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GLUTEN-FREE PRODUCT: Scratch & Grain Baking Kits Are Not Just For Kids

Gluten-free writer Georgi Page-Smith writes that Scratch & Grain Baking Kits are not “just for kids.” While the line was created so that children could easily make a batch of cookies or brownies, the quality is so fine that households with no kids can just dig in.

During a recent cornbread jag I requested a sample of Scratch & Grain’s organic and gluten free Honey Cornbread Kit, in order to broaden my horizons and see if there was anything I was missing about the corn arts.

Little did I know I was about to enter a realm of flavor and texture that was heretofore undiscovered within my experience.

Scratch & Grain specializes in baking kits—conventional and gluten-free mixes for cookies, cornbread, cupcakes and more—which allow the user to compose, mix and bake their own treats from pre-portioned, labeled and numbered ingredients. This system accomplishes a few things:

  • Your home is infused with the aroma of fresh-baked yumminess.
  • For busy families, Scratch & Grain provides a way to teach kids (or spouses, for that matter) about the art of baking sans drama or anxiety.
  • It’s economical, sparing the need to load up on costly organic flours and ingredients that enhance the recipe but that are unlikely to be used by their sell-by date. (I’m addressing this in part to the circa-1972 can of cream of tartar that my mother has been saving to hand down to her grandchildren.)
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    But all of this convenience and efficiency would be pointless if the goods themselves were not ravishingly delicious.

    The gluten-free Cornbread, Snicker Doodle* and Cheesecake Brownie Kits that I tested produced tender, delicious results that I am confident will apply across the whole line.
     
     
    HONEY CORNBREAD KIT

    Unpacking the Honey Cornbread Kit was in itself a bit of fun. All of the ingredients are neatly packaged in clear sachets, with handy numbers on each one indicating the order in which they should be added. Helpful tips on the back of the box provide for variations and suggest add-ins.

    The Cornbread Kit contains a not-unreasonable level of sugar per serving (13g), but I am ever-wary of sugar and a bit of a purist. Following a tip on the box, I happily left out most of the cane sugar but used all of the honey granules and brown sugar.

    The results were quick to come, making me look like a domestic goddess. They were so deliciously tender, with a buttery, toasty flavor, that my spouse (normally a bit austere in his diet) ate giant pieces of it warm and then stealthily battled me for the last wedges.

    I did not use all the cane sugar provided in the kit, but I believe that would have yielded the sweeter, moister experience that is pleasing to many.

    The beauty of this cornbread is that it is appropriate for breakfast, as a mid-afternoon snack, or with a bowl of greens for dinner. This is a recipe I recommend trying, whether you are a cornbread aficionado or someone who is cornbread-curious.

    EDITOR’S NOTE: You can also add some minced jalapeño to a cornbread mix. It’s our favorite way to enjoy it: less sugar and a bit of heat.
     
     
    SNICKERDOODLE COOKIE KIT

    I will admit I have never been a huge fan of the cinnamon-sugar cookies known as snickerdoodles, though I acknowledge their place in the cookie pantheon.

    But Scratch & Grain’s organic, gluten-free Snicker Doodle Kit* won me over. The robust aromatics of the cinnamon and the addition of flax seeds into the dough delivered a rich, spicy and substantial cookie that would please children and adults.

    The dough again had a buttery, caramelly flavor that made a good vehicle for the cinnamon sugar coating. The baked cookies had an ever-so-delicate frill of crunchy caramelization around the edges, adding a new dimension to the snickerdoodle formula.

    Snickerdoodles tend to be fall cookies, perfect for a with apple cider or warm mulled cider, or with tea—plain black or spiced.

    This is the cookie to offer company for an old-fashioned welcome. It will remind guests of their favorite granny—even if she didn’t bake—it’s that cozy and comforting.

    I also found this kit to be a great base for other add-ins. For me it was ground black sesame seeds, but chocolate chips would create a nice fusion, too.

    See the history of snickerdoodle cookies below.

       

    Gluten Free Cornbread Mix
    [1] Gluten-free cornbread, packaged with honey granules that you can use in the bread dough or to make honey butter.

    Gluten Free Snickerdoodle Cookie Mix
    [2] Snicker Doodle Cookie Kit, one of three gluten-free cookie varieties.

    Scratch & Grain Chocolate Truffle Cookies Gluten Free
    [3] Chocolate Truffle Cookies, the gluten-free line’s best seller (photos #1, #2, and #3 courtesy Scratch & Grain).

