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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 October, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Bread Spread ~ Honey & Fromage Blanc

Drizzle with honey: It’s heavenly. Photo
courtesy Bee Raw Honey.

 

You may go bonkers for a bagel or crazy for a croissant. But let us suggest another breakfast bread:

Raisin bread, regular or toasted. It’s delicious plain, with butter or in this killer combination from Bee Raw Honey:

Fromage blanc and apple slices on raisin bread, drizzled with basswood honey.

You can vary the varietal and the type of honey, the spread (butter, crème fraîche, fresh goat cheese, Greek yogurt, quark).

It’s special occasion breakfast bread.

 
Bee Raw Honey’s single-varietal American honeys make memorable gifts. Honeys are not only regional, they’re also seasonal. Fall varietals include cranberry honey and wild black sage honey, perfect for house gifts and holiday gifts. Find out more at BeeRaw.com.

 

FROMAGE BLANC: A GREAT “FIND”

Fromage blanc is a type of fresh cream cheese—but not in the manner of Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Depending on the manufacturer, it can be very similar to both crème fraîche and quark.

How soft, how tangy a flavor a cheese has, and other factors are production decisions. Fromage blanc may or may not be low in fat and calories. Because there is no federal standard of identity in the U.S., one manufacturer’s fromage blanc could be another’s quark (see our article on fresh cheeses).

The fromage blanc from Vermont Creamery, for example, is extremely soft, with the consistency of sour cream and a similar tang. It is fat free, protein-packed and has a lower calorie count than other brands. The entire eight-ounce container has just 120 calories. Take that, sour cream!

In France, fromage blanc is often eaten with fruit and sugar as a dessert. It is also very popular in cooking because it heats without separating.

Pick some up during your next trip to the market.

 

This fromage blanc is fat-free and low calorie. Photo courtesy Vermont Creamery.

  

Comments

HALLOWEEN: Peanut Butter Cups

They’re almost too lovely to eat—but we’ll
manage. Photo courtesy Woodhouse
Chocolate.

 

There are only two weeks until Halloween, but that’s plenty of time to send for these gourmet peanut butter cups.

Not only are the chocolate shell and peanut butter filling artisan quality, but the “dressed for Halloween” artwork deserves a shout out.

The PB cups are made by Napa Valley’s Woodhouse Chocolate, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week (read our review).

In bat, haunted house, raven and witch motifs, the two-inch-diameter cups are $4.00 each at WoodhouseChocolate.com.

Find more of our favorite chocolate in THE NIBBLE’s Chocolate Section.

 

  

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PRODUCT: Jingos! Crackers

Many of us grew up on Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers. Invented in Germany, the crackers were introduced to the U.S. in 1962 by Pepperidge Farm founder Margaret Rudkin (the company is now owned by Campbell Soup Company).

In the 50 years since, Goldfish Crackers have been made in more than 15 flavors and even into different shapes: starfish, Christmas trees and beachballs, for example.

Now, the company has introduced a new snack cracker to its lineup. It’s a more sophisticated concept for an adult audience, but kids will still enjoy the groovy shape and lively flavors.

Jingos! (the exclamation point is part of the brand’s name) are baked and “seasoned twice for an explosive taste every time.” While we’re not sure about the name (more about that below), we do like the snappy, crunchy crackers, made in three flavors:

  • Fiesta Cheddar
  • Lime & Sweet Chili
  • Parmesan Garlic
  •  

    Jingos are fun crackers for snacks and garnishes. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Snack from the box, dip them into plain yogurt, use them as salad croutons, serve them with soup.

    Like Goldfish, you get a lot of crackers per one-ounce serving: 23 small crackers per serving, 140 calories.

    Larger than Goldfish, Jingos! are the size of a Frito chip. That’s a lot of crunching: You may be more than satisfied with half a serving.

    Learn more at Jingos.com.

    JINGO & JINGOISM

    Vaguely knowing of the expression, “By jingo!” we headed to the dictionary.

    According to Dictionary.com, a jingo is a bellicose chauvinist: a person who professes his or her patriotism loudly and excessively, favoring vigilant preparedness for war and an aggressive foreign policy.

