In addition to having delicious meal plans delivered to your inbox each week, one of the many benefits of being a Fresh 20 member is being introduced to new ingredients. Many of us weren’t familiar with tamarind paste or millet before they appeared in a meal plan! Each week we try to choose one ingredient and spotlight it by sharing its origin, preparation, storage, or taste profile. Some weeks we may choose a more familiar ingredient, like baking powder or mangoes, and share a little info on those as well. We hope you find this information useful in your cooking journey – we always love your feedback so please let us know if there are any ingredients you would like us to put in the spotlight.
CHINESE FIVE SPICE POWDER
CHIPOTLE PEPPERS IN ADOBO SAUCE
CITRUS – ZESTING & JUICING
Fall is a great time to cook with apple cider, but don’t confuse it for apple cider vinegar, hard cider, or apple juice. While it can vary from store to store, cider is generally an unfiltered, unpasteurized product that is more opaque and tangier than apple juice. Because it isn’t pasteurized it has a shorter shelf life, so keep it refrigerated and enjoy it soon after its opened.
In addition to flip flops and sunscreen, the appearance of apricots at the grocery store is a sure sign of the arrival of summer! These small, delicious golden gems are high in Vitamins C, A, and potassium. Originally from China, most apricots are now grown in California. Dried apricots are found year round, but can be deceptively high in calories and possibly chemical additives. Don’t swap dried and fresh apricots in your recipes – the moisture in fresh apricots will help to bind ingredients together. When you get your apricots home, store them on the counter until they ripen, then move to the refrigerator for a few days if necessary. Apricots are often crossed with other fruits to make delicious hybrids – if you find ‘pluots’ at your local market be sure to give them a try – this plum/apricot cross is a sweet tart treat!
Some of us approach avocados with a bit of caution – we know they are high in calories and it can be challenging to choose the right one. However, the payoff is a rich, satisfying, buttery taste and texture that provides Vitamin E, folic acid, fiber, potassium, and fiber. With only 50 calories per 2 Tablespoon serving, the depth of flavor avocados provide can easily be achieved without wreaking havoc on your healthy meals. While there are literally hundreds of varieties, the California Haas avocado is common throughout the U.S. According to www.californiaavocado.com the Haas variety is an oval shaped fruit with a small to medium seed that is easy to peel. When ripe it yields to gentle pressure and has a deep, dark green skin. Avocados do NOT ripen until picked, so keep your unripe avocados on the counter until they ripen, then store in the refrigerator until needed. Cut avocados do discolor so don’t slice them until ready to use.
BAKING POWDER VS. BAKING SODA
Baked goods often require baking powder to insure a light, puffy texture. Baking powder and baking soda are NOT interchangeable – so what is the difference? Baking soda needs an acidic ingredient to make baked goods rise by creating bubbles. Don’t delay in baking when using baking soda – if it sits too long your bubbles may deflate and leave your final product flat. Baking powder is a mix of baking soda and an acidic element so it does not need to be used with additional acidic ingredients. Be sure you are using fresh baking soda and baking powder – they do expire. To test their effectiveness use this technique from the knowledgeable folks at simplyrecipes.com.
Baking soda – add a small amount of baking soda to a bowl and pour in some vinegar – if it bubbles it is still good. Baking powder – add a small amount of baking powder to a bowl and add some water – if it foams up it is still good.
Another trip around the culinary map brings us to beautiful Vietnam! Banh Mi is a popular Vietnamese sandwich featuring pickled vegetables, meat, peppers, or other spicy elements, on a baguette. The use of a baguette signifies the historical French influence in the region and the emergence of flour based foods rather than the traditional rice. Our Chef Leslie’s amazing interpretation of this international favorite combines the crunch of marinated carrots, kale, and bell peppers with the sweet/tart flavor of fresh mango – this recipe will definitely make it into your favorites file!
Barley is a delicious chewy grain that is a great alternative to rice and quinoa. It is very high in fiber and protein and has a neutral taste that complements most any dish. It can be found boxed or bagged near the rice in the grocery store, or check out the bulk bins at your local grocer. It does contain gluten, so you can substitute millet, quinoa, or rice if you follow a gluten free lifestyle.
A note on bay leaves, they do add a subtle depth of flavor so don’t skip them. If you haven’t purchased them in a while do a quick check before adding them to the soup. They should be dry, but not crispy, and should have a subtle earthy aroma when you bend or break the leaves, if not it’s time to replace them.
If you aren’t already familiar with it, we’d like to introduce you to a delicious and versatile vegetable – Belgian endive. Endive is a relative of the chicory plant that has a light, pleasantly bitter flavor and tender crunch. When you choose endive at the market be sure it has tightly closed, pale green leaves. Because of its long slender scoop shaped leaves it’s perfect for dipping or you can fill the leaves with salad or savory filling for a truly elegant presentation. It’s also a great source of fiber, folate, and potassium – versatile and nutritious!
Spring is a great time to try new things, and adding delicious bison meat to your cooking repertoire is a great way to start grilling season! Bison (buffalo) meat is one of the leanest red meats, but still a great source of protein, making it a good alternative to traditional beef. Cooking it well does take a little care, because it is so lean it can dry out quickly – do not overcook it! The U.S.D.A. recommends cooking bison steaks to an internal temperature of 145°F and letting the meat rest at least three minutes before slicing.
Sometimes being #2 is amazing! Following strawberries, blueberries are the second most popular berry in the United States. As one of the few fruits that are native to North America, blueberries are definitely in the superfood category with high fiber, Vitamin C, Manganese, and only 85 fat free calories per cup!
Fresh berries are at their peak June through August. At the market choose ones that are firm, dry, and are completely deep blue (a silver tinge is ok, no red) since they do not ripen after harvest. When you get your berries home protect them from the getting squashed in the refrigerator by storing in a sturdy covered container. Don’t wash before refrigerating! Blueberries freeze beautifully – just put in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until firm (about 1-2 hours). Transfer to a freezer bag or container for storage or enjoy them straight from the freezer for a refreshing snack!
Broccoli – that love it or hate it vegetable that is a staple of a healthy living diet. The good news is if you’re not in the ‘love it’ camp you don’t have to eat a lot of broccoli to reap its amazing health benefits – only 1 cup of cooked broccoli provides more than 100 % of your daily requirement of Vitamins K and C in addition to being high in fiber and folate – and all for under 40 calories! At the market choose heads that have firm, tightly cluster florets and a consistent color – the depth of green color will vary by variety. Store broccoli in the refrigerator – unwashed – in a sealed bag to preserve freshness and use within a few days – those amazing nutrients are at their peak when you bring it home from the store.
Also known as rapini, broccoli rabe (pronounced ‘rob’) is not a form of broccoli, but is more closely related to turnips. Its flowers look like clusters of small broccoli florets, which may be the source of the name. Eaten raw, rabe is slightly bitter, but a quick sauté tempers the pungency and yields a delicious alternative to traditional week night vegetables.
Once you get it home, refrigerate it unwashed for a few days in a loose plastic bag. When you are ready to cook just trim off the tough stem bottoms and you are ready to go. If they stems are thick and woody you may want to cut them off and sauté them a bit before adding the leaves to the pan.
