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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 Gourmet News

PRODUCT: Coca-Cola Life

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Coca-Cola Life is the newest addition to the Cola brand. Photo courtesy Design Taxi.

 

There’s a great new product for cola drinkers: Coca-Cola Life. Made without corn syrup*, it has half the calories of regular Cocoa-Cola: 60 calories per eight ounces.

The reduction in calories is done with all natural ingredients. The is half sugar, half stevia.

Stevia, which is 150 to 400 times sweeter than sugar, is derived from a South American herb called Stevia rebaudiana. It has been used for centuries in Paraguay and Brazil to sweeten yerba mate and medicinal teas.

Stevia is almost calorie-free, does not cause cavities, and does not trigger a rise in blood sugar. A small amount of it works in synergy with the sugar to create sweetness with no off taste. (Check out the different types of sweeteners.)

Why the new formulation?

It’s a bid to combat obesity globally (the product first debuted in Argentina!) and offer a healthier option to consumers.

How does it taste? It’s less sweet/sugary than the corn syrup version. There’s absolutely no aftertaste, as there is with the zero-calorie Coke variations. It tastes like regular Coke, just less sweet. Since we’ve always found the regular Coke too sweet, but find the zero-calorie versions too artificial, we’re the perfect market.

 
What do other people think? A market research specialist, with no ties to Coca-Cola, released consumer data indicating that 70% of purchasers rated the taste four out of five stars. More than 40% of the survey participants said that Coca-Cola Life has already replaced original Coca-Cola in their households.
 
A Greener Bottle

The new variety of Coke is also targeting the environmental crowd. Coca-Cola Life is packaged in a fully-recyclable plant-based bottle (although our guess is that if it’s a big hit, can and large plastic bottles will join the lineup). That’s why the label is green.

The plant-based bottle consists of 30% recycled natural materials, and is lighter in weight than regular PET plastic bottles. A lighter-weight shipment requires less fossil fuel.

Coca-Cola Life will roll out globally over the next several months, but get yours today. After all, it’s National Carbonated Beverage With Caffeine Day.

 
*In the U.S., Coca-Cola is sweetened with corn syrup. In other countries, regular sugar is used.

 
  

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FOOD FUN: Watermelon Turkey

We found this turkey on the Facebook page of the Watermelon Board. Whoever created it: We like your style!

You can make one with a small watermelon plus:

  • Miniature bell peppers
  • Skewers of grapes and cheese cubes
  • A small pear
  • Raisins for eyes
  •  
    Give it to the kids as a project, and let them proudly display it as the centerpiece!

    Check out dozens of nifty watermelon carvings for every holiday and special special occasion, on Watermelon.org.

     

    watermelon-turkey-watermelon.orgFB-230

    Make this fruit and vegetable turkey as a holiday centerpiece. Photo courtesy Watermelon Board | Facebook.

     

      

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    RECIPE: Turkey Cupcakes

    You can find lots of turkey cupcake photos in Google, but these are the combination of easiest and best looking for the home baker to whip up.

    If you have kids (or adults) who don’t like pumpkin pie—or if you want to bring a memorable house gift—bring two dozen of these! If you’re looking for a kids’ project, ditto: Give them frosted cupcakes and let them do the decorating.

    You can bake your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe from scratch, use a cake mix, or in a pinch, purchase plain chocolate cupcakes. You can buy frosting or make your own.

    While we enjoy the convenience of a cake mix—which is simply saves you the time of measuring and mixing the ingredients—we’re much fussier about homemade frosting. Most canned chocolate frosting tastes…canned. Here’s our recipe for homemade chocolate buttercream frrosting.

     
    RECIPE: THANKSGIVING TURKEY CUPCAKES

    Ingredients for 24 Cupcakes

  • 1 box chocolate cake mix
  •    

    turkey-cupcakes-sixsistersstuff-230

    Gobble up this gobbler. Photo and recipe © SixSistersStuff.com.

