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Archive for Valentine’s Day

VALENTINE’S DAY: Three Wonderful Food Gifts

Vinebox Valentine Gift

VineBox Wines

Ritual Chocolate Bars

[1] [2] [3] The Valentine gift box from VineBox, with artisan chocolate bars from Ritual Chocolate.

 

You could search all over town without finding wonderful Valentine’s Day gifts like these—one with zero calories!

There’s no need leave home to get them. Just click below to order these online.

1. FOR THE WINE DRINKER: A WINE & CHOCOLATE PAIRING

VineBox is a monthly wine-by-the-glass subscription service; but for Valentine’s Day, it has teamed up with artisan chocolatier Ritual Chocolates to offer gift box that anyone can order.

Three red wines have been paired with two different 75% cacao origin chocolate bars, from Belize and Madagascar.

The wines include a Chianti from Tuscany, a Crozes-Hermitage from the Rhone Valley of France, and a Don Paolo from the Pompeii area of southern Italy.

Beautifully packaged—you’ll want to repurpose the empty box or wine vials—the gift includes two separate boxes, with a total of

  • 3 different wines, 6 glasses total.
  • 2 small-batch chocolate bars, 2.12 ounces apiece.
  • Tasting notes and description.
  • A gift card.
  •  
    Both boxes are $69 at VineBox.com; shipping is included.
     
     
    For More Wine & Chocolate Pairings

    Check out THE NIBBLE’s favorite pairings, and our master pairing chart.

    Here’s a guide to pairing sparkling wines with chocolate.

    Here’s how to pair wine with chocolate desserts and other desserts.

     

    2. CALORIE- & CAFFEINE-FREE: LOVERS’ TEA

    This herbal blend from one of our favorite artisan blenders combines red rooibos, baby rose buds and petals, marigold petals, almonds and saffron (a well known aphrodisiac).

    Whether hot or iced, we guarantee the recipient will love it. A four-ounce tin is $16 at Tay Tea.

    The company has another rooibos blend we love, with bits of Belgian dark chocolate and peppermint, called Better Than Sex.
     

    3. ORGANIC TRUFFLE HONEY

    Many truffle-flavored products are flavored with a chemical approximation of truffle flavor and aroma.

    But this jar of Acacia honey, certified USDA organic, is flavored with real white truffle pieces.

    We love dipping it by the spoon from the jar; but more genteel uses include:

  • Cheese condiment extraordinaire, from blues to goats, to Parmesans and beyond.
  • Glaze a duck breast, lamb, roast ham, pork or turkey: just brush on top while the meat rests out of the oven. Ditto as a sandwich condiment with these meats.
  • Drizzle an earthy garnish onto vanilla ice cream.
  • Drizzle over bruschetta with fresh ricotta.
  •  
    Truffle honey turns something simple into something joyous.

    Get yours from Murray’s Cheese, $26.99 for a 4.25-ounce jar of heaven.

     

    Lovers Tea Herbal

    Truffle Honey Da Rosario

    [4] Lovers’ Tea from Tay Tea is an elegant herbal blend. [5] Honey in a perfect marriage with truffles, from Da Rosario.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Marshmallow Designs

    Valentine Marshmallows

    Marshmallow Snowflakes

    Heart Cookie Cutter

    Blackberry Marshmallows

    [1] Cut heart shapes for Valentine’s Day (photo courtesy Kavemania | Facebook). [2] Use cookie cutters to create special designs (photo courtesy Martha Stewart and [3] SXC). [4] These artisan marshmallows are delicious, but too tall and pillowy to cut into shapes (photo The Nibble).

     

    If you have an eye out for delicious confections, you may see all flavors of artisan marshmallows—usually super-sized. If you want to cut them into more manageable pieces, don’t use a knife: It sticks.

    HOW TO CUT MARSHMALLOWS

    Instead, use sharp kitchen scissors. Dip them in warm water, or use a paper towel to apply a very thin coat of neutral cooking oil, like canola or grapes.

