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Archive for December 6, 2014

GIFT: 5 Sparrows Hot Chocolate With Stevia


White hot chocolate with stevia sweetener. Photo courtesy 5 Sparrows.


Five Sparrows is a line developed by coffee shop owners, who wanted commercial products created specifically for handcrafted beverages. They are now available to consumers as well.

The company makes hot chocolate, chai and frappe mixes, which are available in versions sweetened with sugar or a combination of stevia and xylitol.

Today’s recommendation is for the stevia products. It isn’t difficult to find a quality hot chocolate mix made with sugar, but good sugar-free versions are hard to come by. These taste very natural—no “artificial sweetener” aftertaste. They dissolve easily into milk.

(And note that neither stevia nor xylitol are artificial ingredients. Here are the different types of zero-calorie, a.k.a. non-caloric, sweeteners.)

For friends and family who prefer a beverage with zero-calorie sweeteners, here are:

  • Zero Sugar House Chocolate
  • Zero Sugar House White Chocolate
  • Zero Sugar Monumental Spiced Chai

    A 10-ounce package is $11.00. Buy them online at


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    RECIPE: Barbecue Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

    Just because Thanksgiving is over doesn’t mean sweet potatoes are over.

    You don’t have to make an elaborate Thanksgiving-style dish, or even take the energy to mash or whip. Simple baked sweet potatoes with a pat of butter are delicious. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon if you like.

    You can go whole hog (pun intended) with little extra effort by stuffing the baked potatoes with pulled pork barbecue.

    This recipe is from Byron’s BBQ, which sells a delicious barbecued pull pork shoulder, cooked and frozen, at Sam’s Clubs. If you don’t like sweet potatoes, there’s a variation using the pulled pork with white baking potatoes, below.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 pounds Byron’s Pork BBQ, thawed
  • 4 large sweet potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed clean, and dried
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional garnishes: sour cream, chopped chives


    An entire main course: barbecue-stuffed sweet potatoes. Photo courtesy Byron’s BBQ.



    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.

    2. PIERCE each potato with the tines of a fork and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes.

    3. HEAT the barbecue according to package directions.

    4. MAKE a slit in the top of each sweet potato and season with salt and pepper. Top each potato with BBQ. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives if desired.



    Here’s what to look for at Sam’s Club. Photo courtesy Byron’s BBQ.



    The U.S. government makes mistakes. There are no buffalo in America; the big, wooly animal that roams the Great Plains is a bison—a different genus entirely. Yet, our mint produces a buffalo nickel. Hmm.

    So it goes with many other items, including the tomato (classified as a vegetable, but it’s a fruit) and the sweet potato or yam—the words used interchangeably, although like the buffalo and bison issue, the yam is from a completely different botanical family.

    You can’t fight city hall—or the Federal government or the produce manager—but here’s the difference between sweet potatoes and yams.

    Add while you’re at it, here’s the difference between buffalo and bison.



    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 pounds Byron’s Pork BBQ, thawed
  • 4 large baking potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed clean, and dried
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 green onions (scallions), finely chopped and divided
  • 1/2 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

    1. PREPARE the pulled pork according to package instructions.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Poke holes in the potatoes and wrap in foil. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes until tender. Alternative microwave directions: Poke holes in the potatoes and microwave on high for 10 minutes or until done, turning the potatoes after 5 minutes. While potatoes cook…

    3. COMBINE the sour cream and 2 tablespoons green onions. Set aside.

    4. SLICE the baked potatoes lengthwise and fluff the flesh with a fork. Top each potato evenly with the barbecue, sour cream mixture, shredded cheese and remaining green onions.


    Byron’s has been making authentic American barbecue since 1957, when Byron Charleton started selling the homemade BBQ recipe that made him famous in his hometown for years.

    The barbecue is still made the same way on the same plot of land in Gallatin, Tennessee where Byron set up his first smokehouse. The pit master slowly smokes quality meat over an open-pit hardwood fire and slathers on a signature spicy-sweet sauce. The quick freeze technique enables the company to avoid any added chemical preservatives.

    Learn more at


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    FOOD FUN: Christmas Tree Pizza

    Who else but the folks at California Pizza Kitchen would create a Christmas Tree Pizza?

    For fun this weekend, how about making this recipe for Christmas Tree Pizza, decorated with your favorite “ornaments.”

    The recipe, from California Pizza Kitchen, makes 1 large pizza, 2 medium pizzas or individual pizzas
    If you’re making individual pizzas, let the people decorate their own.



  • 1 pound traditional or whole wheat pizza dough
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 6 ounces (2 cups) mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 2 cups baby arugula leaves
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Optional trimmings: sliced olive “ornaments,” anchovy “garland”


    Deck the pizza with your favorite “trimmings.” Photo courtesy California Pizza Kitchen.

  • Optional garnish: carve a piece of yellow bell pepper into a star for the top of the tree


    1. PLACE a seasoned (or oiled) pizza stone in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450°F for at least 30 minutes.

    2. SHAPE the dough. If making more than 1 pizza, divide the dough into 2 or 4 pieces; then roll and shape each piece into a tall triangle. The pizzas will be decorated after baking, so prepare all of them at once.

    3. SPREAD the sauce over the dough to within 1 inch of the outer edge. Top with the mozzarella and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Meanwhile…

    4. COMBINE the spinach, arugula and basil leaves in a large bowl. When the pizza is cooked, place on a serving plate and allow it to cool slightly. Then top with overlapping leaves of greens, making sure that the three different types are evenly distributed.

    5. COVER the leaves with tomato halves, cut side down, add any other garnishes and sprinkle with Parmesan “snow” before serving.


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    GIFT: Chocolate Tray


    Something special: a chocolate tray to serve chocolate truffles. Photo courtesy Fika NYC.


    Need a unique gift for a chocolate lover?

    How about a chocolate tray, that can be topped with chocolate truffles or other bonbons.

    The handcrafted tray is in the shape of a wine bottle in roughly the same (although two-dimensional) size, 13 x 4.5 inches.

    It’s sure to elicit oohs and ahhs, not to mention a discussion of when the tray itself will be eaten.

    The chocolate tray is $38.00 at



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    RECIPE: Cinnamon Chocolate Popcorn

    We just published a gift idea for Brownie Points’ Candy Cane Crunch Popcorn. If you’re in the mood to make your own candy cane popcorn, pop it, butter it and toss with crushed candy canes or other peppermint candy.

    Not a peppermint lover? Here’s a recipe for equally festive Cinnamon Chocolate Popcorn from the National Popcorn Board,

    You can buy the popcorn or make it from scratch.

    Ingredients For 3 quarts

  • 3 quarts popped popcorn
  • Butter-flavored cooking spray
  • 9 tablespoons powdered cocoa mix (cocoa sweetened with sugar or sugar substitute)
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon


    Chocolate Cinnamon Popcorn, delicious with hot chocolate. Photo courtesy


    1. PLACE the popcorn in a large bowl and lightly spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle cocoa mix and cinnamon on popcorn.

    2. TOSS to coat evenly. Spray and toss again until mixture is well coated. Serve immediately.


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