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THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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PRODUCTS OF THE WEEK: Non-Dairy Ice Cream

Over the last few years there’s been a huge move to non-dairy substitutes.

As part of the move to veganism and/or sustainability, plus diets that are kosher or lactose-free, more consumers seek animal-free dairy products.

You can now find delicious milks, yogurts, ice creams and cheeses made from non-dairy plant products.

Some examples in the milk category alone:

  • Almond milk
  • Cashew milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Hemp milk
  • Macadamia milk
  • Oat milk
  • Rice mlk
  • Soy milk
  •  
    Non-dairy ice cream has long been made from coconut milk. But more recently, flavor scientists have developed alternatives that provide superior creaminess without the coconut undercurrent.

    Most of us wouldn’t realize that we’re eating a non-dairy frozen dessert (which is the proper term for non-dairy ice cream).

    Haagen Dazs’s Non-Dairy flavors are made from a base of almonds, sunflower oil and coconut oil.

    Graeter’s Perfect Indulgence line is made with Perfect Day®’s animal-free dairy proteins (more about that in a minute).

    Eclipse Foods’ non-dairy ice cream—“cowlessly creamy,” they call it—has a base made from cassava, corn, oats and potatoes, plus canola oil.

    Note that non-dairy doesn’t mean lower calorie. These products have calories equal to the dairy-based originals.
     
     
    1. PERFECT INDULGENCE FROM GRAETER’S ICE CREAM

    Graeter’s, America’s oldest family-owned and operated ice cream producer, has joined the non-dairy movement with its handcrafted ice creams.

    The company has turned its favorite ice cream flavors into a dairy-free line called Perfect Indulgence.

    The line is named after a product developed by Perfect Day Foods, which has developed a Non-Animal Whey Protein Isolate*.

    This non-animal whey protein has the same nutrition profile and culinary functionality as whey protein from cow’s milk.

    But it’s vegan; free from lactose, cholesterol, hormones and antibiotics; and has a smaller environmental footprint than conventional whey protein isolate.

    It also provides a rich, creamy, smooth, and indulgent eating experience.

    Note that while Perfect Indulgence is vegan and lactose-free, the animal-free dairy proteins that are produced still contain certain milk allergens.

    Those with sensitivity to dairy products should read the ingredient panel closely.

  • Black Cherry Chocolate Chip
  • Chocolate
  • Chocolate Chip
  • Cookies & Cream
  • Mint Chocolate Chip
  • Oregon Strawberry
  •  
    Our favorite conventional Graeter’s flavor, Black Cherry Chocolate Chip, tasted as good or maybe even better as Perfect Indulgence.

    The other flavors also hit it out of the park.

    > Discover more at Graeters.com.
     
     
    ECLIPSE NON-DAIRY FROZEN DESSERT

    The Eclipse line is nut free, and divided into the “classic” flavors plus the Chef Collection.

    As with Graeter’s and Häagen-Dazs (and other brands not covered here), no one will realize they’re eating a non-dairy ice cream.

    The classic flavors:

  • Chocolate
  • Cookie Butter
  • Vanilla
  •  
    The Chef’s Collection is made in collaboration with leading chefs, with proceeds going to the charity of each chef’s choice.

    The collection currently includes:

  • Botanica x Eclipse: Cocoa Black Sesame Tahini
  • Mamahuhu x Eclipse: Figgin’ Delicious
  • Monsieur Benjamin x Eclipse: Palmier Cookie with Calvados Caramel
  •  
    The Chocolate and Vanilla are excellent. Chocolate, made with Alter Ego chocolate, is one of the best chocolate ice creams you can try—dairy or non-dairy.

     


    [1] The new plant-based ice creams are indistinguishable in looks and taste (photo © Häagen-Dazs Nondairy).


    [2] Graeter’s classic flavors are now available in non-dairy versions (photos #2 and #3 © Graeter’s Ice Cream).


    [3] Dairy-free Perfect Indulgence Cookies & Cream from Graeter’s.


    [4] Eclipse’s outstanding nondairy Chocolate ice cream (photos #4, #5 and #6 © Eclipse Foods).


    [5] Eclipse’s Vanilla is an intense vanilla experience.


    [6] At left, a chocolate chip ice cream sandwich with Eclipse Vanilla; at right, a dish of Chocolate accompanied by squares of Alter Ego chocolate.

     
    Fudgy and intensely chocolate, you won’t find a better chocolate ice cream experience.

    The Vanilla is super-charged with vanilla flavor. It, too, is indistinguishable from its dairy colleagues.

    The Cookie Butter was not our cup of tea, but that’s a personal preference.

