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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.
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    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.

     

     
      

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    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.

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 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.
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    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.)
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    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.

      

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    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
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    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.

      

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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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.

      

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