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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Holidays & Occasions

FOOD FUN: Ham & Cheddar Polenta Fries

Here’s something fun to make with leftover Easter ham: potato-free Ham and Cheddar Polenta Fries.

The recipe is from QVC’s chef, David Venable. David says, “These polenta fries can be eaten as an appetizer or a side, and can be served with anything from honey-mustard to aioli.”

RECIPE: HAM & CHEDDAR POLENTA FRIES

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 4 ounces ham, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups Cheddar, shredded
  • Peanut or canola oil, for frying
  •  

    ham-polenta-fries-qvc-230

    Not potato fries: They’re ham, cheese and polenta! Photo courtesy QVC.

     

    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oil over medium heat in a 5-quart stockpot. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the milk, chicken broth, and butter and bring to a simmer. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal, avoiding any lumps. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    2. REMOVE the pot from the heat and add the ham, herbs, salt, pepper and cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted and the ingredients are evenly distributed.

    3. SPREAD the cornmeal mixture with a heat-resistant spatula on the surface of a rimmed 9″ x 13″ cookie sheet. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap, put on oven mitts, then evenly press the mixture down, spreading it out to the edges. Refrigerate the covered cornmeal mixture until completely cooled.

    4. HEAT the oil in a Dutch oven to 375°F (or, preheat a deep fryer). Flip the polenta out of the cookie sheet onto a large cutting board. Cut the polenta into 1/2″ strips and then cut each strip into 3″ pieces. Fry in batches until deep golden brown. (Adding too many pieces at once can cool the oil down.)

    5. DRAIN the fries on paper towels; serve immediately.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Leftover Ham Recipes

    white-bean-ham-soup-qvc-230

    Use leftover ham in a delicious bean soup.
    Photo courtesy QVC.

     

    You can just enjoy so many ham sandwiches and ham scrambles with the leftover Easter ham. Here are two recipes from QVC’s David Venable, that take a different approach.

    RECIPE: WHITE BEAN SOUP WITH HAM

    This recipe uses the ham bone, hock, or shanks.

    David comments, “Though it may officially be spring, there are still plenty of days that call for a recipe that takes out the chill. This broth-based soup is a great way to use leftover ham: It’s light enough for spring, but hearty enough to be filling.”

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry Great Northern beans*
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 meaty ham hock or 2-3 lbs of ham shanks
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups ham, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Garnish: fresh parsley
  •  
    *A mild, white, oval bean, similar to the white kidney bean.

    Preparation

    1. RINSE the beans, sorting out any that are broken or discolored.

    2. BRING a large pot of water to a boil. Add the salt and the beans and remove the pot from the heat. Let the beans sit in the hot water for at least 60 minutes.

    3. RETURN the pot to high heat and place the ham bone, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mustard and bay leaves in the pot. Stir well, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 60 more minutes.

    4. REMOVE the ham bone and discard. Stir in the chopped ham and simmer for 30 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh parsley (if desired).

     

    RECIPE: SMOKED HAM & CHEDDAR HASH

    David advises, “This hash recipe works just as well with ham that hasn’t been smoked. Try serving it as a breakfast item by throwing some fried eggs on top. Like a little spice in your hash? Add some hot sauce to the pan!”

    Ingredients

  • 5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (preferably smoked)
  • 6 cups smoked ham, diced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup coarse breadcrumbs (such as panko)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  •  

    smoked-ham-cheddar-hash-qvc-230

    Yummy smoked ham and Cheddar hash. Photo courtesy QVC.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. In a large sauce pot, boil the potatoes until fork tender. Drain the water and set aside.

    2. ADD the butter to a 10″ or larger, deep nonstick skillet and melt over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until slightly colored.

    3. STIR in the paprika and ham. Add the broth, cream of mushroom soup and scallions. Stir well to combine and bring to a simmer.

    4. ADD the parboiled potatoes and stir carefully to evenly incorporate all ingredients. Season the hash, to taste, with salt and pepper.

    5. COMBINE the Cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs and parsley in a small bowl and sprinkle over the top of the hash. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until evenly browned.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Strawberry Iced Tea

    For Easter or Mother’s Day, Strawberry Iced Tea is delish!

    The recipe is from Shangri-La Tea Company.

    RECIPE: Strawberry Iced Tea

  • 2 cups whole frozen strawberries
  • 32 fluid ounces brewed tea
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 box fresh strawberries
  • Mint leaves
  • Ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BREW tea and cool to room temperature.

    2. BLEND frozen strawberries in a food processor until smooth, then strain

    3. MIX together pureed strawberries, tea, desired amount of sugar and lemon juice

    4. Serve over ice with fresh strawberry garnish.

     

    strawberry-iced-tea-shangri-lateacompany-230

    Toast a special occasion with strawberry iced tea. Photo courtesy Shangri La Tea.

