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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 Holidays & Occasions

FOOD FUN: Strawberry Margarita Jello Shots

We celebrated Cinco de Mayo with these Margarita Jell-O shots, created by Good Cocktails.com.

Mix up some strawberry Margarita Jell-O (yes, with tequila) and pour into hollowed-out strawberry cups.

Refrigerate, garnish with a small slice of lime, and serve.

It’s delicious and fun. Here’s the recipe.

 

strawberry-jello-shot-goodcocktail-230sq

A strawberry serves as the shot glass. Photo courtesy GoodCocktail.com.

 

  

Comments

TIP OF THE DAY: Tex-Mex Queso Dip

queso-dip-kraft-230

A classic queso dip. Photo courtesy Kraft
Foods.

 

Unlike turkey for Thanksgiving or ham and lamb for Easter, there are no “traditional” Cinco de Mayo foods. Anything Mexican or Tex-Mex goes.

What is a regional holiday in Mexico commemorates the 1862 victory of a small and poorly-equipped Mexican militia led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin over the much larger French army at The Battle Of Puebla. It temporarily stopped the French invasion of the country.

Cinco de Mayo is actually a bigger event in the U.S., thanks to promotions from Mexican restaurants and Americans’ love of Mexican food.

If you don’t want to go all-out, you can have salsa, chips and a Margarita or a Mexican beer at home. Or, make a warm, creamy queso dip (queso is the Mexican word for cheese), also known as chile con queso.

 
According to Bobby McGee of Jardine’s, our favorite fine salsa producer, queso dip is a Tex-Mex invention of the 20th century. It can take the form of a spread or a warm dip with tortilla chips.

Cheese has always been a costly ingredient. To stretch the cheese, some clever cook added chopped vegetables.

In the best recipes, a semisoft cheese is melted into a smooth mixture with, for example, sour cream and/or butter for a smooth texture and cornstarch for body. Chopped vegetables or salsa are added for “stretch” and flavor.

Shortcut recipes mix a block of Velveeta or American cheese with a can of Ro-Tel Tomatoes & Diced Green Chilies. Instead of processed cheeses like these—or buying supermarket brands made with them—whip up your own, more flavorful, queso dip with asadero, Cheddar or Jack cheese.

Asadero is a semisoft cheese often used for melting: a smooth, yellow cheese reminiscent of Provolone, with a bit of zest and tang. It’s often sliced or shredded to use for quesadillas or other sandwiches, and it’s a favorite for nachos and queso dips.

Check out the different types of Mexican cheeses.

Here’s a recipe adapted from The Homesick Texan Cookbook by Michelle of BrownEyedBaker.com:

 

RECIPE: QUESO DIP

Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 serrano chiles, seeds and stems removed, diced
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeds and stems removed, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk or half-and-half
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained (about 1 cup)
  • 12 ounces cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 cups)
  • 12 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated (about 3 cups)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  •  
    Plus

  • Tortilla chips, raw vegetables or hot flour tortillas for dipping
  •  

    chile-con-queso-browneyedbaker-230

    A delicious, from-scratch queso dip. Photo courtesy BrownEyedBaker.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, serrano chiles and jalapeño; cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.

    2. WHISK the flour into the pan and cook for about 30 seconds. Slowly pour the milk into the pan while whisking, and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce has thickens, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and tomatoes.

    3. REDUCE the heat to low, and add the grated cheeses a ¼ cup at a time, stirring after each addition, until it is completely melted. Repeat until all of the cheese has been added. Stir in the sour cream until completely combined. Serve immediately with tortilla chips. Leftover queso can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, and reheated when you’re ready to serve.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cinco De Mayo Strawberries

    cinco-de-mayo-chocolate-strawberries-harvardsweetboutique-230b

    Fresh strawberries dressed up for Cinco de
    Mayo. Photo courtesy Harvard Treat
    Boutique.

     

    This Cinco de Mayo treat from Harvard Sweet Boutique inspired today’s tip.

    For snacks or desserts, dip fresh strawberries in melted chocolate and decorate in festive colors: aqua, pink, purple or lavender and yellow, for example.

    Start with this easy recipe for chocolate-dipped fruit.

    Then use decorator icing to pipe squiggles and dots

    You can also tint white chocolate pink with food color, and use colored sanding sugar (recipe).

