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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 TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Giftable

PRODUCT & GIFT: Zhena’s Pumpkin Spice Tea

Instead of a chocolate turkey party favor, this year we’re sending our Thanksgiving guests home with a tin of pumpkin spice tea from Zhena’s Gypsy Tea.

Zhena blends caffeine-free rooibos tea (pronounced roy-boss) into a warm, soothing cup that mimics the flavors of pumpkin pie with vanilla, orange peel, and a trio of pumpkin pie spices: cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. The line is organic, Fair Trade Certified and certified kosher by KSA*.

Rooibos is a bush that grows in South Africa. The name means red bush in the Afrikaans† language; the leaves steep into a red-colored brew. Honeybush is a cousin to rooibos, also cultivated in South Africa. It is similar in flavor (slightly sweeter with a fuller body) but its flowers have the aroma of honey; hence the name.

Rooibos is very healthy: no caffeine, high levels of antioxidants and low levels of tannin. Children—even infants—can drink it.

We’ve been fans of Zhena’s since we first reviewed the teas in 2007 (here’s the review).

 

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Caffeine-free tea to cap your Thanksgiving dinner or as favors. Photo courtesy Zhena’s Gypsy Tea.

 

Zhena Muzyka is a proponent of giving back (a percentage of sales goes to very worthy causes), and was an early champion of sustainable, organic and Fair Trade agriculture. She sells more than 70 Fair Trade blends, which support the mission of providing better wages and working conditions for agricultural workers (more about Fair Trade).

 
PARTY FAVORS & HOLIDAY GIFTS

Airtight tins of 22 sachets are $6.67, with free shipping on orders over $35, at Amazon.com.

For a sampler gift, Zhena’s Harvest Stackable has four tins, each with four sachets of Caramel Apple, Chocolate Truffle, Cranberry Bliss and Pumpkin Spice. They’re $8.99 at Zhenas.com.

 
TEA TALK

Learn the language of tea and be inspired to try different types of tea in our delicious Tea Glossary.

 
*Some Zhena products are not certified kosher, however the rooibos teas are kosher.

†Afrikaans is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa and Namibia and, to a lesser extent, in Botswana and Zimbabwe. It began to develop independently in the 18th century, an offshoot of several Dutch dialects spoken by the mainly Dutch settlers of what is now South Africa.

  

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PRODUCT: Gingerbread Mustard

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Gingerbread mustard. Photo courtesy Fallot.

 

For the holidays, how about traditional Dijon mustard mixed with gingerbread spices? It’s a French specialty.

In French it’s called moutarde au pain d’epices; pain d’epices, which translates to spice bread, is the French word for gingerbread.

Gingerbread is one of the specialties of the Burgundy region of France. So it’s no surprise that creative cooks decided to finely grind and mix it with honey and mustard.

The subtly flavored mustard is delicious served with white meats or sausages, ham or pork. You can spread it on a sandwich, serve it with an omelet, turn it into a dip, or add it to a stuffing mix for roast chicken in a vinaigrette for for salad and crudités.

It’s something special for a foodie holiday gift. We found the Fallot brand at BienManger.com and the Pommery brand on another website, website.

Maille also makes a version with white wine, gingerbread and chestnut honey.

 

 
  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Vadouvan

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This simple blend, from IngredientFinder.com,
contains only four ingredients: cumin, garlic,
fenugreek and onion.

 

We must admit, this was a new one for us. We received a recipe for deviled eggs for our consideration. One of the ingredients: vadouvan.

Vadou-what? We had to look it up.

Vadouvan, also called French curry, is a French interpretation of an Indian masala that mixes cardamom, coriander, cumin, curry, curry leaves, fenugreek, garlic, marash chiles, mustard seeds and roasted onion, among other ingredients. Its flavor is more familiar to Western palates than many Indian spice mixtures.

A key difference is in dried onions or shallots. The spice is thought to have originated due to French colonial influence in the Puducherry region of India. [Source: Wikipedia]

Use it in place of curry powder on fish, lamb, chicken, pork, sauces, stews, soups and vegetables. It’s a delicious pairing with dairy, potatoes, starchy grains and anything grilled.

Give a tin or jar as a holiday gift to your favorite cooks. There’s an attractive tin for $8.32 on Amazon, with free shipping on orders over $35. (Tins are preferable to jars, since light is one of the factors that reduces the potency of the spice, along with proximity to heat and moisture.)

 

MASALA VS. GARAM MASALA: THE DIFFERENCE

Masala or massala is a South Asian term for a spice mix or a seasoning of any sort. It is used extensively in the cuisines of Bangladesh, Burma, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The word is of Arabic origin (maslahah), originally meaning “a thing which is good and right.”

