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TIP OF THE DAY: A Hard Cider Party For Halloween

Still looking for a Halloween activity?

How about a hard cider party? It’s adult, it’s fun, and it’s an opportunity to taste and compare more hard ciders than most of us get to do.

While in the U.S. and parts of Canada, the term “apple cider” is interchangeable with apple juice, in Europe a glass of cider is not kid stuff. It’s an alcoholic drink that that many prefer to beer—and if you look at the explosive sales figures, Americans are also discovering its charms: It’s the fastest-growing alcohol category.

When apples are pressed and bottled, you have apple juice—also called apple cider in the U.S., although in other countries apple cider refers to hard cider.

Hard cider is made from fermented apple juice; over a few months, the sugars in the juice turn into alcohol. As with craft beer, each brand has a distinct flavor profile and alcoholic content, generally from 3% ABV (alcohol by volume) or less to 8.5% or more.

  • Hard cider uses a different blend of apples than apple juice. In fact, many more apple varieties are used to create a fine cider. The import Magners Irish Cider is made from 17 varieties of apples!
  • Pears are also turned into cider, called perry in the U.K.
  • The juice ferments for eight weeks after the apples are pressed. The cider then matures or several months, and afterward is blended, filtered and carbonated. The result is a drink with the carbonation and alcohol of beer and the flavor of apples.
  • Many cider apples are sour, and can’t substitute for eating apples.
  • Like wine, cider it has a relatively high concentration of antioxidants; it’s naturally gluten-free and is less filling than beer.

    Beyond Halloween, you can also have a cider tasting during Thanksgiving cocktail hour, for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and other celebrations.

    1. INVITE friends today: Halloween is eight days away.

    2. PLAN the number of ciders based on the number of people. If you’re serving 8 or more different ciders, estimate one bottle per four proper.

    3. PARE the list. There are many different styles of cider, and ciders from different countries (England, France, Ireland, Spain and others). Each country has its own preferred style, as you’ll see in the Top Artisan Ciders section below. You can’t try them all in one night—but you can have subsequent tastings to try the rest.

  • We recommend sticking with American cider brands for the first event. You want to try a good representation of artisan ciders. There are so many different types of local cider: dry , sweet, barrel-aged, At the next event, you can taste the winners against the Europeans.
  • Similarly, save the barrel-aged, flavored ciders (apple pie, cherry, honey, raspberry, orange, etc.), ice cider (like ice wine, it’s pressed from naturally frozen fruit), perry and spiced ciders for next time.
  • Look for Angry Orchard, Crispin, Strongbow and Woodchuck, for starters; they’re national brands. You can create an entire tasting just by gathering up the different expressions of each brand. For example, Angry Orchard features Apple Ginger, Crisp Apple, Green Apple, Hop’n Mad Apple, Stone Dry, plus a fall seasonal cider, Cinn-Full Apple.
  • Artisan ciders tend to be distributed in the limited area where they are produced—not just because small companies lack sales and marketing heft, but because each brand needs to go through approval of each state liquor authority. It’s daunting, but we’ve listed some highly-rated ciders below.
  • Do not mistakenly pick up a flavored apple beer, like Redd’s Apple Cider. These beverages are artificially flavored, and don’t belong on the same table as cider, an all-natural drink.
  • Do have some apple cider (apple juice) for designated drivers. If you buy a few different kinds, they can have their own “tasting.”
    4. PLAN the eats. You can serve hard cider with any snack or food you’d serve with beer, but the sweetness of cider allows you to serve it with desserts, too.

  • For snacks: charcuterie and hearty cheeses.

    Angry Orchard Cider

    Crispin Cider

    Woodchuck Hard Cider

    Strongbow Cider

    [1] Angry Orchard, owned by Boston Brewing Company (parent of Samuel Adams beer), is the nation’s #1 cider brand (photo courtesy Boston Brewing). [2] Crispin makes a variety of styles, as well as perry (pear cider) under the Fox Barrel brand (photo courtesy Crispin Hard Cider Co.). [3] Woodchuck, another popular national brand (photo courtesy Fletcher6 | Wikipedia). [4] Strongbow cider is produced by Heineken (photo courtesy Heineken USA).

  • For main courses: chicken, pork, sausages, soups, stews, fondue (you can substitute hard cider for wine in most recipes and drink rest of the cider along with the meal).
  • For dessert: Apple desserts pair beautifully. We like bread pudding, cobbler or crisp (the difference), pie and apple-topped cheesecake.

