THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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FOOD FUN: Jim Beam Caramel Apples (Or Other Favorite Whiskey)

To celebrate its Apple Bourbon—available year-round but especially popular in fall recipes—Jim Beam has stepped beyond cocktails to caramel.

Yes, you can dip your caramel apples into an easy homemade caramel that incorporates a cup of Jim Beam Apple Bourbon.

No time to buy Jim Beam Apple Bourbon? Use what you’ve got on hand (including another whiskey) and pick some up Apple Bourbon when you can. You’ll definitely want to make another batch of these!


Ingredients For 10 Caramel Apples

  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 6 ounces cold half and half
  • 8 ounces Jim Beam Apple Bourbon
  • 10 Granny Smith apples on thick wooden skewers
  • Optional garnish: 4 cups chopped salted peanuts, honey roasted nuts or other garnish

    1. COOK the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in a large pot over medium high heat until a light boil begins. Whisk in the half and half and the bourbon and continue to whisk until the caramel sauce reaches 248°F. Remove from the heat.

    2. DIP each of the apples into the caramel, coating on all sides. Set on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. If desired, coat apples on all sides with chopped salted peanuts.

    3. ALLOW the caramel to cool before serving.

  • Classic Red Candy Apples
  • Easter Candy Apples
  • Matcha White Chocolate Granny Smith Apples (for Christmas or St. Pat’s)
  • Modern Art Chocolate Apples
  • Sugar-Free Red Candy Apples
    You can also host a candy apple party!


    Jim Beam Caramel Apples

    Jim Beam Apple Bourbon

    [1] Bourbon caramel apples. The caramel is made with [2] Jim Beam Apple Bourbon (photos courtesy Beam Suntory).


    The practice of coating fruit in sugar syrup dates back to ancient times. In addition to tasting good, honey and sugar were used as preserving agents to keep fruit from rotting.

    According to, food historians generally agree that caramel apples (toffee apples) date to the late 19th century. Both toffee and caramel can be traced to the early decades of the 18th century, buy inexpensive toffee and caramels for all became available by the end of the 19th century. Culinary evidence dates soft, chewy caramel coatings from that time.

    Red cinnamon-accented candy apples came later. And, while long associated with Halloween, they were originally Christmas fare, not a Halloween confection.

    According to articles in the Newark Evening News in 1948 and 1964, the red candy apple was invented in 1908 by William W. Kolb, a local confectioner. Experimenting with red cinnamon candies for Christmas, he dipped apples into the mixture and the modern candy apple was born.

    The tasty treat was soon being sold at the Jersey Shore, the circus and then in candy shops nationwide.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Ginger Pumpkin Pie With Pumpkin Seed Crust

    Pumpkin Seed Crust Recipe

    Pumpkin Mousse Cheesecake

    Caramel Cheesecake

    Caramel Apple Cheesecake

    [1] Pumpkin pie with a pumpkin seed-graham cracker crust (photo courtesy Whole Food Matters). [2] Pumpkin mousse cheesecake with pumpkin seed-flour crust (photo courtesy Kenwood World). [3] Cheesecake with walnut-pumpkin seed crust and a caramel sauce ribbon (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [4] Caramel Apple Cheesecake with gingersnap-pumpkinseed crust (photo courtesy iGourmet).


    Go seasonal with pie and cheese cake crusts: Add some pumpkin seeds and add a touch of fall, flavor, crunch and nutrition.

    You can add whole or chopped pumpkin seeds to your regular crusts, be they cookie (chocolate, gingersnap, graham cracker, shortbread), flour (wheat, nut, gluten free), or other recipe.

    Use raw, hulled pumpkin seeds, available in natural food stores and health food stores.

    First up is a graham cracker crust with pumpkin seeds, from Executive Chef Matt Greco of The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, California.

    Chef Greco initially made this delicious crust for a Black Out Pie, peanut butter and chocolate. So don’t limit your vista!



  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup crushed pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8-12 ounces unsalted butter, melted

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    2. COMBINE all ingredients except the butter in a bowl. Slowly add enough butter so that the mixture holds its shape when squeezed in your hand.

    3. PRESS 3/4 of a cup of the mixture into a pie pan and bake at 350° for 10 minutes, or until the crust is lightly golden.


    This recipe is adapted from one by Florence Fabricant in The New York Times. Prep and cook time is 2 hours.
    Ingredients For 10 Servings

    For The Crust

  • ¾ cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 10 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
    For The Filling

  • 2 cups canned pumpkin purée
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F. Spread the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and toast for 5 to 8 minutes, until you hear them start to pop. Remove from the oven.

    2. PLUSE 1/2 cup of the pumpkin seeds in a food processor. Mix with the graham cracker crumbs, ground ginger and granulated sugar. Stir in the melted butter. Pat the mixture firmly into the bottom and sides of a 10-inch pie pan and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

    3. BAKE the crust for 15 minutes and remove from the oven. Reduce the oven heat to 350°F.

    4. MIX the pumpkin purée, eggs, egg yolks, cream, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in the crystallized ginger and mix until smooth. Pour into the pre-baked crust and bake about an hour, until the filling is set.

