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WINE CLUB Varietal of the Month: Pinot Noir

Pinot NoirThe Pinot Noir grape elicits quite a bit of emotion in the wine world. Its admiration is due to the grape being very difficult to grow, thus making a great bottle of Pinot Noir wine a challenging find.

Pinot Noir was born in the Burgundy region of France, so this is where it grows the best. In France, it is often referred to as a Red Burgundy instead of Pinot Noir. The wines from Burgundy have flavors of ripe red berries, sweet black cherries, mushrooms and what sommeliers call forest floor, that smell you get from freshly fallen damp leaves.

Today, many great and affordable Pinot Noir wines are being produced in California, Oregon, Australia, Chile and New Zealand. Pinots from these regions tend to be bigger and richer in flavor, tasting fruitier than the Pinots from France.

The modern history of Oregon wine dates back only to 1966, when David Lett founded the Eyrie Vineyards. Lett had the belief that Willamette Valley, just south of Portland, could be an American paradise for Pinot Noir. Today, there are some 250 Oregon wineries, almost all producing Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned wine grape that develops a natural defense against botrytis (mold) in the moist, cool Oregon climate: the antioxidant resveratrol. It is also the most widely used grape for champagne production.

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S’mores Bring Smiles

S’mores Bring SmilesSpooky treats, lots of candy, tiny ghosts and pumpkins on every front porch. It must be Halloween and time to throw a party.

Chips, dip, cookies and brownies are your usual party foods, but why not combine all of them and make s’mores dip? It’s a great way to enjoy the melted, chocolatey goodness of a s’more without the campfire and skewers.

Whenever I serve this recipe, it disappears fast. So, having extra ingredients on hand to quickly whip up a new batch is always a good idea.

I like to use Brookshire’s and Full Circle products because I know I will save money without skimping on flavor.

Here’s my checklist:

  • Brookshire’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (or Milk Chocolate, if you prefer)
  • Brookshire’s Marshmallows
  • Full Circle Organic Honey Graham Crackers

All combined, I spend $6.07, and I have enough ingredients to double the recipe. What a simple way to entertain on a budget!

S’mores Dip

1 1/2 cups Brookshire’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
17 large marshmallows
graham crackers, for dipping

Preheat oven to 425° F. In an 8-inch cast-iron skillet, add the chocolate chips. Cut the large marshmallows in half, and arrange them over the top of the chocolate chips. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the marshmallows turn golden-brown. Serve immediately with graham crackers for scooping.

View this recipe to print or add items to your shopping list.

Note: FRESH has an assortment of Lodge cast-iron pans, available in several sizes, in the housewares department.

FRESH Pasta Brings the Taste of Italy

FRESH Pasta Brings the Taste of ItalyIt’s been a year since FRESH received a special delivery from Italy – the FRESH pasta machine! It makes such a difference in recipes when you use fresh pasta instead of dried. The noodles have a rich flavor, and the texture is sublime. It’s almost like you’ve been transported to a trattoria in Italy, enjoying a plate of fettuccine with Italian mandolins playing in the background.

All of the shapes and flavors, available at FRESH, are so good. I can’t pick a favorite. One thing is sure; I can’t get enough of the Texas BBQ Cream Sauce. It’s a delicious Texas-style twist on an Italian classic!

Now, for some really good news. This month, in honor of FRESH’s Taste of Italy festival, 5 new pastas will be introduced. So many great new choices to taste and try. The new flavors include:

  • Garlic Basil Fettuccine
  • Garlic Basil Tagliatelle
  • Spinach Fettuccine
  • Spinach Tagliatelle
  • Ancho Chile Pappardelle

All of these flavors pair well with either FRESH Pomodoro or Alfredo Sauce. Of course, the Texas BBQ Cream Sauce goes perfectly with the Ancho Chile Pappardelle. The wide-cut pasta ribbons of pappardelle have always been my favorite, so I can’t wait to try this spicy combination. Who says Texans can’t cook like an Italian? Buon Appetito! It’s Italian, y’all!

BREW CLUB Brewery of the Month: Traveler Beer Co.

Traveler Beer CoSit back and relax. Traveler Beer has arrived to take you on a trip from here to refreshing. It’s a satisfying trip, a quick one that starts the moment that first sip hits your taste buds. A sophisticated blend of carefully crafted American wheat ale with fresh and refreshing ingredients. What ingredients? Well, that depends on how you travel.

They’ve unleashed a family of beers so surprising and delightful that no matter how you travel, it’s always the same destination – true refreshment of body and soul.

