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Archive for Halloween & Fall

TIP OF THE DAY: Thanksgiving Cheeses

Jack O'Pumpkseed Cheese

Cranberry Chevre Goat Cheese

Gouda With Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkinseed Gouda Cheese

[1] Jack O’Pumpkinseed, a mountain-style cheese from Switzerland. [2] Cranberry goat cheese log from Montchèvre. [3] Pumpkin spice goat cheese log from Montchèvre. [4] Another Pumpkinseed Gouda from The Netherlands, at Sam’s Club.

 

If you read our articles on Halloween Cheeses, you know that many of them are colorful representation of the Harvest Season.

They certainly work for Thanksgiving. But for a smashing Thanksgiving-specific cheese plate, check out these holiday-themed cheeses: a blue, a goat, and semihard cheeses (Cheddar, Gouda, Swiss).

  • Blue Cheese. No cranberries or pumpkin seeds here, but blue cheese lovers will appreciate the hot chiles mixed into Carr Valley Glacial Wildfire Blue, an artisan cheese from Wisconsin.
  • Cranberry Cheddar, Jack, Stilton and Wensleydale: different retailers will carry one or the other. Seek them out: They’re sure to be a hit.
  • Swiss-Style: Jack O’Pumpkinseed. This washed rind cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland has chopped roasted pumpkin seeds in both the paste and the rind. The paste is very smooth with a creamy mouthfeel. Bonus: tiny eyes. Available at iGourmet and elsewhere.
  • Goat Cheese. A number of cheese factories make fresh goat cheese logs rolled in dry cranberries. The Cranberry Chevre Log at Trader Joe’s is just $3.99.
  • Gouda-Style: From The Netherlands, Kaamps Gouda-Style Cheese With Pumpkin Seeds is a popular item at Sam’s Clubs (more information).
  •  
    The semi-hard cheeses are great for a seasonal cheeseburger.

     
    SEASONAL ACCOMPANIMENTS

  • Apple chips. Our favorite brand is Bare Fruit.
  • Breads. cranberry orange, cranberry walnut, herb, nut, semolina
  • Fall fruits. apples, figs, pears, persimmons, pomegranate
  • Plate garnish. Decorate with cinnamon sticks, fresh sage, pomegranate arils, star anise
  • Pumpkin butter.
  • Seasonal crackers. We especially like the Oat Cakes and Rye Cakes from Effie’s Homemade.
  • Spiced pumpkin seeds. You can buy them (our favorite is Superseedz or season and roast your own.
  •  
    HOW TO ROAST PUMPKIN SEEDS

    You can bake raw, hulled pumpkin seeds at 300°F for 45 minutes until golden brown, or roast them in a skillet on the stove top.

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 1 cup (5 ounces) hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Spices of choice
  • Fine sea salt to taste
  •  
    Preparation: Oven Technique

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 300°F. Toss the seeds in a bowl with the melted butter and salt. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet or in a baking pan.

    2. BAKE for about 45 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.

     
    Preparation: Skillet Technique

    1. PLACE the seeds in a dry heavy skillet, 9- to 10-inches, over moderate heat. Stir constantly until the seeds are puffed and golden, 4 to 5 minutes.

    2. TRANSFER to a bowl. Stir in the oil and seasonings; toss thoroughly until all seeds are coated.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Spider Bundt Cake

    Spider Halloween Bundt Cake

    Spider Halloween Bundt Cake

    Spider Bundt Cake

    Spider Bundt Cake Recipe

    [1] and [2]: Two different stylings for a spider bundt cake. [3] Set toothpicks between the folds where you’ll pipe the legs. [4] Pipe the legs, add the face candies, and that’s it (all photos courtesy King Arthur Flour).

     

    For working folks, today’s the last day to bake something special for Halloween.

    Every year, King Arthur Flour bloggers MJ and Gwen team up to create new novelty treats for Halloween. This year, it’s a giant spider bundt cake.

    Simply mix the batter from your favorite seasonal recipe or boxed mix, brew up the buttercream, and pipe your way to a creepy cake.

    See the play-by-play photos here.

