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Shiraz Vs. Syrah: The Difference For National Shiraz Day

Shiraz Wine Bottle & Glass Of Wine
[1] Shiraz wines have a deep red color. Learn more about Australian Shiraz, the first “modern” Shiraz (photo © Best Wines)

A Glass Of Red Wine With Filet Mignon
[2] Shiraz is a happy pairig with any kind of beef or lamb (phot © LT Bar & Grill).

Shiraz Bottle & Glass
[3 Penfolds Bin 28 from Australia, one of the world’s great Shiraz wines. Here’s more about it (photo © Dmarge).

Glasses Of Shiraz Red Wine With Pasta
[4] Shiraz stands up to garlic, spice, and robust flavors—including pepperoni pizza (photo © Brooke Lark | Unsplash).

A Glass of Red Wine with a Washed Rind Cheese
[5] Shiraz likes hearty cheeses: Cheddar, blue cheese, aged cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano, and strong cheeses washed rind cheeses (photo © Louis Hansel | Unsplash).

Syrah Grapes On The Grapevine
[6] Shiraz grapes (photo © Max Delsid | Unsplash).

Rack Of Lamb With Pesto & Red Wine
[7] Yes, please: rack of lamb and a bottle of Shiraz (photo © DeLallo).

Red Wine With A Roast Chicken
[8] Roasting a chicken? Open a bottle of Shiraz (photo © Corto Olive | Facebook).

 

National Shiraz Day is the 4th Thursday of June. It celebrates a wine that is also known as Syrah. The better-known Syrah has its own holiday, International Syrah Day, on February 16th. So what’s the difference of Shiraz vs. Syrah?

Food holidays are an opportunity for THE NIBBLE to discuss a particular food or wine. This article will explain:

  • Why Syrah is called Shiraz.
  • Ideal Shiraz food pairings.
  • The history of Shiraz.
  •  
     
    A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

    Shiraz/Syrah is a dark-skinned red wine grape variety that is grown around the world.

    The modern Shiraz grape is identical to Syrah, which originated in southeast France.

    Modern Shiraz has no established connection to the city of Shiraz, Persia (modern Iran), where a wine of that name was made for centuries (but can now no longer be made*).

    In addition to the wines called Syrah and Shiraz, the grape itself is widely used as a blending grape in the red wines of many countries. Its fruit flavors balance out the lesser fruitiness of other grapes, resulting in a more complete wine.

    Neither Syrah nor Shiraz should be confused with Petite Sirah, a different wine that cross-bred Syrah with another grape‡.
     
     
    WHY IS SYRAH CALLED SHIRAZ?

    In the “why is this so complicated” category, Shiraz wine refers to two different wines. Forget the old, embrace the new.

  • Historically, the name refers to a wine produced around the city of Shiraz in present-day Iran. By the ninth century, the city had a reputation for producing the finest wine in the world. As mentioned, that wine is no longer made*.
  • In the 19th century, Shiraz became an alternative name for the Syrah grape (explanation below), which is mostly used in Australia and South Africa.
  • There is no proven connection between the city of Shiraz and its wines, and the modern-day Shiraz, or Syrah, that is made in Australia, South Africa, and other countries.
  • The modern Shiraz or Syrah grape, was brought to Australia in 1832 by Scottish horticulturist, James Busby, the father of Australian wine. He brought vine cuttings from varietals in France and Spain that became the foundation of the Australian wine industry.
  •  
    So why did Syrah become Shiraz in Australia? Yes. No one has uncovered the smoking gun, but here’s what we do know.

  • Busby did not rename the grape Shiraz. But he labeled his cuttings Scyras and Ciras, which, in a heavy Scottish or Australian accent, could be pronounced somewhat like Syrah or Shiraz.
  • The earliest Australian documents use the spelling Scyras. It has been speculated by some wine historians that Shiraz is a so-called “strinization” of Syrah via Scyras (strine, also spelled stryne, describes the broad accent of Australian English).
  • “Shiraz” seems to have replaced “Scyras” in Australia from the mid-19th century [source].
  •  
    Those who wish to put bets on the mystery of exactly how Syrah became Shiraz should probably look to the “strinization” of Scyras (and wait for the smoking gun).