    Cheesecake Brownie

    [4] There’s also Cheesecake Brownies Kit. This photo is from The Cozy Cook, who offers her own recipe.

     
     
    CHEESECAKE BROWNIE KIT

    While the other kits struck a somewhat virtuous note, the Cheesecake Brownie kit was, in a word, decadent. The quality of the chocolate was elevated and not too cloyingly sweet. Even with my omission of half of the bag of chips, it delivered a rich, luxurious wave of chocolate flavor.

    The cream cheese streaks made a nice counterbalance to the intensity of the chocolate and coaxed me into enjoying a combination that I wouldn’t normally try.

    I do think you could leave the egg yolk out of the cream cheese streak and not miss it. The whole concoction stayed moist into the next day, but they may not last that long in your household!
     
    If I had one reservation about Scratch & Grain it would be the moment that I had to toss the adorable little plastic bags, now emptied of their ingredients, into the trash. I would be quite content to see the company use paper for certain ingredients, or something more recyclable.

    Scratch & Grain’s gluten-free line will keep me happy for quite some time, and I have no hesitation recommending any of their products for superior, wholesome flavor and ease of use.

    Products are available from ScratchandGrain.com and in certain Whole Foods markets. Check the the store locator.

    —Georgi Page-Smith
     
     
    EDITOR’S NOTE: You can buy a sampler of all four gluten-free mixes, for yourself or as a gift for a GF loved one.

     

    Snickerdoodles

    recipe for a conventional cookie (not gluten-free) from Cookies And Cups.

     

    THE HISTORY OF SNICKERDOODLE COOKIES

    A snickerdoodle is a drop cookie made with butter, sugar, flour, baking soda and cream of tartar†, and rolled in cinnamon sugar. The classic recipe creates a chewy cookie with grooved lines on the surface.

    “Though some prefer to omit the cream of tartar in snickerdoodles,” says the Huffington Post, “purists will contest that it’s not the classic cookie without it—more like a plain cinnamon sugar cookie.”

    And without leavening, it’s as flat as a gingersnap—which may be what some people are looking for (we prefer the puffiness from the cream of tartar).

    Some recipes use eggs for a richer, moister cookie; some use oil instead of butter. Recipes can produce soft or crisp cookies.

    According to an extensive article on Bakemore | WordPress, the earliest known print reference dates 1889. The cookies became very popular in New England and Pennsylvania during this time.

    What about the name?

  • Some sources say the name is of German origin, derived from Schneckennudeln, referring to cinnamon-dusted sweet rolls. But the snickerdoodle is an American invention.
  • It may make more sense that the Pennsylvania Dutch‡, who spoke German, transposed schneckennudeln to snickerdoodle, a fun-sounding name in the U.S., home of Yankee Doodle.
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    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF COOKIES IN OUR COOKIE GLOSSARY.
     
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    *Scratch & Grain uses two words: snicker doodle. The conventional spelling is one word, snickerdoodle.

    †The purpose of cream of tartar, a mild acid, is to react with the baking soda to leaven the cookie (cause the dough to rise).

    ‡ are a cultural group formed by early German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania and their descendants. Most emigrated to the U.S. from Germany or Switzerland in the 17th and 18th centuries.

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Taco Day

    Lorena Garcia's New Taco Classics

    Mexican food lovers who like to cook should pick up a copy of Chef Garcia’s book. You can read an excerpt of it at Google Books.

     

    On October 4th, National Taco Day, you can:

  • Buy some tacos.
  • Make some tacos.
  • Expand your taco horizons with a book on tacos.
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    In Lorena Garcia’s New Taco Classics, the Latin American chef covers approaches to tacos and other street foods of her native region: arepa, empanadas, tamales.

    “While I take inspiration from classic renditions of favorite Latin American dishes,” says Chef Garcia, “I make them my own by experimenting with savory and sweet notes, with contrasting elements, with flavors that brazenly cross culinary and geographical borders.”

    She inspires you to think outside the taco shell—and inside, too.

    You can see a partial galley of the book here.

    Here’s the history of the taco—invented by silver miners in the 18th century—plus THE NIBBLE’s own suggestions for thinking outside the shell.

     

     
      

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    FOOD FUN: Collectible Tequila Cazadores Bottle

    Mr. Cartoon Cazadores Tequila
    [1] Tequila Cazadores’s limited-edition Mr. Cartoon bottle for El Día de los Muertos (photo courtesy Tequila Cazadores).

