THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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PRODUCT: Grow Your Own Tea

If you live in hardiness zones 8-10—the southern United States—and have a spot with full sun, you can grow your own tea with plants from Burpee.

One individual commenting on the Burpee website had success in Zone 6.

Here’s the USDA map of hardiness zones.

Tea, Camellia sinensis, is a perennial plant. The same plant yields black, green and white tea. The difference is in the processing; basically, how much heat is applied to dry the leaves.

At $16.95 per plant, it’s a fun opportunity to grow what you drink; and if you have younger children, a nifty project.

You harvest and dry the tea leaves in a wok or pan.

Buy the plants now and harvest them in the fall. Send some as gifts to tea-loving friends with green thumbs. Here’s where to order.

Different states have particular shipping restrictions. For example, you can’t ship lemongrass plants to California or Colorado, or potato plants to Florida or Montana.

Check here to see if tea plants can be shipped to your state.
 
 
PREFER HERBAL TEA?

Herbs can be grown anywhere! Read our article on growing herbal tea at home.
 
 
TEA TIME: TIME TO LEARN MORE ABOUT TEA

A Year Of Tea Party Ideas

Black Vs. Green Vs. White Tea

Brewing The Perfect Cup Of Tea

Have An Iced Tea Party

The History Of Tea

Pairing Tea With Food

Tea Glossary: All The Tea Terms You Need To Know

 

Grow Your Own Tea
Grow it.

Cup Of Tea
Drink it.

Cup Of Green Tea

Enjoy it! (Photo #1 courtesy Burpee, photo #2 courtesy Chateau Rouge Fine Foods, photo #3 courtesy Republic Of Tea._

 

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Special Cake Fillings

Naked Cake With Strawberry Filling

Apricot Whipped Cream Cake Filling

Red Velvet Cake Filling

Cake Layers With Different Fillings

[1] A pumpkin naked cake with a filling of whipped cream and fresh raspberries (photo courtesy Driscoll’s Berries. [2] A white chocolate cake filled with whipped cream and chopped dried apricots. Here’s the recipe from Epicurious. [3] Chocolate cake with red velvet cake filling, based on cream cheese. Here’s the recipe from Cook The Story. [4] Three different fillings: key lime, raspberry and blood orange. Here are more from Brides.

 

If you bake layer cakes, even only now and then, from box or from scratch, here’s an easy tip to make yours more special:

Add something fun and tasty to the filling between layers.

FOR MORE CAKE FUN, CHECK OUT ARE CAKE GLOSSARY

TYPES OF CAKE FILLINGS

Common cake fillings include:

  • Buttercream*
  • Cream cheese*
  • Custard
  • Ganache*
  • Jam
  • Lemon or other curd
  • Whipped cream* with liqueur, nut-flavored buttercream or pure whipped cream
  •  
    The asterisked* cake fillings are easier to flavor, with anything, from fruit to Nutella to rum.

    Additionally, each filling can be made more complex complex with the addition of:

  • Citrus zest or peel
  • Dried fruits: berries, coconut, raisins, and others that complement the cake flavors
  • Crushed or sliced nuts
  • Extracts
  • Fresh fruits, diced or sliced
  • Fresh or dried fruits, soaked in liqueurs or spirits
  • Liqueurs or spirits (the difference is below)
  •  
    ADD SOME CANDY TO YOUR FILLING

    You don’t have to be a kid to appreciate a bit of candy in your cake.

  • Candy: M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, Heath Bar or Skor Bits, Red Hots, etc.
  • Chocolate: chips, chunks, curls (dark, milk, white)
  • Cake decorations: confetti, sprinkles, sugar pearls,
  •  
    FILLING, FROSTING, ICING: THE DIFFERENCE

    Filling goes between the layers of a cake. Each layer can have a different filling; for example, one layer of ganache and one layer of custard. The frosting of a cake can be used as the filling as well.

    Frosting is used to cover the top and sides of a cake, and often as a filling between the layers. It is typically made from sugar plus a fat such as butter and/or milk or cream. Frosting is generally flavored with vanilla extract or other flavoring—cocoa powder, coffee, lemon, lime, orange, strawberry, etc. A vanilla frosting can be colored with food coloring, which adds gaiety without additional flavor.

    Icing is technically different from frosting. Icing is made with confectioner’s sugar, also called icing sugar. Most consumers aren’t aware of this technicality, and use the words interchangeably.
     
    LIQUOR & LIQUEUR: THE DIFFERENCE

    Liquors are distilled spirits; that’s why they’re also known as spirits.

    They are made of grains or other plants that are fermented and distilled into high-proof alcoholic beverages. Bourbon, gin, rum, scotch, tequila and vodka are examples.

    The distillation process separates the water from the alcohol, increasing the alcohol content to at least 20%/40 proof. Japanese shochu is an example of this. Western spirits are typically distilled to 40% alcohol/80 proof, although some rums are distilled to a higher proof.

