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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, TheBitesCompany.com, 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 TRIVIA

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 They were originally made not for a leisurely snack with an espresso, but as a long-shelf-life food that could be carried by travelers, back in the day when you were not likely to find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

     
      

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    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 Qunciple.com (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.

    RECIPE: MUSHROOM CARPACCIO

    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.

     

    Preparation

    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.

     

    RECIPE: RAW MUSHROOM SALAD

    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.

    Ingredients

  • 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
  •  
    Preparation

    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.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: [Almost] Ready To Eat, Good For You Foods

    Purdue Short Cuts

    Rebel Fish Cajun Blackened Salmon

    Swanson Mexican Tortilla Broth

    Top: Purdue Short Cuts, ready to heat and
    eat. Center: Rebel Fish salmon fillets
    microwave in 90 seconds. Bottom:
    Swanson Flavor Infused Broth, flavorful by
    themselves or with added veggies and/or
    protein.

     

    Forty-five percent of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions. The Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions include weight loss (#1) and healthier eating (#5). [Source]

    Now for the bad news:

  • Just 10% of people who fully commit to making resolutions are successful at keeping them.
  • 1 in 3 people ditch their vows by the end of January.
  • 66% set fitness goals as part of their resolutions, but 73% of them give up before meeting their goal.
  •  
    Many of us sabotage a good eating plan because it’s usually easier to make bad choices than good ones. But it’s really easy to make small fixes. Just pick three better-for-you foods to incorporate into your diet, using the new USDA Nutrition Guidelines.

    Here are some of the foods we rely on: tasty and good for you, and either ready to eat or ready to heat and eat. We promise: You won’t be disappointed.
     
    9 OPTIONS THAT ARE READY TO EAT OR READY-TO-HEAT & EAT

    When you’re tired and/or pressed for time, it’s easy to microwave something. Stock up on good-for-you products to microwave:

  • Cooked Chicken Breasts. We buy grilled, boneless, skinless, individually wrapped chicken breasts at Trader Joe’s. A package of five is under $7, and they’re shrink-wrapped for a four-week shelf life. You can find roasted cooked chicken and turkey from regional brands as well as Perdue and Tyson. Add a healthy sauce—dill-yogurt or mustard-yogurt, marinara, pesto, vinaigrette or anything with no added sugar—and microwave. Or, stop a bed of whole grain or a salad.
  • Pre-Cooked Or Frozen Fish Fillets. Rebel Fish Salmon goes from package to plate in 90 seconds. It can be cooked in all of the traditional ways (baked, broiled or pan fried), but it’s specifically designed to be microwaved. There are six flavorful rubs: Cilantro Lime, Lemon Pepper Herb, Barbeque, Maple Mesquite Smoked Sea Salt, Cajun Blackened and Thai Chili, so it doesn’t gets boring. Serve it with grain, mixed vegetables, on a Caesar salad, in a salmon taco or other good-for-you preparation.
  •  

  • Flavored Tuna, Tilpia & Salmon Pouches. Chicken Of The Sea and StarKist have 90-calorie pouches of already-seasoned fish that turn a bag of washed salad into lunch; or be used as a topper for grains or pasta. Chicken Of The Sea has the best flavored salmon options—Barbecue, Lemon Pepper, Sweet & Spicy and Sriracha—as well as flavored tuna pouches and flavored tilapia in Marinara, Santa Fe, Teriyaki and Yellow Curry. StarKist has flavored tuna Hot Buffalo, Lemon Dill and Thai flavors.
  •  

