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Mangia Bene at FRESH

There’s a famous Italian quote, “Mangia Bene, Ridi Spesso, Ama Molto.” It means “Eat well, laugh often, love much.” It sums up the Italian lifestyle of long, multi-course feasts filled with laughter, friends and family. It’s also a good reason why Italian cuisine is so loved in America.

At FRESH, there are plenty of ways to eat well, especially when it comes to authentic Italian food. From October 9 – 15, the store will be celebrating a Taste of Italy. In every department, products will be featured that highlight the essence of Italian cuisine and are perfect for creating your own multi-course feast with friends and family.

The ingredients in many Italian recipes are really quite basic. They highlight the wonderful natural flavors of things like quality extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, handmade pasta, artisanal cheese, slow-baked bread and plump juicy San Marzano tomatoes.

Here are a few of my favorites that I think you will enjoy from various departments throughout the store:
Cheese: Housemade Fresh Mozzarella, Gorgonzola Bleu Cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano and Asiago.

Charcuterie: Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella, Speck, Molinari & Sons Italian Salami and Pancetta, and Columbus Italian Salami.

Fresh Pasta: Also found in the cheese department is fresh pasta. Made daily, you’ll find Fettucine, Pappardelle, Alfredo Sauce, Marinara and Bolognese.

Pizza di Napoli: Enjoy an authentic Neapolitan-style pizza cooked in our new pizza oven. Made with handmade dough, San Marzano tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. An assortment of toppings and flavors are available that are truly Italian.

Chef-Prepared: Spaghetti & Meatballs, Lasagna Rolls, Eggplant Parmesan and more.

Bakery: All bread is baked in the store. Look for Rustic Italian Bread, Focaccia Bread and Ciabatta.

Wine: There is a wide assortment of Italian wines to enjoy from throughout the country and at every price point. From an inexpensive Chianti Classico to the prized Barolo. Two of my favorites are from Southern Italy.

Asmodeus Nero d’Avola from Sicily is a dark red wine that has a rich earthy flavor, but it is also balanced with red fruit, spice and high tannins. Also, Lacryma Christi Bianco Feudi di San Gregorio from the Naples area is a bright and golden white wine that has floral notes and flavors of white fruits. Lacryma Christi means “Tears of Christ” and the legend claims that as Christ ascended into heaven, he wept over the beauty of the area and brought life to the vines that were growing on Mt. Vesuvius.

Italian Products: Some of the essential Italian pantry ingredients can be found in the aisles. Look for Extra Virgin Olive Oil made in Italy and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. San Marzano whole canned tomatoes are available in a variety of brands, along with sun-dried tomatoes, basil pesto, olive tapenade and a variety of pasta sauces. Of course, you need some pasta to go with all of these wonderful ingredients, and FRESH carries Montebello dried pasta that is made in Italy. Available in a variety of shapes, Montebello is handmade using Old World techniques.

Back-to-School FRESH Meal Solutions

Back-to-school means busy schedules and less time to cook during the week. On those nights when you’re on the run, FRESH is here to help. We can help you feel ReFreshed with some of our new offerings in the chef-prepared section and satisfy every appetite with selections from a variety of cuisines.

With more than 80 fresh-made menu items, anything you purchase from Chef Prepared is guaranteed to be handmade in the store with the freshest ingredients. We’ve also ReFreshed some of our recipes and added many new items to the case.

Green Plate Special: One meat and two sides from the Chef Prepared case, plus a brioche roll.

Lil’ Freshie Plate: In kid-friendly portions, choose one meat and two sides from the Chef Prepared case, plus a brioche roll.

Sides Plate: Any three sides from the Chef Prepared case, plus a brioche roll.

Hot Bar: Featuring a rotating selection of meats, entrées and sides, these items are served hot. They are the perfect solution for a last-minute dinner at home. Help yourself to a protein and side dishes. We weigh and price items at checkout.

Grab & Go: Seasonal soups, sandwiches and salads are made daily and ready to go. Also available, a selection of chicken, pasta or tuna salad; pimento cheese; hummus and other dips. Plus, family meals and kid’s meals, quiches, family packs of tamales, casseroles, spaghetti & meatballs, mac & cheese, and rotisserie and smoked chickens.

