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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 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.
  •  

    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
  •  
    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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    PRODUCT: Wine Wipes For Red Wine Lovers

    We have a friend who enjoys hearty red wines. After a few glasses, his teeth become so stained that monster movie makeup specialists should take note. It’s not a pretty sight.

    If only he would carry Wine Wipes. Unfortunately, the product packaging, with its image of female lips, is not exactly unisex. But either sex can use Wine Wipes discretely. The container can hide in the palm of your hand, and there’s a mirror on the inside of the lid.

    Years ago, when we went through an intensive Port-drinking phase and ended up with embarrassing “tannin teeth,” we asked our dentist, who was near retirement, what we could do to eliminate the stains. “If I were in an earlier phase of my career,” he said, “I’d love to do the research. But I’m winding down.”

    He did recommend drinking less tannic red wines. But when you’re in a Port mode, nothing else suffices. We ended up carrying a toothbrush and baking soda, and making trips to the restroom to clean our Bride of Frankenstein teeth.

     

    If red wine stains your teeth, here’s the solution. Photo courtesy Wine Wipes.

     

    Ten years later, we discovered Wine Wipes, a boon for people whose teeth stain more than they’d like. It’s easy to wipe away the unattractive dark red film on your teeth: Just run the cloth over your teeth, tongue and mouth, and they’ll be restored to normal.

    The all-natural ingredients won’t otherwise interfere with the taste of the wine:

  • Baking soda, which gives off free radicals that penetrate the surface of the tooth’s enamel and turn the stain clear. It also neutralizes acids that can corrode the enamel.
  • Salt, used before toothpaste was invented, is a natural cleanser and antiseptic. It helps to remove stains, and its alkaline properties also fight germs. The slight taste of salt will not interfere with your palate.
  • Hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleaching agent and germ killer. It does not harm tooth enamel.
  • Calcium strengthens teeth by adhering to tooth enamel.
  • Glycerine coats the teeth to keep them from further staining.
  •  
    A small compact with 20 wipes has an SRP of $6.95.* You can get three for $14.99 on Amazon.

    Wine Wipes make great gifts for pals whose teeth tend to develop “wine tatoos,” and are fun stocking stuffers.

    Buy Wine Wipes on Amazon.com.
     
     
    *SRP = Suggested Retail Price, also called MSRP, Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Mix Crudités With Green Salads

    Mix it up: a green salad with crudites, figs
    and nuts. Photo courtesy La Tourangelle.

     

    We were facing lot of leftover crudités—raw broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and sugar snap peas—among traditional salad ingredients like carrots, cherry tomatoes and radishes.

    Why is it that we normally toss the carrots, tomatoes and radishes into a green salad, but not the rest of the crudités?

    We amended that posthaste, and enjoyed a delicious “crudité salad”: a salad with more variety, more nutrition, more crunch. And we avoided a supply of withering raw vegetables. We also added nuts for protein, ripe figs and a walnut oil and white wine vinaigrette.

    For those who don’t have enough time in the day to eat their veggie quota, it’s also a two-fer (or perhaps, a three-fer).

    Find more of our favorite salad recipes.

     

     
      

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    FOOD FILM: Three Stars ~ Three-Star Michelin Chefs

    We were excited when we were invited to see the new film, “Three Stars,” a documentary that showcases 10 of the world’s Michelin three-star chefs.* Also featured is Jean-Luc Naret, director of the Guide Michelin, founded in 1900. He provides insights into the rating system and the economic and personal benefits of earning that third star—with the chefs commenting on the pressure it brings to keep it, and other travails.

    The highest Michelin rating, three stars, means “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” It gives a restaurant and its chef world prominence, as foodies around the globe trek long distances to experience the cuisine.

    To those who have followed the stars over the years, one insight provided by Mr. Naret is that now, the ratings are all about the food. In prior years, a restaurant had to be beautifully appointed in order to get the coveted third star. Today, the focus is “what’s on the plate.” Ishikawa in Tokyo is as plain as any traditionally-designed sushi restaurant, and Noma in Copenhagen—rated the world’s best restaurant by Restaurant magazine†—looks like a café in Vermont.

