THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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Archive for January, 2013

VALENTINE CANDY: Filled Chocolate Hearts

Share the love with these luscious bonbons.
Photo courtesy


Are you ready to give someone your heart—or a box full of them? Choclatique calls them Love Truffles.

An assortment of luscious, artisan-made, heart-shaped chocolates is a classic Valentine gift. There are even sugar-free options.

The all-natural chocolate hearts are packaged in a reusable leather gift box tied with your choice of colored ribbon. There are solid dark chocolate hearts plus delectable flavors:

Amaretto Latte, Black Cherry Caramel, Cafe Au Lait, Creamy Cappuccino, Grand Marnier, Hot Cocoa, Irish Cream Coffee, Mandarin Orange Caramel, Minty Julep, Passion Fruit Caramel, Saigon Cinnamon Caramel and Strawberries ’n Cream.

Buy them online at

  • 8 pieces, $20.00
  • 9 Pieces, $25.00 “Book Of Love” box
  • 15 pieces, $35.00
  • 30 pieces, $65.00

    The company’s delicious Sweet Deceit line, sugar free, has solid dark and milk hearts assortments in 8, 15 and 30 pieces, $20 to $65. See the sugar-free chocolate hearts.



    TIP OF THE DAY: What To Do With Fortune Cookies

    We recently spent a month undergoing a kitchen renovation. We ordered in a lot of Chinese food and ended up with a lot of uneaten fortune cookies.

    It’s a problem bigger than us: Over the past month, 8,100 people searched Google for “what to do with fortune cookies.”

    Rather than toss them out, we were inspired by this photo of peanut butter-stuffed fortune cookies from the Nutropolitan Museum Of Art, an art gallery of uber-creative ways to use peanut butter. It’s the concept of Lee Zalben, owner of Peanut Butter & Co., a New York City peanut butter restaurant.

    It’s not easy to pry fortune cookies apart, but you can take them apart in pieces, remove the paper fortune, and still have enough of a cavity to stuff as a snack. In addition to peanut butter or PB&J, consider:


    Break fortune cookies in half, remove fortune, fill and eat. Photo by Andrea Hernandez | Peanut Butter & Co.

  • Almond cream
  • Flavored peanut butter, from chocolate to cinnamon raisin to spicy (check out the flavors at Peanut Butter & Co.).
  • Flavored yogurt
  • Pudding
  • Sweetened ricotta and mini chocolate chips—a Chinese cannoli
  • Sweetened sour cream
  • Whipped cream

    Then there are chocolate-dipped fortune cookies. A coating of chocolate transforms a ho-hum fortune cookie into a real treat. You can turn dipping and decorating into an hour of entertainment for adults or kids.

    Get out the fondue pot and melt the chocolate—chocolate chips are easy, but we prefer gourmet chocolate bars. Provide dishes of sprinkles, mini chocolate chips and M&Ms and other garnishes (we cut up candied orange peel—the result was heavenly).

    And don’t forget waxed paper and food storage bags, so guests can take home what they make.


    Decorate your fortune cookies. Photo by
    Claire Freierman | THE NIBBLE.



    Fortune cookies can be quite versatile when turned into crumbs or larger broken pieces.

  • Croutons: Top fruit salads, puddings and other desserts; top green salads with sweet dressings; use instead of (or in addition to) fried noodles on a Chinese chicken salad.
  • Cookie Crumbs: This may be the best everyday use. The crumbs created by pulsing fortune cookies in the food processor are delicious. If you use cookie crumbs often enough, you may find yourself gathering leftover fortune cookies from friends instead of purchasing boxes of crumbs.
  • Fortune Cookie Treats: Substitute crushed fortune cookies for the Rice Krispies.
  • Graham Cracker Substitute: You can substitute fortune cookie crumbs for graham cracker crumbs. Try peanut butter balls.
  • Party Centerpiece: Turn the cookies into a croque em bouche, a traditional French wedding “cake” made from cream puffs.
  • Pie Crust: Pulse into crumbs in a food processor, or roll out with a rolling pin make a cookie crust. Use a chocolate pudding filling for an easy chocolate pie.
  • Sundaes: Layer scoops of ice cream for a fortune cookie parfait, or just sprinkle crushed cookies over the top. You can also start serving fortune cookies with ice cream.
  • Suggestions? We’d love to add to this list.



    Want to bake your own? Heres a delicious fortune cookies recipe.



