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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,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Christmas

TIP OF THE DAY: The Best Thanksgiving Dessert Could Be Bites

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Bountiful Cookbook

TOP PHOTO: Cut up the brownies, cheesecake and pumpkin, insert toothpicks, and everyone will enjoy dessert more by eating less. BOTTOM PHOTO: The photographers also cook. Take a look at their fruit and veggie-centric cookbook. Photos ©


You know how you feel at the end of the turkey course at Thanksgiving dinner: stuffed to the gills (although it seems that the expression should be adapted to “stuffed to the drumsticks”).

There’s still dessert to be had—delicious dessert(s) handmade with love. But no one really has room for a piece of pie or even that wonderful pumpkin cheesecake.

Here’s a solution we adapted after seeing this photo from

The couple comprises Todd and Diane, top professional food photographers who cook at home when they aren’t shooting someone elses’s fare. They also grow vegetables and have almost 40 fruit trees in their garden.

And no surprise, they’ve written a cookbook, Bountiful, with each recipe featuring a vegetable or fruit as the star of the meal. You can also go to their website and sign up for social media posts. But back to the…

1. Make desserts that are dense enough to be cut into squares, like bar cookies (that’s the category* for brownies, lemon bars, etc.). Below are recipes for cranberry, pecan, pumpkin and pumpkin cheesecake bars.

2. Cut the bars into bite size squares, add a fancy toothpick and pass the plate. The theme: Enjoy dessert more by eating less. Even people who “can’t eat another bite” can have a satisfying bite or two. Everyone will thank you for coming up with such a smart solution.


  • Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars Recipe
  • Cranberry Bars Recipe
  • Cranberry Curd Bars on Walnut Shortbread Recipe
  • Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars Recipe
  • Pecan Pie Bars Recipe
  • Pumpkin Bars With Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
  • Pumpkin Swirl Chocolate Brownies Recipe
  • Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies Recipe
    *Bars are categorized as cookies instead of cake because they are finger foods that don’t require a fork.



    HOLIDAY GIFTS: Gourmet Chocolate

    Edible Chocolate Box - Charles Chocolates

    Kakawa Cocoa Beans

    John & Kira's Winter Bonbons

    Chocolate & Whiskey Figs John & Kira's

    TOP PHOTO: Edible chocolate box with bonbons from Charles Chocolates. SECOND PHOTO: Coco Puro’s chocolate-coated cacao beans. THIRD PHOTO: Ganache-filled bonbons from John & Kira’s. BOTTOM PHOTO: Calabacita figs filled with chocolate whiskey ganache from John & Kira’s.


    We love putting together holiday gift lists, sharing our must-have favorites. The chocolate items here begin at $12. Items under $10 are on our Stocking Stuffers list, out later this week.

    If you’re looking for kosher gifts, check out Li-Lac Chocolates, below.


    Our favorite chocolate-covered nuts are from Charles Chocolates: Triple Chocolate Almonds, premium California almonds that are fresh-roasted, then coated in bittersweet and milk chocolates and dusted with cocoa powder. They’re also available in Mint Chocolate Almond and Triple Chocolate Hazelnut, 6.5 ounces for $12. Toffee Chocolate Macadamias are $15 for 6.3 ounces. An assortment of all four varieties is $46.

    A memorable treat is the Edible Chocolate Box (top photo), filled with fleur de sel caramels, milk chocolate caramels and bittersweet peanut praliné butterflies. Seventeen ounces of chocolate, including the box, are $46.00.

    Get yours at

    Kakawa Cocoa Beans (second photo) are a unique gift for the chocolate connoisseur: chocolate-covered cacao beans—the whole bean, not the nibs, which are the “seeds” of the bean.

    The finest beans are roasted until crunchy, like coffee beans; then hand-enrobed in layers of white, milk and dark chocolate and dusted with cocoa powder. That’s five expressions of chocolate in one bite!

    Kakawa is the Olmec word for cacao. The Olmecs were the first people to cultivate the cacao plant in Mesoamerica.

    A 12-ounce bag is $28 at

    Of all the wonderful choices at John & Kira’s, two are our favorites for holiday gifting:

    The Winter Forest Collection (third photo) comprises three seasonal designs and bonbon flavors, all enrobed in a 62% Valrhona dark chocolate shell.