Are they really from Brussels? Originally yes, they are thought to be native to an area near Belgium’s capital of, you guessed it, Brussels. The sprouts are the buds of a form of cabbage plant and grow clustered on a long stalk. Choose smaller heads, about the size of a quarter, they are sweeter. Be sure the heads are tightly closed with no yellow or browning leaves. This much maligned vegetable is an excellent source of Vitamin C – one serving provides half your daily requirement (that’s more than oranges). Overcooking can result in an unpleasant smell so a quick blanch and then sauté on dinner night will provide perfect results. Are your kids reluctant to try Brussels sprouts? Share this fact with them at the dinner table, the world record for eating Brussels sprouts is 31 in one minute, set in 2008. Wow!
Looking for a nutritious new grain to incorporate into your meals? Bulgur wheat is just what your pantry has been looking for – it is a partially cooked whole (wheat) grain. Like other whole grains, bulgur is high in fiber and protein, low in fat, and is delicious served hot or cold (it’s a fantastic replacement for pasta in cold summer salads). Because it has been cracked during the production process, bulgur can be quicker cooking than other grains – as always, check the package for cooking times.
One of our favorite fall treats is Butternut Squash. They are low in calories, high in fiber and Vitamin A, and have a unique sweet nutty flavor. Roasting brings out the best flavors, so when possible use this simple cooking method. When selecting your squash, choose a heavy squash with unblemished skin and dry, intact stem. With the seeds contained in the round bottom, the neck of the squash is full of delicious meat – so choose a wider neck over a thin one.
Yum! Other than our vegetarian friends, who doesn’t love a bit of bacon for dinner? Canadian bacon, which is more like sliced ham steak than traditional ‘American’ bacon, comes from pork loin rather than pork belly. Canadian bacon can be found in a large piece, like a small ham, or pre-sliced. Look for unprocessed and organic Canadian bacon. Of course you can always use a high quality artisan made bacon, but it’s not the healthiest choice, which is why we prefer Canadian Bacon! Canadian Bacon generally comes pre-cooked (double check your package), but if you are using ‘American’ bacon you will need to cook it thoroughly before adding it to dishes.
What are capers anyway? They appear in the weekly menus from time to time, but do you know what they are? Capers are actually pea-sized flower buds from a perennial Mediterranean bush that are picked by hand and brined or packed in salt. Because of the packaging process they do have a salty bite, kind of like a lemony olive, so you should rinse them before using to remove the extra brine. If your market has ethnic food aisles you’ll often find them in glass jars in the Italian food section. While they can be a bit pricey, they last quite a while in the refrigerator after the jar is opened and a little goes a long way. Try adding a few to egg or tuna salad, or to marinara sauce for an unexpected bite.
The sweet flavor of crab is an affordable indulgence. When it is the star of the dish, choose the best quality crab you can without breaking your budget. Fresh and frozen choices definitely have the most flavor, but if that is cost prohibitive, or unavailable, canned is a suitable stand in. ALWAYS check for bits of shell and cartilage before mixing the crab into your recipe, it will add a few minutes to your prep time but is definitely worth the time. The best way is to spread all the crab out on a cookie sheet and give it a good going over.
The caprese salad, increasingly found on American menus, originated in the Capri region of Italy. It is a beautifully simple salad designed to celebrate its fresh, ripe ingredients; tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and olive oil. Coincidentally, the finished salad represents the colors of the Italian flag!
If you haven’t tried roasting cauliflower you will be delighted with the rich, nutty flavor that can be developed with just a bit of oil and a hot oven. Low in calories with tons of vitamin c, fiber and protein, cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse! While we mostly see it in white, cauliflower comes in a variety of beautiful colors such as green, orange, and even purple. Preparation is easy, just remove the outer leaves and any discolored spots then trim the florets off where they meet the stalks.
For our Paleo members who are forgoing grains, we often substitute cauliflower rice. However, even if your family does enjoy pasta now and again, substituting cauliflower rice is a great, lower carb way to add more vegetables to your meals. To make cauliflower rice simply combine 2 heads of roughly chopped cauliflower in a food processor with 1 yellow or white onion (roughly chopped), a garlic clove, and a pinch of salt. Pulse until the mixture resembles rice. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Add the cauliflower rice mixture and sauté for 5 minutes until it is lightly brown. Store in the refrigerator until needed – it reheats well. You can substitute it in equal amounts for rice, quinoa, or most any grain.
Choosing cherries is pretty simple, and they freeze exceptionally well, so when you find a sale buy a bunch and enjoy! At the market you will most likely see two types of cherries; plain red and Rainier. The typical red cherry should be a deep red color with a green (not brown) stem, and smooth unwrinkled skin. Rainier cherries are not solid red, but have a yellow/pink/blush color and are not quite as firm as a red. When you get your cherries home be sure to refrigerate them unwashed to extend their freshness. Wash cherries just before you eat them – otherwise they can absorb too much water and lose that perfect crispness.
CHINESE FIVE SPICE POWDER
Chinese Five Spice Powder is a versatile and unique blend of traditional spices. There are many variations in the blend, but most contain cinnamon, star anise, cloves, fennel, and peppercorns, but may also include nutmeg, licorice, or ginger. It’s a strong and distinctive flavor so be sure to add slowly when trying new recipes!
CHIPOTLE PEPPERS IN ADOBO SAUCE
A delicious way to add a seriously delicious smoky flavor to a dish is to use canned chipotle peppers in adobo. Chipotle peppers are dried, smoked jalapenos which are then canned in a spicy red sauce. You may notice recipes usually only call for a small amount – these peppers can really up the heat in a dish so add slowly!! You may have some leftover at the end of the week, they can be kept in the refrigerator – they make a delicious addition to a wide variety of dishes including soups, dips, and sauces. Leftover chipotles can also be frozen – just puree them in their adobo sauce and freeze in small portions.
CITRUS – ZESTING & JUICING
Adding citrus zest or juice (or both!) to a dish can dramatically brighten the flavor and add sophistication to a regular weeknight dinner. A few key tips for successful citrus zesting and juicing:
– Always zest first! This may seem obvious, but if you need juice one night, and zest the next night, be sure to remove all the zest you’ll need before moving on to the juice.
– Zest can be removed with a very fine grater (a microplane), a paring knife, a vegetable peeler, or a specific tool called a zester than can be purchased for a few dollars at any store selling kitchen gadgets. Vegetable peelers and knives are fine, you’ll just need to cut the wider strips of zest into smaller pieces to avoid anyone getting a tart bite of zest in the finished dish.
– Only remove the outermost colored portion of the zest! You don’t want any white pith in your zest.
– Store zest and fresh juice in the refrigerator until needed.
Juicing citrus is pretty easy – you can use a tool designed just for juicing, a spoon, or just give a firm squeeze. Freshly squeezed juice should be strained before adding to dishes to remove pulp and seeds.
Room temperature citrus is easiest to squeeze, so let it warm up on the counter for half an hour first. You can also give it a roll on the counter to break down some of the interior membranes and make the process easier.
A lunchbox favorite if ever there was one! Clementines are the small, thin skinned relatives of standard oranges. Clementines (sometimes sold as ‘Cuties’) and tangerines are both types of mandarin oranges so any of these choices will work well in recipes, as will regular navel oranges. As with most fruit, choose Clementines that feel heavy for their size and have unblemished peels. Since they don’t keep as well as some other citrus, be sure to use them up soon after purchase (that shouldn’t be a problem!). Peeling Clementines is a great way to get the kids involved in the meal prep this week – just be sure you have some extra on hand to keep your helpers happy!
