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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

FOOD FUN: Pecan Cheese Ball “Pine Cone”

Here’s some food fun for the holiday season—especially when you receive a gift tin of gourmet pecan halves! Not only does this cranberry cheese ball make an impression on the appetizer buffet, but it’s easy enough that you can let older children put it together as their contribution.

The recipe is courtesy Sonia, who writes as The Healthy Foodie. She also does a version that looks like a pineapple.

The day before, gather some pine branches to wash and dry. You don’t want the strong scent of fresh-cut pine wafting over the food.

Then, get ready to mix:

RECIPE: “PINE CONE” PECAN CHEESE BALL

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese (low fat is OK)
  • ½ cup low fat sour cream (low fat is OK)
  • Zest of one orange
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  •    

    pecan-cheese-ball-2-thehealthyfoodie-230

    A holiday cheese ball. Photo courtesy The Healthy Foodie.

  • 75-100 perfect pecan halves (to make the pine cone effect)
  • Bread or crackers
  •  

    pecan-cheese-ball-3-thehealthyfoodie-230

    Add some fresh evergreen. Photo courtesy The Healthy Foodie.

     

    Preparation

    1. WHIP the cream cheese and sour cream using an electric mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Use medium speed until well incorporated—smooth and creamy in texture—about 2-3 minutes. Incorporate the rest of the ingredients and continue mixing on low speed until well combined, about 30-45 seconds.

    2. TURN the mixture onto a serving plate and shape into a teardrop. Cover with a plastic wrap and, ideally, refrigerate until the next day. This will allow the flavors to fully develop.

    3. WAIT until the last minute to cover with the pecans to avoid them going soft. Take the cream cheese “ball” out of the fridge about an hour before you are ready to start laying on the pecans. Pecans will stick better to cheese that is closer to room temperature.

     

    4. BEGIN to layer the pecan halves at the tip and keep shingling until you get to the top. The first rows will lay flat against the cheese but they will be more and more upright as you move towards the end. This will happen naturally. Just keep them nice and tight and use the best pecans you can find.

    5. DECORATE the serving dish with a few pine branches and serve with the crackers or bread.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cheese Hors d’Oeuvre For Entertaining Or Snacking

    We found these photos on the Facebook page of Jarlsberg USA, and liked the idea for holiday entertaining as well as family snacking.

    Make four or five different versions to serve with cocktails, or one or two types for a TV snack. For a children’s activity, you can set out ingredients and let kids assemble their own snacks.

    The key to visual appeal is to offset the pale color of most cheeses with other, bright colored ingredients. Turkey and Swiss cheese may be a popular combination, for instance, but to the eye it’s beige and beige. Go for bright and appealing.

    Then, all you need are four-inch skewers, plain or twisted (for a fancier touch). Or, check out our festive party picks for stars, evergreen trees metallic fringe and colored cellophane tips.

    Use the list below to pick two or three ingredients to pair with the cheese. The skewers are plenty tasty as is, but you can serve them with a dish of honey mustard for dipping. You can buy honey mustard, or make your own by adding honey, sugar or noncaloric sweetener to mustard, in a proportion to your liking.
     
    COLORFUL CHEESES

    In addition to your favorite cheeses, consider options beyond beige. Check out these special cheeses with deep colors:

  • Cahill’s Farm Flavored Irish Cheddar in Elderberry (red marbled) or Porter (brown marbled) flavors (photo).
  •    

    skewers-jarlsbergUSA-fb-view2-230rev

    Two popular pairings with cheese: dried apricots and basil-tomato. Photo courtesy Jarlsberg USA.

     

  • Mimolette, a French cow’s milk cheese the color of a harvest moon, in the shape of a ball (photo).
  • Basiron Pesto looks like green cheese from the moon (photo).
  • Basiron Pesto Rosso, a Gouda-style cheese from Holland, with a harvest moon color that comes from the addition of tomatoes (photo).
  •  
    Then, it’s time to pick your add-ons:

     

    skewers-jarlsbergUSAFB-230rev

    Serrano ham and sundried tomatoes are bright additions to appetizer skewers. Photo courtesy Jarlsberg USA.

