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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 NutriNibbles/Organic

TIP OF THE DAY: Healthier Grilling Options

turkey-burger_salad-cheesecakefactory-230

Topped with garnishes, most people will
enjoy a turkey or veggie burger as
much as beef. Photo courtesy Cheesecake
Factory.

 

At the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts in Chicago, creating “better for you” cuisine is a hot topic of discussion. Many culinary schools first train students in classic French technique. But today’s trend is to learn how to cook foods that are healthier—still mouth-watering and satisfying, but with lower saturated fat, calories or sodium, more dietary fiber, or all of these.

Kendall’s resident nutrition expert and dean, Chef Renee Zonka, RD, CEC, CHE, notes that barbecuing and grilling are excellent opportunities to serve more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, leaner meats and antioxidant-rich seafoods. No one notices this better-for-you food, because virtually everything tastes better when cooked on a grill. Her 10 tips:

1. Non-Beef Burgers. Burgers do not have to be beef in order to be delicious. Turkey, veggie, shrimp and salmon taste great yet have far less fat and cholesterol. Many stores sell them pre-made at the meat counter; look for Chef Big Shake shrimp burgers, loaded with peppers and spices, in the freezer case.

2. Trim the fat, skin the bird. If you must have beef, try ground sirloin for burgers, which contains less saturated fat than 80/20 (20% fat) ground beef. Choose leaner steaks like top sirloin for grilling; with fattier steaks such as Porterhouse, trim all visible fat.

 
Do the same for loin pork chops (pork tenderloin is naturally leaner than beef). Skin chicken and duck breasts, thighs and legs before marinating and tossing on the grill to lock that just-grilled flavor into the meat.

3. Go fish. Oily fin fish like cod and salmon fillets are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Tilapia is not only a sustainable species, but is naturally lean, and can accept virtually any flavor from a marinade or rub before grilling. Heartier fish fillets can go right onto an oiled grill, and more delicate fish can rest on aluminum foil or even sturdy lettuce or banana leaves. Shellfish such as oysters and scallops can be grilled right in their shells. With any lean fish, watch grilling times, as less-fatty species cook quickly.

4. Grill your veggies. Vegetables taste better when grilled, and can tempt even stalwart veggie-avoiders. From asparagus to zucchini, grilling coaxes out vegetables’ natural sugars. Other favorites include bell peppers, corn on the cob, eggplant, mushroom caps, onion, yellow squash, and even sturdy long-leaf lettuces like romaine and endive. Marinate for an hour in the refrigerator first or brush fresh veggies with olive oil on both sides. Experiment with grill times, turning once for those beautiful caramelized grill marks, until done.

 

5. Serve fruit for dessert. Stone fruits like apricots, nectarines, peaches and plums (halved and pitted) and seeded tree fruits like apples and pears, become more exciting when grilled (over medium heat). Fruit’s natural sugars caramelize nicely for a tantalizing smoky/sweet flavor. Pineapple rings, strawberries and even sliced mango and watermelon wedges can go on the grill. Skewer smaller fruits for easy turning and serving. When grilling any fruit, make sure to lightly spray a clean grill with vegetable oil spray to prevent sticking. For softer fruits like stone fruits and mango, leave the peel on to help the fruit stay together on the grill. Serve with optional garnishes such as vanilla yogurt, fat-free plain Greek yogurt sweetened to taste, and pistachios or other nuts.

6. Marinate! Before grilling, marinate meats, seafood and vegetables in citrus juice, vinaigrette, wine, or a simple brine of salted water, for a few minutes to a few hours in the refrigerator. Marinating both tenderizes and adds bolder flavors, so you can use less salt while grilling.

 

grilled-plums-peaches-healthyinahurrybook

Grilled fruit with Greek yogurt and pistachios. Photo courtesy Healthy In A Hurry.

 
Adding a little sweetness to the marinade—like brown sugar, fruit juice, honey or molasses—helps balance the flavor. Add just a touch; you don’t need to “dump the sugar bowl” onto proteins and veggies. Or consider a homemade spice rub from dry herbs and seasonings for a delicious and salt-free flavor boost. For cut fruits, soak in water with a splash of lemon juice (and, if desired, a little cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove or ginger) for up to a half-hour before grilling to maintain their natural juiciness and color.

7. Whole grains salads. Instead of high-fat potato and macaroni salads, a lightly dressed quinoa side dish not only delivers fresh, bright flavor; but whole-grain quinoa is packed with protein and all eight essential amino acids for optimal human health. Available in white, black and red varieties, it is naturally gluten free. Take a look at —like Chef Zonka’s Quinoa & Lentil Salad with Sherry-Dijon Vinaigrette—and Pomegranate Quinoa Tabouli). Make other cold salads with trending whole grains like barley, farro, freekeh and wheat berries. Wild rice, often relegated to autumn and winter, is delicious served cold, studded with fresh veggies and spiked with zesty citrus dressing.

