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HALLOWEEN RECIPE: Candy Corn Popcorn Balls

Two years ago we published a recipe for orange-tinted Halloween Popcorn Balls, shaped like pumpkins.

This new recipe was created by Meghan McGarry of Buttercream Blondie for

We like it even better, because what Halloween celebrant doesn’t look forward to candy corn?

The candy corn theme does double duty between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

QUICK TIP: No time to make popcorn balls? Tao the candy corn and marshmallows with regular popcorn and a drizzle of honey or agave to bind them (or the candy corn will end up at the bottom of the bowl).

Meghan created a sweet-and-salty recipe with salted peanuts. We used the honey roasted peanuts we had on hand, and added a few dashes of salt.

If you don’t want to use nuts at all, substitute an additional 1/2 cup of candy corn, butterscotch baking chips, or Halloween M&Ms (they’re white and made in the shape of candy corn), etc.

For gifting, you can wrap them like a pomander in orange curling ribbon, or in individual clear cellophane bags with a ribbon tie.

Ingredients For 8-10 Popcorn Balls

  • 12 cups popped plain popcorn*
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup candy corn
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts (we used honey roasted peanuts)
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons Halloween sprinkles

    1. LINE a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Spray a large bowl and a spatula with cooking spray and add the popcorn. Set aside.

    2. MELT the butter in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Once butter begins to melt, add the marshmallows and stir continuously until melted. Then stir in vanilla extract.

    3. POUR the melted mixture over the popcorn and gently toss with the spatula. Add the candy corn and peanuts.

    4. SPRAY your hands with cooking spray and continue to mix by hand until everything is coated and combined. Add the sprinkles just before you’re almost done mixing.

    5. SHAPE the popcorn into balls and set on a parchment-lined sheet pan to cool.
    *If popping the corn from scratch, you need 6 ounces or 2/3 cup of kernels.


    Candy Corn Popcorn Balls

    Halloween Confetti

    Halloween Confetti

    [1] Candy corn popcorn balls from Meghan McGarry. [2] Halloween sprinkles from Halloween sprinkles from Dress My Cupcake. [3] Halloween confetti from Kreative Baking.




    TIP OF THE DAY: What To Use When You Don’t Have Pasta Sauce

    Pasta No Sauce

    Pasta Primavera

    Garlic Noodles

    Primavera Pasta

    [1] Got pasta but no red sauce or items that can be turned into it? Just check the pantry and the fridge (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [2] Check for fresh, canned or frozen vegetables and make Primavera with olive oil (photo courtesy Melissa’s). Bonus: some leftover chicken. [3] No veggies? No problem! Garlic, olive oil, chili flakes and some celery and cucumber from the fridge created this tasty dish (photo courtesy P.F. Chang’s). [4] This Primavera contains canned artichoke hearts and some strips of grated carrot (photo courtesy Grimmway Farms).


    October is National Pasta Month.

    Most of us have dry pasta in the pantry, an easy-cook dinner.

    But what if you have no pasta sauce—at least, no go-to red sauce, or the ingredients* from which to quickly make one?

    Recipes evolved because people used what they had on hand. You can do the same.

    These alternative sauces for pasta also work with grains and vegetables.

    No parmesan or other Italian grating cheese? Use any other grated or shredded cheese, ricotta or cottage cheese (these latter often used to stuff pasta). Even those that may seem and unusual pairing—Stilton or Gouda, for example—work.

  • Crumbled cheese, such as blue, feta or goat, work with a simple oil or butter dressing.
  • Or leave cheese out entirely. Pasta/noodle dishes are served the world over without grated cheese. In Sicily, a mixture of bread crumbs and chopped herbs (oregano, parsley, thyme, etc.)

    You can use any type of sauce you do have, from cheese sauce to salsa. Adding whatever vegetables—from sundried or cherry tomatoes to onions to any herb or spice on the shelf—gives added dimension. Check out these new Recipe Ready Tomato Paste Pouches from Hunt’s, and keep them in the pantry.

