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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,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Sugar-Free

RECIPE: Have A Cow—A Black Cow (a.k.a. Root Beer Float)

How now, Black Cow? Make one and find
out. Photo by ShagPhoto | IST.


A Black Cow is another name for that popular old-fashioned ice cream soda, the root beer float. Made with vanilla ice cream, it is called a brown cow or chocolate cow when chocolate ice cream is substituted.

Today is National Black Cow Day—the perfect day to make one.

But first: How did a root beer float get such an unusual name?

Pharmacist Charles Hires introduced commercial root beer to the public in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. It was a hit, and other beverage companies went into root beer production.

The Black Cow dates to an August night in 1893 in a bustling mining town. Frank J. Wisner, owner of the Cripple Creek Cow Mountain Gold Mining Company in Cripple Creek, Colorado, also owned a tavern. He produced carbonated soda waters, popular with adults and children alike.


As the story goes, Wisner wanted to create a special drink for the local children. One night, he added a scoop of vanilla ice cream to his glass of root beer. Here’s where the cow comes in: Looking out the window, he saw the snow-capped Cow Mountain in the moonlight.

The float was an instant hit and was christened “Black Cow” by the children for the dark color of the root beer and Wisner’s reference to Cow Mountain.


This recipe can be made sugar-free (we do it all the time) with diet root beer and no-sugar-added ice cream (we prefer Breyers Smooth & Dreamy vanilla). We leave out the chocolate syrup because we haven’t yet found a good one that’s sugar-free.

Garnishing the float with whipped cream and a cherry is showy, but not essential to the flavor of the float. We generally leave it off so we can get straight to the ice cream. But if you want to use a marschino cherry, buy the best, from Tillen Farms.

Ingredients Per Serving

  • 2 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
  • Chilled root beer
  • Whipped cream
  • Maraschino cherry

    1. Scoop ice cream into a tall glass. Add chocolate syrup.

    2. Slowly pour root beer over ice cream being careful not to let it foam up over the side of the glass.

    3. Garnish with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry—or with a flute cookie, as in the photo. Serve with a straw and a long spoon for the ice cream.
    Find all the August food holidays.



    PRODUCT: Zoku Ice Pop Maker

    You can become the most creative glacier in town with the Zoku Quick Pop Maker from Williams-Sonoma.

    It’s easy to create your own customized frozen pops, including cream-filled varieties, in as little as seven minutes.

    Use your favorite juices and other beverages (coffee, tea, kefir, smoothies) or fresh fruit purées to make the gourmet pops of your dreams.

    Designed to be very user friendly—quick freezing, easy release from molds, reusable plastic pop sticks that have drip guards—Zoku looks to be the best pop-making option we’ve seen.

    Why should you give up storage space to a pop-making machine?


    It’s easy to make gorgeous ice pops with
    your favorite flavors and add-ins. Photo
    courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

    • You can make gourmet pops in the exact flavors you want, and express yourself artistically in flavors, colors and patterns. (One of our favorites is to freeze cocktail mixes into Margarita Ice Pops and savory Bloody Mary Mix ice pops. Alcohol doesn’t freeze well, but you can try a teaspoonful per pop.)

    • You have something new and special to serve guests.

    • Things you’d normally drink for health can be turned into pops—from pomegranate juice to probiotic peach kefir.

    • You can control for dietary needs—reduced sugar, no sugar or kosher, for example—and allergies.

    • Ice pops have fewer calories than ice cream and are fat- and cholesterol-free (unless you elect to make cream pops).

    • It’s a fun way to teach the whole family that they can enjoy preparing their own food.

    • And thanks to the plastic sticks, there’s no yucky wood flavor that we so dislike with commercial ice pops.

    Find more of our favorite frozen treats, plus recipes, in our Ice Cream Section.


