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Dinner Made Easy with Veggie Noodles

Spiralizing vegetables is all the rage in the culinary world. So many diets are looking to noodles made out of vegetables as a way to eat gluten-free, cut calories and add more vegetables to a meal.

Basically, you take a dense vegetable like butternut squash, zucchini or potatoes and put it through a gadget called a spiralizer. The spiralizer will cut the vegetable into long noodles. They can be eaten raw, sautéed, parboiled or fried. There’s just one problem. I’ve tried a few spiralizers, and the results were not as successful as I expected. The noodles were flimsy, broken or oddly shaped.

When I saw the spiralized noodles from Veggie Noodle Co. at FRESH, I couldn’t wait to try them. It’s a great company out of Austin, and they do the spiralizing for you. The noodles are perfect, and the packaging comes with quick, easy recipes and cooking instructions. Plus, there is a variety of vegetables to choose from: butternut squash, sweet potato, zucchini and beet. I can’t even begin to imagine the mess that I would have made if I had tried to spiralize a beet!

Having all these options allows you to get creative with recipes. All of them can be made so quickly. It’s the perfect solution for weeknight dinners.

The butternut squash spirals can be sautéed for a few minutes and then tossed in pesto and olive oil. The sweet potato spirals are really delicious when fried. It’s a bit like sweet potato fries. The beet spirals are beautiful and can be sautéed, fried or boiled. Toss them with olive oil and a few drops of balsamic, and then top with some goat cheese crumbles for a nice pasta substitute.

 





Cool and Creamy Coconut-Milk Ice Cream

Cool and Creamy Coconut-Milk Ice CreamThere’s nothing better on a hot summer day than ice cream ­— cool, creamy, refreshing and delicious in any flavor you choose. However, there are those with dairy allergies who can’t enjoy this cold summer treat.

Twenty years ago when my nephew was born with milk allergies, there were no dairy alternatives. Now, there are so many dairy-free ice creams that everyone can enjoy. The flavor and texture are great, and there is little difference between traditional and dairy-free.

NadaMoo Coconut-Milk Ice Cream is one of our favorites. In 2004, the founders started making small batches of coconut-milk ice cream for their own dairy-free friends and family in Austin, Texas. It wasn’t long before other people found out how delicious it was, and strangers were calling them for pints of the ice cream. That’s how NadaMoo began.

For this company, including great, wholesome ingredients is just as important as the ice cream being dairy-free. Each batch is USDA-organic, non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, kosher and fair-trade certified.

This multi-generational, family-owned business makes their products in the “heart of Texas.” Their family-oriented passion project has united dairy and dairy-free fans, joining a gap between non-dairy and delicious.

At FRESH, you can find four flavors: Lotta Mint Chip, Vanilla…Ahhh, Creamy Coconut and Gotta Do Chocolate. Give them a try! You won’t be able to taste the difference!





Among Friends Gluten-Free Cookie Mix

Among Friends Gluten-Free CookiesI receive a lot of questions about gluten-free products: which ones work, which ones are easy to use, which ones are worth buying and, most importantly, which ones taste good? Replacing flour in recipes and products is a challenge, and there are many that miss the mark.

If you’re trying to eat gluten-free or add more whole-grains to your diet, Among Friends Cookie Mix is one to try. These cookies are practically guilt-free with ingredients like oat flour, premium chocolate, ground flax seed, sea salt and organic cane sugar. They are verified Non-GMO, certified gluten-free, low in sugar and high in whole-grains.

The founders, Suzie Miller and Lizann Anderson, did not intend to make a gluten-free product, but rather baked goods that are dense with nutrition without sacrificing great taste. The last thing they wanted to do was create a “healthy cookie” that tasted like the cardboard it was packaged in.

Their gluten-free flavors include Molasses Ginger, Double Chocolate, and Chocolate Cranberry. Being an avid fan of all things chocolate, I bought the Double Chocolate.

They were easy to make with only 2 eggs and 4 tablespoons of butter that needed to be added. The package was small but made more cookies than I expected (depending on the size, more than 2 dozen). They baked in less than 10 minutes and the texture was crumbly, yet moist. Chocolate chunks filled the cookies and enhanced the double chocolate flavor. They were not too sweet, which makes them taste rich and satisfying.
I look forward to trying some of the other flavors and seeing what other products they create. Finding healthy baking mixes that also taste good is a challenge, but with the Among Friends brand, making cookies “from scratch” is easy and full of good ingredients.





