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Give the Gift of East Texas Flavor

Stanleys Famous Pit BBQ rubs and sauces.Over the past few years, East Texas has evolved into an up-and-coming part of the food industry. There have even been two Tyler-based food companies named to Oprah’s Favorite Things List: Janie’s Cakes and Greenberg Smoked Turkeys. Both of these brands, along with many other local products, can be found at FRESH. They are the perfect choice for gift-giving to friends, co-workers, neighbors and family. Don’t forget the hostess gifts because you certainly can’t go empty-handed to all the holiday parties.

A large selection of local items can be found throughout the store. Here are a few favorites that would be a delicious East Texas flavor-inspired gift or even a great addition to a holiday gift basket. You can also add a plant or arrangement from floral or a FRESH gift card to round out the gift.

Greenberg Smoked Turkeys: An East Texas family tradition since the 1940s, the Greenberg family has been smoking turkeys the same way for generations. Slow-cooked in a hickory wood smoker, these exceptional turkeys are known throughout the world and have been named one of Oprah’s favorite things for the second time this year.

Janie’s Cakes: Since 2003, Tylerite Janie Clapp has been selling perfect and delicious pound cakes. Shipped nationwide and one of Oprah’s favorite things in 2016, Janie’s Cakes are made with farm-fresh eggs, creamery butter, pure cane sugar and no preservatives. Several flavors are available at FRESH.

Collin Street Bakery: It started in 1896 with an original recipe brought from Germany to Corsicana, Texas, by August (“Gus”) Weidman. This shy baker met a master salesman named Tom McElwee. Together, they made fruitcake history and created the world’s most famous fruitcake. They ship to all 50 states and 196 countries.

Stanley’s Famous Bar-B-Q: The oldest Mom and Pop barbecue joint in East Texas, Stanley’s Bar-B-Q, has developed a loyal following for their award-winning barbecue. Their sauces and spice rubs are just as good. Look for the Sweet Hot Pickles, Clucker Sauce, Rib Rub, Chicken Spike and BBQ Sauce in hot and regular.

East Texas Wine: The wine industry around Tyler is always growing. Available at FRESH, look for Pelle Legna, Kiepersol, Briar Creek Vineyards from Whitehouse and Red 55 Winery from Lindale.

East Texas Beer: Craft beer is on the rise. At FRESH, we love True Vine Brewing Company from Tyler. Also, new to the shelves, Fredonia Brewery from Nacogdoches.

Pace Farm: A micro-farm located in Hallsville, Texas, just east of Longview, Pace Farm uses only the finest East Texas jalapeños in all of their products. Their small-batch pepper jellies are available in a variety of flavors. They are perfect for holiday parties and gift baskets.

Coffee: With two Tyler-based coffee producers, you’ll never have a bad cup in this neck of the woods. Texas State of Mind sources high-quality organic beans stored in oak barrels and then roasted in signature-craft air roasters that produce bigger and bolder flavor. Porch Culture Coffee is a single-origin, small-batch roasted coffee that seeks out coffee farmers who pay an ethical wage, provide a safe working environment, and follow practices that protect and preserve the farm and community. All of this comes together to create a “farm to porch” inspired cup of coffee.

East Texas Cookbooks: Perfect for the home chef who loves to cook, look for “As the Spur Stirs” by Jacqueline Cavender and “Favorite Flavor” by Christine Gardner. Both from Tyler, the books feature family recipes and ideas for Texas-style entertaining. Available at the registers near floral.

Haute Goat Creamery™: Exceptional goat cheese from Longview since 2011, Laura Vanderbilt has been making artisanal cheese from fresh Grade A goat milk delivered from two local Texas dairies. It’s smooth, creamy and available in a variety of flavors.


‘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.


Entertain with Ease & Cheese

Entertain with Ease & CheeseThe holidays are certainly the season for entertaining, and we all want to be the perfect hostess. However, there’s not a lot of time to plan, shop and cook for potential guests. Here’s a little secret – you can still be the perfect hostess and only spend a few minutes in the kitchen. How can you entertain with ease? One simple word – CHEESE!

