THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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TIP OF THE DAY: Instant Holiday Ice Cream

Christmas Ice Cream

Turn any flavor into “Christmas” ice cream with red and green sanding sugar. If you want to save calories, check out Halo Top: our favorite of the low-calorie ice creams with just 240 calories for the entire pint. And it has extra protein—really! Here’s our review (photo courtesy Halo Top),

 

When you hear “Christmas ice cream,” you probably think of candy cane (a.k.a. peppermint stick) ice cream.

We love it and gobble it up over the holiday season. But not everyone is a mint fan.

So here’s the easiest way ever to serve Christmas ice cream:

Sprinkle colored sanding sugar over the top.

Sanding sugar, also called colored sugar, decorating sugar, nibbed sugar, pearl sugar or sugar nibs, is coarse granulated sugar.

It’s processed to have larger granules that sparkle, and is used to decorate candies, cookies, cupcakes, sweet breads and other baked goods. You can find it in white as well as a rainbow of colors.
 
SPRINKLE YOUR HOLIDAY COLORS

For Christmas, sprinkle red and green sugars on ice cream.

For Chanukah, get blue and white sugars.

For Kwanzaa, get black, red and green.

For New Year’s Eve: gold and silver.

 
Use the colors of any special occasion for an instant celebration dessert.

You can find sanding sugar in some supermarkets, baking supply stores and online sites like TheBakersKitchen.net. Here’s their selection of colored sugars.

CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SUGAR IN OUR SUGAR & SYRUP GLOSSARY.

 
  

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Aldi For Christmas Entertaining

Recently, we went to our neighborhood specialty food store to buy appetizers for a get together with wine.

Sure, the cheeses we picked were $25 a pound; our favorite crackers from La Panzanella and Raincoast Crisps aren’t inexpensive. And we do tend to buy too much.

But when the cashier said, “$146.76 please,” we were floored.

For this weekend’s entertaining, we took a car service to ALDI (we live in Manhattan, where most people don’t own cars). We paid $70 for a the same amount of food; so even with transportation we came out ahead. (And this group of friends doesn’t care about the difference between Fiscalini Bandage-Wrapped Cheddar and Cabot (our everyday brand).

If you’re inviting friends and family, ALDI is the place to save big bucks on quality foods.

From cheese and charcuterie to chocolate and desserts to an entire cooked ham, turkey or roast beef dinner: Everything is delicious.

  • There are also food gift items and wines, as permitted by state.
  • Weekly specials include dozens of food and non-food products at a great value: everything from small kitchen appliances and seasonal items to outdoor furniture and gardening tools.
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    All are carefully curated and are backed by a double guarantee. If you’re not 100% satisfied, bring it back for a refund and a replacement product.
     
    ABOUT ALDI

    ALDI launched in 1961 in Germany, the world’s first first discounter. In 1976 they opened a U.S. store in Iowa, and how have more than 1,500 stores in 34 states, expanding to 2,000 stores by 2018. Worldwide, there are some 10,000 stores in 18 countries.

    Forbes Magazine calls ALDI “A Growing Menace To America’s Grocery Retailers.” The store is family-owned, and also owns Trader Joe’s.

    Everyone loves the low, low prices, which Aldi achieves through a no-frills approach to food retailing:

  • Basic inventory displays. As with Costco, merchandise is displayed in their shipping boxes to help save resources in restocking shelves.
  • Selective inventory: the basics, but not the universe (e.g., the 10 most popular cheeses, 1 brand of ketchup or yogurt instead of several choices). There are gluten-free and organic foods.
  • No credit cards: cash or debit cards only.
  • BYO bags or pay for them. As with Costco, you can take empty stock boxes as you find them.
  • Private label products. More than 90% of the inventory comprises store brands, guaranteed to be as good or better than national brands.
  • No non-essential services: no overhead of banking, check-cashing, pharmacy, etc.
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    There is no e-commerce, but you can visit the company website, get the lay of the land and use the store locator to find the ALDI nearest to you.
     
     
    What Does ALDI Mean?

    The discount food business was founded by the two Albrecht brothers. The name is an acronym for (AL)brecht and (DI)scounter.

     

    Carved Ham

    Cheese Board

    Mini Linzer Tarts

    [1] Want an entire catered dinner? You’ll save a lot getting it at ALDI (photo courtesy ALDI). [2] From cheese and charcuterie to other nibbles, you’ll find what you need at ALDI (photo courtesy Cupcakes And Cutlery). [3] For dessert, there’s everything from the classics to the seasonal, like these mini linzer tarts (photo courtesy Aldi).

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Gourmet Dinners From Babeth’s Feast

    Babeth's Feast Dinner

    One of the many dinner combinations you can order from Babeth’s Feast.

     

    What to get for the fine food lover who doesn’t cook?

    As long as someone has an oven and knows how to turn it on, we suggest a gift of Babeth’s Feast.

    There are more than 300 dishes, flash frozen, that heat up as if they were just prepared fresh. People in France regularly entertain this way: buy the main meal and make a salad. That’s why Babeth, who had moved to New York, brought the concept to the U.S.

    Foods can be sent anywhere. There are options for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and everything from haute cuisine to burgers and simpler meals.

    But what we love is the opportunity to have an elegant dinner at home, as is Babeth’s custom. Buy the main dinner—fine hors d’oeuvres and a four-course dinner—soup, fish course, meat course with sides and dessert.

    All you do is make a fresh salad and provide the wine and after-dinner coffee.

    The entire NIBBLE team was treated to a dinner this past summer, and we still haven’t stopped talking about it.