    The 10 chefs featured in “Three Stars” include:

  • Yannick Alléno of Le Meurice in Paris
  • Sven Elverfeld of Aqua in Wolfsburg, Germany
  • Sergio Herman of Oud Sluis in Sluis, The Netherlands
  • Hideki Ishikawa of Ishikawa in Tokyo
  •  

    Noma restaurant has no photos on its website. Want to see the food? You won’t get a satisfying glimpse in “Three Stars.” You’ll have to buy the cookbook. Photo by Ditte Isager ourtesy Phaidon Press.

  • Juan Mari Arzak and Elena Arzak of Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain
  • René Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Olivier Roellinger of Le Coquillage in Cancale, France (in 2009, Roellinger closed his three-star haute cuisine restaurant, Les Maisons de Bricourt, to focus on the seafood of Brittany at Le Coquillage—more casual cuisine but equally acclaimed [currently 1 Michelin star])
  • Nadia Santini of Dal Pescatore in Runate, Italy
  • Jean-Georges Vongerichten of Jean-Georges in New York City
  •  
    The work of German filmmaker Lutz Hachmeister (the original title is “Drei Sterne—Die Köche und die Sterne, “Three Stars—The Cook and the Stars”), the film is 94 minutes well spent for lovers of haute cuisine. It’s a rare trip behind the scenes, and the opportunity to spend face time—at least on film—with the great chefs.

    There are some quirks. We found the extensive cross-cutting, jumping from topic to topic, to be distracting (we’d like to add some title cards). But truly disappointing is that there’s only about a minute of screen time given to showing the food!

    The director focuses on searches for the finest ingredients, kitchen preparation and some dining room scenes, along with the chefs as talking heads.

    Strangely, when the director has the opportunity to focus on the beautiful plates of food that result from their chefs’ philosophies and labors, he quickly shifts focus—in two disappointing instances, spending time on the face of the pretty server, while the plates of food she serves get short shrift (or no shrift). It’s a real flaw in the film, and makes us wonder why Herr Hachmeister chose to spend his time documenting three-star chefs.

    So, while the film doesn’t merit three stars, it’s still a tasty treat for all who love exquisite cuisine and want to know more about those who produce it.

    See our list of food films.

    *The 2012 edition of the Guide Michelin features 109 three-stars, up from 96 in 2012.

    †The World’s 50 Best Restaurants is a list produced by the British magazine Restaurant. The voters include consumer gourmets, international chefs, restaurant critics and restaurateurs.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Triple Heirloom Tomato Salad

    A tomato salad feast. Photo courtesy
    chef Mauro Colagreco.

     

    A tomato lover’s favorite months should be August and September, when the crop of vine-ripened tomatoes yields exquisite bounty.

    We splurge on $4/pound heirloom tomatoes (that’s the New York City price—don’t let it scare you if you live elsewhere), which are available at our farmers market in a wide variety of colors, shapes, flavors and sizes.

    We buy Aunt Rubys, Black Russians, Brandywines, Cherokee Purples, German Stripes, Green Zebras, and our favorite name tomatoes, Mortgage Lifters, which were bred in the 1930s by a West Virginia farmer who needed cash to pay off his mortgage.

    Don’t be put off by cracked skin at the stem end: The tomato is still delicious. You can peel the skin or slice off the end. When this “fault” of numerous tomato varieties was bred out to create perfect-looking tomatoes, much flavor was bred out with it. Tomatoes should be a flavor competition, not a search for perfect skin.

     

    Once you’re in front of the tomato selection, pick three and create a triple-heirloom-tomato salad.The inspiration for this recipe comes from chef Mauro Colagreco, whose two-Michelin-stars restaurant, Mirazur, in Menton on the French Riviera, has views as exquisite as the food. Here’s the original recipe. Use three different heirloom varieties, contrasting color and flavor.

    TRIPLE-HEIRLOOM-TOMATO SALAD

    This is a wonderful first course. When you purchase the tomatoes, make sure that you have one tomato at least three inches in diameter that can be cut into four slices, a half-inch or thicker, to serve as a base for the other ingredients. Serves four.

    Ingredients

  • 2.5 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, at least 3 varieties (aim for three different colors)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • Extra virgin olive oil (one that contributes good flavor to the dish)
  • 1 cup mixed baby greens: arugula, basil, frisée, red leaf lettuce or any variation, washed and patted dry if not prewashed
  • Balsamic vinegar reduction (recipe)
  • 1/4 cup herb-olive oil paste (basil, chive, parsley or other favorite)—recipe below
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HERBS. Make a paste of herbs: In a mortar and pestle or food processor, grind/pulse herbs to a paste. Add a small amount of olive oil and a pinch of salt to season. If you make more than 1/4 cup, the leftover paste will keep in the fridge for several days. You can use it as a garnish with just about anything, including as a sandwich spread, in potato salad, mixed into rice, scrambled eggs and other everyday dishes.

