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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 Valentine’s Day

VALENTINE FOOD: Heart Shaped Bagels

When bagels are made, ropes of dough are twisted into the familiar circular shape.

So why not twist them into heart shapes?

That’s what the bagel makers at Einstein Bros. Bagels and Noah’s New York Bagels have done—and they’ve thrown in some dried cranberries to replace the raisins in a cinnamon-raisin bagel.

The love-worthy bagels are available at select locations through February 14th.

To go with your bagels, how about making cranberry, strawberry or raspberry cream cheese? Even if you only have conventional bagels, pink cream cheese will make your Valentine’s Day breakfast special.

 

bagels-valentine-valentine-einsteinbros-230b

Love thy cranberry bagel. Photo courtesy Einstein Bros.

 

RECIPE: STRAWBERRY CREAM CHEESE

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup berries, hulled; or substitute 2 tablespoons cranberry, strawberry or raspberry preserves and omit the confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • Optional:1 tablespoon orange zest
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until smooth and well blended.

    2. REFRIGERATE until needed. Ideally make the day before to let flavors blend.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE: Rice Krispie Treats Pops

    valentine-rice-krispie-treats-bellabaker-230

    Rice Krispie Treats on a stick for your
    Valentine. Photo courtesy Bella Baker.

     

    Thanks to BellaBaker.com for these fun Valentine Rice Krispie treats. Just grab your heart-shake cookie cutter, some red-striped straws and a box of Rice Krispies.

    They’re sweet and sticky and oh so satisfying, and in the shape of a heart and stuck onto a striped straw, they’re a perfect addition to your V-day celebration.

    RECIPE: VALENTINE RICE KRISPIE POPS

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 10-ounce bag mini marshmallows
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies
  • Heart shaped cookie cutter
  • Optional decoration: candy melts, red or other
    colors, cinnamon candies or chocolate chips
  •  
    Plus

  • 9″ x 13″ baking pan
  • Red and white striped straws or lollipop sticks
  • Squeeze bottle(s) for candy melts
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MELT butter in a saucepan over low heat, then add in the marshmallows.

    2. SPRAY a rubber spatula with nonstick cooking spray (to avoid marshmallows sticking to the spatula), then stir the marshmallows until melted. Add Rice Krispies and stir until cereal is well coated in marshmallow.

    3. LIGHTLY SPRAY a 9″ x 13″ pan with nonstick spray, then turn the Rice Krispie mixture out into the pan. Press down with the palm of your hand to flatten the Rice Krispies evenly into the pan. Allow 15 minutes to cool.

    4. CUT into heart shapes, then gently insert a striped straw into the base of each shape.
     
    Decorating Options

    1. CANDY MELTS. Melt candy melts in the microwave and then transfer to squeeze bottles. Decorate the Rice Krispie heart with various colors and patterns.

    2. CINNAMON CANDIES or CHOCOLATE CHIPS. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cinnamon candies (like Red Hots) or mini chips atop the Rice Krispie mixture in the pan; then press down with palms to flatten.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE FOOD: Strawberry Banana Pancake Stack

    Enjoy this special occasion pancake stack for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or other occasion when taking the extra step makes a big hit with family and guests. The pancake “cake” is sliced into six wedges.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 30 minutes. Thanks to Hungry Jack Pancakes for the recipe.

    RECIPE: STRAWBERRY BANANA PANCAKE
    STACK

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 2 cups pancake mix
  • 1-1/3 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • Butter flavor no-stick cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter*, divided
  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced
  •  

    A pretty pancake stack to share. Photo
    courtesy Hungry Jack.

  • 1/2 cup strawberry jam, divided
  • 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries, divided
  • Whipped cream or whipped topping
  • Pancake syrup
  •  
    *This recipe used Jif Whips Whipped Creamy Peanut Butter. We wanted to add a touch of chocolate, so used the companion product, Jif Whipped Peanut Butter & Chocolate Flavored Spread.

     

    jif-whips-chocolate-spread-230

    Jif Whips is made in creamy peanut butter
    and this chocolate peanut butter spread.
    Photo courtesy Jif.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 375°F.