     

    PROTEINS

  • Ham cubes
  • Serrano ham slices
  • Pepperoni
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp
  •  
    VEGETABLES

  • Arugula
  • Basil
  • Blue or purple potatoes (cooked and sliced or cubed)
  • Cherry/grape tomatoes
  • Dilly beans
  • Gherkins/pickle slices
  • Pepperoncini
  • Pimento-stuffed olives
  • Red, orange or yellow bell pepper strips
  • Snow peas
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • FRUIT

  • Clementine/tangerine segments
  • Dried apricots
  • Kiwi
  • Mango cubes
  • Melon cubes
  • Pineapple cubes
  • Red or purple grapes
  •  
    Send us photos of your favorite creations!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Appetizer Bites & Picks

    Our friends at EatWisconsinCheese.com, the consumer site of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, spend their creative time developing delicious new ideas for cheese. We had a lot of fun with these picks and bites, which we served last night as an alternative to a cheese plate.

    Picks are finger foods served on cocktail picks or toothpicks that holds the ingredients together. Bites are self-containing and require no pick. Both are easy to create and make a big impression.

    Arrange a plate of contrasting colors, flavors and styles to serve with holiday cocktails. Or, serve them alongside soups or salads—for example, a shot of tomato soup with a Greek Salad Bite.

    While they are delicious as is, you can enhance them with a variety of mustards and sauces. While we’ve provided a long list for your perusal, you can see them all online and download a recipe brochure.
     
    Peruse the 44 options below and pick five or so for your hors d’oeuvre plate. And check out the dessert picks for a sweet finish.

       

    shell-pick-230

    Many hors d’oeuvre can be served on a pick. Photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     

  • Antipasto Pick: Artichoke, Caper Berry, Salami Chunk, Red Pepper, Parsley Garnish, Sharp Provolone Cheese, Olive Oil
  • Antipasto Bite: Canned Artichoke Cup, Cubed Sharp Provolone Cheese, Roasted Red Pepper, Diced Salami, Capers, Olive Oil, Parsley Leaf
  • Asiago Egg Bite: Hard Cooked Egg White Cup, Egg Yolk, Red Pepper, Parsley, Green Onion, Asiago Cheese, Mayonnaise
  • Baby Pick: Baby Swiss Cheese Cube, Ham Chunk, Green Grape, Topped with a Pretzel Knot
  • BBLT Pick: Crustless White Bread, Brick Cheese, Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Mayonnaise
  • Beef Roll Bite: Horseradish Cold Pack Cheese, Roast Tenderloin or Skirt Steak, Arugula Leaves, Red Bell Pepper Strips
  • Belgian Bite: Belgian Endive, Ricotta Cheese, Olive Tapenade, Parsley Garnish
  • Brie-O-Politan Pick: Bias-Sliced Cucumber, Bias-Sliced Roma Tomato, Bias-Sliced Brie Cheese Log, Arugula, Pitted Niçoise Olive
  • Caesar Bite: Small Romaine Lettuce Leaf, Thinly Sliced Romaine Lettuce, Caesar Salad Dressing, Cherry Tomato Wedge, Crouton, Shaved Parmesan Cheese, Anchovy Filet, Mini Lemon Wedge
  • Caprese Pick: Grape Tomato, Basil Leaf, Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Ciligene
  • Club Sandpick: Sandwich Bread Slice, Monterey Jack Cheese Slice, Cucumber Slices, Ham Slice, Tomato Slices, Wisconsin Monterey Jack Slice, Leaf Lettuce
  • Cobb Pick: Bread Slice, Blue Cheese, Bacon, Cherry Tomato, Hard Cooked Egg Wedge
  • Cordon Blue Pick: Ham Slice, Cream Cheese, Red Pepper, Gruyère Cheese Cube, Mini Dill Pickle
  • Del Mar Pick: Fontina Cheese, Flat Leaf Parsley Leaf, Smoked Oyster, Pimento-Stuffed Olive
  • Dutch Pick: Medjool Date, Edam Cheese Chunk, Ham Slice
  • Gorgonzola Bacon Bite: Cooked Baby Red Potato Cup, Crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese, Bacon Bits, Sliced Green Onion, Mayonnaise
  • Gorgonzola Date Bite: Seeded Medjool Date, Gorgonzola Cheese Wedge, Prosciutto Slice Strip
  • Greek Salad Pick: Cucumber Chunk, Grape Tomato, Feta Cheese Cube, Pitted Kalamata, Olive Oil Drizzle, Oregano Garnish
  • Grinder Pick: Pepperoncini, Hard Salami Slice, String Cheese, Pimento Stuffed Olive
  • Ham & Cheese Pick: Sharp White Cheddar Cheese, Arugula Leaves, Sliced Ham
  • Half-Shell Bite: Oyster on the Half-Shell, Pico De Gallo, Crumbled Cotija Cheese, Cilantro Leaf
  •  

