THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
Also visit our main website,

Archive for Desserts

TIP OF THE DAY: Caramel Apple Dip With Apples & More

Caramel Apple Dip

Rainbow Baby Carrots

[1] Caramel apple dip (photo courtesy Eat Wisconsin Cheese). [2] Rainbow baby carrots (photo Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE).


If you’ll be home on Halloween—either dispensing candy or hunkering down—you need a Halloween treat that isn’t candy.

Thanks to our friends at for this recipe.

It’s easy to make with purchased caramel sauce (or if you’re hard core, your homemade sauce).

The caramel dip is a bit indulgent, but you can:

  • Substitute plain or vanilla Greek yogurt for the cream and cream cheese.
  • Serve the lowest-calorie dippers: apple slices, carrots, celery and pretzel sticks.

    You can use this as a dip or a spread, a snack or a dessert.

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup prepared caramel sauce
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup apple, peeled, cored and finely diced
  • Lemon juice

  • Apple slices or dried apple chips
  • Carrot and celery; sticks
  • Ginger snaps or graham crackers
  • Potato chips or pretzels

    1. BEAT the heavy cream in a medium bowl with an electric mixer, until stiff peaks begin to form (about 2-3 minutes).

    2. ADD the apple pie spice, vanilla extract, salt and caramel sauce. Mix until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

    3. ADD the cream cheese and mix until just incorporated. Add the diced apple and mix until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Serve with fruit and/or graham crackers, gingersnaps or other cookies. When ready to serve…

    4. TOSS the diced apple in lemon juice to prevent browning. Here are other ways to prevent browning.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Grandma Hoerner’s Apple Pouches

    Grandma Hoerner’s is a company that makes Big Slice Apples, one of our favorite new snacks and toppings.

    Big Slice Apples were first cooked in Grandma Hoerner’s farm kitchen in Kansas in the late 1800s, made from apples straight from the orchard.

    Grandson, Duane McCoy, rcalling the wonderful big slices of cooked apples from his youth, could find no commercial product like it. In 1987, after experimenting to replicate her recipe, he was ready to bring them to the world.

    Big Slice Juicy Cooked Apples may be the best apple “sauce” you can buy. Thick slices of kettle-cooked apples resting in an a sauce made from reduced apple juice.

    It is the way it was originally made with big slices of fresh apples, slow cooked, with only natural ingredients added. These are chunky apples that can be eaten with a fork, although a spoon will do.

    The Big Apple Slices are all natural, non-GMO, HFCS free and slow cooked, using domestic apples—just as Grandma Hoerner made them. They are both a luxurious dessert or topping and a healthful grab-and-go snack—a great source of vitamin C and naturally gluten free.

    The product, originally (and still) sold in 19.5-ounce jars, is now available in grab-and-go pouches—lots of them—in 4.5-ounce portions, 80 to 90 calories depending on flavor, for $2.50. We found 16-packs on Amazon, but not on the Grandma Hoerner’s website.

    Three flavor lines focus on flavor profiles:

  • Pure Line, simply flavored: Apricot, Blueberry Pomegranate, Chai, Cherry Vanilla, Natural, Orange Ginger
  • Fit Line, with added nutrition: Banana, Mango & Hemp Seed; Peach, Green Tea & Aloe; Honey Berry Chia; Pineapple, Passion Fruit & Fiber, Raspberry Hibiscus & Green Coffee Extract
  • Luxe Line, with indulgent additions: Boysenberry Chocolate, Caramel, Cinnamon Candy, Cinnamon French Toast, Peach Bellini
    The only challenge is where to begin. We received samples of each flavor, and can’t decide what to re-order. We may have to proceed alphabetically!

    For starters, here’s how we enjoyed the different Big Slice flavors:

  • Breakfast: with cottage cheese, French toast, omelets, porridge, toast, yogurt, pancakes, waffles
  • Lunch & Dinner: as a condiment or side with fried chicken, ham, pork, turkey
  • Dessert: crêpes, ice cream/sorbet, parfait, pound or angel cake, tartlet shells
  • Snack: straight from the pouch, on a rice cake

    Grandma Hoerner's Big Slice Apples

    Pancakes With Grandma Hoerner's Apples

    Big Slice On Yogurt

    [1] A great grab-and-go snack. [2] A topping for pancakes and other breakfast foods. [3] A yogurt mix-in or topping (photos courtesy Grandma Hoerner’s).


    Apple Tartlets

    [4] Time for dessert or company for tea? Fill tartlet shells for dessert (photo courtesy Grandma Hoerner’s).



    The pouches are available at Costco, H -E-B, Hy-Vee. Kowalski’s, Meijer, Price Chopper, Publix, Sprouts, Whole Foods Market, and more than 7,000 food stores nationwide. Here’s a store locator.

