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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

STOCKING STUFFER: Cowboy Toffee Co. S’Mores Toffee

For toffee lovers, here’s a delightful variation: S’mores Toffee from the Cowboy Toffee Company of Oakdale, California.

There are classic toffees we like better. Our gold standard is the uber-buttery Enstrom’s, which also is made in a sugar-free version. (It has so much butter, you’re advised to store it in the fridge! It’s also certified kosher)

We’ve never seen s’mores toffee flavor before. Enhanced with mini marshmallows, mini graham cracker squares and a cover of milk chocolate, it’s something new, different and fun.

A four-ounce rustic gift box is $9.99. Get yours at CowboyToffeeCo.com.

(Note that the toffee photo on the website isn’t too attractive. We devoured our sample before it could be photographed. The toffee looks much tastier in person.)

 

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Inside the box: S’mores Toffee! Photo courtesy Cowboy Toffee.

 

WHAT IS TOFFEE

Toffee is a hard but chewable candy made by caramelizing sugar with water and butter. American recipes can add vanilla and other flavorings, plus milk or cream. The ingredients are boiled together at a high temperature until the mixture is golden brown and stiff.

The hot toffee is spread onto a shallow pan or countertop to thicken and cool. The slab is then broken into smaller, irregular pieces. Some toffees are poured into individual molds to create individual square or round pieces.

Here’s more about toffee, including English-style toffee and the difference between toffee, buttercrunch and caramel.

  

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STOCKING STUFFERS & MORE: Mrs. Prindable’s Caramels

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A gourmet stocking stuffer. Photo courtesy Mrs. Prindable’s.

 

We taste many caramels each year, looking for those that are very buttery, easy to chew and bursting with natural flavor.

Mrs. Prindable’s, the queen of gourmet caramel apples, has applied the company’s knowledge of making fine caramel to bite-size candies, available in sizes from stocking stuffer to principal gift.

The company’s new confections include:

  • Aleppo Chili Caramels, with a touch of heat from Aleppo chilies.
  • Hawaiian Red Sea Salt Caramels, enhanced by Alaea sea salt, a red/pink salt harvested off the Hawaiian island of Molokai that provides a light crunch along with the salty-sweet counterpoint.
  • Vietnamese Cinnamon Apple Caramel, delivering tart apple flavor paired with sweet cinnamon.
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    Each cube-shaped gift box contains 12 individually wrapped pieces for $9.95. There’s also a box of mixed flavors ($19.99), chocolate-covered caramels ($19.99), and a stocking stuffer of four chocolate-covered caramels ($5.99).

    The line is certified kosher (dairy) by CRC. Get yours at MrsPrindables.com.

     
      

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    PRODUCT: Nonni’s Biscotti In Holiday Flavors

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    A holiday treat from Nonni’s. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    We are fans of Nonni’s Biscotti, and even more so with the new holiday flavors.

    Nonni’s limited-edition holiday biscotti are available in Gingerbread and Pumpkin Spice, both with cinnamon icing. The biscotti are individually wrapped for easy grab-and-go.

    Delicious for snacking or for gifting, they also pair well with the season’s pumpkin and gingerbread lattes.

    Be sure to get enough for stocking stuffers!

    If you can’t find the biscotti locally, you can get them online:

  • Nonni’s Gingerbread Biscotti
  • Nonni’s Pumpkin Biscotti
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    Don’t want spiced biscotti? Try the addictive Salted Caramel Biscotti, embedded with chunks of salted caramel.

     

    The biscotti are certified kosher by U.S Kosher Supervision. Learn more at Nonnis.com.

     
      

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    GIFT: “Chocolate” Swiss Army Knife

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    A Swiss Army Knife for the chocolate lover. Photo courtesy Victorinox.

     

    Who knew there were so many styles of Swiss Army Knife?

    We’ve seen them in occasional colors beyond black and the signature red.

    But there are 99 different designs, from animal prints and flowers to camouflage and skateboards.

    For the chocolate lover, the Swiss Chocolate Classic SD Swiss Army Knife is the way to go. There’s a scored chocolate bar on one side; on the reverse side shows the chocolate peeled back from its silver foil.

    The Swiss Chocolate Classic SD Swiss Army Knife is $17.25 and your readers can purchase it at SwissKnifeShop.com.

    Engraving and gift bags are also available.

     

     
      

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    GIFT: CapaBubbles Champagne Cap

    Why recork when you can more easily cap?

    Last year we raved about the Capabunga wine cap, a leakproof, spillproof, reusable silicon wine bottle cap that eliminates the need to shove a cork back into a bottle. We loved it and made it a Top Pick Of The Week (here’s our review).

    Now, there’s a version for Champagne and other sparkling wines, that preserves the fizziness in the bottle. It’s stronger than the Capabunga, to resist any built-up pressure from the bubbles.

    CapaBubbles can preserve Champagne and sparkling wine for up to one week.

