Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cheese from Un-Cheesy Places

by Jaimie Jusczyk, Marketing Specialist

The January Cheesy Wine Down Wednesday tasting class challenged the Co-op's Cheese Buyer Suzy to find us some cheeses from un-cheesy places for the February class last night. Suzy accepted the challenge and came through with seven cheeses from six states you would not naturally think of when looking for cheeses. As well as some fun cheeses to try we also had Shane pouring free samples of the Co-op Wines of the Month from Riebeek Cellars.
The first cheese on our plate was Salty Sea Feta from Narragansett Creamery in Rhode Island. While Rhode Island is known as the Ocean State, this is the perfect cheese to match their ocean theme. While I didn't think this feta was particularly salty, it would definitely be a great summer salad cheese with melons and a glass of sweet white while enjoying some salty ocean breeze.
The next cheese we tried was a camembert-style double cream from Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia. The Green Hill cheese was everything you expect when you see gooey buttery cheese on a platter. Smeared on a cracker with some fruity spread, any cheese snob would be very impressed with the texture and tang this cheese from Georgia brings to the palate. I wonder how this would come out if I baked it in pastry, probably delicious, let me know in the comments if you try it!
So I had been sipping the Riebeek Cellars Chardonnay to start and I thought it went well with the first two cheeses. Then we moved on to the Sauvignon Blanc as I tried the Everton alpine-style cheese from Jacobs & Brichford in Indiana. This was an ok combination, the cheese was sharper than a Gruyere, but a milder flavor than what I was expecting after reading the description of this "meaty" cheese. I imagine this would go well in a fresh leafy green salad, well spring is just around the corner so the leafy greens will be bountiful soon!
Next up was the Ameribella from the same company. I heard a rumor that when they opened the cheese to cut it, it had a very intense smell. Hmm... I am not a big fan of smelly cheeses but I was here to try new things, so after hesitating I breathed in and took a little nibble. Not bad, with the Sauv Blanc this was a pretty good pairing on my tongue as it melts around your mouth, so smooth and pasty almost. I bit off a little more enjoying the soft texture then moved on to the next cheese, the Appalachian from Meadow Creek Dairy in Virginia. A lightly cooked, pressed-curd cheese this bright cheese did not go well after the smelly Ameribella. All of a sudden I was overwhelmed as I breathed out and could smell that all familiar "stinky" cheese breath coming out of my nose, yech! I quickly took a sip of the Pinotage which amplified it even more, so I nibbled some more of the Appalachian trying to move on from this unfortunate layering of flavors that my brain did not like. Ahhh, much better. I found myself rather surprised that the order in which I was trying the cheeses and wines was really affecting the taste and smells quite dramatically. I went back and nibbled a little more feta and decided that yes, compared to the last few cheeses, it really was salty. Have you experienced a strong layering of flavors with different cheeses before? Was it enjoyable?
Now for some fun facts; the Pinotage is a red wine grape cultivated in South Africa, a real treat I thought as notes of plum and fruitcake rolled back over my tongue. A new world wine, the first vines where created in the mid 1920's and the first wine from the grapes in 1941. If you want to try something different and you enjoy lighter style reds, I definitely recommend trying this, especially for the sale price as part of the February 2015 Wines of the Month.
Back to the cheeses, next on the plate Suzy found us from Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy in Colorado a sticky pale cheese called Sunlight. With it's cheery orange rind I didn't connect the dots that this was goat cheese. I started with a small bit and let it crumble around my mouth, yummy. Came in for a second taste and then I got a slight goaty flavor. With the onion chutney I almost didn't guess that this was a goats milk cheese.
And my favorite cheese of the evening was Big John's Cajun from Beehive Cheese Co. in Utah. This spicy hand-rubbed cheese would be great on a big juicy burger but as a cheese on a platter your friends will definitely enjoy it just as much. With distinct orange marbling throughout the yellow cheese, as you nibble your way towards the rind the cheese starts to heat up with spicy goodness. I thought this cheese worked well with the Riebeek Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon we sampled.
But the tasting didn't end there! The Co-op's Bakery Box pastry chefs had whipped up some Cheesecake of the Month for us to try. The White Chocolate Key Lime Blackberry Swirl was a huge hit among us all. This fresh treat was a great ending for another fun event at the Co-op. As usual it is nice to see familiar faces every month and make some new friends too.
You can find the cheeses, wines and dessert right here in the Concord store, just ask any of our friendly staff for help.
I hope everyone enjoyed the evening and I look forward to their suggestion for the next class in March where they have asked Suzy to sample cheeses we can compare like camembert versus brie and a sheep milks feta versus a goats milk feta. They created quite the list for Suzy to find. To sign up for our next class or to read more about our cheese tasting classes click here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Catch Em’ While They're Hot or A Beginner’s Guide to the World of Sourdough