    1. DECIDE ON THE FLAVOR(S)

    You can have chocolate or vanilla bundt cake any time of the year. For Halloween, go for fall flavors:

  • Apple
  • Caramel Pecan or Caramel Pear
  • Carrot or Cranberry Carrot
  • Chocolate Rum
  • Cinnamon Spice
  • Ginger Spice
  • Maple or Maple Walnut
  • Pumpkin, Pumpkin Pecan
  • Sweet Potato Pecan
  •  
    For The Frosting

    For the frosting, either chocolate or vanilla buttercream will work with any flavor. But you can get as creative as you like, as long as it looks like a spider (i.e., a tan/coffee color is OK, orange isn’t unless you want a psychedelic spider).

    Here’s King Arthur’s recipe for easy vanilla buttercream, which will frost two cakes.

    You can divide the batch in half and create two colors/flavors. For chocolate frosting, simply split the vanilla frosting in half. To the chocolate half, dd 1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa plus 1/4 cup black cocoa which creates a darker color and more intense chocolate flavor. Mix well and you’ll have chocolate frosting!
     
    2. DECIDE ON THE FACE(S)

    Go colorful so the face doesn’t disappear into the background color. The photos show two different styling options: the face on the front of the chocolate bundt, and on top for the the vanilla bundt.

  • For eyes: candy corn, peanut M&Ms, maraschino cherries.
  • For fangs: candy corn, red licorice shoe strings.
  • For toenails: candy corn, cinnamon candies or slivered almonds.
  •  
    You’ll also need toothpicks to assemble the cake, and a piping with a wide tip, such as Wilton’s 1A tip, makes the perfect size spider legs.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to the temperature specified by your recipe, and bake the cake. BUT FIRST, remove 1/4 cup of the batter and bake it in a muffin pan to create a separate cupcake. You’ll see why later. As the cake bakes and cools…

     

    2. MAKE the buttercream. When the cake and cupcake are cool, move it to a serving plate. Insert the cupcake into the center of the bundt and pipe the top of the cupcake with frosting, to make the body of the spider.

    3. USING the toothpicks, lay out where you intend to pipe the spider’s legs. The recipe developers left three bunt folds free for the face, and left two folds between each leg for a total of 8 legs.

    4. CREATE the legs: Remove the toothpicks one at a time before piping. Starting from the top, slowly and smoothly pipe the frosting up and down to the bottom. Tip: Twisting your arm to the side as you travel down, keeping your arm flat instead of straight up, will prevent the tip from flattening and will keep the legs nice and round. Make a blob at the bottom for the feet.

    5. ADD the face. To attach candies to the front of the cake, pipe about a teaspoon of icing in-between the fold in the center (left photo, above). Angle the eye candy (pun intended) to create the expression you’d like. MJ and Gwen decided that turning the oval M&Ms slightly gave the spider a mildly sinister looky.

    6. PRESS the candy into the soft icing and hold for a moment to let it set in. Repeat with the fangs and the toenails.

     
      

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    HALLOWEEN RECIPE: Spider Deviled Eggs

    What to serve with your Halloween cocktails?

    Spider Deviled Eggs are a good start, perhaps with some Bloody Eyeball Deviled Eggs.

    The recipe below was developed by Rachael Hutchings of La Fuji Mama, a cooking blog that brings world flavors to the family dinner table; and sent to us by the California Avocado Board.

    Here’s the recipe for the second photo, Bloody Eyeball Deviled Eggs.
     
    RECIPE: HALLOWEEN SPIDER DEVILED EGGS

    Ingredients For 12 Pieces

  • 6 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/2 ripe avocados, seeded, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon mayonnaise
  • Garnish: pitted black olives, largest size)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COOK the eggs and place in a bowl of cool water. When cooled, peel the eggs and cut each in half.

    2. REMOVE the yolks carefully so as not to tear the whites, and mix in a food processor with the other ingredients (except garnish) until creamy.

    3. FILL the whites with deviled* mixture, creating a small mound. Slice 6 olives in half lengthwise for the “body” and place on the top of the deviled mixture.

    4. SLICE more olives in half lengthwise and then slice each into small slivers for the spider legs, 8 legs for each spider. Push 4 legs into each side of the mound. We used our kitchen tweezers to place, and tap in, each leg.