When building a cheese tray, texture, color and portion size are important to consider. The rule to remember is easy to follow: “Old, new, stinky, bleu and maybe a wildcard.”

Three to four varieties of cheese are enough, and five is only necessary for large groups. Old and new covers the texture category with hard versus soft, and color can be accomplished through the bleu. The stinky is sometimes a category that is dropped because many people are offended by overly-stinky cheese. Wildcard can represent a favorite from a different country or region of particular interest.

A general rule for portion size is two ounces per category, per person plus various sides like olives, nuts, fruit paste and charcuterie items. The cheese needs to come to room temperature before serving. Remove the cheese from the refrigerator 20 minutes in advance of your guests arriving.

Something Old
This category includes hard cheeses like aged Gouda, aged Cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, Manchego, Gruyere and Asiago.

Something New
Fresh cheeses, soft or semi-soft cheeses, and bloomy rind cheeses fall into this category. Examples of fresh cheeses include many goat cheeses (also known as fresh Chevre), Ricotta, Mozzarella and Feta. Popular semi-soft choices include Fontina and Havarti.

Bloomy rind cheeses include Brie and Camembert. It is called “bloomy rind” because if you look at the rind under a microscope, it looks like a field of white flowers. They are at their peak when their interior is soft, and the rind is starting to show white spots of mold.

Something Bleu
In America, bleu cheese is traditionally associated with salad dressing, but bleu cheese as an ingredient or as a component on a cheese tray is a rising trend.

In the American artisanal cheese industry, farmhouse bleu cheeses are on the rise and rival the pungent sweetness and creamy texture of European versions. In Italy, bleu cheese is called Gorgonzola, called Stilton in England, and called Roquefort in France. Another popular version is Irish Cashel Bleu. Many of the European and Farmhouse versions of bleu cheese are milder and creamier.

Some exceptional American bleus include Rogue River Bleu from Oregon and Roth Buttermilk Bleu. All of the bleu cheese varieties – American and European – offer a range in flavor and texture.

Why so stinky?
Stinky cheeses are an acquired taste, and most people love them or hate them. Generally, the cheeses are soft cheeses, and they have a slimy, slightly gooey rind. Their flavors and aromas are particularly pungent because of the bacteria used in the cultures. Examples of stinky include Tallegio, Raclette and Chimay.

Many cheeses would be an ideal choice for a wildcard cheese. From Spain, Idiazabal is a firm sheep’s milk cheese that is slightly smoky with a buttery, nutty flavor. It’s a good choice for those who aren’t sure if they like sheep’s milk cheese.

From Italy, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano are the obvious choice, but another hard Italian cheese is Piave. Sometimes called Parmesan’s cousin, Piave has a sweeter, milder flavor.

Another idea is to include a flavored cheese. Beecher’s Flagship cheese is an award-winning blend of Cheddar and Gruyere that is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese left to cave-age for at least 15 months. The No Woman variety adds Jamaican Jerk spices to create a complex, smoky flavor that’s earthy, nutty and spicy.

Supporting Cast
Rounding out your cheese selection is easy to do and requires no cooking. Several accompaniments can be found right in the cheese department. Sliced salami and other cured meats like Serrano ham, Prosciutto di Parma and Speck complement the flavors found in many cheeses. Also, fruit paste and honey are nice toppings for Brie and semi-soft cheeses. Add a few small bowls of almonds, caramelized walnuts or pecans, olives, pitted dates, and an assorted selection of cut fruit or grapes. Don’t forget the artisan crackers, toasted baguette slices or baked pita chips.

Cold Weather Cocktails Need FRESH Apple Cider

Cider BelliniThe holiday season would not be complete without apple cider, but ordinary cider certainly won’t do, especially for special celebrations.

Fowler Farms’ fresh apple cider, located at the juice counter in produce, is a premium blend of seven varieties of fresh apples and no concentrate. The flavor profile is maintained throughout the year by managing the mix of the varieties.