8. Watch your buns. Replace hamburger and hot dog buns made with refined white flour with whole-grain varieties. You’ll get added fiber plus enhanced flavor.

9. Bake beans without the bacon. A hearty and satisfying side dish of baked beans need not rely on animal fat to taste delicious. Beans are a naturally good source of meatless protein and dietary fiber. You can add smoky flavor with a touch of liquid smoke.

10. Watch the sauce. Most commercial brands of barbecue sauce are loaded with sugar (often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup) and sodium. Check the labels and go for those sweetened with agave or Splenda, or consider making your own sauce. Blend canned tomato paste with agave (or much less sugar than commercial brands), spices, vinegar and, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, fruit juice and/or mustard. Taste as you go. For portion control, don’t pour liberally over meats: Brush the sauce on.

Now, your cook-outs will be better-for-you, and you didn’t have to go to culinary school to learn how to do it!

  

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PRODUCT: Functional Coffee K-Cups In Delicious Dark Roast

Functional foods are everyday foods and beverages enhanced with supplements that have a helpful effect on the body. Beyond normal satiation and nutrition, they do something really good for the body (that is to say, they have a specific “function”).

Beyond slaking an athlete’s thirst, for example, sports drinks restore electrolytes, carbohydrates and other nutrients that have been expended during vigorous activity. Relaxation beverages let you chill without alcohol. Energy drinks give you…wings?

Coffee Blenders has launched a line of functional coffee K-cups. Made from a 100% Arabica dark roast, with a blend of beans from Central and South, the coffee is an excellent dark roast—depth of flavor without undue bitterness. We’d buy it with or without the added functionality.

Which is a good thing, because understanding exactly how much of the functional ingredient you need to achieve the desired result can be tough to figure out. It’s true even in the simplest case of drinking conventional coffee to stay alert. What may work for you likely differs from the person next to you. Some people need one or two cups, some people five or ten cups, from the same pot of coffee.

 

coffee-blenders-functional-K-cups-230

Delicious dark roast coffee with added functionality. Photo courtesy CoffeeBlenders.com.

 

Coffee Blenders Lean is fortified with Svetol®, a safe, all-natural plant extract of decaffeinated green coffee that has been clinically proven to burn fat and help with weight loss. Components in Svetol inhibit specific enzymes and shut down the glucose pathway in the body. Each cup includes 400 mg of Svetol.

Coffee Blenders Focus contains Cereboost™, a safe, fast-acting, all-natural plant extract derived from American Ginseng. Cereboost™ is clinically proven to improve brain function, especially in the cognitive areas of working memory and alertness. Each cup contains 200 mg of Cereboost.

Coffee Blenders Escape is blended with L-Tea Active™, more commonly know as L-Theanine, a safe all-natural amino acid found in green tea leaves. L-Tea Active is safe, all natural and clinically proven to induce relaxation without drowsiness while improving mental clarity. Some athletes take supplements to relax and focus before a big competition. Each cup contains “a full serving” of L-Tea Active.
 
WHERE TO BUY

Coffee Blenders Coffee, in boxes of 15 count, are $19.95 on the company website.

The company is currently running a special while supplies last: The “Lean Bundle,” consisting of four boxes (15 K-cups per box) for $71.96—a 10% savings on the coffee, plus a free French Press K-cup brewer.

The brewer, My French Press by Cafejo, is a portable, single-cup brewing system that brews K-cups and pods as well as ground coffee. It’s BPA Free, microwave- and dishwasher-safe.

Gift a box of K-cups to a friend who shares your goals (focus, stress reduction, weight loss).

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Meatless Monday

veggie-burger-morningstar-230

A delicious veggie burger for Meatless
Monday. Photo courtesy Morningstar.

 

Meatless Monday is a global movement that began in 2003, launched in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. It is now active in 34 countries and growing, with appeal to different constituencies:

  • Environmentally concerned citizens who want to cut back on the damage that raising animal crops does to the planet.
  • Nutrition advocates who aim for a diet lower in cholesterol, a harmful animal fat.
  • Vegetarians and vegans, who support ethical treatment of animals and want everyone to eat less (or no) meat.
  •  
    But it doesn’t go far enough. Eating “meatless” still allows the consumption of dairy products including cheese, which are part of the same cycle of environmental damage and cholesterol.

    Instead, go vegan. You don’t give up much more, and the options are equally delicious.

