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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.

TIP OF THE DAY: Make Delicious Appetizers With Wonton Wraps

buffalo-chicken-cups-230

An even more delicious way to enjoy the
flavor of Buffalo wings. Photo courtesy
Nasoya.

 

You may not be ready to take on homemade dumplings, as we suggested yesterday.

But if you’re looking for easy, impressive hors d’oeuvres for entertaining? Make them with won ton wraps.

Of course, you’d buy won ton wraps to make homemade won tons. Savvy cooks know you can also use them to make ravioli. Like pasta, the wraps are made from wheat flour, eggs and salt, plus water, wheat gluten, vinegar and cornstarch.

But did you think of making clever appetizers with them? They’re surprisingly easy. And the crispy baked wontons are far superior to other alternatives we’ve tried, like phyllo cups.

Nasoya, an American producer of tofu, Asian-style noodles and wraps and Nayonaise vegan sandwich spread, treated us to the recipes below, created for Nasoya by blogger Kris Schoels of TheChicWife.com. We loved every bite.

Look for the wraps in the produce section, next to Nasoya tofu. The all-natural wraps are easy to use. The line is certified kosher by OU.

These three recipes are delicious for hors d’ouevres or a first course. Find more delicious recipes at Nasoya.com.

 
RECIPE: BUFFALO CHICKEN CUPS

These were so good, we were sorry we hadn’t made a double batch. (The photo is above.)

Ingredients For 24 Pieces

  • 12 ounces cooked chicken, diced
  • 3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup of wing sauce (mild or hot)
  • 1/2 cup of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup of ranch dressing
  • 24 wonton wrappers
  • Extra blue cheese crumbles for topping
  • Cupcake pan
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Place the chicken and blue cheese in a bowl and set aside.

    2. COMBINEthe hot wing sauce, softened cream cheese, and ranch dressing in a small bowl. Pour the cream cheese mixture over top of the chicken and crumbled blue cheese. Stir until just combined.

    3. PLACE one wonton wrapper in each cupcake opening; press down until it creates a cup. Fill each wrapper cup 3/4 of the way with the chicken mixture.

    4. BAKE for 10 minutes, or until the wrappers are golden brown and the cheese is bubbling. Top with more crumbled blue cheese for garnish, if you wish. Serve warm.

     

    RECIPE: BAKED AVOCADO & FETA WONTONS WITH
    AVOCADO-LIME DIPPING SAUCE

    We’d never have thought of combining avocado and feta, but the result is delicious!

    Ingredients For 24 Pieces

  • 24 wonton wrappers
  • 2 large avocados, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 4 tablespoons chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic, very finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Small bowl with water for sealing
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

    2. COMBINE the chopped avocado, sun dried tomatoes, feta, garlic, onion, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl, taking care to not smash the avocado pieces too much.

     

    avocado-feta-wraps-230

    A delicious marriage of avocado and feta, for an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre. Photo courtesy Nasoya.

     

    3. FILL the wrappers: Working one wrapper at a time place 1 tablespoon of filling in the top third of the egg roll wrap. Brush the edges with water and roll like a burrito. Seal with more water. Place on the baking sheet. Repeat until all of the filling has been used.

    4. BAKE for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned.

    5. MAKE the dipping sauce (recipe below).
     
    RECIPE: AVOCADO-LIME DIPPING SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 1 small ripe peeled avocado
  • 1/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Optional: hot sauce
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients into a food processor; process until smooth. Season with additional salt, pepper and optional hot sauce.
     
    RECIPE: HAM & CHEESE BITES

    Think beyond “ham and cheese”: The flavor of these bites is quite sophisticated.

    Ingredients For 30 Pieces

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup cooked ham, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg white (set aside to be used later)
  • 30 wonton wrappers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK the egg in a bowl whisk and add the cottage cheese, mixing until smooth. Stir in the ham, cheddar, salt, and pepper. Place in the refrigerator until ready to cook the wontons.

