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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 Kosher Nibbles

PRODUCT: Pukka Organic Herbal Teas For Health & Gifting

There’s lots of herbal tea on the market, but some companies, like Pukka, an organic herbal tea specialist, focus on it.

The company employs a team of skilled herbalists that pays meticulous attention to the quality of ingredients, ensuring that only the most potent, vibrant herbs are used in their blends.

In fact, the company is first and foremost a purveyor of top-quality organic herbs.

While Pukka teas are made according to the healing and wellness philosophies of Ayurvedic medicine, that doesn’t have to be your primary motivation. They also taste great, and are soothing, caffeine-free brews.

In addition to drinking an infusion of herbs known to aid in digestion, immunity, weight management and so forth, you can drink flowers as well—and perhaps give a box of floral tea as a Mother’s Day party favor—or in an Easter basket for dieters, sugar-avoiders and the health-focused.

  • Elderflower, from the elder tree, has long been used as a sweet tonic.
  • Hibiscus helps rejuvenate and balance.
  • Limeflower is renowned for its relaxing qualities.
  •  

    pukka-herbal-teas-elvirakalviste-230

    An assortment of Pukka teas, ready for the Easter basket or Mother’s Day gifts. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

  • Oat flower is known to calm, nourish and sooth the body and help settle the mind.
  • Rose is known to soothe and has a calming effect on the mind.
  •  
    And these are just a few of Pukka’s 35 varieties. Pukka offers a both unusual and popular herbal blends, including Lemongrass and Ginger, Peppermint and Licorice, Golden Chamomile, Night Time and Lemon Green Tea—all very pleasing to the taste buds. Iced tea can be made from these blends as well.

    See all the varieties at PukkaHerbs.com.

    Each flavor comes in a box with its own charming design, looking like fine wrapping paper.

    A box of 20 sachets retails for $6.95 at Vitamin Shoppe locations nationwide and iherb.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Australian Liquorice (Licorice!)

    mix-beauty-230

    Flower-like “shooters” and other specialty
    shapes. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    Today is National Licorice Day. There is much debate in the U.S. over Red Vines versus Twizzlers, but if you haven’t had English or Australian liquorice, as they spell it, you haven’t had great licorice.

    The natural flavors and chewy consistency are magnificent. Alas, our American-produced, artificially-flavored licorice can’t hope to compete.

    While there are American products labeled “Australian-style,” seek out the authentic Australian product or a U.K. brand like Bassetts. One of our favorite brands is Kookaburra from Australia (OU-kosher).

    There are bags of familiar red or black licorice twists, but Kookburra and other Australian and English companies take licorice to an art. At Kookaburra:

  • Twists are also available in apple, mango and raspberry flavors.
  • Creamy Strawberry & Cream Bites are dual color and flavor cylinders.
  • Liquorice Shooters are blue, brown, green, red and yellow flower-like shapes with white centers
  • Allsorts are a combination of all of these plus other colorful cylinders
  •  
    “Rich, Chewy & Delicious,” exclaims the package. “Best Liquorice in the World.” We don’t dare disagree—the kookaburras would laugh us down.

    You can buy all of them online at KookaburraLiquorice.com.

    Of course, if you’d rather celebrate with Belgian salt liquorice, licorice cats, chalk (black liquorice with a white mint coating), coins, drops, Scotties, ropes, wheels or other shapes, just head to Amazon.com and search for “liquorice.”

    WHO INVENTED ALLSORTS

    Allsorts is our favorite type liquorice—a variety of colorful and flavorful shapes and chewing consistencies. They were first produced in Sheffield, England, by Geo. Bassett & Co Ltd (now part of Cadbury).

    As the story goes, in 1899, Charlie Thompson, a sales representative, was in Leicester showing the liquorice to a client when he dropped the tray of samples, mixing up the various styles. He picked them up but before he could properly arrange them, the client was attracted to the mix of shapes and colors, and put in an order. The company quickly began to package “allsorts,” and they became very popular.