    5. PLACE on a platter and serve. We purchased an inexpensive orange rectangular tray last year, that works great.
     
    ________________
    *Deviled is a centuries-old term that refers to hot and spicy preparations. Black pepper, chiles and/or hot sauce can be used to devil a dish.
    ________________
     
    MORE HALLOWEEN COCKTAIL PARTY FOOD

    Savory Nibbles

  • Cheese & Pretzel Broomsticks
  • Creepy Crudités
  • Crawling Worm Sliders
  • Graveyard Pasta Bake
  • Halloween Pizza
  • Jack O’Lantern Cheese Ball
  • Magical Jello Fingers
  • Pumpkin Seed Dip for chips and crudités
  • Scary Spider Beef-Stuffed Biscuits
  • Scream Cheese: special cheeses for Halloween
  •  
    Sweet Treats

  • Caramel Corn Cookies
  • Chocolate Candy Apples
  • Gingerbread Skeletons
  • Pumpkin Seed Brittle
  • Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
  • Spider Web Brownies
  •  

    Halloween Deviled Eggs

    Halloween Deviled Eggs

    Halloween Crudites

    Halloween Cheese

    [1] Deviled eggs topped with spiders (photo courtesy California Avocado Commission). [2] Bloody eyeball deviled eggs (photo courtesy Avocados From Mexico). [3] Creepy Crudités (recipe courtesy Woman’s Day). [4] Scream Cheese (recipe courtesy Delish)

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Halloween Bark

    Halloween White Chocolate Bark

    Orange Halloween Bark

    Halloween Candy Bark

    Halloween Chocolate Bark Recipe

    [1] White chocolate bark from Family Fresh Meals. [2] Orange Halloween bark from As The Bunny Hops. [3] The eyes have it—two sizes of eyes on bark from Chocolate Chocolate And More. [4] An elegant approach from Baked By An Introvert.

     

    Chocolate bark is like a chocolate bar, but vive la différence!

    Unlike chocolate bars, bark is not molded into individual rectangles. Instead, the melted chocolate is spread onto large pans to harden. While semi-hard, toppings—nuts, dried fruits, candies and more—are tossed on top in random order.

    When set, the bark is broken into shards, like brittle.

    Why is it called bark?

    HOW BARK GOT ITS NAME

    The Word Detective reminds us of the three basic “bark” nouns in English, none of which refers to chocolate:

  • Tree bark: Our word for the skin of a tree derives from the Old Norse “borkr.” It is first found in print in English around 1300.
  • Boat: “Bark” refers to a small sailing ship, is also spelled “barque.” It derives from the French, based on the Latin “barca,” and first appears in English in the late 15th century.
  • Dog’s bark: The sound made by dogs first appeared in print in 1562 as a noun, while the verb “to bark” dates back to Old English*. “Bark” in this sense is supposed to sound like an actual dog’s bark.
  •  
    Yet, most dictionaries omit the tastiest meaning of bark:

  • Chocolate: A layer of hard or semi-hard candy into/onto which other confections are embedded.
  •  
    Why is this type of chocolate confection called bark? Most authorities agree that it’s because the chocolate shards bear a slight resemblance to rough pieces of tree bark.
     
    WHO INVENTED CHOCOLATE BARK?

    We don’t know, even though it’s a relatively modern concept.

  • 1500 B.C.E.: The Olmecs begin to cultivate cacao in Central America. The roasted nibs were ground and turned into a drink flavored with local spices, including chile, cinnamon, musk, pepper and vanilla. It was thickened with cornmeal, then frothed in a bowl and served at room temperature—not a food we would recognize today as chocolate (the Spaniards who first tasted it spit it out).
  • 1527 C.E: Cacao beans and equipment to make chocolate were brought to Spain by the returning conquistadors. The pricey chocolate drink was reformulated for European palates by the chefs of the wealthy—the only ones who could afford it.
  • 1847: Solid-form chocolate was invented. Called eating chocolate, it was stone-ground, rough, grainy and chewy, the style that today is called “rustic.” As its popularity grew, confectioners created bonbons, chocolate-covered creams, gianduja, and in 1861, heart-shaped boxes for Valentine’s Day. If you want to experience rustic chocolate, try the Taza brand.
  • 1875: Milk chocolate was invented. Chocolate was still grainy and chewy.
  • 1879: The conch machine was invented. The process called conching heated and rolled the chocolate into a smooth consistency, creating the smooth and creamy chocolate we know today. It melted on the tongue—no chewing required.
  • TBD: Mendiants, chocolate disks studded with nuts and dried fruits, mimic an ancient recipe that repurposed stale brioche or kougelhopf into a dense bread pudding studded with dried fruits and nuts. It’s a safe bet that chocolate mendicants happened after 1900.
  •  
    View the entire chocolate timeline chart.
     
