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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

RECIPE: Beet Mashed Potatoes

Beets and mashed potatoes are a delicious side with any protein, and a perfect color for Valentine’s Day.

At any time of year, this lavish mash recipe is sure to impress. It’s easy to prepare when you use packaged baby beets, typically found shrink-wrapped in the produce department. This recipe is courtesy Love Beets. Find more beet recipes at LoveBeets.com.

The recipe serves two: prep time 5 minutes, cooking time 20 minutes.

RECIPE: MASHED BEETS & POTATOES

Ingredients

  • 1 pound all-purpose potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 package baby beets (3.25 ounces) or
    equivalent canned or fresh-cooked beets
  • 4 tablespoons crème fraîche*
  • Salt and pepper
  •  

    mashed-potatoes-beets-lovebeets-230

    Purple passion: mashed beets and potatoes. Photo courtesy LoveBeets.com.

     

    *Buy crème fraîche or make your own with this recipe.

     

    mashed-beets-potatoes-steak-lovebeets

    Serve the mash with your favorite protein.
    Photo courtesy Love Beets.

     

    Preparation

    1. PEEL the potatoes and cut each into 8 pieces. Put them into a large pan of salted water and bring to boiling. Simmer for 10 minutes until the potatoes are fork-tender. While the potatoes cook…

    2. CHOP the beets into quarters.

    3. DRAIN the potatoes and add the quartered beets and crème fraîche to the pan. Mash everything together well until you have a smooth pink mash. Season to taste.

     

    THE HISTORY OF BEETS

    Beets, Beta vulgaris are a root vegetable: leaves grow above ground, and the edible root is below. In America, the shortened form, beet, is used instead of the longer beetroot.

    Beets evolved from wild sea beet, which grew in places as wide-ranging as Britain and India. It was first cultivated in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East—although only the leaves were eaten. (Even today, beet greens are delicious. Don’t throw them away: Sauté them in olive oil with some minced garlic.)

    Roman recipes included cooking beets with honey and wine. Apicius, the renowned Roman gourmet, included a beet broth recipe in his cookbook as well as beet salad with a dressing of mustard, oil and vinegar. All are still fine recipes today.

    The original beet roots were long and thin like carrots. The rounded root shape of today was developed in the 16th century; by the 18th century it was widely cultivated in central and eastern Europe. Many of today’s classic beet dishes originated in this region, including borscht.

    In 19th century England, beets’ dramatic color were often used to brighten up salads and soups. The high sugar content made it a popular ingredient in cakes and puddings (and in the U.S., led to the creation of red velvet cake).

    Today there are many varieties of beets sizes large and small, including candy-striped (with red and white concentric circles), orange, white and yellow. Look for these specialty beets in farmers markets.

     
    BEET TIPS

    You can use cooked beets in any recipe that requires raw beets. Just reduce the cooking time accordingly.

    Alas, beet juice does stain. If you aren’t a very neat cook or eater, wear dark clothing! But beet juice is a water-soluble dye, so try one of these methods to clean up stains:

  • To remove from hands, rub with lemon juice and salt before washing with soap and water.
  • To remove from fabric, rub a slice of raw pear on the stain before washing or rinse in cold water before washing in detergent.
  • For cutting boards and containers, use a bleach solution.
  •   

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Valentine Ice Cream Pops

    We were inspired by these ice cream pops from La Chocolate in Melbourne, Australia to make our own. You can also dip frozen bananas.

    We were unable to find uncoated ice cream bars, and were just as happy to use uncoated frozen yogurt bars. However, you can just as easily purchase chocolate-coated ice cream bars and re-dip them—ideally in a different “color” of chocolate for a double-dip effect.

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE-COVERED ICE CREAM
    POPS

    Ingredients

  • Ice cream bars, uncoated
  • 12 ounces chocolate (your favorite chocolate—
    dark, white or milk)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil or mild vegetable oil
  • Valentine-themed candy garnishes: sprinkles,
    hearts, etc.
  •  

    Preparation

     

    ice-cream-pops-la-chocolate.com.au-230

    Photo courtesy La Chocolate | Australia.

     

    1. KEEP ice cream in the coldest part of the freezer until ready to use. When ready to begin, line a baking sheet with wax paper.

    2. MELT chocolate and oil in the microwave or over a double boiler, stirring thoroughly to combine. Let cool to room temperature; dip the bars and place on wax paper.

    3. QUICKLY sprinkle on the decorations and return bars to the freezer to set. Wrap each in plastic wrap until ready to serve.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFTS: Fun Stuff From Jacques Torres

    jacques-torres-do-not-disturb-230s

    The “Do Not Disturb” sign is chocolate! Photo
    courtesy Jacques Torres.

     

    Valentine’s Day chocolate isn’t limited to the romance of Champagne truffles and chocolate hearts. Some chocolatiers have fun with it.

    “Mr. Chocolate,” Jacques Torres, is one who creates the fun stuff along with the classics.

