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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 Gluten-Free

PASSOVER: Danny Macaroons

Passover is around the corner, and macaroons are on the menu. The soft, coconut cookies are a delight year-round, but especially appreciated by Passover observers. Made of shredded coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and egg whites—without the flour or leavening that are verboten during this holiday—they happily replace other baked sweets. (They’re gluten-free, too.)

Dan Cohen of Danny’s Macaroons and author of The Macaroon Bible, is one of the country’s—and probably the world’s—great macaroon makers. Beyond his grandmother’s plain and chocolate dipped, he’s brought macaroons into the new flavor age.

The cookies are made with kosher ingredients, but are not kosher for Passover. Still, those who observe the spirit of the law if not the letter of it, will enjoy every bite.

DANNY MACAROON FLAVORS

Just take a look at these choices:

 

the-macaroon-bible-230

Get the book and bake your own! Photo courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

  • Amarena Cherry, topped with an semi-candied cherry
  • Baileys McRoons
  • Bourbon
  • Black Chocolate Stout
  • Chocolate Almond
  • Chocolate Banana Nut
  • Chocolate Caramel
  • Chocolate Dipped
  • Chocolate Malted
  • Guava
  • Jamstand Surprise with spicy raspberry jalapeño jam
  • Maple Pecan Pie
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly
  • Plain Coconut
  • Red Velvet
  • Rice Pudding
  • Spiced Pumpkin
  • Stoopid, coconut macaroons are filled with potato chips, pretzels and pieces of Butterfinger, then drizzled with dark chocolate (how this relates to stupid, we can’t say)
  •  
    Get yours at DannyMacaroons.com.

     

    box-danny-macaroons-southportgrocery-230

    How many flavors do we want? All of them!
    Photo courtesy Southport Grocery.

     

    THE HISTORY OF MACAROONS

    “Macaroon” means different things to different people. To some, it’s a big ball of coconut, to others, a delicate, airy meringue. Both are delicious and neither is made with flour, making them options for gluten-free observers and for the Jewish holiday of Passover.

    The first macaroons were almond meringue cookies similar to today’s Amaretti di Saronno, with a crisp crust and a soft interior. They were made from egg whites and almond paste.

    Macaroons traveled to France in 1533 with the pastry chefs of Catherine de Medici, wife of King Henri II. Two Benedictine nuns, Sister Marguerite and Sister Marie-Elisabeth, seeking asylum in the town of Nancy during the French Revolution (1789-1799), paid for their housing by baking and selling the macaroon cookies, and thus became known as the “Macaroon Sisters” (the French word is macaron, pronounced mah-kah-RONE).

    Italian Jews adopted the cookie because it has no flour or leavening, the agent that raises and lightens a baked good, such as baking powder and baking soda (instead, macaroons are leavened by egg whites).

     

    The recipe was introduced to other European Jews and became popular for Passover as well as a year-round sweet.Over time, coconut was added to the ground almonds in Jewish macaroons, and, in certain recipes, completely replaced them.

    Coconut macaroons are more prevalent in the U.S. and the U.K.—and they’re a lot easier to make and transport than the fragile almond meringues that became the norm in France.

    Here’s more macaroon history.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Crunchmaster Popped Edamame Chips

    bag-bowl-230

    Chips for wasabi lovers. Photo by Elvira
    Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    We love Crunchmaster: The multigrain crackers were a Top Pick Of The Week. They can be used for anything from snacking to garnishing to making a savory crust.

    Crunchmaster crackers are Japanese-inspired, from the rice used to make them to usuyaki, the art of handcrafting, aging and baking rice crackers on open grills. The American versions are made in Illinois and Nevada from California rice.

    Now, in an even more East-meets-West flavor profile, the company has launched Popped Edamame Chips, rice flour combined with edamame (see below) and seasonings. There are two flavors:

  • Wasabi Soy
  • Sea Salt
  •  
    The chips are light in texture and very crunchy. Both are very tasty, but we love wasabi so Wasabi Soy is a slam dunk.

