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TIP OF THE DAY: Make Flavored Ice Cubes

Today’s tip is to make flavored ice cubes. They’re the easiest way to add dazzle to everyday drinks, be they club soda, juice, soft drinks, mocktails or cocktails.

We have long made “party ice cubes” that deliver big impact with no effort beyond freezing a liquid in an ice cube tray.

The benefits of flavored ice cubes:

  • They don’t dilute the drink as plain ice cubes will.
  • They add extra flavor(s).
  • They colors provide visual appeal.
  • There’s something more to drink when the cubes melt.
  • You get exercise your inner mixologist.
  •  
    OUR FAVORITE WAYS TO USE FLAVORED ICE CUBES

  • Coffee & Tea Ice Cubes. They keep iced coffee and tea intensely flavored to the end. You don’t need to specially brew the coffee or tea if you use leftover coffee from the pot or re-brew tea bags or leaves (they may make weaker tea, but are still good for cubes). Herbal tea ice cubes can also be added to a glass of club soda or juice.
  • Juice For Cocktails. Make cranberry cubes for the Cosmos, pineapple juice for the Pina Coladas, tomato juice for Undiluted Marys. You can make beef bouillon ice cubes for a “Beefy Mary” (a.k.a. Bloody Bull or Bull Shot). Freeze clam juice for a Bloody Mariner/Bloody Caesar.
  • Carbonated Mixers. Whether tonic water for a G&T or cola cubes for a Rum & Coke, or tonic water, these mixers come with a bonus: You can use the flat soda that often results at the bottom of a large size. But you can create new “sodas” as well. One of our favorite summer combinations is lime soda ice cubes in raspberry soda, for a raspberry-lime rickey.
  • Wine Ice Cubes. Make them for sangria, or to keep your poolside wine chilled.
  • Combination Ice Cubes. Add small berries, diced fruit, shredded basil or dill to the cubes: whatever adds to the drink.
  •  
    WHAT ABOUT FREEZING FRUIT DIRECTLY?

    You can freeze any high-moisture fruit, such as:

  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Melon balls
  •  
    They’ll defrost more quickly than frozen liquid, so consider a combination of frozen fruit and flavored ice cubes.

    MIX & MATCH CHECKLIST

    Soft Drink Mixers

  • Bitter lemon
  • Cola or root beer
  • Flavored seltzer
  • Ginger ale/ginger beer
  • Lemon-lime (7 Up, Sprite, etc.)
  • Other fruit soda: cherry, grape, orange, etc.
  • Tonic water
  •  
    For Creamy Drinks

  • Coconut milk
  • Cream, milk or half and half
  • Eggnog
  • Melted ice cream
  •  
    Juices: Sweet

  • Apple cider
  • Coconut water
  • Cranberry juice
  • Grape juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Lemonade or limeade
  • Orange juice
  • Pineapple juice
  •  
    Juices: Savory

  • Brine (save the juice from pickles!)
  • Clam juice
  • Olive juice
  • Tomato juice or V–8
  • Wheatgrass or other vegetable juice
  •  
    MORE ICE CUBE IDEAS

  • Chocolate Ice Cubes
  • Coconut Water Ice Cubes
  • Coffee Ice Cubes
  • Flower Ice Cubes
  • Frozen Fruit Ice Cubes
  • Herb Ice Cubes
  • July 4th Ice Cubes
  • Layered Color Ice Cubes
  • Lemonade Ice Cubes
  • Strawberry-Thyme Ice Cubes
  • Tea, Coffee Or Lemonade Ice Cubes
  • Watermelon Ice Cubes
  • Wine Ice Cubes
  •  

    Fruit Juice Ice Cubes
    [1] Fruit juice ice cubes at Fig & Olive.

    Coffee Ice Cubes
    [2] Coffee ice cubes for iced coffee, or any coffee cocktail (Black Russian, White Russian, Espresso-tini, anything with Kahlúa), from the Angelica Kitchen.

    Strawberry Ice Cubes
    [3] Crushed strawberry and thyme ice cubes at Shari’s Berries.

    Pineapple Ice Cube
    [4] A cube of frozen pineapple at Hakkasan | NYC.

    Colored Ice Cubes

    [5] A stack of flavors from from Mihoko’s 21 Grams.

