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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,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Recipes

TIP OF THE DAY: Make Leaf-Shaped Veggies For Thanksgiving

You can be very artistic with vegetables. It just takes a bit of planning. While it takes some dexterity to make this “rose tart”, here is a simple alternative.

It comes from one of our favorite creative cooks, Vicky of She cuts up vegetables with a leaf cookie cutter before roasting them. She then tosses the cooked veggies in a mustard and maple syrup vinaigrette.

Cookie cutters make vegetables fun any time of the year. You can make stars for Christmas, hearts for Valentine’s Day, bunnies for Easter and so on. Check the size of you cutter to be sure it isn’t larger than the beets and potatoes. You may need to use two sizes: medium and small. Here’s a good set of leaf cookie cutters from Wilton: three different leaves, each in small, medium and large.

After you’ve cut out the shapes, keep the vegetable scraps to make stock; or chop them and steam them lightly to use in scrambled eggs, omelets, grain salads, etc. Stick them in the freezer if you’re too busy to think about it now.

Ingredients For 4 Servings

For The Vegetables

  • 9 ounces/250g uncooked red beets, skinned and trimmed
  • 18 ounces/500g butternut squash, peeled


    Volunteer to make the vegetables; then cut them with a leaf-shaped cookie cutter. Photo ©

  • 14 ounces/400g Yukon Gold, Purple Peruvian or other all-purpose* potatoes, washed and peeled
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper
    *Yukon Gold, Yellow Finn and/or Purple Peruvian potatoes will give you the color you want. You can substitute other all-purpose potatoes such as Katahdin or Kennebec (a leading chipping potato). Check out the different types of potatoes in our Potato Glossary.
    For The Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or substitute†
  • 6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of grain mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup (or to taste)
  • Garnish: 1 heaping tablespoon capers
  • Garnish: a few sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary
    †Substitutes in order of preference: rice wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar. See the different types of vinegar.



    Headed for the oven. Photo ©



    1. LINE two baking pans with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.

    2. SLICE the potatoes and butternut squash into 1/8-inch thin slices, using a very sharp knife or a mandolin on its thickest setting. If cutting with a knife, ensure the slices as even as possible.

    3. SLICE the beets the same way. Use a separate chopping board or cut the beets last, or they will bleed into the other vegetables.

    4. USE a leaf cookie cutter to cut out the leaves. For more visual interest, use different shape leaves (maple and oak, for example). Once again, keep the beets on a separate chopping board so they don’t bleed on the potatoes and squash. TIP FROM VICKY: Raw root vegetables are a lot tougher to cut than cookie dough, so protect your palms by placing a small towel underneath your hand when you press down on the cutter.

    OPTIONAL: You can make the leaves even more decorative by scoring some veins with a knife. This is labor intensive and a task ideally delegated to a helper.

    5. PLACE the potato and squash in a bowl and toss in most of the oil, paprika salt, pepper and some herbs. Move the oiled squash and potatoes to one of the lined baking sheets. Place the beets in the same bowl, toss them in the remaining oil, paprika, salt, pepper and herbs, and add them to the other baking sheet.

    6. PLACE both baking sheets in the oven. Cook the smaller leaves for 20 minutes and the larger leaves for 30-40 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking…

    7. MAKE the dressing: Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil and mustard in a bowl. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Next, whisk in the maple syrup.

    8. PLACE the cooked vegetables on a warm serving dish. Pour on most of the dressing, reserving some in a jug for those who’d like more. Scatter the capers on top. Garnish with fresh thyme and rosemary sprigs before serving.



    RECIPE: No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake

    Well, it’s almost no bake: The crust gets baked for 10 minutes. But after that, all you do is mix, fill and refrigerate thanks to this easy recipe from Kenwood.

    If the kids want to make a contribution, this is something they can do without worrying about baking times (or having to stick around, waiting for the baking to finish).

    Prep time is 20 minutes, chill time is 4 hours or overnight.



