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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

FOOD FUN: Valentine Pizza

You can use a giant heart-shape cookie pan, pressing into the dough like a cookie cutter, to cut a heart-shaped crust (which also works for anniversaries, bridal showers, birthdays, Mother’s Day and other festivities).

Or you can freehand it.

Use your Valentine’s favorite toppings or stick to a red theme:

RED VEGETABLES

  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Diced San Marzano tomatoes (canned)
  • Grilled red pepper (pimiento)
  • Mini red jacket potatoes, cooked and halved
  • Pepperoni
  • Pimento-stuffed olives
  • Red bell peppers
  • Red chiles (Anaheim, Fresno or jalapeño, e.g.)
  • Sliced plum tomatoes
  • Sundried tomatoes
  •  

    heart-pizza-dueforni-lasvegas-230

    We [heart] pizza. Photo courtesy Due Forni | Las Vegas.

     

    PINK-RED PROTEINS

  • Pepperoni
  • Prosciutto/Serrano ham
  • Salmon caviar
  • Shrimp
  • Smoked salmon
  •  
    One of our favorite pizzas: sliced boiled potatoes, smoked salmon strips, salmon caviar and fresh dill with white sauce.

    It’s perfect for Valentine’s Day or any day!

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Éclat Chocolate

    hearts-eclatchocolate-230

    Chocolates to fall in love with. Photo courtesy Éclat Chocolate.

     

    Oh, how lucky the people of West Chester, Pennsylvania are. Seven days a week they can stroll into Éclat Chocolate at 24 South High Street and select tempting confections.

    Everyone else can order the chocolates online or by phone (1.610.692.5206). Some items are available at Dean and Deluca (New York and California) and DiBruno Bros. in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square.

    But the temple to the marriage of great chocolate and art is located 25 miles west of Philadelphia, close to Valley Forge; and 17 miles north of Wilmington, Delaware. And it is close to our hearts.

    For Valentine’s Day we want:

  • The beautiful bonbons, both hearts and classic shapes
  • The exquisite caramels, round domes of chocolate filled with buttery liquid caramel)
  • The glamorous, modern mendiants—disks of beauty
  • The melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffles
  •  
    There’s more, but Easter is coming.

     
    Chocolatier Christopher Curtin is the first American to be awarded the honor of German Master Pastry Chef and Chocolatier in Cologne, Germany.

    He honed his skills in the finest chocolate houses of Belgium, France, Germany, Japan and Switzerland, and the results will please the fussiest connoisseur.

    In French, éclat (pronounce ay-CLAH) can mean:

  • Great brilliance, as of performance or achievement.
  • Conspicuous success.
  • Great acclamation or applause.
  •  
    We applaud all three.
     
    Head to EclatChocolate.com. Just looking at the beautiful photos is a most satisfying experience.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Moonstruck Chocolates

    Yes, Moonstruck Chocolate has a red heart-shaped box filled with delicious bonbons (10 pieces, $30.00). But the fine chocolatier also has some different offerings for Valentines with special tastes.

  • Sea Salt Caramels (in photo) have been given the Valentine’s Day treatment with Merlot-infused sea salt crystals. The vanilla caramel is cooked in an open copper kettle with pure sea salt, then enrobed in your choice of dark or milk chocolate and hand-decorated with sea salt crystals that have been infused with a robust vintage Merlot. A box of 20 caramels is $45.00. Think purple passion plus a unique taste experience.
  • Heart To Heart Truffles echo the classic Valentine hard candies with messages like Be Mine, Kiss Me and Sweet Talk. These bonbon versions have the same pastel exteriors (tinted white chocolate) but are filled with flavored ganaches: Cointreau, Blackberry Honey, Peanut Butter, Pinot Noir and Strawberry. You can buy a box of mixed flavors or the solo flavor of your choice. A five-piece box is $11.25.
  •  

    caramels-merlot-sea-salt-moonstruck-230sq

    Merlot salt caramels: purple passion. Photo courtesy Moonstruck Chocolates.

     

     

    moonstruck-love-bugs-230sq

    Love bugs for kids of all ages. Photo courtesy
    Moonstruck Chocolate.