     

    Just a few examples:

  • Asian vegetarian dishes
  • Pasta Primavera
  • Portabella and other veggie burgers
  • Vegan lines like Field Roast’s delicious vegan meat products and Vegetarian Plus, gourmet vegan entrées
  • Vegan sushi
  • Vegan wrap sandwiches (recipes)
  •  
    Here’s a tasty family recipe from Hannah Kaminsky: vegan cheesesteaks.

    All you need are vegan cheese and vegan steak. Given the growth of top-quality vegan foods, that’s not hard to find.

    Hannah favors Daiya vegan cheese for the burger. “A pivotal player in the vegan cheese game,” she writes, “no other dairy-free shreds have achieved mainstream approval, initially making a splash back in 2009 as the very first meltable vegan cheese option.” Today, the company sells vegan slices that imitate the flavors of cheddar, Swiss and provolone.

     

    “These are not fine cheeses you’d want to eat plain, on a cracker or otherwise uncooked,” says Hannah. “Where they really come to life is under a hot broiler, melted down to gooey, creamy, and yes, stretchy sheets. Mild but with a pronounced tang and satisfying salty accent, they’re appropriately rich, imparting an addictive sort of fattiness upon any dish.”

    In her recipe, soy curls—available in natural foods stores—soaked in mushroom broth stand in for the steak, “tossed with lightly charred onions and roasted peppers, all smothered under a blanket of that prize-worthy provolone cheese. Altogether, it’s the kind of dish you could use to convert meat-lovers, cheese-lovers, and generally picky omnivores alike.”
     
    RECIPE: VEGAN CHEESECAKE

    Ingredients For 3 Sandwiches

  • 1-1/2 cups (about 2.8-3 ounces) dry soy curls
  • 1-1/2 cups mushroom broth
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup reserved mushroom broth
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 hoagie rolls, split and toasted
  • 9 slices provolone-style Daiya cheese
  •  

    vegan-cheesesteak-hannahkaminsky-230

    Vegan cheesesteak for Meatless Monday. Photo © Hannah Kaminsky.

     

    Preparation

    1. PLACE the dry soy curls in a large bowl; cover with warm mushroom broth and let soak for 15-20 minutes, until the soy curls are fully re-hydrated and tender. Pour off (but reserve) any excess liquid.

    2. HEAT the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and sauté, stirring often, until aromatic browned around the edges. Add the bell pepper, oregano and pepper and continue cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are wilted and soft; about 5 minutes.

    3. REDUCE the heat to low, sprinkle the vegetables with flour and stir to coat. Gently pour in 1/4 cup of the reserved broth along with the soy sauce, bringing the mixture up to a simmer. After another two minutes, remove the pan from the heat.

    4. ASSEMBLE: Divide the soy curl filling between the three toasted rolls and lay three provolone slices on top of each. Run them all under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until the cheese is perfectly melted and gooey all over. Dig in immediately!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Choose Sustainable Seafood

    We were away last week on Earth Day and missed publishing this piece on sustainable seafood. But it’s important to be conscious of it every day of the year.

    Earth Day, initiated on April 22, 1970 and celebrated annually, is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed.

    There are many things each of us can do to “save the planet” and its precious resources. Today, we’ll raise some awareness about your seafood choices.

    The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that 80% of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, with the stock overfished, depleted or recovering from depletion. With seafood growing in demand, it’s critical to get on board to reverse this trend and build a more responsible seafood supply chain.

    You can do your part by purchasing sustainable seafood, both for home consumption and at restaurants. Here’s your best resource for understanding what’s sustainable:

     

    grilled-octopus-scarpettabeverlyhills-230

    Grilled octopus is a favorite of many, but it’s
    not a sustainable seafood. Instead, consider
    squid (calamari). Photo courtesy Scarpetta
    Restaurant | Beverly Hills.

     

    The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program works to transform the seafood market in ways that support ocean-friendly fishing and fish-farming operations. Seafood Watch provides science-based seafood recommendations through its website, pocket guides and phone apps to consumers, chefs and wholesale seafood buyers.

    Take a minute to download the app or a printable pocket guide
    , or simply check out your seafood of choice on the website.

    Some retailers and restaurateurs act sustainably, by offering only sustainable choices and/or displaying the color-coded sustainability ratings. Whole Foods, for example, does both and no longer carries red-rated species. Other retailers and restaurants give consumers what they want, regardless of how it impacts the environment or the future of the species. For the most part, it’s up to you to ask or look it up.

