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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 Christmas

TIP OF THE DAY: Candy Cane Ice Cream

candy-cane-ice-cream-foodchannel-230

Candy cane ice cream. If you want it to be
pink, add red food color. Photo courtesy
Williams-Sonoma.

 

One thing we love about the holidays is candy cane ice cream, also known as peppermint stick ice cream. The difference between it and the peppermint ice cream available year-round is the inclusion of crushed peppermint candy for a vivid peppermint flavor and crunch.

Different brands now have their limited-edition candy cane/peppermint stick pints and quarts in stores. There’s also peppermint bark ice cream, which includes bits of chocolate studded with peppermint.

If you want the fun of making your own at home, we’ve got some recipe options below.

The ice cream can be drizzled with hot fudge, packed into chocolate cookie pie crust, made into a trifle, added to hot chocolate or turned into a candy cane dessert cocktail.

This recipe produces white ice cream. If you want pink ice cream, add a few drops of red food color until the desired color is reached.

This recipe is from Williams-Sonoma, from their book Ice Creams & Sorbets.

Prep time is 20 minutes plus chilling and freezing.

 

RECIPE: CANDY CANE ICE CREAM

Ingredients For 1 Quart

  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup lightly crushed peppermint snap candies, candy canes or peppermint sticks
  •  

    Preparation

    1. WARM 2 cups of the half-and-half and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat, until steam begins to rise from the surface (3 to 4 minutes). Remove from the heat.

    2. WHISK together the egg yolks, sugar and salt in a heatproof mixing bowl, until blended. Form a kitchen towel into a ring and place the bowl on top to prevent it from moving. Gradually add the hot half-and-half mixture, whisking constantly until fully incorporated.

    3. RETURN the mixture to the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring slowly and continuously with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the custard thickens and a finger drawn across the back of the spoon leaves a path, 8 to 10 minutes. Do not allow the custard to boil!

    4. POUR the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl. Stir in the peppermint extract. Add the remaining 1 cup half-and-half and stir to combine.

     

    candy-cane-trifle-perryicecream-230

    Make a candy cane ice cream trifle (recipe below). Photo courtesy Perry’s Ice Cream.

     

    5. NESTLE the bowl in a larger one filled halfway with ice and water and cool the custard to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.

    6. TRANSFER the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. At the end of the freezing stage, add the peppermint candies and continue processing just until they are blended into the ice cream. Transfer the ice cream to a chilled container, cover and freeze until firm, 3 to 4 hours.
     
    MAKING AN ICE CREAM TRIFLE

    Pair the candy cane ice cream with chocolate cake and whipped cream. The trifle can be made up to 1 week in advance.

    Ingredients

  • 1 chocolate loaf cake, brownie loaf or substitute
  • Option: 1 package Oreo cookies (we used Mint Joe-Joes from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream
  • 1 quart candy cane ice cream
  • 1 cup chocolate sauce/fudge sauce
  • Optional garnish: chocolate shavings, crushed peppermints
  •  
    For 2 Cups Whipped Cream

  • 1/2 pint (1 cup) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CHILL the bowl, beaters and cream for the whipped cream.

    2. PLACE a layer of cake cubes in the bottom of a straight-side glass bowl. Trim the cake as necessary to create an even layer.

    3. SPREAD 3 cups of vanilla ice cream on top of the cake layer. Repeat process and top with a layer of cake cubes or crushed Oreo cookies. Top with candy cane ice cream.

    4. COVER with plastic wrap and place in the freezer. Freeze for at least 1 hour, until the ice cream is re-frozen.

    5. MAKE the whipped cream: Beat the cream, sugar, vanilla and salt to soft peaks with an electric mixer.

    6. TO SERVE: Remove the trifle from the freezer 10 minutes in advance of serving. Drizzle with fudge sauce. Top with whipped cream before bringing to the table and add optional garnish.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Feast Of The Seven Fishes

    grilled-octopus-scarpettabeverlyhills-230

    Seven courses mean smaller portions, like
    this taste of grilled octopus. Photo courtesy
    Scrapetta | Beverly Hills.

     

    You’ve still got plenty of time to plan a Feast of the Seven Fishes for Christmas Eve. Known as Esta dei Sette Pesci in Italy, the tradition was brought to the U.S. by Italian immigrants.

