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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.

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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.

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Sahale Snacks Bring Flavor to Sweet Potatoes

Sahale Snacks Bring Flavor to Sweet PotatoesSometimes change is good, and putting a twist on Thanksgiving recipes can usher in a new tradition of flavor. For years, my family always had sweet potato casserole topped with melted marshmallows. Once you graduate from the kids’ table to the adult table, marshmallows may not be so cool.

My new favorite way to make sweet potatoes is to add a crumble to the top. I recently discovered Sahale Snacks, and they are one of my favorites for snacking and a quick boost of protein.

For Sahale Snacks, it all started with a climb up Mount Rainier in Washington State in August 2003. They had a beautiful trip but nothing delicious to eat. The trail mix and stale nuts helped replenish lost energy, but they did nothing to satisfy their desire for something great tasting, nutritious and as adventurous as their travels. That experience inspired them to create Sahale Snacks. They began experimenting with unique combinations of premium nuts, dried fruits and exotic spices, each reflecting a beautiful location, culture or culinary tradition somewhere in the world.

They use whole ingredients in their natural form, such as cashews, almonds, pecans, and pistachios, and combine them with naturally dried and preservative-free fruits. Then, they add fabulous ingredients like honey, lemongrass, balsamic vinegar or pure ground Madagascar vanilla beans. They are delicious snacks that go beyond ordinary.

They carefully select nuts from the best growers, and then they dry roast them to bring out the natural flavors. Some snack companies use sulfites to boost color or extend shelf life. They always use unsulfured fruit, which has been naturally preserved with sugar or a combination of sugar and fruit juice concentrate. Their secret glazing process uses tapioca syrup and cane sugar as a base; they then add fruit juices and spices.

Available in a variety of flavors, for the sweet potato recipe I used the Sahale Valdosta Pecans. It’s the perfect combination of black-peppered pecans, sweet cranberries and a pinch of orange zest. Just do a quick grind in the food processor and stir together with some melted butter. Use what you need, and save the rest for snacking. Be sure to try some of the other Sahale flavors. I know you will find a favorite.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Pecan-Cranberry Crumble

4 medium sweet potatoes
2/3 cup milk
4 Tbs butter, room temperature
2 Tbs honey
1/2 tsp salt
2 bags Sahale Valdosta Pecans
2 Tbs butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375° F. Pierce sweet potatoes, and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour or until soft. Let cool to room temperature. Peel skin from potatoes, and scoop flesh into a large microwave-safe bowl. Add milk, butter, honey and salt. Use a potato masher to completely combine. Spoon into a baking dish, and place in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

For the topping, place Sahale Snacks in a food processor, and pulse for a few seconds to roughly chop. Stir in the melted butter. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven, and scatter the chopped pecans over the top. Spray the top with nonstick cooking spray. Place under the broiler for 2 minutes or until top begins to brown. Watch closely to prevent burning.

Serves 6

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Stock Up on Full Circle Spices

Stock Up on Full Circle SpicesIt’s almost time for Thanksgiving, and that means stocking the pantry with necessary ingredients. I also like to use this time to clean out my spice cabinet. It’s time to check for outdated spices and get rid of anything that has lost its flavor.

Replenishing the cupboard with quality spices can sometimes be expensive. That’s why I look to Full Circle for organic spices. They believe in purity over preservatives and truly good taste.

Full Circle is Brookshire’s wellness and USDA-certified organic brand that provides a healthy, environmentally conscious eating and living experience for the entire family at an affordable price. From farm-fresh produce to responsibly caught fish, all-natural snacks to gluten-free frozen dinners, and environmentally safe detergents to 100% recyclable paper towels, Full Circle provides a wide variety of items the way Mother Nature intended. Hundreds of Full Circle choices are currently available throughout the store, making it easy to shop for organic and wellness products.

For my Thanksgiving pantry, a few spices are essential. I must have ground ginger and fresh cinnamon for baking, pies and sweet potato recipes. For the savory, a new bottle of bay leaves is needed for cooking the turkey, and making broth and the leftover turkey soup.

Full Circle – it’s a brand I can trust for affordability, quality and flavor.

After-Thanksgiving Turkey Stock

5 lbs leftover turkey bones (with some meat still attached), broken into large sections if necessary
1 lb yellow onions, halved or quartered depending on size (skins on)
1/2 lb carrots, cut into 4-inch lengths
1/2 lb celery stalks, cut into 4-inch lengths
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
8 sprigs parsley
3 bay leaves

In a 3-gallon stockpot, combine all ingredients, and fill with enough cold water to cover everything by 3 inches when submerged (about 6 quarts). If you don’t have a large stockpot, use two smaller pots.

