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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 Uncategorized

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Scrub Daddy Sponge

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Scrub Daddy, our new kitchen essential. Photos by Faith Tomases | THE NIBBLE.

 

In the beginning, there was the sea sponge, one of the simplest animal organisms, believed to have evolved at least 700 million years ago. With no specialized organs and no locomotion, they attached to rocks on the sea bed, where they eat microscopic plants in the sea water.

Under the skin is a simple skeleton made of a soft, porous material called spongin. Sponges have been harvested since ancient times and used for cleaning.

In the 1940s, artificial sponges were developed by DuPont company, made from cellulose. Soon, cellulose sponges replaced natural sponges in America’s household. Today’s synthetic sponges can also be made from foamed plastic polymers.

But as everyone who uses these sponges knows, they fall apart and worse, collect odors and bacteria—including salmonella and E.coli wiped from cutting boards and kitchen counters. The moist environment of a conventional sponge—wild or artificial—is conducive to bacterial growth.

We are advised to regularly clean our sponges: in the dishwasher, microwave or washing machine; or by soaking in a solution of ammonia, bleach or vinegar.

 
ENTER SCRUB DADDY

Every so often, someone does create a better mousetrap. In this case, it was Aaron Krause, who created Scrub Daddy: a heavy-duty, scratch-free sponge. It is a champ at scrubbing off just about anything you want scrubbed.

And it welcomes you with a smiling face, the mouth of which can be used to scrub utensils.

Krause was washing and waxing cars for a living when he scratched a car. In response, he went home and invented a line of buffing and polishing pads, including the Scrub Daddy sponge.

His business was bought out by 3M, which didn’t want Scrub Daddy because they had Scotch-Brite (not nearly as effective).

He tried marketing Scrub Daddy himself, with minimal success ($100,000 in sales in 18 months). Then, he got an investment and assistance via Shark Tank that has generated $18 million in sales in 18 months.

 
Scrub Daddy is made of a high-tech polymer texture that changes texture with the water temperature: It’s hard in cold water, for cleaning pots and grills; and soft in hot water for dishes.

It’s safe to use (non-scratch) on just about every household surface. Like other sponges, it’s flexible to get to the bottom of coffee pots, mugs, vases, etc.

We are thrilled—THRILLED!—with the cute little guy, who is made in happy colors: blue, green orange and yellow. There’s also a lemon-scented yellow version and a larger rectangle (no face). The company has also released Sponge Daddy, in the size of a conventional kitchen sponge (we haven’t tried it).

We’ve used ours for a few months and it makes for happy scrubbing. Independent lab test showed it remains odor-free for up to two months. Beyond the kitchen, use it for:

  • Other household cleaning. Scrub Daddy adds fun to any chore.
  • Outdoor cleaning, from grills and swings to pool surfaces and decks.
  • Personal care, from handwashing (kids may like the face enough to use it more often) to exfoliating.
  • Auto care, the use that inspired it in the first place. Use it on your car or boat to clean dashboards, upholstery, wheels, windows, whatever.
  •  
    Scrub Daddy is sold in Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, SuperValu and Wal-Mart, with other retailers coming on board. There’s also a website, ScrubDaddy.com, but we hate to send you there because it needs work!

    You can also buy it on Amazon.com.

     

    PEACHY CLEAN, A PEACH-SCENTED SPONGE

    According to the manufacturers of Peachy Clean, the bacteria on a conventional sponge double every 20 minutes A scrubbing sponge is the #1 cross contaminator of food borne illnesses in the kitchen.

    So they created Peachy Clean Silicone Scrubbers, incorporating a new technology that is anti-microbial and anti-odor, resisting most odors caused by bacteria, mold and mildew.

    These scrubbers are specially designed to be fast drying to help reduce the bacteria, mold, and mildew growth facilitated by a moist environment.

    Also non-scratch, they last on average 3-6 months (they are the only scrubbers on the market that come with a 3 month warranty). Instead of a smiling face, the sponges smell like peaches.

    You can buy them on Amazon.com, and visit the company website, GetPeachyClean.com

     

    peachy-clean-juliatomases-230

    Peachy clean has a subtle peach aroma. Photo by Julia Tomases | THE NIBBLE.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Store Fruits & Vegetables

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    Berries are fragile. Don’t buy them unless
    you plan to eat them within two days. Photo
    courtesy California Strawberry Commission.

