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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.

PRODUCT: Moonstruck Chocolate Gifts

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Hand-decorated Bark Bars are works of art. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

 

Moonstruck Chocolates has been pleasing Oregonians since 1995; and thanks to the rise of e-commerce, all of us can get their handcrafted chocolates.

Whether for stocking stuffers or a principal gift, Moonstruck has distinctly different offerings, from the beautiful chocolate bars shown here, the beautiful bonbons below, and everything in-between.

 
STOCKING STUFFERS

Bark Bars

The Bark Chocolate Bars are beauties, at $9.00 apiece:

  • Dark Chocolate, Candied Orange & Hibiscus Bark Bar
  • Dark Chocolate, Strawberry & Basil Bark Bar
  • Dark Chocolate, Raspberry & Fennel Bark Bar
  • Dark Chocolate, Praline Pecan & Ginger Bark Bar
  •  
    Tumbled Chocolates

    Tumbling is the way the centers are enrobed in chocolate. For $5.00 per package, these bites are wonderful stocking stuffers, each more delicious than the next:

  • Milk Chocolate Tumbled Caramelized Hazelnuts
  • Milk Chocolate Tumbled Sea Salt Caramels
  • Dark Chocolate Tumbled Blueberries
  • Dark Chocolate Tumbled Beerberries
  •  

    WHISKEY-INFUSED CHOCOLATES

    We love whiskey-infused chocolates, and Moonstruck has two wonderful collections, exquisitely painted by hand:

    New American Whiskey Flight Bonbons

    The New American Whiskey Flight is a six-piece collection of bonbons: pairs of three whiskey-infused truffles.

  • The Knob Creek Whiskey Truffle features ivory ganache infused with Knob Creek Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Dads will appreciate bold notes of oak, caramel and fruit.
  • The Makers Mark Whiskey Truffle features creamy milk chocolate ganache infused with Makers Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Vanilla, oak and smoke nuances play along the palate.
  • The Woodford Reserve Whiskey Truffle marries Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey with rich dark chocolate ganache. Deep, spicy notes end with a clean finish.
  •  
    Nestled into a custom-designed box with a royal crown motif, the collection is $15.

     

    oregon-distillers-box-230

    Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     
    Oregon Distillers Collection

    Oregon is home to numerous craft distillers, which inspired Moonstruck’s Oregon Distillers Collection. This exciting box of bonbons includes:

  • Bendistillery Crater Lake Pepper Vodka Truffle
  • Bull Run Temperance Trader Bourbon Whiskey Truffle
  • Clear Creek Distillery Oregon Apple Brandy Truffle
  • Clear Creek Distillery Oregon Pear Brandy Truffle
  • House Spirits Distillery Aviation Gin Truffle
  • House Spirits Distillery Coffee Liqueur Truffle
  • House Spirits Distillery Krogstad Aquavit Truffle
  • New Deal Distillery Ginger Liqueur Truffle
  • Oregon Spirit Distillers Wild Card Absinthe Truffle
  • Rogue Ale Dead Guy Whiskey Truffle
  •  
    A 12-piece box is $25.00. The bonbons are approximately 5% alcohol content by weight.

    Both boxes are memorable chocolate experiences.

    There are seasonal treats like Santas and penguins, and many other beauties to discover at MoonstruckChocolate.com.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cream Cheese Christmas Tree Appetizer

    cream-cheese-pepper-jelly-xmastree-indulgy.com-bertha-230

    Deck the appetizer plate with cream cheese and pepper jelly. Photo: Pinterest.

     

    The block of cream cheese topped with pepper jelly takes on a special shape for the holidays.

    We originally thought that this photo was from Bertha at Indulgy.com, but so many people have posted it on Pinterest and elsewhere that the original source is in question. If it’s yours, please let us know so we can link to you.

    RECIPE: CREAM CHEESE CHRISTMAS TREE APPETIZER

    Ingredients

  • 8 ounce block cream cheese
  • Pepper jelly or salsa
  • 1 green onion (scallion)
  • 1 green bell pepper or chile
  • Crackers or tortilla chips
  • Optional garnish: snipped chives or parsley
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT a block of cream cheese on the diagonal. Place on a plate to make a tree shape.

