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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.

FOOD FUN: Christmas Tree Pizza

Who else but the folks at California Pizza Kitchen would create a Christmas Tree Pizza?

For fun this weekend, how about making this recipe for Christmas Tree Pizza, decorated with your favorite “ornaments.”

The recipe, from California Pizza Kitchen, makes 1 large pizza, 2 medium pizzas or individual pizzas
If you’re making individual pizzas, let the people decorate their own.

RECIPE: CHRISTMAS TREE PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 pound traditional or whole wheat pizza dough
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 6 ounces (2 cups) mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 2 cups baby arugula leaves
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Optional trimmings: sliced olive “ornaments,” anchovy “garland”
  •  

    christmas-tree-pizza-calpizzakitchen-230

    Deck the pizza with your favorite “trimmings.” Photo courtesy California Pizza Kitchen.

  • Optional garnish: carve a piece of yellow bell pepper into a star for the top of the tree
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PLACE a seasoned (or oiled) pizza stone in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450°F for at least 30 minutes.

    2. SHAPE the dough. If making more than 1 pizza, divide the dough into 2 or 4 pieces; then roll and shape each piece into a tall triangle. The pizzas will be decorated after baking, so prepare all of them at once.

    3. SPREAD the sauce over the dough to within 1 inch of the outer edge. Top with the mozzarella and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Meanwhile…

    4. COMBINE the spinach, arugula and basil leaves in a large bowl. When the pizza is cooked, place on a serving plate and allow it to cool slightly. Then top with overlapping leaves of greens, making sure that the three different types are evenly distributed.

    5. COVER the leaves with tomato halves, cut side down, add any other garnishes and sprinkle with Parmesan “snow” before serving.

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Chocolate Tray

    chocolate-tray-w-truffles-230

    Something special: a chocolate tray to serve chocolate truffles. Photo courtesy Fika NYC.

     

    Need a unique gift for a chocolate lover?

    How about a chocolate tray, that can be topped with chocolate truffles or other bonbons.

    The handcrafted tray is in the shape of a wine bottle in roughly the same (although two-dimensional) size, 13 x 4.5 inches.

    It’s sure to elicit oohs and ahhs, not to mention a discussion of when the tray itself will be eaten.

    The chocolate tray is $38.00 at FikaNYC.com.

     

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cinnamon Chocolate Popcorn

    We just published a gift idea for Brownie Points’ Candy Cane Crunch Popcorn. If you’re in the mood to make your own candy cane popcorn, pop it, butter it and toss with crushed candy canes or other peppermint candy.

    Not a peppermint lover? Here’s a recipe for equally festive Cinnamon Chocolate Popcorn from the National Popcorn Board, Popcorn.org.

    You can buy the popcorn or make it from scratch.
     
    RECIPE: CINNAMON CHOCOLATE POPCORN

    Ingredients For 3 quarts

  • 3 quarts popped popcorn
  • Butter-flavored cooking spray
  • 9 tablespoons powdered cocoa mix (cocoa sweetened with sugar or sugar substitute)
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  •  

    chocolate-cinnamon-popcorn-230

    Chocolate Cinnamon Popcorn, delicious with hot chocolate. Photo courtesy Popcorn.org.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the popcorn in a large bowl and lightly spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle cocoa mix and cinnamon on popcorn.

    2. TOSS to coat evenly. Spray and toss again until mixture is well coated. Serve immediately.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The Best Way To Thaw Meat

    frozen meat

    We’ve got the two best ways to go from
    freezer to plate. Photo courtesy
    Mart2Go.com.

     

    Many of us keep meat in the freezer and thaw it overnight in the fridge when we’re ready to use it.

    But how long can you keep that thawed meat before cooking it?

    Here’s the scoop from AG Local, which sells pasture-raised animals from family farms.

    The best way to thaw meat is overnight in the fridge. Slow thawing retains the flavor and texture and keeps bacteria from growing quickly. Bacteria grows above 40°F, which is why thawing it on the kitchen counter isn’t a good idea.