    Ready for more confusion? In different parts of the world, the grape is called Antourenein noir, Balsamina, Candive, Entournerein, Hignin noir, Marsanne noir, Schiras, Sirac, Syra, Syrac, Serine, and Sereine.
     
     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FRENCH SYRAH & AUSTRALIAN SHIRAZ

    Any wine (or other agricultural product) will taste different based on its terroir†. Chocolate from beans grown in the Côte d’Ivoire tastes different than chocolate from Venezuela.

    After terroir, the next differentiator is style, a reflection of the winemaker’s taste in making the wine.

    Let’s start with Syrah from France.

    Syrah

    The world’s most famous Syrah wines, the classic Northern Rhône reds, are elegant and tannic, with restrained fruit. They tend to be dark, earthy, smokey, and even leathery, reflecting their terroir and cold climate.

    Syrah is the main grape of the northern Rhône and produces classic, world-famous wines such as Hermitage, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie.

    In the southern Rhône, Syrah is used as a blending grape in such wines as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Côtes du Rhône (Grenache usually makes up the bulk of the blend).

    The finest Rhone wines will age for decades. Some winemakers make less-extracted styles that can be enjoyed young for their lively red and blueberry characters and smooth tannin structure.

    Syrah wines made in the French style, from grapes grown in other cooler climates, tend to use the Syrah names.
     
     
    Shiraz

    Beyond Australia, Shiraz has become a preferred name for the wines produced by New World winemakers, who fashioned their wines in the Australian style. It’s a stylistic choice—plus the qualities provided by their terroir—to vinify their wines in a separate way from French Syrah.

    (It may be confusing to the consumer, but if you’ve ever wondered how Shiraz is different from Syrah, here you have it!.)

    In warmer climates, Syrah yields riper berries that create rich, lush, intense, fruit-forward wines (often notes of blackberries), and generally bolder wines. These wines are higher in alcohol and less tannic than French Syrah. Accents are peppery rather than smokey [source].

    While the best Rhone Syrahs are vinified for aging, Shiraz wines are more approachable when young.
     
     
    SYRAH FOOD & WINE PAIRINGS

    Shiraz wines tend to be full-bodied with big, bold flavors, so they pair easily with big- and bold-flavored food.

  • Beef (including roast beef, steaks, even burgers)
  • Cheddar, blue cheese, aged cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano, and strong cheeses washed rind cheeses
  • Grilled and barbecued foods
  • Lamb chops, roast leg of lamb
  • Mushroom dishes
  • Pizza, especially pepperoni
  • Roast chicken and duck
  • Sausage
  • Stews
  •  
    As with most red wines, avoid pairing Shiraz with lighter foods like seafood and white fish.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF SHIRAZ

    Syrah has a long documented history in the Rhône region of southeastern France, but for a long time, its origins were unknown. Then came the advent of DNA research.

    In 1998, a study conducted in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at University of California, Davis used DNA typing and extensive grape reference material from the viticultural research station in Montpellier, France.

    The conclusion: Syrah was the offspring of the grape varieties Dureza (father) and Mondeuse Blanche (mother) [source]. Both parents come from a small area in southeastern France, close to northern Rhône River. Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that Syrah originated in the region of the northern Rhône (southwestern France).

    And thence to Australia. It was long thought that Shiraz arrived in Australia in 1832 as French Syrah cuttings that were part of the original James Busby collection.

    Busby’s cuttings were planted in the Sydney Botanical Gardens, then the Hunter Valley, before making it to South Australia in the middle of the 19th century.

    However, Shiraz may have arrived a bit earlier, as part of the Macarthur collection which arrived in Sydney aboard the Lord Eldon in 1817 [source].

    The first commercial Shiraz vineyard was believed to have been planted by George Wyndham, who started planting his vineyard at his property Dalwood in 1831. Shiraz may have been planted in that vineyard, which predated the Busby vines (any newly planted wine vines need a few seasons to propagate before they can make acceptable wines).

    As a result of any and all of these situations, Australia now has some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world [ibid].

     
    ________________

    *In modern Iran, Shiraz wine cannot be produced legally due to the prohibition of alcohol in Islam. Before the Islamic Revolution in 1979, there were up to 300 wineries in Iran; now there are none [source].

