THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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TIP OF THE DAY: New Uses For Specialty Dishes

Crudites Plate

Crudites Plate
[1] and [2] How many uses can you find for deviled egg plates and similar platters? Photo of “Naked Vegetables” at Vicia Restaurant | St. Louis | Facebook, credited to @ctroesser for @sophisticatedlivingmag. The dips are broccoli hummus, chorizo purée, strained yogurt, homemade butter and nasturtium salt (green).

Shrimp Cocktail Bites

[3] Shrimp cocktail bites in Chinese soup spoons (here’s the recipe from Gooseberry Mooseberry). Some 20 years ago, a creative caterer noted that these spoons stand up on their own, and used them to serve cocktail bites.


If you like to entertain, or to entertain your family with fun food concepts, we have an idea for you:

Find ways to re-purpose special-use plates and serving dishes.

We were inspired by these photos from Vicia restaurant in St. Louis, which led us to repurpose our deviled egg plate to serve crudités, petit fours, and other bites TBD.

In our early years of cooking, we bought everything we could possibly need to be a proper hostess. We modeled our entertaining after the formal French presentations of the day.

Fast forward over the decades: How times have changed! Even our fancy dinners aren’t that fancy anymore. Some things we haven’t used in 10 or 20 years!

We knew we had a lot of tableware to repurpose or retire. So we undertook a hunt through our kitchen and storage pantry, and here’s what we found:

  • Artichoke plates
  • Asparagus plates
  • Cake stand
  • Chinese soup bowls and spoons
  • Covered servers (glass dome and silver dome tops)
  • Deviled egg platter
  • Egg cups (for boiled eggs)
  • Fondue sets (3 types of pots, plus sectioned fondue plates)
  • Lazy Susan with sectioned compartments
  • Molcajete for guacamole
  • Oyster plates
  • Platters (8, different shapes and sizes)
  • Pots de Creme
  • Ramekins (regularly repurposed for garnishes, olives, etc.)
  • Relish dishes
  • Sectioned serving dishes (2, 3 and 4 sections)
  • Sushi boards and round lacquered platters
  • Tortilla warmer
  • Two-tiered server (e.g. for raw seafood)
  • Tureens
  • Toast racks
    No wonder we can’t open a cupboard or closet without a small landslide (we call it the “suicide leap”—packed-in items will do anything to get out of that cabinet).

    Here’s our first resolution for the new year: Repurpose it or give it away.

    So far we’ve repurposed:

  • Artichoke plates: for baked apples and garnishes (crème fraîche, nuts, raisins); for a deconstructed ice cream sundae (scoop in the middle, garnishes in the compartments).
  • Chinese soup spoons: for daily amuses bouche (see below).
  • Deviled egg plate: for crudités, DIY garnishes, petit fours, strawberries (with chocolate dip in the center), and upcoming, for colored Easter eggs.
  • Egg cups: as kiwi cups (and check out these great ideas from House Beautiful).
  • Fondue plates: as burrito plates, with garnish compartments (sour cream, salsa, chopped scallions).
  • Molcajete: as a tortilla chip server.
  • Tortilla warmer: as a pancake and waffle warmer.

    Asparagus plates, oyster plates and toast racks: your time is up. And sorry, molcajete: you too. You’re a picturesque way to serve tortilla chips, but not as useful as our score of serving bowls.

    Amuse-bouche (pronounced ah-MEEZ boosh) is French for “amusing the mouth.” It’s an hors d’oeuvre-size portion plated in a tiny dish, sent as a gift from the chef after the order has been placed but before the food arrives.

    It’s just one bite; here’s more about them.

    For years, caterers have been using Chinese soup spoons to serve cocktail bites. The spoons have a level bottom that stands up on a plate or platter: a creative way to serve.

    We have lots of Chinese soup spoons (don’t ask!). Our “repurposing” task led us to a fusion idea: Use the spoons to serve a nightly amuse bouche at dinner.

    The real creative idea here is turning whatever you find in the fridge into an amuse bouche—a rustic one, nothing fancy.