    Here are some of the nation’s top-rated artisan ciders: Brand, variety and style. “Crisp/Dry” is the most common style. “Funky” refers to a style popular in France, with [what we really enjoy] barnardy aromas. They can also be crisp and dry. Off Dry/Semi-Dry is the classic English style: sweetness of fruit followed by a dry finish.

    Dessert ciders are sweet, like dessert wine; although off dry/semi-dry and crisp ciders can also be paired with desserts.

  • CALIFORNIA: Bonny Doon, Querry (sweet)
  • MASSACHUSETTS: Bantam, Wunderkind (off dry/semi-dry)
  • MICHIGAN: Virtue Cider, Lapinette (funky style)
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE: Farnum Hill, Extra Dry (crisp/dry style)
  • NEW YORK: Bellwether Hard Cider, King Baldwin (crisp/dry style), Doc’s Draft, Original Hard Apple Cider (off dry/semi-dry), Eve’s Cidery, Darling Creek (off dry/semi-dry), Redbyrd Orchard, Starblossom (funky style), Wölffer Estate, 139 Dry Rosé Cider (off dry/semi-dry)(
  • OREGON: E.Z. Orchards, Cidre Dry (funky style), Reverend Nat’s, Revival Hard Apple (crisp/dry), Traditions Ciderworks, Riverwood (off dry/semi-dry)
  • TEXAS: Argus Cidery, 2013 Perennial (funky style), Austin Eastciders, Gold Top (funky style)
  • VERMONT: Eden, Sparkling Cider, Dry (off dry/semi-dry
  • VIRGINIA: Foggy Ridge Cider, First Fruit (crisp/dry style)
  • WASHINGTON: Snowdrift Cider Co., Orchard Select (crisp/dry style)
  • WISCONSIN: AeppelTreow, Appely Brut; Bellwether Hard Cider, King Baldwin (crisp/dry style)


    RECIPE: Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Cake

    For Thanksgiving, everyone focuses on the dessert pies: pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie.

    But what about the rest of the week—or the entire months of October and November—when you want something a bit lighter than pie?

    King Arthur Flour solved our dilemma with their delicious Pumpkin Streusel Cake Mix. We stocked up last year after Thanksgiving, when it was half price; but it’s $9.95 full price at is still worth it.

    Why pay triple the price of a supermarket cake mix? It’s all in the quality of the ingredients.

    The King Arthur mix is made with real pumpkin and Vietnamese cinnamon. Even the flour in the mix—the highest grade milled—is better, as fans of King Arthur Flour can tell you.

    The mix includes a packet of cinnamon-streusel filling to make the swirl in the cake. You add butter, eggs, sour cream and water.

  • In addition to the instructions on the box, which can be used to make layer cakes or cupcakes, mix ½ teaspoon of baking soda into the dry cake mix.
  • Beat for just 30-60 seconds once all the ingredients are incorporated into the bowl.

    As an alternative, you can turn the mix into a pumpkin streusel coffee cake (photo #3).

  • Instead of using a bundt pan, spread the batter in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Sprinkle the streusel on top of the batter
  • Bake in an oven preheated to 350°F for 34 to 38 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
  • Let the cake cool and keep it in the pan. To serve, cut into rectangles. Only cut as many rectangles as you need; the air that seeps into the cut surfaces will take away some freshness.
    To Make The Cake From Scratch

    Here’s a recipe.


    Pumpkin Streusel Bundt Cake

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    [1] A pumpkin cinnamon streusel bundt cake, glazed (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [2] The cake made in a Heritage bundt pan, also called a swirl bundt pan from Nordicware.


    Streusel is a crumb topping made from butter, flour and sugar. It can also contain chopped nuts or rolled oats.

    It’s used on cakes and pies alike.

    Pronounced SHTROY-zul, the word derives from the German “streuen,” meaning to sprinkle or scatter. The American mis-pronunciation “STROO sul?” Fuggedaboudit.

    Streusel is used as a topping for a variety of pies, fruit crisps, cakes and pastries, most notably coffee cakes. A pie with a streusel topping is sometimes referred to as a “crumble pie.”

    Some people like big streusel crumbs, others prefer fine crumbs. The choice is yours as you pinch the crumbs together.


    Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake

    Pumpkin Streusel Cake Mix

    [3] Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake made from this [4] Pumpkin Streusel Cake Mix (photos courtesy King Arthur Flour).




  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

    1. COMBINE the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. With a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until fine crumbs form.

    2. USE your fingers to squeeze the fine crumbs into large clumps (or smaller as desired—we like large crumbs). Sprinkle over the top of the pie and bake per the recipe instructions. That’s it!

