THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Cookies From Jane Bakes

THE NIBBLE has been publishing for more than 13 years. Over those years, food companies have come to know us, and offer to send us samples of their products.

Other companies don’t even ask: Every week, boxes of food arrive “over the transom*,” as the expression goes.

We also attend dozens of trade shows looking for interesting products, and prowl food stores.

Recently, on the prowl, we came across our Top Pick Of The Week, Jane Bakes. The second pick came over the transom, and the third arrived following an email pitch from the manufacturer.

The theme of this week’s Top Pick is scrumptious cookies you should not miss! Made by in small batches by dedicated artisans, they’re also great for holiday gifting.

The prices range from $6.99 to $15, the latter for a larger box with twice as many cookies.

1. JANE BAKES

Jane must be some kind of sorcerer, because her cookies are magically good. They would be outstanding even if they didn’t have better-for-you ingredients.

One substantial cookie (photo #1) has only 45-47 calories, and 1-1.4 grams of sugar. How is that possible, you’ll ask, especially when you taste them.

More magic: We can be satisfied with one cookie. It’s hard to describe until you taste them, but our personal analogy is: Just one of Jane’s cookies is like eating a piece of cake.

Jane developed her cookies after a run of bad luck in 2007: a house fire in February, followed by a heart attack that July and the stock market crash in September that saw her flower business tumble.

The need for a healthier diet and a new revenue stream resulted in a small café with a focus on healthier foods—and the development of these amazing cookies.

Great Cookie Ingredients

The recipe is based on the French sablé (sandy), elegant with a unique texture. They’re:

  • High in fiber—100% whole grain, with no “whole grain flavor” (here are the flours).
  • Only a gram or so (compared to 8g for cookies of similar size), only 1 effective carb per serving. One gram has 4 calories. The Glycemic Index is 12, very diabetic-friendly.
  • Organic cage-free eggs, butter made from hormone-free milk.
Jane Bakes Cookies
[1] Four flavors of Jane Bakes cookies show how plump and toothsome they are (all photos courtesy Jane Bakes).

Chocolate Chip Cookies Jane Bakes
[2] Our new favorite chocolate chip cookie! Called Whiskey & Rye Chocolate Chip, the rye refers to rye flour and the whiskey is a splash of bourbon—indiscernible, but the alchemy produces gold.

Double Chocolate Cookies Jane Bakes
[3] There are three packaging options. The sleeve (in photo) works nicely for stocking stuffers and other gift giving.

The sugar miracle is an ingredient new to us: Whey Low Sugar, an all-natural product that has 75% fewer calories than table sugar, and is low on the glycemic index. It was named “best sweetener” by the Washington Post and Southern Living, and is available at some Whole Foods stores and online.Here’s the product website. We’re heading to Whole Foods to lay in a stock.And here’s the complete ingredients list for these remarkable cookies.

Great Flavors

We bought all the conventional flavors (not the gluten-free), and can unequivocally say: Every cookie eater will be thrilled with them.

  • Coconut Caramel
  • Double Chocolate (tastes like a brownie)
  • Hazelnut & Dark Chocolate
  • Lemon Poppy
  • Raisin Oatmeal
  • Vanilla Bean
  • Whiskey & Rye Chocolate Chip (our new favorite chocolate chip cookie—there’s a splash of bourbon that is not detectable, and the rye is rye flour)

Gluten-Free Cookies

  • Gluten-Free Amaretto & Oatmeal
  • Gluten-Free Double Chocolate

There are three package formats: a cardboard sleeve, our favorite for gifting, for $6.99; a kraft bag, $7.99; and glass jars for $9.99.

Run, don’t walk, to get yours at JaneBakes.com.

 

Bunches & Bunches Snaps Gingersnaps
[4] Snaps, perfection in a gingersnap (photo Bunches & Bunches).Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies
[5] Raspberry Cave cookies, a Swedish style Americans call thumbprints. The jam is made by local artisans (photos #5 and #6 Unna Bakery).

Unna Bakery Swedish Cookies
[6] The Swedish-motif box is ready for gift-giving.

2. BUNCHES & BUNCHES GINGER COOKIES

This artisan food business is the “side business” of a professional chef and restaurateur. They arrived over the transom, and it was a happy day for us.

The company makes a variety of products, but the one we received that made our day was Snaps, our idea of the perfect gingersnap: a perfect combination of sugar, spice and snap.

What else can we say, except get boxes for everyone, at Bunches & Bunches’ online store.