    We repurpose leftovers or whatever we have in the fridge: a cube of cheese with herbs and spices, a piece of hard-boiled egg with curried mayo, a spoonful of leftover mac and cheese, a bite of chicken with fresh-cracked pepper.

    It’s just a bite…and it’s easy to re-season leftovers with dabs of different condiments, herbs and spices. And may we add: We’re also using a shelf full of condiments that take up space (chile sauce, chutney, honey mustard, pesto….)

    Get out those Chinese soup spoons and try it!



    TIP OF THE DAY: Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes

    Purple may not be a theme color for the holidays, but we can’t resist the Stokes purple sweet potatoes that are in markets now.

    Once a rarity outside of Asian markets, purple potatoes are now popping up in mainstream markets nationwide.

    There are different varieties, which vary in shape and levels of moisture, density, richness and sweetness.

    Some are brown-skinned with purple flesh. Others, like the Murasaki sweet potato, have a lovely violet skin, but the flesh inside is white.

    The Filipino ube, which would seem to be part of this group, isn’t. It’s a yam, not a sweet potatoe; it grows on a vine above the ground, as opposed to under the soil.

    The deep purple color comes from several anthocyanins, antioxidant pigments found in blueberries, cherries, red cabbage, strawberries, and other fruits and vegetables their color.

    Note that not all blue-purple-red produce colors are from anthocyanins. Beets, for example, get their color from betalains, other pigments.

    Stokes potatoes are veiled in mystery. They were propagated by Mike Sizemore a grower in Stokes County, North Carolina, the nation’s largest sweet potato-producing state (who knew?).

    He relates that one day in 2003, when he won a prize for his sweet potatoes at a state fair, an unidentified woman approached gave him some deep purple sweet potatoes.

    At the time, there were already other purple-fleshed sweet potatoes on the market, including the Okinawan sweet potato, also known as the Hawaiian sweet potato and uala. Under its light beige-colored skin is violet-purple flesh.

    Sizemore did not know the origin of the dark-skin potatoes he was handed, but propagated them and found that the potatoes kept their deep color remarkably well when cooked.

    He obtained a patent on the potato and started marketing it commercially in 2006. In 2013 he licensed it to California’s largest sweet potato grower and distributor, and that company is now selling it exclusively through specialty produce distributor Frieda’s [source].

    We are big fans. The Stokes are moister, have more density, and better color when cooked, than Okinawan sweet potatoes. They has a rich, almost winy flavor.

    You can substitute them in any sweet potato, and many white potato, recipes. Mashed or french-fried, they’ll have more eye appeal than anything else on the plate.

    Truth to tell, when we first brought home a bag, we couldn’t wait to eat them. We popped them in the microwave for 4-5 minutes.

    The potatoes were long and relatively slender; they emerged moist and delicious. We didn’t even need to add butter!

    Here are tips from Frieda’s:


    Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes
    [1] Stokes purple potatoes, baked (photo courtesy Frieda’s).

    Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes
    [2] Raw Stokes Purples (photo courtesy Specialty Produce).

    Mashed Purple Sweet Potatoes
    [3] Your favorite potato dishes can now be charmingly purple (photo courtesy Frieda’s).

    Purple Sweet Potato Oven Baked Fries
    [4] Oven baked fries. Add red ketchup for a riot of color (photo courtesy Frieda’s).

  • Baked potatoes: Scrub the skin and wrap the potatoes in aluminum foil. Rub with olive oil prior to wrapping for extra-moist results. Place the wrapped potatoes on a baking tray and bake at 350°F degrees for 1 to 2 hours (bigger potatoes take longer). The dense flesh of this potato takes a bit longer to cook than most other sweet potatoes.
  • Other recipes: Purple potatoes can also be boiled, fried, mashed, roasted, steamed or shredded for potato pancakes.
  • Baked goods: Caution: Baking soda may turn the purple sweet potato green! Check your recipe.
    Note that the drier texture of this potato lends better to high-moisture cooking methods.