    Liqueurs are sweetened spirits. with with various extracts, oils and other flavors added. Brandy, rum and whiskey are common base spirits for liqueurs.

     
    Liqueur flavors vary widely—from chocolate and coffee to fruit, herb and nut flavors.

  • Cream liqueurs have dairy cream added.
  • Créme liqueurs are different: They refer to a much sweeter likened to a potent syrup, as opposed to the original liquers, made from medicinal fruits, herbs and roots. Think Grand Marnier as opposed to Benedictine.

    The alcohol content of liqueurs ranges from a low of 15%/30 proof to 55%/110 proof.

    Here’s the difference between cordial, eau de vie, liqueur and schnapps.

     
      

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    PRODUCTS: Five More Favorite Foods & Beverages

    Another roundup of some recently discovered “favorites,” in alphabetical order.

    1. BAI BUBBLES

    Bai became a hot brand with its Bai 5 line of five-calorie drinks in great-tasting fruit flavors.

    Now, the brand has a carbonated line, Bai Bubbles: a “sparkling antioxidant infusion” in 11.5-ounce cans.

    We’re not inveterate soda drinkers, but Bai Bubbles achieves a middle ground between unsweetened flavored club soda and sweet diet soda.

    Like the original Bai 5, each can has 5 calories and 1 gram of sugar, with the majority of its sweetness coming from calorie-free stevia, a naturally sweetener.

    Everyone will have his or her favorites in this refreshing line, which has 10 flavors: Apple Pear, Blackberry Lime, Black Cherry, Blood Orange, Coconut Lime, Guava, Limón, Pineapple, Pink Grapefruit and Watermelon Lime.

    Bai Bubbles is available at Walmart and other retailers nationwide. The line is certified kosher by OU.

    Learn more at DrinkBai.com.
     
     
    2. COOKIE CHIPS: CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

    We love Cookie Chips. They’re very thin and crunchy, very tasty, nicely buttery and rather small, so you can have a few without much guilt (5 cookies have 120 calories).

    Flavors include Chocolate Chip, Cinnamon Sugar, Coconut White Chocolate, Dark Chocolate Chip, Original (a buttery sugar cookie), Peanut Butter and Sea Salted Caramel; plus Gluten Free Chocolate Chip and Gluten Free Lemon Sugar.

    They’re available in 6-ounce bags and 1.5-ounce single serve packages. The latter are a good strategy, as we’re tempted to eat half the 6-ounce bag.

    The line is certified kosher by Kosher LA. Discover more at CookieChips.com.
     
     
    3. LANCE SANDWICH CRACKERS: POWER BREAK

    Lance makes dozens of different sandwich crackers, most variations of peanut butter and cheese.

    In a new direction, Lance has just launched Lance Power Break: granola crackers sandwiched with peanut butter or peanut butter and chocolate. They call it “a pumped up snack that gives you energy…

    Power Break is the first sandwich cracker with double-digit protein (12 grams), B vitamins and 13 grams of whole grain to keep you going.”

    We can’t vouch for the science, but they sure taste great. Load up for grab-and-go snacks.

    The line is certified kosher by OU. See more at Lance.com.

       

    Bai Bubbles

    Cookie Chips Chocolate Chip

    Lance Power Break

    New favorites: [1] Bai Bubbles, [2] Cookie Chips and [3] Lance Power Break granola sandwich crackers (photos courtesy their respective manufacturers).

     

    Polar Diet Double Fudge

    Snyders Wholey Cheese

    [4] Polar Beverage’s very chocolatey Double Fudge Diet Soda. [5] Wholey Cheese! gluten-free cheese crackers (photos are courtesy their respective manufacturers).

     

    POLAR BEVERAGES: DOUBLE FUDGE DIET SODA

    One of our readers turned us on to this zero-calorie chocolate fudge soda. Wowsa, is it good!

    We have long enjoyed the delicious flavored seltzers of the brand: The company does a great job with flavors and zero calories.

    But we only recently received the 411 on the diet sodas. We promptly went out and bought a bottle of Double Fudge Diet Soda…and then went out and bought two cases.

  • Drink it straight.
  • Make a diet ice cream soda.
  • Add milk for an egg cream.
  •  
    The line is certified kosher by Diamond K. Find out more at PolarBev.com.
     
     
    SNYDER’S OF HANOVER: WHOLEY CHEESE!

    We’re big fans of Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels: so many styles from traditional to braided, chocolate-dipped, flavored pieces, sourdough and gluten-free.

    The company recently launched round pretzel sandwiches in Brick Oven Style Pizza, Cheddar Cheese and Hummus.

    But our favorite of the new products is Wholey Cheese!: crispy, baked cheese crackers with amusing Swiss cheese-type holes (or should that be wholes?).