     
     
    OTHER WAYS TO USE YOUR ICE CUBE TRAYS

    When you’re not using them for ice, here are other things to freeze in your ice cube trays.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Chocolate Ice Cubes In Vanilla Milk Or Cocktails

    Today’s tip might be a natural for Valentine’s Day, but we like it even more for the cold drinks of summer.

    These chocolate ice cubes are the brainchild of the Parisian chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin.

    His Summer Chocolate Ice Cubes are simply a chocolate ice cream recipe that gets poured into ice cube trays instead of an ice cream churn. Why didn’t we think of this years ago?

    While M. Hévin’s recipe is for a family-friendly, gourmet chocolate milk drink, you can also use the chocolate ice cubes in cocktails or with liqueurs.

    They keep your drinks cold, as they add chocolate flavor by slowly melting. Use them:

  • In regular drinks: Iced coffee, an egg cream, an ice cream soda, or a simple glass of…regular or chocolate milk.
  • In cocktails: Black Russian/White Russian, Chocolate Martini, Coffee Martini, Grasshopper, etc.
  • With liqueurs: Add to a rocks glass of chocolate, coffee or Irish cream liqueur.
  •  
    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE ICE CUBES & VANILLA MILK

    The recipe makes enough for one ice cube tray: cubes for 6 rocks glasses or 4 highball glasses. While it goes without saying, we’ll say it: Make the ice cubes 6 hours before you plan to use them, or the night before.

    The vanilla milk also needs to chill for several hours. You can make the entire recipe the night before.

    You can also enhance the flavor with chocolate-friendly seasonings: cayenne pepper, cinnamon, instant coffee, nutmeg, etc.

  • Add a teaspoon of spice to the ice cream mix.
  • Mix the spice with coarse/decorating/sanding/sparkling sugar for a sugar rim.
  •  
    Hévin’s recipe starts with his homemade ice cream, which is poured into ice cube trays instead of churned into ice cream.

    We used Lactaid milk so that all of our crowd, including the lactose sensitive, could have them. Lactose-free milk is virtually like regular milk, but the lactose (milk sugar) that is hard for some people to digest has been de-activated. All the Lactaid products (cottage cheese, ice cream, holiday egg nog) are delish!
     
    Ingredients For The Chocolate Ice Cream

  • 6.8 ounces/200ml milk
  • 3.5 tablespoons/50ml water
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Optional: 1 cup of instant coffee (prepared, not granules)
  • 70g of 66% cacao dark chocolate
  •  
    For The Vanilla Milk

  • 2.5 cups/600ml whole milk
  • 1/4 cup/60g sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  •  
    Optional

  • Liqueur of choice
  • Straws for tall glasses
  • Sugar, spiced sugar or cocoa mix rim (use sparkling sugar/decorating sugar
  • Whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CHOP the chocolate finely and place it in a heat-resistant bowl.

    2. COMBINE the milk and water in a saucepan. Add the sugar, cocoa and coffee and mix thoroughly to avoid lumps. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Then…

     

    Chocolate Ice Cubes

    Chocolate Ice Cubes

    Milk With Cocoa Rim

    A tall glass with chocolate ice cubes, and [2] wioth the vanilla milk added (photo courtesy Nordljus). [3] How about a Black or White Russian in this rocks glass (photo courtesy Ellen Fork). [4] Who won’t drink milk with chocolate ice cubes and a cocoa powder rim (photo courtesy Oxmoor House)?

     
    3. REMOVE from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let it melt for 5 minutes; then gently mix with a wooden spoon until it is smooth and creamy. Allow to cool, pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.

    4. MAKE the vanilla milk. Pour the milk into a large saucepan, add the sugar and mix to dissolve.

    5. SCRAPE the vanilla bean and add the beans and pod to the pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and remove from heat. Allow to cool; then refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

    6. TO SERVE: Place the chocolate ice cubes in the glasses (depending on the size of the glasses 3 to 4 ice cubes) then pour over the milk to the cold vanilla.
     
     
    This recipe by Jean-Paul Hévin appeared in the Elle à Table and appeared on Nordljus.com. We can across it on Sandra Kavital | Blogspot. Thanks also to Keiko of Nordljus.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bruschetta From The Grill

    Firing up the grill this weekend? Make bruschetta (pronounced broo-SKEH-tuh).

    We love a DIY bruschetta bar. Just rub the bread with garlic, brush it with extra virgin olive oil, grill, and place the slices on a platter along with all the fixings.

