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?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Winter Squash : Visual Guide + Recipes

Whether they're bumpy or smooth, little or big, blue or orange, squash reveals just a touch of natures creativity.

The term "Winter squash" is a bit misleading...  Most squash varieties are harvested in the fall and keep well through the winter.  Due to their hardy nature, these squash varieties are primarily consumed in the cold winter months in dishes, such as; soups and stews.  Chances are that Pumpkins, Acorn squash, and Butternut squash are the most popular types in your local supermarkets, however other varieties, such as Spaghetti, Buttercup, and Kabocha, are worth seeking out at health food stores or specialty shops. Regardless of the type, to get the best quality, select winter squash that are blemish- and bruise-free, with an intact stem and heavy feeling for their size.

Here is a Visual Guide to Fall Squash 

and some creative recipes below

Characteristics: This mildly flavored squash is named for its acornlike shape. Choose one with a dull green rind; an acorn squash that's turned orange will have tough and fibrous flesh. 

Characteristics: Compact and green with paler green striations, the buttercup can closely resemble a kabocha squash. Its distinctive bottom with a circular ridge, though, gives it away. On some, the ridge may surround a more pronounced bump, or "turban." A freshly cut buttercup may smell like a clean, fragrant cucumber, but once cooked, its orange flesh becomes dense, a bit dry, and very mild. 

Characteristics: A slim neck and bulbous bottom give the butternut squash its distinctive bell shape. The muted yellow-tan rind hides bright orange-yellow flesh with a relatively sweet taste. To make butternut squash easier to handle, cut the neck from the body and work with each section separately. 

Characteristics: The pumpkin-shaped Carnival Squash has a pale yellow skin with green markings and often ranges in size from 5 to 7 inches in diameter. Unlike summer squash (which are picked when immature and skins are tender), Carnival Squash have hard, thick skins and only the flesh is eaten. The delicious yellow meat is reminiscent of sweet potatoes and butternut squash and can be baked or steamed then combined with butter and fresh herbs.

Characteristics: The oblong Delicata (pronounced dehl-ih-CAH-tah) has a pale yellow skin with green markings and often ranges in size from 5 to 9 inches in length to 1 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. Unlike summer squash (which are picked when immature and skins are tender), Delicata Squash have hard, thick skins and only the flesh is eaten. The delicious yellow meat is reminiscent of sweet potatoes and butternut squash and can be baked or steamed. Combined with butter and fresh herbs, Delicata Squash is good source of vitamins A and C..

Characteristics: The bright orange skin of the Gold Nugget Squash easily identifies it as a popular winter squash. Unlike summer squash (which are picked when immature and skins are tender), Gold Nugget Squash have hard, thick skins and only the flesh is eaten. Look for colorful rinds with a dull finish (indicating maturity).

Characteristics: The pumpkin-shaped Kabocha Squash has a forest green skin with light striations and often ranges in size from 9 to 12 inches in diameter. Unlike summer squash (which are picked when immature and skins are tender), Kabocha Squash have hard, thick skins and only the flesh is eaten. It taste similar between a sweet potato and pumpkin with a rich sweetness and almost fiberless flesh.

It can be baked, steamed, pureed, braised, chunked, or smoothed in soups, and baked in puddings, pies, and cakes.

Characteristics: Named for its yellow-gold spaghetti-like strands of flesh, Spaghetti Squash is a smooth, yellow watermelon-shaped squash. Unlike summer squash (which is picked when immature and skin is tender), Spaghetti Squash has a hard, thick skin and only the flesh is eaten. Once cooked, the spaghetti-like strands of flesh can be separated with a fork, removed from the shell and served as a salad ingredient, as part of a casserole, or with sauce (similar to pasta).

Characteristics: This whitish-yellow and green squash is small and compact, making the whole squash the perfect-size bowl for an individual serving. The flesh tastes very much like sweet potato, and the skin is edible is as well. Use sweet dumpling squash in recipes calling for sweet potato or pumpkin. 

...and if you haven't seen this new variety yet, Pink Pumpkins are a great way to enjoy the Pumpkin flavor while helping support a great cause, Breast Cancer Research.
Characteristics: A new hybrid variety, Porcelain Doll pumpkins have a light pink skin and vibrant orange interior. A nationwide cancer prevention campaign for retailers has been organized by its developers to coincide with the harvest of this crop. A donation to breast cancer research for every pink pumpkin sold will be contributed to a nonprofit organization dubbed the Pink Pumpkin Patch that has been set up exclusively for this project. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

7 Wonders of the Tailgating World (Food Edition)

For the die-hard football fan, this season couldn't have come soon enough.  After all those days full of reruns, drafts, and mindless Sunday afternoons, it's finally tailgate time!  No matter which team you root for, fall football season is one of the best excuses to get together with friends and family for fantastic food and drinks.

