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Pumpkin Season is Upon Us

Pumpkin Season is Upon UsIt used to be that we’d buy a pumpkin for Halloween and have pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. That would be the extent of our annual pumpkin tasting.

From the beginning of October until the end of November, it’s likely you’ll see pumpkin or pumpkin spice as an ingredient in almost everything, from cereal to pasta sauces and even beer. As you shop through the aisles, it’s incredible to see some of the pumpkin-inspired ideas purveyors have created.

FRESH is happy to jump on the pumpkin wagon because it kicks off our favorite season of eating with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner. There will be a large selection of pumpkins on the patio next to produce. FRESH has big ones, little ones, heirloom pumpkins, Cinderella pumpkins and a vast assortment of pumpkin centerpieces and floral arrangements crafted in our own floral department.
While shopping, you have to get a pumpkin spice latte, or try the pumpkin gelato.

In the bakery, pumpkin rolls, pumpkin loaf, pumpkin cheesecake and crème brûlée will be offered as delicious seasonal treats. Don’t forget the traditional pumpkin pie.

Also, check the calendar for information about the kids’ Halloween Costume Contest on October 28, along with other pumpkin-related events and specials.

Brown Sugar-Pumpkin Pound Cake with Pecan Glaze


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (plus more for greasing pan)
3 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting pan)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbs bourbon (optional)
2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
4 eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbs (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease Bundt pan with butter; sprinkle with flour. In medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt.

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter, both sugars, vanilla and bourbon together at medium speed until fluffy. Blend in pumpkin. Add the eggs, one at a time. Set mixer speed to low; add flour mixture in 3 batches. Combine until just blended. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, add batter to prepared pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out fairly clean. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Invert cake onto rack; remove it from the pan.

Place all glaze ingredients in saucepan over low heat; stir until melted. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. After cake has completely cooled, spoon glaze over the top of the cake.

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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!

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

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

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

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)

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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Cold winters mean bright citrus!

Cold winters mean bright citrus!I’ve always wondered why the brightest, sunniest fruit is so abundant during the darkest, coldest time of year. Citrus is at its peak of flavor, and January is definitely the month to indulge.

A stroll through the produce department offers an array of citrus just waiting to be juiced or eaten. There are plenty of lemons, lime, oranges, tangerines and grapefruit, but there are also some wonderful varieties that are unfamiliar.

When it comes to choosing citrus, the best flavor comes from fruit that has a slight give when pressed and a bit of softness.

Also, when choosing fruit for juicing, look for citrus that has a smoother skin; a bumpy-skinned orange or lime will yield less juice than one with smooth skin.

FRESH is offering a variety of citrus, including seedless lemons, blood oranges, kumquats and three varieties of grapefruit, as well as several types of tangerines, clementines and other oranges.

Many of the types of citrus listed below are available at FRESH but are very seasonal. So, hurry in before you’re left waiting for next year.

Pummelo Grapefruit: Larger than typical grapefruit, the pummelo’s skin ranges from yellow to bright green. It has a very thick rind and a light pink flesh. It is juicier and sweeter than other varieties of grapefruit.

Blood Oranges: The skin of a blood orange darkens over time as the red juice from the interior begins to seep into the rind. They have a very sweet flavor, and their juice is a popular ingredient in recipes. They will become sweeter and juicier as they ripen and as their skin darkens in color.

Meyer Lemons: Once grown only as ornamental garden lemons, Meyer lemons are now enjoyed for their mild, sweet, juicy flesh. Although still too tart to eat out-of-hand, the juice is a delicious additive in many recipes.

Kumquats: A bit larger than an olive, the kumquat looks like a tiny, oval orange. It is eaten whole, skin and all. The orange flesh is juicy, acidic and tart while the skin is fragrant and sweet.

Key Limes: Although they are small, the juice from a key lime is more intense than the juice from a regular lime. Most often used in cooking, the key lime is also more fragrant and less acidic.

Tangerines/Mandarins: A member of the mandarin family, there are many varieties of tangerines that include honey, minneola, neapolitan, satsuma and Ojai pixie. They vary in flavor from sweet to tart and typically have a sweet, clean fragrance. A bit larger than mandarins, the tangerines are easy to peel and often seedless.

Clementines: The smallest member of the mandarin family, clementines are often imported from Spain, North Africa or Morocco. Also called Cuties, this is a brand of clementines that are grown in California. They are small and easy to peel with less juice than most oranges. They are best enjoyed when peeled and eaten in sections.

Oranges: Most popular varieties include navel and Valencia. The Valencia oranges typically yield more juice. Navel oranges have a thicker skin and are great for eating.

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Posted in: Produce

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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BREW CLUB Style of the Month: American Pale Wheat Ale

Lagunitas’ A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ AleA refreshing summer style, this Americanized version of a German Hefeweizen ranges within the pale to golden range in color. It has a long-lasting head with a light to medium body, and higher carbonation is proper. Traditionally more hoppy than a Hefeweizen, American wheat beer differs in that it should not offer flavors of banana or clove. Most use a substantial percentage of wheat malt. It can be made using either ale or lager yeast. Generally brewed with at least 30-percent malted wheat, these beers are typically served with the yeast in the bottle and pour cloudy. There may be some fruitiness from ale fermentation, though most examples use a fairly neutral ale yeast, resulting in a clean fermentation with little to no diacetyl.

Featured Beer:
Lagunitas’ A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale: Very smooth and silky. A truly unique style featuring a strong hop finish on a silky body. A hoppy pale wheat ale that is great for IPA fans but so smooth that the hefeweizen fans like it, too.

The ale smells of grapefruit and orange. When you take a sip, you get that splash of citrusy hops along with some earthy hops before it smooths out to some wheaty goodness, and finishes creamy and a little bitter. Lagunitas beers are known for their distinct flavors. Once the hops fade, the wheat character starts to emerge.

