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RECIPE: Pasta With Artichoke Hearts & Olives

In this Mediterranean medley, pasta combines with artichoke hearts and olives in a light dressing of extra virgin olive oil and lemon.

Or is it an artichoke and olive salad with pasta? Either way, this main dish, which can be served hot or cold, is layered with flavor.

  • You can use leftover, unsauced pasta or cook the pasta for the occasion.
  • You can use bits of leftover proteins: beef, chicken, lamb, pork, seafood, soy-based, etc.
  •  
    We adapted this recipe from one created by Lightlife, which used a package of its vegan Smart Strips Chick’n as the protein.
     
    RECIE: PASTA WITH ARTICHOKE HEARTS & OLIVES

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 6 ounces cooked protein of choice
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) uncooked pasta (yields 4 cups cooked pasta)
  • 2 jars (6.5 ounces each) marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1/3 cup sliced Greek-style green and black olives
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  •  

    Pasta With Artichokes & Olives Recipe

    Serve this pasta dish hot or cold. Photo courtesy Lightlife.com.

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • Garnish: freshly shredded Parmesan or other Italian grating cheese
  • Optional herbs: oregano, parsley, rosemary sage, thyme, tarragon (or julienned baby arugula or basil)
  • Serve with: breadsticks, foccacia or garlic bread
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BOIL 4 to 6 quarts of water to a boil in a Dutch oven. Add the pasta, stir gently and return to a boil. Boil uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 9 minutes (for al dente pasta). Remove from the heat, drain well and place the pasta in a large mixing bowl. For a hot dish, cover to keep warm. If serving a warm dish…

    2. WARM the proteins Otherwise, leave them chilled or at room temperature. Add them to the mixing bowl.

    3. ADD the remaining ingredients except the cheese. You can mix the herbs into the pasta, or sprinkle them as a garnish. Mix the pasta well and plate; sprinkle with grated cheese and serve.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Homemade Pork Rinds

    Homemade Pork Rinds

    Pork Rind Garnish

    Pork Cracklings

    Top: Don’t these homemade pork rinds look so much better than store-bought? Photo and recipe courtesy PaleoLeap.com. Center: Pork rinds are also a delicious garnish for soups and salads. Photo courtesy Culinary Vegetable Institute. Bottom: Pork cracklings are made from the skin and fat; pork rinds are the skin (rind) only. Photo courtesy Padaek.com. Check out the recipe.

     

    As we think ahead to Father’s Day, we’re mulling over some homemade versions of popular snack foods from potato chips to pork rinds.

    Pork Rind Appreciation Day, established by Rudolph Foods (which sells pork rinds), is held on Super Bowl Sunday. But we like the idea of homemade pork rinds and a cold beer on Father’s Day.
     
    PORK RINDS VS. PORK CRACKLINGS

    Pork rinds (chicharrónes) are made from pork skin, with the attached fat removed.

    That’s the difference between pork rinds and pork cracklings. Cracklings (called grattons in Cajun cuisine) include the fat that adheres to the skin. Because of the extra fat, cracklings are greasier, denser and a bit chewy. Pork rinds are airy like cheese puffs, and they dissolve in your mouth.

    Here’s an idea: Buy pork belly to make grilled pork belly or pork belly skewers, and turn the skin into pork rinds. You can also buy the skin only from butchers (it’s quite inexpensive).

    Be sure to use skin within three days of purchase, as its high moisture content means it can spoil quickly. The finished pork rinds will keep for a long time if cooked long enough for all the fat to be rendered out.

    Check out this video.
     
    RECIPE: HOMEMADE PORK RINDS

    Here’s a recipe for homemade pork rinds from Paleo Leap, which serves it as a crispy Paleo Diet snack with dilled mayonnaise or tartar sauce.

    Some pork rinds are deep-fried. Others, like this recipe, are roasted (the difference between roasting and baking).

    With homemade pork rinds, you control the salt. You don’t need to use any salt at all; the pork rinds will still be delicious. You can supply a salt shaker for those who must have it.

    Or, you can choose another seasoning. Garlic? Pepper? Curry?

    Ingredients

  • Pork skin
  • Optional: salt
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper to make clean-up easier.

    2. SLICE the skin into 1″ x 2″ strips—longer if you like—and place the strips on the baking sheet. Roast for 1-1/2 hours, then taste a piece. Many recipes call for 3 hours, but Sébastien Noël of Paleo Leap advises: “…most of the time they’re ready after 1.5 hours. You want them to be crispy but you don’t want them to be hard as a rock.”