    2. STIR pancake mix, milk, oil and eggs in large bowl until smooth. Let stand 3 minutes.

    3. COAT a griddle or large skillet with no-stick cooking spray. Heat over medium-high heat (375°). Make 7 large pancakes, seven inches in diameter, in batches, by pouring a scant 1/2 cup batter for each pancake onto hot griddle to form 7-inch circle. Cook until bubbles appear and edges are dry, about 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Turn and cook an additional 1 minute or until golden brown.

    4. PLACE 1 pancake on oven-safe serving plate; spread with 1/3 cup peanut butter. Top with another pancake. Completely cover surface with banana slices. Top with third pancake; spread with 1/4 cup strawberry jam. Completely cover surface with 1 cup sliced strawberries, mounding strawberries near outside edge. Repeat all layers. Top with remaining pancake. Cover with foil.

     

    5. BAKE 5 to 10 minutes or until heated through. Insert 6 decorative wooden skewers into stack-up, if desired, to secure each wedge. Cut into wedges. Garnish with whipped topping, if desired. Serve with syrup.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE RECIPE: Sweetie Pie Cherry Pie Pops

    Our favorite baker, blogger Lauryn Cohen (a.k.a. Bella Baker), suggests pie pops for Valentine’s Day.

    RECIPE: SWEETIE PIE POPS

    Ingredients For Flaky Pie Crust

  • 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1-1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold (or frozen) and cut into 48 small pieces
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 6-7 tablespoons ice water
  •  
    Plus

  • 24 six-inch lollipop sticks
  • Optional: “Sweetie Pie” tags or red or pink ribbons
  •  
    Preparation

     

    sweetie-pie-pops-bellabaker-230

    Valentine pie pops. Photo courtesy Bella Baker.

     
    1. PLACE flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and combine. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until mixture resembles coarse peas or cornmeal. There will still be chunks of butter and that is fine.

    2. SPRINKLE the water, one or two tablespoons at a time, over the mixture and pulse a couple of times in between each addition. Test the dough by pinching it: If it holds together it is ready. If not, add some additional water until the mixture begins to clump together.

    3. REMOVE the dough from the food processor bowl and lightly knead it into two flat disks. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Dough can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days ahead of time.

    4. REMOVE the chilled dough from the refrigerator. Sprinkle flour onto a clean work surface and, using a rolling pin, gently roll out, lifting the dough from underneath and sprinkling additional flour if the dough begins to stick slightly onto the work surface. Once the dough reaches 1/4 inch in thickness, use a 2- or 3-inch round biscuit cutter or a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut shapes out of the pie dough.

     

    cherry-pie-filling-chukar-230

    You can use prepared pie filling if you don’t
    want to make your own. Photo courtesy
    Chukar Cherries, which makes our favorite
    cherry pie filling.

      Cherry Filling Ingredients

  • 5 to 6 cups fresh pitted cherries in season†
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients except for the vanilla extract in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes.

    2. STIR in the vanilla extract, remove from heat and cool before using.
     
    †Out of season, use frozen cherries or buy prepared cherry filling.

     
    Ingredients For Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk or cream
  •  
    To Make The Pie Pops

    1. PREHEAT oven to 450°F. Place half the dough circles or hearts onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Place a 6 inch lollipop stick on top of each circle, pressing gently so it sticks into the dough circle, going about half way up the circle.

    2. ADD about a teaspoon of filling to each dough circle or heart and place another dough circle or heart on top. Use the tines of a fork to carefully crimp together the edges of the dough. It is important to make sure that your dough it securely closed around the entire circle so that your filling does not leak out.

    3. MAKE egg wash: Beat egg and milk/cream until combined and brush on the top of each pie pop. Bake pie pops in oven for 10-12 minutes. The crust should look golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely, then decorate with personalized tags, like the “Sweetie Pie” tags in the photo, or a pink or red ribbon.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Valentine Cake Decoration

    Decorated by you, with jumbo white morsels
    and cinnamon candies. Photo courtesy
    GoodEggs.com.

     

    Want to bake a cake for someone special but don’t have the chops to decorate it?

    Just get chocolate chips and other candy decorations in contrasting colors and sizes, and press them into the frosting of your own homemade or a store-bought cake. Head to the candy store or baking supply store to check out the options.