    For The Crust

  • 10 to 12 graham crackers to make approx 1.5 cups
  • ½ cup of unsalted butter, softened
    For The Cheesecake Filling

  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin pie filling*
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • Optional: whipped cream for garnish


    The crust bakes for 10 minutes. Then, chill and serve. Photo courtesy Kenwood.


    *Note that pumpkin pie filling is already seasoned with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Do not confuse it with unseasoned can pumpkin.


    1. HEAT the oven to 375°F. Using a food processor with the chopping blade, combine the softened butter with the graham crackers to create a graham crust. Stir until the crumbs are evenly coated and look wet. The crumbs should hold together in a clump if you press them in your fist; if not, add water a tablespoon at a time until this happens.

    2. POUR the crumbs into a 9-inch pie pan and press them evenly along the bottoms and sides. Pre-bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes until dry and fragrant. Cool completely before proceeding with the recipe.

    3. MIX the cream cheese in the mixing bowl of the food processor on medium speed until it is a bit fluffy. Slowly add in the pumpkin pie filling and mix on low until blended. Mix in the cinnamon and sugar until mixture is completely smooth.

    4. REMOVE the filling and place in another bowl. Add the whipping cream to the mixing bowl and beat until stiff. Slowly fold in cream cheese mixture until just blended (it won’t be pretty so don’t think you’re doing something wrong).

    5. POUR into the pie crust. Let the cheesecake chill in for 4 hours or overnight. To serve, garnish with a optional dollop of whipped cream.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Savory Bread Pudding

    Dessert lovers know the comfort of a rich bread pudding, a way to top yesterday’s bread with custard and cook it in a casserole dish into something sublime. (“Casserole” has a broad definition: simply, a side dish or stew cooked slowly in an oven.)

    Leave out the sugar and you have a savory custard, to be served as a side with dinner.

    Bread pudding originated in the 11th or 12th century as a way to use stale bread. Pieces of bread were cut or torn, combined with other ingredients (cheese, onions, mushrooms and other vegetables, bits of meat), topped with custard and then baked until the top was set but the inside was soft and creamy.

  • Bread pudding is closely related to the Italian dish, strata. The difference is that stratas are typically made with more eggs than cream, making them eggier and more breakfasty. They are savory dishes.
  • Bread puddings are made with a more equal ratio of eggs and milk—a custard. They can be either sweet or savory.
  • You can also make individual bread puddings in ramekins or custard cups.
  • Stuffing and dressing are savory bread puddings.
    Also see our related article on savory custard.


    Bread Pudding

    Spinach and garlic bread pudding. While most recipes blend the bread with the other ingredients, in this version it sits on top. It makes for a prettier presentation. Here’s the recipe, from Food & Wine.

    We’ve provided one recipe below that uses applewood smoked bacon, but here’s an assortment of delicious options from Food & Wine.

  • Artichoke Bread Pudding Recipe
  • Butternut Squash Bread Pudding Recipe
  • Cranberry, Pecan & Bacon Bread Pudding Recipe
  • Mushroom, Leek & Parmesan Bread Pudding Recipe
  • Savory Sausage and Cheddar Bread Pudding Recipe
  • Spinach Bread Pudding With Lemon & Feta Recipe
  • Spinach & Garlic Bread Pudding Recipe
  • Spinach-Shiitake Bread Pudding Recipe
    The following recipe is from La Brea Bakery, which suggests it to accompany the Thanksgiving turkey or any roasted meats. They make it with their Organic Rustic French Loaf.

    But the great thing about bread pudding is that you can use any bread, or a mixture of breads. In other words, if you have leftover baguette, challah and cornbread, toss them together.


    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/savory bread pudding labrea ps 230

    Applewood smoked bacon and Italian parsley
    flavor this savory bread pudding recipe from
    La Brea Bakery. Photo courtesy La Brea



    Prep time is 60 minutes, cook time is 120 minutes.