Bring to a rapid simmer over high heat. Reduce heat until bubbles barely break the surface. Simmer until flavorful (about 2 hours), skimming stock with a ladle every 30 minutes. Keep the stock at a light simmer; do not boil. Any remaining fat can be easily removed once the stock is chilled. Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard all vegetables, herbs and bones. Let stock cool completely before refrigerating. To store, refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 6 months.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cornbread Dressing – a must-have for Thanksgiving

Cornbread DressingCornbread dressing at Thanksgiving is almost as big a tradition as the actual day. You will find it in almost every household, and it’s the type of dressing that family members crave.

That’s why I like to make mine with the best ingredients. The two most important ingredients in cornbread dressing are the cornbread and the stock. I like to get the Hodgson Mill Cornbread Mix because it’s made with stone-ground yellow corn and whole-grain wheat flour. Also, when I follow the recipe on the box, the cornbread comes out perfect every time.

For the chicken stock, I always reach for Kitchen Basics. It is a rich, high-quality stock that is made by simmering McCormick Gourmet herbs and spices with chicken and vegetables that are cooked long enough to extract layers of hearty flavor.

This year, I thought I would put a Texas twist on my cornbread dressing by using the Hodgson Mill Mexican Style Jalapeño Cornbread Mix. Adding that great spicy flavor that everyone loves is sure to receive rave reviews.

Jalapeño Cornbread Dressing

1 box Hodgson Mill Mexican Style Jalapeño Cornbread Mix
1 lb Jennie-O Italian Turkey Sausage Links (Hot or Sweet)
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
1 egg
1 cup Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock
2 Tbs unsalted butter

The day before, cook cornbread mix according to package directions. Cut into small cubes, and leave out at room temperature overnight to dry.

When ready to prepare, preheat the oven to 350° F. Squeeze the turkey sausage out of the links. Heat a large skillet over medium heat; cook the turkey sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally. Cook sausage all the way through until it begins to brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the onions, celery and garlic to the sausage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have browned (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat to cool. Place the cornbread pieces in a large bowl. Add the parsley, egg and sausage mixture. Begin working in the broth while stirring. Gradually pour in enough of the stock, so the dressing is not too dry but at the same time not too wet. Stir gently and stir well.

Butter a small casserole dish. Spread the dressing in an even layer. Dot the top of the dressing with pieces of butter. Bake until it’s heated through and lightly browned on top, about 20 minutes. Serve right away, garnished with additional parsley, if desired.

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Holiday FRESH Twist

Are you facing a rut this holiday season trying to change up your recipes but stay with the delicious foods your family has come to love? Let us help you put a little twist in your menu.

Not everyone likes deviled eggs at Thanksgiving, but I sure do not happen to be one of those people. In fact, I would love deviled eggs at any occasion that I could possibly find. They are one of my favorites! Ever thought about adding some maple syrup to your deviled eggs? I know I sure had not, but I found this recipe on our FRESH website and couldn’t resist the thought of maple syrup mixed in with my eggs! I gave it a try, and my oh my, I had a family that was sure glad I did! Check out this recipe:

Maple Pecan Deviled Eggs

12 hard-boiled eggs, halved with yolks placed in a separate bowl
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 tsp honey mustard
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs maple syrup (more for desired consistency)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped

In a mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, cream cheese, ricotta, honey mustard and cinnamon. Stir until all ingredients are incorporated. Add maple syrup and stir. More maple syrup may be needed to reach desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place mixture in a plastic bag for piping. Squeeze ingredients down to one corner. Snip off that corner and pipe into halved portions of hard-boiled egg whites. Garnish with toasted pecans. Chill and serve.

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Now, if that is not enough yumminess to add to the table this year, let me share with you one more! I love potato casseroles. I always gravitate toward those at Thanksgiving and make sure I try out the different varieties. After all, there is so much you can do with potatoes! And, I haven’t found too many that I don’t care for. This one in particular was delicious. It changed up the potato “casserole” and was a nice change of pace. This recipe calls for Grana Padano cheese, which can be found in our Charcuterie & Cheese department. This is a cheese that originated in Italy and has a granular texture with an intensely sweet flavor. Here is the recipe:

Grana Padano Potatoes

4 large potatoes
flour, seasoned with salt and pepper for dredging
sunflower oil
1 liter marinara sauce
1 lb FRESH mozzarella, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
4 Tbs fresh basil, chopped
1 cup Grana Padano cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350° F. Peel and thinly slice the potatoes, lengthwise. Dredge in seasoned flour. In a frying pan, heat the sunflower oil until hot. Fry potatoes until golden; remove from pan and drain on a large paper towel.
In a large baking dish, spread the marinara sauce on the bottom. Add a single layer of potatoes. Top the potatoes with the slices of mozzarella and sprinkle with chopped basil. Top the mozzarella with another piece of potato, then top with more marinara sauce and finally the grated Grana Padano. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.

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There you have it, my FRESHie friends! Thanksgiving twist by FRESH!