Fowler Farms is a Huron, New York-based family farm that spans six generations. The farm began in 1858 with 80 acres, but now it encompasses more than 2,000 acres of apple production. It is also located in the ideal climate for growing crisp, juicy apples.

The cider is delicious on its own, but during this time of year, I like to use it as an ingredient in cocktails. It’s a great way to infuse some seasonal flavor while spreading holiday cheer.

Cider Margarita

salt, for rimming the glass
1 Tbs simple syrup
1 Tbs lime juice
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup Fowler Farms Apple Cider

Dip the rim of a martini or margarita glass in water, and then dip in the salt. Place ice in a cocktail shaker; add all ingredients. Shake and strain into the glass. Makes 1 cocktail.

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

Apple Cider Sangria

1 apple, sliced
1 pear, sliced
1 orange, sliced
1 cup brandy
1 bottle dry white wine
4 cups Fowler Farms Apple Cider

In a large pitcher, add the fruit and pour over the brandy. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, add the wine and cider. Pour into tall glasses filled with ice.

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

Cider Rum Punch

2 apples, sliced
1/2 fresh pineapple, cubed
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup rum
3 cups Fowler Farms Apple Cider

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher or bowl; chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

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

Cider Bellini

1 Tbs Fowler Farms Apple Cider
sparkling wine
1 sprig fresh rosemary

Pour 1 tablespoon of cider in the bottom of each champagne glass. Top with sparkling wine, and garnish with fresh rosemary.

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

FRESH and Festive: Holiday Entertaining

I hope all of you Freshies were successful in stuffing yourselves full of turkey yesterday!  Although, I too am still full from yesterday’s feast, I have already begun thinking about the upcoming month that will be full of holiday festivities and parties.

Of course, in my book, the barometer for the success of a holiday party is how good the food is.  So, don’t risk it this year by purchasing frozen hors d’oeuvres or serving the same old, same old.  Call our FRESH Catering Department and make it simple and amazing.

We have some phenomenal bite-size treats that can help you create a platter like no other.  Check out our holiday guide centerfold and see for yourself.  Order a mixture of these and voilà yours will be the most popular party on the block.  We offer potato sliders (available in pimento cheese, andouille green onion, twice baked or pulled pork), crab cakes, bacon-wrapped medjool dates and beef churrasco, just to name a few.  Or, you can reserve a charcuterie and artisanal cheese platter with assorted flatbreads or crackers.

And the best part about FRESH catering is that we can work with you to create your perfect menu if you don’t see something on ours that strikes your fancy.  Just call our lovely catering manager, Linda, and talk to her about your gathering.  She is sure to come up with a perfect solution for you.

Try being a guest at your own party and see for yourself what a difference it makes.

Happy partying!

FRESH and Festive: Oh JOY-full Table

The 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, side 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

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

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

Side Dish Package

Side dish package includes cornbread dressing, giblet gravy, whipped sweet potatoes, green beans amandine and FRESH cranberry sauce. 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 need some appetizers to hold over the crowd until dinner, our amazing hors d’oeuvres are perfect for any gathering, from casual to 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.

And here is the best news of all — our Holiday Tastings are going on most weekends between now and Christmas.  Come by and sample our holiday offerings and see for yourself why you should choose FRESH for the holidays.  Click here to check our calendar of events for all of the details.

FRESH makes it easy to entertain like a chef this holiday season!

FRESH and Festive: Last-Minute Holiday Treats

Your shopping is done, your Christmas and New Year’s menus are planned – but what about treats for last-minute drop-in guests, or to keep crowds happy and well-fed during the long days of family togetherness ahead?

Check out some of these new arrivals and seasonal offerings, to add a fresh and unexpected twist to your holiday cheer:

KuchenMeister cakes: In several flavors, including Jamaican rum, amaretto chocolate, and tiramisu, these European-style cakes are delicious as an afternoon or late-night break, served with coffee, espresso or even a dessert wine or port. They’re also nicely packaged, so you can take one along as a hostess gift. “Kuchenmeister” means “cake master” in German, and these cakes are favorite traditions throughout Germany and other European countries.