     
    Here’s our original review when Babeth’s Feast was the Top Pick Of The Week.

    Here’s the company website where you get the party started.

     
      

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    FOOD FUN: Poinsettia Hors d’Oeuvre

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    Turn spinach dip into poinsettia hors d’oeuvre.

    The ones in the top photo, from Mackenzie Limited.

    They have a base of focaccia bread topped with creamy spinach dip with a hint of truffle oil. The flower is made from piped goat cheese flower.

    We created our own version of the canapés, which pair well with beer, wine or a savory Martini.

    They are best assembled as close as possible to serving time, although you can prepare the spread and other ingredients in advance.

    RECIPE: POINSETTIA CANAPÉS

    Ingredients

  • Base of choice: bread or toast rounds or squares
  • Spinach spread of choice (or other green spread)
  • Cheese of choice: cream cheese spread, goat cheese spread or other pipeable cheese
  • Flower center: piece of peppadew, pimento or sundried tomato
  • Piping bag (or substitute) and tip
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    Preparation

    1. CUT the bread into rounds with a 1-1/2″ cookie cutter and top with some of the spread. Place on a serving tray.

    2. PIPE five petals on top of each and add the red center.
     
    WHAT’S A CANAPÉ?

    A canapé (can-uh-PAY) is a type of hors d’oeuvre: a small, savory bite on a base of bread, pastry, toast or a cracker. It is cocktail party fare, a finger food eaten in one or two bites.

       

    spinach-goat-cheese-focaccia-mackenzieltd-230r

    Poinsettia Hors d'Oeuvre

    [1] White poinsettia goat cheese blossoms atop a spinach and foccaccia base (photo courtesy Mackenzie Ltd.). [2] This version uses roasted red peppers to create the flower and fresh thyme leaves and flowers for the center (photo courtesy Tara’s Table caterers).

     
    Canapé is the French word for sofa. The idea is that the toppings sit on a “sofa” of bread or pastry. In the hands of a good caterer or chef, they can be beautifully decorated works of edible art.

    The translation of “hors d’oeuvre” means “[dishes] outside the work” i.e., outside the main meal. Technically, the term “hors d’oeuvre” refers to small, individual food items that have been prepared by a cook.

    Beyond canapés, hors d’oeuvre include everything from deviled eggs and crab puffs to mini-quiches to rumaki (bacon-wrapped dates). There are scores of options in French cuisine alone.

     

    Poinsettia Plant

    A poinsettia plant (photo courtesy 1-800-Flowers).

     

    ABOUT THE POINSETTIA PLANT

    Native to southern Mexico, what we call the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) was used for dye and decorative purposes by the Aztecs. The milky white sap, today called latex, was made into a preparation to treat fevers.

    Cuetlaxochitl, the Aztec name for the plant, is actually a small tree. It was bred down to a tabletop plant, although you may still come across a lovely small tree at better florists.

    In Mexico, it blooms naturally in Mexico around Christmastime. The poinsettia achieved fame in the U.S. thanks to Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico (1825-1829), who had been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

    An amateur botanist, he sent spectacular plant to botanist colleagues in the U.S. for breeding. It became known as the poinsettia (try pronouncing cuetlaxochitl). Its vibrant red color made it a natural for holiday decorations, and it was subsequently bred into pink and white varieties as well.

     
    Ambassador Poinsett later served as Secretary of War under Martin Van Buren, and was a co-founder of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science and the Useful Arts, a predecessor of the Smithsonian Institution).

    Note that his name is Poinsett, not Pointsett; there is no “pointsettia” plant.

    Congress honored Joel Poinsett by declaring December 12th as National Poinsettia Day.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Create Ice Cube Art (Designer Ice Cubes)

    We have long made “designer ice cubes” for cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks by:

  • Adding fruit to the ice cube for sweet drinks.
  • Adding herbs to the ice cubes for savory drinks.
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    You simply fill the ice cube tray with water and drop a piece of fruit or an herb into each compartment. Here’s our original article.

    We also use two techniques that don’t dilute the drink:

  • Freeze juice or other liquid into ice cubes; for example, tomato juice or bouillon for a Bloody Mary, pineapple juice for a Piña Colada, coffee ice cubes for a Black Russian or Irish Coffee.
  • Use frozen fruits or vegetables. You can buy them or make them.
  • For sweet drinks, whole strawberries or melon balls are our go-to fruits.
  • For savory drinks, use larger vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower florets instead of frozen carrots and peas or corn, which are small and will defrost quickly. You can also freeze thick cucumber and zucchini slices.
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    WHAT’S NEXT?

    The artiest ice cubes yet, from Let’s Mingle Blog. We just love the look, and have so much fun mixing and matching the ingredients.

    Ingredients

  • Fruits, vegetables, herbs and whole spices of choice
  • Liquid of choice: water, flavored water, coffee, tea, juice or soft drink*
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    Preparation

    1. FILL the ice cube compartments one-third or halfway with your liquid of choice: coffee or tea, juice, water, etc. Place the trays in the freezer until the ice is partially frozen (fully frozen is OK, too).

    2. ADD the fruits, herbs, spices, whatever, and return to the freezer for 20 minutes or more, so the fruit will stick and not float to the top.

    3. TOP with the final layer of liquid, and freeze fully.

    Here’s the entire article from Let’s Mingle Blog, with many more design ideas.

     

    Designer Ice Cubes

    Fruit In Ice Cubes

    The best-looking ice cubes we’ve seen, from Let’s Mingle Blog. Read the full article.

     
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    *For example, cola ice cubes for a Rum & Coke.

      

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