    5. REMOVE the pie from the oven and the scatter remaining pumpkin seeds on top. Cool to room temperature before serving.

    How about a garnish of candied pumpkin seeds?

    You can sprinkle them on any dessert, or on whipped cream-topped drinks.


  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment, or spray it with cooking spray.

    2. WHISK the egg white until frothy. Place the pumpkin seeds in a small bowl and add just enough egg white to coat the seeds. Add the salt, sugar and cinnamon and toss well to coat.

    3. SPREAD the seeds on the pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, until they begin to dry and turn golden. Cool completely on a wire rack. Garnish just before serving to keep the seeds crisp. If not using that day, store in an airtight jar.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Pumpkin Pecan Coffee Cake

    In just 15 minutes, you can whip up the batter for Pumpkin Pecan Coffee Cake.

    Then, stick it in the fridge, and when you’re preparing for breakfast or brunch this weekend, preheat the oven and take the cake out of the fridge. It will bake in 35 minutes, capping off your repast with warm, fragrant coffee cake.

    This recipe, from Go Bold With Butter, is one of those recipes that takes little time to mix.

    The quintessential coffee cake is a crumb cake: a yeast cake with a streusel (crumb) topping. This recipe is quicker to make: hold the yeast and the rising time, add the pumpkin and pecans.


    Ingredients For A 9-Inch Cake
    For The Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
    For The Crumb Topping (Streusel)

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch spring form pan with butter and dust with flour.

    2. COMBINE the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. In separate bowl whisk together milk, egg, pumpkin purée and vanilla extract.

    3. BEAT the butter and brown sugar on high speed in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment until light and creamy. Alternatively, use a hand mixer and a large bowl; beat about 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until just combined. Stir in the pecans.


    Pumpkin Pecan Coffee Cake Recipe

    Streusel Top Muffin

    Coffee Cake Streusel

    [1] Pumpkin Pecan Coffee Cake with a crumb (streusel) topping (photo courtesy Go Bold With Butter). [2] Streusel can be light and airy, as on this crumb-top muffin (photo courtesy Folger’s). [3] By adding more butter, the streusel becomes denser. It’s a personal choice (photo courtesy Bella Baker).


    4. USING a fork, combine the butter, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in small bowl. Use your hands to press the mixture into large crumbs (streusel). Spread the cake batter into theprepared pan and cover with crumb topping.

    5. BAKE until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove the pan sides and cool completely. Store the cake at room temperature for up to 3 days; or freeze leftovers.

    Long popular as the topping on Streuselkuchen (streusel cake), Germany’s crumb-topped yeast cake, streusel (pronounced SHTROY-zul) is a topping made from butter, flour and sugar. It can also contain chopped nuts or rolled oats.

    The word derives from the German “streuen” (SHTROY-en), meaning to sprinkle or scatter.

    The crumb cake is believed to have originated in Silesia, once part of Germany but today in western Poland (if you’ve read James Michener’s historical novel, Poland, you know the borders changed regularly).

    The original Streuselkuchen was very flat, with crumbs equal to the height of the cake (think one inch of cake topped with one inch of crumbs). To some streusel lovers, that’s perfection!

    The original recipe engendered variations with layers or ribbons of tart fruits (apples, gooseberries, sour cherries, rhubarb) and poppy seeds. Some versions even included pastry cream.

    Another popular coffee cake, also a yeast cake (but without crumbs), is glazed with sugar syrup, can be strewn with raisins and nuts and drizzled with royal icing. In our youth, when German emigré bakers plied their craft in New York City and elsewhere, it was as popular as crumb cake (and neater to eat, too).



    TIP OF THE DAY: Scream Cheese, Special Cheeses For Halloween

    Basiron Red Gouda

    Cahill's Porter Cheddar

    English Cheddar With Harissa

    Mimolette Cheese

    Halloween Cheese

    [1] Basiron Pesto Rosso, a red Gouda. [2] Cahill’s Irish Cheddar, marbled with porter. [3] English Cheddar with spicy harissa. [4] Mimolette, perhaps the spookiest-looking cheese. [5] A limited fall edition version of Weybridge from Vermont (all photos are the copyright of their respective owners).


    Can cheeses be spooky? You bet!

    These cheeses and others can create as perfect Halloween cheese plate. They also double as “harvest moon” cheeses for Thanksgiving.

    They represent England, France, Holland, Ireland, and the U.S. They’re all delicious and worth seeking out. If you can’t find them locally, we’ve provided e-tail links.

    Basiron Pesto Rosso

    This Dutch Gouda (photo #1), also called Red Gouda, gets its bright color and flavor from an infusion of tomato pesto. Each creamy bite has a hit of ripe tomato and Italian herbs.

