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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 Cheese/Yogurt/Dairy

TIP OF THE DAY: Pumpkin In Every Recipe

Pumpkin is a wonderful fruit*, loaded with the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene, which research indicates may reduce the risk of developing heart disease and certain types of cancer, among the degenerative aspects of aging and other conditions. One cup of cooked pumpkin has just 49 calories.

One of the nice things about fall is that food producers launch limited-edition pumpkin flavors, from yogurt to tortilla chips.

Every morning, we’ve been enjoying this pumpkin yogurt from Siggi’s. If you can’t find pumpkin yogurt in the store, just make your own:

  • BLEND two tablespoons of canned pumpkin into vanilla yogurt, or into plain yogurt sweetened with a bit of maple syrup.
  • ADD several shakes of cinnamon and nutmeg; blend, taste and adjust seasonings.
  •  
    After you’ve mixed the pumpkin yogurt, there are quite a few things to do with the rest of the canned pumpkin.

     

    Seasonal treat: pumpkin yogurt. Photo by
    Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    *Botanically, squash group members are fruits—the seeds are carried inside. There’s the difference between fruits and vegetables.

     

    Pumpkin cheesecake. Photo courtesy House
    Foods.

     

    WHAT ELSE TO DO WITH CANNED PUMPKIN

    If you only think of canned pumpkin as filling for a pie, you’ve got much to discover. If you like it enough for pie, you’ll like pumpkin in other recipes as well.

    Transfer leftover canned pumpkin to an airtight container and keep it in the fridge to use in everyday dishes—or buy a can just for this purpose. Add two tablespoons to 1/2 cup to everyday recipes.

    Be sure to use pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling, which has added sugar and spices.

    You can make the recipes sweet with some brown sugar or maple syrup, or savory with thyme and/or sage. Add pumpkin pie spices—allspice, clove, cinnamon and/or nutmeg—as you wish to sweet or savory recipes.

     

  • Beverages: Add 1/2 cup pumpkin to a smoothie with some cinnamon and nutmeg, or to a milkshake with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream; make your own pumpkin simple syrup to add to cocoa, coffee, tea or cocktails. For a creamy pumpkin cocktail, combine 2 ounces rum, 3/4 ounce pumpkin, 1 ounce half and half and 1 ounce simple syrup.
  • Breakfast: Add 1/2 cup to muffin, pancake and waffle batter; stir into oatmeal; make pumpkin cream cheese for bagels*.
  • Desserts: Add to a cake mix (chocolate, spice or yellow cake), make pumpkin brownies or chocolate chip cookies, bake a pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap crust, make pumpkin crème brûlée, panna cotta or pudding.
  • Pasta & Risotto: Make pumpkin cream sauce (†see recipe below) or a lighter sauce with stock, sage, thyme; add to risotto, orzo or mac and cheese.
  • Sauces & Sides: Add 1/2 cup to mashed potatoes, serve pumpkin as a side dish with fresh herbs and/or pumpkin pie spices, add 1/2 cup to a cream sauce or hummus.
  • Soup: Mix pumpkin into chicken or vegetable stock and season. Add milk or cream for a cream soup.
  •  
    Let us know your favorite pumpkin recipe.
     
    *Mix 1/2 cup of pumpkin into softened cream cheese, with 2 tablespoons brown sugar or maple syrup, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. You can substantially reduce or omit the sugar or use a noncaloric sugar substitute.
     
    †Combine in a sauce pan: 1/2 cup pumpkin with 1 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup quality Parmesan and a chiffonade of fresh sage (about 16 leaves, cut into thin strips). Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper. Simmer until thickened, stir in 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and serve.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Happy Family Yogurt Pouches

    Originally developed as a squeezable, shelf stable, organic line for babies and toddlers, Happy Family products have developed to please the whole family, including kids, teens and grown-ups.

    The company has launched three new Happy Squeeze varieties for kids and adults: Happy Squeeze Greek Yogurt pouches in Peachy Keen, Razzleberry and Super Strawberry.

    The squeeze yogurt pouches require no refrigeration and can be tossed into backpacks, gym bags, desk drawers, glove compartments and the like.

    For harvest season, check out Happy Squeeze TREAT Caramel Apple pouch.