    2. Prepare the wontons: Working one wrapper at a time, brush the outer edge of the wrapper with egg white (this will help seal the bites). Place 1 heaping teaspoon of the cheese mixture in the center of the wrap. Fold the wrapper in half into a triangle and seal with more egg wash if needed.
    3. PLACE on a baking sheet until ready to cook (note, these can be frozen and cooked later). Repeat until all of the cheese mixture has been used.

    4. HEAT a large skillet over medium heat, spray skillet with nonstick spray or use 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once the skillet is warm, place the wonton wrap in the pan, being careful not to overcrowd it. Do it in several batches.

    5. COOK for 1 minute on each side; the outside will be lightly browned. Place on a paper towel lined plate, keeping warm until ready to serve. Here’s a photo of the cooked dumplings.

      

    Comments

    BOOK: Dumplings All Day Wong

    dumplings-all-day-wong-230

    A dumpling lover’s treasure. Photo courtesy
    Page Street Publishing.

     

    We loved chef Lee Anne Wong on the first season of Top Chef.

    She’s out with her first cookbook, Dumplings All Day Wong, focusing on Asian dumplings.

    Says Chef Lee Anne: “Biting into a hot, fresh, juicy dumpling can be a transcendent moment, the kind that makes your eyes roll to the back of your head, and one that can be repeated (often).”

    Yet unless you’re fortunate enough to live near an exceptional dim sum establishment, the dumplings you get at most Asian restaurants are purchased from outside suppliers, and often nowhere as flavorful as the ones you can making at home.

    That’s why this book is such a treasure. “The further you get into the book, the more you will begin to realize that your possibilities are truly endless. As with all styles of cooking, once you master the techniques and basic recipes, you’ll have the ability to build your own dumpling arsenal.”

    And what to do with this arsenal—which can be gluten free, traditional, modern, cutting edge, even technicolor (with colored dough)?

     
    Entertain! Become known for dumpling cocktail parties and brunches. Be the first one invited to parties (and bring some dumplings, of course).

    Do you have the patience to make dumplings? “While the idea of standing in one place all day making dumplings sounds intimidating or boring, I actually quite enjoy the repetitive motions of hand pleating dumplings. I consider it my ‘me time.’

    Our suggestion: Invite a friend to make dumplings with you. You’ll be able to make more varieties, and have “us time.”

    Then, thrill to your homemade gyozas, har gow, potstickers, shumai, wontons and more, with countless fillings and different cooking methods including baking, deep-frying, pan-frying and steaming.

    Get the book now, on Amazon.com; it’s available in paperback and Kindle versions.

     

    RECIPE: BRUSSELS SPOUTS & BACON DUMPLINGS

    Ingredients For 60 Dumplings

  • 1 pound bacon, diced into ¼ inch pieces
  • Oil for deep-frying
  • 2 pints (1½ pounds) fresh Brussels sprouts
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons black or balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat
  • 60 round dumpling wrappers
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COOK the bacon in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until it is completely cooked and crispy. Strain the bacon and cool on a paper-towel lined plate. Reserve the bacon fat.

    2. PREHEAT a small pot of oil to 375°F. Trim the bottom and outer leaves of the Brussels sprouts and quarter them, leaving the root ends intact.

     

    Brussels-Sprouts-and-Bacon-Dumplings-dumplingsalldaywong-230

    A contemporary dumpling recipe from Dumplings All Day Wong: Brussels sprouts and bacon! Photo courtesy Page Street Publishing.

     

    3. DIVIDE the Brussels sprouts in half and deep-fry half of them in small batches for about 2-3 minutes until the leaves are caramelized and brown. Drain on paper towels and season lightly with salt. Once cooled, chop into small pieces or use a food processor.

    4. BRING a pot of salted water to boil. Blanch the remaining Brussels sprouts until tender, abut 3 minutes. Place in an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Dry the Brussels sprouts with paper towels and chop finely (or in the food processor).