  • Asian sauces such as hoisin or ponzu or hoisin sauce create Asian-style noodles. You can also make Asian vinaigrette with sesame oil and rice wine vinegar; feel free to substitute the oil or vinegar with what you do have. You can also make a quick Asian dressing with soy sauce, vinegar and vegetable oil, a dash of garlic and/or ginger.
  • Butter, with cracked pepper or red pepper flakes, melts nicely on hot pasta. Just toss it for an instant sauce. Optional flavors include lemon zest, herbs or spices: ingredients found in any kitchen. If you have compound butter, great: Situations like this are exactly what it’s for.
  • Other dairy products provide additional options. You can use cottage cheese or ricotta straight or blended into a sauce; or make an herb sauce from milk, cream, sour cream or yogurt with whatever herbs or condiments you have on hand. You can also go international, flavoring these dairy products with anything: cumin, curry, dill, flavored salt, mustard, nutmeg, paprika, sage, tarragon, thyme, etc.
  • Meat, poultry and fish leftovers can be combined with any pasta or noodles. Leftover bacon? Sausage? Turkey? Just slice, dice and toss.
  • Olive oil or other oil is a substitute in many recipes. If you have a can of anchovies, clams, escargots, tuna or other seafood, it becomes both your topping and sauce. For a tonnato (tuna) sauce, pulse the tuna to the fineness you like.
  • Flavored olive oil makes an elegant sauce. You can add any ingredients you like, from capers and olives to garlic, jalapeño or lemon zest, chopped nuts or hard-boiled eggs.
  • Peanut sauce, the kind served on the popular Chinese appetizer, cold sesame noodles, can be made with only peanut butter Just dilute peanut butter with enough vegetable oil to the desired consistency. Season the sauce with sesame seeds, garlic and/or heat (hot sauce, chile flakes). Sprinkle with chopped green onions, chopped peanuts, and/or fresh herbs.
  • Salad dressings, whether olive oil and vinegar, mayonnaise, sour cream and bottled dressings, are used in different pasta salad recipes. So why not with hot pasta?
  • Vegetables—canned, fresh, frozen—combine with olive oil or melted butter into a primavera sauce. Use garlic or other seasoning as you prefer.
  • White sauce can be made in just 10 minutes. The recipe is below.

    Check the fridge and the pantry. You may find adobo, barbecue sauce, chili sauce, chimmichurri, chutney, pesto, piri-piri, sriracha ketchup and so on.

    Turn them into a pasta sauce by blending with oil, sour cream, yogurt, etc.


    You can make a classic white sauce in just 10 minutes. Use it as is, or add whatever seasonings you like, from olives to nutmeg.

    With grated Parmesan, it would be Alfredo Sauce.

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of white pepper (substitute black pepper—white is used simply so there are no dark flecks in the sauce)
  • 1 cup 2% or whole milk

    1. MELT the butter over medium heat in a small pan. Add the flour, salt and pepper, whisking until smooth.

    2. SLOWLY WHISK in the milk and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until thickened. Use immediately or refrigerate, tightly covered.

    Check out the different types of pasta in our photo-packed Pasta Glossary.

    *You can turn the following into red sauce: canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, tomato paste.



    TIP OF THE DAY: It’s Easy To Bake A Caribbean Rum Bundt Cake

    Caribbean Rum Cake

    Caribbean Rum Cake

    Caribbean Rum Cake

    Butter Rum Flavor Lorann

    [1] A rum cake bundt, heavy on the rum (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [2] The rum is poured onto the cake and sits overnight to sink in. This recipe adds cinnamon to the rum syrup (photo courtesy [3] Lots of rum syrup make this cake very moist (photo courtesy [4] This butter-rum oil (not rum extract) adds another layer of deliciousness (photo courtesy Lorann Oils).


    Rum cake is a year-round treat, but we tend to make them in the fall. They go well with a hot cup of tea, and are welcome gifts.

    In the Caribbean, rum cakes are a traditional holiday dessert, descendants of figgy pudding and other Christmas puddings*.

    Rum cakes are descended from British holiday puddings, such as figgy pudding (plum pudding) and fruit cake. Traditionally, dried fruit is soaked in rum for months; but in modern recipes, just an overnight soak suffices.

    “If you’ve ever traveled to the Caribbean,” says King Arthur Flour, the premium baking ingredients company that sent us this recipe, “chances are you’ve had the amazing rum cakes that the islands are famous for. Sadly, these cakes are not often found in northern latitudes but this recipe is the closest we’ve ever had to the ‘real’ thing.

    “Yes, there is a lot of rum in this cake, definitely not for the faint of heart; but the texture and flavor are unbeatable—moist, rich and deeply satisfying. Whisk yourself away to white sandy beaches with this incredible cake.”

    Yes, this is definitely a potent cake (all real rum, no “rum flavor”), very moist and fragrant.

    If you have half an hour, whip one up. Prep time is 30 minutes to 40 minutes, bake time is 50 minutes to 55 minutes.

    In fact, make two: This cake freezes beautifully.


    Ingredients For 1 Large Bundt Cake
    For The Rum Cake Base

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup pastry cream filling mix or instant vanilla pudding mix, dry
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup white or golden rum
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon butter rum flavor (recommended—this is not extract but oil)
  • 1/4 cup pecan or almond flour, for dusting baking pan

  • Cooking spray
  • Almond flour to coat pan
    For The Rum Soaking Syrup

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup white or golden rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    Optional For Serving

  • Crème fraîche
  • Mascarpone
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Whipped cream (we use half the sugar)

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Spray a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle in the almond flour and turn the pan to coat evenly. Set aside.

    2. PLACE all of the cake ingredients except the rum, vanilla and butter rum flavoring in the bowl of a stand mixer. Blend on medium speed for 2 minutes scraping down the bowl after one minute.

    3. ADD the rum, vanilla and butter rum flavor to the batter and blend for another minute. Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan and spread level with a spatula.