  • 16 ounce can chocolate frosting (or your favorite homemade chocolate frosting)
  • 1-1/2 cups chocolate sprinkles
  • 2 cups candy corn
  • 48 Wilton candy eyeballs (found at major grocery stores, baking supply stores or online)
  • Red frosting or strips of red fruit leather
  • Variation: 24 large malted milk balls for heads
  •  

    candy-eyes-1-8-inch-confectionaryhouseAMZ-230

    Candy eyes come in different sizes and colors. For this recipe you want the smallest size like these, which are 7/16″ in diameter. You can buy them online. Photo courtesy Confectionary House.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the cake mix according to package directions to make 24 cupcakes. Bake and let cool completely. Frost each cupcake with chocolate frosting.

    2. HOLD each cupcake upside down and dip into the chocolate sprinkles. For feathers, push five pieces of candy corn upside down into the top of the cupcake.

    3. ADD two candy eyeballs and push a candy corn into the cupcake for a beak.

    4. PIPE some red frosting next to the candy corn beak, or adhere a strip of red fruit leather.
     
    VARIATION: Use malted milk balls as the head; press into the cupcake. Affix the candy eyeballs with frosting, and pipe a small amount of yellow frosting, and a small amount of red next to it, as the beak and the wattle.
     
    Here’s the original recipe plus a video of the preparation. Find more delicious recipes at SixSistersStuff.com.

     

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ICING & FROSTING

    The difference between frosting and icing is that icing is made with confectioners’ sugar (also called icing sugar or 10x sugar), while frosting is made with granulated sugar (table sugar).

    Because most people don’t understand this difference, the two words are often used interchangeably.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Japanese Chicken Noodle Soup

    Today is National Chicken Soup for the Soul Day, honoring a series of books that have been warming hearts for twenty years with their inspirational stories.

    While some might use the day to feed the soul, we’re doing some traditional feeding with a twist on chicken noodle soup: Japanese chicken soup from Haru restaurant in New York City.

    Udon is a thick wheat flour noodle of Japanese cuisine, typically served in hot chicken broth.

    RECIPE: CHICKEN UDON SOUP: JAPANESE CHICKEN
    NOODLE SOUP

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 5-1/2 cups chicken stock (low sodium)
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari sauce
  • 8 ounces boneless chicken breast, cut into slivers
  • 4 medium-sized shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 scallions, julienned into two-inch pieces
  • 4 handfuls baby or regular spinach, stems discarded
  • 1 package dried or frozen udon noodles
  • 1 tablespoon hot sesame oil
  •  

    clear-chicken-broth-haru-230

    The Japanese version of chicken noodle soup. Photo courtesy Haru Restaurant | NYC.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the stock, soy sauce and mirin in a medium saucepan over high heat, and bring to boil. Lower the heat and add the chicken and mushrooms. Simmer 4-5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. In the meantime…

    2. BOIL the noodles per package instructions. Drain and split evenly between four bowls. Ladle the hot broth, chicken and vegetables into each bowl.

    3. DRIZZLE some in sesame oil and garnish with scallions. Serve immediately.

      

    Comments

    FOOD 101: Is It Stuffing Or Dressing?

    Classic_Herb_Stuffing_mccormick-230

    Plain stuffing with just the basics: bread,
    celery and onions. It really needs some
    augmentation. Mushrooms make a huge
    difference. Photo courtesy McCormick.com.

     

    What’s the difference between stuffing and dressing, readers ask?

    Stuffing the cavity of animals with another dish is an ancient practice. The earliest documentary evidence is the Roman cookbook, “De Re Coquinaria,” “On Cooking, from about 100 C.E. (It is still in print, in English translation. Get a copy on Amazon.com.) The book contains recipes for stuffed chicken, hare, pig, and, yes, dormouse.

    In addition to stuffing the body cavity of birds, fish and mammals, various cuts of meat are stuffed after they have been deboned, or a pouch has been cut into them. Examples include stuffed chicken legs, stuffed pork chops and stuffed breast of veal.

    Vegetables can also be stuffed, from cabbage, where the individual leaves are stuffed and rolled, to potatoes and zucchini, where the flesh is removed, combined with other ingredients, and stuffed back into the shell.

