THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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TIP OF THE DAY: Classico Riserva Pasta Sauces

Having grown up with a mom whose acclaimed pasta sauce set a bar, we never liked supermarket sauces, even in our less-picky, less flush college days.

As we grew into long work days and a paycheck, we treated ourselves to Sauces ’n Love, its shelf-stable Scarpetta line, and other high-end brands.

All have the same thing in common: top-of-the-line tomatoes, which means that no sugar needs to be added to sweeten dull tomatoes (the corollary problem being that the typical popular brand adds more than a pinch of sugar).

When we don’t have time to make their own—or when tomatoes are not in season, which is most of the year—we often pick up a bottle of Riserva from Classico, a brand owned by Heinz.

The Classico brand’s pasta and pizza sauces, pesto and bruschetta are familiar to many consumers.

The Riserva line’s vine-ripened tomatoes mean that there’s no sugar added. That’s our kind of sauce (and given all the hidden sugar in purchased foods, it’s not easy to find popularly-priced sugar-free tomato sauces).

A 24-ounce jar is $4.72 with free shipping at Walmart (for orders of $50 or more—you don’t even have to schlep it!).

Varieties include:

  • Arrabbiata Sauce
  • Eggplant Artichoke Sauce
  • Marinara Sauce
  • Puttanesca Sauce
  • Roasted Garlic Sauce
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    You can find Classico Riserva at retailers nationwide including club stores, and at e-tailers such as Amazon.

    (We were quite surprised at some unhappy Amazon reviews, e.g. “Heinz should stick to ketchup.” At this price, we can’t find anything better—rich tomato flavor, thick and chunky).

    So, what’s for dinner:

  • Chicken or eggplant parm (with marinara sauce)?
  • Eggplant artichoke pizza?
  • Penne all’arrabbiata?
  • Spaghetti with puttanesca sauce?
  • Anything in creamy roasted garlic sauce?
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    Classico Riserva Marinara Sauce

    Classico Riserva Eggplant Artichoke Sauce

    Classico Riserva sauces are thick, chunky, delicious and made from quality ingredients. [1] Marinara Sauce (photo courtesy Classico). [2] Eggplant Artichoke Sauce at Cravings Of A Lunatic. Here’s how Kim uses it.

     
    For a creamy sauce, just mix Greek yogurt, ricotta or sour cream into the tomato sauce. Don’t boil or the dairy may curdle, unless it’s crème fraîche.)

    We’re hungry already!

    TIP FOR THE VEGETABLE RESISTANT

    Cook veggies to al dente and place in a heat-proof dish. Cover with pasta sauce and mozzarella and heat in the oven, under the broiler or in the microwave until the cheese is melted.

    Garnish with any fresh herbs at hand, or a sprinkle of oregano or thyme. For the truly veggie-averse, serve with grated parmesan.

    Yum.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Banza Chickpea Pasta

    Banza Penne Bolognese

    Mac and Cheese

    Banza Rotini

    Enjoy your favorite pasta dishes with more protein and fiber, fewer carbs, and no gluten! [1] Penne Bolognese. [2] Mac and Cheese. [3] A box of rotini, one of five Banza pasta shapes (all photos courtesy Banza).

     

    Toward the end of 2016, we went on a gluten-free pasta-thon, tasting every type of GF pasta we could find.

    We love rice noodles: gluten free, but they don’t complement European pasta sauces and other noodle dishes.

    So we tried pasta made from brown rice, brown rice-kale blends, corn, farro, lentils, soybeans, even quinoa. (We found the last, which we like as an earthy grain, undesirable as pasta.)

    The winner by far: chickpea pasta, which looks, cooks, and tastes like regular pasta.

    Yes, the same lovely legume that gives us hummus makes the best pasta!

    The pasta has a slight chickpea flavor if you eat it plain; but covered with sauce, cheese and perhaps meatballs, sausage or anchovies (or sausage and anchovies, for surf and turf), most people aren’t likely to notice a difference.

    Bonus: Chickpea pasta has double the protein, four times the fiber and almost half the net carbs.

    Interestingly, Banza was not developed because the founder sought a GF pasta, but because he wanted more nutrition from pasta, one of his favorite foods.

    He achieved just that: The nutrient-dense pasta boasts 25 grams of protein, 13 grams of fiber and just and C43 grams of carbs in each serving.

    It has been embraced by athletes and vegans looking for more protein in their diets, by the gluten-sensitivite community, by parents trying to sneak more “good stuff” into the family’s diet via their favorite carbs.