    VALENTINE CANDY: Chocolate & Flowers

    In 1999, Byrne & Carlson opened in Portsmouth, New Hampshire: a great artisan chocolate shop located in a charming brick townhouse. Portsmouth, the nation’s third oldest city (settled 1623), regularly appears on various “best places to live” lists. For our vote, Byrne & Carlson strongly helps that standing.

    The chocolates and confections are made by hand in small batches, using the finest ingredients. When we first saw Byrne & Carlson’s wares at a trade show, we were enchanted by the beauty of their chocolate bars, decorated with edible flowers. It was the first time we’d ever seen such creative garnishing, and the chocolatiers set the standard for all others to come.

    Made from the finest chocolate couverture, the chocolate bars a delectable and beautiful Valentine’s Day gift.


    There is no e-commerce, but it’s easy to order:

  • By phone: call toll-free, 1.888.559.9778 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you call after business hours, leave a message and your call will be returned.
  • By fax: 1.888.559.9778. Include your credit card information.

    From top to bottom: Violet Bar with candied violets and mint leaves, Venezuelan Bar with crushed cacao nibs, Mendiant Bar with almonds, orange peel, pansy and candied violet petals. Photo courtesy Byrne & Carlson.





    TIP OF THE DAY: Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole

    Those who don’t like broccoli and cauliflower
    might like it better with Parmesan. Photo


    The cruciferous vegetables group* is great for you: filling, low in calories, high in fiber and cancer-fighting antioxidants.

    Nutrition experts want you to eat more cruciferous vegetables: two to three times per week, with a serving size of at least 1-1/2 cups.

    But too many people say they don’t like widely-available members of the group, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. That could be a result of being served over-cooked vegetables. When cooked too long, chemical breakdowns in the vegetables yield a rather unpleasant aroma and flavor from the sulfur in the compounds.

    To nudge the naysayers, try this creamy Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole from It has two not-so-secret weapons: cream cheese and Parmesan cheese.

    In fact, a sprinkle of grated or shredded cheese can give almost any snubbed food more appeal. You’ll get plenty of compliments on this recipe, and probably requests for seconds. We wouldn’t be surprised if it became part of your holiday dinner repertoire. Move over, green bean casserole!


    This rich and creamy casserole can be made a day in advance, covered and refrigerated and then baked just before dinner. Although we prefer fresh vegetables, using frozen vegetables saves time and money.

    The recipe has 179 calories per serving, 11g fat, 13g carbohydrates, 31mg cholesterol, 432mg sodium, 3g fiber and 7g protein.

    *The cruciferous group includes arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, collard greens, cress, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, radish, rapini (broccoli rabe), rutabaga, tatsoi, turnip and wasabi. Mizuna (a variety of mustard green) and tatsoi have become “designer greens” in salads at America’s finest restaurants.


    Makes 10 servings. Prep Time: 20 minutes. Cook Time: 40 minutes.


  • 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs (we use the crunchier panko bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning,† divided (substitute: 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
    seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen broccoli florets, thawed
  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen cauliflower florets, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
  • 1-1/4 cups milk (you can substitute half and half or cream for an even richer dish)
  • 4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, cubed
    †You can make your own Italian seasoning by combining equal parts basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Store in an airtight jar.



    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Mix bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning in small bowl. Set aside.

    2. CUT any large broccoli or cauliflower florets into bite-size pieces.

    3. MELT 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet on medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir about 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in flour, remaining 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, garlic salt and pepper. Add milk; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.

    4. ADD cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese; cook and stir until cream cheese is melted. Add vegetables; toss gently to coat. Spoon into 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle top evenly with crumb mixture.

    5. BAKE for 40 minutes or until heated through with top lightly browned.


    Parmesan cheese makes anything taste better. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.



  • Frozen vegetables will release water when cooked; this waters down the casserole. You can avoid it by microwaving the frozen vegetables on HIGH in a covered dish for 8 to 10 minutes; then drain the excess liquid. Then proceed with Step 4, above and reduce the cooking time to about 15 minutes at 400°F.
  • Other vegetables: Feel free to add Brussels sprouts, carrots or other favorites.



    RECIPE: Garlic Mashed Potatoes

    Add herbs to your mashed potatoes. Photo


    It’s been way below freezing for days in our part of the country. That’s as good an excuse as any to have some primo comfort food—luscious mashed potatoes—with tonight’s grilled chicken.