    ________________
    *Old English was the language of the Anglo-Saxons, from the 5th century to the 11th century. It was very different from modern English, a highly inflected language with a largely Germanic vocabulary based on Old Norse from Scandinavia. After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, Old English was replaced by the French-based Anglo-Norman for the upper classes, and Old English developed into Middle English for everyone else (centuries later, Russia adopted the convention of speaking and writing French at court and in the homes of the upper class). Middle English lasted until the 15th century, when modern English spelling and pronunciation began to codify. Early Modern English was the language in which William Shakespeare wrote.
    ________________

     
    READY TO MAKE BARK?

    It couldn’t be easier: Melt the chocolate, throw toppings on it and break it into pieces.

    1. PICK YOUR CHOCOLATE

    Chocolate bark can be made with any kind of chocolate: dark, milk or white; plain, layered or two-tone swirled. You can also tint white chocolate; for example, to make an orange base or layer.

    Some recipes advise you to use chocolate substitutes: almond bark (which is not chocolate with almonds unless you buy it from a good chocolate shop), candy melts, Candiquick or other base made with partly hydrogenated palm kernel oil instead of cocoa butter.
    These are not real chocolate but confectionary coating, made with vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter. It’s less expensive, it melts faster, and maybe with all the candy on top, nobody will notice. Right?

    For us: wrong. We can really taste the difference. To save money with a treat for young children, who don’t have refined palates and won’t notice, O.K. Anyone else who knows what good food is deserves better.

    Almond bark is another commonly found bark, topped with almonds or other nuts. But there’s a catch: Almond bark is also a more appealing name given to vanilla flavored candy coating, a chocolate-like confection made with vegetable fats instead of cocoa butter, with artificial vanilla and possibly other artificial flavors (for example, almond). Be aware, and avoid it!

     

    2. PICK YOUR HALLOWEEN TOPPINGS

    Pile on the seasonal candies:

  • Candy corn (see if you can find the yellow, orange and purple [instead of white] variety)
  • Candy Corn M&Ms (orange, yellow, white)
  • Candy eyeballs (you can mix larger and smaller sizes or different colors)
  • Chocolate chips: butterscotch, peanut, vanilla
  • Coarse sea salt (especially red alea salt)
  • Gummy pumpkins or mini gummy worms
  • Gold leaf bats
  • Halloween Oreos (with the orange centers), chopped
  • Edible Confetti: black cats, ghosts and pumpkins, holiday colors,
  • Sixlets: orange or yellow
  • Reeses Pieces (they’re perfect: brown, orange and yellow)
  • Anything else you find: mini candy bats, jack o’lanterns, skulls, etc.
  •  
    Save the standard bark toppings—dried fruit, mini-marshmallows, nuts, pretzels, etc.—for non-holiday bark.
     
    3. PUT THEM TOGETHER

    RECIPE: HALLOWEEN CHOCOLATE BARK

    These ingredients are for an 8″ x 8″ pan. For a larger pan, e.g. 13″ x 17″, use 1 pound of chocolate and double the toppings.

    Ingredients

  • For 1-color chocolate: 3 cups chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)
  • For 2-color chocolate: 2 cups primary color and 1 cup secondary color, each chopped
  • 2-1/2 cups toppings of choice, proportioned as you wish (from list above)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LINE a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

    2. PARTIALLY MELT the chocolate in a medium-size microwave-safe bowl, heating at 30-60 second intervals until about half the chocolate is melted. Remove the bowl and stir or whisk until smooth. This process essentially tempers the chocolate.

    3. POUR the chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread out slightly, ideally with an offset spatula, to a depth of 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick (bark should be thinner than a chocolate bar). If using a large pan with less chocolate, you do not have to spread the chocolate to the edges. Gently smooth the chocolate into an even layer. If layering or drizzling a second color, the lighter color should be on top. Melt the chocolate after the first layer has been smoothed.

    4. SPRINKLE on the toppings and place the baking sheet in the refrigerator until chocolate is set—solid enough to cut, about 20 minutes. Then score the sheet of chocolate, so it’s easier to break into pieces. With a sharp knife, create individual triangles and other shapes of varying sizes. Nothing should be even or uniform: It’s bark!