3. UNNA BAKERY LOW GLYCEMIC COOKIES

Traditional Sweedish cookies from grandmother’s recipes are a welcome

The ingredients are organic: flour, butter, sugar, milk, eggs, cardamom, baking powers and distilled white vinegar. Flavors include:

  • Cardamon Crisp Cookie, like soft cantucci (small biscotti), have a hint of cardamom.
  • Chocolate Caramel Cookies, topped with nib sugar.
  • Farmer’s Cookie, made with brown butter and almonds, has a charming, subtle nuttiness.
  • Ginger Snap Cookie is just right for those who prefer a lighter hit of ginger.
  • Raspberry Cave Cookie, a buttery thumbprint cookie.
  • Vanilla Dream Cookies, with an airy texture.

The company describes Swedish traditions:

The Swedish tradition dictates that you should have a cup of coffee or a tea and a cookie at least once a day.

In Sweden a “kafferep” is a women’s only social gathering known since the mid 1800’s. Women enjoyed cookies, drank coffee and spent quality time together. The cookies were homemade, and it was important to have a nice mix of cookies at a beautifully set table—preferably with a crocheted tablecloth, flowers and nice porcelain dishes. However, the cookies were the centerpiece.

At the time, this was one of few activities where women could meet without men and children present. Here women found something to be proud of, something to call their own. The kafferep was the beginning of the “fika” (a little break) and café culture that thrives in Swedish homes and cafés today.

Historically, the cookies were enjoyed with coffee but they are excellent for your afternoon tea, to pair with wine or champagne and of course with a glass of milk.

We couldn’t say it better! The boxes, with pretty swedish print, are just right for gifting—and men will appreciate these tasty bites just as much. There’s a store locator on the website, and you can order online at UnnaBakery.com.

OVER THE TRANSOM: MEANING

We love this phrase, which is common in the publishing industry. It refers to an unsolicited manuscript, as opposed to the publisher asking a writer to submit an article, book, etc.

In older times, before electric fans (much less air conditioners), doors commonly were topped with transom windows: short windows that sat on top of the door and ran the width of it (here’s an example).

Transom windows enabled light to come in and were also important for cross-ventilation. Due to their small size and height, they maintained security and privacy. Transoms were a common feature of homes and commercial buildings before air conditioning became common, after World War II.

The concept dates to Gothic architecture, which ruled from the 12th through 16th centuries. In architecture, a transom is a horizontal structural beam or bar that separates a door from a window above it. Look at the front door of houses you pass: Some may have transom windows that are both decorative and enable light to come in; and some still open.

In earlier centuries when postage was expensive, writers who wished to have their work considered for publication would literally show up at the publisher’s office and toss the manuscript through the open transom. Hence: over the transom.

Over time, mailed submissions won out; and today—no surprise—email attachments make life easier for both sides of the transom.

 

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TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Sauce Gelatin Mold

This retro idea from Williams Sonoma is an elegant addition to Thanksgiving and Christmas tables.

Our family was mold-centric for every special occasion: for Valentine’s Day, raspberry Jell-O with raspberries, strawberries and red grapes; for Easter, lime Jell-O with sour cream and crushed pineapple; for Independence Day, red, white and blue layers; and on and on.

(Remember, this was the era of the Jell-O mold; our childhood favorite was a lemon Jell-O mold filled with fruit cocktail.)

Today’s recipe is a gelatin mold, not a Jell-O mold. It uses unflavored gelatin—which is also the gelatin used to make savory aspics.

Note that in addition to Thanksgiving turkey and ham, cranberry sauce/mold is great with all poultry and pork, any time.

For this recipe, use any mold you have. We use an open center mold like photo #2 for Thanksgiving, and a star shape for Christmas.

If you don’t have a mold, use a bundt pan or even a loaf pan.

Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 30 minutes.
 
 
RECIPE: CRANBERRY SAUCE GELATIN MOLD

Ingredients For 16 Servings

  • 1-1/4 pounds fresh cranberries
  • 1-1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup water
  • Optional: substitute 2 tablespoons orange liqueur for an equal amount of water
  • 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
  •    

    Molded Cranberry Sauce
    [1] A classic cranberry mold, from Williams-Sonoma.

    Cranberry Mold

    [2] Cranberry mold from NPR.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cranberries, sugar, zest, orange juice, salt and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the cranberries have burst, 25 to 35 minutes. Note: The sauce should measure no more than 3-3/4 cups. Meanwhile…

    2. POUR the remaining 2 tablespoons of water into a bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let it stand until the gelatin softens and swells, 5 to 10 minutes.

    3. SPOON 3/4 cup of the hot juices from the cranberries into the gelatin and whisk until the gelatin has dissolved. If you prefer a sauce with a smoother texture, transfer the remaining cranberry mixture to a food processor and pulse for 2 seconds (10 to 15 times), then proceed as directed.