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Cento Makes Perfect Marinara

Cento Makes Perfect MarinaraMany years ago, I decided to start making my own marinara. I didn’t really like the flavor of many sauces from a jar, and upon further investigation, I was concerned with all the added sugar and sodium that came along with the convenience of opening a jar.

I knew the best-tasting sauce started with the best tomatoes. As I looked at the various brands, I discovered many were full of sodium, and the true tomato flavor did not shine through.

Then, I discovered Cento Crushed Tomatoes. They use 100% vine-ripened tomatoes not from concentrate, and they are crushed and packed immediately to preserve flavor. The only ingredient listed on the can is vine-ripened tomatoes. Originally, my recipe called for two 28-ounce cans of Cento Crushed Tomatoes, but then I learned more about San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes and realized my marinara could be even better.

Distinct in flavor, Cento San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the Sarnese Nocerino area of Italy, renowned for its especially fruitful soil as a result of its proximity to the volcano Mount Vesuvius. They are handpicked, steam-peeled and packed with San Marzano puree in BPA-free cans. Every can of Cento San Marzano Tomatoes is labeled with a lot code, so Cento can track the exact farm where the tomatoes were picked and ensure each crop is up to their standards. (You can even go to the Cento website, enter the lot code and see on a map exactly where the tomatoes were grown.)

The combination of these two tomato products has helped me create the perfect recipe. It’s delicious every time, and friends and family rave about the flavor. It certainly makes from scratch worth the time and effort.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

1 (28 oz) can Cento San Marzano Tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can Cento Crushed Tomatoes
2 Tbs Brookshire’s Pure Olive Oil
1 medium sweet onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs Cento Tomato Paste
1/2 cup red wine
4 tsp dried oregano
4 tsp dried basil
2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
8 leaves fresh basil, thinly sliced

Over medium heat, add oil to a large saucepan. When oil is hot, add onion. Sauté until soft but not brown. Add garlic; sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, and stir to coat completely. Let the tomato paste caramelize slightly. Pour in the wine. Let it simmer and reduce by half.

Add the San Marzano tomatoes, and break up the tomatoes with a spatula. Add the crushed tomatoes; stir to completely combine. Reduce heat to low. Add the oregano, dried basil, pepper and salt. Stir to combine, and let simmer for 20 minutes or much longer. Taste with a piece of bread; adjust seasoning, if necessary. If you make adjustments, simmer for another 10 minutes. When desired flavor is achieved, remove from heat and add chopped basil.

Makes 6 cups

Note: If you think the flavor is too acidic, you can add a pat of butter or 1 teaspoon of sugar. If adding sugar, let the sauce simmer for another 10 minutes and test again. Also, the longer the sauce simmers, the better the flavor. I like to double the recipe and let it simmer for 1 to 2 hours.

View this recipe to print or add items to your shopping list.

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Posted in: Grocery, Recipes

WINE CLUB Varietal of the Month: Nero d’Avola

Nero d’AvolaNero d’Avola is the most prominent grape of Sicily. Named after the shipping town of Avola on the Southeast coast of the island, the name of the fruit means the “black of Avola,” which was given because of the wine’s deep, dark color. It was often blended with other lighter wines to add color and depth. Nero d’Avola is a grape that “crushes red,” meaning its skin and interior are a deep, dark purple or blue color.

Until the 1980s, Nero d’Avola was used as a blending grape, and the name rarely appeared on wine labels. By the turn of the 21st century, the grape’s fortunes had changed, and it is now common to find Nero d’Avola produced as a varietal wine as well. It is often compared to Syrah because the varietal likes similar growing conditions – hot, humid and coastal – and exhibits many similar characteristics.

Previously, there was no way to control the higher alcohol content and overpowering fruit flavor of the grape. Newer methods of harvesting and fermentation allow vinters to harness the wine’s character, and have more control over the alcohol content without compromising the grape’s intense flavor.

Depending on production methods, Nero d’Avola can be made into dense and dark wine that is stored in oak barrels and suitable for aging, or young and fresh wines.

Younger wines show plum and juicy, red-fruit flavors, while more complex examples offer chocolate and dark raspberry flavors.

Nero d’Avola typically has high tannins, medium acidity and a strong body. However, it can also be very smooth if grown at higher elevations where cooler temperatures restrict the alcohol levels. Because of its generous color, Nero d’Avola is sometimes produced as a rosé wine.

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Celebrate Oktoberfest with FRESH

Saint Arnold Brewing Company OktoberfestTake a look at calendars around the world, and October is the month to celebrate. There are plenty of festivals and harvest celebrations that are part of the fall revelry, but the most celebrated is Oktoberfest.

It is the crown prince of fall festivals, but its origin has little to do with food or harvest. It was organized to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Louis to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810.