    Whether you’re a candy-free household or simply seeking better-for-you treats, these guilt-free pouches, which are available year-round, provide the alternative caramel apple experience.

    Each pouch has just 100 calories, contains half cup of fruit and is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D. Each pouch delivers two grams of protein, as well.

     

    Treat-in-a-pouch. Photo courtesy Happy Family.

     

    Made with only the best organic ingredients, Happy Squeeze is all natural, certified USDA organic, gluten free and certified kosher dairy by OU.

    The suggested retail price is $1.79 per pouch. Learn more at HappyFamilyBrands.com.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Guacamole Stuffed Eggs & Uses For Leftover Egg Yolks

    Here’s a fun way to present stuffed eggs: as boats filled with guacamole and a tortilla chip or Wheat Thin “sail.”

    But what to do with all those leftover cooked egg yolks?

  • Add to tuna salad, potato salad, pasta salads and other salads.
  • Add to a layered salad.
  • Crumble or grate atop green salads (especially spinach salad), or layer with a chef’s salad or Cobb salad.
  • Use as a garnish on cooked vegetables, potatoes, rice and other grains.
  • Use as a soup garnish.
  •  

    Guacamole “boats.” Photo courtesy Kraft.

  • Make salad dressing with sieved egg yolks. Here’s one recipe with mayonnaise, sour cream and Dijon mustard, and another recipe that includes chopped nuts and vegetables.
  • Make an “egg yolk salad” with green onions, frozen pea, gherkins, a mix of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard, and salt/pepper.
  • Make this soup “dumplings” recipe.
  • Feed birds. Several people said that their pet birds loved to eat hard-cooked egg yolks. If you don’t have a pet bird, or know someone who does, you can leave them out for the neighborhood birds.
  •  
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STUFFED EGGS & DEVILED EGGS

    Stuffed eggs were a popular dish as far back as the Roman Empire. The term “deviled eggs” originated in 18th-century England.

    “Deviled” refers to the use of hot spices or condiments in a recipe—paprika, mustard, hot sauce, horseradish, chiles, etc.—all of which you can add to the guacamole.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Removing Pieces Of Egg Shell

    Do your eggs crack cleanly, or deposit
    fragments of shell? Photo by Michael
    Lorenzo | SXC.

     

    The biggest frustration we have in the kitchen is getting fragments of egg shell out of cracked eggs.

    Some might say that if this is our biggest problem, we should consider ourselves lucky. But the frustration of trying again and again to fish out a tiny piece of egg shell is it for us.

    Maybe our local eggs have thinner shells that splinter more easily. But the result is too much time spent each day at this thankless task.

    We have tried our best to fish out those fragments, using a:

  • Spoon
  • Knife blade
  • Paper towel
  • Q-tip
  • Fingernail
  •  
    The road to success is invariably long annoying.

     
    So we turned to the Internet and found a solution: Fish out the fragment with a bigger piece of eggshell. There will be a magnetic attraction between the two pieces.

    And, stop buying extra large eggs (explanation below).

    ARE EGG SHELLS GETTING THINNER?

    Egg shells get thinner when calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D3 are insufficient in the hens’ diet. Mass commercial producers tend to cut costs wherever they can, so the hens may be a bit nutrient-deficient. Instead, try eggs from a local farmer. Small farmers and hobbyists often use ground oyster shells to provide additional calcium.

    Summer eggs can have thinner shells, because in hot weather the calcium is retained less efficiently by the hen. The calcium doesn’t go directly from the digestive tract to the shell, by the way. First it’s absorbed into the bones, and then reabsorbed into the body to help create the shell.

    Other factors that can contribute to thinner shells include age, stress and general health of the hen. The extra large eggs we’ve been using come from older hens, and those shells are naturally thinner. As the hens age, their bodies can’t keep up with the loss of calcium through shell manufacture. Eureka!

    Solution: Try large or medium eggs.

    If you have tips or suggestions, please share them!

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Ricotta & Honey

    Most people think of ricotta as a filling or topping for lasagne, manicotti, ravioli and white pizza. On the sweet side, it’s the base of cannoli cream and the base of Italian cheesecake.

