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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 Top Pick Of The Week

TIP OF THE DAY: Mushroom Salad

You may be chomping at the bit for the first spring vegetables to arrive in the market (we’re waiting for asparagus and ramps). But until then, there is veggie excitement to be had; and we’ll be talking about them for the next two days.

Mushrooms offer flavorful excitement, and are a cook’s delight: They absorb a lot of flavor quickly, and can be prepared in so many ways. For starters, consider:

  • Carpaccio (try this recipe from chef Claire Robinson)
  • Casseroles
  • Fried (try these portobello fries)
  • Omelets, scrambled eggs
  • Mushrooms Parmigiania, prepared like Eggplant Parmigiania
  • Quesadillas
  • Pasta dishes (add it to fettuccine, lasagna, ramen, ravioli, anything)
  • Risotto or pilaf
  • Roasted or grilled
  • Sauces and gravies
  • Sautéed alone (with red wine and fresh herbs!) or with other favorites (broccoli, spinach, turnips, whatever)
  • Sautéed with any protein (Chicken Marsala is a favorite)


    Mushroom salad atop a bed of baby arugula. Photo courtesy Olio e Piú | New York City.

  • Soup (try cream of mushroom with chunks of sautéed mushrooms)
  • Stews/ragouts
  • Stuffed, with vegetarian, cheese, meat or seafood fillings (try bacon or sausage)
  • Stuffing, savory bread pudding, savory tarts, crostini
  • Topping for grains or polenta and of course, pizza

    Today’s tip requires no cooking; that is, no heat. It’s marinated mushrooms, also known as mushroom salad: delicious as an appetizer, a side, a sandwich topper or as part of an antipasto.

    You can add other raw vegetables; we’ve provided options below.

    Marinated mushrooms can be made with any mushroom (here are the different mushroom types). Unless you’ve got deep pockets, go for the least expensive, which are typically white button mushrooms. Smaller are better, since you’ll be cutting them up.

    Of course, you an use any mushroom: cremini, oyster, portabello, shiitake or a mixture. We’ve even used enoki mushrooms for an exotic garnish.

    The only given is that the mushrooms be fresh. Those that are beginning to brown or wither are best used in a cooked dish.



    Marinated mushrooms with walnut and tahini
    yogurt. Photo courtesy Collier’s Market. Here’s
    the recipe.



  • 1 8-ounce container white mushrooms (or other mushroom)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon wine or sherry vinegar (or more to taste)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh herbs (basil, chives, dill, oregano, parsley, thyme), minced (we use two different herbs)
  • Optional ingredients for color: diced red pepper or pimento, red onions, sliced green onions or chives
  • Optional ingredients for variety: broccoli or cauliflower florets, edamame, sliced olives
  • Optional heat: 1 chili, seeded and white pith removed, finely sliced
  • Baby arugula, baby spinach, mesclun, watercress or lettuce/cabbage cups

    1. CLEAN the mushrooms and pat dry. Place in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with the sea salt. Toss to coat thoroughly. Let stand for about 30 minutes so the salt can remove excess water from the mushrooms. Brush any remaining salt from the mushrooms.

    2. COMBINE the marinade ingredients in a bowl: olive oil, vinegar, garlic, lemon zest, pepper and herbs. Toss the mushrooms in the marinade to coat. (We don’t add salt at this stage because of the residue salt from the mushrooms.)

    3. COVER the bowl refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

    4. SERVE as desired. We enjoy it atop a bed of greens or in a lettuce cup.


    Try this recipe for Marinated Mushrooms with Walnut and Tahini Yogurt from Kristin Collier of the blog



    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Cook Fish

    Lent began yesterday, the 40-day period from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday (this year on April 2nd). During Lent, observers recognize Christ’s sacrifice by giving up something pleasurable. Around the world, the most common Lenten practice is to give up meat. In the U.S., seafood sales soar during the six weeks of Lent.

    Whether you’re a lent observer, or simply want to eat more healthfully, here’s inspiration from, a magazine and website for professional chefs.