by Wesley Hatch Co-op Produce Clerk

Sourdough: in my mind the word conjures fragrant loaves, spongy insides and crusty outsides, belly filling, mouth chewing, a pungent sour taste pervading my senses, stirring me back to the days before commercial yeast; before unWonderbread and its kind; before factories polluted the air and concrete lined the streets; when nights meant candles burning or light but by the moon. Imagine – we humans can still share with our ancestors the same experience of waiting patiently for dough to rise, for the heat of our ovens to bake the forms, of breaking open a loaf of fresh sourdough bread to be shared with friends and family. This experience has been common for thousands of years. We can connect with the past, carry on the traditions of old, and pass on our own experiences to the next generation to help keep the bond between ourselves and the living world strong.
What follows is a brief history of yeast cultivation, an example of my own experiences with sourdough, as well as a researched plan, call it an amalgamation of thoughts and ideas from many sources, that will, with a little luck and some of that good old-fashioned patience, help you begin your own journey in sourdough baking.
A sourdough starter, or leaven, is a simple mixture of flour and water. That’s it. No commercial yeast, no sugar, no apples or grape scrappings, no milk: just flour and water. According to Ed Wood in his excellent World Sourdoughs From Antiquity, the art of leavened bread, or bread that rises due to the gaseous byproduct of yeast devouring the gluten in the flour, thus lifting the dough, has been practiced for some five thousand years.
A baker leaves her uncooked flatbread dough out in the sun, forgetting to return for quite a few hours; wild yeast from the air is attracted and gathers; the once flat bread rises; the baker returns and is amazes at the magic of… the gods? spirits in the air? ancient aliens?
Whatever they may have believed or known, and however many times similar accidents like this it took, eventually humans figured out that, first, leaving out a mixture of flour and water will create a rise in bread, and second, that keeping some of the original flour and water mixture – what we call leaven or starter – speeds up the process. In other words, instead of creating a new leaven each time one wants to bake, humans figured out that the leaven could be fed flour and water to keep it alive. Because yeast is alive, just as the symbiotic bacteria that lives within the leaven is alive. That, I believe, is the first step in understanding sourdough: sourdough is alive.
I first came into conscious contact with sourdough bread at the Chaz, a community living space in my college town a friend of a friend was living in on Charles Street (thus, the Chaz). It was at the Chaz I learned the importance of composting waste to reduce dependence on landfills, learned to conserve energy use (the Chaz was kept at a cool 55 degrees F in the winter) and learned to be more self-sufficient. Eventually moving there for about a year, I learned everything I know about sourdough from my friends Chris and Alem, both aspiring bakers and inspiring humans. Check out their blog here: http://yeastcoastbakery.blogspot.com
With my friends at the Chaz, I learned one of the most important lessons related to sourdough: patience. Without patience, there can be no sourdough bread. It takes time to start a leaven. It takes time to proof a culture (more on proofing next week). It takes time for the dough to rise. It takes time for dough to bake. If one is impatient during any of the steps, the final bread will be compromised. It is of the upmost importance to be patience and caring with your sourdough. After all, sourdough is a living organism, so, like all living creatures, should be treated with respect.
Now, there are two ways to start a sourdough starter. The first is to buy a sourdough starter kit from a store or online, follow the carefully laid out directions, and, after activating the dormant culture, begin baking. I started a gluten free, brown rice starter with a kit. This is a great way for a first time sourdough baker to become acquainted with the taste, smell, and texture of sourdough leavens.
But for those of you more daring, who want an authentic sourdough leaven unique to your location, starting your own leaven from scratch is the only way. The culture inside the sourdough starter kits is a specific culture cultivated in a specific area with its own specific yeast and bacteria combination that, when reactivated and properly maintained, is a stable environment. As far as my understanding goes, yeast from the air cannot populate the leaven because the environment inside the leaven is perfectly suited to the yeast and bacteria already living inside. They keep others out in their cozy home of flour and water.
What this means is if you want a sourdough leaven that is related to your environment, that is unique to the place you live, you must start your own leaven.
Here’s a simple way of accomplishing this goal.