    Some background:

  • The tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve dates back to medieval times, to the Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from meat or milk products on Fridays and specific holy days. Fish, typically fried in oil, was most often substituted.
  • Other traditional dishes included baccalà (salted cod fish), calamari and seafood (oysters, scallops, shrimp, smelts).
  • The tradition is believed to have started in southern Italy, in areas like Naples and Sicily. It is not a tradition in northern Italy.
  • Italian Catholics would receive Holy Communion during Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. In the spirit of the holiday, there was abstention from meat prior to receiving communion.
  • The seven fishes may have represented the seven days of the week, but some families serve 13 varieties of fish, representing Jesus and the 12 apostles.
  • You don’t have to be a follower of the faith to participate in the feast. Adapt the tradition to your own celebration.

     

    WHAT SHOULD YOU SERVE?

    Anything goes. Italy has a wealth of coastline, so options were plentiful.

    You don’t have to cook it all: Assemble a group of people to bring their favorite fish and seafood dishes (a curated potluck).

    If you want to feast but don’t want to cook, check with local restaurants. For example, Chef Tony DiSalvo of the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica, California is presenting this tempting Feast of Seven Fishes menu at his restaurant, Cast:

  • Course 1: Baby Kale Caesar, White Anchovies, Garlic Croutons, Shaved Parmesan
  • Course 2: Kusshi Oysters, Mignonette, Cocktail Sauce
  • Course 3: Smoked Trout and Avocado, “Chips and Dip”
  • Course 4: Dungeness Crab Toast, Yuzu Mayonnaise
  • Course 5: Grilled Octopus Salad, Chickpeas, Olives and Feta
  • Course 6: Homemade Linguine with Clams, Mussels and Shrimp, Chilies and Herbs
  • Course 7: Lobster Risotto, Bisque Emulsion, Tarragon, Chervil and Chives
  • Dessert: Traditional Italian Cookies, Coffee, Tiramisu and homemade Limoncello
  •  

    MORE IDEAS

    Each course is half the size of a normal portion, and you can make easy-to-prepare appetizers for most of them. Here’s what we’ve served in past years:

  • Crab dip with crudités
  • Oyster shooters
  • Seafood paté or tuna-olive tapenade
  • Seafood chowder
  • Carpaccio or sashimi
  • Smoked salmon or gravlax
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Crab cakes
  • Marinated seafood salad (calamari, octopus, shrimp, green and black olives, onion) over greens
  • Fried calamari
  •  

    lobster-risotto-mackenzieltd-230

    Lobster risotto. Photo courtesy MackenzieLtd.com.

  • Angel hair pasta with lobster, scallops or shrimp in a tomato cream sauce
  • Squid ink pasta with scallops and red caviar
  • Seafood risotto
  • Our favorite salmon dish of the moment
  •  
    For a kids’ menu, considera California roll, jumbo grilled shrimp, tuna noodle casserole, a seafood pasta dish and seafood-vegetable skewers.

    Here’s more about the Feast Of The Seven Fishes.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Tree Napkin Fold

    A few decades back when napkin folds were a staple of fancy entertaining, we bought a book on the topic and created everything from fans to fleurs-de-lis.

    If you’re not familiar with the art of napkin folding, here are 27 basic napkin folds and many more types of napkin folding on Pinterest.

    Napkin folding may seem old fashioned, but every formal dinner table still features crisp napkins. And there’s no better time than Christmas dinner to show off.

    Here’s how to make the Christmas tree napkin fold in the photo, from crafting site Handimania.com.

     
    A BIT ABOUT NAPERY

    Napery is another term for linens used for household purposes, including napkins and tablecloths.

    In wealthy medieval households, there was an “office” responsible for the washing and storage of these items, headed by a naperer who worked closely with other offices.

     

    christmas-tree-napkin-handimania-230

    Fold green, red or white napkins into Christmas trees. Photo courtesy Handimania.com.

     
    These included the office of the laundry, charged with the washing and storage of clothing; and the office of the ewery, which managed the water and the vessels for drinking and washing. In smaller affluent households that couldn’t keep up with the Joneses (or the Lord Joneses), these three functions were managed by the same staff. [Source]

    Crisp napkins were folded in style at the tables of the 19th-century elite and through the early 20th century. The art has been kept alive at certain fine restaurants and catering establishments.

    These days, things are more casual at our home—except for very special holiday dinners. We’ll be folding Christmas tree napkins on the 25th!