    parmesan-potato-bite-230

    An example of a bite: No toothpick required. Photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     
  • Monk Pick: Pretzel Roll Slice, Wholegrain Mustard, Gruyere, Les Frères or Muenster Cheese Slice, Mini Dill Pickle, Cocktail Onion
  • Monroe Bite: Pumpernickel Cocktail Bread, Limburger Cheese, Red Onion, Green Onion, Whole Grain Mustard
  • Muenster Beef Pick: Muenster Cheese, Sliced Roast Beef, Green Onion
  • Mushroom Pick: Pickled Mushroom, Ricotta Salata Cheese, Kalamata Olives, Capers, Parsley Garnish, Olive Oil Drizzle
  • Napoli Pick: Fresh Mozzarella Roll, Mascarpone, Pesto, Sliced Prosciutto, Roasted Red Pepper, Fresh Basil Leaves
  • Norwegian Pick: Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, Cream Cheese, Lox/Cured Salmon, Baby Dill Garnish
  • Oscar Pick: Ham Slice, Garlic & Herb Cheese Spread, Crabmeat, Blanched Asparagus Spear
  • Parmesan Potato Bite: Cooked Baby Red Potato Cup, Shredded Parmesan Cheese, Bacon Bits, Diced Hard-Boiled Egg, Chives, Mayonnaise, Prepared Mustard
  • Peppadew Bite: Peppadew, Garden Vegetable Cheese Spread, Parsley Garnish
  • Potato Salad Bite: Red Potato Slice, Hard Cooked Egg Slice, Mascarpone Cheese, Dijon Mustard, Sweet Pickle Wedge
  •  

  • Pesto Pick: Pesto Gouda or Gouda Cheese, Basil Leaf, Grape Tomato, Chicken Breast
  • Roman Bite: Bread Coin, Oil Cured Tomato, Oregano, Romano Cheese Chunk, Cracked Black Pepper, Olive Oil Drizzle
  • Reuben Pick: Corned Beef Slice, Swiss Cheese Slice, Mixture of 1,000 Island Salad Dressing and Sauerkraut, Mini Dill Pickle
  • Rustica Pick: Mild Provolone Cheese, Salami, Pepperoni, Basil, Roasted Red Pepper, Pitted Kalamata Garnish
  • Smorg-More Pick: Caper Berry, Dill Havarti Cheese, Lox/Cured Salmon, Baby Dill, Lemon Wedge Garnish
  • Shrimp Bite: Bias-Cut Seedless Cucumber Slice, Mayonnaise Ketchup Mixture, Cooked Tail-On Peeled and Deveined Shrimp, Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Pearl, Lemon Peel
  • Shell Pick: Fontina Cheese, Kalamata Olives, Roasted Red Peppers, Pepperoncini, Capers, Basil Leaf Garnish
  • Shooter Bite: Shot Glass, Pico De Gallo, Fresh Shucked Oyster, Crumbled Cotija Cheese, Cilantro Leaf, Lemon Peel Strip
  • Shrimp Pick: Thick Cucumber Slice, Cooked Shrimp, Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Pearl, Lemon Rind
  • Tapas Pick: Quince Paste, Queso Blanco Cheese, Serrano Ham, Green Grape
  • TexMex Bite: Corn Chip Cup, Salsa Jack Cheese Cube, Black Bean Salsa, Cilantro Garnish
  • Torte Pick: Camembert Cheese, Gorgonzola Cheese, Walnut, Red Grape
  • Waldorf Lettuce Bite: Small Bibb or Butter Lettuce Leaf, Gouda Cheese, Diced Celery, Diced Apple, Raisins, Chopped Walnuts, Mayonnaise, Lemon Juice, Parsley Leaf
  • Watermelon Pick: Watermelon Cube, Fresh Mint Leaf, Feta Cube, Watermelon Half-Ball
  • Wisconsin Pick: Sausage, Pepper Jack Cheese, Sweet Pickle, Cheddar Cheese Curd or Cube
  •  
    FESTIVE PARTY PICKS

    These special party picks will make your hors d’oeuvre even tastier:

  • Holiday party picks, silver and gold picks with a star on top
  • Christmas party picks: assorted red, green and white with Christmas trees on top.
  • Foil party picks: fun metallic fringe in blue, green, purple and silver for New Year’s Eve.
  • Conventional frilled party picks, with cellophane frills in bright colors for Thanksgiving.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pair Cheese & Nuts

    candied-walnuts-asiago-wmmb-230

    Asiago cheese with candied walnuts and
    raspberries. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk
    Marketing Board.