    2. USE a portion of the green onion to create the trunk of the tree.

    3. ADD pepper jelly and a star cut from the pepper. Serve with crackers of choice (or if you use salsa, with tortilla chips).

     
      

    Comments

    STOCKING STUFFER: Sara Snacker Cookies

    If you’re Sara Snacker (legally, Sara Leand), your entrepreneurial journey began in college, where you built and ran a snack company out of your college dorm room, selling cookies and treats across the campus as well as to local merchants.

    Sara now has an an entire cookie company, focusing on the nostalgic flavors of childhood. They’re different, fun and above all else, tasty.

    The all-natural line includes:

  • Chipn’Etzel Original Cookies, made with potato chips & pretzel bits.
  • Chipn’Etzel Dark Chocolate Cookies, with chocolate chips added to the potato chips and pretzels.
  • Hot Chocolate Cookies, baked with rich dark cocoa, chocolate chips and mini marshmallows.
  • Ice Cream Cone Cookies, chocolate and vanilla chips and sugar cone bits.
  • Lemonade Cookies, baked with real lemonade.
  • S’mores Cookies, combining crushed graham crackers, mini marshmallow, and chocolate chips.
  •  

    snacker-230

    Sara Snacker: nostalgic cookie fun for the holidays. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

  • Vanilla Milkshake Cookies, baked to taste like a real vanilla malt.
  •  
    Looking for a fun stocking stuffer? Check out SaraSnacker.com.
     
    We’re especially partial to the new flavors: Hot Chocolate, Ice Cream Cone and S’Mores.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Smoked Salmon Gougères

    gougeres-pancetta-thyme-fontina-gougeres-aidamollenkamp-230r

    Gougères are the perfect hors d’ouevre to
    serve with white wine and sparkling wine.
    Photo and recipe courtesy Chef Aida
    Mollenkamp.

     

    Gougères (goo-ZHAIR) are airy French cheese puffs, savory choux pastry that is mixed with grated cheese and baked into savory bites.

    In France, the cheese is most often a hearty Swiss mountain cheese: Gruyère, Comté or Emmentaler; a hint of nutmeg is added to the recipe. Served warm from the oven, gougères are simple yet elegant hors d’oeuvres—a perfect choice to serve with Champagne, other sparkling wine, or any wine or craft beer.

    This special-occasion recipe comes from Beth and Bob Kennett of Liberty Hill Farm in Vermont.

    Beth’s ancestors began farming in 1641 in Maine; she’s a ninth generation farmer. Bob’s family, the Kennetts, started their farm in 1742 in New Hampshire. Today, their sons, David and Tom, with a new generation of grandchildren following close behind, work with Beth and Bob to continue the honored tradition of family farming.

    If you’re in Vermont, Beth hosts regular farm tours and cooking classes where visitors can follow the milk from the farm to the family and back to the kitchen.

     

    Beth used Cabot Cheddar, butter and cream cheese in this recipe. You can, of course, substitute any of the Swiss mountain cheeses for the Cheddar. The special touch here is integrating smoked salmon, a celebratory food, into the airy cheese puffs.

    If you’re not a smoked salmon fan, the gougères are just as special with crumbled bacon or minced ham. Here’s a recipe for Pancetta, Thyme & Fontina Gougères (photo above).

    Prep time is 40 minutes, cook time is 35 minutes.

    RECIPE: VERMONT CHEDDAR & SALMON GOUGÈRES

    Ingredients For 24 Pieces

    For The Gougères

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) salted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Pinch ground red pepper (cayenne)
  •  

    For The Filling

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 -1 cup finely minced smoked salmon*
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 425°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

    2. COMBINE water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan and heat until butter is melted. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously until mixture breaks away from side of pan and forms smooth ball.

     

    smoked-slamon-cheddar-gougeres-cabot-goboldwithbutter-230r

    Smoked salmon-stuffed gougères. Photo courtesy Cabot Creamery.

     
    3. REMOVE from heat and let rest for two minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, stirring quickly so the egg doesn’t cook, until the dough is firm, smooth and waxy. Add all of cheddar, all but 2 tablespoons of Parmesan, mustard and red pepper, and stir until well blended.