    FOLLOW THE RATINGS

    There are independent, nonprofit organizations (see below)that constantly monitor the species and rate them as to sustainability. What is sustainable changes on an ongoing basis, due to the wax and wane of the seafood stock and environmental conditions. These ratings apply to both wild-caught and farmed fish:

  • Green label means the best choice: The species is abundant and caught in environmentally friendly ways.
  • Yellow label is a good alternative: There are some concerns about the health of their habitat or catch methods for the species. (But you could act even more sustainably and go for the green.)
  • Red label means avoid: The species suffers from overfishing or the current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats. Take a pass on these species for now.
  •  
    The guides also provide alternatives for red-rated species. For example:

     

    seared-ahi-tuna-ruthschris-230

    Seared ahi (yellowfin) tuna is extremely
    popular. That’s one reason why it’s
    overfished and on the “avoid” list. Photo
    courtesy Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

     
  • Instead of Atlantic halibut, choose Pacific halibut.
  • Instead of grey sole, choose the yellow-rated Dover sole.
  • Instead of octopus, choose calamari (squid), which is green-or yellow-rated depending on the fishery.
  • Instead of sturgeon, choose responsibly farmed trout.
  • Instead of imported wild-caught shrimp, choose domestic wild-caught shrimp, which are green- or yellow-rated depending upon the location.
  • Instead of red-rated swordfish, choose swordfish from MSC-certified fisheries, such as harpoon fisheries in Nova Scotia or the Florida handline/landline fisheries.
  • Instead of turbot, choose Pacific halibut.
  • Instead of yellowfin (ahi) tuna, choose green-rated tuna from Maldives.
  • Instead of skate wing, choose yellow-rated Atlantic flounder.
  •  
    So make ocean-friendly choices. By purchasing seafood that is green or yellow rated, you will enjoy something delicious and feel good that you’re doing your part to ensure the supply of seafood for future generations.

     

     
    Learn more about sustainability from these two rating organizations:

  • The Marine Stewardship Council is the world’s leading certification for sustainable seafood. It’s a non-governmental organization using a multi-stakeholder, international certification program to provide incentives for fisheries to address key issues such as overfishing and bycatch.
  • The Blue Ocean Institute focuses on conservation by studying ocean changes around the world, and what those changes mean for marine life as well as humans.
  •  
    Here are more ways to subtly change your diet to save our planet.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Vegan Wraps For Earth Day

    We’re recommending vegan wraps for Earth Day. Animal-free foods are more sustainable, so today’s the day for a vegan lunch.

    These two recipes were sent to us from Red Rock Press, from their book, A White House Garden Cookbook by Clara Silverstein.

    Both are lettuce wraps, but you can also use tortilla wraps.

    The first recipe, Daniel and Annie’s Salad Wraps, originated in the children’s section of the New York Botanical Garden and contains the surprise—and optional—ingredient of an edible wildflower.

    You can serve these wraps with a dip, or spread mustard or Nasoya’s Nayonaise (excellent vegan mayonnaise) on the lettuce leaves before filling.

    RECIPE: DANIEL & ANNIE’S SALAD WRAPS

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 6 lettuce leaves, plus 6 more for slicing
  • Spread or dip of choice
  • 1 kohlrabi bulb or 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 5 radishes
  • 6 scallions
  • 6 mint or basil leaves (or more to taste)
  •  

    online-vegetarian-deli.com-230

    Thus wrap is packed with arugula, carrots, cucumber, lettuce and red cabbage. Photo courtesy Online-Vegetarian-Deli.com.

  • Garnish: edible flowers (such as Johnny jump-ups, chive blossoms or nasturtiums—read all about edible flowers)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WASH and dry the lettuce leaves. Peel and slice the kohlrabi. Wash and dice the radishes. Wash the scallions, and cut off and discard the root ends.

    2. LAY out 6 lettuce leaves on the counter top or a large plate. If using a spread, place atop leaves.

    3. CUT cut the remaining 6 leaves into ribbons with scissors. Into each lettuce leaf, lay some kohlrabi and radishes, 1 scallion (cut it in half if it’s too long), and 1 mint or basil leaf. Roll it up and pin closed with a toothpick as needed. Garnish the top with edible flowers.

    4. SERVE with your favorite dressing as a dip.

     

    tofu-hummus-wraps-housefoods-230

    Tofu hummus wraps, a vegan sandwich with
    the added protein of tofu. Photo courtesy
    House Foods.

     

    The second recipe, Lettuce Wrap Treats, is almost a dessert, folding dried fruits and nuts and a dab of vanilla yogurt into the lettuce leaf.

    And, it couldn’t be easier to make!

    If you want to present the ingredients as a “build your own,” each person can choose his or her own mix of ingredients.