     

    ROYAL ICING RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 4 egg whites, beaten
  • Food color
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SIFT together sugar and cream of tartar.

    2. BEAT in 4 beaten egg whites with an electric mixer. Beat for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape.

    3. DIVIDE the icing and tint with desired food colors.

      

    Comments

    MOTHER’S DAY: Heart-Felt Endive Salad

    Thinking ahead to Mother’s Day food, Hannah Kaminsky created this “heart-felt” salad by cutting strawberries into heart shapes and combining them with endive, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm and hemp.

    Don’t worry if you don’t have hemp seeds: You can substitute sesame seeds or chopped pecans.

    A bright, punchy, yet delicate dressing of grapefruit and cayenne gives the salad some kick, without smothering the vegetables’ subtle nuances.

    RECIPE: HEART-FELT ENDIVE SALAD

    Ingredients

  • 4 green and/or red endive hearts
  • 1 14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 14-ounce can hearts of palm, drained, halved or quartered if large
  • 4 red and/or Green Endive Hearts
  • 1/2 cup fresh strawberries, cut into heart shapes
  • 1-2 tablespoons hemp hearts
  • Fresh chives, minced
  • Fresh basil (tear the large leaves)
  •  

    endive-strawberry-salad-kaminsky-230

    A bouquet of colors and flavors. Endive salad recipe and photo courtesy Hannah
    Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    For The Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  •  

    endive-strawberry-salad-close-kaminsky-230

    Ready for its close-up. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dressing first so that it’s ready to go when you are. Simply whisk the grapefruit juice, maple syrup and mustard together in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking vigorously to emulsify. Season with salt and add cayenne pepper to taste. Set aside.

    2. CUT off and discard the woody bottoms of the endive; separate the leaves. Toss them in a large bowl along with the artichokes and hearts of palm.

    3. CUT the strawberries into heart shapes: Slice them in half, and then cut a triangular notch from the top. Add the berries to the bowl, along with the hemp hearts.

    4. DRIZZLE on the dressing, toss thoroughly to combine and coat all of the vegetables. Finish with the fresh herbs. Serve immediately.
     
    Here’s another recipe with artichoke hearts and hearts of palm.
     

     

    ABOUT HEMP HEARTS

    When most Americans hear “hemp,” they think of a particular species of Cannabis, used as a recreational drug. However, a second species of hemp has long been used for fiber and rope-making, and a third for hemp seed and hemp oil, which are made into a broad variety of food products (more about culinary hemp).

    Hemp seeds make it easy to add omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids, protein and fiber to your diet. Just sprinkle them like a spice or herb on cereal, salad, vegetables, yogurt and other foods. In addition to the nutrition, it adds a rich, nutty flavor and a light crunch.

    Hemp Hearts, marketed by Manitoba Harvest, are the most nutritious part of the hemp seed. Some people like to eat them straight from the bag. And, unlike whole hemp seed, they don’t need to be ground in order to release their nutrition.

    Hemp seeds provide 10 grams of complete, plant-based protein per 30 grams (3 tablespoons). According to the World Health Organization, the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids is 4:1; the naturally occurring ratio in Hemp Hearts is 3.75:1. Hemp Hearts contain more protein and omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids and fewer carbs than a similar serving of chia or flax seeds.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Flower Ice Cubes

    chandon-flower-ice-cubes-230

    Put edible flowers in your ice cubes. Photo
    courtesy Chandon USA.

     

    For Mother’s Day, spring and summer entertaining, parties, showers and Valentine’s Day, make your drinks stand out with flower ice cubes.

    It couldn’t be easier: Just place edible blossoms in an ice cube tray, fill and freeze. Use the floral ice cubes in cocktails or soft drinks.

    Not all flowers are edible; many will upset your stomach (or worse). But there are quite a few to choose from. Here’s a list of edible flowers.

    Flowers have been eaten since before Egyptian times. Here’s more about edible flowers.

    Want to grow your own? Sure, but be sure to grow the flowers with no chemical pesticides. More about growing edible flowers.

     

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Ham & Cheddar Polenta Fries

    Here’s something fun to make with leftover Easter ham: potato-free Ham and Cheddar Polenta Fries.

    The recipe is from QVC’s chef, David Venable. David says, “These polenta fries can be eaten as an appetizer or a side, and can be served with anything from honey-mustard to aioli.”