    †Terroir, pronounced tur-WAH, is a French agricultural term referring to the unique set of environmental factors in a specific habitat that affects a crop’s qualities. These include climate, elevation, proximity to a body of water, slant of the land, soil type, and amount of sun. These environmental characteristics give the wines produced from these grapes a unique character.

    ‡Syrah is a cross between the Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche grapes of southwestern France. Petite Sirah is a cross between Syrah and Peloursin, a rare French variety from the Rhone-Alpes region, dating from 1880. It may have gotten its name because the berries are small, i.e., petite.
     
     

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    Creme Brulee Recipes & History For National Creme Brulee Day

    July 27th is National Crème Brûlée Day, celebrating a French dessert that has remained on menus across the U.S. long after Coupe aux Marrons, Île Flottante, Mont Blanc, and other classic French desserts have disappeared from menus in the U.S.

    Crème brûlée first came to America with Thomas Jefferson’s return from France in 1789 [source]. But it didn’t take hold (more about that below).

    Crème brûlée is a type of custard made of all heavy cream (no milk), egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla. It’s topped with a brittle layer of caramelized sugar (brûlée is French for burnt, crème brûlée means “burnt custard”).

    In addition to the delicious flavor, some fun is to be had by cracking the hard sugar with one’s fork.

    Who created such a delectable dessert?
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF CRÈME BRÛLÉE

    Crème brûlée recipes seem to have emerged in the 16th century, in the English countryside (some sources say the 15th century). During the spring calving season, the milk was especially rich, and farm women would prepare a very thick custard to use up the milk and take advantage of its richness.

    Some say the burnt sugar was added later, at Trinity College, Cambridge University, in 1879. A student is credited with the idea of branding the school crest into a topping of sugar, burnt with a hot iron rod fashioned with the crest.

    The recipe was called Cambridge Cream or Trinity Cream and has been a popular item on the school’s menu ever since [ibid].

    But let’s step across the Channel to France, 200 years earlier.

    The earliest known printed recipe anywhere for crème brûlée appeared in the 1691 French cookbook, Le cuisinier royal et bourgeois by Chef François Massialot (1660-1733—click on the first link to read the book for free).

    In Massialot’s recipe, the sugar topping was melted and burnt with a red-hot fire shovel*, then placed on top of the custard [source].

    By the 18th century, kitchen tools included a salamander. A round, flat, thick plate attached to a long handle, it was heated over the fire and then used to brown foods (photo #7).

    (The first blowtorch, from which the kitchen torch is adapted, wasn’t invented until 1882. Here’s an early adapted version used by Julia Child around 1963.)

    Massialot’s crème brûlée recipe added a disc of caramelized sugar onto the custard, instead of burning the sugar directly on the dessert as was done later.

    A bit more about this great chef:

    An innovation in Massialot’s cookbook was the alphabetization of recipes, a step toward the first culinary dictionary.

    The recipe for meringues also made its first appearance published by Massialot [source].
     
     
    CRÈME BRÛLÉE COMES TO AMERICA

    As mentioned earlier, Thomas Jefferson brought the recipe back from France in 1789, and had his cook make it. But it didn’t become part of the American dessert repertoire.

    Over the centuries, as crème brûlée became better known internationally, recipes began to appear in American magazines and cookbooks in the 1950s and 1960s.

    But its breakout came in the 1980s, thanks to Le Cirque restaurant, one of the top French restaurants in New York City. It got lots of press and became one of the “it” desserts [source].

    Home cooks as well as restaurants could burn the sugar under the broiler. There was also the salamander, although few home cooks would want to use one (a very hot metal rod!).

    Then came the butane torch, or kitchen torch (photo #5). Suddenly, crème brûlée was relatively easy. Today, you can find one for less than $20 (although we’d go for a brand name, at possibly twice that).

    And they’re not just for crème brûlée. Here are 15 more uses for a kitchen torch.

    As crème brûlée evolved, it became flavored: butterscotch, chocolate, cocktail-flavored (Irish Coffee, Margarita, Piña Colada, White Russian, etc.), coffee, Earl Grey, eggnog, fresh and dried fruit of every description, green tea/matcha, lavender, mocha, Nutella, pie-flavored (Key lime, pumpkin), salted caramel, s’mores, snickderdoodle…need we go on?