    Snowcapped peak bonbons contain a crunchy hazelnut-almond praline center, crystalline snowflakes are filled with white chocolate mint ganache, and a starry night envelops vanilla-accented dark chocolate ganache.

    Nine pieces in a handsome reusable box are $29.95 at

    Our perennial favorite are the Chocolate-Filled Figs With A Touch Of Whiskey (fourth photo). It’s become our annual treat to ourself, and truth be told, we buy two boxes (and have to restrain ourself from buying double that, and don’t share a single piece).

    A treat for the refined palate, organic dried Calabacita figs are filled with a whiskey-infused Valrhona dark chocolate ganache; then hand-dipped in 62% dark chocolate and nestled in a handsome gift box.

    Each bite becomes a treasured memory; and if you think we’re getting flowery here, just taste them! Get yours at Twelve pieces are $38.50.




    This French chocolate gift assortment contains a luscious mix of milk and dark chocolate squares filled with soft centers: caramels, chocolate fudge, French creams, hazelnut truffle squares, mocha, mousse, marzipan, and rum ganache. Inspired by European-style chocolates from the 1920s, we said “yum” out loud with every bite.

    Twenty pieces in a handsome repurposable box, 8.5 ounces of chocolate are $28. Larger boxes—one pound, two pounds and three pounds—are also available. The line is certified kosher (dairy) by OU. Get them at

    The venerable Parisian chocolatier, with outposts in New York City, has created something truly special: the Sweet and Savoury Collection. For the connoisseur, these surprising pairings of chocolate and vegetables are quite wonderful (but do not count toward your daily portions of veggies).

    The flavors include: dark ganache with Guérande sea salt, dark ganache with hot red pepper, ganache with balsamic caramelized onions, hazelnut praliné with porcini mushrooms and praliné with black olives and olive oil. These combinations may sound strange to most people; but for the true connoisseur, they are treasures.


    Li-Lac French Chocolates

    Maison Du Chocolat Savoury Collection

    TOP PHOTO: Wonderful French-style chocolates from Li-Lac. BOTTOM PHOTO: Savoury chocolates from Maison du Chocolat.


    The Savoury Chocolate Collection can be enjoyed at any time of the day or night, but Master Chef Nicolas Cloiseau, who created the collection, enjoys it between the last course of dinner and dessert. Get yours at There are two sizes, $24 and $36.
    Almost all of these chocolatiers sell a variety of chocolates; so if you haven’t found what you’re looking for yet, browse their websites.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Sangria

    For the holidays, we like Cranberry Sangria. In addition to making pitchers of it to serve at Thanksgiving and Christmas, we keep a pitcher of Sangria in the fridge for daily apéritifs and impromptu visitors.

    In the first recipe, tart cranberry juice is pared with a sweet wine and orange liqueur. It takes only 10 minutes to make this recipe, from McCormick. The result: a flavorful, well-balanced holiday refreshment.

    Plan ahead: November 20th is National Sangria Day. Here’s the history of sangria.


    Ingredients For 6 One-Cup Servings

  • 1 orange
  • 16 whole cloves
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) sweet white wine, such as Moscato or Riesling
  • 3 cups cranberry juice
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup orange-flavored liqueur*, such as Grand Marnier
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

    Cranberry Sangria

    Steep orange slices studded with cloves, plus cranberries and cinnamon sticks, in sweet white wine and tart cranberry juice. Photo courtesy McCormick.

    *Here are the different types of  orange liqueur.


    1. CUT the orange into 8 wedges. Press 2 cloves into each wedge. Set aside.

    2. MIX the wine, cranberry juice, cranberries, liqueur, cinnamon sticks and vanilla in large pitcher until well blended. Add the orange wedges.

    3. REFRIGERATE for at least 3 hours before serving. Serve straight up or on the rocks.

    This recipe also celebrates the flavors and colors of the season—with cinnamon, clementines and cranberries. They compliment the rich red-fruit flavors of Ruby Port (there’s more about Port below). The recipe was developed by Sandeman, using their Founders Reserve Ruby Port.
    Don’t worry about buying a bottle just for this recipe. Port is delicious served alone at the end of any dinner, with the cheese course (especially blue cheeses and washed-rind cheeses). or accompanying a rich chocolate or caramel dessert or candy.

    Serve Ruby Port with a side of salted or smoked nuts, and with smoked meats. The next time you make barbecue, serve Ruby Port on the rocks with a twist of lime!