    RECIPE: HAM & CHEDDAR POLENTA FRIES

    Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 4 ounces ham, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups Cheddar, shredded
  • Peanut or canola oil, for frying
  •  

    ham-polenta-fries-qvc-230

    Not potato fries: They’re ham, cheese and polenta! Photo courtesy QVC.

     

    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oil over medium heat in a 5-quart stockpot. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the milk, chicken broth, and butter and bring to a simmer. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal, avoiding any lumps. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    2. REMOVE the pot from the heat and add the ham, herbs, salt, pepper and cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted and the ingredients are evenly distributed.

    3. SPREAD the cornmeal mixture with a heat-resistant spatula on the surface of a rimmed 9″ x 13″ cookie sheet. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap, put on oven mitts, then evenly press the mixture down, spreading it out to the edges. Refrigerate the covered cornmeal mixture until completely cooled.

    4. HEAT the oil in a Dutch oven to 375°F (or, preheat a deep fryer). Flip the polenta out of the cookie sheet onto a large cutting board. Cut the polenta into 1/2″ strips and then cut each strip into 3″ pieces. Fry in batches until deep golden brown. (Adding too many pieces at once can cool the oil down.)

    5. DRAIN the fries on paper towels; serve immediately.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Leftover Ham Recipes

    white-bean-ham-soup-qvc-230

    Use leftover ham in a delicious bean soup.
    Photo courtesy QVC.

     

    You can just enjoy so many ham sandwiches and ham scrambles with the leftover Easter ham. Here are two recipes from QVC’s David Venable, that take a different approach.

    RECIPE: WHITE BEAN SOUP WITH HAM

    This recipe uses the ham bone, hock, or shanks.

    David comments, “Though it may officially be spring, there are still plenty of days that call for a recipe that takes out the chill. This broth-based soup is a great way to use leftover ham: It’s light enough for spring, but hearty enough to be filling.”

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry Great Northern beans*
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 meaty ham hock or 2-3 lbs of ham shanks
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups ham, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Garnish: fresh parsley
  •  
    *A mild, white, oval bean, similar to the white kidney bean.

    Preparation

    1. RINSE the beans, sorting out any that are broken or discolored.

    2. BRING a large pot of water to a boil. Add the salt and the beans and remove the pot from the heat. Let the beans sit in the hot water for at least 60 minutes.

    3. RETURN the pot to high heat and place the ham bone, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mustard and bay leaves in the pot. Stir well, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 60 more minutes.

    4. REMOVE the ham bone and discard. Stir in the chopped ham and simmer for 30 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh parsley (if desired).

     

    RECIPE: SMOKED HAM & CHEDDAR HASH

    David advises, “This hash recipe works just as well with ham that hasn’t been smoked. Try serving it as a breakfast item by throwing some fried eggs on top. Like a little spice in your hash? Add some hot sauce to the pan!”

    Ingredients

  • 5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (preferably smoked)
  • 6 cups smoked ham, diced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup coarse breadcrumbs (such as panko)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  •  

    smoked-ham-cheddar-hash-qvc-230

    Yummy smoked ham and Cheddar hash. Photo courtesy QVC.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. In a large sauce pot, boil the potatoes until fork tender. Drain the water and set aside.

    2. ADD the butter to a 10″ or larger, deep nonstick skillet and melt over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until slightly colored.

    3. STIR in the paprika and ham. Add the broth, cream of mushroom soup and scallions. Stir well to combine and bring to a simmer.

    4. ADD the parboiled potatoes and stir carefully to evenly incorporate all ingredients. Season the hash, to taste, with salt and pepper.

    5. COMBINE the Cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs and parsley in a small bowl and sprinkle over the top of the hash. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until evenly browned.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Strawberry Iced Tea

    For Easter or Mother’s Day, Strawberry Iced Tea is delish!

    The recipe is from Shangri-La Tea Company.

    RECIPE: Strawberry Iced Tea

  • 2 cups whole frozen strawberries
  • 32 fluid ounces brewed tea
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 box fresh strawberries
  • Mint leaves
  • Ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BREW tea and cool to room temperature.

    2. BLEND frozen strawberries in a food processor until smooth, then strain

    3. MIX together pureed strawberries, tea, desired amount of sugar and lemon juice

    4. Serve over ice with fresh strawberry garnish.

     

    strawberry-iced-tea-shangri-lateacompany-230

    Toast a special occasion with strawberry iced tea. Photo courtesy Shangri La Tea.