    First, there was the Austrian kugelhopf, a sweet yeast bread similar to brioche and panettone, made in a pan shaped like a chef’s hat or a turban.

    A Viennese specialty, it was a favorite of the Austrian Archduchess Marie Antoinette, who became the wife of King Louis XVI of France in 1770.

    Fast forward 180 years: Some Jewish ladies in Minneapolis couldn’t find any kugelhopf pans in the U.S., pans with pleated folds that their families had in the Old Country. They turned to a local manufacturer and convinced him to create a version of it. The bundt cake was born.

    The name bundt is a derivation of the German word for a gathering of people—exactly what you’ll have when there’s a bundt cake to be enjoyed.

    Here’s the history of the bundt cake.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Caramel Apple Dip With Apples & More

    Caramel Apple Dip

    Rainbow Baby Carrots

    [1] Caramel apple dip (photo courtesy Eat Wisconsin Cheese). [2] Rainbow baby carrots (photo Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE).


    If you’ll be home on Halloween—either dispensing candy or hunkering down—you need a Halloween treat that isn’t candy.

    Thanks to our friends at for this recipe.

    It’s easy to make with purchased caramel sauce (or if you’re hard core, your homemade sauce).

    The caramel dip is a bit indulgent, but you can:

  • Substitute plain or vanilla Greek yogurt for the cream and cream cheese.
  • Serve the lowest-calorie dippers: apple slices, carrots, celery and pretzel sticks.

    You can use this as a dip or a spread, a snack or a dessert.

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup prepared caramel sauce
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup apple, peeled, cored and finely diced
  • Lemon juice

  • Apple slices or dried apple chips
  • Carrot and celery; sticks
  • Ginger snaps or graham crackers
  • Potato chips or pretzels

    1. BEAT the heavy cream in a medium bowl with an electric mixer, until stiff peaks begin to form (about 2-3 minutes).

    2. ADD the apple pie spice, vanilla extract, salt and caramel sauce. Mix until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

    3. ADD the cream cheese and mix until just incorporated. Add the diced apple and mix until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Serve with fruit and/or graham crackers, gingersnaps or other cookies. When ready to serve…

    4. TOSS the diced apple in lemon juice to prevent browning. Here are other ways to prevent browning.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Chestnuts, Briefly In Season

    Slicing Chestnuts

    Chestnut Soup

    Chestnuts With Brussels Sprouts

    [1] To roast chestnuts, cut an X on the flat side. [2] Chestnut soup, a don’t-miss seasonal treat. [3] Brussels sprouts with roasted chestnuts from


    While canned chestnuts, and more recently, ready-to-eat vacuum-bagged chestnuts, can be found year-round, fresh chestnuts season lasts for only about two months.

    Now is the time to enjoy their beguiling flavor and nutrients to the fullest extent.

    They don’t have to be roasting on an open fire, per our favorite crooner, Nat King Cole. Roast chestnuts (lacking an open fire, we use the oven—here’s how) are a treat, but so are the luscious preparations that follow.

    Long before they found their way onto holiday menus, chestnuts, which are tree nuts, were a dietary staple in the mountainous regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Because grains could not grow in those areas, chestnuts were a valuable source of nutrition.

    In fact, chestnuts are nutritionally more like a grain than a nut. They are low in protein and fat, but high in starch and fiber. Naturally gluten free, they are the only nut that contains vitamin C.

    Add diced, halved or whole chestnuts to:

  • Appetizers (wrap with bacon instead of the classic water chestnuts)
  • Breads, dressings, muffins
  • Cream of chestnut soup (recipe)—a must-have seasonal treat
  • Puréed into dips, pestos, and as a delicious side, especially with chicken, duck, pheasant, pork, turkey, quail and veal
  • Garnishes for mains, soups, salads, vegetables
  • With grains, pilafs, risottos
  • With seasonal vegetables: Brussels sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, turnips—also in casseroles, stir-frys and omelet fillings

  • Candied (marrons glacés recipe)
  • Puréed and added to hot chocolate or coffee
  • Puréed and sweetened as a bread spread
  • Chestnut ice cream—puréed, diced or both
  • In a sweetened bread spread Mousse or Mont Blanc, sweetened chestnut purée in a meringue shell, topped with whipped cream
  • Cakes, plain and fancy (here’s a chestnut loaf cake)
  • Chestnut soufflé and a multitude of other desserts

    This recipe is from Mary R. Wendt, MD, author of Waist Away: How to Joyfully Lose Weight and Supercharge Your Life. She is an expert on making the transition to plant-based nutrition.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • ½ pound chestnuts (fresh, approximately 2 cups), wiped clean
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half (approximately 5 cups)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Fresh-ground pepper to taste
  • Optional additions: frizzled ham, sautéed leeks, sautéed wild mushrooms

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Use a paring knife to score an “X” onto the flat side of each chestnut.