    RECIPE: LETTUCE LEAF WRAPS

    Ingredients Per Wrap

  • 1 lettuce leaf*
  • Fillings: 1 tablespoon each of any or all of the following: chopped apples, chopped celery, walnuts or pecans, raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla yogurt (regular or vegan soy yogurt)
  •  
     
    *Pick the largest, most pliable lettuce leaves that you can find. Leaf lettuces work really well for this.
     
    Preparation

    1. RINSE the lettuce in cold water and pat dry between sheets of paper towels.

    2. ADD the fillings to the center of the leaf. Top with a dollop of vanilla yogurt.

    3. FOLD the lettuce lengthwise over the toppings and then fold up the ends, like a burrito or a little package. Use a toothpick to secure as needed. Pick up and eat!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Lettuce Cups or Wraps

    tofu-lettuce-cups-230

    Lettuce cups: Fill them with something warm
    for a contrast with the cool, crunchy lettuce.
    Photo courtesy House Foods.

     

    First introduced in Asian cuisines, lettuce wraps are now popping up on the menus of other types of restaurants and on the dinner table at home. We’ve really been enjoying this lettuce cups recipe as a light lunch or dinner.

    Sent to us by House Foods America from an original recipe by Mutsumi Gonzales, it’s a vegan recipe that we tried in celebration of Earth Month.

    But you can substitute the cubed protein of your choice—beef, chicken, pork, seafood—for the tofu.

    RECIPE: TOFU LETTUCE CUPS

    Ingredients

  • Crisp lettuce leaves
  • ½ package (7 ounces) firm tofu, drained well and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Garnishes: shredded carrots, chopped cilantro
  •  
    For The Sauce

  • 1-½ tablespoon miso (red or awase)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1-½ tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sake
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ teaspoon corn starch mixed with ¼ cup cold water
  • Preparation

    1. HEAT olive oil, garlic and tofu in a frying pan over moderately high heat. Cook until tofu and garlic are well toasted.

    2. ADD all the sauce ingredients and continue cooking for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and cornstarch mixture, stirring until the mixture thickens. Mix in walnuts.

    3. PLACE the warm mixture on lettuce cups, garnish with shredded carrots and chopped cilantro, and serve.

     

    LETTUCE CUPS & WRAPS

    Lettuce cups and wraps are very easy to make. The cups are just that—a base of lettuce topped with the filling.

    Wraps put the filling inside lettuce leaves and roll them up.

    You can fill them with an almost endless array of ingredient. Start with the ones that you use in burritos, pita, sandwiches, spring rolls or tortillas.

    The contrast of warm, flavorful fillings with the cool crunch of lettuce is a crowd pleaser and a calorie saver.
     
    HOW TO MAKE LETTUCE CUPS

    Use large, pliable lettuce leaves. Iceberg is most often used, but escarole, red leaf lettuce, radicchio, romaine or large spinach leaves are options. Wash and dry lettuce thoroughly.

    Here’s a demonstration.

     

    house-foods-firm-tofu-pkg_230

    House Foods Premium or Organic Tofu Firm.

     

    To keep iceberg lettuce crisp, cut the core out. Fill the core with cold tap water, then drain for 15 minutes. It will stay crisp for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

    For a party, offer a variety of lettuces and fillings.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Delicious, Nutritious, Better-For-You Bison

    “Meet the better meat,” invites The Bison Council, and we agree.

    Bison is a red meat lover’s dream come true. It provides all the flavor of beef (even more, we think!) without the negatives. You can enjoy succulent steaks without high cholesterol and juicy burgers without all the fat. Bison is lower in fat, cholesterol and calories than even chicken and turkey, and is a great source of iron.

    Here’s how bison compares nutritionally with other proteins.

    The one catch impacts those who like their meat cooked medium-well. Because it has very low fat content (less fat than turkey!), bison must be eaten rare to medium rare (just the way we like our meat!). Tender and juicy, good bison gets raves from every food lover we know.

    If you’re concerned because you don’t like rare beef, we still urge you to try rare bison—in fact, how about bison filet mignon or tenderloin roast for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day?

    Here’s how to cook bison.

     

    tenderloin-roast-green-beans-230

    A bison tenderloin roast. Photo courtesy AllenBrothers.com.

     

    OH GIVE ME A HOME WHERE THE BISON ROAM

    Let us interject a quick lesson: Bison and buffalo are not the same animal. They are cousins in the same family and sub-family, but of different genuses—like the dog and the wolf. Here’s how the taxonomy compares among bison, buffalo and cattle, complete with photos.