    Sangria With Ruby Port

    Keep a pitcher in the fridge. Photo courtesy Sandeman.



  • 1 bottle of Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto or other Ruby Port
  • 4 ounces cinnamon schnapps† (Goldschläger is relatively easy to find)
  • 3 clementines, quartered or sliced
  • 6 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 18 ounces sparkling clementine juice or clementine soda‡
  • 6 ounces cranberry juice
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • Ground allspice to taste
    †Cinnamon schnapps is also delicious in coffee, after dinner drinks, atop vanilla ice cream, and so on. You can also make cinnamon simple syrup.

    ‡San Pellegrino and Izze make clementine sparkling drinks. Otherwise, substitute orange soda.


    1. COMBINE the Port, cinnamon schnapps, clementine pieces, cranberries, cranberry juice and cinnamon sticks in a large pitcher. Cover tightly and place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

    2. TO SERVE: Add the sparkling clementine juice/soda and sprinkle allspice on top, to taste.

    Porto (sometimes written as Oporto, “the Porto”) is the second largest city in Portugal. Located along the Douro River estuary in northern Portugal, Porto was an outpost of the Roman Empire. Port wine is produced in the region.

    Port is made in several expressions: Crusted, Colheita, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), Ruby, Single Quinta, Tawny, Vintage, Vintage Character and White. Here’s an explanation of each type of Port.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Cranberry Vodka

    Should you change your vodka for the holidays?

    Some vodka producers make seasonal flavors. Pinnacle Vodka, for example, has a portfolio of holiday flavors that include Caramel Apple, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie and Peppermint Bark.

    Finlandia, Skyy and Smirnoff make cranberry vodka. Maybe you’ll be luckier than we’ve been in finding it. So here’s another option:

    Infuse your own cranberry vodka with real cranberries, instead of the extracts used to make commercial flavored vodka. Serve it—or bring it as a house gift—on Thanksgiving, Christmas and in-between.

    Generally when making infused vodka, the flavors should blend for four weeks or longer; but this recipe lets you do it in just 3 days.

  • Pass by the cheap stuff and use quality vodka. For $10 to $15, you can buy Denaka, Luksusowa, New Amsterdam, Pinnacle, Sobieski, Smirnoff or Svedka.
  • Why not spring for pricier vodka? If you’re making the vodka as a gift and want to impress, use the recipient’s favorite brand or other prestigious label. It won’t necessarily make better-tasting cranberry vodka, but will please the status-oriented.

    Cranberry Vodka Cocktail

    An easy holiday cocktail: cranberry vodka and ginger ale on the rocks. Photo courtesy

  • Create a hang tag for the neck of the bottle, with the name of the product (straight or fanciful), year made, and any other information.
  • If you’d rather showcase your vodka in a clear wine bottle, you can hand-paint a label and add decorations. The bottles run about $3 apiece.


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen and thawed cranberries
  • 1 fifth good quality vodka

    Bowl Of Fresh Cranberries

    Just add vodka. In three days you’ll have
    cranberry vodka. Photo courtesy Good Eggs |
    San Francisco.



    1. COMBINE the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, tilting and swirling the pan occasionally. Lower the heat and continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is slightly thickened (about 5 minutes).

    2. REMOVE the pan from the heat. Stir in the cranberries and set the pan aside for 2 hours.

    3. TRANSFER the cranberry mixture to a large covered bowl, jar or canister and add the vodka. Retain the bottle to refill with the finished product. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 days, stirring occasionally. If you don’t have room in the fridge, keep it in a cool, dark place.

    4. STRAIN the vodka into a large pitcher, reserving the cranberries. You can use them to garnish drinks.

    5. USING a funnel, pour the vodka back into the original bottle. Place the bottle in the freezer until ready to serve. Keep the reserved cranberries in the freezer, but defrost them prior to serving (they defrost quickly).
    To Serve

    Serve cranberry vodka:

  • Shots
  • Straight up or on the rocks
  • As Cranberry Martinis, with just a splash of vermouth
  • In other cocktails or punch
    Top with a few cranberries to garnish.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Savory Bread Pudding

    Dessert lovers know the comfort of a rich bread pudding, a way to top yesterday’s bread with custard and cook it in a casserole dish into something sublime. (“Casserole” has a broad definition: simply, a side dish or stew cooked slowly in an oven.)