    Names for stuffing in the English language evolved as well. Wikipedia mentions farce (~1390), stuffing (1538), forcemeat (1688) and dressing. After 1880, the “stuffing” was replaced by “dressing” in Victorian English.

     

    WHAT’S IN STUFFING?

    Most of the stuffings described in “De Re Coquinaria” consist of vegetables, herbs and spices, nuts, spelt (also known as dinkel wheat or hulled wheat) or other grain. Other popular ingredients included brains, chopped liver and other organ meats.

    Similar ingredients are still used today. The main difference is that bread is often the base into which the other ingredients are mixed. Turkey stuffing usually consists of day-old (or older) bread, cut into cubes or dried into croutons, mixed with celery, onion, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper and herbs such as sage or summer savory. Add-ins range from fruit and oysters to giblets and pancetta.

     

    WHY ARE BOTH “STUFFING” & “DRESSING” USED IN THE U.S.?

    There is a difference.

    “Stuffing” is self-explanatory: The ingredients are stuffed into the cavity. But in the South, “dressing” is the prevailing term, even if the bird is stuffed in exactly the same way.

    Why? Because old Southern tradition dictated that holiday fowl be hunted and cooked on the day of the feast itself. It was a time crunch to get the bird cleaned and cooked in time for dinner, and a hollow bird cooks faster than a stuffed bird. Thus, the side dish was not stuffed into the bird, but cooked alone.

    In the process, stuffing is cooked at a higher temperature for a longer period than a separate pan of dressing; so it is usually drier. Older dressing recipes were created to have more of a sauce-like consistency, so it could be poured over the food.

    So if the discussion arises at your Thanksgiving dinner, consider yourself prepared!

     

    stuffing-bellasunluci-230

    Cornbread stuffing dressed up with sundried tomatoes, fresh sage and grapes. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.

     

      

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    FOOD 101: Real Maple Vs. Maple Flavor

    gradeA-light-and-medium-amber-federationdesproducteursacericolesduQuebec-230

    Grade A Light maple syrup (left) and Grade A
    Medium maple syrup. Photo courtesy
    Federation des Producteurs Acéricoles du
    Quebec.

     

    While maple flavor can be enjoyed year-round, traditionally it’s a fall and winter flavor: We’re in prime maple season. So here’s a lesson on the difference between real maple syrup (also called pure maple or 100% maple syrup) and maple flavoring from the Vermont Maple Sugar Maker’s Association.

    There are numerous grocery products promoting maple as an ingredient, from oatmeal and granola to yogurts and sausages. They display the word “maple” on their packaging and include images of maple syrup or maple leaves—even when the product contains not a single drop of maple syrup!

    That’s because the permitted labeling can be deceptive, starting with the number one use of maple, breakfast syrup.

    “Pancake syrup” and “maple-flavored syrup” don’t contain any maple syrup*. They’re corn syrup with artificial colors and flavors that emulate maple syrup.

    Maple syrup is a largely unrefined sweetener made from the sap of maple trees: simply sap that is boiled down.

  • The real deal: To be sure that you are getting real maple syrup in a product, look for the words “maple syrup” or “maple sugar.”
  • The bad deal: While “artificial flavor” is a dead giveaway, phrases like “natural flavor” and “natural maple flavor” are also indications that the product contains no maple syrup. The “natural flavoring” is made of ingredients that are natural (as opposed to artificial), but not maple syrup. Otherwise, it would say “maple syrup” instead of “natural maple flavor.”
  •  
    *Some products contain a small percentage of real maple syrup, 1% to 5%. This will be stated on the ingredients label. By the way, pure maple syrup has just 40 calories a tablespoon, compared to 50 for granulated sugar and 56 for corn syrup.

     

    THE GRADES OF MAPLE SYRUP

    If you’re confused about the meaning of the different grades of pure maple syrup, you’re no different from most people. Is Grade A better than Grade B? What about Light, Medium and Dark?