    Ready to try them? The store locator does not come up in the Firefox (Macintosh) browser, but we were able to access it via Safari.

     
    There’s also an online store and a $1 coupon.

    Rice is a gluten-free grain and the line is certified gluten free.

     

    WHAT ARE EDAMAME?

    Edamame, pronounced eh-dah-MAH-may, are baby soybeans, boiled in salted water and served whole as a snack or appetizer. They can be further flavored with rice wine, Szechuan pepper, nanami togarashi or Chinese Five Spice.

    The name is Japanese for “twig bean” (eda = twig” + mame = bean), referring to young soybeans cropped with their twig (i.e., on the stem). You can find them served this way in Japan, but edamame are an imported product. With the exception of a few ultra-premium Japanese restaurants that import them on the twig, you’ll see the “mame” but not the “eda.”

    The green soybeans in the pod are picked prior to ripening (when they turn into the familiar beige soybean color).

     

    edamame-burpee-230

    Edamame, baby soybeans. Photo courtesy Burpee.

     

    A popular snack, the boiled soybeans are eaten by pushing them directly from the pods into your mouth; the shell is not eaten. Frozen edamame are available in the pod or shelled.

    Edamame have become a popular addition to recipes as well. Add them to salads, stir-frys, casseroles, soups and almost any savory food. Make a healthy dip. Edamame are attractive garnishes on any food, from baked and mashed potatoes to steaks and chops. They can be served hot, cold or at room temperature.

    And now, turn them into snack chips!

    Edamame are perhaps the healthiest vegetable you can serve. Check out the health benefits of edamame.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Chubby Wubby Cookies

    rasberry_chubby_wubby-damngoodcookies

    Raspberry Chubby Wubby cookies. Photo
    courtesy Cake Chicago.

     

    Gifted cake maker Mary Winslow of Cake Chicago also turns out “Damn Good Cookies” and “Ugly Truffles.” Everything is primo quality and delicious.

    Mary calls her chocolates and cookies “laid back luxury sweets.” The wedding cakes are anything but laid back: both classic and modern designs. If you like looking at wedding cakes, there are dozens in the photo gallery. We picked up a few ideas.

    But before you pop the question (or are the popee), send someone some Chubby Wubby for Valentine’s Day. There’s nothing Valentinesque about them, but anyone who’d rather have chocolate cookies than chocolate candy will be thrilled.

    For gluten sensitive Valentines, there’s a gluten-free version (along with gluten-free brownies and chocolate chip cookies).

     

    Chubby Wubby sandwich cookies are soft, rich, chubby chocolate cookies—about two bites worth—studded with chocolate chips. The sandwich layer flavors are universal favorites:

  • Chubby Wubby Chocolate Cookie—gluten free
  • Chubby Wubby Hazelnut Cream Cookie
  • Chubby Wubby Mint Cookie
  • Chubby Wubby Caramel Cookie
  • Chubby Wubby Peanut Butter Cookie
  • Chubby Wubby Raspberry Cookie
  •  
    A 12-piece box is $25, a 16-piece box $34. Get yours at Cake-Chicago.com.

     

    peanut_butter_chubby_wubby-230

    Peanut butter Chubby Wubbies: a new way to enjoy chocolate and PB. Photo courtesy Cake Chicago.

     

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Way Better Snacks Sprouted Tortilla Chips

    Lovers of salty, crunchy snacks are advised by nutritionists to go for whole wheat pretzels or corn chips, which aren’t quite a whole grain but not refined like white flour, either.

    They’d certainly endorse these sprouted, lower sodium, lower saturated fat, high omega 3, high antioxidant tortilla chips that just happen to taste great.

    Way Better Snacks has created the tortilla chip one better by sprouting the corn. Nutritionists have been touting the superior nutritional benefits of sprouted foods for years. There’s more about sprouting below.