    Leave out the sugar and you have a savory custard, to be served as a side with dinner.

    Bread pudding originated in the 11th or 12th century as a way to use stale bread. Pieces of bread were cut or torn, combined with other ingredients (cheese, onions, mushrooms and other vegetables, bits of meat), topped with custard and then baked until the top was set but the inside was soft and creamy.

  • Bread pudding is closely related to the Italian dish, strata. The difference is that stratas are typically made with more eggs than cream, making them eggier and more breakfasty. They are savory dishes.
  • Bread puddings are made with a more equal ratio of eggs and milk—a custard. They can be either sweet or savory.
  • You can also make individual bread puddings in ramekins or custard cups.
  • Stuffing and dressing are savory bread puddings.
    Also see our related article on savory custard.


    Bread Pudding

    Spinach and garlic bread pudding. While most recipes blend the bread with the other ingredients, in this version it sits on top. It makes for a prettier presentation. Here’s the recipe, from Food & Wine.

    We’ve provided one recipe below that uses applewood smoked bacon, but here’s an assortment of delicious options from Food & Wine.

  • Artichoke Bread Pudding Recipe
  • Butternut Squash Bread Pudding Recipe
  • Cranberry, Pecan & Bacon Bread Pudding Recipe
  • Mushroom, Leek & Parmesan Bread Pudding Recipe
  • Savory Sausage and Cheddar Bread Pudding Recipe
  • Spinach Bread Pudding With Lemon & Feta Recipe
  • Spinach & Garlic Bread Pudding Recipe
  • Spinach-Shiitake Bread Pudding Recipe
    The following recipe is from La Brea Bakery, which suggests it to accompany the Thanksgiving turkey or any roasted meats. They make it with their Organic Rustic French Loaf.

    But the great thing about bread pudding is that you can use any bread, or a mixture of breads. In other words, if you have leftover baguette, challah and cornbread, toss them together.


    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/savory bread pudding labrea ps 230

    Applewood smoked bacon and Italian parsley
    flavor this savory bread pudding recipe from
    La Brea Bakery. Photo courtesy La Brea



    Prep time is 60 minutes, cook time is 120 minutes.

    Ingredients For Nine 3″x3″ Pieces

  • 3 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces applewood smoked bacon
  • 4 ounces whole cooked chestnuts
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 French loaf of other bread

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    2. CUT the bread into 1” cubes, removing the crust; place in a large bowl. Pour the chicken stock over the bread and stir to wet all cubes. Allow to sit for a half hour, stirring occasionally to be sure all the liquid is absorbed.

    3. CHOP the chestnuts coarsely. While waiting for the bread to soak, place a medium pan over medium heat and add the bacon and chestnuts. Stir occasionally and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is golden but not yet crispy. Remove from heat and set aside.

    4. PICK the leaves of the parsley from the stems, chop coarsely and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs thoroughly with a whisk and add the cream, celery salt, pepper and chopped parsley, continuing to whisk until well combined. Add this mixture and the chestnuts-bacon mixture (use a rubber spatula to get everything from the pan) to the bread cubes and stir to mix well.

    5. SPRAY the inside of a 9” baking pan with cooking spray and fill with the bread mixture, making sure to spread evenly to fill the pan and create a level top surface. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

    6. SERVE immediately or allow to cool completely for serving later. If serving later, reheat by covering with foil and place in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes, or until warmed through.



    RECIPE: Gingersnap Biscotti

    A gift of homemade biscotti for your Thanksgiving host is especially thoughtful. Biscotti last for several weeks in an airtight tin, so the host family has a treat to look forward to after all the leftovers have been consumed.

    Annalise of Completely Delicious created these White Chocolate Gingersnap Biscotti after her grandmother’s gingersnap recipe.

    “These gingersnap biscotti have all the spice and molasses flavor of my grandmother’s gingersnaps,” says Annalise, but with the extra snap and crunch of biscotti. And a drizzle of white chocolate is the final finishing touch.”

    Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 40 minutes. Thanks to, a treasure trove of delicious holiday recipes, for giving us the heads up on this one.


    Ingredients For 2 Dozen Biscotti

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Granulated sugar, for sprinkling
  • 5 ounces high quality* white chocolate, chopped


    Gingersnap biscotti for the holidays. Photo courtesy Completely Delicious | Go Bold With Butter.