    You can buy them online at and in multipacks at

    A portion of the purchase to the A Sparkle Life, a non-profit organization aiding women in need.





    TIP OF THE DAY: Treats For Banana Lovers

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/grilled bananas almonds pamperedchef 230

    Banana Split

    Banana Hot Fudge Sundae

    Bunch of Bananas

    [1] A grilled banana split: no need for a special banana split dish (photo courtesy Pampered Chef). [2] Another presentation from Women’s Day. Here’s their recipe. [3] Fusion food: a grilled banana hot fudge sundae (photo courtesy Weber). [4] The world’s most popular fruit (photo Nathan Ward | SXC)!


    Who doesn’t love a banana? It’s the world’s most popular fruit. Some 25 pounds of bananas are consumed per capita each year.

    In the U.S., more bananas are consumed than oranges and apples combined! And August 27th is National Banana Lovers Day.

    Bananas were introduced to the U.S. in 1880. By 1910, bananas were so popular that cities—which then lacked sanitation systems—had a problem disposing of the banana peels.

    People were literally slipping on banana peels that were discarded on sidewalks and streets (a reality appropriated by comedians), leading to injuries. The Boy Scout Handbook recommended picking up banana peels from the street as a Scout’s good deed of the day (source).

  • Man has been growing bananas for some 10,000 years, since the dawn of agriculture. It’s the oldest cultivated fruit.
  • Bananas don’t grow on trees: The banana plant is actually the world’s largest herb. It’s a cousin to ginger and vanilla.
  • There are more than 1,000 varieties of bananas. The majority grow in Africa and Asia: 600 varieties in India alone.
  • The American supermarket banana is a variety called the Cavendish. It’s a more bland banana, but it travels well.
  • Bananas float in water (so do apples)!

    Banana Bread? Banana Cream Pie? Banana Daiquiri? Banana French Toast? Banana Ice Cream? Banana Pudding? Peanut Butter and Bananas?

    We say YES! to all, but today are focusing on two: the kid favorite Banana Split and the over-21 Bananas Foster.

    Two towns in the U.S. lay claim as the home of the banana split.

  • In 1904 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, David Strickler, a 23-year-old druggist’s apprentice at Tassel Pharmacy is said to have created the first banana split sundae for the local college crowd.
  • In 1907 in Wilmington, Ohio, restaurateur Ernest R. Hazard held a dessert contest among his employees at The Café. One came up with a sundae of sliced banana topped with three scoops of ice cream, chocolate syrup, strawberry jam, pineapple bits, chopped nuts, whipped cream and cherries.
    Fortunately for the rest of us, the concept spread nationwide, affording all of us the joy of a Banana Split.


    Banana splits are easy to make: Split a ripe banana vertically, place it in a long dish, top with three scoops of ice cream (traditionally vanilla, chocolate and strawberry) and toppings of choice. (You can get Anchor Hocking banana split dishes for about $2 each.)

    Here’s a twist: a grilled banana sundae, a cross between the classic and Bananas Foster. In the latter, bananas are caramelized in butter with brown sugar and cinnamon, then topped with dark rum and flambéed, with the bananas and the flaming sauce served over vanilla ice cream.

    We’ve included a Bananas Foster recipe below. The recipes are very similar, except that for Bananas Foster, the bananas are sautéed in butter instead of grilled; and alcohol is added to the caramel sauce. The banana is typically sliced in half lengthwise and crosswise.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 firm, ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup fudge sauce
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

    1. PREHEAT a grill pan over medium heat for 5 minutes.

    2. CUT the bananas in half lengthwise and crosswise for a total of 4 pieces each. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in shallow dish. Gently coat the bananas with the sugar mixture.

    3. SPRAY the grill pan lightly with vegetable oil and add the banana pieces, cut sides down. Grill for 2-3 minutes per side or until grill marks appear.

    4. SERVE warm with ice cream, ice cream topping and almonds.



    The original Bananas Foster recipe was created in 1951 by Paul Blangé (1900 to 1977), the Executive Chef at Brennan’s in New Orleans. The dish of sautéed bananas, flambéed and topped with ice cream, was named in honor of Richard Foster, a regular customer and friend of restaurant owner Owen Brennan Sr.

    Note that while both the recipes above and the original Bananas Foster cut the bananas into oblong pieces (see photo above), we prefer the round slices of banana, about 3/4-inch thick.

    While igniting the dish tableside is dramatic both at a restaurant and at home, it isn’t necessary.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 firm, ripe bananas
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup banana liqueur
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • Optional garnishes: toasted chopped pecans, grated orange zest

    1. CUT the bananas in half lengthwise and crosswise for a total of 4 pieces each (alternative: cut 3/4″ rounds; you’ll have more than 4 pieces).