     

    We adapted this article from the original on Vegetarian Times because we’re guilty of throwing out a lot of spoiled produce.

    But we’re no different from the rest of America. Back in 2002, researchers at the University of Arizona, working with the United States Department of Agriculture, spent a year tracking families’ food-use habits.

    What they discovered: The average family tossed out 470 pounds of spoiled food per year, about $600 worth, representing some 14% of the food brought into the home. Nationally, we dump $43 billion worth of food every year.

    It seems that intentions were good, because families bought lots of fresh fruit and produce. But every day, researches discovered, these households discarded more than half a pound of fruits and vegetables that had gone bad. The spoiled food represented a staggering one-fourth of all the produce purchased.

    So how can you waste less produce, and equally as importantly, consume the nourishment that gets tossed along with the money spent?

    For starters, you could buy only what you need for a day or so, and then be sure to eat it. Put it front and center on the refrigerator shelf.

    But many of us are too busy to shop that often, so Plan B is: Take better care when you buy and store produce. Here’s what to do:

     

    BE AWARE OF ETHYLENE

    Be aware that more than a few fruits give off high levels of ethylene gas, an odorless, colorless gas that speeds the ripening and decay of other, ethylene-sensitive, produce. That’s why you can quickly ripen ethylene-sensitive fruits, like stone fruits, by enclosing them in a paper bag with an ethylene-generating fruit like an apple or a banana. Here’s how to divide and conquer:

  • Ethylene Generators/Refrigerate The Produce: apples, apricots, cantaloupe, figs, honeydew, kiwi, mangoes
  • Ethylene Generators/Don’t Refrigerate The Produce: avocados, bananas (unripe), nectarines, papaya, peaches, pears, plums, tomatoes
  • Ethylene Sensitive/Keep Away From Ethylene Generators: asparagus, bananas (ripe), berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce/leafy greens, parsley, peas, peppers, squash, summer squash, sweet potatoes, watermelon
  •  

    For longer life:

  • Keep the ethylene-producing fruits apart from ethylene-sensitive fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep the produce whole; don’t even remove the stem of an apple until you’re ready to eat it. As soon as you damage the integrity of the fruit or vegetable, create an environment where microorganisms start to grow.
  • Never refrigerate potatoes, onions, winter squash or garlic. Keep them in a cool, dark, place, but separate them so their flavors and smells don’t migrate. They can keep up to a month or more.
  • Store cold-sensitive fruits and vegetables on the counter; they’ll lose flavor and moisture in the fridge. These include garlic, onions, potatoes and tomatoes. The first three should be stored in cool, dark places.
  • The worst thing to do is to seal fruits and vegetables in an airtight bag. It stops their respiration—yes, produce does breathe—suffocating them and speeding up decay.
  • Check the vegetable bins for mold and decay. Mold proliferates rapidly and will contaminate other produce.
  • Consider an ozone-generator like BerryBreeze, which reduces the ethylene.
  •  

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    Apples have great staying power, especially when refrigerated. Stock up; but if the apples are turning soft, turn them into baked apples or compote. Photo courtesy USA Apple.

     
    We use a Berry Breeze in the fridge, and also place an ethylene gas guardian (E.E.G., also called an ethylene gas absorber) in the produce crisper drawers. These products actually absorb ethylene. Check out Bluapple and ExtraLife.

    There are also produce bags are also on the market, such as those by Debbie Meyer Evert-Fresh Green Bags and BioFresh, which absorb ethylene and support respiration.
     
    SHOPPING TIPS

  • If you’ll be making several stops between the market and kitchen, get a cooler for your car. When you get home, put the produce into the fridge as soon as possible.
  • Shop farmers markets early in the day. Just-harvested greens wilt rapidly once they’ve been in the sun for a few hours.
     
    EATING TIPS

  • Eat more perishable items first: Berries last only a few days, oranges can last for months. Cucumbers will remain fresh longer than leafy greens. Before you put the item in your shopping cart, think of its longevity and when you will consume it.
  • If your produce has peaked and you still haven’t eaten it, quickly cook it. Make fruit compote or soup, and toss it into the freezer.
  • Produce with the best staying power: apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, celery, garlic, onions, potatoes, winter squash.
  •   

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Chocolate Covered Beer Berries

    What the heck are beer berries, one might logically ask. Better yet, what are chocolate-covered beer berries?

