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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 New Year’s Eve

TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Healthy Food Resolution For The New Year

Plain Greek yogurt substitutes well for sour
cream and whipped cream. Photo courtesy
Salad-In-A-Jar.com, which offers a recipe for
homemade Greek yogurt.

 

The new year means new beginnings. That’s why we have the tradition* of New Year’s resolutions: to set goals, make lifestyle changes, accomplish big projects, and so forth.

Dieting is on the New Year’s resolutions list for many people, and was always at the top of ours for most of our life, significant weight loss was at the top of our list. And it rarely was achieved.

So 10 years ago, we revised our resolution strategy and instead chose to make one healthy food change each year: a simple and easy switch of one food for another. There’s no sacrifice; just a trade in of one food for a different, equally tasty food. We’re very pleased with the results.

So our tip of the day is: Make one healthy food resolution this year. Here’s what we’ve done so far: 16 great trades. Please contribute your own favorite food switches.

  • BUTTER: Switch butter for olive oil. Whether for cooking eggs, sautéeing or as bread dipper instead of butter, you’ll trade cholesterol—an animal fat that is never good for you—for a heart-healthy oil (here’s a list of the “good fats”). Olive oil is also delicious in cakes.
  •  

  • DESSERT: Trade pumpkin pie for mashed sweet potato, topped with nutmeg and cinnamon (and artificial sweetener, if you like it), plus chopped walnuts or pecans. It’s “diet pumpkin pie.”
  • DESSERT: Trade ice cream for sorbet. It’s cold, it’s sweet and it has no cholesterol. That means fewer calories as well. Check the labels: Some fruit flavors have half the calories of superpremium ice cream.
  • DESSERT: Trade other desserts for fruit with nonfat Greek yogurt. Sweeten plain yogurt with cinnamon and artificial sweetener: delicious, and you get a Health Pyramid fruit serving plus a protein serving.
  • GRAINS: Switch refined grains for whole grains. Here are the benefits of whole grains, plus a collection of whole grain recipes from the Whole Grains Council.
  •  

  • PASTA: Trade pasta for “mock” pasta: lightly sautéed fresh veggies (bell pepper, eggplant, onion, mushroom, zucchini, etc.) topped with spaghetti sauce and a teaspoon of grated cheese. This switch is very satisfying, largely because plain pasta is pretty bland. Veggies have more flavor; and with a good tomato sauce (add herbs, capers, olives) and some grated cheese, you can happily make the trade. When we’re in a hurry, we simply slice the zucchini into circles before steaming; but to make it more pasta-like, shred raw zucchini in the food processor or cut it into julienne strips. Or, try spaghetti squash.
  • PASTA: Switch white flour pasta for whole wheat pasta primavera. If you want to eat pasta regularly, make it the more nutritious whole wheat pasta. Then, fill the bowl with half pasta, half steamed veggies: bell pepper, eggplant, onion, mushroom, zucchini, etc.
  • POTATOES: Trade potatoes for bean dishes. Potatoes have become a default starch for many of us. At least twice a week, substitute bean dishes: from casseroles and sides to salads and soups. Beans are a nutritional powerhouse, putting potatoes to shame. It’s easy to open a can of beans (although cooking from scratch lets you control the amount of salt). Check out recipes from the US Dry Bean Council.
  •  

    Mix equal amounts of pasta and vegetables for a healthier Pasta Primavera. Photo courtesy FatFreeVegan.com. Here’s the recipe.

     