  • Masala refers to any fragrant spice blend. It can be wet (a paste) or dry (a blend of dried—and usually dry-roasted—often toasted and ground spices). The pastes frequently include fresh ingredients like chiles, cilantro, garlic, ginger, mint, onion and tomato, along with dried spices and oil. Dishes made with such pastes sometimes have “masala” in their names, such as Chicken Tikka Masala and Vindaloo Masala.
  • Garam masala refers to dry spice blends. There are many variations, from region to region and cook to cook (examples: Tandoori masala, chatt masala and even panch phoron, the Bengali five-spice blend). Popular ingredients include bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, nigella and nutmeg/mace and pepper.
 

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Masala cauliflower. Photo courtesy The Paper Chef.

 
It’s time to spice things up!

  

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HOLIDAY: National Chocolate Day

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Harvest Truffles. Photo courtesy Recchiuti Confections.

 

It’s National Chocolate Day, an excuse for anyone to run to the newsstand to pick up a Hershey Bar or some M&Ms.

But the chocolate connoisseur deserves something better, and we’ve found it in these delicious Harvest Truffles from Recchiuti Confections of San Francisco, which we received as a gift.

Each bite of these beautifully flavored bonbons is a bite of heaven. The medley of three new flavors inspired by autumn includes:

  • Cinnamon Malt Truffle, made with cassia cinnamon and barley malt
  • Mandarin Truffle, infused with mandarin orange oil
  • Cranberry Pomegranate Strata, with layered pomegranate and cranberry gelée atop chocolate ganache (strata means layer)

A nine-piece gift box, three of each flavor, is $26.00. It was all we could do to save some pieces for Day 2.

Get yours at Recchiuti.com. They are a lovely gift for any lover of fine chocolate.

 

BONBONS VS. TRUFFLES: THE DIFFERENCE

It’s easy to get confused when terms like bonbon, praline and truffle are used interchangeably to describe filled chocolates—and all three terms have alternative meanings as well.

The differences, describing filled or enrobed individual chocolate pieces, are country-based:

  • Assorted Filled Chocolates, the English term.
  • Bonbons, a French word describing a variety of confections including hard candy, chocolates, chocolate-covered confections, taffy and more.
  • Pralines, a word that was originated in Belgium by Jean Neuhaus to describe his molded filled chocolates (but also refers to caramelized nuts in France).
  • Truffle, a word that originated in France to describe balls of chocolate ganache, because they resembled the mushroom cousin, truffles.

Thus, when chocolatiers immigrated to the U.S., they might be selling pralines, truffles, bonbons or assorted chocolates, depending on their nationality. And, although the name of what they sold differed, the product might be the same.

In the interest of clarity, it would be ideal to stick with “bonbons” or “filled chocolates” for the filled chocolates, use “pralines” for caramelized nuts and nut patties, and reserve the term “truffles” for the balls of ganache.

But given all the imported candy, we can’t escape our chocolate Tower of Babel. If you receive a box of candy from Germany or Switzerland labeled “pralines,” for example, will it be filled chocolates or caramelized nuts? You may be surprised!

Here’s a detailed explanation.

 
  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Genmaicha Tea

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Genmaicha, green tea mixed with toasted
rice. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

 

Genmaicha, pronounced gen-my-cha with a hard “g,” is one of our favorite green teas.

The flavor of the sencha green tea base is secondary to the nutty, toasty flavor of kernels of toasted and popped brown rice that scattered among the tea leaves.

The name translates as “brown rice tea”; it is also called roasted rice tea and popcorn tea, because a few grains of the rice invariably pop during the roasting process and resemble popcorn. To further confuse matters, different American tea packagers bestow names of their own. At Mighty Leaf it’s Kyoto rice tea; at Numi it’s toasted rice tea.

The good news is that this tea, which for a long time was only available loose, can now be found in tea bags. And people who want to drink green tea for its health benefits, but don’t like the grassy and vegetal flavors, can try it and possibly really enjoy the nutty flavor (from the roasted rice).

As a stocking stuffer or small gift, you can buy a box for as little as $5.49, on Amazon.com.

 

ABOUT GENMAICHA TEA

Genmaicha was originally drunk by poor Japanese. The rice was used as a filler and reduced the price of the tea; which is why it is also known as the “people’s tea.” Today it is enjoyed by everyone.

Genmaicha is also sold with matcha (powdered green tea) added to it, called matcha-iri genmaicha (literally, “genmaicha with added powdered tea”). The flavor is often stronger and the color more green than pale yellow green of regular genmaicha. Rishi sells an organic version.