    4. BAKE the cake for 50 to 55 minutes. You may smell the nut flour toasting at first, especially that which is not covered by the cake batter. When done, the cake will test clean on a cake tester. Bundt cakes, much deeper than layer cakes, are difficult to test properly with a short toothpick. If you don’t have a 7-inch cake tester (or longer), try a piece of dry, uncooked spaghetti or linguine. Let the cake rest in the pan to cool slightly while you prepare the soaking syrup.

    5. COMBINE the syrup ingredients, except the vanilla, in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil; then reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the syrup thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

    6. POKE holes all over the cake with a skewer. Pour about 1/4 of the syrup over the cake while still in the pan. Allow the syrup to soak in, then repeat again and again until all the syrup is used. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow the cake to sit out overnight to soak in the syrup. When ready to serve…

    7. LOOSEN the edges of the cake and invert it onto a serving plate.



    Most serious bakers use unbleached flour, which is aged. But why did manufacturers start bleaching flour in the first place?

    Freshly-milled flour isn’t yet ready for baking. It improves with some aging.

    During aging, oxygen in the air reacts with the glutenin proteins, which eventually form gluten, to form even longer chains of gluten. These longer chains provide more elasticity and structure, the latter important for cakes.

    During this aging process—around four months—the fresh flour, which is slightly yellowish from carotenoid pigments in the endosperm, becomes paler as the pigments oxidize. This has no impact on the flavor or performance of the flour.

    Around the beginning of the 20th century, it became common for mills to use chemicals to speed up the aging process, producing more flour and requiring less storage space. Potassium bromate was commonly used, followed by bleaches like benzoil peroxide and chlorine dioxide, to approximate the whiteness of naturally aged flour.

    More recently, health concerns over the consumption of potassium bromate have led to its replacement with ascorbic acid.

    Here’s more about aged flour.


    Unbleached Flour

    [5] Bleached and unbleached flour can be used interchangeably in many recipes, but cakes and some breads require the springiness provided by the longer gluten chains in unbleached flour. Here’s a further explanation from Better Homes & Gardens.

    *Far from the creamy dessert puddings popular in the U.S., British puddings are cake-like, and can be baked, boiled or steamed. Savory puddings with meat were served as a main dish; sweet puddings evolved as desserts. In the 19th century, the boiled pudding evolved into today’s cake-like concept, such as the Christmas pudding that remains popular. While “pudding” is a generic term for dessert in the U.K., it has no relationship to the creamy milk-based American puddings. Here’s the difference.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Fluffernutter & Fluffernutter Cookies For National Fluffernutter Day

    Fluffernutter Sandwich

    Marshmallow Fluff

    Kerfluffle Gourmet Fluffernutter

    Marshmallow Plant & Root

    [1] The classic Fluffernutter sandwich: peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff on white bread (photo courtesy Quaker). [2] Marshmallow Fluff was first sold commercially in 1910 (photo courtesy [3] Kerfuffle, a ready-to-spread all natural Fluffernutter blend (photo courtesy Kerfluffle Nut Butter). [4] The marsh mallow plant has pretty flowers, but the sap in the root makes marshmallows (or it did, until it was replaced by gelatin). Photo courtesy


    National Fluffernutter Day is October 8th, honoring the classic peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwich on white bread (photo #1).

    The original Marshmallow Fluff was introduced more than 75 years ago and is still made by Durkee-Mower Inc. Some brands call it marshmallow cream, others marshmallow creme.

    What’s the difference between cream and creme? Just the spelling. Creme is an Americanization of the French word for cream, crème? (pronounced KREHM).

    Why adapt a French word instead of good old American cream? Most likely adapted to make the dish sound more special. There’s no need to misspell and mispronounce another language’s word for cream. Unless it’s a French recipe, such as Coeur à la Crème, stick to cream.


    Marshmallow dates back to ancient Egypt. The marsh mallow plant that was plentiful along the banks of the Nile has a slippery sap that forms a gel when mixed with water. The Egyptians mixed the “juice” with honey to make a confection, reserved for the wealthy and the gods.

    The Roman scholar Pliny the Elder credited the sap with curing all sorts of diseases, and encouraged people to drink the juice daily, although it wasn’t very palatable (what happened to the honey?). Still, for centuries the sap was used to treat sore throats, skin conditions and other maladies.

    Marsh Mallow Sap Gets Replaced With Gelatin

    In the mid-19th century, a pharmacist in Paris came up with the idea of whipping the sap with sugar and egg whites into a light, sweet, fluffy throat remedy. A variation soon became popular as marshmallow candy.

    By the late 19th century, confectioners had determined how to mass-produce marshmallows, which included eliminating the sap entirely and replacing it with gelatin.

    Prepared gelatin was patented in 1845. In addition to setting aspics, it was desirable as glue, a use that also dates back to the marsh mallow plants of ancient Egypt.

    Prior to 1845, it was laborious to render and clarify gelatin from cattle and pig bones, skin, tendons and ligaments.

    Marshmallow sauces were popular in the early 20th century (see Marshmallow History). But to make marshmallow sauce or frosting required that the cook first make marshmallow creme.