    *Look for Lindt or Green & Black’s white chocolate bars, Guittard white chocolate or chocolate chips. We found Valhrona white chocolate pistoles in clear containers at Whole Foods Market.


    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

    2. USE a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or a hand-held mixer with a large bowl. Beat the butter and brown sugar on high speed until light in color and creamy. Mix in the egg, followed by the molasses.

    3. STIR together in large bowl the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture all at once and mix on low until incorporated.

    4. DIVIDE the dough in half and shape each piece into a log about 4 inches wide. Space the logs evenly on the sheet pan and flatten each log to about 2 inches high. Sprinkle generously with granulated sugar.

    5. BAKE until the edges are golden and the surface is cracked, 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 20 minutes.

    6. SLICE the logs with a serrated knife into 1-inch thick slices. Place the slices cut side-up on pan lined with parchment paper and bake an additional 12-14 minutes until edges are brown. Let cool completely.

    7. MELT the chocolate in small heat-proof bowl in the microwave at 60 percent power for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. If not completely melted, continue to microwave the chocolate in 10 second intervals, stirring in-between intervals. Be careful not to scorch the chocolate.

    8. DRIZZLE the melted chocolate over the cooled cookies. Let them sit for 15 minutes before serving or storing. Store biscotti in airtight container at room temperature.


    White Chocolate Chips

    Callebaut White Chocolate Chunks

    TOP PHOTO: Look for Guittard white
    chocolate chips in your supermarket. Photo
    courtesy Lake Champlain Chocolate. BOTTOM
    PHOTO: You can buy chunks of Callebaut
    white chocolate at



    Created as a convenient non-perishable food for travelers and a staple of the diet of the Roman Legions, today’s biscotti are a classic dessert in Tuscany, accompanied by an amber-hued glass of vin santo*, a dessert wine. Americans enjoy them with a cappuccino or other coffee drink.

    Originally flavored with almonds (amaretti), then with anisette, biscotti are now made in dozens of flavors. Here’s Mario Batali’s favorite recipe for the classic amaretto and anisette biscotti.

    The word biscotto derives from “bis,” Latin for twice, and “coctum” or baked (which became “cotto,” or cooked, in Italian).

    In Roman times, unleavened, finger-shaped wafers were baked first to cook them, then a second time to completely dry them out, making them durable for travel and nourishment on long journeys. Pliny boasted that they would be edible for centuries.

    The record does not indicate that biscotti survived the sack of the Roman Empire. But they re-emerged in Tuscany during the Renaissance, credited to a Tuscan baker who served them with vin santo. Their dry, crunchy texture was deemed to be the perfect medium to soak up the wine.

    Centuries later, many still agree that dipping biscotti into vin santo is a perfect way to end a meal, or to while away an hour at a café. Biscotti and coffee are also a match made in Heaven.

    Italians call biscotti cantucci, and use the term biscotti to refer to any type of crunchy cookie—round, square and otherwise (as the British use the word “biscuit”). In North America, we use “biscotti” as the ancient Romans did, to describe a long, dry, hard, twice-baked cookie (in other words, cantucci).

    Here’s a longer history of biscotti.

    †Vin santo means “holy wine” in Italian, and was traditionally made in Tuscany. Most scholars agree that these wines were originally used for Holy Communion.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Fiori di Sicilia, Fior Di Sicilia

    Fior di Sicilia, an Italian essence that translates to “flower of Sicily,” was used by our friend Ruth’s mother to flavor almost everything she baked. Biscotti, brioche and sweet breads, cookies, cheesecake, angel/pound/sponge cake, pie, macarons, meringues, yellow and white cakes got the fior di sicilia treatment, especially during the holidays.

    Ruth’s mom no doubt inherited the tradition from her mother and grandmother, who were born in the old country. Italians use it to add flavor and aroma to panettone, pandoro and ricotta cookies.

    The essence is a combination of floral, citrus and vanilla extracts, with a lovely floral aroma. Some Americans might identify the scent and taste as an elegant take on “Creamsicle.” Most will find it beguilingly mysterious, and will ask you what the taste is. (Note that essences from different manufacturers may vary. One friend notes flavors of lemon, lime and strawberry in her brand.)
    Is It Fiori Or Fior Di Sicilia?

    The terms are used interchangeably. We see bottles with both the singular, fior di sicilia, and the plural, fiori.