Cheese-stuffed dates, figs and more:  These rich delicacies, brought from Europe by European Imports Ltd., make a good addition to an appetizer spread or an excellent late-night snack. Mild, creamy cheese is stuffed inside apricots, figs or dates, and then the whole thing is marinated in rapeseed oil. The result is a silky, sweet-salty bite of fruit and cheese, best sliced into small pieces and served with flatbread, crackers, crusty bread and perhaps some cured meat like prosciutto. Find these in pretty glass jars near our dip and olive bar. (Place a jar in a basket with some fancy crackers, and you’ve got a last-minute gift for the gourmand on your list, too.)

Hans Freitag cookies: Didn’t get as many Christmas cookies baked as you planned? Round out your platters with these European favorites. Also from Germany, this family-run company produces assortments of fancy cookies – crisp wafers, delicate butter cookies, many chocolate-dipped – that look pretty on a platter and taste great with coffee, milk or hot chocolate.

From Our Backyard: Greenberg Turkeys

They’ve been discovered by Oprah and The New York Times, but don’t worry  – Greenberg smoked turkeys are still an East Texas treasure, made right in Tyler in the time-honored way, and just as delicious as you remember.

And, yes, we still have your holiday Greenberg turkeys at FRESH!

If you don’t know the story of Greenberg turkeys, you’re either not from around here, or you’ve never been fortunate enough to enjoy one.

More than 75 years ago, Samuel Isaac Greenberg started smoking turkeys in his barn, using hickory and a secret spice rub handed down from his mother.  Word spread about his delicious smoked birds, and by the ‘40s, Greenberg and his son Zelick were making deliveries as far away as Dallas and then beyond.

Today, the third generation of Greenbergs, Sam Greenberg, runs the company, and the turkeys are smoked with the same level of care as they were in the early days. Workers still hand-trim the birds, and slow-smoke them over a hickory fire in pit houses still located in Tyler.

A Greenberg turkey has a distinctive, deep, smoky flavor, and yet somehow manages to stay moist underneath that smoke-darkened skin. To me, they’re best served at room temperature or slightly chilled. I especially like them as the centerpiece of a sandwich buffet, plopped onto soft bread like brioche or onto a crusty roll. I might add a little cranberry sauce or a raspberry-spiked Dijon mustard, but really, this turkey is flavorful enough to stand on its own.

Is the Greenberg turkey part of your holiday tradition? Come get one while we still have them. Never tried one? Come start a new custom for your family celebrations.

Family Central: Christmas Classic Movie Night

A family movie night is just the kind of low-key evening you probably need about now. So gather the kids and cousins, pick one of your favorite holiday movies, and then take it up a notch, by matching your movie-night snacks to the film. A little holiday inspiration:

A Christmas Story
The movie: All Robbie wants for Christmas is a BB gun – but his mother is convinced he’d put his eye out.
The snacks:  Chinese food, of course! (This is obvious if you’ve seen the movie, but if you haven’t, we don’t want to give it away.) Create a family dim sum feast with ready-to-heat snacks from our frozen section, like red-bean rice buns, coated in sesame seeds; steam-and-go buns, filled with pork or chicken and easy to heat in the microwave; or mini spring rolls. (Ling Ling, in chicken or veggie, is one to try.)

A Christmas Carol
The movie: The classic Charles Dickens story of Tiny Tim, Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas. Merry Christmas, every one. There are tons of versions, including a sort-of-creepy animated flick from 2009 starring Jim Carrey, but we like the 1999 one, with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge, and the 1951 black-and-white British version.
The snacks: Traditional English desserts, of course. For adults, try a bread pudding with a brandy butter hard sauce; the one we stock, by Wilkin and Sons, is very traditional. Kids might like a simplified version of an English trifle (cake, custard, fruit and whipped cream.) Or, go even simpler, with scones and jam. We always have them fresh-baked in our bakery if you don’t care to make your own.