    It’s what we call “fusion cheese”: a traditional cheese from one country flavored with herbs and spices from another culture.

    Find it at
    Cahill’s Farm Flavored Irish Cheddar

    Made near Limerick and dating to 1759, the brown mosaic pattern is made with Guinness (photo #2). There’s also a fall-appropriate version colored red with wine, and an all-yellow version made with Irish whiskey (save the latter for St. Patrick’s Day).

    Find it at
    English Cheddar With Harissa

    Another “cultural fusion cheese,” this tangy English Cheddar (photo #3) gets an infusion of harissa, a Moroccan spice blend that consists of chiles, coriander, cumin, garlic and smoked paprika (each producer has a proprietary blend, which can include other ingredients).

    Find it at

    Perhaps the creepiest of all (photo #4), Mimolette’s rind looks like the craters of the moon. Cut it open and surprise: There’s a blazing orange interior that also looks scary.

    This semi-sharp cow’s milk cheese is produced in the area around Lille in Alsace, France. Try it with an Alsatian Riesling!

    Find it at

    Weybridge Limited Edition

    This “surprise!” cheese from the Scholten Family Farm in Vermont has a ghostly white bloomy rind, that reveals a tangy orange paste (the industry term for the interior of a cheese). An organic cheese, limited edition version has a dusting of vegetable ash on the rind for some extra spookiness.

    The limited edition cheese, a fall version of the regular Weybridge, sells out quickly. Reserve yours at Jasper Hill Farm.

    It’s annatto, a natural dye derived from achiote seeds. It’s the same natural color that differentiates yellow cheddar from white cheddar.

    In large amounts annatto provides a slightly spicy flavor, but here in smaller touches it delivers only the color.

  • Ash-covered goat cheese. While originally used to protect delicate goat cheeses during travel, vegetable ash continues to be popular for eye appeal on a fresh goat cheese log, or as a dramatic interior stripe in Humboldt Fog or Morbid. It imports no flavor, but does help with the ripening process in cheeses such as Bonne Bouche from Vermont Creamery and Selles sur Cher from the Loire.
  • Extra Triple Aged Gouda, a sturdy paste and harvest gold color.
  • Huntsman Cheese, from the U.K., a layered cheese of orange-hued Double Gloucester and veined white Stilton.
  • Pecorino With Chile Flakes. This aged Italian cheese has flecks hot chile flakes. Find it at
  • Saxonshire Cheese. This five-layer British cheese has a dramatic appearance: Each of the layers is a different shade of yellow or orange. The layers are Caerphilly, Cheddar, Cheshire, Double Gloucester and Leicester—all classics.


    Along with bread, crackers, fruits and nuts, serve a choice of condiments. Use ramekins for neatness. No ramekins? See what you do have, such as espresso cups and espresso spoons.

  • Chutney: apple, cranberry, pear, quince
  • Corn relish
  • Fall fruit jams: concord grape, fig, spiced fruits
  • Fruit butters: apple, pumpkin
  • Mustard: grainy mustard, horseradish mustard, walnut mustard, and the
  • Savory-sweet jellies: garlic, horseradish, onion
  • Spicy honey: buy it or add chili flakes to plain honey
    Look for an artisan semolina loaf if you want to add some seasonal color to the bread.

    The great French mustard house produces a standard line plus seasonal flavors: so good, we eat them from the jar on a spoon!

    Fall flavors include:

  • Black Olive & White Wine Mustard
  • Black Truffle & Chablis Mustard
  • Black Truffle, Cep & Chablis Mustard (limited edition)
  • Fig, Coriander & White Wine Mustard
  • Hazelnut, Black Chanterelle Mushrooms & White Wine Mustard
    We love to give these gourmet mustards as house gifts and stocking stuffers for our foodie friends. Find them online at


    Maille Hazelnut Chanterelle Mustard

    Maille Black Truffle Mustard

    [6] Maille Hazelnut, Black Chanterelle Mushrooms & White Wine Mustard. [7] Maille Black Truffle, Cep & Chablis Mustard, a limited edition for fall (photos courtesy Maille USA).




    TIP OF THE DAY: Beautiful Squash For Beautiful Recipes

    Stuffed Acorn Squash

    Stuffed Acorn Squash

    Acorn Squash Rings

    Kabocha Squash Bowl

    Butternut Squash

    [1] A conventional stuffed squash recipe: half a squash, stuffed to the brim. [2] Adding a rim of vegetables (photos #1 and #2 courtesy Chef Eric Levine). [3] Don’t want to serve large portions? Cut the squash into rings with this recipe from [4] Turn the entire kabocha squash into a filled “squash bowl.” Here’s the recipe from Sunset magazine. [5] Butternut squash (photo courtesy


    Certainly, a half of baked squash is attractive, not to mention delicious and good for you.

    But you can elevate baked squash to a work of art.

    The standard winter squashes in supermarkets are the acorn and the butternut. They have similar flavor, but the acorn is round while the butternut is boat-shaped.

