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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

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

Directions:
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.

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Maple-Spiced Nuts

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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.

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Celebrating the Tradition of Oktoberfest

Celebrating the Tradition of OktoberfestWho would’ve guessed that a wedding celebration in October 1810 would become a worldwide annual celebration? Of course, now it is known as the German beer celebration called Oktoberfest.

It was October 12, 1810. The Crown Prince Ludwig, who later became the King of Bavaria, was marrying Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. A little-known fact about the princess is that she was supposed to marry Napoleon Bonaparte in 1809, but she married Ludwig instead. If she had married Napoleon, there would be no Oktoberfest!

The wedding celebration was held outside the gates of Munich in the German state of Bavaria. The festivities included food, beer, horse racing and plenty of revelry. The celebration continued from year to year and began to grow. At some point, it was decided to hold the celebration in September because of better weather. The festivities last for 16 days and always end on the first Sunday of October.

In the beer tents at the Munich Oktoberfest, only six breweries are allowed to serve their Oktoberfest-Maerzen brews – each of them adhering to the strict beer-making requirements of the Reinheitsgebot (Bavarian Purity Requirements). They are Augustiner, Hacker Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwebräu, Paulaner and Spaten. Each one has been producing beer since before Oktoberfest began. The oldest one is Augustiner, founded in 1328, and the newest is Paulaner, started in 1634. Over the length of the festival, more than 7,000,000 people will attend and approximately 6,900,000 liters of beer will be served.

FRESH will be having their own Oktoberfest celebration, although on a slightly smaller scale. During the week of September 18 – 24, the store will be decorated for Oktoberfest, and plenty of themed food and beer will be served.

Thursday, September 21 from 6PM to 9PM will be the official Oktoberfest celebration. Several breweries will be there to sample some of their beers. Also, there will be games, live music and plenty of Oktoberfest fun.

Here’s a look at the visiting breweries:
Karbach
St. Arnold
Lakewood
Southern Star
Rogue
Samuel Adams
Real Ale
Community
Nine Band
Franconia





Favorite Foods for Fourth of July

Sweet & Tangy Asian RibsWhat’s your favorite part about the Fourth of July? Is it the fireworks, watermelon, lake time or the food? I must admit that I get really excited about making all the traditional dishes like coleslaw, potato salad, hot dogs and hamburgers. This year, I’m going to surprise everyone and add some ribs to the menu.

Since the grill will be filled with all the hot dogs and burgers, I will do the ribs in the oven the morning of the party. One hour before the party, I can reheat the ribs and leave them wrapped in foil to stay warm.

This recipe is a bit different than the traditional one. Instead of barbecue sauce, I’ve created an Asian sauce that is sweet, tangy and spicy. These ribs have always been a hit anytime that I’ve served them, and I hope they will make your Fourth of July even happier.

Sweet & Tangy Asian Ribs

Ingredients:
1 (2 to 3 lb) slab baby back ribs
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tbs Sriracha
3 cloves garlic, minced

Directions:
Remove excess fat and membranes from the backside of the ribs; discard. Place the ribs in a large foil-lined baking pan. In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine and pour over the ribs. Cover the pan with foil. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Place the ribs, still in the marinade, on the counter for 30 minutes to bring to room temperature. Preheat oven to 300° F. Turn the ribs, top-side down. Leave the marinade in the pan. Cover with foil, and place in the oven. After 1 hour, open the foil. Turn the ribs over (top-side up); cover again with the foil. Cook for 1 more hour. Check the ribs for doneness. A knife should be able to pierce the meat with no resistance.

Raise the oven temperature to 400° F. Remove the foil. Baste the ribs with some of the sauce from the pan. Cook uncovered for 15 to 20 more minutes until the sauce is caramelized.

Once the ribs are done, they can be served immediately, or cover and hold in a 150° F oven for up to 2 hours. Baste occasionally with pan juices. If you are serving several hours later, refrigerate and then reheat, covered with foil, in a 200° F oven for 1 hour.

Serves 6

Calories per Serving : 747, Fat: 54 g (20 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 178 mg, Sodium: 1807 mg, Carbohydrates: 21 g, Fiber: 1 g, Protein: 41 g

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Posted in: Holidays, Market, Recipes




A Barbecue Twist for Dad

A Barbecue Twist for DadFather’s Day is coming up, and I’m willing to bet that most dads would love a dinner that involves three things: meat, barbecue sauce and spicy flavor.