    Fiori Di Sicilia, Fior Di Sicilia

    Fiori di Sicilia adds floral and citrus “mystery” to baked goods. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.

    How To Use Fiori Di Sicilia

    We like to use it to add something special to holiday baking. Add a half teaspoon of fiori di sicilia to a basic cookie or cake recipe. If that isn’t enough for you, use more next time. If the half teaspoon seems meager, it’s because the essence is potent, and should be used with light touch.

    Other popular holiday uses:

  • Biscotti
  • Butter cookies and shortbread
  • Cream cheese and ricotta fillings
  • Hot tea, sparkling water
  • Pound cake and layer cake
  • Ricotta cookies
    We’ve been known to add it to a cup of warm milk (hot or warm milk is a better-for-you comfort food for us). You can add your sweetener of choice to create a cup of “hot fiori di sicilia.”

    In the summer, add it to iced tea and fruit soup.

    You can try it in a one-ounce size ($9.95) from King Arthur Flour; there’s also a 4-ounce size ($19.95). The smaller size is a nice stocking stuffer for people who bake.


    Christmas Butter Cookies

    Christmas butter cookies with fiori di sicilia. Here’s the recipe, from King Arthur Flour.



    Thanks to King Arthur for developing these delicious recipes:

  • Holiday Butter Cookies Recipe
  • Lemon Brioche Recipe
  • French Toast Recipe
  • Cranberry Nut Fruitcake Recipe
  • Lemon-Glazed Pound Cake Recipe
  • Meringues Recipe
  • Pandoro Recipe
  • Panettone Muffins Recipe
  • Panettone Recipe
  • Shimmer Cookies Recipe
  • Orange Shortbread Cookies Recipe
  • Springerle Cookies Recipe
  • Spritz Cookies Recipe

    There are 60 more fiori di Sicilia recipes at Enjoy the voyage of discovery.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Mulling Spice Sachets

    Mulling Spice Sachets


    TOP PHOTO: Individual sachets are best if only one or two people want a cup. Larger sachets are used to make a 6- or 8-cup pot. Photo courtesy McCormick. BOTTOM PHOTO:
    Empty tea bag “sachets,” used to fill with loose tea, are easier to make although less festive than muslin or netting. You can get them at specialty tea shops or online. Photo courtesy NiceShop. Put leftover mulled beverages in the fridge to enjoy chilled.


    In our last article, we suggested a cider party with a pumpkin layer cake. Here’s a related tip:

    Make mulling spice sachets for mulled cider or wine. They layer the flavors found in spiced tea on top of the base beverage, which is typically warmed cider or wine.

    Make them for family, guests and gifting. Individual sachets are better for gifting; large sachets are better for a pot of cider.

    For gifting and party favors, you can package the sachets in a holiday tin or a Mason jar with a red ribbon. Be sure to add the mulling instructions (below) on the gift tag or insert them into the package.

    To give two individual sachets as small party favors, find a small, colored cellophane bag, a clear or vellum envelope or other gift bag. Include the instructions.

    Prep time is 5 minutes to make an individual sachet, 15 minutes to steep the cider or wine. If you have nimble fingers and have organized your ingredients, you can make three individual sachets or two large ones in 5 minutes.

    Thanks to McCormick for the recipe.


    Ingredients For 1 Bag/2 Servings

  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice
  • Optional: 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 cups apple cider, hard cider or wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Cheesecloth*, cut into 4″ squares
  • Kitchen string
    *The easiest option is to purchase drawstring filter bags, used for loose tea (photo at left). Another option: If you can find fine, flexible netting, it makes a prettier sachet but you need to wash it first, to soften it and eliminate any dust it’s picked up along the way.


    1. PLACE the spices in the center of a piece of cheesecloth. Tie tightly with long piece of string. Store in an airtight container. That’s it, until you’re ready to mull your beverage. Then…

    2. PLACE the spice sachet in small saucepan. Add the apple cider or wine. Simmer over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes or until fragrant.

    3. DISCARD the spice sachet. Stir in the vanilla. Serve warm or hot.

    Ingredients For A Party-Size Mulling Spice Sachet

    1. INCREASE the cinnamon sticks to 4, whole cloves to 2 teaspoons, whole allspice to 1 teaspoon and vanilla to 2 teaspoons.