    Ingredients For Nine 3″x3″ Pieces

  • 3 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces applewood smoked bacon
  • 4 ounces whole cooked chestnuts
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 French loaf of other bread

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    2. CUT the bread into 1” cubes, removing the crust; place in a large bowl. Pour the chicken stock over the bread and stir to wet all cubes. Allow to sit for a half hour, stirring occasionally to be sure all the liquid is absorbed.

    3. CHOP the chestnuts coarsely. While waiting for the bread to soak, place a medium pan over medium heat and add the bacon and chestnuts. Stir occasionally and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is golden but not yet crispy. Remove from heat and set aside.

    4. PICK the leaves of the parsley from the stems, chop coarsely and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs thoroughly with a whisk and add the cream, celery salt, pepper and chopped parsley, continuing to whisk until well combined. Add this mixture and the chestnuts-bacon mixture (use a rubber spatula to get everything from the pan) to the bread cubes and stir to mix well.

    5. SPRAY the inside of a 9” baking pan with cooking spray and fill with the bread mixture, making sure to spread evenly to fill the pan and create a level top surface. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

    6. SERVE immediately or allow to cool completely for serving later. If serving later, reheat by covering with foil and place in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes, or until warmed through.



    RECIPE: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

    Bread pudding is a Southern classic that can be tweaked to become a fall special with the addition of pumpkin purée.

    This recipe, from Heidi of FoodieCrush, not only adds the pumpkin, but tops the bread pudding with a bourbon pecan sauce.

    Says Heidi: “With bourbon pecan and caramelized pecans topping a bread pudding made from cinnamon-raisin bread, this dessert is destined to become a classic.”

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 60 minutes.

    See the history of bread pudding below.


    Ingredients For 8-10 servings

    For The Bread Pudding

  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1-pound loaf cinnamon-raisin bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
    For The Bourbon Pecan Sauce

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/3 cup bourbon or other whiskey

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan with 1 tablespoon butter.

    2. WHISK together the eggs, heavy cream, pumpkin purée, maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice in large bowl, stirring until smooth.




    TOP PHOTO: Will Pumpkin Bread Pudding become a new Thanksgiving classic? Photo courtesy Foodie Crush | Go Bold With Butter. BOTTOM PHOTO: Pastry chefs at top restaurants make pumpkin bread pudding, too. This upscale treatment, with crème fraiche ice cream and rum-spiced cherries, is from Chef Toni Roberts. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy Star Chefs.

    3. ADD the bread cubes and let stand 5 minutes. Pour into the baking pan; bake 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the center is set. (The bread pudding will puff as it bakes and will deflate once it’s cooled from the oven.)

    4. MAKE the bourbon pecan sauce: Add the cream, egg yolks and sugar to 2-quart saucepan and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, whisking constantly, until the mixture thinly coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and let the mixture stand, stirring often as it cools. Meanwhile…

    5. MELT the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the pecans. Cook 4-5 minutes or until the butter browns and exudes a nutty aroma. Stir the browned butter and the pecans into the cream mixture. Stir in the whiskey.

    6. SERVE the bread pudding warm, drizzled with the bourbon pecan sauce. The sauce may be made a day in advance and refrigerated.


    Panettone Bread Pudding

    Bread pudding made with panforte, the
    classic Christmas bread. Photo courtesy
    Bauli. Here’s the recipe.



    Bread pudding, a dish created to use stale bread (as were French toast and fondue among others), has humble roots. But it has evolved into an American comfort food that you can find at diners and upscale eateries alike, made simply or elaborately.

    Food historians trace the history of bread pudding to the early 11th and 12th centuries, as frugal cooks looked for ways to use stale, leftover bread instead of letting it go to waste. In 13th century England, bread pudding was known as “poor man’s pudding,” as it was a popular dish with the lower classes.

    The dish consists of cubes of bread and any added ingredients (raisins, chocolate chips citrus zest and so on), covered with custard sauce and cooked. It can be made in the oven, stove top, a crock pot, microwave or grill.

    There’s lots of opportunity for creativity, from the type of bread to the inclusions. Beyond bread, you can use anything that’s left over: brioche, buns and rolls, coffee cake, croissants, donuts, Danish and muffins.