    But when you don’t have that much time, here’s the tip we learned from one of THE NIBBLE’s resident chefs, who in turn learned it in school in his food safety class:

    Fill a bowl with tepid water and add the unwrapped, frozen meat. Place the bowl in the sink and let slightly cool water from the faucet drip over it. The dripping water keeps the water in the bowl at a constant temperature, which speeds up thawing; and the moving water helps to deter bacteria growth on the surface of the meat.

    Leave the meat under the dripping water until it is completely thawed. Approximate thawing time with this method:

  • A chicken breast: 20 minutes
  • A thick steak: 1 hour
  •  

    You need to keep watch, though, and be sure not to leave the meat out for more than four hours to prevent bacteria growth.

    After the meat is thawed, be sure to scrub the bowl and the sink to avoid any contamination from the raw meat.
     
    HOW LONG YOU CAN KEEP THAWED FOOD BEFORE COOKING
     
    thawed-meat-chart-aglocal-520

     
    A FOOD-THAWING GADGET

    Recently, we received information about a gadget called the Vortex that helps with thawing foods.

    You measure the food thickness, enter the corresponding number, submerge the frozen food in a bowl of water and click “start.” The Vortex accurately predicts when the food will be thawed and alerts you when done.

    It does this via thermodynamics, circulating the cold water, which thaws the foods more quickly. We haven’t tried it, but you can check it out on Kickstarter.

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Brownie Points’ Posh Popcorn

    candy-cane-crunch-230

    Christmas popcorn. Photo courtesy Brownie
    Points.

     

    Brownie Points makes popcorn and brownies in numerous flavors, but at this time of year, the Candy Cane Crunch Popcorn calls out to us.

    Delicious as a stand-alone snack, accompaniment to a hot beverage or a dessert garnish.

    The popcorn is packaged in a clear 20-ounce canister tied with a polka dot ribbon, $20.00.

    There’s also a holiday Brownie and Popcorn Sampler.

    Year-round flavors include:

  • Black Raspberry Caramel Dark Chocolate
  • Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt
  • Nutty Caramel
  • Peanut Butter Caramel Crunch
  • Trendy Trash (vanilla butter gourmet popcorn blended with chunks of caramelized Bavarian pretzels, pretzel sticks, graham crackers and kettle potato chips drizzled with white chocolate, dark chocolate and caramel)
  •  

    Happy munching!
     
      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Holiday Coffee Creamers From Baileys

    You can make your home-brewed coffee as special as going out for holiday coffee flavors. Just stir in some Baileys coffee creamers in holiday flavors.

    This year’s seasonal flavors are:

  • Pumpkin Spice
  • Red Velvet Cupcake
  • White Chocolate Peppermint Bark
  •  
    They join the other flavors, including year-round classics and seasonal specialties: Brown Butter Pecan, Caramel, Chocolatini, Cinnamon Dolce, Crème Brûlée, French Vanilla, Hazelnut, Mudslide, The Original Irish Cream, Toffee Almond Cream, Triple Sweet Cream, Sweet Italian Biscotti and Vanilla Brown Sugar.

    Bet you didn’t know there were that many different Baileys creamers! The next time you have people over for coffee, you can set out an entire flavored creamer tasting bar.

     

    baileys-white-chocolate-peppermint-230

    White Chocolate Peppermint Bark creamer. Photo courtesy Baileys.

     
    The creamers are available nationwide. For more information head to BaileysCreamers.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Candy Cane Ice Cream

    candy-cane-ice-cream-foodchannel-230

    Candy cane ice cream. If you want it to be
    pink, add red food color. Photo courtesy
    Williams-Sonoma.

     

    One thing we love about the holidays is candy cane ice cream, also known as peppermint stick ice cream. The difference between it and the peppermint ice cream available year-round is the inclusion of crushed peppermint candy for a vivid peppermint flavor and crunch.