    5. COMBINE the bacon, chopped Brussels sprouts and minced garlic in a large bowl. In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and cornstarch until well mixed. Sprinkle over the filling, add the fish sauce, vinegar and bacon fat and mix well until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

    6. FILL the dumplings with about 1 teaspoon of filling and fold in a pleat style. Heat a wok or large nonstick frying pan over high heat. Add ½ tablespoon of oil to the pan. Place the dumplings in a single layer and cook until the bottoms are gold brown, 1-2 minutes. Add ½ cup water and immediately cover the pan. Cook until all the water has been absorbed and the dumpling skins have cooked through about 4 to 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining dumplings. Serve with Fish Sauce Caramel.

    RECIPE: FISH SAUCE CARAMEL

    Ingredients

  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the rice vinegar, brown sugar, granulated sugar and soy sauce in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves.

    2. REMOVE the pan from the heat and add the fish sauce. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ricotta Salata

    ricotta-salata-ig-230

    Ricotta salata. Photo courtesy iGourmet.com.

     

    Most of us are familiar with ricotta, the fresh cottage cheese-like* Italian favorite used in everything from lasagna to cheesecake to cannoli.

    But what about ricotta salata, a firm, aged sheep’s milk cheese (some refer it ricotta secca). A Sicilian specialty, it is ricotta that has been pressed, salted and dried—very different from ricotta and an exciting and versatile cheese.

    Ricotta salata is mildly salty, with a milky and nutty flavor. It is ideal for grating, shaving, slicing or cubing. You can use it anywhere you’d use feta. It’s typically more affordable than feta or Italian grating cheeses.

    You can crumble it, cube it, grate it, shave it or slice it. You can enjoy it with fruit as your cheese course, or add it to a cheese platter or antipasto plate.

     
    *Technically, ricotta isn’t a cheese but a by-product of the cheese-making process. The name “ricotta” means “recooked” in Italian (from the Latin recoctus). Historically, ricotta has been made from the whey that was left over from the process of making a cooked cheese. What to do with the whey has long been a question in the cheese world; many cheese makers of long ago simply fed it to their pigs, a practice still continued today. But somewhere along the line, someone discovered that the whey contained proteins and milk solids that would coagulate under high enough heat and with the presence of acid, and ricotta was born. In addition to ricotta salata, here’s also ricotta affumicata, an aged cheese that is smoked in the early part of the maturing process. Like ricotta salata, it can be eaten with bread or grated on pasta, gnocchi, and cooked vegetables.

     

    Try it:

  • In a green salad, ideally one with tangy greens like arugula and watercress. We love it with arugula, beets and fresh herbs.
  • On grains, potatoes or rice, whether sides or salads.
  • As a soup garnish.
  • On a sandwich, pannino or burger.
  • Atop pasta, or tossed with it. Check out Pasta alla Norma, made with eggplant and ricotta salata.
  • With eggs.
  • On cooked vegetables; try it with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale or spinach.
  • With eggs.
  • Grated on pizza, flatbread or crostini.
  • In stuffed artichokes or vegetable fritters.
  • Atop fruit salad or grilled fruit. An Italian classic mixes watermelon with ricotta salata, basil, pine nuts and olive oil.
  • Cubed on skewers, with vegetables, meats or fruits.
  •  

    ricotta-salata-southernitaliandesserts-230

    Ricotta salata in a traditional shape. Photo courtesy Southern Italian Desserts.

     

    What’s your favorite use? Let us know!
     
    RICOTTA HISTORY

    Ricotta production on the Italian peninsula dates to the Bronze Age (circa 3200–600 B.C.E. in Europe, and varying dates elsewhere). In the second millennium B.C.E., ceramic vessels called milk boilers started to appear frequently.

    Unique to the peninsula, they were designed to boil milk at high temperatures and prevent the milk from boiling over. The fresh acid-coagulated cheeses produced with these boilers were probably made with whole milk. Ceramic milk boilers were still used by Apennine shepherds to make ricotta as recently as the 19th century. Today metal milk boilers are used, but production methods have changed little since ancient times.