    Even easier, brush the bread with garlic olive oil! You can buy it, or infuse your own in advance by dropping halved garlic cloves into a cup of olive oil (or however much you think you’ll need). Any leftover oil can go right into a vinaigrette.

    Bruschetta originated in the Tuscany region of Italy, where it is commonly served as a snack or appetizer. It may have been the original garlic bread.

    Plus, we have our own invention dessert bruschetta, below.

    BRUSCHETTA VS. CROSTINI: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

    There are two factors:

  • The size of the bread slice.
  • The cooking technique: grilling versus toasting.
  •  
    Bruschetta slices are larger, three or four inches in diameter) and grilled. Crostini, cut from a ficelle, a thinner baguette about two inches wide (the word is French for “string”).

    You can use bread of a different diameter; but if it isn’t grilled, it isn’t bruschetta.

    Here’s how to remember the difference:

  • The verb bruscare is Roman dialect meaning “to roast over coals.” But there’s something simpler.
  • Think of crostini as crust or crouton (which is its literal meaning). Toast has a crust. That’s how we taught ourself to recognize the difference.
  • While Italians serve bruschetta as a snack, the smaller crostini can be served plain with soup and salad, like the original melba toast.
  •  
    Note that some American manufacturers and others in the food industry misuse the term, selling jars of “bruschetta.” To be accurate, it should be labeled bruschetta topping). Bruschetta is the grilled bread, not the topping.

    RECIPE: DIY BRUSCHETTA BAR

    The simplest bruschetta topping is salt and pepper (i.e., seasoned garlic bread), but that’s for a bread basket.

    Almost any cheese, fruit, meat, spread or vegetable can be a topping. Toppings can be cooked, marinated, pickled, raw or smoked.

    For a DIY bar, offer at least three different toppings. We like everything, so tend to go overboard: Our toppings look like a buffet. Regarding bread, we prefer a crusty sourdough or rustic loaf.

  • Be sure the loaf will give you slices of a workable size.
  • If you’re not familiar with the particular loaf, ask to ensure that it doesn’t have holes for the toppings to fall through.
  • We have the loaves sliced at the store, then we cut the slices in half.
  •  
    Along with the bread, make sure you have fresh garlic and check your olive oil for freshness.

    Ingredients

  • Baguette or other loaves of bread
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper and peeled, halved garlic cloves
  •  
    For The Toppings

  • Avocado, mashed and seasoned (garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, etc.)
  • Caprese: quartered cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, balsamic glaze
  • Charcuterie: pâté, prosciutto, salume, etc.
  • Cheeses: ricotta, ricotta salata, soft goat cheese
  • Fresh basil, julienned/shredded
  • Fruit: sliced figs
  • Garnishes: capers, chopped herbs, chopped mixed olives
  • Greens: baby arugula or watercress
  • Heat: raw jalapeños slices, grilled chile peppers
  • Marinated artichoke hearts (chopped)
  • Mushrooms, marinated
  • Onions: caramelized, chives, chopped green onions (scallions)
  • Peppadews, sliced
  • Pimento, chopped or sliced
  • Raw and cooked veggies of choice: asparagus, grilled vegetables, sliced radishes, etc.
  • Spreads: bean, hummus, pimento cheese, tapenade
  • Tomatoes: sliced plain or marinated in oil and vinegar
  •  
     
    More options: shredded mozzarella or other cheese such as thinly-sliced Brie, fish (we have a passion for anchovies and herring salad on bruschetta), other marinated vegetables, mostarda.

    We also like eggplant caponata, pesto and sautéed mushrooms, but tend to use them more in cooler weather.

     

    Bruschetta Bar

    Rustic Loaf

    Rustic Loaf

    Bruschetta Bar

    Strawberry Bruschetta

    [1] Who needs a burger? We’re heading for the bruschetta bar (photo courtesy What’s Gaby Cooking).[2] Buy bread that has a pretty solid crumb (photo courtesy The Stone Soup). [3] This loaf is beautiful, but not for holding toppings (photo courtesy Bake Street). [4] A bruschetta bar from Countryside Cravings. [5] Dessert bruschetta, here with goat cheese (the recipe from Emily Bites). We use mascarpone.

    Preparation

    1. SET out the toppings and teaspoons for serving. We use ramekins; you can use any bowls you have.

    2. SLICE the bread from 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. Rub each side with cut garlic clove and brush each side with olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Grill to your desired toastiness.