This is a recipe that I created last summer for a large family gathering. It’s a barbecue chicken sandwich, but it doesn’t quite fit traditional Texas barbecue standards. Don’t tell anyone, but to save myself some time and effort, I cooked the chicken in the slow cooker. It was so tender and juicy. All I had to do was put it in with some water and walk away. Several hours later, I came back to add my secret sauce and gave it another hour to absorb the flavor. I then shredded the meat with two forks, and it was ready to serve.

I know you’re probably wondering, “What was the secret sauce?”

It’s not your traditional barbecue sauce. Instead, this sauce is rich with layers of flavor and subtle Asian spice. It’s Hak’s Thai Chile Tamarind BBQ Sauce. East meets West in this fusion sauce that combines the deep sweetness of dates, tangy tamarind, bright lemongrass and rich sesame oil.

Hak’s is all-natural with no preservatives, and the ingredients start out traditional with apple cider vinegar, molasses and tomato paste. Then, they add soy sauce and the Thai-inspired ingredients, and you find yourself enjoying an unexpected layer of flavor. The spice is subtle, so those who like things mild can still enjoy the recipe.

After I tried this flavor, I found myself going back to try some of Hak’s other sauces. There’s a Habanero Pineapple that is delicious on grilled pork and Smoked Maple Mustard that is perfect on roasted chicken.

A set of the sauces and a few grilling tools from the housewares aisle would make a great gift for Dad. It’s the gift that keeps giving with every delicious meal that he will enjoy.

Thai Chile BBQ Chicken Sandwich

Ingredients:
4 Smart Chicken Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
3 Noonday onions, sliced
1 cup water
1 bottle Hak’s Thai Chile Tamarind BBQ Sauce
1 pkg FRESH Onion Hamburger Buns

Directions:
Place chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Top with the sliced onions. Add the water. Cook on low for 5 hours. After 5 hours, add 1 to 1 1/2 cups of sauce. Cook on high for 1 hour. Shred the chicken with two forks. Add more sauce, if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with additional sauce at the table. Use onion buns to build the sandwiches. Toasting the buns helps keep the sandwiches from getting too soggy with all the juices from the meat.

Serves 8

Calories per Serving : 319, Fat: 4 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 38 mg, Sodium: 448 mg, Carbohydrates: 49 g, Fiber: 1 g, Protein: 20 g

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Posted in: Holidays, Recipes




Bring Mom to FRESH for Mother’s Day

Bring Mom to FRESH for Mother’s DayBreakfast in bed is a nice treat for Mother’s Day, but even better is breakfast at FRESH because no one has to do any dishes. Seriously, you want Mom to have a special day because every other day of the year she looks after you and makes a lot of sacrifices.

That’s why FRESH is planning a special Sunday for Mom. From 9AM to 11AM on Mother’s Day, there will be breakfast on the patio for Mom. Bring her to FRESH for pancakes, bacon, eggs and fruit for $8. There will also be live music, so it will be a fun and relaxing atmosphere.

Once you get Mom to FRESH, present her with a FRESH gift card, and after breakfast, she can treat herself to some of her favorite things from FRESH. Maybe she would like some steaks for dinner, a special dessert from the bakery or some organic bath products from Health & Wellness.

Don’t forget to stop by the floral department and treat her to some flowers. The store will be filled with beautiful arrangements, bouquets and plants that she is sure to love.
After a great morning at FRESH, Mom will certainly feel special!





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!





Easter Fun in the Kitchen

Easter Fun in the KitchenGrowing up, I have fond memories of coloring eggs every year for Easter. Mom boiled all the eggs. There were several bowls of colored water lining the counter, and we were ready to create beautiful eggs the Easter Bunny would add to our baskets.

That wasn’t all the fun we had in the kitchen, though. We also liked to make brightly colored Easter candy. White chocolate bark was melted, dyed with food coloring and poured into candy molds that my grandmother used to make lollipops and chocolates.

As the years went passed, the tradition was simplified, and now we like to make round cake bites drenched with melted chocolate then decorated with glazes and colored sprinkles. It’s a big colorful mess, but everyone has a great time. Plus, they are the perfect bite of sweetly delicious cake and candy.