    Bison is a native American animal; buffalo are the water buffaloes of Africa and Asia. The first Europeans to see bison presumed the huge, shaggy beasts to be another type of buffalo, and the misnomer has lasted for centuries, aided and abetted by the U.S. government’s minting of the “buffalo” nickel. Here’s the difference between bison and buffalo.

    And it doesn’t help that the unofficial anthem of the American West (and the official state song of Kansas) was/is “Home On The Range.” The poem, written in the early 1870s in Kansas, was set to music, and the rest is tuneful—if inaccurate—history.
     
    THE BISON REVIVAL

    Bison once ranged over most of the North American continent: from the Rockies all the way to the East Coast (hence the city of Buffalo, New York), from Mexico north to the Northwest Territories of Canada.

    Most American students learn the tragedy of the bison: how the great natural herds were slaughtered to the brink of extinction in the 1870s and 1880s by commercial hunters and sports hunters. The near-extinction also caused the demise of many Native American tribes, who relied on the bison for food, clothing, coverings for their lodges, sinew for bow strings, tools and fuel.

    By 1889, the few remaining animals were saved by the combined efforts of William Hornaday, Director of the New York Zoological Park (now the Bronx Zoo) and a small group of private ranchers. In 1905, the American Bison Society was formed to save the bison and provide protect rangeland for the animals. In 1907, some offspring of the bison saved by Hornaday became the nucleus of the present-day herd of 600 in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

    Fast forward to the late 20th century: In the 1970s an 1980s, as the high cholesterol content of beef was raised as a health issue, the search for better meat options led to the bison.

    Today, the estimated 75 million North American bison of the mid-1800s are greatly reduced but thriving, with an estimated 500,000 animals. They live on approximately 4,000 privately owned commercial ranches; about 15,000 wild bison are free-ranging on protected lands. [Source: Wikipedia]

    The bison is the largest land mammal to roam North America since the end of the Ice Age. It is a descendant of ancient animals that crossed the Bering Strait land bridge some 300,000 years ago. Americans can once again see magnificent herds of this noble heritage beast.

     

    bison-burger-gorgonzola-230r

    A bison burger, with Gorgonzola blended into
    the patty. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk
    Marketing Board.

     

    BISON CUTS

    Bison is available in cuts similar to those of beef. You’ll find:

  • Cooked & raw sausages: franks, brats and sausages in different styles
  • Deli meats: bison bacon, bologna, pepperoni, salami
  • Ground: ground meat and burger and slider patties
  • Ribs: back rib racks and short ribs
  • Roasts: brisket, chuck, pot roast, prime rib, rump, sirloin butt, tenderloin (Chateaubriand), tri-tip
  • Steaks: filet mignon, flank, flatiron, hanging tender, ribeye, sirloin, strip
  • Plus: center cut shank (osso buco), jerky, liver, snack sticks, stew meat
  •  

    You can can replace bison in any recipe, from chili and meat balls to kabobs and stir frys. Check out the wealth of beautiful bison recipes from The Bison Council.

    Always look for bison that is 100% USDA certified. Many cuts are also American Heart Association certified—it’s that good for you.

     

    THE BISON COUNCIL

    Just as some beef is tough and some is celestial, so it goes for bison. To have that heavenly bison experience, you need to buy from a good butcher, who buys from a top rancher.

    The Bison Council is dedicated to the promotion, preservation, and stewardship of the North American Bison. Members pledge to maintain the highest standards and ideals of animal care and husbandry, sustainability, food safety, purity of ingredients and quality of finished consumer products.

    Charter members include:

  • Carmen Creek Gourmet Bison
  • Chinook Bison Ranch
  • Double T Bison Ranch
  • High Plains Bison
  • Jackson Fork Ranch
  • Wild Rose Meats
  •  

    The website is a wealth of information about bison. Take a look!

      

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    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.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Difference Between Kefir & Buttermilk

    “Kefir tastes like buttermilk,” writes a reader. “What’s the difference?

    Both are cultured beverages—meaning that probiotic bacteria cultures are added to ferment fresh milk. But the “recipes” differ significantly. For starters, kefir may contain a dozen or more different bacterial strains and yeast cultures; buttermilk typically contains only one probiotic strain: lactic acid bacteria.

    Kefir (kuh-FEAR, not KEE-fur) is fermented from whole milk using special kefir grains (more about them in a minute). Buttermilk, more formally called cultured buttermilk, is made by fermenting skim milk with lactic acid bacteria, Streptococcus lactis.

    The probiotics enable both beverages to be digested more easily than milk. Both beverages have a yogurt-like tang.

    Modern kefir is made in the original (plain) plus fruit flavors, to capitalize on the popularity of yogurt, and some people think that kefir is “drinkable yogurt.” But the kefir grains and a different fermentation process make it a different recipe from yogurt.