    First up, a chocolate “Do Not Disturb” sign. Why would anyone want to disturb you when they could just eat the sign off the door?

    It’s $10.00 at MrChocolate.com.

    Puzzled over what to get a friend? This I Love U Puzzle may be a no-brainer, but it’s also a palate pleaser.

    It’s $11.00.

    There’s more on the menu:

  • Milk- and dark-chocolate covered espresso beans, a treat for coffee lovers (photo), $12.
  •  

  • Milk chocolate Champagne corks, filled with chocolate ganache made with Taittinger Champagne, $20.
  • Kiss & Tell, a chocolate kissing game: Champagne-infused square bonbons have a lipstick kiss motif. Each time you remove one from the box, a message underneath tells you where (or how) you have to kiss your companion (check it out), $36.
  •  
    And if these don’t float your [swan] boat, there are conventional ideas from pretty boxed chocolates in red heart-shaped boxes to chocolate boxes—heart-shaped boxes of molded chocolate.

     

    jacques-torres-heart-puzzle-2014-230s

    Puzzled over Valentine gifts? Here’s a solution. Photo courtesy Jacques Torres.

     

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Heart Shaped Donuts

    valentine-donuts-dunkin-230sq

    We [heart] Valentine donuts. Photo courtesy
    Dunkin’ Donuts.

     

    Have a heart…or a dozen hearts. Dunkin Donuts is helping to make Valentine’s Day more festive with the return of its heart-shaped donuts.

    This year there are two varieties of heart-shaped donuts,:

  • The new Cookie Dough Donut, a heart-shaped donut with cookie dough buttercream-flavored filling, topped with chocolate icing and chocolate chips.
  • The popular Brownie Batter Donut, a heart-shaped donut filled with chocolaty brownie batter flavored buttercream filling, topped with chocolate icing and heart sprinkles.
  •  
    More good news: You don’t have to wait until Valentine’s Day. The seasonal specialties are available now at participating Dunkin’ Donuts shops, through the end of February.

     

    If you can’t personally deliver the box of donuts to that special someone, Dunkin’ Donuts Cards gift are available from $2 to $100. In participating shops, they’re available in a variety of seasonally-themed designs.

    Or head to the DD website, where you can personalize a gift card with a favorite photo and a message.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: The Best Toffee

    We taste a lot of good toffee. But if you like very buttery, buttercrunch-style (dusted with crushed almonds) with more almonds inside, our favorite is Enstrom’s.

    The company sells toffee in different sizes and shapes. For Valentine’s Day there’s a special assortment of milk- and dark chocolate-covered “Petites,” bite size toffee enrobed in chocolate, in a hearts and kisses box.

    The 25-piece assortment, 12.5 ounces, is $16.95. Get yours here.
     
    AMAZING SUGAR FREE TOFFEE

    There’s a sugar-free box of toffee in the classic “break-up” format, $20.95 for a one-pound box (in a standard gift box).

    You won’t believe how delicious it is: You can’t tell the difference from the conventional toffee. More information.

    The difference between toffee and buttercrunch.

     

    enstrom-valentine-toffee-230

    Your Valentine will hug and kiss you. Photo courtesy Enstrom.

     

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE FOOD: Spaghetti & Meat Balls

    valentine-spaghetti-beansprouts.com-230

    Now, loving pasta has a double meaning.
    Photo courtesy Bean Sprouts.

     

    This fun idea comes from Shannon Payette Seip, author of “Bean Appetit: Hip And Healthy Ways To Have Fun With Food.” She is co-founder of Bean Sprouts Café and Cooking School in Seattle, where families learn to make dishes that are both great tasting and good for you.

    It’s easy to make this heart-shaped pasta dish. For each portion, plan on two cups of cooked pasta, one meatball, 1/2 cup marinara sauce and an optional two strips of red bell pepper.
     
    Preparation

  • Use aluminum foil to create a heart shape, a little smaller than the size of a salad plate (or dinner plate, for a larger portion).
  • Place the outline on a greased cookie sheet. Fill with cooked spaghetti and bake at 400°F for 10-12 minutes.
  • While the spaghetti is baking, cut the cooked meatball and red pepper into arrow shape. You can use the marinara sauce to make the arrow shafts, instead of the bell pepper, if you wish.
  • Use spatula to transfer the spaghetti heart on plate. Outline with marinara sauce.
  •  

    Shannon suggests that, as you dig in with family or friends, you share three things you love about each other.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE’S DAY: Make Heart-Shaped Whoopie Pies

    The biggest challenge to New Year’s diet resolutions is Valentine’s Day. Hopefully, we’ve lost a pound or two in January so we can proceed with “the sweetest holiday.”

    We’re starting with heart-shaped whoopie pies. They require an investment in a heart-shaped cookie pan, which can be used year-around: for Mother’s Day, engagement and anniversary parties, to say “I love you” to someone special, and so forth.

