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Archive for January 23, 2015

VALENTINE GIFT: Maggie Louise Chocolates

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White chocolate Valentine delights. Photo courtesy Maggie Louise Confections.

 

We love this special white chocolate set for Valentine’s Day. Yes, it’s for the ladies (or girls), but chocolatier Maggie Louise has other items chocolate-loving men (and painted chocolate dinosaurs for chocolate-loving boys).

The set in the photo, called the XO Make-Up Box, includes:

  • 4 white chocolate lipsticks
  • 2 white chocolate letters: X.O.
  • 4 dark chocolate lips, painted red or pink and filled with cream caramel and chocolate nougat
  • 4 white chocolate hearts filled with chocolate caramel and sea salt
  • 4 white chocolate dots (squares) filled with cream caramel and sea salt
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    While there’s always a great box of chocolate to be found somewhere, this collection will last and last in chocolate memories.
     
    It’s $56, beautifully gift boxed. Check out the other awesome chocolates at MaggieLouiseConfections.com.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Slow Cooker Short Ribs

    We love short ribs, but they do take a long time to cook and tenderize. If you have a pressure cooker, you can do it in 45 minutes (here’s a recipe). If not, a slow cooker does just as nicely.

    With this recipe from McCormick, prep time is 30 minutes, slow cooker time is 8 hours.

    This short ribs recipe is “Asian fusion.” The inspiration is Sauerbraten (sour beef), the German classic that marinates the beef in a mixture of vinegar or wine (the “sour”), spices and seasonings.

    Here, the Asian twist comes from the use of rice vinegar, soy sauce and bok choy.

    Consider this dish for Super Bowl Sunday or Valentine’s Day. For Valentine’s Day, garnish the dish with some pomegranate arils.

    RECIPE: ASIAN-STYLE SLOW COOKER SHORT RIBS

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1 jar (1-1/2 ounces) mixed pickling spices (see recipe below)
  • 3 pounds boneless beef short ribs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon oil
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    It’s easy to make short ribs in a slow cooker. Photo courtesy McCormick.

  • 2 medium red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices (about 2 cups)
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 2 medium onions, cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1-1/2 cups beef stock
  • 3/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 cup crushed gingersnaps, about 20 cookies
  • 1/2 head bok choy, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 4 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
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    Preparation

    1. PLACE the pickling spice in the center of a piece of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Tie tightly with a long piece of string. Set aside. Coat the short ribs with flour.

    2. HEAT the oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 of the short ribs; cook 5 to 10 minutes or until browned on all sides. Add the short ribs to slow cooker. Repeat with the remaining short ribs.

    3. PLACE the vegetables and the spice bundle over the short ribs. Mix the beef stock, soy sauce, vinegar and ginger. Pour over the top.

    4. COVER and cook for 8 hours on LOW or 4 hours on HIGH, or until the short ribs are tender. Stir in the crushed gingersnaps during last 30 minutes of cooking. Stir in the bok choy during the last 15 minutes of cooking. Discard the spice bundle. Serve the short ribs and vegetables over cooked Asian noodles.

     

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    Pickling spices. Buy them or blend your own using the recipe below. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

    WHAT ARE ASIAN NOODLES?

    Ribbon pasta—long cut pasta—originated in Asia. This is the type of pasta “discovered” by Marco Polo and brought back to Venice.

    Because communications were not so great in those days, he didn’t know that Arab traders had brought pasta back with them centuries before, and introduced it to Southern Italy when they invaded in the 8th century. Pasta was a convenience food for travelers: One only needed to boil water to turn the dried pasta in one’s pocket into a nutritious meal.

    An even earlier Italian pasta was an Etrusco-Roman noodle made from durum wheat called lagane, the descendant of the modern word lasagna, which was mentioned way back in the first century C.E. It was not boiled, as it is today, but baked in an oven.

    But back to Asia, the motherland of pasta:

     
    There are numerous types of Asian noodles based on ingredients alone: arrowroot starch, bean curd skin, bean starch (cellophane noodles), buckhwheat (soba), mung bean threads, rice noodles, sweet potato starch, tofu and yes, wheat noodles (udon).

    Asian noodles are also made in a broad variety of shapes and sizes. The type of noodle used depends on country and purpose.

    Some Chinese noodles contain eggs, e.g. Chinese egg noodles, although the majority of Asian noodles do not.

    Unlike Italian noodles and other Western pasta, Asian noodles are generally not eaten with a sauce on top, but are stir-fried or used in soups and salads.
     
    WHAT ARE PICKLING SPICES?

    Picking spices are a blend of different spices, ground or whole. They are added to vinegar for making cucumber pickles and other pickled foods.

    You can purchase them ready-blended, or make your own from this easy combination:

  • 1 tablespoon each of black peppercorns, cloves, coriander seed and mustard seeds
  • 3 dried red chiles
  • 1-inch piece dried ginger root
  • 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 3 dried bay leaves, broken up
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    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients; measure and use as needed.

    2. KEEP the unused blend in an airtight container, away from light and heat.

      

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    RECIPE: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies

    Make these Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies as a Valentine gift or for Super Bowl viewing. The recipe is from QVC’s chef David Venable.

    Personally, we prefer omitting the bacon bits and using only the bacon fat. The result will be a smoky, salty flavor that foodies can’t get enough of.

    If you want to soften the bacon flavor, simply Try it both ways and see which you prefer.

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHIP BACON COOKIES

    Ingredients For 20 Cookies

  • 1–1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoon bacon fat, reserved when cooking the bacon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
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    Chocolate chocolate chip cookies with a hidden surprise: bacon! Photo courtesy QVC.

  • 12 thick-cut bacon strips, chopped and cooked until fat is rendered, lightly crisped and browned
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    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

    2. COMBINE the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

    3. BEAT the butter, bacon fat and both sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, until light and creamy. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture in 2 batches and mix well after each addition.

    4. ADD in the milk chocolate chips and chopped cooked bacon and mix until evenly distributed.

    5. SPOON heaping tablespoons of the cookie dough onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 10–12 minutes. Let cool before eating.

      

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