  • POTATOES: Trade mashed potatoes for mashed cauliflower. Many moms know this trick: Kids don’t notice the difference! You get lots more nutrition, including cancer-fighting antioxidants, and far fewer calories. We steam the cauliflower in the microwave, and often pulse it in the food processor for a silky purée. You can also use turnips or rutabaga, a cross between a cabbage and a turnip (rutabaga is commonly called yellow turnip). If you don’t want a mash, top the steamed or stir-fried vegetables with plain nonfat Greek yogurt or lowfat cottage cheese and garnish with fresh herbs: a basil chiffonade, minced dill, oregano or parsley.
  • SOUR CREAM: Trade sour cream for nonfat Greek yogurt. We grew up on sour cream and had a pint-a-day habit. The switch to Greek yogurt was surprisingly easy. Greek-style yogurt is less tangy and more like sour cream. We use it with Mexican dishes, cottage cheese, fruit salad, and as the base of every dip. Mixed with noncaloric sweetener and perhaps some cinnamon and vanilla extract, it’s a low-calorie, fat-free alternative to whipped cream. Try different brands: Even plain yogurt tastes different from manufacturer to manufacturer.
  • SOUR CREAM: Discover fromage blanc. The French answer to yogurt, fromage blanc is a fat-free, fresh and slightly drained cows’ milk cheese with the consistency of sour cream. It’s high in protein and calcium, luscious and elegant. Because it’s only made by artisan creameries, it’s pricier than Greek yogurt. But treat yourself to a tub: The entire container from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery (8 ounces) is just 120 calories. Mix in fresh herbs and garlic for a quick dip, add sweetener for a dessert topping, serve with granola, fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey.
  • STARCH: Add fiber and nutrition to plain starch dishes. Garnish plain white rice or a baked potato with diced tomatoes, shredded carrots, slivered almonds or pine nuts to brown rice or couscous
  • SOUP: Make healthy homemade soups. Soup is filling and can be very low calorie and healthful. When you make your own, you control both the nutrition and the sodium. Look for healthy soup recipes. Make large amounts and freeze in portion-friendly containers.
  • SNACKS: Trade empty calorie snacks for nourishing snacks. Heart-healthy nuts, fiber-filled fruit such as apples and pears, peanut butter, raw vegetables with yogurt dip or hummus, and plain low-fat yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit are all good choices.
  • SUSTAINABILITY: Eat Greener. Carry a water bottle instead of landfill. Water bottles have become a fashion accessory: Check out all the options on Amazon.com. This Nissan Intak Hydration Thermos Bottle in 6 colors has a meter to count how many glasses of water you’ve had.
  • VEGETABLES: Add a new vegetable every month.
  • Even if you love broccoli or spinach, for example, they can lose their charm if they’re on the table every night. Pick a “vegetable of the month” and add it to your repertoire. You may find that you adore chard, kale and turnips, for example.
     
    Not a resolution, but a good thing to do in the new year:

  • GET TO KNOW SLOW FOOD USA, an organization that fights for better, cleaner food for all of us.
  •  
    *The practice of making New Year’s resolutions developed partially from Christian Lenten sacrifices, but the tradition goes way back: Ancient Babylonians made promises to the gods at the start of each year. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the first month of the year is named. Medieval knights took the “peacock vow” at the conclusion of each Christmas season that re-affirmed their commitment to chivalry. Some Christian groups created watchnight services, held late on New Year’s Eve, preparing for the year ahead by praying and resolving. During the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Jews reflect upon their wrongdoings over the prior year and seek and offer forgiveness.

      

    Comments

    COCKTAILS: New Year’s Eve Cocktails

    For your imbibing pleasure, we present the final two cocktails of the year. Both are made with your choice of sparkling wine: Cava, Champagne or Prosecco. Cava and Prosecco are less expensive and work just as well in mixed drinks.

    First, the Ginger Sparkler, created by New York City caterer Canard, Inc. It combines vodka and ginger beer (a more intense predecessor of ginger ale) with Prosecco, and can be served year-round without the sparkling wine topper.

    Keep the ingredients well chilled.

    GINGER SPARKLER COCKTAIL RECIPE

    Ingredients For One Drink

  • 3 parts vodka
  • 1 part fresh lime juice
  • Dash of bitters
  • Chilled ginger beer to taste
  • Prosecco or other sparkling wine
  •  

     

    Top off a ginger cocktail with Prosecco or other sparkler. Photo courtesy Canard, Inc. | New York City.

    Preparation

    1. GLASS. Combine the ingredients in a tall glass over ice.

    2. FLUTE. Alternatively, you can serve the cocktail in a Champagne flute; be sure to chill the vodka, lime juice and ginger beer in advance.

     

    Our favorite Champagne cocktail is easy to make. Photo courtesy St. Germain.