    You can try both methods to see which you prefer.

    Then, snip away and use the smaller pieces.

    Slices can be placed into petal designs. If your palate and doesn’t like supermarket marshmallows (or prefer vegan marshmallows, sugar-free marshmallows, etc.), this is also the way to get mini marshmallows.
     
    WAYS TO USE MARSHMALLOWS

    Beyond garnishing hot chocolate, you can:

  • Add to pancake batter (how about Rocky Road pancakes?).
  • Add to peanut butter or PB-and-banana sandwiches.
  • Add to whole grain cereals for a better version of Lucky Charms.
  • Create a pie topper: Bake the pie at 400°F for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the marshmallows are toasted.
  • Dip in chocolate fondue.
  • Garnish ice cream.
  • Garnish sweet cocktails.
  • Garnish sweet potatoes.
  • Make ambrosia salad.
  • Make fruit and marshmallow skewers or marshmallows-on-a-stick.
  • Make rocky road brownies or cookies.
  • Make S’mores.
  • Toss coffee-flavored marshmallows into hot coffee.
  •  
    MAKE YOUR OWN MARSHMALLOW DESIGNS

    It’s easy to make flatter marshmallows in the shapes you like, as special garnishes. Use the marshmallows immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

    We adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart. The process is the same if you want regular size marshmallows. Just use fill a baking pan to the height you want, and cut the marshmallows into the size and shape you like.

    Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 2 envelopes (each 1 scant tablespoon) unflavored gelatin
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Optional: food color
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  •  
    Plus

  • 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Offset spatula
  • Snowflake cookie cutter (or shape of choice)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SPRAY the baking sheet with cooking spray; line with parchment paper and spray the parchment. Set aside.

    2. ADD the water to the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle with gelatin and let the mixture soften (about 5 minutes).

    3. PLACE the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and the second 1/3 cup water in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove lid; then cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the syrup reaches 238°F (soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer, about 5 minutes.

     
    4. TURN the mixer to low speed, whisk the gelatin mixture and slowly pour the syrup in a steady stream down the side of the bowl (this avoids splattering). Gradually raise the speed to high and beat until the mixture is thick, white, and has almost tripled in volume (about 12 minutes). Add the vanilla, and beat 30 seconds more to combine. If you want to color your marshmallows, add a drop or two of food color at this time.

    5. POUR the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and smooth with an offset spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.

    6. CUT: Coat a 1- or 2-inch snowflake-shaped cookie cutter with cooking spray to prevent it from sticking. Cut out individual marshmallows as possible, re-spraying the cookie cutter as needed. Use the marshmallows immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week. If they become hard, pop them in the microwave for 2-3 seconds (not longer or they’ll begin to melt).
     
    USING MARSHMALLOWS FOR KITCHEN TASKS

    A marshmallow can stop ice cream cones from dripping, soften brown sugar, steady tapers in candle holders, and more.

    Plus, tips to keep them soft, unstick th em and freeze them, and Check ‘em out.
     
    THE HISTORY OF MARSHMALLOWS

    The ancient Egyptians were the first to use sap from the root of the marsh mallow, a swamp plant, to make candy. (It was also used medicinally.)

    Here’s the history of marshmallows.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Jell-O Shots For Your Valentine(s)

    How about gelatin shots as a treat for Valentine’s Day? Use unflavored gelatin and other drink ingredients to turn your favorite cocktails into solid form.

    The alcohol-free version, Jell-O Jigglers, uses Jell-O for flavor and color; and engendered the return of a very old recipe—popular among young ladies in the 1860s, popular among all youth in the 1980s and beyond.