    3. REMOVE from the oven and cool until they’re warm to the touch; enjoy them warm.

  •  
    Scrunchions, popular in Newfoundland, are pieces of fried fat (no skin).

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: DIY Bruschetta Bar

    Bruschetta

    Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

    DIY Bruschetta Bar

    Top: Grab a slice and pick your toppings. We love this selection from WhatsGabyCooking.com. Center: The classic bruschetta topping: tomatoes, olive oil and basil. The tomatoes can be halved cherry or grape tomatoes or diced beefsteak or roma tomatoes (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.com). Bottom: As a bonus for guests, grill the bread as you need it, so it will be warm. Photo courtesy Brit.co (see their other fun DIY bars).

     

    Oh, how we love bruschetta and crostini. Take slices of good crusty bread and grill (bruschetta) or toast (crostini—see the differences below) and add your favorite toppings. Crunchy and savory, it’s our idea of what to have with beer, wine or a Martini.

    It’s easy to toast bruschetta on the grill, and to take it one step further by setting up a DIY bruschetta bar for guests. If you’re grilling for Father’s Day, it’s a memorable way to start the event, with any beverage from iced tea and soft drinks to alcohol.

    By the way, that’s broo-SKETT-uh, not broo-SHETT-uh). The word is not only mispronounced in the U.S., but also misued. Bruschetta is the grilled bread, not the topping: bruscare means “to roast over coals.”

    We’ve seen jars of marinated tomatoes and basil sold as “bruschetta.” It should be labeled bruschetta topping.
     
    RECIPE: DIY BRUSCHETTA BAR

    All you need are bread, olive oil and toppings. For a DIY bar, offer at least three different toppings. Our favorites are below.
     
    Ingredients

  • Baguette loaves
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper and peeled, halved (horizontally) garlic cloves
  •  
    For The Toppings

  • Avocado, mashed and seasoned (garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, etc.)
  • Fresh basil, julienned/shredded
  • Greens: baby arugula or watercress
  • Marinated artichoke hearts (chopped)
  • Mushrooms, marinated
  • Onions or green onions (scallions), chopped
  • Peppadews, sliced
  • Pimento, chopped or sliced
  • Tomatoes, diced and marinated in oil and vinegar
  •  
    More options: shredded mozzarella or other cheese (ricotta, spreadable goat cheese, thinly-sliced Brie), fish (we have a passion for anchovies and herring salad on bruschetta), other marinated vegetables, prosciutto or sliced salame with mustard or mostarda.
     
    Preparation

    1. SET out the toppings and teaspoons for serving. We use ramekins; you can use any bowls you have.

    2. SLICE the bread from 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. Rub each side with cut garlic clove and brush each side with olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Grill to your desired toastiness.

    3. PLACE the bread on a platter next to the toppings and watch people create their appetizers.
     
     
    BRUSCHETTA VS. CROSTINI: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

    Bruschetta and crostini are popular hors d’oeuvres/snacks that are easy to make. They’re a perfect pairing to wine and beer, and also can be served as a first course or a light meal, with a salad and/or soup, or with cheese.

    The differences between the two are the size of the slice and the cooking technique.

  • Bruschetta are cut from baguette-style loaves that are three or four inches in diameter, then grilled and topped. Bruschetta originated in the Tuscany region of Italy, where they are commonly served as a snack or appetizer. Rubbed with a garlic clove and brushed with oil before grilling, they may have been the original garlic bread.
  • Crostini cruh-STEE-nee) are cut from a narrower loaf like a ficelle, about two inches in diameter, and toasted, then topped.
  • Crostini (are croutons: not in the American sense of small cubes tossed into soup or salad, but slices of toasted bread (it’s the same with French croutons). They are often topped with spreadable cheese or pâté. Plain crostini are served with soups and salads, like melba toast, or set out with cheese.
  • Both can be served plain as toast to accompany another food. But with toppings, they are transformed.
  • The toppings for both can be as simple as extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper or diced tomatoes and basil, to almost any spread, vegetable, cured meat or cheese—even fruit, such as sliced strawberries with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and tarragon or other sweet herb*.
  •  
    ____________
    *Sweet herbs include chamomile, lavender, lemon verbena licorice, mint, rose geranium and tarragon.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Bitters In Your Coffee

    Many “cocktail households” have a bottle of Angostura bitters, to splash into a Manhattan or other recipe.

