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Archive for New Year’s Eve

FOOD FUN: Snowman Cake Or Cookies

Snowman Cake

Melted Snowman Cookies

Snowman cake. This is actually a stacked cookie from Lila Loa, but we baked three cake layers instead. [2] Melting Snowman cookies (photo courtesy Pillsbury; here’s the recipe).

 

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, or other year-end holiday, you can still have a special seasonal cake.

Make one with a nonsectarian snowman or snowflake motif. These work for New Year’s Eve, too (perhaps with a sparkler or two).

Snowmen are easier; snowflakes require some serious piping chops.

This photo is actually a stacked cookie from Lila Loa. We love the idea.

But we needed a cake. So we baked and stacked three graduated cake layers.

We made lemon pound cake* layers with coconut frosting (vanilla frosting topped with coconut).

Of course, carrot cake, chocolate cake, red velvet or any flavor you prefer would be just as nice.

MORE TASTY SNOWMEN

  • Snowman California Rolls (sushi)
  • Snowman Cheese Ball
  • Snowman Fruit Bowl
  • Melting Snowman Cookies
  • Snowman Cupcakes
  • Snowman Latte
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    *We wanted a dense, easy-to-cut cake rather than an airy one with a delicate crumb.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Instant Holiday Ice Cream

    Christmas Ice Cream

    Turn any flavor into “Christmas” ice cream with red and green sanding sugar. If you want to save calories, check out Halo Top: our favorite of the low-calorie ice creams with just 240 calories for the entire pint. And it has extra protein—really! Here’s our review (photo courtesy Halo Top),

     

    When you hear “Christmas ice cream,” you probably think of candy cane (a.k.a. peppermint stick) ice cream.

    We love it and gobble it up over the holiday season. But not everyone is a mint fan.

    So here’s the easiest way ever to serve Christmas ice cream:

    Sprinkle colored sanding sugar over the top.

    Sanding sugar, also called colored sugar, decorating sugar, nibbed sugar, pearl sugar or sugar nibs, is coarse granulated sugar.

    It’s processed to have larger granules that sparkle, and is used to decorate candies, cookies, cupcakes, sweet breads and other baked goods. You can find it in white as well as a rainbow of colors.
     
    SPRINKLE YOUR HOLIDAY COLORS

    For Christmas, sprinkle red and green sugars on ice cream.

    For Chanukah, get blue and white sugars.

    For Kwanzaa, get black, red and green.

    For New Year’s Eve: gold and silver.

     
    Use the colors of any special occasion for an instant celebration dessert.

    You can find sanding sugar in some supermarkets, baking supply stores and online sites like TheBakersKitchen.net. Here’s their selection of colored sugars.

    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SUGAR IN OUR SUGAR & SYRUP GLOSSARY.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Holiday Champagne Alternatives

    Whether for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Eve, Champagne is a tradition in holiday homes; that is, holiday homes with means.

    Champagne, by far the most famous sparkling wine in the world, is in the highest demand. But can only be produced on limited acreage, the region of Champagne, in northeast France.

    The worldwide demand for Champagne has been increasing since the 1990s, as affluent consumers in Asia, Russia and elsewhere joined the demands in Europe and North America. Last year, about 312 million bottles were sold.

    While that may seem a lot, worldwide, 3.2 billion cases of wine were produced (2013 figures). That’s 38.4 billion bottles (54%, red wine, 37% white, 9% rosé). The number one country for volume of wine purchased is the U.S. See more wine statistics below.

    The demand for Champagne and the limited ability to produce more of it has upped the prices. The most affordable bottles are non-vintage Champagnes (blends of juice from multiple grape harvests), which make up the bulk of the market. It isn’t less good than a vintage Champagne; in fact, it best shows off the house style, since vintage Champagne by law can only include grapes from that vintage.

    Not all years produce great grapes (not sweet enough, too sweet, etc.), so instead of creating a vintage Champagne, vintners reserve those wines and blend them them to create the precise flavor they seek.

    You can buy good nonvintage Champagnes for $35 to $45.00. Our favorites are Louis Roederer’s NV Brut Premier and Champagne Pol Roger Brut Reserve.

    Only Champagne connoisseurs—those who drink a lot of it and have the expertise to analyze what they’re drinking—can tell you if a glass of Champagne served blind holds a vintage or a nonvintage.
     
    HOW ABOUT BUBBLY THAT ISN’T CHAMPAGNE?

    By law, only sparkling wines made in the Champagne region can be called Champagne. This AOC designation ensures consumers that the food has been made in its original region, with specified ingredients and traditional techniques. It delivers a taste consistently and true to its nature.

    Every other wine that bubbles is called “sparkling wine.”

    These other wines offer bubbles at lower prices; and every non-expert wine drinker will be thrilled that its bubbly, from wherever. (Experts also enjoy these other sparklers.)