The German Beer Institute describes the first Oktoberfest as a grand wedding party that allowed the commoners to partake in the ceremonies. The couple organized the gathering for their subjects on grazing land outside the Munich city gates, and some 40,000 Bavarians showed up for the fun. Every year on the anniversary of their nuptials, the party was repeated. To this day, the same meadow is the site of the annual Munich Oktoberfest.

Many Oktoberfest patrons are unaware of the festival’s origin, but the annual celebration has turned into a worldwide revelry of German sausage and special brews of Oktoberfest beer.

The Oktoberfestbier, or Märzens, are brewed in the spring, kept cool all summer and tapped in the fall. They are described as having a sweet and toasted malt complexity with spicy Bavarian hops and a crisp lager finish. Technically, it must be brewed within the city limits of Munich to be classified as or served at Oktoberfest. However, brewers everywhere have begun producing Oktoberfest-style beers that are made in limited release each fall.

On September 29, FRESH will be hosting its own Oktoberfest celebration. Several breweries will be participating, and there will be house-made brats prepared and cooked in the Taste Kitchen. Of course, our house-made brats are always available in the fresh meat case in The Market at any time of year.

There will also be handmade pretzels from the bakery that everyone can enjoy. It will be a great celebration to kick off October and celebrate the flavors of Oktoberfest!

Participating Breweries & Featured Beers:

  • Karbach – Karbachtoberfest
  • St. Arnold – Saint Arnold Oktoberfest
  • Southern Star Brewing – Southern Star Oktoberfest
  • Santa Fe Brewing – Oktoberfest
  • True Vine – Kip’s Pumpkin Ale
  • Goliad Brewing – Golden Ale, Redfish IPA and Black Hefeweizen
  • Guns and Oil – American Lager
  • Cedar Creek – Dankosaurus and Lawn Ranger
  • Community Beer Co. – Texas Helles
  • Nine Band Brewing – Ghost Cow Oktoberfest
  • Grapevine – 3113 Oktoberfest
  • Spaten – Spaten Oktoberfest Beer
  • Franconia – Franconia Oktoberfest

See the FRESH calendar for more details.

BREW CLUB: Saint Arnold Brewing Company

Saint Arnold Brewing Company OktoberfestSaint Arnold Brewing Company, located in Houston, is Texas’ oldest craft brewery. Their goal has been to brew world-class beers that are delivered as fresh as possible to customers in Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

The brewery staff is small, but they are dedicated to making full-flavored beers that are crafted for true beer lovers. It’s a passion not a job, and they believe it comes through in the beers they make.

Saint Arnold brews several different beers; some are year-round. Some are seasonal, and a few are single-batch brews.

Founded by beer-makers, Brock Wagner and Kevin Bartol, their first keg of beer was shipped in June 1994. They chose Houston as their headquarters because it was the largest city in the country that did not have a microbrewery. Brock was a longtime home-brewer and had considered opening a brewery as far back as college. Although, that was quickly dismissed as a silly idea. Seven years after graduating, Brock revisited the idea, enlisting Kevin’s help, and the brewery was off and running.

Featured Beer: St. Arnold Oktoberfest
A full-bodied, malty, slightly sweet beer celebrating the Autumn harvest. This rich beer has a round malt flavor and above-average alcohol content perfect for a cool fall evening. Saint Arnold Oktoberfest is best consumed at 40° F.

ABV: 6.6%, IBU: 14

Recommended Food Pairings:
Crispy potato cakes, roasted turkey and spicy sausage.

Notes from Saint Arnold about their Oktoberfest Brew:
“The Oktoberfest was developed to be a lager recipe as is traditional for this style. Once we had settled on a final recipe made with lager yeast, we decided to make a test batch with our house ale yeast for the fun of it. When it came time to do our blind-tasting to choose our beer, the ale version won by a large margin. The ale took only two weeks to make versus seven weeks for the lager. Tastes better, brews faster, easy decision! The ale won out.

Upon release, we had many knowledgeable people come up and tell us what a great lager we had brewed. When we told them it was an ale, they would suddenly start telling us how it tasted too fruity and was wrong for the style. These are people that you have to resist the urge to slap.”

Beer Brats with Onions and Peppers

Servings: 4

4 to 6 FRESH Housemade Bratwurst Sausages
4 Tbs butter
3 cups beer
2 cups water
1 large red onion, sliced
2 bell peppers, cored and sliced
3 Tbs olive oil

Combine butter, beer, water, onions and peppers in a saucepan large enough to hold the sausages. Stir to combine. Place sausages in the pan. Bring liquid to a simmer, and let sausages gently simmer for 20 minutes. Do not boil. Watch closely so the casing does not break.