  • Whole Grains. There’s a proliferation of heat and eat grains: 90 seconds in the microwave. We like the Lundberg Heat and Eat Bowl of long grain brown rice, and the Village Harvest whole grains (freekah and three whole grain blends) that are ready in five minutes.
  • Swanson Flavor Infused Broth. This is not your mother’s diet broth, but nicely-seasoned alternatives that can be drunk straight or loaded with chopped vegetables, cooked proteins, etc. Mexican Tortilla Flavor Infused Broth, Thai Ginger Flavor Infused Broth and Tuscan Chicken Flavor Infused Broth have just 25 to 30 calories a cup, plus whatever you choose to add. We keep a container in the fridge at work for a protein-filled “coffee break.” At home, we add diced chopped vegetables (you can buy them prepared), enoki mushrooms or leftover cooked grains. And of course, these broths can be used in recipes, of which there are many on the Swanson website.
  • Low Sodium Canned Beans. Prepare them as a side, plop them into infused broth, add them to green salads. We also mix them with scrambled eggs and use them as omelet fillings.
  • Hummus. A nutritionist’s delight, America has gone hummus- happy and flavors proliferate. Even people who aren’t big hummus fans can enjoy flavors like Boar’s Head Fiery Chipotle Hummus or Tribe Everything Hummus, which has all the toppings of an “everything” bagel. Get a bag of baby carrots and you’re set for snacking.
  • Oatmeal Cups. Last year we switched to Modern Oats Oatmeal Cups as a quick microwaved breakfast. Whole grain, fast cooking and easy to eat on the go (BYO spoon), the only question is the 17 grams of sugar. But compared to the bagels, toast, breakfast pastry we used to eat, it’s a way better choice. Pick Nuts & Seeds over the fruit flavors for 14 grams of sugar, plus added nutrition from the nuts and seeds.
  • Fruit Desserts & Snacks. Fresh berries, frozen banana slices and baked apples are some of our go-tos. But at 90 calories per serving, Bare Apple Chips are like candy to us, even though there’s no sugar added. This is a brilliant product from BareSnacks; Try it and you’ll be hooked. You can also make a low-calorie dip by adding noncaloric sweetener and cinnamon to plain fat-free yogurt, but really, the chips alone are just heavenly.
  •  
    What are your go-to, good-for-you foods? Let us know!

     

    Flavored Tuna Pouches

    Low Sodium Canned Beans

    Oatmeal Cups

    Bare Fruit Apple Chips

    Top photo: Flavored tuna pouches are really yummy. Second photo: Low-sodium canned beans can be served at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Third photo: Oatmeal cups are convenient and so much better than bagels and doughnuts. Bottom photo: The best sweet snack with no added sugar.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Mimosa Cocktail

    Cranberry Mimosa Cocktail

    Make Cranberry Mimosa cocktails or mocktails. Photo courtesy Ocean Spray.

     

    There’s still time to create a signature drink for Christmas: a Cranberry Mimosa cocktail or mocktail. It combines cranberry juice with sparkling wine (or ginger ale), instead of the orange juice of a traditional Mimosa.

    Or use cranberry liqueur for a Cranberry Kir Royale, a.k.a. Kir Royale à la Canneberge (if you haven’t guessed, canneberge [can-BERZH] is French for cranberry). Note that using liqueur instead of juice creates a stronger drink.

    You can also serve a Mimosa mocktail with cranberry juice and ginger ale, and a diet version with diet cranberry juice and diet ginger ale.

     
    RECIPE: CHRISTMAS MIMOSA, CRANBERRY KIR ROYALE OR CRANBERRY MOCKTAIL

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces cranberry juice or cranberry liqueur
  • 4 ounces sparkling wine*, regular or rosé, chilled
  • Optional garnish: lemon curl, strawberry
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cranberry juice/liqueur and the sparkling wine in a Champagne flute or wine glass. Add the juice first. If you need to stir, do so gently, once, so as not to collapse the bubbles.

    2. GARNISH as desired and serve.
     
    *Well-priced sparkling wines include Asti Spumante and Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, Crémant from France and our Top Pick Of The Week, Yellow Tail Bubbly.

     
    THE HISTORY OF THE MIMOSA COCKTAIL

    The Mimosa, a cocktail composed of equal parts of orange juice and Champagne or other dry, white sparkling wine, was invented circa 1925 in the Hôtel Ritz in Paris, by bartender Frank Meier. Served in a Champagne flute, it is believed to be named after the the mimosa evergreen shrub (Acacia dealbata), which bears flowers of a similar color to the drink.

    The optional addition of a small amount of orange liqueur like Grand Marnier complements the juice and gives the drink more complexity.