    We often buy a challah, just to have day-old bread for bread pudding. We also love a cinnamon-raisin loaf, as used in this recipe.

    And don’t forget the booze: Grand Marnier or other liqueur, rum or whiskey.



    RECIPE: Gingersnap Biscotti

    A gift of homemade biscotti for your Thanksgiving host is especially thoughtful. Biscotti last for several weeks in an airtight tin, so the host family has a treat to look forward to after all the leftovers have been consumed.

    Annalise of Completely Delicious created these White Chocolate Gingersnap Biscotti after her grandmother’s gingersnap recipe.

    “These gingersnap biscotti have all the spice and molasses flavor of my grandmother’s gingersnaps,” says Annalise, but with the extra snap and crunch of biscotti. And a drizzle of white chocolate is the final finishing touch.”

    Prep time is 20 minutes, cook time is 40 minutes. Thanks to, a treasure trove of delicious holiday recipes, for giving us the heads up on this one.


    Ingredients For 2 Dozen Biscotti

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Granulated sugar, for sprinkling
  • 5 ounces high quality* white chocolate, chopped


    Gingersnap biscotti for the holidays. Photo courtesy Completely Delicious | Go Bold With Butter.

    *Look for Lindt or Green & Black’s white chocolate bars, Guittard white chocolate or chocolate chips. We found Valhrona white chocolate pistoles in clear containers at Whole Foods Market.


    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

    2. USE a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or a hand-held mixer with a large bowl. Beat the butter and brown sugar on high speed until light in color and creamy. Mix in the egg, followed by the molasses.

    3. STIR together in large bowl the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture all at once and mix on low until incorporated.

    4. DIVIDE the dough in half and shape each piece into a log about 4 inches wide. Space the logs evenly on the sheet pan and flatten each log to about 2 inches high. Sprinkle generously with granulated sugar.

    5. BAKE until the edges are golden and the surface is cracked, 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 20 minutes.

    6. SLICE the logs with a serrated knife into 1-inch thick slices. Place the slices cut side-up on pan lined with parchment paper and bake an additional 12-14 minutes until edges are brown. Let cool completely.

    7. MELT the chocolate in small heat-proof bowl in the microwave at 60 percent power for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. If not completely melted, continue to microwave the chocolate in 10 second intervals, stirring in-between intervals. Be careful not to scorch the chocolate.

    8. DRIZZLE the melted chocolate over the cooled cookies. Let them sit for 15 minutes before serving or storing. Store biscotti in airtight container at room temperature.


    White Chocolate Chips

    Callebaut White Chocolate Chunks

    TOP PHOTO: Look for Guittard white
    chocolate chips in your supermarket. Photo
    courtesy Lake Champlain Chocolate. BOTTOM
    PHOTO: You can buy chunks of Callebaut
    white chocolate at



    Created as a convenient non-perishable food for travelers and a staple of the diet of the Roman Legions, today’s biscotti are a classic dessert in Tuscany, accompanied by an amber-hued glass of vin santo*, a dessert wine. Americans enjoy them with a cappuccino or other coffee drink.

    Originally flavored with almonds (amaretti), then with anisette, biscotti are now made in dozens of flavors. Here’s Mario Batali’s favorite recipe for the classic amaretto and anisette biscotti.

    The word biscotto derives from “bis,” Latin for twice, and “coctum” or baked (which became “cotto,” or cooked, in Italian).

    In Roman times, unleavened, finger-shaped wafers were baked first to cook them, then a second time to completely dry them out, making them durable for travel and nourishment on long journeys. Pliny boasted that they would be edible for centuries.

    The record does not indicate that biscotti survived the sack of the Roman Empire. But they re-emerged in Tuscany during the Renaissance, credited to a Tuscan baker who served them with vin santo. Their dry, crunchy texture was deemed to be the perfect medium to soak up the wine.

