Monday, January 12, 2015

Why We Love Food Facts (And You Should, Too!)

The Super Bowl is more than just a game - it's an experience filled with football, food, beer, music, celebrities, and more. It's the ultimate in entertainment and the single most watched sporting event in the US.  On top of that, it's the second largest day in the US for food consumption!

We've taken the liberty to  share  seven Super Bowl food stats that  can  help you win Jeopardy or simply  impress your friends this Super Bowl.  You're Welcome.

1) Chicken Wings : There may be concerns of a chicken wing shortage, but expect more than 1.23 billion wing portions to be consumed during Super Bowl weekend. 

2) Ranch Dressing : Move over bleu cheese.  Almost 57 percent of Americans who eat chicken wings say they like to dip their wings ranch dressing, according to a new National Chicken Council poll.  Only about 35 percent go for the bleu cheese dressing –unless you live in Northeast, where it’s nearly 50 percent.

3) Pizza : Super Bowl Sunday is the busiest day of the year for pizza restaurants, according to the National Restaurant Association.  In fact, chains Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Domino’s will sell twice as many pies as they do on any other day.


4) Potato Chips : Wings and pizza are the two most popular Super Bowl snacks, but potato chips are close behind. Some 11 million pounds of chips are expected to be consumed on Sunday, as well as an estimated 4 million pounds of pretzels and 2.5 million pounds of nuts.


5) Avocado : Luckily avocado is a Super Food, because 69.6 million pounds of avocados are consumed on Super Bowl, according to the Hass Avocado Board.

     How to Make Great Guacamole: 

6) Popcorn : Get popping.  Americans will eat about 3.8 million pounds of popcorn while watching the big game, according to the Calorie Control Council.

7) Hamburgers : The Super Bowl is second-biggest grilling weekend of the year --the 4th of July is first.  Some 14 billion hamburgers will be served up at parties across the country.  

Facts source: Fox News

Friday, January 9, 2015

Gluten Free Chicken Pot Pie

Gluten Free Chicken Pot Pie

Broccoli & Cheddar Chicken Pot Pie

This twist on a classic casserole offers a refreshing change from what
usually comes to mind when we think of pot pie. Here, we make use of a
couple of other recipes from the book. First, the “cream of” soup makes
a rich, yet delicate sauce, then, you can choose from a Buttermilk Biscuit
topping, or a flaky pastry topping using my Food Processor Pastry Crust
(minus the sugar for a savory crust). This recipe is a great example of
how a few base recipes can really transform your mealtimes and make
gluten-free living a breeze! Feel free to substitute vegetables or protein
of your choice to make this recipe entirely your own. This is a terrific
way to use leftover roasted chicken.

Recipe on page 144 of The Gluten Free Solution by Gluten Free Gigi

Gluten Free Pot Pie recipe

3 cups broccoli florets, lightly steamed (or one 12-ounce bag frozen
broccoli florets, lightly steamed)
2 cups diced, cooked potatoes (I use Melissa’s Produce Baby Dutch
Yellow potatoes for this dish for extra-creamy texture and buttery
2 cups cooked, diced or shredded chicken
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (substitute Daiya dairy-free cheddar
shreds for dairy-free)
1 small yellow onion, diced
½ Tablespoon oil
¼ cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons clementine or orange juice
1 Recipe Cream of Mushroom Soup*
1 Recipe Buttermilk Biscuits* (prepared and cut into biscuits, but not
Butter (or dairy-free butter substitute), for brushing top of biscuit

*To make this recipe Gluten Free, order the Gluten Free Solution and reference the Cream of Mushroom Soup and Buttermilk Biscuit recipes