    RED AND PINK DECORATIONS

  • Red chips, called cherry chips or baking morsels
  • Pink and red decorating hearts
  • Cinnamon candies like Red Hots
  • Red lips sprinkles
  • Sweethearts “conversation hearts” from NECCO or these Talking Hearts
  •  
    CHOCOLATE DECORATIONS

  • Try white chocolate chips atop chocolate or pink frosting
  • Use milk or dark chocolate chips on pink or white frosting (contrast jumbo, regular and mini sizes)
  • We love decorating with chocolate or vanilla nonpareils
  • Coating discs, also called disc wafers and pistoles, are larger than morsels, about the size of a nickel; while they’re typically melted to make chocolates or baked goods, they are 100% delicious, quality chocolate
  • For mint lovers, press Junior Mints into the frosting
  • Although it’s a bit commercial, you can use M&M or Reese’s Pieces for fans of those candies
  •  
    What’s your cake decorating inspiration for Valentine’s Day?

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Pink Or Red Food Dehydrator

    A growing number of people are switching to good-for-you snacks. If they like to make their own, an unusual and generous Valentine gift is a food dehydrator from Excalibur, in red or pink.

    According to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Americans consume a third of their daily calories from snacks. Many pre-packaged bars, cookies, dried fruit and jerky are high in salt, sugar, preservatives and additives.

    Dehydrating your own food allows you to swap out those questionable ingredients for healthy, nutrition-dense alternatives that allow the true flavors of natural foods to shine through. Think dehydrated fruits and vegetables, or meats and fish jerky.

    You can also dry herbs and flowers (to decorate cakes or make your own potpourri and sachets) and make granola. It’s easy to get hooked on dehydrating.

     

    excalibur-red-dehydrator-230b

    Instead of roses: a bright red food dehydrator. Photo courtesy Excalibur.

     
    WHO’S DEHYDRATING FOOD?

    Man has been dehydrating for thousands of years, initially to preserve meat and other foods in the millennia prior to refrigeration. Today, our most commonly enjoyed dehydrated foods include jerky and bottled herbs. Many “practitioners” dehydrate summer crops—berries, peaches, tomatoes—for enjoyment through the winter.

    Dehydration is used everywhere from hunters’ cabins to Michelin-star kitchens.

    Grant Achatz, Ferran Adrià, Dan Barber, Matthew Lightner, Sam Mason, Sarma Melngailis, Iliana Regan, Rich Torrisi and Ming Tsai dehydrate ingredients to intensify and concentrate flavors, decrease marinating time, thicken sauces and soften saturated fats like coconut oil or cacao butter.

     

    excalibur-pink-230

    Radiant Raspberry is another option, along
    with Antique Copper, Copper, Radiant
    Blueberry, Radiant Cherry and Twilight Black.
    Photo courtesy Excalibur.

     

    THE EXCALIBUR DEHYDRATOR

    Compact enough to fit on your kitchen counter, the Excalibur Dehydrator has a patented airflow drying system to optimize speed in drying, among other features. It is up to 10 times faster than common round dehydrators, and available in a variety of color finishes and sizes, including commercial and non-commercial grade units.

    You pay for quality, of course. Excalibur machines are top of the line, and these are $349 at ExcaliburDehydrator.com.

    But if you enjoy kale chips, carrot chips, apple chips and the like, it will pay for itself in less than a year. Instead of baking cookies, bring your hosts your homemade snacks.

     
    While even pricier than those pricey red or pink roses, it will be a permanent change in better-for-you food preparation.
     

    You can package the dehydrator with a book:

  • Dehydrating Food: A Beginner’s Guide, with 167 recipes
  • The Dehydrator Guide, with more than 400 recipes
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Stuffed Baked Potatoes With Beets & Feta

    Here’s an easy Valentine dish: baked potato filled with beets and feta, with a refreshing mint salad on the side. The idea is to stuff the baked potato with beets and feta instead of sour cream and chives.

    Love Beets, which developed this recipe, likes to serve it with a protein of choice and a mint salad. It takes only 10 minutes of prep time, plus an hour-plus to bake the potatoes.

    If you don’t want a side salad of mint, you can use the leaves in the beet and feta salad; or substitute another herb chiffonade with the beets and feta (basil is a good choice).

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed & pricked with a fork
  • Optional: butter
  •  
    For The Salad

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon superfine or regular table sugar
  •  

    Baked potato stuffed with beets and feta. Photo courtesy LoveBeets.com.