     

    ST. GERMAN CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL

    This photo doesn’t begin to capture the glamour of a St. Germain Champagne Cocktail—our favorite Champagne cocktail. St. Germain elderflower liqueur is one of the great food/beverage imports of the last 10 years.

    A liqueur made from Alpine elderflowers may sound strange, but it has the exquisite flavor of lychee—in fact, much more so than any lychee liqueur we’ve tried.

    Using one ounce rather than a half ounce of St. Germain elderflower liqueur makes the cocktail slightly sweeter.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 3-4 ounces Brut Champagne, Brut Rosé
    Champagne or any dry sparkling wine
  • 1/2-1 ounce St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
  • Garnish: fresh strawberry or raspberry
  •  

    Preparation

    1. POUR ingredients into a chilled fluted glass and stir lightly (you don’t want to burst the bubbles).

    2. FLOAT half a strawberry or a whole raspberry as a garnish.

    3. VARIATION: Experiment with other garnishes. A lemon or orange twist, a slice of fresh ginger, a blackberry or gooseberry.
     
    Browse through our cocktail recipes in our Cocktails & Spirits Section.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Start A Tradition, Make An Epiphany Cake

    Crown your “king cake”; the person who
    finds the charm gets to wear the crown.
    Photo courtesy BainFrance.Blogspot.com.

     

    Bûches de Noël, fruitcake and Christmas cookies are enjoyed throughout the holiday season. In France, the celebratory confections continue into January with an Epiphany cake, or galette des rois, French for kings’ cake (a galette is a flat pastry cake).

    In January, the windows of French pastry shops showcase galettes des rois to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany (January 6th).* The cake is enjoyed beginning a few days before Epiphany, and continuing for a few days after. Some families get a new cake every day!

    Epiphany Cake/galette des rois is traditionally a puff pastry (pâte à choux) cake filled with frangipane (almond cream). Other fillings can be substituted, from almond paste to chocolate ganache to sliced apples. In the south of France, brioche is often substituted for the puff pastry.

    But one thing can’t be substituted: the charm (originally a baby, representing baby Jesus) or other trinket that is hidden inside. It can be anything from a miniature car to a cartoon character (Hello Kitty? Sponge Bob Square Pants?). When we made this cake for a group of adults, we used a key chain featuring a miniature bottle of Champagne.

     

    GETTING THE SLICE WITH THE CHARM

    The person who gets the slice with the charm becomes “king” or “queen” for the day and gets to wear the gold paper crown (provided by the bakery or your nearest party store, if you bake your own cake). But it’s an entailed honor: By tradition, the king has to provide next year’s galette. You can forgo that French tradition in favor of making the Epiphany Cake your annual party treat.

    Hiding some type of token in food is a pre-Christian tradition, with roots in the Roman feast of Saturnalia.† A dry bean would be hidden in a dish prepared for the household staff. The slave who got that helping would be given the “kingship,” which included drinking, gambling and “general bawdiness.”

    In fact, in France the charm/trinket is known as la fève, the French word for bean. Americans have adopted the idea as the Mardi Gras king cake (Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is celebrated from right after Epiphany until Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday).

    French chef Héléne Darroze, who commutes each week between the kitchens of the Connaught Hotel in London and her own two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris, recalls celebrating the Epiphany feast as a child. Growing up in southwestern France, “each year there would be a series of family parties and the person who found the token in the cake would buy the charms for the following day’s galette.”

    She’s provided this recipe:

     

    HÉLÉNE DARROZE’S EPIPHANY CAKE RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 1 packet shop-bought puff pastry (or homemade puff pastry)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 6 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons crème pâtissiere
    (custard thickened with flour)
  • Zest of one-sixth lemon and one-sixth lime
  • Paper crown for garnish (to be worn by the “king”)
  •  

    Héléne Darroze’s epiphany cake is filled with chocolate ganache. Photo courtesy Héléne Darroze.

     

    Preparation

    1. ROLL out the puff pastry to a thickness of 3/4″ (2mm) with a rolling pin and leave it in the fridge for 1 hour. Cut two rounds of pastry (9-10 inches in diameter) and leave in the fridge.