    The Stokes Purple sweet potato can be prepared like most sweet potatoes; however, their lower moisture content should be taken into account. Adding one or two tablespoons of liquid to the recipe will achieve a more desirable consistency.

    Millennia ago, thousands of varieties of potatoes grew wild in the foothills of the Andes Mountains of Peru.

    Scores of varieties were cultivated around 3,000 B.C.E. by the Incas, including those with the pigments that create blue- and purple-fleshed white potatoes and purple sweet potatoes.

    Today, purple potatoes are grown around the world. Here’s more about purple potatoes and a recipe for a colorful purple potato and beet salad.

    Here’s a brief history of potatoes.



    RECIPE: Christmas Green Beans

    Christmas Green Beans
    [1] Green beans with red accents (photo courtesy

    Sundried Tomatoes
    [2] Julienned sundried tomatoes (photo courtesy Sevillo Fine Foods).


    Our holiday meals are known for too much food. We wish we could cut back on the number of dishes on the groaning board, but we can’t. We want them all.

    But we do intersperse high-calorie dishes with equally delicious foods that healthy eaters and calorie-counters can enjoy in heaping portions; and everybody else will enjoy them as well.

    This recipe from Melissa’s fits the bill: flavorful, colorful and healthful.

    If you have guests who are picky about added sugar, don’t toss the dried cranberries* in the last step. Instead, create a circle of cranberries around the rim of the serving bowl, so people can scoop up the beans from the center.

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ sweet onion, sliced thin
  • 3 cloves peeled garlic, minced
  • 1/3-1/2 cup julienned sundried tomatoes
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, ends trimmed; quartered
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) dried cranberries
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

    1. BLANCH the green beans in boiling salted water until just crisp-tender. Immediately place them in a bowl of ice water to stop them from cooking.

    2. HEAT the olive oil in a sauté pan and melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onions are sweated and translucent.

    3. ADD the tomatoes and mushrooms and sauté, stirring often, for 5-7 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender.

    4. ADD the beans and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the beans are heated through. Remove from the heat, stir in the cranberries and serve.

    *Dried cranberries are sweetened with sugar. That’s why they’re not mouth-puckering tart.



    FOOD HOLIDAY: Cupcake Flavors For National Cupcake Day

    Whether you like your cupcakes buttery, gluten free or vegan, you can celebrate National Cupcake Day with any number of flavors.

    Beyond vanilla, chocolate and red velvet, bakeries all over the world are turning out cupcakes in flavors from lemon meringue to Margarita.

    But this list, adapted from the Carolina Cupcakery in Norfolk, Virginia, tops them all..

    Truth to tell, we haven’t seen such a long list of flavors from any cupcakery—and this is just a selection. See all 250 flavors.

    A thought: Can there be too many cupcake flavors? (Not if your goal is to eat a different flavor every day of the year.)

    We present this list as inspiration for everyone who would like to bake some cupcakes on this food holiday…or any other day of the year.

