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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 Snacks

FOOD FUN: The Banana Police

Here are two of the amazing banana dishes we found on TheBananaPolice.com. There’s quite a selection of them, turned into create fruit plates and cereal.

And there are simpler versions that any of us could create. See them all at TheBananaPolice.com: boats, butterflies, cars, dogs, dolphins, elephants, horses, snails, sunsets, trees and more.

The website is the creation of Katy Koontz and Kelsey C. Roy, the writer and illustrator, respectively, of a children’s book called The Banana Police.

The story takes place in a jungle town where the formerly loveable elephants become increasingly annoying to their neighbors. When the Mayor calls on the Elephant Police to devise a scheme to get the elephants to leave, the town ends up buried in all the extra bananas that the elephants usually eat. The tale underscores the value of peaceful co-existence and cooperation between inherently different groups.

 

A banana tree, cantaloupe giraffe and honeydew grass. Photo courtesy The BananaPolice.com.

 

The website also has family-friendly banana recipes and trivia, some of which is included below:

 

Kiwi and banana alligators poke their heads
up from a bowl of cereal. Photo courtesy
TheBananaPolice.com.

 

BANANA TRIVIA

  • Wise. The scientific name for banana is Musa sapientum, which means “fruit of the wise men.”
  • Plant. Bananas do not grow on trees. While they look like trees, they are actually the world’s largest herbaceous flowering plants.
  • Float. Bananas float in water, as do apples and watermelons.
  • Hawaii. Hawaii is the only place in the U.S. where bananas are grown commercially, although at one time they were also grown in southern California and Florida.
  • Latin America. The overwhelming majority of the bananas consumed by Americans come from Latin America: Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.
  •  

  • Cavendish. The type of banana found in supermarkets is the Cavendish banana. The preferred banana variety was originally the Gros Michel, which was largely extinct by 1960, due to a fungus called Panama Disease.
  •  

    Here’s more banana trivia.

      

    Comments

    HALLOWEEN: Haunted Popcorn Hands

    Creative Halloween fare. Photo courtesy
    Popcorn.org.

     

    We love this party favor idea from Popcorn.org. We’d suggest them as trick-or-treat items, but many parents don’t let kids eat the “open” food for safety reasons.

    So, bring them to friends, to the office, and anywhere else you like.

    RECIPE: HAUNTED HALLOWEEN POPCORN
    HANDS

    Ingredients

  • Clear polyethylene food service gloves
  • Candy corn
  • Popcorn
  • Ribbon or yarn
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE 1-3 pieces of candy corn at the end of each finger (depending on size of glove), pointy side first, to make fingernails.

    2. FILL the glove with popcorn and tie it off with ribbon or yarn.

     

    If you want to make the Halloween popcorn balls in the photo, here’s the recipe.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Treat House Gourmet Rice Krispies Treats

    Looking for gluten free treats, mini treats, kosher treats or simply something new and fun? Head to Treat House, a sparkling new establishment that serves up a great selection gourmet Rice Krispies treats.

    The flavors include:

  • Kid Delights: Birthday Cake, Bubble Gum (garnished with a piece of Bazooka), Chocolate Peanut Butter, Chocolate Pretzel, Cookies & Cream, M&M, S’mores and Red Velvet.
  • Sophisticated Flavors: Almond Cranberry, Cappuccino, Caramel Sea Salt, Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Raspberry, Lemon Zest and Salted Caramel.
  • Seasonal Specialties: Fall specials include Pumpkin Spice (topped with a candy pumpkin, for Halloween) and Maple Pecan.
  •  

    An assortment of creative, gluten-free treats. Photo courtesy Treat House.

     

    Read the full review, and think of Treat House for gluten-free Halloween or holiday treats.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Healthy Halloween Snacks

    Boo! Chocolate-covered bananas on a stick. Photo courtesy NatureBox.com.

     

    Here are two fun Halloween snacks from NaturesBox.com, an online subscription service that delivers nutritionist-approved snacks to consumers’ doors each month.

    These are healthful snacks. If you want to be a wee bit wicked, substitute white chocolate (melted) for the vanilla yogurt.