    For the record:

  • Jell-O shots are made with Jell-O and alcohol. The flavor comes from the Jell-O; alcohol is substituted for one-third to one-half of the cold water. Any spirit can be used; vodka and tequila seem to be in the majority of recipes.
  • Gelatin shots or jelly shots are made with unflavored gelatin. Spirits and other flavorings are added to emulate a cocktail or punch.
  • Jell-O Jigglers are made with no alcohol: just Jell-O made with much less water, promoted by Jell-O in fun shapes, although jiggly cubes are fine.
  •  

    THE HISTORY OF JELL-O SHOTS

    Many of us think of Jell-O shots as the creation of fraternity culture in the late 1980s. But the first published recipe is more than 100 years older: alcoholic punch turned solid with gelatin. You can find it in the original cocktail recipe book published in the U.S.: Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide of 1862. You can still buy it (reprinted) on Amazon.com.

    That recipe used generic, unflavored gelatin. Thanks to some pretty crafty sleuthing on the part of JelloShotRecipe.Blogspot.com, you can see a photocopy of the first known recipe for a molded gelatin-alcohol combination.

    They may have been forgotten by the cocktail culture, but in the U.S. Armed Forces in 1950s, they were made as a subterfuge to consume alcohol on the alcohol-restricted Army bases.

    The brand of flavored, colored gelatin called Jell-O was invented in 1897. Marketed as a light dessert, the product’s success began to wane in the 1960s; by the 1980s the company needed to revitalize the brand.

    The marketing team pored through older cookbooks and discovered what they renamed Jigglers, adding new excitement to the brand with the fun-shaped finger food snacks.

    The fun molds created for Jell-O Jigglers charmed children. The concept enticed teens and young adults to add alcohol to the Jell-O and call them Jell-O shots. Simple squares cut from a baking pan sufficed.

    Back in 1862 Jerry Thomas advised: “The strength of the punch is so artfully concealed by its admixture with the gelatine, that many persons, particularly of the softer sex, have been tempted to partake so plentifully of it as to render them somewhat unfit for waltzing or quadrilling after supper.”

    Refined ladies of the time could not be seen downing drink after drink, but the “gelatine punch” nibbles had the same effect as they have today (a.k.a., “drunk on Jell-O shots).

    MODERN JELL-O SHOTS

    Today, Jell-O shots are made in baking pans and cut into squares or fingers; made in theme-shape ice cube trays (hearts, stars, shamrocks, etc.), garnished with edible glitter, coated in hard chocolate, tiered in two or three colors, embedded with berries or cherries, and so on.

    You’ll find endless recipes on line. Note that many, like the one immediately below, are made with plain gelatin as opposed to Jell-O; and are thus technically gelatin shots.
     
     
    RECIPE #1: COSMOPOLITAN JELL-O SHOTS

    Eat your heart out, Carrie Bradshaw! Other people are enjoying their Cosmos in solid form—and they’re spill-proof.

    We adopted this recipe from Jelly Shot Test Kitchen.

    Prep time is 20 minutes plus setting in the fridge; total time 4 hours.
     
    Ingredients For 32 Pieces

  • 1-1/4 cup cranberry juice cocktail
  • 2-1/2 envelopes plain gelatin
  • 1/4 cup Rose’s lime juice (or preferably, fresh lime juice with a half teaspoon of simple syrup)
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • 3/4 cup orange flavored vodka
  • Garnish: 1/4 cup lime zest
  •    

    Pink Champagne Jello Shots

    Cosmopolitan Jello Shots

    Jello Shots Ingredients

    Chambord Jello Shots

    Jello Shot Recipe Book

    [1] It takes more time to turn out a good supply, but heart-shape shots are an extra treat (here’a the recipe from That’s So Michelle). [2] A favorite American cocktail, the Cosmopolitan, transformed into a solid state (photo courtesy Jelly Test Shot Kitchen). [3] Look for fancy ice cube molds locally or online (photo courtesy Craftster). [4] What to do with that bottle of cassis, Chambord or framboise: Make gelatin shots (photo courtesy Sugar And Cream). [5] Get a copy of Jelly Shot Test Kitchen: Jell-ing Classic Cocktails—One Drink at a Time (photo courtesy Running Press).