    By the first millennium B.C.E., the production of rennet-coagulated cheeses took over. Unlike the fresh acid-coagulated cheese, aged rennet-coagulated cheese could be preserved for much longer.

    The production of rennet-coagulated cheese led to a large supply of whey as a by-product. Cheese makers created a recipe that used a mixture of the whey plus milk, to make the fresh ricotta we know today.

    Because of its perishability, ricotta was most likely consumed locally, by the shepherds and cheesemakers. It is likely that its short shelf life did not allow broad distribution to urban markets; but even so, evidence from paintings and literature indicates that ricotta was known and likely eaten by Roman aristocrats as well. And at some point, ricotta was pressed and aged into ricotta salata. [Source]

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: El Jimador Flavored Tequila

    el_jimador_mango_mango_mexican_lime_partial-230

    Two delicious flavored tequilas. Photo
    courtesy Brown Forman.

     

    We are fans of flavored spirits, sipping them straight up or on the rocks. We’re happy that the category is growing.

    The newest samples to land at our desk are flavored tequilas from El Jimador Tequila: Mango Mango and Mexican Lime flavors, the first flavor extensions in the El Jimador brand.

    The ripe mango flavors of Mango Mango tequila will convince you that a mango has been blended into your drink. Mexican Lime does similarly, evoking fresh lime.

    Both flavors are available in 750 ml bottles at a suggested retail price of $19.99. Get some for yourself, get some as gifts. To learn more about el Jimador, visit ElJimador.com.

    Check out the two shooter recipes below.

     

    RECIPE: PALOMINI SHOOTER WITH MEXICAN LIME TEQUILA

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1 ounce El Jimador Mexican Lime tequila
  • Grapefruit soda (e.g. Fresca)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Optional: salt rim
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CREATE salt rim. Add ice, tequila and salt.

    2. TOP with grapefruit soda. Stir gently and serve.

     

    RECIPE: TRES AMIGOS SHOOTER WITH MANGO TEQUILA

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1 ounce El Jimador Mango Mango tequila
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • ½ ounce grenadine (make your own with this recipe)
  • Dash of Tabasco or other hot sauce
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LAYER the grenadine, tequila and, lime juice. Add the Tabasco and shoot.

     
    TRIVIA: A jimador is a farmer who harvests agave plants that are used to make tequila and mezcal.

     

    tres-amigos-shooter-230

    The Los Amigos shooter in the colors of the Mexican flag. Photo courtesy Brown Forman.

     

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Brownie Sandwiches With Buttercream

    Here’s an idea from Earl Of Sandwich: brownie sandwiches, filled with peanut butter buttercream or a frosting of your choice.

    Just bake your favorite brownies and sandwich two of them with your favorite flavor of buttercream: chocolate, coffee, maple, pistachio, strawberry, vanilla, etc. You can fill the brownie pan with less batter for flatter brownies (adjust the baking time accordingly).

    The Earl of Sandwich cuts the brownies into rounds. You can cut conventional squares or rectangles; but if you do cut them in circles or other shapes (use a cookie cutter), the odd-shaped leftover pieces are great with ice cream. You can keep them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.

    RECIPE: PEANUT BUTTER CREAM

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch salt
  •  

    Peanut butter- and chocolate filled brownie sandwiches. Photo courtesy Earl Of Sandwich.

     
    Preparation

    1. CREAM the peanut butter and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on high speed.

    2. SWITCH to low speed and add the sugar and a pinch of salt until combined. Return to high speed and beat the mixture until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Betty Crocker Suddenly Grain Salad

    Betty Crocker Suddenly Grain Salad

    One of the three varieties of Suddenly Grain
    Salad. Photo courtesy Betty Crocker.

     

    If America isn’t eating enough whole grains, can Betty Crocker help?

    Hopefully, the company’s new and not-yet-mainstream boxed grain salads will do the trick.

    Following the trend of restaurants to whole grain salads—on the advice of healthcare professionals and the government to consume more whole grains—the food giant has introduced Suddenly Grain Salad, a line extension of their Suddenly Salad pasta salad line.