     

    Dark, Milk & White Chocolate Bars

    Chocolate Disks

    Chocolate Bark

    [5] These are not eating bars, but are couverture chocolate—large bars or blocks of two pounds or more, used by professionals. [6] Professionals also use disks of real chocolate to melt and form. Don’t confuse them with candy melts, which are not real chocolate (photos #5 and #6 courtesy King Arthur Flour). [7] Here’s how to make swirled bark from The Road Not Processed.

     
    5. USE a large, sharp knife to cut the set chocolate into random pieces: shards, triangles, irregular rectangles, etc. Store in an airtight container.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Low Calorie Halloween Food (Creepy Crudités!)

  • Counting calories?
  • Avoiding sugar?
  • Don’t like sweets?
  • Want a healthy alternative to traditional Halloween fare?
  •  
    Turn raw veggies—crudités to foodies—into a creative Halloween platter designed in the shape of Frankenstein, a jack o’lantern, owl, skeleton, scary cat, spider or witch. Believe us, these will enchant the adults as well as the kids.

    If you don’t want to make a shape, ForkAndBeans.com created a Creepy Crudités platter by Halloween-ing the vegetables themselves: carrot witch’s fingers, cauliflower brains, cucumber eyeballs, tortilla chip tombstones.

    These ideas and more come from a simple Pinterest search.
     
    RECIPE: MUMMY DIP FOR CRUDITÉS

    This cheese dip mummy was created by Phyllis Hoffman at Celebrate magazine, as posted on Blog.HWTM.com.

    It’s not kid stuff: with goat cheese, capers and two different types of olives, it’s sophisticated fare.
     
    Ingredients

  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese
  • 3 packages (4 ounces each) goat cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup green olives with pimientos, drained and chopped
  • 1 can (4.25 ounces) chopped black olives
  • 1 jar capers (3.5 ounces), drained, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Assorted fresh green vegetables
  • Optional: Ritz or other orange crackers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BEAT 1 package cream cheese and the goat cheese in a medium bowl with an electric mixer. Beat at medium speed until smooth.

    2. ADD the olives, capers, garlic and pepper, beating until combined. Refrigerate the mixture for a least 1 hour; then place the firmed dip on a serving plate and form it into a mummy shape.

    3. BEAT the remaining cream cheese at medium speed until smooth. Place the cream cheese in a pastry bag fitted with a flat leaf tip. Pipe the mummy “bandages” onto the mummy figure. Refrigerate until ready to serve with the vegetables and the optional crackers.
     
    FOR THE DIP: ORANGE OR BLOOD-RED HUMMUS

    What to serve with the creepy crudités? Orange or red dip, of course!

    Carrot-ginger hummus and sundried tomato hummus also provide a harvest shade of orange; beet hummus makes “blood dip.”

    If you’re not a hummus fan, there are options like this carrot and white bean dip.
     
    RECIPE #2: “BLOODY BEET” DIP

    This recipe is not hummus: Although it does use tahini, there are no chickpeas.

    Alternatively, you can add the pureed beets to hummus. With either technique, if it isn’t “bloody” enough for you, add a drop of red food color.

    Because Halloween is a busy time, we used canned beets. We’ll roast our own for Thanksgiving.
     
    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 1 can ((15 ounces) beets
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  

    Halloween Raw Vegetables

    Halloween Raw Vegetables

    Halloween Raw Vegetables

    Halloween Crudites

    [1] Invite Frankenstein to the party (photo and recipe from TheProduceMom.com). [2] Skeletal and vegetal: There are numerous scarecrow designs on Pinterest (photo courtesy Woman’s Day). [3] The scarecrow face is made from a tortilla. You can turn this design into individual cheese-and-vegetable or salad plates (photo courtesy ItsWrittenOnTheWall.com). [4] Think of this mummy as a cheese ball with a flatter shape (photo courtesy Celebrate magazine. If you don’t have an appropriate serving plate, get a black plastic platter from a party store.

     
    Preparation

    1. DRAIN the beets. You can reserve the beet juice for beverages, red mashed potatoes, and other uses.

    2. BLEND all ingredients in a food processor until smooth (or chunky, as you prefer). If the dip isn’t thin enough, you can add some water, one tablespoon at a time as needed (we’ve also used orange juice).

    3. TASTE and adjust seasonings. The canned beets juice is typically salted, so you may not need more salt.

      

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