    Basic mashed potatoes with butter, salt and pepper become even more delicious with the addition of some herbs, fresh or dried. This recipe from adds garlic, rosemary and parsley. You can also use thyme, tarragon or sage.


    Makes 8 (1/2-cup) servings. Prep Time: 15 minutes. Cook Time: 15 minutes.


  • 2 pounds russet or Idaho potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (if you have the time, substitute a tablespoon of minced, sautéed garlic cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary leaves, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 1/2 cup milk (use half and half or light cream for more richness)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 teaspoon parsley flakes or minced fresh parsley

    1. PLACE potatoes and 2 teaspoons salt in a medium saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to a boil.

    2. REDUCE heat to low; cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and return potatoes to saucepan.

    3. SPRINKLE with garlic powder, rosemary and pepper. Mash with potato masher, gradually adding milk, then butter. Stir in parsley. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

    4. PULSE in food processor (optional) for extra-creamy mashed potatoes.

    Find more recipes at


    Check out our Potato Glossary. It also explains why different types of potatoes are used for baking, mashing and fries (starchy potatoes) and others for boiling and potato salad and (waxy potatoes).



    VALENTINE CANDY: Gourmet Chocolate Love Bugs

    Valentine’s chocolate can mean more than heart-shaped pieces. One of our favorite chocolatiers, John & Kira’s, enables you to express your affection with a “Bee My Lovebug” collection.

    The exquisite-tasting, hand-painted love bugs (ladybugs) and bee chocolates will delight the most demanding chocophile.

  • Honey Caramel Bees are filed with exquisite salted caramel, with a touched of basswood honey from family-owned Draper’s Apiary (all of John & Kiras’s chocolates use ingredients from local family farms).
  • Love Bugs are filled with a silky ganache: fresh cream, fine chocolate and a touch of sugar.
    Both lovebugs and bees are made with Valrhona 64% cacao chocolate. They arrive beautifully packaged in a reusable red boutique box finished with an old-fashioned letter-pressed card.


    Give your loved one some chocolate love bugs for Valentine’s Day. Photo courtesy


    Treat your Valentine to:

  • A 9-piece box of lovebugs, $29.00.
  • A 15-piece box of the company’s award-winning ganache-filled bonbons, plus bees and lovebugs, $49.50.
  • A 16-piece Love Tower box includes the Ladybug Medley (with mint and raspberry, and honey-lavender ganaches) and a 9-piece Red Ladybug box, $69.50.
    Everything made by John & Kira’s is top-drawer delicious, beautifully crafted and a very special treat.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Sistema Microwave Plastic Containers

    The soup gets hot, the bowl stays cool.
    Above: soup mug and noodle bowl. Photo by
    Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    We don’t have a huge amount of storage space, so we resist buying things that have single-purpose uses.

    In the kitchen, that restriction covers numerous gadgets and appliances. For example, we’d love a rice cooker to prepare healthy grains more easily; rice cookers can also be used to steam other foods. But we have more than one steaming solution already. So if we’re not going to use a rice cooker several times a week (as with the toaster, microwave, coffee maker and food processor), we can’t justify squeezing it in.

    Along the same lines, we resisted special plastic microwave dishes, opting to use our everyday dishes, which can be microwaved. But conventional plates and mugs can get overly hot-to-the-touch.

    One day, we were given a Sistema microwavable plastic mug at a trade show. We heated soup in it and—epiphany—the plastic remained cool to the touch while the soup got super hot. It was a solution worth making space for.


    We went on to purchase a Sistema noodle bowl and a covered plate to store and heat leftovers.

    Unlike ceramic, porcelain or other plastic containers—Tupperware or take-out containers—Sistema pieces, made of virgin polypropylene, do not get hot in the microwave.


    Sistema products are BPA free, microwave safe, freezer safe and dishwasher safe.

    The soup mug is $8.00 on Amazon; the noodle bowl is $8.49. The microwavable plate, $11.00, can double as a steamer.

    The products are available nationally; we just picked up a second mug at Bed, Bath & Beyond.


    Sistema Plastics makes “dedicated microwave cooking products to make life easier.” We concur!

    Designed and made in New Zealand, the line includes steamers that make it easy to steam meals, covered plates to store and reheat leftovers, the soup mug that is perfect for soup or hot drinks, and a larger noodle bowl for ramen, pasta, or in our case, matzoh ball soup.

    See the whole line at


    Spill-proof lids make the soup easily portable. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.