    Head to your nearest wine store and check the prices. Don’t hesitate to ask the clerks for their favorites. Consider:

  • Australian Sparkling Wines, such as Yellowtail Bubbles (our favorite is the Yellowtail Bubbles Sparkling Rosé), and other brands (around $10).
  • California “Champagne”: Champagne-style wines made from California grapes by French Champagne houses (Chandon from Moet et Chandoon, e.g.) are pricier, but look for All-American bottlings like Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge Brut and Domaine Ste Michelle Brut from Oregon (about $10.00).
  • Cava from Spain (for $8.00, look for Cristalino Brut and Cristalino Brut Rosé; Freixenet is $12.00).
  • Crémant From France’s Loire Valley: This wine is made in France with the same method, just not in the Champagne region. Crémant de Bourgogne, for instance, is made in the Burgundy region ($12.00-$15.00 for many bottles).
  • Prosecco from Italy (many around $9.00-$10.00).
  • Sekt from Germany.
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    Sweet Sparkling Wines

    For dessert, go for a sweeter sparkling wine, such as:

  • Amabile and Dolce sparkling wines from Italy.
  • Asti Spumante from Italy (it’s sparkling Moscato).
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    Sparkling Cocktail

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    Freixenet

    Glass Of Cava

    [1] Sparkling wines are made all over the world (photo courtesy Grey Goose). [2] Check out the rosé and red wine bubblies (photo courtesy Ocean Spray). [3] freixenet-cordon-negro (photo courtesy Freixenet). [4] Cava, from Spain, is a popular, affordable sparkler (photo courtesy Food & Wines From Spain).

  • American sparklers, such as Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec from California. There are sparkling wines produced from coast to coast. There’s also Sparkling Gewürztraminer from Treveri Cellars in Washington State.If you want to celebrate with American wines on Thanksgiving (we always do), see what your store has to offer.
  • Brachetto d’Acqui (a rosé wine) from Italy.
  • Demi-Sec and Doux sparkling wines from France (including Champagne but also from other regions).
  • Dry Prosecco (a.k.a Valdobbiadene) from Italy (in wine terminology, “Dry” is a tad sweeter than “Extra Dry,” which is sweeter than “Brut)”.
  • Freixenet Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée and Freixenet Mía Moscato Rosé from Spain.
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    WHO DRINKS ALL THE WINE?

    According to International Wine & Spirit Research, Europe and the U.S. consume the most volume, with 2013 statistics showing the big drinkers by volume to be:

  • U.S., 339 million cases
  • France, 296 million cases
  • Italy, 288 million cases
  • Germany, 274 million cases
  • China, 144 million
  • U.K., 133 million cases
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    Per capita wine consumption shows the really big drinkers. In order, they are Italy, France, Switzerrland, Portugal and Austria.

    The biggest sparkling wine drinkers are the Germans, who drank 46 million cases of fizz in 2014. France came in second, at 30 million cases; and Russia, traditionally a large market for Champagne since the wine was created†, consumed 26 million cases. The U.S. was fourth, with 18 million cases, and the U.K. fifth, consuming 11 million cases—incredible given the difference in population of the two countries.
     
    HISTORICAL NOTES ABOUT CHAMPAGNE

    The region now called Champagne was settled by the Gauls around 500 B.C.E. When the Roman legions conquered the area in 56 B.C.E., they bestowed upon the land the name Campania (Champagne) because of the similarity between the rolling hills of that area with the Roman (now Italian) province of Campania (the word campania itself means “open country”).

    In the Middle Ages Champagne was a duchy, then a country. In 1284, Champagne was brought under French rule when Jeanne, Queen of Navarre and Countess of Champagne, Brie and Bigorre married the future King Philippe IV (she was 11 years old). When Philippe’s father died the following year, Jeanne became Queen of France at age 12.

    The wine grapes grown since Roman times were made into still wine†. In the 17th century, the process for making champagne was discovered and the vintners have been making bubbly since then.

    The best grapes are grown where a Tertiary period chalk plain overlaps a vast Cretaceous chalk plain that lies underneath the soil layer (it’s the same huge basin that creates the White Cliffs of Dover in England). The chalk provides good drainage and reflects the heat from the sun. The unique terroir creates the unique creamy, toasty flavor of Champagne wines.
     
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    †The original wines of Champagne, made since Roman times, were still wines. The first sparkling Champagne was created accidentally, when pressure in the bottles caused the corks to pop and sometimes, the bottles to explode. It was first called “the devil’s wine,” le vin du diable). The technique to master modern Champagne began in the 17th century, with Le Veuve Cliquot, the woman who did it. It was pricey, and became popular with royalty and nobility. The emerging middle class wanted their share, too.

      

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    RECIPE: Sparkling Pear Cocktail

    La Poire Sparkling Cocktail

    America's Favorite Pear

    [1] La Poire sparkling cocktail (photo courtesy Grey Goose). [2] America’s favorite pear, the Bartlett (photo courtesy CookThink). There are also red Bartlett and d’Anjou are available in green and red varieties.