The ingredients you’ll need are as follows:
-- 1 bag of flour, preferably unbleached, unbromated flour like King Arthur’s All Purpose Flour. You can certainly use whole-wheat flour, but I find that it tends to be too heavy its own. If you want, try a mix of 25% whole wheat to 75% all-purpose.
-- Water: tap water will work perfectly fine, unless of course your tap water is smelly and/or overly chlorinated. If so, use room temperature bottled water (Poland Springs sells a two or three gallon container with a tap, for example).
-- 1 Container: glass works best as it’s see through which will be important for determining the readiness of the leaven. I use an old washed out peanut butter jar. Preferably, use a container with a wide mouth for ease of stir.
-- A clean working area. This whole process, especially in the early stages, is made much simpler if you can designate a working area free from clutter and other materials. I tend to clutter up the kitchen with my sourdough projects, to the chagrin of my partner, but I find it easier to give the love and care the leaven needs in the early stages when we have an area to call our own.
--A kitchen scale. If possible, use a kitchen scale to measure out the flour and water for exactness. The mixture of flour and water is based on what bakers call humidity level, with a recommended humidity level of 100%. This means equal parts flour and water by weight. If you do not have a kitchen scale, we’ll use the measurement of a quarter cup of water to a half a cup of flour. This is not exactly 100% humidity, but it is close enough.
-- A cloth and a hair tie. The cloth will fit over the jar with the hair tie or rubber band keeping it secure.
- Patience. As I said before, patience is key. Without patience, this project will fail.
To begin: Add 50 grams of water to the container (or a ¼ cup if not using a scale). Add 50 grams of flour (or ½ a cup of flour if not using a scale) and stir vigorously. Don’t worry if lumps remain. For now, leave the mixture uncovered. Keep the container in a warm place for 12 to 24 hours; the top of the fridge seems to be a popular spot.