    Mister Cartoon Skull Bandana

    [2] 100% of proceeds from bandana sales go to Topos México earthquake disaster relief (photo courtesy Mister Cartoon).

     

    Get ready to add this bottle of tequila to your collection, and to stock up for holiday gifting for Halloween, El Día de los Muertos and Christmas.

    Mexican-American artist Mister Cartoon, has created the art for this limited edition bottle of Tequila Cazadores blanco.

    It celebrates El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead), a traditional Mexican holiday. The skull illustration honors the memories of lost loved ones.

    Since pre-Colombian times, Aztecs and the Mexicans who followed have celebrated El Día de los Muertos, a ritual in which the living remember their departed relatives.

    The holiday starts the evening of October 31st through November 2nd (see more below).

    To commemorate the release, the artist has also created a set of skull bandanas (photo #2), from which 100% of proceeds of sales will go towards disaster relief in Mexico.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF EL DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS

    Celebrated for thousands of years, this Aztec holiday was originally a month-long festival called Mictecacihuatl, The Lady of The Dead.

    When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century and imposed their Catholic religion, the celebration became joined with All Saints Day, November 1st, and and All Souls Day, November 2nd.

    The celebration begins the evening before, October 31st—coincidentally, the Irish-American celebration of All Hallows Eve, Halloween. While people fear the Halloween spirits of the dead, El Día de los Muertos honors the deceased.

  • On November 1st the souls of children that have passed away, known as Día de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Día de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels). .
  • On November 2nd, the adult souls arrive.
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    Graves of the deceased are visited decorated, and families expect a visit from the spirits of loved ones who have passed.

    Celebrants create brightly-colored home altars honoring these family members. They are decorated with ofrendas (offerings), gifts for the dead: candles, sugar skulls (calaveritas), flowers, food and drink, photos, even items of the deceased’s clothing or a child’s toy.

     
    The altar has mixed imagery of both indigenous origin and Catholic influences. It is not an altar of worship but of honor, to welcome the returning spirits to their homes. Here’s more about it.

    The skull imagery dates to the Aztecs, who kept skulls as trophies and used them during rituals.

     
      

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    PRODUCT: Grow Your Own Tea

    If you live in hardiness zones 8-10—the southern United States—and have a spot with full sun, you can grow your own tea with plants from Burpee.

    One individual commenting on the Burpee website had success in Zone 6.

    Here’s the USDA map of hardiness zones.

    Tea, Camellia sinensis, is a perennial plant. The same plant yields black, green and white tea. The difference is in the processing; basically, how much heat is applied to dry the leaves.

    At $16.95 per plant, it’s a fun opportunity to grow what you drink; and if you have younger children, a nifty project.

    You harvest and dry the tea leaves in a wok or pan.

    Buy the plants now and harvest them in the fall. Send some as gifts to tea-loving friends with green thumbs. Here’s where to order.

    Different states have particular shipping restrictions. For example, you can’t ship lemongrass plants to California or Colorado, or potato plants to Florida or Montana.

    Check here to see if tea plants can be shipped to your state.
     
     
    PREFER HERBAL TEA?

    Herbs can be grown anywhere! Read our article on growing herbal tea at home.
     
     
    TEA TIME: TIME TO LEARN MORE ABOUT TEA

    A Year Of Tea Party Ideas

    Black Vs. Green Vs. White Tea

    Brewing The Perfect Cup Of Tea

    Have An Iced Tea Party

    The History Of Tea

    Pairing Tea With Food

    Tea Glossary: All The Tea Terms You Need To Know

     

    Grow Your Own Tea
    Grow it.

    Cup Of Tea
    Drink it.

    Cup Of Green Tea

    Enjoy it! (Photo #1 courtesy Burpee, photo #2 courtesy Chateau Rouge Fine Foods, photo #3 courtesy Republic Of Tea._

     

      

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    PRODUCT: A New Manual Coffee Grinder

    Everything is cyclical, even mundane household appliances like the coffee grinder.

    In centuries past, coffee beans were ground manually. Depending on your age, your great-grandmother ground beans in a rectangular wood or metal mill (or combination)
    with a ceramic burr. The grains fell into a drawer underneath the mechanism.

    But technology marches on: first to pre-ground coffee from supermarket brands, and then, by having your beans freshly ground at the market.

    By the early 1970s, the movement to buying premium beans from different terroirs around the world had begun. Shops sprang up* that sold only beans. A cup of coffee was no longer just a cup of coffee.