    Each company makes its own assortment of shapes, which can include balls covered in nonpareil-type sprinkles, colorful cylinders (rolls) and multicolored, sandwiched squares. They look beautiful in a candy dish, and more than one young girl has strung them into a necklace.

     

    WHAT EXACTLY IS LICORICE

    Licorice is a confection flavored with the extract from the root of the licorice plant, combined with sugar or other sweetener and a binder (gelatin, gum arabic or starch). The big American brands use corn syrup*.

    Additional ingredients can include flavoring, beeswax for a shiny surface, molasses to provide the familiar black color, and ammonium chloride. Some brands substitute anise oil instead of with licorice root extract.

    The ingredients are dissolved in water and heated to 275°F, then poured into molds. The resulting pieces are sprayed with beeswax to make their surface shiny. Who knew?

    The original liquorice was black. Later, “red licorice” was made with strawberry flavoring. Today it is made in numerous flavors, including apple, blackcurrant, cherry, chocolate, cinnamon, grape, mango, raspberry and watermelon.
     
    *Red Vines ingredients include corn syrup, wheat flour, citric acid, artificial flavor and Red 40 artificial food color. Strawberry Twizzlers are made with corn syrup, enriched wheat flour, sugar, cornstarch, palm oil, salt, artificial flavor, mono and diglycerides, cytric acid, potassium sorbate, Red 40, mineral oil, soy lecithin and glycerine.

     

    fml-AT7WF0.jpg

    Some of the shapes of allsorts licorice. Photo courtesy Sporticia.com.

     

    WHAT’S A KOOKABURRA?

    The kookaburra is a bird in the kingfisher family, native to Australia and New Guinea. Its loud call is said to sound like echoing human laughter.

    Here are some photos.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Dear Coco Toffee Chocolate Bars

    Quite a few artisan chocolatiers are also pastry chefs. Rachel Ferneau makes chocolates as Dear Coco, but was previously the proprietor of Eden Cake, a made-to-order kosher pareve bakery serving metro Washington, D.C.

    While we’ve missed the opportunity to try her desserts, she was kind enough to send us some chocolate.

    Everything from this artisan chocolatier is 100% handcrafted in small batches. The chocolates are completely dairy-free, all natural and certified kosher pareve by Star-K.

    In both her baking and her chocolates, flavors of the world are evoked with coffees and teas, exotic salts, fine herbs, flowers, fruits, roasted nuts and spices.

    Recently, Dear Coco launched a creative line of vegan-friendly artisan chocolate bars: Toffee Chocolate Bars. Eight unique bars are embedded with toffee and the spices that evoke each of the eight globally-inspired locations.

    The toffee is made with vegan butter* in order to be pareve† and lactose free. This substitution, so that the bars can be enjoyed anytime by kosher observers, makes them vegan-friendly as well. Yes, it cuts down on the butteriness of the toffee; but there is so much other layering of flavors that no one will notice.

     

    oaxaca-bar-front-back-230

    The Oaxaca bar invokes the moles of Oaxaca, Mexico with cinnamon toffee and pepitas. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    group-tablecloth-230

    Five of the eight “destination” toffee
    chocolate bars. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    NEW & SPECIAL: TOFFEE CHOCOLATE BARS

    All of the bars are made with dark chocolate and a touch of sea salt.

  • Barcelona Toffee Chocolate Bar: Influenced by the flavors of Spain—roasted almond toffee and sea salt.
  • Istanbul Toffee Chocolate Bar: Inspired by the flavors of baklava—cinnamon clove toffee with rosewater, roasted walnuts.
  • Madras Toffee Chocolate Bar: A tribute to the curries of Southeast India—sweet curry toffee with roasted sunflower seeds.
  • Oaxaca Toffee Chocolate Bar: A recognition of the mole dishes of Oaxaca—Mexican cinnamon and smoky hot chile toffee with roasted pepitas.
  • Savannah Toffee Chocolate Bar: A tribute to the pecan pie of “The Hostess City of the South”—pie spice toffee with roasted pecans.
  • Shanghai Toffee Chocolate Bar: Honoring a staple spice of Cantonese cooking, Chinese five spice toffee (here a blend of cassia cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger and cloves) with roasted white sesame seeds.
  • Sidama Toffee Chocolate Bar: For the coffee lover, crunchy caramelized coffee toffee infused with Ethiopian coffee beans.
  • Tokyo Toffee Chocolate Bar: Homage to the sushi bar—ginger toffee with crispy rice.
  •  

    The 3.5-ounce bars are $7.50 each. A gift set of eight (all the flavors) is $54.00.