    PRODUCT: Skinnygirl Margarita

    What if you’re one of those “Real Housewives Of…” ladies, enjoy cocktails but have to watch every calorie (the camera adds 10 pounds)? With a typical four-ounce Margarita weighing in at 500 calories (the majority due to sugar in the liqueur or the cocktail mix), what’s a housewife do?

    If you’re Bethenny Frankel, one of the Real Housewives Of New York (and a natural foods chef), you formulate a lower-calorie Margarita in an episode of your reality series. Then, when the most-asked quesiton on the entire Bravo website is “How to make a Skinny Girl Margarita,” you bottle it and sell it (find locations).

    The open-and-serve bottled Margarita is all natural, made of 100% blue agave tequila, flavored with lime juice and sweetened with lower-glycemic agave syrup.

    While some “slenderized foods” can pass for almost the real thing (SkimPlus milk, nonfat Greek yogurt and sugar-free ice cream are examples), here you know you’re drinking a Margarita Lite.

    Nevertheless, many dieters will enjoy saving 75% of the calories, and Ms. Frankel is to be congratulated for providing a lower-calorie alternative to America’s most popular cocktail.

    While we don’t like sugary-sweet drinks, to us, Skinnygirl Margarita is missing a bit of sweetness (although the more we drank it and became accustomed to it, the more we enjoyed it).

    So we experimented and found ways to improve it!


    Save 75% of Margarita calories. Photo

    First we added a packet of non-caloric sweetener. A liquid sweetener would have been better because a white sediment from the fillers in non-caloric sweetener settled at the bottom of the glass. But we really liked the added sweetness and didn’t mind the sediment.

    Next we tried adding more agave syrup. Ms. Frankel might have done the same, but for the desire to keep the cocktail to 100 calories/serving. Agave is a great, low-glycemic sweetener (it has an average glycemic index of 32, half that of sugar). While agave has the same calories as sugar (about 17 calories/teaspoon), it is 1.5 times sweeter—so your calories buy you more. You can spare it: Add another teaspoon of agave to Skinnygirl.

    Finally, we rimmed the glass with sea salt (kosher salt is fine, too). Bingo!

    Feel free to add a lime wedge or lime wheel as a garnish. It’s not typical with Margaritas (the salt rim is); but we like it as a virtually calorie-free “extra” to chew on.


    PRODUCT: Gimmee Jimmy’s Cookies & More, Certified Kosher


    Our favorite: Cranberry Pecan cookies. Photo
    by Erika Meller | THE NIBBLE.


    In 1983, Jimmy Libman opened Gimmee Jimmy’s, selling gift tins of all-natural, certified kosher-dairy cookies. Over the years, the product offering grew; the bakery now provides baklava, biscotti, cakes, cookies, cupcakes, muffins and other desserts to restaurants and consumers.

    The bakery makes sure everyone can be included, turning out gluten-free and sugar-free products as well. Kosher certification is by National Kosher Supervisors.

    We recently tried a mixed box of cookies: Chocolate Chip M&M Cookies, Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Cranberry Pecan Cookies, Double Chocolate Walnut Cookies, Heath Bar Crunch Cookies, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and Peanut Butter Cookies. Our favorite—to our surprise—was the Cranberry Pecan. It’s not a flavor we’d typically order; but the sweet-tart flavor of the chewy cranberries combined with the crunchy pecans to create a standout.

    The box, in a festive blue design, announces that there’s a party inside. The box is made of very sturdy cardboard and is reusable to transport your own bake goods—it’s the perfect size for a pie.

    Check out the offerings at or telephone 1.800.454.6697.

  • Find more of our favorite cookies and cakes.
  • See our favorite gluten-free products.
  • See our favorite sugar-free products.
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Low Calorie Party


    This barbecue pork loin saves many calories
    with a sugar-free blackberry sauce. Here’s
    the recipe. Photo courtesy The J.M.
    Smucker Company.


    Want to throw a get-together but fear for your strict diet? Have a pot luck diet lunch or dinner.

