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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 GIFTS: Chocolate Lips, Macarons In Red

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You can actually reuse the “clutch” packaging
as a fun evening bag. Photo by Faith
Tomases | THE NIBBLE.

 

We love gifts with “keeper” boxes. We always find ways to repurpose the boxes, which continue to remind us of the gift and the giver.

Pâtissier François Payard has chosen beautiful packaging for his Valentine confections. We’ve selected two to highlight. Both can be shipped nationwide.

“Kiss Me” Chocolates

Eighteen luscious lips are packaged in a container so lovely, you could use it as an evening clutch.

Half of the chocolates are milk chocolate filled with caramel and fleur de sel, enrobed in Valrhona’s 40% Jivara Milk Chocolate.

The other half are gancache-filled dark chocolate, Valrhona’s 66% Caraibe. The ganache is infused with freshly puréed passion fruit and mango.

The two flavors are a contrast in deliciousness: creamy caramel versus tangy fruit. A gift of Kiss Me Chocolates should earn you many actual kisses in return.

 

“Sweet Love” Macaron Collection

Pull the ribbon on the drawer of the box, and pull out 12 elegant macarons. There are four each in:

  • Cassis Violet: white chocolate with violet & black currants ganache
  • Passion Fruit & Banana: white chocolate with banana & passion fruit ganache
  • Rose Water: white chocolate with rose water ganache
  •  
    ABOUT CHEF PAYARD

    Born and trained in France (he’s a third-generation pastry chef), Payard moved to New York in 1990 as Pastry Chef at the four-star Le Bernardin restaurant, and subsequently at the four-star Restaurant Daniel. He was named Pastry Chef of the Yearin 1995, by the James Beard Foundation.

    Now the proprietor of five bakeries/bakery-cafés in New York City, he also sells selected products online.

    Discover more at Payard.com.

     

    macarons-230

    A drawer of macarons pulls out with a satin ribbon. Photo by Faith Tomases | THE NIBBLE..

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Valentine Cocktail

    Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with a romantic interest, friends or family, make the occasion special with a Valentine cocktail.

    What makes a “Valentine” cocktail? Color—a shade of pink, rose or red. If you want a Champagne cocktail, garnish it with “Champagne grapes” (they’re actually Zante currants), a red berry or an edible flower. And of course, it’s got to be a sweet cocktail.

    Chocolate cocktails are also options.

    We’ve listed some of our favorite recipes at the end, but here’s a new idea from Tequila Herradura.

    This sweet cocktail from is almost a good-for-you tonic, mixing the spirit with a serving of fresh fruit, plus fruit juice and low glycemic agave nectar instead of sugar- or corn syrup-filled cocktail mixer.

    LOVE NECTAR

    Ingredients For One Drink

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 10 seedless red grapes
  • 1 ounce apple cider
  • ½ ounce agave nectar
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: apple fan
  •  

    love-nectar-cocktail-herradura-230

    Get ready to toast Valentine’s Day with some Love Nectar. Photo courtesy Casa Herradura.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the grapes into the base of a cocktail shaker and crush with a muddler. Add the remaining ingredients including ice. Shake hard and strain over ice into an old fashioned glass.

    2. GARNISH with a fan of red apple. (Here’s a video that shows how.)
     
    MORE VALENTINE COCKTAILS

  • Amore Espresso Cocktail Recipe
  • Bright Red Cocktail Recipes
  • Chocolate Basil Martini Recipe
  • Five Chocolate Cocktail Recipes
  • Love Potion Recipe
  • Pink Cocktail Recipes
  • Pomegranate Martini Recipe
  • The Right Kiss Gin Cocktail Recipe
  •  
    Or, since you’ve got time, start thinking about making your own signature cocktail. Hint: There’s nothing easier than

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Get A Heart-Shaped Cheese

    coeur-de-bray-neufchatel-murrays-230

    Coeur de Bray, a heart-shaped Neufchâtel
    cheese. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

     

    Different heart-shaped cheeses appear at this time of year, especially goat cheeses. But the first heart-shaped cheese, created in the 14th century, was Neufchâtel (NU-shah-tell), a soft-riped cow’s milk cheese with a white rind.

    Note that French Neufchâtel is different from the American product of the same name, sold as a lower-fat alternative to cream cheese. American Neufchâtel has been disappearing over the last decade, as cream cheese manufacturers have marketed their own lowfat and nonfat versions.

    Authentic French Neufchâtel is one of the oldest cheeses in France and the oldest cheese in Normandy, dating back as far as the sixth century. Soft and crumbly, its dry, white rind is velvety and edible.

    Its buttery, pale paste has a salty, somewhat sharp flavor has soft mushroom notes, like Brie. Like Brie, the cheese develops an earthy character as it ages.