    The term “jingoism,” an attitude of belligerent nationalism (chauvinism), apparently originated in England during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. The British Mediterranean squadron was sent to Gallipoli to restrain Russia and war fever was aroused.

    The phrase, “by jingo,” appeared in the refrain of a popular song: “We don’t want to fight, yet by jingo, if we do, We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, And got the money, too!”

    As a result, supporters of the British government’s policy toward Russia came to be called jingos.

    What this has to do with crackers, we must leave to Pepperidge Farm to explain.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Food Safety Tips, Part 2

    How much do you really know about keeping food safe? Yesterday, we published the first half of this list of food safety tips. This is Part 2.

    SAFETY WITH EGGS

    Myth #9: “Eggs are safe as long as the shell is not cracked. Germs can only get in through cracks.”
    Reality: Salmonella, one of the bacteria that cause food poisoning, can grow inside fresh, unbroken eggs. Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm, not runny. Scramble eggs to a firm texture. You can safely enjoy your eggs over easy, but not sunny-side up.

    To ensure safety, cook the eggs by flipping once so that the egg white is completely cooked and the egg yolk is starting to gel. Don’t use recipes in which eggs remain raw or only partially cooked.

    Myth #10: “Hard boiled eggs are safe and don’t need to be refrigerated.”
    Reality: Keep boiled eggs on ice, in a cooler, or in a cold pack if the eggs will not be eaten within two hours. Just because they are cooked, doesn’t mean they can’t grow bacteria.

     

    Even if there’s no crack, an egg can be
    contaminated with bacteria. Photo by Kasey
    Albano | SXC.

     

    WHAT ABOUT MOLD?

    “Myth #11: “If there is just a little bit of mold on top of the food, I can scrape it off. What’s underneath is still good.”
    Reality: The mold you see is only the tip of the iceberg. Typically, the bacteria or toxins are found under the surface of the food. Although you can salvage hard cheeses, salamis and firm fruits and vegetables by cutting the mold out, most foods should be discarded.

    SAFETY WITH POULTRY & MAYONNAISE

    Myth #12: “Mayonnaise is often the cause of food-borne illness.”
    Reality: Commercially purchased mayonnaise is pasteurized and has a high acid content that actually slows bacteria growth. Mayonnaise does not cause food poisoning, bacteria do. And bacteria grow best on foods that contain protein and are at temperatures between 40°-140°F. At greater risk for developing bacteria are the foods mayonnaise is commonly mixed with for picnics and potlucks, such as eggs, chicken, pasta, potatoes and tuna.

    Their small, cut-up surfaces allow the bacteria to grow in the right environment. But even these foods will be safe if you keep your cooler below 40°F. Don’t guess: Use a thermometer.

     

    Don’t thaw turkey or other poultry on the
    counter. You’ve just got to make room in the
    fridge. Photo by Evegny B | Fotolia.

     

    Myth #13: “It is okay to let turkey thaw out on the kitchen counter. Everyone does it that way.”
    Reality: You should NEVER thaw poultry at room temperature. Because it is impossible to ensure that raw poultry is free of harmful bacteria, you must rely on temperature to control or eliminate the harmful bacteria.

    Bacteria tend to multiply and increase their population between 45°F and 140°F. By leaving raw turkey or any other raw poultry at room temperature, you are giving bacteria the the opportunity to grow.

    It is best to thaw the poultry in the refrigerator. You can use other thawing methods, such as microwaving or running cool water over the bird, but these alternative methods need to be followed by immediate cooking.

    BBQs, PICNICS, POTLUCKS & TAILGATES

    Myth #14: “If food is kept in a cooler, it will be maintained at the proper temperature.”
    Reality: The only way to know for sure if your cooler or refrigerator is at the proper temperature is with a thermometer. You want to make sure your cold foods stay below 40°F. Another precaution is to pack raw meat and cooked or ready to eat foods in separate coolers. This can help to avoid any potential cross-contamination from spilled juices.