     

    Yesterday was National Nut Day, so the folks at the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board sent us some popular cheese and nut pairings.

    In addition to fruits, breads and crackers, nuts a flavor and crunch counterpoint. Try these pairings the next time you serve cheese:

    • Almonds: Available in several forms—candied, raw, roasted, salted, smoked, spiced—almonds are a great choice for pairing with most cheese varieties that are semi-soft to firm (hard).
    • Pecans: With their natural sweetness, pecans complement the salt in cheese. Try a candied or spiced pecan (recipe) alongside salty cheeses, such as feta or romano.
    • Pistachios: The delicate, buttery flavor of these popular nuts goes best with soft cheeses such as brie or ricotta .
    • Walnuts: The earthy flavor and dry texture of walnuts pair nicely with aged cheeses, such as an aged asiago or cheddar. Or, drizzle with honey to pair with a softer cheese, especially blue cheeses like gorgonzola.

    MORE TO MUNCH ON

  • Candied Nuts Recipe
  • Cheese Condiments: many more foods to pair with cheese
  • Glossary Of Cheese Terms
  • The History Of Cheese
  • How To Taste Cheese
  •  
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Figgy Blue Cheese Bacon Bites

    fig-blue-cheese-bacon-bites-litehouse-230

    Bacon, blue cheese, figs and…Fig Newtons!
    Photo courtesy Litehouse Foods.

     

    Here’s what we’re making this weekend to go with Olive Oil Martinis: Figgy Blue Cheese Bacon Bites.

    The recipe was developed by Jennifer Fisher for Litehouse Foods. You can see the whole photo spread here.

    These appetizers are simple to make from just four ingredients that you can easily keep on hand. Says Jennifer, “An insanely delicious bacon aroma wafts through the house to alert everyone that good things are about to happen!”

    Prep and cooking time is 35 minutes.

    RECIPE: FIGGY BLUE CHEESE BACON BITES

    Ingredients For 12 Servings

  • 6 strips of hardwood-smoked thickly sliced maple bacon
  • 12 fig cookies (like Fig Newtons)
  • 4 ounces blue cheese
  • 6 dried Turkish brown figs
  • Plus:

  • Toothpicks
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 375°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil.

    2. CUT bacon in half crosswise so that the 6 strips become 12 shorter strips.

    3. CUT blue cheese into 12 approximate ½ teaspoon chunks.

    4. SLICE dried figs in half lengthwise.

    5. ASSEMBLE: Top one fig cookie with blue cheese. Top blue cheese with fig, cut side down. Wrap with bacon, using a toothpick to secure.

    6. PLACE on the prepared baking sheet. If you have a rack or crisper sheet, set this on top of baking sheet for more even cooking. Place Figgy Blue Cheese Bacon Bites on the sheet and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until bacon is crisped and cheese is bubbling.

     

    fig-bacon-bites-raw-litehouse-230

    Ready to go into the oven. Photo courtesy Litehouse Foods.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Savory Cheesecake

    blue-cheese-artichoke-cheesecake-wmmb-230

    For a delightful change of pace, try a savory
    cheesecake appetizer. Photo courtesy
    Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    When you want to serve something impressive and unexpected at your next dinner party or cocktail party, consider a savory cheesecake.

    Instead of sugar and vanilla, it calls for herbs, salt and savory components—cheeses such as blue cheese or Gruyère and additions like seafood and vegetables.

    Cut small wedges—this is a rich starter! Serve with toast points, baguette slices or crackers and decorate the plate with appropriate cheese accompaniments—nuts, and grapes, for example. Add a touches of color with fresh green herbs or red grape tomatoes or peppadews.

    You can also the whole cheesecake at a party, on a tray with crackers.