     
    Serve it with crusty bread, cherry jam, fresh berries or dried fruit.

    Neufchâtel pairs nicely with a crisp, dry white wine. Murray’s suggests Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc or Rosé. We prefer Champagne. And if you’re a red wine drinker, bring on the Burgundy.

     

    WHY A HEART?

    It is available in various shapes, the famous Neufchâtel heart shape is a tradition begun by young Norman women, as the story goes, to discreetly express their feelings of affection for young British soldiers during the 100 Years’ War*.
     
    COEUR DE BRAY

    This particular Neufchatel heart comes from the Pays de Bray, an area in northern Normandy. The name is AOC protected.

    It is “made from buckets of cream” from the famed dairy cows of Normandy, according to Murray’s Cheese, which sells it at retail and online for $15.99.

     

    neufchatel-heart-paper-cheesesoffranceFB-230

    A Neufchâtel heart, slightly aged. Photo courtesy Cheeses Of France.

     

    MAKE COEUR À LA CRÈME

    You can make your own heart-shaped cheese, the famed Coeur à La Crème (heart of cream).

    This luscious mascarpone creation (that’s the same cheese used to make tiramisu) is served with berries or a sauce of raspberry purée for dessert.

    Here’s the recipe.

     
    *A series of conflicts from 1337 to 1453 between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of France for control of the French throne. The war is commonly divided into three phases separated by truces, which together comprise the longest military conflict in history: the Edwardian Era War (1337–1360), the Caroline War (1369–1389) and the Lancastrian War (1415–1353), which saw the slow decline of English fortunes after the appearance of Joan of Arc in 1429. The French kept the throne and the cheese.

      

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    PRODUCT: Belvoir Non-Alcoholic Cordials

    belvoir-small-duo-230

    Individual-size bottles of Belvoir Elderflower Cordial and Elderflower & Rose Lemonade. Photo courtesy Belvoir Fruit Farms.

     

    Instead of a Valentine mocktail, head straight to the delicious nonalcoholic cordials from Belvoir.

    While Americans use the word as a synonym for fruit liqueur, in the U.K. a cordial is a carbonated, fruit-flavored soft drink.

    Belvoir Fruit Farms is nestled in the English countryside in the idyllic Vale of Belvoir, in Leicestershire, in the English Midlands. The name is French for beautiful view.

    Belvoir Castle, a tourist attraction, is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland. But the name may be more familiar to Americans from the non-alcoholic fruit cordials the family sells, a business developed by the current duke’s father to generate income for the continued upkeep of the castle.

    The duke’s mother infused elderflowers, grown on the estate, into a delicious beverage. Her husband saw a revenue potential, and the family business has been pressing and cooking fresh flowers, fruits and spices since 1981, combining them with local spring water. The line expanded, and is currently exported worldwide.

    Delicious and all natural, they are a refreshing alternative to other soft drinks. While they are a wonderful mixer for cocktails (and in sweet and savory recipes), they are absolutely delicious simply chilled.

     
    The line of cordials includes Apple, Plum & Cinnnamon; Blueberry & Blackcurrant; Blackcurrant & Cox Apple; Elderflower, Ginger; Honey, Lemon & Ginger; Lemon; Lime; Raspberry & Lemon; Raspberry & Rose; Rhubarb & Strawberry; Spiced Apple & Ginger and Spiced Winterberries. As if this isn’t enough to fit on the grocer’s shelf, other flavors pop up,like Elderflower & Rose Lemonade.

    The Elderflower, Raspberry & Rose and Rhubarb & Strawberry are especially nice for Valentine’s Day. The latter two are in beautiful rosy hues.

    Large bottles (750ml) and individual size (25cl/8.45 fl.oz.) are available at specialty food stores and better supermarkets. Most are sold on Amazon.

    For more information visit BelvoirFruitFarms.co.uk.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Marshmallows

    As a treat for friends and family, try your hand at making marshmallows for Valentine’s Day. These chocolate marshmallows, by Christina Lane of DessertForTwo.com, are dipped in melted chocolate for a double-chocolate treat. They take only 15 minutes to make!

    Since this is “dessert for two,” the recipe makes 12 mini marshmallows. Make the first batch to see how you like them, and then make a larger batch

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOWS

    Ingredients For 12 Mini Marshmallows

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light (clear) corn syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons cool water, divided
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons special dark cocoa powder*
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
    For Dipping

  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 1½ teaspoons coconut oil
  •  

    Chocolate-Marshmallows-dessertfortwo-230

    Dipped chocolate marshmallows. Photo courtesy DessertForTwo.com.

     
    *You can substitute regular cocoa powder. A darker, more intense cocoa powder delivers more chocolate flavor.
     