DISCOVER THE MANY TYPES OF TEA IN OUR TASTY TEA GLOSSARY.

 

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Thinking ahead to stocking stuffers? How about a box of genmaicha tea? The organic Numi line is certified kosher by Natural Food Certifiers. Photo courtesy Numi Tea.

 

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Pumpkin Spiced Almonds

The roasted almonds are sweetened with sugar, brown sugar and honey, and spiced with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and pumpkin powder (dried, ground pumpkin—look for it at natural food stores or online). The 19.75-ounce can is available at retailers nationwide (approximately $9.95 depending on retailer).

It’s easy to make spiced nuts—almonds, pecans, walnuts or other favorite—to enjoy:

  • With cocktails
  • As snacks
  • As garnish for cakes, cupcakes, puddings, ice cream and other treats
  • In green salads with goat cheese or blue cheese
  • As sides with coffee, tea and hot chocolate
  • As gifts, in a small tin, plastic container or cellophane bag tied with ribbon

 
RECIPE: PUMPKIN SPICED NUTS

We adapted this recipe from one by Spice Islands. The nuts can be made up to three days ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. If you’re making a lot, it’s best to make them in small batches to ensure that the nuts are thoroughly coated.

   

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Limited Edition Planters Pumpkin Spice Almonds. Nuts are better-for-you for snacking; these Planters nuts have 5 grams of protein in every serving.

 

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Seasonal snacking: Planter’s Pumpkin Spiced
Almonds. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE
NIBBLE.

 

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon finely-ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground clove or nutmeg
  • 2 cups almonds

 
Varying The Spices

Instead of a pepper-allspice blend, you can use cayenne and other favorites. There is no right or wrong combination: just what you like. For an herbal edge, we often add rosemary or sage. Consider adding:

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ground orange peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 325°F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

    2. COMBINE corn syrup, sugar, salt, black pepper, allspice and white pepper in a bowl. Add pecans; stir gently to coat. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.

    3. BAKE almonds for 5 minutes; stir. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes more, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer pecans to a sheet of wax paper. Separate nuts with a fork. Cool.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Candy Corn Macarons

    Dana’s Bakery makes delicious macarons; they’ve been a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week, and a favorite gift we send to macaron lovers (the Macaron Of The Month Club is a luxurious gift for the connoisseur).

    The cookies are both tender and tantalizing, thanks to Dana’s eye for color and palate for flavor. We haven’t found more creative offerings anywhere.

    The “Flavor of the Month” for October is Candy Corn, is a vanilla macaron in candy corn colors—orange, white and yellow. And surprise: There’s a piece of candy con embedded in the filling.

    Candy Corn macarons are available until October 31st at DanasBakery.com or by calling 1.800.477.1816 ($30 for twelve).

    Bonus: All macarons are made with gluten-free almond flour.

     

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    A sophisticated macaron interpretation of candy corn. We love it! Photo courtesy Dana’s Bakery.

     

    THE HISTORY OF MACAROONS & MACARONS

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: barkTHINS Chocolate Bark

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    barkTHINS: thin and rich. Photo courtesy
    Ripple Brands.

     

    There are several reasons to love barkTHINS:

  • The delicious varieties, crammed with inclusions* (see the list below).
  • The thin pieces that, unlike conventional bark, let you have half as much.
  • The Fair Trade certification (FairTradeUSA.org) that helps poor farmers.
  • The everyday affordability (yet it’s great for party favors and stocking stuffers.
  •  
    October is National Fair Trade Month, the perfect time to feature barkTHINS as a Top Pick Of The Week (here’s more about Fair Trade certification).

    The line debuted in 2012. Unlike traditional chocolate bark that is thick and hard to break, barkTHINS are thin slivers of chocolate that are easily snap-able—easier to eat, fewer calories in your chocolate fix, more flexibility as a dessert garnish (well, that probably wasn’t their intent but it’s a use we employ regularly, by crowning a scoop of ice cream or breaking into pieces for mix-ins).

     

    *The industry term for what many people call “mix-ins.”

     

    barkTHINS FLAVORS

    Each variety is as delicious as the next, depending on your flavor preferences. We were personally thrilled with Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel, a limited edition for holiday season. The packages have a shelf life of 12 months, so if you can’t live without it, you can stock up until the new batches arrive for the next holiday season).

    Feast upon:

    • Dark Chocolate Almond With Sea Salt
    • Dark Chocolate Blueberry & Quinoa (sweetened with agave)
    • Dark Chocolate Mint
    • Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel (Limited Edition)
    • Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed
    • Dark Chocolate Toasted Coconut With Almonds
    • Milk Chocolate Peanut
     

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    A great party favor, stocking stuffer, teacher gift, etc. Photo courtesy Ripple Foods.