    We tried only one of the Chef’s Collection, Palmier Cookie with Calvados Caramel.

    The sophisticated, complex layering of flavors made us long to try the other two. (Fortunately, they’re easily available online.

    > Get Your Eclipse pints here.

     
    ________________

    *Rather than using the traditional dairy from cows or other animals, these proteins come from a process utilizing micro-flora fermentation. It’s still dairy; it’s just animal-free dairy because of the manufacturing process. The isolate comprises lab-grown versions of the proteins that are found in cow’s milk, such as casein and whey, but without the need for any animals. The sustainability argument is that the production of cellular milk requires less energy, greenhouse gas emissions and land usage, and is thus more resource-efficient than animal farming.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Freeze Grapes For A Sweet Snack


    [1] Purple grapes (photo © Tijana Drndarski | Unsplash).


    [2] Buy whatever grapes appeal to you—as long as they’re seedless (photo © Good Eggs).


    [3] Cotton candy grapes, named for their extra-sweet flavor profile (photo © Melissa’s Produce).


    [4] Wash the grapes and let them dry thoroughly (photo © Whole Foods Market).

     

    A trick long known by clever dieters is to freeze grapes.

    Then, when you’re aching for something sweet, just pop a few grapes into your mouth.

    Freezing intensifies the sweetness of the grapes. Makers of the sweet dessert wine, ice wine*, rely on frozen grapes.

    The result is like a grape slush (Slushie is a brand name) or sorbet. It’s as tasty for adults as for kids.

    Grapes are good nutrition, too: high in antioxidants, manganese, potassium and vitamins B-1 (thiamine) and C.

    They’re low-fat and low-calorie, too: an excellent snack food.
     
     
    HOW TO FREEZE GRAPES

    First, use seedless grapes. For eye appeal, consider using a mixture of colors.

    1. WASH the grapes and let them air-dry thoroughly. Then, take them off the stems and lay them on a baking sheet or tray atop parchment, plastic wrap, or wax paper.

    2. PLACE the tray in the freezer. Grapes are around 80% water, so they’ll freeze quickly.

    3. REMOVE the frozen grapes from the tray and place them into a freezer-friendly bag or container.

    They’re ready and waiting in the freezer for your next snack attack.
     

    THE HISTORY OF GRAPES

    Grapes are an ancient crop. The ancestor of European grapes, Vitis vinifera, grew wild in the Near East, as early as the Neolithic era.

    Viticulture, the cultivation of grapes, may have begun as early as 6500 B.C.E.

    Wild yeast occurs naturally on the skins of grapes, leading to an automatic fermentation that produced wine.

    The earliest archeological evidence for wine-making has been found some 8,000 years ago in Georgia, in the Caucasus region of Eurasia [source].

    Not surprisingly, the cultivation of grapes for wine-making became a focus for many farmers.

    As early as 3000 B.C.E., the Hittites spread viticulture westward, to Crete, the Bosporus and Thrace (now modern Turkey).

    By 4000 B.C.E., viticulture extended from Transcaucasia to Asia Minor, and through the Nile Delta of Egypt.

    Later, the Greeks and Phoenicians extended grape-growing to Carthage, Sicily, southern Italy, Spain and France. Under the influence of the Romans, grape production spread throughout Europe.

    King Hammurabi of Babylon (1792 – ca. 1750 B.C.E.) may have enacted the world’s first liquor law when he established rules for the wine trade in 1700 B.C.E. [source].
     
     
    After The Fall Of The Roman Empire

    By the time of the fall of the Roman Empire, 395 C.E., grape culture and wine-making had become the province of monasteries. Wine was used in religious rites.

    By the Renaissance, the use of wine extended beyond religion to popular social custom.

    This increased demand for grapes, and grape culture grew steadily from the 16th to the 20th century.
     
     
    Grapes In America

    In North America, native grapes grew wild across the continent. They were a part of the diet of many Native Americans, but were not considered particularly enjoyable by early colonists.

    It wasn’t until the 1850s, when American grapes began to be hybridized with European varieties, that table grapes became more widely grown and consumed [source].

     
    Early European colonists also found the native grape varieties to be unsuitable for wine.

    (Two varieties ultimately were successful: the Catawba grape and the Concord grape, both varieties of Vitis labrusca.)

    In 1629, Spanish Missionaries discovered the dry climate and sandy soils of New Mexico. They planted the first Vitis vinifera (European grape variety) vineyards on the continent in their missions.

    The grape variety, brought from Spain, became known as the Mission grape.

