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Archive for Low Calorie

TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking In Parchment, Or “En Papillote”

Today is the first-ever National Parchment Day, celebrated on the last Wednesday of June to bring awareness to those who have not yet discovered the joy of working with culinary parchment.

The holiday was created by PaperChef, a leading producer of premium culinary parchment.

The right way to declare a holiday is to submit a proposal to the federal government, state or local government. A less official way to do it is to submit it to the National Day Calendar a commercial venture originally begun as a hobby by two enthusiasts in North Dakota.


Culinary parchment paper, also called kitchen parchment and bakery paper or baking paper, is a cellulose-based paper that provides a disposable, non-stick surface. It is a popular aid for oven cooking: It saves greasing and enables easy clean-up.

It also is used to create a packet for moist-heat cooking in the oven—for fish and shellfish, poultry, vegetables and so on. The French call this technique en papillote (on poppy-YOTE); it is al cartoccio in Italian, and cooking in parchment in English. The food is put into a folded pouch (parcel) and then baked in the oven.

You can also cook in parchment on a grill, up to 425°F, using a metal plate on the top rack and closing the lid. Unlike aluminum foil, the parchment won’t scorch.

Don’t confuse parchment with waxed paper, which has a thin coating of wax on each side to make it nonstick and moisture-resistant. Unlike parchment paper, it is not heat-resistant; the wax can melt and the paper can ignite in the oven. Parchment paper is impregnated with silicone, which prevents it from catching fire.

But you can do the reverse: In most applications that call for wax paper as a non-stick surface, you can substitute parchment.

Culinary parchment has only been available since the 19th century. The earliest reference we have found is in the London Practical Mechanics Journal in October 1858.

We don’t know when it was applied to culinary use. Some sources cite the early 20th century. The 1858 reference suggests architects’ and engineers’ plans (today’s blueprints), tracing paper, bookbinding and maps.


Salmon En Papillote

Chocolate Chip Cookies Baked On Parchment

[1] Salmon cooked in folded parchment paper (photo courtesy PaperChef). [2] Cookies baked in a pan lined with parchment (photo courtesy Jules | Wikipedia).


Before cooking parchment, according to the website of The Telegraph, a daily newspaper in the U.K., “cooks would have used normal sheets of whatever white paper was on hand.” The article references a cookbook from 1823 by Mary Eaton, for baking beef in an earthenware dish covered in “two or three thicknesses of writing paper.” She warns against using brown paper, because “the pitch and tar which it contains will give the meat a smoky bad taste.”

More options in olden times:

  • Oil-soaked or buttered paper, for baking and roasting. Buttered paper was put on top of a roast to stop it from cooking too quickly—the way we use foil today.
  • Fish was cooked en papillote in a parcel of paper brushed with olive oil. Fish was cooked en papillote in a parcel of paper brushed with olive oil.
  • Brandy-soaked paper circles were used to seal fruit jams and preserves.
  • Beyond skimming, excess grease was removed from the top of a stock or soup with ink-blotting paper. Today, paper towels do the trick.
    Parchment used as writing paper dates to ancient Egypt. It is a completely different animal, so to speak: It is made from sheep and other animal skins, and was first created as scrolls, with the skins trimmed and stitched together as required. Animal parchment is still used for applications from college diplomas to religious texts.

    What the two parchments—animal and vegetable—have in common is their creamy white color.


    Salmon In Parchment

    Vegetables In Parchment

    Paperchef Parchment Bag

    [1] You can add a sauce or create one. Here, compound butter will melt to flavor the fish and vegetables (photo courtesy [2] Vegetables cooked in parchment: so much more delicious than steaming but the same calories (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma). [3] There’s no need to fold paper: Just put the contents in a parchment bag [photo courtesy Paperchef).


  • Low-fat cooking with fewer calories: You can cook healthier meals, without the need for added fat. No vitamins are “washed way” in the cooking process.
  • Convenience: The parchment packets may be prepared up to a day in advance, and are perfect for a single serving when you are cooking for one. It’s non-stick, non-scorching, and clean-up is a snap. Leftovers can be reheated in the oven without drying out (or becoming mushy, as with the microwave).
  • Flavorful and tender: Moist heat cooking captures and imbues the food with anything you add to the packet: aromatics (garlic, ginger, scallions, sliced lemon or lime), herbs, spices, wine and liquids from coconut milk to sauce and stock. The method produces very tender meat and vegetables.
  • Simple yet elegant: Parchment entrées are impressive at the dinner table. At a restauraunt, it is traditional for the maitre d’ to slice open the paper in front of the guest, delivering a delightful gust of aroma. At home, when everyone cuts open his or her packet, the effect is the same.
  • Environmentally friendly: Parchment is 100% biodegradable and FSC* certified.
  • Kosher: PaperChef is kosher-certified by Star-K and OU. Reynolds parchment and foil are certified kosher by OU.
    *Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification means that the materials have been sourced in an environmentally-friendly, socially responsible and economically viable manner.


    More many decades, cut sheets, or those cut from a roll of parchment, were the options for lining baking pans, cake and pie tins, casseroles and the like.