    Bake the cheesecake the night before and take it out of the refrigerator an hour before serving to allow the cheesecake to reach room temperature. In addition to the recipe below, here are four more savory cheesecake recipes, including Tuna (you can substitute smoked salmon), Gruyère & Lobster, Provolone & Corn and No-Bake Basil Cheesecake. All are courtesy of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     
    RECIPE: BLUE CHEESE CHEESECAKE

    For a perfect cocktail pairing, serve this cheesecake with a Vodka Martini With Buttermilk Blue Stuffed Olives. For a first course, look for a big white wine: either a sweet white (like a Sauternes or a late harvest Vouvray) or Chardonnay (if your budget permits, a Puligny-Montrachet). Another interesting match would be a ruby Port (save the vintage Ports for the end of dinner).

    This recipe was created by Wisconsin chef Mindy Segal, who used Hook’s Wisconsin Blue Cheese and garnished the dish with sweet components: Port Wine Poached Pears, Port Caramel And Candied Walnuts. You can keep it all savory with a lightly dressed salad or any garnish you choose.

    And remember: the better the blue cheese, the better the cheesecake.

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

    For The Poached Pears

  • 1 bottle (750 ml) Port wine
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • Rind of 1 orange
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, scraped
  • 6 medium pears (Bartlett, Forelle or Comice)
  •  
    For The Sugared Walnuts

  • 1 tablespoon egg white
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup walnuts
  •  

    For The Cheesecake

  • 1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
  • 10 ounces blue cheese, room temperature, finely crumbled
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons clover or orange honey
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Pinch fresh cracked pepper
  • Optional garnish: rosemary sprigs
  •  
    For The Caramel

  • 2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 1/2 ounces light corn syrup
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup reserved poaching liquid
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch cracked pepper
  •  

    blue-cheese-cheesecake-wmmb-230r

    Chef Mindy Segal’s preparation with poached pears, candied walnuts and caramel. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the poached pears. In a heavy sauce pan, combine all ingredients except the pears; bring to a boil and cook until reduced by a quarter. Meanwhile, peel the pears and add the peels to the poaching liquid. Cut the pears in half and core. Strain the poaching liquid and add the pears. Bring to a simmer and poach the pears until tender. Place the pears and liquid in opaque container. Cover with plastic and let stand at room temperature overnight. Reserve 1 cup of the poaching liquid for the Port caramel.

    2. MAKE the sugared walnuts. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In small bowl, mix all ingredients except the walnuts. Add the walnuts and stir to coat. Spread in single layer on the baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Break into pieces. Set aside.

    3. MAKE the cheesecake. Heat the oven to 250°F. Spray an 8-inch spring form pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper; spray again. In large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the blue cheese; beat until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl. Add sour cream, honey, salt and pepper. Beat until combined. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until set and knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool to room temperature in pan.

    4. MAKE the Port caramel. In heavy sauce pot, combine 1 cup sugar and the corn syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Cook at a slow rolling boil until dark amber. In another pot, bring the cream and reserved poaching liquid just to a boil; keep warm. When the sugar is amber, add the remaining sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the cream mixture slowly, allowing the mixture to reduce after each addition. Cook until the consistency of a thick syrup, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

    5. SERVE. Cut the cheesecake into wedges. Serve on plate with some of the poached pear, Port wine caramel and sugared walnuts, or garnishes of choice.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Delicious Appetizers With Wonton Wraps

    buffalo-chicken-cups-230

    An even more delicious way to enjoy the
    flavor of Buffalo wings. Photo courtesy
    Nasoya.

     

    You may not be ready to take on homemade dumplings, as we suggested yesterday.

    But if you’re looking for easy, impressive hors d’oeuvres for entertaining? Make them with won ton wraps.

    Of course, you’d buy won ton wraps to make homemade won tons. Savvy cooks know you can also use them to make ravioli. Like pasta, the wraps are made from wheat flour, eggs and salt, plus water, wheat gluten, vinegar and cornstarch.

    But did you think of making clever appetizers with them? They’re surprisingly easy. And the crispy baked wontons are far superior to other alternatives we’ve tried, like phyllo cups.

    Nasoya, an American producer of tofu, Asian-style noodles and wraps and Nayonaise vegan sandwich spread, treated us to the recipes below, created for Nasoya by blogger Kris Schoels of TheChicWife.com. We loved every bite.

    Look for the wraps in the produce section, next to Nasoya tofu. The all-natural wraps are easy to use. The line is certified kosher by OU.

    These three recipes are delicious for hors d’ouevres or a first course. Find more delicious recipes at Nasoya.com.