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Snowman Latte

    snowman-latte-caffebene-230

    Frosty the Snowman in his latte debut. Photo
    courtesy Caffebene USA.

     

    Turn your latte into a Snowman Latte with this instructions from Caffebene, the world’s second largest coffeehouse franchise.

    Laila Ghambari, Director of Coffee at Cherry Street Coffee House in Seattle—the home of American latte art. Here are her tips:

  • The micro-foam is a crucial element in creating the perfect latte art. Use a milk foaming machine that is able to produce rich, thick, long-lasting foam.
  • Use whole or 2% milk. More milk fat equals more creaminess.
  • Add air to the milk by bringing the steam wand tip to the surface of the milk (not beneath). Remember that NO air will just create hot milk and TOO MUCH air will make your milk bubbly.
  • Make sure that when you are steaming your milk that the milk is spinning. You can achieve this by tilting the pitcher, which allows for the air and milk to blend together.
  • You need to steam the milk to a smooth, creamy texture. It should look cold cream or wet paint.
  • Once the milk is steamed, swirl it around to make sure the milk and foam are incorporated, not separated.
  •  
    THE HISTORY OF LATTE ART

    Latte art was developed in Italy, enabled by the development of microfoam, created by the steam wand of a cappuccino machine, used to foam a pitcher of milk. The combination of the crema atop the cup of espresso and velvety microfoam allows patterns to be made. (Note that other types of milk steamers/foamers do not create microfoam.)

    Latte art in the United States developed in the Seattle coffee culture of the 1980s and 1990s. By 1989 the heart pattern was a signature at David Schomer’s Espresso Vivace and the rosette pattern followed, based on a photograph Schomer saw of latte art in an Italian café.

     
     

    HOW TO MAKE THE LATTE SNOWMAN

    snowman-latte-instructions-caffebenesnowman-latte-caffebene-230

    Comments

    RECIPE: Mini Eggnog Cheesecakes

    Here’s a cheesecake recipe developed for Christmas and New Year’s Eve: Eggnog Cheesecake! These mini cheesecakes with a gingersnap crust are from Driscolls.com.

    For a clean presentation, invest in a mini cheesecake pan (with removable bottoms); or bake the cheesecakes in festive paper baking cups (also known as cupcake or muffin papers) in a standard muffin pan.

    Prep time is 30 minutes, cook time is 15 to 18 minutes.

    RECIPE: MINI EGGNOG GINGERBREAD CHEESECAKES

    Ingredients For 12 Servings
     
    Crust

  • 3/4 cup ground gingersnap cookies (about 14 cookies)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  •  
    Filling

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 36 fresh raspberries (about 1 cup)
  •  

    mini-eggnog-gingerbread-cheesecake-discrolls-230

    Ho ho ho: mini eggnog gingerbread cheesecakes! Photo courtesy Driscoll’s Berries.

  • 1-1/2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup eggnog
  •  
    Equipment

  • 1 mini-cheesecake pan with removable bottoms ((12-cups, 1-1/2-inches by 2-inches) or a 12-cup muffin tin
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Lightly spray the wells of the mini-cheesecake pan with non-stick spray. If using a muffin pan, line the cups with the paper liners.

    2. PROCESS the cookies into fine crumbs using a food processor. Combine the crumbs and butter in a small bowl. Press 1 tablespoon of the cookie mixture into each cup in the pan and pat down firmly (for the muffin tin, press the cookie mixture into the paper liners).

    3. MIX the cream cheese, sugar and flour in an electric mixer on low speed until blended, scraping down the sides of bowl. Add the eggnog, vanilla extract, nutmeg and salt and mix until blended. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, on low speed until blended.

    4. DIVIDE the batter among the cups in pan. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or 18 to 20 minutes for the muffin pan and paper liners. The edges should be set and center slightly jiggly. The cheesecakes will puff slightly above pan.

    5. COOL completely on a baking rack. Then refrigerate at least 4 hours or until chilled throughout. To serve, carefully remove cheesecakes from pan and top each with 3 raspberries.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Linky Doodles Candy Cane Garlands

    linkdoodles-holiday-peppermint-230

    Deck something with candy cane garlands. Photo courtesy Kencraft.

     

    Linky Doodles Candy Chains calls itself “The world’s only linkable candy.”