    Get yours at DearCoco.com.

     
    *Products like Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks are made from expeller-pressed oils that have 0g trans fats. More information.

    †Kosher law prohibits the consumption of dairy and meat products together. Pareve is a classification of foods that contain neither dairy nor meat ingredients, and can be eaten with both groups. Pareve foods include eggs, fish and all foods that are grown—cereals, fruits, nuts, vegetables, etc.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: RealBeanz Nutrient-Enhanced Iced Coffee

    bottles-glass-230s

    RealBeanz with coconut water. Photo by
    Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    A year ago or so, we had the opportunity to taste RealBeanz, a line of flavored bottled coffee beverages with a stylish vibe, 100% natural ingredients and rBST-free milk.

    The flavors have neutraceutical enhancements that turn them into functional beverages. For example, Vanilla Nut has “naturally-calming herbs to sooth feelings of nervousness brought on by everyday stresses”; Mocha has “powerful ingredients that will undoubtedly add a boost to your body’s immune system.”

    Depending on the neutraceutical, each flavor is also labeled with a benefit: Energize, Focus, Relax, and so forth.

    But we, who don’t put sugar in our coffee, found the flavors to be overly sweetened.

    Recently, the company sent us new flavors made with coconut water: Cappuccino With Coconut Water and Dark Roast With Coconut Water.

    The sweetness level seems to be toned down a bit—but still plenty sweet for sugar-craving Americans.

     
    RealBeanz products are all natural, made with real brewed coffee and natural energy enhancing ingredients. (Some brands, likeJava Monster, Rockstar Roasted, and Starbucks Double Shot, are not.)

    There’s more about the neutraceuticals below.

    The line is Certified Kosher by The Orthodox Union.

    WHAT’S THE BENEFIT OF COCONUT WATER?

    Enjoy a coconut water drink for hydration, not for enhanced health. According to Web MD, the main benefit of coconut water is the potassium.

    “Most Americans don’t get enough potassium in their diets…” says Web MD, “so coconut water can help fill in the nutritional gaps. Beyond that, the scientific literature does not support the hype that it will help with a laundry list of diseases.”

    Here’s the full article.

     

    WHAT’S THE REAL BENEFIT OF THE
    NEUTRACEUTICALS IN YOUR BEVERAGE?

    All seven varieties of RealBeanz are nutrient enhanced. Beyond the natural caffeine from brewed coffee, the different flavors include natural ingredients such as choline bitrate, green tea, grape seed extract, guarana, L-theanine, niacin, panax ginseng, vitamins B6, B12, B5 and yerba mate.

    Each of these ingredients has shown efficacy, but the question is: How much of these nutrients is needed to provide noticeable benefit? To quote Price Hamlet, “Aye, there’s the rub.”

    Whether you drink cups of green tea or beverages with a neutraceutical enhancement, there’s a threshold beneath which you’re not getting any benefits. The amount of the functional ingredient may be just enough to make a marketing claim and attract your attention.

    So enjoy whatever you drink for the taste and hydration, and try to cut back on the sugar.

     

    coconut-w-water-ist-npr.org-230

    Coconut water has lots of potassium, but that’s about the extent of its extra benefits. Photo | IST.

     

    If you’re counting on real health benefits, do the research: Check how much of the neutraceutical is in your beverage and what health experts recommend as your daily value for efficacy.

