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

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Healthy Back to School Lunch Ideas

Tips for Making Better School Lunches - Healthy School Lunches

Do you get overwhelmed just thinking about packing lunch? If you are like the majority of parents, you probably put off lunch packing for the last minute and then end up sending your kid off with a PB&J, an apple and some baby carrots. While there isn't anything wrong with having that for lunch, it's always great to have other tools in your belt.

You probably don't just want your kid to have just any lunch, you want it to be healthy, too! When we say "healthy," we mean low- toxin, high nutrition food. To do this, we need to pack food with as few processed ingredients (like corn syrup) as possible and use non toxic food packaging as well.
Here are some healthy lunch recipes and products you can use to pack healthy, low toxin lunches for your kiddos.

Chef Mareya, The Fit Foodie’s "Sandwich Sushi"
Plain old sandwiches are so passé!  Just by rolling up your bread, you can create elegant sushi rolls that are nutritious and delish!  Add cooked salmon or tuna if your child enjoys fish.  You can also make this gluten and dairy-free with our tips in the recipe.  Wash all produce with Eat Cleaner® Fruit & Vegetable Wash to keep it safer, cleaner and fresher, longer.

Makes: 4 servings
8 slices Sprouted Grain or Gluten-Free Bread
4 oz. Blue Isle French Onion Mediterranean Yogurt Spread or non-dairy cream cheese
1 English cucumber, peeled and sliced into 4” long strips, 16 pieces total
2 avocados, sliced, pitted and cut into 4 equal sized pieces per half, 16 pieces total
2 Tbsp. Linwood’s ground flax, sesame and pumpkin seed meal (use sesame seeds if flax unavailable)
Rolling pin or large flat wooden spoon

1) Slice off crusts from bread.  Using a rolling pin or the handle of a wooden spoon, roll each piece of bread until flattened.
2) Spread each piece of bread with 1/2 oz. of Yogurt Spread or non-dairy cream cheese
3) Fill each piece of bread with two pieces of cucumber and avocado in the first third of the slice.  Sprinkle with a little ground flax or sesame seeds.
4) Roll each piece of bread like sushi and cut into bite-sized pieces.  Sprinkle the top of each piece with a little more flax or sesame seeds.

Chef Mareya, The Fit Foodie’s Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse
This makes the perfect pudding cup or a fun fondue for dipping fresh fruit, filled with veggies, heart-healthy chocolate and just the right amount of sweetness, without the sugar.  Wash all produce with Eat Cleaner® Fruit & Vegetable Wash to keep it safer, cleaner and fresher, longer.

Makes: 4 servings
2/3 Cup         70% or higher dark chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons Unsweetened cocoa
1/2 Cup Unsweetened almond milk
1                     Avocado, large, ripe
1 Tbsp            Coconut oil, raw
2 teaspoons     All Natural Sweetener (Organic Stevia, Monkfruit Extract or Erythritol)
1/2 tsp            Pure vanilla extract

Topping: fresh berries, unsweetened shredded coconut, dark chocolate covered almonds or serve with fresh fruit veggie skewers to dip.

1) In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Reduce heat to low.
2) Place a glass bowl on top and melt chocolate, taking care to stir so chocolate doesn’t seize. Remove bowl.  You can also use a double boiler to melt chocolate.
3) Add cocoa, almond milk, coconut oil, sweetener and vanilla extract to melted chocolate and mix well.
4) Scoop out avocado flesh and blend into chocolate mixture.  You can use a hand or stick blender to achieve a smooth consistency.
5) Place in individual serving cups, Mason jars or GoStak containers for easy portability.

...and for a quick, easy, healthy side option, try our new Clean Snax!

I hope you found something here that will help make lunches easier for you and your kids this school year! If you have a great tip for how you make lunches healthy in your home, please leave it in the comments!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

10 Hatch Chile Recipes from Melissa's Kitchen

For the past two years, we have hosted a number of food bloggers at our Los Angeles test kitchen. We’ve gotten so much great feedback on our Hatch chile recipes that we wanted to give you a little taste from the test kitchen. 