  • Baked fish: salmon wrapped in phyllo dough with dill and lemon sauce; quiche; en papillote; Salmon Wellington
  • Cured/pickled/smoked: ceviche, gravlax, pickled herring; smoked bluefish, cod, salmon, trout, tuna fillets; smoked fish pâté
  • Deep-fried fish: battered, tempura or breaded; calamari, fish and chips, fritters, nuggets, shrimp
  • Dips and spreads: pâté, taramasalata, whitefish
  • Grilled fish: whole fish or fillets; kebabs or skewers; cod, sardines, shrimp, snapper, whitefish


    It couldn’t be easier: Pan-sautéed fish topped with a light salad. Photo courtesy Whole Foods Market.

  • Pan-fried or sautéed fish: Trout, soft-shell crab, salmon or trout patties
  • Poached fish: crab legs, salmon, shrimp cocktail, whitefish
  • Raw fish: carpaccio, sashimi, sushi, tartare, tataki
  • Roasted fish: fillets, steaks, whole fish
  • Steamed fish: fillets, steaks or whole fish; mussels, gefilte fish
  • Stews and casseroles: bisque, bouillabaisse, chowder, cioppino, curry, gumbo
  • Stir-fried and sautéed fish: Asian-style stir fry, blackened, with pasta
  • Specialty: caviar, crêpes, flan, mousse, pancakes, poke, risotto


    You can make this nicely-plated restaurant dish. Just place grilled bass or other fish atop a bed of grains or vegetables and surround with broth or sauce. In a pinch, you can make a sauce from a can of creamed soup. Photo courtesy Chef Scott Conant.



    These three related cooking techniques are both healthful and easy. Here are the nuances:


    Poaching is a gentle cooking method used to simmer foods in a hot, but not boiling, liquid. Water is often used as the poaching liquid but its flavor is often enhanced with broth or stock, juice, vinegar or wine.

    Typically, vegetables (carrot, celery, onion), citrus (lemon, lime, orange), herbs and/or spices are added to the liquid for additional depth of flavor. Chicken breasts, eggs, fish/seafood and fruit are good candidates for poaching.

    Boiling is more intense than poaching. Foods are cooked in rapidly bubbling liquid, most often water. Poaching is best suited to foods such as starches and vegetables that can withstand the high heat and the agitation of rapidly moving water.

    Beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower hearty greens (collards, kale, turnip greens), pasta, potatoes and rice are some of the most frequently-boiled foods.


    With this technique, foods are cooked by steam generated from boiling liquid. Water is most often used because little to no flavor is transferred to the food from the steam. Since there’s no direct contact with water, steaming retains the shape, texture and bright color (e.g., of asparagus or other vegetables and fruits) without becoming water-logged or soggy.

    Steaming also prevents vitamins and minerals from dissolving into the cooking liquid. Fruits, proteins, vegetables and even desserts—cakes, custards and puddings) can be steamed.

    For instructions on each of these techniques, visit



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Bai 5 Low Calorie, High Antioxidant Drink

    Bai 5 is a new addition to the “healthy drink alternatives” category, and certainly worth checking out if you’re looking for a better beverage choice. It has just five calories and one gram of sugar per serving*, and it’s packed with antioxidants.

    It’s also packed with lots of natural flavor. Unlike so many low-calorie drinks, there’s not a hint of artificial flavor.

    What there is, surprisingly, is coffee fruit, the red berries that are the fruit of the coffee tree. Coffee beans are actually the seeds of this fruit.

    The coffee fruit on its has no taste of coffee (In fact, the green seeds of the berry don’t taste like coffee until they’re roasted. Like the beans, the fruit contains caffeine. A serving of Bai 5 has 35mg of caffeine, roughly the same as a cup of green tea.

    Coffee berries are rich in antioxidants, with more than touted antioxidant fruits like blueberries, pomegranates and raspberries.

    The line is all-natural, low-glycemic, OU kosher, GMO-free, and gluten-free—not that you’d expect to find gluten, a cereal protein, in a conventional beverage; but it seems that everything these days is touted as gluten free, including olive oil, pasta sauce and other foods that have never been near gluten†.



    The Bai 5 line is low in calories and high in
    natural flavor. Photo courtesy Bai.




    One of the 10 flavors of Bai 5. Photo courtesy Bai.


    Flavors include Brasilia Blueberry, Congo Pear, Costa Rica Clementine, Ipanema Pomegranate, Limu Lemon, Malawi Mango, Molokai Coconut, Panama Peach, Sumatra Dragonfruit and Tanzania Lemonade Tea.