    While the butternut can be cut into rings or halved into a “boat,” the round, ridged squash have a natural beauty benefit.

    Numerous types of winter squash are available in the U.S., in natural food stores and at farmers markets. But some species are particularly beautiful: acorn, blue hubbard, carnival, kabocha (buttercup), lumina (white with white flesh), pattypan, sweet dumpling and others (see more types of squash).

    Combine your palate and your personality into your stuffing.

  • Fruits: apples, dried fruits (apricots, cherries, cranberries, raisins), pears, pomegranate arils, quince
  • Grains: barley, breadcrumbs, croutons, quinoa, rice and wild rice, etc.
  • Herbs: parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme
  • Nuts: halved, sliced or chopped as garnish
  • Proteins: bacon, mozzarella, tofu
  • Seasonings: cayenne, chipotle, coriander, cumin, flavored salt, nutmeg, pepper, ras-el-hanout, smoked paprika, zatar
  • Vegetables: brussels sprouts, celery, carrots and other root vegetables, mushrooms
  • Binders: broth, butter, nut oil, olive oil
  • Garnishes: dried cranberries, fresh herbs, shredded cheese (cheddar, gruyère, parmesan)
    Here’s a basic recipe that you can customize as you like.

    Squash is indigenous to Central and South America. It was introduced to the Spanish conquistadors in Mexico, spread via indigenous migration throughout North America, and was introduced by Native American populations to the English setters in Virginia and Massachusetts.

    Squash was easy to grow and hardy enough to store for months, providing a nutritious dietary staple throughout the winter (hence the name, winter squash). While there are many heirloom varieties, today the most commonly found in supermarkets are acorn and butternut squashes.
    Acorn Squash Vs. Butternut Squash

    Acorn squash (Curcubita pepo, var. turbinata) is so called because its shape resembles an acorn. The most common variety is dark green in color, often with a splotch of orange on the side or top.

    Some varieties are variegated (multi-color) and newer varieties include the yellow Golden Acorn squash and white-skinned varieties.

    Like the other popular winter squash, butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata), the skin of an acorn squash is thick and hard, and it is an effort to peel it. But either squash is easily cut in half with a large, sharp knife. It can then be baked, plain or stuffed with grain, meat or vegetable mixtures.

    Acorn squash are smaller than butternut squash (an acorn is one to two pounds, four to seven inches long), and half of an acorn makes a convenient individual portion. It is similar in flavor to butternut.

    Winter squash needs to be cooked.

    All winter squash can be baked, microwaved, sautéed or steamed.

    Don’t hesitate to add the cooked flesh to green salads, mixed vegetables, grains, omelets, and anyplace you’d like another level of flavor and color.

  • The seeds of the squash are toasted and eaten. Initially, the seeds were eaten instead of the flesh until plumper-fleshed varieties were bred.
  • The yellow trumpet flowers that are produced before the squash is fully developed are also edible. They are stuffed and considered a delicacy.
  • The green tops, about three inches’ worth from the end of freshly-harvested squash, are also edible (but not the prickly stem). The squash greens are a popular vegetable in the Philippines. Unless you grow your own or your local farmer doesn’t remove them, you aren’t likely to see them for sale in the U.S.
    Winter squash is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, with smaller amounts of vitamins C and B, magnesium, and manganese. Surprisingly, because of the color of the flesh, it is not a good source of beta-carotene.

    There are three species of squash, all native to the Americas.

  • Curcubita pepo includes acorn, butternut, pumpkin, summer squashes and others.
  • Curcubita moschata, represented by the Cushaw, Japanese Pie, Large Cheese Pumpkins and Winter Crookneck squashes, arose, like Curcubita pepo, in Mexico and Central America. Both were and are important food, ranking next to maize and beans.
  • Curcubita maxima includes Boston Marrow, Delicious, Hubbard, Marblehead and Turks Turban, and apparently originated near the Andes, or in Andean valleys.

  • The word “squash” comes from the Wampanoag Native American word, askutasquash, meaning “eaten raw or uncooked.” This may refer to the summer squash varieties, yellow squash and zucchini, which can be enjoyed raw.
  • Summer squash, which belong to the same genus and species as most winter squash, are small, quick-growing varieties that are eaten before the rinds and seeds begin to harden.
  • Before the arrival of Europeans, Curcubita pepo and Curcubita moschata had been carried to all parts of North America that were conducive to growth.
  • Many Native American tribes, particularly in the West, still grow a diversity of hardy squashes and pumpkins not to be found in mainstream markets.
  • Squash was unknown in the Old World until the 16th century, brought back by the returning conquistadors. The oldest known prin record of it is dated 1591.
  • Much of canned pumpkin consists of Curcubita moschata squash, not from the jack-o-lantern variety of pumpkin. The best commercially canned varieties are Boston Marrow and Delicious varieties.The flesh of these varieties is much richer and more nutritious than that of pumpkin.