FRESH for 2: Take-home dinners featuring the menu of the day. (View our monthly menu.)

FRESH Grill + Patio: Patio dining through November, featuring a seasonal menu. Perfect for casual dining with friends and family.

Sandwich, Pizza & Taco Bar: Enjoy hot and fresh, made-to-order sandwiches, tacos and pizza just the way you like them. Ready in minutes, you can enjoy your meal at home, in the store or on the patio.

Sandwiches are made with bakery-fresh breads, specialty spreads and house-roasted meats with a variety of fresh toppings and spreads.

Tacos are made with your favorite fillings, house-made salsas and flour tortillas. Plus, roasted poblanos, avocados, beans, rice and all the fixings are available. You can also get quesadillas, burritos, nachos and taco salads.

Our newest addition is an authentic Neapolitan pizza oven. What’s the best part? Could it be the handmade dough? Maybe it’s the roaring hot oven, freshest possible ingredients or the delicious combination of toppings. Whatever you decide, you’ll keep coming back to enjoy more of this Neapolitan-style pizza. Pizza is available Monday through Thursday from 11AM to 8PM and Friday through Sunday from 11AM to 9PM.

Ramen, Pho & Sushi: Who needs Chinese takeout when we offer a great selection of daily-made sushi rolls, pot stickers, ramen and pho? Choose from our available menu items, and enjoy your meal on the go, in the store or on the patio. Ramen and pho are also available cold, so you can take it home to reheat and enjoy later.

Each day, our sushi chefs prepare the day’s menu with the freshest, highest quality seafood and other ingredients. Our menu offers modern trends on sushi rolls, plus traditional sushi, pot stickers and freshly made dipping sauces.

Ramen is not just a cup of noodles. With a delicious miso broth, fresh vegetables and a variety of other spices and ingredients, our four varieties of ramen will become your new favorite soup.

Our Pho is made with the freshest ingredients and available in two varieties: Pho with Shrimp and Pho with Chicken. Additional ingredients like soft-boiled eggs, kimchi and pork chashu are also available.

Add FRESH Flavor to your Cinco de Mayo

Add FRESH Flavor to your Cinco de MayoWhat would Cinco de Mayo be without guacamole and margaritas? Well, you’re in luck because FRESH makes both every day, and there are plenty of ways to spice up your fiesta throughout the store.

The first stop should be in produce, where you can stock up on an assortment of peppers. Add them to a large bowl with lemons and limes for quick and easy table décor. Then, stop by the juice counter for freshly squeezed lime juice and margarita mix. The margarita mix is available in 16-ounce and 64-ounce sizes, and it is made with freshly squeezed lime and lemon juice, sugar and water. There is also a jalapeño margarita mix if you want to spice up your cocktail. While you’re there, don’t forget to grab some of the FRESH guacamole located right around the corner in the Kit Kitchen.

Next, there are so many great things to try at the dip bar: green chile salsa, fire-roasted salsa, chili con queso, jalapeño ranch and corn salsa. I honestly can’t pick a favorite.

Moving on to Chef-Prepared, you can get your beans and rice, plus an assortment of quesadillas. The flavors include chicken, spinach and mushroom, black bean and barbecue brisket. If fajitas are on your menu, there’s also grilled chicken and roasted vegetables, as well as FRESH-made tortillas in the bakery.

For dessert, FRESH makes a delicious Tres Leches cake that would be a great finale to any party. On your way to the register, remember to grab plenty of tortilla chips. Yes, you can take credit for all of it when your guests rave about how good it all tastes. Muy delicioso!

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!

FRESH Ideas for Weeknight Dinners

FRESH Ideas for Weeknight DinnersI think we can all agree that weeknight dinners are often a challenge. After a long day of work, errands and endless lists of things to do, the last thing on your mind is what to make for dinner. Fast food drive-thru and takeout menus are tempting, but we all know they’re not the best choice. That’s why I head to FRESH for timesaving options that are delicious and healthy. Here are just a few ways that FRESH can help you prepare a quick and easy dinner for everyone to enjoy:

FRESH for 2 meals: Created for those who need a quick and easy meal solution without sacrificing flavor. Chef-prepared, packaged and ready to go – all you need to do is grab and go. Every day, a different entrée is featured, so there is plenty of variety throughout the month. Check the calendar of events to see what’s on the menu.