    The first electric grinder was invented in 1930, but was cumbersome and shortly discontinued. In the 1950s and 1960s, a new generation of engineers took up the challenge [source]. Slowly, they made their way across Europe, and then across the pond.

    By the 1980s, most households that ground their beans at home had moved on to the new, small electric grinders that ground the beans with stainless steel blades. The result was quicker ground coffee with little or no no effort.

    But purists complained that the friction and waste heat from the motor impacted the flavor. Some of them stuck with the manual mill and ceramic burr, which has never gone out of style. And commercial use grinders use only ceramic burrs, never metal blades.

    There’s more coffee grinder history below. But since everything old is new again, we’d like to present old-school grinding technology with a new-school upgrade.

    THE NEW BIALETTI HAND-GRINDER WITH A CERAMIC BURR

    The Bialetti Manual Coffee Grinder (photo #1) incorporates an easy-to-adjust ceramic burr grinder designed to utilize less effort, while creating more output (46%-165% depending on the coarseness of the grind).

    A conical ceramic burr grinder crushes whole coffee beans into the desired coarseness, achieved with an easy-to-adjust wheel.

  • There are measurement markings on the bottom chamber that indicate the amount of grounds needed for a coarse, medium, fine, and ultra-fine, and for use in a coffee press, pour over, moka pot and ibrik (Turkish brew pot).
  • The grinder also has a silicone grip for secure handling.
     
    If you’re a coffee purist—or you need to buy a gift for one—Bialetti’s Manual Coffee Grinder is available at Target stores nationwide for an MSRP of $39.99; and at Amazon for $35.57.

     
    COFFEE GRINDER HISTORY

    In Ethiopia, people have been consuming coffee since around 800 C.E. Today, almost half of Ethiopians the people work in the trade; most coffee grown by small farmers.

    The legend has that around 800 C.E., an Ethiopian goatherd, Kaldi, noticed his goats dancing with energy after nibbling the red fruit from plants they found on the slopes where he took them to graze.

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    Bialetti Manual Coffee Grinder
    [1] The new manual Bialetti coffee grinder (photo Bialetti).

    Old Coffee Grinder

    [2] A Turkish coffee grinder (photo Turkish Coffee World).

    Old Coffee Grinder

    [3] An old wood and brass grinder (photo © Kean Eng Chan | Flickr).

     
    We don’t know if there was a Kaldi; but someone first gathered the beans and brought them back to his village, where the people were equally enthusiastic. A trade in coffee beans began and spread throughout Ethiopia.

    Eating The Coffee Beans

    The beans—actually they’re cherries with the beans inside—were first chewed for energy.

    Some time later, when monks got hold of beans, they began experimenting with them, first creating a coffee-derived wine.

    In fact, the word coffee derives from the Arabic qahwah, a type of wine, which became kahve in Turkish, then koffie in Dutch. “Coffee” entered the English language in 1582, via Dutch.

    Long before there was anything we’d recognize as a cup of hot coffee, Ethiopians would crush up the fresh berries and wrap them with fat, possibly as an energy food.

    The cherry fruit was eaten fresh or dried; but while looking for other uses, the seeds (what we know as the coffee beans) were pulverized in a mortar and pestle of stone or wood, then cooked or roasted.

    By the 14th century, coffee beans reached the city of Harrar, the center of trade for Ethiopia. From there it traveled to Mocca, the trading port of Yemen in the 14th century, then up through the Ottoman Empire and on to Europe.

    In the 17th an 18th centuries, Dutch, French and British traders introduced coffee throughout the world.

    The First Coffee Grinders

    The first grinding technique for coffee comprised pulverizing the beans with a mortar and pestle made of stone or wood.

    The mill itself is much older than the coffee trade. It was developed by the Greeks around 1350 B.C.E., to crush a substance (grains, e.g.) down into a fine powder.

    It took a while, but he first spice grinder was invented in the 15th century in Persia or Turkey. Like a tall, slender brass pepper mill, it also was used to grind coffee beans [source].
     
     
    ARE YOU A COFFEE LOVER?

    Take a look at our:

  • Coffee Glossary
  • Espresso Glossary
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    *If coffee connoisseurs were lucky, they lived in a town with a specialty coffee shop, with loose beans and packaged coffee from around the world. We were lucky: We lived in New York City, which had McNulty’s Tea & Coffee, established in 1895. It’s still located at 109 Christopher Street in the West Village (and still not open on Sundays).

      

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