    In fact, you can add bitters to still or sparkling water, regular or diet soda, hot or iced tea and coffee.

    If you follow food and beverage trends, you’ve no doubt seen the Renaissance in artisan bitters. In America, bitters had traditionally meant the ginger-tasting Angostura* bitters (it’s actually made with gentian root, a different botanical family) and the sweeter and more aromatic Peychaud’s Bitters (also gentian) used in the Sazerac cocktail of New Orleans.

    In recent years, flavors of bitters have been introduced by specialty foods companies, ranging from Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Cocktail Bitters, Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Cocktail Bitters, Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters, Hella Bitters Smoked Chili Cocktail Bitters, Stirrings Blood Orange Cocktail Bitters and dozens more flavors producers. So…

    WHAT ARE BITTERS?

    Bitters, which date back to ancient Egypt, are liquids consisting of water, alcohol and botanical extracts. They got their name from the by a bitter or bittersweet derived from botanicals known for their medicinal properties and pleasant flavor: aromatic herbs, barks, fruits and roots.

    Popular botanicals included cascarilla, cassia, gentian, orange peel, and cinchona bark. The word bitters derives from Old English biter, which evolved thousands of years earlier from the Gothic baitrs, “to bite.”

    The Middle Ages saw an increase in the development of medicines that combined botanicals with alcohol: tonics, often used to aid digestion (hence the term, digestive bitters, as opposed to the modern “cocktail bitters”). Available “over the counter,” they came to be used as preventive medicines.

    By the turn of the 19th century, the British practice of adding herbal bitters to wine had become very popular in the U.S. By 1806, there are references to a new preparation, the cocktail, described as a combination of “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.”
     

    WHAT ABOUT BITTERS IN COFFEE?

    It is well known that the people of New Orleans (the actual name is New Orleanians) add chicory to create a bitter flavor in their coffee. Why not try some bitters?

    A drop of bitters perks up the brew whether you drink your coffee black or with milk and/or sugar. Try it and see!

    Start with just a few drops (we began with one drop). You can add more to taste. Here’s a recipe for iced coffee with bitters from Hella, using its standard aromatic bitters.

    Yes, start with the traditional before moving on to Aztec Chocolate or Smoked Chili bitters. Consider topping an iced coffee with bitters whipped cream!
     
    RECIPE: ICED COFFEE WITH BITTERS

    Ingredients Per Cup

  • 8 ounces chilled coffee
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 4 dashes aromatic bitters
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream, bitters whipped cream
  •  

    Old Bottle Of Bitters

    Bitters

    Thai Iced Coffee

    Top: An old bottle of German bitters (photo Axarus | Wikipedia). Center: The classic, Angostura bitters (photo Restaurant Manifesto). Bottom: An iced coffee with Hella bitters.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a glass. Stir gently, taste, and adjust the sugar or bitters to your taste.

    2. GARNISH as desired and serve.
     
    MORE USES FOR BITTERS

    Check out this article from BonAppetit.com, which includes everything from baking and fruit salad, ice cream, floats and whipped cream.

     
    ___________
    *Despite its name, Angostura brand bitters are not made from the bark of the angostura tree but from the gentian a root. The name comes from the town of Angostura, Venezuela (known today as Ciudad Bolívar). There, in 1824, a German physician, Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert compounded a cure for sea sickness and stomach maladies. It worked, and Dr. Siegert subsequently formed the House of Angostura to sell his bitters to sailors.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Prep Eggs The Night Before To Save Time

    Scrambled Eggs In Tortilla Cups

    Pepperjack Cheese

    Top: Mexican Scrambled Eggs In Tortilla Cups (photo Land O’Lakes). Bottom: Add more heat with Pepperjack cheese (photo Paoli Cheese).

     

    We often make a vegetable scramble for breakfast, to a proportion of half egg, half veggie. Bell peppers, mushrooms and onions are our basic mix, along with fresh herbs and halved cherry tomatoes.

    It’s easy to prep the night before. You can dice the vegetables and beat the eggs in just a few minutes. If you want to add cheese, you can dice, grate or shred it the night before, too.

    Then, while the coffee brews, heat the pan, combine the ingredients, and voilà.

    When we have extra time, we make something more elaborate, like these Mexican-inspired scrambled eggs in tortilla cups—a crowd pleaser.