    Each box contains a mix of grains, seasonings and other ingredients such as dried fruits and nuts. It is easy to make, and mess free. You simply boil the grain packets for 17 minutes, then mix with the seasonings and a bit of water and olive oil.

    Then, enjoy the salad warm, room temperature or chilled; as a side dish or as a base for grilled chicken or fish. You’ve got a delicious and nutritionist-approved meal.

    The grain salads are delicious as is, but you can also add raw or cooked vegetables to amp up the salad: bell peppers, carrots, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, etc.

     

    The Suddenly Grain Salad line debuts with three flavorful varieties:

  • Harvest Grains: brown, wild and red rice and quinoa, with cranberries and almonds, and a blush vinaigrette.
  • Southwest Grains: brown rice, quinoa, black beans, corn and red peppers with a chipotle vinaigrette.
  • Tuscan Grains: brown rice, quinoa, wheat berries, almonds and a tomato parmesan herb dressing.
  •  
    We were particularly enamored of Harvest grains and Tuscan Grains—which is not to disparage Southwest Grains; we just liked the flavors of the other two better.

    If you have trouble finding them, ask your grocer or look online. After receiving initial samples from Betty Crocker, we reordered them on Amazon.com:

  • Harvest Grains
  • Southwest Grains
  • Tuscan Grains
  •  
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Non-Cocktail Ways To Use Tequila

    We found ourselves with a wealth of tequila on hand—lots of opened bottles that we tasted for one review or another, but never got back to. So we decided to use the tequila in cooking. Here’s what else to do with tequila.

  • Cake: Replace up to 1/4 cup liquid in a cake recipe with tequila, or add some to the frosting.
  • Compound butter: For corn or other vegetables, mix chili powder, lime juice and tequila into softened butter and return the butter to the fridge.
  • Fondue: Replace the Kirsch with tequila in cheese or chocolate fondue.
  • Fruit salad: Make a simple syrup by bringing to a boil 1 cup sugar, 3/4 cup water, 1/2 cup tequila to a boil (optionally add 1/4 cup triple sec). Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Let cool. Toss with fresh fruit salad and refrigerate for an hour or longer (the syrup can be made in advance).
  • Fruit topping: Add to sautéed fruit to create a delicious topping for ice cream or pound cake; or serve as a compote.
  • Granita or sorbet: Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of tequila to the recipe. Don’t add too much: Alcohol doesn’t freeze, so you could end up with a slushie.
  • Glaze: Add 1/2 cup tequila to 2 cups jelly for a ham glaze or other meat glave.
  •    

    partida-chocolate-cake-230jpg

    Add some tequila to your favorite cake recipe. Photo courtesy Partida Tequila.

  • Gravlax: Sprinkle the salmon with tequila after salting but before wrapping and weighting down.
  • Jell-O: For a more tame version of Jell-O shots, add tequila to the cold water when setting flavored gelatin.
  • Marinade: Make a mix of half lime juice, half tequila to marinate chicken, shrimp or other seafood (or choose another proportion).
  • Pasta sauce: As with vodka sauce, add a tablespoon or more to red or white sauce.
  • Salsa: Add a tablespoon of tequila.
  • Sauce for meat or seafood: Deglaze the pan with tequila instead of wine (here’s how).
  • Seafood marinade: 1 clove garlic, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup tequila, 1/8 cup soy sauce, 1/8 cup fresh lime juice.
  • Soups, stews, chili: Add two shots to the pot, or drizzle a teaspoon over individual bowls.
  •  

    tequila-cheesecake-olgacooks-230

    There’s tequila in both the cheesecake and
    the topping. Photo courtesy Olga Valentina |
    Olga Cooks.

     

    RECIPE: TEQUILA CHEESECAKE

    Olga Valentina of Olga Cooks created a wonderful Partida Tequila Cheesecake. Here’s a step-by-step photo display of the recipe.