    2. MAKE the frangipane: Mix the butter, sugar and almonds with a spatula. Add the egg and crème pâtissière little by little and finish with the zest.

    3. PLACE one of the rounds of puff pastry on a pastry tray and brush some egg yolk around the edge. Pipe frangipane into the middle, add the “feve” and cover with the second round of puff pastry. Press the edges a bit and leave in the fridge for an hour.

    4. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F (180°C/gas 4). When at temperature, brush the top round with egg yolk. With the back of the knife, make small score lines from the center to the edges in a crescent shape. Repeat all the way around. Pierce with fork tines to vent. Bake for about 40 minutes. Serve warm.

    Variations

  • If making puff pastry from scratch, substitute 25% of the flour with cocoa powder. Use chocolate ganache instead of frangipane (be sure the ganache recipe can be heated).
  • You can use the puff pastry recipe; roll out and shape two rounds 10 inches in diameter.
  •  
    TO SERVE

  • If the cake is at room temperature, warm it prior to serving.
  • Bring the cake to the table with the gold paper crown atop; remove the crown prior to slicing.
  • Cut the cake in as many pieces as there are there participants, so someone is sure to get the piece with the charm.
  • The person who finds the charm in his/her piece becomes king or queen for the day, and gets to wear the crown. In terms of other privileges: That’s up to you to decide.
  •  
    Find more of our favorite cake recipes on TheNibble.com.

      
    *Epiphany derives from the ancient Greek theophany, “vision of God,” referring to the revelation of the divine nature of Jesus Christ as told by the Magi. The holiday traditionally falls on January 6th. The night before, the eve of the Epiphany, is called Twelfth Night, formerly the last day of the Christmas festivities and “a time of merrymaking.”

    †Saturnalia, a festival spanning December 17-23, honored Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture.

      

    Comments

    NEW YEAR’S RECIPE: Hoppin’ John

      Hoppin’ John: a Southern New Year’s Eve
      tradition for good luck. Photo courtesy
      Friedas.com.

       

      In long-standing traditions, people the world over eat certain foods to ring in the New Year. We’re aiming to fix a New Year’s Eve dinner with all of them.

      Here are the foods that hopefully bring health and prosperity in the new year. Coincidentally, all of them are very nutritious—another reason to enjoy them as you usher in the new year.

    1. Beans: money. Ancient man used certain beans as currency (cacao beans are the most famous example). As civilization evolved, beans symbolized coins. Beans are a nutritional powerhouse: Make a New Year’s resolution to add more of them to your weekly diet. Enjoy a bean salad or hot bean dish: anything from black beans to lentils to the Hoppin’ John recipe below, made with black-eyed peas and rice. Check out our Beans Glossary for more bean inspiration.
    2. Figs: fertility. Want to hear the patter of little feet in the new year? Chow down on figs. We love them with fresh goat cheese. One of the first foods cultivated by man, figs are naturally rich in minerals and vitamins, including antioxidants.
    3.  

    4. Fish: money. Silvery scales resemble money and fish swim in schools, which signifies abundance. Fish are packed with nutritional benefits, from protein to omega 3s in fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines and tuna—head for the sushi bar).
    5. Grains: abundance. We’re making risotto—a personal favorite. Make recipes with whole grains, and you’ll get lots of fiber and nutrients that can lower cholesterol, risk of heart disease, diabetes and other health problems. Beyond brown rice, work barley, quinoa and other whole grains into your repertoire (list of whole grains and more health benefits). Check out our Beans & Grains Glossary and our Rice Glossary.
    6. Grapes: a sweet year. When the clock chimes 12, Mexicans pop 12 grapes, one for each stroke of midnight. Each grape represents a month. If you get a bitter grape, beware of that month!
    7. Greens: money. Green vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and are low in calories. Make anything from your favorite Brussels sprouts dish to a big green salad.
    8. Noodles: long life. Whole wheat and buckwheat noodles (like Japanese soba) are a great source of fiber. Enjoy your favorite pasta or Asian noodle dish.
    9. Pork: good luck. Pigs are a lucky symbol because they root forward and are rotund. Include some bacon, pork or sausage in your New Year’s Eve dinner.
    10. Pomegranate seeds: prosperity. The pomegranate’s many seeds symbolize abundance. Scatter them in sauces; sprinkle them on everything from porridge and yogurt to luncheon salads to ice cream and sorbet.
    11.  