    RECIPE: HALLOWEEN GHOST BANANA POPS

    Ingredients

  • Large bananas
  • Vanilla yogurt
  • Mini chocolate chips for eyes
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Wax paper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT bananas in half and freeze for 30 minutes.

    2. REMOVE peel; insert popsicle sticks and dip bananas in yogurt. Add eyes & freeze on wax paper until ready to serve. Cover any imperfections with more yogurt.

     

    RECIPE: HALLOWEEN GHOST STRAWBERRIES

    Ingredients

  • Strawberries, leaves intact
  • Vanilla yogurt
  • Mini chocolate chips for eyes
  • Wax Paper
  •  

    Preparation

    Dip strawberries in vanilla yogurt, add eyes and freeze until ready to serve.

     
    MORE HEALTHY HALLOWEEN SNACKS

  • Spice Water
  • Sugar Free Candy Apples
  • Pumpkin Seed Dip With Crudités
  •  
    MORE FUN HALLOWEEN FOOD

  • Bat Pancakes
  • Black Cat Rice Krispie Treats
  • Chocolate Dipped Halloween Strawberries
  •  

    Call them “boo-berries.” Photo courtesy NatureBox.com.

     

  • Decorated Caramel Apples
  • Eyeball Deviled Eggs
  • Eyeball Food
  • Ghost Meringue Cookies
  • Ghost Pancakes
  • Ghost Peeps Fruit Salad
  • Ghost Shepherd’s Pie & Worm Sandwiches
  • Halloween Pizza
  • Pumpkin Soup In A Fresh Pumpkin Tureen
  • Zombie Cupcakes
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Caramel Apple Bar With Lots Of Toppings

    How do you roll (your apple, that is)? Photo
    courtesy Kimberly Reiner | The Sugar
    Mommas.

     

    For a family treat or Halloween entertaining, how about a caramel apple bar?

    Unlike the crackling-hard red candy apple coating, caramel coating remains pliant and you can press in candies and other garnishes.

    Start with this recipe for caramel apples; then pick your toppings.

    Also check out our other food bar ideas: breakfast/brunch, lunch/dinner, desserts and drinks/snacks.

    Candy & Snack Foods

    Look for mini versions of chocolate chips, M&Ms and Reese’s Pieces.

  • Candy corn
  • Chocolate chips (dark, milk, white) and other flavored chips (butterscotch, mint, peanut butter)
  • Crystallized ginger pieces
  • M&Ms
  • Reese’s Pieces
  • Silver, gold or pearl dragées
  • Sprinkles (especially in Halloween colors)
  • Toffee/Heath Bar pieces
  • Plus

  • Cereals: Corn Flakes, Fruit Loops, granola, Rice Krispies, other favorite
  • Crushed cheese crackers, graham crackers or Oreos
  • Crushed pretzels and/or potato chips
  • Popcorn: salted and/or kettle corn
  • Spices: allspice, chili flakes, cinnamon, nutmeg
  •  

    Nuts

    Chop them so they’re easy to roll on.

  • Almonds
  • Peanuts: honey peanuts or salted
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Other favorites
  •  

    Fruits

  • Banana chips (pieces)
  • Dried blueberries, cherries, cranberries, pineapple
  • Shredded coconut
  •  
    THE PROCESS

    1. SET out the plain caramel apples and bowls of toppings with spoons or scoops. Give all participants a soup bowl on a larger dinner plate.

    2. SCOOP toppings of choice into the bowl, one-by-one or mixed together.

    3. ROLL the apple in the topping(s), pressing hard.

    4. TAKE a bite! People can adjust the toppings as they like (something saltier, something crunchier, etc.).

     

    A sophisticated approach. You can also use gold, silver or pearl dragées. Photo courtesy Cocosala.com.

     

    CARAMEL APPLES VS. TOFFEE APPLES: THE DIFFERENCE

    For the purpose of candy apples, there’s no difference between “caramel apples,” “taffy apples” and “toffee apples.” The coating is made from melted caramels.

    In the world of candy, however, there are distinct differences. Check out the difference between butterscotch, caramel and toffee.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Bloody Mary Drink Bar & Snacks Bar

    Here’s how we’d customize a spicy Bloody
    Mary. Photo courtesy Arch Rock Fish
    Restaurant | San Diego.