    RECIPE: MEXICAN SCRAMBLED EGGS IN TORTILLA CUPS

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 seven-to-eight-inch tortillas (try whole wheat!)
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 8 eggs (or 2 cups/16 ounces egg substitute)*
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar, Jack or Pepperjack† cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
  • Optional: minced jalapeño or chili flakes to taste
  • Optional garnish: 1/4 cup sour cream (or substitute nonfat Greek yogurt)
  • Optional garnish: 4 teaspoons salsa
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • Optional: fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
  •  

    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oven to 400°F. Place four 6-ounce custard cups upside down on a cookie sheet. Lightly spray both sides of the tortillas with nonstick cooking spray. Place the tortillas over the custard cups, pressing down lightly to shape.

    2. BAKE 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tortillas are light golden brown. Remove from the oven and place the cups upright on a cooling rack. Meanwhile…

    3. SPRAY a 10-inch nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Scramble the eggs with the vegetables and seasonings and cook over medium heat. As the eggs begin to set, sprinkle on the cheese. Alternatively, you can sprinkle on the cheese after the eggs are in the tortilla cups. Cook until the eggs are set but still moist.

    4. PLACE the tortilla cups on plates and fill them with the eggs. Top each with sour cream and salsa. Sprinkle with green onions and the herbs.
     
    ______________
    *Most recipes assume large eggs; it is the size of the egg that makes the difference: 2 medium eggs =1/3 cup, 2 large eggs = ½ cup, 3 medium eggs + ½ cup, 3 large eggs = 2/3 cup. 4 large eggs = 1 cup.

    †If you use Pepperjack, you don’t need the added chiles.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The New Jell-O Mold Is A Mason Jar

    Red White & Blue Jell-O

    Red, White & Blue Jell-O Squares

    Top: Red, white and blue Jell-O mold in Mason jars (photo Victoria Belanger | eHow). Bottom: No spoon is needed with these Jell-O fingers. They’re gummy, like Jell-O shots without alcohol. Here’s the recipe from CommunityTable.Parade.com.

     

    Call them Ball Jars, Kerr Jars or Mason Jars, these 19th century inventions enabled the preserving foods for years, while avoiding spoilage and the growth of harmful bacteria.

    The original “canning” took place in hermetically sealed glass jars, invented to carry food for Napoleon’s army. Here’s the history of canning and the jars.

    The invention created an opportunity for civilians, too: to “put up” foods at harvest time to eat during the winter. But then came tin cans, and

    The growth of the artisan foods movement, small producers added charm to their jams and dilly beans by packaging them in Mason jars.

    Today, we’re presenting an idea adapted from Victoria Belanger. You can see step-by-step photos on eHow.com.

    RECIPE: RED, WHITE & BLUE JELL-O FOR MEMORIAL DAY & JULY 4TH

    Ingredients For 6 Servings
     
    For The Red Layer

  • 1 package ((3 ounces) strawberry Jell-O
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 1 cup chopped strawberries
  •  
    For The White Layer

  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin powder
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream, liquefied
  •  
    For The Blue Layer

  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin powder
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1½ cups blueberries
  •  
    Plus

  • 6 half pint sized Mason jars
  • Garnish: whipped cream (Reddi-Whip is perfect here)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the red layer. Combine the water and the Jell-O in a bowl, stirring to fully dissolve. Add the cold water and the strawberries. Stir and divide the mixture among the Mason jars. We used a wide-mouth funnel (so the strawberries would fit through) to keep the sides of the jars clean for the other colored layers. Victoria used a different technique.

    2. CREATE the “wave” effect by setting the jars at an angle in a muffin tin. First place uncooked rice in the muffin wells to hold the jars at an angle, then refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes. When the red layer is nearly firm…

    3. MAKE the white layer. In a medium bowl, evenly sprinkle a packet of unflavored gelatin over the cold water. Allow the gelatin to set for 2 minutes, then add the boiling water and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve, and then the melted ice cream. Spoon into the jars, taking careful to keep the inside walls clean for the blueberry layer. Refrigerate until firm, 20 to 30 minutes. When firm, you can remove the jars from the tin and keep them upright in the fridge.

    4. MAKE the blue layer. In a medium bowl, evenly sprinkle 1 packet of unflavored gelatin over the cold water. Allow the gelatin to set for 2 minutes, then add the boiling water and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in the sugar, then the blueberries. Do not add to the jars yet, but first refrigerate the blue mixture until it thickens to the consistency of a gel (otherwise, the blueberries will float to the top of the jar).

