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Archive for July, 2013

RECIPE: Thai Cucumber Salad

Following on the heels of cucumber water, here’s an easy recipe for a delicious cucumber salad, Thai-style. Serve this crunchy, low-calorie side with just about anything.

While European cucumber salads tend to use cider vinegar and lots of fresh dill, the Thai twist uses rice vinegar and some heat: Thai chiles if you like things really hot, jalapeños or less fiery chiles if you don’t.

If you can find Thai basil, by all means use it; it’s a lovely purple color and a bit stronger in flavor than conventional sweet basil. Add as much or as little onion as you like.

Olive oil is not a conventional ingredient in Thai salads, but it cuts the heat of the chiles.


Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 4 tablespoons sugar*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium cucumbers
  • 2 medium green onions or one small sweet onion
  • 1 medium green or red jalapeño chile
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Thai basil or other basil, chopped
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Optional garnish: chopped peanuts

    We love the flavors of Thai cucumber salad, shown here with fiery Thai chiles. Photo courtesy



    1. COMBINE the sugar, salt, vinegar, optional olive oil and water together in a medium bowl; whisk until dissolved.

    2. THINLY CHOP the green onions on an angle, using as much of the green stem as you like. Add to the dressing mixture.

    3. SLICE the jalapeño or other chile lengthwise; remove the seeds and ribs if you want less heat. Thinly slice and add to the dressing mixture.

    4. PEEL the cucumbers; slice lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut into 1/8″ slices. Add to the vinegar mixture along with the basil and optional cilantro. Combine all ingredients well,

    5. REFRIGERATE and marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 hours. Serve chilled, topped with optional peanuts.

    *While sugar offsets the heat of the chile, this is a lot of sugar. You can cut it in half, or use a lower glycemic alternative such as 2 tablespoons of agave nectar. We’ve also used a noncaloric sugar substitute.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cucumber Water

    Toss cucumber slices into a glass or a pitcher
    of water. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE


    When life gives you cucumbers, you can make cucumber soup, cucumber salad, add cukes to green salads and grain salads and make pickled cucumbers (that’s “pickles” to most of us, although any fruit or vegetable can be pickled).

    You can make cucumber sandwiches or tea sandwiches (with butter and watercress, please!), add slices to wraps and summer rolls, mix diced cucumbers with yogurt and cottage cheese (and some fresh-cracked pepper). TIP: Instead of adding lettuce to a sandwich—or in addition to it—add thin cucumber slices.

    You can get fancy with cucumber-wrapped sushi maki (called a naruto roll) or use cucumber slices as the base for goat cheese, tartare or other canapés.

    And you can drink your cucumber: puréed into a juice or cocktail base, as a garnish in a Bloody Mary or Martini or other drink.

    In fact, the easiest thing to do with a cucumber is to make cucumber water. If you’re a cucumber fan, you’ll love it: refreshing, flavorful and virtually calorie free.




  • Cucumbers (any kind)
  • Water
  • Optional: lemon slices, fresh herbs

    1. WASH cucumbers. You can leave the peel or remove it, especially if the cucumber is waxed.

    2. SLICE cucumbers to desired thickness.

    3. ADD optional lemon slices to make cucumber lemon water.

    5. ADD to water. It infuses almost instantly.

    A pitcher gives you the opportunity to infuse fresh herbs into the water as well. We particularly like basil or rosemary, but experiment with your own favorites.

    You can keep a pitcher of cucumber water in the fridge for a day or two. After that, the cucumber will start to go bad, so drink up!


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bake A Cheesecake!

    July 30th is National Cheesecake Day, so we’re publishing a few new recipes from Philadelphia Cream Cheese—the originator of the celestial cream cheese cake.

    We’ll never forget our first slice of chocolate peanut butter cheesecake, some fifteen years ago at a Cheesecake Factory restaurant.

    The slice was huge, no one wanted to split it with us, and—you guessed it—we ate the whole thing.

    While we’re a champion cheesecake eater, the richness of the chocolate and the peanut butter did us in for the rest of the evening, and we haven’t had chocolate peanut butter cheesecake since.

    Until now. Make this recipe from Philadelphia Cream Cheese and then protect your impulses by:

  • Invite lots of people over to share
  • Freeze it and enjoy it a sliver at a time

    Chocolate peanut butter cheesecake: A small slice satisfies. Photo courtesy Philadelphia Cream Cheese.



  • 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
  • Optional garnish: mini peanut butter cups or candied peanuts

    Garnish with mini peanut butter cups. Photo
    courtesy Philadelphia Cream Cheese.



    1. PREHEAT oven to 325°F.

    2. MIX graham crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar and butter. Press onto bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

    3. BEAT cream cheese, peanut butter and remaining sugar with mixer until blended. Add sour cream and vanilla; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each, just until blended.

    4. TRANSFER three cups batter to a medium bowl; stir in melted chocolate. Pour over crust. Refrigerate remaining batter until 30 minutes into baking.

    5. BAKE first layer for 30 minutes; then gently spoon remaining batter over partially baked layer. Continue to bake for a total of 1 hour or until center is almost set.

    6. REMOVE from oven and run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake. Cool before removing rim. Refrigerate for four hours. Garnish and serve.


  • Prep it Right: Set out ingredients about 10 minutes before baking to work with them at room temperature. Allow your oven to preheat while preparing your filling.
  • Be Gentle: Do not over-beat. Over-stirring can add too much air into the batter, which can cause cheesecake to crack. Beat in eggs, one at time, on low speed until just blended.
  • Practice Patience: Don’t peek! Opening the oven door while cheesecake is baking causes drafts that may lead to cracking.
  • Loosen Up: Another way to prevent cracking is to immediately run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake after baking to loosen it from the sides of the pan.

