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‘Tis the Season for Holiday Snacking

Throughout November and December, it’s the season of entertaining. Holiday parties, family gatherings and last-minute guests fill our schedules and keep us busy with festive activities. I like to keep a file of quick and easy recipes that make entertaining a breeze. There are a few requirements to fit this category: minimal ingredients, little to no cooking and easy cleanup.

Baked brie is always a favorite. You can use a variety of preserves over the cheese and an assortment of toasted nuts to crumble over the top. It can be baked and served in the same dish, and it can even be made in the toaster oven since oven space can be hard to come by when preparing holiday meals. Spiced nuts also offer versatility in flavor, and a large batch can be made in advance and stored in a large airtight container. Visit the bulk department at FRESH and create your own assortment of favorite nuts. You can even add dried fruit after baking.

The flavor profile can vary by baking the nuts with your favorite seasoning and a touch of sweetness from honey, agave or maple syrup. I like the combination in the recipe below with seasonal fall spices and a generous sprinkle of coarse sea salt. There’s also a touch of heat with cayenne pepper.

Fig and Pistachio Baked Brie

1 (4-inch) wheel brie
1/4 cup fig preserves
1 Tbs honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, chopped

Place brie in a shallow baking dish or on a baking pan lined with foil. Spread preserves and honey over the top of the brie; sprinkle with cinnamon. Top with the pistachios. Place in a 350° F oven for about 7 minutes, or until the brie softens and begins to ooze but not melt. Remove from oven. Using a wide spatula, transfer to a serving plate. Serve with crackers, toasted baguette slices or sliced apples.

Per Serving:
Calories: 462, Fat: 35.5 g (15 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 75 mg, Sodium: 470 mg, Carbohydrates: 19 g, Fiber: 0.5 g, Protein: 16 g.

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

Maple-Spiced Nuts

2 tsp dried rosemary, finely minced
2 tsp dried sage, finely minced
2 tsp dried thyme, finely minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
6 cups mixed nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, etc.)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350° F. If you have a mortar and pestle, grind the herbs and cayenne pepper together to combine. In a large mixing bowl, combine the nuts, maple syrup, olive oil and herb/spice mixture; toss well to thoroughly coat. Spread the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Per Serving:
Calories: 578, Fat: 51 g (8 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 265 mg, Carbohydrates: 25 g, Fiber: 5 g, Protein: 13.5 g.

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


Rise & Shine with a FRESH Healthy Breakfast

Maple Hill Creamery Yogurt paired with FRESH Signature Granola Summer has ended and September is almost here. It’s a time to get back into school and work routines. That means early mornings and the daily rush to get out the door.

So, you hit the snooze a few times; that doesn’t mean you can skip breakfast. There are still some great options that are quick, healthy and easy to eat on-the-go when you are short on time.

Maple Hill Creamery Yogurt paired with FRESH Signature Granola is one of my favorite breakfast combinations. Top with a drizzle of honey and some fresh berries, and it’s almost like dessert for breakfast.

Not only is it delicious, but it’s healthy, too. The yogurt is made with milk from 100% grass-fed cows. They are committed to making the highest quality 100% grass-fed, organic, whole-milk dairy products. With a variety of flavors in their cream-line yogurts and handcrafted Greek yogurts, you are sure to find a favorite. They even have drinkables for an on-the-go healthy snack.

The FRESH Signature Granola is made in-house with organic rolled oats, walnuts, organic pumpkin and sunflower seeds, coconut, currants, cranberries, apricots and blueberries. It is lightly sweetened with brown rice syrup and baked in a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, ginger, cardamom, vanilla, orange essence, and canola and sesame oils.

It’s a wonderful mixture of all-natural flavors, and the protein and fiber keep you satisfied and away from unhealthy snacks.