    The line includes:

  • Elbows
  • Mac And Cheese: Classic Cheddar, White Cheddar, Deluxe Rich & Creamy
  • Rotini
  • Penne Rigate
  • Shells
  • Spaghetti
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    There are delicious recipes on the brand’s blog. You can buy the pasta on the website, or at some 5,000 retailers and etailers nationwide.

    Even if you aren’t looking for gluten-free pasta, how about some high-nutrition pasta—for hot dishes, cold pasta salads, even a sweet noodle pudding, made with elbows, ricotta and raisins?

    The brand is certified kosher by OU.

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Tofu Sandwiches

    What’s trending in sandwiches?

    According to Technomic, a food industry research and consulting firm, it’s tofu.

    The company’s MenuMonitor tracks more than 7,000 commercial and noncommercial menus to identify new ideas, including new menus, seasonal promotions and limited-time offers. The next trending sandwich protein, they say, will be…tofu!

    Chicken and bacon are, by far, the most popular “hot” proteins on sandwiches, the company says. But tofu is on the rise due to growing consumer desires for:

  • Healthy eating
  • Sustainable eating
  • Vegan foods
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    So don’t be surprised to find tofu on the sandwich and burger menus of mainstream venues.

    Why not try it in your own kitchen?

    Chop tofu into “egg” salad; grill or pan-fry it to replace sandwich meats or burger patties.

    For starters, here’s a tofu burger recipe from tofu specialist House Foods. They also sent us recipes for:

  • Eggless Egg Salad Sandwich
  • Tofu Banh Mi Sandwich
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    RECIPE: TOFU SLIDERS OR BURGERS

    Ingredients For 8 Sliders Or 4 Burgers

  • 1 package firm or extra firm tofu, drained
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herb seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons soy oil
  • 8 small slices mozzarella cheese
  • 8 slider buns or small dinner rolls or 4 burger buns, split and toasted
  • 16 fresh basil leaves or 8 small lettuce leaves
  • 8 slices plum tomato
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    For The Pesto Mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
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    Preparation

    1. MAKE the pesto mayonnaise. Stir all ingredients for in a small bowl; refrigerate until ready to use.

    2. QUARTER the block of tofu into 4 equal pieces. Slice each quarter horizontally into 2 thin pieces.

    3. BEAT the eggs with the mustard in shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. In a third bowl, combine the flour and herb seasoning.

    4. HEAT the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Dip the tofu in the flour mixture, then the egg mixture, then the bread crumb mixture. Add to the skillet and cook 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Top with the mozzarella slices after turning the slices.

    5. SPREAD the sides of the buns with the mayonnaise; place the tofu slices on the bottom halves, topping with basil and tomato slices.

    TIPS

  • BUY premium quality tofu. If you care about non-GMO foods—93% of soy is genetically modified—rely on a brand like House Foods, which uses only non-genetically modified soybeans grown in the USA and is Non-GMO Project verified.
  • STORE leftover tofu in a water-filled, airtight container in the fridge. It can keep for two to three days, but change the water every day or two.
  • FREEZE excess tofu in its original container or a freezer bag. To thaw, just leave it out on the counter for a few hours (don’t microwave it). Defrosted tofu’s texture becomes more spongy, great to soak up marinade sauces and great for the grill.
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    Tofu Banh Mi

    Eggless Egg Salad

    Tofu Sliders

    Tofu Pizza "Burger"

    House Foods Extra Firm Tofu

    [1] Tofu banh mi sandiwich (here’s the recipe from Cooking Light). [2] Eggless egg salad, substituting tofu (here’s the recipe from House Foods). Make tofu sliders or burgers, garnished anyway you like: [3] with pesto mayonnaise and fresh basil, or [4] pizza-burger style, with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. [5] House Foods Extra-Firm Tofu.

    MORE TOFU RECIPES

  • Tofu Bean Chili
  • Tofu Caprese Salad
  • Tofu Chocolate Mousse
  • Tofu Fries
  • Tofu Fritters
  • Tofu Salad Dressing
  • Tofu Scramble
  • Tofu Tomato Skewers
  • More Ways To Use Tofu
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    Tofu Blocks

    Tofu Breakfast Scramble

    Tofu Chocolate Pudding

    [6] Tofu blocks (photo courtesy Hodo Soy Beanery). [6] Tofu breakfast scramble (here’s the recipe from Oh My Veggies). [7] Tofu chocolate pudding, or budino in Italian (here’s the recipe from House Foods).

     

    WHAT IS TOFU

    Tofu is made from curding soy milk, much in the same way cheese is made from dairy milk.

    First, soybeans are ground with water and heated. The soy milk is separated from the solids (analogous to milk curds), the hot soy milk is stirred and a coagulant (a natural firming agent, analogous to rennet) is added.