    Cheesecake dates all the way back to ancient Greece: Historians believe that a type of cheesecake was served to athletes during the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C.E. What type of cheesecake it was, and whether it was sweet or savory, is not known; but savory is a good guess.

    More than 500 years later, in De re Rustica (“On Agriculture”), the Roman statesman Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the Elder) described making cheesecake. De re Rustica is the oldest known book of Roman prose; vis-à-vis the printed record, the cheesecake had arrived.

    Cheesecake—made with different fresh cheeses—traveled throughout Europe with the peripatetic Romans. But the history of modern cheesecake begins in 1872, when a dairyman named William Lawrence invented modern cream cheese in Chester, New York. It was a happy accident: Chester was trying to make Neufchâtel cheese*, a soft French cheese.

    With bricks of cheese wrapped in foil, Lawrence’s Empire Company began to distribute cream cheese in 1880. He called the product Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese. At the time, Philadelphia was known for its fine cuisine; “Philadelphia” implied “gourmet.”

    In 1903, the Phoenix Cheese Company of New York bought the Empire Company and Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese. In 1928, the Kraft Cheese Company bought the brand, which it owns to this day.

    And where would be without it? Imagine all those lonely bagels!

    *American Neufchâtel cheese is different from French Neufchâtel; the latter is a mold-ripened cheese similar to Camembert. American Neufchâtel has approximately 33% lower fat than cream cheese and a higher moisture content. It was long sold as a reduced-fat option to cream cheese. Philadelphia’s reduced fat cream cheese, however, is far superior to any American Neufchâtel we’ve had.


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    RECIPE: Boston Cream Cheesecake

    Got 35 minutes of prep time? Whip up this specialty cheesecake for National Cheesecake Day, July 30th. Boston Cream Cheesecake is a fusion of—you guessed it—Boston Cream Pie and cheesecake.

    So we’ll start with some food trivia:

  • Boston Cream Pie is not a pie, but a layer cake with a pastry cream or custard filling.
  • Cheesecake is not a cake, but a cream cheese-flavored custard pie.
    The recipe is courtesy of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, which published the first recipe for a cream cheese-based cheesecake in 1928.

    Cream cheese itself was invented by a farmer in New York state in 1872, but became mass marketed by the Philadelphia Brand in 1928. The package included the recipe for “New York Cheesecake,” which refers to an all-cream-cheese recipe. Prior to then, cheese cakes were made with cottage cheese and ricotta.


    Chocolate and cheesecake are a great combination, as any cheesecake lover knows. Photo courtesy Philadelphia Cream Cheese.. Photo courtesy Philadelphia Cream Cheese.



    While prep time is 35 minutes, the total ready time, including baking and refrigeration, is 5 hours 20 minutes. Makes 16 servings.


  • 1 package yellow cake mix or your own from-scratch recipe
  • 3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups frozen Cool Whipwhipped topping
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

    Have a slice! Photo courtesy Philadelphia
    Cream Cheese.



    1. HEAT oven to 325°F.

    2. PREPARE cake batter as directed on package. Pour into 9-inch springform pan sprayed with cooking spray*. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool.

    3. BEAT cream cheese sugar and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Add sour cream; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over cake layer in pan.

    4. MICROWAVE COOL WHIP and chocolate in microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1 to 1-1/2 minutes or until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is blended, stirring after each minute. Cool 15 minutes; slowly pour over cheesecake, using a spatula as needed to distribute the glaze. Refrigerate 4 hours.


    *Note: If baking cheesecake in dark nonstick 9-inch springform pan, reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

    So why is a yellow layer cake that is filled with pastry cream or custard and frosted with chocolate ganache called a pie?

    That answer is most likely that, in the mid-19th century pie tins were more common than cake pans. The distinction between calling something pie or cake was more flexible than it is today. The cake might well have been baked in pie tins.

    Chef M. Sanzian, hired for the opening of Boston’s Parker House Hotel in 1856, created the modern Boston Cream Pie, a sophisticated remake of an early American pudding-cake pie recipe. He sandwiched two layers of sponge cake with crème pâtissière, a vanilla-flavored custard. He topped the cake with a chocolate ganache glaze. Beginning in the 20th century, a custard filling often replaces the crème pâtissière.

    At the Parker House Hotel, the cake was originally served with the names Chocolate Cream Pie or Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie. In 1996, Boston Cream Pie was declared the official cake of Massachusetts. October 23rd is National Boston Cream Pie Day. In addition to the Boston Cream Cheesecake recipe above, you can find Boston Cream Dounuts at Dunkin’ Donuts and elsewhere.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Sugar Substitutions

    Try something from this list instead of sugar.
    Photo courtesy Domino Foods.


    Don’t want refined sugar in your recipe? Here are substitutes for 1/2 cup sugar:

  • Agave syrup: 1/3 cup
  • Barley malt extract: 1-1/2 cups
  • Carrot juice: 1/2 cup
  • Dried fruit purée: 1-1/4 cups
  • Fruit: 2 cups
  • Fruit juice: 1/2 cup
  • Fruit juice concentrate: 1/2 cup
  • Unsweetened frozen juice concentrate: 1/2 cup
  • Honey: 1/2 cup
  • Maple syrup: 1/2 cup
  • Molasses: 2/3 cup
  • Rice syrup: 1-1/4 cups

    Remember to decrease or increase the amount of liquid or flour in the recipe, according to the liquid content of the sweetener.


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