  • Almond Joy: Coconut cake with almond buttercream, slivered almonds, chopped coconut and fudge drizzles.
  • Amaretto Joy: Coconut cake infused with Amaretto flavor and topped with almond buttercream, coconut and fudge drizzles.
  • Apple Walnut: Fresh apple-walnut cake with apple-walnut buttercream.
  • Black Forest: Chocolate cake with a ring of chocolate buttercream, filled with cherry pie filling, topped with fudge ribbons.
  • Black and White: Dark chocolate cake frosted with Vanilla Bean buttercream and chocolate drops.
  • Brown Sugar Praline: Chocolate cake with old-fashioned brown sugar frosting.
  • Cherry Bomb: Dark chocolate cake w/ a cherry in the center, cherry frosting and dark chocolate ganache drizzled over the top.
  • Chocolate Guinness: German-style chocolate stout cake, frosted with chocolate stout frosting.
  • Chocolate cake filled with pecan pie and a dollop of semi sweet whipped ganache.
  • Chocolate Razmatazz: Chocolate cake soaked with raspberry flavor topped with fudge and a dollop of raspberry frosting.
  • Chocolate Salted-Caramel: Chocolate cake filled with caramel, chocolate frosting edged in light sea salt.
  • Choco-Mint Grasshopper: Chocolate mint cake frosted with minty green buttercream.
  • Cookie Dough: Chocolate cake topped with a scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough instead of icing.
  • Cookies ‘n Cream: Chocolate cake topped with chunky whipped Oreo frosting and an Oreo cookie on top.
  • German Chocolate: Chocolate cake filled with classic toasted coconut-pecan filling, topped with chocolate buttercream and garnished with toasted coconut.
  • Gran Marnier: Chocolate cake soaked with Gran Marnier frosted w chocolate buttercream, ganache ribbons.
  • Habanero Hottie: Dark chocolate cake infused with habanero-cinnamon spice, topped with tinted red buttercream and garnished with hot Habanero or Red Hots candy.
  • Heath Bar: Chocolate cake filled with butterscotch mousse, frosted with creamy chocolate frosting and garnished with toffee bits.
  • Ho-Ho Heaven: Dark chocolate cake filled with marshmallow cream, coated with dark Callebaut ganache and a classic swirl.
  • Irish Patty: Chocolate cake soaked with Irish Cream and Creme de Menthe, minty chocolate buttercream and ganache
  • Jaina’s Raspberry: Chocolate cake filled with raspberry mousse, frosted with dark chocolate frosting.
  • Junior Mint: Fudgy chocolate cake frosted with white mint buttercream and a layer of fudge on top.
  • Kylie’s Cookie Dough: Marble cake with a ring of chocolate buttercream, a scoop of cookie dough and chocolate ganache.
  • Lady Godiva: Dark chocolate cake soaked with chocolate liquor frosted w chocolate buttercream and fudge drizzles.
  • Messed up Monkey: Dark chocolate cake frosted with a banana liquor flavored buttercream.
  • Midnight Pomegranate: Dark chocolate cake infused with pomegranate flavor frosted with a pomegranate-chocolate swirl.
  • Mike’s Peppermint: Crushed peppermint chocolate cake with buttercream swirl of red peppermint and white chocolate.
  • Molten Lava: Rich, dark chocolate cake with a rich chocolate center and a dollop of chocolate buttercream.
  • Mudslide: Chocolate cake infused with Kahlua and Baileys, frosted with a dollop of chocolate frosting.
  • Nutella Truffle: Nutella-filled (hazelnut) chocolate cake topped with chocolate-hazelnut buttercream.

    Lavender Cupcake
    A lavender cupcake from Hey Little Cupcake.

    Chocolate Maple Bacon
    Chocolate Maple Bacon from Tee and Cakes.

    Grasshopper Cupcake
    [3] Grasshopper, from Carolina Cupcakery.

    Root Beer Cupcake
    Root Beer Float, from Yummy Cupcakes.

    Goat Cheese Cupcake
    Sweetened Goat Cheese & Caramelized Tomato from More Cupcakes.

  • Orange You Cocoa?: Dark chocolate cake infused with orange flavor, orange buttercream and a chocolate chunk.
  • Peanut Butter Oreo: Chocolate cake, whipped peanut butter buttercream and Oreo cookies.
  • Pretzel Twist: Chocolate cake with pretzel M&M’s baked inside and salted-chocolate buttercream.
  • Reese’s Cup Remix: Dark chocolate cake frosted with rich peanut butter frosting, Reese’s pieces.
  • Rocky Road: Chocolate cake frosted with creamy chocolate frosting, peanuts, mini marshmallows and chocolate chips.
  • Snowball: Chocolate cake with whipped topping and coconut.
  • Tipsy Butterfinger: Chocolate cake infused with butterscotch flavor, frosted with creamy chocolate frosting and Butterfinger bits.
  • White Chocolate Blizzard: White chocolate cake, frosted with white chocolate buttercream and topped with Callebaut white chocolate.
  • White Chocolate Peppermint: White chocolate cake frosted with white chocolate peppermint buttercream and a peppermint candy cane.