    Centuries later, many still agree that dipping biscotti into vin santo is a perfect way to end a meal, or to while away an hour at a café. Biscotti and coffee are also a match made in Heaven.

    Italians call biscotti cantucci, and use the term biscotti to refer to any type of crunchy cookie—round, square and otherwise (as the British use the word “biscuit”). In North America, we use “biscotti” as the ancient Romans did, to describe a long, dry, hard, twice-baked cookie (in other words, cantucci).

    Here’s a longer history of biscotti.

    †Vin santo means “holy wine” in Italian, and was traditionally made in Tuscany. Most scholars agree that these wines were originally used for Holy Communion.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Harvest Topping, A Fall Garnish

    What’s Harvest Topping, you ask?

    As created by Country Crock, it’s a universal topping that can garnish anything from a baked Brie to a sundae to a crumble.

    Not to mention oatmeal, French toast, pancakes, waffles and yogurt. It’s also a salad topping. And we even mixed it into rice!

    Country Crock recommends it with mascarpone cheese on sliced multigrain baguette (toast the slices), garnished with Harvest Topping over top for a delicious snack. It works with cream cheese and ricotta, too.

    Sweet and spicy, it can be your go-to garnish for the rest of the season. The allspice is a nice change of pace from the ubiquitous seasonal cinnamon.

    Harvest Topping is easy to make, and it will keep in an airtight container for a month or more. You can turn it into a house gift with a mason jar and a ribbon.

    Prep time is 5 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.


    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 1 medium apple, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons Country Crock Spread, unsalted butter or oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

    crop Country Crock_Harvest Topping_dailymeal-230

    One garnish has many uses, from a Brie appetizer to dessert. Photo courtesy Country Crock.



    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°.

    2. COMBINE all ingredients in a medium bowl, mixing well. Arrange in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the seeds are golden brown.

    3. USE immediately, or let cool before storing in an airtight container.
    Find more holiday recipes at



    TIP OF THE DAY: Fiori di Sicilia, Fior Di Sicilia

    Fior di Sicilia, an Italian essence that translates to “flower of Sicily,” was used by our friend Ruth’s mother to flavor almost everything she baked. Biscotti, brioche and sweet breads, cookies, cheesecake, angel/pound/sponge cake, pie, macarons, meringues, yellow and white cakes got the fior di sicilia treatment, especially during the holidays.

    Ruth’s mom no doubt inherited the tradition from her mother and grandmother, who were born in the old country. Italians use it to add flavor and aroma to panettone, pandoro and ricotta cookies.

    The essence is a combination of floral, citrus and vanilla extracts, with a lovely floral aroma. Some Americans might identify the scent and taste as an elegant take on “Creamsicle.” Most will find it beguilingly mysterious, and will ask you what the taste is. (Note that essences from different manufacturers may vary. One friend notes flavors of lemon, lime and strawberry in her brand.)
    Is It Fiori Or Fior Di Sicilia?

    The terms are used interchangeably. We see bottles with both the singular, fior di sicilia, and the plural, fiori.


    Fiori Di Sicilia, Fior Di Sicilia

    Fiori di Sicilia adds floral and citrus “mystery” to baked goods. Photo courtesy King Arthur Flour.

    How To Use Fiori Di Sicilia

    We like to use it to add something special to holiday baking. Add a half teaspoon of fiori di sicilia to a basic cookie or cake recipe. If that isn’t enough for you, use more next time. If the half teaspoon seems meager, it’s because the essence is potent, and should be used with light touch.

    Other popular holiday uses:

  • Biscotti
  • Butter cookies and shortbread
  • Cream cheese and ricotta fillings
  • Hot tea, sparkling water
  • Pound cake and layer cake
  • Ricotta cookies
    We’ve been known to add it to a cup of warm milk (hot or warm milk is a better-for-you comfort food for us). You can add your sweetener of choice to create a cup of “hot fiori di sicilia.”

    In the summer, add it to iced tea and fruit soup.