    4. TRANSFER the mixture to a pastry bag fitted with large plain tip. Pipe dough into two dozen small round mounds, evenly separated. Sprinkle tops with remaining Parmesan.

    5. BAKE for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and bake for 20 to 25 minutes longer or until completely golden brown.

    6. MAKE the filling. Beat together the cream cheese, salmon, chives and hot sauce. Stir in sour cream to achieve proper consistency for filling. Stir in red peppers.

    7. MAKE a small slit in side of each gougère. Scrape the filling into a pastry bag or plastic bag with the corner cut off. Squeeze some of filling into each gougère. Plate and serve.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Rich Hot Chocolate With Fewer Calories

    valrhona-hot-chocolate-dolcezzagelato-230

    Just a few sips hit the spot. Photo courtesy Dolcezza Gelato.

     

    The headline is a bit of a tease, because the way to enjoy rich hot chocolate, laden with cream, is to have it in an espresso cup.

    A mug’s worth can be 600 calories or more. If you’re holding a cup with 12 ounces of delicious, high-calorie chocolate, you’ll finish it.

    So take this tip from Dolcezza Gelato in Washington, D.C.: Enjoy two ounces in an espresso cup.
     
    RECIPE: RICH HOT CHOCOLATE RECIPE

    The keys to rich hot chocolate are a rich chocolate bar and cream or half-and-half in addition to the milk. Cocoa powder adds extra chocolatey flavor.

    If you don’t have heavy cream, use light cream, half-and-half or milk with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter.

     
    Thanks to Art Pollard of Amano Chocolate for this recipe.

    Ingredients Per Cup

  • 2 ounces quality chocolate bar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon premium Dutch process cocoa powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk plus
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE 2 to 3 ounces of chocolate in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Chop into the size of chips.

    2. ADD sugar and cocoa powder, as well as a few grains of salt. Cover; process in ten second “bursts” at high speed just until finely ground (a few larger chunks of chocolate are O.K.).

    3. HEAT milk and cream in a small, nonreactive saucepan. Stir frequently with a small whisk, until the mixture is steaming hot.

    4. ADD the chocolate mixture. Whisk in well until dissolved. Serve immediately, preferably garnished with lightly sweetened whipped cream. Yields one large or two more reasonable servings.

     
    MORE LUSCIOUS HOT CHOCOLATE

  • The Best Hot Chocolate & Cocoa Mixes: our reviews.
  • The history of hot chocolate
  • The difference between cocoa and hot chocolate
  •   

    Comments

    STOCKING STUFFER: Brownie Brittle

    What a fun riff on conventional brownies.

    Brownie Brittle was invented by Sheila G. Mains, who liked the crispy, crunchy edges the brownies made in her bakery, decided to make things even crisper.

    She worked on the recipe until she had crispy square—the same rich chocolate taste as the brownies, but wafer-thin with an amazing crunch. They’re brownies turned into cookies.

    Today, Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle snacks are available in:

  • Chocolate Chip Brownie Brittle
  • Mint Chocolate Chip Brownie Brittle
  • Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle
  • Toffee Crunch Brownie Brittle
  •  
    A piece of Brownie Brittle is delicious by itself, with ice cream and with hot and cold beverages. As a stocking stuffer, the richly-hued bags are suited for festivities.

     

    brownie-brittle-mint-chocolate-chip-230

    One of four delicious varieties of Brownie Brittle. Photo courtesy Sheila G’s.

     

    You can punch hole in the top of the bag and add a ribbon.

    You can find Brownie Brittle at retailers nationwide, or at Shop.BrownieBrittle.com.

    Five-ounce bags are $3.99, one-pound bags are $8.99. There are gift boxes, samplers and variety packs.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Bread Wreath

    rolls-wreath-artofcheese2-230

    Turn rolls into a holiday bread wreath. Photo
    courtesy ArtOfCheese.com.

     

    This show-stopping, pull apart bread wreath is served warm from the oven, with a centerpiece of melted Camembert cheese for dipping.

    Serve it with cocktails or as a TV snack. It will impress everyone, and it’s not hard to do. Starting with frozen rolls makes it a snap!