    2. ARRANGE the chestnuts in a single layer in a large baking pan, with the X facing up. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the “X” flaps on the shell begin to curl away from the nut. Do not overcook!

    3. REMOVE from the heat and partially cool until it’s comfortable to peel away and discard the shells. Chestnuts are easiest to peel when they are warm.

    4. WARM the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and garlic. Sauté for 5-10 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally until lightly browned.

    5. ADD the chestnuts to the skillet and cook covered for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the Brussels sprouts are very brown. Stir in the salt and pepper and sauté an additional 2-3 minutes.

    6. GARNISH as desired and serve.



    FOOD FUN: Jim Beam Caramel Apples (Or Other Favorite Whiskey)

    To celebrate its Apple Bourbon—available year-round but especially popular in fall recipes—Jim Beam has stepped beyond cocktails to caramel.

    Yes, you can dip your caramel apples into an easy homemade caramel that incorporates a cup of Jim Beam Apple Bourbon.

    No time to buy Jim Beam Apple Bourbon? Use what you’ve got on hand (including another whiskey) and pick some up Apple Bourbon when you can. You’ll definitely want to make another batch of these!


    Ingredients For 10 Caramel Apples

  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 6 ounces cold half and half
  • 8 ounces Jim Beam Apple Bourbon
  • 10 Granny Smith apples on thick wooden skewers
  • Optional garnish: 4 cups chopped salted peanuts, honey roasted nuts or other garnish

    1. COOK the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in a large pot over medium high heat until a light boil begins. Whisk in the half and half and the bourbon and continue to whisk until the caramel sauce reaches 248°F. Remove from the heat.

    2. DIP each of the apples into the caramel, coating on all sides. Set on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. If desired, coat apples on all sides with chopped salted peanuts.

    3. ALLOW the caramel to cool before serving.

  • Classic Red Candy Apples
  • Easter Candy Apples
  • Matcha White Chocolate Granny Smith Apples (for Christmas or St. Pat’s)
  • Modern Art Chocolate Apples
  • Sugar-Free Red Candy Apples
    You can also host a candy apple party!


    Jim Beam Caramel Apples

    Jim Beam Apple Bourbon

    [1] Bourbon caramel apples. The caramel is made with [2] Jim Beam Apple Bourbon (photos courtesy Beam Suntory).


    The practice of coating fruit in sugar syrup dates back to ancient times. In addition to tasting good, honey and sugar were used as preserving agents to keep fruit from rotting.

    According to, food historians generally agree that caramel apples (toffee apples) date to the late 19th century. Both toffee and caramel can be traced to the early decades of the 18th century, buy inexpensive toffee and caramels for all became available by the end of the 19th century. Culinary evidence dates soft, chewy caramel coatings from that time.

    Red cinnamon-accented candy apples came later. And, while long associated with Halloween, they were originally Christmas fare, not a Halloween confection.

    According to articles in the Newark Evening News in 1948 and 1964, the red candy apple was invented in 1908 by William W. Kolb, a local confectioner. Experimenting with red cinnamon candies for Christmas, he dipped apples into the mixture and the modern candy apple was born.

    The tasty treat was soon being sold at the Jersey Shore, the circus and then in candy shops nationwide.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Ginger Pumpkin Pie With Pumpkin Seed Crust

    Pumpkin Seed Crust Recipe

    Pumpkin Mousse Cheesecake

    Caramel Cheesecake

    Caramel Apple Cheesecake

    [1] Pumpkin pie with a pumpkin seed-graham cracker crust (photo courtesy Whole Food Matters). [2] Pumpkin mousse cheesecake with pumpkin seed-flour crust (photo courtesy Kenwood World). [3] Cheesecake with walnut-pumpkin seed crust and a caramel sauce ribbon (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [4] Caramel Apple Cheesecake with gingersnap-pumpkinseed crust (photo courtesy iGourmet).


    Go seasonal with pie and cheese cake crusts: Add some pumpkin seeds and add a touch of fall, flavor, crunch and nutrition.

    You can add whole or chopped pumpkin seeds to your regular crusts, be they cookie (chocolate, gingersnap, graham cracker, shortbread), flour (wheat, nut, gluten free), or other recipe.

    Use raw, hulled pumpkin seeds, available in natural food stores and health food stores.