     
    RECIPE: BUFFALO CHICKEN CUPS

    These were so good, we were sorry we hadn’t made a double batch. (The photo is above.)

    Ingredients For 24 Pieces

  • 12 ounces cooked chicken, diced
  • 3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup of wing sauce (mild or hot)
  • 1/2 cup of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup of ranch dressing
  • 24 wonton wrappers
  • Extra blue cheese crumbles for topping
  • Cupcake pan
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Place the chicken and blue cheese in a bowl and set aside.

    2. COMBINEthe hot wing sauce, softened cream cheese, and ranch dressing in a small bowl. Pour the cream cheese mixture over top of the chicken and crumbled blue cheese. Stir until just combined.

    3. PLACE one wonton wrapper in each cupcake opening; press down until it creates a cup. Fill each wrapper cup 3/4 of the way with the chicken mixture.

    4. BAKE for 10 minutes, or until the wrappers are golden brown and the cheese is bubbling. Top with more crumbled blue cheese for garnish, if you wish. Serve warm.

     

    RECIPE: BAKED AVOCADO & FETA WONTONS WITH
    AVOCADO-LIME DIPPING SAUCE

    We’d never have thought of combining avocado and feta, but the result is delicious!

    Ingredients For 24 Pieces

  • 24 wonton wrappers
  • 2 large avocados, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 4 tablespoons chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic, very finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Small bowl with water for sealing
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

    2. COMBINE the chopped avocado, sun dried tomatoes, feta, garlic, onion, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl, taking care to not smash the avocado pieces too much.

     

    avocado-feta-wraps-230

    A delicious marriage of avocado and feta, for an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre. Photo courtesy Nasoya.

     

    3. FILL the wrappers: Working one wrapper at a time place 1 tablespoon of filling in the top third of the egg roll wrap. Brush the edges with water and roll like a burrito. Seal with more water. Place on the baking sheet. Repeat until all of the filling has been used.

    4. BAKE for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned.

    5. MAKE the dipping sauce (recipe below).
     
    RECIPE: AVOCADO-LIME DIPPING SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 1 small ripe peeled avocado
  • 1/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Optional: hot sauce
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients into a food processor; process until smooth. Season with additional salt, pepper and optional hot sauce.
     
    RECIPE: HAM & CHEESE BITES

    Think beyond “ham and cheese”: The flavor of these bites is quite sophisticated.

    Ingredients For 30 Pieces

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup cooked ham, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg white (set aside to be used later)
  • 30 wonton wrappers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK the egg in a bowl whisk and add the cottage cheese, mixing until smooth. Stir in the ham, cheddar, salt, and pepper. Place in the refrigerator until ready to cook the wontons.

    2. Prepare the wontons: Working one wrapper at a time, brush the outer edge of the wrapper with egg white (this will help seal the bites). Place 1 heaping teaspoon of the cheese mixture in the center of the wrap. Fold the wrapper in half into a triangle and seal with more egg wash if needed.
    3. PLACE on a baking sheet until ready to cook (note, these can be frozen and cooked later). Repeat until all of the cheese mixture has been used.

    4. HEAT a large skillet over medium heat, spray skillet with nonstick spray or use 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once the skillet is warm, place the wonton wrap in the pan, being careful not to overcrowd it. Do it in several batches.

    5. COOK for 1 minute on each side; the outside will be lightly browned. Place on a paper towel lined plate, keeping warm until ready to serve. Here’s a photo of the cooked dumplings.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Roasted Cherry Tomato Cups

    roastedtomato-solo-triscuit-230

    Crunchy Triscuit cups. Photo courtesy
    Nabisco.

     

    Just in time for Labor Day lounging, the folks at Triscuit sent us this fun appetizer idea. Who’d have thought of soaking Triscuits to form crunchy cups?

    You can fill the cups with anything, from hummus to artichoke dip; but start with colorful cherry tomatoes and enjoy with a glass of wine or beer.

    Prep time is 25 minutes, total time is 45 minutes. You can find more recipes on the Triscuit website.

    RECIPE: ROASTED CHERRY TOMATO CUPS

    Ingredients For 24 Pieces

  • 24 Triscuit Rosemary and Olive Oil Crackers
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Roasted Cherry Tomatoes (recipe follows)
  • 24 tiny sprigs fresh thyme, optional for serving
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 400°F.