    You can try it in a one-ounce size ($9.95) from King Arthur Flour; there’s also a 4-ounce size ($19.95). The smaller size is a nice stocking stuffer for people who bake.


    Christmas Butter Cookies

    Christmas butter cookies with fiori di sicilia. Here’s the recipe, from King Arthur Flour.



    Thanks to King Arthur for developing these delicious recipes:

  • Holiday Butter Cookies Recipe
  • Lemon Brioche Recipe
  • French Toast Recipe
  • Cranberry Nut Fruitcake Recipe
  • Lemon-Glazed Pound Cake Recipe
  • Meringues Recipe
  • Pandoro Recipe
  • Panettone Muffins Recipe
  • Panettone Recipe
  • Shimmer Cookies Recipe
  • Orange Shortbread Cookies Recipe
  • Springerle Cookies Recipe
  • Spritz Cookies Recipe

    There are 60 more fiori di Sicilia recipes at Enjoy the voyage of discovery.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Mulling Spice Sachets

    Mulling Spice Sachets


    TOP PHOTO: Individual sachets are best if only one or two people want a cup. Larger sachets are used to make a 6- or 8-cup pot. Photo courtesy McCormick. BOTTOM PHOTO:
    Empty tea bag “sachets,” used to fill with loose tea, are easier to make although less festive than muslin or netting. You can get them at specialty tea shops or online. Photo courtesy NiceShop. Put leftover mulled beverages in the fridge to enjoy chilled.


    In our last article, we suggested a cider party with a pumpkin layer cake. Here’s a related tip:

    Make mulling spice sachets for mulled cider or wine. They layer the flavors found in spiced tea on top of the base beverage, which is typically warmed cider or wine.

    Make them for family, guests and gifting. Individual sachets are better for gifting; large sachets are better for a pot of cider.

    For gifting and party favors, you can package the sachets in a holiday tin or a Mason jar with a red ribbon. Be sure to add the mulling instructions (below) on the gift tag or insert them into the package.

    To give two individual sachets as small party favors, find a small, colored cellophane bag, a clear or vellum envelope or other gift bag. Include the instructions.

    Prep time is 5 minutes to make an individual sachet, 15 minutes to steep the cider or wine. If you have nimble fingers and have organized your ingredients, you can make three individual sachets or two large ones in 5 minutes.

    Thanks to McCormick for the recipe.


    Ingredients For 1 Bag/2 Servings

  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice
  • Optional: 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 cups apple cider, hard cider or wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Cheesecloth*, cut into 4″ squares
  • Kitchen string
    *The easiest option is to purchase drawstring filter bags, used for loose tea (photo at left). Another option: If you can find fine, flexible netting, it makes a prettier sachet but you need to wash it first, to soften it and eliminate any dust it’s picked up along the way.


    1. PLACE the spices in the center of a piece of cheesecloth. Tie tightly with long piece of string. Store in an airtight container. That’s it, until you’re ready to mull your beverage. Then…

    2. PLACE the spice sachet in small saucepan. Add the apple cider or wine. Simmer over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes or until fragrant.

    3. DISCARD the spice sachet. Stir in the vanilla. Serve warm or hot.

    Ingredients For A Party-Size Mulling Spice Sachet

    1. INCREASE the cinnamon sticks to 4, whole cloves to 2 teaspoons, whole allspice to 1 teaspoon and vanilla to 2 teaspoons.

    2. WRAP in cheesecloth and warm in a pot with 2 quarts (8 cups) of apple cider or wine. You can also use apple juice. The difference is that apple cider is a fresh-squeezed product that needs to be refrigerated; apple juice is processed and homogenized to be shelf stable (no refrigeration needed until after the package has been opened).



    RECIPE: Pumpkin Layer Cake & Easy Variations

    This recipe, from blogger Jaclyn at Cooking Classy, reminded us to substitute pumpkin for carrot cake during “pumpkin season.” When baking, we tend to focus too much on family favorites and not enough on new seasonal recipes.