    It was a two-step process: make a sugar syrup, melt marshmallow candy in a double boiler, and combine them with the syrup. But, the popularity created an opportunity.
    Commercial Marshmallow Cream Arrives

    In 1910 a marshmallow cream called Marshmallow Fluff was sold to ice cream parlors by Limpert Brothers, a company that still exists in New Jersey. You can see the original packaging here.

    Call greater Boston the home of marshmallow cream!

  • Brother and sister Amory and Emma Curtis of the Curtis Marshmallow Factory in Melrose, Massachusetts, created Miss Curtis’ Snowflake Marshmallow Creme in 1913. It was the first commercially successful, shelf-stable marshmallow creme. Curtis ultimately bought the Marshmallow Fluff brand from the Lippert Brothers (details).
  • In 1917, Archibald Query invented a creation he called Marshmallow Creme in Somerville, Massachusetts.
  • Marshmallow Fluff wasn’t the first marshmallow cream, but it’s the one that endured. More than 100 years later, the brand is still thriving.
    Unlike conventional marshmallows, which require gelatin (an animal product) or a seaweed equivalent to set, todays large marshmallow brands are kosher products made from corn syrup, sugar, water, egg whites, artificial flavor, cream of tartar, xanthan gum and artificial color.

    Marshmallow Fluff is certified kosher by OU, Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme by OK Kosher.

    Ricemellow Creme, manufactured by Suzanne’s Specialties, Inc., is a vegan equivalent.


    In 1917, during World War I, Emma Curtis published a recipe for the Liberty Sandwich, which consisted of peanut butter and Snowflake Marshmallow Creme on oat or barley bread. The recipe was published in a promotional booklet sent to Curtis’ customers in 1918, and is believed to be the origin of today’s Fluffernutter sandwich.


    You can make your own version of Fluff at home, with this recipe.

    Beyond the original (vanilla), you can make chocolate “Fluff,” gingerbread, etc.

    You’ll love the flavor from pure vanilla extract; and can make gift batches for Fluff-loving friends and family.



    Christine Fischer of Wry Toast created these Fluffernutter cookies and sent them to PB & Co., producers of gourmet peanut butters.

    Here are step-by-step photos on

    Prep time is 15 minutes for 15 sandwich cookies.

    We made substitutions, as noted below, to trade the salty elements (butter crackers, bacon) for sweeter ones (cookies and banana chips).

    Ingredients For 15 Cookie Sandwiches

  • 30 butter crackers (Ritz, Town House, etc.)
  • 5 tablespoons Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter (from PB & Co.)
  • 1/4 cup Marshmallow Fluff or other marshmallow cream
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled bacon, cooked

    1. LINE a medium-size baking sheet with parchment paper.

    2. SPREAD a small amount of peanut butter on half of the crackers/cookies, then a small amount of fluff on the other half. Sandwich together, then transfer to baking sheet. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

    3. COMBINE the chocolate chips and coconut oil in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for approximately one minute until melted, stirring at the 30-second mark to avoid burning.

    4. REMOVE the frozen sandwiches from the freezer. Dip each halfway in melted chocolate, then return to baking sheet and sprinkle the bacon on top. Repeat until all sandwiches have been coated and topped, then return to the freezer until the chocolate is set, at least an hour.

    For The Crackers

    We tried these, all with very satisfactory results:

  • Graham crackers
  • Le Petit Écolier (Little Schoolboy) cookies (omit the chocolate chips)
  • Shortbread
  • Social Tea Biscuits
    For The Coconut Oil

  • Melted butter
    For The Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter

  • Plain PB or any flavor that beckons
    For The Marshmallow Cream

  • Actual marshmallows
    For The Bacon

  • Banana chips
    You’ve got a few days before National Fluffernutter Day to determine your favorite combination.


    Fluffernutter Cookies

    Fluffernutter Cookies

    Little Schoolboy Cookies

    Social Tea Biscuits

    [5] Fluffernutter cookies topped with bacon from Christine Fischer. [6] Preparing the cookie sandwiches (photos #1 and #2 courtesy Wry Toast Eats). [7] Le Petit Écolier biscuits topped with a chocolate bar were our favorite variations (photo courtesy LU). [8] Social Tea Biscuits are similar to Le Petit Écolier, without the chocolate bar (the recipe’s chocolate chips provide the chocolate (photo courtesy Nabisco).




    COCKTAIL RECIPE: Pumpkin Martini


    Pumpkin Vodka

    [1] Pumpkin Pie-tini. Photo courtesy SandAndSisal, which uses a different recipe from ours, with whipped cream vodka, pumpkin eggnog and a rim of brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. [2] Pinnacle is one of the brands of pumpkin-flavored vodka on the market. Pumpkin is a seasonal offering.


    Today is National Vodka Day, and it’s fall. So what better than a pumpkin martini?

    To make a true pumpkin martini, you’ll need a bottle of clear, pumpkin-flavored vodka and the other ingredients for your favorite martini recipe. We picked up a bottle of Pinnacle Pumpkin Pie Vodka, which gave a pumpkin-pie-spice accent to a standard martini. For garnish, we floated a star anise on top.

