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Archive for October 16, 2014

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: barkTHINS Chocolate Bark

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barkTHINS: thin and rich. Photo courtesy
Ripple Brands.

 

There are several reasons to love barkTHINS:

  • The delicious varieties, crammed with inclusions* (see the list below).
  • The thin pieces that, unlike conventional bark, let you have half as much.
  • The Fair Trade certification (FairTradeUSA.org) that helps poor farmers.
  • The everyday affordability (yet it’s great for party favors and stocking stuffers.
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    October is National Fair Trade Month, the perfect time to feature barkTHINS as a Top Pick Of The Week (here’s more about Fair Trade certification).

    The line debuted in 2012. Unlike traditional chocolate bark that is thick and hard to break, barkTHINS are thin slivers of chocolate that are easily snap-able—easier to eat, fewer calories in your chocolate fix, more flexibility as a dessert garnish (well, that probably wasn’t their intent but it’s a use we employ regularly, by crowning a scoop of ice cream or breaking into pieces for mix-ins).

     

    *The industry term for what many people call “mix-ins.”

     

    barkTHINS FLAVORS

    Each variety is as delicious as the next, depending on your flavor preferences. We were personally thrilled with Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel, a limited edition for holiday season. The packages have a shelf life of 12 months, so if you can’t live without it, you can stock up until the new batches arrive for the next holiday season).

    Feast upon:

    • Dark Chocolate Almond With Sea Salt
    • Dark Chocolate Blueberry & Quinoa (sweetened with agave)
    • Dark Chocolate Mint
    • Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel (Limited Edition)
    • Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed
    • Dark Chocolate Toasted Coconut With Almonds
    • Milk Chocolate Peanut
     

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    A great party favor, stocking stuffer, teacher gift, etc. Photo courtesy Ripple Foods.

     
    The bags stand upright for presentation as party favors. You can stick a place card on the front; you can tie a ribbon through the shelf-hanger opening at the top for added festiveness or to hang on the tree.
     
    Check the store locator for a retailer near you (including Costco, H-E-B, King’s, Stop & Shop, Wegmans, Whole Foods Market and numerous others), or head to Amazon.com.
     
    WHAT IS FAIR TRADE CHOCOLATE?

    A Fair Trade certification guarantees consumers that the farmers who grow the product are getting paid a fair price. In many areas of the world, middlemen buy up crops at a price that often is the same or less than what it cost the farmer to grow it, resulting in a cycle of poverty. Under Fair trade, farmers can increase their incomes and gain afford education and healthcare for their families.

    When you make a conscious decision to seek out Fair Trade products, you are helping hard-working people raise their standard of living. You can feel good about every bite and every sip (look for Fair Trade coffee, tea and hot chocolate, too).

    Fair Trade certification also means that the farmers are following good agricultural practices and are investing in their farms and communities. To learn more, visit FairTradeUSA.org.

      

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    RECIPE: Pumpkin Seed Brittle

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    Surprise friends and family with some
    pumpkin brittle, garnished with a drizzle of
    chocolate. Photo courtesy Zulka.

     

    Here’s aother delicious recipe from our friends at Zulka sugar: pumpkin brittle. Enjoy it by itself, with a cup of tea or a pumpkin spice latte. Make a batch to celebrate Halloween, or to bring to Thanksgiving dinner.

    You can customize the recipe by adding other seeds—nutritious chia, flax, hemp, nigella or sesame, for example. We actually prefer the deeper flavor complexity of a pumpkin-sesame seed mix. Just keep the total of all seeds to two cups.

    RECIPE: PUMPKIN SEED BRITTLE WITH
    CHOCOLATE DRIZZLE

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 8 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups roasted and lightly salted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
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    Preparation

    1. SET out a cookie sheet and top with a silicon baking mat or wax paper. Lightly oil the mat or wax paper.

    2. COMBINE the sugars, butter, salt and water in a sauce pan over medium-high heat; stir. Once the butter is completely melted, stir again and clip on a candy thermometer and heat to 300°F.

    3. REMOVE from the heat and immediately stir in the baking soda. Add the pumpkin seeds and stir well. Quickly spread over the mat or wax paper and spread to the edges with a lightly oiled silicon spatula. Let cool 30 minutes. Gently break into pieces.

    4. POUR the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave at 30 second intervals until the chocolate chips are fully melted, stirring as they get more melted until smooth. Spoon the melted chocolate into a baggie or disposable pastry bag and snip a very small piece off one corner. Drizzle over the brittle pieces. Chill the brittle to set the chocolate. Store in an airtight container.
     
    Find more delicious recipes at Zulka.com.

     
      

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    PRODUCT: Marich Sugar Free Candy

    What’s Halloween like for people who can’t have sugar?

    While there’s no sugar-free candy corn (because candy corn is essentially sugar, corn syrup, color and flavoring), there are other sugar-free treats, from Gummies, hard candies including Cinnamon Buttons, Jelly Belly jelly beans, Jolly Ranchers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and much more (for a great selection head to BlairCandy.com).