    2. FILL a 9-by-13-inch pan halfway with warm water. Add Triscuit crackers in 2 batches and soak, turning twice until just soft, about 2 minutes, no more than 3 minutes.

    3. OIL two 12 cup or one 24 cup mini muffin tins. Press a softened Triscuit into each cup, pressing and molding any cracks together. Sprinkle each with cheese. Bake until firm and slightly more golden, about 25 minutes. When ready to serve…

    4. FILL each cup with a roasted cherry tomato, and drizzle a little sauce over top of each one. Garnish with thyme and serve immediately.
     

    RECIPE: ROASTED CHERRY TOMATO SAUCE

    Prep time 5 minutes, cook time 40-45 minutes.

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 24 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 325°F. Arrange tomatoes and garlic in a non-reactive 9×5-inch baking dish/loaf pan (see note below on non-reactive cookware).

    2. WHISK together olive oil, vinegar, thyme, sugar and salt. Drizzle over tomatoes and garlic.

    3. BAKE until the tomatoes are wilted and caramelized, about 40-45 minutes. Let cool. You can pre-make and store cooled tomatoes and juices in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

    WHAT IS A NON-REACTIVE PAN?

    Cookware can be made of reactive or non-reactive materials. Reactive materials can interact negatively with acidic foods and light-colored foods, and should be avoided in preparing these them.

  • Reactive Pans: Aluminum and copper are two popular cookware metals that conduct heat extremely well, but react chemically with acidic foods, imparting a metallic taste. They also can discolor light-colored foods like soups and sauces. (Metal utensils—spoons or whisks, for example—can also react with these food, so opt for silicone or silicone-coated.)
  •  

    Triscuit_BOX_Rosemary_Olive_Oil-230

    How many different varieties of Triscuit are there? The answer is below. Photo courtesy Nabisco.

  • Most copper pots and pans are lined with tin to prevent any reaction, but the tin can scratch easily and expose the food to the copper underneath. Similarly, anodized aluminum provides some protection; but it’s best to choose a different vessel. Note that while cast-iron is considered reactive, we and our colleagues have cooked tomato-sauce based recipes for years in a heavy cast iron pot, with no problem whatsoever.
  • Non-Reactive Pans: Non-reactive cookware is made from clay (terracotta), enamel, glass, plastic and stainless steel. While they don’t react with food, these materials don’t conduct or retain heat as well as the reactive metals. Stainless steel cookware can be made with an aluminum or copper bottom to better conduct the heat. Glass cookware retains heat well but conducts it poorly. Enamelware is non-reactive but can easily scratch and chip.
  •  
    TRISCUIT TRIVIA

    When you think Triscuit, do you think “shredded wheat?” That’s what they’re made from!

    Now made by Nabisco, Triscuit snack crackers were invented in 1900 at the Shredded Wheat Company of Niagara Falls, New York. They were awarded a patent in 1902, and commercial production began in 1903.

    For their first 20 years, Triscuits were not today’s two-inch squares, but 2-1/4 by 4-inch rectangles. In 1935, the manufacturer began spraying the crackers with oil and adding salt.

    In 1984, new flavors were introduced, and the crackers were made even crisper. We counted 21 varieties:

  • Whole Grain Wheat Line: Cracked Pepper & Olive Oil, Dill & Olive Oil, Fire Roasted Tomato & Olive Oil, Garden Herb, Hint of Salt, Original, Original Minis, Reduced Fat, Rosemary & Olive Oil, Roasted Garlic, Wheat Rye With Caraway Seeds.
  • Brown Rice & Wheat Line: Cinnamon Sugar, Roasted Red Pepper, Roasted Sweet Onion, Sea Salt & Black Pepper, Sour Cream & Chives, Sweet Potato & Sea Salt, Tomato & Sweet Basil, BWasabi & Soy Sauce.
  • Thin Crisps Line: Original, Parmesan Garlic.
  •  
    In terms of where you find the supermarket shelf with all of these tempting choices, we know not!

      

    Comments

    TIP: Easy Appetizer Napoleons

    mushroom-avocado-napoleons-calavocomm-230

    Avocado-portabella napoleon with lavash
    layers. Photo © Delicious Knowledge |
    California Avocado Commission

     

    When most of us think of napoleons, we think of a mille-feuille (millefoglie in Italian), filled with custard.