     

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Gimbal’s Jelly Beans

    bowl-beauty-230

    Gimbal’s Gourmet Jelly Beans. Photo by
    Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    We’ve been tasting lots of jelly bean brands over the past few weeks, and have decided that our favorites are Gimbal’s.

    What makes them the best jelly beans? To our palate, there’s less sugar and fresh, bright, natural flavors, including real fruit juice.

    We can focus on the flavor instead of cloying sugar.

    There are 41 traditional flavors and 12 delightfully tart sour flavors.

    We won’t say that jelly beans are health food, but the recipe includes vitamin C (ascorbic acid), a powerful antioxidant.

    Gimbal’s Gourmet Jelly Beans are sold in 3- or 14-ounce bags and 40-ounce jars. You can buy them online at GimbalsCandy.com.

    These are jelly beans to enjoy year-round—not just for Easter.

     

      

    Comments

    EASTER: Pink, White & Green Deviled Eggs

    Make these gorgeous pink deviled eggs ahead of time for easy holiday entertaining: They’re perfect for Easter brunch or snacking.

    You can make all of the eggs pink, half pink/half white, or tint some pickle brine light green for a tricolor selection.

    Mix and match your toppings from the list in the recipe or whatever else appeals to you.

    Prep time is 20 minutes.

    RECIPE: PICKLED PINK DEVILED EGGS

    Ingredients For 20 egg halves

  • 12 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or chives
  •  

    Pickled deviled eggs in Easter colors. Photo and recipe courtesy American Egg Board.

     

    For The Marinade

  • 1 jar (16 ounces) beets
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  •  
    Garnishes

  • Capers & chives
  • Crab meat & fresh dill
  • Diced red bell peppers and flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • Small cooked shrimp & chives
  • Smoked salmon
  • Steamed asparagus tips
  • Sweet pickles, sliced jalapeños or pickled jalapeños
  •  

    aunt-nellies-beets-sliced-jar-230

    You only need the beet liquid, so enjoy the
    beets in a salad, on a sandwich (instead of
    tomato) or as a side. Photo courtesy Aunt
    Nellie’s.

     

    Preparation

    Deviled eggs can be made up to 12 hours ahead. Refrigerate them, covered.

    1. CUT eggs lengthwise in half. Remove yolks to medium bowl. Reserve 20 white halves; finely chop remaining 4 white halves.

    2. MASH yolks with fork. Add finely chopped whites, mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper; mix well. Add dill; mix well. Cover and refrigerate.

    3. DRAIN beets, reserving juice (about 2/3 cup). Set beets aside for another use. Combine beet juice, water and vinegar. Arrange egg whites cut side down in shallow container. Pour beet mixture over eggs. Cover tightly. Refrigerate at least several hours or overnight, turning occasionally.

    If you want two or three colors, divide the eggs among the beet brine, plain pickle brine and tinted pickle brine. If using brine, you don’t need the water and vinegar.

    4. REMOVE purple egg whites from beet mixture, pat dry with paper towels. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of yolk mixture into each reserved egg white half. Garnish as desired.

     
    RECIPE TIPS

  • Don’t use the freshest eggs. Very fresh eggs can be difficult to peel. To ensure easily peeled eggs, buy and refrigerate them a week to 10 days in advance of cooking. This brief “breather” allows the eggs time to take in air, which helps separate the membranes from the shell.
  • Easier peeling technique. Hard-boiled eggs are easiest to peel right after cooling. Cooling causes the egg to contract slightly in the shell. To peel a hard-boiled egg, gently tap it on the countertop until shell is finely crackled all over. Roll the egg between your hands to loosen the shell. Starting peeling at the large end, holding the egg under cold running water to help ease the shell off.
  • Easy mixing and filling method. Combine the filling ingredients in a 1-quart plastic food-storage bag. Press out the air and seal the bag. Press and roll the bag with your hands until the mixture is well blended. Push the filling toward bottom corner of bag. Snip off about a 1/2-inch of corner. Squeeze the filling from bag into the egg whites.
  • Picnic or tailgate tip. Prepare the filling in a plastic bag, as above. Transport the whites and yolk mixture separately in a cooler. Fill the eggs on the spot, pressing filling out of snipped corner of bag.

      

  • Comments

    EASTER: Maggie Louise Chic Artisan Chocolates

    patent-leather-bunnies-rockstar-eggs-maggielouise-230

    Patent leather bunnies, rock ‘n’ roll eggs.
    Photo courtesy Maggie Louise.

     

    While we know a couple of investment bankers who became chocolatiers, Maggie Louise is the first Harvard lawyer we’ve encountered.

    After a career in corporate law, she trained at Le Cordon Bleu, where she developed the concept for an elegant line of chocolates. She launched Maggie Louise Confections in the Fall of 2013, with a line of modern, chic chocolates that combine art with sophisticated flavors.