On mornings that are rushed, I pack my yogurt to-go. Simply grab a Mason jar and layer the ingredients – yogurt on the bottom, a drizzle of honey, a layer of fruit and granola on top. It’s easy to eat and will stay fresh in the office refrigerator. You can even make it the night before. With the granola on top, it stays crisp and dry, and whenever you’re ready, there’s a healthy breakfast at your fingertips.

A FRESH Point of View: The Earth’s Only Edible Rock

Have you ever been shopping on aisle six and wondered what the difference is between a box of Morton’s salt and a jar of Himalayan Pink Salt? Or been browsing our bulk foods and noticed some interesting salts like fleur de sel, Hawaiian red sea salt or Yakima Applewood Smoked Salt?  We have quite a number of salt varieties here at FRESH and many guests are often trying to determine the best choice for their cooking, baking or even just for serving on their table.

Salt is one of the five tastes that are detectable by people (along with sweet, sour, bitter and savory).  Not only does it enhance the flavor of food but it also can be added to a dish for its texture as well as its ability to bring out aromas.  There are two main types of salt – rock salt and sea salt.  Rock salt is mined from the earth and sea salt is harvested from ocean waters.

The easiest way to think of salts is to break them down into three categories: table salt, regular sea salts and kosher salts, and finishing salts. I suggest that our guests try to keep all three around: table salt for baking, kosher/sea salt for cooking, and finishing salt for serving.

The most common type is what is known as table salt which is often iodized and is used for baking because of its fine crystals which dissolve quickly.  For cooking, sea salt is superior. There are many price levels and flavors of sea salt available but for everyday cooking, a basic sea salt will work just fine.  Like sea salt, kosher salt is preferred by chefs for cooking because it has no additives and tends to leave a more salty flavor in the food. The flakes of kosher salt are a bit lighter than sea salt, so kosher salt is often preferred for seasoning sautés, brining meats, and salting water. Kosher salt is also particularly useful in preserving, because its large crystals draw moisture out of meats and other foods more effectively than other salts.

Finishing salts are the upper echelon of sea salts and should be used only on finished food, not while cooking. Fleur de sel is an artisan, hand-harvested sea salt, with smallish crystals, often pale gray. It has a subtle flavor and is especially delicious sprinkled on dishes right before serving or to add an edge to sweet goods like caramel.

Well and Good: The Spices of Fall

What’s my favorite thing about fall? It has to be the amazing smells. Whether it’s at my favorite restaurant, at home or here at FRESH, you can tell when fall has come. How? The fragrances of cinnamon, pumpkin and nutmeg fill the air! If you’re like me (and most people, in fact), some spices have been in your cabinet since last Thanksgiving. The spices we use in fall aren’t commonly used in the dog days of summer. Who wants a piping hot pumpkin latte when it’s 105 degrees outside?  

No matter their flavor profile, spices (especially ground spices) can be delicate and lose a great deal of fragrance (and taste) when they aren’t used quickly. Restocking your fall spice pantry can seem like a daunting task, but have no fear! The FRESH bulk specialists are here with some of our favorite spices, and even one of our favorite recipes to go right along with them. If you try them out, let us know what you think the next time you’re shopping with us! 

Cinnamon: Did you know cinnamon is a bark? Here at FRESH, we have cinnamon sticks as well as several varieties of ground cinnamon, including organic. Take home a little of each and find out if you can tell the difference!  

Nutmeg: 80% of the world’s nutmeg comes from Indonesia! With whole and ground nutmeg, FRESH has you covered. If you’ve never tried whole nutmeg, why not? It’s a seed from the nutmeg tree and its flavor lasts almost indefinitely. One whole nutmeg seed goes a long way! Nutmeg is a common “secret ingredient” in many family recipes. A great mac and cheese recipe follows from one of my favorite cooks, Ina Garten.   

Cloves: The first clove forests were discovered in Indonesia. Actually a dried flower bud, cloves are known for their fruity, spicy taste and are an essential ingredient in the fragrant foods of fall. If you’re buying for flavor, whole cloves are a great choice; just grind in your spice grinder when you’re ready to use. If that’s not your speed, go for the ground! Just buy a little at a time, as ground spices lose flavor quickly. 