    2. MELT the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves (about 2 minutes—this creates a caramel sauce). Add the bananas and cook on both sides until they begin to soften and brown (about 3 minutes).

    3. ADD the banana liqueur and stir to blend into the caramel sauce. If you want to flambé, follow the instructions below. However, the drama of the flambé works only if the dish is prepared tableside. Otherwise, the drama is lost in the kitchen (the flame extinguishes quickly).

    4. LIFT the bananas carefully from the pan and top the four dishes of ice cream; then spoon the sauce over the ice cream and bananas and serve immediately.

  • Liquors and liqueurs that are 80-109 proof are best to ignite. Don’t use a higher proof; it is highly flammable.
  • The liquor must be warmed to 130°F before adding to the pan. Higher temperatures will burn off the alcohol, and it won’t ignite.
  • Always remove the pan from the heat source before adding the liquor to avoid burning yourself.
  • Vigorously shaking the pan usually extinguishes the flame, but keep a pot lid nearby in case you need to smother the flames. The alcohol vapor generally burns off by itself in a matter of seconds.

  • Read these tips
  • Watch this video

    Bananas Foster

    Bananas Foster

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/bananas foster tasteofhome 230

    [1] Bananas Foster at the Bonefish Grill, looking like a more complex Banana Split. [2] It’s harder to sauté a lengthwise half of banana without breaking it. Hence, the suggestion of slicing lengthwise and crosswise (photo Fotolia). [3] This recipe from Taste Of Home slices the bananas into coin shapes (a.k.a. chunks), easier to salute.


    Relax with a Banana Colada.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Ice Cream & Berries Shortcake

    Ice Cream Shortcake is an easy dessert, simply combining berry ice cream, fresh berries on refrigerator biscuits. It’s easier to put together than an ice cream cake, and even easier than conventional shortcake since you don’t have to whip the cream.

    We adapted this recipe from the Chefs Collaborative Cookbook.

  • If you prefer, you can use only one biscuit half per person; or spread the usually plain top biscuit half with jam.
  • Use whichever berries you prefer, or a mixture of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and/or strawberries.
    Because today is National Raspberries & Cream Day, we’re making our shortcake with raspberries.


  • Refrigerator buttermilk biscuits
  • Ice cream of choice (suggested: strawberry, other berry or vanilla)
  • Fresh berries
  • Optional: berry jam or preserves
  • Optional garnish: mint sprig, rosemary sprig, or other decorative herb you have on hand

    1. BAKE the biscuits and let cool.

    2. SPLIT the biscuits and spread the bottom half with the optional jam. If using the top biscuit half, spread with jam as desired.

    3. TOP with a scoop of ice cream and sprinkle with berries. Place the top biscuit half on the plate (jam side up if using, otherwise top side up) and serve.





    How easy is this? Refrigerator biscuits + ice cream + berries = an impressive dessert. Photos courtesy The Chef’s Collaborative.

    More than 20 years ago, some of the most revered chefs in the world—including John Ash, Rick Bayless, Susan Feniger, Nobu Matsuhita, Nora Pouillon, Michael Romano and Alice Waters—looked at the way Americans were eating and decided that they had to help change it.

  • They had watched while processed foods replaced fresh food in our supermarkets.
  • They saw family farms disappear and huge agribusiness corporations take over.
  • They worried about obesity in children and adults, and the associated illnesses.
  • And they realized that Americans were losing the joy of cooking and eating fresh food.
    In 1993, these visionary chefs founded Chefs Collaborative and vowed to use their influence to educate us, the public, about a better way to nourish ourselves that is also better for the planet.

    Their stated goal: Support small farms, healthy food and sustainable agriculture for everyone. They’ve been a significant force in the food revolution that’s improved the way Americans eat.

    Chefs Collaborative members contributed more than 115 recipes to creating a cookbook: recipes that can be made by the home cook.

    Each section (fruits, meats, vegetables, etc.) also provides information about the principles of sustainability around the ingredient, with information provided farmers, artisan producers, breeders, environmentalists, and activists.

    Get your copy of The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook: Local, Sustainable, Delicious Recipes from America’s Great Chefs.

    It’s also a great gift for anyone interested in these issues.



    RECIPE: Raspberry & Cream Croissants

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/raspberry cream croissant truwhip 230sq

    Whipped Cream & Berries

    [1] For breakfast, snack or dessert, here’s how to celebrate National Raspberries & Cream Day (photo courtesy TruWip). [2] No time to hand-whip cream? Try Reddi-Wip in Original or Chocolate (photo courtesy Reddi-Wip).


    This year for National Raspberries and Cream Day (August 7th), we had Raspberries and Cream Croissants for breakfast.

    You can also enjoy them for a snack or dessert.