    Different brands now have their limited-edition candy cane/peppermint stick pints and quarts in stores. There’s also peppermint bark ice cream, which includes bits of chocolate studded with peppermint.

    If you want the fun of making your own at home, we’ve got some recipe options below.

    The ice cream can be drizzled with hot fudge, packed into chocolate cookie pie crust, made into a trifle, added to hot chocolate or turned into a candy cane dessert cocktail.

    This recipe produces white ice cream. If you want pink ice cream, add a few drops of red food color until the desired color is reached.

    This recipe is from Williams-Sonoma, from their book Ice Creams & Sorbets.

    Prep time is 20 minutes plus chilling and freezing.

     

    RECIPE: CANDY CANE ICE CREAM

    Ingredients For 1 Quart

  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup lightly crushed peppermint snap candies, candy canes or peppermint sticks
  •  

    Preparation

    1. WARM 2 cups of the half-and-half and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat, until steam begins to rise from the surface (3 to 4 minutes). Remove from the heat.

    2. WHISK together the egg yolks, sugar and salt in a heatproof mixing bowl, until blended. Form a kitchen towel into a ring and place the bowl on top to prevent it from moving. Gradually add the hot half-and-half mixture, whisking constantly until fully incorporated.

    3. RETURN the mixture to the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring slowly and continuously with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the custard thickens and a finger drawn across the back of the spoon leaves a path, 8 to 10 minutes. Do not allow the custard to boil!

    4. POUR the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl. Stir in the peppermint extract. Add the remaining 1 cup half-and-half and stir to combine.

     

    candy-cane-trifle-perryicecream-230

    Make a candy cane ice cream trifle (recipe below). Photo courtesy Perry’s Ice Cream.

     

    5. NESTLE the bowl in a larger one filled halfway with ice and water and cool the custard to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.

    6. TRANSFER the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. At the end of the freezing stage, add the peppermint candies and continue processing just until they are blended into the ice cream. Transfer the ice cream to a chilled container, cover and freeze until firm, 3 to 4 hours.
     
    MAKING AN ICE CREAM TRIFLE

    Pair the candy cane ice cream with chocolate cake and whipped cream. The trifle can be made up to 1 week in advance.

    Ingredients

  • 1 chocolate loaf cake, brownie loaf or substitute
  • Option: 1 package Oreo cookies (we used Mint Joe-Joes from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream
  • 1 quart candy cane ice cream
  • 1 cup chocolate sauce/fudge sauce
  • Optional garnish: chocolate shavings, crushed peppermints
  •  
    For 2 Cups Whipped Cream

  • 1/2 pint (1 cup) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CHILL the bowl, beaters and cream for the whipped cream.

    2. PLACE a layer of cake cubes in the bottom of a straight-side glass bowl. Trim the cake as necessary to create an even layer.

    3. SPREAD 3 cups of vanilla ice cream on top of the cake layer. Repeat process and top with a layer of cake cubes or crushed Oreo cookies. Top with candy cane ice cream.

    4. COVER with plastic wrap and place in the freezer. Freeze for at least 1 hour, until the ice cream is re-frozen.

    5. MAKE the whipped cream: Beat the cream, sugar, vanilla and salt to soft peaks with an electric mixer.

    6. TO SERVE: Remove the trifle from the freezer 10 minutes in advance of serving. Drizzle with fudge sauce. Top with whipped cream before bringing to the table and add optional garnish.

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Gluten Free Bread Mixes From Breads By Anna

    classic-herb-breadsbyanna-230

    One of the delicious gluten free bread mixes.
    Photo courtesy Breads By Anna.

     

    One of the worst things about a gluten sensitivity is having to give up good bread.

    But Breads from Anna Gluten is a gluten-free line that spares no effort to create delicious bread mixes to bake at home. We couldn’t believe that they were gluten free. (Nor could we believe that there were black beans in the brownies!)

    Individual packages or gift sets.