    HALLOWEEN RECIPE: Candy Corn Popcorn Balls

    Two years ago we published a recipe for orange-tinted Halloween Popcorn Balls, shaped like pumpkins.

    This new recipe was created by Meghan McGarry of Buttercream Blondie for

    We like it even better, because what Halloween celebrant doesn’t look forward to candy corn?

    The candy corn theme does double duty between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

    QUICK TIP: No time to make popcorn balls? Tao the candy corn and marshmallows with regular popcorn and a drizzle of honey or agave to bind them (or the candy corn will end up at the bottom of the bowl).

    Meghan created a sweet-and-salty recipe with salted peanuts. We used the honey roasted peanuts we had on hand, and added a few dashes of salt.

    If you don’t want to use nuts at all, substitute an additional 1/2 cup of candy corn, butterscotch baking chips, or Halloween M&Ms (they’re white and made in the shape of candy corn), etc.

    For gifting, you can wrap them like a pomander in orange curling ribbon, or in individual clear cellophane bags with a ribbon tie.

    Ingredients For 8-10 Popcorn Balls

  • 12 cups popped plain popcorn*
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup candy corn
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts (we used honey roasted peanuts)
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons Halloween sprinkles

    1. LINE a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Spray a large bowl and a spatula with cooking spray and add the popcorn. Set aside.

    2. MELT the butter in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Once butter begins to melt, add the marshmallows and stir continuously until melted. Then stir in vanilla extract.

    3. POUR the melted mixture over the popcorn and gently toss with the spatula. Add the candy corn and peanuts.

    4. SPRAY your hands with cooking spray and continue to mix by hand until everything is coated and combined. Add the sprinkles just before you’re almost done mixing.

    5. SHAPE the popcorn into balls and set on a parchment-lined sheet pan to cool.
    *If popping the corn from scratch, you need 6 ounces or 2/3 cup of kernels.


    Candy Corn Popcorn Balls

    Halloween Confetti

    Halloween Confetti

    [1] Candy corn popcorn balls from Meghan McGarry. [2] Halloween sprinkles from Halloween sprinkles from Dress My Cupcake. [3] Halloween confetti from Kreative Baking.




    TIP OF THE DAY: What To Use When You Don’t Have Pasta Sauce

    Pasta No Sauce

    Pasta Primavera

    Garlic Noodles

    Primavera Pasta

    [1] Got pasta but no red sauce or items that can be turned into it? Just check the pantry and the fridge (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [2] Check for fresh, canned or frozen vegetables and make Primavera with olive oil (photo courtesy Melissa’s). Bonus: some leftover chicken. [3] No veggies? No problem! Garlic, olive oil, chili flakes and some celery and cucumber from the fridge created this tasty dish (photo courtesy P.F. Chang’s). [4] This Primavera contains canned artichoke hearts and some strips of grated carrot (photo courtesy Grimmway Farms).


    October is National Pasta Month.

    Most of us have dry pasta in the pantry, an easy-cook dinner.

    But what if you have no pasta sauce—at least, no go-to red sauce, or the ingredients* from which to quickly make one?

    Recipes evolved because people used what they had on hand. You can do the same.

    These alternative sauces for pasta also work with grains and vegetables.

    No parmesan or other Italian grating cheese? Use any other grated or shredded cheese, ricotta or cottage cheese (these latter often used to stuff pasta). Even those that may seem and unusual pairing—Stilton or Gouda, for example—work.

  • Crumbled cheese, such as blue, feta or goat, work with a simple oil or butter dressing.
  • Or leave cheese out entirely. Pasta/noodle dishes are served the world over without grated cheese. In Sicily, a mixture of bread crumbs and chopped herbs (oregano, parsley, thyme, etc.)

    You can use any type of sauce you do have, from cheese sauce to salsa. Adding whatever vegetables—from sundried or cherry tomatoes to onions to any herb or spice on the shelf—gives added dimension. Check out these new Recipe Ready Tomato Paste Pouches from Hunt’s, and keep them in the pantry.