    For this recipe, Jaclyn takes a carrot cake approach to pumpkin cake, adding a seasonal cinnamon accent to carrot cake’s traditional cream cheese frosting. She adds a third cake layer to make the cake more impressive.

    If you love raisins and nuts in a carrot cake, you can add them here, too, either in the batter or in or atop the filling between the layers (for the filling, plan for 1/2 cup of each). You can also add pieces of crystallized ginger in the frosting for a spicy crunch.

    An entertaining idea: Make the cake for a cider party, serving fresh cider and mulled cider with brandy and rum.

    Prep time is 40 minutes, Cook Time: 35 minutes, Total Time: 3 hours

    Find more delicious recipes at


    Ingredients For 16 Servings

  • 2-3/4 cups (390g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1-1/4 cups (270g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (172g) packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil, divided
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cup (424g/15 oz) canned pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup milk

    Carrot Cake With Chopped Pecans

    TOP PHOTO: Serve pumpkin pie at a cider party, with regular and mulled cider. Photo courtesy BOTTOM PHOTO: You can garnish the sides of the cake with chopped pecans or walnuts, as shown in this carrot cake from

    For The Frosting

  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened (Jaclyn used 6 tablespoons salted and 6 tablespoons unsalted butter)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4-1/2 to 5 cups powdered sugar
  • Optional inclusions: chopped pecans or walnut, crystallized ginger, raisins or dried cranberries or cherries
    Optional Garnishes

  • Chopped pecans or walnuts
  • Candy/marzipan pumpkins, acorns or leaves; pomegranate arils

    Pumpkin Layer Cake


    TOP PHOTO: This pumpkin layer cake adds
    raspberries for a festive effect. You can
    instead add dried cherries, cranberries or
    raisins, pomegranate arils, chopped
    crystallized ginger, or a combination.
    BOTTOM PHOTO: Food fun in the form of a
    deconstructed layer cake, with streusel
    crumble topped with ice cream, and
    decorated with meringue cookies and a
    ribbon of pumpkin pie filling (you can
    substitute caramel sauce). Photo courtesy
    Caviar Russe | NYC.



    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and set the pans aside.

    2. WHISK together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in a mixing bowl. Whisking for 20 seconds and set aside.

    3. USE the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and whip together the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, until pale and fluffy. Occasionally scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, throughout the mixing process. Mix in the remaining 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Blend in the eggs one at a time, adding the vanilla with the last egg.

    4. WHISK together the pumpkin and milk in a bowl or large liquid measuring cup. Working in three separate batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, add 1/3 of the flour mixture alternating with half of the pumpkin mixture and mixing just until combined after each addition.

    5. DIVIDE the batter among the three prepared cake pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of cake comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Cool the layers in the pans for 15 minutes, then run a knife around edge to loosen. Invert the layers onto wire racks to cool completely.

    6. PREPARE the frosting while the cake cools. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy. Add the cinnamon, vanilla and powdered sugar and mix on low speed until combined. Then increase the speed to medium and whip until pale and fluffy.

    7. FILL the cake layers with frosting and then frost the top and sides. If you prefer the look of the three-tiered cake with raspberries, at the top of this section, you can save a bit of time with an unfrosted top and sides. If the frosting is runny, cover and refrigerate just until it no longer is runny before spreading on cake.

    8. STORE the cake in an airtight container such as a cake carrier, in the refrigerator; chill for 20 minutes or as long as you want to store the cake. Let it rest at room temperature to eliminate the chill before serving. Chilling the cake firms the frosting and allows for cleaner slices.




    FOOD FUN & RECIPE: Cauliflower Steak

    We admit: We are one of those people who has a double grievance during fall and winter. Not only do we grip daylight hours, but we miss the cornucopia of fruits and vegetables from spring and summer.

    Sure, there are asparagus and tomatoes, honeydews and peaches to be had. But as subscribers to locavore and green philosophies, we don’t buy out-of-season produce shipped from other parts of the world.

    The folks in California are gifted with the best produce variety in the nation. It helps that the growing is so long, as is the growing area: 770 miles long.