Kit Kitchen: Let FRESH do the work for you. We cut a variety of fresh veggies in-house, so all you have to do is grab a box and fill it with exactly what you need. It saves time and money because it’s already cleaned and cut, and you only buy exactly what you need – a few asparagus spears, sliced onions, a handful of mushrooms, enough mixed greens for two. Check out our vast selection of organic and locally grown items located in our produce section across from the market case.

Market-Prepared Meats: In the market case, you’ll find meat that is already seasoned, marinated, wrapped and stuffed. Just put in the oven or on the grill, and dinner is ready in no time. Don’t forget the large variety of side dishes that can be purchased from the chef-prepared section.

Screamin’ Sicilian Pizza: On the nights when you just have to have a pizza, don’t get take out; bake at home instead. These frozen pizzas have an artisan crust that has been pre-baked in an Italian hearth oven and then finished with plenty of mouthwatering toppings. Even better, this pizza does not need to be thawed. Simply place in a 425° F oven for 17 to 19 minutes, and you have a great pizza that tastes like Italy in your own kitchen.

Holiday Tastings

Holiday MealAt FRESH, we’re all about tradition when it comes to holiday meals, but we also think that some old favorites can be improved upon. So, with our holiday meals and holiday sides, we’ve updated and modernized some traditional family holiday dishes using fresh ingredients, from-scratch techniques and bright flavors to create new classics.

Many of these dishes are now regularly available in the chef case through the holidays, but you can also place orders for your holiday meals at our Catering Department for pickup at your convenience.

This weekend, December 6-7, we’ll be sampling many of these dishes. Just come by and have a taste. Have you tried any of these yet?

Green Bean Casserole: No canned soup or dehydrated onion flakes here. For this rich dish, we make our own mushroom cream sauce, combine it with fresh green beans and top the casserole with onion strips we fry ourselves.

Whipped Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes are roasted then whipped until creamy and fluffy with butter, fall spices and real maple syrup.
Citrus-Glazed Brussels Sprouts: A sophisticated side dish, this brings together caramelized onions and sun-dried cherries with Brussels sprouts roasted in a light citrus-spiked glaze.

Southwest Dressing: We make croutons out of fresh bread then spice things up with chiles, pumpkin seeds and roasted butternut squash.

Cornbread Dressing: House-made, sweet cornbread is the base for this traditional, simple dressing with onions and celery.

Green Beans Amandine: Again, no cans here. We use fresh green beans, toasted almonds, and a bit of garlic and olive oil to bring out the flavor.

Giblet Gravy: Roasted giblets in a traditional, thick gravy seasoned with fall spices like sage.

Roasted Root Vegetables: The best, freshest winter vegetables – onions, parsnips, carrots and sweet potatoes – slowly roasted, so they’re slightly caramelized and go perfectly with ham, turkey or a nice prime rib.

Cranberry Sauce: No mass-produced, gelatinous sauce here. We cook fresh whole cranberries with fresh-squeezed orange juice and our own secret blend of spices. (Sorry, I can’t tell you what they are. You just have to come try some.)

Oh JOY-full table

Oh Joyful TableThe holidays are full of JOY.  The joy of gathering with family and friends, the joy of giving, and most importantly, the joy that comes from a delicious meal.  Spread joy around your family table this season with our chef-prepared holiday meals.

We offer three complete dinners, sides packages, family packs and individual items by the pound.  Here are the highlights:

FRESH Turkey Dinner (serves 6-8)
12-14 pound turkey, brined and roasted to perfection with Cornbread dressing, Giblet gravy, Whipped sweet potatoes, Green beans amandine and FRESH cranberry sauce for $99.99.