    Otherwise, you can make a Pumpkin Pie-tini with vanilla vodka and real pumpkin purée (top photo). If you want a spicier drink, use pumpkin pie filling instead of purée; pie filling includes the pumpkin pie spices.


    Make one of these as a test drink. You can then decide to vary the ingredients—more or less of something, pumpkin vodka, etc.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 ounce cream, milk or eggnog
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin purée or pumpkin pie filling
  • ½ ounces vanilla vodka
  • 1½ ounces crème de cacao or vanilla liqueur
  • Ice and shaker
  • Optional glass rim: maple syrup, honey or water plus crushed biscotti, graham crackers or vanilla wafer crumbs
  • Optional garnish: sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice with or without whipped cream, or a cocktail pick with candy corn

    1. PURÉE the purée. Why? Pumpkin purée can be slightly grainy. For a smooth cocktail, run the pumpkin through a food processor or use an immersion blender in the can.

    2. CREATE the glass rimmer. Using a small amount of maple syrup, honey or water on the rim of the glass, place the rim on a plate of cookie crumbs and twist until the rim is coated.

    3. SHAKE the cream/milk and pumpkin puree with ice to combine. Add the remaining ingredients and shake well. Strain into the martini glass.


    All you need are vanilla beans and vodka…and 10 days to let them infuse.

    If you’ve had the vanilla beans for a while, check to see that they’re not dried out. If they are, get new beans and stick the old ones in a sugar jar, where they’ll lightly scent the sugar.

    If you don’t need an entire bottle of vanilla vodka, make half a bottle.

  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 750 ml vodka
  • Empty glass quart jar with cap

    1. CUT the vanilla beans in half lengthwise to expose the interior as possible (that’s where the flavor is).

    2. POUR the vodka into the glass jar, retaining the original bottle for the final product.

    3. PLACE the vanilla beans in the jar, cap it tightly and shake gently. With a quart jar, the top 20% should be empty. Then put the bottle in a cool, dark place to infuse.

    4. STRAIN the vodka after 10 days. Use a funnel and a fine sieve, coffee filter or cheesecloth to strain the vanilla vodka into its original vodka bottle. You’re ready to go!


    TIP OF THE DAY: Beyond Taco Tuesdays & National Taco Day

    October 4th is National Taco Day, and this year it coincides with Taco Tuesday. What does that mean?

    Tacos for breakfast (recipe below), tacos for lunch, tacos for dinner, tacos for dessert. But first:


    SUrprisingly, the Aztecs did not invent the taco; nor did anyone else, until the 18th century.

    According to Professor Jeffrey M. Pilcher, author of Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food, tacos are not an ancient food.

    Rather, as he discusses in an article in Smithsonian Magazine, Mexican silver miners in the 18th century likely invented the taco as a hand-held convenience food, followed by taco carts and taquerías in the working-class neighborhoods.

    As the taco spread throughout Mexico, each region added its own touches: meats, spices, salsas, garnishes.

    Mexican Americans in the Southwest reinvented it. As late as the 1960s, tacos were virtually unknown outside Mexico and the American Southwest.

    In 1962, businessman Glen Bell founded Taco Bell as a drive-up with a few outdoor tables. It grew into a mass-marketing powerhouse, serving an Anglo version with a hard shell at quick-service restaurants nationwide.

    This hard pre-fried corn tortilla shell (photo #2) is not authentic. Like the burrito, a larger wheat flour tortilla, it was born in the U.S.A.

    Yet within 50 years the United States had shipped its hard taco shells worldwide, from Australia to Mongolia—redefining the taco in the eyes of millions, if not billions.
    And Taco Tuesday?

    This American event was begun in in 1982 as a successful promotion by Taco John’s. It encouraged people to go out for tacos on Tuesday nights, and offered specials like $1 fish tacos.


    Mole Tacos

    Pre-Fried Taco Shells

    [1] An upscale taco in the classic mold. This one includes braised beef and mole sauce, with cottage cheese Here’s the recipe (photo courtesy McCormick. [2] Hard fried taco shells are an American invention. They stand up on their own (photo courtesy Old El Paso)!

    Since tacos are easy to make at home and popular with the whole family, Taco Tuesdays is also a frequent event in home kitchens.

    While Taco John’s trademarked the name, the trademark is no longer enforced. Now, it’s Taco Tuesdays for everyone!

    You may think that National Taco Day is a day to celebrate the classics; but as you do, put on your thinking cap and invasion the next great taco combination you can make.