  • Asian sauces such as hoisin or ponzu or hoisin sauce create Asian-style noodles. You can also make Asian vinaigrette with sesame oil and rice wine vinegar; feel free to substitute the oil or vinegar with what you do have. You can also make a quick Asian dressing with soy sauce, vinegar and vegetable oil, a dash of garlic and/or ginger.
  • Butter, with cracked pepper or red pepper flakes, melts nicely on hot pasta. Just toss it for an instant sauce. Optional flavors include lemon zest, herbs or spices: ingredients found in any kitchen. If you have compound butter, great: Situations like this are exactly what it’s for.
  • Other dairy products provide additional options. You can use cottage cheese or ricotta straight or blended into a sauce; or make an herb sauce from milk, cream, sour cream or yogurt with whatever herbs or condiments you have on hand. You can also go international, flavoring these dairy products with anything: cumin, curry, dill, flavored salt, mustard, nutmeg, paprika, sage, tarragon, thyme, etc.
  • Meat, poultry and fish leftovers can be combined with any pasta or noodles. Leftover bacon? Sausage? Turkey? Just slice, dice and toss.
  • Olive oil or other oil is a substitute in many recipes. If you have a can of anchovies, clams, escargots, tuna or other seafood, it becomes both your topping and sauce. For a tonnato (tuna) sauce, pulse the tuna to the fineness you like.
  • Flavored olive oil makes an elegant sauce. You can add any ingredients you like, from capers and olives to garlic, jalapeño or lemon zest, chopped nuts or hard-boiled eggs.
  • Peanut sauce, the kind served on the popular Chinese appetizer, cold sesame noodles, can be made with only peanut butter Just dilute peanut butter with enough vegetable oil to the desired consistency. Season the sauce with sesame seeds, garlic and/or heat (hot sauce, chile flakes). Sprinkle with chopped green onions, chopped peanuts, and/or fresh herbs.
  • Salad dressings, whether olive oil and vinegar, mayonnaise, sour cream and bottled dressings, are used in different pasta salad recipes. So why not with hot pasta?
  • Vegetables—canned, fresh, frozen—combine with olive oil or melted butter into a primavera sauce. Use garlic or other seasoning as you prefer.
  • White sauce can be made in just 10 minutes. The recipe is below.

    Check the fridge and the pantry. You may find adobo, barbecue sauce, chili sauce, chimmichurri, chutney, pesto, piri-piri, sriracha ketchup and so on.

    Turn them into a pasta sauce by blending with oil, sour cream, yogurt, etc.


    You can make a classic white sauce in just 10 minutes. Use it as is, or add whatever seasonings you like, from olives to nutmeg.

    With grated Parmesan, it would be Alfredo Sauce.

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of white pepper (substitute black pepper—white is used simply so there are no dark flecks in the sauce)
  • 1 cup 2% or whole milk

    1. MELT the butter over medium heat in a small pan. Add the flour, salt and pepper, whisking until smooth.

    2. SLOWLY WHISK in the milk and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until thickened. Use immediately or refrigerate, tightly covered.

    Check out the different types of pasta in our photo-packed Pasta Glossary.

    *You can turn the following into red sauce: canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, tomato paste.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Grandma Hoerner’s Apple Pouches

    Grandma Hoerner’s is a company that makes Big Slice Apples, one of our favorite new snacks and toppings.

    Big Slice Apples were first cooked in Grandma Hoerner’s farm kitchen in Kansas in the late 1800s, made from apples straight from the orchard.

    Grandson, Duane McCoy, rcalling the wonderful big slices of cooked apples from his youth, could find no commercial product like it. In 1987, after experimenting to replicate her recipe, he was ready to bring them to the world.

    Big Slice Juicy Cooked Apples may be the best apple “sauce” you can buy. Thick slices of kettle-cooked apples resting in an a sauce made from reduced apple juice.

    It is the way it was originally made with big slices of fresh apples, slow cooked, with only natural ingredients added. These are chunky apples that can be eaten with a fork, although a spoon will do.

    The Big Apple Slices are all natural, non-GMO, HFCS free and slow cooked, using domestic apples—just as Grandma Hoerner made them. They are both a luxurious dessert or topping and a healthful grab-and-go snack—a great source of vitamin C and naturally gluten free.

    The product, originally (and still) sold in 19.5-ounce jars, is now available in grab-and-go pouches—lots of them—in 4.5-ounce portions, 80 to 90 calories depending on flavor, for $2.50. We found 16-packs on Amazon, but not on the Grandma Hoerner’s website.

    Three flavor lines focus on flavor profiles:

  • Pure Line, simply flavored: Apricot, Blueberry Pomegranate, Chai, Cherry Vanilla, Natural, Orange Ginger
  • Fit Line, with added nutrition: Banana, Mango & Hemp Seed; Peach, Green Tea & Aloe; Honey Berry Chia; Pineapple, Passion Fruit & Fiber, Raspberry Hibiscus & Green Coffee Extract
  • Luxe Line, with indulgent additions: Boysenberry Chocolate, Caramel, Cinnamon Candy, Cinnamon French Toast, Peach Bellini
    The only challenge is where to begin. We received samples of each flavor, and can’t decide what to re-order. We may have to proceed alphabetically!

    For starters, here’s how we enjoyed the different Big Slice flavors:

  • Breakfast: with cottage cheese, French toast, omelets, porridge, toast, yogurt, pancakes, waffles
  • Lunch & Dinner: as a condiment or side with fried chicken, ham, pork, turkey
  • Dessert: crêpes, ice cream/sorbet, parfait, pound or angel cake, tartlet shells
  • Snack: straight from the pouch, on a rice cake

    Grandma Hoerner's Big Slice Apples

    Pancakes With Grandma Hoerner's Apples

    Big Slice On Yogurt

    [1] A great grab-and-go snack. [2] A topping for pancakes and other breakfast foods. [3] A yogurt mix-in or topping (photos courtesy Grandma Hoerner’s).