     
  • Love Bugs are bittersweet dark chocolate ganache flavored with natural strawberry, in the shape of an adorable love bug. Hand-dipped and hand-decorated, a box of 18 truffles is $67.50.
  • Oregon Distillers Collection, for the spirited Valentine, is a nine-piece collection of truffles featuring spirits from five of Oregon’s finest craft distillers. The truffles are beautifully painted “edible art.“ The box is $20.00. The chocolates contain approximately 2.5% alcohol content by weight. The flavors include Bendistillery Crater Lake Pepper Vodka Truffle, Bull Run Temperance Trader Bourbon Whiskey Truffle, House Spirits Distillery Krogstad Aquavit Truffle, Clear Creek Distillery Oregon Apple Brandy Truffle, House Spirits Distillery Coffee Liqueur Truffle, House Spirits Distillery Aviation Gin Truffle, Rogue Ale Dead Guy Whiskey Truffle, Clear Creek Distillery Oregon Pear Brandy Truffle and Bull Run Distillery Pacific Rum and Cola Truffle.
  •  
    These specialties and much more are available at MoonstruckChocolate.com.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Beet Tartare

    Deep red beets are a natural for Valentine’s Day. In fact, our heart beets for them.

    Top chefs agree. Here’s a recipe from one of our favorite Top Chef finalists, Fabio Viviani.

    Among his other pursuits, Chef Fabio serves as the brand ambassador for Bertolli Olive Oil (which happens to be the world’s number one brand). He is also the host of the award-winning web series “Chow Ciao!” on Yahoo!

    We can’t get to Fabio’s Firenze Osteria in North Hollywood, California; but we can whip up his recipe.

    Fabio serves the beet tartare with lobster tail poached in olive oil. You can substitute shrimp for the lobster; or serve the tartare as a side or a first course, presented with whatever you like.

    Prep and cooking time: 45 minutes.

     

    beet-tartare-fabioviviani-230

    Beet tartare (under the edible flower) and poached lobster. Photo courtesy Fabio Viviani.

    RECIPE: LOBSTER WITH BEET TARTARE

    Ingredients For 1 Serving

  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 lobster tail (or equivalent amount of shrimp)
  • 1 large red beet, parboiled until fork tender
  • 1 tablespoon shallots, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • Optional garnish: edible flower, fresh herbs
  •  

    detroit-red-beets-beauty-goodeggs-230

    We love fresh beets, but they are one of the
    rare vegetables where the precooked,
    plastic-packaged or canned versions taste
    just as good. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the beets: Dice the beets into small pieces so they resemble chopped tuna. Place in a bowl and add the shallots, orange zest, mustard, vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    2. PREPARE the lobster: Place the olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and 2 sprigs of thyme into a small pot and place over low heat. Once the garlic starts to sizzle, add the lobster. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the lobster is cooked through (but not overcooked—it will be tough and dry). Remove and set aside.

    3. PLATE: Add the diced beets to a mold or ramekin; place on the plate with the lobster and garnish as desired.

     

    WHAT IS TARTARE?

    Steak tartare, or tartar steak, is a meat dish* named after the legend that Tartars† did not have time to cook their meat, so ate it raw on horseback.

    Steak tartare is made from finely chopped or minced raw beef or horse meat, plus seasonings. With its growing popularity over the last 30 or so years, other recipes have adopted the name. Salmon tartare, tomato, tuna tartar are some examples.

     
    *The typical recipe is round raw beef mixed with onions, capers, Worcestershire sauce and a raw egg, served with toast points. A variation, tartare aller-retour, is tartare patty lightly seared on one side. Steak tartare is often served with frites (French fries). In Belgium, the dish is known as filet américain. American? What happened to the Tartars?

    †The Tartars, also spelled Tatars, are an ethnic group in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. Most Tatars live in the Russian Federation. To Americans, the most famous of the Tartars is Genghis Khan, whose troops invaded Europe in the 13th century. The most famous Tartar-American is the actor Charles Bronson.

      

    Comments

    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

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