Not to be confused with coconut water or cream of coconut, coconut milk is the liquid that comes from pressing shredded coconut meat. Light coconut milk is lower in fat and calories while still imparting that delicious, delicate coconut flavor.
The flavors of Cuban cooking have been influenced by many cuisines; Spanish, French, African and even Chinese. Traditional slow cooked Cuban meat dishes often pair the vibrant flavors of citrus with the savory richness of their signature spice mix; garlic, cumin, and oregano. Cumin flavored black beans are the perfect counterpart for the tender pork loin.
Curry powder is a spicy staple popular in Southeast Asian cuisine. Like most seasoning blends, there are many variations of curry powder; most contain a combination of fresh and dried spices including turmeric, cumin, cayenne, coriander, and cardamom among others. There are many good quality commercial curry powders available so you should easily be able to find a jar at your local market. If your family likes spicy food, or you are adventurous in the kitchen, try making your own blend – there are many great recipes available online!
Delicata is a delicious variety of winter squash with a yellowish skin and thin green lines that stretch end to end. It has a mild flavor that goes well in savory dishes without adding too much additional sweetness. Choose a firm squash with no blemishes or soft spots. Store in a cool dark place before using, once cut wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3-5 days.
There is no mistaking the delicious tangy scent and taste of fresh dill. Most often associated with pickles, fresh dill is an inexpensive ingredient that adds a big punch of flavor. When choosing dill look for bright green feathery stems with a deep scent. Don’t worry if they are a little limp, like most fresh herbs they begin to wilt soon after picking. If they are pale green or beginning to brown opt for organic dried dill instead. When you get fresh dill home wrap it loosely in a barely damp paper towel and plastic wrap. Because of its delicate structure, dill will only remain fresh in your refrigerator for a day or two, but it does freeze well. Dried herbs have a more intense flavor than fresh, so use a three to one ratio when substituting; 1 teaspoon of dried dill will provide the same flavor profile as 3 teaspoons of fresh dill.
Our meal plans often feature eggs as a quality protein source. While we suggest purchasing organic eggs, there are many other label considerations such as ‘cage-free,’ ‘free-range,’ or ‘pasture-raised.’ What does it all mean and how do you make an informed decision based on your family’s health and budget concerns? Prevention magazine published an article a few years back that provides an in-depth look at farming practices and safety issues; you can find that article here: http://bit.ly/19etYcR
You may have noticed the phrase ‘ancient grains’ on some cereal and bread products in the grocery store. This refers to a collection of grains including kamut, amaranth, spelt, freekeh, and teff that have literally been around since ancient times. Farro, an unprocessed wheat variety, is also considered an ancient grain that is high in protein, fiber, and iron. With its mild nutty flavor farro is a great addition to soups, salads, or simply as a side dish. Like most grains cooking times can vary greatly from brand to brand to be sure to follow the directions on the package closely. If you have the option choose a medium farro that is unpearled – pearled varieties have been partially processed.
Known for its mild licorice flavor, fennel is a popular ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. It is high in fiber and potassium and one of the few vegetables where ALL parts of the plant can be eaten; bulb, stalk, and fronds. Choose pale green, firm heavy bulbs with green feathery fronds and no blemishes on the bulb end. Bigger isn’t better here – choose bulbs that aren’t huge – under ½ pound insures they are at peak flavor and aren’t overripe. To prepare the bulb for cooking, cut off the celery-like stems and the root end of the bulb. Cut the bulb in half lengthwise and slice according to recipe directions. The stems are great for flavoring stock, and the feather leaves make a great garnish, so don’t discard them!
Black or Black Mission figs are delicious, fruity, and chewy, figs are full of fiber and Vitamin B6. Black figs have a deep purple/black skin and a pink interior. Choose figs with unblemished skin that are somewhat tender, but not overly soft. Their skins are very delicate so gentle handling is called for – store them in a covered container in the refrigerator for no more than a few days. Fresh figs are delicious eaten as is, but they can also be frozen for later use. Freeze them evenly spaced on a baking sheet, then transfer them to a covered container once they are frozen.
Freekeh is young wheat that is harvested very early, while still green, and then lightly roasted. It is quick cooking, high in fiber, and has a delicious chewy texture. It is often used as a savory side dish, but it is also a great alternative to oatmeal. Try serving it as you would with any hot cereal with fruit, yogurt, or a bit of maple syrup or honey. If you can’t find freekeh at your local market try substituting quinoa or bulgur.
Ahhh, one of the best parts of summer – Saturday mornings at the farmers market picking out sweet fresh corn. But in the giant bins overflowing with it, how do you choose the best ones without stripping off the husks (a definite no no)? First, start by choosing ears with fresh green husks and light gold silks. If the husk is dried out or the silks are darkening, move on to the next ear. You can feel the tassel end of the ear to see if the kernels underneath are plump – resist the urge to peek! Also check for tiny holes which may indicate the presence of worms. If you just aren’t sure you can bet the farm stand workers will be happy to assist. Hate removing those sticky strings after the husk is removed? Try lightly brushing them away with a dish brush or gently rubbing them off with a clean damp cloth.
FRESH HERBS (BUYING & STORING)
Fresh herbs are a HUGE part of creating delicious healthy meals. Parsley, cilantro, mint, and basil are not only fantastic in savory dinners; they make refreshing summertime drinks as well (basil lemonade anyone?). In addition to being healthy and delicious, fresh herbs are very affordable and with proper storage can liven up a week’s worth of meals. Choosing herbs is fairly easy, they should be vibrantly colored, hydrated, and most importantly they should smell amazing. When you get them home give them a wash in cool water to remove any dirt, and let them dry on paper towels. For herbs with sturdy stems you can keep them in the refrigerator in a container of water like fresh flowers changing the water every few days. Cover them with a bag to keep them from perfuming the entire refrigerator. They can also be rolled up lightly in paper towels and placed in a resealable bag in the refrigerator. Basil prefers room temperature; too much cold air will discolor the leaves. To preserve that incomparable fresh taste, chop fresh herbs, place them in ice cube trays, and cover them with a bit of oil. Freeze until the cubes are solid then pop them out and store in a labeled airtight container. Use the cubes to saute meat, veggies, or for finishing sauces – you’ll get the taste of summertime all year long!
A key flavor in any caprese is the creamy soft tang of fresh mozzarella cheese. Traditionally, the caprese is prepared using buffalo mozzarella (made from water buffalo milk), but today most mozzarella is made from cow’s milk. If you have the opportunity to use buffalo mozzarella it is markedly sweeter and creamier – delicious! At your local market, fresh mozzarella is usually sold in ball form packed in either water or whey. Its high moisture content makes for a delicious dish, but also leads to quicker spoilage so plan on using it soon after purchase
A galette is a round, free-form pastry that can be filled with fruit as a delicious dessert, or as a beautifully rustic dinner with herbs and savory filling. Don’t worry about creating a perfectly symmetrical finished product – as fancy as this dish looks, it’s pretty hard to get it wrong. Don’t be intimidated by homemade crust – the key to success is just keeping things cold. Don’t overwork the flour and butter to the point where your butter is melting. You can use your fingers to work them together, but if your hands are warm just use two forks instead. Work the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs, add ice water (again, keeping things cold), and mix until it forms a ball. That’s it! Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until dinner night. When you are ready to roll the dough be sure to generously flour your work surface and rolling pin. When the dough is rolled out to the correct size just roll it ONTO your rolling pin, transfer to the baking sheet, and unroll it. Easy!!