    Apple Tartlets

    [4] Time for dessert or company for tea? Fill tartlet shells for dessert (photo courtesy Grandma Hoerner’s).



    The pouches are available at Costco, H -E-B, Hy-Vee. Kowalski’s, Meijer, Price Chopper, Publix, Sprouts, Whole Foods Market, and more than 7,000 food stores nationwide. Here’s a store locator.

    You can buy them online at and in multipacks at

    A portion of the purchase to the A Sparkle Life, a non-profit organization aiding women in need.





    TIP OF THE DAY: It’s Easy To Bake A Caribbean Rum Bundt Cake

    Caribbean Rum Cake

    Caribbean Rum Cake

    Caribbean Rum Cake

    Butter Rum Flavor Lorann

    [1] A rum cake bundt, heavy on the rum (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [2] The rum is poured onto the cake and sits overnight to sink in. This recipe adds cinnamon to the rum syrup (photo courtesy [3] Lots of rum syrup make this cake very moist (photo courtesy [4] This butter-rum oil (not rum extract) adds another layer of deliciousness (photo courtesy Lorann Oils).


    Rum cake is a year-round treat, but we tend to make them in the fall. They go well with a hot cup of tea, and are welcome gifts.

    In the Caribbean, rum cakes are a traditional holiday dessert, descendants of figgy pudding and other Christmas puddings*.

    Rum cakes are descended from British holiday puddings, such as figgy pudding (plum pudding) and fruit cake. Traditionally, dried fruit is soaked in rum for months; but in modern recipes, just an overnight soak suffices.

    “If you’ve ever traveled to the Caribbean,” says King Arthur Flour, the premium baking ingredients company that sent us this recipe, “chances are you’ve had the amazing rum cakes that the islands are famous for. Sadly, these cakes are not often found in northern latitudes but this recipe is the closest we’ve ever had to the ‘real’ thing.

    “Yes, there is a lot of rum in this cake, definitely not for the faint of heart; but the texture and flavor are unbeatable—moist, rich and deeply satisfying. Whisk yourself away to white sandy beaches with this incredible cake.”

    Yes, this is definitely a potent cake (all real rum, no “rum flavor”), very moist and fragrant.

    If you have half an hour, whip one up. Prep time is 30 minutes to 40 minutes, bake time is 50 minutes to 55 minutes.

    In fact, make two: This cake freezes beautifully.


    Ingredients For 1 Large Bundt Cake
    For The Rum Cake Base

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup pastry cream filling mix or instant vanilla pudding mix, dry
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup white or golden rum
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon butter rum flavor (recommended—this is not extract but oil)
  • 1/4 cup pecan or almond flour, for dusting baking pan

  • Cooking spray
  • Almond flour to coat pan
    For The Rum Soaking Syrup

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup white or golden rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    Optional For Serving

  • Crème fraîche
  • Mascarpone
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Whipped cream (we use half the sugar)

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Spray a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle in the almond flour and turn the pan to coat evenly. Set aside.

    2. PLACE all of the cake ingredients except the rum, vanilla and butter rum flavoring in the bowl of a stand mixer. Blend on medium speed for 2 minutes scraping down the bowl after one minute.

    3. ADD the rum, vanilla and butter rum flavor to the batter and blend for another minute. Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan and spread level with a spatula.

    4. BAKE the cake for 50 to 55 minutes. You may smell the nut flour toasting at first, especially that which is not covered by the cake batter. When done, the cake will test clean on a cake tester. Bundt cakes, much deeper than layer cakes, are difficult to test properly with a short toothpick. If you don’t have a 7-inch cake tester (or longer), try a piece of dry, uncooked spaghetti or linguine. Let the cake rest in the pan to cool slightly while you prepare the soaking syrup.

    5. COMBINE the syrup ingredients, except the vanilla, in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil; then reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the syrup thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

    6. POKE holes all over the cake with a skewer. Pour about 1/4 of the syrup over the cake while still in the pan. Allow the syrup to soak in, then repeat again and again until all the syrup is used. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow the cake to sit out overnight to soak in the syrup. When ready to serve…

    7. LOOSEN the edges of the cake and invert it onto a serving plate.



    Most serious bakers use unbleached flour, which is aged. But why did manufacturers start bleaching flour in the first place?

    Freshly-milled flour isn’t yet ready for baking. It improves with some aging.

    During aging, oxygen in the air reacts with the glutenin proteins, which eventually form gluten, to form even longer chains of gluten. These longer chains provide more elasticity and structure, the latter important for cakes.

    During this aging process—around four months—the fresh flour, which is slightly yellowish from carotenoid pigments in the endosperm, becomes paler as the pigments oxidize. This has no impact on the flavor or performance of the flour.