    Based in Austin, Texas, the entrepreneur puts a hip and fashionable spin on fine Easter chocolate. Taking inspiration from the tunes at Austin’s South By Southwest musical festival, she created a limited edition Rock ‘n’ Roll Easter assortment:

  • Chocolate Caramel and Sea Salt Easter Eggs, covered in white chocolate with a spatter paint finish.
  • Patent Leather Bunnies, fluffy vanilla marshmallows enrobed in bittersweet El Rey chocolate (El Rey, of Venezuela, is one of the world’s great chocolate producers of chocolate couverture).
     
    The Rock n’ Roll Easter Box retails for $38 and includes 12 eggs and 3 bunnies. There are also Easter Egglets, chocolate with pastel zebra stripes, filled with a mix of peanut butter candy, cream caramel and salted chocolate caramel.

    Get yours at MaggieLouiseConfections.com.

  •  

     

    As a mom, Maggie Louise also has the young ‘uns in mind, with chocolate dinosaurs and robots. For the ladies, there are chocolate charm bracelets and pearls. For everyone, there’s a nifty chocolate fried egg and lizard-patterned s’mores.

    We look forward to working our way through the collection, piece by piece.
     
    The Best Packaging

    We receive many boxes of fine chocolate, but none is more beautifully wrapped than Maggie Louise’s.

    The packaging is very fine and impressive. The chocolate boxes are grand enough to hold good jewelry. Even the tissue paper is a keeper. It’s a great line for gifting.

    If you like fine chocolate, you’ll love perusing the Maggie Louise Confections website. Law’s loss is chocolate’s gain.

     

    plate-of-chocolate-230

    Year-round chocolates. Photo courtesy Maggie Louise.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Scripture Cake For Easter

    gluttony-230-ps

    Fun for foodies: Gluttony focuses on the
    great feasts of history. Photo courtesy Ten
    Speed Press.

     

    In her new book, GLUTTONY: More IS More” (Red Rock Press), Nan Lyons, known for the wonderful novel and movie, Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe, describes some of the most lavish feasts and singular dishes through culinary history.

    From the ancient Greeks and Romans to the founding chefs of classic cuisine—Carême, Escoffier and Brillat-Savarin—to the breathtaking appetites of history’s prize eaters (King Henry VIII and Diamond Jim Brady, for example), Ms. Lyons plumbs the path of gluttony with wit and style.

    Travel the paths of the the rich and famous who enjoy history’s greatest banquets and richest dishes. The book is illustrated with classical art works of people enjoying their food.

    The icing on the cake: You and your guests can eat like these lucky gourmands. A portfolio of recipes, created by food editors and writers E. Clarke Reilly and Sylvia Carter, adapts some of the book’s luxurious dishes for contemporary cooks.

    The book is available in hardcover and Kindle editions.

     

    This recipe, from the recipe portfolio, is simple and Easter-appropriate: Scripture Cake, made with ingredients from the Bible.

     

    SCRIPTURE CAKE

    Ingredients

  • 1½ cups chopped dried figs (Nahum 3:12)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2¼ cups water (Judges 4:19)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon (Revelation 18:13)
  • 1 cup softened butter (Psalms 55:21)
  • 2 teaspoons ginger (I KINGS 10:2)
  • 2 cups sugar (Jeremiah 6:20)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons honey (Exodus 3:8)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 eggs (Isaiah 10:14)
  • 1 cup milk (Genesis 18:8)
  • 3¾ cups flour (Leviticus 24:5)
  • 1¾ cups chopped almonds (Numbers 17:8)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (II Kings 2:20)
  • 1½ cups raisins (I Samuel 30:12)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder (Amos 4:5)
  •  

    scripture-cake-gluttony-redrockpress-230r

    The Scripture Cake from Gluttony. Photo courtesy Sylvia Carter.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 300°F. Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan.

    2. SIMMER figs and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until figs are very soft, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

    3. CREAM together butter and sugar in an electric mixer bowl, until light and fluffy. Add honey. Then add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix until well blended.

    4. PURÉE cooled figs and water until smooth. Strain purée through triple cheese-cloth to yield about a cup of fig essence.

    5. SIFT together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices in a clean bowl. Combine fig essence with milk and alternately mix fig milk and dry ingredients with egg mixture, ending with the dry mixture. Fold in chopped almonds and raisins.

    6. POUR batter into prepared pan and bake 1 hour and 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few crumbs on it.

    7. COOL for 20 minutes and then remove from pan and cool completely on cake rack. Makes 16 servings.
     
    We added a side of bourbon whipped cream as a garnish.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Chocolate Matzoh Crunch (Bark) For Passover

    Passover begins on the evening of Monday, April 14th and ends on the evening of Tuesday, April 22nd. During that week, observant Jews refrain from bread and other food made with leavened grain.