    Because of the juice component, the Mimosa is often served at brunch. A Grapefruit Mimosa with grapefruit juice is a popular variation. A related drink, the Buck’s Fizz†, has two parts Champagne to one part juice—and sometimes a splash of grenadine. Created at London’s Buck’s Club by bartender Pat McGarryhe, the Buck’s Fizz predates the Mimosa by about four years.

    If you’re making Mimosas, fresh-squeezed orange juice makes a huge difference. One expert recommends trying different types of orange juice: The sweeter Navel juice vs. the more acidic Valencia, for example. Blood oranges, with their rosy color and raspberry notes, will provide a different experience entirely (and a wonderful one!).

    [Source]
     
    †Buck and mule are old names for mixed drinks made with ginger ale or ginger beer, plus citrus juice. They can be made with any base liquor. Why buck? Why mule? That answer is lost to history, but here’s a detailed discussion.
     
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Better For You Candy & Treats

    Every time we dip into a bag of Bare Fruit Apple Chips, we wonder: Why isn’t everyone eating these?

    So before Halloween, we’re recommending them as the better-for-you treat, for the people you love. Everyone else can get those miniature junk candies from the supermarket. (Sorry if we have maligned your favorite candy bars; but honestly, you hardly taste the chocolate for the sugar/corn syrup.)

    Consisting simply of baked apple chips—no added sugar—these sweet, crisp chips satisfy the desire for sweetness an crunch. They’re fat-free, gluten free, fiber-filled.

    The apple chips are made from non-GMO project verified Washington State apples. And they’re certified kosher by Earth Kosher, an organic and kosher certifier.

    There are four flavors of all-natural apple chips, 90-100 calories per ounce (half cup serving), depending on the flavor.:

  • Fuji Red Apple Chips
  • Granny Smith Apple Chips
  • Sea Salt Caramel Apple Chips
  • Simply Cinnamon Apple Chips
  •  
    There’s also an organic line, including each of the flavors above plus a combination of all of them in one bag, Medley Apple Chips.

    There’s also an organic line, including each of the flavors above plus a combination of all of them in one bag, Medley Apple Chip
    This time of year we particularly like Simply Cinnamon Apple Chips, but will gladly eat whatever is closest. Who needs apple pie when you can have Bare Fruit Apple Chips?

    But you may think that Caramel Apple is better for Halloween. Plan ahead for stocking stuffers, and keep a supply in your glove compartment, desk drawer, gym bag, etc.

       

    cinnamon-apple-chips-bare-230

    chips-lovewithfood-230

    TOP PHOTO: It’s like apple pie in a crunchy chip. Phot6o courtesy Bare Fruit. BOTTOM PHOTO: Out of the bag. Photo courtesy Love With Food.

     
    You can get Bare Fruit products on Amazon.com or find them at retail via the company’s store locator. The “BUY” tab on the company website takes you to their Amazon store.

    They’re available in individual .53-ounce bags and in 1.69-ounce bags, three portions’ worth.
      
    NUTS FOR CRUNCHY COCONUT CHIPS

    After success with the apple chips, Bare Fruit came out with a divine line of coconut chips:

  • Chocolate Bliss Coconut Chips
  • Sea Salt Caramel Coconut Chips
  • Simply Toasted Coconut Chips
  • Sweet ‘n Heat Coconut Chips
  •  
    Loved ‘em all, but Chocolate Bliss truly is.

    GO BANANAS
     
    Most recently, the company has introduced crunchy banana chips. We haven’t yet had the pleasure of trying them, but you can let us know how you like them:

  • Cinnamon Banana Chips
  • Cocoa Dusted Banana Chips
  • Simply Baked Banana Chips
  •  

    HalfPops

    These crunchy popcorn nuggets are popped without oil. Photo courtesy Halfpops.

     

    HALFPOPS POPCORN NUGGETS

    If you grew up loving CornNuts, as we did, take note of the non-fried, gourmet version.

    Some people dig through the popcorn bowl to find those crunchy, half-popped kernels that taste even better than the fully popped corn. Smaller than a fully popped kernel, they’ve got the soft popped portion on the inside while the kernel remains crunchy on the outside.