Toss broccoli, potatoes, chicken and cheese together in a large bowl;
set aside.
Preheat oven to 375F and lightly grease a large casserole (11x7-inch or
In a skillet, heat oil and cook diced onion until it begins to become
tender, about 3 minutes. Add stock, tarragon, salt, garlic powder and
clementine juice and stir occasionally, cooking until onion is tender.
Add onion to broccoli/chicken mixture, then stir in Cream of
Mushroom Soup gently just until the mixture looks uniform.
Spoon mixture into prepared casserole, then top with biscuit dough
Bake 20-30 minutes, until biscuits are golden brown and mixture
Remove from oven and cool about 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, December 26, 2014

6 Lucky Foods to Eat for New Year's

For many Americans, January 1st offers an opportunity to forget the past and make a clean start. Often represented by promises and resolutions, this year, instead of leaving everything up to fate, why not give yourself a fighting chance with a meal enriched with good fortune?  There are many foods that are believed to be lucky and to improve the odds that next year will be better than the last.  Traditions also vary from culture to culture, but there are some interesting similarities in what's consumed in throughout the world, in relation to good luck/good fortune.

There are six major categories of "Lucky foods," grapes, greens, fish, pork, legumes, and cakes.  Here is our list of the foods people traditionally eat for luck on New Year's Eve, that are believed to bring a year of prosperity and good health.

Fruit: Grapes
On New Year's Eve, Mexicans pop a grape for each stroke of midnight, with each representing a page of the calendar ahead. If one is bitter, watch out for that month!

Supposedly greens are eaten on New Year's Eve because they resemble money. Try this Bruschetta with Swiss Chard, Pine Nuts and Currants recipe

Bruschetta with Swiss Chard, Pine Nuts and Currants

Beans, like greens, resemble money; more specifically, they symbolize coins. Whether you choose black beans, lentils, or black-eyes peas, healthy fiber-filled beans will help soak up that champagne. Try: Blackeyed Pea Salsa Fresca
Blackeyed Pea Salsa Fresca

Noodles and Grains
Noodles are symbols of long life, and grains like rice, quinoa, and barley stand for abundance. Slurp the noodles whole for even more luck. Try: Noodle Pancake with Seafood Sauce

Pigs are a lucky symbol because they root forward, and are rotund. Traditionally, in the American South, pork, beans, and greens are combined in a dish called Hoppin' John for New Year's Eve. Try: Citrus Barbecue Pork Chops

Ring shaped cakes—sometimes with trinkets baked inside—are a symbol of coming full circle. Indulge a little with the delicious chocolate recipe below. Try: Ginger Cake with Apricot Sticky Sauce
Ginger Cake with Apricot Sticky Sauce


We can't forget about Chinese New Year, here are some lucky Chinese foods and what they symbolize for CNY.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Top 8 Food & Beverage Trends for 2015

Featured article from Mareya Ibrahim, The Fit Foodie
"From meals to snacks, veggies to bevvies, the outlook for the 2015 looks cold and colorful, fungus-filled and crawling with crickets"


This isnt a scene out of a 60s hallucination. Mushrooms are getting unearthed for their powerhouse composition, richness in B vitamins, minerals, digestibility and low calories but they are getting more and more popular for their ability to mimic meat texture and possibly help with lower glycemic responses, according to a 2014 study by the University of Buffalo. In 2015, expect to see more mushroom blends on menus and in products, and even in school lunches where pilot programs, like one in Cincinnati, helped prove the case that kids are happy to dig into a shroom burger. Mushroom blend consumption will increase for its deft ability to blend into meat mixtures seamlessly to boost nutrient density while lowering calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium and cost. Youll also see more varieties take the limelight, including shiitake and oyster mushrooms for their culinary contributions and a magical substance called Beta-glucans, which is said to boost immunity and help with allergy resistance.

more mushroom varieties here...


With the ongoing double-digit growth in organics, the trend is also spilling into your cocktail and wine glass, too. Cultivated without the use of chemical pesticides, preservatives or flavors, consumers are becoming just as conscientious about what they imbibe as what they eat. Organic wine is getting better, beer and cider companies are getting on board, and organic spirits are now available in most categories, including vodka, gin, liqueurs, whiskey, tequila and rum.