Remove the sausages from the pan, and grill until golden-brown. Return the sausages to the pan, and hold in the beer until ready to serve. Serve with buns, other favorite condiments, and the cooked onions and peppers.

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Posted in: Beer & Wine, Recipes

Celebrate Football and Wings with FRESH

Celebrate Football and Wings with FRESHAre you ready for some football? I am so excited to kickoff the season. It’s such a fun time of year with game-watching parties, school spirit and plenty of fun snacks.

Of course, everybody’s favorite is wings, and on September 10th and 11th, FRESH will be having a Wing Fest Weekend. We will have a new wing flavor that we will be creating in the Test Kitchen and many other traditional flavors that everyone enjoys.

When making wings at home, the flavor possibilities are endless. With so many seasonings and sauces, you could serve a smorgasbord of wing selections.

A new line of sauce that I enjoy for flavoring wings is from Ginger People. They have 6 flavors – Sweet Ginger Chili, Ginger Sesame, Spicy Ginger Teriyaki, Hot Ginger Jalapeño, Ginger Lime and Ginger Peanut. They are all great for basting or dipping, and they can be used in the oven, on the grill or straight from the jar.

When I make wings for a party, I like to get the packages of Smart Chicken party wings. Add them to a slow cooker or you can spread them out on a baking sheet. For the slow cooker, simply add some water, salt and pepper. In the oven, toss the wings in some oil, salt and pepper.

After they are cooked through, it is time for saucing. Place the wings, about 12 at a time, in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of Ginger People sauce – any flavor – and stir to coat. Spread the wings out on a greased, rimmed baking sheet. Place them under a broiler for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden and caramelized. You can then put them back in the slow cooker to keep warm. What’s better during game time than a never-ending supply of delicious wings?

Be sure to come out to Wing Fest at FRESH for more great ideas. Check the calendar for additional details.

Asian Wings

2 lbs Smart Chicken Party Wings (about 24 pieces)
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup Ginger People Cooking Sauce
ranch or bleu cheese dressing, for dipping

Place the wings in a slow cooker. Add the water, salt and pepper; stir to combine. Cook on low for 2 to 3 hours or until chicken is cooked through. Remove the wings from the slow cooker, and place in a large bowl.  Pour in the sauce. Using a large spoon, stir to coat thoroughly. Spread the wings onto a greased baking sheet. Place under a broiler on high for 3 to 5 minutes to caramelize. Serve with ranch or bleu cheese dressing as a dipping sauce.

If making the wings for a party, you can use the slow cooker to keep the wings warm. After cooking and saucing, place the wings back in the slow cooker on warm or the lowest setting. Leave uncovered to serve. Stir occasionally.

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Go Back to School with Homemade Granola Bars

Homemade Granola BarsIt’s back to school time! That means alarms are set, lunches are packed, and all the school supplies are ready to go. Don’t forget the most important part – breakfast!

Everyone knows that it’s the most important meal of the day, but it’s often the meal where poor choices affect the way we eat and feel for the rest of the day.

Grabbing a granola or nutrition bar is a popular choice, but you need to read the labels and watch out for preservatives, sugars and high-fructose corn syrup.

When it comes to granola bars, it is easy and inexpensive to make your own. Plus, you know exactly what goes into them, and you can customize the ingredients to fit your taste or health needs.

When selecting ingredients, look for the following:

  • Brookshire’s Old-Fashioned Whole-Grain Oats
  • Brookshire’s Fruit & Nut Trail Mix
  • Brookshire’s Sunflower Seeds
  • Full Circle Organic Honey
  • Full Circle Organic Raisins
  • Full Circle Organic Agave Nectar
  • Full Circle Dried Fruit
  • Full Circle Peanut Butter
  • Dried Fruit, Nuts & Coconut Flakes from the Bulk Department

Homemade Granola Bars

2 cups Brookshire’s Old-Fashioned Whole-Grain Oats
1 cup nuts or trail mix
1/2 cup unsweetened dried fruit
1/2 cup Full Circle Organic Honey
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 400° F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, spread out the oats and nuts. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Coat a pie pan with cooking spray.

In a large saucepan, spray the bottom of the pan with cooking spray. Add the honey. Cook over medium heat without stirring until large bubbles form and the honey begins to darken around the edges. The bubbles will start small and increase to about 3/4 inch in about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Immediately pour the oats, nuts, dried fruit and pinch of salt into the pan. Spray a spatula with cooking spray, and stir the mixture until completely coated with honey.

Quickly press the granola into the pie pan. Place in the refrigerator, and allow to cool for 1 hour. Cut into wedges, and wrap in plastic wrap. The granola bars can remain at room temperature for up to five days, or they can be frozen.

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