    Different formats evolved to meet consumer needs.

  • Parchment sheets are the most convenient way to cook with parchment paper. Simply grab a pre-cut sheet to line pans, bakeware and cookware. You can buy rectangles as well as rounds.
  • Parchment rolls are a multipurpose kitchen paper. Like foil and waxed paper, you pull out the amount you need and cut it on the serrated package edge.
  • Parchment cooking bags are a recent innovation and our favorite parchment product. Just toss the ingredients into a bag, fold and cook. It saves the time of cutting a piece of paper to size and folding into packets.
  • Parchment baking cups allow muffins to slide out of the pan—like cupcake papers for muffins. We also like them to create perfectly round baked eggs, for Eggs Benedict or other fancy preparation. Lotus cups are deeper, for larger muffins. Tulip cups are made to add panache to specialty cupcakes, with a petal-like top for an impressive presentation.

    They’re all over the Web, including on the website of




    TIP OF THE DAY: Bouquet Of Crudités

    At every party and dinner, we have a basket of crudités as a better-for- you option and for those with dietary constraints. For Mother’s Day, we’re adding some flower power with this Bouquet Of Crudités from Hidden Valley,

    Hidden Valley serves them with their Original Ranch Dressing; we’re making a nonfat yogurt dip.


    Prep time is 15 minutes.

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 2 orange bell peppers
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 2 mini orange, red or yellow bell peppers (or substitute 2 more conventional size)
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes (substitute radishes)
  • 6 snap peas
  • 6 six-inch bamboo skewers
  • Yogurt dip (recipe below)

    Crudites Bouquet

    Take an artistic approach to crudités with this vegetable bouquet (photo courtesy Hidden Valley).


    1. MAKE the dip (recipe below) and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

    2. WASH and seed the peppers. Cut jagged edges into the tops.

    3. STICK the snap peas on the skewers to create the leaves. Insert the skewers through the bottoms of each pepper and put the tomato in the center as shown. Arrange in a flower pot, vase or on a plate.


    This recipe can be served as a dip with crudités, pretzels and other snacks, or as a topping/sauce for grilled fish, meat, poultry, even burgers. You can also mix it with boiled potatoes, macaroni or shredded cabbage for a fat-free potato salad, macaroni salad or cole slaw.

    Or sweeten it and use it as a fruit dip.

    The recipe makes a small bowl of dip, or 4 sauce servings for a main course. You can use your creativity to mix and match the seasonings to your main.


  • 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt (you can substitute other plain yogurt, but Greek style is the thickest and creamiest)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, basil, chives or other favorite herb, minced

    1. BLEND the yogurt, garlic, lime juice and ginger in small bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.


    1. REPLACE the garlic with one teaspoon agave, honey or sweetener of choice. (Only lightly sweeten the dip: You want to appreciate the sweetness of the fruit, not overwhelm it.)

    2. REPLACE the herb with grated lime zest or other citrus zest (lemon, grapefruit).
    *The Hidden Valley recipe combines 1/2 cup Original Ranch Light Dressing and 8 ounces softened fat-free cream cheese, chilled until ready to serve.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Riced Cauliflower, Cauliflower Rice

    Cauliflower Risotto

    Cauliflower Rice

    Flavored Cauliflower Rice

    Top: No rice involved—this mushroom “risotto” was made by from riced cauliflower. Here’s the recipe. Center: JoyLoop brand is sold at Good Eggs | San Francisco, perhaps the most wonderful food purveyor in the U.S. Bottom: In the U.K., sells plain cauliflower rice, plus Indian, Mediterranean and Thai flavors.


    Cauliflower rice, also called cauliflower couscous, is poised for fame. There’s no actual rice involved; it’s a grain-free rice substitute made from cauliflower, that can be used in just about every rice recipe from plain boiled to fried rice to risotto.

    Cauliflower rice—cauliflower chopped in a ricer, became popular with the Paleo Diet, and it is takes time to make it from scratch.

    Fortunately, the Paleo Diet is making people more aware of it, and small producers have begun to cut and package it. It can be found minced or pulverized, fresh and frozen.

    Who invented cauliflower rice? There may be several different “inventors” who first pulverized a head of cauliflower. The Italian supplier who makes other cauliflower products for Trader Joe’s ended up with lots of leftover florets and trim. Rather than toss them, Trader Joe’s says, “We put our heads together and came up with a new product made from this extra cauliflower.”

    Cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse, a “superfood,” a term that evaluates foods based on their calorie density vis-a-vis their amount/types of nutrients. A member of the Brassica family, it is rich in immune-boosting antioxidants and vitamin C (also an antioxidant). It is low in calories and low on the Glycemic Index (GI). But there’s more:

  • Cauliflower contains more vitamin C per 100g than an orange.
  • It has a range of protective plant compounds (the antioxidants quercetin, beta carotene and caffeic acid) that help to reduce oxidative stress in the body, a key risk factor for cancer.
  • Its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and helps to alleviate symptoms of other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
  • Its sulphur compounds support detoxification in the liver, and promote levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
  • As with cauliflower mashed potatoes, you can pass it off to kids and adult finicky eaters as regular rice.