    There are also carbonated versions we have yet to taste, in Bolivia Black Cherry, Gimbi Pink Grapefruit, Guatemala Guava, Indonesia Nashi Pear, Jamaica Blood Orange, Peru Pineapple and Waikiki Coconut.

    You can turn Bai 5 into a spritzer with an equal amount of club soda, with some optional gin, tequila or vodka. But we’ll keep enjoying the refreshing fruit taste, straight and chilled.

    Discover more at

    *Note that the 18-ounce bottle contains two servings.

    †Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye, wheat and other grains: bulgur, farro, kamut, spelt and triticale, for example. Botanically, cereal refers to the entire stalk of grass—think of corn stalks or rice stalks. The grain is the edible part of the grass, e.g. the kernel.




    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: CedarLane Egg White Omelettes

    It’s a new year and you’ve resolved to eat better. Get started by eating a good breakfast.

    We flipped for CedarLane’s Egg White Omelettes, which go from freezer to plate in 4-1/2 microwave minutes. Eat them directly from the paper baking dish—no dish washing required.

    You’ll benefit from 18-23 g of protein (depending on the variety) and all-natural ingredients. The calories range from 230 to 300 (the latter includes turkey bacon).

    While these are egg white omelettes, made without the cholesterol-laden egg yolks, you wouldn’t know it. They both look and taste like the whole egg, conventionally yellow and very flavorful. They do, however, contain cholesterol from the cheese (and the turkey bacon), but it’s a net savings over a whole egg omelette.



    A delicious omelet in 4-1/2 minutes. Photo courtesy CedarLane.




    Each variety is delicious. Here, the popular spinach omelette. Photo courtesy CedarLane.


    Tender and tasty, the options include:
    The omelettes are available in four delicious flavors, so well seasoned, they don’t even need a shake of salt.

  • Garden Vegetable & Mozzarella Egg White Omelette: mozzarella cheese and a garden full of veggies—potatoes, red onions, green and red bell peppers, zucchini and tomatoes.
  • Green Chile, Cheese & Ranchero Sauce Egg White Omelette: green chiles and cheddar cheese topped with a delectable ranchero sauce. Not hot or spicy, just delicious.
  • Spinach and Mushroom Egg White Omelette: spinach, mushrooms and both mozzarella and feta cheeses.
  • Uncured Turkey Bacon, Vegetable & Cheese Egg White Omelette: turkey bacon with potatoes, bell peppers, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses.

    Beyond breakfast, the omelettes are delicious for lunch or a light dinner with a big salad.

    Each individual-portion box has an SRP of $5.00. Learn more at

    It’s French versus British spelling. Both are correct: Omelet is easier to spell while omelette is more elegant.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Blue Isle Mediterranean Yogurt Spread

    Following on the heels of the burgeoning Greek yogurt market, ready-to-eat yogurt dips and spreads are finally raising their hands.

    While some people like to putter over dips and spreads, making their favorite recipe or seeing what new flavors they can add to cream cheese, Greek yogurt or sour cream, others like to grab and something already made. We belong to both groups, depending on how hungry we are at the moment.

    For the latter group, Blue Isle Mediterranean Yogurt Spreads will be welcome. The product’s stated goal is “to raise the bar in the retail cream cheese category with superior flavors, functionality and nutrition.”

    The brand differentiates itself by promoting its healthy probiotics (or “good bacteria”) and their calcium-rich yogurt spreads as “the new cream cheese.”

    It is spreadable, like cream cheese. It’s also dippable.

    Compared to the leading cream cheese (that’s you, Philadelphia), Blue Isle has nearly 40% fewer calories and fat, with only 60 calories and 6g of fat per two-tablespoon serving. Like Philadelphia, it is certified kosher by OU. The company says that Blue Isle contains 180% less sodium per serving than the leading cream cheese. Who knew cream cheese was salty?

    Blue Isle is available in savory and sweet flavors:

  • Blueberry
  • French Onion
  • Honey
  • Original
  • Spicy Vegetable


    The new spread in town, made from probiotic Greek yogurt. Photo courtesy Karoun Dairies.


    In its debut year, Blue Isle Original won the 1st Place award from the American Cheese Society in the Labneh, Greek Style Yogurt, and Other Strained Yogurt Products category. It is made by family-owned Karoun Dairies.