    Other grape seeds and cuttings were brought from Europe and planted in America. In California, the first vineyard and winery was established by Spanish Catholic missionaries in 1769 [source].

    If you wonder why the historic record focuses on wine-making and not on table grapes for eating, the answer is simple. As with beer, wine was safer to drink than water, the sources of which were often contaminated.

    Equally, the mood-enhancing qualities of alcoholic beverages were welcome.
     
    ________________

    *Ice wine (Eiswein in German) is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does. This creates a more concentrated grape juice. The frozen grapes are then pressed, resulting in a more concentrated, very sweet wine.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Buy Some Chicory

    It’s winter, where produce options are limited. But there’s still much to discover.

    Take the chicory family. Can you name three chicories? (Check the photos at right.)

    They are cool weather crops that come into season in late fall, and last through early spring.

    Much more popular in Europe than in the U.S.*, the chicory family is a large one.
     
     
    LOOK FOR THESE CHICORY VARIETIES

    There are many varieties across the world. Each differs in appearance, color, and to some extent, flavor.

    The heads can be loose-leafed or tightly-headed, tapered or round, smooth-leaved or frilled.

    The colors range from the purest white and pale yellow, to bright green and maroon.

    All share a slightly bitter taste.

    The varieties best-known in the U.S. are:

  • Belgian endive (photo #1), also called French endive and witloof (white and red varieties)
  • Escarole (photo #2)
  • Frisée (a.k.a. curly endive—photo #3)
  • Puntarelle (a.k.a. cicoria di catalogna, cicoria asparago—photo #7)
  • Radicchio (radicchio treviso [photo #4], radicchio Castelfranco, chioggia radicchio, speckled and other varieties)
  •  
    Check out a large photo of the different varieties, below.
     
     
    HOW IS CHICORY RELATED TO LETTUCE?

    Chicories are closely related to lettuces, but heartier, with a bitter edge.

  • Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a genus of plants in the dandelion tribe within the sunflower family (Asteraceae).
  • Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is an annual plant also in the daisy family, but branches off from chicory at the subfamily level.
  •  
    Thus, while varieties of chicory may be referred to as lettuce,they aren’t.
     
     
    WHY DON’T WE EAT MORE CHICORY

    More than a few Americans don’t seem to like chicories, possibly due to their bitterness.

    Perhaps in our country, where sugar is dumped into everything from bread to mustard and the government has looked at regulating the excessive amount of salt in prepared foods, people have been weaned away from the bitter flavor.

    Bitter is one of the five tastes, along with salty, sour, sweet and umami.

    Give it a chance. And check out the next section.
     
     
    HOW TO TAME THE BITTERNESS OF CHICORIES

    The easiest way to soften the bitterness in chicories is to shock them in an ice bath.

  • Simply plunge the vegetables into icy water (add ice cubes to cold tap water or refrigerated water) and leave them there for an hour or so. Then, give them a little nibble.
  • If they’re still too bitter for your taste, repeat; continue to do so until you’re happy with the result. Then, remove and spin the leaves dry (if you don’t have a salad spinner, air drying is fine). You will be shocked (pun intended) at the difference it makes.
  • If you’re serving the vegetable raw, remove the core from the head (the core is the most bitter part). With Belgian endive and radicchio, the easiest method is to cut the head in half lengthwise and then cut away the core.
  •  
     
    HOW TO USE CHICORIES

    Chicories shine in salads, and you can add or pair nuts, fruits or rich cheeses.

    But their hardiness also lends themselves to braises, sautéed and roasted dishes, grilling, even turned into soup.

    Two favorites:

  • Grilled radicchio is delicious, finished with nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil, a squirt of lemon, a few pinches of coarse salt and some freshly ground pepper.
  • Escarole sautéed with garlic in olive oil is a simple pleasure.
  • For salads, Belgian endive, frisée (curly endive) and radicchio are beautiful additions.
  •  
    Some Recipes

  • Radicchio overview and recipes
  • Festive radicchio salad
  • Pear salad with blue cheese
  • Spinach, citrus and radicchio salad Pear salad with blue cheese and radicchio
  • Grilled bitter greens with caraway peach dressing
  • Belgian endive salad with roquefort, figs and walnut oil
  •  
     
    FOOD TRIVIA

    FOOD TRIVIA #1: The roots of most chicory plant varieties have long been used as a coffee substitute. It’s naturally caffeine free.

    In the 19th century it was used as a coffee additive to stretch limited supplies of coffee; substitute became widespread in France and in some of the French colonies, like New Orleans.

    The roots are roasted, ground, and combined with coffee to create the chicory coffee enjoyed in Creole cuisine.