    The first time we made this recipe, we used hand-whipped cream; the texture is just perfect for spreading. This morning, hungry for breakfast, we defaulted to our stand-by, Reddi-Wip.

    We had a can of Original Reddi-Wip and a can of Chocolate Reddi-Wip. Take your choice: Both were delish. And we admit to adding some chocolate chips with both.

    The winner, however, was mascarpone and raspberries.



  • 4 to 6 fresh croissants
  • 3 cups whipped cream or other topping*
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 1-1/4 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds (substitute pistachios)
  • Optional chocolate chips (ideally mini chips)
  • __________________
    *A can of Reddi-Wip does the job.


    1. MIX the TruWhip and almond extract in a large mixing bowl. Gently fold in the raspberry jam until slightly marbled.

    2. SLICE the croissants horizontally and generously spread with the cream. Top with the fresh raspberries and a scattering of slivered almonds and optional chips.

    TIP: If the raspberries are too plump such that you can’t easily eat the croissant, first cut them in half.

    We adapted this recipe from TruWhip, a dairy-free whipped topping.

    Try these variations:

  • For the whipped cream: clotted cream/Devon cream, cream cheese, crème fraîche, mascarpone, sour cream, Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla) (more about these products)
  • For a snack or dessert: vanilla ice cream
  • For the raspberries: a layer of raspberry jam or preserves, frozen raspberries

    Substitute biscuits or toast. Or top pancakes, French toast or waffles with the raspberries and cream.

    The toppings also work as a cookie spread.

    You can fold puréed raspberries into the whipped cream, or just use plain whipped cream.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Build-Your-Own No-Cook Summer Dessert Bowl

    Easy Ricotta Summer Dessert

    Sheep's Milk Ricotta

    Wasa Sesame Sea Salt Thins

    Wasa Thins

    [1] Lay out the ingredients for the easiest DIY dessert. [2] Ricotta salata, made in a mold, is salted. It’s better for a DIY with savory toppings (photos courtesy Good Eggs). [3] and [4] Crunchy Wasa Thins in Sesame & Sea Salt, also available in Sea Salt & Rosemary (photos courtesy Wasa).


    You may know ricotta from cannoli and cheesecake. They’re delicious desserts, but require some preparation.

    For summer, there’s another option: The 5 Minute Ricotta Dessert Bowl, as created by Good Eggs, a top-quality online grocer in San Francisco.

    Yes, in just five minutes you can set ingredients on the table, DIY-style, and everyone can have fun (and good nutrition!) customizing their bowls.

  • In addition to dessert, you can set out the spread for breakfast, light lunch or a sophisticated snack.
  • You can make a savory version, for breakfast, light lunch, snack or a first course at dinner.

    Ricotta is actually not a cheese but a by-product of cheese-making which uses the whey drained from other cheeses. Whey is the watery part of milk that remains after the formation of the curds. In fact, the name means “re-cooked.” Here’s more ricotta information.

    You can even make your own ricotta at home. Here’a a recipe from Williams-Sonoma.

    Turn it into a build-your-own dessert—no cooking, no heat, cool comfort food.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • Ricotta (the best you can find, 4 ounces per person)
  • Berries or other fruits
  • Nuts and seeds of choice; granola
  • Sweetness: agave or honey for drizzling
  • Optional: crème fraîche, yogurt, sour cream; for dessert, mascarpone
  • Bonus: chocolate chips, candied orange peel, dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, raisins)
  • Crackers: flatbread (we used the new Sesame Sea Salt Thins from WASA), or other cracker of choice.
    Savory Ingredient Options

    Use the same nuts/seeds, yogurt/sour cream and crackers, plus:

  • Ricotta and/or ricotta salata (photo #2)
  • Carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, green onions, radishes and/or other vegetables of choice, sliced
  • Fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, dill, parsley)
  • Hot sauce
  • Shichimi togarashi or other spice blend
  • More: capers, sliced olives, roasted red peppers, etc.

    Set out different brands, from big commercial brands or the store brand, to freshly-made ricotta from the cheese department.

    Taste each type plain: just a spoonful.

    Sheep’s Milk Ricotta

    Good Eggs uses Bellwether Farms Sheep’s Milk Ricotta in this recipe. In Italy, Sheep’s milk ricotta is preferred over any other for its delicate flavor and texture. If you can find it, grab it.

    Use it both sweet and savory dishes, including stuffed pasta (lasagna, manicotti, ravioli, shells, etc.).

  • Ricotta For Breakfast
  • Ricotta For Lunch, Dinner & Dessert


    RECIPE: No-Bake Cheesecake In A Jar

    No Bake Cheesecake

    Lemon Curd Tart

    [1] A quick summer cheesecake (photo courtesy [2] An even easier dessert: Fill tart shells with lemon curd. You can add mascarpone underneath the curd, or as a garnish (photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE).