Ahhhh….. tomato season. Time to hit the farmers market – or your backyard garden – for a basket of plump, juicy tomatoes. A traditional cold soup from southern Spain, Gazpacho is generally made with raw vegetables in a pureed tomato base. However, since it also happens to be the peak of BBQ season, what better way to marry two of summer’s favorites than with a Gazpacho made from grilled tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Once the vegetables are pureed and finished with some crunchy fresh cucumber and a splash of vinegar a thick slice of rustic whole wheat toast is all you need. If you’re worried about the kid’s reaction to a cold soup, try serving it in mason jars or other fun glasses with the toast cut into sticks for dipping.
Fresh ginger is a delicious addition to sweet and savory dishes as well as a water, lemonade, and tea. Its unique sweet/spicy/citrus flavor is commonly associated with Asian cuisines, but it is delicious in desserts as well (candied ginger is an especially delicious treat!). If fresh isn’t readily available, dried ginger can be substituted, but you will definitely notice a difference!
Look for moist, heavy, pieces that are free of blemishes and soft spots. There will be one or two dry patches where the piece was removed from the plant, this is normal. If you need a lot of minced or grated ginger, try to choose a piece that is relatively straight and thick to cut down on peeling those nooks and crannies.
Rather than using a paring knife, try scraping the skin off the ginger with a spoon – it’s a little easier to navigate its bumpy surface and much safer for your fingers!
Storing fresh ginger in the refrigerator will prolong its life, just seal it in a plastic bag and store in your vegetable crisper. Some people prefer to store peeled chunks of ginger in their freezer to have on hand – just pull out a piece and grate, slice, dice or julienne what you need.
Long touted as a remedy for skin, digestive, joint, and kidney disorders, grapefruit has been a popular subject in health and nutrition lore since its introduction in the U.S. in the 1800s. While many of its health claims remain open to debate, one thing is certain – it is a nutrition and taste powerhouse.
Eating half of a grapefruit per day satisfies more than half your vitamin C needs and a quarter of your vitamin A needs. Go beyond the half grapefruit for breakfast and add segments to smoothies and salads or serve grapefruit for a light summer dessert – either plain, grilled, or drizzled with honey. Some good dinner table trivia: Do you know why they are called ‘grape’ fruit? They grow in clusters on trees, and in their unripened form they look like clusters of grapes. IMPORTANT NOTE: Grapefruit can interact with certain medications causing serious health effects – be sure to check with your physician to see if there is a potential interaction.
If your market looks anything like ours, in springtime the produce section features mounds of green cabbage ready for traditional St. Patrick’s Day meals.
Besides it’s humble role as side kick to corned beef, cabbage is a super food on its own! It is amazingly high in Vitamins C and K and high in Vitamin B6, fiber, manganese, and potassium and is rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Be sure to choose a cabbage that is heavy with tightly closed crisp leaves and no blemishes. Cabbage is easy to store, just keep it in a plastic bag in your crisper and it will be fine for at least a week. When you are ready to use it just cut in quarters and remove the dense white core and its ready to go!
Since they are both made from ground corn, what is the difference between grits and polenta?
The short answer is that the two products are made from different types of corn, and are processed differently which results in slight taste and texture differences.
Gumbo is a thick soup/stew dish from Louisiana made with stock, vegetables, meat, and a thickener. Gumbo uses a traditional roux (fat and flour) as a thickener and it is key to a successful dish.
At a minimum the oil and flour should be well combined and cooked over medium heat for 10 minutes – for a richer color and depth of flavor cook for up to 30 minutes, but be careful not to burn it.
Halibut, like flounder and sole, is a flatfish (adults have both eyes on one side of their head), that can grow to be exceptionally large – over 450 pounds. They are one of the many lean, white, firm fish varieties that are affordable and well suited to a variety of cooking technique. Halibut has a sweet, delicate flavor and its firm dense texture makes it a great choice for picky eaters. When buying halibut look for consistent white color, NO fishy smell, and plump moist fillets. If frozen halibut is your only option that is fine too, but before you go that route see what fresh fish is available – cod, turbot, grouper, or sole are great alternates.
Harissa is a hot chili pepper paste widely used as a condiment in North African cuisines. Like curry, harissa can vary in heat and flavor depending on the types of peppers used. You can find it in the ethnic aisle of your grocery store in a small can or glass jar. For our gluten-free members, be sure to check the label for added ingredients to make sure you choose a gluten free brand. Harissa is hot! If you are not a fan of spicy food go very slow when adding to the recipes. If your finished product isn’t spicy enough you can always serve additional harissa on the side as a condiment.
This southern staple is made from corn kernels that are dried and then soaked in lime or lye to remove the outer hull. The Fresh 20 pozole recipe calls for canned hominy which is ready to use and can be found either in the canned vegetable or canned bean aisles in your local store. You could substitute an equal amount of corn for hominy in pozole recipes, but you won’t get to enjoy the authentic flavor hominy brings.
Jicama is a turnip-like tuber from Mexico and Central America. Jicama looks like a large turnip or russet potato with a rough medium-brown skin. In the market, choose firm, dry jicama that is medium sized (think medium russet potato), the larger they get the starchier and less sweet they are. Jicama must be peeled before using, and only the root is edible, other parts of the plant are poisonous.
Once peeled, you will find a crisp, white, crunchy interior with a sweet flavor often described as having hints of pear, apple, or water chestnut. They are often eaten raw, and because they don’t brown or soften after cutting, they are a great addition to raw salads, crudité platters and salsas.
Store jicama in a cool dry place like you would any root vegetable or tuber. Once cut it should be stored in the refrigerator and used within a few days.
Dating back thousands of years to ancient Turkey, shish kebabs are a fun and delicious way to break up basic weeknight dinners.
The name shish kebabs refers to small pieces of grilled meat (“kebab”) cooked over an open fire on a sword (“sis”). Traditionally lamb was used, but as the dish was adopted into different cultures a wide variety of meats and vegetables were incorporated. Other than the delicious flavor, one of the greatest parts of a shish kebab dinner is the ability to customize the skewers for cautious and adventurous eaters alike. Anything goes when it comes to this fun dinner, and it’s a great way to get the entire family involved!
If you’ve never tried kumquats – what are you waiting for? These tiny delicious citrus fruits look like miniature oranges – about the size of a large grape. The skins are thin and edible, but can be peeled if you like, the seeds should be avoided. Choose them as you would any citrus; unblemished skin, heavy for its size, and free of soft spots. If you are eating them peel and all be sure to give them a good wash first!
Often used in Thai and Indian cuisines, lemongrass has a distinctive light citrus flavor. Fresh lemongrass looks somewhat like a green onion and is sold in small bunches in the produce section. If your market does not have lemongrass, check local Asian and Indian markets. Be sure to choose fresh looking stalks with a light lemon scent and tightly wrapped stems. Once you get it home it can be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic so it doesn’t dry out.
The versatile taste and hearty texture of lentils make them the perfect ingredient in soups, salads, and even veggie burgers. A member of the legume family, lentils have been part of cuisines around the world for over 10,000 years. While they are available in a wide variety of colors, green, brown, and red are most common in the U.S. They are very high in fiber and protein making them a great addition for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Lentils are widely available in both bulk and packaged forms in most markets. When you get them home spread them out and check for any foreign material (rocks or dirt) and give them a good rinse in cold water just before cooking – no need for a pre-soak unless a recipe specifically calls for it. When properly stored in a cool, dry area lentils have a long shelf life and can last 6 months to a year. Once cooked they should be used within three days.