    First up is a graham cracker crust with pumpkin seeds, from Executive Chef Matt Greco of The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, California.

    Chef Greco initially made this delicious crust for a Black Out Pie, peanut butter and chocolate. So don’t limit your vista!



  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup crushed pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8-12 ounces unsalted butter, melted

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    2. COMBINE all ingredients except the butter in a bowl. Slowly add enough butter so that the mixture holds its shape when squeezed in your hand.

    3. PRESS 3/4 of a cup of the mixture into a pie pan and bake at 350° for 10 minutes, or until the crust is lightly golden.


    This recipe is adapted from one by Florence Fabricant in The New York Times. Prep and cook time is 2 hours.
    Ingredients For 10 Servings

    For The Crust

  • ¾ cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 10 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
    For The Filling

  • 2 cups canned pumpkin purée
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F. Spread the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and toast for 5 to 8 minutes, until you hear them start to pop. Remove from the oven.

    2. PLUSE 1/2 cup of the pumpkin seeds in a food processor. Mix with the graham cracker crumbs, ground ginger and granulated sugar. Stir in the melted butter. Pat the mixture firmly into the bottom and sides of a 10-inch pie pan and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

    3. BAKE the crust for 15 minutes and remove from the oven. Reduce the oven heat to 350°F.

    4. MIX the pumpkin purée, eggs, egg yolks, cream, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in the crystallized ginger and mix until smooth. Pour into the pre-baked crust and bake about an hour, until the filling is set.

    5. REMOVE the pie from the oven and the scatter remaining pumpkin seeds on top. Cool to room temperature before serving.

    How about a garnish of candied pumpkin seeds?

    You can sprinkle them on any dessert, or on whipped cream-topped drinks.


  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment, or spray it with cooking spray.

    2. WHISK the egg white until frothy. Place the pumpkin seeds in a small bowl and add just enough egg white to coat the seeds. Add the salt, sugar and cinnamon and toss well to coat.

    3. SPREAD the seeds on the pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, until they begin to dry and turn golden. Cool completely on a wire rack. Garnish just before serving to keep the seeds crisp. If not using that day, store in an airtight jar.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Pumpkin Pecan Coffee Cake

    In just 15 minutes, you can whip up the batter for Pumpkin Pecan Coffee Cake.

    Then, stick it in the fridge, and when you’re preparing for breakfast or brunch this weekend, preheat the oven and take the cake out of the fridge. It will bake in 35 minutes, capping off your repast with warm, fragrant coffee cake.

    This recipe, from Go Bold With Butter, is one of those recipes that takes little time to mix.

    The quintessential coffee cake is a crumb cake: a yeast cake with a streusel (crumb) topping. This recipe is quicker to make: hold the yeast and the rising time, add the pumpkin and pecans.


    Ingredients For A 9-Inch Cake
    For The Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
    For The Crumb Topping (Streusel)

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch spring form pan with butter and dust with flour.

    2. COMBINE the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. In separate bowl whisk together milk, egg, pumpkin purée and vanilla extract.

    3. BEAT the butter and brown sugar on high speed in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment until light and creamy. Alternatively, use a hand mixer and a large bowl; beat about 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until just combined. Stir in the pecans.


    Pumpkin Pecan Coffee Cake Recipe

    Streusel Top Muffin

    Coffee Cake Streusel

    [1] Pumpkin Pecan Coffee Cake with a crumb (streusel) topping (photo courtesy Go Bold With Butter). [2] Streusel can be light and airy, as on this crumb-top muffin (photo courtesy Folger’s). [3] By adding more butter, the streusel becomes denser. It’s a personal choice (photo courtesy Bella Baker).


    4. USING a fork, combine the butter, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in small bowl. Use your hands to press the mixture into large crumbs (streusel). Spread the cake batter into theprepared pan and cover with crumb topping.

    5. BAKE until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove the pan sides and cool completely. Store the cake at room temperature for up to 3 days; or freeze leftovers.

    Long popular as the topping on Streuselkuchen (streusel cake), Germany’s crumb-topped yeast cake, streusel (pronounced SHTROY-zul) is a topping made from butter, flour and sugar. It can also contain chopped nuts or rolled oats.

    The word derives from the German “streuen” (SHTROY-en), meaning to sprinkle or scatter.

    The crumb cake is believed to have originated in Silesia, once part of Germany but today in western Poland (if you’ve read James Michener’s historical novel, Poland, you know the borders changed regularly).

    The original Streuselkuchen was very flat, with crumbs equal to the height of the cake (think one inch of cake topped with one inch of crumbs). To some streusel lovers, that’s perfection!