     

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Gimbal’s Jelly Beans

    bowl-beauty-230

    Gimbal’s Gourmet Jelly Beans. Photo by
    Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    We’ve been tasting lots of jelly bean brands over the past few weeks, and have decided that our favorites are Gimbal’s.

    What makes them the best jelly beans? To our palate, there’s less sugar and fresh, bright, natural flavors, including real fruit juice.

    We can focus on the flavor instead of cloying sugar.

    There are 41 traditional flavors and 12 delightfully tart sour flavors.

    We won’t say that jelly beans are health food, but the recipe includes vitamin C (ascorbic acid), a powerful antioxidant.

    Gimbal’s Gourmet Jelly Beans are sold in 3- or 14-ounce bags and 40-ounce jars. You can buy them online at GimbalsCandy.com.

    These are jelly beans to enjoy year-round—not just for Easter.

     

      

    Comments

    EASTER: Pink, White & Green Deviled Eggs

    Make these gorgeous pink deviled eggs ahead of time for easy holiday entertaining: They’re perfect for Easter brunch or snacking.

    You can make all of the eggs pink, half pink/half white, or tint some pickle brine light green for a tricolor selection.

    Mix and match your toppings from the list in the recipe or whatever else appeals to you.

    Prep time is 20 minutes.

    RECIPE: PICKLED PINK DEVILED EGGS

    Ingredients For 20 egg halves

  • 12 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or chives
  •  

    Pickled deviled eggs in Easter colors. Photo and recipe courtesy American Egg Board.

     

    For The Marinade

  • 1 jar (16 ounces) beets
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  •  
    Garnishes

  • Capers & chives
  • Crab meat & fresh dill
  • Diced red bell peppers and flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • Small cooked shrimp & chives
  • Smoked salmon
  • Steamed asparagus tips
  • Sweet pickles, sliced jalapeños or pickled jalapeños
  •  

    aunt-nellies-beets-sliced-jar-230

    You only need the beet liquid, so enjoy the
    beets in a salad, on a sandwich (instead of
    tomato) or as a side. Photo courtesy Aunt
    Nellie’s.

     

    Preparation

    Deviled eggs can be made up to 12 hours ahead. Refrigerate them, covered.

    1. CUT eggs lengthwise in half. Remove yolks to medium bowl. Reserve 20 white halves; finely chop remaining 4 white halves.

    2. MASH yolks with fork. Add finely chopped whites, mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper; mix well. Add dill; mix well. Cover and refrigerate.

    3. DRAIN beets, reserving juice (about 2/3 cup). Set beets aside for another use. Combine beet juice, water and vinegar. Arrange egg whites cut side down in shallow container. Pour beet mixture over eggs. Cover tightly. Refrigerate at least several hours or overnight, turning occasionally.

    If you want two or three colors, divide the eggs among the beet brine, plain pickle brine and tinted pickle brine. If using brine, you don’t need the water and vinegar.

    4. REMOVE purple egg whites from beet mixture, pat dry with paper towels. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of yolk mixture into each reserved egg white half. Garnish as desired.

     
    RECIPE TIPS

  • Don’t use the freshest eggs. Very fresh eggs can be difficult to peel. To ensure easily peeled eggs, buy and refrigerate them a week to 10 days in advance of cooking. This brief “breather” allows the eggs time to take in air, which helps separate the membranes from the shell.
  • Easier peeling technique. Hard-boiled eggs are easiest to peel right after cooling. Cooling causes the egg to contract slightly in the shell. To peel a hard-boiled egg, gently tap it on the countertop until shell is finely crackled all over. Roll the egg between your hands to loosen the shell. Starting peeling at the large end, holding the egg under cold running water to help ease the shell off.
  • Easy mixing and filling method. Combine the filling ingredients in a 1-quart plastic food-storage bag. Press out the air and seal the bag. Press and roll the bag with your hands until the mixture is well blended. Push the filling toward bottom corner of bag. Snip off about a 1/2-inch of corner. Squeeze the filling from bag into the egg whites.
  • Picnic or tailgate tip. Prepare the filling in a plastic bag, as above. Transport the whites and yolk mixture separately in a cooler. Fill the eggs on the spot, pressing filling out of snipped corner of bag.

      

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