    The curds that form are poured into a forming box (a mold) and the whey is pressed out. The pressing action forms the curd into a solid block of tofu, which is also known as bean curd.

    Here’s more about tofu, including the history of tofu.
     
    TOFU HEALTH BENEFITS

    Nutritionists, physicians and other healthcare providers want you to eat more tofu.

    Tofu offers a variety of health benefits. It’s low calorie, cholesterol-free and an excellent source of high-quality protein, iron and calcium.

    Soy foods in general are associated with decreased risk of cancer. A comprehensive analysis of 28 previously published studies on Chinese adults shows that intake of soy foods in the form of tofu (and soy miso) does a better job of reducing risk of stomach cancer than soy in general.

  • In the U.S., a study released in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism last spring that showed soy might counter the harmful effects of bisphenol A (BPA), and that diets high in soy may improve women’s fertility.
  • More and more experts point to recent studies that demonstrate its benefits, such as lower risk of breast cancer and reduced levels of inflammation.
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    It’s still January, the window for new year’s resolutions is still open. Why not turn Meatless Mondays into Tofu Tuesdays?

    Take a look at these tofu cookbooks:

  • The Guide to Cooking Tofu: The Ultimate Tofu Cookbook That You Will Ever Need
  • This Can’t Be Tofu: 75 Recipes to Cook Something You Never Thought You Would–and Love Every Bite
  • Giant Book Of Tofu Cooking: 350 Delicious & Healthful Recipes
  • Tofu Recipes: The Ultimate Tofu Cookbook With Over 30 Delicious And Amazing Tofu Recipes
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Tom Kha Gai Soup

    Our neighborhood Thai restaurant closed on December 31st, victim to a(nother) heartless New York City landlord.

    It left us without our weekly supply of tom kha gai—and at the start of National Soup Month, no less.

    Tom kha gai, literally “chicken galangal soup,” is a spicy and sour hot chicken soup with coconut milk.

    In Thailand, most tom kha gai/kai recipes include coconut milk, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, Thai chili peppers, cilantro (dill weed in Laotian versions), straw mushrooms (or shiitake or other mushrooms), chicken, fish sauce and lime juice.

    Fried chiles are sometimes added, for a smoky flavor as well as texture, color, and heat—just a touch so they don’t overwhelm the other flavors.

    Other versions substitute seafood, pork or tofu for the chicken. We adapted this recipe from the Long Grain restaurant in Camden, Maine.

    The soup is very easy to make. The challenge for people who don’t live near Asian markets is to find some of the ingredients. We’ve suggested substitutes.

    Don’t want to chase after ingredients? Don’t like ginger or lemongrass? Try this recipe for Spicy Sea Bass Chowder With Coconut Milk.

    RECIPE: TOM KHA GAI, THAI CHICKEN & COCONUT MILK SOUP

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 1” piece ginger root, peeled
  • 10 kaffir lime leaves (substitute 1 tablespoon lime zest and ¼ cup lime juice)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1½ pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1” pieces
  • 8 ounces shiitake, oyster, or maitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce* (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 1 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, tough outer layers removed (substitutes†)
  • Garnishes: sliced chiles or chili oil, chopped cilantro, lime wedges
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    Preparation

    1. LIGHTLY SMASH the lemongrass and ginger with the back of a knife. Cut the lemongrass into 4” pieces. Bring the lemongrass, ginger, lime leaves and broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer until flavors are melded, 8–10 minutes. Strain the broth into clean saucepan; discard solids.

    2. ADD the chicken and return to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the mushrooms, and simmer, skimming occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and mushrooms are soft, 20–25 minutes. Mix in the coconut milk, fish sauce, and sugar.

     

    Tom Kha Gai Soup

    Tom Kha Gai Soup

    Lemongrass

    Tom kha gai, Thai coconut soup. [1] Photo by Evan Joshua Swigart | Wikimedia. [2] A more elegant presentation from DC Cuisine. [3] Lemongrass: top, with the outer leaves, which are removed (center).Photo courtesy Keirsten’s Kitchen.

     
    3. DIVIDE the soup among bowls. Garnish with cilantro; serve with chili oil and lime wedges.

    MORE FOR NATIONAL SOUP DAY

  • Different Types Of Soup: A Soup Glossary
  • The Different Styles Of Soup: Bisque, Broth, Chowder, Consommé, etc.
  • Soup Garnishes
  • Drizzled Soup Garnishes
  • Start A Soup Club
  • Soup In A Tea Cup
  • How To Finish Soups In A Blender
  • How To Puree Soup With An Immersion Blender
  • The History Of Soup
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    ________________
    *Your supermarket probably carries the Thai Kitchen brand. It’s inexpensive and functional; but if you’ll be using fish sauce frequently, spring for one of the better brands from Thailand or Vietnam.