      HOPPIN’ JOHN: A RECIPE WITH SEVERAL
      “LUCKY” INGREDIENTS

      Hoppin’ John is a traditional Southern dish enjoyed on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day to usher in a year of prosperity. It combines several good luck foods: beans, greens, pork and rice.

      Some recipes substitute ham hock, fatback, or country sausage for the conventional bacon; some add green peas, a splash of vinegar and/or favorite spices.

      Enjoy Hoppin’ John as a hearty side with your favorite protein and a green salad (toss grapes and pomegranate seeds into that salad to up the good luck ante).

      This recipe is courtesy Frieda’s, one of America’s finest specialty produce companies. Use dried habaneros if you like a slightly milder, smokier flavor.

      HOPPIN’ JOHN RECIPE

      Ingredients

       

      Black-eyed or blackeyed peas are a Southern specialty. Photo courtesy Zursun.

    12. 1-1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
    13. 11-ounces pre-soaked blackeyed peas (or soak regular blackeyed peas overnight)
    14. 4 1/2 cups water
    15. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced or 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
    16. 1 bay leaf
    17. 6 bacon strips
    18. 1 cup onion, chopped
    19. 1 cup red or green bell pepper, chopped
    20. 1/2 cup celery, minced
    21. 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
    22. 1 garlic clove, minced
    23. 1 habanero chile, seeded and finely minced (or dried habaneros, reconstituted according to package directions)
    24. Salt and pepper to taste
    25.  

      Preparation

      1. COMBINE rice with blackeyed peas and water in a Dutch oven. Stir in thyme and bay leaf. Cover and bring mixture to a boil. Uncover and reduce heat and simmer 15 to 18 minutes or until rice and beans are done, checking to make sure mixture does not boil dry.

      2. MEANWHILE, in a medium skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels, reserving 2 tablespoons of drippings in skillet. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, parsley, garlic, and habanero chile to drippings in pan. Sauté about 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Crumble bacon; add to skillet. Remove from heat.

      3. DRAIN off any excess liquid when rice and beans are done. Remove bay leaf. Stir bacon mixture into rice and beans. The longer it sits, the more the flavors blend.

      WHO IS HOPPIN’ JOHN NAMED FOR?

      Probably, nobody. Some food historians believe that the name is a corruption of the Haitian Creole term for blackeyed peas: pois pigeons (pwah-pee-JONE).

        

    Comments

    NEW YEAR’S EVE: Dinner Menu

    We were about to cook a New Year’s Eve feast until we came across a seductive menu from Triomphe, a restaurant in midtown Manhattan.

    Executive Chef Jason Tilmann has assembled stunning flavors and visual excitement, making this the menu we want to eat on New Year’s Eve.

    Normally, we eschew words like “decadent” and “sinful” that some people inaccurately use to describe luscious foods. But in the case of luxurious excessiveness, we bow to Benjamin Franklin in “Poor Richard’s Almanac”:

    No wonder Tom grows fat, the unwieldy Sinner,
    Makes his whole Life but one continual Dinner.

    Let Chef Tilmann’s menu inspire your own thoughts for New Year’s Eve dining. And may the richness of your dinner inspire restraint in the new year—at least, until Valentine’s Day.

    SEVEN DEADLY SINS MENU

    1. ENVY: a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.

    Dish: osetra caviar, buckwheat blini, onion, egg and chives.

    2. VANITY: excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.

     

    Even if you can’t make complex dishes like Triomphe’s, you can combine ingredients simply, like smoked salmon, salmon caviar (at the bottom of the dish), black caviar, a dab of crème fraîche and an herb garnish. Photo courtesy Tsar Nicoulai.

     

    Dish: lobster dumplings, wakame salad and ginger butter.