    Now here’s the rub: Cauliflower rice is not yet available as widely as it should be. But it’s poised for fame and on its way: We recently spoke with a specialty food manufacturer who will be bringing it to market soon. In the interim:


  • Trader Joe’s imports it frozen from Italy. It was so popular that as of this writing, it is sold out and the retailer is waiting for a new shipment.
  • Joyloop Foods, in greater San Franciso, sells to some California retailers and online.
  • Paleo On The Go, a meal delivery service, packages it and sells it on Amazon.
  • You can buy Green Giant Cauliflower Crumbles in a Steam In Pack. Although the crumbles are larger than riced cauliflower, you can cook them al dente and rice them.
    And of course, you can make your own from a head of cauliflower.
    *Brassica is the plant genus of cruciferous vegetables, nutritional powerhouses packed with potent, cancer-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants). They include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish/wasabi, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, rapeseed/canola, rapini, rutabaga and turnips, among others.



    Cauliflower rice can be buttered, sauced or otherwise made more flavorful by adding vegetables, herbs and/or spices. This recipe, from, advises that homemade versions will taste more strongly of cauliflower and less like actual rice, but we have no issue with the homemade “rice.” Light seasoning, butter, etc. will mask any subtle cauliflower flavor.

    Prep time is 10 minutes.
    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • Salt and pepper and/or other seasonings (herbs, spices)
  • Optional: cooking oil
  • Chopping board and knife
  • Food processor with an “S” blade, or a hand grater

    1. WASH the cauliflower and remove any leaves. Remove the main stem and set it aside for another purpose†. The fine stems that hold the florettes together need not be removed.

    2. CUT or break the florettes into chunks so they better fit into your food processor. Attach the ‘S’ blade and place the florettes into the processor bowl. Pulse until the cauliflower is the texture of couscous (course grains) or until all large lumps disappear. Do not over-process, as this will result in mushy cauliflower rice when cooked. If you have a particularly large cauliflower, or a small processor or hand grater, you may have to do this in batches.

    3. MICROWAVE for 3 minutes. Microwaving retains more moisture than dry-frying or oven baking, and is CauliRice’s preferred method. Place the cauliflower rice into a microwave-safe dish. Add a teaspoon of water—no more, or the cauliflower rice will become too wet. Cover the dish with plastic wrap or a lid. Cook for 3 minutes at 900 watts.

    4. LEAVE the cauliflower rice covered, and let it stand for another 2-3 minutes. It will continue cooking in its own heat. Add seasoning to taste and serve.


    Cauliflower Rice

    Trader Joe's Cauliflower Rice

    Top: Homemade cauliflower rice from Here’s their recipe and a video. Bottom: Cauliflower rice from Trader Joe’s.

    †You can steam and slice or purée it, finely dice or slice and add to salads, add to soups and stews, etc. You can also stick it in the freezer and decide later.


    1. HEAT a tablespoon of your preferred cooking oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the cauliflower bits and spread evenly across the base of the pan. Cover the pan and cook for approximately 7-8 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the cauliflower is slightly crispy on the outside but tender on the inside. If you prefer a less crispy cauliflower rice, add a tablespoon of water to the pan about halfway through cooking—but be sure to cook this added moisture off before serving.

    2. Add seasoning to taste, and serve.

    Oven cooking produces a drier, crunchier cauliflower rice that some people prefer, although it gives a less rice-like effect.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Spread the cauliflower pieces evenly across a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the cauliflower every 5 minutes or so.

    2. REMOVE from the oven, add seasoning to taste and serve.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Mussels At Home

    One of our favorite bistro foods is Moules Marinières (mool marin-yair), Sailor-Style Mussels. The mussels are steamed in a flavorful broth, to which they add their briny juice.

    We recently had a pot of the classic dish at Restaurant Dominique in Greenwich Village—a handsome room with big windows facing charming West Village streets.

    We not only ate every mussel; we scraped the pot for every last bit of the divine broth. We can’t wait to go back for more mussels…and everything else on the classic bistro menu.

    There’s also a mussels restaurant in New York City that serves 21 different variations, from the classic (white wine broth with garlic, shallot, parsley) to cuisine-specific riffs.

    We’ve tried everything from Indian Moules (cinnamon, curry, garlic, star anise, white wine) to Mexican Moules (calamari, chipotle in adobo, chorizo, posoles), even Meatball Moules (meatballs, tomato, onion, garlic, pesto, Parmesan cheese).

    During our most recent mussels foray, we however, we were reminded of how cramped and noisy the restaurant is; not to mention that one needs to book a table days in advance. The next day we came across the following recipe from Chef Eric LeVine, for our favorite Moules Marinières: Thai curry with coconut milk and lemongrass.

    We were hit with a blinding revelation of the obvious: We can make this at home in short order. Mussels are $4 a pound, compared with a $25 restaurant serving.