    The company also makes sprouted pita chips and crackers. They sent their line of tortilla chips for us to taste. The products are certified gluten free, kosher, Non-GMO Project Verified and vegan, with bags available in 5.5-ounce and individual 1.25 ounce sizes.

    The chips are really tasty and also very good looking (the beautiful texture looks great set before guests). Flavors include:

  • No Salt Naked Blues Tortilla Chips
  • Simply Beyond Black Bean Tortilla Chips
  • Simply So Sweet Chili Tortilla Chips
  • Simply Sunny Multigrain Tortilla Chips
  • Simply Unbeatable Blues Tortilla Chips
  • Zesty Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips
  •  

    For the holidays, Cranberry Punkin (not a typo). Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     
    For the holidays there’s the limited edition Season’s Eatings Oh My Sweet Punkin Cranberry Tortilla Chips. They, like the rest of the line, taste great; although we simply must engage our inner grinch to protest the precious misspelling of pumpkin, which seems totally out of character with the mission of this brand.

    (“What is ‘punkin’?” asked our photographer, a fluent English speaker with the impeccable grammar of a well-educated foreigner who learned the language where it is taught best these days: in a school outside of America.)

     
    *Masa, also called corn masa flour or masa harina, is used to make tamales, tortillas and other foods. Masa harina means “dough flour” in Spanish. In the process of making masa from corn kernels (which are whole grains), the corn are nixtimalized (soaked in an alkaline solution), which softens the tough pericarp (hull, bran), which floats to the surface and is skimmed off. However, the endosperm and the germ remain intact.

     

    Sweet potato + sprouted corn = tasty,
    nutritious chips. Photo by Elvira Kalviste |
    THE NIBBLE.

     

    WHY SPROUTED FOODS ARE MORE NUTRITIOUS

    According to the company (and other sources), sprouting is the key to enhanced nutrition. We know that beans, grains, nuts and seeds play an important role in a healthy diet. What is less well known is that they are all difficult to digest and their nutrients can be poorly absorbed.

    Every seed, grain and bean contains natural enzyme inhibitors and barriers like lectins, phytic acid and tannins, which interfere with digestion and absorption. The way to overcome these inhibitors is to sprout the seed.

    Sprouting creates enzymes which start the seed on its way to becoming a plant. When this process begins, the natural enzyme inhibitors that protect them from being digested are no longer present and the nutrients are consolidated, without changing the taste. The plant proteins, essential fatty acids, starches and vitamins become bioavailable for human digestion, resulting in a multifold increase in nutrient absorption.

     
    And of course, enjoy enjoy Better Way Tortilla Chips for the great taste!

    Here’s more information about sprouting.

    Discover more about Way Better Snacks at GoWayBetter.com.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK & GIFT: Macarons From Dana’s Bakery

    White Chocolate Peppermint Bark, a seasonal
    macaron flavor. Photo courtesy Dana’s
    Bakery.

     

    Dana Loia, we want you to be our new BFF.

    Dana is the creative force behind Dana’s Bakery, specializing in macarons. Her macarons rock—even more than other good macarons, because she’s quite the flavor artist as well as a designer, creating beautiful “painted” custom macarons.

    This is the second career for the honors graduate of the Pastry and Baking program at New York’s Institute of Culinary Education. Photography’s loss is macaron lovers’ gain. (If you want learn how to bake your own, Dana gives classes in her northern New Jersey bakery.)

    While many macaron specialists stick with the classics—chocolate, coffee, lemon, pistachio, raspberry and vanilla—Dana takes a page from the cookbook of Parisian macaron masters Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, who continue to bring forth new flavors to tempt foodie palates. A Dana’s Bakery bonus: Her macarons are certified kosher (and all macarons are gluten-free, made with almond flour).

     
    FAB FLAVORS

    Dana’s vision was to create an artisanal line of American flavor-inspired macarons. No raspberry and vanilla for her; instead, think of all your favorite sweet flavors, from Banana Split and Key Lime to Strawberry Shortcake and Watermelon.
     