    3. WRATH: strong, stern or fierce anger; deeply resentful indignation; ire.

    Dish: spicy prawns, lemon, roasted garlic and herbed risotto.

    4. GLUTTONY: excessive eating and drinking.

    Dish: Pol Roger champagne sorbet, gold leaf and crispy grapes.

    5. SLOTH: habitual disinclination to exertion; indolence; laziness.

    Dish: slow-cooked cassoulet with duck confit, slab bacon and white northern beans.

    6. GREED: excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions.

    Dish: smoked Kobe tenderloin, fingerling potatoes, asparagus and bordelaise sauce.

    7. LUST: an overwhelming desire or craving.

    Dish: Valrhona chocolate soufflé with Grand Marnier crème anglaise.
     
    These seven “sinful” courses are certain to engender a day of restraint on January 1st.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Talenti Eggnog Gelato

    The rich flavors of eggnog in a family-friendly ice cream. Photo courtesy Talenti.

     

    Talenti Gelato has been a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week twice—that’s how much we like it.

    This superb brand is selling luscious Old World Eggnog Gelato through the end of the year: the flavor of traditional egg nog transformed into rich, creamy gelato.

    It’s a perfect, easy New Year’s Eve dessert: served plain; in a parfait layered with chocolate sauce, amaretti or shortbread cookie crumbs; over pound cake or brownies; even atop apple or pecan pie.

    There’s no alcohol in this gelato, but you can pour a shot of rum or brandy over it to turn it into a spirited dish.

    Old World Eggnog Gelato is made with fine Tahitian vanilla beans, hormone-free cream and milk, fresh egg yolks, pure cane sugar, pure vanilla extract and, of course, nutmeg.

     

    The eggnog gelato is rich and indulgent, but has about 30% less fat than conventional premium ice cream. The suggested retail price is $4.99 to $5.99 per pint.

    Old World Eggnog is available in only until the end of the month, so stock up now. Find a Talenti retailer near you: store locator.

    Fortunately, there are some 20 other flavors of gelato and sorbetto to keep you happy for the rest of the year.

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ICE CREAM AND GELATO

    Here’s the scoop.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: New Year’s Eve Dessert

    If you need a special dessert for New Year’s Eve, consider making this “cupcake clock.”

    It works as a standalone dessert for a smaller group, or as a centerpiece for a larger dessert table.

    The clever concept is from Lauryn Cohen, a.k.a the blogger Bella Baker, known for her creative treats.

    For this recipe, Lauryn makes mini espresso cupcakes, but you can make any flavor and size. The hands of the clock are pretzel rods, swirled with chocolate.

    CHRISTMAS MERINGUES

    If you’re looking for a lighter dessert for Christmas, or want to bake a special gift, try Lauryn’s red, green and white holiday meringues recipe.

    Lauryn’s Book, Sweet Gifts: 95 Fabulous Holiday Desserts & Crafts, is available at Barnes & Noble bookstores and other retailers nationwide.

     

    A cupcake countdown to the new year. Photo courtesy Blog.BellaBaker.com.

     

    TIPS FOR BAKING PERFECT CUPCAKES

    Here are tips from Lauryn for baking perfect cupcakes every time:

  • ROOM TEMPERATURE INGREDIENTS. Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature before baking. This will ensure a silky smooth, lump-free batter. Room temperature butter and eggs will actually make your cake significantly fluffier than baking with butter and eggs that are still cold. To speed up the process of bringing cold eggs to room temperature, put the whole eggs into a bowl of lukewarm water for about 20 minutes (never use eggs with hairline cracks—they can harbor harmful bacteria).
  • REAL VANILLA. Always use PURE vanilla extract, never use imitation. The flavor of pure just can’t be beat! (More about vanilla.)
  • SCOOP THE BATTER. Use an ice cream scoop to divide batter evenly among cupcake liners. Not only is this the best method to accurately measure the batter so your cupcakes bake uniformly, it is also a great way to avoid a huge mess of batter all over your countertop!
  • FREEZE WITH EASE. Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen in an airtight container for up to three months, so plan ahead and bake cupcakes whenever you have time, then remove from the freezer and completely defrost before topping with the icing of your choice.
  •  

    Find more of our favorite cookie and cupcake recipes in THE NIBBLE’s Cookies, Cakes & Pastries Section.