    Want a cheesecake experience without turning on the oven?

    Here’s a recipe we adapted from Eat Wisconsin Cheese, that combines the old and the new.

  • The old: Before the invention of cream cheese in New York State in the late-1800s (see history below), cheesecakes were made of mascarpone, ricotta or other soft cheese, including goat cheese.
  • The new: Over the past decade, Mason jars have gone from uses for canning and packaging for artisan jams to containers for cocktails, desserts, layered salads, and so on.
    You can also use parfait glasses, wine goblets or anything else you have.

    You can also substitute any flavor of curd for the lemon.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 1/2 cup lemon curd (buy it or make it)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup whipping [heavy] cream
  • 1 container (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese
  • 1-1/2 cups (about 28) crisp gingersnap cookies, crushed into crumbs (substitute graham crackers)
  • 1 cup/8 ounces strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
  • Optional garnishes: candied lemon peel (recipe), citrus zest, pomegranate arils, skewered berries and/or mixed color grapes, sliced star fruit

    1. BEAT the lemon curd and honey in a mixing bowl with electric beaters, until smooth and creamy.

    2. BEAT the cream into curd mixture until smooth. Add the mascarpone and beat just until thickened. Do not overbeat.

    3. ASSEMBLE: Layer the cookie crumbs, lemon mascarpone cream and strawberries in individual parfait glasses. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used.

    4. REFRIGERATE for at least 2 hours, garnish and serve.


    Mascarpone, the Italian version of crème fraîche, but thicker and sweeter. It’s hard not to sit down with the entire container and a spoon. (Here’s the difference between mascarpone, crème fraîche, and sour cream).

    It used to be that all mascarpone was imported from Italy. American artisan cheesemakers make an even better product than what gets imported. Our favorite domestic mascarpone brands are Crave Brothers and Bel Gioioso, both in Wisconsin, and Vermont Creamery.

    Mascarpone is often refer to as Italian cream cheese; but please, don’t think of this rich, lush, soft fresh cheese as anything resembling a brick of foil-wrapped soft cheese filled with gum.

    Made from cream, not milk, mascarpone is the richest fresh cheese, ranging in butterfat content from 70% to 75%. It has a subtle natural sweetness, but can be used in savory recipes and toppings as well.

    As points of reference: A French double-crème Brie or Camembert has 60% to 75% butterfat. French triple-crème cheeses must have a butterfat content of 75% or more. Butter has a minimum of 80% fat in the U.S., 82% in France; going up to 86% for premium butters.

    In the U.S., mascarpone is most often associated with desserts, especially the classic tiramisu or as a topping for berries. But it can be used in savory recipes as well—pasta sauce, savory tarts/tartlets, stuffed chicken and tortas, among others.

    The name likely derives from “mascarpia,” the local dialect term for ricotta, because both ricotta and mascarpone are made by very similar processes. Mascarpone could have been a glorious accident in the preparation of ricotta.

    No cheese starter or rennet is used in its production; the moisture is drained from heavy cream using a small amount of citric acid and finely woven cloth. You can make it at home. Here’s a recipe.



    Mascarpone may have the distinction of being the most misspelled and mispronounced cheese.

    Too many Americans call it “marscapone,” mar-sca-PON-neh, trespassing the consonants. The correct pronunciation is mas-car-POH-neh.

    The cheese is believed to have originated in the Lombardy region of Italy, in the late 1500s or early 1600s. Lombardy, in the northern part of the country (it includes the cities of Brescia, Cremona, Mantova, Milano and Sondrio), has a rich agricultural and dairy heritage.


    In the 1870s, New York State farmers farmers began to make a soft, unripened cheese modeled after the French Neufchâtel cheese. Within a few decades, a recipe for “cream cheese” appeared, made by mixing cream into the Neufchâtel curd.

    The new soft cheese was molded into small wood block forms. Because the city of Philadelphia had a reputation for fine food, a New York-based manufacturer, Phenix Cheese Company, named its product Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese.

    It was the leading brand then as now. J.L. Kraft and Bros., established in 1909, acquired Phenix Cheese Company in 1930. The company is now called Kraft Foods Group.


    Fruit curd is a creamy spread made with sugar, eggs and butter, generally flavored with citrus juice and zest. Lemon curd is the classic variety, but lime curd and blood orange curd can be found, as can other fruit curds such as the strawberry.

    A citrus curd is refreshingly tart, as opposed to more sugary jams and preserves. Unlike lemon custard, for example, lemon curd contains more lemon juice and zest, which gives it a more piquant flavor. The butter creates a smoother and creamier texture than jam.

    Curd also can be used to fill tart shells, and as a garnish. Here’s the comparison of curd to the jelly, jam, marmalade, preserves, etc.