    2. WRAP in cheesecloth and warm in a pot with 2 quarts (8 cups) of apple cider or wine. You can also use apple juice. The difference is that apple cider is a fresh-squeezed product that needs to be refrigerated; apple juice is processed and homogenized to be shelf stable (no refrigeration needed until after the package has been opened).



    PRODUCTS: Biscotti & Ice Cream In Holiday Flavors

    This time of year, supermarkets are filling with limited edition seasonal items, from Red Velvet Oreos to Starbucks Holiday Blend to Pumpkin Spice Coffee-Mate.

    We don’t indulge in any of them; but here are some of the treats we look forward to each holiday season:


    At Ciao Bella, you can sink your spoon into three holiday flavors.

  • Honey Almond Nougat Gelato blends honey almond torrone and roasted almonds in a base that does approximate torrone flavor. It’s great idea, but our pint seemed to be lacking in the almond torrone. There were plenty of almonds, however.
  • Mulled Apple Cider Sorbetto is a very cinnamon-imbued apple cider sorbet. This tasty sorbetto called out to us to be made into some kind of cocktail. We took the easy way out and scooped it into glasses of hard apple cider—a hard cider float.
  • White Chocolate Peppermint Gelato churns crushed peppermint candies into white chocolate Gelato. Peppermint ice cream is one of our favorite seasonal foods. We could have wished for more crushed inclusions; although those who like a less heavy dose of peppermint will be satisfied.
    Discover more a

    From Talenti, get your fill of:

  • Pumpkin Pie Gelato: brown sugar, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices with real pieces of pie crust. It inspired us to spoon the gelato into tartlet shells for even more crust. (Ice cream tartlets is a good idea for any of these holiday flavors.)
  • Old World Eggnog Gelato is pretty close to a frozen eggnog experience, laden with nutmeg. We enjoyed it from the pint, spooned into hot chocolate, and in a cocktail made with rum and ginger beer, a kind of Dark & Stormy Eggnog. Did we mention it tastes great with hot fudge?
  • Peppermint Bark Gelato puts all the peppermint into the gelato, and studs it with flakes of semisweet Callebaut chocolate. It’s so refreshing, we ate the whole pint.


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    TOP PHOTO: Holiday sorbetto from Ciao Bella. BOTTOM PHOTO: Peppermint Bark gelato from Talenti. Talenti has styled the top of the gelato with tiny edible evergreens and sleds.

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    Pumpkin Spice biscotti are a seasonal hit.
    Photo courtesy Nonni’s.



    Nonni’s Biscotti, which produces delectable seasonal biscotti in limited edition Gingerbread and Pumpkin Spice, has added two new holiday flavors this year.

  • Caramel Apple Biscotti is a bit on the sweet side. We’ll stick with the Salted Caramel Biscotti, a year-round flavor and a favorite.
  • Cranberry Cioccolati Biscotti adds bits of dried cranberry to the year-round chocolate-dipped Cioccolati Biscotti. We’re a fan, but next year, Nonni, please add more or bigger cranberry pieces.
    You can give eight-piece boxes as holiday gifts, enjoy them with your holiday ice cream, or with a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. We won’t put into print how many we’ve polished off in the writing of this article.

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    PRODUCT: Pumpkin Design Loaf Pan


    This Nordic Ware loaf pan makes plain cake look lovely. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.


    With the disclosure that we love to eat cake, and can enjoy a slice a day, we actually prefer loaf cakes to elaborately iced and filled cakes. We can have our cake and eat it, too, because we convince ourself that a loaf cake is better for you.

    (In fact, because there’s no extra sugar- and butter-laden filling and frosting, it is a bit better. A bit.)

    That’s why we allowed ourself to buy another loaf pan. This intricately sculpted pan adds autumnal beauty to a banana bread, carrot cake, chocolate loaf, pound cake, pumpkin bread, spice bread, zucchini cake….

    Not to mention, cornbread soda bread and other homemade loaves.

    All you have to do is buy the pan and pour in the batter. The beautiful Nordic Ware pan—an exclusive to Williams-Sonoma—will take over.


    You can top the cake with a simple glaze or a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, but we think the plain relief of pumpkins and vines is lovelier.

    The pumpkin loaf pan is made of durable cast-aluminum, which ensures even baking. The nonstick finish guarantees your cake will release easily, and clean-up will be a breeze.

    Get yours at Williams-Sonoma stores or online.



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