    4. POUR the gelatin mixture into the cranberry mixture and whisk to combine. Lightly coat the inside of the mold with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the cranberry mixture into the prepared mold and let cool to room temperature. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to overnight.

    5. TO UNMOLD: Set the mold in a large bowl of warm water (115° to 120°F) so the water reaches almost to the rim of the mold. Let stand for 30 seconds, then remove the mold from the water (retain the water in case you need it in Step 6).

    Carefully insert a small offset spatula or paring knife along the side of the mold. Gently pull the gelatin away from the mold to release the suction, then remove the spatula.

    6. PLACE a serving platter upside down on top of the mold and invert the platter and mold together. Gently shake the mold until you hear the gelatin begin to release, then lift off the mold. If the gelatin does not release, return the mold to the warm water for 15 seconds, then repeat the Steps 5 and 6.

     

    Savory Aspic
    [3] A savory aspic (unflavored gelatin; photo courtesy Kraft).

    Fruit JellO Mold

    [4] A Jell-O mold packed with fruit. Here’s the recipe from Taste Of Home.

     

    GELATIN MOLD / JELL-O MOLD HISTORY

    Gelatin dishes date to medieval Europe, laboriously made in the kitchens of the elite. Collagen had to be slowly rendered from animal bones, then clarified.

    Take out the great Bones of four Calves Feet, and put the Feet into a Pot with ten Quarts of Water, three Ounces of Hartshorn, three Ounces of Isinglass, a Nutmeg quarter’d, four Blades of Mace; then boil this till it comes to two Quarts, and strain it through a Flannel-Bag, let it stand twenty-four Hours, then scrape all the Fat from the Top very clean, then slice it, and put to it the Whites of six Eggs beaten to Froth, boil it a little, and strain it again through a Flannel-Bag, then run the Jelly into little high Glasses…You may add Orange-flower Water, or Wine and Sugar, and Lemon if you please, but this is all Fancy. (Quoted in Richard Sax, Classic Home Desserts) [source]

    Decorative molds, often centerpiece-size, were created to hold the gelatin or “jelly,” aspic, or similar dish. The gelatin dish was a work of art. Victorians loved molded foods of all kinds.

    Thomas Jefferson returned from France with a penchant for wine jelly, and his kitchen staff had been trained in France to make it. In New York high society, gelatin dishes were a delicacy.

    In 1845, an American inventor patented a dessert product that was set with gelatin, but it didn’t take off. Much later, in 1897, powedered, fruit-flavored gelatin was invented and this time, it took off (the history of Jell-O).

    Around the turn of the century, many women in the emerging American middle class sought to elevate domestic science in their homes, from efficiency and cleanliness to more interesting food. Jell-O took off.

     

    A housewife could stretch her family’s leftovers by encasing them in plain gelatin. It was also an efficient and tidy process. Everything from vegetables to green salads to chicken salad was molded in gelatin.

    By 1902, Jell-O sales were beginning to soar, and in 1904, Charles Knox promoted Knox Gelatin at the World’s Fair. Smartly, he staged a cooking contest; and in 1905, Mrs. John Cooke of New Castle, Pennsylvania, won third prize in Perfection Salad, “an aspic filled with finely chopped cabbage, celery, and red pepper” that had eye-appeal with its “jewel-like and impeccable” molded precision.

    Meanwhile, families were enjoying snacks and desserts of fruit-flavored Jell-O, and Jell-O salads were ladies’ luncheon fare. Jell-O cookbooks appeared, some devoted entirely to lime Jell-O (source).

    Sugar was rationed during World War II, but when supplies were restored, recipes like Red Crest Salad—strawberry Jell-O with chopped tomatoes and pickles—became popular.

    And so it went, with savory and sweet gelatin molds and loves, up until the 1970s, when California cuisine and the advisory to consume less sugar made Jell-O molds out of style.

    Read more of the story here.

      

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    RECIPE: Bacon Cheeseburger Baked Potato For Game Day Cuisine

    There’s so much attention given to what to serve during football games that we now have what we are designating a new category of food: Game Day Cuisine.

    We identified some 25 different game day favorites, and

  • Artichoke-spinach dip
  • Buffalo drumsticks or wings, hot wings
  • Chicken fingers
  • Crab dip
  • Deviled eggs
  • Drummettes
  • Enchilada casserole
  • French onion dip
  • Fried pickles
  • Guacamole and chips
  • Jalapeño poppers
  • Hummus
  • Layered dip
  • Mac and cheese
  • Meatballs
  • Nachos
  • Pigs in blankets
  • Pizza
  • Potato tots
  • Quesadillas
  • Queso fundido (hot cheese dip)
  • Sliders
  • Slow cooker BBQ
  • Pimento cheese
  • Potato skins
  • Tacos, and…
  • …Add your favorites here
  •  
    We’d like to add something new to the list: a cheeseburger baked potato (photo #1).