    Mascarpone & Fruit

    Mascarpone & Strawberries

    [1] Mascarpone, plain or flavored, can be used as a dip for fruit or cookies. The top bowl is flavored with coffee liqueur, like tiramisu (photo courtesy East Wisconsin Cheese). [2] Mascarpone has many uses. Here it’s an easy topping, piped onto fresh strawberries (photo courtesy Giant Eagle). It’s also delicious with dates.




    FOOD FUN: Rubik’s Cube Fruit & Cheese

    For a fun dessert, salad course or snack, make an edible Rubik’s Cube.

    Erno Rubik, born July 13, 1944, is a Hungarian architect and inventor. His immortality lies in his 1974 invention, the Rubik’s Cube, just one of the mechanical puzzles he’s created.

    Crafty cooks have reinterpreted the Rubik’s Cube with cubes of cake, cheese, fruit and vegetables.

    A Rubik’s Cube of fruit and cheese is a summery dessert (photos 1 and 4).

  • Start by choosing two fruits and a cheese, or three fruits. With the latter, you can still serve cheese, on a skewer on the side.
  • You need fruits that are firm and won’t brown, and semi-hard cheeses.
  • Aim for different colors (our favorite combination is watermelon, cantaloupe and good feta—not overly salty).
  • If you use kiwi, which is softer, you can peel and firm them in the freezer before slicing. It can help to slightly freeze feta, too.
  • We put out all the garnishes and sauces and let guests dress their own cubes.
    While you can make a single large cube to share, it will quickly be disasembled to serve. It’s much nicer to keep the visual for a longer time by serving individual ones with one-inch cubes.

    The key to a good-looking cube is having the patience to cut every ingredient the same size. Unless you’re a pro with a knife, you might want to get a square cookie/vegetable cutter.



  • Melon: cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple
  • Exotics: dragonfruit, jicama
  • Cheese: cheddar, feta, jack
  • Optional garnishes: chili flakes, chopped cilantro or parsley, chopped pistachios, Tajin seasoning (see below), watercress sprigs
  • Optional sauces: basil- or rosemary-infused olive oil, fruit vinaigrette (honey-lime or honey-orange juice with olive oil), fruit or vanilla yogurt sauce (thin the yogurt with kefir)/li>
  • Sharp chef’s knife
  • Ruler
  • One-inch-square cutter
  • Patience and precision

    Watermelon Rubik's Cube

    Vegetable Rubik's Cube

    Rubik's Cube Cake

    [1] Fruit & Cheese Rubik’s Cube (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs). [2] Vegetable Rubik’s Cube (photo courtesy [3] Rubik’s cake from Cookies, Cupcakes And Cardio.


    Fruit Cube

    [4] An all-fruit Rubik’s Cube (photo courtesy Laurentiu Iordache |



    1. CHOOSE the fruit and cheese combination.

    2. USE a cleaned ruler to measure; then cut the fruit and cheese into one-inch-high slabs. Next, cut the slabs into one-inch cubes, ideally with a one-inch-square cutter. Reserve the scraps for another purpose (salads, salsas, smoothies for fruit; omelets, salads, salsas for cheeses, meats and vegetables).

    3. ASSEMBLE the cube(s) on the serving plate(s). First create the base: four sides with three cubes on each side. Build the second and third layers, alternating so that no adjacent cubes are the same.

    4. GARNISH as desired. We set out different garnishes and sauces and let guests dress their own cubes.

    If you want to watch the process, check out this YouTube video. You don’t need to use sugar syrup to bind the cubes together, as is done in the video recipe.

    Veggie: For a first course, here’s an all-vegetable Rubik’s cube salad made with beets, carrots, cucumbers and potatoes (photo 2 above). You can substitute cubed ham, salami or turkey for one of the veggies.

    Cake: Here’s how to make the Rubik’s Cube Cake in photo 3.


    Made by Tajin Products, a Mexican company, this mildly spicy seasoning combines chili, lime and salt. It is delicious on fruits: citrus, cucumber, melon, and tropical fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple, etc.).

    A Mexican staple, you can find it in the Mexican foods aisle in supermarkets, in Latin American food stores, and online.

    It’s a versatile seasoning. You can use it on:

  • Cooked and raw fruit and vegetables
  • Fries, mozzarella sticks
  • Glass rimmer for cocktails or juice drinks
  • Sorbet and ice pops
  • Popcorn, eggs, etc.


    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Choctál’s Singe Origin Ice Cream

    When we first reviewed Choctál ice cream in 2007, it was a unique experience. It still is.

    The California company pioneered single origin ice cream in the two most popular flavors, chocolate and vanilla. The line—four single origin chocolate ice creams and four single origin vanillas—demonstrate how the flavor varies, based on the origin of the cacao and vanilla beans.

    This means you can have one heck of an ice cream tasting for National Ice Cream Month (July).