The trend in bevvies has gone cold, proving that its not just about the product. its the process, too. Cold-pressed juices and coffee are hot no pun intended where flavor and nutrient density rein king. When it comes to juices, cold-pressed varieties claim to keep more of the enzymes and vitamins intact that usually get eradicated with traditional heat packaged varieties. Suja, named #3 in Forbes Most Promising Companies in 2014, is driving a surge in the category with its line of organic & cold-pressured juices, smoothies & teas sprouting up at Whole Foods across the country. Juice Press, which markets its line of cold-pressed juices, smoothies and coffee ships everyone in the US from their website, sprang from the 21+ popular café locations in NYC.


Flesh-free alternatives will continue to show up on menus and in school cafeterias everywhere, but there will be a shift in what those substitutes are made from as the industry seeks ways to satiate the more than 100 million Americans turning to more vegetarian and vegan meals, according to a Harris Interactive Study.

Brands like Beyond Meat make their soy-free “Beyond Beef” crumbles from non-GMO pea protein isolate, among other ingredients. The company has an impressive investor backing, including the one and only Bill Gates, so you know theyre onto something big. I tasted the Beyond Beef crumbles at the California School Nutrition Association Convention this past week and couldnt help but thinking how all those unsuspecting kids would have no idea that their sloppy joes were made mostly from pea protein. More veggies on their plates! adds Ibrahim.



The FDA allows a certain amount of insect parts in your packaged goods, but some manufacturers are featuring them as their star ingredient. The industry is literally hopping with cricket powder, getting popular for their nutrient density, inexpensive nature and low-on-the-food-chain environmentally conscious status. Youll find this in brands like Chapul bars, made popular on the show The Shark Tank, with the selling points that cricket powder has 15% more iron than spinach, 2 times more protein than beef and as much vitamin B12 as salmon.


The Paleo push has given way to a lot of new products that are protein rich, especially snacks. The fact is, with 2/3rds of the US population deemed overweight or obese, manufacturers will keep pushing on better-for-you convenience foods using higher protein content to balance out carbs and sugar.


Weve seen the industry fall in love with one superfruit after another from pomegranates to acai, goji to mangosteen, boasting their ORAC levels like sports team statistics. In 2015, look for the next superhero fruit Baobab pronounced bowbab, which outperformed all of the other tested superfruits in recent ORAC rankings performed by Brunswick Laboratories.


Kale has been the darling of the veggie world for the last few years, graduating from homely garnish to the star of Michelin ranked plates. Now, for 2015, which green will hail queen? Melissas Produce in Los Angeles is predicting a rainbow based on recent year-over-year growth, including mini sweet peppers, Sunflowerchokes, Kalettes (aka kale sprouts) and Romanesco. Colorful veggies, including chard, carrots and cauliflower in vibrant pink, green, purple and peach hues, will also get very popular as they elevate the appearance of finished dishes. We eat with our eyes first, so its no wonder these colorful characters are getting more attention, comments produce guru, Robert Schueller, Director of PR for Melissas Produce.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Melissa's Guest Chef Recipe Contest IV


Enter for a chance to be a 

Celebrate Valentine’s Day! We are now accepting recipe entries for our February 2015 web site feature GUEST CHEF: INGREDIENT CHALLENGE. Create a romantic dish for two – appetizer, main entrée or dessert – using at least TWO items in combination from any of the following three ingredient categories:

A - Vegetables
Baby Bok Choy
Baby Dutch Yellow® Potato
Sweet Peppers
Roma Tomatoes

B - Fruits
Asian Pears
Fresh Coconut
Key Limes
        Passion Fruit
Pomegranate Arils

C – Packaged Goods
Dried Tomatoes
Dried Chile Chipotle
        Edamame (shelled)
Pine Nuts
Steamed Lentils
Yakisoba Noodle

Participants are encouraged to use other fresh produce to support their recipes as long as both of the chosen ingredients from the lists above play a prominent role in the dish. The winning entry will be judged based on taste, creativity and photogenic appeal. A photo of your dish is always helpful, but not required.