At this point, you are waiting for bubbles to form, the first signs of yeast accumulating. Sometimes this only takes 8 hours, sometimes it takes up to 24 hours. [If after 48 hours, no bubbles have formed on the surface of the mixture, compost the mixture and start over, moving it to another spot. If another 48 hours goes by, you may want to try switching to a different flour.]
When the first bubbles form, feed the starter. This consists of adding another 50 grams of water, mixing, then adding 50 grams of flour (or, ¼ cup of water and a ½ cup of flour). Leave the mixture for another 8 to 12 hours. After the second feeding, start covering the mixture with the cloth secured by the hair tie or rubber band to keep out unwanted dust.
From now on, each feeding will consist of taking out half the starter and replacing it with fresh equal parts flour and water by weight. If you don’t take out half the starter, you’ll quickly end up with too much starter for your container.
At this stage, the starter is too immature to begin using in any recipes. Therefore, I suggest composting the starter you remove until the starter is at least 1 week old. After 1 week or so, the leftover starter can be used in pancakes or waffles, or any other recipe that calls for flour and water. It will add a nice sour flavor, especially as the starter matures and fully develops its flavor profile as the weeks go by. After about 2 weeks, you can begin keeping the starter in the fridge, which slows down the yeast, meaning you will only have to feed it every few days, or even just once a week.
For the first week, it is important to feed the leaven every 8 to 12 hours. Like a wee baby, the leaven must be looked after, coddled, and fed constantly. As the days pass, you should see more and more bubbles forming. I started my leaven on a Monday with half all purpose flour and half rye flour. By Saturday, I realized the rye was weighing the leaven down and eliminated it from the subsequent feedings. By the following Monday, the leaven showed signs of maturation, including a multitude of bubbles 2 hours after feeding and an increasingly sour, but pleasant, smell.
By keeping up this process of feeding every 8 to 12 hours, in about 1 week you should have mature enough starter to begin using to create tasty dough. The flavor will continue to improve and deepen as time goes on. Keep in mind, it may take up to 2 weeks before the starter is mature enough to use.

Remember, although this process may seem like a lot of work, the flavors and smells soon wafting from your kitchen will make it all worth it. My specialty is pizza, and the sourdough I use as a base forms a perfect crust with a complex flavor, chewy insides, and a nice crusty outside. Biting into it is like a little slice of heaven.
Tune in next week for tips and tricks on using your newly formed starter to begin experimenting with forming dough and baking basic breads.
Thanks for reading and happy eating.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

We're Slow Cookin' Tonight

by Wesley Hatch, Produce Clerk

Does it ever feel like there are never enough hours in the day? That moments of peaceful, face-to-face human interactions are scarce, relegated only to cyberspace? That mealtime is just another word for work-time, catch-up-on-old-emails time, organize-tomorrow’s-schedule time? In other words, simply a chance to fill your belly between never-ending tasks.

Imagine this: coming home after 6:30, a clouded day rushing by in continuous motion from place to place non-stop; feet tired, brain pounding, the stereo in your car locked permanently on the Top Twenty Countdown beating out weary pop tunes one after another (or maybe it’s your daughter singing a cappella in the backseat ‘Let it Go’ over and over and over again), and the last thing you want is to cook. Anything. The very idea of dragging out a cutting board, chopping onions and carrots, marinating a slab of chicken or tofu, spinning that wretched salad bowl round and round makes your eyes tear up just a bit. Tired. Hungry. So imagine your surprise when you turn the key, push past the scattered shoes and unhung coats, and are confronted with mouth-watering, nose-tingling, thoroughly enticing smells wafting from your kitchen. It is almost as if someone slipped in before you to secretly prepare a meal of stunning proportions. What is that smell?

You move cautiously toward the kitchen, unconsciously afraid of some ghost chef brazing beef in your great grandmother’s cast iron. And there it is, standing proud upon your counter, steaming out wisps of spice-filled vapors: your long-lost, nearly forgotten slow cooker. What new mystery is this?

But then you remember, like a vision of a reoccurring dream, you standing at the counter that very morning almost mindlessly preparing a concoction of spices and vegetables, stock and browned protein, which you haphazardly placed into the pot, turned to auto mode, and rushed out the door to meet your madcap day. How could this simple act of putting food into a pot and leaving the mixture unsupervised result in such an amazing, fully cooked meal? Eureka!

As living beings, we need food to survive, our fuel. But so often we rush our vittles, rush both the preparation and the consumption in order to satisfy a need instead of engaging with our bodies and the food we consume in a managed, deliberate way: a chore rather than a ritual. A slow cooker may only be a small step, but more than likely in the right direction. A time saver, simultaneously allowing us time to rush about and engage fully in this techno world, while also inviting opportunity to pause from our days, set down the phones and push out the distractions, to speak face to face while we enjoy a delicious, healthy meal. Plus, it sure beats cookin’ after work.