    And then, of course, the crème brûlée flavor was ported to everything else: brownies, cakes/cheesecakes, chocolates, coffee, coffee creamer, cookies and cupcakes, doughnuts, French toast, fudge, ice cream, even McCormick Flavor Inspirations Crème Brûlée Seasoning to sprinkle on coffee drinks and “your favorite breakfasts, desserts, and dips.” It’s a limited edition: Get it while you can.
     
     
    WHAT ABOUT CREMA CATALANA?

    Crema catalana (“Catalan cream”) is the name used for the dish in most of Spain (photo #7), but strangely, it is called crema cremada (“burnt cream”) in its home province of Catalonia.

    The dish is similar to crème brûlée. Similar, but not identical.

    While both are custards made from egg yolks and sugar, crème brûlée is made with cream, while crema catalana is made with milk.

    The basic crème brûlée recipe is flavored with vanilla, while crema catalana is often flavored with lemon zest or cinnamon, as well as vanilla.

    Both have a burnt sugar topping.

    In the annals of time, crema catalana is older.

    The first known recipe appears in the medieval Catalan cookbook Llibre de Sent Soví, in the mid-14th century.

    That’s three centuries before Massialot’s crème brûlée recipe.

    As with crème brûlée, the sugar was sprinkled over the cooked custard and subsequently burnt with a hot iron rod.
     
     
    MORE TO KNOW

    > The different types of French crèmes.

    > The different types of custard.

    > Types of custard: creme brûlée, creme caramel, pot de crème.

    > The history of custard.

    > The difference between custard and pudding.
     
     
    CRÈME BRÛLÉE & OTHER BRÛLÉE RECIPES

  • Burnt Caramel Cheesecake Brûlée
  • Classic Creme Brulee
  • Grand Marnier Creme Brulee
  • Red Grapefruit Creme Brulee
  • Passionfruit Rice Pudding Brulee
  •  
     
     
     

    ________________

    *The definition of a fire shovel from the 1770’s is, “an instrument to throw coals on a fire with.” They were initially made of iron [source].

     

    Classic Creme Brulee Recipe
    [1] Classic creme brulee (photo © Mad Max Chef | Unsplash).

    Creme Brulee With Cherries & Peaches
    [2] You can get creative with creme brulee. Here, poached peaches and cherries are embedded into the top before the sugar is added and torched (photo © Parmigiano Reggiano | Facebook).

    Raspberry Chile Creme Brulee
    [3] Raspberry chili crème brûlée. The recipe is in (photo © Melissa’s Produce).

    Creme Brulee Garnishes
    [4] Beaucoup des garnitures (that means lots of garnishes): blackberries, grapes, mint leaf, strawberries, and sesame crunch candy (photo © shameel Mukkath | Pexels).

    A Kitchen Torch Torching The Sugar Top Of Creme Brulee
    [5] Torching crème brûlée with a home-size butane torch (photo © Bonjour).

    Torching Creme Brulee In A Restaurant
    [6] Torching a number of ramekins in a restaurant kitchen. Note that the butane torch is much larger (photo © Tania Mousinho | Unsplash).

    Kitchen Salamander Tool For Browning
    [7] Old school: before there was a broiler or a butane kitchen torch, there was a low-tech salamander, shown here with crema catalana (photo © Grey Salt Restaurant | Tampa).

     

     
     

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    Osmo Cocktail Salt Rimmer & Glass Rimming Salts, For Home Or Gifting

    Bottles Of Osmo Cocktail Glass Rimming Salt
    [1] A salt rimming tray and three flavored salts (photos #1, #3, and #4 © Osmo Salt).

    A 3-tier Cocktail Salt Rimmer
    [2] Rimming trays without the salts are also available (photo © Ton Jim | Amazon).

    A Bottle Of Grapefruit Lime Rimming Salt
    [3] How about this grapefruit-lime rimming salt instead of plain salt on a Paloma cocktail?