  • Cappuccino Kick: Vanilla bean cake blended with coffee, java-buttercream.
  • Caramel Macchiato: Coffee cake filled with vanilla pudding, topped with caramel buttercream and a caramel drizzle
  • French Vanilla Latte: Espresso cake infused with French Kiss flavor and topped with vanilla-java buttercream.
  • Java Chip: Dark chocolate cake swirled with coffee and Callebaut java-buttercream.
  • Kahlua and Cream: Dark chocolate cake infused with Kahlua and frosted with whipped java-buttercream.
  • Morgan’s Mocha: Chocolate cake frosted with coffee buttercream and topped with fudge.
  • Pumpkin Spice Latte: Java cake topped with pumpkin spice buttercream.
  • Too Tiramisu: White cake infused with Kahlua, layered with mascarpone filling, dusted with sweet Ghiradelli cocoa.
  • White Russian: White cake, infused with Kahlua and frosted with swirled espresso and french vanilla buttercream.

    Cannoli Cupcake
    Cannoli Cupcake from Crumbs Bake Shop.

    Pancakes, Maple, Bacon Cupcake
    Pancakes & Bacon Cupcake With Maple Buttercream Frosting, from Yummy Cupcakes.

    S'mores Cupcake
    S’mores Cupcake from Treat Cupcake Bar.

    Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes
    Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes from Baked By An Introvert.



  • Annabelle: Lemon-lavender cake with light fluffy frosting.
  • Andy’s Key Lime: White cake with lime zest, frosted with Key-lime buttercream.
  • Amaretto Rose: Lime cake infused with Amaretto, topped with pink amaretto buttercream.
  • Apple Crisp: Apple oatmeal cake, with applesauce glaze and butterscotch buttercream.
  • Apple Crumb: Fresh apple-cinnamon cake with streusel crumb topping and vanilla bean frosting.
  • Caramel Apple Crumb: Apple-cinnamon cake with streusel crumb topping and caramel drizzled on top.
  • Apple-tini: Light green fresh apple cake, frosted with Apple Schnapps buttercream.
  • Apple-Walnut: Vanilla cake with fresh apple, cinnamon, and walnuts with cinnamon apple frosting garnished with walnuts.
  • Arnie Palmer: Limoncello-infused sweet tea cupcake frosted with lemonade buttercream.
  • Banana Puddin’: Fresh banana cake filled with banana pudding topped off with a dollop of fluff and a Nilla wafer.
  • Bahama Mama: Orange-pineapple cake infused with rum, swirled with cranberry-orange buttercream.
  • Baybreeze: Pineapple-cranberry cake soaked with pomegranate schnapps, frosted with cranberry buttercream.
  • Berry Martini: Mixed berry cake frosted with pomegranate schnapps buttercream.
  • Big Blue: Blueberry cake frosted with swirled white and blue champagne buttercream, infused with blueberry vodka.
  • Blueberry Heaven: Blueberry cake with white chocolate buttercream and blueberry drizzle.
  • Blueberry Pancake: Blueberry cake with maple buttercream and syrup drizzle.
  • Blueberry Pie-Oh-My: Vanilla cake stuffed with blueberry pie filling and vanilla buttercream.
  • Caramel Apple: Apple cake frosted with soft caramel, dipped in peanuts or sprinkles.
  • Caramelized Pear: Cinnamon-pear cake with a dollop of cream cheese buttercream and caramel drizzle.
  • Champagne Strawberry: Strawberry cake with champagne-strawberry buttercream.
  • Cherries Jubilee Flambé: Pink cake topped with maraschino-mandarin buttercream and an optional flaming cherry.
  • Cherry Limeade: Bright green lime cake with pink maraschino-cherry buttercream.
  • Cherry Pie-Oh-My: Vanilla cake stuffed with cherry pie filling and vanilla buttercream.
  • Chocolate-covered Strawberry: Chocolate cake with strawberry buttercream topped with ganache, fresh strawberry garnish .
  • Cranberry White Chocolate: Pink white cake with real cranberries and white chocolate buttercream.
  • Cosmo: Pink white cake with infused cranberries, frosted with cranberry-lime buttercream.
  • Dirty Pirate: Pineapple cake infused with spiced rum topped with maple frosting and toasted coconut.
  • Drive Me Bananas: Banana cake with caramel buttercream and caramel drizzles.
  • Excellent Carrot Cake: Amazingly moist carrot cake with pineapple, coconut and real cream cheese buttercream.
  • Freckled Lemonade: Lemon cake studded with strawberries and strawberry/lemon buttercream.
  • Fuzzy Navel: Peach Schnapps flavored orange cake frosted with orange-peach buttercream.
  • Hard Lemonade: Lemon-zest cake infused with Limoncello, and lemon frosting.
  • Hawaiian: Mandarin orange butter cake topped with pineapple whipped topping and finished off with a cherry.
  • Honey Lavender: Lavender-infused cake with clover honey buttercream.
  • Hummingbird: Moist pineapple-pecan banana cake, frosted with cream cheese frosting.
  • Hurricane: Rum punch cake infused with rum and pineapple-cherry frosting.
  • Lemon Meringue: White cake filled with lemon curd frosted with a whipped vanilla topping.
  • Lemon Drop: Tangy lemon-zest cake with fresh lemon-infused buttercream frosting and a candy lemon drop.
  • Lemon Lush: Sweet lemon cake with lemony cream cheese buttercream.
    Exhausted yet?