    It combines two comfort foods in an easy-to-eat format.

    This recipe was created by Milisa Armstrong of Miss In The Kitchen, and sent to us by the Idaho Potato Commission.

    RECIPE: BACON CHEESEBURGER BAKED POTATO

    Ingredients

  • 4 Idaho baking potatoes
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded plus 1/3 cup Colby-Jack Cheese, divided
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 pound cooked ground beef (seasoned with with ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon garlic salt)
  • ½ cup barbecue sauce
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Scrub the potatoes and pat dry. Place them on a baking sheet and bake one hour or until the potatoes are cooked through.

    2. REMOVE the potatoes from oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F.

    3. CUT the potatoes lengthwise about ¾ of the way through carefully, leaving them attached on the bottom. With a spoon, scrape the insides into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter, sour cream, 1 cup of cheese, garlic, salt and pepper. Mash together or whip with an electric mixer, depending on your desired texture.

    4. SPOON the filling into the potato shells and place on a baking sheet. Toss the ground beef with the barbecue sauce and spoon equally over the potatoes. Sprinkle each potato with the remaining cheese, bacon and green onions.

    5. BAKE for 20 to 25 minutes or until the potatoes are heated through and the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

     

    Cheeseburger Baked Potato
    [1] Bacon Cheeseburger Stuffed Potato (photo courtesy Idaho Potato).

    Cooked Bacon Strips
    [2] We cool the bacon and then cut it into squares with a kitchen scissors (photo Edwards Virginia Smokehouse | Facebook).

    Scallions
    [3] Scallions and green onions are the same thing. The usage is regional: In the Northeast, for example, it’s scallions. We prefer “scallions” because it’s easy to confuse green onions with spring onions, a different variety (photo curtesy David Tanis Market Cooking).

    Colby Jack Cheese
    Colby-Jack cheese. This popular blend is available shredded by Sargento and Kraft (photo courtesy Joe Green | Golden Age Cheese).

     
    WHAT IS COLBY JACK CHEESE?

    An recent American cheese recipe, Colby Jack is a combination of two popular cheeses, Colby and Monterey Jack. Both are semihard cow’s milk cheeses.

    Colby contributes a sharper taste than Monterey Jack; Jack contributes its smooth meltability.

    Colby cheese is the orange cheese in the blend (photo #4). It is similar to Cheddar in look, taste and texture. Colby is a dry cheese, slightly crumbly and like young Cheddar, slightly sharp.

    Colby cheese was developed in 1885 in a cheese factory near Colby, Wisconsin. The benefit over making Cheddar is that Colby does not take as long to age before the sharp taste is achieved (it skips the “cheddaring” step.

    Monterey Jack cheese is a mild, creamy, white cheese, and a great melter. The surprise is that Monterey Jack is a renaming of Mexican queso blanco.

    In the 18th century, queso blanco was made by the Mexican Franciscan friars of Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo in Monterey, California. It was then made by other dairies in the area.

    Much later, in the late 19th century, a local businessman named David Jack owned a dairy along the Salinas River. Like other dairies in the area, it produced queso blanco.

    Jack’s dairy subsequently formed partnerships with other regional dairies, to sell their cheeses throughout California. His queso blanco was mass marketed, first as Jack’s Cheese and eventually as Monterey Jack.

    Variants of Monterey Jack known include Dry Jack (an aged version) and Pepper Jack (with peppercorns).

      

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    RECIPE: Oyster Dressing & The Difference Between Stuffing & Dressing

    Dressing - Stuffing
    [1] Dressing is cooked in a separate pan (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

    Bluepoint Oysters
    [2] Bluepoint oysters, a variety of Atlantic oyster (the different types of oysters; photo courtesy JP’s Shellfish).

    Fresh Sage
    [3] Fresh sage, an aromatic herb for recipes and garnishes (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

     

    Mom was an autocrat in the kitchen (a nicer-sounding word than synonyms like dictator, despot, tyrant, she agrees). Everything had to be exactly as she willed it. As she was a great cook, it was tough to complain.

    Every Thanksgiving, her stuffing was made with white bread, sweet Italian sausage, celery, onions, fresh parsley, sage and thyme.

    Want chestnut stuffing? Oyster stuffing? Cornbread stuffing? Go have dinner elsewhere!