    Matzoh replaces conventional bread.

    Passover is the story of the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Bible relates that the Israelites left Egypt in such haste that they could not wait for their bread dough to rise; the result, when baked, was matzoh (Exodus 12:39).

    We can argue over how to spell matzoh: matza, matzah and matzo are common variations (not to mention the plural forms, beginning with matzoth). But we won’t argue about how good chocolate-covered matzoh is, turning the humble unleaved bread into a crunchy chocolate confection.

    You can buy chocolate-covered matzoh, or you can make your own. Here’s a recipe from Golden Blossom, which makes honey that is kosher for Passover.

    You can make the recipe with dark, milk or white chocolate, and with different nuts (we like pistachios).

     

    matzoh-crunch-goldenblossomhoney-230sq

    Matzoh crunch, chocolate “bark” made with crunchy matzoh. Photo courtesy Golden Blossom Honey.

     

    The recipe has a variety of names; among others, chocolate matzoh, matzoh bark, matzoh buttercrunch, matzoh cookie, matzoh crunch, matzoh toffee, and even the questionable matzoh crack.

    Here’s a second “recipe from Marcy Goldman, who calls it “matzo toffee.”

     

    chocolate-matzoh-burdick-230

    Burdick Chocolate and others dip whole
    boards of matzoh in chocolate, and scatter
    nuts, dried fruits or other ingredients on top.
    It is available from BurdickChocolate.com from
    April 7th through April 22nd, and is not
    kosher for Passover.

     

    RECIPE: HONEY ALMOND MATZOH CRUNCH
    (A.K.A. MATZO BARK)

    Active preparation time is 20 minutes; total time is 2 hours. Note that the recipe below produces “just” two boards of matzoh. The 16 pieces won’t last very long!

    Ingredients For About 16 Pieces

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 matzohs, coarsely crumbled (about 1 cup
    crumbled)
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • Large flake sea salt (such as Maldon), for sprinkling
  • Optional: dried cherries or cranberries, dessicated or flaked coconut
  •  

    Preparation

    1. LINE an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. If using foil, generously butter the foil (parchment paper is naturally nonstick). Set aside.

    2. COMBINE honey and butter in a 2-3 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture begins to boil. Insert a candy thermometer into the bubbling mixture and continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally to prevent scorching, until it is deep amber in color and measures 275°-285ºF, about 8 minutes.

    3. REMOVE from heat and add vanilla extract (be careful as it will spatter). Stir in crumbled matzo pieces, slivered almonds and optional dried cherries until evenly coated. Pour into prepared baking pan and spread into an even layer.

    4. SPRINKLE chocolate chips evenly over top of hot candy. Let sit for 5 minutes, then spread into an even layer using an offset spatula. Sprinkle with sea salt. Let cool for 1 to 2 hours or until set, then cut or break into bite size pieces to serve. Store in an airtight container.

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Bird’s Nest Cheesecake

    This cheesecake gift from Harry & David is inspired by the chirping birds of spring, who decorate the top with a “nest” of premium chocolate shavings that holds a few bright blue candy almond robin’s eggs.

    The creamy cheesecakes also feature a chocolate cookie crust and a chocolate ganache layer on top.

    The two New York style cheesecake cheesecakes are 5.5 inches in diameter, enough for four people or a big piece for two.

    A delicious gift for a cheesecake lover or a special occasion dessert, the Bird’s Nest Cheesecakes duo is $29.95 at HarryAndDavid.com.
     
    BAKE YOUR OWN

    Here are some of our favorite cheesecake recipes.

     

    birds-nest-cheesecake-harrydavid-230w

    Cheesecakes for springtime. Photo courtesy Harry & David.

     

      

    Comments

    EASTER: A Chocolate Box Filled With Fleur De Sel Caramels

    charles-chocolates-chocolate-box-2014-230sq

    Please, Easter Bunny, bring us one of these!
    Photo courtesy Charles Chocolates.

     

    Charles Chocolates of San Francisco makes some truly wonderful products. We’re gaga over the melt-in-your-mouth Orange Twigs and the Triple Chocolate Almonds.

    But for Easter, we must have a Bunny Collection Edible Chocolate Box: a white chocolate box filled with classic fleur de sel and bittersweet chocolate fleur de sel chocolate-enrobed caramels. Decorated with chicks and bunnies, there’s nothing child-like about the sophisticated flavor of these confections.

    Eighteen caramels in their edible box, 17 ounces of treats, $65.00. Order online.

    If you don’t want the edible box, you can save a few dollars by getting the fleur de sel caramels in a regular gift box.

    Ten pieces, 3.9 ounces of treats, is $24.00. Order online.

     

    If you’re in San Francisco, drop by the Charles Chocolate store in the mission district, and enjoy some goodies inside or on the outdoor patio.

      

    Comments

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