    Everyone brings his or her best low-calorie dish, along with copies of the recipe to share and, if it’s a buffet, an index card to set in front of the dish, with the name of the dish and the cook, the ingredients and, if possible, calories per saving.

    For more party fun, everyone can rank their top three dishes, and winners can be named.

    The prizes?

    Something low-calorie, of course! Or something no-calorie, like fancy brands of mineral water.

    It’s a great party idea: Less cooking for you and the opportunity to try lots of new low-calorie recipes with your friends—who will be very thankful for all the new recipes they’ll be taking home.

    This party concept works with any dietary restriction—fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, low carb, vegan, etc.


    PRODUCT: Polaner Sugar-Free Preserves With Fiber


    Apricot and Raspberry, two of the six flavors
    of Polaner’s Sugar-Free Preserves with Fiber.
    Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.


    Why add fiber to sugar-free preserves?

    According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, most of us don’t get enough fiber in our diet. On average, American women get 12 grams per day; American men get 18.

    Experts say we should get from 25 to 40 grams of fiber daily to help support a healthy digestive system, reduce the risk of heart disease and manage our weight (fiber is more filling). That’s why when you have a choice of eating foods with more fiber or less, you’re better off choosing more (most fruits and vegetables are high on the fiber list).

    If you’re on a sugar-free or reduced-sugar diet, chances are that you’re already eating lots of good fruits and veggies. But now it’s sweeter to get an extra 3 grams of fiber (about 12% of your daily requirement), with every tablespoon of Polaner Sugar-Free Preserves with Fiber. They’re sweetened with Splenda.

    We’ve been enjoying these jams—yes, they’re actually jam, not preserves (more about that in a minute)—since their debut, around the beginning of November 2009 (sorry we’re late in sharing the news).

    We use the Raspberry and Strawberry to glam up our nonfat plain Greek yogurt (Chobani, FAGE Total and Oikos—we love ‘em all)—to delightful results. Similarly, we use it to top our Breyer’s Extra Creamy No Sugar Added Vanilla Ice Cream.

    Polaner recommends it on toast and muffins, of course; as an addition to smoothies or cookie dough, or whisked into oil and a bit of vinegar for a marinade.

    The line is certified kosher. It’s just 10 calories per tablespoon, and for you carb counters:

    – Sugar Free Apricot Preserves with Fiber: 4g carbs – 3g fiber = 1g net carb
    – Sugar Free Blackberry with fiber: 5g carbs – 3g fiber = 2g net carbs
    – Sugar Free Grape with Fiber: 4g carbs – 3g fiber = 1g net carb
    – Sugar Free Orange Marmalade: 5 carbs – 3g fiber = 2g net carbs
    – Sugar Free Raspberry with Fiber: 5g carbs – 3g fiber = 2g net carbs
    – Sugar Free Strawberry with Fiber: 5g carbs – 3g fiber = 2g net carbs

    COUPON: You can get a $1.00 coupon here. If you don’t have the Java aplet for printing coupons, start at the Polaner home page.

  • Now about the difference between jam and preserves: Jam can be a purée of fruit or have a soft pulp, but it does not contain chunks of fruit. The two Polaner flavors we had were purées, without chunks of fruit. Preserves differs from jam in that large or whole pieces of fruit are suspended in a syrup base. The texture of preserves is not smooth like jelly or jam.
  • See the differences among all the spreads—jelly, curd, marmalade, etc.—in our Jam & Jelly Glossary.
  • Find more of our favorite sugar-free foods in our Diet Nibbles Section.
  • Comments (2)

    PRODUCT: Caring Candies’ Sugar-Free, Kosher & Tasty Treats


    All-natural, sugar-free lollipops from
    Caring Candies taste as good as they look.
    Photo courtesy Caring Candies.


    Love candy but can’t have sugar? On a diet but need sweet treats?