    By the time we had our own kitchen, we had grown so used to Mom’s sausage stuffing that it was tough to rebel, except by switching out the white bread for cornbread.

    And, we switched to dressing over Mom’s preferred method of stuffing (the difference is below).

    We did shell chestnuts for stuffing for a couple of years before the wide availability of peeled, vacuum-packed chestnuts. But when you’re trying to save time, it’s easy to try another recipe.

    Fortunately, our grocer’s fish counter has all the oysters one can afford, shucked and ready to plop into the dressing.

    This year, we received a classic oyster stuffing recipe from Sandy Ingber, “The Bishop of Bivalves” and executive chef of the Grand Central Oyster Bar.

    If you don’t want to make it yourself, the restaurant is selling it for $18/pound, ready to pick up between 12 noon and 8 p.m. on November 21st.

    Orders may be placed by emailing info@oysterbarny.com, by calling 212-490-6650, or in-person at the Oyster Bar. Place your order no later than Monday, November 20th.

    Otherwise: Cook away! This recipe can be made up to 2 days in advance.
     
     
    RECIPE: CLASSIC OYSTER STUFFING FROM THE OYSTER BAR

    Ingredients

  • 1-pound loaf of white bread, cut into ½” cubes (substitute cornbread)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cups medium diced Spanish onions
  • 1 cup medium diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ¾ cup chicken stock
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 24 shucked oysters (the restaurant uses Bluepoints)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. DRY the cut bread cubes overnight, or toast them in a low temp oven (115°F-185°F) until crisp.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F oven. Melt half the butter in a medium skillet. Add the onions and celery, cooking until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, sage, thyme and nutmeg; cook for 30 seconds more.

    3. COMBINE the cooked vegetables with the bread cubes, parsley, stock, milk and eggs, mixing gently. Fold in the oysters. Season with salt and pepper. If making dressing in a separate pan…

    4. TRANSFER the mixture to a large greased baking dish. Dot the surface with pats of the remaining butter. Lightly oil both sides of a piece of parchment and place of top of the dressing. Bake until it is crisp on top and the stuffing temperature reaches 160°F (check after 40 minutes).
     
     
    STUFFING OR DRESSING: THE DIFFERENCE

    It’s simple:

  • Stuffing is cooked inside the bird.
  • Dressing is cooked in a separate pan.
  •  
    While the idea of stuffing the bird appeals to many, most experts recommend cooking a separate dressing.

    For food safety reasons, stuffing in the cavity of the bird must reach the same 165°F temperature before it is ready to serve. If you have a vegetarian dressing, it’s not an issue.

    (But if you have a dressing made with raw meat or seafood, do make sure it cooks to 160°F.)

    It’s also a heck of a lot easier to make dressing, both in placing it in a pan instead of spooning it into the turkey cavity; and in avoiding the labor of scooping the stuffing out of the bird.


      

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    THANKSGIVING: Easy Cranberry Flower Centerpiece

    If you like flowers on the table for a special dinner, you know that it’s necessary to keep the arrangement low.

    Otherwise, guests can’t see each other across the table.

    Tall arrangements belong on a buffet or side table.

    You can finds scores of Thanksgiving centerpieces online (check out these on Pinterest).

    But for the time-pressed or craft-challenged, this arrangement from Ocean Spray (photo #1) couldn’t be easier.

    The centerpiece uses elegant white ranunculus in a bowl of cranberries.

    Yellow ranunculus or other white blooms like roses (photo #2) work just as well.

    THANKSGIVING CENTERPIECE

    Materials

  • 1 clear glass vase, pitcher or bowl
  • 1 or 2 12-ounce bags of fresh cranberries (depending on size of vase)
  • 1 bouquet of fresh flowers
  • Water
  • ¼ teaspoon of bleach per quart of vase water*
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the cranberries in the vase with enough water to fill the vase 3/4 full.

    2. USING a sharp knife or scissors, trim 1/4″ off the ends of the flowers, cutting at a 45° angle. Add the cut flowers to the vase, arranging as needed.

    2. REPLACE the water as needed, and discard the berries when they become soft. Snip the ends of the flowers 1/4 inch each day, as you change the water in the vase.

    ________________

    *Instead of changing the water daily, you can add bleach to the water to keep bacteria (along with their aroma and cloudiness) from growing.

     

    Floral Cranberry Centerpiece Ocean Spray
    [1] Easy, peasy: two ingredients, plus a vase and water (photo courtesy Ocean Spray).

    Floral Cranberry Centerpiece
    [2] A variation with white roses, from Xmaslet | Tumblr.

     

      

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