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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 Thanksgiving

TIP OF THE DAY: Cut Back On The Hors d’Oeuvre

People who love to put out a good spread typically go whole-hog on the hors d’oeuvre. The problem, in advance of a big feast, is that those who have been holding back on eating in anticipation of the big meal may go overboard with the pre-meal tidbits.

Guests may have eaten very lightly that day in anticipation of the dinner, only to be very hungry when by the time they arrive at your doorstep. They then dive into the platters of whatever you’ve put out: bruschetta, canapés, cheese, crudités, dips and spreads, paté.

If they arrive an hour or two in advance of sitting down to dinner, by the time the main meal begins, they could be halfway stuffed. The solution:

1. Let everyone know what time you expect to sit down at the table. Then, whether you plan a cocktail hour or multi-hour get together before serving dinner, everyone will be prepared. (If you’re the guest, call ahead and ask.)

2. Limit what you serve to little nibbles—the kind most people won’t eat in bulk.

 

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Mixed olives and caperberries with fresh parsley and pink peppercorns. Photo courtesy Foods From Spain.

 

LIGHT NIBBLES TO SERVE

  • Olives, either by themselves or as part of an old-fashioned relish platter with gherkins, radishes, carrot and celery sticks (or the modern alternative, baby carrots and fennel sticks).
  • If you want to do something more creative, consider an olive platter with different flavors: plain olives with very distinctive flavors, such as Cerignola and Kalamata; a hot and spicy mix; olives stuffed with anchovy, blue cheese, garlic, jalapeño, etc.
  • Nuts, including spiced nuts, like Planters Pumpkin Spice Almonds; or a selection of different nuts.
  •  
    But forewarned is forearmed. You’ve slaved over that dinner, and the last thing you want to hear are guests groaning that they don’t have enough room for it.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Nonni’s Biscotti In Holiday Flavors

    gingerbread-pumpkin-boxes-230

    A holiday treat from Nonni’s. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    We are fans of Nonni’s Biscotti, and even more so with the new holiday flavors.

    Nonni’s limited-edition holiday biscotti are available in Gingerbread and Pumpkin Spice, both with cinnamon icing. The biscotti are individually wrapped for easy grab-and-go.

    Delicious for snacking or for gifting, they also pair well with the season’s pumpkin and gingerbread lattes.

    Be sure to get enough for stocking stuffers!

    If you can’t find the biscotti locally, you can get them online:

  • Nonni’s Gingerbread Biscotti
  • Nonni’s Pumpkin Biscotti
  •  
    Don’t want spiced biscotti? Try the addictive Salted Caramel Biscotti, embedded with chunks of salted caramel.

     

    The biscotti are certified kosher by U.S Kosher Supervision. Learn more at Nonnis.com.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

    pumpkin-spice-latte-starbucks-230

    Why run out for one, when you can make Pumpkin Spice Latte at home? Photo courtesy Starbucks.

     

    We know far too many people who have an addiction to Pumpkin Spice Latte. They often require two per day. To them we say: Why spend a fortune on a PSL habit? It’s easy to make Pumpkin Spice Latte at home.

    Sure, it’s easy to brew coffee, steam the milk and add a shot or two of pumpkin-flavored sugar syrup.

    And here’s a better-for-you variation, a recipe that uses canned pumpkin instead of pumpkin-flavored sugar syrup. You get much more pumpkin flavor, plus the ability to customize the amount of sugar, honey, agave, noncaloric sweetener or no sweetener at all.

    Prep time is 10 minutes.

    RECIPE: PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE

    Ingredients For 2 Lattes

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling*)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice†
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup hot brewed coffee
  • Optional garnishes: whipped cream, dash of pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon sticks
  • Preparation

    1. HEAT the milk, pumpkin and sugar in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until hot (do not boil). Remove from the heat. Stir in the pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and coffee.

    2. POUR into 2 large mugs. Garnish each with whipped cream, a dash of pumpkin pie spice and a cinnamon stick.

     
    *Pumpkin pie filling is pre-sweetened and spiced.