    3. PLACE the bread on a platter next to the toppings and watch people create their appetizers.
     
     
    DESSERT BRUSCHETTA

    Most people won’t have seen dessert bruschetta. We don’t know if we invented it, but our sweet tooth gave us the idea years ago.

    Start with a loaf of bread with dried fruit, such as cherries or raisins. For toppings:

  • Artisan preserves
  • Flavored peanut butter (chocolate, cinnamon, maple, etc.)
  • Fruits: berries; sliced dates, figs, grapes and stone fruits
  • Honey
  • Mascarpone or sweetened sour cream
  • Nutella
  • Garnishes: chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, etc.
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: DIY Éclair Party

    Decorated Eclairs

    Decorated Eclairs

    Cake Decoratijg Pen

    [1] Eclairs decorated by pastry great Johnny Iuzzini for Le Meridien hotels. [2] Decorated eclairs by Master Pastry Chef Michel Richard at Pomme Palais in New York Palace Hotel. [3] The Dsmile decorating pen makes it easy to decorate with designs or writing.

     

    Éclairs are a special-occasion pastry. Only sugar-avoiders would turn down the opportunity to enjoy them.

    Yet, the elongated pastry with the shiny chocolate or caramel top can be even more exciting. Just look at the photos, to see what great pastry chefs do with them.

    While it takes some skill to make attractive éclairs, its pretty easy to decorate ones you purchase. You’ll find the classic chocolate and caramel toppings, but may also find a rainbow of colors and flavors: coffee, currant (pink), dulce de leche, lemon, mango, matcha, pistachio, raspberry

    You can make a DIY party of it. You can make it a Mother’s Day (or other celebration) event.

    The history of the éclair is below.

    DECORATIONS

  • Chocolate batons, curls, disks, lentils, broken bar pieces (check out the selection at Paris Gourmet)
  • Chocolate Crispearls
  • Coconut
  • Gold, silver or multicolor dragées
  • Edible flowers
  • Mini icing flowers
  • Nuts of choice (we like pistachios and sliced almonds) or candied pecans
  • Piping bags of frosting (very thin tips)
  • Raspberries, blueberries or other small fruits
  • Sprinkles, especially gold sprinkles
  • Sugar diamonds
  • Sugar pearls
  • Wild card ingredients, like candied peel, chile flakes, curry powder, maple bacon, toffee bits, pieces of meringues or other cookies
  •  
    FIXATIVES

    Since the glaze (shiny icing) on top of the éclair will be set, you need a bit of something to adhere the decorations, plus utensils or squeeze bottles to dab them on.

  • Caramel sauce or dulce de leche
  • Chocolate spread
  • Fudge sauce
  • Hazelnut spread (like Nutella)
  • Icing
  •  
    You can give everyone the gift of a cake decorating pen (under $10), which makes it easy to write and decorate with icing. The icing also serves to affix other decorations.
     
    ÉCLAIR HISTORY

    An elongated, finger-shaped pastry made of pâte à choux (puff pastry), filled with whipped cream or custard and topped with a glacé icing (glaze), the éclair originated in France around the turn of the 19th century.

     
    Éclair is the French word for lightning. Food historians believe that the pastry received its name because it glistens when coated with the glaze. We might suggest that it is because they are so popular that they disappear as quickly as lightning.

    The Oxford English Dictionary traces the word “éclair” in the English language to the second half of the 19th century: 1861. In the U.S., the first printed recipe for éclairs appears even later, in the 1884 edition of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, edited by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln (later editions were under the auspices of Fanny Farmer).

    Many food historians speculate that éclairs were first made by Marie-Antoine Carême (1874-1833).

    This brilliant man, cast out to make his own way at the age of 10 by his impoverished family, became the first “celebrity chef,” working for luminaries: Charles, Prince Talleyrand, the French ambassador to Britain; the future George IV of England; Emperor Alexander I of Russia and Baron James de Rothschild.

    The elite clamored for invitations to dinners cooked by Carême.

    He is considered to be the founder and architect of French haute cuisine; an innovator of cuisine, both visually (he studied architectural to create amazing presentations) and functionally (modern mayonnaise, for example). He also was an enormously popular cookbook author—an big achievement for a boy who had no education, yet taught himself to read and write.