LENTILS – RED
Red lentils are a sweet, nutty, and quicker cooking member of the lentil family. Lentils are part of the legume family, technically known as a ‘pulse’ because they are the dried seed of a legume plant (dried peas and chicken peas are other common pulses). Not only are lentils a delicious addition to your weekly menus, they are a nutrition powerhouse! They are high in protein, fiber, iron, and B-vitamins – all while being virtually fat free. If you can’t find red lentils you can sub green or brown, just be sure to check the package for cooking times.
Machaca is a traditional dried beef dish often seen in the cuisine of Northern Mexico. Modern refrigeration means we no longer need to dry and shred our meat to preserve it, so the term now applies loosely to shredded beef or pork. Letting all those delicious tex-mex flavors linger in the crock pot all day guarantees you have a delicious week night meal on the table in under 30 minutes!
Like Marsala, Madeira is a fortified wine, meaning it has additional distilled liquor such as brandy added to it. Originally used to preserve the wine, fortifying is now done mainly to enhance flavor and helps the wine stand up to the cooking process. You’ll likely see both blended and single varietal wines at the store, choose a blended Madeira for cooking, it is less expensive and a good option for recipes.
As summer winds down, adding some sweet tropical fruit to dinner can keep autumn from creeping in too soon. Mangoes are not only delicious as as a side dish or dessert, they add an unexpected pop of flavor to savory dishes as well.
Many of us pass by mangoes at the grocery store to reach for more familiar fruits. How do you know when they are ripe? And most confusingly – how do you cut them?
Don’t rely on color when choosing mangoes, they come in a variety of shades of green, red and yellow. A ripe (or almost ripe) mango will be firm, with the slightest bit of give, and will have a delicious fruity scent. Like other tropical fruits, mangoes will continue to ripen after being picked, so if you are unsure, choose a firmer rather than softer fruit and let it sit at room temperature for a day or two.
There are many ways to slice a mango, from the old fashioned ‘slice around the pit’ method, to the mango slicer, to the ‘hedgehog’ method – check out www.mango.org for step by step directions.
Marsala is a fortified wine, like port or sherry, often used in cooking but also suitable for drinking. Fortified wines have additional alcohol, often brandy, added to them during the fermentation process.
Marsala can be found in both sweet and dry varieties – a dry variety is best used in savory dishes. Marsala has a unique flavor that isn’t easily described, but it pairs beautifully with mushrooms and earthy herbs such as rosemary – and adds a great complex flavor to pork, chicken, or beef. You don’t need to break the bank on an expensive variety; you should be able to find a decent bottle for around $10.
MEAT – RESTING
Why do our chefs recommend letting meat rest before slicing?
Trying to cut any meat directly from the oven will result in a loss of juice and tenderness. If you’ve ever cut into a steak or chicken breast that has not rested you will notice juices running all over your plate – allow the meat to rest 5-10 minutes (depending on type and thickness of meat) to give the juices time to redistribute into the meat making for a juicier and more tender finished product. Definitely worth the wait!!
A vital tool for every kitchen is a meat thermometer. They come in a wide variety of prices, but just a basic dial variety is all you need. Properly cooking meat can be challenging for new and experienced cooks alike. Our Fresh 20 kitchen supplies a cooking time, but due to differences in ovens and thicknesses of meat, internal temperature is the only accurate measure of doneness. When checking temperatures always check in the center of the meat, away from any bones. When cooking large cuts of beef or pork, or whole chickens, be sure to check the temperature in several places. The Fresh 20 lists safe internal temperatures based on the USDA guidelines, for more information go to; http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/mintemp.html
The original version of migas is a traditional dish from Spain and Portugal often served as a mid-day meal. While the ingredients can vary by region, the essence of the dish includes bread soaked in spices, water and/or oil.
One of the keys to maintaining a healthy diet is variety. Our gluten free menu this week features millet, a heart-healthy grain that is a great option for most diets. Millet is high in protein and magnesium and can easily be substituted for rice, quinoa, or pasta. Preparation is similar to other grains, but if time permits toast it in a dry pan for a few minutes before adding liquids to bring out its unique nutty flavor.
Stir fry dishes often feature the Japanese rice wine, mirin. It has a high sugar content and gives a uniquely Asian flavor to marinades. If you can’t find mirin you can replace it with a bit more honey and some white wine vinegar in a pinch.
Versatile and inexpensive, mushrooms are a delicious way to add texture and flavor to almost any savory dish. The term ‘button mushroom’ generally refers to the widely available white mushroom. Often smaller white mushrooms are referred to as ‘button’ and the medium 1” size are just called ‘white’ – both sizes have a very mild flavor. The term ‘brown mushroom’ refers to the darker varieties also called ‘cremini’ or ‘baby bellas’ and are the young version of the popular large Portobello mushroom. Brown mushrooms have an earthier flavor and are a great substitute for meat in vegetarian recipes.
Mushrooms and moisture are NOT a good mix so be sure to choose ones that are dry (not slimy), firm, smooth, and plump.
STORING & CLEANING:
When you get them home, store unwashed mushrooms in a paper bag in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
Again, moisture and mushrooms are NOT a good mix! To clean, just wipe off dirt with a damp kitchen towel, don’t soak your mushrooms or they will absorb water causing them to steam instead of brown during cooking. If you get an especially dirty batch you can wash gently under running water, but pat them dry before cooking.
Before using, cut off any tough stem ends and slice according to recipe directions. Slow cooking allows moisture to evaporate, if you are roasting or sautéing, you may want to drain off any liquid that accumulates.
Portobello mushrooms have increasingly become a darling of the culinary world due to their impressive size and complex flavor. Not to steal any of their glory (because we LOVE them), but this fancy variety is actually just a mature version of the common brown crimini mushroom. Shhhh….we still think they are amazing! At the market be sure to choose plump, dry caps with no soft spots and even, intact gills. Pre-baking the caps helps develop their earthy, rich flavor and also insures that the filling won’t dry out before the mushroom becomes tender.
Many home chefs avoid cooking fish and shellfish because it can seem a daunting task. Once you try some the Fresh 20s easy mussel recipes you will be amazed at how easily you can create delicious elegant dishes for a weeknight dinner. The key to success is choosing fresh, healthy mussels and storing them correctly. The blue mussel is easily found in most grocery stores; it has a very dark shell with a tinge of blue at the edge and is about 2-3 inches long. If your store carries a different variety don’t worry – any variety will work with this recipe. It is very important to choose mussels with closed shells. If you come across one with an open shell that won’t close when you tap it don’t buy it – you should only choose and cook live mussels! Proper storage is equally important; because they are alive mussels should not be stored in closed bags or airtight containers. Store them in a lightly covered bowl in the refrigerator and use them within 24 hours.
Not to be confused with its very common cousin green cabbage, Napa cabbage has an oblong shape, mild flavor, and soft texture. Sometimes labeled ‘Chinese Cabbage,’ Napa cabbage is most notable for its crinkly light green leaves and mild celery-like flavor. Cabbage is VERY low in calories, high in fiber, and a good source of vitamin C so you can feel good about adding it to your vegetable repertoire. Don’t wash the cabbage when you get it home, refrigerate in a bag until needed – no longer than a week – and wash right before using. P.S. Napa cabbage is closely related to bok choy which often appears in Fresh 20 meal plans!