Allspice: Given its name by British troops who didn’t know what it was, allspice comes from the berry of the allspice tree (shocking, I know). Spicy and strong, allspice is used in ciders, teas and cookies for unmistakably rich fall flavor. Here at FRESH, our favorite is Jamaican allspice and we love it in a spice rub for apple-stuffed pork chops. Yum!  

Barefoot Contessa’s Mac and Cheese 

1 Tbs vegetable oil
Kosher salt, to taste
1 lb elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 quart milk
8 Tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 oz Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)
8 oz extra-sharp cheddar, grated (2 cups)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 lb fresh tomatoes (4 small)
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed) 

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.

Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Well and Good: Bulk It Up

Want value and quality? We’ve got it here at FRESH, especially in the Bulk Department! Whether you need a teaspoon or a gallon, we’ve got it! And, because you’re not paying for the manufacturer’s label or packaging, you get a great deal.

Let’s say that your friends are all talking about a new super-food and you want to try it, but you’re not too sure you’ll like it. When you buy in bulk, you can get just enough to make a serving, without having a lot left over in your pantry. If you love it, you know where to get more!

If you haven’t visited us in the bulk section, here’s a great recipe to get you started:

Spicy Lemon Quinoa

2 cups quinoa
Salt, to taste
2 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper, to taste

Place quinoa in a fine mesh sieve. Rinse under cold water until water runs clear. Transfer to a medium sauce pan, add 1 teaspoon salt and 2 1/4 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until water is completely absorbed, 18 to 20 minutes.

Transfer quinoa to a medium bowl along with pine nuts, lemon zest, parsley, cumin and cayenne; drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper; toss until well combined. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Doesn’t this recipe sound delicious? If you weren’t buying in bulk, you would need an entire bottle of cumin, cayenne and black pepper, as well as a bottle of olive oil, a box of quinoa and a bag of pine nuts to try it. Instead, you can buy the exact measurements of the recipe and save over half! And just because you’re saving on cost doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing on quality. Our bins are refilled frequently each day, so you can be assured that you’re getting the freshest ingredients possible.

We have so many great ingredients, we guarantee you’ll be inspired! If you find an ingredient you want to try, ask us for a recipe. There’s a good chance we can offer one we love!

*Recipe retrieved from

Family Central: Grab-and-Go Breakfast

Breakfast on the go doesn’t have to mean a doughnut scarfed down in the car.

If you’re struggling to get a healthy meal into the kids before school, here’s a simple grab-and-go treat that both kids and adults will enjoy. It’s high-protein and filling, and is lightly sweet, with just a hint of saltiness to balance things out.

It’s super-simple to make, so the kids can help. (Older ones can whip up a batch themselves.) Make it ahead of time and store it in the fridge, for a quick breakfast or snack you can grab on the way out the door.

We used ingredients from our bulk department to come up with this recipe, and you can customize it to your tastes. Substitute any nut butter – peanut, almond or pecan – for the cashew butter. And, you can use any granola flavor; try several until you find your family’s favorite!

Breakfast Cashola

1 cup FRESH ground cashew butter
1/2 cup FRESH Signature Granola
2 Tbs agave nectar
1/8 tsp Fleur De Sel Sea Salt

Mix all together and roll into small balls, refrigerate and grab and eat on the go.

Well and Good: Wholesome Millet

On these cool, damp winter mornings, a warm whole-grain cereal is just the thing to keep you fueled up. For a change of pace, why not try some millet?

Now we often think of millet as bird food, but did you know that millet was the chief grain in China generations ago, before rice became so popular? It continues to be a great source of nourishment for people in Africa, China and Russia.