    Both can be drunk straight and used instead of milk or buttermilk in cooking and baking. Some popular uses:

  • To tenderize meat
  • As a leavening agent
  • To make ice cream
  • In smoothies and shakes
  • On cereal
  • As a sourdough starter
  • In salad dressings and sauces
  •  

    buttermilk-cartons-230

    Buttermilk, a staple in great-grandma’s kitchen. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    Kefir and buttermilk have almost the same number of calories. An eight-ounce serving of kefir has 162 calories, while buttermilk has 150 calories.

     

    evolve-flavors-emilychang-230

    Kefir is available in flavors that make it
    resemble “drinkable yogurt.” Photo by Emily
    Chang | THE NIBBLE.

     

    MAKING KEFIR & BUTTERMILK

    Cultured buttermilk. Before universal pasteurization, butter was made by letting whole milk stand to allow the cream to separate, rising to the surface; the cream would be skimmed off, leaving “skim milk” below. Natural fermentation would occur, souring the milk slightly.

    Today, nonfat (skim) milk is acidified with lactic acid bacteria, which add tartness and cause the formation of more protein. This is why buttermilk is thicker than ordinary milk, and why modern buttermilk, made with added cultures, is called cultured buttermilk.

    Kefir. Kefir is made with kefir grains—colonies of bacteria, yeast, proteins and sugars that resemble tiny buds of cauliflower—that ferment the milk. These granules of active cultures are strained from the fermented milk before it is bottled. Here’s more on how kefir is made, and a photo of the grains.

    Homemade kefir continues to ferment as it ages. It’s a bit effervescent (bubbly) from the fermentation, where the cultures consume the sugars in the milk and release carbon dioxide. Commercial kefir cuts back on the effervescence.

    You can make both kefir and buttermilk at home; but as with many foods, it’s much more convenient to simply buy a bottle or carton. If you want to try your hand at it, here’s a resource.

     

    HEALTH BENEFITS

    Drinking buttermilk and kefir can be beneficial to one’s health. The bacteria aid in the digestion of food, and consistent consumption can help to resolve certain intestinal conditions.

    Some sources claim that the regular intake of either drink can reduce the risk of colon cancer.

    But if you like yogurt in general, and haven’t enjoyed a glass of buttermilk or kefir, pick up one of each and taste them side by side.

    And if you’re not going to drink all of it or whip up some smoothies, definitely bake or cook with it.

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: International Waffle Day

    International Waffle Day, which originated in Sweden, is celebrated in the U.S. on March 25th. There is a separate National Waffle Day, celebrated on August 24th, that was originally created to honor the waffle iron.

    The net of it is, you can celebrate a waffle holiday twice a year! Prepared sweet or savory, they can be served at breakfast, lunch or dinner.

    In different parts of the world, waffles are topped with confectioners’ sugar, honey, jam, even peanut butter. But in the U.S., what are waffles without maple syrup?

    And what’s with the different types of maple syrup?

    GRADES (VARIETIES) OF MAPLE SYRUP

    Because maple syrup is tapped in the winter, it has traditionally been seen as a winter flavor. But just like honey and sugar, it can be enjoyed year-round in recipes from cocktails to salad dressings and marinades to desserts.

    If you’re confused by the four grades of maple syrup (A Light Amber, A Medium Amber, A Dark Amber and B) here’s an explanation of the different types.

     

    chicken-waffles-2-sweetchickbklyn-230

    Chicken and waffles. Photo courtesy Daniel Krieger | Sweet Chick | Brooklyn.

     
    In brief, at the beginning of the season, the syrup runs light in both color and flavor, and is called Grade A Light Amber. By mid-season it’s Grade A Medium Amber, followed by Grade A Dark Amber and Grade B. At the end of the season, it’s the strongest in flavor and color, commercial grade syrup.

    CROWN PREMIUM MAPLE SYRUP

    We recently received a bottle of Crown Maple syrup, certified organic. It is produced by Madava Farms, a family business in the historic Hudson River Valley of New York (Dutchess County).

    There, 800 acres of century-old, sustainably managed groves of sugar and red maples enjoy perfect soil and ideal seasonal weather conditions to produce a superior sap for maple sugaring.

    But production is a key determinant of quality. Far from the old primitive sugar house, Crown premium maple syrup is made at the most advanced maple syrup production facility in the country. The pristine sap collected from the maples is cooked using the latest in green, organic production techniques to produce syrups of exceptional quality.

     
    CROWN SYRUP VARIETIES

    As you can see from these tasting notes, different grades pair better with specific recipes.