    Pack coolers tight with ice, store in a cool spot and keep them closed as much as possible. Only open when necessary and when it is time to cook or serve the food. Keep drinks in their own cooler so you can open and shut it frequently without having to worry about lowering the temperature of the food.

    Myth #15: “Food can be left at room or outdoor temperature for more than two hours.”
    Reality: Because bacteria grow rapidly in the “danger zone” between 40°F and 140°F, food left at room temperature for more than two hours should be discarded. When the temperature outside is 90°F or hotter, picnic or barbecue food should be discarded after just one hour.

    Now you know 15 ways to keep your food safe. If you have more food safety questions, let us know.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Honey Truffles

    A beekeeper in the Catskills harvests honey twice a year. She bottles most of it for sale, and blends some of it into achingly good honey truffles.

    Made with the finest 70% Belgian chocolate and sweetened only with Catskill Provisions’ wildflower honey, these truffles are gems for indulgent chocolate enjoyment, or a special trick-or-treat gift for Halloween. (Keep them on the list for holiday gifts, too.)

    Any chocophile will appreciate some. The beautiful gift boxes are embossed with a honeycomb pattern. One might say that they’re the bee’s knees.*

    Send for a box or two and let them melt in your mouth.

    Read the full review.
     
    *“The bee’s knees” is a Jazz Age idiom meaning something or someone considered extremely special. According to Mark Israel of the University of Ottowa, 1920s U.S. slang had a slew of similar phrases with the same meaning, including, but not limited to, “the cat’s pajamas” and the less familiar “the eel’s ankle,” “the clam’s garter,” “the kipper’s knickers” and “the sardine’s whiskers.” How about “THE NIBBLE’s quibble?”

     

    You can purchase 4, 9 or 18 truffles. Go for 18! Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT TRUFFLES?

  • The History Of Chocolate Truffles
  • The Truffle Confusion: Why Other Types Of Chocolates Are Also Called Truffles
  • Truffles Versus Pralines
  •  
    Find more of our favorite chocolates in our Chocolate Section.

      

    Comments

    COOKING VIDEO: How To Make Homemade Chocolate Truffles

     

    We just reviewed delicious honey-sweetened truffles (honey-sweetened chocolate) from Catskill Provisions as a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.

    If you’d like to make your own honey truffles, Chef Alex Guaranaschelli shows you how easy it is in this video.

    You may enjoy truffle making so much that you’ll have solved your year-round gift giving challenge.

       

       

    The History Of Chocolate Truffles.

    The Truffle Confusion: Why Other Types Of Chocolates Are Also Called Truffles.

    Truffles Versus Pralines

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Food Safety Myths, Part 1

    According to a survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation, 82% of Americans say they are confident they prepare food safely. But the data also showed that many people do not follow the simple guidelines for safe food handling.

    How much do you really know about keeping food safe? Here are some common myths about food safety, courtesy of the Kansas City, Missouri Department Of Health. This is Part 1; Part 2 will appear tomorrow.

    Myth #1: “Food prepared at home is much safer than restaurant food. If I get a food borne illness, it is probably because I ate something bad at a restaurant.”
    In fact, it’s typically the opposite. In general, the majority of professional food handlers are knowledgeable about how food is to be prepared, cooked, and stored. Restaurant chefs and kitchen workers) have been trained and certified in safe food handling techniques.

     

    No matter how clean your kitchen looks, it could be harboring harmful bacteria. Photo courtesy MassimoMarchiori.com.

     

    Poor food handling practices at home are more likely cause food borne illnesses than in a restaurant.

    Myth #2: “My kitchen is clean: I am always wiping things down with a dishcloth.”
    Reality: Actually, using dishcloths could be doing more damage. Every time you clean your kitchen, you could be spreading germs throughout your kitchen.

    It is best to use paper towels to clean up and/or to start off each day with a clean and dry wiping cloth. You should not use sponges in the kitchen (they harbor bacteria like you wouldn’t believe!)

    Myth #3: “Microwaving food kills all bacteria, so the food is safe.”
    Reality: When re-heating food in the microwave, you still must heat to at least 165°F or the bacteria may not be killed. Use a food thermometer to verify that the temperature has been reached.