    5. SPOON the blueberry mixture into the jars and refrigerate until firm. When ready to serve, garnish with whipped cream.
     
    MORE USES FOR MASON JARS.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: A DIY Grilled Stuffed Avocado Bar

    We’ve written a lot about “party bars” for entertaining, where guests add their favorite fillings or toppings to customize a food. Check out:
     
    BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER

  • Breakfast & Brunch Party Bar
  • Lunch & Dinner Party Bar
  • Sushi Hand Roll (Temaki) Party Bar
  •  
    DESSERTS

  • Brownie Sandwich Bar
  • Ice Cream Bar
  • Pudding Party Bar
  • Assorted Desserts Party Bar
  •  
    SNACKS

  • Guacamole Party Bar
  • Popcorn Party Bar
  •  
    BEVERAGES

  • Apple Cider Party Bar
  • Flavored Shots Party Bar
  •  
    And now, a…

    GRILLED STUFFED AVOCADO PARTY BAR

    The California Avocado Commission sent us the idea, from recipe developer Rachel Matthews of ASouthernFairytale.com. She takes grilled avocados to a higher level by letting each person select his or her favorite fillings.

    “A Grilled Stuffed Avocado Bar is so incredibly easy to put together,” says Rachel, “and it’s a great way for people to get creative with their food.”

    The concept can be used for sides or appetizers and snacks with beer and wine. Prep time is 1 minute, cook time is 10 minutes, plus prep time for the fillings.

    Of course, you can also have a plain DIY Avocado Bar, with uncooked avocados.
     
    Ingredients Per Serving

    For The Avocados

  • Ripe avocados, seeded, unpeeled
  • Olive oil
  •  
    For The Fillings

    Consider savory, spicy and sweet options. Some suggestions:

  • Black bean and corn salsa
  • Cherry tomato/grape tomato salad
  • Chili
  • Chopped olive salad
  • Corn salad
  • Crumbled or shredded cheese: blue, cheddar, cotija, feta, goat, jack, etc.
  • Cucumber salad
  • Diced fruit: mango, peach, pineapple, strawberry, or fruit salsa
  • Grilled and diced or shredded protein (chicken, steak, etc.)
  • Grilled shrimp
  • Rice/grain, bean, or lentil salad
  • Seafood salad
  • Sour cream
  • Tomato salsa or tomatillo salsa
  •  
    Plus

  • Lime wedges
  • Optional: tortilla chips for garnish and dipping
  • Optional: hot sauce, salt and pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the grill to medium-high and set out the fillings, plates and utensils.

    2. BRUSH the flesh side of each avocado half with olive oil, to keep them from sticking to the grill. Place them flesh side down on a medium-high heated grill. Cook for about 5 minutes. If you want cross-hatch grill marks, change the direction the avocados lie on the grill. Either way, grill them another 4–5 minutes or until you see the skin of the avocado change colors (it’s really noticeable).

    3. PLACE the avocados on a platter next to the fillings, and watch your guests enjoy creating their food.

     

    Avocado Halves

    Avocados On The Grill

    Grilled Avocados

    Fajita-Stuffed Grilled Avocado

    Grilled Avocado With Strawberries

    Top: Halved avocados, ready to grill. Second: Face down on the grill. Third: Turn the avocados to get attractive hatch marks. Fourth & Fifth: Rachel Matthews’s favorites: Grilled Fajita Avocado and Strawberry Balsamic Avocado. Top photo courtesy Tio Gazpacho, other photos courtesy Rachel Matthews | California Avocado Commission.

     
    Rachel’s favorite creations:

  • The Fajita Stuffed Grilled Avocado: grilled steak fajita meat, black bean and corn pico, tortilla chip.
  • Strawberry Balsamic Stuffed Grilled Avocado: chopped strawberries, balsamic vinegar, feta cheese.
  •  
    Let us know your favorites!
     
    FIND MORE DELICIOUS AVOCADO RECIPES AT CALIFORNIAAVOCADO.COM.
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Hot Dog & Tater Tot Skewers

    Here’s fun for kids and adults alike over the holiday weekend. You can use your favorite franks, and also make a vegan option with Lightlife Smart Dogs.

    This recipe was created by Foodness Gracious for Lightlife.