In lieu of beef or chicken or any other meat, I prefer beans as the base in my slow-cooked dishes: loads of flavor, high in protein, and with a hearty texture, beans come in a variety of shapes, colors, and flavor. Plus, for a quick fix, canned beans can be used in substitution for dried beans. A plethora of unique and flavorful recipes abound on the web – meat, vegan, and every option in-between, including deserts and soups and chilies and stews – if you’re daring enough to take the slow-cook plunge.

Eat well, friends.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Yeeps? Feeling the Need to Move It & Lose It??

by Maria Noel Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Coordinator

Let's face it: Now that the holidays are behind us, we're all feeling a little overstuffed and undernourished. Most of us know what we need to do - eat better, more vegetables, more exercise -  but it just seems a little lackluster and difficult. I'm pleased to be working with Chef Scott, the Co-op, and area experts to bring back our popular Move It & Lose It! 6-Week Weight Loss Series, which runs on Wednesday nights starting January 14. We won't be dolling out any magic bullets, but we seek to inspire you with delicious, simple, healthy recipes and cooking tips to reinvigorate and expand your healthy kitchen. Click here to learn more about the series and how to register. But, in the meantime, here are some simple tips to get you on your way:

Get Nutrient-Dense: As yummy as pasta and bread can be, they tend to fall in the (mostly) "empty calorie" category. Let your meals be inspired by fare that multi-tasks with lots of vitamins, minerals, good fats, fiber, protein, and antioxidant and inflammatory action. These include cruciferous vegetables, berries, orange vegetables, greens, seeds, nuts, mushrooms, whole grains, beans and legumes, wild-caught fatty fish, eggs, grass-fed meat in moderation, and yogurt.  Season with citrus, herbs, spices, seaweed, toasted sesame seeds, and a little bit of hard cheese, dark chocolate, or a drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil. Soups, salads, stir-fries, smoothies, and veggie-based juices make it easy to load up on the good stuff.

Get Inspired: We are bombarded with the sights and scents of tasty but less-than-healthy food via ads and roadside attractions. Surround yourself with healthy cookbooks, blogs, magazines, and websites that remind you how appealing healthy cooking can be. EatingWell.com and its associated magazine and cookbooks are favorites in our house. Also check out VegetarianTimes.com and its magazine and cookbooks. Favorite healthy cookbooks include The Longevity KitchenPower Foods, Andrew Weil's  True Food... Also check out cookbooks by noteworthy authors Ellie Krieger, Christina Pirello, and Deborah Madison. Even if you're not vegetarian or vegan, meatless cookbooks can help introduce you to new healthy recipes to integrate into your kitchen.

On the Go: Cooking meals at home and bringing your lunch to work is the best way to improve your health and stick to a budget. When eating out for special occasions, opt for restaurants that understand real food including the Co-op's Celery Stick Café, Spoon Revolution, and Sunny's Table in Concord; Republic and Cafe Momo in Manchester; and Lemongrass in Moultonborough. Also opt for one or none - appetizer, alcoholic beverage, or dessert - to go with your meal and start with a salad. (Beware of salads in chain restaurants - they often pack two to three meals worth of calories!) Check out the menus ahead of time; fried food is less tempting on your computer screen than when the scents are wafting around you. Don't be afraid to split a meal (just tip a little extra) or ask to have half your dish wrapped up to bring home for lunch the next day.

Crunching Numbers: If you want to lose weight, one way to approach it is to measure your portions and count calories. Yes, it's tedious, but it can be eye opening! Take your weight and multiply it by 12. This equals the maintenance calories for the average person, or how much you need to eat to maintain your current weight. Subtract 500 calories per day to lose one pound a week (or 1000 per day to lose two pounds), but don't go below 1200 calories and keep your goals reasonable so that they're easier to achieve and maintain. This is generally 400-600 calories per meal plus one or two 100-200-calorie snacks, but it varies widely from person to person. Click here for more on this approach.