    The mixes are:

  • Free from gluten, yeast, corn, dairy, soy, nuts, rice and
    sweeteners.
  • High in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals
  • All Natural
  • Certified GMO Free
  • Certified kosher (pareve)
  •  
    The breads have the same excellent taste and texture that one expects from a good piece of bread. The recipes can easily be made egg free.

     

    The products are produced in the company’s dedicated, controlled, allergen free facility.

    Choices include:

  • Bread Mixes: Classic Herb Bread Mix, Original Bread Mix, Yeast Free Bread Mix, Dairy & Corn Free Bread Mix
  • Brownie Mix: Black Bean Brownie Mix
  • Fruit Bread Mixes: Banana Bread Mix and Pumpkin Bread Mix (which can be made easily into other breads, such as carrot or zucchini bread)
  • Pancake & Muffin Mixes: Apple Pancakes & Muffins Mix, Cranberry Pancake & Muffin Mix, Maple Pancake & Muffin Mix
  • Pie Crust Mix
  • Pizza Crust Mix
  •  
    The products range from $5.99 to $7.99 at BreadsFromAnna.com.

    There are also gift sets from $23.99 to $27.99, including:

     

    banana-bread-mix-breadsfromanna-230

    Banana Bread is one of several gluten-free sweet mixes. Photo courtesy Breads By Anna.

     

  • Happy Holidays Gluten-Free Gift Set with Pumpkin Bread Mix, Pie Crust Mix and Classic Herb Bread Mix.
  • I Love Bread Gluten-Free Gift Set with Classic Herb Bread Mix, Corn and Dairy Free Bread Mix and Yeast Free Bread Mix,
  • Pancake and Muffin Gluten-Free Gift Set, with Apple, Cranberry, and Maple Pancake & Muffin Mixes.
  • Sweet Bread Mix Gluten-Free Gift Set, including Banana Bread Mix, Pumpkin Bread Mix and Black Bean Brownie Mix.
  •  
    If you’re thinking of reducing your own gluten intake in the new year, get some for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Better-For-You Dried Fruit Gift

    dried-fruit-crate-zabars-230

    The better-for-you gift. Photo courtesy Zabar’s.

     

    We like to send premium dried fruit gifts to people and families who focus on healthy living.

    We like food gifts in the first place. Unless we know that someone really wants something specific, no one we know needs more stuff to fit into already jammed households.

    If it’s an office gift, well, no office needs more cake, candy and cookies lying around during the holidays.

    This 1-pound, 8-ounce tray is $24.98 at Zabars.com.

    The fruits were picked at the peak of perfection, carefully dehydrated, then packed in a reusable wooden crate. The lucky recipient(s) will munch on dried Angelino plums, apples, apricots, kiwi, pears, prunes, yellow peaches and white peaches.

     

     
      

    Comments

    GADGET: The New Egg Timer

    There’s a new egg timer on the market, one that’s purely visual.

    We’ve been enjoying the new Taylor Egg Timer.

    Simply place the timer into the water when cooking eggs on the stove top. The colors will change, indicating when you have soft, medium or hard boiled eggs.

    Internal sensors in these 21st century egg timers calculate cooking stages precisely by temperature, not loosely by time. The timers heat up in precise synchronization with the eggs, and make automatic adjustments to accommodate the number of eggs, the amount of water and the altitude.

    For people who make boiled eggs, it’s the new best thing. It takes the guesswork out of cooking eggs and you get perfect results every time.

    And it’s a great stocking stuffer. It’s also a good for New Year’s resolutions: Make protein-rich hard boiled eggs for snacking.

     

    taylor-egg-timer-230

    One of the “21st century egg timers.” The red color moves up as the eggs get cooked. Photo courtesy Taylor.

     

    Versions from three different manufacturers are available now:

  • HIC, $6.79 on Amazon.com.
  • Norpro, $7.49 on Amazon.com.
  • We couldn’t find the Taylor egg timer for sale on line, but head to Target stores. It’s $4.99.
  •   

    Comments

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