    RECIPE: HOT DOG & TATER TOT SKEWERS

    Ingredients

  • 1 package hot dogs (we use Applegate, made in all natural and organic varieties)
  • 1 pound bag of frozen Tater Tots, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper, or seasoning of choice
  • Ketchup, mustard and or barbecue sauce for dipping
  • Optional: cherry tomatoes
  •  
    Plus

  • Long metal skewers
  •  
    Preparation

     

    Hot Dog Skewers Recipe

    Yum, yum: Hot Dog and Tater Tot Skewers (photo courtesy Lightlife).

     
    1. PREHEAT the grill to a high heat. Slice each hot dog into three diagonal pieces.

    2. THREAD one piece of hot dog at the base of the skewer. Next add a Tater Tot, being careful not to tear it; then a cherry tomato. Repeat this process until the skewer is completely filled. Once all of the skewers are ready to grill…

    3. BRUSH them on one side with the olive oil. Season each skewer and place onto the grill. Grill for 1-2 minutes, then turn them over and repeat. They will be done when the hot dogs begin to blister. Serve at once with dipping sauce(s).
     
    MORE TATER TOTS IDEAS

  • Tater Tot History
  • Gourmet Tater Tots
  • Baked Potato Tots
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Flag Cake For Memorial Day

    American Flag Cake

    American Flag Cake Recipe

    Brown Eggs Carton

    Top and center: This American Flag Cake is easy to make (photos courtesy TheKitchyKitchen.com). Bottom: You’ll need nine eggs for the cake (photo courtesy Organic Valley).

     

    We’re very fond of American flag cakes for Memorial Day and Independence Day. Check out these cakes on Pinterest.

    Many of them require the skills of a pastry chef, but you can make a sheet cake that’s easy to ice and decorate, and tastes just as wonderful.

    This recipe was sent to us by Claire Thomas of TheKitchyKitchen.com. An airy sponge cake is topped with cream cheese frosting and fresh fruit.

    The recipe makes one 9” x 13” sheet cake or two 10” round layers.
     
    RECIPE: AMERICAN FLAG SHEET CAKE

    For The Sponge Cake

  • 1-3/4 cups cake flour, sifted then measured
  • 2-1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cup eggs whites (about 9 large eggs)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, packed
  • 9 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup water
  •  
    For The Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
    For The Decoration

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1 half pint raspberries
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1 half pint red cherries, red plums or other red fruits
  • Whipped cream cheese frosting (recipe below)
  •  
    _________________________
    *Most cakes are either butter cakes made with a significant amount of butter (which provides firmness and density, as in devil’s food cake and pound cake) or foam cakes. Foam cakes (this recipe) are made without leavening (baking powder, baking soda). They get their volume and light, fluffy crumb by beating air into egg whites. Foam cakes can contain egg (sponge cake) or butter (génoise, gâteau); but as long as the cake is leavened with air instead of a chemical agent, it is considered a foam cake.

     

    Preparation

    This may look like a lot of steps, but each step is very easy.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350F°. Move the rack to the lower third of the oven. Grease or spray a nonstick 9” x 13” pan and line the bottom with parchment. Grease the paper as well.

    2. SIFT the flour, half of the sugar (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) and salt into a bowl; set aside.

    3. CAREFULLY separate the egg whites from the yolks and whip the whites with the whisk attachment in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, just until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and whisk until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cup sugar in a steady stream, whisking until you have thicker, stiffer, glossy peaks—about 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the vanilla, lemon juice and zest. Scoop the mixture into a VERY large bowl and set aside.

    4. WIPE out the bowl you used for the egg whites, and beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until thick and pale yellow—about 2-3 minutes. Add the water and beat until thickened, about 4 minutes: the yolks should be very thick and pale. Pour the yolk mixture over the whites and gently fold together with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle a third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture; fold to combine. Repeat two more times, just until all the ingredients are incorporated.

    5. GENTLY POUR the batter into the pan and level the top with a spatula. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top springs back slightly when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean. Invert the pan onto a cooling rack and cool for about 45 minutes.

     

    Confectioners Sugar

    While granulated sugar is used to make the cake, powdered sugar is used to make the frosting. The particles are much finer, so it dissolves readily with no graininess (photo Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE).

     
    6. REMOVE the cake from the pan and slip a butter knife down one side of the pan and slowly move it around the perimeter to release the cake. When the sides are free, cover the cake with a rack and invert. Remove the cake pan and parchment. Let the cake cool completely. While the cake cools…

    7. MAKE the frosting. Chill a metal or glass bowl in the fridge, then add the cream and whip until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to over-beat the cream or it will curdle (that’s how cream is churned into butter). Set aside.