    Caring Candies is the new sugar-free line in town (it’s imported from South Africa). It’s sweet stuff for people who can’t have regular sugar.

    The sugar-free candies are excellent, with beautiful colors and no off flavors (they’re not as sugary as regular candy, which is just fine in our book).

    There are delicious lollipops for kids and hard candies (bonbons) for adults, including “sours” for both.

    The line is diabetes-friendly, tooth-friendly, all-natural and certified kosher.

  • Read our review of Caring Candies sugar-free candy.
  • Find more sugar free candy and chocolate in our Diet Nibbles Section.
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: A Sweeter Hostess Gift

    Happy Thanksgiving! If you’re a guest at Thanksgiving dinner today, you’ve most likely picked up a gift for your host or hostess. But for future dinner parties, find out if anyone on the guest list is on a sugar-restricted diet.

    Then, let other guests bring the traditional bottle of wine. You can help out the hosts by bringing a box of fine sugar-free cookies or candy that can be enjoyed for dessert by those with restrictions.

  • See some of our favorites in the Diet Nibbles Section.


    Curious Cookies sugar-free cookies.


    PRODUCT: Agave-Sweetened Ice Cream


    Cherry Chocolate Chunk gelato from Organic
    Nectars, a sugar-free trifeca for healthy
    eating. It’s organic, kosher and raw! Photo by
    Corey Lugg | THE NIBBLE.


    Previously, people on sugar-restricted diets were limited in their choice of ice cream. But there are two premium products on the market that provide premium alternatives to artificially-flavored supermarket ice cream. Both are sweetened with agave.

    Agave Dream is a premium ice cream developed by two moms who wanted a better choice for their children. Organic Nectars is a vegan product made from cashew “milk”; it’s also raw, kosher and, as the name implies, organic. Both companies make sorbet or granita as well as ice cream. They’re a real find for people who are steering clear of sugar.

  • Start with an overview of agave: what it is and why it’s good for you. (For starters, it has about half the glycemic index of sugar and honey.)
  • Have a taste of Agave Dream ice cream and sorbet.
  • Dig into Organic Nectars vegan, raw gelato and granita, plus agave-sweetened dessert toppings.
  • Feel like full-sugar frozen treats? Check out our Ice Cream & Sorbet Section for more of our favorites.

  • Comments

    CONTEST: THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet Giveaway ~ Weekly Food Prize Drawing


    This week’s prize: A healthy gift basket
    from Smucker’s. Denise Austin workout video
    included but not shown in photo. Retail value $80.00.


    You have a far better chance of winning the weekly food prize in THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet Giveaway than winning the lottery—and entering the Gourmet Giveaway is free!

    Tearful letters were received last winter when we suspended the Gourmet Giveaway because the company that sponsored the prizes was sold. But it’s back now in a new and simpler form that will please some folks, because there’s no weekly trivia quiz to take before you enter. All you have to do is go to a page on related to the contest (this week it’s a reduced-calorie recipe made with Smucker’s Fruit Spread), click the link on the bottom of the page and enter your email address. It’s that simple. To those of you who loved those food trivia quizzes: they’re still available to take, over and over again, and we promise to have some new ones down the road.

    And rest assured, there’s no spamming. If you aren’t selected as the winner, your address will be discarded.

    If you like to take quizzes and polls, you can take a weekly poll on our new Facebook Fan Page—just a quickie, one-question poll. And, there will be special Gourmet Giveaway prizes for Facebook Fans only. These blog posts are also streamed to the Facebook Fan page, along with our Tweets, so consider it a major stop for NIBBLE social media channels.

    What Should You Do Next?

  • Check out this week’s Gourmet Giveaway, a healthy food picnic basket and Denise Austin workout video, sponsored by Smucker’s.
  • Join THE NIBBLE Facebook Fan Page for extra opportunities to win food prizes—we’re saving some of the choicest morsels for our BFFs (best Facebook Fans).
  • Comments

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