    Tips for cooking or reheating food in the microwave:

  • Cover food with a lid or plastic wrap so steam can aid thorough cooking.
  • Stir and rotate your food for even cooking.
  •  

    You can’t be sure that your cooked food is safe without a food thermometer.

     

    Myth #4: “I don’t need to use a food thermometer. I can tell when my food is cooked by looking at it and pressing on it.”
    Reality: Because most harmful bacteria can be eliminated at high temperatures, food cooked to adequate internal temperatures will help ensure that your food is safe. There’s no way you can “tell” without a thermometer. Even the most talented chefs can’t tell the exact temperature just by looking and touching. Also be cautious about cooking meats partially ahead of time, then finishing them later on the grill. This promotes bacterial growth.

    Myth #5: “I can’t put hot food into the refrigerator. The food will spoil if I do.”
    Reality: The leading cause of food borne illness in the United States is improper cooling, including leaving cooked foods at room temperature. Cool food as quickly as possible to avoid growing harmful bacteria.
     

    Myth #6: “Washing your hands briefly before you start preparing food is enough to keep you safe.”
    Reality: Hands need to be washed often and properly, before and after touching food, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers or handling pets.

    Proper hand washing requires warm, soapy water; a clean paper towel; and 20 seconds of scrubbing between fingers, under nails, and up to your wrist.
     
    Myth #7: “Using the same utensils, cutting boards and plates for foods eaten at the same meal is safe as long as they start out clean.”
    Reality: Not quite. Raw meat and other foods contain bacteria that can cross-contaminate other foods if not kept separate. Use these tips to ensure you are using safe food prep practices:

  • Use separate utensils, cutting boards, and serving plates for meats and produce, or carefully wash them between tasks.
  • Wash hands after handling raw meat and before handling any other food.
  • Put cooked meat on a clean platter, not the same one that held the meat before it was cooked.
  • Make sure sponges and counters are disinfected and kept clean to avoid contaminating food.
  •  
    Myth #8: You can tell when food is spoiled because it looks or smells bad.
    Reality: Most of the time, you can tell if food is spoiled; but not always. Bacteria are invisible and you can’t always tell if they are present by appearance and aroma. It’s best to adopt the motto “When in doubt, throw it out.”

     
    Head to Food Safety Myths, Part 2. We take on coolers, eggs, mayonnaise, mold and turkey.

      

    Comments

    HALLOWEEN RECIPE: “Deviled Eyeballs,” Halloween Deviled Eggs

    Turn traditional deviled eggs into deviled eyeballs, eye-popping treats that delight young and old alike. We just love this recipe!

    Serve the Deviled Eyeballs with Eyeball Martinis.

    Makes: 16 halves
    Prep time: 20 minutes
    Cook time: 15 min for eggs

    RECIPE: “DEVILED EYEBALLS,” HALLOWEEN
    DEVILED EGGS

    Ingredients

  • 8 hard-cooked eggs (how to make them)
  • 2 fully ripened avocados from Mexico, halved,
    pitted, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated horseradish, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground or cracked black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
  •  

    Are you looking at me? Photo courtesy Avocados From Mexico.

     

    For The Eyes

  • Roasted red peppers
  • Black olives
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BOIL. Cook and peel eggs (cooking instructions). Cut in half lengthwise. Remove yolks to medium bowl; arrange whites on serving platter.

    2. COMBINE. Add avocados and lemon juice to bowl with yolks; mash until smooth, mixing well. Stir in horseradish, salt and black and cayenne peppers.

    3. FILL. Fill egg white halves with heaping tablespoon of mixture, piling high.

    4. DECORATE. To make devilish eyes, thinly slice roasted red peppers to create veins on the “eyeballs.” Top with sliced black olives.
     
    Find more delicious avocado recipes at AvocadosFromMexico.com.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Chicken Cacciatore Day

    Chicken cacciatore. Photo by Evan Joshua
    Swigart | Wikimedia.