    While developed as a spread, Blue Isle is easily dippable. Photo courtesy Karoun Dairies.


    We enjoyed all of the flavors, alternately spreading them on bagels and using them to dip crudités. The sweet and savory flavors—a opposed to the plain Original—were equally beguiling. We look forward to experimenting with canapés and dessert canapes (using our Stackable Appetizer Maker device, loaf cakes with Honey Blue Isle and raspberry jam were a good start).

    Made from rBST-free California milk, you can:

  • Spread it on bagels, flatbread and toast
  • Blend it into deviled eggs and mashed potatoes
  • Thicken or garnish soup
  • Use it as a sandwich condiment

    The line is available at better supermarkets and natural food stores nationwide (partial list: Central Market, Fiesta Mart, Fred Meyer, The Fresh Market, Harmon’s, H-E-B, Jon’s Marketplace, Lucky’s, Mollie Stones, New Seasons, QFC, Strack and Van Til).

    The suggested retail price is $3.29 for an 8-ounce tub.

    Discover more at




    TIP OF THE DAY: Share A Favorite Gadget

    For an inexpensive holiday gift or stocking stuffer, give one of your favorite kitchen gadgets—one that most people probably don’t have, but you wouldn’t want to be without.

    Last year for us it was a serrated peeler, two years ago a mushroom brush.

    But this year, it’s going to be a Wavy Knife from Crisp Cooking. Just by slicing in a normal fashion, it provides a decorative side to fruits and vegetables, whether cooked (including fries) or for crudités and salads.

    We have an old-fashioned crinkle cutter, but the wavy knife is an improvement, easier to use and potentially safer.

    The ergonomic handle provides a sure, comfortable grip and better cutting control. The offset blade provides plenty of “knuckle room” while cutting.

    At $12.99, it’s pricier than the peeler or mushroom brush, but it’s also a more substantial gift.


    This year’s gift to everyone old enough to cook: a Wavy Knife. Photo courtesy


    Check it out at



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Peanut Hottie


    Wowsa: this hot peanut butter drink is
    terrific! Photo courtesy Peanut Hottie.


    It’s true: We’ve gone nuts over Peanut Hottie, the most innovative beverage we’ve seen in a long time and the first-ever hot peanut butter drink. Instead of hot chocolate, made with cocoa powder, it’s hot peanut butter, made with peanut flour.

    And oh my goodness, after one sip you’ll never want to be without it.

    Like instant hot cocoa, Peanut Hottie is a powder that is simply dissolved in hot water. With delectable peanut butter flavor and aroma, it has just 83 calories per six-ounce cup. It’s caffeine free, and packs a bit of protein from the peanuts.

    Note that the container says there are 13 servings worth of drink powder, but made a few mugs and found that we could use up the contents in six or seven large mugs. No complaints—it just means we had to buy more, sooner.

    And we stocked up big-time. Peanut Hottie will be our stocking stuffer and small gift for Holiday 2014.


    You can find Peanut Hottie at Wal-Mart and other retailers. Here’s a store locator.

    Or, buy it online:

  • Peanut Butter Hottie
  • Peanut Butter & Chocolate Flavored Peanut Hottie
    The idea for Peanut Hottie came to co-creator Lisa Gawthorne, owner of Bravura Foods Ltd in the U.K., when she washed down a spoonful of peanut butter with a sip of hot tea. Captivated by the deliciousness, she tried to find a hot peanut drink. Nothing existed, so she and co-creator Karl Morris decided to make it themselves.

    Peanut Hottie is gets our vote for the hot product of the year. You’ll go nuts for it.

    Discover more at Check out the recipe for a Peanut Hottie Milkshake.



    A steaming cup of Peanut Hottie. There’s also Chocolate Peanut Hottie. Photo courtesy Peanut Hottie.




    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: barkTHINS Chocolate Bark


    barkTHINS: thin and rich. Photo courtesy
    Ripple Brands.


    There are several reasons to love barkTHINS:

  • The delicious varieties, crammed with inclusions* (see the list below).
  • The thin pieces that, unlike conventional bark, let you have half as much.
  • The Fair Trade certification ( that helps poor farmers.
  • The everyday affordability (yet it’s great for party favors and stocking stuffers.
    October is National Fair Trade Month, the perfect time to feature barkTHINS as a Top Pick Of The Week (here’s more about Fair Trade certification).