    8. MIX the cream cheese, salt, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until very smooth (if you have one, use an electric mixer with a paddle attachment). Fold in the whipped cream, one third at a time. If you aren’t frosting the cake right away, keep the frosting in the fridge and let it warm up on the counter for 20 minutes prior to using.

    9. PLACE the cake on a serving platter. Spread the frosting about 1/2 inch thick with a spatula. Create the “stars” in a square in the top left corner with the blueberries, and place the red fruits in “stripes.”
     
    MORE MEMORIAL DAY RECIPES

    To find appropriate recipes for each holiday, pull down the “Holidays & Occasions” menu at the right of the title of this article.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Some Pelmeni

    Pelmeni

    Pelmeni Stuffing

    Pelmeni Mold

    Top: Pelmeni with Russia’s favorite herb, dill (photo Amazon). Center: Meat stuffing in a pelmeni mold (photo Amazon). Bottom: Ready to cook (photo MumsPrefer.com).

     

    You may have had Polish pillow pasta—pierogi—but how about their Russian cousin, pelmeni (pell-MEN-ee).

    As with dumplings the world over—including ravioli—a simple dough rolled out and stuffed with beef, cheese, chicken, mutton, pork, seafood or vegetables. Or, they can be a blend: A traditional recipe combines beef, mutton and pork. In Europe, add some garlic, onions and pepper to the mix.

    THE HISTORY OF PELMENI

    Historians agree that pelmeni originated among the indigenous Siberian people and later became part of Russian cuisine; they are also called Siberian dumplings in Russia. The word translates to “ear bread”: The bite-size dumplings can be seen as little ear pasta (although not nearly as ear-like as Italian orrechietti, which have the advantage because they aren’t stuffed).

    Pelmeni were a particularly good way to preserving meat during the six months of Siberian winter, with temperatures as low as -47°F and snow on the ground through April. It became a tradition in Siberia households to make thousands of pelmeni as soon as temperatures fell below freezing, in November. Long before electric refrigeration, Siberians had natural refrigeration, i.e., in an unheated barn or shed. A bonus: Livestock could be harvested before the freeze, eliminating the cost to feed them over the long winter.

    Pelmeni have evolved from labor-intensive food prepared by housewives to quality frozen versions to the Russian student substitute for instant ramen noodles!
     
    Pelmeni Cousins

    European stuffed boiled dumplings may be a simplified version of Chinese wontons. The list of cousins includes Chinese jiaozi, Georgian khenkali, Italian ravioli, Japanese gyoza, Jewish kreplach, Korean mandu, Middle Eastern shishbarak, Mongolian bansh, Nepalese and Tibetan momo, Polish uszka, Turkish and Kazakh manti, Ukrainian vareniki and Uzbek chuchvara, among others.
     
    EASTERN EUROPEAN DUMPLINGS: THE DIFFERENCE

    In the U.S., the term pierogi is often used to describe every type of Eastern European dumplings. Of course, there are differences: in shape, size and thickness of dough (these are the differences between all dumplings, as well as cooking technique: boiled versus fried, boiled in water vs. broth or stock).

  • With pelmeni and vareniki, the dough is as thin as possible, and the proportion of filling to dough is high.
  • Pelmeni fillings are usually raw, while pierogi and vareiyki can be sweet.
  • Pelmeni are bite-size, like raviolini.
  •  
    MAKE THEM OR BUY THEM

    Similar to making ravioli, you can short-cut the process by purchasing a pelmeni mold in plastic or aluminum—and make other types of stuffed pasta with it.

    Or, look for a good brand. We recently tried Popkoff’s, and were very pleased. Use the store locator to find the nearest retailer.
     
    POPKOFF’S PELMENI & VARENIKI

    These delicious dumplings, full of Old World flavor, are easy to prepare. It takes just 5 minutes from boiling water to plate. The simplest preparation is a traditional one: butter and sour cream, with fresh dill.

    The dumplings can be served as an appetizer, side or main dish. Or, add a bit of smoked salmon and caviar for a luxurious hors d’oeuvre.

    Why do Popkoff’s pelmeni taste so good?

    Their “farm to frozen” pelmeni and vareniki are made from 100% all-natural ingredients from the best vendors: King Arthur Flour, Mary’s Free Range Chicken, Meyer Natural Angus Beef, Marcho Farms Veal and Good Nature All-Natural Pork. All ingredients are domestic and the dumplings are made in California, and are packaged in GoGreen sustainable packaging.