Nutritional yeast is a delicious and underused ingredient that adds subtle flavor to savory dishes. Unlike yeasts used for baking, nutritional yeast has been heated and dried so it is inactive and won’t grow or expand. Aside from its fantastic taste, it is incredibly rich in B vitamins, folic acid, protein, and fiber. Nutritional yeast can be found in either flake or powder form, often in the bulk section, in healthy food markets. It can be used to add cheesy flavor to vegan, paleo, and dairy-free dishes and is AMAZING sprinkled on popcorn or cooked veggies – it’s a yummy sub for parmesan cheese!
If you’ve never tried toasting nuts before adding them to a recipe, the difference in depth of taste and crunch will amaze you. Don’t get us wrong, plain old raw nuts are fantastic, but toasting develops the nut oils and takes the flavor to a whole new level.
To toast a small batch you can just put nuts in a dry saute pan over medium heat and stir to insure even cooking. After 5-7 minutes you will smell their toasty aroma – after that they can burn quickly so be sure to remove them from the heat and transfer to a plate to cool. If you are making a larger batch you can place them in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet in a 350-375° oven for 8-10 minutes. Again, the difference between beautifully roasted and tragically burned can be a matter of 1 minute – don’t leave them unattended!
Almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts are particularly delicious when roasted – be sure to store them in an airtight container when cool and use within a day or two.
Having trouble getting the kids (or adults) to try new vegetables? Tell them about a fantastic veggie called ladies fingers! Ladies fingers, more commonly known as okra, is a nutritious green vegetable in the same family as the beautiful hibiscus flower. The edible portion of the plant, a long slender pod, is often associated with southern cooking, but its actually native to Africa and South America. Don’t try to go for the biggest pods at the market, choose tender, but not soft, pods that are about 4” long for the best flavor and texture. While we always think its great to try new vegetables you can sub fresh green beans if okra is not your favorite.
Shallots, scallions, and yellow ONIONS are 3 types of onions frequently found in The Fresh 20 menus. They each lend a different flavor profile. Here is what to look for at the market:
Shallots: A shallot looks like a large clove of garlic with a brownish/rust colored papery skin and white/purple flesh. They have a sweeter, more intense flavor than regular onions.
Scallions: Scallions are often labeled as green onions, spring onions, or young onions. They have a small white bulb end and long, dark green stalks. They are most often used fresh or added at the end of cooking.
Yellow onion: While onion color can be a matter of choice, our chefs specify which color they believe is best for a particular dish. Yellow onions are all-purpose and generally mild. White onions have a sharper flavor and odor, and purple onions are well suited for using raw.
Regardless of the type you choose, be sure the skins are dry and unblemished and there are no mushy spots. Store onions in a cool dry place and not in plastic bags. Also, don’t store your potatoes near your onions, they will cause your onions to spoil more quickly!
Cooking with oranges is a great way to infuse a familiar flavor when trying out new recipes. Be sure to remove all the white membrane before chopping and adding to your dishes. When picking out oranges they should feel heavy (juicy!) with smooth skins. Depending on the variety of orange, skin color may not be an indicator of ripeness – the weight of the fruit relative to the size is much more reliable. Like grapes and strawberries, oranges do not continue to ripen after they are picked so spending a few minutes selecting the right ones will definitely pay on in your final dish. This is a great time to find California navel oranges at your local market. You can easily spot them by the ‘belly button’ on the blossom end!
We often refer to ‘pantry dressing’ when salads are on the menu. We hope you have checked out the variety of dressing recipes we have for you at http://www.thefresh20.com/pantrydressings.
Choose the dressing that most appeals to your family, whether it is the basic vinaigrette, amazing buttermilk ranch, or the kid friendly honey mustard. Ranch and honey mustard make terrific dips for raw veggies in addition to dressing salads. Remember – a salad doesn’t have to be lettuce, tomato and onion. Try mixing leftover veggies with rice, quinoa, or baked sweet potatoes to make a quick side or main dish. For a hearty summer side dish, try grilling some local veggies from the farmers market and serving them with a drizzle of our Onion Dressing!
A summertime staple in Tuscany, Panzanella salad was originally a humble dish designed to use up the stale bread and abundant tomatoes farmers had on hand. Bread was soaked in water to soften it and then mixed with tomatoes, olive oil, and vinegar. This created an easy dish that required no heating of the kitchen in the hot summertime months, and the economical use of on- hand ingredients.
It’s another great opportunity to expand your culinary vocabulary! Pebre is a traditional Chilean dish, often used as a condiment, including cilantro, garlic, onion, and peppers. Much like curries, pebre recipes vary from region to region as well as family to family. It is often served as an accompaniment to a meat main dish similar to chimichurri or pico de gallo. If you have a bit left over it’s delicious used as a dip with crusty bread!
Summer is the the perfect time of year to gather a bunch (say about a cup of leaves) and transform them into a simple summertime sauce – pesto. A simple and delicious take on traditional pesto is fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and fresh lemon juice. For pesto perfection, be sure to use the following;
– Fresh, fresh, fresh basil rinsed under cold water and gently but thoroughly dried
– High quality, fruity olive oil
– Fresh minced (not bottled) garlic
– Freshly squeezed (not bottled) lemon juice
– Lightly toasted pine nuts
…and that’s it! You may want to make a double batch and freeze it so you can have a delicious treat all year round!
We’re ready for a little tropical taste with fresh, juicy PINEAPPLE recipes.
Choosing and storing pineapple correctly is key to successful dinners. Because pineapples don’t ripen after being picked you need to be sure to bring the right one home from the market. Follow these easy tips to choose the perfect one:
– Color doesn’t indicate ripeness – green pineapples can be ripe
– Base should have a fresh, light pineapple smell – if it doesn’t smell like pineapple it’s not ripe
– Should have a little give when squeezed lightly
– Fresh green leaves are key, make sure the leaf tips aren’t browning or shriveled
You can store pineapple on the counter for a day or two, but be sure to refrigerate it if you need to store it longer.
PORK LOIN VS. PORK TENDERLOIN
While the names may sound confusingly similar, pork loin and pork tenderloin are two different cuts of meat. Pork tenderloin is a long, narrow, boneless cut of meat usually sold as one whole piece. Pork loin, sometimes referred to as center cut pork roast, is a large piece of meat that is sold both boneless and bone in. Some large stores sell two 1 pound tenderloins together in package, often pre-seasoned with teriyaki or BBQ marinade. While those are delicious, easy week-night meals, choose the plain tenderloin for this week’s menu. It’s very important to let the tenderloin sit at least five minutes after removing from heat to allow the meat to finish cooking as well as let the juices redistribute.
Parmesan is surely one of the most commonly used cheeses in the U.S. We sprinkle it on pasta, pizza, soup, and even popcorn. The name Parmesan is used very broadly to refer to that hard, pale yellow, Italian cow’s milk cheese that is available in many different forms in most markets. The REAL parmesan or “Parmigiano Reggiano” is a superior quality cheese made with a specific recipe in a limited number of Italian provinces. The best option is to purchase a block of good quality parmesan and grate it as needed, the cheese will have that fresh sharp taste and you know there are no added fillers. When you get to the rind don’t throw it away! Drop it in your unsalted soup and it will impart an amazing salty nutty flavor.
Pomegranates are a fun and tangy fruit that is perfect for snacking and jazzing up ordinary dishes.