    A Bottle Of Osmo Mango Chili Glass-Rimming Salt
    [4] Beyond cocktails, try this Mango Chili salt on a glass of orange juice or tomato juice.

     

    In every Margarita recipe we’ve printed (more than 33 of them), we’ve advised applying the salt rim with a saucer of salt. Now there’s a fun gadget for glass rimming salts, a boon for those who make a lot of rimmed drinks—or need a gift for someone who does.

    It’s the Rimming Accessory from Osmo Salt, making it easy to rim Margaritas and other cocktails. Three trays give you the option of using three different salts—and you can store the salts inside the tray for the next time you need them.
     
     
    EASY RIM GARNISHES FOR YOUR COCKTAILS

    Durable and dishwasher safe, the three-tier glass rimmer tray is made of high-quality, food-safe ABS plastic. It closes for compact storage. There’s no need to throw out the salt left in a bowl or saucer.

    Osmo Salt’s rimming set includes three rimming salts:

  • Mango Chili Rimming Salt
  • Strawberry Lime Rimming Salt
  • Grapefruit Lime Rimming Salt
  •  
    There are numerous other choices to add to your collection, from Black Flakey Sea Salt to Smokey Sea Salt to Flakey Sriracha Sea Salt.

    If you want only the rimming tray, you can find versions online.

    Ready to add some pizzazz to your drinks? Head to OsmoSalt.com.
     
     
    TYPES OF COCKTAIL RIMS

    Rimming salts get the most attention, either plain coarse salt (“Margarita salt”) or flavored salts. Beyond salts, you can pair your cocktails with:

  • Sugar rims: in a broad variety of flavors.
  • Spice rims: cayenne pepper, celery salt, chili powder, cocoa powder, fennel pollen, sesame seeds, and za’atar, for example, along with dried herbs.
  • Spice blend rims: dukkah, Tajin.
  • Crushed candy rims: assorted hard candies, candy canes, lemon drops, Pop Rocks, sour balls, sprinkles, etc.
  •  
    Popular cocktails that use a salt rim include the Bloody Mary, Caballito, Margarita, Michelada, Michelada, Salty Dog, and almost any mezcal drink.

    Sweet rims are traditional on the Brandy Crusta, Lemon Drop, and Sidecar, and you can add them to anything from a Cosmopolitan to a Mojito, a Mai Tai and all the Tiki and tropical drinks.

    Beyond cocktails, you can add fun and flavorful rims to:

  • Chai
  • Hot chocolate
  • Juices
  • Soft drinks and more
  •  
    BONUS: If you add salt to an apple or other fruit (it amplifies the fruit’s natural sweetness*), try fruity finishing salts instead of table salt. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!

     
    ________________

    *When you sprinkle a bit of salt on a slice of apple that isn’t sweet enough or flavorful enough for you, or if it’s too tart, the apple tastes much sweeter. Of course, the apple has the same amount of sugar as it had before. But the salt diminishes your perception of the acidity in the fruit, allowing you to taste the sugar compounds better. This works with other fruits, too, including melons and overly-tart grapefruit. It’s a way to “salvage” taste-challenged fruit.

     
     

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    Happy Anniversary Smashburger: Have A Cheesy Caramelized Onion Smash

    Happy Anniversary, Smashburger! The popular fast-casual better burger chain is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.

    Join the celebration with a Cheesy Caramelized Onion Smash, an LTO (limited time offer) burger available through August 30, 2022 (photo #1).

    We love a good cheeseburger, and this one is made with two kinds of cheese, Cheddar and Swiss. The Certified Angus Beef patty is also topped with caramelized onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and mayo, on a toasted onion bun.

    Instead of a beef burger, you can substitute Smashburger’s grilled chicken, crispy chicken, turkey burger patty, or black bean patty.
     
     
    WHAT IS A “SMASH” BURGER?

    Smashburger was founded in 2007 by two restaurant industry veterans who focused on “smashed” burgers” that use a specialized process of cooking.

    The burger patties are pressed down (“smashed”) on a flattop* grill at high heat. The method sears the burger for flavor.

    The technique originated in the Great Lakes region at pressed-chuck burger restaurants, and has been a staple there for decades [source].

    Check out the video to see Smashburger co-founder Tom Ryan shows the “smashing” technique.