The winning recipe and its creator will be spotlighted on for our February Valentine edition. The winner will also receive a commemorative plaque containing a condensed version of the article, suitable for display and bragging rights, as well as one of Melissa’s beautiful Gift Baskets filled with goodies designed for a home chef.

·        Use at least TWO ingredients (total) chosen from columns A-B-C in combination.
·        Recipe must create one dish that can be served on a single plate.
·        The Challenge Ingredients must play a leading role in the recipe, not as a garnish.
·        Each recipe submission must contain:
o       number of servings the recipe will make
o       an ingredient list with measures
o       step-by-step preparation directions, including plating instructions
·        Email one recipe per entry to:
·        In “Subject” line include: Recipe Title / name i.e. “Apple Pie by Mary Smith”
·        In the body of your email submission please start by itemizing the TWO challenge ingredients being featured in your recipe.

·        Deadline for recipe submissions: Monday, December 8, 2014

·        Winning recipe will be contacted by email shortly after deadline.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cooking with Lentils – 9 Ways to Prepare Them

Steamed Lentils

The lentil (Lens culinaris) is considered an edible pulse. It is a bushy annual plant of the legume family, grown for its lens-shaped seeds. It is about 40 cm (16 in) tall and the seeds grow in pods, usually with two seeds in each.*

Lately lentils have been on an upward trend in the food world.  Low in calories and high in nutrition, lentils are the perfect legume to eat in the in salads, spreads, for crudité and crackers, and as a protien item on a vegetarian dinner plate. Melissa's had made preparing lentils a thing of the past.  With our new Steamed Lentils, you can now enjoy them with minimal preparation as a hassle-free compliment to any meal. Nutty and earthy in flavor, lentils have a high nutritional value that anyone can benefit from by incorporating this healthy legume into their diet.
Lentils are know for their tremendous health benefits including; lower cholesterol, improved heart health, stabilized blood sugar, increased energy, and so much more.

Lentils help to reduce blood cholesterol since it contains high levels of soluble fiber.  While the insoluble dietary fiber found in lentils helps prevent constipation and other digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.

Also, lentils are also a great source of protein.  Of all legumes and nuts, lentils contain the third-highest levels of protein. 26 percent of lentil’s calories are attributed to protein, which makes them a wonderful source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.

Reader be warned, while some of the recipe pictures may not look the best, we are actually cooking here!  These are real, tasty, recipes and recommend trying all of them.