    If you don’t like Thai flavors, find a recipe for what you do like. Here’s one for classic Moules Marinières, plus how to buy and clean mussels.

    Steamed mussels are low in calories and gluten free.


    Ingredients For 4 First Courses Or 2 Mains

  • 8 sprigs cilantro, separate leaves and stems and roughly chop both
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 small shallots, sliced thin
  • ½ teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon zest plus 1 tbsp. juice from 1 lime
  • Kosher salt
  • 15 can (15 ounces) coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus more to taste

    Raw Mussels

    Steamed Mussels

    Mussels In Coconut Curry Broth

    Top: Wild mussels from Good Eggs. Center: Into the pot (Le Creuset). Bottom: Voilà, let’s eat! (Photo chef Eric LeVine.)

  • 2 pounds fresh mussels (ours were from Prince Edward Island), scrubbed with beards removed
  • 1 small Thai or Serrano chile, thinly sliced

    1. COMBINE the cilantro stems, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 shallot shallot, the coriander seed, chili flakes, lime zest and a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. Grind into a smooth paste.

    2. SCOOP 2 tablespoons of thick cream from the top of the coconut milk into a large saucepan. Add the oil and heat over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic, shallots and ground paste plus the green curry paste. Cook for 4 minutes.

    3. ADD the remaining coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook about 3 minutes. Taste and season as desired,

    4. ADD the mussels, first discarding any that are cracked or already opened. Stir, cover and cook, shaking the pan until mussels open. Stir in the chopped cilantro, sliced chile and lime juice.

    5. DISCARD any mussels that haven’t opened in the pot. Divide the contents, including the broth, among two or four bowls.



    TIP OF THE DAY: 10+ Good For You, Quick Sauces

    We’re still in “New Year’s Resolutions Month,” and today the tip is good-for-you sauces.

    Perhaps you’ve already been cooking dinner regularly; or perhaps you’re trying to do more of it to avoid sugar-, salt- and fat-laden take-out food.

    One of the easiest ways to complete a simple home-cooked meal is to cover it with purchased sauces. That’s no better for you than take-out, as reading the nutrition labels will prove.

    Here are 10 couldn’t-be-easier sauces that are good for you, and good on chicken, fish, grains, pasta, and so forth. Before you make a sauce from a can of soup, read the ingredients label—and see how easy these alternatives are:

  • Flavored Olive Oil. Drizzle basil-, rosemary- or other infused olive oil under the main food (chicken breast, fish fillet, pasta—see top photo) or drizzle it it around the perimeter of the plate (see second photo). Use a pour-top or a squeeze bottle for a thinner drizzle. With flavors from blood orange to garlic and hot chile, you can deliver lots of flavor while enjoying your government-approved two tablespoons of olive oil daily. Here are other ways to use infused olive oil.
  • Unflavored Olive Oil & Herbs. No flavored olive oil at hand? Sprinkle in some dried herbs before drizzling. We add both to a Pyrex measuring cup, stir in a pinch of salt and pepper, and pour.
  • Balsamic vinegar. Balsamic adds great flavor to just about anything. You can layer it on top of the oil. We use a small squeeze bottle and squeeze dots of balsamic on top of the oil (very arty!). You can also use a clean medicine dropper.
  • Pesto.You can also make pesto and keep it in the fridge. Then, 10 seconds in the microwave gives you a delicious hot sauce.

  • Tomato sauce: There are many riffs on quick tomato sauce, but they all involve cooking, usually for a minimum of 25 minutes. Here’s our quickest technique, using a can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes (or other quality tomatoes). Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a sauté pan and cook a clove of sliced garlic. Add the tomatoes and sauté for a minute or two. Add salt and pepper (or red pepper flakes) to taste, plus any herbs (basil, oregano, thyme). Voilà!
  • Vegetable purée. If you have leftover cooked vegetables, purée them into a sauce. Pop them into the food processor, purée, taste and add seasonings as desired (salt, garlic salt, pepper or other heat). Thin the purée to the desired consistency with a bit of olive oil or broth.

    The easiest sauce for pan-cooked food is to deglaze the pan.

    Another French technique typically combines butter or cream with other ingredients to make an on-the-spot sauce for the just-cooked dish. The sauce is thickened by the butter or cream—two ingredients we want to cut back on.

    So here we’re substituting chicken broth (or vegetable broth) and olive oil. The ingredients below are basic, and you should already have them in the kitchen. Feel free to add whatever else you have: capers, garlic and other herbs, lemon zest, minced onion, etc.—or to substitute flavorful balsamic vinegar for the white wine vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  • Quick Mushroom Sauce. Microwave 1 cup chicken broth and 2 tablespoons finely chopped dried mushrooms until hot. Stir to combine, and pour into a hot skillet. Simmer until reduced by half, 2-3 minutes. Whisk in 4 teaspoons of milk (or cream, if you will) to form a lightly thickened sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Quick Dijon Mustard Sauce. Follow the same recipe as above, but substitute 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard for the mushrooms.
  • Quick Herbed Tomato Sauce. Heat the skillet over hot heat; combine 1/3 cup chicken broth, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, ¼ cup canned crushed tomatoes and a generous pinch of tarragon or other herb in a small bowl or mixing cup. Pour into the hot skillet, simmer for 2-3 minutes to reduce by half. Whisk in 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    You can turn any of these sauces into a creamy sauce with the addition of nonfat Greek yogurt. There’s a hitch, though: Yogurt curdles over heat and can’t be added to a hot pan. Instead, use this technique:


    Steak With Rosemary

    Grilled Salmon With Gremolata

    Steak and Gravy

    Spaghetti With Fresh Tomato Sauce

    Top: Pan-grilled steak atop a pool of garlic-infused olive oil. Photo courtesy Quinciple. Second: Grilled salmon on a plate rimmed with basil olive oil and a garnish of gremolata: finely chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest. Photo courtesy Eddie Merlot’s. Third: Have fun with it: Use a squeeze bottle to turn your sauce into polka dots or zig-zags. Photo courtesy Strip House. Fourth: A can of San Marzano tomatoes becomes a quick sauce. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

  • Spoon the yogurt into a bowl and let it warm to room temperature.
  • Temper the yogurt by stirring in a tablespoon of the hot sauce—not enough to curdle it but enough to get the yogurt used to it.
  • Blend in the rest of the sauce.
    Bon appétit!


    TIP OF THE DAY: Trim Your Cocktail Calories

    Red Cocktail Mint Garnish

    Herradura Agave Nectar

    Top: Fruit purée and flavored spirits cut the need for sugar in cocktails. Photo courtesy Pom Wonderful. Bottom: Agave nectar is a superior alternative to simple sugar. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.


    Right after the new year, we were listening to the four principals on a top morning news show discuss what they would give up for a better new year. Not one could give up drinking!

    Yet, everyone wanted to eat more healthfully.

    An obvious choice is to avoid sweet, sugared cocktails in favor of savory ones: Bloody Mary, Martini, Scotch and Soda and the like. But some people insist on a sweet cocktail.

    Mixologist Sam Fuerstman at Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C. has crafted a few lower-calorie cocktails, including a “no-guilt Gimlet” and a “cheat-free Margarita.”

    The recipes are below. Here are general tips for cutting cocktail calories:

  • Rethink simple syrup, the main cocktail sweetener, which is half sugar, half water (or worse, HFCS in a prepared mix product). Instead, use much-lower-calorie, low-glycemic agave nectar*. If you want a zero-calorie simple syrup, dissolve one part stevia or Splenda in four parts boiling water. It won’t be thick, but it will deliver sweetness.
  • Use flavor-infused spirits. They contribute flavor without extra calories, and are available in any flavor you could desire.
  • Avoid cocktails with high-calorie juices (e.g. alas, no Piña Colada).
  • Use fruit purée or freshly squeezed juice instead of store-bought juice, which may have added sugars. Take a look at Trop 50: nine different juices, including orange juice, with half the sugar and calories.
  • Use diet mixers instead of sugar-laden ones. Even if you don’t normally buy diet drinks, you can use diet tonic water, ginger ale, cola, cranberry juice, etc. in your drink.

  • Sip flavored spirits straight. They taste like a mixed drink; but remember that they’re 80 proof. To us, SKYY’s Pineapple Vodka is a low-calorie alternative to a Piña Colada. Make straight spirits more cocktail-like with crushed ice and a fruit garnish.
    *Agave nectar, also called agave syrup, has a natural sweetness that’s more elegant than table sugar. It’s never cloying or “sugary.” Its glycemic index is 32, half that of sugar (GI 60-65) and more than 40% less than honey (GI 58) and pure maple syrup (GI 54); it’s diabetes-friendly. A teaspoon of agave has 20 calories; sugar has 16 calories and honey has 22 calories. But since agave is 1.4 to 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, you don’t need to use as much (we use half as much).



    This no-guilt gimlet has a double raspberry twist: raspberry purée plus raspberry-flavored vodka.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 tablespoon homemade raspberry purée
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2 ounces raspberry vodka
  • Garnish: cucumber wheel, fresh raspberries, lime wedge or lime wheel, lemon curl
  • Ice

    1. PURÉE the raspberries in a food processor or blender. Taste; if you need more sweetness, add a bit of Splenda or agave.

    2. COMBINE with the other ingredients. You can serve the drink on the rocks, or shake it with ice and strain into a stemmed cocktail glass.



    Here, fresh fruit juice substitutes for the standard sugary Margarita mixes. Here’s how to make pomegranate juice from fresh pomegranates. You can also purchase pomegranate juice with no added sugar.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • ½ ounce of fresh pomegranate juice
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2 ounces tequila
  • Coarse salt and optional lime zest for rim
  • Ice

    1. ZEST the lime before juicing it and blend with the salt in a shallow dish. Rub the rim of the glass with a slice of lime slice to make the salt mixture stick to it; then dip the glass rim into the salt and twist to coat.

    2. SHAKE the other ingredients with ice, and then carefully pour into the glass, taking care not to dislodge any salt. Serve over ice.