    †If you do not have pumpkin pie spice, make your own by combining 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg. This will make about 2 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice mix.
     
    MAKE YOUR OWN PUMPKIN SYRUP

    Still want pumpkin syrup in your PSL? Here’s an alternative recipe that uses pumpkin syrup that you make yourself.
     
    WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LATTE & CAFÉ AU LAIT?

    Café au lait is a coffee drink made with regular coffee (typically a stronger roast, like French roast or Italian roast), brewed in a ratio of 1:1 milk to coffee with sugar to taste.

    Latte, also made with a 1:1 ratio, uses espresso—the strongest coffee roast. Espresso is the roast most popular in Italy; French Roast is most popular in France.

    Check out the different espresso drinks in our Espresso Glossary.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

    Italian-American families often have a festive pasta dish such as lasagna at the Thanksgiving table, along with traditional Turkey Day foods.

    We’ve got two options for Pumpkin Mac & Cheese, a treat throughout the holiday season. Both recipes are courtesy of Cabot Creamery, makers of our favorite supermarket Cheddar.

    This first recipe is courtesy of Kristina LaRue, RD, LDN, for Cabot Creamery. It uses better-for-you whole grain pasta and flour. Note that in this recipe, you can substitute white pastry flour and conventional elbow macaroni; but in baking cookies, cakes, muffins, etc., the substitution proportions will differ.

    RECIPE: PUMPKIN MAC & CHEESE

    Ingredients

  • 14 ounces whole grain elbow macaroni
  • 4 slices center-cut bacon
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 cups nonfat milk
  • 1/2 cup 100% pure canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 6 ounces Cabot Alpine Cheddar*, shredded and divided
  • 6 ounces Cabot White Oak Cheddar*, shredded and divided
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  •    

    Pumpkin_Mac_and_Cheese_cabot-230

    Pumpkin Mac & Cheese. Photo courtesy Cabot Creamery.

     
    *The recipe used Cabot Alpine Cheddar and Cabot White Oak Cheddar, but you can substitute Sharp Cheddar or Extra Sharp Cheddar.
     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Coat a 13 X 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

    2. COOK the macaroni to al dente according to package directions. Rinse and drain.

    3. LINE a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange bacon. Cook bacon for 10 minutes and blot dry. Crumble and set aside.

    4. MELT the butter in large pot over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and slowly add the milk until the mixture is smooth and the ingredients are incorporated.

    5. STIR in the canned pumpkin and continue to whisk until the mixture is thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the spices, cheese (reserve 1/2 cup for topping) and yogurt, whisking quickly to combine until the cheese is melted.

    6. POUR the macaroni into the prepared baking dish and coat evenly with the pumpkin cheese sauce. Top with the remaining cheese and bacon.

    7. BAKE for 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

     

    Mac___Cheese_in_a_Pumpkin-cabot-230

    Your favorite mac and cheese recipe can served in a baked pumpkin. Photo courtesy Cabot Creamery.

     

    RECIPE: MAC & CHEESE BAKED IN A PUMPKIN

    This recipe is baked in a pumpkin, but there is no pumpkin flesh in the recipe. Instead, you can use the recipe above for a pumpkin-in-pumpkin dish.

    Ingredients For 16 Servings

  • 1 large pumpkin, about 11 inches in diameter, preferably with one flat side
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 cups small elbow macaroni
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter
  • 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Large pinch ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cups whole milk, heated
  • 2 pounds (about 8 cups) Cabot Sharp Cheddar or Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar, grated & divided
  • 1 cup buttered bread crumbs
  • Optional garnish: sprigs of fresh thyme
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375ºF.

    2. PLACE the pumpkin flat-side-down or remove thin slice from one side so the pumpkin will be stable. With a sharp knife, cut the pumpkin in half horizontally, slightly above stem, to form a bowl. Remove the fiber and seeds. With a spoon or an ice cream scoop, scrape out some of the flesh so shell has a thickness of 3/4 to 1 inch.