      

    Comments

    TIP: Flavored Water Enhancers For World Water Day

    peach-green-tea-water-bottle-kalviste-230

    Don’t buy flavored water: Make your own
    with this pocket-size squeeze bottle. Photo
    by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    It’s World Water Day, an observance begun in 1993 by a declaration of the United Nations General Assembly, to focus on the challenges of the world’s water supply.

    On previous World Water Days, we advocated buying a permanent water bottle to spare the earth the landfill of billions of plastic bottles a year.

  • More than 80% of empty water bottles end up in the nation’s landfills.
  • Fifty billion water bottles are used every year, about 30 billion of them in the U.S. This equates to 1,500 water bottles consumed per second! Amazingly, we utilize about 60% of the world’s water bottles, even though we represent just 4.5% of the world population and have safe municipal water everywhere.
  • Seventeen million barrels of oil are used each year to produce all of the water bottles—enough to keep one million cars fueled for an entire year.
  • Beyond oil, it takes three times the volume of water to manufacture one empty plastic water bottle. Because of the chemicals used in production, most of that water cannot be reused.*
  •  

    ENHANCE TAP WATER WITH WATER ENHANCERS

    This year, for folks who don’t like plain water from the tap, we’ve advocating portable water enhancers instead of iced tea, Vitamin Water and other options. These small squeeze bottles fit in your pocket and turn your [reusable] bottle of water—or a glass of water—into a zero-calorie flavored beverage.

    The process is simple: Take your water bottle or a glass of water, squeeze in a few drops of water enhancer and shake or stir. No refrigeration is required; the enhancers are caffeine-free and gluten-free.

    As an at-home or on-the-go product, water enhancers are environmentally friendly, leaving one small plastic bottle to recycle instead of up to 32 full size beverage bottles.

    We tried two brands: AriZona, which makes flavored iced tea, and Stur, which creates flavored water.

    ARIZONA WATER ENHANCERS

    From the folks who make AriZona bottled teas, these water enhancers let you recreate your own diet AriZona in seven of the company’s most popular flavors: Arnold Palmer Half & Half, Arnold Palmer Strawberry Fruit Punch, Golden Bear Strawberry Lemonade, Lemon Tea, Mucho Mango and Peach Green Tea.

    Made with real tea and flavored with real juice and honey without artificial† colors or flavors, there is added sweetness from sucralose (marketed to consumers as Splenda).

    How can the enhancer have zero calories when juice and honey are ingredients? They have just a pinch to add flavor while keeping the calorie count less than 1%. If it’s less than 1%, the FDA allows the claim of calorie-free. (And by the way, it’s the same with any ingredient, including trans fats.)

    As of now, AriZona Water Enhancers are being sold at Walmart and online. They are expected to roll out to other distributors nationwide.

    The line is certified kosher by OU. For more information, visit DrinkArizona.com.

     

    STUR WATER ENHANCERS

    Stur is a water enhancer that adds flavor and vitamins. Instead of making iced tea like AriZona, it turns plain water into vitamin water.

    Flavors include Freshly Fruit Punch, Lemon Tea, Only Orange Mango,Purely Pomegranate Cranberry and Simply Strawberry Watermelon.

    The line is made with kosher ingredients but has not yet been certified kosher.

    Stur is an all-natural† product that supplies 100% DV of Vitamin C per serving, along with a blend of essential vitamins, including A, D, E, B3, B5, B6, B12.

    The company’s goal is to encourage Americans drink more water, by giving those who don’t like to drink a lot of water a “delicious way to hit those 8 glasses of water a day.”

    You can do more than enhance water:

  • Add to seltzer water for a carbonated beverage.
  • Make flavored milk or smoothies.
  • Top yogurt or sugar-free ice cream.
  •  

    strawberry-glass-230

    Just squeeze a drop into a water bottle or glass of water. Photo courtesy Stur.

     

    You can buy a variety pack on Amazon, and individual flavors on SturDrinks.com, where you can buy any five flavors for $19.95 (which make 90 eight-ounce servings).