    The original recipe engendered variations with layers or ribbons of tart fruits (apples, gooseberries, sour cherries, rhubarb) and poppy seeds. Some versions even included pastry cream.

    Another popular coffee cake, also a yeast cake (but without crumbs), is glazed with sugar syrup, can be strewn with raisins and nuts and drizzled with royal icing. In our youth, when German emigré bakers plied their craft in New York City and elsewhere, it was as popular as crumb cake (and neater to eat, too).



    TIP OF THE DAY: Scream Cheese, Special Cheeses For Halloween

    Basiron Red Gouda

    Cahill's Porter Cheddar

    English Cheddar With Harissa

    Mimolette Cheese

    Halloween Cheese

    [1] Basiron Pesto Rosso, a red Gouda. [2] Cahill’s Irish Cheddar, marbled with porter. [3] English Cheddar with spicy harissa. [4] Mimolette, perhaps the spookiest-looking cheese. [5] A limited fall edition version of Weybridge from Vermont (all photos are the copyright of their respective owners).


    Can cheeses be spooky? You bet!

    These cheeses and others can create as perfect Halloween cheese plate. They also double as “harvest moon” cheeses for Thanksgiving.

    They represent England, France, Holland, Ireland, and the U.S. They’re all delicious and worth seeking out. If you can’t find them locally, we’ve provided e-tail links.

    Basiron Pesto Rosso

    This Dutch Gouda (photo #1), also called Red Gouda, gets its bright color and flavor from an infusion of tomato pesto. Each creamy bite has a hit of ripe tomato and Italian herbs.

    It’s what we call “fusion cheese”: a traditional cheese from one country flavored with herbs and spices from another culture.

    Find it at
    Cahill’s Farm Flavored Irish Cheddar

    Made near Limerick and dating to 1759, the brown mosaic pattern is made with Guinness (photo #2). There’s also a fall-appropriate version colored red with wine, and an all-yellow version made with Irish whiskey (save the latter for St. Patrick’s Day).

    Find it at
    English Cheddar With Harissa

    Another “cultural fusion cheese,” this tangy English Cheddar (photo #3) gets an infusion of harissa, a Moroccan spice blend that consists of chiles, coriander, cumin, garlic and smoked paprika (each producer has a proprietary blend, which can include other ingredients).

    Find it at

    Perhaps the creepiest of all (photo #4), Mimolette’s rind looks like the craters of the moon. Cut it open and surprise: There’s a blazing orange interior that also looks scary.

    This semi-sharp cow’s milk cheese is produced in the area around Lille in Alsace, France. Try it with an Alsatian Riesling!

    Find it at

    Weybridge Limited Edition

    This “surprise!” cheese from the Scholten Family Farm in Vermont has a ghostly white bloomy rind, that reveals a tangy orange paste (the industry term for the interior of a cheese). An organic cheese, limited edition version has a dusting of vegetable ash on the rind for some extra spookiness.

    The limited edition cheese, a fall version of the regular Weybridge, sells out quickly. Reserve yours at Jasper Hill Farm.

    It’s annatto, a natural dye derived from achiote seeds. It’s the same natural color that differentiates yellow cheddar from white cheddar.

    In large amounts annatto provides a slightly spicy flavor, but here in smaller touches it delivers only the color.

  • Ash-covered goat cheese. While originally used to protect delicate goat cheeses during travel, vegetable ash continues to be popular for eye appeal on a fresh goat cheese log, or as a dramatic interior stripe in Humboldt Fog or Morbid. It imports no flavor, but does help with the ripening process in cheeses such as Bonne Bouche from Vermont Creamery and Selles sur Cher from the Loire.
  • Extra Triple Aged Gouda, a sturdy paste and harvest gold color.
  • Huntsman Cheese, from the U.K., a layered cheese of orange-hued Double Gloucester and veined white Stilton.
  • Pecorino With Chile Flakes. This aged Italian cheese has flecks hot chile flakes. Find it at
  • Saxonshire Cheese. This five-layer British cheese has a dramatic appearance: Each of the layers is a different shade of yellow or orange. The layers are Caerphilly, Cheddar, Cheshire, Double Gloucester and Leicester—all classics.


    Along with bread, crackers, fruits and nuts, serve a choice of condiments. Use ramekins for neatness. No ramekins? See what you do have, such as espresso cups and espresso spoons.