    There are seasonal flavors, too: Imagine Caramel Apple or Candy Corn Macarons for Halloween, the latter with a kernel of candy corn on top of the ganache. (“I could eat these every day of my life, literally,” says Dana.)

    HOLIDAY FLAVORS

    For the holidays, there are Gingerbread Man, White Peppermint Bark and Chocolate Molten Mac.

    In addition to the holiday flavors, the current lineup includes Birthday Cake, Cookie Dough, Cup of Joe, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Fruity Cereal, Red Velvet, Thin Mint, S’mores.
     
    CUSTOM MACARONS

    Dana’s impressive macarons have attracted such prestigious corporate clients as Chanel, Martha Stewart Weddings and Vogue, where she creates custom designs from leopard-spotted macarons to gold or silver beauties. Your corporate logo can grace the top of the macarons.

    Need a wedding favor? Silver macs with Champagne ganache sounds good to us!

     

    TIME FOR A TREAT

    What can we say about these melt-in-your-mouth bites of heaven except GET YOURS TODAY. Head to DanasBakery.com.

  • Give yourself a gift subscription to the Mac of the Month Club 3, 6 and 12 month subscriptions.
  • Send a gift box or a gift subscription to a deserving foodie.
  • Get a MacDaddy macaron tower in Christmas colors (or any other colors) for Christmas or New Year’s Eve parties
  •  
    All macarons are gluten-free, made with almond flour, egg whites, sugar and flavors; the line is certified kosher by KOF-K.
     

    MORE ON MACARONS

     

    Elegant comfort food: PB&J macarons. Photo courtesy Dana’s Bakery.

     

    The history of macaroons and the difference between macaroons and macarons.

      

    Comments

    STOCKING STUFFERS: Conventional & Sugar Free Sweet Treat Favorites

    Sugar free bridge mix, licorice and Gummi
    Bears (inside package) from Nuts.com. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Nuts.com is a third-generation purveyor of nuts, dried fruits, chocolates and other sweets. They offer some 3,000 items sold by the pound, but will also package the wares into snack packs, 3.2 ounce bags sold in packs of 12. The 12-packs range from approximately $18 to $24, creating an inexpensive stocking stuffer that has a higher-value appearance.

    We love the snack packs as stocking stuffers or party favors, the cheery green bags hinting at the goodies inside. There are hundreds of sweet options, that you can search by category (or however you like):

  • Chocolate: bark, gourmet PB cups, chocolate-dipped fruit
  • Classic treats: just about everything you can name, from malt balls to chocolate-covered ginger, grahams and marzipan
  • Gluten-free, organic and raw options
  • Nutritious treats: dried fruits and edamame, energy squares, nuts, trail mix and fun items like freeze-dried chickpeas, broccoli and spinach
  • Nuts: chocolate covered and bridge mix, yogurt covered, candied, sugar roasted
  •  

  • Sugar-Free: chocolate covered nuts, espresso beans, bridge mix, and pretzels; hard and soft candies (jellies, gummies); mini peanut butter cups; licorice; yogurt raisins and more—an impressive sugar-free selection
  •  
    There are also Gummy Sugar Plums for gifting or as a garnish for cakes, cupcakes or other desserts.

    Check out all the options (well, maybe not all 3,000) at Nuts.com.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Cheeky Monkey Peanut Butter Puffs

    A tasty, gluten-free snack—organic and
    kosher, too. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    Imagine if cheese puffs tasted like peanut butter instead of cheese, and you’ve got Cheeky Monkey Peanut Butter Puffs.

    They’re airy, peanutty, kosher, gluten free and organic.

    The ingredients are simple: organic corn, organic palm oil, organic peanut butter and salt. Produced by Hasadeh Organic, the melt-in-your-mouth snack is good for everyone from toddlers to grown-ups.