    Halfpops is an entire bag of them. We like this fiber-filled half-popped popcorn even better than the conventional full-popped. It was love at first bite for us. These little nuggets are a go-to snack whenever we need something crunchy and salty.

    These are healthy, whole grain snacks. They’re all-natural, with zero sugar or preservatives. As a whole grain product, each bag contributes 3g fiber/serving. Halfpops are certified gluten-free and are also nut-free.

     

    Halfpops are currently available in four flavors:

  • Natural Butter & Sea Salt
  • Aged White Cheddar
  • Caramel & Sea Salt
  • Chipotle Barbeque
  • Each one-ounce serving contains 130 calories and 260 mg salt. And we love each flavor Don’t decide: Try them all!

    They’re certified kosher (dairy) by OU. Get yours at HalfPops.com. There’s also a retail store locator on the website.

      

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    PRODUCT UPDATE: Gluten Free Comfort Food

    Blake's Chicken Pot Pie

    blakes-pkg_Chicken_Pot_Pie-230sq

    This gluten-free chicken pot pie will please many. Photos courtesy Blake’s All Natural.

     

    BLAKE’S GLUTEN-FREE CHICKEN POT PIE & SHEPHERDS PIE

    With the fall season, the gluten-freer’s thoughts turn to comfort foods—which usually mean soups, hearty stews, pot pies, mac and cheese and heaping dishes of pasta.

    This is also, as it turns out, one of the most challenging categories in the gluten-free realm. Most of the hot comfort foods contain noodles or crusts of some kind, and substitutions are not easily made.

    Enter Blake’s All Natural, an 80-year old family firm that was acquired by ConAgra in May 2015. Most of the line is conventional, but there’s a GF version of their most popular item, Chicken Pot Pie; as well as Shepherds Pie, which is naturally GF (the crust is made from mashed potatoes instead of grain).
     
    Blake’s Chicken Pot Pie

    I tasted their Chicken Pot Pie in a bit of a fever, recalling happy afternoons spent at my Gram’s where my favorite treat was classic pot pie. Grandmas know what makes a child’s heart go pitter patter. Hence my bar for Chicken Pot Pie is quite high, attached as it is to golden memories.

    Blake’s did not let me down. You can taste the quality and the care.

    The filling is delicious! You can taste the distinct flavors, yet also appreciate the blended sauce and the good crust, which is the hallmark of a top pot pie. There was a little too much sauce for my liking (not atypical in store-bought pot pies), but I relished the classic pot pie flavor.

     
    There are no chemicals, no antibiotics, no wheat. Bonus: The pot pie is also microwavable

    The brand makes both all-natural and organic products. With the gluten-free pot pie, the vegetables and crust are organic. The chicken is not, although it is natural (antibiotic free), and quite tasty!

    I was surprised that I actually preferred the cornmeal crust variety of the two options. The brown rice crust was a bit sweet and shortbread-y (I prefer buttermilk-y/salty flavor notes), whereas the cornmeal crust was hearty, had better body and just enough salt.
     
    Blake’s Shepherds Pie

    Next I tried the Shepherds Pie, made with organic corn and organic mashed potatoes.

    As with the pot pie, the veggies are organic but the beef is not. (Although organic meat is important to many, it would raise the price beyond where enough consumers are flexible. Hence the balance between organic and natural ingredients.) The beef was perfectly spiced and tasted of a high quality, so I added points back for flavor. I liked it even better than the pot pie.

    My recommendation: Absolutely give Blake’s a try! Their products are great cool- and cold-weather comfort food options, a great convenience when you don’t have time to make your own. That goes for the “regular” line, too.

    You can also send a GF gift box, containing four gluten-free pot pies and four shepherds pies.

    Discover more at BlakesAllNatural.com.

    —A review from Georgi Page, Gluten Free Specialist

     

    LUCY’S COOKIES

    It was 2010 when we first selected Lucy’s Gluten Free as a Top Pick Of The Week, followed by a product update in 2011. The brand continues to treat consumers new gluten-free baked treats.