     
    The bags stand upright for presentation as party favors. You can stick a place card on the front; you can tie a ribbon through the shelf-hanger opening at the top for added festiveness or to hang on the tree.
     
    Check the store locator for a retailer near you (including Costco, H-E-B, King’s, Stop & Shop, Wegmans, Whole Foods Market and numerous others), or head to Amazon.com.
     
    WHAT IS FAIR TRADE CHOCOLATE?

    A Fair Trade certification guarantees consumers that the farmers who grow the product are getting paid a fair price. In many areas of the world, middlemen buy up crops at a price that often is the same or less than what it cost the farmer to grow it, resulting in a cycle of poverty. Under Fair trade, farmers can increase their incomes and gain afford education and healthcare for their families.

    When you make a conscious decision to seek out Fair Trade products, you are helping hard-working people raise their standard of living. You can feel good about every bite and every sip (look for Fair Trade coffee, tea and hot chocolate, too).

    Fair Trade certification also means that the farmers are following good agricultural practices and are investing in their farms and communities. To learn more, visit FairTradeUSA.org.

      

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    PRODUCT: Marich Sugar Free Candy

    What’s Halloween like for people who can’t have sugar?

    While there’s no sugar-free candy corn (because candy corn is essentially sugar, corn syrup, color and flavoring), there are other sugar-free treats, from Gummies, hard candies including Cinnamon Buttons, Jelly Belly jelly beans, Jolly Ranchers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and much more (for a great selection head to BlairCandy.com).

    Or, you could go gourmet at Marich.

    Marich Confectionery makes a lot of the all-American candies sold in bulk in better candy stories: bridge mix; caramels and toffees; chocolate-covered coffee beans, fruits and nuts; Holland mints, licorice; and our favorite malted milk balls.

    Some of the most popular items are available in sugar-free versions: Sugar Free Chocolate Bridge Mix, Sugar Free Chocolate Espresso Beans, Sugar Free Dark Chocolate Almonds and No Sugar Added Chocolate Cherries (the cherries themselves have natural sugar).

    Whether for Halloween gifts or for the holidays, in eight-ounce, ribbon-tied bags ($10.50, $11 for the cherries), we love these for gifting.

       

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    Sugar-free treats Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

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    Easy sugar-free gifting. Photo by Elvira
    Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    LOOKING FOR SOME SUGAR?

    From the regular line, two items great for stocking stuffers or party favors are two-ounce boxes of:

    • Christmas Holland Mints (red, white and green, $2.50)
    • Cinnamon Spice Apple Caramels ($3.00)
    • Pumpkin Spice Caramels ($3.00)

    The line is certified kosher by by KOF-K.

    Dig in at Marich.com.

     

      

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    HALLOWEEN: Trick Or Treat With Pumpkin Brownies

    It will be a ghoulishly delightful change this Halloween when you serve Fairytale Brownies’ new Halloween brownies in Pumpkin Spice, with a Halloween label that features jack-o-lanterns and bats.

    Perfect for party favors, the individually wrapped, 3” x 3” dark chocolate brownies are also sold in bulk by the dozen, if you want to present them on a dessert tray or plate them individually (perhaps as the base of a brownie sundae, with pumpkin ice cream?).

    Treat your friends, treat your co-workers, and let these delicious brownies melt in your mouth. Like all Fairytale Brownies, they are made with Callebaut Belgian chocolate, alfarm fresh eggs, pure creamery butter and dark brown sugar. Then, sweet pumpkin purée is blended with cream cheese, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger, and swirled into the brownie batter.

    And although religious Jews don’t celebrate Halloween, the Fairytale line is certified kosher (dairy) by the Greater Phoenix Vaad Hakashruth.

       

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    Trick or treat! These Pumpkin Spice Brownies are definitely a treat. Photo courtesy Fairytale Brownies.

     

     

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    Pumpkin Spice Brownies in a gift box have a
    plain cellophane wrap. Photo courtesy
    Fairytale Brownies.

     

    HOLIDAY GIFTS: THANKSGIVING & CHRISTMAS

    For Thanksgiving treats, hostess gifts and holiday gift giving, the Pumpkin Spice Brownies are available in a plain cellophane wrap, in a gift box. You can choose all Pumpkin Spice Brownies, or a combination box with Chocolate Chip Brownies.

    The Pumpkin Spice Brownies are limited edition, available only through December 31, 2014. But if you can’t live without them, they do freeze beautifully.

    Get yours at Brownies.com.

     

      

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