FRESH Ham Dinner (serves 6-8)
Spiral cut, glazed ham with Cornbread dressing, Giblet gravy, Whipped sweet potatoes, Green beans amandine and FRESH cranberry sauce for $89.99

Beef Tenderloin Dinner (serves 6-8)
Roasted whole thyme scented beef tenderloin with Cabernet demi-glace, Cornbread dressing, Giblet gravy, Whipped sweet potatoes, Green beans amandine and FRESH cranberry sauce for $169.99

Side Dish Package
Side dish package includes Cornbread dressing, Giblet gravy, Whipped sweet potatoes, Green beans amandine and FRESH cranberry sauce for $49.99. For our whipped sweet potatoes, we actually use organic garnet yams!  Each side dish is also available in family packs or by the pound from the chef case.

In addition to full meals, we offer a large selection of small bites, party platters, and desserts.  Whether you are hosting a cocktail party or needing some appetizers to hold over the crowd until dinner, our amazing hors d’oeuvres are perfect for any gathering, whether casual or elegant.  Try some Freshie favorites — our unique potato sliders or assorted petit four platter.

Ordering is easy. All you need to do is pick up our Oh JOY-full table Holiday Guide and select the complete meals, sides or small bites that you desire and call our Catering Department at 903-747-3512. Or, you can stop by the Catering desk at FRESH to place your order.

FRESH and Festive: Mother’s Day

While thinking about what to write for this blog, I realized that I have celebrated Mother’s Day year after year without knowing how it all got started.  I often wonder…did Hallmark dictate that every second Sunday of May would be known as Mother’s Day, or is there more to it than that?  Well you are in luck!  I did some research and am happy to report that there is a lot more to it than that!

According to one of my favorite information sources, Wikipedia, the earliest tributes to mothers date back to the annual spring festival the Greeks dedicated to Rhea, the mother of many deities, and to the offerings ancient Romans made to their Great Mother of Gods, Cybele.

In the United States, Mother’s Day started nearly 150 years ago, when Anna Jarvis, an Appalachian homemaker, organized a day to raise awareness of poor health conditions in her community, a cause she believed would be best advocated by mothers. She called it “Mother’s Work Day.”

In 1905 when Anna Jarvis died, her daughter, also named Anna, began a campaign to memorialize the life work of her mother. Legend has it that young Anna remembered a Sunday school lesson that her mother gave in which she said, “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day. There are many days for men, but none for mothers.”

Anna began to lobby prominent businessmen like John Wannamaker, and politicians including Presidents Taft and Roosevelt to support her campaign to create a special day to honor mothers. At one of the first services organized to celebrate Anna’s mother in 1908, at her church in West Virginia, Anna handed out her mother’s favorite flower, the white carnation. Five years later, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution calling for officials of the federal government to wear white carnations on Mother’s Day. In 1914 Anna’s hard work paid off when Woodrow Wilson signed a bill recognizing Mother’s Day as a national holiday.

Mother’s Day is now the most popular day of the year to dine out at a restaurant in the United States. While many countries of the world celebrate their own Mother’s Day on different days and at different times throughout the year, there are some countries such as Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, and Belgium which also celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May.

Honor your Mom this year with gorgeous flowers and a delicious meal from FRESH.

Our award-winning floral designer, Shellie, will put together the perfect arrangement from our amazing selection of flowers.  She can make something unique from your Mom’s favorite flowers or is great at giving suggestions if you don’t quite know where to start.  The best news is that she can work with any budget to design a masterpiece.

Also, for the first time, you can purchase a FRESH for 4 Meal.  Give Mom a day off with this delicious chef-prepared meal for the whole family.  It includes two Petit Filets with white wine poached Maine lobster tail and lemon-herb compound butter, roasted brussel sprouts and FRESH Israeli cous cous PLUS pretzel crusted chicken tenders, mac and cheese, steamed broccoli and 4 brioche rolls.  And you can get all of that for just $43.99!  This meal will be available from Friday, 5/11 through Sunday, 5/13.

Make FRESH your Mother’s Day one-stop destination this year!  You won’t be sorry you did!

Freshie Faves: Stuffed Artichoke “Bottoms”

Did you know artichokes have bottoms? Well, of course you did. But until one of my fellow FRESHies pointed out that you can buy them  – Cento Artichoke Bottoms, in our grocery aisle – I’d never given much thought to the business end of an artichoke.