     
    Preparation
     
    1. COMBINE the cranberry and lime juices in a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let it set for a few minutes; then place over low heat, stirring constantly until the gelatin is fully dissolved (about 5 minutes).

    2. REMOVE from the heat and stir in the liquors, blending thoroughly. Pour into a pan or molds and chill until set, several hours or overnight. To serve…

    3. CUT into the desired shape and garnish with lime zest. They can be served on a plate or tray, or placed in mini-cupcake wrappers immediately before serving.
     
     
    RECIPE #2: JELL-O JIGGLERS

    Because there’s no alcohol for flavoring, Jigglers simply need Jell-O. Here’s the recipe via Craftster.org:

    If you don’t have a flexible mold, you can always make Jigglers—or shots—in an old-fashioned ice cube tray (using the bottom only) or a small square or rectangular pan.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1 package red Jell-O
  • 1 flexible ice cube tray
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • Pam cooking spray
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SPRAY the mold with Pam, blotting any excess cooking spray.

    2. DISSOLVE the Jell-O in the boiled water, stirring to dissolve. Add the cold water, blend, pour into the mold and refrigerate until set, two hours or longer.

    3. POP them out of the molds (the joy of silicon!), plate and serve.
     

     

    Molded Jello Shots

    Maraschino Jello Shots

    [6] For dessert: Turn the recipe into a mold, slice and serve with berries and crème fraîche or mascarpone. This molded “punch” includes crème de cassis, sloe gin and St-Germain elderflower liqueur. Here’s the recipe from Jelly Shot Test Kitchen). [7] For maraschino lovers: a creative idea for shots or jiggles (no alcohol—here’s the recipe from That’s So Michelle).

     

    RECIPE #3: CHAMPAGNE & CHAMBORD GELATIN SHOTS

    This recipe is from Sugar and Charm.
     
    Ingredients

  • 5 cups Champagne or other sparkling wine, regular or rosé
  • 9 packs gelatin
  • 1-1/4 cups Chambord
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • Optional: red food coloring for a darker color
  • Optional garnish: edible glitter
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the Champagne, sugar and lemon juice in a sauce pan. Add the packets of gelatin and let proof for a few minutes. Once bloomed, put the pot over medium heat and bring to a slow boil until the gelatin is dissolved.

    2. REMOVE from the heat and add the Chambord. Pour into a square baking dish or cake pan and refrigerate, covered, for a few hours until set. After half an hour, add the optional glitter.

    3. CUT into squares or fingers.
     

    THE HISTORY OF GELATIN

    Gelatin (also spelled gelatine) has been made since ancient times by boiling animal and fish bones. Aspic, a savory, gelatin-like food made from meat or fish stock, was a French specialty centuries before the dawn of commercial gelatin.

    Beginning in the 1400s, gelatin (protein produced from collagen extracted from boiled animal bones and connective tissues) had been used to make fancy aspics and desserts.

     
    It was a laborious process, undertaken largely by the kitchens of the wealthy, which had the staff resources to undertake it. It relied only on the natural gelatin found in the meat to make the aspic set.

    The next development, commercial gelatin sheets, was easier but still cumbersome: Gelatin was sold in sheets and had to be purified first, a time-consuming process.

    Powdered gelatin was invented in 1682 by Denis Papin. Here’s a longer history of gelatin and Jell-O; and a much longer discussion on Wikipedia.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Radishes, A Valentine Vegetable

    Have you ever roasted radishes? Few of us do; but like other root veggies, roasted vegetables can taste even more glorious than raw ones.

    We liked this particular recipes for “Valentine veggies.” We adapted the recipe from Duda Fresh, using their Dandy Radishes.

    We adapted this recipe from Duda Farm Fresh Foods of Florida, using their quality produce.