    This is only 1/3 of the list at Carolina Cupcakery.

    The real challenge, we think, is figuring out what selection to bake in any given week.

    You, however, need to pick only one or two to bake right now.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Flash-Fried Herbs & Other Christmas Garnishes

    A bit of red and green garnish turns almost anything into holiday fare.

    Since so many of our foods are white or beige, they can use a colorful lift.

    While a baked brie topped with cranberry relish and rosemary is a holiday staple in our home, we love garnishing other foods with crisp, flash-fried herbs.

    Try it: You’ll discover a colorful, flavorful garnish that can be added to just about everything.

    And, it takes less than a minute to cook the cleaned herbs.

    Basil, parsley and sage can be flash-fried as a tasty garnish. Combine them with a red garnish for a Christmas effect.

  • 1 bunch fresh herbs
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • Salt

    1. WASH, pat dry and pinch the leaves from the stems.

    2. HEAT the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, fry 6–8 basil or sage leaves, or equivalent parsley, at a time until crisp, 2–3 seconds.

    3. TRANSFER the herbs to a paper-towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with coarse salt and set aside until ready to use.

    You can use the herbs in their raw state, or try these green garnishes:

  • Arugula
  • Baby spinach
  • Bell peppers, diced
  • Green beans, sliced
  • Other herbs: cilantro, dill, mint
  • Pickles, chopped
  • Scallion leaves, sliced or chopped
  • Snow peas or sugar snap peas, sliced
  • Watercress

  • Beets, sliced or diced
  • Bell peppers, diced
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • Cranberry relish
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Red caviar
  • Red condiments, e.g. chile sauce
  • Red grapes, sliced or diced

    Christmas Soup Garnish
    [1] A white soup or any white food—goat cheese, chicken breasts, fish, mashed potatoes, noodles, grains—gets a lift from pomegranate arils and fried herbs. Here, parsley is flash-fried (photo courtesy Chef Adrianne).

    Pita Christmas Trees
    [2] Cut pita rounds into triangle “trees,” and add a wood toothpick for the stem. Top with hummus and garnish with a small dice of red and green bell pepper. For more color, buy green hummus, or blend thawed green peas into regular hummus (photo courtesy Tribe Hummus | Facebook).

    Christmas Scallops Appetizer
    [3] Raw sea scallops are a favorite of ours. Serve them atop a slice of watermelon radish, or plate them as a first course as shown. Garnish with a bead of salmon caviar or an dab of chile sauce, plus a leaf of parsley (photo courtesy HMF | The Breakers).




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