    Or, you could go gourmet at Marich.

    Marich Confectionery makes a lot of the all-American candies sold in bulk in better candy stories: bridge mix; caramels and toffees; chocolate-covered coffee beans, fruits and nuts; Holland mints, licorice; and our favorite malted milk balls.

    Some of the most popular items are available in sugar-free versions: Sugar Free Chocolate Bridge Mix, Sugar Free Chocolate Espresso Beans, Sugar Free Dark Chocolate Almonds and No Sugar Added Chocolate Cherries (the cherries themselves have natural sugar).

    Whether for Halloween gifts or for the holidays, in eight-ounce, ribbon-tied bags ($10.50, $11 for the cherries), we love these for gifting.

       

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    Sugar-free treats Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

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    Easy sugar-free gifting. Photo by Elvira
    Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    LOOKING FOR SOME SUGAR?

    From the regular line, two items great for stocking stuffers or party favors are two-ounce boxes of:

    • Christmas Holland Mints (red, white and green, $2.50)
    • Cinnamon Spice Apple Caramels ($3.00)
    • Pumpkin Spice Caramels ($3.00)

    The line is certified kosher by by KOF-K.

    Dig in at Marich.com.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Veggies More Flavorful

    Vegetable lovers tend to love their veggies cooked in any way: grilled roasted, steamed, stir-fried, however. Others need more convincing to eat their minimum three servings of veggies a day. (Serving recommendations vary by age group. Here’s the latest government Food Pyramid.)

    One way to get people to eat more vegetables is to combine them with popular flavors. That doesn’t mean fried zucchini and ketchup, however. Here are several better-for-you ways to amp up the flavors and make veggies sexy. They come from Flavor & The Menu, a magazine that delivers ideas and trends to professional chefs.

    FOR GREEN SALADS & SLAWS

    Here are four ideas to that add appeal to your salads:

  • Garnish or toss a green salad with shredded cheese or toasted nuts/seeds and fresh or dried berries. If you don’t have time to make a salad from scratch, buy a ready to eat salad or slaw mix.
  • Caramelize your lettuce. Grill romaine hearts as a base for your salad. You can lightly grill other salad ingredients (bell peppers, tomatoes) or simply add croutons, shredded cheese or any other ingredients. Here’s a recipe for Grilled Caesar Salad.
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    Yummy caramelized cauliflower. Photo courtesy PaperChef.com.

  • Serve crudités as a first course—baby carrots, broccoli and cauliflower florets, snow peas and other favorites—with hummus, a simple aïoli (garlic mayonnaise—here’s the recipe) or balsamic vinaigrette dip*.
  • Make wilted salads: Add a warm dressing to spinach, kale or a baby braising greens mix. It will slightly wilt the greens. Here’s a recipe hot bacon vinaigrette that you can use with lettuce, kale or other greens.
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    *Easy balsamic vinaigrette recipe: Blend together 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and 3/4 cup olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper (or to taste). Optional: Add 1 tablespoon chopped garlic and/or fresh parsley or other herb.

     

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    Some bits of bacon and sautéed onions add
    great flavor to green beans. Photo courtesy
    Go Bold With Butter.

     

    FOR COOKED VEGGIES

  • Add umami elements to roasted, steamed or sautéed vegetables: bacon, Parmesan cheese, roasted garlic, sautéed onions or soy sauce (flavor it with minced ginger, garlic and chives/green onions). Fish-friendly families should try chopped anchovies, anchovy paste or Asian fish sauce*.
  • Caramelize your veggies. Caramelization is what happens when the natural sugar in a food break down under heat and forms new compounds. The food turns brown and becomes caramel—a broad term that extends to more than just candy and sauce. Roasting, grilling and pan-searing add flavorful caramelization and soften the bite of vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. You can even cramelize a slaw mix. Here’s how to caramelize.
  • Please the spice-lovers with Asian flavors like sweet chile sauce, Sriracha and kimchi. Use chili and Sriracha sauces in your recipes or as condiments. Mix kimchi—Korean pickled vegetables—with grains, potatoes and vegetable medleys.
  • Stir-fry sturdy greens (those which have tough ribs and leaves, such as bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe, cabbage, collards, kale, mustard greens, spinach) to create an easy side dish or a bed for proteins.
  • Create a colorful warm “salad” using on-trend healthy vegetables such as sliced or diced sweet potatoes or butternut squash, beets and kale.
  • Pan-sear sliced mushrooms with shallots, then add cream and cheese for an elegant à la carte addition to steaks and chops.
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    Read more about food, glorious food at GetFlavor.com.

    †Fish sauce was the favorite condiment of the ancient Romans (read all about it). Today, it remains a favorite condiment in Asia, with each country varying the recipe: Vietnamese nuoc nam, Thai nam pla and Cambodian tuk trey, Burma’s ngan-pya-yem, Korea’s jeotgal, Laos’s nam pa and The Philippines’ patis and bagoong. Related products include the Malaysian shrimp paste belachan and a similar product in Myanmar called nga-pi.

      

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