    It’s affordable enough so that you can include one when you bring a bottle. It’s a welcome gift for a bubbly lover.

    In four different designs, CapaBubbles is $15.95, gift boxed and the perfect size to sneak into a stocking, at Capabunga.com

     

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    Save that bubbly with a CapaBubbles Champagne cap. Photo courtesy Capabunga.

     

      

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    GIFT: Whiskey Wedge

    Those who enjoy their spirits on the rocks—with style—should appreciate the new Whiskey Wedge. It keeps spirits chilled without watering them down.

    Simply add water to the glass, insert the mold and freeze. The ice forms into a wedge which melts much more slowly than ice cubes due to the reduced amount of surface area.

    It’s a clever way to chill any liquor, liqueur or cocktail: “on the rocks” without dilution.

    Each unit comes with one double-old fashioned whiskey glass and a silicone mold. It’s $14.95 at Corkcicle.com.

    While you’re there, also check out:

  • The Chillsner, for quickly chilling a bottle of beer.
  • The Corksicle, for quickly chilling a bottle of wine and keeping it cool without an ice bucket.
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    Chilled but not diluted with a Wine Wedge. Photo courtesy Hewy Wine Chillers.

     

      

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    GIFT: Party Favor, Stocking Stuffer

    We love Burt’s Bees products. We’ve never found a better lip balm. The beeswax the brand is famous for is both soothing, packed with beneficial nutrients and stick-to-your-lips.

    This holiday season, the company has created an exclusive with Target stores: Burt’s Bees Pumpkin Spice Lip Balm.

    As a party favor or a stocking stuffer, everyone, young and old, can revitalize dry lips with a lip balm that has a gentle aroma of pumpkin and spice. There’s no flavor—just sprightly seasonal aroma (although, since it is said that 90% of taste is based on smell, it appears to have a bit of flavor that we like very much).

    The balm is free of parabens, phthalates, petrolatum and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). We’ve stashed a tube in the pocket of every coat and winter jacket. Now it’s your turn to spread holiday cheer as well as a little TLC.

    The lip balm is $2.99 a tube at Target, and there’s free shipping on Target.com.

    If you want a bigger gift, there’s a combo pack of Pumpkin Spice along with a tube of Vanilla Bean, $5.79.

     

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    A great party favor or stocking stuffer for dry lips weather. Photo courtesy Burt’s Bees.

     
    Check out all the stocking stuffers and larger giftables at BurtsBees.com.

      

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    GIFT: Gourmet Cheese Box

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    We can testify that everything in this gift box is memorably delicious! Photo courtesy Jasper Hill Farm.

     

    Anyone who covets great cheese knows how pricey it is. That’s because there’s so much labor invested in creating artisanal cheese.

    So what better gift for a cheese lover than a box of great cheese? This year, we’re recommending the gift box from one of America’s greatest cheese makers, Jasper Hill Farms.

    The holiday gift box contains more than two pounds of award-winning cheese, plus artisanal pairings. The foods are packed in a reusable wooden cheese box, for a memorable gift.

    Jasper Hill Farm’s 2014 Holiday Gift Box contains:

  • Bayley Hazen Blue (8 ounces). This signature raw-milk blue cheese is one of the great blues, creamy on the tongue with sweet and salty flavors and undertones of dark chocolate and anise spice. A Super Gold winner at this year’s World Cheese Awards, it was also named World’s Best Unpasteurized Cheese.
  • Cabot Clothbound Cheddar (1 pound). Made by Cabot Creamer and aged in the Jasper Hill caves for 10-12 months, this is a bold cheddar with a spectrum of flavors: toasted nuts, savory broth, browned butter and butterscotch. It’s a favorite among Cheddar lovers.
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  • Harbison (1 wheel; about 10 ounces). This soft, pudding-like Brie-style cheese can e scooped up with a spoon and spread on a cracker (or devoured from the spoon). It’s wrapped in a strip of spruce cambium* harvested from the farm. The milky, buttery cheese has notes of mushroom, woodsmoke and brassica† vegetables when ripe.
  • Creminelli Cheddar Salami (a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week). This special sausage includes pieces of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, which add a pleasant zip and a creamy mouth feel to the traditional salami. It’s available exclusively from the Cellars at Jasper Hill and Murray’s Cheese.
  • Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps (2 ounces). These are the cheese maker’s favorite crackers to pair with their cheeses. Packed full of nuts, herbs and dried fruit, they are thinly sliced and toasted to a light, flavorful crisp.
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    The gift box, $85, is in limited supply. Reserve yours now from The Cellars At Jasper Hill.

     
    *The cambium of the pine (between the bark and the wood) is edible. It can be boiled or roasted as a famine food, and makes a reasonable flour. Fried in olive or coconut oil it’s actually tasty. On this cheese, it’s not meant to be eaten, but you could do it. Here’s more about pine cambium.