    Sprite Zero substitutes for the simple syrup in a Gin Fizz.
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 fresh mint sprigs
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 2½ ounces Sprite Zero
  • Ice
  • Garnish: fresh mint sprig(s)


    Pomegranate Margarita

    Mint Cocktail Garnish

    Top: Pomegranate Margarita with homemade pomegranate juice. Photo courtesy Tony Roma’s. Bottom: Fresh mint provides flavor and aroma that trumps the lack of sugar in this Gin Fizz. Photo courtesy Junoon | NYC.

    1. MUDDLE the mint sprigs in a glass with the lime juice. Add the gin and top with Sprite Zero.

    2. POUR over ice and garnished with a sprig of mint leaves.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Red Grapefruit, The Best Winter Fruit

    Grapefruit is a winter fruit, and we’re glad to have it.

    America is the world’s largest consumer of grapefruit, with large commercial groves in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. But the grapefruit’s ancestor, the pummelo (also pomelo, pomello and other spellings), comes from far away. It’s native to Malaysia and Indonesia.


    In 1693, pummelo seeds were brought from the East Indies to the West Indies—Barbados—by an English ship commander, one Captain Shaddock. The grapefruit may have been a horticultural accident or a deliberate hybridization between the larger pummelo and the smaller sweet orange. The original grapefruit was about the size of the orange.

    Its name evolved in English to a descriptive one: The fruit grows on trees in grape-like clusters. The fruit was pretty but very sour and the thick took time to peel. For a long time, it was grown only as an ornamental tree.

    The grapefruit arrived in the U.S. in 1823, but it was not immediately popular for eating. The tart fruits had numerous tiny seeds and required a generous sprinkling of sugar.

    Growers learned how to breed selective fruits that were sweeter, and in 1870, the first grapefruit nursery was established in Florida.

    In 1885, the first shipment of grapefruits arrived in New York and Philadelphia, generated interest and helped to create the commercial grapefruit industry.

    Here’s a longer history of grapefruit.

    Most grapefruit grown is white grapefruit. But hopefully that will change: Red grapefruit (not pink) is where it’s at.

    The first grapefruits were white. Pink grapefruit, a mutation, was first discovered in 1906 in the groves of the Atwood Grapefruit Company in Manatee County, Florida.


    Sweet Scarlett Red Grapefruit

    Star Ruby Grapefruit

    Top: Sweet Scarlett red grapefruits. Photo courtesy Wonderful Fruit. Bottom: The yellow rinds often have a pink blush. Photo of Star Ruby grapefruits courtesy Specialty Produce.

    One day, a grove foreman peeled a grapefruit with the intention of eating it, and discovered that the fruit inside was pink! A local nurseryman was able to propagate the pink fruit, and it met with big success: In addition to a more pleasing color, the flesh tended to be sweeter.

    Another mutation gave us red grapefruit, which was originally discovered growing on a pink grapefruit tree in Texas. It was patented as Ruby Red grapefruit in 1929. Red grapefruit is known in agriculture as a “limb sport,” a mutation of one limb (branch) that has different fruit characteristics than the rest of the tree.

    A hit from the start, sweeter with alluring rosy red flesh, Ruby Reds are marketed under different names: Flame, Rio Red, Rio Star, Ruby-Sweet, Star Ruby, Sweet Scarletts, TexaSweet and others.

    While consumers call these different red grapefruits “varieties,” botanically it’s more accurate to call them different “selections” because they are all derived from one another as descendants of the original Ruby Reds. Each has different small attributes, tailored to succeed in different climates and soils.

    Otherwise stated, all of the different deep red grapefruits grown around the world—Rio Red in Texas, Star Ruby in South Africa, Flame in Florida, etc.—are not botanically different, but have been adapted to the the climate and soil in each region.

    Different selections also have different shades of flesh. For example, Florida’s Ruby Reds are deep pink, while Flame grapefruits have deep red flesh.


    Red Grapefruit & Avocado Salad

    Simple yet elegant: Rio Star grapefruit
    sections in an avocado half. Here’s the easy
    . Photo courtesy TexaSweet.



    Red and pink grapefruits contain lycopene, a phytochemical (antioxidant) found in tomatoes and some other red fruits and vegetables such as papaya, red carrots and watermelon. Red grapefruits have a greater concentration than pink grapefruits.

    Why are red grapefruits sweeter?

    It’s all in the weather. Sweet Scarletts, for example, are grown in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where hot days, cool nights and the unique terroir† merge to create the ideal grapefruit.

    Most red grapefruits are grown in Texas, since the The Texas climate produces the sweetest red grapefruits.

    Different regions are ready to harvest at different times; but in general, red grapefruit is available from October through March.

    We have been enjoying a box of Sweet Scarletts, and couldn’t be happier. They’re so sweet and lush, who needs ice cream?

    If you aren’t already a grapefruit lover, head to the store and bring some home. They’re sweet, juicy, and low in calories* (42 calories per 3.5 ounces of flesh). It’s one of our favorite great-tasting and great-for-you foods.