1: Lentil, Dutch Yellow Potato & Hatch Chile Soup

2. Shar's Easy Lentil Soup

3. Lentil Salad

4. Lentils with Wilted Spinach, Linguica Sausage and Red Bell Peppers

5. Beet and Lentil Salad

6.  Lentil Loaf with Vegetable Sauce

7. Chef Joan Nathan's Lentil Soup

8. Lentil and Edamame Salad

9.  Lentils with Green Apples and Shallots from Kristen Bentson

*Source: Wikipedia

Thursday, October 30, 2014

10 Things You Need To Know About Truffles

10 things you need to know about truffles

There’s something about truffles that seems to drive foodies and chefs into a frenzy. We don’t often see people go crazy over fungus (quite the opposite, really), but when they do, it’s always truffles.  Fall season gives way to many wonderful culinary treasures, truffles included and we've been waiting all year. Those who are unfamiliar with these rock-like lumps, which almost resemble meteorites from space more than they do food may be asking what the deal is with these pricey fungi. Here is the 411 on truffles with ten things you need to know before purchasing them.
1. Truffles are neither chocolates nor mushrooms. Though many are only familiar with the edible chocolate-coated edibles at candy stores, truffles are actually not chocolates. And while truffles share similarly earthy and deep umami flavors as mushrooms, their differences extend far beyond their appearance. Truffles are actually the fruiting body of a fungus found in forested areas nearby the tree roots. Fungi are unable to produce their own food, hence why they attach themselves to tree roots.
2. Truffles are found most prevalent in the Middle East Europe, mostly throughout France and Italy. Some of the world’s rarest truffles are limited to specific regions, such as the French Périgord Black Truffle, also fondly known as the “Diamond of Périgord”, which is only found burrowed in the roots in a specific oak tree native to the region. And while they are still considered one a worldwide prized delicacy, there is a small but growing movement of truffle growers in the United States.
3. Truffles earn their pricey reputation not only  they’re challenging to grow and cultivate. They also have a short shelf life. It can take a tree ten to fifteen years produce truffles. They don’t tend to keep for very long and are usually fresh for only two weeks following harvest. If you are unable to use them immediately, you can freeze them for up to six months in an airtight-sealed bag or container.
4. Between white truffles and black truffles, white truffles are the most prized in the world. White truffles are exclusively foraged while black truffles can be cultivated. The Italian White Truffle is found specifically in one small Italian region and is tracked by specially trained pigs and boasts an aromatic and complex flavor unlike any other in the world. However, this isn't to knock black truffles, as they are nearly, if not, just as delicious as white truffles. The Italian Black Summer Truffle has a mild and delicate taste and aroma with subtle flavor that is simply divine shaved over pasta, eggs and crepes.
italian white truffles

5. Truffles are beneficial to your health. Although you probably don’t need more reasons to eat truffles, truffles actually tote quite a few health benefits. They’re a great source of high protein and contains all of the essential amino acids for nutrition. They’re also cholesterol-free and low in fat, making it ideal for adding flavor to a dish in place of high-calorie sauces and dressings.
6. Black truffles are often best served cooked. When cooked, black truffles release a delectable flavor that’s intensified by heat. Consider placing thin slices of black truffle underneath the skin of chicken or duck before roasting. For a classic culinary pairing, you can add black truffles to wild game such as venison, boar and elk or to beef and pork. An exception to this are summer black truffles which have a more mild and nutty flavor than their winter counterparts. Those can be served raw or slightly warmed up, such as shaved generously over salad or pasta.
7. On the other hand, white and burgundy are best served raw. White truffles are not able to withstand the heat from cooking and are generally softer than black truffles. Cooking white truffles for too long tends to dissipate their flavor and aroma. Therefore, either serving them raw or warming them slightly best enhances them while preserving their smooth and savory flavor. Similarly to white truffles, with its delicate flavor and intense aroma, Italian Burgundy Truffle are best served in the same fashion.
8. Simple foods that complement the flavor of truffles work best. Dairy products such as butter and cream sauces work wonderfully with the rich, decadent flavor of truffles. It’s best to keep the flavors light to allow the truffles to shine through. Truffle butter, cheeses with the exception of Brie, Parmesan and Gruyere, both do wonderfully over meats or even burgers. And don’t forget about truffles shaved over mashed potatoes or root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots.
9. Aged wines pair best with truffles. Like wines that acquire their complex flavor over time, truffles develop a wild and musky depth that matches well with wine. Red wines pair well with white truffles because of their earthy notes that help the flavor of the truffles linger on the palette. For black truffles, a medium-bodied white wine that doesn't have as much acidity won’t challenge their flavor.
10. Want to go hunting for truffles? Find yourself a dog. Truffles have always been traditionally hunted by pigs, due to their heightened sense of smell which made them ideal for foraging for truffles in highly dense forested areas. The only problem? The pigs in turn had a tendency to eat them, particularly because the musky aromas of truffles are closely associated with the mating hormones of pigs. Try pulling a 300-pound pigs away from truffles and you can imagine how that scenario might go down. With their adept sense of smell, dogs have replaced pigs as the ideal hunter for truffles among truffle hunters due to their train-ability, obedience and stamina.
Have you ever had truffles before? Which ones were your favorite?