    The bags, graced with a humorous monkey juggling peanuts, make fun stocking stuffers and party favors.

    The snacks are gluten free certified by Gluten Free Certification Organization, and certified kosher (parve) by OU.

  • A 2.12-ounce bag is $2.49 on Amazon.com.
  • A case of 12 bags is $31.55.
  • For those who like a spicy kick, there are Peanut Butter Chili Pepper Puffs.
  •  
    Learn more at CheekyMonkeyOrganic.com.

     

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Ian’s Sausage Pancrepes

    Really tasty: Ian’s Sausage Pancrepes. Photo
    courtesy Elevation Brands.

     

    More than 10 years ago, a concerned dad learned that his son, Ian, had multiple food allergies. He set off on a journey to develop a line of kids’ favorites, so Ian and other children with allergies wouldn’t have to miss out.

    “Can you imagine going through life unable to eat pizza or onion rings or a chocolate chip cookie?” says Chuck Marble, CEO of Elevation Brands? “Imagine sitting down at the dinner table and everyone else gets to eat chicken tenders or fish sticks except you.”

    If the rest of the line is as delicious as the Sausage Pancrepes we just demolished, everyone will be scrambling to enjoy the products. Nothing in the very tasty pancakes gave any hint of a dietary restriction. The box front told a different story: NO wheat or gluten, NO milk or casein, NO nuts, NO soy.

     

    But NO here means YES, it’s delicious. The box of four small sausages wrapped in pancakes (9 ounces net weight) was an instant hit, without the need for maple syrup or any other seasoning. They went quickly, and we could only wish for a few dozen more boxes.

    Ian’s manufactures approximately 40 allergy-friendly foods for every time of the day: breakfast, entrées, desserts, snacks and sides. There are gluten-, dairy- and soy-free Mac & No Cheese; gluten-free chicken patties and tenders; onion rings and more.

    There’s a store locator on the website, and if there’s no store near you, you can email your local retailer’s information to their sales team.

    For more information, visit IansNaturalFoods.com.

      

    Comments

    GLUTEN FREE: Glutino Toaster Pastry

    THE NIBBLE’s gluten-free expert, Georgi Page, reports on another excellent product.

    Glutino Food Group has been in the gluten-free business for a long, long time, since the days when it wasn’t necessarily a cash-cow, but more of a labor of conviction.

    They claim that their strategy is to simply “shut up and listen” and I have tasted enough to honestly believe them: The proof is in the pastries! Their responsiveness to what their market craves, and their brilliance at translating it, shows in the quality of their gluten-free products. And not just the quality, but the satisfaction, which is so far unparalleled for a gluten-free food brand (and I have tasted plenty).

    Recently, I had a chance to revel in the latest offerings from Glutin: Toaster Pastry.

     

    A superior toaster pastry in Apple Cinnamon or Strawberry. Photo courtesy Glutino Food Group.

     
    A treat along the lines of Pop-Tarts, the Glutino Toaster Pastry is actually more like that snack’s older, more intelligent cousin. It forsakes the cloying frosting and the candied filling with a crisp pastry that enfolds tangy, not-too-sweet apple cinnamon and strawberry fillings. It’s that breakfast-on-the run, or that late-afternoon snack with coffee or tea.

    The Apple Cinnamon is my favorite, with a flavor profile that went far beyond my expectations. It actually tastes like apples, and coming from a Minnesotan, there are few higher compliments.

    The trick is that it is in fact made with apples, with just the right amount of sweetness and spice. The crust, after toasting, is flakily satisfying without being greasy, yet still manages to have a great mouthfeel. Each pastry is 160 calories, with only 45 from fat; and the sugar content is a completely justifiable 12g. These are comparable to—or even better than—your average healthy granola bar!

     

    Mmm, delicious! Photo courtesy Glutino Food
    Group

     

    GOOD FOOD

    Nothing in the ingredients list is scary. The one ingredient I questioned, inulin, turned out to be a naturally-derived carbohydrate—a soluble fiber that can increase calcium and magnesium absorption as well as promote the growth of beneficial intestinal flora (as long as eaten in moderation)!