    Prep time is 3 hours (most of the time is for the bread to rise), cook time is 45 minutes. You can substitute a Baby Brie for the Camembert (the difference between Brie and Camembert is largely the size).

    The recipe is courtesy of Président Cheese, which has many ideas of what to do with cheese at its website, ArtOfCheese.com.

    RECIPE: CHRISTMAS WREATH BREAD

    Ingredients For 8-10 Portions

  • 1 8-ounce wheel of Camembert cheese (Président
    or other brand)
  • 1 25-ounce package Parker House-style frozen rolls
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils (seeds) for garnish
  • Flaked Maldon or other coarse, flaky sea salt
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COVER a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

    2. USE the Camembert as a guide to mark the center of the baking sheet; temporarily place it in the middle of the sheet. Arrange the frozen dough rolls in two circles around the cheese. Leave a 1/2” space between the rolls and between the circles (the rolls will expand as they bake). Remove the cheese and refrigerate until ready to use.

    3. BRUSH the frozen rolls with melted butter. Thaw for 1 hour in a warm, draft-free area, then allow an additional 2 hours to rise until they have doubled in size. Once the dough has formed a “wreath,” par-bake it at 325°F for 7 minutes.

    4. USE a sharp knife to carefully remove the top layer of rind from the Camembert wheel. This will allow for easy dipping.

    5. REMOVE the par-baked rolls from the oven and fit the Camembert in the center (remove any wrapping). Bake an additional 8-10 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown and the cheese is melted.

     

    rolls-wreath-dip-artofcheese-230

    Dip the rolls into the baked Camembert. Photo courtesy ArtOfCheese.com.

     

    6. USE the parchment paper to slide the wreath off of the baking sheet and onto a serving platter or board. Brush rolls with melted butter and sprinkle with flaked Maldon sea salt. Sprinkle the Camembert with minced rosemary.

    7. GARNISH the wreath by inserting small 1” long pieces of fresh rosemary and clusters of pomegranate seeds between the rolls. Serve immediately.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Bailey’s Irish Cream Adult Hot Chocolate

    baileys-peppermint-cream-230

    It’s not an innocent cup of hot chocolate. Photo courtesy Baileys.

     

    It’s National Hot Chocolate Day, or National Cocoa Day if you prefer (the difference between cocoa and hot chocolate). Today we’re making this adults-only version.

    The recipe comes to us from Baileys Irish Cream, using the company’s Original Irish Cream with a hint of Mint Chocolate.

  • If you only have regular Irish Cream, add a bit of peppermint extract.
  • If you have no irish creme at all, you can use 1/2 ounce of crème de cacao and 1/4 ounces of crème de menthe.
  •  
    RECIPE: BAILEY’S PEPPERMINT CREAM HOT CHOCOLATE

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 2 ounces Baileys Original Irish Cream with a hint of Mint Chocolate
  • 4 ounces hot chocolate
  • Fresh whipped cream
  • Garnish: crushed candy cane and mint leaf
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CRUSH the candy cane with the back of a spoon. Set aside.

     
    2. POUR the hot chocolate and Baileys Original Irish Cream into a coffee mug. Stir to combine.

    3. TOP with a dollop of whipped cream. Sprinkle the crushed candy cane on top and garnish with the mint leaf.

     
      

    Comments

    GIFT: Mrs. Prindable’s Caramel Apples

    nutcracker-caramel-apple-230

    The Nutcracker, a keepsake toy, stays with
    you after the apple has been enjoyed. There are teddy bears and other seasonal options. Photo courtesy Mrs. Prindable.

     

    We recently recommended a stocking stuffer of Mrs. Prindable’s caramels. For 25 years, Mrs. P. used that caramel to coat scrumptious jumbo apples, with a top layer of chocolate.

    We love these apples, great gifts for individuals or families. In addition to the half-inch-thick coating of delectable chocolate and caramel, you get lots of crunchy Granny Smith apple. The combination of indulgent and healthful is a delicious treat.

    The extra-fancy apples are crisp, juicy and jumbo: an impressive 4.5 inches tall, 3.5 inches wide and 1.5 pounds. They’re available in eleven flavors* and can be sliced to serve up to 10 people.