    But you can use this fresh Italian cheese:

  • To make creamy sauces: Add a spoonful or more to tomato sauce, right before you take it from the stove.
  • Add it to frittatas, omelets and scrambled eggs.
  • Make ricotta pancakes—so fluffy!
  • Bread spread: Enjoy it on toast, English muffins or crostini with a pinch of salt and pepper, or paired with jam. Add herbs and spices for an appetizer spread, and sliced tomatoes for a sandwich.
  • As a dip, blended with anything from herbs to pureed pimento and lemon zest.
  • And many other recipes.
  •  

    A dessert of fresh ricotta, honeycomb and crostini. Photo courtesy Davanti Enoteca.

     

    Today’s tip, though, is to serve ricotta for dessert. It was inspired by Davanti Enoteca in Chicago’s Little Italy.

    The restaurant offers a dessert of ricotta and a piece honeycomb with toasts. You can drizzle liquid honey over the ricotta instead of serving a piece of honeycomb.

    Serving the ricotta in a mini mason jar adds to the charm (see photo above), but consider rocks glasses, goblets and whatever you own. (Here’s another use for those sherbet Champagne glasses, which should never be used for Champagne).

     

    Honeycomb. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    Recipe Variations

  • Jam and nuts: a spoonful of jam (try apricot or fig) with slivered almonds, chopped walnuts or pistachios.
  • Dried fruits and nuts: blueberries, cherries, raisins or a mixture.
  • Fresh berries, also with honey. For an adult treat, marinate the berries in Grand Marnier or other fruit liqueur.
  • Almondina or Nonni’s ThinAddictives Biscotti.
  • Toasted raisin bread, raisin-walnut or any nutted bread is a match made in heaven.
  •  
    It’s a simple cheese course that also provides sweetness. We like it for dessert, as well as for breakfast, brunch or snacking.

    TIP: Use the best ricotta you can find. While average brands are fine to mix into recipes, here the ricotta is the main event. If you live in the northeast, look for Calabro ricotta: It’s terrific.
     

     
    FAVORITE RICOTTA DIET FOOD

    We love cannoli: the crunch of the fried shell against the rich, sweet ricotta filling.

    One of our diet treat recipes is to take lowfat ricotta, sweeten to taste with a noncaloric sweetener, and blend until smooth.

    Add a few mini chocolate chips, and you’ve got cannoli without the shell.
     
    WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RICOTTA CHEESE.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Marinated Cheese

    One of our particular passions is fresh goat cheese. Whenever we put together a cheese plate, we always include one or more chèvres.

    But for people who don’t like chèvre and want something more unusual than a plate of cheeses, here’s a good-looking option for buffets and parties. This recipe uses cheddar and cream cheese, but you can use any block cheese (which is easy to slice into uniform pieces). We used a flavored cheddar from Cabot Creamery, which makes traditional cheddars and reduced-fat cheddars, plus flavored varieties in Chipotle, Garlic & Herb, Horseradish, Hand-Rubbed Tuscan, Hot Buffalo Wing, Hot Habanero, Smoky Bacon and Tomato Basil.

    This recipe is from Comfort And Joy Food of Zeigler, Illinois. Comfort And Joy Food ships frozen cobblers, casseroles pot pies and other top-quality comfort food anywhere in the continental United States. The recipe was adapted from a recipe originally in Southern Living magazine. It can be prepared a day in advance.

     

    Party perfect: two different marinated cheeses. Photo courtesy ComfortAndJoy.com.

     
    The marinade creates a bright garnish on the bites of cheese.

    RECIPE: MARINATED CHEESE

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quality olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jar (2 ounces) diced pimiento, drained
  • 1 block (8 ounces) sharp cheddar cheese, chilled
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, chilled (slightly frozen is better)
  •  
    Plus

  • Optional garnish: chiffonade of basil, parsley sprigs
  • Crackers and/or toasts (we especially like to make “croutons,” toasted baguette slices—you can spread them with a bit of garlic butter for even more flavor)
  •  

    Festive food for any season. Photo courtesy
    ComfortAndJoy.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the marinade by combining the first 12 ingredients in a tightly covered jar; vigorously shake and set aside.

    2. CUT the block of cheddar in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices (basically little squares). Do the same with the cream cheese. The chef used a special butter slicing tool that works just as well to slice cheese (and costs just $5.00). It’s a real time saver. Otherwise, a knife is fine.