    Invented by Moonstruck Chocolate of Portland, Oregon, this innovative treat starts with German roasted malted wheat berries, which are typically used in the brewing process to make dark beers like Guinness and other stouts.

    Moonstruck tumbles the wheat berries in delicious dark chocolate. You don’t have to be a beer lover to enjoy the crunchy texture and coffee (from the roasting) and chocolate flavors.

    But, chocolate-covered beer berries are delightful surprise for those who do enjoy their brewskis. They’re a great gift or party favor; and at $5.00 per bag, very affordable.

    There isn’t anything alcoholic in beer berries—just great flavor and fun. The concept was invented by Moonstruck’s master chocolatier after visiting a brewery and discovering the unique flavors of the beer berries.

    And yes, you can nibble on them while enjoying a glass of stout or other beer.
     
    Get yours at MoonstruckChocolate.com.

     

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    Moonstruck’s delicious Beer Berries. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

      

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    GIFT: Pretzel Perfection Gluten Free Treats

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    Delicious, fun, affordable holiday treats. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

    One of the tastiest new things we’ve tried this holiday season are the chocolate-covered pretzel clusters from Pretzel Perfection.

    The pretzels are gluten free, and made by a company that specializes in gluten-free flavored pretzel sticks—Chipotle BBQ, Garlic Herb, Lemon Toffee, Stoneground Mustard and Tomato Basil—and delicious for everyone.

    The sweet variations are seasonal specialties, delightful pretzel stick and chocolate clusters in:

  • Eggnog Holiday Clusters, covered in eggnog-infused white chocolate and finished with white chocolate chips, and dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Peppermint Clusters, covered in mint-infused white chocolate and finished with white chocolate chips and organic peppermint candy pieces.
  • Salted Caramel Clusters, covered in semisweet chocolate and handcrafted caramel, topped with dark chocolate chips and finished with a sprinkling of sea salt.
  •  
    At just $6.99 for a handsome container, there’s still time to order a slew of them for last-minute holiday gifting.

    Get yours at PretzelPerfection.com.

     

     
      

    Comments

    It’s Been A Week Of Tech Hell

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    It’s time to get back to business. Photo
    courtesy blog.securestate.com.

     

    It’s been Hell Week at THE NIBBLE.

    Starting last Monday, the server at TheNibble.com was hacked. No website was “served” for three days; just the message, “server not found.”

    Then, it was our blog’s turn to go crazy. It’s hosted on a separate WordPress server.

    The blog “disappeared” on Friday, with Blog.TheNibble.com yielding only the message “server not found” or a totally blank page.

    As of ten minutes ago, it’s back.

    We’re sorry for the inconvenience; thanks to all for your patience. After a tall cup of coffee—and a well-deserved cheese danish—we’ll get back to writing and publishing everything we’ve been unable to do since last Friday.

     

     
      

    Comments

    TIP: Have An Apéritif

    What’s an apéritif? How does it differ from a digestif?

    An apéritif is an alcoholic drink taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite. It is usually dry and low in alcohol. Some people have a cocktail (a mixed drink), but many modern cocktails are considered by gastronomes to be too heavy or too sweet for pre-dinner. (A gin or vodka Martini, however, is just right.)

    If you enjoy a before-dinner drink, consider reviving the elegant custom of apéritif wines. There’s quite a selection, and you can turn it into a monthly or quarterly gathering. Instead of a cocktail party, have an apéritif party, with two or three choices each time.

    APÉRITIF WINES

  • Campari, a ruby red Italian fortified wine, is often mixed with soda to dilute the bitterness.
  • Dubonnet, from France, is available in Blanc and Rouge varieties, made from red or white wine fortified with brandy.
  • Lillet, another French wine, is blended from red or white Bordeaux wines and liqueurs made mostly from the peels of sweet and bitter green oranges. (Lillet Blanc is one of our favorite aperitifs.)
  • Pernod and Ricard are two of the better-known anise-based aperitifs. Licorice lovers: Try them!
  • Pineau des Charentes, a fortified wine from the Charente region of France. It is made from lightly fermented grape must blended with Cognac eau-de-vie. Fans call it “Pineau” for short.
  •  

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    A classic apéritif for centuries: a glass of sherry. Here, amontillado with a side of olives. Photo by Matt Saunders | Wikimedia.