     
    RECIPE: ROASTED RADISHES WITH ORANGE & ROSEMARY

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound radishes, trimmed and halved—but don’t toss the greens!
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced
  • Salt
  • 1 orange, peel* and pith removed, cut into slices
  • Garnish: rosemary sprigs
  •  
    ________________
    *Save the peel for drink garnishes. You can cut it into strips and freeze it. Alternatively, you can zest the peel and toss with the radishes and olive oil. You can also freeze extra zest.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Line a baking pan with foil and set aside.

    2. TOSS the radishes in a large bowl with the olive oil and rosemary. Place on the baking pan and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 25-30 minutes until tender and lightly browned in spots.

    3. REMOVE from the oven and cool slightly. Serve warm with the orange slices.

     
    MORE WAYS TO COOK RADISHES

    You can cook radishes as you would cook any vegetable, with just about any technique.

  • Here’s how to grill radishes to add smoky flavor.
  • Here’s how to roast radishes for caramelized sweetness.
  • Here’s how to stir-fry radishes.
  • Here’s how to pickle radishes: quick radish pickles.
  •  
    12 MORE WAYS TO SERVE RADISHES

    They’re great at breakfast, lunch and dinner. We haven’t figured out a radish dessert, yet.

    Check ‘em out.

    HOW TO USE RADISH GREENS (RADISH TOPS)

    The green tops of root vegetables are edible—by humans as well as the bunnies and hamsters who love to nibble them.

    We especially like beet, celery root, radish and turnip greens; and like the feathery carrot greens as garnish.

     

    Roasted Radishes

    Fresh Radishes

    Radish Hors D'Oeuvre

    [1] Roasted radishes look like edible valentines (photo courtesy Duda Farm Fresh Foods). [2] Look for the freshest radishes, with green tops—and never buy the sad, peeled versions in cellophane (photo courtesy The Chef’s Garden). [3] Great with Bloody Marys and Martinis: radishes dipped in cultured butter and topped with a few flakes of crunchy sea salt (here’s the recipe; photo courtesy Vermont Creamery).

     
    Just like the bottom globes, the radish greens have a peppery in taste. Even older greens, which can grow more bitter, provide a nice bite to a lettuce salad.

  • Make pesto: Blanch the leaves and blend with garlic, pignola (or other) nuts and Parmesan (here’s a recipe template).
  • Sauté them.
  • Stir-fry them.
  • Wilt them and serve as a side, in pasta and grain dishes, soups and stews.
  •  
    Go rad with new approaches to the radish.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Healthy Valentine Gifts

    Kiklos Olive Oil

    Hot Pickle Slices

    Canfield's Diet Chocolate Fudge Soda

    Sashimi Deluxe

    25 Year Old Balsamic Vinegar

    [1] For good health: extra virgin oil (photo courtesy Kiklos). [2] For low calories: artisan pickles, like a gift collection from Rick’s Picks. These Hotties for your hottie are just $6.99 (photo courtesy Rick’s Picks). [3] No calories: Chocolate seltzer or diet chocolate soda. [4] A healthy dinner: sashimi (photo courtesy Kabuki Restaurants). [5] For the gourmet: 25-year-old balsamic vinegar (photo courtesy Gear List)

     

    Not everyone wants chocolate for Valentine’s Day, or cupcakes with red and white sprinkles.

    Here are some delicious food ideas for the health enthusiast, the calorie counter, and anyone staying away from the sweets.

    KIKLOS OLIVE OIL

    Olive oil for Valentine’s Day?

    While this is a delicious EVOO for salad lovers, we first thought of this as a gift for health enthusiasts.

    The government recommends two tablespoons of olive oil a day as part of a heart-healthy diet—a practice that should start long before we’re at the age to worry about heart health!

    They can take the form of salad dressing; but we actually like to drink ours.

    The Koroneiki olives in Kiklos olive oil are grown in the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece. The varietal is known for levels of fruitiness, bitterness, and pepperiness.