     

    This has been a week of food bar suggestions for entertaining:

  • Breakfast/Brunch Food Bars
  • Lunch/Dinner Food Bars
  • Dessert Food Bars
  •  
    Today we conclude with two ideas for a drinks bar and accompanying snacks.

    FOOD BAR IDEAS: BLOODY MARY BAR

    You have to think twice about a “mix your own” cocktail bar. Guests tend to over-pour, using too much liquor with resulting tipsiness, mess and expense. You have to “limit the exposure.”

    Instead, pre-mix the drinks in three versions: regular, spicy and virgin. Pre-rim the glasses with seasoned salt (see photo). The guests get to customize their garnishes. The most versatile cocktail to do this with is the Bloody Mary.

     

    Garnish with:

  • Pickled Vegetables: cocktail onions, cucumber pickles, dilly beans, gherkins, peppadew, pepperoncini, pickled asparagus, pickled carrots.
  • Vegetables: celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, fennel, green onion, snap peas.
  • More: bacon, cilantro, lemon/lime wedges, olives, parsley, shrimp.
  • Provide condiments for those who want to amp up the cracked pepper, horseradish, hot sauce and/or Worcestershire sauce.
     
    LEMONADE BAR

    A lemonade bar can appeal to kids and adults—especially when adults have the opportunity to add a shot to their drinks. In contrast to our earlier advice about letting people “mix their own,” this is a controlled situation where, at the end of the bar, people can add an optional shot. (Be sure to provide shot glasses for portion control.)

    Lemonade isn’t just for summer: Lemons are plentiful year-round, and lemonade fits in wherever cold drinks are served.

    Provide pitchers of both sweetened and unsweetened lemonade, so those who prefer noncaloric or low-glycemic sweeteners can sweeten their own.

    Or, you can make all of the lemonade unsweetened, and provide different syrups (with pumps!): simple syrup and two fruit-flavored syrups.

     

  • Fruit Juice: pomegranate juice; blueberry, peach, raspberry or strawberry purée.
  • Heat: Cayenne pepper and/or fresh ginger slices.
  • Herbs & Spices: basil, ginger, lavender, mint, rosemary, thyme.
  • Iced Tea: for an Arnold Palmer, regular and passion fruit tea.
  • Spirits: gin, tequila and/or vodka; Limoncello.
  • Sweeteners: agave, honey, non-caloric sweetener, simple syrup.
  • Garnishes: berries, cherries, lemon wheel, mint leaves, watermelon cubes.
  •  
    Don’t forget the ice!
     
    ICED TEA BAR

    While lemonade is more versatile for customizing, an iced tea bar can work just as well. Provide pitchers of brewed, unsweetened black, green, herbal and flavored iced teas with your choice of fixings from the Lemonade Bar menu, above.

     

    Customized peach lemonade. Photo courtesy Stasty.com.

     
    Yes, do include lemonade for those Arnold Palmers!

    How about some snacks with those drinks?

    Create a customize-your-own-snack bar.
     
    FOOD BAR IDEAS: SNACKS

  • Candy Bar: This is a make-your-own party favor concept. You supply candy bags or boxes and guests fill it with their favorites. This is a nice way to end an event, too, by letting guests create their own party favor. Miniatures are perfect for this concept: individually wrapped, they keep things neat.
  • Popcorn Bar: Provide plain corn, cheese corn and kettle corn with savory and sweet mix-ins. Consider candy corn, Chex, chili flakes or cayenne, crumbled bacon, dill, chocolate chips, flavored oils (chili, garlic, truffle), grated Parmesan, gummies, jalapeño chips, M&Ms, mini marshmallows, mini peanut butter cups, mini pretzels, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, raisins/Craisins, Reese’s Pieces, shredded Cheddar, etc.
  • Trail Mix Bar: Provide sandwich bags or snack bags so people can blend their own, from a selection of raisins and other dried fruits, nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, pretzel or sesame sticks, candy (chocolate chips, M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces and seasonal choices like candy corn or jelly beans), breakfast cereals (Cheerios, Fruit Loops). Check out our full list of trail mix ingredients.
  •  
    Now: Pick a date and start pulling together the guest list.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Lettuce Wraps

    Lettuce wraps garnered attention for a while, but seem to have faded from view. So here’s a reminder:

    Let lettuce take the place of tortillas, bread and other refined-carb, low-nutrition sandwich wrappers. Turn them into lunch or snack fare—or as in the photo, hors d’oeuvre.