– Nutrition – Pomegranates are high in fiber, Vitamins C & K, Folate and Potassium.
– Pomegranates are FULL of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
– The only edible part of the fruit are the seeds, so allow a bit of time during pre-dinner prep to remove them – its a great job for kids
Check out the link below for a quick and easy method:
Seeds are a great addition to salads, yogurt, and smoothies – using the method above remove the seeds and store in the refrigerator when you do your weekly meal prep – one fruit will yield about 1 cup of seeds. The seeds do stain porous surfaces so be careful with cutting boards and dish towels!
Wonton wrappers are usually located in the refrigerated area of the produce section at your local store. The key to success is not using too much filling – you won’t get a proper seal and the skin will break as you press them closed. For a perfect dumpling every time place the filling in the center, lightly wet the edges with a damp finger and fold over to seal. Press gently around the edges and you’re done! The two step cooking process is crucial to getting that perfect potsticker – a quick sauté will lightly crisp the outside and the steaming will finish the cooking and provide that signature chewy-tender bite.
While the monster sized pumpkins are fantastic for carving, they aren’t really suited for cooking. For the best flavor and texture, choose those small, deep orange pumpkins labeled ‘sugar ‘ or ‘pie’ pumpkins. At around 2-3 pounds, their flesh is dense and sweet without the stringy, watery strands you find in carving pumpkins. To prepare them for soups and chilis, just remove the skin, cut in half, and scoop out seeds. After you cut them in cubes toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast to bring out that delicious, unique flavor. Enjoy!
Considered by some to be the world’s healthiest food, quinoa continues to maintain its standing as other trendy “health” foods come and go. Not only is it an amazingly versatile ingredient, it’s an invaluable protein source in gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian diets.
Here are just a few reasons our chefs love quinoa:
– Complete protein; it contains all the amino acids our bodies need
– Delicious and versatile; its mild flavor fits in for breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals
– High in fiber, protein, and iron
– Easily available
Because quinoa is technically a seed and not a grain, it does have an outer coating that some find bitter. A thorough washing under cold running water (a fine mesh strainer works well) can remove almost all that undesirable taste; when the water runs clear you’ll know your quinoa is ready to cook!
Root vegetables, as the name implies, are literally the roots of a plant. They are a good source of complex carbohydrates and are high in fiber and Vitamins A and C. Most common are carrots, potatoes, parsnips, radishes, and beets. Because they grow underground they absorb their vitamins and minerals from the earth. However, they can also absorb toxins from the soil so organic is the best choice. If your market sells root veggies with the stems still attached choose ones that look bright and fresh. At home store your root veggies in a cool, dark place with some humidity – in the refrigerator in a paper or plastic bag will keep them crisp and crunchy.
Our Beef Saltado recipe will add a truly international flair to your dinner table. Saltado is a traditional Peruvian dish influenced by the Chinese tradition of stir fry. In the classic style, beef and vegetables are stir fried and then served with fried potatoes (oven baked in our version). Our Vegetarian version includes a Portobello version which gives the same hearty flavor without the meat.
Skip the bay scallops this week in favor of the larger sea scallops. Bay scallops smaller in size mean they will cook too quickly when searing – they will be cooked all the way through before the golden crust can form. Sea scallops can stand up to the high heat needed to achieve a great sear. No fresh scallops in your market? Its ok to choose frozen, just let they thaw slowly in the refrigerator for the best flavor and texture.
Our Vegetarian meals occasionally feature seitan, a cooked wheat protein that is often used in vegetarian cooking. It is available flavored or plain in ground, strip or cubed form, usually in the refrigerated section of your healthy food market. For those who prefer not to use a lot of soy products, seitan is a great soy-free meat replacement option. It has a chewy texture and a very mild flavor on its own so it absorbs seasonings well.
Sesame oil provides a delightful and distinctive flavor to any dish. Not only is sesame oil delicious, it has some fantastic health, beauty, and anti-aging benefits, check out this great information from the folks at organicfacts.net. A little goes a long way when it comes to sesame oil, if you find the flavor or aroma too strong, try cooking your food in grapeseed oil and using a drizzle or few drops of sesame oil to finish the dish.
Skirt steak is an inexpensive cut of meat that can produce deep delicious flavors if you know the cooking secrets. Sometimes labeled ‘hanger steak,’ skirt steak is a long thin cut of beef from the diaphragm muscle just below the ribs of the cow. Because it has little fat, it can be VERY tough if cooked incorrectly – cooking either needs to be very fast and very hot or very slow and very low.
If your steak still has the tough silvery membrane attached, remove it with a very sharp knife (or ask the butcher to do it) before marinating. Marinating not only infuses flavor, it helps tenderize the meat so don’t skip this step! Be sure to have your table set and ready to go before you start cooking the steak – once the dish is done you want to serve it immediately! P.S. Skirt steak and Flank steak are not the same, they come from different parts of the cow, but they are similar in texture and taste. If you don’t see skirt steak you can sub flank steak in a pinch.
You’ve seen the familiar green topped bottle at grocery stores and restaurants everywhere – sriracha hot chili sauce. A Thai chili sauce made from chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt, sriracha has exploded in popularity in the past few years. It does add a bit of heat, but not more than jalapeno pepper, and delicious depth of flavor to a variety of savory dishes. If you are unsure of how your family will react to the heat, add it to the cooked salmon instead of the marinade; the dish will still be delicious and you can personalize the level of heat.
STAR ANISE PODS
Star anise is the seed pod from a Chinese evergreen tree. Star Anise is one of the 5 spices in Chinese Five Spice powder, and it is the key ingredient that adds a soft hint of licorice to pho (the traditional Vietnamese pronunciation is closer to ‘fuh’ than ‘foe’). Buy whole pods that are deep cinnamon brown color, use them whole, and store them in a cool dark place with your other spices. Did you know? Shikimic acid, found in the seeds of star anise pods, is the base ingredient in prescription flu medicine Tamiflu.
– Strawberries are in the top 5 fruits for antioxidant capacity
– High in vitamin C and fiber, free of sodium, fat and cholesterol
– Low in calories; 1 cup sliced strawberries has around 50 calories
– Medium-sized strawberries are often more flavorful than giant ones
– Should be a vibrant, consistent red color with bright shiny green caps
– Avoid strawberries that have seedy tips or white around the cap
– For best flavor, serve strawberries at room temperature
– Very perishable, purchase a few days before using
– Once picked they do not continue to ripen so what you see is what you get!
– Store in refrigerator, in their original package, once you get them home, storing at room temperature will cause them to spoil faster
– Should keep for 3-5 days in your refrigerator if properly stored
– Strawberries should not be washed until right before using
STOCK VS. BROTH
Is there any difference between stock and broth? Definitely yes! Although they are often used interchangeably, there are a few differences.
Most importantly, both are made from simmering meat and/or vegetables in water to infuse flavor.
Broth is seasoned and can be served as is, stock is unseasoned and is generally a base for soups and sauces.
Broth may or may not be prepared with bones, stock is almost always made with bones (or better yet roasted bones) and is cooked for a longer period of time to extract the gelatin in the bones.
Bone broth is cooked for a very long time, up to 24 hours, to extract not only the gelatin but the minerals from the bones and is meant to be consumed as is.
Vegetable broth and stock are generally the same product except for the seasonings since no bones are involved.
When choosing either broth or stock be sure to pick an organic brand that is low in sodium!