    The line debuted in 2012. Unlike traditional chocolate bark that is thick and hard to break, barkTHINS are thin slivers of chocolate that are easily snap-able—easier to eat, fewer calories in your chocolate fix, more flexibility as a dessert garnish (well, that probably wasn’t their intent but it’s a use we employ regularly, by crowning a scoop of ice cream or breaking into pieces for mix-ins).


    *The industry term for what many people call “mix-ins.”



    Each variety is as delicious as the next, depending on your flavor preferences. We were personally thrilled with Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel, a limited edition for holiday season. The packages have a shelf life of 12 months, so if you can’t live without it, you can stock up until the new batches arrive for the next holiday season).

    Feast upon:

    • Dark Chocolate Almond With Sea Salt
    • Dark Chocolate Blueberry & Quinoa (sweetened with agave)
    • Dark Chocolate Mint
    • Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel (Limited Edition)
    • Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed
    • Dark Chocolate Toasted Coconut With Almonds
    • Milk Chocolate Peanut


    A great party favor, stocking stuffer, teacher gift, etc. Photo courtesy Ripple Foods.

    The bags stand upright for presentation as party favors. You can stick a place card on the front; you can tie a ribbon through the shelf-hanger opening at the top for added festiveness or to hang on the tree.
    Check the store locator for a retailer near you (including Costco, H-E-B, King’s, Stop & Shop, Wegmans, Whole Foods Market and numerous others), or head to

    A Fair Trade certification guarantees consumers that the farmers who grow the product are getting paid a fair price. In many areas of the world, middlemen buy up crops at a price that often is the same or less than what it cost the farmer to grow it, resulting in a cycle of poverty. Under Fair trade, farmers can increase their incomes and gain afford education and healthcare for their families.

    When you make a conscious decision to seek out Fair Trade products, you are helping hard-working people raise their standard of living. You can feel good about every bite and every sip (look for Fair Trade coffee, tea and hot chocolate, too).

    Fair Trade certification also means that the farmers are following good agricultural practices and are investing in their farms and communities. To learn more, visit



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Polska Foods Pierogi

    Today is National Pierogi Day. How we miss the pierogi of our youth. Now that Nana is gone, we have searched in vain in both stores and restaurants to recapture the glory of her homemade pierogi.

    Finally, we’ve found it with the excellent pierogi from Polska Foods. Yes, they are pierogis that are as good as Nana’s. We rejoice!

    Many pierogis are pretty flavorless lumps of flour and potatoes, requiring lots of seasoning, frying, sour cream or whatever to become pleasing.

    Polska’s dough and fillings are so flavorful, we ate them plain—although for serving to family and friends, we’d spruce them up with some melted butter, fresh herbs, or one of these 50+ ways to serve pierogi.

    The line of authentic pierogi, made in San Francisco, is organic and all-natural. They are shipped frozen, anywhere in the continental U.S., from

    Tomek Piszczek, founder of Polska Foods, was born and raised in Poland and knows the real deal. “This is how we enjoyed pierogi,” he states. “All ingredients were from our garden or our neighbor’s farm. We even grew our own grain.”



    A real treat, for every day or special occasions. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

    Polska Foods follows tradition with the fresh ingredients, slow food cooking processes and nothing artificial.

    After a full year of research and development, the company settled on kosher, award winning, handcrafted farmer’s cheese made without rennet and enzymes and rBST-free; organic heirloom grain and flour; fresh organic vegetables; real sauerkraut made with just cabbage and salt, and even organic herbs and seasonings.

    The pierogi contain no preservatives, no MSG, no GMO ingredients, no soy, and absolutely nothing artificial. The recipes use only organic or expeller-pressed oils, and never any trans fats.

    The result duplicates Tomek’s grandma’s recipes from Lubiechowa, Polanda: tasty comfort food with superb flavor.

    The line is certified organic by Oregon Tilth.



    A delicious all-vegetable (and vegan)
    version. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE



    To make the pierogis, you simply boil or steam the frozen pierogi for 8 to 10 minutes or fry or sauté them in a nonstick pan. Then, simply toss with butter, sautéed onions, bacon and fresh sage, or top with sour cream, nonfat Greek yogurt or yogurt-garlic sauce. The results are spectacular.