    Lettuce wraps are fun food. You’ll get family members to eat more fiber and snack healthier. You can even create a groovy hors d’oeuvre.

    First decide on your filling(s):

  • Traditional sandwich fillings: egg, chicken and tuna salad
  • Vegetarian fillings: avocado vinaigrette, caponata, carrot salad, cucumber salad, hummus, raw or grilled vegetables, tofu salad, etc.
  • Fancy fillings: crab salad, shrimp salad; sliced beef, lamb or pork with appropriate condiments
  • Optional garnishes: capers, chopped nuts, fresh basil or dill, sliced olives and/or pimento (roasted red peppers)
  •  

    Lettuce wraps are fashionable, appearing here at a red carpet party in New York City, filled with crab salad and accompanied by Champagne. Photo © Adam Sung | Chandon USA.

     
    Use romaine hearts or Boston (bibb) lettuce for the wraps.

  • Tear the top portion of romaine leaves into a manageable length; reserve the rest of the romaine for a green salad.
  • Fill, garnish and serve.
  •  

    The following recipe is a fusion of a lettuce wrap and a tortilla wrap. The tortilla—whole wheat for better nutrition—makes things a bit neater, but is optional.

     

    Lettuce and tortilla wraps. Recipe and photo courtesy U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

     

    RECIPE: BLUEBERRY CHICKEN SALAD WRAPS

    While domestic blueberries are still in markets, add some of the high-antioxident, zingy nuggets to wrap sandwiches.

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup finely chopped celery
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups diced cooked chicken
  • ¾ cup fresh blueberries
  • 6 large lettuce leaves
  • 6 (6-inch diameter) whole-wheat tortillas
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE yogurt, mayonnaise, celery and salt in a medium bowl. Gently stir in chicken and blueberries.

    2. MAKE a stack of tortillas separated by damp paper towels, and warm in the microwave: Microwave on high until hot, 30 to 60 seconds.

    3. PLACE warm tortillas on the counter. Top each tortilla with a lettuce leaf. Scoop about ½ cup chicken-blueberry salad on each lettuce leaf.

    4. ROLL each tortilla into a cylinder. Cut each in half or thirds. Secure with toothpicks, if desired. Serve immediately or wrap tightly in foil and refrigerate.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Trail Mix Day

    Today is National Trail Mix Day. While the concept of mixing nuts and dried fruit has been popular for millennia, “trail mix” as a concept for a modern, portable energy snack is relatively new.

    The term refers to a mixture of high-energy foods such as dried fruit and nuts, combined with other tasty additions. Commonly added ingredients include chocolate morsels or M&Ms, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, and breakfast cereals including granola.

    One of the early trail mix products was called Gorp, an acronym for “Good Old Raisins and Peanuts” or “Granola, Oats, Raisins and Peanuts.”

     

    Buy it or make your own. Photo courtesy Vital Choice.

     

    According to Wikipedia, two California firms, Hadley Fruit Orchards and Harmony Foods, claim that trail mix was invented in 1968 by two California surfers, who blended peanuts and raisins together for an energy snack.

    But it happened more than ten years earlier. Trail mix is mentioned in Jack Kerouac’s 1958 novel, The Dharma Bums, when characters plan meals for for a hiking trip. To make it into a book published in 1958, it needed to be around a few years earlier. Variations of portable energy food have been carried by mankind since the beginning.

     

    A mix from Comfort Crunch. Photo by Hannah
    Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE

     

    Trail mix is preferred as a snack especially by hikers and campers because it is lightweight, easily portable and requires no refrigeration. It’s a delicious, better for you snack at home, school, work and in lunch bags everywhere.