It’s a fun tradition to start with your family. All you need is pound cake, a small round biscuit cutter, white bark candy coating, food coloring and sugar. The recipe is easy to follow, but you can get creative with other ingredients, shapes and decorations.

 

Easter Pound Cake Bites

Ingredients:
2 FRESH Bakery Pound Cakes (or 1 box pound cake mix, prepared)
1 pkg Brookshire’s White Bark Coating
powdered sugar glaze (1/2 cup powdered sugar with 1 to 2 Tbs water)
Over The Top Decorating Sprinkles

Directions:
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Slice the pound cake into 1-inch slices. Use a small round biscuit cutter to cut rounds from each slice of pound cake. Place on the cookie sheet. Melt the bark according to package directions. Divide the bark; dye different colors, if desired. Spoon 1 tablespoon of melted bark over each round. Smooth it over the top and down the sides of cake bites. Add more if necessary to coat all sides. Add glaze and sprinkles to the top of each cake bite.

Leave cake bites at room temperature for at least 20 minutes to allow coating to harden. Once set, use a sharp knife to cut away excess bark around the cake bites. Bites can be placed in mini-muffin wrappers for serving.

To color your bark: Melt the bark, and separate into 1/2-cup bowls. Add 2 drops of food coloring to each bowl.

To make a glaze: In a small bowl, measure out 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water or lemon juice. Stir until liquid is a pourable consistency. Add 1 drop of food coloring.

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

 





Celebrate with Potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day

Pot of Gold Potato BallsSt. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of food, fun and Irish tradition. It began as a religious feast for the patron saint of Ireland and has become an international festival celebrating Irish culture. Corned beef, cabbage and Irish soda bread are popular dishes, but the party wouldn’t be complete without Ireland’s favorite food, the potato.

In Ireland, the potato is the number one food crop and can be found at every meal. It plays a significant role in the Irish diet and has been a household staple since the tuberous vegetable was introduced to the country in the late 1500s. On average, the Irish eat about 250 pounds of potatoes a year, compared to Americans who eat just 140 pounds per person.

In 1845, the Irish famine began when a fungus carried on ships from North America to England its way to Dublin. The fungus caused potato leaves to turn black on the vines and rotted the potatoes. When the potatoes were pulled from the ground, they appeared normal, but they rotted after only a few days. Until 1852, there was mass starvation, disease and emigration from Ireland partly due to the potato famine. It took many years for the country and its economy to recover and for potato crops to be re-established.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations became more prevalent as increasing numbers of Irish immigrants came to America. After Ireland recovered from the famine and potato crops began to flourish, the spring planting time of the country’s favorite vegetable became another reason to celebrate.

Colcannon, potato cakes and meat/potato casseroles are some of the most popular Irish potato dishes. I love to make these potato balls for St. Patrick’s Day parties. Fried or baked, they are always a hit with my guests.

Pot of Gold Potato Balls

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs fresh Italian parsley, minced
1 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1 egg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup flour
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 1/4 cups Harp Irish Beer
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
4 cups cornflakes, crushed in food processor
2 Tbs olive oil
nonstick cooking spray

Directions:
Cook the potatoes and garlic cloves in boiling salted water for 12 to 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain; add the butter and mash.

Let cool. Stir in the parsley, bleu cheese and egg; add salt and pepper to taste. Using floured hands, shape the potatoes into 1 to 2-inch balls or patties. Place on a baking sheet.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, beer, garlic powder and chili powder. In another bowl, add the crushed corn flakes and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Dip the potato balls into the liquid mixture and then the corn flakes. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spray the tops with cooking spray.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until golden, longer if your potato balls have been in the refrigerator. Serve with ranch or bleu cheese dressing. (The balls can also be cooked in the deep-fryer.)

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Posted in: Holidays, Produce, Recipes




Blood Oranges for Valentine’s Day

Blood Oranges for Valentine’s DayRed is the color of love. For Valentine’s Day, I like to cook something that captures that beautiful color and represents passion on a plate. I found the perfect ingredient in blood oranges. Its deep-red juice, garnet flesh and red-speckled skin is as vibrant as it is delicious.