    Ingredients

    For The Cheesecake

  • 2 tablespoons of blanco (silver) tequila
  • 2.5 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1.5 cups cream cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup of sage honey (or other herbal or floral honey, but sage imparts a particular flavor)
  •  
    For The Crust

  • 8 ounces oatmeal cookies
  • 2/3 stick of butter
  •  
    For The Topping

  • 5-6 cups fresh strawberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • ½ cup of blanco (silver) tequila
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the topping: Hull, core and slice the strawberries, add to a mixing bowl and sprinkle with the sugar. Pour the tequila and lime juice over the berries, mixing well so that the berries are evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight.

    2. MAKE the crust: Preheat the oven to 340°F. Blend the butter and oatmeal cookies by pulsing together in a food processor. Press the mixture into a 10″ springform pan, ensuring that the bottom is evenly covered. Bake for 10 minutes.

    3. MAKE cheesecake batter: Using an electric mixer, blend together the ricotta, cream cheese, honey, sugar and tequila. Zest the lime into the bowl, then squeeze in the lime juice. Mix well.

    4. ADD the eggs to the batter one at a time, using an electric mixer.

    5. POUR the batter into the crust. Surround the pan with aluminum foil and place it onto a ridged baking sheet*. Fill the baking sheet with an inch of water to make a bain marie. The water provides moisture that keeps the top of the cheesecake from cracking; the foil keeps the water out of the springform pan.

    6. BAKE for an hour at 340°F, or until the top of the cheesecake is golden brown. Cool on a rack, then chill the cheesecake in the fridge for 3 hours or ideally, overnight.

    7. TOP with the tequila-infused strawberries and serve.

     
    *Some professionals prefer ridged baking sheets for more even cooking, but you can certainly use a standard baking sheet.
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cauliflower Salad & Romesco Sauce

    Victoria Amory is a cook and food writer born and raised in Spain. She now lives in the U.S., and has her own line of specialty sauces.

    One of the signature sauces from the Catalonia region of Spain is romesco. Learn more about it below.

    Victoria’s sells an Almond & Garlic Romesco Sauce, but you can make your own from scratch, using almonds, other nuts, or a blend.

    Crafted with red chile peppers, pimentón (paprika), nuts and extra virgin olive oil, romesco is a perfect sauce to use with meats, roasted vegetables, shellfish and fish. “It elevates your everyday meals to everyday feasts,” says Chef Victoria.

    If you have leftover sauce, it is delicious as a dip or bread spread.

    For an everyday feast, try her Cauliflower And Bacon Salad With Romesco Sauce.

    RECIPE: WARM CAULIFLOWER & BACON SALAD WITH
    ROMESCO SAUCE

    Ingredients

       

    multicolored-cauliflower-nourishtheroots-230

    Colored cauliflower makes the dish more exciting. Photo courtesy NourishTheRoots.com.

  • 1 head cauliflower, trimmed and chopped into florets
  • ½ pound bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 3 large slices country white or wheat bread, torn into pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 can (8 ounces) garbanzo beans, canned, rinsed
  • ¼ pound baby spinach leaves, rinsed & dried
  • 1 cup romesco sauce, to serve
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. In a bowl, toss together the cauliflower, bacon, olive oil and vinegar. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

    2. TOSS the bread with the garlic and extra virgin olive oil and add the cauliflower. Roast for an additional 10 minutes or until the bread is toasted and the cauliflower is golden.

    3. MIX the cauliflower with the chickpeas and toss with the spinach leaves. Add a drizzle of olive oil if needed. Serve warm with romesco sauce on the side.

     

    romesco-dip-Aida-Mollenkamp-230

    Romesco sauce and dip. Photo courtesy Aida
    Mollenkamp.

     

    RECIPE: ROMESCO SAUCE & DIP

    As with most recipes, there is considerable variation in the proportion of ingredients. This version is adapted from chef Aida Mollenkamp.

    Ingredients

  • 1 jar (15 ounces) roasted bell peppers (pimento)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 6 ounces blanched almonds (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Optional heat: 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

    2. SERVE with crudites, crusty sliced bread or your favorite crackers.

     

    WHAT IS ROMESCO SAUCE?