    This year, the new GF treat is Triple Chocolate Brownie Crisp, the first flavor of Lucy’s new brownie line to hit shelves. It’s made with chocolate chips, 72% dark chocolate chunks and cocoa powder (comprising the “triple chocolate”), plus Madagascar vanilla.

    A cross between a chewy brownie and a crunchy cookie, Triple Chocolate Brownie Crisp is a symphony of deep, rich chocolate flavor. A serving size of three crisps contains just 100 calories.

    As with all Lucy’s products, Triple Chocolate Brownie Crisp is allergy friendly: no gluten or wheat, dairy milk, butter, eggs, casein, peanuts or tree nuts.

     

    triple-chocolate-brownie-crisp-230

    There are three types of chocolate in Lucy’s Triple Brownie Crisp. Photo courtesy Dr. Lucy.

     
    The line is also Non-GMO Project Verified, certified vegan, and certified kosher (pareve) by Star K.

    Brownie Crisp is currently available in a 4.5-ounce pouch size and a 1.25-ounce grab ‘n go individual bag.

    Continued thanks to Lucy’s founder and chairman, Dr. Lucy Gibney, for showing that allergen-free can also be delicious. Discover more at DrLucys.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Chermoula Sauce

    Last night at a nine-course feast at the home of our wine editor, we were served a dish of scallops, sautéed greens and a hearty topping of freshly-made pesto.

    A conversation ensued among the nut-averse and lactose-intolerant in attendance, that they didn’t use pesto because of the cheese or the nuts.

    There’s an easy alternative: chermoula, a Middle Eastern marinade and sauce popular in the cuisines of Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia.

    As with pesto recipes, there are countless regional variations both in ingredients and proportions. But chermoula usually starts with a mixture of fresh herbs (especially cilantro), olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, garlic and salt.

    Flavorful chermoula is typically used with fish and seafood, and its green color adds brightness to what we personally refer to as “beige and brown foods.” It is also used to flavor meat, poultry and vegetable dishes.

     

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/chermoula offthemeathook 230

    At Off The (Meat) Hook, it’s used to coat broiled halibut. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy OffTheMeatHook.com.

     

    Variations include black pepper, fresh coriander, ground chiles, onion, pickled lemons and saffron, among other ingredients.

  • The preferred recipe in Sfax, a port city in Tunisia, incorporates a purée of dried dark grapes, with onions sautéed in olive oil, black pepper, cumin and chiles, but also cinnamon and cloves.
  • Two countries to the west, in Morocco, one popular recipe uses dried parsley, cumin, salt and pepper with paprika as the variable seasoning. It’s often served with grilled meat and fish.
  •  

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/chermoula lamb pumpkin broadbeans taste.com .au 2301

    Chermoula on lamb chops, rice and vegetables. Photo courtesy Taste.com.au.

     

    RECIPE: CHERMOULA SAUCE

    In the Middle East, chermoula is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle. In our tests making pesto, the mortar and pestle produced a more flavorful pesto than the food processor. So we pulled it out to make this recipe. Feel free to switch on the food processor instead.

    This recipe is a Moroccan variation, with paprika. As with pesto, it is easy to make. Prep time is just 10 minutes. You can make extra and freeze it.

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 1 cup cilantro leaves*
  • 2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika (or a combination)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes or 1/2 jalapeño, seeds and membrane removed
  • Large pinch saffron
  • 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil†
  • 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
  •  
    You can put your own stamp on the recipe, of course. We had some leftover fresh mint, so added it to the second batch.
     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all the ingredients in a mortar or food processor. Grind or pulse into a thick paste. It’s that easy!

    2. STORE the chermoula in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. It will last for up to 3 weeks in the fridge, needing only to be stirred.

    3. FREEZE extra in the compartments of an ice cube tray that has been sprayed with nonstick olive oil spray. When the cubes have frozen, remove them to a freezer bag.
     
    MORE GOOD FOOD FROM THE MIDDLE EAST

    This weekend we perused a book that had been sent to us on The Food of Oman, a sultanate on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.