    The only thing that would make these better as a quick breakfast on-the-go, would be additional nutritional supplementation. But I don’t even ask that much. These pastries have already delivered something above and beyond, as Glutino manages to do every time. The brand is my gold standard.

     

    AND A COUPON!

    But as any manufacturer will tell you, the best ingredients are costly. Some retailers won’t carry these higher price point because of that, making it harder to get your hands on the line.

    To make trial a bit more affordable, here’s a link to a coupon for $.55 off of any Glutino product. Some retailers include Fresh Direct and Whole Foods, and you can find the products on Amazon.com.

    A box of 5 individually-wrapped pastries is $4.49 (90¢ each) on Amazon; a case of six boxes (30 pastries) saves a few cents.

    Here’s a store locator.

    MORE GOOD FOOD

    I cannot wrap up this review without a rave for a few of Glutino’s other standouts. The company makes a nice range of gluten-free products, from cookies to crackers, breads and pastas. The quality of what I’ve tried is unparalleled, the flavor is flawless.

  • The gluten-free pretzel chips are a big hit! Glutino’s pretzels, with their delightful crispness and shiny malty flavored coating tapped into the dormant pretzel monster within. I found that they had the perfect balance of toastiness to saltiness.
  • I also have to give kudos to Glutino’s chocolate vanilla creme cookies—but be careful, you could easily eat the whole package. I found myself putting them out of view and tip-toeing away to avoid the temptation. They are crunchy and luscious-tasting, and the creamy filling melts in your mouth.
  • I have not tried it, but am eager to sample the gluten-free spaghetti. I have no doubt it will be spectacular.
  • The line is certified kosher by Scroll K.

     
    —Georgi Page

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Zego Gluten-Free Energy Bars

    In these modern times it often seems like everything is moving at hyper-speed, and one of the first things to suffer is the quality of your diet (or your kids’ diets). Amplify that by gluten sensitivities, and the struggle to eat sanely on-the-go gets even harder.

    Enter ZEGO, a new line of virtuous gluten-free and allergy-friendly energy bars made mostly from organic sunflower seeds, but also including such nutritious ingredients as brown rice flour, pea and rice proteins and quinoa. The sweeteners are agave, brown rice syrup and tapioca syrup.

    The ZEGO bar aims high in trying to be safe for every palate and proclivity. In addition to being vegan and gluten-free, there are no nuts, no soy and no dairy (though the bars are careful to note that the facility they use also processes nuts and some of the banned ingredients above).

    So ZEGO could even be safe for those following the au courant anti-inflammatory diet. To feel even better about your purchase, ZEGO donates 20% of its profits to the Campaign for Better Nutrition—far above the 5% or 10% we are used to seeing from other brands.

    “But how does it taste?” you may ask, intimidated by ZEGO’s credentials. The answer is: delicious!

     

    A welcome new energy bar that’s gluten-free. Photo courtesy Zego Snacks.

     

    ZEGO has launched with two flavors, Sunflower, with a hint of caramel, and Chocolate with a crunchier texture.

  • Both bars have a consistency reminiscent of a PowerBar, but without the TMJ-inducing toughness of that product. ZEGO are mercifully soft and chewy.
  • Of the two flavors, I definitely preferred Sunflower, with its potent butterscotch-like flavor; but I certainly admired the rich aroma of the Chocolate bar and demolished it the minute I was done with the Caramel.
  • The bars are sweetened with combinations of Agave and brown rice syrups. The chocolate is a Dutch cocoa, but the company’s hope is to replace it with a Fair Trade brand.
  •  
    ZEGO is available for $2.50 per at retailers, and $29.99 for a box of 12 bar, at Amazon: Chocolate and Sunflower.

    The packaging is recyclable—of course.

    —Georgi Page

      

    Comments

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