Quest Bars & Chips

Quest Bars and ChipsI have to admit that when grabbing breakfast and snacks on the go, I usually don’t have the time or patience to make the best choices.

That’s why I love finding a product that eliminates the guesswork and, of course, tastes good, too.

Quest Protein Bars and Quest Protein Chips fit all those categories. They are low in fat, carbohydrates, sugar and calories. They also contain no gluten or soy, and they are high in protein.

The chips have 21 grams of protein and come in five flavors – Sea Salt, BBQ, Salt & Vinegar, Sour Cream & Onion, and Cheddar & Sour Cream. They are baked instead of fried and contain high-quality ingredients. These chips offer a guilt-free crunch and savory flavors that make snacking fun and healthy.

The Quest Bars come in 12 flavors, from S’mores to White Chocolate Raspberry. They may taste unhealthy but are full of ingredients that have a clean nutritional profile.

Sweetened with stevia, the bars contain only one gram of sugar and net five grams of carbohydrates. They are high in fiber, contain no gluten and have 20 grams of protein.

These bars not only serve as a snack or meal replacement but also as an ingredient in baked goods. The Quest researchers have created recipes using the bars as a low-carb substitute for sugar, gluten and chocolate. Visit Quest Nutrition to find recipes find recipes for things like blueberry-almond muffins, lemon-coconut pound cake and strawberry cheesecake cookies.

At Quest, it’s their promise to make the quest for clean and healthy eating a delicious and fun experience.





Family Central: Love at First Bite!

September is a big month for most families, as it starts a brand-new school year. A daily schedule is developed which includes set meal times, and we all know that growing kids require a lot of food. Back in the days of my school years, I recall always being hungry right after school and rummaging through our kitchen pantry. A select option of potato chips, Fruit Gushers and bananas were all that I could ever find, and that combination was only appealing for so long. I always begged my parents for more snacks, but their answer was always, “I am about to cook; find something in the pantry.” Oh, how I wish I could go back in the day to educate them of healthier snacks that could replace the unhealthy ones they made me eat.

As I was strolling through the aisles of FRESH, I noticed an aisle full of flavored crackers. My eye caught one particular brand, Back to Nature Spinach and Roasted Garlic Crackers. If I’m being honest, the “Spinach and Roasted Garlic” part was what mainly caught my attention, as I am a huge fan of both spinach and roasted garlic. The organic and gluten-free part was just an added bonus.

It was definitely love at first bite. The flavor was there, but it wasn’t overpowering. Did I also mention that these crackers are whole-grain crackers? I decided to pair the crackers with Lilly’s Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, and I can say that this was a good decision on my part. Lilly’s Hummus is also All-Natural, Gluten-Free, Vegan AND Organic!

What I love about both of these products is knowing that you are eating all-natural products. Both Back to Nature and Lilly’s Roasted Red Pepper Hummus take pride in providing non-artificial food to customers without losing that savory flavor.

This flavorful combination is guaranteed to be a hit with the family. Try different flavors of Lilly’s Hummus with these crackers, or try different flavors of crackers with the Red Pepper Hummus. The combination is endless, which will make it a fun snack for everyone!





Well and Good: Eat Your Vegetables!

FRESH VegetablesAdding vegetables to your diet can seem like a daunting task…especially if you don’t have fond memories of them from childhood! Vegetables have more health benefits than you may know. Still not convinced? Here are three benefits of eating more vegetables, along with an easy (and delicious) recipe:

You’ll feel full faster and stay full longer. Vegetables contain fiber, which helps bulk up the digestive tract. Because fiber swells when in water, your body will send the “I’m full!” message much sooner. Even adding one serving of broccoli or carrots each day can make a big difference. Full sooner = you eat less. You eat less = less calories. Less calories means weight lost! See? Vegetables ARE good!

Your heart will thank you. Eating a diet rich in potassium can help lower blood pressure. Lower blood pressure means a lower chance of heart attack and stroke! How do I get more potassium, you ask? Try orange vegetables like sweet potatoes and orange peppers and you’ll be well on your way.

Your eyes will see the light. Brightly colored vegetables contain compounds called lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect your eyes from free radicals formed from toxins in our bodies. These compounds in particular seem to have a protective effect against cataract and macular degeneration. The sooner you can get these compounds, the better…so what are you waiting for? Kale is calling!

Chilaquiles Casserole

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, grated
1 (19 oz) can black beans, rinsed
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 cups corn, frozen (thawed) or fresh
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
12 corn tortillas, quartered
1 (19 oz) can mild red or green enchilada sauce
1 1/4 cups shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Preparation:
1.Preheat oven to 400° F. Lightly coat a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray.