    Get some for yourself, and put them on your stocking stuffer list.

     
    *Source: Huffington Post.

    †Stevia, the sweetening agent, is a natural product made from the leaf of the stevia plant. While stevia can be a highly processed product like sucralose, sucralose detractors point out that it is created by the addition of chlorine atoms to sucrose molecules. Here’s more information from the anti-sucralose resource.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Beer & Beer Nuts PB Sandwich

    Beer Nuts and PB Sandwich. Photo by
    Theresa Raffetto | Peanut Butter & Co. Food
    styling by Matt Vohr.

     

    For your St. Patrick’s Day consideration, how about a PB and Beer Nuts sandwich with your beer?

    Beer Nuts is a brand of peanuts with a sweet-and-salty glaze. They don’t contain beer. Rather, they were marketed as a more glamorous accompaniment to beer than the ubiquitous salted peanuts.

    In this concept, Peanut Butter & Co. founder Lee Zalben topped a piece of rustic whole wheat bread with his Smooth Operator creamy premium peanut butter, plus crunchy Beer Nuts.

    We prefer our PB with a kick, so we substituted his The Heat Is On peanut butter, blended with cayenne peppers, chili powder and crushed red peppers.

    The PB & Co. line is certified kosher by OU.

     

    MAKE YOUR OWN BEER NUTS

    Classic beer nuts are sweet and salty, but you can tweak the recipe to add additional flavors: cinnamon for sweetness or cayenne pepper for heat. You can use Beer Nuts on a PB sandwich, ice cream, salad, yogurt, as a soup garnish and in many other ways—including straight snacking, of course.

    Ingredients For 4.5 Cups

  • 4-1/2 cups raw, shelled peanuts
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 cup water
  • Optional spices: cayenne, cinnamon or other favorite
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRING peanuts, sugar salt and water to a boil in a saucepan. Continue to boil until all liquid is absorbed, about 25-30 minutes.

    2. PREHEAT oven to 300°F.

    3. SPREAD nuts on lightly greased jelly roll pan; sprinkle with salt and optional spices as desired. Bake 20 minutes.

    4. REMOVE from oven, gently stir and sprinkle with more salt as desired. Bake for 20 more minutes. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Beer Flavored Jelly Beans

    beer-jelly-belly-230

    Chew, don’t chug, these beer-flavored jelly
    beans. Photo courtesy Jelly Belly.

     

    What if your kid’s first beer was a jelly bean?

    Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Jelly Belly Candy Company has launched the first beer-flavored jelly bean, called Draft Beer.

    Beer has been a oft-requested flavor for decades. After years of working on the formulation, the non-alcoholic product is ready for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter baskets and beyond.

    Jelly Belly sent us a sample and yes, it does taste like beer. The irridescent pale gold jelly beans are alcohol free, yet deliver a beer aroma and subtle beer flavor.

  • A 16-ounce re-sealable bag (approximately 400 jelly beans) is $8.99.
  • If you really want to tie one on, a 10-pound bulk box is $85.99.
  •  
    Stock up for National Jelly Bean Day, April 22nd. (Here’s the history of the jelly bean.)

     
    WANT THEM IN GREEN?

    There’s a limited edition of the Draft Beer Jelly Belly, colored green for St. Patrick’s day, available exclusively at Jelly Belly Visitor and Tour Centers in California and Wisconsin.

    All Jelly Belly jelly bean flavors are dairy free, fat free, gluten free, OU kosher, peanut free and vegetarian.

    Bottoms up!

      

    Comments

    GIFT OF THE DAY: Special Caramels For Your Honey

    salted-caramels-droga-230r

    Salted honey caramels. Photo courtesy
    Droga.

     

    For the lover of gourmet caramels, something special for your Valentine:

    Put Your Money On Honey salted caramels from Droga Chocolates of Los Angeles.

    The luscious bites are the result of a bet that a caramel couldn’t be made without corn syrup. Seeking a solution to the challenge, Droga says:

    “Inspiration stung us—honey was the answer! The first honey caramel came to bee, and people have been abuzz ever since.”