Turns out, they are just as delicious as artichoke hearts, and even more versatile. They’re perfect little bite-size morsels, giving you an edible little veggie cup that just calls out to be stuffed with some culinary delight.

You may know Cento for its wonderful Italian tomato products, but these artichoke bottoms are my new favorite product. They’re cute, too, about 1 1/1 inches round, with a divot in the middle that is just right for a bit of dip or filling, for a snack or a party-worthy appetizer.

Be creative when picking a stuffing. My burst of creativity was to go see my favorite Seafood Manager, Chef John Peters here at FRESH. He makes a dreamy Creole crab cake that doubles as a quick, elegant stuffing. His recipe calls for two crab cakes per can of 7 to 9 artichoke bottoms, but I used just one, for a slightly lighter dish.

Creole Artichoke Bottoms

2 FRESH Creole Crab Cakes (found in the Seafood Department)
1 can Cento artichoke bottoms
4 Tbs grated grana padano cheese
4 Tbs breadcrumbs
1 bottle of FRESH Ravigote Sauce (found in the Seafood Department)
1 bunch chives

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Wash artichoke bottoms, dry, and moisten each bottom with a little extra virgin olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and stuff each bottom with a portion of the Creole crab cake. (Figure approximately one-quarter crab cake per artichoke bottom.)

Mix cheese and breadcrumbs in a separate bowl and top each stuffed artichoke. Then bake for 20 minutes or until crab cakes are fully cooked. Garnish with diced chives and ravigote sauce.

A FRESH Point of View: Cajun or Creole?

Celebrating Mardi Gras? Then you’re speaking my language – I grew up in Louisiana and to me, Cajun and Creole are the foods you cook when you want the good times to roll.

But do you know which is which? The terms get used interchangeably, but they’re really not the same.

Cajun is the country cooking of the Acadians who settled Louisiana – a hearty, heavy, French-influenced kind of cooking with a lot of one-pot dishes. It may have some hot ingredients, like Andouille sausage, but not every dish is spicy-hot.

Creole is Cajun’s city cousin – a more refined, complex cuisine with more complicated technique and influences from all the people who settled New Orleans back in the day. French, Spanish, African, German – it’s all in there, a real melting pot of food.

The confusion comes in because both Creole and Cajun cuisines use many of the same ingredients and spices (okra, lots of seafood, garlic, and file – powdered sassafras used as a thickening agent.) Also, there are so many ways to cook every Cajun or Creole dish. Etouffee, gumbo, jambalaya – I have yet to meet two Cajun or Creole cooks who can agree on a single recipe.

Me, I grew up eating and cooking Cajun food, but my restaurant training was mostly in the more refined Creole style. So in our seafood department, most of our chef-prepared sauces and bases have a distinctive Creole profile.

These make it easy to go New Orleans for a night. Some simply need to be heated, and others, all you have to do is add the seafood of your choice:

Creole Clam Chowder: This is a New Orleans version of traditional New England chowder, with a creamy base but a deep flavor from our Creole spice mixes.

Gumbo: I started making gumbo with my dad when I was five years old. This is as traditional as it gets. Add your own shrimp, chicken or what have you.

Etouffee: Again, it’s a Creole classic. I like it with crawfish tails.

Oyster Rockefeller soup: The flavors of traditional Oysters Rockefeller – bacon, cheese, spinach – but in a creamy, rich soup.  Try it as a sauce, over a simple grilled or baked piece of fish.

Cioppino: An Italian-American seafood stew from San Francisco, but ours has the Creole spices; add your favorite shrimp, crab or other shellfish, and you’re ready to go.

Creole cocktail sauce: More intensely flavored than regular cocktail sauce; ours is spiked with fresh lemon juice, chile sauce and lots of Creole herbs and spices.

Creole spice mixes: These are great for adding to your own recipes, or sprinkle just a little on fish, chicken or vegetables before cooking. We make a classic Creole (with spices like garlic, cayenne and paprika); a Jamaican jerk, which has additional flavor from Caribbean ingredients like allspice and cinnamon; and three-citrus, which has half the salt but extra flavor from lemon, lime and organic orange-peel powder.

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