    3. STAND the cheese slices on edge in a shallow dish, alternating the cheeses. Shake the marinade and pour it over the cheese. Cover, refrigerate, and allow to marinate for at least 8 hours.

    4. GARNISH with a chiffonade of basil and parsley sprigs, if you like. It’s so pretty with all the chopped herbs and pimientos there really is no need to garnish, in my opinion. Serve with crackers or toasts.

     

    For more photos of the process, check out ComfortAndJoyFood.com.

    Variations

    Use the marinade on a log of goat cheese, sliced feta or mozzarella or other fresh cheese.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: A “Double” Grilled Cheese Sandwich

    Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt. Photo courtesy
    Denny’s.

     

    We love the way it looks: It’s fun food. It belongs on a list of grilled cheese sandwich ideas.

    But this sandwich is not so much fun, after all.

    It was a dubious winner of a 2011 Xtreme Eating Award, bestowed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to highlight “American chain restaurants’ culinary extremism.”

    Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt is described as “Grilled cheese with a twist. Four fried mozzarella sticks and melted American cheese grilled between two slices of sourdough bread. Served with wavy-cut French fries and a side of marinara sauce.”

    The “twist” serves itself up at 1,260 calories, 21 grams of saturated fat and 3,010 mg of sodium—the equivalent of downing two Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizzas.

     

    “It’s as if the restaurants were targeting the remaining one out of three Americans who are still normal weight in order to boost their risk of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, and cancer,” said CSPI nutrition director, Bonnie Liebman.

    While the idea of cheese-within-cheese is fun, the results aren’t. So here’s THE NIBBLE’s own Eat This, Not That suggestion:

  • Trade the mozzarella sticks for tuna and enjoy a tuna melt.
  • Add some form of veggie: tomatoes, onions and/or pickles.
  • Pan-fry the sandwich in a healthy oil.
  •  
    Here are the 2013 Xtreme Eating Awards winners.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cream Cheese Balls At Brunch

    “Now shmear this!” says Hannah Kaminsky, one of our favorite food writer/photographers, about today’s tip: gourmet cream cheese balls.

    Hannah focuses on vegan cooking and baking, but everyone will find her recipes to be simply delicious. They’re a boon for people who are kosher, lactose-intolerant or simply cutting back on cholesterol. The recipe below can be made as conventional or vegan fare.

    Considering how to use a new brand of cream cheese*, Hannah decided to add “a bit more of a savory spin to things.” Her individual-size, gourmet cream cheese balls look almost too pretty to eat.

    She serves them at parties, with toast or crackers. We served them with bagels, elevating the familiar to the sophisticated.

    You can serve more than one “flavor” of cream cheese balls—perhaps a spicy option if your guests like heat, or a cutting edge blend if they like nouvelle flavors.

     

    Cream cheese balls are festive fare. Photo © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     
    Convenience alert: You can make the cream cheese balls in advance and freeze them. You can also make one large ball for the center of a party tray.

    RECIPE: HANNAH KAMINSKY’S GOURMET CREAM CHEESE BALLS

    Ingredients

  • Cream cheese
  • Garnishes: fresh chives, lemon zest, chopped nuts†
  •  
    Don’t hold back on garnish ingredients; check around to see what you have at hand:

  • Bacon bits, coconut, dried cranberries‡, honey-roasted peanuts, toasted sesame seeds or roasted garlic, for example.
  • You can even try cheese-on-cheese, with finely crumbled blue cheese or fresh-grated Parmesan.
  • You can also spice things up, with chili flakes, curry, paprika or wasabi powder.
  •  
    *Hannah used Galaxy Food’s vegan cream cheese.
    †Hannah used pine nuts. Use your favorite: almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, etc.
    ‡Tip: We find it easier to use a scissors rather than a knife to cut small dried fruits.

     
    Preparation

    1. MINCE and combine the garnishes.

    2. ROLL the cream cheese balls into 1- or 1-1/2 inch diameter (what looks right to you). You can use wood butter paddles or your hands (you can use plastic kitchen gloves). If the cream cheese warms and starts to lose its shape, stick it in the fridge or freezer until it hardens enough to be smoothed into a round ball.