    3. SPRAY the top edge of the pumpkin with cooking spray or brush lightly with oil; then place it cut-side down on a pizza pan or baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until the pumpkin still holds it shape but the flesh is cooked and can be pierced easily with a toothpick. While pumpkin bakes…

    4. COOK the macaroni according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

    5. MAKE the cheese sauce: Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Sprinkle the flour into the butter and whisk constantly until there is a thick, smooth paste with nutty aroma (about 5 minutes).

    6. ADD the mustard, red pepper and Worcestershire. Gradually whisk in the milk and continue stirring until the sauce thickens and returns to a simmer.

    7. REDUCE the heat to low. Add 7 cups of the cheese and stir until melted. Add the macaroni, stirring until well coated; remove from the heat.

    8. TURN the baked pumpkin over with oven mitts. Place it in a large shallow baking dish (from which you’ll serve it), or leave it on the baking sheet. Fill the pumpkin with the macaroni mixture and top with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. (Put any mac and cheese that won’t fit into another small baking dish).

    9. BAKE until the filling is puffed and golden, about 40 to 50 minutes longer (a smaller baking dish will be done sooner). Let stand for about 10 minutes to settle before serving. Garnish and serve.

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Party Favor, Stocking Stuffer

    We love Burt’s Bees products. We’ve never found a better lip balm. The beeswax the brand is famous for is both soothing, packed with beneficial nutrients and stick-to-your-lips.

    This holiday season, the company has created an exclusive with Target stores: Burt’s Bees Pumpkin Spice Lip Balm.

    As a party favor or a stocking stuffer, everyone, young and old, can revitalize dry lips with a lip balm that has a gentle aroma of pumpkin and spice. There’s no flavor—just sprightly seasonal aroma (although, since it is said that 90% of taste is based on smell, it appears to have a bit of flavor that we like very much).

    The balm is free of parabens, phthalates, petrolatum and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). We’ve stashed a tube in the pocket of every coat and winter jacket. Now it’s your turn to spread holiday cheer as well as a little TLC.

    The lip balm is $2.99 a tube at Target, and there’s free shipping on Target.com.

    If you want a bigger gift, there’s a combo pack of Pumpkin Spice along with a tube of Vanilla Bean, $5.79.

     

    burts-bees-pumpkin-lip-balm-limited-230

    A great party favor or stocking stuffer for dry lips weather. Photo courtesy Burt’s Bees.

     
    Check out all the stocking stuffers and larger giftables at BurtsBees.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Holiday Dessert Bar

    After a big holiday feast, instead of serving dessert at the table, consider setting up a dessert bar. Guests can digest the main meal a bit, and then help themselves at their own pace. They can also cut slivers of more than one dessert.

    In addition to pies, cake, cobbler, cookies, fruit and other bounty, guests can help themselves to coffee and tea.

    Set out the plates, forks, spoons, napkins, and don’t forget the garnishes. Consider:

  • Crème fraîche
  • Crème anglaise (custard sauce)
  • Hard sauce*
  • Ice cream
  • Mascarpone
  • Whipped cream
  •  
    If you want to over-indulge, add bowls of shaved chocolate and toffee bits, and flavored whipped cream (like bourbon whipped cream or chocolate whipped cream) in addition to the classic.

       

    pecan-pie-beauty-beauty-goodeggs-230

    Set the apple pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie and other desserts on a sideboard or table and let guests help themselves. Photo courtesy GoodEggs.com.

     

    *Hard sauce is a rich dessert sauce made with butter and sugar plus brandy, rum, sherry, whiskey or vanilla.