2.Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini, beans, tomatoes, corn, cumin and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are heated through, about 3 minutes.

3.Scatter half the tortilla pieces in the 9 x 13 pan. Top with half the vegetable mixture, half the enchilada sauce and half the cheese. Repeat with one more layer of tortillas, vegetables, sauce and cheese. Cover with foil.

4.Bake the casserole for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the casserole is bubbling around the edges and the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes more.

Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through Step 3 and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Nutrition:
Calories Per Serving: 243, Fat: 10 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g, Monosaturated Fat: 4 g), Cholesterol: 23 mg, Carbohydrates: 30 g, Protein: 9 g, Fiber: 5 g Sodium: 338 mg, Potassium: 267 mg

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (23% daily value), Fiber (22% daily value)

Carbohydrate Servings: 1 1/2

Exchanges: 2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 lean meat, 1 fat

Recipe from EatingWell.





Well and Good: The Crust of the Pie

If you have a gluten allergy, you know there’s nothing like the holiday season to remind you of everything you can’t have. Just thinking of everyone enjoying mom’s cherry and pumpkin pie is enough to send you over the edge!

You didn’t think we would ever let that happen did you? Here at FRESH, we have your back! Here are some great (pie) recipe substitution tips to save the holiday and your sanity too!

Most commercially available pie crusts are made from wheat flour. Here’s a recipe that’s just as good, without the gluten. It can easily be doubled if you need two crusts.

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups gluten-free flour blend, such as King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbs cold butter
1 large egg
2 tsp lemon juice or vinegar

Directions:
Lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan.

Whisk together the flour or flour blend, sugar, xanthan gum and salt.

Cut the cold butter into pats, then work the pats into the flour mixture till it’s crumbly, with some larger, pea-size chunks of butter remaining.

Whisk the egg and vinegar or lemon juice together till very foamy. Mix into the dry ingredients. Stir until the mixture holds together, adding 1 to 3 additional tablespoons cold water if necessary.

Shape into a ball and chill for an hour, or up to overnight.

Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before rolling.

Roll out on a piece of plastic wrap, on a silicone rolling mat, or in a pie bag that’s been heavily sprinkled with gluten-free flour or flour blend. Invert the crust into the prepared pie pan.

Fill and bake as your pie recipe directs.

Nobody likes burnt pie! This recipe is particularly vulnerable to burning. Make sure to shield your pie with crust covers (or foil) to keep everyone coming back for seconds.

If you’re making a fruit pie, avoid a soggy crust by placing the pie on the bottom rack of the oven. If it’s custard you enjoy, pre-bake the crust and make sure it’s cooled before you fill it with all that creamy goodness.





FRESH and Festive: Ever Heard of an Alligator Pear?

Did you know that an avocado is also known as an alligator pear? Although that name makes a lot of sense due to its shape and skin, it is probably a good thing that “avocado” has become the common name of this delicious and nutritious fruit.

California produces about 90 percent of our nation’s avocados, consisting of seven commercially grown varieties. The Hass variety accounts for almost 95 percent of the total crop volume. These avocados are arguably the most recognized type and my favorite, by far, for their creamy texture and nutty flavor.

Avocados do not ripen on the tree; they ripen or “soften” after they have been harvested. When you are purchasing avocados, push on the skin gently to determine ripeness. If you are looking for one to slice or mash within the next day or so, be sure that the pressure of your palm causes the skin to yield slighty or produces a small dent. If a large dent results, the avocado is more than likely overripe. Unripe, firm or green fruit can take four to five days to ripen at room temperature. If you are purchasing some for a recipe you want to create a few days out, just be careful to watch the fruit to make sure the temperature in your kitchen does not cause them to ripen too quickly. If they begin to yield to gentle pressure, place them in the refrigerator to slow the ripening process. If you want them to ripen more rapidly, place them in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana. The plant hormone ethylene, which occurs naturally in fruits like apples and bananas, triggers the ripening process.

There are many schools of thought on how to peel, cut and remove the pit from an avocado. I find the easiest method to be to cut the avocado in half lengthwise and twist the halves in opposite directions to separate. I remove the pit with a teaspoon but have friends and relatives that had rather stab the pit with a small knife and pry it out. I guess if you need to get out some pent up aggression, it might be a good thing to try! Once the pit is out, I hold the avocado half with a kitchen towel, cut side up, and use a small knife to score the flesh. Then I simply scoop out the chunks with a spoon, getting as close to the rind as possible.