    RECIPE: MIX YOUR OWN TRAIL MIX

  • Candy: carob chips, chocolate chips/chunks, M&M’s, mini marshmallows, Reese’s Pieces, toffee, yogurt clusters
  • Cereal: Cheerios, Corn Flakes, granola, rolled oats
  • Dried fruits: apples, apricots, banana chips, blueberries, cherries, coconut, cranberries (Craisins), dates, mangoes, raisins
  • Exotica: crystallized ginger, Japanese rice crackers, sesame sticks, wasabi peas
  • Legumes: peanuts, soybeans
  • Nuts: almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios, walnuts or other favorite
  • Salty snacks: mini crackers, pretzels, sesame sticks
  • Seeds: chia, pumpkin seeds (pepitas), sunflower seeds
  •  

    Keep experimenting with ingredients and proportions until you have your “signature” trail mix recipe. Then consider it as general gifts and stocking stuffers.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Add Nuts, Raw Or Roasted

    Nuts are good for you, and you should enjoy an ounce of them daily as a heart-healthy snack or ingredient: added to salads (green, chicken, egg, tuna, pasta, etc.); chopped and mixed with rice; atop hot or cold cereal, pancakes or French toast; on cottage cheese or yogurt; on ice cream and frozen yogurt; and anywhere else your imagination takes you.

    But is there a difference between raw nuts and roasted (toasted) nuts?

    In a recent Science Times Section of The New York Times, C. Claiborne Ray, who writes the Q&A column, quotes Rui Hai Liu, a professor of food science at Cornell University. Dr. Liu has studied the benefits of eating nuts.

    “No research has specifically addressed how roasting nuts may change their nutritional value,” said Dr. Liu.

     

    Toasted or untoasted? Photo courtesy
    BakeYourDay.net.

     
    Dr. Lui opines that roasting will not decrease the benefits, and “it may actually improve the bioavailability of some bioactive compounds” like flavonoids (powerful antioxidants). He has found a positive effect when tomatoes and sweet corn have been roasted.

    Phenolic compounds* in nuts “have high antioxidant activity and are able to quench free radicals that lead to cell damage and oxidative stress,” Dr. Liu said. “Nuts also have a very nice fatty-acid balance and are a good source of vegetable proteins.” And they are linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

     

    Grilled fish with cilantro pesto and slivered
    almonds. Photo courtesy National Almond
    Board.

     

    Walnuts have the most phenolic compounds and antioxidant activity, followed by pecans. Then come peanuts, actually a legume. Pistachios, cashews, hazelnuts and almonds also have high levels.

    We love nuts raw or roasted, but the flavors are distinctively different. For fun, have a snack tasting or cocktail tasting with two different nuts, each served both raw and toasted. We recommend starting with almonds and walnuts for a broad spectrum of flavors. Here’s how to toast nuts.

  • The health benefits of nuts and the seven healthiest nuts
  • Here’s the original article.
  •  

    *Phenols, sometimes called phenolics, are a class of chemical compounds consisting of a hydroxyl group (—OH) bonded directly to an aromatic hydrocarbon group.
     
    †Flavonoids, called vitamin P until the early 50s, are the most important plant pigments. The highest-antioxidant foods (blueberries, cherries, pomegranate, etc.) get their deep colors from these antioxidants.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Spicy Olive Mix

    Like many gourmet supermarkets, ours has a large olive bar that entices us to scoop different varieties at each visit. Why not: Olives are a healthful, lower-calorie snack.

    There’s a pitted spicy olive mix that we especially like to serve with drinks and toss into salads. We like the visual of different colors and sizes, but you can use whatever olives you like.

    It’s also an easy-to-make gift to bring as a house gift. Here’s a recipe from Pompeian olive oil:
     
    SPICY OLIVE RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups olives
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 thin orange and lemon slices
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Pinch of hot pepper flakes
  • Whole or chopped rosemary sprigs for garnish
  •  

    Make this spicy olive recipe for your guests. Photo courtesy Pompeian Olive Oil.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE ingredients (except garnish) in a saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the olives with a slotted spoon and serve.

    2. RESERVE the infused oil for a vinaigrette, or use it to store any leftover olives.

      

    Comments

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