    3. ROLL the cream cheese balls in the mix to coat.

    4. SERVE on a bright colored plate or on a bed of greens, as in the photo.

    Check out Hannah’s Bittersweet Blog and sign up for the feed. You’ll enjoy every morsel.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Best Scrambled Eggs

    What’s the secret to making the best scrambled eggs? Our mom added milk; other people use water or club soda.

    According to super chef Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 in New York City, the magic comes from cream cheese. Here’s his recipe:

    RECIPE: BEST SCRAMBLED EGGS FROM
    CHEF WYLIE DUFRESNE

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon cream cheese
  •  
    Optional Additions

  • Minced fresh chives
  • Quartered/halved cherry tomatoes and fresh basil
  •  

    A new look at scrambled eggs: on an open
    face sandwich with chunky avocado. Photo
    courtesy Avocados From Mexico.

     

    Preparation

    1. SEASON eggs with salt and pepper; whisk to scramble.

    2. HEAT small pan; when hot, add butter, letting it foam.

    3. ADD eggs, wait 30 seconds and remove pan from heat.

    4. ADD cream cheese and scramble.

     

    Something new to top your bagel. Photo courtesy American Egg Board.

     

    TRY SOMETHING NEW

    You can serve your scrambled eggs on a plate, with a side of toast, or try one of these variations:

  • On an English muffin
  • In a pita pocket
  • As a croissandwich
  • On a bagel, with or without cream cheese and smoked salmon
  • With guacamole or chunky avocado (see photo)
  • Caprese-style, layered with mozzarella and tomato slices and fresh basil
  • Dotted with salmon caviar
  •  
    Other suggestions? Send ‘em in!

     

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Chobani New Yogurt Flavors

    Chobani, America’s top Greek yogurt brand, has come out with some terrific new flavors. It’s easy to default to a blueberry or strawberry yogurt, but the company considers these new flavors to be exotic.

    We love them for light meals, snacking or dessert. Now, we hope that the flavors will resonate with Americans, so retailers will keep them on the shelves.

    Chobani Bite. How about about Chocolate Mint or Honey With Ginger, the new flavors of Chobani Bite, the 3.5-ounce, 100-calorie cups sold in four-packs. We’re crazy about both, so delightful that we can happily trade in those less-healthful snack options.

    Standard Cups. Low-fat Apricot, Coconut, Key Lime and Orange Vanilla and non-fat Blackberry are the newbies in six-ounce cups. If you like coconut, it’s the winner. We wanted “seconds” immediately! The Orange Vanilla was a bit of a disappointment, because we were expecting “Creamsicle.” The flavors are a lot less pronounced. But we’d gladly have more of the others.

    Chobani Flip. With dry ingredients that flip over into the yogurt, flavors include Blueberry Power–with chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts; Nutty for Nana with honey roasted salted almonds and dark chocolate in banana yogurt; Peachy Pistachio with pistachio and dark chocolate; and Tropical Escape, pineapple coconut yogurt with toasted coconut, hazelnut and granola.

     

    Some of Chobani’s new flavors. Coconut is awesome! Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     
    (Tropical Escape was the only flavor that didn’t wow us. Although the product is all natural, there was something about it that seemed artificial.)

    Chobani Champions. For kids, there’s Flyin’ Dragon Fruit Greek Yogurt. This exotic fruit from the cactus family tastes like a blend of kiwi, mango, pear and watermelon. If you’ve never seen one, here’s a photo.

    There are other flavors—14 in total—and most retailers have space to carry only a selection of them. But take a look in your store and “spoon in,” as they say at Chobani.

    FOOD TRIVIA

  • Chobani is the Greek word for shepherd.
  • Think there’s a lot of yogurt in the U.S.? European consumers eat up to seven and a half times more than we do!
  • How many types of yogurt are there? Check out our Yogurt Glossary.
  •  
    NOTE: As we write this, there’s a recall of some Chobani products due to mold that causes swelling container tops and bad taste. A couple of the products we received from Chobani had this problem; the majority were just fine. While Chobani looks into its production issues, don’t deprive yourself of its yogurts. The suspect yogurts, with code 16-012, are hopefully off the shelves.

      

    Comments

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