SUN DRIED TOMATOES
These gems pack a HUGE punch of flavor in a tiny little package. If you’re not familiar with them, they are simply large tomatoes that have literally been laid in the sun to dry out. They lose most of their water content and become small chewy pieces. However, they do not lose their nutritional value so they are still a great source of antioxidants and vitamin C. Skip the sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil – it just adds extra fat and calories. Before adding to recipes be sure to reconstitute them by soaking in hot water for 10-15 minutes – they’ll plump up slightly and be more tender.
Chard is a leafy green veggie related to spinach and beets. It has broad slightly ruffled leaves and is available with a rainbow of stem colors from white to red to yellow. Often used in Mediterranean cuisines, chard is high in calcium and vitamins C and A. When shopping for chard look for big, crisp, bright green leaves free of wilt and blemishes. At home store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until ready to use. After a good rinse remove the stems and large veins and chop into medium pieces. Enjoy!
SWEET POTATOES – CHOOSING
When shopping for sweet potatoes choose potatoes that are firm and without any obvious bruises or soft spots. The larger the potatoes get the higher the starch content so stick with the size the recipe calls for. Be sure to make use of that scale in the produce section to be sure you are getting the correct amount of potatoes for your recipe – a single large potato can weight up to 3/4 pound! When properly stored, sweet potatoes have a long shelf life so be sure to keep them in a cool, dry, dark place.
SWEET POTATOES VS. YAMS
Are sweet potatoes and yams the same thing? No! The two root vegetables are not the same, and are not even closely related. Most US grocery stores carry sweet potatoes which have a thin orange/rust colored skin and are usually a rich orange color inside. A true yam has a muddy brown, bark-like skin and white flesh and is much drier and starchier than a sweet potato. If you can’t track down a true yam, you can substitute russet potatoes.
Do you enjoy hummus? The key flavor of hummus comes from tahini, a paste made from ground sesame seeds. Tahini brings a subtle flavor and creamy texture to dressings and sauces. You can find prepared tahini in most grocery stores in the international foods aisle. If you really enjoy hummus or baba ganoush (an amazing eggplant dip), try making your own tahini paste. There are many excellent recipes online — all you need is sesame seeds, oil, and a pinch of salt!
Tamarind paste is a concentrated paste that provides the distinctive flavor most associated with Pad Thai and other asian recipes. The paste comes from the fruit of the tamarind tree, found in Asia and Mexico, and is deliciously sticky and sour. You can find tamarind paste in the international foods aisle of your local market, usually sold in small glass jars. If you can’t track down tamarind paste you could use a splash of vinegar in a pinch, but trust us, it just won’t be the same!
THAI SWEET CHILI SAUCE
If you haven’t tried it before, Thai Sweet Chili Sauce may become your new favorite go-to sauce! The popular condiment has an amazing sweet and savory flavor without being too hot; it’s made with chili peppers, vinegar, fish sauce, fruit, and sugar for sweetness. If you are watching your sugar be sure to check the label, some brands are definitely heavier on the sugar than others. You may be familiar with the taste if you are a Chinese food fan – it’s often served as a dipping sauce for egg rolls. If you buy a large bottle you will have plenty left over to try in other recipes – it’s a great sauce for chicken and pork and really updates the flavor of everyday favorites like brown rice and pasta.
If you’d like to customize the flavor try making your own – there are plenty of quick and easy recipes online!
Our vegetarian meal plans occasionally feature tofu, a nutritious, protein-packed soy bean product that is a staple of many vegetarian diets.
Tofu is made of soymilk mixed with a coagulant. The process transforms the milk into curds which are pressed into blocks or cakes. There are two main types of tofu; silken and regular. Silken tofu has a softer, smooth texture (similar to the white of a hardboiled egg), it is more fragile and ‘silky’ because it has much more moisture than regular tofu. Regular tofu has a more textured, firm appearance and is most often used in savory dishes. Fresh 20 recipes will always use firm, regular tofu unless otherwise stated. When recipes state the tofu should be “drained and pressed” just wrap the block in a clean dish towel and place a plate or dish on top –you can push down gently or place a heavy can on top.
While tomatillos are related to the tomato, they are definitely not the same as a green tomato! Their flavor is tart and citrusy and they are easily identified in the market by their papery outer husk. Be sure to choose tomatillos with dry, tight husks and bright green fruit – yellow ones are overripe and won’t bring the flavor you are looking for. Once you get them home, store in the crisper section of your refrigerator in a paper bag and they will keep for several days. You can even freeze them! Remove the husks, wipe clean, and freeze them whole. Once they are frozen solid be sure to double bag them to keep away the freezer burn.
TRI TIP ROAST
Tri tip refers to a specific cut of beef from the bottom sirloin, “tri” refers to its triangular shape and “tip” refers to its position at the tip of the sirloin. It’s an affordable cut that is lean, tender, boneless, and thick. Most tri tips are 1-1/2 to 2-1/2″ thick and weigh around 2-1/2 pounds.
This is a great week to add a meat thermometer to your kitchen if you haven’t already – it takes the stress and guesswork out of cooking large cuts of meat. Two pro tips for perfect tri tip: let the cooked meat rest for 10 minutes covered loosely with foil before slicing, and ALWAYS slice the meat across the grain.
Few things can ruin a delicious dinner faster than bland, tasteless produce. Vibrant, flavorful tomatoes can be particularly difficult to find in the off season. Here are a few tips to help you choose the best your market has to offer:
BUY LOCALLY GROWN PRODUCE! Not only are you supporting local farmers, shorter transit times mean fresher goods that haven’t lost valuable nutrients sitting on pallets in a warehouse.
Don’t manhandle the tomatoes! Smelling the stem end and evaluating the skin for color and bruising are sufficient for evaluating freshness·
Tomatoes on the vine are a good choice if you’re having trouble deciding what to pick. These are often the freshest choice and the color and condition of the vine are also a good indicator of quality
Our best advice? Don’t refrigerate your tomatoes! Leave them on the counter out of direct sun for the best flavor and use them as soon as possible.
Choosing a ripe watermelon can be tricky – the farmers market is always your best bet, but if you are at your local market here is what to look for:
– A pale area where the watermelon lay on the ground as it grew – if the area is yellow that’s the best – it means the melon was allowed to stay on the vine to ripen. White is ok, but if the melon is green all round with no pale area – skip it and move on – it was picked too early.
– Like most fruit – it should feel heavy for its size. If in doubt, pick up two similar sized melons- the heavier one will be juicier.
– Consistent deep green color (except for the one pale spot)
– Unless you really know what you’re doing – don’t thump!
Once you get the melon home you can store in the refrigerator for a few days, but it will be at its juicy best if used right away. Melons do continue to ripen a little bit after being picked so they can be left on the counter if you suspect it’s under ripe.
Zucchini is a great choice for versatility and nutrition. One zucchini provides nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and a ton of potassium – all while being extremely low in calories!
The popularity of zucchini ‘noodles’ in the Paleo diet has now crossed over to mainstream cuisine. There are many videos online that show how to transform one zucchini into a pile of healthy (gluten free) noodles – and it’s a fun way to get your kids into the kitchen.
Selecting & Storing:
As with most fresh produce, choose zucchini that are heavy for their size, free of blemishes and soft spots, and have deep consistent color. You don’t need to choose the prize winning foot long zucchini either, go for small to medium sized (think 6-8”) ones – they will have the best crunch and flavor. Store for no more than a few days in the refrigerator for the best flavor.