    They’re specially shaped, open link shapes made from a hard candy recipe. You simply hook the pieces together, and they make an edible Christmas garland.

    At $21.99 + $9.99 shipping for 28 pieces that make a garland of 5.5 feet, you need to make a financial commitment to create too much of a garland, but you may have a space for a small one.

    You can also use Linky Doodles for napkin rings, or adorn yourself with an edible necklace.

    Made by Kencraft, a quality candy maker, Linky Doodles are also available in Rainbow, Pink, and Blue, for year-round celebrating. All of these colors are cherry flavored.

     
    WHERE TO BUY LINKY DOODLES

  • Buy online: red, white and green peppermint Linky Doodles
  • Buy online: red and white cherry flavor Linky Doodles
  •  
    Visit LinkyDoodles.com for more information.

     
      

    Comments

    GIFT: Treat House Gluten Free Crispy Rice Treats

    Gluten free*, artisanal and an appropriate portion size—two square inches as opposed to those supersized Rice Krispies Treats—the gourmet Crispy Rice Treats from Treat House have been a NIBBLE favorite since they debuted. (Here’s our original review, a Top Pick Of The Week.)

    These gourmet crispy rice treats (that’s Rice Krispie treats without the trademark infringement) continue to dazzle with an ongoing stream of seasonal flavors and designs.

    For Holiday 2014, there’s a gift box of crispy rice treats topped with holiday and winter theme garnishes, including a dreidel and chocolate foil coins for Hanukkah.

    All treats are gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free. The marshmallows are made using raw cane sugar, not corn syrup.

    And, the line is kosher (dairy), supervised by United Kosher Supervision.

    There’s a feel-good component, too: Ten cents of every treat (more for larger items) is donated to The Food Bank For New York City, a relief organization working to end hunger.

       

    group-230

    Nostalgic and gluten free! Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

    candy-cane-sprinkles-smores-230

    Perennial favorite S’mores joins holiday candy cane and peppermint treats. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

    The flavors at Treat House range from kid stuff (Birthday Cake, Bubble Gum, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Chocolate Pretzel, M&M, etc.) to sophisticated (Chocolate Raspberry, Salted Caramel, etc.).

    But for the holidays, head for the seasonal specialty gift box.

    The 12 pack of holiday crispy rice treats in a the silver and snowflake gift box is $31.

    Get yours at TreatHouse.com.
     
    THE HISTORY OF RICE KRISPIES TREATS

    This childhood favorite, no-bake cookie was invented in 1928 by Mildred Day and colleagues in the home economics department at The Kellogg Company. It was created as a fund raiser-for the Camp Fire Girls, a nationwide American youth organization.

    The recipe consists of butter, marshmallows and Rice Rice Krispies cereal. The butter and marshmallows are melted together, blended with the Rice Krispies and pressed into a pan. When cool, they are cut into bars. Many subsequent variations mix in other ingredients, from chocolate chips to licorice and gummi bears.

     

    Check out the different types of cookies in our tasty Cookie Glossary.

     
    *Some flavors have garnishes that are not gluten free.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Party Picks, Fancy Toothpick Skewers

    If you like to add a flourish to your party food, consider fancy party picks.

    They not only make the food look better, but can also serve as party favors or stocking stuffers (at about $5.00 per box).

    These special party picks, found on Amazon.com, will make your hors d’oeuvre even tastier:

  • Holiday party picks, silver and gold picks with a star on top
  • Christmas party picks: assorted red, green and white with Christmas trees on top.
  • Foil party picks: fun metallic fringe in blue, green, purple and silver for New Year’s Eve.
  • Conventional frilled party picks, with cellophane frills in bright colors for Thanksgiving.
  •  
    CHRISTMAS FOODS TO SERVE ON PARTY PICKS

    Savory Picks

       

    party-picks-creativeconverting-230

    Christmas picks, Photo courtesy CreativeConverting.com.

     

    party-picks-stars-creativeconverting-amz-230

    New Year’s Eve picks, Photo courtesy CreativeConverting.com.