     

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    Red vermouth with a twist. Red vermouth is
    sweeter than white vermouth, but still a
    good apéritif wine. Photo courtesy
    Buzzle.com.

     
  • Sherry is a fortified wine made from Spanish white grapes, which are fermented and fortified with grape spirit to increase their alcohol content. There are eight different varieties, from dry to sweet. The dry varieties (amontillado, fino, oloroso, manzanillo, palo cortado) are used as apéritifs.
  • Vermouth is an aromatized, fortified wine flavored with various botanicals—a proprietary blend of barks, flowers, herbs, roots, seeds, spices. They can include, among others, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, ginger, lemon balm, nutmeg, orange peel, sage, star anise, vanilla…and wormwood, the base ingredient of absinthe.
  •  
    WHAT ABOUT DIGESTIFS?
     
    A digestif is the opposite of an apéritif: an alcoholic beverage served after a meal to stimulate digestion (that’s the theory*). Examples include:

  • Amari (Averna Cynar, Fernet) and bitters (Becherovka, Underberg)
  • Brandy (including Alambric, Armagnac, Calvados, Cognac)
  • Cream sherry
  • Dessert cocktails (Black Russian, Brandy Alexander, Irish Coffee, Mudslide)
  • Eaux de vie (fruit brandies) and grappa (pomace brandy)
  • Port
  • Sweet liqueurs (Drambuie, cream liqueurs, Grand Marnier, Kahlua, Limoncello the many, many others)
  • Whiskey and other distilled liquors (akavit, ouzo, tequila, etc.)
  •  
    Much as we love all of these, we’re usually far to full after dinner to consider a digestif. If we could only give up dessert….

     
    *Digestifs have not been found scientifically to help with digestion. People feel that they do because the alcohol in the stomach initially widens the blood vessels, generating a positive feeling. But then, the alcohol starts competing with the food to be digested. So in reality, it hinders digestion instead of facilitating it. Instead of a digestif, take a slow stroll around the block—avoid anything too active like jogging or a treadmill. This motion of the body is the best way to stimulate digestion. Another suggestion: a few drops of bitters in a short glass of water may help to alleviate that stuffed feeling.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE’S DAY: Last Minute Gift

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    One of many thousands of ways to decorate a chocolate bar. Photo courtesy Chocomize.

      If youve forgotten someone special, send an e-gift certificate for exciting gourmet chocolate bars from Chocomize.

    The giftee can decorate a standard 3.5-ounce or a heart-shaped chocolate bar with the toppings of his/her choice.

    First, the giftee picks the type of chocolate (dark, milk, white), from the fine Belgian producer Barry Callebaut. It can be topped with up to five selections from almost 100 choices:

  • Many types of candy
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Sweet and savory spices
  • “Decorations,” including flower petals, gold flakes and Valentine greetings
  • “Other,” a group of favorites ranging from coffee beans to cereals, potato chips and pretzels
  •  

    You can send an e-gift card for $10 or more at Chocomize.com. (And design a bar or two for yourself, while you’re there.)

    Next year, if you plan ahead, you can send all of your Valentines your own custom designs.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make An Easy Rustic Apple Tart

    “You are just seven ingredients away from this apple tart,” says Lauryn Cohen, a.k.a. the blogger Bella Baker.

    “It could be baking in your oven very, very soon. Just seven of the simplest, most standard ingredients (flour, sugar, butter, salt, water, apples, cinnamon) and a few easy to follow steps, and you’ve got yourself a dessert that tricks everyone into thinking you’ve spent hours baking this elegant yet rustic dessert just for them.”

    Yesterday, we picked up some apples at our neighborhood farmers market and did just that.

    Lauren uses a mix of apples; we used all Granny Smiths. She highly recommends an apple corer/slicer for speed.

    RECIPE: RUSTIC APPLE TART

    Ingredients
     
    For The Dough

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  •  

    When was the last time you baked from scratch? Make this easy tart! Photo courtesy Bella Baker.