    You can also make a sweet breakfast or brunch recipe with a topping of sour cream and brown sugar on the potato and cheese variety. The line includes:

  • Potato Cheese Pierogi, made with herbed mashed potatoes and farmer’s cheese, is peppery, with complex flavor from the onions and garlic.
  • Mushroom Cabbage Pierogi, a delicious vegan recipe
  • Spinach Feta Pierogi, a Greek fusion favorite
  • Savory Beef & Pork Pierogi, too delicious for words
  • Whole Wheat Potato Cheese Pierogi, made with better-for-you whole wheat dough
    Each is wonderful, and we can’t get enough!

    For a retail locator, to buy online or for more information, visit




    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Covered Bridge Cookies

    It began in the summer of 1992, when Carl Goulet began making cookies to sell at a local farmers market in Windsor, Vermont. Then employed as executive chef at a local hospital, Carl had been a pastry chef and baker for most of his working life. He had a part-time venture on the side, Christopher’s Cakes & Pastries. His employer allowed him to rent time in the kitchen after hours.

    The cookies expanded in distribution, from the farmers market to local stores, and developed an enthusiastic following. In five years he had outgrown the time and space available at the hospital, and Carl decided to take the plunge to baking full time, investing in a facility and equipment.

    His Covered Bridge Cookies taste of homemade goodness, using the finest ingredients from Vermont producers: butter from Vermont-based Cabot Creamery, chocolate from Barry Callebaut, a French company with U.S. headquarters in St. Albans, Vermont, and unbleached and unbromated flour from King Arthur Flour in Norwich.

    Superior ingredients and small batch production techniques that produce delicious, old fashioned goodness—as if you (or your grandmother) had just baked them.
    The line is small, comprising New England favorites:

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Ginger Snaps
  • Hermits
  • Maple Shortbread
  • Shortbread


    Hermits: a New England cookie favorite that deserves to be baked more often. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

    While we love them all, we have to give a shout-out to the hermit, starting with…



    Old-fashioned goodness in a box. Photo by
    Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.



    English and Dutch immigrants brought cookies to America in the 1600s. The Dutch used the word koekje, while the English primarily referred to cookies as small cakes, seed biscuits, tea cakes, or by specific names, such as jumble (a spiced butter cookie) or macaroon.

    By the early 1700s, koekje had evolved to cookie or cookey, and was well-entrenched in New York City, then the nation’s capital—a factor that resulted in widespread use of the term.

    During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, most cookies were baked at home as special treats, both because of the amount of labor and the high cost of sugar. Recipes for jumbles, macaroons and gingerbread are found in early cookbooks. Our simple butter cookie recipes are similar to English tea cakes and Scottish shortbread (the term “tea cake” is used to describe that type of cookie in the Southern U.S. as well).

    During the 19th century, affordable sugar and flour, plus the introduction of chemical raising agents such as bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), led to the development of other types of cookie recipes.

    Another explosion of cookie recipes took place in the early 1900s, not surprisingly paralleling the introduction of modern ovens with thermostats. Cookbooks yield recipes for cinnamon-accented Snickerdoodles, raisin-filled Hermits, Sand Tarts and many varieties of butter cookies including Southern-style Tea Cakes.

    Hermits Appear

    Cookies called hermits appear in New England cookbooks by 1880. Those first Hermits were made with raisins, spices—cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg—and white sugar.

    Most recipes that continue in use will evolve. It is a rare for a recipe not to change, whether from creativity of cooks, the availability of new ingredients or changing tastes.

    According to Hermits is a classic example: New York bakers replaced white sugar with more flavorful brown sugar. By the 1950s, the Fannie Farmer Cookbook uses white sugar and molasses in place of brown sugar, providing a stronger molasses flavor than with brown sugar alone.

    A mix of currants and raisins, optional citrons and nuts become Hermit variations. Later versions of Hermits offer the option of dates, figs and dried apricots. Today, the cookies are typically large, chewy molasses cookies with raisins. We wish they were more available in our neck of the woods (or maybe, we should be thankful that they’re not!).

    Covered Bridge Cookies are $6.99 for a 9-ounce box, about 10 cookies. You can buy them online at



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