    And you should make a bee-line for them! So soft and redolent of fine honey, each taste makes you want another. And another.

    The small-batch caramels are:

  • Made with California creamery pure cream and butter
  • Sweetened with raw California wildflower honey
  • Enrobed in premium dark chocolate from Guittard
  • Sprinkled with delicate French fleur de sel sea salt
  •  

    The nine caramels in the gift box ($16.95, two boxes for $29.95) will disappear quickly, but leave such happy memories.

    Droga confections are certified kosher by KOF-K.

    Get yours at DrogaChocolates.com.

    There are caramels in other flavors that also hit the spot. Here’s our review.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

    chocolate-covered-potato-chips-sharisberries-230sq

    Oh so good! Photo courtesy Shari’s Berries.

     

    Some people would like box of creamy chocolates for Valentine’s Day.

    Others would gladly trade for a bag of chocolate-covered potato chips.

    Savory meets sweet when crunchy, salty potato chips are drenched in quality chocolate—in our humble opinion, the greatest improvement to the potato chip since it was invented (potato chip history).

    While you can find chocolate-covered chips at Trader Joe’s, more giftable versions come from Shari’s Berries, shown in the photo. A bag of 14 ounces of divine chocolate-covered potato chips is $24.99. The chips are certified kosher (dairy) by OU.

     

    For a more formal presentation, Neuchatel’s Swiss Chips, dipped in milk chocolate, are packaged in a purple and gold can, $8.00.

    Swiss Colony sells 8.5 ounces in a gift tin for $17.95.

    Enjoy them from the bag, can or a serving dish. Use them to garnish ice cream and other desserts. And hold us harmless from any addiction to chocolate-covered potato chips that may develop.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Super Bowl Macarons, Valentine Macarons

    danas-super-bowl-macarons-230

    The battle of the macarons. Photo courtesy
    Dana’s Bakery.

     

    In addition to the Super Bowl, we’re celebrating the Mac Bowl: the battle between two macarons for the title of tastiest.

    Dana’s Bakery, a wonderfully creative maker of delicious macarons (a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week—here’s the review), has created two flavors for the occasion:

  • Denver Chocolate Peanut Butter Macarons
  • Seattle Sea Salt Caramel Macarons
  •  
    In vibrant team colors, each bite is a victory. Get yours at DanasBakery.com. The line is certified kosher.

    Who needs chicken wings, guacamole and pizza? We’re set with our Super Bowl macarons. Game on!

     

     

    VALENTINE MACARONS

    For Valentine’s Day, Dana has transformed the classic Sweethearts candy, also called conversation hearts, into macarons.

    Sweethearts are made by the New England Confectionery Company (NECCO), makers of Necco Wafers. Each hard heart-shaped candy is printed with a romantic message: “Be Mine,” “Kiss Me,” “Adore Me,” and “Crazy 4U” are some of the messages.

    WHO INVENTED SWEETHEARTS CANDY?

    Sweethearts date all the way back to 1866. In 1847, 26-year-old Boston pharmacist Oliver R. Chase invented a machine that cut lozenges from wafer candy—similar to Necco Wafers.

     

    danas-valentine-macarons-230

    Macarons for your Valentine, atop a bed of Sweethearts candy. Photo courtesy Dana’s Bakery.

     
    While it turned out to be the world’s first candy-making machine, the original intent was to create lozenges to soothe the throat or to settle the stomach. The line between “losenge” and “hard candy” is pretty slim.

    In 1866 Oliver’s brother, Daniel Chase, designed a machine that pressed designs onto the wafers, and began printing sayings on what had become “candy.”

    Sweethearts were launched by NECCO in 1901. In 2010 the recipe was changed to allow for bright modern colors; contemporary sayings have been added, such as “Email me” (no doubt soon to be “Text Me”) and “LOL.” NECCO receives hundreds of suggestions a year on new sayings.

    Sweetheart macarons are available from DanasBakery.com.

      

    Comments

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