    †Brassica, the cruciferous vegetable family, includes bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and mustard greens, among others.

     
      

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    PRODUCT: Duchy Originals Shortbread Cookies

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    Stem Ginger is one of the delicious
    shortbread flavors. Photo courtesy Duchy
    Originals.

     

    Waitrose is a chain of British supermarkets that is described by the media as “upmarket”—think Central Market, King’s and Wegman’s in the U.S.

    Their house brand products are known for their quality; and their delicious shortbread is available in the U.S. under the brand “Duchy Originals.”

    Baked from a traditional Scottish Highlands recipe, these melt-in-the-mouth, all butter shortbread biscuits are made using local butter and flour with sugar and a pinch of salt.

    A box of 12 cookies per 5.3 ounce box is $5.93-$6.24 with free shipping on orders over $35, on Amazon.com, with a choice of:

  • Duchy Originals Organic Highland All Butter Shortbread (more information)
  • Duchy Originals Organic Lemon All Butter Shortbread more information)
  • Duchy Originals Organic Stem Ginger All Butter Shortbread more information)
  • Duchy Originals organic Highland all butter shortbread petticoat tails more information)
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    There’s also:

  • Duchy Originals Organic Oaten Biscuits, especially delicious with cheese more information)
     
    A portion of each sale is donated to The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation for distribution to charitable causes around the world.

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    ABOUT DUCHY ORIGINALS

    The Duchy Originals brand was founded in the UK in 1992 by HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales. The Prince set out to produce food of the highest quality, using the best natural ingredients, produced sustainably and in harmony with the environment, while supporting worthwhile causes through The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation.

    Duchy Originals is now produced in partnership with Waitrose and baked by Walker’s Shortbread.

     
    ABOUT SHORTBREAD

    Shortbread is a type of cookie with a high butter content: The traditional recipe is one part sugar, two parts butter and three parts flour. It has been called the ancestor of all butter cookies.

    The original shortbreads were made with oatmeal; the more elegant white flour came later and lightened the cookie. Its current form is often attributed to Mary, Queen of Scots in the 16th century. She had a team of French chefs who had the time, labor and ingredients to perfect the recipe.

    Check out the history of shortbread.

     

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    Oaten biscuits are less sweet and delicious with cheese. Photo courtesy Duchy Originals.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Popcorn Balls

    The oldest popcorn known to date—actual ears of corn—was discovered in a cave in New Mexico, and carbon-dated to be more than 5,600 years old. It was not eaten as a snack food by early Americans, but was popped and then pounded into meal that was mixed with water and cooked.

    Fast-forward several thousand years: The early Colonists ate popcorn as a breakfast cereal, with milk and a sweetener. (Think puffed corn cereals like those from Arrowhead Mills and Nature’s Path, among others, not to mention Kellogg’s Corn Pops.)

    In the 18th century, after the corn harvest, rendered fat would be thrown into a cast iron pot over an open fire. When the fat was hot, farmers would toss in corn kernels, a little molasses or other sweetener, and then wait for the corn to pop into a sweet, hot treat.

    By the 1840s, corn popping had become a popular recreational activity in the U.S. Popcorn balls, the kernels stuck together with a sugar syrup, were hugely popular around the turn of the 20th century, both for eating and for holiday decorations (they were hung with ribbons from Christmas trees).

    With the availability of bagged popcorn brands, popcorn balls began to wane, appearing mostly in the hoiday season from Halloween through Christmas.

    Here’s the full history of popcorn.

       

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    Homemade cranberry popcorn balls for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Photo courtesy Popcorn.org.

     

    Popcorn is a better-for-you snack. Plain popcorn is loaded with whole grains, fiber and antioxidants.

    Of course, when you add butter, salt and sugar, it adds less-better-for-you ingredients. But compared to other sweet and salty snacks, it’s the winner.

    So consider these popcorn balls a better option for holiday snacking.

     

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    Plain popcorn is a terrific snack: whole grain, high in fiber and low in calories. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE

     

    RECIPE: CRANBERRY POPCORN BALLS

    You can serve these from a platter or a serving bowl, or wrap individually in cellophane and tie with a ribbon for a party favor or stocking stuffer. Add a name tag to create a combination place setting and take-home favor.

    Ingredients For 18 Popcorn Balls

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce, slightly mashed
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 quarts unsalted popped popcorn
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    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients, except popcorn, in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil; lower heat and cook to 250°F on a candy thermometer. The mixture will bubble up in the pan, so watch it carefully to keep the mixture from boiling over.

    2. POUR slowly over the hot popcorn and mix until the corn is well coated. Let it stand for 5 minutes or until the mixture can easily be formed into balls.

    3. SPRAY your hands with a cooking spray (or use butter) hands and form the popcorn into 3-inch balls.
     
    ANOTHER HOLIDAY POPCORN RECIPE

    If you’ve got sage left over from the stuffing or other recipe, make this sage popcorn recipe.

      

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