    If you want a bit less, there are Petite Apples, still sizeable at 3.5 inches tall and half a pound, serving two people. They’re available in seven flavors.

    Jumbo apples are $23.99 to $29.99 each, the higher price for apples decorated for the season, which includes a novelty keepsake like the Nutcracker and Champagne bottle in the photos here.

     

    Each apple is hand-dipped in the day’s fresh batch of wonderfully flavorful caramel and chocolate. Depending on the flavor chosen, the apple is then hand-rolled in the finest nuts and toppings.

    Order your apples at MrsPrindables.com. They’ll arrive in a couple of days, nicely gift boxed and much nicer to eat.

     

    APPLE OF THE MONTH PROGRAM

    We’d like Santa to give us an Apple of the Month Program. An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but an apple a month will live in memory for a long, long time.

    The program is available in six-month and 12-month subscriptions, $169.99 and $399.99, respectively.

    Each month, the lucky recipient will receive one of the best-selling flavors.

    Are you listening, Santa?
     
     
     
    *Choices include dark chocolate caramel apples, mlk chocolate caramel apples and white chocolate caramel apples, with or without nuts—almonds, cashews, pecans or walnuts.

     

    champagne-bottle-toffee-apple-230

    Celebrate New Year’s Eve with your choice of apple, topped with a keepsake Champagne bottle novelty. (Shown: the Toffee Walnut apple, one of our favorites.) Photo courtesy Mrs. Prindable.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Salad With Fresh Herbs & A Crouton

    market-salad-ricotta-toast-lemaraisbakerySF-230

    Add panache to a salad by including a
    crouton spread with seasoned fresh cheese
    or Greek yogurt. Photo courtesy Le Marais
    Bakery | San Francisco.

     

    During the produce-challenged winter months, there’s no better way to dress up a salad than with a crouton and fresh herbs. In fact, it works even at the height of summer!

    The typical green salad in the photo—lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber and kalamata olives plus vinaigrette, topped with watercress*—works during any season of the year. The only difference is that in the summer, the tomatoes will taste better (cherry tomatoes are a better choice in the off season) and you may have more selection of unusual lettuces.

    A crouton, in French, is a piece of toasted bread, similar to the Italian crostini. You can spread it with a fresh cheese—chèvre, feta (mashed into a spread, with a bit of cream or olive oil as needed), fromage blanc, pimento cheese, ricotta or with flavored butter (we love truffle butter). A slice of garlic bread also counts.

    If the cheese is plain, you can simply add bits of snipped herbs with a pinch of salt and pepper.
     
    *For an alternative spicy/peppery salad vegetable, use arugula, mizuna, mustard greens or radishes, each with peppery, tangy, zesty, piquant flavor.

     

    FRESH HERBS FOR SALAD

    From our grandmother, we learned the trick of snipping fresh dill and parsley into a green salad. She typically had these herbs on hand for other dishes. Even as a “whatever” teen, we found the flavor lift to be awesome.

  • Basil: It’s even more impressive if you can find the more exotic lemon basil or Thai purple basil.
  • Chives: If you’re not using onion in the salad, use snipped chives as the garnish.
  • Cilantro: It’s ideal with Latin American and Asian-themed salads.
  • Dill: Delicate and feathery in appearance, it packs great flavor.
  • Fennel: Cut the bulb into the salad, use the fronds (which look like dill, but have a sweet, mild licorice flavor as the herb accent.
  • Mint: Like mint, basil is a member of the botanical mint family, Lamiaceae. It has more intense flavor than basil, so use less of it.
  • Parsley: Flat leafed parsley has more intense flavor than curly parsley, but both add lovely flavor to salads.
  • Savory: Another member of the mint family, winter savory tastes like a cross between mint and thyme with a hint of pine. Summer savory tastes like thyme and marjoram.
  •  

    dill-paperchef-230r

    Feathery dill is delicious in any salad—as well as in the cheese or yogurt spread. Photo courtesy PaperChef.com.

     

    Try different herbs until you find your favorite(s). You can add two different herbs to the same salad.

    Instead of snipping them on top of the salad, toss them with the other vegetables and the dressing for maximum palate pleasing.

      

    Comments

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