    Preparation

    1. LINE a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper or foil. Spray with cooking spray.

    2. COMBINE the granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and 2 tablespoons of the water in a medium sauce pan. Clip on a candy thermometer, and turn the heat to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil without stirring and continue to cook until it reaches 238°F. Meanwhile…

    3. PLACE another 2 tablespoons of the water in a medium bowl, and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let sit to dissolve for 5 minutes.

    4. ADD the last 2 tablespoons of water to a small dish and microwave for 25 seconds, until hot. Remove from the microwave carefully, and whisk in the cocoa powder. Stir the cocoa powder mixture into the dissolved gelatin.

    5. SLOWLY STREAM the hot sugar (238°F) into the gelatin mixture while continuously beating with a hand mixer on medium-high. Be careful not to pour the hot sugar near the sides of the bowl because it will stick and harden immediately. Beat the mixture for 10 minutes, until light and fluffy; then beat in the vanilla.

    6. POUR the mixture into the loaf pan, and let set for at least 3 hours. Then lift the parchment paper or foil out of the pan, and cut the marshmallows into squares with a well-greased knife. Grease the knife between each cut. If the marshmallows are too sticky, roll them in extra cocoa powder.

    7. DIP the marshmallows: First place the marshmallows in the freezer for 5 minutes, on a baking sheet. While they are chilling, combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium heat in 30-second pulses until melted, stirring between each pulse. Stir until chocolate is evenly melted and smooth.

    8. REMOVE the marshmallows from the freezer and dunk half of each marshmallow in the melted chocolate. Place each marshmallow back on the sheet, and refrigerate until the chocolate sets, about 5 minutes.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Red Waffle Cones & Love Potion Ice Cream

    red-waffle-cones-baskinrobbins-230

    Valentine treat: red waffle cone filled with
    Love Potion #31 ice cream. Photo courtesy Baskin-Robbins.

     

    If you’re ready to start celebrating Valentine’s Day, head to Baskin-Robbins for a red waffle cone and a couple of scoops of the flavor of the month, Love Potion #31. (That’s for B-R’s 31 flavors; there are no Love Potions #1 through #30).

    Love Potion #31 features white chocolate and raspberry ice creams, a raspberry ribbon, chocolate chips and raspberry-filled chocolate hearts. We love chocolate and raspberry, so thanks, B-R: This is right up our alley.

    Customers can enjoy a free red waffle cone with the purchase of any double scoop of ice cream at participating Baskin-Robbins shops nationwide.

    The Valentine offerings also include ice cream cakes in the shape of “conversation hearts,” with messages including Be Mine, Love You and XOXO. You can order the cakes online for pickup at your local Baskin Robbins.

     

     
      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Shiny Chocolate Hearts

    kohler-hearts-230sq

    Pretty to look at, these shiny chocolate hearts are filled with luscious raspberry-infused ganache. Photo courtesy Kohler.

     

    These lovely hearts, from Kohler Chocolates, are beautifully crafted:

    The dark chocolate shells are filled with a delicate raspberry-accented chocolate ganache.

    The dark chocolate is then enrobed with a thin layer of red-tinted white chocolate, which is hand painted with pink dots, and glazed to a very dazzling shine.

    Choose from four sizes, gift-boxed and tied with a lovely ribbon. The smallest size makes a great wedding favor.

  • 4-Piece Box, $9.99
  • 9-Piece Box, $18.99
  • 32-Piece Box, $59.99
  •  
    Get yours at KohlerChocolates.com.

     

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Red Velvet Raspberry Truffles

    Surprise your Valentine with a beribboned box of homemade red velvet chocolate truffles with luscious raspberry flavor. The insides are the color of red velvet cake.

    McCormick, which contributed this recipe, specifies baking chocolate; but these will taste so much better if you use couverture—higher quality chocolate that chocolatiers and pastry chefs use. Look for 60% to 70% couverture from Guittard, Valrhona and other brands in cbaking supply stores or specialty food stores.

    RECIPE: RED VELVET RASPBERRY TRUFFLES

    Ingredients For 24 Truffles

  • 1 pound semi-sweet baking chocolate, divided
  • 4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red food color
  • 1 teaspoon raspberry extract
  • Optional: sprinkles or other red, white or pink decorations; or white chocolate for a contrasting drizzle
  •    

    raspberry-chocolate-truffles-mccormick-230

    Make your own Valentine bonbons. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     
    Preparation

    1. MELT 8 ounces of the chocolate as directed on package; or in a double boiler.

    2. BEAT the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, food color and raspberry extract in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended and smooth. Add the melted chocolate; beat until well mixed. Cover. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or until firm.