    First, it isn’t romanesco sauce. There is no romanesco sauce. Romanesco is a language; the sauce is romesco.

    Romesco is a pungent, smooth, rich red sauce made from red peppers, tomatoes, ground almonds or other nuts, olive oil, garlic, and cayenne pepper. It originated in Tarragona, a port city on the Mediterranean Sea in the province of Catalonia in northeast Spain. Though the exact origin is unclear (as is the meaning of the name), it is believed that the local fishermen made it to eat with their catch.

    It has become a popular sauce beyond seafood, enjoyed with meat, poultry and vegetables as well as for a dip and a bread spread.

    The nuts can be any mixture of roasted or raw almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts or walnuts, plus roasted garlic, olive oil, mild bitxo chiles (red chiles similar to Anaheim/New Mexico chiles) and/or nyora peppers (a sun dried, small, round variety of red bell pepper).

    Flour or ground stale bread is sometimes used as a thickener or to provide texture. Other common ingredients employed in different recipe variations include roasted tomatoes, red wine vinegar and onions. Leaves of fennel or mint are added when the sauce is served with fish and other seafood.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Better For You Snacks

    A few years ago, one of our Top Picks Of The Week was a product line called Laura’s Wholesome Junk Food.

    It was developed by an M.D. who treated people with illnesses caused by bad nutrition, and it engendered The Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook: More Than 100 Healthy Recipes for Everyday Snacking.

    Dr. Laura Trice showed how easy it is to make snacks and sweets that are satisfying yet nutritious (you can find the cookies online).

    If you’re looking for better-for-you snacks that don’t deprive you of a cookie fix, head to natural food stores or make your own.

    These tasty sweets in the recipe below look like truffles, but they’re protein-packed treats made from peanut butter and whey extract, plus whole grain rolled oats. Even the sweetener, maple syrup, is better for you.

    The resemblance to candy is purely intentional. The recipe is courtesy of Crofter’s, maker of organic jams and fruit spreads.

       

    protein-bites-croftersorganic-230

    Make a batch—they’re good for you! Photo courtesy Crofter’s.

     

    RECIPE: SWEET TREAT PROTEIN BITES

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup raspberry fruit spread
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup whey protein powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant oats)
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • Optional toppings: shredded coconut, sesame seeds, vanilla protein powder
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    wholesome-junk-food-cookbook-230

    Want better snacks all the time? Get this
    cookbook! Photo courtesy Running Press.

     

    Preparation

    1. MELT peanut butter, maple syrup, butter, vanilla and fruit spread in a pan over medium heat; stir to combine thoroughly.

    2. REMOVE from heat and add oats, cocoa powder, protein powder, salt and chocolate chips. Stir until chips have melted and ingredients are thoroughly combined.

    3. Form into balls and roll in topping(s) of choice. Chill in the fridge to firm before serving.
     
    It’s that easy!
     
     
    MORE HEALTHY SWEET TREATS

    For more treats like these, get a copy of The Wholeseome Junk Food Cookbook by Laura Trice, M.D. You’d be surprised at how many delicious treats are good for you!

    We also like the book as a gift for teens and tweens who want to learn to cook. Start them off making treats for themselves and their friends. You may inspire a future “Dr. Laura” in the process.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP: Check The Sugar Grams

    It’s National Breakfast Month and we have a “public service announcement” on healthy breakfasts. You’ve heard it before, but if you’re not convinced that you’re eating the best breakfast you can, read on.

    More than 100 studies have linked eating breakfast with a reduced risk of obesity (and other health benefits, including diabetes and heart disease) and a mental edge—enhanced memory, attention, the speed of processing information, reasoning, creativity, learning, and verbal abilities.

    Just be sure that you don’t blow your entire daily quota of added sugar on breakfast (more about this in a minute).