    †There is nothing like fresh lemongrass. Trim the outer leaves and the bottom (see photo above) and use the first six inches of the base. You can buy fresh lemongrass online and you may find frozen lemongrass locally, which is almost as good. Dried lemongrass is as pale a substitute as dried basil, parsley and other herbs. You can steep any leftover lemongrass, including the trimmed tops, into a delicious herbal tea. To substitute: Zest from 1 lemon = 2 stalks lemongrass. You can also use fresh lemon verbena, lemon balm or lemon leaves.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Nona Lim Soups

    Nona Lim Thai Curry Soup Cup

    Nona Lim Carrot Ginger Soup

    Nona Lim Noodle Bowl

    Pho Ingredients

    Nona Lim Green Curry

    Nona Lim Green Curry

    [1] One of the grab-and-go soup cups, in five flavors. [2] Soup pouches, in 10 flavors. [3] Combine one of six varieties of noodles with a broth for a delicious noodle bowl. [4] Add pho ingredients to pho broth. [5] Enjoy Thai Green Curry plain, or [6] loaded with fresh veggies, proteins and/or grains of choice. Photos courtesy Nona Lim.

     

    January is National Soup Month, a hot repast for colder weather.

    The category of grab-and-go soups have grown and grown, first thanks to chains like Hale and Hearty following deli take-out, followed by fresh packaged brands in store refrigerator cases.

    Boulder Organic and Healthy Choice are two of the larger brands. They are typically regional or store brands. For example, Fresh Direct carries Ladle Of Love and Splendid Spoon. Whole Foods in New York City sells their own brand plus a small selection of others, including today’s tip, Nona Lim.

    NONA LIM: DEVELOPED FOR ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
    DELICIOUS FARE FOR THE REST OF US

    Nona Lim soups were developed in Oakland, California, by a former professional athlete who constantly sought natural ways to gain a competitive advantage. She discovered the power of the right foods as “functional medicine.”

    She observed how inflammatory foods would hurt her performance, and found that her body and brain would only function at peak performance—or recover faster— when fueled with whole, clean foods.

    Nona went to the drawing board and created a healing, nutrient-dense, non-inflammatory meal program made with fresh, plant-rich, whole food ingredients and clean preparations made from scratch. Word spread, and the brand took off.

    The variety of prepared meals and soups, broths and noodles are infused with the Asian flavors of Singapore, where Nona spent her childhood. The products are dairy free, mostly gluten free (some noodles are wheat-based), and in Nona’s words, “100% crap-free.”

    You can customize any of the soups and broths with your favorite meats, seafood, and vegetables. Products include:

  • Soups
  • Broths
  • Soup Cups
  • Rice Noodles
  • Ramen Noodles
  • Seasonal Specials
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    SOUP CUPS

    We love these soup cups: light and delicious soups and broths in convenient 10-ounce “heat-and-sip” cup. Just pop it in the microwave (the soups are also tasty chilled).

    They’re low in calories, so also work as a light snack; and certainly, a more nutritious alternative to a mocha latte.

    The cup and lid can actually be re-used for refills or anything else you want to carry and sip. We’re avid re-cyclers, and we love it!

    Flavors include:

  • Carrot Ginger Soup Cup
  • Miso Broth Soup Cup
  • Thai Curry & Lime Bone Broth Soup Cup
  • Tomato Thai Basil Soup Cup
  • Vietnamese Pho Bone Broth
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    SOUP POUCHES

    Multi-portion soup pouches include:

  • All Bean Chili
  • Asian Lemongrass Soup
  • Carrot Ginger Soup
  • Celery Root Soup
  • Kale & Potato Soup
  • Red Lentil Veggie Soup
  • Spicy Rice Soup
  • Thai Green Curry
  • Tomato Thai Basil Sou
  • Zucchini Soup
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    For a lighter touch, we like the:

    BROTH POUCHES

  • Miso Ramen Broth
  • Spicy Szechuan Bone Broth
  • Thai Curry & Lime Bone Broth
  • Vietnamese Pho Bone Broth
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    You can enjoy them as is; but they’re so easy to customize with whatever vegetables, meat, seafood, tofu, or grains you like. Our secret: Toss in all the leftovers.

    Here’s a store locator.

    The products can be purchased online. Consider gifting them to your favorite athletes, dieters, and anyone down with the flu.

    Discover more at NonaLim.com.

     

     
      

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