  • Sophisticated tacos. Chefs at better restaurants are pushing their creativity to transfer icon dishes to tacos. Try these braised beef tacos in mole sauce (photo #1).
  • Put your own spin on it. Ground beef tacos became cheeseburger tacos, for example. Grilled, sliced steak is popular in northern Mexico, and our tony friend Ordway wanted to try the concept with filet mignon. We made them for his birthday, with a sauce of melted gruyère, crème fraîche and salsa verde, a Mexican-French fusion. (May we say, it was a silly excess but very appreciated by the birthday boy. We’ve since gone with braised short ribs or lamb shank—DEE-licious.)
  • Trio of tacos. Our favorite dish at our neighborhood Tex-Mex restaurant is a trio of tacos, each with a different filling. Why choose just one?
  • Specialty tacos for every occasion, like these corned beef and cabbage tacos for St. Patrick’s Day.
  • Sashimi tacos. Fish tacos are great, but sushi lovers will adore these sashimi tacos as well. The shell is made from wonton wrappers. Fillings can be anything you like. Haru restaurant in New York City serves three full-size tacos: tuna with cherry tomato salsa, salmon with avocado and striped bass with apple yuzu ceviche sauce.
  • Dessert tacos. Whether they’re in a sideways waffle cone resembling a hard taco shell, or in a waffle from your waffle maker, this is fun food. How can you resist? Here’s the recipe. Warning: It’s not the neatest ice cream sandwich to eat. It’s best served on a plate at the table.

    Breakfast Taco

    Breakfast Burrito

    Dessert Taco

    From breakfast to dessert: [3] Breakfast taco with scrambled eggs and sausage (photo courtesy Imusa, recipe below). [4] A DIY set-up from David Burke Fabrick | NYC. [5] A simple dessert taco in a waffle cone shell (photo courtesy Add as many toppings as you like. You can use a waffle maker to make a soft waffle shell.



    Unlike the American-invented breakfast burrito, essentially an egg-and-sausage wrap sandwich, this recipe is truer to Mexican preparations.

    There’s a fight between Austin and San Antonio over the origin of the breakfast taco.

    At first, it was a breakfast made at home: eggs, sausage or other pork and cheese, rolled in a warm tortilla. In Mexican kitchens, tortillas are a staple, like a loaf of bread.

    The concept then migrated to breakfast stands and restaurants, as far back as the 1950s.

    Thanks to IMUSA USA, a maker of kitchenware for global recipes—for this breakfast taco recipe. You can find more recipes on their website.

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 chorizo links (about 7 ounces), diced
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup cilantro, divided
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar
  • 10-12 corn flour tortillas
  • Chipotle-flavored Tabasco or other hot sauce (substitute ketchup)

    1. MIX the sour cream, lime juice and salt in a bowl; put aside.

    2. CHAR the tortillas over a gas flame or directly on an electric burner until blackened in spots, turning with tongs. Place in a tortilla warmer or aluminum foil and set aside.

    3. ADD the olive oil to a nonstick sauté pan and bring to medium-high heat. Sweat the onions for about one minute and add the diced chorizo. Cook for 5-6 minutes until chorizo is browned.

    5. ADD half of the cilantro and all of the cooked chorizo to the beaten eggs. Blend and pour into the pan. Cook on low heat, stirring from time to time.

    6. PLACE the cooked eggs, cheddar, tomatoes and remaining cilantro in separate bowls and lay them out throughout the table with the warm tortillas. Let everyone build their own.




    FOOD FUN: Vertical Pear Salad

    Jessica, from The Novice Chef Blog, isn’t such a novice. She designed this elegant pear salad that is easy in its execution, yet dazzling on the table.

    You can vary the filling, the color of the pear, and/or the vinaigrette.

    If you prefer, you can make candied nuts instead of simply toasting them.

    For more vertical salads, see our vertical veggie ideas.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 smooth skinned pears)
  • 2-3 cups watercress, arugula or baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup toasted almond, pecan or walnut halves (how to toast nuts)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (substitute blue or goat cheese)
  • Lemon juice
  • Vinaigrette dressing
  • Optional plate garnish: pomegranate arils
    For The Vinaigrette


    Pear & Blue Cheese

    So elegant, so easy: a vertical pear salad from The Novice Chef Blog.

    This salad begs for a sweeter vinaigrette. Use champagne, raspberry, sherry or white balsamic vinegars. Walnut oil is heavenly in this type of vinaigrette, but good olive oil is fine.

    Another option is to add a tablespoon of honey or maple syrup (a nice fall touch) to your usual vinaigrette.

    Whichever you choose, choose a ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar.

    Here’s the best technique to make a vinaigrette that holds together without separating.

    1. SLICE the pears horizontally into 3 or 4 slices depending on the size. Leave the stem on the top piece.

    2. USE a paring knife to remove the cores, creating a “donut hole” in the middle. Brush the cut sides with lemon juice to keep them from browning. When you’re ready to serve…

    3. MOISTEN the watercress, pecans and blue cheese with the vinaigrette and toss to coat.

    4. ASSEMBLE the pears on individual plates, with the watercress salad in between each slice.

    5. DRIZZLE the vinaigrette on the plate around the pear, and serve.
    Thanks, Jessica: You rock!



    TIP OF THE DAY: Stack Your Vegetables

    Vegetable Stacks

    Stacked Fritters

    Stacked In Rocks Glasses

    [1] Stacked vegetables as short or tall as you like (photo courtesy Citrine World Bistro, late of Redwood City). [2] Stack polenta or fritters, like these from Like It Short (website no longer up). [3] If you don’t want to deal with ring molds, stack your veggies in rocks glasses (photo courtesy The Whole Gang.