    VALENTINE CANDY: Chocolate Bark Hearts

    Peppermint bark is one of three heart-shape
    barks. Photo courtesy Laughing Moon


    We’re starting our Valentine dandy countdown today with Laughing Moon Chocolates of Stowe, Vermont.

    For a mini treat, give your Valentine two pieces of heart-shaped chocolate bark in one of three delicious flavors:

  • Almond Bark
  • Peppermint Bark
  • Pistachio/cranberry bark
    The 4-ounces bag is $7.00, and just enough chocolate to let someone enjoy Valentine’s Day without a limited number of calories.

    Order online at; scroll down the page past the chocolate bunnies.




    TIP OF THE DAY: A Soup Bar For Parties Or The Weeknight Dinner Table

    How can you make soup the most fun dish of the week?

    Set up a “soup bar.” It’s similar to a baked potato bar, where bowls of garnishes are laid out so that everyone can customize his or her own soup.

    The garnishes are what you already have in the kitchen, and a soup bar is a great way to use up leftovers. Scout the cabinets, fridge and freezer to see what you’ve got. Then, set out a selection of at least five options:

  • Beans, lentils, rice and other grains and legumes
  • Broccoli florets
  • Croutons, tortilla chips or crackers: Goldfish, oyster crackers, crumbled saltines
  • Crumbled bacon, hot dog/sausage slices, shredded ham
  • Corn kernels

    A bowl of potatao soup, loaded up with choices from the “soup bar.” Photo courtesy

  • Dairy toppings: crème fraîche, plain Greek yogurt, mascarpone, sour cream
  • Grated or shredded cheese
  • Herbs: arugula, basil, chives, cilantro, jalapeño, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme
  • Other leftover meats and seafood, diced or shredded
  • Onions: chopped green onions or red onions
  • Mushrooms, zucchini, cooked or raw
  • Pasta and noodles, including wonton strips
  • Peas, snow peas and other cooked vegetables
  • Tomatoes: halved cherry tomatoes/grape tomatoes, diced fresh tomatoes, diced canned tomatoes
  • Wild cards: almonds, avocado, baby corn, diced cucumber, shredded coconut, shredded carrots, olives, raisins, roasted garlic cloves, tofu, water chestnuts, whatever you have

    Offer two or three different soups that provide a good canvas for the toppings: mushroom soup, potato soup and tomato soup, for example. Soups that already have multiple visible ingredients, like chowder and minestrone, don’t need more embellishment.

    You’ll also want to fan the excitement by doubling the number of garnish options.

    Soup’s on! Get it while it’s hot!



    GIFT: Cold Survival Kit Of Tea

    Perk up the misery of a cold or flu with
    specially selected teas. Photo courtesy
    David’s Teas.


    If you have a friend or loved one who’s been done in by cold and flu season, consider this misery-fighting Cold Survival Kit from David’s Teas.

    The collection of five super-soothing teas helps battle virulent viruses:

  • Sip Secret Weapon at the first sign of a cold (white tea, almond slices, cacao nibs, licorice, goji berries, orange peel).
  • For a sore throat, try a little Super Ginger (ginger, rooibos tea, pink peppercorns, black pepper, white pepper) or Bravissimo (licorice root, chamomile, rose hips, orange peel, peppermint, goji berries).
  • Feeling queasy? North African Mint will settle your stomach (cardamom, peppermint, ginger, hojicha green tea, licorice root, fennnel, clove, black pepper).
  • And when all else fails, dip into your emergency supply of Cold 911 (eucalyptus oil, goji berries, juniper berries, peppermint, orange oil).

    The Cold Survival Kit is $19.50 at Davud’s Tea stores in Boston, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Westport or online at



    Tea isn’t a miracle cure, but when you’ve got a cold, every little bit helps.

    According to, people with colds should drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration, compensating for the fluids lost in all that nose-blowing, coughing and sneezing.

    Hot liquids are better than cold ones: They help to relieve nasal congestion and the pressure from blockage. They also help to soothe the inflamed membranes that line the nose and throat, making breathing easier.

    The same dynamic comes from “Jewish penicillin,” chicken soup (any hot soup will do).

    If you’ll be drinking lots of tea, make some of it caffeine-free. Caffeine is a diuretic, which removes water from the body.


    Bravissimo, a throat-soothing, caffeine-free blend of chamomile, goji berries, licorice, orange peel, peppermint and rose hips. Photo courtesy


    You can also send a delicious chicken soup gift.



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