lemon juice (you can mix it into the guacamole).

    Clean The Grater. Cheese is always stuck in our grater. Grab a lemon half and rub both sides of the grater with the pulp side. You can slice off the top of the lemon and use it for food.

    Lemon Water. Perk up your daily glasses of water for flavor, the antioxidant vitamin C and other health benefits.

    Marmalade. If you make jams and jellies, try lemon marmalade. We like it as a garnish with grilled fish/seafood and roast poultry.

    Marinade. Add lemon juice to marinades for fish or meat. It’s a flavorizer as well as a tenderizer.

    Pancakes. Lemon juice, along with baking powder, makes lighter and fluffier pancakes. Here’s a recipe.

    Soft Drinks. We grew up in an era of Lemon Cokes. Add lemon juice to cola and fruit sodas. See how it perks up cherry, lemon-lime, orange and raspberry pop.

    Veggie Saver. Perk up wilted lettuce and other greens by soaking them for an hour in a bowl of cold water and the juice of one lemon.

      
    How do you use lemon juice? Let us know!

     
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Garden Lites Vegetable Soufflés

    It’s always exciting to discover a new “favorite food” that’s good for you. When we received a generous shipment of Garden Lites frozen vegetable soufflés from the manufacturer, we liked them.

    But as we ate soufflé after veggie soufflé, we grew to really like them. We became so accustomed to eating one a day as a snack or as part of a light lunch, that we laid in a new supply when the original shipment was exhausted.

    While we relish the vegetable soufflés as casual fare, we wouldn’t hesitate to serve them as a first course at a fancy dinner. Assuming, of course, that we’d be willing to share our stash.

    The soufflés are made in nine varieties: broccoli, butternut squash, carrot, cauliflower, pizza (cauliflower topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella), roasted vegetable (mixed veggies), southwestern (mixed veggies with southwestern seasonings), spinach and zucchini.

    There are also two julienned vegetable dishes that satisfy: zucchini marinara and zucchini portabella.

     

    Our new favorite snack, first course or light lunch. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Each single serve is equivalent to two portions of vegetables. Look in your grocer’s freezer case and bring them home: You’re in for a treat!

    The line is certified kosher.
     
    Read the full review.

    Find more of our favorite vegetable products and recipes.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Things To Freeze In Your Ice Cube Tray

    Now, holiday ice trays like this Valentine cube
    tray
    can be used year-round. Photo courtesy
    Lekue.

     

    We have long been advocates of making ice cubes from coffee, tea, juice, wine and soda, so as not to dilute our iced coffee, iced tea, cocktails, punch and soft drinks (original article).

    You can add mint leaves to water to create mint ice cubes for Mojitos, basil leaves in water or tomato juice for Bloody Marys and berries in water for any sweet drink.

    But the versatile ice cube tray has other uses as well. We use ours to freeze:

  • Fresh herbs (recipe below)
  • Lemon and lime juice (for recipes or to flavor glasses or pitchers of water)
  • Pesto (drop a cube to the water when you make rice)
  • Stock concentrate
  • Anything in liquid or semi-solid form that we want to store in small portions
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    Depending on the recipe, you can simply pop the cube into the pot.

     

    You can transfer the cubes to a freezer bag after they’re fully frozen, or keep them in a covered ice cube tray (if your tray doesn’t have a tight-fitting cover, use plastic wrap).

    When you’re ready to use them, remember that each cube is approximately one teaspoon; eight standard cubes comprises roughly one cup.

    Having alternative uses for ice cube trays has enabled us to buy seasonal ice cube trays—hearts, stars, Christmas trees and pumpkins—without the guilt of taking up storage space with “one-use gadgets.”

    We often give seasonal ice cube trays as gifts, along with our list of things to use them for year-round.

    HOW TO FREEZE HERB ICE CUBES

    1. CLEAN. Wash and pat dry. Decide if you want to freeze whole or chopped herbs, and chop as desired.

    2. CHOP. The objective is to have the water cover the herbs, so fill the ice cube tray sections with a tablespoonful of chopped herbs or as many whole herbs as fit. Tamp down whole herbs.

    3. FILL. Fill the tray halfway, using enough water to cover the herbs (though the herbs tend to float). Freeze.

    4. FREEZE. Once the ice cubes are largely frozen, finish filling the tray with water and freeze completely. Remove from the tray and store in freezer bags.

    5. USE. Toss frozen cubes directly into the pot or pan. The heat will defrost the cube. If you need to eliminate the water, add the cube first and let the water evaporate.