    We found our bottle of Kiklos Greece to have buttery flavor with a bit of peppery kick (i.e., not earthy, green, grassy, or other olive oil flavors that some people might not to drink from the spoon. Everyone will like it.

    Plus, the handsome bottle (photo #1) even looks healthy! For your Valentine, add a red ribbon or a few peel-and-stick hearts.

    Buy it on the company website for $29; the bottle is 500 ml/16.9 ounces.

    Check out this olive oil wheel for an overview of all the flavors and aromas of olive oil.
     
    ARTISAN PICKLES

    At upwards of of $10 per bottle, even the most avid pickle enthusiasts don’t eat artisan pickles as often as they like.

    Look to your local farmers markets, or to online specialists like Rick’s Picks.

    Rick’s Picks has a variety of gift boxes, but for a small Valentine gift, how about a bottle of Hotties spicy pickle chips (photo #2) for your own special hottie?

    Crunchy, spicy, tangy and low in calories: Help make Hotties a go-to Valentine gift.

     
    NON-CALORIC CHOCOLATE SODA OR SELTZER

    Canfield’s Diet Chocolate Fudge Soda has long been a staple food for calorie-counting chocolate lovers.

    We especially like to add it to nonfat milk for a diet egg cream, or add a small scoop of ice cream for a float.

    It’s sold nationwide; but if you can’t find it locally, you can buy a six-pack of Canfield’s Diet Chocolate Fudge Soda on Amazon (photo #3). Tie a bow on it.

    For those who don’t like artificial sweeteners, look for chocolate-flavored seltzers. In our neck of the woods, we can find White Chocolate Seltzer from Adirondack Beverages. We buy it by the case.
     
    SASHIMI DINNER

    There’s no better place to dine than a Japanese restaurant: no bread basket or dessert temptations.

    There are different types of salads, the soups are low in calories, you can often get brown rice, and green tea goes better with the food than cocktails.

    A deluxe sashimi plate is the best way to load protein with fewer calories (photo #4). Be sure to eat the yummy seaweed. Radish lovers: Enjoy that shredded daikon!

    If you aren’t taking the giftee to dinner yourself, put the restaurant gift certificate (or any gift card) in a Valentine card.
     
    BALSAMIC VINEGAR

    For us, nothing says I love you better than a pricey bottle of super-aged authentic balsamic vinegar (photo #5).

    A true gourmet looks forward to these precious drops, so dense they stand up by themselves, which are meted out with an medicine dropper.

    This is not the vinegar with which to dress salads; it’s an exquisite accent to anything from filet mignon to the finest Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

    Other traditional uses are the season’s best tomatoes or strawberries, pound or angel food cake. You place droplets of balsamic on the plate, and dip the food into it. You never cook with it

    Once you have your first taste, you may simply decide to drink droplets from the spoon!

     
    These precious liquids are sold in 100 ml/3.4-ounce bottles.

  • A 25-year-old balsamic is in the $140-$180 range.
  • A 50 year-old is double that.
  • A 75 year-old is easily double that.
  •  
    Why so pricey?

    Someone has not only been paying the expense to store it under proper conditions, but has not earned a penny from it in 25-50-75 years.

    If you see bargain prices, no matter what the label says (“authentic balsamic from Modena, Italy”), with a a red wax seal and/or a fancy box, pass it by.

    Given the normal prices of super-aged balsamic, there’s a lot of counterfeiting around. Or if not counterfeit, it may contain a drop of 50 year old balsamic mixed in with, say, 12-year-old balsamic.

    The bottom line: Buy from a reputable, knowledgeable retailer.

    Authentic bottles are of the shape shown in photo #4, are numbered, and have the Consorzio seal. Here’s more about balsamic vinegar.
     
    TOMORROW: A MOST LUXURIOUS VALENTINE GIFT.

    And…it’s still a better-for-you gourmet gift.

    Most of it, anyway.

      

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