    The line is all natural and gluten-free, in three flavors: Mild Cheddar, Smoked Gouda and Swiss & Black Pepper. The company says they have 28% less fat than the leading brand of cheese crackers

    Like the pretzels, Wholey Cheese! crackers are great with a soda or beer, or just by themselves. Try them as salad croutons, too.

    The line is certified kosher by OU. Head to SnydersOfHanover.com to see the entire collection.

    Did You Know: The same company that makes Snyder’s Pretzels also makes Lance Sandwich Crackers, Pop-Secret Popcorn and Kettle Chips: all great brands!

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Chocolate Ice Cubes In Vanilla Milk Or Cocktails

    Today’s tip might be a natural for Valentine’s Day, but we like it even more for the cold drinks of summer.

    These chocolate ice cubes are the brainchild of the Parisian chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin.

    His Summer Chocolate Ice Cubes are simply a chocolate ice cream recipe that gets poured into ice cube trays instead of an ice cream churn. Why didn’t we think of this years ago?

    While M. Hévin’s recipe is for a family-friendly, gourmet chocolate milk drink, you can also use the chocolate ice cubes in cocktails or with liqueurs.

    They keep your drinks cold, as they add chocolate flavor by slowly melting. Use them:

  • In regular drinks: Iced coffee, an egg cream, an ice cream soda, or a simple glass of…regular or chocolate milk.
  • In cocktails: Black Russian/White Russian, Chocolate Martini, Coffee Martini, Grasshopper, etc.
  • With liqueurs: Add to a rocks glass of chocolate, coffee or Irish cream liqueur.
  •  
    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE ICE CUBES & VANILLA MILK

    The recipe makes enough for one ice cube tray: cubes for 6 rocks glasses or 4 highball glasses. While it goes without saying, we’ll say it: Make the ice cubes 6 hours before you plan to use them, or the night before.

    The vanilla milk also needs to chill for several hours. You can make the entire recipe the night before.

    You can also enhance the flavor with chocolate-friendly seasonings: cayenne pepper, cinnamon, instant coffee, nutmeg, etc.

  • Add a teaspoon of spice to the ice cream mix.
  • Mix the spice with coarse/decorating/sanding/sparkling sugar for a sugar rim.
  •  
    Hévin’s recipe starts with his homemade ice cream, which is poured into ice cube trays instead of churned into ice cream.

    We used Lactaid milk so that all of our crowd, including the lactose sensitive, could have them. Lactose-free milk is virtually like regular milk, but the lactose (milk sugar) that is hard for some people to digest has been de-activated. All the Lactaid products (cottage cheese, ice cream, holiday egg nog) are delish!
     
    Ingredients For The Chocolate Ice Cream

  • 6.8 ounces/200ml milk
  • 3.5 tablespoons/50ml water
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Optional: 1 cup of instant coffee (prepared, not granules)
  • 70g of 66% cacao dark chocolate
  •  
    For The Vanilla Milk

  • 2.5 cups/600ml whole milk
  • 1/4 cup/60g sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  •  
    Optional

  • Liqueur of choice
  • Straws for tall glasses
  • Sugar, spiced sugar or cocoa mix rim (use sparkling sugar/decorating sugar
  • Whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CHOP the chocolate finely and place it in a heat-resistant bowl.

    2. COMBINE the milk and water in a saucepan. Add the sugar, cocoa and coffee and mix thoroughly to avoid lumps. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Then…

     

    Chocolate Ice Cubes

    Chocolate Ice Cubes

    Milk With Cocoa Rim

    A tall glass with chocolate ice cubes, and [2] wioth the vanilla milk added (photo courtesy Nordljus). [3] How about a Black or White Russian in this rocks glass (photo courtesy Ellen Fork). [4] Who won’t drink milk with chocolate ice cubes and a cocoa powder rim (photo courtesy Oxmoor House)?

     
    3. REMOVE from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let it melt for 5 minutes; then gently mix with a wooden spoon until it is smooth and creamy. Allow to cool, pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.

    4. MAKE the vanilla milk. Pour the milk into a large saucepan, add the sugar and mix to dissolve.

    5. SCRAPE the vanilla bean and add the beans and pod to the pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and remove from heat. Allow to cool; then refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

    6. TO SERVE: Place the chocolate ice cubes in the glasses (depending on the size of the glasses 3 to 4 ice cubes) then pour over the milk to the cold vanilla.
     
     
    This recipe by Jean-Paul Hévin appeared in the Elle à Table and appeared on Nordljus.com. We can across it on Sandra Kavital | Blogspot. Thanks also to Keiko of Nordljus.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Truffled Scrambled Eggs

    Truffled Scrambled Eggs

    Truffled Scrambled Eggs

    [1] If you have to ask, you can’t afford it: a bounty of white truffle shaved onto scrambled eggs (photo George Guarino | Eataly Chicago. [2] The affordable version (photo courtesy Saveur, along with their recipe to make perfect scrambled eggs).