    When we pulled it out of its packaging, our first reaction was, “We have no time to figure out the cooking of Oman.” But as we thumbed our way through the book, we wanted to eat everything!

    If you enjoy learning new cuisines, or know someone who does, pick up a copy. The author, an American food writer who lived in the Middle East, takes readers on a journey that is delightful.
    ____________________________

    *You can include the small stems that attach the leaves to the main stalks.

    †A fruity style (as opposed to peppery) is preferable.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Carrot Pasta

    While we’re enjoying the warmth of Indian Summer, Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog suggests these raw, vegetable-based noodles made from carrots.

    Inspired by classic cold sesame noodles, delicate strands of carrots and cucumbers mingle together in crisp tangles of “pasta,” as vibrant as they are flavorful.

    Instead of peanut sauce based on peanut butter, Hannah substitutes cashew butter for a different take on the nutty, lightly spiced sauce.

    “Deceptively simple in composition,” says Hannah, “it doesn’t sound like anything particularly special on paper, but one taste and you’ll be hooked on the creamy cashew elixir. Lavish it over everything from salads to grilled tofu and beyond. Although you may end up with more than you need for this particular dish, trust me: It won’t be a struggle to polish off the excess in short order.”

    Note that this recipe comes together very quickly but needs to be eaten as soon as it’s made. The recipe makes 2-3 main dish servings or 4-5 side servings.

       

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    Cut the carbs and add the protein: carrot “pasta” in cashew sauce. Photo courtesy Hannah Kaminsky.

     

    RECIPE: CARROT CASHEW NOODLES

    Ingredients For The Cashew Sauce

  • 6 tablespoons smooth cashew butter
  • 1/3 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons light agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, finely minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon sriracha (or other hot sauce)
  •  
    For The Carrot Pasta

  • 5 Large carrots, peeled and shredded with a julienne peeler or spiral grater
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled and shredded with a julienne peeler or spiral grater
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup toasted cashews, roughly chopped
  •  

    spiral grater

    A spiral grater, also called a spiralizer. Photo
    courtesy Microplane.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the sauce. This can be done up to 2 weeks in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container. Place the cashew butter in a medium bowl and slowly add the vegetable broth, stirring constantly to loosen and smooth out the thick paste. Add the remaining ingredients, whisk thoroughly until homogeneous and set aside.

    2. MAKE the carrot and cucumber “noodles.” Toss them together with half of the sauce; for easier mixing, use your hands. Add more sauce as needed, toss in the scallions and move to a serving plate.

    3. TOP with chopped cashews and serve.

     

      

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    PRODUCT: Halo Top Low Calorie, High Protein Ice Cream

    chocolate-lemon-bowls-230

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

     

    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!
     
    HALO TOP ICE CREAM FLAVORS

    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.

     

    CLEVER INGREDIENTS

    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 HaloTop.com, including a store locator.

     

    mint-chip-pint-230

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

     

      

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    PRODUCT: Challenge Lactose Free Butter

    challenge-lactose-free-230sq

    A delicious butter spread that’s lactose free! Photo courtesy Challenge Dairy.

     

    An estimated 30 to 50 million Americans have lactose intolerance, a condition wherein individuals naturally lose the ability to digest lactose—the natural sugar component of milk—as they grow into adulthood.

    In some of the world’s populations, the condition begins in childhood, after weaning. In others, it happens on an individual basis in late middle age or beyond. Still other people never lose their ability to produce lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose.

    And since the inability to digest lactose continues to grow as many people age, our population has millions of contenders discovering their lactose intolerance every year.

    We are one of those people. Having grown up on butter, milk, cheese (cottage cheese, cream cheese, mozzarella and other fresh cheeses and lots of aged cheeses), sour cream, yogurt and ice cream, we suddenly became unable to digest them (or more accurately, they get digested with some unpleasant side effects).

     

    We quickly found lactose-free staples in:

  • Lactaid cottage cheese and ice cream
  • Green Valley cream cheese, sour cream and yogurt
  • Cheddar, the only cheese that is naturally 100% lactose free
  •  
    But what to do for butter?