To start this season off right, we've stacked up 7 of the best tailgate foods and finger foods for you this year!

7 Wonders of the Tailgating World (Food Edition)

1. Party Chili

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 medium Maui Onions or available Sweet Onion chopped (12 ounces)
1 Organic Bell Pepper (use Green Bell Pepper) chopped
1 rib Organic Celery chopped
1 clove Peeled Garlic minced
1 1/2 pounds Soy Taco
2 cans (14½ ounce) Whole Peeled Tomatoes
2 (12.3 ounce) pkgs Steamed, Ready-to-Eat Six Bean Medley
1 can (8 ounce) Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons Chile Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
Ground Cayenne Pepper to taste

2. Potato Salad

3 pounds Baby Dutch Yellow® Potatoes roasted and cut into bite size wedges
Olive Oil
Organic Grinders use Garlic Herb Sea Salt to taste
3 Jalapeno Chile use Green Jalapeno seeded, deveined, and coarsely chopped
2 cups Cilantro chopped
1 1/2 Organic Shallots chopped
2 cloves Organic Garlic *Roasted and chopped
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tablespoons Cider vinegar
1/2 cup Cotija Cheese
Cilantro finely minced to your taste

3. Chicken Wings

36 Chicken Drumettes
Sea Salt to taste
Freshly Ground Pepper to taste
1 cup Sour Cream
1 cup Chicken Broth
1 each Dried Savina Ruby Hot Chile -- rehydrated
1 pinch Sea Salt

4. Quesadilla

4 large Flour Tortillas
3 cups Shredded Cheddar-Jack Cheese
3 New Mexico Hatch Chiles -- roasted, peeled and seeded, diced

5. Skewers

1/2 Organic Pineapple peeled and cored
2 Organic Mango peeled halved and pitted
1 Strawberry Papayas peeled, halved and seeded
1 Tropical Dragon Fruit peeled
1 Kiwi peeled
12 Lychee peeled and pitted
1/4 Red Watermelon (use Seedless Watermelon)
6 Skewers

6.  Salsa Fresca

2 cups Organic Roma Tomatoes diced
1/2 Red onion diced
1 1/2 New Mexican Hatch Chiles roasted skinned seeded and diced
1/2 bunch Cilantro chopped 6 Key Limes juice freshly squeezed
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

7.  Grilled Shishito Peppers

1 pound Shishito Peppers
Canola Oil, as needed
1 cup Soy Sauce
1 Lemon, zested and juiced
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, if desired

What's your favorite Tailgate Food?  Tell us in the comments below and you could win a copy of our Hatch Chile Cookbook!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cotton Candy Grapes 101


What do they taste like, you ask?  Well, believe it or not, the name says it all.  These sweet green grapes taste just like cotton candy!  But, how can it be?

Over the years, The Grapery® has conducted a wide range of experiments that led to a wide range of breakthroughs. The Grapery® team feeds their vines meticulously with organic-based fertilizers and compost. Unlike many others, we use drip irrigation so we can supply the precise amount of water and plant food.

Their unique and sometimes surprising flavors are the result of innovative farming techniques combined with all-natural breeding practices. They start with grape varietals that have been developed over years of natural cross-breeding, then raise them in fields cultivated under ideal growing conditions. Finally, they let their table grapes mature on the vine until they have reached their perfect flavor--whenever that may be-- before harvesting them. This means that each variety is selectively harvested several times throughout the growing season. It's a tall order, but to achieve our incredible flavors nothing less will do.

These must be GMO, right?

Actually, Cotton Candy Grapes are Non-GMO.  The Grapery® states, "We work hard to breed our grapes naturally over time and to develop innovative, sustainable farming techniques that create exceptional and amazing flavor. Our all-natural best practices ensure a unique taste experience without the need for additives, infusions, or GMO. So when you try our grapes, you'll always enjoy a distinctive, delicious flavor. Nothing more. Nothing less. It's in our nature."

Alright, I'm in... Where can I buy Cotton Candy Grapes?
For a map of the US, identifying states and stores where you could find Cotton Candy Grapes, Click HERE.   If you are still having trouble finding these grapes, you could always order them from us and we will ship them to your door.  Here is the link to order online:

If you missed them this year and don't want to miss out next year, here is a handy chart that you could use for reference.  Cotton Candy Grapes and Witch finger grapes are grown in Kern and Tulare counties in idyllic California.  Keep in mind that the crop is dictated by, Mother Nature, so give or take a week or two for these varieties to become available.  

Have you ever had Cotton Candy Grapes?  Tell us about your experience in the comments below