      

    Comments (1)

    TIP OF THE DAY: Flavored Egg Nog

    Yesterday we provided four ways to make low calorie egg nog.

    Today, calories be damned. Here are the real deal, classic egg nog, along with four wonderful flavored egg nog variations.

    FULL STRENGTH EGG NOG RECIPES

    If you’re not counting calories, take a look at these delicious recipes:

  • Classic Egg Nog
  • Chocolate Egg Nog
  • Coconut Egg Nog
  • Egg Nog White Russian
  • Vanilla Egg Nog
  •  
    Here’s how to make flaming egg nog.

    While it’s quite elegant, you don’t need a punch bowl and handled cups to serve egg nog. Use whatever glasses you have, and pour the nog from a pitcher.

     

    Egg nog, always festive, is even more so in chocolate, coconut or other flavors. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    MORE EGG NOG DELIGHTS

    Egg nog doesn’t need to stay in a glass. Here are options from cookies to truffles:

  • CAKE: Egg Nog Pound Cake
  • COOKIES: Egg Nog Wreath Cookies
  • FUDGE: White Chocolate Egg Nog Fudge
  • TRUFFLES: White Chocolate Egg Nog Truffles
  •  
    THE HISTORY OF EGG NOG

    Who invented egg nog? The facts aren’t clear, but here’s the egg nog history as we know it.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE’S DAY: Silver Martini Recipe

    We’re sorry we didn’t know about this recipe for New Year’s Eve; but it’s equally stunning for Valentine’s Day.

    Impress your Valentine with this subtly sweet vanilla-scented martini recipe from Belvedere Vodka. Dressed up with edible silver leaf, it’s called a Silver Martini.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 2 inch piece fresh vanilla bean, split down the middle
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 sheet edible silver leaf
  •  
    The silver leaf comes in packets of 25. You can use them for any special occasion, to garnish almost any cocktail.

    You can vary the recipe by using vanilla-flavored vodka and omitting the fresh vanilla bean.

    Preparation

    1. Shake all ingredients with ice.

    2. Strain into a chilled martini glass.

    3. Garnish with a sheet of crumpled edible silver leaf.

     

    Dress up a Martini in silver and vanilla. Photo courtesy Belvedere Vodka.

     

    Find more of our favorite Valentine’s Day cocktail recipes.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Serve Blackeyed Peas For The New Year

    If you’ve lived in the South, you may know the custom of eating blackeyed peas or other legumes on New Year’s Day. The dish is served for luck and prosperity in the New Year.

    The tradition dates back to the Civil War, when Union troops confiscated crops and livestock, leaving the population with little to eat.

    What remained were legumes and greens, which kept the populace from starving.

    It’s easy to honor tradition, with this easy blackeyed pea salsa. The recipe is by chef Tom Fraker and provided by Melissas.com. If you’d like something heartier, try this blackeyed pea stew recipe.

    BLACKEYED PEA SALSA RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 11 ounces blackeyed peas, cooked
  • 2 cups roma (plum) tomatoes, small dice
  • 1/2 medium red onion, small dice
  • 1 green jalapeño, small dice
  • 1 red Fresno chile, small dice
  • 1 Meyer lemon, juiced
  • 3 Key limes, juiced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  

    Black-eyed pea salsa. Photo courtesy
    Melissas.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients and gently mix to incorporate.
    2. Serve with chips, beer, margaritas or your favorite beverage.

    ABOUT BLACKEYED PEAS: THEY’RE BEANS

    Blackeyed peas (also spelled black-eyed) are medium-sized, ivory-colored beans with a large black coloration (the “eye”) on the inner curve of the beans, where they are attached to the pod.

    Related to the mung bean, blackeyed peas originated in Eastern Asia and were brought to the Americas with the African slave trade, and were a staple of many plantation diets. They remain best known as a Southern dish, where they are often served with ham and rice.

    Blackeyed peas have a sweet, mild flavor and firm texture, and absorb the flavors of a dish very well.

      

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