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

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