    It’s a memorable experience, especially for people who enjoy discerning the different flavor profiles between one origin and another in chocolate bars, olive oils, sea salts, wine grapes and so forth. The flavors of these agricultural products and others are greatly affected by their growing environment (terroir).

    In the beginning—some 4,000 years ago—there was ice cream. Here’s the history of ice cream.

    Fast-forward ahead a few thousand years—beyond the labor-intensive ice cream made by servants of the wealthy in pre-electricity Renaissance days, beyond the invention of the ice cream churn in 1851, beyond the soda fountains at neighborhood drug scores, which engendered the ice cream soda along with scooped ice cream to eat at the fountain or to take home.

    Along with home refrigerators, supermarket brands arrived in the 1950s. Many used cheaper ingredients and whipped more air into then ice cream (known as overrun) to keep gallon prices low. This engendered a USDA classification system. “Economy,” “regular” and “premium” ice creams were defined by butterfat content and overrun.

    Häagen-Daz arrived in the 1970s with even higher butterfat and lower overrun than premium ice cream, inaugurating the superpremium category. With butterfat greater than 14% (some brands have 18% and more), overrun as low as 20% and complex flavors in addition to the basic ones), there’s no rung higher to go on the classification scale—by government standards, at least.

    Some companies—including Choctál—have labeled their ice cream “ultrapremium,” but this is marketing rather than an official government standard.

    And now, there’s single origin ice cream.

    The term is not currently regulated in the U.S., but single origin can refer either to a single region or at the micro level, to a single farm or estate within that region.
    It is based on the agricultural concept of terroir (tur-WAH), a French term that is the basis for its the A.O.C. system (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, or controlled designation of origin), created in the 1950s.


    Choctal Single Origin Chocolate Ice Cream

    Choctal Single Origin Ice Cream

    Choctal Single Origin Vanilla Ice Cream

    [1] A pint of Kalimantan chocolate, with beans from Borneo. [2] The four origins of chocolate and vanilla may look the same, but the tastes are noticeably different. [3] A pint of vanilla made with beans from Madagascar, the classic raised to the heights by Choctál (photos courtesy Choctál).

    These environmental characteristics gives agricultural products their character. A.O.C. and related terms like Italy’s P.D.O. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or Protected Designation of Origin.) recognize that different plots of land produce different flavors from the same rootstock. In the 1990s, the European Union created a new system to provide a uniform labeling protocol: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).
    What IS “TERROIR?”

    Terroir, pronounced tur-WAH is a French agricultural term that is the basis of the French A.O.C. (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) system. It refers to the unique components of the place (environment) where an agricultural product is grown.

    Each specific habitat (plot of land) has unique set of environmental factors that affect a crop’s qualities, down to nuances of aroma, flavor and texture. They include the climate and microclimate, weather (the season’s growing conditions), elevation height and slant of the land), proximity to a body of water, slant of the land, soil type and amount of direct sunlight.

    This means that the same rootstock that is grown in different locations produces different flavors.

    Not only will the product taste and smell somewhat different (Sauvignon Blanc can have grass or grapefruit aroma and flavor notes—or neither—depending on their terroir), but intermediate products also create a difference.

    For example, grass with more clover, wild herbs, and so forth produces a delicate difference in an animal’s milk, and thus in artisan cheese.

    Note that processing will also affect the flavor. Neighboring wine makers, for example, can use different techniques to create wines that highlight their personal flavor preferences.


    Choctal Single Origin  Ice Cream

    Choctal Single Origin  Ice Cream Cones

    Choctàl pints and cones (photos courtesy Choctàl).



    Choctàl Single Origin Chocolate Ice Cream

  • Costa Rican cacao is distinguished by sweet notes of coffee and a hint of butterscotch.
  • Ghana cacao, from the coast of West Africa, has a fudge, milk chocolate character.
  • Kalimantan cacao, from the island of Borneo in the South China Sea, produces intense cacao beans with a slight hint of caramel.
  • Dominican cacao, from the Dominican Republic on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, has a natural dark chocolate flavor profile with notes of clove and nutmeg.
    Choctàl Single Origin Vanilla Ice Cream

  • Indonesian vanilla is full-bodied, blending the creamy sweetness of classic bourbon (Madagascan) vanilla with a woody floral note.
  • Madagascar vanilla, from the island off the eastern coast of Africa, has been the world standard in vanilla for centuries, smooth and buttery. In the hands of Choctal, it may be the best vanilla ice cream you’ll ever taste.
  • Mexican vanilla has a natural touch of cinnamon. Choctàl adds more cinnamon. It obscures the single origin flavor, but makes a delicious cinnamon-vanilla ice cream.
  • Papua New Guinea vanilla has fruity, floral notes of cherry that linger on the palate during a long, lush finish.
    The line is certified kosher by OU.