    The company customizes its burgers to local preferences. For example:

  • Smashburger’s Colorado locations serve burgers with roasted green chiles.
  • Locations in Miami serve burgers with grilled chorizo.
  • In Minneapolis, the chain has a double-cheese, double-onion variety evoking Scandinavian and Germanic cuisine.
  • In Oklahoma, the burgers feature locally popular fried pickles.
  • Boston locations serve a burger with onions and a cranberry chutney supplied locally by Ocean Spray
  • In the Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids restaurants, the local burger is topped with olives, a local tradition.
  •  
    Rolls vary, too: telera rolls† are used in California restaurants, pretzel rolls are served in Chicago restaurants, onion rolls in Minnesota, and brioche rolls in New York (the difference between rolls and buns).

    > Find a Smashburger near you.

    > Discover more at Smashburger.com.
     
     
    ________________

     

    Cheeseburger With Caramelized Onions From Smashburger
    [1] The limited-time Cheesy Caramelized Onion Smash (all photos © Smashburger).

    Smashburger Potato Tots With Ketchup
    [2] Add some tots or fries.

    Sweet Potato Fries
    [3] How about sweet potato fries?

     
    *A flattop grill resembles a griddle but performs differently: The heating element is circular rather than straight (side to side). This variation creates an extremely hot and even cooking surface, as the heat spreads radially over the surface. Here’s more information.

    †Telera rolls are staples for Mexican sandwiches. They’re a smaller version of French bread, with a crispy crust on the outside, and a softer texture inside.

     
     

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    FOOD FUN: Banana Loca Banana Stuffing Gadget

    Banana Loca Filled Banana With Cookies & Milk
    [1] You can get very creative with the fillings (all photos © Banana Loca | NA Market Direct).

    Banana Loca Banana Filling Gadget
    [2] Here’s the gadget. It’s easy to use.

    Banana Loca Banana Filled With Chocolate
    [3] A banana filled with chocolate spread.

    Banana Loca Filled With Raspberry Preserves
    [4] This banana is stuffed with raspberry preserves.

     

    Banana Loca is an innovative kitchen gadget that lets you fill bananas with different fillings and variations on the basic fillings:

  • Chocolate or caramel sauce (photo #3)
  • Cookie pieces
  • Fresh cheese
  • Frosting
  • Honey
  • Jams, preserves, marmalade (the difference—photo #4)
  • Marshmallow Fluff
  • Nutella and other sweet spreads
  • Peanut butter and other nut butters
  • Yogurt
  •  
    You can layer these flavors with mix-ins:

  • Chopped nuts
  • Chocolate chips
  • Dried fruits
  • Syrups, and other flavorings
  • Liqueurs and spirits
  •  
    How do you do it?

    Banana Loca (photo #2) straightens a banana, cores it while still in the peel, and allows you to fill it with whatever filling you like.

    That includes the basics plus your own custom creations (see ours in the next section).
     
     
    NOT JUST FOR KIDS

    Banana Loca creates a treat that is definitely not just for kids. We adults loved it. We created these fillings:

  • Almond butter with mini chocolate chips and chopped almonds.
  • Cannoli cream with rum-soaked raisins.
  • Desiccated coconut and mini chocolate chips in vanilla yogurt.
  • Fudge sauce with Grand Marnier (orange liqueur).
  • Marshmallow Fluff, mini chocolate chips, and desiccated coconut.
  • Nutella with Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur).
  • Oatmeal cookie pieces in sweetened ricotta.
  • Peanut butter with crumbled candied bacon and separately, with mini chocolate chips.
  • Sour cream and brown sugar, and separately with added granola.
  • Whipped cream cheese and dried cranberries
  •  
    If we’d had chocolate chip cookie dough, we’d have tried that, too.

    BONUS: You can freeze the filled bananas, for a new-style fruit pop. Remove the peel and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

    If you’re really gung-ho, you can add a stick and dip the bananas in chocolate before freezing. Here’s a recipe.

    BONUS #2: You can also use the device to fill donuts.

    Here are how-to videos.
     
     
    ARE YOU READY TO GO BANANA LOCA?

    Head to BananaLoca.com.

     

     
     

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