  • 2 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 24 pieces
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons chilled water
  •  

    Filling

  • 4 medium sized apples, peeled, cored (reserve the cores for the glaze) and sliced thinly
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons cinnamon
  •  
    Glaze

  • 1/2 cup apricot jam
  •  

    You don’t even need a baking pan. The most
    rustic tarts are free form. This one is ready
    to go into the oven. Photo © Jokihaka |
    Dreamstime.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dough. Mix flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl; add in butter. Using your hands, mix butter into flour until mixture resembles a mix of cornmeal and peas. It’s fine to have some chunks of butter remaining.

    2. DRIZZLE in water, one tablespoon at a time, and stir until dough just holds together (never overwork dough—it toughens it). Toss with hands, and keep tossing until you can roll the dough into a rough ball. Flatten into a disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove from fridge and let soften for a couple of minutes. Smooth cracks at edges.

    3. ROLL dough on a lightly floured surface into a 14-inch circle about 1/4 inch thick. Dust off the excess flour from both sides of the crust with a dry pastry brush.

    4. PLACE dough in a lightly greased 9-inch round tart pan or simply a square baking dish. Or, make it galette-style without a pan, simply placing the dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet with the fruit in the center, and rolling up the dough to create the edges (see photo at left). This is how pies were baked for centuries, before people had baking pans.

     
    5. HEAT oven to 400°F.

    6. PEEL, core and thinly slice 4 medium apples into 8 slices (Lauryn used two Pink Ladies, one Golden Delicious and 1 Granny Smith). Further cut each apple slice into thirds, vertically.

    7. OVERLAP apples on dough: in a ring 2 inches from edge if going galette-style, or up to the sides if using a baking pan. Continue inward until you reach the center. Fold any dough hanging over pan back onto itself; crimp edges at 1-inch intervals.

    8. BRUSH melted butter over apples and onto dough edge. Sprinkle 5 tablespoons sugar and 2-3 teaspoons of cinnamon over dough edge and apples. (EDITOR’S NOTE: We mixed the sugar and cinnamon with the apple slices before placing the fruit into the crust.) Bake in the center of the oven until apples are soft, with browned edges, and crust has caramelized to a dark golden brown (about 45 minutes). Be sure to rotate the tart every 15 minutes.

    9. MAKE glaze: Put reserved apple cores in a large saucepan, along with the apricot jam and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain syrup through a strainer.

    10. REMOVE tart from oven and slide place onto a cooling rack. Let cool at least 15 minutes. Brush glaze over tart, slice, and serve.

    See the full photo show of preparation on BellaBaker.com.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Strawberry Footballs

    Go team! Jumbo strawberries dress up as
    footballs. Photo courtesy Godiva.

     

    It takes time and expertise to pipe decorations, so these chocolate-dipped jumbo strawberries from Godiva are priced at $7.50 each.

    If that’s too rich for your pocket, try making your own, and buy icing in an easy-squeeze tube instead of trying to pipe from a bag.

    Here’s how to make chocolate-covered strawberries.

    HOW ABOUT THAT PLATE!

    We found these plates/platters full of football spirit:

  • A gridiron plate, similar to the one in the photo, in ceramic or plastic
  • Referee shirt plate
  • Football platter
  •  

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Strawberry Avocado Salad

    Don’t let summer end without making this yummy strawberry, avocado and goat cheese salad. The recipe can be a side salad or a main course.

    STRAWBERRY AVOCADO SALAD RECIPE

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • Fresh salad greens: mixed greens, baby spinach, whatever you like
  • 1 pint strawberries, tops removed and halved
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 small sweet onion, sliced into thin rings
  • 8 ounces fresh goat cheese (chèvre) or blue cheese
  • 1 package almonds, regular (to save calories) or butter toffee glazed; or make this candied nuts recipe
  • Vinaigrette dressing (recipe)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PEEL avocados, halve and remove pits. Slice.

     

    A delicious summer salad. Photo courtesy GimmeSomeOven.com.

    2. PLACE greens, strawberries, onions and dressing in bowl and toss well.

    3. DIVIDE mixture among 4 plates. Place avocado slices on top.

    4. CRUMBLE cheese and sprinkle salad with cheese and almonds.

     
    The blog GimmeSomeOven.com makes a similar salad with a poppyseed dressing. Check it out.

    Find more of our favorite salad recipes.

      

    Comments

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