    Here are nine pages of red grapefruit recipes, from cocktails and appetizers through main courses, sides and desserts.

  • One of our favorite preparations is red grapefruit sorbet. Here’s a recipe from Emeril via Martha Stewart.
  • Red grapefruit sorbet is also delicious in a dessert cocktail. Fill a Martini glass or coupe with sparkling wine and add a scoop of sorbet. Garnish with some grated grapefruit zest.
  • Another favorite preparation: broiled grapefruit. It takes just three minutes: Sprinkle a half grapefruit with brown sugar, place on a cookie sheet and broil for three minutes. It’s ready when the sugar melts and gets crispy—the grapefruit version of crème brûlée.
    Many thanks to to Etienne Rabe, Vice President, Agronomy at Wonderful Citrus in California, for explaining the fine points of this “wonderful” fruit.
    *For those who closely monitor their nutrition, they’re high in the cancer-fighting antioxidant vitamin A; the free-radical-fighting antioxidant vitamin C; the vision-friendly flavonoid antioxidants beta-carotene, lutein, naringenin and xanthin; the dietary fiber pectin (which also lowers cholesterol); and potassium, which counters the negative effects of sodium; among other nutrients such as B vitamins. Red grapefruit also contains the powerful flavonoid antioxidant, lycopene, which protects skin from damage from UV rays and fights macular degeneration and several types of cancer.

    †Terroir, a French word pronounced tur-WAH, refers to the unique combination of geographic location, climate and microclimate, soil and temperature that creates the individual personality of an agricultural product. As in the growing of grapes for wine or beans for coffee, terroir dramatically affects the flavor profiles of the product.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Biscotti Bites

    Biscotti Bites

    Almond Biscotti Bites

    Top: Each Biscotti Bite is a 12-calorie treat. Photo: Thomas Francois | FOT. Bottom: Almond, one of the three flavors of Biscotti Bites. Photo: The Bites Company.


    Every person who is mindful of calories searches for those magical foods that deliver the satisfaction without the calories. We discovered one such food in Biscotti Bites from The Bites Company.

    Before we wax poetic, note that other companies market products called Biscotti Bites. Some are miniature biscotti like Nonni’s Biscotti Bites, a product we enjoy very much.

    But The Bites Company makes little round cookies, just 1-3/8 inches in diameter.

    They’re less dense than biscotti yet still crunchy. And they deliver lovely biscotti flavor in in Almond, Cocoa and Lemon.

    Company founder Dana Upton had made traditional biscotti for 30 years. She reworked her recipe so that her cookies would still deliver a biscotti experience at 12 calories a bite.

    The recommended serving size is 10 cookies for 120 calories; 9 cookies have 3 Weight Watchers points.

    The cookies are all natural, made in small batches from scratch with top-quality ingredients. The Almond flavor evokes traditional biscotti. The Lemon flavor contains fresh lemon peel, for a lilting lemon flavor. The Cocoa flavor is more subtle; we prefer the first two.

    As for nutrition, Biscotti Bites are:

  • Are low in sodium, with no added salt.
  • Have less than 1 gram of sugar in each cookie.
  • Have the right “no” list: no canola oil, no GMOs, no high fructose corn syrup, no MSG, no soy, no trans fat.
    They are also kosher-certified, although the company is using up its supply of packaging without the hechsher.

    Biscotti Bites are sold in 4.5-ounce bags, and the Almond variety is available in 1-ounce single serve bags. You can buy them on the company website,, or head to Amazon for:

  • Almond Biscotti Bites
  • Cocoa Biscotti Bites
  • Lemon Biscotti Bites

    The MSRP for single packages is $5.99; a three-pack is $15.00. We promise, they’re worth every penny.

    They are so delicious that you can’t eat just one. Fortunately, you can have 10 at a time.

    Biscotti date back to ancient Rome. They were originally made not for a leisurely snack with an espresso, but as a long-shelf-life food that could be carried by travelers, back in the day when you were not likely to find food on the road.

    Among the travelers who took biscotti with them were the Roman Legions. Here’s the history of biscotti.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Serving Raw Mushrooms

    We really appreciate mushrooms. They’re what we call a “bonus” food: extremely low in calories and a versatile ingredient in cooked foods from omelets to rice pilaf to meat loaf to sauces.

    They’re also delicious raw. Our marinated mushroom salad is very popular (recipe below) and we typically serve mushrooms with other crudités and dip. But we were newly inspired by this mushroom carpaccio from (a produce delivery service like a CSA, but representing the best of many farmers).

    A beautiful presentation, you can make a large platter for a buffet or to pass at the table, or prepare individual plates.


    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1/2 pound white button mushrooms, wiped cleaned
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (we use basil oil or
    rosemary oil)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh herbs for garnish: basil or parsley

    Mushroom Carpaccio

    A pretty presentation: mushroom carpaccio garnished with basil leaves. Photo by Julia Gartland | Quinciple.



    Ideally use a mandolin, which makes uniform slices and can cut them as thin as possible.