     

    For the wealthy gourmet, there are truffled scrambled eggs that consist of the richest, butteriest, farm-fresh eggs scrambled and topped with pricey truffle shavings.

    You can pay a supplement of $100, $200 or more, depending on the amount of truffle. After all, for the 2016-2017 winter truffle harvest, white Alba truffles from Italy, considered the zenith of truffles, cost a small fortune:

  • The smallest size were $229.50/ounce, $3,672.00/pound.
  • Large truffles were $2,880 per ounce, $11,520 per pound.
  • Extra-large and colossal were even more!
  •  
    Black Périgord truffles, our personal favorite from France, are a bargain by comparison:

  • Small Périgord truffles were $100/ounce, $1600 per pound, and up.
  • Large Périgord truffles were $805/ounce, $3220 per pound, and up.
  •  
    If you’re drooling at the prospect but lacking in cash, you can feel better because fresh truffles won’t be back until November.

    TRUFFLES FOR REGULAR FOLKS

    We’ve gotten around our challenged purse for years with the following work-arounds. Delicious scrambled eggs can be made with:

  • Truffle butter. You can buy it for less than $12 for a three-ounce tub. It provides the aroma of fresh truffles, and some of the their flavor.
  • Truffle oil. If you don’t want to cook your eggs in butter (but in our opinion, there’s no substitute for butter with scrambled eggs), Urbani white truffle oil is about $30 for 8.4 ounces. Black truffle oil, by comparison, is $18.75 for the same size.
  • Truffle salt. Replace your regular salt with truffle salt. It isn’t a huge impact, but every little bit helps if you’re using the butter or oil. We use Casina Rossa’s Italian Truffled Sea Salt from Italy. It’s $36.75 for 3.4 ounces. That’s a lot, but since you use a pinch at a time, it lasts a long time. You can split the jar with a fellow cook.
  •  
    All prices are from Gourmet Food Store.

    And of course, each of these products has uses beyond scrambled eggs.
     
     
    GOT TRUFFLES?

    If you’ve been saving a jar or can of truffle shavings, it’s time to put them to good use.Another variation of truffled scrambled eggs follows, courtesy of Maille mustard.

    Ideally, you need to infuse the eggs the day before.

     

    RECIPE: TRUFFLED SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH MUSTARD

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 6 jumbo organic eggs
  • 2.5 teaspoons Maille Mustard with Chablis white wine and black truffles
  • 2 teaspoons black truffle shavings
  • 1/2 cup sweet almond oil
  • 2 teaspoons silvered almonds
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 3.5 tablespoon cream
  • Pinch salt
  • ¼ teaspoon espelette chile powder*
  • Bread of choice (we like brioche)
  • ________________

    *Espelette, a.k.a. piment d’Espelette, is from the Basque area of France and Spain. Substitute Aleppo pepper if you can find it: It has the smoky sweetness that epelette brings to the table. Otherwise use cayenne, but the heat and flavor profiles are quite different. Cayenne is much hotter (30,000 to 50,000 SHU) so use less. It is much more neutral in taste, without the smokiness.

    Preparation

    1. BREAK the eggs into a large bowl at least 1 hour in advance, or overnight. Add the truffle shavings and mix gently. Place in the fridge in a tightly sealed container to infuse. The next day…

    2. BEAT the eggs, seasoning them with a pinch of salt and the espelette, add the sweet almond oil and the mustard.

    3. ROAST the almonds in an anti-adhesive frying pan until golden, then chop them. Melt the butter in a casserole dish. Add the eggs and cook slowly with a wooden spatula or spoon, so that the eggs do not stick to the pan. When the eggs are scrambled…

    4. STOP the cooking with the liquid cream and add the slivered almonds.

    5. SLICE the bread into fingers and toast in a non-stick pan with a drizzle of almond oil. Coat slightly with some mustard and sprinkle with black truffle shavings. (Note: We simply made toast, understanding that a short cut means shorter flavor.)

    6. ASSEMBLE in the dishes of choice, with the toasted bread fingers.
     
     
    MORE TRUFFLES

    What Are Truffles

    Types Of Truffles

    D’Artagnan Truffle Butter

     

    Truffled Scrambled Eggs

    Maille Truffle Mustard

    Espelette Pepper

    [3] The dyed black eggshell is dramatic, but we’re happy serving our truffled eggs on a plate, in a ramekin, or for fun, in a champagne coupe (photo courtesy Maille). [4] Maille Chablis Mustard With Truffle (photo courtesy Not Quite Nigella). [5] Espelette pepper from a chile grown in the Basque region (photo courtesy Pepperscale).

     

      

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