    2. BALSAMIC. Prepare the balsamic reduction. You can substitute a purchased balsamic glaze.

    3. TOMATOES. Slice the “base” tomato into four slices. Cut the other tomatoes into the size of halved cherry tomatoes or large dice. Some tomatoes may need to be seeded before cutting into small pieces. Add a pinch of salt and the fresh thyme to the cut tomatoes and arrange atop the base, leaving a space in the center for the greens.

    4. SALAD. Lightly dress with olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. There is no vinegar because the great flavor of heirloom tomatoes should shine through, and the salad can be dipped into the balsamic reduction. However, if you are using tomatoes that need a kick of flavor, or don’t want to make the balsamic reduction, you can substitute a balsamic vinaigrette.

    5. FINISH. Using squeeze bottles or medicine droppers, surround the tomato base with an artistic array of herb and balsamic droplets (see photo above). Serve and celebrate the glory of tomatoes.

     

    WHAT IS AN HEIRLOOM TOMATO?

    An heirloom tomato is a non-hybrid (open-pollinated) tomato cultivar (variety). It has the deep, lush flavor that tomatoes were meant to have, before they were bred (hybridized) to have perfect shapes, bright red colors, disease-resistance while growing and shipping and long shelf life, among other qualities.

    Even if you eat freshly-picked, vine-ripened tomatoes lovingly grown from seedlings in your own garden—far superior in flavor to store-bought tomatoes that have traveled a distance—the flavor is just a fraction of a tomato grown from heirloom seeds.

    The period following World War II marks the beginning of industrial agriculture, with a focus on breeding produce and livestock for commercial convenience. Flavor was victim to economics in the commercial seed business.

     

    Heirloom tomatoes: summer jewels. Photo courtesy GreenAccessAtSuncadia.com.

     

    For small farmers who fought to maintain quality, heirloom seeds have been nurtured and handed down through the generations, going back 100 years and longer.
     
    Find more salad recipes in our Vegetables Section.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Dessert Cocktails

    Drink your dessert. Photo courtesy
    DiSaronno.

     

    Dessert is an American tradition—sone sweetness to end the meal. But if you’re serving adults, before planning for cake, ice cream or other favorite, consider if you might rather have a dessert cocktail. Recipes often include ice cream and a liqueur.

    This recipe, courtesy of DiSaronno, makers of amaretto (almond liqueur), evokes the tropics with piña colada mix and fresh banana.

    Even if you don’t have access to a beach and swaying palm trees, close your eyes and imagine. Perhaps listen to Elvis’ Blue Hawaii CD.

    BANANA COCONUT DESSERT COCKTAIL

    Ingredients

  • 1½ parts amaretto
  • 2 parts piña colada mix
  • 2 spoons vanilla ice cream
  • ½ fresh banana
  • Whipped cream
  •  

    Preparation

    1. Mix all ingredients in a blender with ice and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

    2. Top with whipped cream and a banana slice. Serve with a straw and a spoon.

     

    GODIVA BROWNIE COCKTAIL

    Ingredients

  • Chocolate syrup
  • 1/2 to 1 brownie, cut into small cubes
  • 1½ parts Godiva chocolate liquer
  • 1½ parts crème de cacao or coffee liqueur
  • ½ part vodka
  • 2½ parts half-and-half
  • Optional garnish: mint sprig or notched strawberry
    on the rim
  •  
    Preparation

    1. With a squeeze bottle of chocolate syrup, make a design on the inside of the glass. Add brownie cubes.

    2. Shake the remaining ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain into into a Martini glass.

    3. The cocktail softens the brownie into a bread pudding-like consistency. Serve with a spoon.

     

    Pour a cream cocktail over cubed brownie bites. Photo courtesy Godiva.

     

    MORE DESSERT COCKTAILS

    Try this Grand Cookie Crumble recipe with Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur).

    Or, use the recipes above as templates to combine your favorite ingredients. Let us know what you create!

    Find more of our favorite dessert and cocktail recipes.

      

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