     

    open-mint-chip-230

    Talenti’s four delicious seasonal flavors. Get them all: They’re heavenly! Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

    TALENTI LIMITED EDITION SEASONAL ICE CREAM

    Look for limited edition seasonal ice cream flavors to add to your dessert bar. One of our favorite brands, Talenti Gelato & Sorbetto, has four exceptionally delicious flavors:

  • Caramel Apple Pie is Talenti’s signature cinnamon gelato (the milk is infused with whole cinnamon sticks!), blended with pieces of apples, sweet flaky pie crust and a caramel swirl. It’s a great fusion of ice cream and pie.
  • Old World Eggnog Gelato is made like eggnog, with fresh egg yolks, pure vanilla extract and nutmeg. But it’s family-friendly: no alcohol. A terrific treat for eggnog lovers!
  • Peppermint Bark Gelato adds crunchy morsels of semisweet Callebaut Belgian chocolate to refreshing peppermint ice cream. We’re hooked on it.
  • Pumpkin Pie Gelato blends brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin with real pie crust pieces. It’s even better than a slice of pie!
  •  
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ICE CREAM & GELATO

    In brief, gelato is made with more milk than cream, for a lower butterfat content. While many of us have been led to believe that higher butterfat “superpremium ice cream” is better, the butterfat coats the tongue and dulls the flavors in the process.

     
    Gelato is also more dense, with less air whipped into it (overrun). The combination of lower fat and higher density engender greater intensity of flavor. Here’s more on the difference between ice cream and gelato.

    Note that in the U.S. there is no government standard to differentiate ice cream and gelato. We’ve found more than one very high butterfat “gelato.”

    Why? It’s marketing: “Gelato” sounds newer, more sophisticated and special.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Watermelon Turkey

    We found this turkey on the Facebook page of the Watermelon Board. Whoever created it: We like your style!

    You can make one with a small watermelon plus:

  • Miniature bell peppers
  • Skewers of grapes and cheese cubes
  • A small pear
  • Raisins for eyes
  •  
    Give it to the kids as a project, and let them proudly display it as the centerpiece!

    Check out dozens of nifty watermelon carvings for every holiday and special special occasion, on Watermelon.org.

     

    watermelon-turkey-watermelon.orgFB-230

    Make this fruit and vegetable turkey as a holiday centerpiece. Photo courtesy Watermelon Board | Facebook.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake Bundt

    pumpkin-spice-pound-cake-bundt-spiceislands-230r

    Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake made in a bundt pan. Photo courtesy Spice Islands.

     

    As a follow-up to our recent article on autumn bundt cakes, here’s one that’s especially appropriate for Thanksgiving: Pumpkin Spice Bundt. The recipe is courtesy Spice Islands.

    RECIPE: PUMPKIN SPICE POUND CAKE BUNDT

    Ingredients For The Cake

  • 2-3/4 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups butter, softened (no substitutions)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  •  
    For The Caramel Pecan Topping

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • Dash salt
  • Dash ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream*
  •  

    Preparation

    For The Cake

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Generously grease and flour a 12 cup bundt pan.

    2. BEAT the sugar and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla; the add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.

    3. COMBINE the flour, baking powder, salt and spices; mix well. Alternately add dry ingredients and pumpkin to butter mixture, beating well after each addition. Pour into prepared pan.

    4. BAKE for 65 to 75 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Invert onto serving plate. Cool completely.
     
    For The Caramel Pecan Topping

    1. COMBINE the brown sugar, cream, maple syrup, butter and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

    2. REMOVE from the heat and stir in the cinnamon, vanilla and pecans. Serve warm over the cake. Top with whipped cream, if desired.
     
    WHIPPED CREAM TIP: If you’re putting whipped cream on a very sweet dessert, such as this caramel topping or pecan pie, you can halve the sugar in the whipped cream or eliminate it entirely.

    An unsweetened or just slightly sweet whipped cream provides a better counterpoint to the sweetness of the dessert. Otherwise, the sweet-on-sweet can be cloying.
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Popcorn Balls

    The oldest popcorn known to date—actual ears of corn—was discovered in a cave in New Mexico, and carbon-dated to be more than 5,600 years old. It was not eaten as a snack food by early Americans, but was popped and then pounded into meal that was mixed with water and cooked.

    Fast-forward several thousand years: The early Colonists ate popcorn as a breakfast cereal, with milk and a sweetener. (Think puffed corn cereals like those from Arrowhead Mills and Nature’s Path, among others, not to mention Kellogg’s Corn Pops.)