    Never again toss out unused, wilted herbs!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Better “American Cheese” Alternative

    There are many foods that send a shudder up the spine of a food writer and educator. They tend to be truly inferior products, both nutritionally and taste-wise; but the American palate has become so accustomed to them that people have no desire to experience something better. At the top of our shudder list: processed American cheese.

    Children are taught to love it from their first gooey grilled cheese sandwich. But most “American cheese” so processed and packed with additives that it falls outside the legal definition of cheese. It may be comfort food, but it’s not good food.

    Real cheese is made from milk coagulated into curds, which are then pressed into cheese. Processed American cheese, on the other hand, is a blend of milk, milk fats, milk solids, other fats and whey protein concentrates—and only 51% cheese. It must be labeled “cheese product” or “cheese food.”

    Most people who buy it don’t note the difference. But there is a far better option: Cheddar cheese slices. Here’s an eye-opening infographic that compares Cheddar to processed American cheese. But in one sentence:

     

    Trade in the inferior American cheese for real Cheddar slices. Photo courtesy Tillamook Cooperative.

     

    Processed American cheese contains 51% real cheese or less; the ingredients are emulsified and held together with artificial ingredients and preservatives. It has twice the salt found in natural Cheddar.

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF AMERICAN CHEESE

    America colonists brought their cheese-making skills to the New World and could make numerous types of cheese. But a single type won out: Cheddar. It was uniquely sturdy under primitive conditions and withstood seasonal variations in temperature and humidity, while delivering excellent flavor.

    The first cheese factory, enabling large-scale production, was built in 1851. When cheese is cut it in to blocks, there are leftover cheese trimmings.

    By the mid-1800s, an Ohio cheese maker named Emil Frey figured out how to heat his cheese scraps and add a few other ingredients to create processed cheese. This new cheese was more bland than Cheddar, which appealed to the [de-evolving] American palate. It turned velvety-smooth when melted, and became known as Velveeta.

     

    A double burger with American cheese. Photo
    by Paul Johnson | IST.

     

    While some sources give credit for processed American cheese to James L. Kraft, who shredded and re-pasteurized Cheddar trimmings with sodium phosphate and patented “American process cheese” in 1916, he was not the first to create processed cheese. Others did it decades earlier.

    According to Chuck Blumer, who produces Spring Lake American Cheese another cheese maker other than Emil Frey decided to put the trimmings to good use by making a blended cheese.

    He threw all of his trimmings into the cooker, added some barrel Cheddar for consistency and sliceability, added some moisture (water) for meltability, and invented American cheese. All cheese makers followed suit, thrilled to turn their trimmings into profits.

     

    In 1885, Colby cheese was invented in Wisconsin by Joseph F. Steinwand, named for the township in which his father had built a cheese factory three years earlier. It is similar to Cheddar, but with some key differences in production. And like Cheddar, it was a hit.

    American cheese became a mix of Colby and Cheddar cheese scraps. With the surge in popularity of convenience foods in the 1950s, processed American cheese took off. The Baby Boomer generation grew up eating American cheese sandwiches: with lettuce and tomato, cold cuts or grilled with or without a slice of tomato.

    Says Blumer: American cheese became so popular that there were not enough trimmings to satisfy the demand. Cheese makers then shopped the world for any type of cheese they could buy at a cheap price. They would throw this cheap cheese in to the cooker with some cheddar and water to make their American Cheese. Most cheese makers still do this today.

    So, American cheese evolved from being quality trimmings of Cheddar and Colby to any cheap cheese that can be processed into a uniform flavor.

    THE REBORN AMERICAN CHEESE

    There’s hope for everyone who adds a slice of American cheese to a burger, sandwich or omelet.

    With Americans’ demands for more wholesome food, domestic Cheddar manufacturers have been making “American cheese” slices from 100% domestic barrel Cheddar.* And if you are making American cheese in Wisconsin, America’s largest cheese-producing state, you are required by law to use only 100% domestic barrel Cheddar in the production of American cheese.

    Look for Cheddar slices from Organic Valley, Tillamook and other quality Cheddar producers.

    Check out this infographic for the story of what you’re getting today when you buy Cheddar versus American Cheese.

    Find more of our favorite cheeses and recipes.
     
    *Barrel cheddar, or Cheddar barrel cheese, is a 500 pound barrels of cheese sold by cheese producers in to other manufacturers.

      

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