  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • Small bunch fresh mint, leaves destemmed and chopped roughly
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 packs* traditional cooked beets, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 small red onion, finely sliced
  • Handful black olives (optional)
  • 11 ounces (about 1-1/3 cups) feta cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes
  •  
    *Precooked Love Beets are 8 ounces per package, for a total 16 ounces of beets. You can also use canned beets.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Place the potatoes directly on the oven rack and bake for 1¼ to 1½ hours until soft when pierced with a fork. Alternatively, you can par-cook in a microwave on high for 10-15 minutes, then put in the oven to finish baking, reducing the cooking time accordingly.

    2. MAKE the salad: Whisk together the oil, vinegar and sugar in a large bowl. Season to taste with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use 2 teaspoons to lightly dress the mint. If you don’t want a side salad of mint, make a chiffonade of some of the leaves, to taste, and add them to the beet salad along with the feta, in step 4.

    3. TOAST the pine nuts in a dry frying pan until golden brown. Add to the salad dressing, along with the beets, onion and black olives. Set aside for the flavors to mingle.

    4. MIX the feta cheese into the salad just before serving. Cut open each baked potato with an X, breaking up the inside a bit with a fork (add a little butter if desired). Spoon the beet and feta salad into the potatoes and serve immediately.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Rose Cocktails For Your Valentine

    cocktails-with-flowers-chandon-230

    Toast your Valentine with a rose cocktail. If
    you can’t find organic rose petals for garnish,
    any edible flowers will do. Photo courtesy
    Chandon.

     

    In the Middle East, rose is a more popular flavor than chocolate. It’s used in beverages, candies, cookies and other baked goods, ice cream, jam and sorbet. The flower petals are turned into syrup. The flavor is quite glorious, and it’s a perfect pairing with sparkling wine.

    Beyond Middle Eastern and Indian markets, there’s not much rose-flavored food in the U.S. (we occasionally find rose marshmallows at fine confectioners). But rose is a flavor that fits right in with Valentine’s Day, and fashionable mixologists create menus of rose syrup-accented cocktails.

    WHAT IS ROSE SYRUP?

    Rose syrup is rose water with sugar added—essentially, rose-flavored simple syrup. Rose water itself is distilled from rose petals as a by-product of the rose oil (attar of roses) produced for perfumes.

    First distilled by Muslim chemists in medieval times, both rose syrup and rose water add a subtle rose flavor and aroma to sweet foods. You can use rose water and sugar in beverages, but for confections and baked goods you need syrup, which won’t dilute the batter, dough, etc.

     

    ROSE COCKTAILS

    Our favorite, easy rose cocktail is a Champagne Cocktail sweetened with rose syrup instead of the conventional sugar cube. There’s a Rose Martini recipe below. You can create other cocktails, or add the syrup to club soda for a mocktail.

    You can buy rose syrup in pink or clear hues, or make your own from rose water. You can whip it up in about 10 minutes and color it as light or deep rose as you like. If, after the first batch, you want even more rose flavor, exchange the tap water for more rose water.

    If you decide to distill your own rose water from rose petals (our friends with a large rose garden like to do this), note that only dark red roses impart much color; you may have to supplement with food color.
     

    RECIPE: ROSE SYRUP (ROSE SIMPLE SYRUP)

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rose water
  • Red food coloring as desired
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRING the water to a boil. Add the sugar and dissolve, stirring constantly. When completely dissolved, remove the pan from the heat. Do not over-boil.

    2. ADD red food color as desired.

    3. COOL, then store in an airtight container in the fridge.

     

    RECIPE: ROSE MARTINI

    Ingredients For 1 Cocktail

  • 2 ounces gin or vodka
  • 1 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon rose-infused simple syrup
  • 3 dashes bitters (especially grapefruit or orange
    bitters
    )
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: organic rose petals*, raspberries,
    strawberries or lemon twist
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ADD ingredients including ice to a cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

    2. Garnish and serve.
     
    MORE VALENTINE COCKTAIL RECIPES

     

    rose-simple-syrup-royalroseny.bigcartel-230

    Rose syrup. Photo courtesy Royal Rose Syrups.