     

    October 15th is National Chicken Cacciatore Day. Chicken cacciatore (cah-cha-toe-ray) is Italian country fare. Cacciatore means hunter, so the dish is “hunter-style” (in Italian, pollo alla cacciatora).

    The game that the hunter brought home was braised in olive oil with local vegetables—a light tomato sauce with garlic, herbs and onions, plus wild mushrooms, bell peppers and a bit of wine (white wine in the north, red wine in the south).

    The dish has its roots in in central Italy in the Renaissance and has many variations, both there and throughout the country. One of the more unusual is salamino cacciatore, made with a small salame.

    Chicken cacciatore has been called a “hunter’s solace,” with poultry from the yard or market replacing the pheasant or hare that got away. The wild mushrooms were foraged in the forest by the hunter.

    This recipe serves 6.

     

    CHICKEN CACCIATORE RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 4-pound chicken, cut in pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 or more cloves garlic, to taste
  • 1/4 pound mushrooms*, sliced
  • Optional: 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine, white wine or sherry
  • 1 can (six ounces) tomato paste
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes, drained
  • Herbs: basil, bay leaf, fennel seeds, oregano, rosemary, thyme; plus chili flakes for a spicy sauce
  •  
    Although it isn’t a tradition, we like to add olives to this dish.

    Preparation

    1. SEASON. Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt, pepper and flour.

    2. BROWN. Brown the chicken in olive oil. Remove from pan and set aside. Add onion, garlic and mushrooms. Stir until onion turns yellow.

    3. COMBINE. Return the chicken to the pan. Add wine or sherry. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove garlic. Add tomato paste.

    4. ADD. Add crushed tomatoes and herbs. Simmer for 45 minutes. If the sauce is to thick, thin with chicken broth, tomato juice or water.

    Serve atop noodles or rice.

    Find more of our favorite chicken recipes.

    *Use wild mushrooms if possible. You can also use dried wild mushrooms, reconstituted.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: No-Bake Tarts, Sweet & Savory

    We should have published this tip in the summer, when it was too hot to turn on the oven. But it’s a year-round good idea for a quick and easy dessert or appetizer tart.

    You can bake your own tart shells of course, and even freeze a batch for ad hoc use. You can also make or buy a filling for the tart. Then, just top it with fresh fruit.

    SWEET TART FILLINGS

  • Custard
  • Crème fraîche
  • Greek yogurt, plain or sweetened with agave, honey, maple syrup, sugar or a non-caloric sweetener
  • Homemade whipped cream (see flavored whipped cream recipes)
  • Ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • Mascarpone
  • Vanilla pudding
  • Vanilla yogurt or other fruit yogurt
  •  

     

    Spoon the filling into the tart shell; then arrange the fruit on top. If you’re using ice cream, fill the shell and return it to the freezer until you’re ready to serve; top with fruit and bring to the table.

    Garnish

    You may not need a garnish, but it never hurts to add one for color, flavor or general decor:

  • Chopped nuts
  • Chocolate curl
  • Edible flower
  • Mint leaf
  •  

    A beet tart with goat cheese. Photo courtesy
    Bien Cuit.

     

    SAVORY TARTS

    Savory tarts can be served as a first course; tartlets (mini tarts) can be served as hors d’oeuvre or with the salad course. Top the filling with:

  • Beets, regular or pickled
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Herbed cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • Marinated vegetables: asparagus, artichoke hearts, mushrooms
  • Smoked salmon
  •  
    Savory Tart Fillings

  • Crème fraîche
  • Fresh cheese: fromage blanc, goat cheese, Greek yogurt, labne (kefir cheese), quark, ricotta; plain or seasoned
  • Herbed sour cream (mix in minced chives, cilantro, dill, marjoram or parsley)
  • Unsweetened plain or herbed savory whipped cream
  • Garnishes

  • Capers
  • Caviar or roe
  • Cocktail onion, gherkin slice or olive slice
  • Colorful spices, like pink peppercorns
  • Edible flowers
  • Fresh herbs
  • Sprouts or microgreens
  • Watercress
  •  
    Let us know your favorite no-bake tart combinations.

    Find more garnish ideas in our article, Garnish Glamour.

      

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