Aside from being the star ingredient in guacamole, avocados are delicious on sandwiches, burgers, and salads. Their creamy texture makes them easy to mash up and use as an alternative to spreads like mayonnaise or butter. And the best part is that avocados are healthy! One-fifth of a medium avocado (1 oz.) has 50 calories and contributes nearly 20 vitamins and minerals to one’s diet.

So now you have the “fresh” part of my “fresh and festive” blog. As for the festive part, well, I tend to consider avocadoes as a good party ingredient. When avocados are on the menu, there are always lots of smiles and good times to go with them!





Well and Good: Living With Food Allergies

Living with food allergies (and even intolerances) can be difficult, to say the least. Especially when children are involved, it can be tiring to feel that you are on constant guard against accidental exposure to allergens.

FRESH is a great place for people with food allergies… the options are truly endless! We can help you to not only navigate the aisles of FRESH with a discerning eye, but in most cases, we can help you plan a menu or even give you new ideas on how to make meal and snack times exciting!

Let’s look at two of the most common allergies and simple adjustments to accommodate them:

Peanuts! If you’re allergic to peanuts, you’re not alone! About 3 million people nationwide have a peanut allergy. If you’re one of them, consider trying these options:

Almonds. Almond butter is a great replacement for peanut butter, and it’s more nutritionally dense, too. We grind our own almond butter here at FRESH and it’s amazing. Almond butter on toast with strawberries? Best snack ever!

If almonds are a no-go, try sunflower butter (in the nut butter section) or hemp seed butter. These are both tasty options, especially on bread with organic blueberry jam! Since these are seeds and not legumes, they shouldn’t cause trouble. As always, please check with your family physician before adding a food you’re not sure about.

Dairy. Most people who think they’re allergic to dairy are lactose intolerant, which means that their body can’t break down lactose, or milk sugar. If you’re having trouble when you drink milk, adding an enzyme (called lactase) to your diet should take care of it. Also, eating dairy with added probiotics (like yogurt or kefir) can help make digestion easier. We have both of these options for you in the Health and Wellness department. However, if you’re actually allergic to dairy here are some options to try:

Almond milk. Yes, almonds again! Almond milk is surprisingly similar to dairy milk in taste and texture. It’s good for baking and making smoothies too! If you can’t do almond milk, try soy, hemp or rice milk. At FRESH, we have these options for you in the refrigerated and shelf-stable varieties.

If you have multiple food allergies, check out the Enjoy Life brand. It’s great because it’s free of common allergens like soy, peanuts and gluten. The line has flours, baking mixes, cookies and so much more!

If you’re living with food allergies and haven’t hit up aisle 6 at FRESH you’re seriously missing out! Check it out today and you might discover the foodie in you… even with food allergies!





Family Central: Spinach Stuffed Summer Tomatoes

Last week I wrote about my summer obsession with peaches. This week I’m talking tomatoes, which come in a very close second place to my beloved peach. In fact, I don’t think we have to choose a favorite, do we? Let’s enjoy them both as long as our local farmers can grow them.

Just like the peach, my favorite way to eat a summer tomato is right over the sink, maybe with a little salt and pepper cracked over. But after I’ve gotten my fill of tomato sandwiches and BLTs, I like to take a few and stuff them with fresh spinach, onion, pine nuts, basil and two kinds of cheeses. The combination of these flavors is perfect alongside a sliced flank steak from your grill, and these tomatoes are filling enough to make it a great vegetarian solution for those of us trying to eat less meat I our weekly diets.

Enjoy!

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Tomatoes
8 ripe red summer tomatoes, tops removed
3 Tbs olive oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
10 oz fresh spinach, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Nutmeg, to taste
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for topping
1/2 cup chopped basil

Preheat oven to 350° F. Scrape out the insides of the tomatoes. Set the tomatoes upside down on a paper towel to drain while you cook the onions. Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add the onions and cook, covered, over low heat until tender and lightly colored, about 25 minutes. Add chopped spinach to the skillet and combine thoroughly with onions. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cover and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally for 7-10 minutes.

While cooking, beat ricotta and egg yolks together thoroughly in a mixing bowl. Add spinach mixture, pine nuts, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and the basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon an equal share of the spinach mixture into each tomato and top with a sprinkle of additional Parmesan. Arrange tomatoes in a shallow baking dish and bake until tops are well browned and filling is hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

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