    In the 18th century, after the corn harvest, rendered fat would be thrown into a cast iron pot over an open fire. When the fat was hot, farmers would toss in corn kernels, a little molasses or other sweetener, and then wait for the corn to pop into a sweet, hot treat.

    By the 1840s, corn popping had become a popular recreational activity in the U.S. Popcorn balls, the kernels stuck together with a sugar syrup, were hugely popular around the turn of the 20th century, both for eating and for holiday decorations (they were hung with ribbons from Christmas trees).

    With the availability of bagged popcorn brands, popcorn balls began to wane, appearing mostly in the hoiday season from Halloween through Christmas.

    Here’s the full history of popcorn.

       

    cranberry_popcorn_balls-popcorn.org-230

    Homemade cranberry popcorn balls for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Photo courtesy Popcorn.org.

     

    Popcorn is a better-for-you snack. Plain popcorn is loaded with whole grains, fiber and antioxidants.

    Of course, when you add butter, salt and sugar, it adds less-better-for-you ingredients. But compared to other sweet and salty snacks, it’s the winner.

    So consider these popcorn balls a better option for holiday snacking.

     

    popcorn-bowl-crunchdaddy-230

    Plain popcorn is a terrific snack: whole grain, high in fiber and low in calories. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE

     

    RECIPE: CRANBERRY POPCORN BALLS

    You can serve these from a platter or a serving bowl, or wrap individually in cellophane and tie with a ribbon for a party favor or stocking stuffer. Add a name tag to create a combination place setting and take-home favor.

    Ingredients For 18 Popcorn Balls

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce, slightly mashed
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 quarts unsalted popped popcorn
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients, except popcorn, in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil; lower heat and cook to 250°F on a candy thermometer. The mixture will bubble up in the pan, so watch it carefully to keep the mixture from boiling over.

    2. POUR slowly over the hot popcorn and mix until the corn is well coated. Let it stand for 5 minutes or until the mixture can easily be formed into balls.

    3. SPRAY your hands with a cooking spray (or use butter) hands and form the popcorn into 3-inch balls.
     
    ANOTHER HOLIDAY POPCORN RECIPE

    If you’ve got sage left over from the stuffing or other recipe, make this sage popcorn recipe.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pumpkin-Pie Tini

    Have a Pumpkin-Pie-Tini with your pumpkin pie. This recipe, from Sauza Tequila, is a dessert in of itself for those who want to pass on the pie and drink their dessert instead.

    RECIPE #1: PUMPKIN PIE-TINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1½ parts blue/silver/blanco tequila
  • 3 parts cream
  • ½ part Torani or other pumpkin spice syrup (it also is available sugar-free)
  • 1 part simple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream and cinnamon
  • Ice cubes
  •  

    Preparation

    1. SHAKE all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled Martini glass.

    2. GARNISH and serve.

       

    pumpkin-pie-tini-sauza-230

    Try a Pumpkin Pie-Tini for Thanksgiving. Photo courtesy Sauza Tequila.

     

     

    Picture 091

    Another version of the Pumpkin Pie-Tini. Photo courtesy 1800 Tequila

     

    Here’s another version of the Pumpkin Pie-tini, from 1800 Tequila, a less creamy option that uses milk instead of cream plus a touch of chocolate liqueur:

    RECIPE #2: PUMPKIN PIE-TINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1-1/2 ounces silver/blue/blanco tequila
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin purée
  • 1-1/2 ounces crème de cacao
  • 1 ounce milk
  • Ice cubes
  • Rim: graham cracker crumbs and honey
  •  
    Preparation

    1. RIM a Martini glass using a small amount of honey, then roll in graham cracker crumbs.

    2. SHAKE the milk and pumpkin purée over ice to combine. Add the remaining ingredients and shake well. Strain into the Martini glass.

     

    More Pie-Tini recipes: Apple Pie-Tini and Cherry Pie-Tini.

      

    Comments

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