    During the Civil War, when coffee was unattainable in the South, chicory became the substitute drink. (We’ve had it in New Orleans; it’s a nutritious drink but an acquired taste.)

    FOOD TRIVIA #2: What Americans call endive, the British call chicory; and what the Americans call chicory, the British call endive [source].

     


    [1] Belgian endive, also called French endive and witloof (photo © Max Straeten | Morguefile).


    [2] Escarole, one of the most widely-available chicories (photo © Specialty Produce).


    [3] Frisee, delicious in a salad with lardons, bacon and sliced pears (photo © Wise Geek).


    [4] Radicchio treviso, a fancy variety of the round red head (photo © Good Eggs).


    [5] You may mistake this for radicchio, but it’s red Belgian endive. Compare it to photo #1 (photo © Melissa’s Produce).


    [6] This hard-to-find beauty is castelfranco chicory (photo © Good Eggs).


    [7] Puntarelle is perhaps the most difficult chicory variety to find in the U.S. Some call it the “asparagus” of chicory varieties (photo © Jerome Prohaska | Wikipedia).



    [8] Some of the chicory varieties (photo © Good Eggs).

     
    ________________

    *When we were quite young, our family patronized an Italian restaurant, where the “house salad” was made with escarole, instead of the then-popular iceberg lettuce. Mother did not approve.

      

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    APPLIANCE: Cuzen Matcha Maker For Easy Matcha Tea


    [1] Enjoy a cup of matcha effortlessly, with Cuzen Matcha (photos #1 to #5 © Cuzen Matcha).


    [2] You can turn the whisked matcha into a hot or iced latte.


    [3] The ground matcha leaves drop into a cup of hot water, where they are whisked into a froth with a magnetic whisk.


    [4] Dried whole matcha leaves—a rare sight (are they ever seen outside of Japan?).


    [5] The whole leaves are broken into a size that fits into the machine.


    [6] The traditional preparation is to whisk the ground matcha powder in water until it froths. You can build up arm muscles if you do it often enough (photo © Match & Co | Unsplash).


    [6] Whisking matcha in a bowl, then pouring it into an individual cup (photo © Raw Pixel | Pexels).

     

    October is National Hot Tea Month, and January 12th is National Hot Tea Day.

    We love tea, and have brewed it every which way: from tea bagas to tea ball infusers for loose tea, from a whistling tea kettle to electric kettles, from and the Cuisinart TEA electric brewer and the fancy Breville tea maker.

    Every so often we come across a niche product that’s really interesting.

    But, we think, how many of these can they sell?

    In the case of the Cuzen Matcha Maker, it depends on how many matcha tea lovers have $369 and space on the kitchen counter.

    The matcha-drinking world is all abuzz over this dedicated matcha making machine (photo #2).

    It was a hit at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year and showered with awards‡. (Note: we have not tried the Cuzen machine.)

    It takes all the effort from whisking up a cup of matcha tea (photos #5 and #6), the bright-green Japanese signature tea noted for its super-nutrient-packed green tea.

    Here’s a video of traditional matcha-making.

    Here’s a video of the Cuzen Matcha machine in action.

    Here’s more about matcha tea.
     
     
    THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF MATCHA GREEN TEA

    While all tea* comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, matcha is grown differently† from other teas. The process gives it a unique nutrient profile.

    Matcha, which comprises tea leaves ground into a powder, has more catechins and antioxidants than steeping a cup of green tea from leaves.

    Here’s a chart that compares the nutritional profile of matcha versus brewed green tea leaves.

    Catechins are the antioxidant compounds that are found in tea. The caffeine level is higher, too; it’s similar to coffee.

    Antioxidants help stabilize harmful free radicals—the compounds that can damage cells and cause chronic diseases.

    In addition to antioxidants, some studies have found that the antioxidants in matcha boost brain function, may help protect the liver, may help prevent cancer, may promote heart health, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and actually help with weight loss. Here are the details.

    By one estimate, the number of certain catechins in matcha is up to 137 times greater than in other types of green tea [source].

    That’s why some people who are focused on health and nutrition drink lots of matcha.

    And any green tea lover will appreciate its unique flavor and frothiness.

    Matcha is sweeter and creamier than regular green tea—and sometimes a bit grassy.

    More people would make matcha at home if it didn’t involve a substantial amount of whisking the fine green powder into a froth.
     
     
    WHY DO YOU NEED A SPECIAL MACHINE?

    For thousands of years, matcha tea has been a powder, ground from a particular type of tea leaf from Japan. Crafting the powder involves precise measurements, sifting and rapid flicks of a bamboo whisk to create the right froth (photo #6).