It’s a Wonderful Life
The movie: I know several families that don’t consider it Christmas if they don’t watch this Jimmy Stewart classic at least once. Some kids may feel it’s a little slow going, but if you can get them hooked, softer-hearted kids may be tearing up by the end.
The snacks: All-American, simple fare matches this one best: Hot chocolate, mulled cider, and popcorn. If you’re really feeling nostalgic, get the kids to help you make some popcorn balls. This recipe is super-easy, though it works and tastes much better if you make popcorn on the stovetop, the old-fashioned way.

Christmas Marshmallow Popcorn Balls
Makes 12 to 14

12 – 14 cups popped popcorn
1 stick butter
1 (16 oz) pkg miniature marshmallows
Pinch salt
Few drops red food coloring (optional)
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pop popcorn; set aside. If you must use microwave popcorn, select one with as little salt and butter as possible.

In a large, microwave-safe container, melt marshmallows and butter on high for about 45 seconds; remove and stir. Microwave on high an additional 30 seconds to 90 seconds, or until mixture is smooth.

Stir in pinch of salt, and, if desired, red food coloring. Pour marshmallow mixture into very large bowl and add about half the popcorn, stirring to coat. Add more popcorn, a cup or two at a time, until you get the desired consistency – sticky enough to hold together, but not too gooey. About 13 or 14 cups of popcorn is probably about right.

When popcorn mixture is cool enough to handle, shape a handful, about one cup, into in a ball, packing it together lightly. Transfer to a cookie sheet to finish cooling.

While popcorn balls finish cooling, melt chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowl, for about 90 seconds, or until smooth, stirring every 30 seconds or so. Using a small spoon, drizzle chocolate over cooled popcorn balls. Allow to set before serving, at least 1 hour.

FRESH and Festive: International Holiday Traditions

The holidays are all about tradition. But all traditions have to start somewhere. So this year, I’m thinking of trying to launch at least one new custom with family or friends. And of course, since I work here at FRESH, it’s almost certainly going to be an edible one – like some of these international holiday traditions I’ve been hearing about.

Scandinavia – Holiday hot toddies: Throughout northern Europe,but especially in Sweden, holiday parties always seem to include some sort of mulled wine. We have stocked a non-alcoholic version, Grandpa Lundquist Glogg, which has the same traditional spices of cloves and cardamom. You can add a splash of wine or port if you like, or enjoy it as is, but no matter what, it’s best served warm, maybe with some crisp, not-too-sweet cookies like gingersnaps or butter cookies.

France – The Yule log: The French, naturally, have an abundance of wonderful Christmas foods, many of them served at a late-night feast on Christmas Eve, after church services. But since I’m no French chef, I prefer one that I can get here at FRESH ready-made, the Buche de Noel. Named after the Yule logs that burned in French hearths, this is a chocolate cake, rolled and decorated to look like a log, with holly leaves and other decorations. Our pastry chef Jennifer Kuhn makes three great kinds, but my favorite is probably the trianon, chocolate cake accented with three kinds of chocolate: white chocolate mousse, milk chocolate mousse and dark chocolate mousse.

United Kingdom – Christmas pudding: As a child, I never understood what they were talking about in old-fashioned British movies when they mentioned Christmas pudding; we sure didn’t eat chocolate or tapioca pudding cups at our house on Christmas Day. Now, I get it; what they mean in England is really a heavy, sweet, aromatic dessert, more like a cross between bread pudding and fruitcake. No matter what type you choose, it’s the sauce that makes it – a sweet, rich butter brandy sauce. The one we have, by Wilkin & Sons, is good enough to eat with a spoon, by itself. (Maybe that’s a tradition I should keep to myself. )

Mexico – Good-luck grapes: In the southern United States, we eat black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year’s Day. Mexico has a simpler and, to me, tastier custom. At the stroke of midnight, everyone eats 12 fresh grapes, to bring luck. Ideally, you eat these precisely as the bell in the local church tower chimes midnight, one for each ring of the bells. A friend who once owned a restaurant in Mexico says this was a nearly universal custom, so they served each guest 12 perfect grapes in a martini glass at the stroke of midnight, along with complimentary champagne. The champagne may not be traditional there, but I’m sure going to make it part of any new New Year’s custom I create.

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