All of these recipes are in our Hatch Chile cookbook, and if you’re up for it, you should give them a try. 

A quick tip before we show you the dishes, Hatch Chiles are the only chile that you can buy in Mild, Medium, and Hot. If these dishes like they might be too hot for your taste, the mild chiles still have that great Hatch Chile Flavor. We hope you enjoy! And, for a little history on the Hatch Chile, click HERE.

Without further ado, here are 8 of the recipes we featured at this years Hatch Chile Summit...

...and 2 that will have to wait until next year!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Aguas Frescas (PHOTOS)

8 Refreshing Aguas Frescas to Keep Cool this Summer

Agua fresca, Spanish for fresh water, is the best beverage choice for the hot Summer months. In Mexico and all over Latin America, agua frescas are sold by street vendors throughout the cities and towns during the spring and summer months, because of the availability of fresh fruits during these months.

Typically made with fruits, grains and seeds, agua frescas also include water, sugar and sometimes herbs or spices -- but that's pretty much it. They're simple to make at home and you can easily tweak a recipe to your liking by adding soda water or even alcohol, like rum or tequila.

Here are some of our Agua Frescas, now show us some of yours!  Post a link or photo in the comments below.

Strawberry + Lime + Mint Agua Fresca

Mango Agua Fresca and Watermelon+Basail Agua Fresca

Orange + Blueberries Agua Fresca

Orange + Lime + Parsley Agua Fresca

Refreshing Orange + Mint Agua Fresca

Basil + Raspberry + Lemon Agua Fresca

Raspberry + Lemon Agua Fresca

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bhut Jolokia vs. Scorpion Peppers | Super Hot Pepper Review

The stage has been set for an epic battle between two of the hottest peppers in the world.  Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper) vs Scorpion Pepper

Contestant #1 - Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper, Naga Jolokia)
The Bhut Jolokia (Ghost pepper) was introduced to the western world in 2000. In that 
same year, a report was published stating it's level of heat almost doubled that of a Red 
Savina Habanero, which was believed to be the world's hottest pepper. In 2007 The Ghost 
Pepper was certified as the hottest pepper on the planet in The Guinness Book of 
World Records. Since then, the Infinity chili, Naga Viper pepper, Trinidad Scorpion Butch T 
pepper, and Trinidad Moruga Scorpion have surpassed the Bhut Jolokia's Scoville rating
Appearance: Shiny, red in color, with orange, yellow and chocolate (seen below) as rarer varieties.  About the size of an adult thumb.
Flavor: An intense sweet chili flavor, the heat does not kick in for 30 - 45 seconds
Heat: 575,000-1,000,000 SHU
Season: July-October
Uses: Toasted or soaked and blended into sauces, often combined with vegetables
Bhut Jolokia Salsa

Buy Bhut Jolokia Peppers (click here)

Contestant #2 - Scorpion Pepper
The Scorpion Pepper is believed to have originated in Trinidad where it has been studied since the mid 1990’s at the University of the West Indies. On February 13, 2012, New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute identified the Trinidad moruga scorpion as the hottest chili in the world, with a mean heat of more than 1.2 million Scoville heat units (SHUs) and individual plants with a heat of more than 2 million SHUs.  The chilies grow best in warm to hot climates and are at their highest heat when the plant is stressed. 
Appearance: Small and round, about 1 inch in length and width.  Comes in a variety of colors from red, green, yellow, and chocolate
Flavor: Has a tender fruit-like flavor, which makes it a sweet-hot combination
Heat: 1,400,000 - 2,000,000 SHU
Season: Year Round
Uses: Toasted or soaked and blended into sauces, often combined with vegetables
Asian Scorpion Pepper Jelly Wings

Buy Scorpion Peppers (click here)

And the winner is....

Well, if you really want to burn your tongue off, both of these peppers will do the trick.  The Scorpion Peppers have been know to have more flavor than the Ghost Pepper, but make sure to use sparingly.  Have you ever had a Scorpion or Ghost pepper?  Tell us about your experience in the comments below.