    The same pan makes jumbo cookies. Add a stick to make cookie pops.

    It will be love at first bite when you turn out goodies with this dishwasher safe, nonstick pan. The 12-space pan makes 12 cookies or 6 whoopie pies. Recipes are included.

    The pan is $12.95 at Sur La Table stores or online.

    BYO whoopie pie recipe.

     

    Heart-shaped whoopie/cookie pop pan from
    SurLatable.com.

     

      

    Comments

    GIFT OF THE DAY: Special Caramels For Your Honey

    salted-caramels-droga-230r

    Salted honey caramels. Photo courtesy
    Droga.

     

    For the lover of gourmet caramels, something special for your Valentine:

    Put Your Money On Honey salted caramels from Droga Chocolates of Los Angeles.

    The luscious bites are the result of a bet that a caramel couldn’t be made without corn syrup. Seeking a solution to the challenge, Droga says:

    “Inspiration stung us—honey was the answer! The first honey caramel came to bee, and people have been abuzz ever since.”

    And you should make a bee-line for them! So soft and redolent of fine honey, each taste makes you want another. And another.

    The small-batch caramels are:

  • Made with California creamery pure cream and butter
  • Sweetened with raw California wildflower honey
  • Enrobed in premium dark chocolate from Guittard
  • Sprinkled with delicate French fleur de sel sea salt
  •  

    The nine caramels in the gift box ($16.95, two boxes for $29.95) will disappear quickly, but leave such happy memories.

    Droga confections are certified kosher by KOF-K.

    Get yours at DrogaChocolates.com.

    There are caramels in other flavors that also hit the spot. Here’s our review.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

    chocolate-covered-potato-chips-sharisberries-230sq

    Oh so good! Photo courtesy Shari’s Berries.

     

    Some people would like box of creamy chocolates for Valentine’s Day.

    Others would gladly trade for a bag of chocolate-covered potato chips.

    Savory meets sweet when crunchy, salty potato chips are drenched in quality chocolate—in our humble opinion, the greatest improvement to the potato chip since it was invented (potato chip history).

    While you can find chocolate-covered chips at Trader Joe’s, more giftable versions come from Shari’s Berries, shown in the photo. A bag of 14 ounces of divine chocolate-covered potato chips is $24.99. The chips are certified kosher (dairy) by OU.

     

    For a more formal presentation, Neuchatel’s Swiss Chips, dipped in milk chocolate, are packaged in a purple and gold can, $8.00.

    Swiss Colony sells 8.5 ounces in a gift tin for $17.95.

    Enjoy them from the bag, can or a serving dish. Use them to garnish ice cream and other desserts. And hold us harmless from any addiction to chocolate-covered potato chips that may develop.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Super Bowl Macarons, Valentine Macarons

    danas-super-bowl-macarons-230

    The battle of the macarons. Photo courtesy
    Dana’s Bakery.

     

    In addition to the Super Bowl, we’re celebrating the Mac Bowl: the battle between two macarons for the title of tastiest.

    Dana’s Bakery, a wonderfully creative maker of delicious macarons (a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week—here’s the review), has created two flavors for the occasion:

  • Denver Chocolate Peanut Butter Macarons
  • Seattle Sea Salt Caramel Macarons
  •  
    In vibrant team colors, each bite is a victory. Get yours at DanasBakery.com. The line is certified kosher.

    Who needs chicken wings, guacamole and pizza? We’re set with our Super Bowl macarons. Game on!

     

     

    VALENTINE MACARONS

    For Valentine’s Day, Dana has transformed the classic Sweethearts candy, also called conversation hearts, into macarons.

    Sweethearts are made by the New England Confectionery Company (NECCO), makers of Necco Wafers. Each hard heart-shaped candy is printed with a romantic message: “Be Mine,” “Kiss Me,” “Adore Me,” and “Crazy 4U” are some of the messages.

    WHO INVENTED SWEETHEARTS CANDY?

    Sweethearts date all the way back to 1866. In 1847, 26-year-old Boston pharmacist Oliver R. Chase invented a machine that cut lozenges from wafer candy—similar to Necco Wafers.

     

    danas-valentine-macarons-230

    Macarons for your Valentine, atop a bed of Sweethearts candy. Photo courtesy Dana’s Bakery.

     
    While it turned out to be the world’s first candy-making machine, the original intent was to create lozenges to soothe the throat or to settle the stomach. The line between “losenge” and “hard candy” is pretty slim.

    In 1866 Oliver’s brother, Daniel Chase, designed a machine that pressed designs onto the wafers, and began printing sayings on what had become “candy.”

    Sweethearts were launched by NECCO in 1901. In 2010 the recipe was changed to allow for bright modern colors; contemporary sayings have been added, such as “Email me” (no doubt soon to be “Text Me”) and “LOL.” NECCO receives hundreds of suggestions a year on new sayings.

    Sweetheart macarons are available from DanasBakery.com.

      

    Comments

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