    Cuzen Matcha does it all, with a clever magnetic whisk (at the bottom of the cup in photo #2) that does all the labor. We found that hand-whisking was fun the first couple of times, then became tiresome.

    With Cuzen Matcha, just add pre-measured packets of organic tea leaves into the machine (photo #5), where they’ll be ground and whisked into your cup of hot water in 90 seconds. (A bonus is the aroma wafting from the freshly-ground leaves.)

    The only cleanup is a quick rinse of the cup and the whisk.

    With a Cruzen Matcha machine, you can:

  • Enjoy a cup of hot matcha with ease.
  • Make a matcha latte or an iced matcha latte.
  • You use the ground leaves for baking or other drinks.
  •  
    The downside is that this is a new product. If the company doesn’t get enough customers, it is likely to disband. The machine will still work, but you may not be able to find the un-ground matcha leaves (photo #4).

    You’ll still be able to use the machine to whisk matcha powder—which is an easy way to prepare matcha, but may not merit a dedicated appliance.

    You could certainly try grinding other types of tea leaves and whisking them into a froth.

    Every day is a food adventure!
     
     
    > HEAD TO CUZENMATCHA.COM to learn more and purchase a machine.
     
     
    MORE MATCHA

  • More Uses For Matcha Tea Powder
  • Make A Matcha Latte
  • Make An Iced Matcha Latte
  • Bake Matcha Shortbread Cookies
  •  
     
    > THE HISTORY OF TEA
     
     
    > THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TEA

    ________________

    *This refers to conventional black, green and white teas. Herbal teas, which are brewed from many different plants but not Camellia sinensis, are not included in this analogy, although each has its own nutrient profile and health benefit(s).

    †The tea plants are covered to avoid direct sunlight, for 20–30 days before harvest. This increases chlorophyll production and boosts the amino acid content. The leaves are harvested, the stems and veins are removed and the leaves are then ground into the fine powder known as matcha.

    ‡In 2020 the Cuzen Machine was named to TIME magazine’s list of the 100 Best Inventions of 2020, won the Future of Foods Award at San Francisco Design Week Awards 2020, was a CES 2020 Innovation Awards Honoree, and was longlisted for the 2020 Dezeen Awards.

     

     
      

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    HOLIDAY: Whisky Chocolates For Robert Burns Day

    When you sang “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve, did you recall that it was first a poem by Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland (1759-1796)?

    His birthday, January 25th, is celebrated in Scotland as Burns Night.

    Family and friends gather for an evening of good food and company. It’s a warm and happy event much like our Thanksgiving. A traditional Burns’ Supper is served.

    Here’s a Burns Night dinner menu.

    But dinner or not, we never pass up this once-a-year opportunity to have a box of whisky-infused chocolates from the prominent artisan chocolatier Larry Burdick.

    Why do the Scottish spell it “whisky” and the Irish spell it “whiskey?”

    Here’s the scoop.
     
     
    WHISKY-INFUSED CHOCOLATES

    Call them chocolates, bonbons or truffles, this Scotch-infused assortment (photo #1) is available for just a few weeks each January.

    This year, the dates are from January 4th through January 29th.

    The eagerly-awaited, limited-edition collection of handcrafted bonbons is filled with whisky-infused chocolate ganache.

    Some of the finest single-malt Scotch whiskies are used: Glenfarclas, Highland Park, Lagavulin, Macallan, Springbank and Talisker.

    The chocolates are available in both half-pound and one-pound boxes.
     
     
    SCOTCH WHISKY CHOCOLATE CIGAR ASSORTMENT

    Burdick’s signature dark chocolate is infused with fine single-malt Scotch whisky and rolled into gourmet chocolate cigars.

    A box of six (photo #2) has three each of cigars made with 10-year-old Laphroaig and 12-year-old Old Pulteney.

    You can buy the box, or individual Laphroaig cigars (photo #3).
     
     
    MORE WAYS TO CELEBRATE BURNS NIGHT

  • Gingerbread Men In Kilts
  • Robert Burns Poems
  • Scotch & Chocolate Tasting
  • Scotch Whisky Tasting
  •  
    You don’t have to be Scottish to celebrate Burns Night.

    All lovers of food adventures are welcome!

     


    [1] A half-pound box of Scotch Whisky Chocolate Assortment. A one-pound box is also available (all photos © Burdick Chocolate).


    [2] Cigars for the chocolate connoisseur are made in two varieties: Laphroaig and Old Pulteney


    [3] Individual chocolate whisky cigars in cigar-type tubes are made with Laphroaig single malt whisky.

     

      

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