    These look fancy, don’t they?

    But you can easily make vegetable stacks at home, even with leftovers.

    While many people currently are focused on stacked salads in mason jars, we’re freeing the veggies from the jar today, and serving them cooked as well as raw. Even those who don’t like their vegetables will be happy.

  • Serve stacked veggies as a first course, with the cheese course. You can add wedges of cheese to the plate, or slice layers into the stack (blue, brie, chèvre, feta, mozzarella, etc).
  • Serve them as a luncheon or dinner salad with a layer of protein (chicken, fish, protein salads [egg, crab, tuna, etc.], tartare, tofu, veggie burgers, etc.)

  • In ring molds. You want 3-4 inch rings, as tall as you can find so they can be used for short and tall stacks.
  • In rocks glasses.
  • In repurposed food cans, tops and bottoms removed*.
  • In lengths of PVC† plumbing pipes, cut to order at the hardware store.
    *Don’t worry about PVC leaching into your food. You’re not cooking/heating the rings, and you’re only using them for a couple of minutes to assemble, as opposed to plastic bottles that can hold water for months or years.

    †One of the problems with using the time-honored empty can for stacking is that many cans now have “formed” bottoms that stack more easily, but can’t be removed with a can opener. So don’t throw away expired canned food without checking to see if you can use the empty can! Also, look for the older can bottoms with foods from Mexico and Asia, from packing plants that still use the old technology.


    Ingredients can be whatever you want or already have, and in whatever form: cooked, puréed, raw.

    Be sure to vary the colors (you don’t want a stack of beige ingredients) and include pops of color.

  • Canned: beets, corn, water chestnuts
  • Color: red, yellow or orange bell peppers, tomatoes and all of these
  • Eggs: hard-cooked or Japanese omelet (tamago)
  • Fruit: sliced or diced (apple, mango, pineapple, etc.)
  • Garnishes: fresh herbs (try a dill or rosemary plume), chip, spiraled beets
  • Grains and starches: polenta slices, potato (diced, mashed, sliced), rice, quinoa, etc.
  • Greens: arugula, avocado, cress, spinach, spinach, zucchini, etc.
  • Plate garnish: chopped nuts, infused olive oil, seeds, microgreens
  • Sides: gourmet chips or crackers, toasted baguette slices
    Pinterest has a page of lovely stacked vegetable ideas.

    For The Dressing

    You need just a light sauce on the side: ramekins of balsamic vinegar, a vinaigrette, infused oil‡ or a vegetable oil blended with dark sesame oil (a little goes a long way).

    Also consider dipping sauces from Asia, such as chili sauce or ponzu. Both can be purchased or made at home.

    We also love a yuzu vinaigrette.

    1. CHOOSE your ingredients. Try for contrasting colors and plan your layers. Stack heavier items at the bottom.

    2. SPRAY the inside of the molds, if using, so the food slides out more easily.

    3. SET each stack on a serving plate, and garnish the plate with droplets of olive oil (especially flavored oil!).
    ‡A delicious alternative to a vinaigrette, infused oils are available in a score of flavors: basil, blood orange, chile (ancho, habanero, jalapeño), dill, garlic, Meyer lemon, lemon pepper, oregano, rosemary, truffle, scallion, wasabi, etc.



    RECIPE: Dried Fruit Tart For Rosh Hashanah Or Anytime

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/star of david lattice tart marthastewart 230

    Dried fruit tart with Star Of David lattice. Photo © Martha Stewart Media.


    What we love about this tart is that for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, the lattice crust is woven strips of pâte brisée in a Star of David pattern.

    If the pattern looks familiar to non-Jews, it’s because it’s the weave used in classic chair caning.

    Even if you don’t celebrate the Jewish New Year, make this lattice-topped tart. Per the recipe on, “The star pattern is easier to make than you might guess.”

    The filling in the tart is made from dried fruits—apricots, cranberries and prunes—that are poached in a spiced vanilla-cognac syrup.

    Here’s the recipe on

    You can use the same lattice on any pie or tart.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Cold Brew Coffee With A French Press

    The average American drinks 2.1 cups of coffee a day. Collectively, Americans drink 4,630 cups of coffee each second. And September 29th is National Coffee Day.

    Cold brew coffee, which has been around quite a while (we’ve had a Toddy cold brew system for 20+ years), has finally hit the mainstream.

    Coffee drinkers find it has superior flavor; and in the summer, iced coffee is as easy as adding cold water to cold-brew concentrate from the fridge. (Here are some well-reviewed brands).

    Companies from Folgers to Blue Bottle sell cold-brew coffee. You can buy large bottles of concentrate; you can buy grab-and-go 16-ounce bottles.

    Yet, if you have a French press, you can make trendy cold brew coffee without purchasing a special cold brew system or a bottle of ready-brewed. The French press recipe is below. But first:

    A French press is a coffee-brewing device consisting of a pot with a removable plunger made of fine mesh.

    Coarse-ground coffee is added to the pot, followed by boiling water. The plunger device is placed on top. The coffee grounds float in the water.