    While no one has yet marketed a lactose-free bar of butter, Challenge Dairy now has a delicious lactose-free butter spread.

    The California-based maker of butter and cream cheese, representing some 600 dairy farm families, has made life easier for the lactose-intolerant.

    Their lactose-free spreadable butter clarifies the butter, a process that removes the milk solids that contain the lactose (this is the same process used to make clarified butter and ghee). The butter is then blended with canola oil to create a smooth, spreadable butter.

    The result: a buttery spread that has half the calories of regular butter. One tablespoon has 50 calories, 2 grams saturated fat (of 5.5 grams total fat) and 110 milligrams sodium.

    The lactose-free butter is available at retailers nationwide, including Albertsons, BI-LO, Harris Teeter, HEB, Jewel, Lucky’s, Meijer, Safeway, Savemart, Vons and Winn Dixie. A 15-ounce container is $4.49

    Learn more at ChallengeDairy.com.

    See the foods that have hidden lactose, below.

     

    FACTORS THAT IMPACT THE TASTE OF BUTTER

    Why do different brands of butter vary in flavor?

    Several factors are responsible, according to Challenge Dairy.

  • The cows’ diet has an effect on the flavor of the milk. Grass-fed cows, which graze in the pasture, have different diets depending on the season. The grass mix will be different in the spring, summer and fall, when clover, wildflowers and herbs are part of the blend. In the winter, the animals eat silage, grass that is compacted and stored in airtight conditions (as opposed to hay, which is dried first). Penned cows eat feed, a combination of hay, grain, silage and proteins (such as soybean meal), vitamins and minerals.
  • The cream that is used, churned from the butter, can have slightly different acid levels.
  • All butters are pasteurized and churned, but these processes are different among manufacturers, resulting in different flavors and textures.
  •  

    mashed-salmon-230

    Now, enjoy butter mashed potatoes to your heart’s content. Photo courtesy U.S. Potato Commission.

  • Butterfat level can differ slightly by different manufacturers (and by different products in the line, e.g. European butter).
  • The butter could be cultured or made from sour cream instead of sweet cream butter.
  • There can be a difference in the natural flavor that is usually added to unsalted butter (but not all brands—check the ingredients label). This flavoring is a natural milk derivative starter distillate (a distilled flavor made from fermented, cultured milk, similar to that used in the production of sour cream and buttermilk) that is added to the cream prior to churning. It produces flavor compounds that give unsalted butter a more pleasing taste, compensating for the absence of the flavor boost from salt.
  •  
    Check out the different types of butter in our Butter Glossary.
     
    SURPRISING SOURCES OF LACTOSE HIDDEN IN NON-MILK-BASED FOODS

    Some people are just mildly lactose intolerant, others are extremely so (more information). Every person handles it differently. If you think you might be lactose intolerant, a gastroenterologist can give you the test.

    As with sugar and salt, there is “hidden lactose” everywhere.

  • Creamy & Low-Fat Salad Dressings: Lactose gives texture and flavor to many creamy salad dressings. Kraft and Newman’s Own have some lactose-free varieties. Low-fat dressings also can use lactose as a filler.
  • Instant Foods: Coffee, mashed potatoes, oatmeal, soup, other instant foods and powdered drinks can contain lactose, which helps the granules dissolve quickly. Quaker instant oatmeal is milk-free, but check the labels on everything powdered before you buy.
  • Medications: There’s lactose in everything from birth control pills to digestion remedies (that’s ironic, since lactose causes digestive problems in the lactose-intolerant) and quick-dissolve tablets. Lactose is used as a filler or base, improves bioavailability and taste.
  • Processed Grains: Breakfast cereals, breads, cookies, crackers, granola bars, pancake and waffle mixes, and even potato chips can include lactose as a cheap sweetener. Read the label carefully, or look for vegan-labeled products.
  • Processed Meats: Bacon, cold cuts, hot dogs and sausages can contain lactose. Kosher products (including beef, turkey or seitan-based bacon) will be lactose free.
  • Sweetener Tablets: Lactose is used as a bulking agent in sweetening tablets (e.g. Equal Classic Tablets).
  •   

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