     

    This week we had a bottle of Angry Orchard’s Knotty Pear Cider at lunch, and it reminded us that fall is also a time for all things pear.

    For a celebration, toast or other special occasion—or weekend chillaxing—this cocktail from Grey Goose is a star. Easy to make, it combines pear and citrus with sweet Moscato. You can use other slightly sweet sparkling wine such as Asti Spumante.

    If it isn’t a special occasion, don’t go out of your way to find the perfect garnish. Or a Champagne flute.

     
    RECIPE: SPARKLING PEAR VODKA COCKTAIL

    Ingredients For 6 Drinks

  • 6 parts Grey Goose La Poire
  • 1 part lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 small pear, ideally Anjou or Bartlett*, red or green
  • 1 bottle sparkling Moscato or other sparkling wine, chilled
  • Garnish options: baby orchid, crystallized ginger, sliced star fruit
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    Preparation

    1. PEEL and core the pear and cut into 1/4-inch dice.

    2. PLACE the lemon juice, sugar, pear and Grey Goose La Poire in a bowl. Stir well to combine until the sugar is fully dissolved.

    2. DIVIDE the pear mixture into six Champagne flutes or wine glasses. Fill each chilled glass with Moscato.

    3. GARNISH and serve.
     
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    *A juicier pear variety will accentuate the pear flavors. Here are the different types of pears.

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The New Bloody Mary Garnishes

    Aquavit Bloody Mary

    Bloody Mary Crab Claw

    Garnished Bloody Mary

    TOP PHOTO: Aquavit Bloody Mary with beets, a half-sour pickle spear and fresh dill; photo Flavor & The Menu. MIDDLE PHOTO: Mary garnished with crab claw and dilly beans from Ramos House. BOTTOM PHOTO: Surf and Turf Bloody Mary with bacon and shrimp, plus an antipasto skewer and, as a nod to the past, a celery stalk. From The Wayfarer | NYC.

     

    As if everyone who drinks didn’t have enough on New Year’s Eve, January 1st is National Bloody Mary Day. Each year we feature a different Bloody Mary recipe.

    Some time ago we read about a famed Bloody Mary served at Ramos House in San Juan Capistrano, California.

    It was made with shochu instead of vodka, lower-proof and lower in calories. It was garnished with lots of dilly beans (pickled green beans) and a crab claw.

    So today’s tip is: Move past the celery stalk to more interesting Bloody Mary garnishes.
     
    RECIPE: ADAPTED FROM THE RAMOS HOUSE
    BLOODY MARY RECIPE

    Ingredients For 2.25 Quarts

  • 1 liter tomato juice*
  • .5 liter clam juice*
  • 1 bottle (750ml) vodka
  • 1 ounce prepared horseradish (from the refrigerator section
    of your market)
  • 1.5 ounces hot sauce
  • 1/4 tablespoon ground pepper
  • 6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • Zest of 1-1/2 lemons
  • 6 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Garnish: crab claws, lobster claws or shrimp; dilly beans and/or pickled asparagus†
  • Optional garnishes: bacon strips and/or “antipasto skewers” (a cheese cube, grape tomato mozzarella ball, olive, pickled onion, sausage chunk or other antipasto ingredients—see bottom photo above)
  • Optional: ice cubes
  • Optional: cocktail straws‡
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    Preparation

    1. COMBINE ingredients (except for garnishes) in a pitcher and chill before serving.

    2. FILL glasses with ice cubes, as desired. We prefer to pre-chill the drink rather than dilute it with ice cubes. Another option: Make the ice cubes from tomato juice.

    3. POUR into tall glasses, 3/4 full. Arrange the garnishes on top.
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    *Mott’s Clamato Juice is packed with HFCS—so sweet you could churn it into sorbet (see our review). It’s easy to mix plain tomato juice with plain clam juice.

    †We buy Tillen Farms’ Crispy Dilly Beans and Crispy Asparagus by the case, but you can pickle your own vegetables in just an hour or two. Here’s how to pickle vegetables.

    ‡If you pack the top with garnishes, a straw makes it easy to get to the drink below. How about these red cocktail straws? You can also provide inexpensive bamboo cocktail forks if your guests are too formal to eat the garnish with their fingers.

     
    MORE BLOODY MARYNESS

  • Bloody Mary Drink Bar Or Cart
  • Bloody Mary Ice Pops
  • Bloody Mary History
  • Bloody Mary Variations: Bloody Bull, Bloody Maria, Danish Mary, Highland Mary, Russian Mary
    and numerous others
  • BLT Bloody Mary
  • Deconstructed Bloody Mary
  • Michelada
  • More Bloody Mary Garnishes
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    If you have a favorite Bloody Mary creation, please share.
     
    HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THE NIBBLE!

      

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