    Light Amber Syrup

  • Tasting Notes: Flavors of popcorn, vanilla bean, roasted nuts, salted caramel and brown butter. Although light in color, the body has a pleasing weight and depth, with a sweetness and finish that lingers.
  • Uses: Pair with salty flavors, for example glazing pork belly or bacon. Try it in cocktails with whiskey as a base: Replace the muddled sugar cubes in an Old Fashioned. Use it as a substitute for palm sugar in Thai recipes.
  •  
    Medium Amber Syrup

  • Tasting Notes: Aromas of gingerbread and roasted chestnut with flavors of rye, butterscotch and spice.
  • Uses: Pair with baked breads, chocolate and ginger cookies and heavier spirits—barrel-aged bourbons or peaty, smoky Scotch. Use as a topping for chocolate or vanilla ice cream.
  •  

    light-amber-crown-230

    The handsome bottles are nicely boxed for
    gift giving. Photo courtesy Madava Farms.

     

    Dark Amber Syrup

  • Tasting Notes: The flavor and aroma are similar to Medium Amber, but the syrup has more weight, depth and concentration. Aromas of coffee and cocoa beans are present, along with flavors of brown sugar and toasted almond.
  • Uses: Use instead of other sweeteners in coffee, and as an alternative to honey as a condiment for cheeses.
  •  
    Crown Maple Extra Dark for Cooking

  • Tasting Notes: A robust maple syrup with a great depth of flavor, richness and a bright finish.
  • Uses: For cooking and baking. The richness shines through even the boldest of food pairings.
  •  
    Where To Purchase

    A 12-ounce bottle, gift boxed, is $16.95; a samplers of all three is $59.95; and a “petite trio” of three small bottles (1.7 ounces each) is $15.95. An 12-ounce bottle of Extra Dark Syrup for Cooking is $27.95.

    A 10-ounce bag of maple sugar (see below) is 10.95.

    Buy them online at CrownMaple.com.

     
    MORE ABOUT WAFFLES

    The Ur-Waffle. Before there were modern waffles, there were the rustic hotcakes of the Neolithic Age (ca. 6000 B.C.E. to ca. 2000 B.C.E.). Made of cereal pulps, they were cooked on heated stones. Honey is as old as written history, dating back to 2100 B.C.E., where it was mentioned in Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform writings, the Hittite code and the sacred writings of India and Egypt. We don’t know when man first decided to unite honey and hotcakes, but here’s the honey history.

    The Waffle Iron. The waffle iron—enabling pancake-type foods to be turned into textured waffles—was created in the 1200s, when a [presumably] pancake-loving craftsman combined cooking plates that reproduced a pattern of honeycombs.

    The Electric Waffle Iron. The electric waffle iron was introduced in 1911 by General Electric.

    Types Of Waffles. There are at least 11 varieties of waffles: American, Belgian/Brussels, Liège, Hong Kong Waffle, Krumcake, Malt, Pizzelle, Potato, Soft, Stroopwafel and, yes, Toaster. Take a look at the types of waffles.

    Here’s the complete history of waffles.

    The Center Of Syrup. Canada produces more than 80% of the world’s maple syrup, the vast majority in Quebec. Vermont is the biggest U.S. producer, followed by New York and Maine. But no matter how much is produced in the U.S., we need to import the majority of our syrup from Canada. (We have the trees to produce more syrup, but not the people who want to tap them.)

     
    RECIPE: HOMEMADE WAFFLES WITH A TWIST

    Here’s a recipe from Crown that uses maple sugar instead of table sugar for even more maple flavor.

    Ingredients For 6 Large Waffles

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons maple sugar (see note below
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups warm milk
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT waffle iron to desired temperature.

    2. COMBINE all dry ingredients in large mixing bowl and set aside.

    3. BEAT eggs in a separate bowl; stir in milk, butter and vanilla. Pour milk mixture into the flour mixture; beat until blended.

    4. LADLE batter into heated waffle iron and cook until golden brown; serve immediately with maple syrup.

     

    WHAT IS MAPLE SUGAR

    Maple sugar is made from the sap from the maple tree, as opposed to the juice of sugar cane, from which table sugar is made. It has the same strong maple flavor and aroma as maple syrup.

    The sap is boiled until almost all of the water has been evaporated; the remaining product has crystallized. The sugar can be sold in large blocks, molded into small shapes or simply ground into a granulated version that can be used like regular sugar.

    Maple sugar can be used in the same way as cane sugar: in coffee, tea, baked goods and cocktails. It adds more complexity and richness than cane sugar.

    However, is almost twice as sweet as regular sugar, so when replacing cane sugar, you need to reduce the amount. Try using one-third less, and adjust to taste.

      

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