    If you don’t yet have a mandoline, it’s a good excuse to get one. They don’t take up much room, and if you cook regularly, you’ll appreciate the convenience it provides in slicing fruits and vegetables, including crinkle and waffle cuts; as well as cheese and chips. You want one that’s slip-free, has multiple attachments (to make different shapes), and the indispensible hand guard. This mandoline has it all.

    1. HOLD each mushroom by the stem and use the mandoline to cut very thin slices off the top of the mushroom cap. Stop before you reach the stem. Remove the stems (they will still have some of the cap attached); you can add them to grains, omelets, sauces, soups or stocks.

    USING A KNIFE: If you don’t have a mandolin use a large, sharp knife. Lay each cap flat on a cutting board and trim one edge, slicing off 1/8″ or so. Turn the cap on its edge so that the cut side is flush against the board and the mushroom is steady on the board. Slice the mushrooms as thinly as you can.

    2. ARRANGE the mushrooms on one or two plates in overlapping concentric circles (start at the outside and work your way to the center). Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, finish the plate(s) with a generous squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve.


    Marinated Mushrooms

    Marinated Mushroom Salad

    Top: Marinated mushrooms in a lettuce cup;
    photo courtesy Taste Of Home. Bottom:
    Marinated mushrooms with a side of dressed
    greens. Photo courtesy A Shifted Perspective.



    This recipe is so flexible, you can add whatever you like: baby corn, capers, fennel, etc. You can also use other than white mushrooms, and it’s even more interesting with an assortment of mushrooms. Check out the options in our Mushroom Glossary.


  • 1 8-ounce container white mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon wine or sherry vinegar (or more to taste)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh herbs (basil, chives, dill, oregano, parsley, thyme), minced (we use two different herbs)
  • Optional ingredients for color: diced red pepper or pimento, red onions, sliced green onions or chives
  • Optional ingredients for variety: broccoli or cauliflower florets, edamame, sliced olives
  • Optional heat: 1 chili, seeded and white pith removed, finely sliced
  • Baby arugula, baby spinach, mesclun, watercress or lettuce/cabbage/radicchio cups

    1. CLEAN the mushrooms and pat dry. Place in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with the sea salt. Toss to coat thoroughly. Let stand for about 30 minutes so the salt can remove excess water from the mushrooms. Brush any remaining salt from the mushrooms with a mushroom brush or a paper towel.

    2. COMBINE the marinade ingredients in a bowl: olive oil, vinegar, garlic, lemon zest, pepper and herbs. Toss the mushrooms in the marinade to coat. (We don’t add salt at this stage because of the residue salt on the mushrooms.)

    3. COVER the bowl refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend (we often let it sit overnight). Taste and adjust the seasonings.

    4. SERVE as desired. We enjoy marinated mushrooms as a salad course, along with dressed greens.



    PRODUCT: Halo Top Low Calorie, High Protein Ice Cream


    Good stuff, fewer calories. Above, Chocolate
    and Lemon Cake. Photo courtesy Halo Top


    When we were first offered samples of Halo Top, we accepted but wondered: How good could an ice cream be at 70 or 80 calories per serving? The calories are so low, the carton promotes them in big numerals on the front of the package: 240 or 280, depending on the flavor.

    Many of the ice creams we eat contain that many calories in 1/4 cup! Otherwise stated, this ice cream has one-quarter the calories of premium brands.

    Yes, this is great ice cream for people who like to consume it by the pint.

    Halo Top was developed by an attorney who felt guilty about his ice cream habit. The lower-calorie ice ceams on the market had artificial ingredients he wanted to avoid. So he took a year and a half to develop a brand that met his criteria: all-natural, non-GMO, hormone-free milk and cream, greatly reduced calories and greatly increased protein (a major “guilt-free” factor).

    Each pint has 24 g protein. By comparison, Breyers has 10.4 g protein per pint.

    Equally noteworthy is the taste: Made with top-shelf ingredients like Belgian chocolate, organic fruits, organic cane sugar, cage-free eggs and hormone-free milk and cream, these are lovely pints!

    The line currently includes:

  • Birthday Cake*, with rainbow sprinkles
  • Chocolate, made with Belgian cocoa powder
  • Lemon Cake, textured with lemon zest
  • Mint Chip, with Belgian chocolate chips
  • Mocha Chocolate Chip*, made with Belgian chocolate chips and cocoa powder
  • Strawberry*, made with organic strawberries
  • Vanilla Bean, made with organic Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Vanilla
    *This flavor has 280 calories per pint. Flavors without an asterisk have 240 calories.



    The calories are reduced by substituting part of the sugar for non-caloric stevia and erythritol, both natural ingredients. The extra protein comes from milk protein concentrate and prebiotic fiber.

    It’s an inspired approach, a boon to ice cream fans who eat too much of it and would like to cut back somehow.

    This is how. We affirm that the ice cream deserves its halo—represented by a gold circle on the rim of the pint.

    The line is certified kosher by KOF-K and certified gluten free.

    Discover more at, including a store locator.



    Each pint has a golden halo. Photo courtesy Halo Top Creamery.




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