    Around the beginning of the 20th century, it became common for mills to use chemicals to speed up the aging process, producing more flour and requiring less storage space. Potassium bromate was commonly used, followed by bleaches like benzoil peroxide and chlorine dioxide, to approximate the whiteness of naturally aged flour.

    More recently, health concerns over the consumption of potassium bromate have led to its replacement with ascorbic acid.

    Here’s more about aged flour.


    Unbleached Flour

    [5] Bleached and unbleached flour can be used interchangeably in many recipes, but cakes and some breads require the springiness provided by the longer gluten chains in unbleached flour. Here’s a further explanation from Better Homes & Gardens.

    *Far from the creamy dessert puddings popular in the U.S., British puddings are cake-like, and can be baked, boiled or steamed. Savory puddings with meat were served as a main dish; sweet puddings evolved as desserts. In the 19th century, the boiled pudding evolved into today’s cake-like concept, such as the Christmas pudding that remains popular. While “pudding” is a generic term for dessert in the U.K., it has no relationship to the creamy milk-based American puddings. Here’s the difference.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Stop Apples, Bananas & Pears From Browning

    Sliced Apple

    Sliced Banana

    Sliced Pears

    Sliced Red Grapefruit

    What do these fruits have in common? Once sliced, they begin to discolor quickly. [1] Sliced apples (photo courtesy US Apple Association). [2] Sliced banana (photo courtesy [3] Sliced pears (photo courtesy USA Pears). [4] Squeezing citrus juice on cut fruit is just one of 6 techniques (photo courtesy Texasweet).


    Now that we’re into the cooler months and stone fruit and blueberry seasons are over, many people turn to apples, bananas and pears.

    You can eat them whole as hand fruit; or slice them to use them as garnishes, in fruit salads, etc. Or, you may be slicing them to prepare a pie or tart.

    But how do you stop them from turning brown?

    Browning of fruit is caused by the exposure of the flesh to oxygen. Enzymes in certain fruits react quickly with the oxygen in the air to oxidize, which turns the flesh brown. The discoloration doesn’t effect taste, but appearance.

    The solution is to limit that exposure.

    Anyone who has read a pie recipe knows to coat the cut surfaces with lemon juice, the strongest edible acid that can stop the enzyme reaction.

    This may be the best technique, but there are other techniques as well.


    Lemon juice is the standard in recipes and food articles, but other juices work, too. If you don’t have lemon juice, try:

  • Any other citrus juice—grapefruit, lime, orange, etc.—fresh squeezed, bottled or canned
  • Apple juice
  • Pineapple juice
    A half cup of juice will sufficiently cover two apples, bananas or pears. We brush the juice onto the sliced fruit with a pastry brush; a friend uses a small spray bottle (the travel-size used for cosmetics).

    You can also toss or immerse the fruit in the juice for a few minutes; but when they soak up the juice, they also soak up the flavor. If you don’t want tart flavor from lemon or lime juice, e.g., you can add some sugar.

    Once they’re coated in fruit juice, the slices will take much longer to turn brown. They will last without refrigeration in a plastic container for a few hours, but are best consumed the same day.
    In Fruit Salads

    The way to stop apples, bananas and pears in fruit salads from browning is to mix them with high-acid fruits: grapefruit, mandarins and oranges (the difference), pineapples, tangerines.

    Save the juices from slicing these fruits and add them to the bowl. They’ll stop the sensitive from browning.

    Lay the cut fruit on a plate or tray. Cut a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper to cover, and press it over the top of the slices, creating a shield from the air. This works best when the slices are roughly the same size.

    If you have a vacuum storage system—whether a heat-sealing system like InLife or hard a vacuum pump like Food Saver, you can create an air-free storage bag.

    A hack is to put the slices in a storage bag and squeeze out the air. Refrigerate until ready to use. If you have a bit of lemon juice to sprinkle in, so much the better.

    As a last resort, use club soda, seltzer water, soda water (the differences), or just plain water.

    Flavored waters can even add a hint of extra flavor.

    Soak the slices in the water/club soda. They don’t add flavor, so you can keep them in a lidded container until ready to use.

    Apples, bananas and other quick-to-brown fruits can also be coated with mayonnaise or salad dressing. These coatings block out the oxygen, which will also stop the browning process.

    If you’re making this type of recipe, you’re covered.


    Citric acid is the chemical in citrus juices that keeps cut fruits from browning (and also makes the fruit taste sour).

    It is sold in a purified form as a canning additive, to keep the cut fruits in the cans or jars from discoloring. Check at a health food store or a hardware store.

    However, we mention this as an FYI. It’s easier for home kitchens to use any of the above.

    Powdered vitamin C, used as a cold-fighting supplement, is a similar option. Dissolve it in water according to the package directions, and soak the fruit. You can also grind up a vitamin C tablet.

    Help is at hand: Immerse the discolored fruit slices in pineapple or grapefruit juice for 10-15 minutes.

    They won’t return to their pristine whiteness, but will lighten and look fresher.



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