     
  • Caprese salad: halved cherry tomato stuffed with mozzarella and a basil leaf; optional balsamic vinaigrette dipping sauce (photo).
  • Greek salad: feta square base topped with Kalamata olive, mini cucumber and cherry or grape tomato (photo).
  • Mini meatballs: topped with pastry stars, served with mustard dip (photo).
  • Pepperoni boats: pepperoni slice wrapped around cheese, cherry tomato half and basil or parsley (photo).
  • Sausage slice: base topped with pepperjack (or other cheese), a fresh parsley leaf and a pimento-stuffed olive (photo).
  •  
    Sweet Picks

  • Santa heads: green grape base topped with banana slice, inverted strawberry and mini marshmallow (photo)
  • Star fruit and cheese skewers: cut fruits into stars with canape cutters and alternate with cheese cubes.
  •  
    See more suggestions for appetizer picks and dessert picks.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Popcorn Wreaths

    Food fun, task for the kids: Make Holiday Wreath Popcorn Treats. This recipe from The Popcorn Board can be made by older children.

    RECIPE: CHRISTMAS POPCORN WREATHS

    Ingredients For 8 Five-Inch Wreaths

  • 3 quarts popped popcorn
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 3 tablespoons (1/2 of a 3-ounce box) lime gelatin dessert mix
  • Decorations: small red candies, mini jellybeans, dried cranberries or cherries, etc., plus red fruit leather for “ribbon”
  •  

    Preparation

    1. SPRAY a large mixing bowl lightly with cooking spray and place the popcorn inside.

    2. MELT the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir in the marshmallows and gelatin dessert powder until the marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth. Pour over the popcorn and mix well until coated.

     

    Almost too pretty to eat! Photo courtesy The Popcorn Board.

     

    3. SPRAY your hands with cooking spray and press firmly to form the popcorn into 9-inch logs. Then bend the logs to form the wreaths.

    4. PLACE the wreaths on wax paper. Press the candy decorations onto the wreaths to decorate. Add a “ribbon” cut from fruit leather.

    5. SERVE immediately or wrap individually in cellophane bags for storage and gifting. Add a ribbon tie to the bag as a decorative closure.

    6. TIP: Soak the saucepan in hot soap and water before cleaning.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Cocktail Garnishes

    christmas-cocktail-garnish-daviosmanhattan-230

    Deck the drink with a holiday garnish. Photo
    courtesy Davio’s | Manhattan.

     

    While you’re pouring good cheer for the holidays, how about a special seasonal garnish?

    From Davio’s Manhattan, a terrific steakhouse (across from Grand Central Station at Lexington Avenue and 45th Street), this holiday garnish couldn’t be easier.

    Simply wash and dry rosemary sprigs and affix two raspberries or one strawberry at the end. Fresh sprigs of rosemary look like miniature evergreen branches.

    Other garnish ideas (match the flavors of the garnish to the flavors of the cocktail):

  • Crushed candy cane rim (dip the rim in water and then into a plate of crushed candy canes).
  • Mint sprig and raspberry (take a look).
  • Pomegranate arils (check them out on this Pom-tini).
  • Red currants (they look like holly berries), white currants or Champagne grapes (which are actually Zante currants).
  • Berries: sweet gooseberries (which are red, not orange), lingonberries or dried red mulberries (the fresh ones are in season in the summer).
  • Green and/or red sanding sugar for a sweet rim (you can mix the colors together).
  •  

    Cranberries are bright and seasonal but are too bitter to eat. Holly berries should never be used because they are poisonous.

     

    RECIPE: ROSEMARY RASPBERRY MARTINI

    Pack the best of the holidays in a martini with muddled fresh rosemary, raspberries and cranberry juice. Berry vodka gives this cocktail an added burst of flavor. Slice a fresh raspberry on a sprig of rosemary for a festive garnish and toast to the season.

    Prep time is five minutes.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 6-10 fresh rosemary needles
  • 6 fresh raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1-1/2 teaspoons (3/4 ounce) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) simple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cranberry juice
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) berry-flavored vodka
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: rosemary sprig and optional lemon peel curl
  •  

    christmas-garnish-martini-driscolls-230

    A cocktail with lots of holiday spirit. Photo courtesy Driscoll’s.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the garnish: Remove the needles from the bottom two-thirds of of a rosemary sprig. Save the needles for muddling. Spear 2 raspberries on sprig and set aside.

    2. MUDDLE the rosemary leaves and 4 raspberries in a cocktail shaker. Add the lemon juice, simple syrup, cranberry juice and raspberry vodka (available from Absolut, Skyy, Smirnoff and others—or make your own two days in advance). Top with ice and shake vigorously.

    3. STRAIN into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish and serve.

      

    Comments

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