This is an easy recipe that uses the cooking technique of braising. It’s one of my favorite ways to cook during the winter months. Braising requires high searing heat at the beginning and low and slow heat to finish. It was created for tough cuts of meat or meat that is still on the bone.

After searing the meat on all sides until browned but not cooked through, liquid is added to the pot. The heat is lowered, and the dish continues to cook slowly at a moderate temperature.

This technique creates tender and juicy meat. You can also add vegetables such as onions, potatoes and carrots to cook alongside the meat. Add some broccoli, asparagus or peas at the end of cooking, and you have a complete meal.

Because most recipes for braising have heavy flavors and cuts of meat that contain more fat, I wanted to create something that is just as warm and comforting as a stew or a roast, but has lighter flavors and a leaner cut of meat.

The blood oranges and chicken are perfect for this dish. It has bright flavors, a beautiful light sauce and juicy meat that is completely satisfying.

Citrus-Braised Chicken & Blood Oranges

Ingredients:
2 large bone-in chicken breasts or 4 skinless thighs
salt and pepper, for seasoning
3 Tbs olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 lemon, for juicing
4 blood oranges, 3 sliced and 1 reserved for juicing
1 Tbs herbs de Provence
2 cups chicken broth (approximate)

Directions:
Rub the chicken with salt and pepper. Add oil to a wide-bottomed stockpot. Heat to high, and sear the chicken until browned on both sides. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon and the blood orange. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add the broth and herbs; bring to a boil. Scatter the sliced blood oranges over the top. Cover and transfer to a 350° F oven for 20 to 40 minutes, or reduce heat to low and finish cooking on the stove. Keep an eye on the level of the liquid, and add more broth or water, if necessary. When the chicken is cooked through, remove to a serving plate. Spoon the sauce and blood orange slices over the top.

Serves 2

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Holiday Cheese Platter Made Easy

Holiday Cheese Platter Made EasyThe holidays are a time for entertaining, parties and last minute guests. But there’s not a lot of time for planning, shopping or cooking. That’s why I like to keep my refrigerator stocked with an assortment of items from FRESH’s Cheese & Charcuterie department.

It’s easy to build a quick cheese platter that includes sliced meat, various cheeses, artisanal crackers, olives, dried fruit and spreads. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, and there are so many great options.

I generally start with three cheeses. The first one being a hard cheese – something like Gruyere, Grana Padano, manchego or a sharp English cheddar. The next cheese will be something soft – brie, goat, Camembert or a marinated mozzarella. The last cheese I choose is blue. There are many varieties of blue cheese that are very nice with rich flavors that are sweet and nutty. Some great examples are Gorgonzola, Roquefort or some of the American artisanal blues like Point Reyes.

For the charcuterie, some good choices are Prosciutto di Parma, speck, Italian salami, mortadella or, from Spain, serrano or chorizo. Pâté can also be served in cubes or as a spread.

Finish it off with a fruit spread, artisanal honey, dried fruit or Marcona almonds. Be sure to grab some of the artisanal crackers or flatbread located by the Olive Bar, and then, head over to the Bakery for a sliced baguette, Italian loaf or hard rolls.

Here are a few items to try when building your cheese platter.

Leoncini Mortadella: Known as the original bologna, this typical charcuterie product from Italy is characterized by an exclusive and delicate flavor that is hearty, yet delicate and mild.

Alexian Chicken & Veal Pâté: Traditional, country-style pâté to be served by the slice or cubed and placed on toothpicks. Can also be used as a spread on artisan bread. Made with veal, chicken breast, chicken liver and cognac.

Kerrygold Blarney Castle: 100 percent natural, grass-fed cheese that is mild and creamy with rich and velvety undertones. Taste and texture is similar to a young Dutch Gouda.

Cana de Cabra Goat Log: Cana de Cabra is a soft-ripened cheese made from pasteurized goat’s milk, in Murcia, Spain. This creamy, buttery, mild and delicious cheese has a bloomy rind with semi-soft texture. Aged for 21 days, as it ages, the flavor intensifies.

Point Reyes Original Blue: Artisanal, American Farmstead cheese from California. This blue is creamy with layers of full flavor. It is sweet and milky with a medium-to-strong punch of blue flavor.





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