    3. SHAPE into 24 balls (about 3/4-inch). Place on wax paper-lined tray. Refrigerate until ready to dip.

    4. COAT and decorate only 12 truffles at a time (so the chocolate doesn’t harden). Melt 4 ounces of the remaining chocolate in small microwavable bowl on MEDIUM (50% power) for 1-1/2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute. Using a fork, dip 1 truffle at a time into the chocolate. Tap the back of fork 2 or 3 times against edge of dish to allow excess chocolate to drip off. Place the truffles on a wax paper-lined tray. (If there are any “bald” spots on a truffle, cover them with the melted chocolate that remains on the fork.) Repeat with the remaining 4 ounces of chocolate and the remaining truffles.

    5. DECORATE: Garnish the truffles with colorful sprinkles immediately after dipping in chocolate. The sprinkles will adhere to the truffles as the chocolate coating sets in the refrigerator. Or, decorate truffles with a swirl of white chocolate. You can use a fork to drizzle white chocolate over the truffles.

    6. REFRIGERATE for 1 hour or until the chocolate is set. Store the truffles between layers of wax paper in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

     

    raspberry-cream-cheese-frosting-mccormick

    White cake with raspberry cream cheese frosting and filling. Raspberry extract is clear and won’t color the frosting by itself. Red food color was used to make the filling pink. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

    MORE USES FOR RASPBERRY EXTRACT

    Some people hesitate to purchase a bottle for only one recipe. Here are other uses for that raspberry extract:

    Beverages

  • Club soda/sparkling water
  • Hot chocolate
  • Hot or iced tea
  • Shakes and smoothies
  • Soft drinks, e.g., add to cola or ginger ale
  •  
    Sweets

  • Cake and cookies
  • Frosting
  • Raspberry brownies
  • Syrup for shaved ice
  •  

    RECIPE: RASPBERRY CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

    Ingredients

  • 6 ounces white baking chocolate
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons raspberry extract
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon red food color
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT the chocolate in a double boiler or a bowl placed over a pan of gently simmering water. Take care that the chocolate does not get too hot or it can scorch. Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.

    2. BEAT the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate and raspberry extract and mix well.

    3. GRADUALLY BEAT in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Add the food color and blend well.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: “Breakfast” Chocolate Bars

    If you know someone who would gladly eat chocolate for breakfast, [s]he may be able to justify it with these new chocolate bars from Chuao Chocolatier:

  • Cinnamon Cereal Smooch, milk chocolate mixed with bits of cinnamon toast cereal.
  • Strawberry Waffle Wild, milk chocolate mixed with tart dried strawberries and crispy waffle pieces.
  •  
    They join an existing line of 14 palate-pleasing and imaginative chocolate bars, including Baconluxious and Potato Chip.

    The chocolate bars sell for an SRP of $6.00 (but are on sale for $4.00), and can be found online at ChuaoChocolatier.com as well as at major retailers nationwide, including Bed Bath & Beyond, REI and Whole Foods Markets.

    MAKE YOUR OWN CEREAL CHOCOLATE BARS

    For about the same price, you can make your own chocolate bars at Chocomize.com. This fun company utilizes a process that lets you place your choice of some 70 different ingredients—fruits, nuts, candies, spices—atop a dark, milk or white Belgian chocolate bar.

     

    strawberry-waffle-wild-bar-230

    “Breakfast chocolate,” embedded with cereal. Photo courtesy Chuao Chocolatier.

     
    Cereal options include Caramelized Rice Krispies, Teddy Grahams, Vanilla Granola and Waffle Crunch. Non-cereal options include from Potato Chips and Real Bacon.

    For Valentine’s Day, there are Candy Sugar Hearts, Message Hearts and LOVE plaques in white chocolate, along with Lavender Petals, 24 Karat Gold Flakes and Pink Pop Rocks.

    You can create your own bar or send a gift certificate so the recipient can customize excactly what [s]he wants. (In fact, the gift certificates are one of our favorite Valentine gifts.)

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Tonja’s Toffee, With Or Without Nuts

    tonjas-toffee-2-kaminsky-230

    Tonja’s Toffee. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky |
    THE NIBBLE.

     

    Not everyone wants a box of bonbons or chocolate hearts for Valentine’s Day. Some of us would love the buttery crunch of toffee.

    When we received samples of Tonja’s Toffee, we were happy, happy, happy. The style is very buttery, which is how we like it. And, this considerate family business makes nut-free varieties too.

    Choices include:

  • Almond Toffee: topped in dark, milk or white chocolate with a fine dusting of almonds.
  • Butter Toffee: nut-free, also in dark, milk or white chocolate.
  •  
    The toffee is sold in quarter-pound, half-pound and one-pound bags. The small bags make great stocking stuffers or party favors.

    The company also makes peanut butter bon bons and peanut brittle. We haven’t tried them yet, but as soon as we finish eating all our Valentine candy, they’re on our list.

    Get yours at TonjasToffee.com.

     

     
      

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