  • Chutney: apple, cranberry, pear, quince
  • Corn relish
  • Fall fruit jams: concord grape, fig, spiced fruits
  • Fruit butters: apple, pumpkin
  • Mustard: grainy mustard, horseradish mustard, walnut mustard, and the
  • Savory-sweet jellies: garlic, horseradish, onion
  • Spicy honey: buy it or add chili flakes to plain honey
    Look for an artisan semolina loaf if you want to add some seasonal color to the bread.

    The great French mustard house produces a standard line plus seasonal flavors: so good, we eat them from the jar on a spoon!

    Fall flavors include:

  • Black Olive & White Wine Mustard
  • Black Truffle & Chablis Mustard
  • Black Truffle, Cep & Chablis Mustard (limited edition)
  • Fig, Coriander & White Wine Mustard
  • Hazelnut, Black Chanterelle Mushrooms & White Wine Mustard
    We love to give these gourmet mustards as house gifts and stocking stuffers for our foodie friends. Find them online at


    Maille Hazelnut Chanterelle Mustard

    Maille Black Truffle Mustard

    [6] Maille Hazelnut, Black Chanterelle Mushrooms & White Wine Mustard. [7] Maille Black Truffle, Cep & Chablis Mustard, a limited edition for fall (photos courtesy Maille USA).




    TIP OF THE DAY: Beautiful Squash For Beautiful Recipes

    Stuffed Acorn Squash

    Stuffed Acorn Squash

    Acorn Squash Rings

    Kabocha Squash Bowl

    Butternut Squash

    [1] A conventional stuffed squash recipe: half a squash, stuffed to the brim. [2] Adding a rim of vegetables (photos #1 and #2 courtesy Chef Eric Levine). [3] Don’t want to serve large portions? Cut the squash into rings with this recipe from [4] Turn the entire kabocha squash into a filled “squash bowl.” Here’s the recipe from Sunset magazine. [5] Butternut squash (photo courtesy


    Certainly, a half of baked squash is attractive, not to mention delicious and good for you.

    But you can elevate baked squash to a work of art.

    The standard winter squashes in supermarkets are the acorn and the butternut. They have similar flavor, but the acorn is round while the butternut is boat-shaped.

    While the butternut can be cut into rings or halved into a “boat,” the round, ridged squash have a natural beauty benefit.

    Numerous types of winter squash are available in the U.S., in natural food stores and at farmers markets. But some species are particularly beautiful: acorn, blue hubbard, carnival, kabocha (buttercup), lumina (white with white flesh), pattypan, sweet dumpling and others (see more types of squash).

    Combine your palate and your personality into your stuffing.

  • Fruits: apples, dried fruits (apricots, cherries, cranberries, raisins), pears, pomegranate arils, quince
  • Grains: barley, breadcrumbs, croutons, quinoa, rice and wild rice, etc.
  • Herbs: parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme
  • Nuts: halved, sliced or chopped as garnish
  • Proteins: bacon, mozzarella, tofu
  • Seasonings: cayenne, chipotle, coriander, cumin, flavored salt, nutmeg, pepper, ras-el-hanout, smoked paprika, zatar
  • Vegetables: brussels sprouts, celery, carrots and other root vegetables, mushrooms
  • Binders: broth, butter, nut oil, olive oil
  • Garnishes: dried cranberries, fresh herbs, shredded cheese (cheddar, gruyère, parmesan)
    Here’s a basic recipe that you can customize as you like.

    Squash is indigenous to Central and South America. It was introduced to the Spanish conquistadors in Mexico, spread via indigenous migration throughout North America, and was introduced by Native American populations to the English setters in Virginia and Massachusetts.

    Squash was easy to grow and hardy enough to store for months, providing a nutritious dietary staple throughout the winter (hence the name, winter squash). While there are many heirloom varieties, today the most commonly found in supermarkets are acorn and butternut squashes.
    Acorn Squash Vs. Butternut Squash

    Acorn squash (Curcubita pepo, var. turbinata) is so called because its shape resembles an acorn. The most common variety is dark green in color, often with a splotch of orange on the side or top.

    Some varieties are variegated (multi-color) and newer varieties include the yellow Golden Acorn squash and white-skinned varieties.

    Like the other popular winter squash, butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata), the skin of an acorn squash is thick and hard, and it is an effort to peel it. But either squash is easily cut in half with a large, sharp knife. It can then be baked, plain or stuffed with grain, meat or vegetable mixtures.

    Acorn squash are smaller than butternut squash (an acorn is one to two pounds, four to seven inches long), and half of an acorn makes a convenient individual portion. It is similar in flavor to butternut.

    Winter squash needs to be cooked.

    All winter squash can be baked, microwaved, sautéed or steamed.