    We can only dream…and live vicariously by reading his biography.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Mini Cheese Balls For The Cheese Course

    Mini Cheese Balls

    Mini Cheese Balls

    Mini Cheese Balls

    Mini Cheese Balls

    Port Wine Cheddar

    [1] Mini cheese balls in phyllo cups. Here’s the recipe from A Spicy Perspective. [2] Stick a pretzel in it—or a carrot stick. Here’s the recipe from Five Heart Home. [3] Some like it hot. Here’s the recipe from Young Austinian. [4] Serve cheese balls with a green salad, combining the cheese course and the salad course. Here, the cheese balls are fried goat cheese. Get the recipe is from Anna Costa Food. [5] The granddaddy of cheese balls is cold pack cheese, which itself was inspired by Scadinavian potkäse.

     

    National Cheese Ball Day is April 17th. But if you’re not having a party—home of the cheese ball—you can turn that hefty cheese ball mini cheese balls.

    Serve them:

  • As appetizers.
  • With the salad course.
  • As dessert (sweet cheese balls).
  • As a fancy snack.
  •  
    A few different recipes will enhance the experience.

    If you don’t have your own favorite recipes, check the recipes in the photo captions.

    THE HISTORY OF THE CHEESE BALL

    The cheese ball is rooted cold-pack cheese, also known as club cheese or crock cheese, which began as a snack in Wisconsin taverns and supper clubs around the turn of the last century.

    Cold pack cheese originated in Wisconsin (we’ll get to that in a few paragraphs).

    In our youth, a crock of port wine cheddar was considered sophisticated party fare, served with party pumpernickel slices or fancy crackers (in those days, Stoned Wheat Thins and Carr’s Water Biscuits) or (never everyday crackers such as saltines, Ritz crackers, Town House or Uneeda Biscuits).

    According to the New York Times, the tradition derived from Scandinavia, where cooks would grind odd bits of cheese with seasonings and often a bit of alcohol, and pack the resulting spread into jars or crocks, with a top layer of butter to preserve it.

    It spread (no pun intended) to Britain, and then turned up in the U.S.

    At taverns and private clubs, sharp cheese and cream cheese were blended into a spread that went well with beer and drinks. The crock engendered cheese balls and cheese logs, coated with herbs and/or nuts.

    Cream cheese is an American invention from 1872 in New York State. It began to get wider distribution in 1880 (history).

    At Wisconsin taverns in the early 1900s (including Milwaukee’s Pabst Brewery), mixed bits of different cheeses were turned into a snack for customers that became known as pub cheese—a term that still survives, but is know better known in stores as cold pack cheese.

    The Center for Dairy Research (CDR) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison proposes that cold pack began as a type of dip or spread made from older cheeses that were beginning to dry out.

    Potkäse, a similar potted cheese recipe from Sweden and Denmark, would have been well-known to the many families of Swedish immigrants in the Midwest.

    According to the CDR, as reported in Edible Milwaukee, a beer depot operator named Hubert Fassbender began giving homemade cold pack cheese to his best customers in 1933.

    Customers started asking for the cheese without the beer. Fassbender created the Fassbender’s Kaukauna* Klub brand, making him the first manufacturer of cold pack cheese.

    The following year, in 1934, Armin Herke formed the Calumet Cheese Company, and used surplus cuts of cheese to produce cold pack. The brand later became known as WisPride and remains popular today (it is now owned by Bel Brands).

    A trend was born.

    It was just a jump from cold pack to cheese logs and cheese balls.

    A classic cheese ball combines shredded sharp cheese like cheddar or blue, blended with cream cheese (sometimes also with butter) for spreadability. Popular seasonings include chile, chives/onion, garlic and herbs.

    Chopped vegetables can be mixed in. The ball is then rolled in nuts and/or herbs.

    Sweet cheese balls evolved with time: fruit, sugar and cream cheese, cocoa, sugar and cream cheese, etc., mixed with anything from mini chocolate chips to cookie bits, and rolled in Oreo (or other cookie) crumbs, pomegranate arils, toffee bits or other sweet ingredient.

    They can be served as snacks or as dessert.

    From Wisconsin, the mighty cheese ball spread across the nation.

    Is there a part of the U.S. that doesn’t know about cheese balls?

    If so, let us know: We’ll clue them in.

    ________________

    *Kaukauna is a Wisconsin city situated on the Fox River, approximately 100 miles north of Milwaukee. The name is a Native American word for “place where pickerel [pike] are caught.”

     

     
      

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