     

    *Rose petals or other flowers used for garnish must be organic—not sprayed with chemical pesticides.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE’S DAY: Red Velvet Donuts ~ Baked, Not Fried

    For all your Valentine—the recipe makes two
    dozen donuts! Photo courtesy Farmgirl
    Gourmet.

     

    This recipe is courtesy of Farmgirl Gourmet, one of our favorite blogs. Author Heather Scholten, the author, is a recipe developer, food blogger and photographer. She writes: “I love whipping up deliciousness in my 100 year old kitchen. My emphasis is on family friendly recipes with a gourmet twist. I grow it, I cook it, I snap it, I eat it.”

    What better way to start off Valentine’s Day than with Heather’s red velvet donuts? They’re dipped in cream cheese frosting and decorated with sprinkles to add even more festivity.

    The donuts are easy to make—baked, not fried. Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes. The full recipe was originally published on Zak.com.

    RECIPE: RED VELVET DONUTS

    Ingredients For 24 Donuts

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon red gel food coloring (see section below on food coloring types)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • For The Icing

  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
  • Garnish: red sprinkles or candy hearts
  •  
    Plus

  • Donut baking pans
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Spray a donut baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

    2. COMBINE the flours, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk until fluff.

    3. ADD the milk, eggs, food coloring and olive oil and mix until just combined. Carefully pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until the tops are no longer tacky. Turn out onto a wire rack and cool.

    4. PREPARE the icing: Combine all ingredients for icing in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high at 30 second intervals, stirring in-between until cream cheese melts and frosting is a runny consistency. Add additional milk if frosting becomes too thick.

    5. DIP the cooled donuts in the icing and sprinkle with candy sprinkles of your choice. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

     

    The red velvet donuts have cream cheese frosting. Photo courtesy Farmgirl Gourmet.

     

    WHY USE SOFT GEL INSTEAD OF LIQUID FOOD COLOR

    The typical food colors available in supermarkets are water-based liquids that work well for most purposes. In many recipes, you use so little of it that the teaspoon or so of water isn’t going to impact the outcome of the recipe.

    But if you are looking for intense color—such as in red velvet cake—you need to use a lot of liquid to get the vibrant color. Too much liquid will alter the consistency of cake, candies, donuts and deep-colored frostings.

  • Soft gel food coloring (sometimes called liquid gel, not to be confused with the conventional liquid) delivers a deep, rich color without thinning the batter or frosting.
  • Gel paste food coloring is very concentrated and provides even deeper, more vivid colors than gel. It and should be used in very small quantities.
  • Powdered food coloring is another very concentrated option that is often used to decorate cookies.
  • You can often find gel food colors in craft stores, as well as in baking supplies stores and online, where you can buy red only or the four basic food colors. Wilton sells a set of eight gel colors, as well as neon and pastel sets.
     
    Don’t substitute one for another, unless you have time to test the results.
     
    COLORED ICING TIPS

  • If exact color is important, mix the color in daylight so you can see the true hue. Start with less color and adjust as you go.
  • Note that the longer the icing sits, the stronger the color will be. Proceed accordingly.
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Brie & Beet Bruschetta

    More purple passion: beets with Brie on
    bruschetta. Photo and recipe courtesy
    LoveBeets.com.

     

    This appetizer or first course pairs with your favorite wine: red, white or sparkling. And beer, too, of course.

    Or, serve the bruschetta with the salad course. Prep time is 5 minutes, cooking time is 10 minutes.

    RECIPE: BRIE & BEET BRUSCHETTA

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 4 slices thick cut rustic bread
  • 2 cloves garlic, flattened and cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 16 ounces pickled whole beets*, cut into thick wedges
  • 7 ounces Brie, cut into slices
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  •  
    *Love Beets beets uses two packages of its Beets Dipped In Vinegar. If you can’t find them, use pickled beets or plain beets that you can marinate lightly in vinegar.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the broiler and toast the bread on one side.

    2. RUB the untoasted side with the garlic and brush with olive oil.

    3. ARRANGE the beet wedges on the untoasted side of the bread and lay the slices of Brie on top. Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper to taste and place back under the broiler.

    4. BROIL until the cheese is hot and bubbling. Serve immediately.
     
    BRUSCHETTA VS. CROSTINI

    Here’s the difference.

      

    Comments

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