    Don’t hesitate to add the cooked flesh to green salads, mixed vegetables, grains, omelets, and anyplace you’d like another level of flavor and color.

  • The seeds of the squash are toasted and eaten. Initially, the seeds were eaten instead of the flesh until plumper-fleshed varieties were bred.
  • The yellow trumpet flowers that are produced before the squash is fully developed are also edible. They are stuffed and considered a delicacy.
  • The green tops, about three inches’ worth from the end of freshly-harvested squash, are also edible (but not the prickly stem). The squash greens are a popular vegetable in the Philippines. Unless you grow your own or your local farmer doesn’t remove them, you aren’t likely to see them for sale in the U.S.
    Winter squash is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, with smaller amounts of vitamins C and B, magnesium, and manganese. Surprisingly, because of the color of the flesh, it is not a good source of beta-carotene.

    There are three species of squash, all native to the Americas.

  • Curcubita pepo includes acorn, butternut, pumpkin, summer squashes and others.
  • Curcubita moschata, represented by the Cushaw, Japanese Pie, Large Cheese Pumpkins and Winter Crookneck squashes, arose, like Curcubita pepo, in Mexico and Central America. Both were and are important food, ranking next to maize and beans.
  • Curcubita maxima includes Boston Marrow, Delicious, Hubbard, Marblehead and Turks Turban, and apparently originated near the Andes, or in Andean valleys.

  • The word “squash” comes from the Wampanoag Native American word, askutasquash, meaning “eaten raw or uncooked.” This may refer to the summer squash varieties, yellow squash and zucchini, which can be enjoyed raw.
  • Summer squash, which belong to the same genus and species as most winter squash, are small, quick-growing varieties that are eaten before the rinds and seeds begin to harden.
  • Before the arrival of Europeans, Curcubita pepo and Curcubita moschata had been carried to all parts of North America that were conducive to growth.
  • Many Native American tribes, particularly in the West, still grow a diversity of hardy squashes and pumpkins not to be found in mainstream markets.
  • Squash was unknown in the Old World until the 16th century, brought back by the returning conquistadors. The oldest known prin record of it is dated 1591.
  • Much of canned pumpkin consists of Curcubita moschata squash, not from the jack-o-lantern variety of pumpkin. The best commercially canned varieties are Boston Marrow and Delicious varieties.The flesh of these varieties is much richer and more nutritious than that of pumpkin.


    HALLOWEEN RECIPE: Candy Corn Popcorn Balls

    Two years ago we published a recipe for orange-tinted Halloween Popcorn Balls, shaped like pumpkins.

    This new recipe was created by Meghan McGarry of Buttercream Blondie for

    We like it even better, because what Halloween celebrant doesn’t look forward to candy corn?

    The candy corn theme does double duty between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

    QUICK TIP: No time to make popcorn balls? Tao the candy corn and marshmallows with regular popcorn and a drizzle of honey or agave to bind them (or the candy corn will end up at the bottom of the bowl).

    Meghan created a sweet-and-salty recipe with salted peanuts. We used the honey roasted peanuts we had on hand, and added a few dashes of salt.

    If you don’t want to use nuts at all, substitute an additional 1/2 cup of candy corn, butterscotch baking chips, or Halloween M&Ms (they’re white and made in the shape of candy corn), etc.

    For gifting, you can wrap them like a pomander in orange curling ribbon, or in individual clear cellophane bags with a ribbon tie.

    Ingredients For 8-10 Popcorn Balls

  • 12 cups popped plain popcorn*
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup candy corn
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts (we used honey roasted peanuts)
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons Halloween sprinkles

    1. LINE a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Spray a large bowl and a spatula with cooking spray and add the popcorn. Set aside.

    2. MELT the butter in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Once butter begins to melt, add the marshmallows and stir continuously until melted. Then stir in vanilla extract.

    3. POUR the melted mixture over the popcorn and gently toss with the spatula. Add the candy corn and peanuts.

    4. SPRAY your hands with cooking spray and continue to mix by hand until everything is coated and combined. Add the sprinkles just before you’re almost done mixing.

    5. SHAPE the popcorn into balls and set on a parchment-lined sheet pan to cool.
    *If popping the corn from scratch, you need 6 ounces or 2/3 cup of kernels.


    Candy Corn Popcorn Balls

    Halloween Confetti

    Halloween Confetti

    [1] Candy corn popcorn balls from Meghan McGarry. [2] Halloween sprinkles from Halloween sprinkles from Dress My Cupcake. [3] Halloween confetti from Kreative Baking.




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