    The grading system for maple syrup is based on color, and was established by the USDA. Color is neither indicative of the quality nor the purity of the syrup, but it does indicate the strength of the maple flavor. Generally, the darker the color, the stronger the flavor—so the grade you like will depend on how mapley you like your syrup. And the color is based on the length of time the sap is boiled down.

    Thus, unlike in the U.S. school system, a grade of A isn’t better than a grade of B. With maple syrup, it’s a question of what you’re going to do with it. Grade A, which is made in Light, Medium and Dark, is for table syrup. Grade B is used largely in baking and cooking, and in cleansing diets.

     

    gradeA-dark-amber-gradeB-federationdesproducteursacericolesduQuebec-230

    Grade A Dark Amber syrup, left and Grade B maple syrup. Photo courtesy Federation des Producteurs Acéricoles du Quebec.

     

    Grade A Versus Grade B

    Grade A Light Amber Maple Syrup has a very delicate maple flavor, the lightest of all options.

    Grade A Medium Amber Maple Syrup is the most popular grade sold, but that doesn’t mean it’s the connoisseur’s choice. Stronger than Grade A Light Amber yet still mild in maple flavor, it’s closest in style to the artificial-flavored supermarket pancake syrup.

    Grade A Dark Amber Maple Syrup has hearty maple flavor, and is our choice for the best maple syrup for pancakes.

    Grade B Maple Syrup has much more robust maple flavor. Once reserved primarily for cooking and baking, it is growing more popular as a table syrup among those who relish the greater intensity.

    Commercial Grade maple syrup is not available for consumer sale. It has exceptionally strong in flavor and is used as a commercial ingredient.

     
    CHECK OUT ALL THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SYRUP & SUGAR IN OUR TASTY GLOSSARY.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Baked Potato Nachos

    Today is National Nachos Day. Here’s a twist on nachos from the United States Potato Board, which uses potatoes instead of tortilla chips.

    Prep time is 25 minutes, cook time is 35 minutes.

    RECIPE: BAKED POTATO NACHOS

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1-1/2 pounds russet potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican seasoning blend (recipe below)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Toppings

  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, Mexican-flavored cheese (jalapeño, habanero) or pepper jack
  • 1/4 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 3 tablespoons canned diced green chiles
  •  

    SHORTEN-01

    Nachos with a twist: baked potatoes replace tortilla chips. Photo courtesy PotatoGoodness.com.

     
    Garnishes

  • Chopped avocado
  • Cilantro
  • Guacamole
  • Enchilada sauce for drizzling
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 425°F.

    2. WASH the potatoes, peel and slice into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Toss and coat with olive oil, garlic salt and Mexican seasoning.

    3. PLACE potato wedges in a single layer on a nonstick baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, stirring several times, until crisp and golden brown.

    4. REMOVE sheet from oven. Top potatoes with cheese, beans, tomatoes, olives, onions and chiles. Bake for 5 minutes more, until the cheese melts.

    5. SERVE with optional guacamole, salsa, sour cream, etc.
     
    MEXICAN SEASONING BLEND

    Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLEND all of the ingredients. Store in an airtight container.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY #2: Message Bread

    People get the government they deserve, said Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821), a French count, lawyer, diplomat, writer and philosopher. (The quote is often misattributed to better-known commentators such as Abraham Lincoln and Alexis de Tocqueville.)

    De Maistre’s actual statement was “Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite”—every nation gets [has] the government it deserves.” It was published in 1811 in a book of his letters. The statement is variously translated as “Every country has the government it deserves” and “In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve.”

    It’s Election Day. Exercise your right to vote. Even when the choices don’t appeal to you, one candidate has got to be more appealing than another. Leave the choice to others, and you get the government you deserve, if not necessarily the one you want.

    Even if you’re ambivalent about the candidates, there may be issues that will affect you for a long time. So do a bit of reading up and head to the polls.

     

    vote-bread-artisanbreadinfive-230sq

    Deliver your message in homemade bread. Photo courtesy ArtisanBreadInFive.com.

     

    Then, you deserve a treat. Is there anything better than fresh-baked bread?