    While the main experience is to taste and compared the different origins to each other, they are also splendid in everything from à la mode to floats.


    Here’s a store locator to find the nearest pint of Choctàl.

    You can also order pints and gift cards on the Choctàl website.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Meet The Wineshakes~Wine Milkshakes

    July 17th is National Ice Cream Day.

    Of course, it’s easy to head to the freezer, store or scoop shop to celebrate. But we thought you might like something special.

    Like a wineshake, a wine milkshake. Wine + ice cream = wineshake.

    Does it sound unusual? Well: The first printed reference to a milkshake dates to 1885, and referred to an alcoholic drink, a “sturdy, healthful eggnog type of drink, with eggs, whiskey, etc., served as a tonic as well as a treat.”

    By 1900, the whiskey and eggs were gone, and the term “milkshake” referred to “wholesome drinks made with chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla syrups.”

    Yet, the milkshake still contained no ice cream until 1922. Here’s more history of the milkshake.

    The folks at California-based Winc winery have whipped up delicious ice cream and wine milkshake recipes, combining their wines with Van Leeuwen ice cream. But you can use what you have on hand or other substitutes.

    Winc has an online store where you can purchase the wines and send gift cards. We want them just to display the names and label designs: a work of art in wine bottles, so to speak. The wines are well-priced, so this is art we can afford!


    Ingredients Per Shake

  • 1/2 cup cookies and cream ice cream
  • 2 ounces Alchymist Noir Red Blend (Syrah, Barbera and Valdiguié) or other “big red”
  • Giant drizzle chocolate syrup
  • Garnish: more chocolate syrup for drizzling
  • Garnish: Oreo cookies, mix of crushed and whole
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream

    1. BLEND the ice cream, wine, and big drizzle of chocolate syrup until you reach the desired consistency of your shake. We mixed ours in the blender, but you can use an immersion blender, cocktail shaker or whatever you have at hand.

    2. POUR the shake into a glass. Top with more chocolate syrup and add the Oreos. Drizzle the top with more chocolate syrup and top with whipped cream as desired.


    Cookies & Cream Wine Shake

    Chocolate Wine Shake

    Strawberry Rose Wine Shake

    Vanilla Sparkling Wine Shake

    Shake it shake it baby: Wineshakes from Winc winery (photos courtesy Winc).



    Ingredients Per Shake

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate ice cream
  • 2 ounces Porter & Plot Pinot Noir or other Pinot
  • Chocolate syrup, for drizzling
  • Garnish: chocolate chips, fresh cherries with stems

    2. BLEND the ice cream and wine until you reach your desired consistency.

    2. POUR into a glass, drizzle with chocolate syrup and top with chocolate chips, then the cherries.


    Alchymist Pinot Noir

    Au-Dela Dolcetto

    [1] Winc’s Alchymist Noir Red Blend. [2] Au-Delà Sparkling Dolcetto*, a dry sparkling red wine. Au-delà means “beyond” in French (photos courtesy Winc).



    Ingredients Per Shake

  • 1/2 cup strawberry ice cream
  • 2 ounces Ruza White Zinfandel or other White Zin
  • Fresh strawberries
  • Garnish: more strawberries, for garnish
  • Optional: whipped cream

    1. BLEND the ice cream, wine, and a handful of strawberries to taste, until you reach the desired berry flavor and shake consistency.

    2. POUR into a glass. Top with whipped cream and garnish with more strawberries.

    Ingredients Per Shake

  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 2 ounces Au-Delà Sparkling Dolcetto* or other sparkling red wine
  • Fresh mixed berries
  • Garnish: whipped cream, more berries

    1. BLEND the ice cream, wine, a big handful berries to taste, until you reach desired berry flavor and shake consistency.

    2. POUR into glass. Top with whipped cream, and garnish with more mixed berries.


  • A float is a carbonated soft drink—cola, root beer, etc.—with a scoop of ice cream “floating” in it.
  • A milkshake blends together ice cream, milk and flavoring.
  • A malted milk, malt for short, is a milkshake with added malted milk powder†.

    National Vanilla Milkshake Day is June 20th; National Chocolate Milkshake Day is September 12th.

    See all the food holidays.

    *Dolcetto is a red wine grape from the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy. It is now planted in Australia and the U.S. as well. Other sparkling red wines include Brachetto d’Acqui, Lambrusco and Sparkling Shiraz, among others.

    †Malted milk is a powdered gruel made from a mixture of malted barley, wheat flour, and evaporated whole milk. It was originally developed by a pharmacist, James Horlick, as a nutritional supplement for infants. Soon enough, parents discovered how tasty it was…and the rest is history.



    © Copyright 2005-2016 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. All images are copyrighted to their respective owners.