    When the coffee is ready to be poured, the plunger is employed. As it is pushed down, the grounds are pushed to the bottom. It does not use electricity; although you likely need it to heat the water.

    If you have a French press, there’s no need to buy a cold brew system, or pricey bottles of cold brew coffee at retail.

    Today, you can find coffee presses in stainless steel, in a stainless holder with a glass beaker (photo #1), and in plastic.

    French presses are made in sizes from 1-2 cups to 10 cups or more. There are travel mug versions, of course: We use this coffee press “mug” from Bodum.

    French press or coffee press is the name in English; although in In New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, the apparatus is known as a coffee plunger. In France it is called cafetière à piston; in Italy it is a caffettiera a stantuffo.
    Brewing Tea In A French Press

    You can use a French press to brew loose tea as well, but don’t use a press that is used to brew coffee. Even after washing, microscopic bits of coffee oil can cling to the glass or metal, imparting an unwelcome undertaste to the tea.


    Classic French Press

    Cold Brew Coffee  Concentrate

    [1] The classic design of the modern French press (this one is from Bonjour). [2] One of the artisan cold-brews sold at retail (photo courtesy Jittery John’s).

    With both coffee or tea, be sure to pour it soon after brewing. Letting the grounds or tea leaves sit under the brewed beverage creates a bitter brew, not a better brew.
    Conceived In 1852

    The first known design for a plunge-type brewer was patented in 1852 by two French designers, Mayer and Delforge. You can see their design at

    Per Brooklyn Roasting it was ahead of its time; manufacturing was not precise enough to snugly fit the filter within pot of the design.

    Others tried their hand, but the first iteration of brewer that we know today was patented by Italian designers Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta in 1929. They employed a rubber seal around the edge of the filter.

    The design evolved, with improved the function of the rubber seal.

    The design we know today was patented by a Swiss designer, Faliero Bondanini, in 1958. It was manufactured in France and called a chambord. With a compact design and no required electrical outlet, it became a very popular brewing method.


    These instructions are proportions for an 8-cup French press. Remember that the “standard” cup size used by manufacturers was set long before coffee mugs and modern insulated travel mug containers were in use. So if you use a large mug, you’ll get 4 mugs worth from an 8-cup press, or three 16-ounce travel mugs.

    Use only coarse-ground coffee. Smaller grains will slip through the mesh filter and produce unacceptable coffee.


  • 1 cup coffee, coarsely ground
  • 3 cups water, room temperature

    1. PLACE the coffee in an 8-cup French press. Add the water. Stir the grinds to integrate with the water.

    2. PLACE the French press plunger on top (do not plunge into the water) and place in the fridge for 12 hours.

    3. PRESS down on the plunger, which pushes all the grounds to the bottom, underneath the mesh filter. Pour and enjoy cold with ice, or warm in the microwave.
    TIP: Depending on how well the coffee is ground, a few grounds may escape into the coffee. Our mom further poured the coffee through a piece cheesecloth. We don’t.


    Stainless French Press

    Manual Coffee Grinder

    [3] Fashionable restaurants bring coffee to the table in a French press (photo courtesy Kabuki Japanese restaurants). [4] It’s easy to grind your own beans for a French press, since the coffee is coarsely ground (photo of manual coffee grinder from



    We start with an important fact for the many people who want more or less caffeine:

    There is no association between caffeine levels and flavor (e.g. strong coffee). The major difference comes from amount of coffee used and, most importantly, the brewing technique.

    Cold brew has the most caffeine, followed by drip coffee and espresso.

    Take this fun coffee trivia quiz.

    Here are more fun facts from THE NIBBLE and

  • Coffee is the second most traded commodity on Earth, after oil.
  • Coffee beans are actually the seeds of berries, which grow on a shrub or small tree.
  • Teddy Roosevelt is said to have consumed one gallon of coffee a day.
  • The first webcam was invented by scientists at the University of Cambridge, so they could monitor when their coffee pot was full.
  • It is not true that light-roasted coffee has more caffeine than dark-roasted coffee. In terms of the ground coffee, light-roasted has more because the roasted beans are denser. However, once brewed, darker roasts have more caffeine.
    Facts About Decaf

  • The amount of caffeine in coffee varies a lot. It can depend on the beans (robusta has much more than arabica), the portion size, but most importantly the brewing technique.
  • Decaf doesn’t mean caffeine-free. According to FDA regulations, coffee must have 97% of its original caffeine removed in order to be labeled as decaffeinated. Drink 5-10 cups of decaf a day and you’ll likely be consuming the equivalent of a cup or two of regular coffee in terms of caffeine content.
  • While a cup of regular coffee usually contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine, a 2007 Consumer Reports test of 36 popular brands found some decaf cups that still packed in more than 20 milligrams of caffeine. But the difference in a cup of brewed coffee is truly minimal.
  • A minority brew: According to the National Coffee Association, just 10% of coffee drinkers in the U.S. opt for decaf. At a coffee house or cafe, the percent can be almost double.
    Here are more decaf coffee facts.



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