And millet is good for more than just the birds. Millet is packed with nutrients.  It is high in protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium and silica, which helps keep our bones flexible through the aging process. It has anti-fungal properties for those who are dealing with yeast overgrowth, otherwise known as Candida. Finally, because of its mineral content, it helps the functioning of the kidneys and stomach.

It is gluten-free, so it can be enjoyed even by those avoiding other grains. And, it’s known to be soothing to the stomach, making it a perfect cereal for anyone suffering from morning sickness or anyone with a delicate stomach.

Millet can be used as a hot cereal either on its own or combined with buckwheat, amaranth or rice.  You can use it in soups as a way to add protein and it can be used as a wheat-free for substitute for couscous, as it has a similar consistency.

Millet is easy to prepare. You just rinse it before cooking, and use a ratio of one part millet to two parts liquid. You can also toast it prior to cooking, to give it a richer, nuttier flavor. To toast millet, place it in a pan over medium heat and lightly brown, shaking the pan as necessary, so as not to burn the grain.

Basic Millet

1 cup millet
2 cups water
few grains sea salt

Rinse millet and place in a pot with the water.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.  More water can be added if you desire a softer consistency.

To serve, let your imagination and taste buds guide you.  For a breakfast cereal, add raisins and cinnamon for a sweeter flavor. For a side dish for lunch or dinner, try adding cooked carrots, onions, or parsnips.

A FRESH Point of View: Celebrating Bulk Buying

It’s National Bulk Foods Week – a good time to point out the benefits of this economical, greener way to buy many staples, snacks and other foods and goods.

I love bulk sections of any store, not just ours, because of the selection, quality and value you can get buying items in bulk instead of individual little packages. Think about the advantages:

  • Reduce waste by buying just as much of that grain, cereal, nuts, or peanut butter as your family will use.
  • Save money – when you compare prices ounce to ounce, you almost always pay less for bulk foods compared to their individually packaged counterparts. One contributing factor: Unlike most national brands, bulk foods bear little or no advertising costs that must be passed on to the consumer.
  • It’s greener: Rather than layers of cardboard, paper and plastic packaging, bulk foods have little packaging, and are sold in plain, unprinted containers. (Another way they end up costing less.)

And then there’s my favorite reason: It’s just fun to shop the bulk aisles. You can actually see what you’re buying, compared to many foods hidden away in dense packaging. And since you can buy just a little bit, you can try that unusual grain, new flavor of granola, or odd spice that you need for just one recipe, without making an expensive commitment to a big package.

Haven’t stopped into the section yet? Here are some of my current favorites, to put on your list:

Quinoa: Haven’t tried this supergrain yet? Try just a bit. It is a complete protein, goes well with all kinds of seasonings and vegetables, and cooks up in just 20 minutes.

Dried mango:  A sweet, healthy snack and so much more portable than fresh mango slices: Pack it in a lunchbox, keep some in a drawer at the office, take it along in the car.

Dark chocolate-dusted almonds: Two heart-healthy superfoods for the price of one! Plus, you get the antioxidant benefits of the dark chocolate without as much sugar as in candy or pastry.

Organic rolled oats:  You should always keep high-fiber, cholesterol-reducing oatmeal on hand, not just for a filling breakfast but for making homemade cookies or granola. And this is organic – double score.

Raw walnuts:  A great source of Omega 3’s, and delicious as a snack or in recipes.

Orange almond granola: We have lots of terrific granolas, but this one, gently scented with orange and bursting with almonds, is a favorite.

Family Central: Road Trip Essentials

It wouldn’t be summer without a roadtrip. Which means, for my family, it wouldn’t be summer without some whining coming from the back seat. No, we’re not there yet.

We can’t help you make the drive seem shorter, but whether you’re headed to the beach, the mountains or to Grandma’s house, we do have some FRESH ideas to help you get there clean, refreshed, and well-fed.