    Healthcare professionals recommend a breakfast that combines good carbs and fiber with some protein. On the list:

  • Cottage cheese: Enjoy it plain (try some cinnamon or cracked pepper), with fruit, yogurt, or as a bread spread.
  • Eggs: A good source of protein, research has shown that the cholesterol in the yolks has less of an impact on blood cholesterol than previously thought. You can buy peeled, hard-boiled eggs for grab-and-go, or make your own. We poach eggs in the microwave in under a minute (the technique is below).
  • Cold cereal: Bran or whole-grain cereals (such as shredded wheat) are your best bet. Look for a product with less than 5 grams of sugar and at least 5 grams of fiber.
  • Fruit: Add bananas, berries, dried fruit, grapefruit, melon or other favorite. Enjoy it with cottage cheese and/or plain yogurt.
  •    

    oatmeal-fruit-beauty-zulka-230

    Don’t buy pre-sweetened cereals. Add your own sugar, honey or noncaloric sweetener, so you can control the amount. Photo courtesy Zulka.

  • Greek yogurt: It has nearly twice as much protein as regular yogurt. Instead of sugar-laden flavors, add fruit and a light sprinkling of sugar, honey or noncaloric sweetener to plain, nonfat yogurt.
  • Oatmeal: Ideally, make steel-cut oats, which contain more fiber than rolled or instant oats. They take longer, but you can prepare a large batch and reheat individual portions each morning. Any type of oatmeal except the flavored ones is a better-for-you choice. Avoid flavored varieties, which are packed with sugar. Instead, sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar or a bit of honey on plain oatmeal, and add fruit for natural sweetness (plus nuts for added protein).
  • Peanut Butter or almond butter: These are excellent sources of protein. Spread them on whole grain bread.
  • Spreads: Butter and jam just add empty fat and calories. If you need a bread spread, consider almond butter, peanut butter, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt.
  • Whole grain bread: This is an easy switch. Whole grains products—in bagels, bread, crackers, English muffins, whatever—contain more fiber and nutrients than refined, white flour products.
  •  

    Healthful add ons:

  • Sprinkle your cereal, cottage cheese or yogurt with wheat germ or ground flaxseed.
  • Add a banana—a healthful carbohydrate that keeps you feeling fuller longer.
  •  

    granulated-sugar-beauty-zulka-230

    Too much sugar is hidden in processed foods.
    Read the nutrition label! Photo courtesy
    Zulka.

     

    SUGAR GUIDELINES

    Many people don’t realize how much sugar is hidden in processed foods. The nutrition labels can be eye opening. A can of soda may contain up to 10 teaspoons or 40 grams of sugar—more than your entire daily recommended discretionary sugar intake! A tablespoon of ketchup has 1 teaspoon of sugar.

    “Sugar” includes all caloric sweeteners: brown sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, molasses, syrup, table sugar, etc. (here are the different types of sugar).

    The American Heart Association, the World Health Organization and other bodies recommend limiting sugar intake to no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance:

  • Women: no more than 100 calories per day—about 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams
  • Men: no more than 150 calories per day—about 9 teaspoons, or 36 grams
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    The shocker: You can ingest that amount of sugar in one bowl of sweetened breakfast cereal!

     
    These guidelines are from Consumer Reports, which profiles healthy breakfast foods in its October issue.

    What To Look For In A Cereal

  • Few ingredients
  • 5 grams or more of fiber
  • No more than 3 grams of fat
  • No more than 8 grams of sugar
  • No more than 140 milligrams of sodium
  •  
    What To Look For In A Yogurt

  • 20 grams or less of sugar per serving
  • Those that supply at least 15 percent of the daily value of calcium
  • If fat intake is a concern, low- or nonfat product when possible
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    HOW TO MAKE POACHED EGGS IN THE MICROWAVE

    You can use a microwave egg poacher or simply a bowl of water:

  • Fill a 1-cup microwaveable bowl or teacup with 1/2 cup water. Add the cracked egg.
  • Cover with a saucer and microwave on high for about 1 minute, or until the white is set but the yolk is still runny.
  • Remove with a slotted spoon.
  •   

    Comments

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