    You can bake bread with a message, and use it as a signature dish for any special occasion: BOO for Halloween, FEAST for Thanksgiving, NOEL for Christmas, LOVE for anniversaries and Valentine’s Day, CONGRATS for promotions or great report cards, and so forth.

    Present the bread on a platter with a side of sweet and/or savory spreads, cheeses, pâté, other favorites, or simply butter and jam.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Peanut Butter Banana Dessert Cocktail

    peanut-butter-banana-bluechairbayrum-230

    Peanut butter and banana dessert cocktail. Photo courtesy Blue Chair Bay Rum.

     

    Elvis Presley’s favorite food was a pan-fried sandwich of peanut butter and sliced banana (recipe). To be seriously indulgent, he might have enjoyed washing them down with this peanut butter and banana cocktail, a kind of adult milkshake.

    We hadn’t seen a peanut butter cocktail of any type until the folks at Blue Chair Bay Rum sent us this delicious dessert cocktail recipe, for National Peanut Month (November). It’s made with their made with their banana rum and coconut rum.

    If you can find peanut butter ice cream, feel free to use it instead of the vanilla ice cream for a peanuttier drink.

    RECIPE: PEANUT BUTTER & BANANA COCKTAIL

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1-1/2 oz. Blue Chair Bay Banana Rum
  • 1 ounce Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 1 teaspoon peanut butter
  • Garnishes: whipped cream and cherry or chopped honey roasted peanuts
  • Optional: peanut butter cookies
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE ingredients in a blender and process. Pour into a tall glass.

    2. GARNISH and serve—perhaps with a side of peanut butter cookies.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pudding Toppers, Pudding Party

    creme-caramel-brittle-kaminsky-230

    Butterscotch pudding with brittle. Photo ©
    Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    Here’s a fun dessert idea, whether for a weekday family dinner or a pudding bar at your next party.

    You can make pudding or buy it. Making it is better and lots more fun. We’ve been spending more and more time with Puddin’: Luscious and Unforgettable Puddings, Parfaits, Pudding Cakes, Pies, and Pops.

    The book, by the owner of a pudding store in New York City, has foolproof pudding recipes, from standards to modern twists. Get your copy here.

    PICK A PUDDING

    • Banana pudding
    • Butterscotch pudding
    • Chocolate pudding
    • Coffee pudding
    • Lemon pudding
    • Pistachio pudding
    • Tapioca pudding
    • Rice pudding
    • Vanilla pudding
    • Modern puddings: Dulce de Leche, Key Lime, Malted Milk, Nutella, Peanut Butter and many others
    • Seasonal favorites like Eggnog, Maple and Pumpkin Pie puddings
    PICK A TOPPING

    Cookie & Cake Toppings

    • Brownie crumbs
    • Cake cubes (from any type of cake)
    • Graham cracker crumbs
    • Vanilla wafer crumbs
    • Other cookie crumbs

     
    Sauce Toppings

    • Caramel sauce
    • Dulce de leche
    • Fudge sauce
    • Fruit sauce: berry, cherry, peach melba
    • Marshmallow creme
    • Whipped cream

     

    Candies & Nuts

    • Baking chips: chocolate, butterscotch, mint, peanut butter, vanilla
    • Candied nuts (any type, including honey roasted nuts)
    • Candied orange peel
    • Chopped brittle or toffee
    • Gummies
    • Mini candies (malt balls, M&Ms, marshmallows)
    • Mini pretzels, chopped chocolate covered pretzels
    • Reese’s Pieces
    • Sprinkles

     
    Wild Card

    • Candied bacon
    • Coconut
    • Dried berries: cherries, cranberries
     

    puddin-230

    Puddin-licious: an entire book of pudding recipes. Photo courtesy Spiegel & Grau.

     

    FOR A PARTY PUDDING BAR

    1. MAKE the pudding in large bowls. Consider adding dairy free (vegan) and sugar free options.

    2. KEEP each bowl on a bed of crushed ice.

    3. PLACE the toppings in smaller bowls, each with its own serving spoon. Refilling topping bowls as needed.

      

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