    Mille-feuille means “thousand leaves,” three rectangular sheets of puff pastry spread with Bavarian cream, pastry cream, whipped cream, custard, jam or fruit purée, often dusted with confectioner’s sugar, and cut into individual rectangular portions. When filled with custard and iced with chocolate, the pastry is called a napoleon.

    But there are savory napoleons too. And in this recipe by Alexandra Caspero | Redux Recipe for the California Avocado Commission, they’re a lot easier to make than their pastry counterparts.

    Instead of using the tricky puff pastry or phyllo, this recipe uses lavash, the Middle Eastern flatbread. You can substitute another soft flatbread, such as a tortilla.

    Napoleon History

    The mille-feuille is most likely a descendant of layered phyllo pastries like baklava. It is believed that the napoleon, and mille-feuille pastry, was developed by the great chef Antoine Carême. See mille-feuille. Three layers of puff pastry (pâte feuilletée) are filled with pastry cream and iced with fondant.

     
    An “American napoleon” has a heavily marbleized chocolate and vanilla fondant top, looking more like Jackson Pollack than the neat French napoleon. An “Italian napoleon” adds layers of rum-soaked sponge cake. Some variations layer fruit, such as raspberries, in the pastry cream.

    Food fact: The napoleon pastry was not named after France’s famous general and emperor. The name is believed to be a corruption of the word “napolitain” (napolitano in Italian), referring to a pastry made in the tradition of Naples, Italy.

    RECIPE: VEGETABLE NAPOLEON APPETIZERS

    This stack of grilled portabella mushrooms and creamy avocados layered between crispy lavash with a lemon-basil mayo, is a delicious vegetarian appetizer or a fancy snack.

    You can vary the vegetables.

  • For the mushroom: summer squash, zucchini or other grilled vegetable(s)
  • For the avocado: onion, tomato
  • For the spinach: arugula, watercress,
  •  

    You can also add another element or two; for example, thinly-sliced cucumber (plain or marinated) or sprouts.

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1 portabella mushroom cap*, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 large ripe avocado (about 8 ounces), peeled, seeded and
    sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • ½ lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons basil, chiffonade (thinly strips)
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 whole-wheat lavash wrap, cut into 6 equal pieces (substitute tortillas or other flavorful wraps)
  •  

    portabella-burpee-230

    Portabella mushroom caps. Photo courtesy Burpee.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Lightly rub olive oil into mushroom slices, season with salt/pepper or all-purpose seasoning. When pan is hot, add mushroom slices and grill 3-4 minutes per side, until slightly charred. Remove from grill and set aside.

    2. ADD the sliced lavash pieces to the grill and heat 1-2 minutes per side until crispy. Remove and set aside.

    3. MAKE the lemon-basil mayonnaise: Combine the mayo, lemon juice, zest, and sliced basil.

    4. ASSEMBLE: Spread the mayonnaise on 4 slices of lavash bread. Stack with avocado slices, spinach and mushrooms. Top with a piece of lavash without spread. Add another layer of avocado, spinach, mushroom. Top with the final piece of lavash, spread side down.

     
    *Reserve the stems for an omelet or scramble, or slice for a salad.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Guacamole Verrine, A Layered Appetizer

    We discovered this photo on the Frontier Foods blog, where it was called a torta, a word that refers to different foods in different Spanish-language countries. But we’d call it a verrine (vair-REEN).

    Verre is the French word for glass; verrine, which means “protective glass,” is an assortment of ingredients layered “artfully” in a small glass.

    Verrines can be sweet or savory: The idea is to layer foods that provide delicious tastes in small bites: a variety of flavors, textures and colors. The result is both sophisticated and fun.

    While specialty verrine glasses exist, you most likely have vessels at home that will do the job just fine: juice glasses, rocks glasses, shot glasses, even small wine goblets.

    To make this avocado verrine, layer:

  • Guacamole
  • Chopped chiles of desired heat (instead of the green chiles shown, use red chiles for more color)
  • Crumbled queso blanco, queso fresco or other Mexican fresh cheese (you can substitute fresh goat cheese)
  • Slab bacon or pork belly strips
  • Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Optional garnish: fresh herbs
  •  

    torta_guacamole_fronterafoods-230s

    Layered appetizer: an avocado (or guacamole) verrine. Photo courtesy Frontera Foods.

     

    Here’s more on savory verrines, as well as dessert verrines—another treat.

    Have fun with it!

      

    Comments

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