Eat it: Something about getting in the car makes my kids act like they’re starving to death. Rather than rely on fast food and convenience stores, we tote along our own finger foods that don’t leave a ton of crumbs, like fruit wraps, grapes, raisins. Our current favorite is just about any of the organic snacks from Late July, especially their mini sandwich cookies (like one-bite organic Oreos); the mini peanut-butter cracker sandwiches; and cheese crackers.

On our next trip, though, I’m going to head to the bulk section. I’ve found this an affordable way to buy small quantities of lots of healthy snacks (nuts, granola, dried fruit), so nobody can complain I didn’t bring their favorite.

Drink it: A small cooler always makes its way into the car, so I don’t get the kids hopped up on too many fast-food sodas. For small kids who may balk at drinking plain bottled water,  try Hansen’s Organic Junior Water. These come in handy little boxes, just like a juice box, but have less sugar and fewer calories than regular juices, plus 100 percent of a kid’s daily allowance of Vitamin C. For adults, I like Sparkling Ice, a carbonated, flavored, but calorie-free water beverage, sweetened with Splenda. It also contains green tea extract, antioxidants and a lot of B vitamins. There are several fruit flavors, including black raspberry, but my favorite is pink grapefruit, which reminds me of the old Fresca.

Clean it up: Baby wipes or other moistened towelettes are an essential on the road, to clean up spills as well as grimy little hands and faces. If you don’t like the scent or feel of mainstream brands, try a box of chlorine-free wipes (we carry both Earth’s Best and Seventh Generation.) Or, look in the healthy-living aisles for Giovanni sanitizing towelettes. These are individually wrapped, biodegradable, prettily scented wipes that don’t smell industrial or babyish. Three scents to mix or match: Lavender for calming, peppermint for a pick-me-up, and clean, refreshing grapefruit.

A FRESH Point of View: Bulk Up at the Bulk Bar

The bulk department at FRESH is one of my favorite places to shop, and not just because I work here. No, it’s because I love our selection of bulk grains, candies, granola, nuts, spices, teas and more. And, because shopping in the bulk bar makes a lot of sense:

You can buy as little (or, within reason, as much) as you need. You’re the only one in the family who likes quinoa, or Turkish figs? Just get enough for you. Or, if you go through tons of rice or flour, you can arrange to buy an entire 25-pound package of many of our bulk goods. Just inquire at the department to place an order.

It’s an inexpensive way to shop. Because you’re only buying what you need, you don’t end up wasting, or tossing, unused product. (This is especially great with things like spices, that are best when used close to purchase date.) Bulk goods are also economically priced, compared to many pre-packaged, individually wrapped products.

Less wasteful packaging. Bulk products are “greener” because you aren’t bringing home a lot of excessive packaging; just the container or bag you put the product in. And you’re not even paying for the package. Our scales have been calibrated to take the weight of the container into account, so you pay only for the product you purchase.

A great way to add new items to your diet: Because you can buy just a little, it’s easy and fun to experiment with that new whole grain or sample that new granola. Bonus: When you print out the label for your bulk purchase, you usually get a recipe or serving suggestion, so you know how to cook those adzuki beans or jasmine rice.

Great variety: Our selection changes frequently, but we carry a large variety of products: 13 kinds of beans. 15 kinds of nuts. Six kinds of rice. 17 kinds of granolas. 21 dried fruits. We also have both staple and exotic varieties of sugar, flour, grains, candy and teas. Here are some products I just love:

  • Refried bean mix: Just add water, heat and serve! Delicious and filling. I also like the mixes that let you quickly make your own hummus, veggie burgers and tabouli.
  • Purple jasmine rice: Fragrant, colorful, nutty.
  • Milk chocolate sundrops: Like M&Ms, except with no artificial colors.
  • New England Supernatural Granola: This unusual granola gets texture from puffed corn and is sweetened by agave nectar and brown rice syrup.
  • Jelly pebbles: Jelly beans, with color provided by fruit juices – perfect for those trying to avoid artificial colorants for health or personal reasons. These are often found in the pre-packed section in the bulk department or by the main checkout stands.

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