    We just heard from Good Eggs, San Francisco’s top quality produce provider, that new fall bounty has arrived:

  • Buttercup squash
  • Baby spinach
  • Artichokes
  • Romanesco, the offspring of cauliflower and broccoli rabe (see the photo below)
  • Mexican Sour Gherkins (they look like tiny watermelons)


    The best fall produce in northern California. Photo courtesy


    On the opposite coast, where we live, we find comfort in colored cauliflower and winter squash. But wherever you live, here’s…


  • Know what’s in season locally. Click your state on this map from Fresh Everyday Produce.
  • Go to farmers markets. Here’s the USDA’s list of farmers markets in the U.S.
  • Patronize stores that have better produce. Our closest supermarket is fine for the dairy and packaged food, but the produce often is wilting so we go elsewhere.
  • Be willing to shop at multiple stores. The specialty supermarket where we buy produce carries an inferior brand of strawberries. We eat lots of strawberries year-round, so we go to yet another store that does carry our brand (Driscolls).
  • Ask the chefs at independent restaurants for advice. They typically have favorite farmers markets and specialty grocers.
  • Recognize that if you live in the northern climes, January and February will be bleak. After the new year, we’ll provide tips on how to cope.

    1. Ask 10 foodies and/or chefs in your area where the best produce can be found. You don’t have to ask them all in one week, of course. But anytime the topic of good food comes up in conversation, ask!

    2. Find a seasonal fruit or vegetable and do something different and exciting with it. To give you a leg up, the next section has a recipe for our latest veggie fancy: cauliflower steaks. You can make them with endless variations of seasonings and sauces, and we’ve included six of our favorite variations.




    TOP PHOTO: Some jewels of fall: colored
    cauliflower. In the front is romanesco, a
    cultivar bred from cauliflower and broccoli rabe (rapini). Photo courtesy BOTTOM PHOTO:
    Cauliflower steak with Italian accents. Photo
    courtesy Here’s the recipe.



    Since the summer, cauliflower steak has been trending at almost every restaurant we go visit, as a vegetarian/vegan/paleo/low-calorie/whatever option. It can also be served on top of your favorite whole grain, as a first course or entrée, or atop a bed of greens as a salad course. It’s especially fun with a purple cauliflower!

    A whole head of cauliflower is sliced into “steaks,” which are variously seasoned and roasted.


  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 3 pounds)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Garnish: 2 tablespoons fresh parsley or other herb, finely

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

    2. COMBINE the lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Set aside momentarily.

    3. REMOVE the leaves and bottom core of a head of cauliflower lengthwise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Season both sides with salt and pepper to taste and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with the lemon juice-garlic mixture. Roast 40 minutes or until golden and tender. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

    4. USE the remaining cauliflower pieces in salads raw or pickled, or steam/microwave them for another occasion.

    Turn this spare basic recipe into more flavorful cauliflower steaks. Use your favorite international flavors as seasonings and sauces. For example:

  • Chinese cauliflower steaks: Eliminate the salt, brush steaks with soy sauce instead of lemon juice, top with minced garlic, garnish with fresh chives.
  • Indian cauliflower steaks: Season with ground cumin, coriander and optional curry powder instead of garlic, salt and pepper; garnish with fresh cilantro.
  • Italian cauliflower steaks #1: Use garlic-flavored olive oil and top the cauliflower with minced garlic before roasting. Place cooked steaks atop pesto, or atop marinara sauce seasoned with some oregano. Garnish with sliced black olives.
  • Italian cauliflower steaks #2: Make the basic recipe. After roasting, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  • Japanese cauliflower steaks: Use 1/2 olive oil, 1/2 toasted sesame oil or wasabi oil, and garnish with toasted sesame seeds, grated fresh ginger and/or fresh chives.
  • Mexican cauliflower steaks: Replace the lemon juice with lime juice. Serve on a bed of black beans or pinto beans and top with warmed salsa. Garnish with cilantro and optional crumbled queso fresco.


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