    The meats are antibiotic-free and hormone-free, the fruits and vegetables are locally grown and non GMO. There are no artificial colors, flavors or preservativess.

    We tried four varieties of pelmeni, all so good that we can’t wait to try the vareniki. Traditionally, pelmeni are filled with meat and vareniki, a Ukranian variation, were filled with cheese or vegetables; vareniki are larger, like ravioli. Popkoff’s choices:

    PELMENI VARIETIES

  • Pelmeni With Beef
  • Pelmeni With Chicken
  • Pelmeni With Farmer’s Cheese
  • Pelmeni With Pork & Beef
  • Pelmeni With Veal & Pork
  •  
    VARENIKI VARIETIES

  • Vareniki With Beef
  • Vareniki With Cabbage & Carrots
  • Vareniki With Cheese & Cherry
  • Vareniki With Chicken
  • Vareniki With Potato & Onion
  • Vareniki With Sweet Farmer’s Cheese
  •  

    PELMENI & VARINIKI TOPPINGS

    Pick a topping, pick a sauce. Some of these are traditional, and some reflect modern tastes.
     
    TOPPINGS

  • Raisins or other dried fruit
  • Fresh chives, dill or parsley
  • Lemon zest
  • Onions: caramelized, frizzled or sautéed
  • Sliced almonds
  •  
    SAUCES

  • Horseradish sauce
  • Melted butter
  • Mushroom sauce
  • Mustard sauce
  • Plain yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Soy sauce and chopped chives or green onions
  • Tomato sauce
  • Vinegar sauce
  •  
    You can also add pelmeni to broths and green salads. They are traditionally boiled; vareniki can be boiled or pan-fried.

    Also, check out our 50 ways to serve pierogi and adapt them to pelmeni.
     
    RECIPE: PELMENI IN MUSHROOM SAUCE

    You can make this recipe from Chef James Bailey from scratch (recommended), or take a shortcut with canned cream of mushroom soup.

    It’a a variation of the famous Russian dish that originated in the mid-19th-century rage, Beef Stroganoff, which has a sauce made with sour cream (smetana in Russian).

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.
     
    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 10 ounce package Popkoff’s Beef Pelmeni (or other flavor)
  • 2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup onions, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 16 ounces low sodium beef broth
  • Garnish: fresh dill leaves, minced
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter over medium heat; add onions and cook until softened. Add the garlic and mushrooms; stir and cook for 3-5 minutes until the mushrooms have softened.

    2. ADD the beef broth and cook over medium heat until the liquid is slightly reduced. Add the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is combined.

    3. BRING a large pot of water to boil and add a pinch of salt. Carefully add Popkoff’s Beef Pelmeni and cook for 5 minutes until cooked through. Drain and reserve.

    4. MIX in sour cream and chopped parsley into mushroom stroganoff, portion dumplings onto plates and top with sauce, optional toppings and dill garnish.
     
    DESSERT PELMENI & VARENIKI

    Pelmeni stuffed with delicate farmer’s cheese is a charming dessert or a sweet lunch.

    Vareniki are typically used for dessert because the cheese can be sweetened. Cheese pelmeni has no sweetener.

    But with sweet toppings, you won’t even notice. We enjoy dessert pelmeni with a few of the following:

  • Cherry preserves
  • Brown sugar, cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar
  • Dried fruit (blueberries, cherries, cranberries, raisins)
  • Fruit purée
  • Grated chocolate and hand-whipped cream
  • Honey or maple syrup
  • Mascarpone
  • Mixed fresh fruits
  • Plain or sweetened sour cream
  • Sliced almonds
  • Sweetened chestnut purée and hand-whipped cream
  •  

    Popkoff's Pelmeni

    Pelmeni In Soup

    Pelmeni In Mushroom Sauce

    Pelmeni  With Tomato Sauce

    Vareniki With Cheese & Cherries

    Dessert Vareniki

    Blueberry Vareniki

    Top: A package of Popkoff’s Pelmeni. Second: Pelmeni in miso soup. Third: Pelmeni in mushroom sauce. Fourth: Pelmeni with Moroccan-spiced tomato sauce. Fifth: Vareniki with farmer’s cheese and cherries. Sixth: Dessert vareniki. Photos courtesy Popkoff’s (see the recipes). Bottom: Vareniki stuffed with cottage cheese and blueberries, with blueberry sauce. Here’s the recipe from ToDisCoverRussia.com.

     

      

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