Lagunitas is a very hop-forward brewery, and there is no doubt about it with this beer. If you have friends that don’t like hoppy beers, have them try this. I bet they won’t be able to put it down. ABV: 7.5% IBU: 65

American Pale Wheat Ale Food Pairings
These beers pair well with any light flavors and creamy textures. Try them with grilled chicken or fish with lemon as the seasoning, Caesar salad, fettuccine Alfredo and soft cheeses like Camembert, mozzarella or goat cheese.

Grapefruit-Glazed Shrimp with Grapefruit Salsa

Grapefruit Salsa:
1 orange, peeled, sectioned and chopped
1 grapefruit, peeled, sectioned and chopped
1 cup fresh pineapple, chopped
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 fresh jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tbs green onions, thinly sliced
1 Tbs cilantro, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 grapefruit, juiced (approximately 1/2 cup)
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 lb jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

Mix orange, grapefruit, pineapple, tomato, jalapeño, green onions, cilantro and a dash of salt in a bowl. Cover and chill about 4 hours.

Light the grill or heat a grill pan to medium-high heat. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, grapefruit juice, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. Add shrimp to the marinade, stirring well to coat. Let marinate for 20 minutes. Thread shrimp onto wooden skewers. Cook the shrimp until just done, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Brush each side with glaze while grilling. In a small saucepan, bring the remaining glaze to a boil. Boil for 1 minute; remove from heat and pour over shrimp skewers.

Top with grapefruit salsa.

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A FRESH Take on Full Circle Soup

Creamy Tomato BisqueDuring the cold months of winter, I often want homemade soup but don’t have the ingredients or time to make a batch. That’s why I like to grab the Full Circle Organic soup boxes.

Available in three classic flavors – Chunky Tomato, Lentil and Chicken Noodle – these soups are made with organic vegetables and no preservatives or MSG. The vegetables used are fresh and plump, and in the Chicken Noodle, you will find juicy chunks of chicken and delicious egg noodles.

My favorite is the Chunky Tomato paired with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. It is so good on a cold, rainy day, but other times, I like to turn the chunky tomato into a delicious, velvety bisque. It is the perfect first course for a dinner party, and no one will ever know that it wasn’t homemade.

Creamy Tomato Bisque

1 large fresh tomato, seeded and diced
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 (17.3 oz) box Full Circle Chunky Tomato Soup
3/4 cup half-and-half
fresh basil, for garnish
Full Circle Soup & Snack Oyster Crackers, for serving

In a saucepan, add the tomatoes and oil. Sauté over medium heat. Add the garlic powder, black pepper and broth. Pour in the box of soup and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the half-and-half. Use an immersion blender or electric blender to liquefy the soup until it is very smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Warm bisque again before serving. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, and serve with Full Circle Soup & Snack Oyster Crackers.

Serves 4

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FRESH Flavor of East Texas Summer

Lemon-Marinated Zucchini and Squash SaladJuly may be one of the hottest months of the year, but it can also be the most flavorful. When it comes to homegrown fruits and vegetables, July is the month when everything is at its peak of flavor.

Tomatoes, squash, zucchini, onions, blueberries, watermelon, fresh herbs and so much more! My mouth is watering just thinking about all of these FRESH foods.

So many of these things are grown right here in East Texas, and FRESH works directly with local growers to offer as much as they can in the produce department.

You will find Jacksonville tomatoes, Noonday onions and zucchini, squash, peaches, peppers and blueberries grown right here in East Texas. There are also many things provided by other Texas growers like cantaloupes, watermelon, herbs, potatoes and more.

With all of this great local flavor, you might need some new recipes. Here are two that truly capture the flavors of summer!

Lemon-Marinated Zucchini and Squash Salad

2 yellow squash
2 zucchini
1 large lemon, juice and zest
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp each, salt and black pepper

Cut the ends off the squash and zucchini. Going down the length of the vegetables, peel off the top layer of skin and discard. Using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, continue to peel off very thin ribbon-like vertical slices. Place in a medium-sized bowl. Add the lemon zest and juice. Roughly chop crushed red pepper flakes and add to the bowl. Add remaining 3 ingredients and toss well. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Serve cold as a salad or side dish.

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Watermelon Salsa

2 cups watermelon, diced
1 peach, diced
1 Tbs honey
1 to 2 jalapeños
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
1/2 cucumber, seeded and diced
2 Tbs mint leaves, chopped
2 Tbs cilantro, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and chill for up to an hour before serving. Use as a dip or serve over grilled chicken, fish or shrimp tacos.

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Posted in: Grocery, Produce, Recipes

A FRESH Point of View: Hoppin’ John

We all know that eating black-eyed peas brings luck on New Year’s Day.  But instead of the same old same old, try something new with these delicious lucky peas from my department.  Hoppin’ John, rice and black-eyed peas with pork, is a Southern tradition that I recently tried making myself with a recipe from Melissa’s produce.

Try it this year for yourself!

Hoppin’ John

1 lb spicy sausage
1 large onion chopped
3 peeled garlic cloves minced
1 lb Melissa’s Blackeyed Peas
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp salt
4 cups beef broth (homemade or store bought)
2 Tbs butter
3 cups long grain rice

In a 5-quart Dutch oven, cook the sausage, onion and garlic over medium heat, stirring often to break up the sausage, until it loses its raw look, about 10 minutes. Pour off excess fat.

In a large pot, add peas, enough water to cover, and red and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the peas are tender, per package directions. Stir in 1 teaspoon of salt.

Meanwhile, bring the beef broth, butter, and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the rice, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Fluff the rice and transfer it to a deep serving bowl.

Pour the peas over the rice, mix well, and serve immediately.

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