Listen to Your Body: "Intuitive eating" involves paying closer attention to how you feel throughout the day, how hungry you are, and whether or not your body really enjoys the food that you're eating. It's useful in place of or alongside calorie counting. No matter what the numbers say, if you're ravenous, you should eat. (Better yet, eat something nourishing before you get ravenous.) Try to avoid letting yourself get overstuffed after a meal and realize that it's ok to be a bit hungry when you wake up and before meals. How do you feel after you eat particular foods? As time goes on, you'll notice that you crave and feel much better with healthy foods without a rush of excess sugar or refined carbs. (But, if you desperately want that cupcake, intuitive eating says you should have it, in a reasonable portion, and enjoy it.) Local dietician Hilary Warner specializes in this approach, and you can also learn more in the book Intuitive Eating.

Move More: A few things in life positively or negatively impact almost every aspect of health: diet, sleep, stress management, and movement. From a numbers perspective, exercise helps you burn calories to reach weight loss and maintenance goals in an easier, more sustainable way, but the benefits reach far beyond that to improved mood, disease prevention, etc. Any exercise is better than nothing, but certain types of exercise make a bigger impact on calories burned. Some of the best include the gym stair-climber (306 calories burned*), mountain biking (291), cross-country skiing (my favorite!) or running (273),   snowshoeing, biking, jogging or swimming laps (240), or kayaking, gardening, golfing or walking at a brisk pace (171).  Strength-train a few times a week to boost your overall metabolism so that you burn a tad more calories all day long, even when you're not exercising. Strength training includes weight lifting, lunges, push-ups, etc. Certain types of yoga, hiking, and sports incorporate aspects of strength training. *The calories burned are calculated for a 150-pound person doing the activities for 30 minutes.

Enlist Aid: Having someone to enjoy meals and exercise with improve your odds of sticking with a routine and meeting your goals. I'm fortunate to have a supportive husband. I'm the health nut foodie, and I have certainly improved the quality of the food Shannon eats since we met. Cooking dinner together is one of our favorite parts of the day. He's the outdoor enthusiast, and over the years I've taken up hiking, kayaking, cross-country skiing and am dabbling with jogging, and we try to incorporate these activities into our weekend/weeknight play time and vacations. If you live alone or have a less-than-supportive spouse, connect with friends or family members who share your drive. Meetup.com groups are a great way to connect with like-minded adventurous folks, too. When my husband had to study for a big test last summer, I enjoyed connecting with several different kayaking groups and one of my cousins to get out on the water. I have clients who get together to snowshoe with friends every X day of the week in winter. Talk about positive multi-tasking! Social time, time out in nature, and movement, all rolled into fun! Click here for an article on how to have get outside this winter.

Herbs & Supplements for Weight Loss: I really don't believe in magic bullets. I've yet to come across any supplement that is safe and effective enough to impress. All the previous tips are much more likely to get you to your goal while also improving your mood, decreasing inflammation, and preventing a variety of chronic diseases. However, some herbs and supplements can lend a hand to make it a little easier to stick to your routine and lose weight. Some help balance blood sugar, others boost energy, and yet others enhance metabolism or thyroid function. Green tea has the most promise across the board. I love to combine it with holy basil (aka tulsi) for stress-busting, craving-curbing, metabolism-boosting effects as a morning tea. Cinnamon or chai tea (without cream and sugar) after meals serves as blood sugar-balancing dessert. Adaptogenic herbs that help your body adapt to stress - rhodiola, holy basil, ashwagandha, and eleuthero - provide support. Certain nutrients also help: Studies suggest that getting adequate calcium from food or supplements helps us burn calories more effectively. Before taking herbs and supplements, talk with your healthcare provider and check with your pharmacist for interactions if you take pharmaceuticals.

What are YOUR secrets to good health? Share them in the "Comments" section below!


Friday, December 19, 2014

Peelin’ Easy: Orange Fruits and Holiday Traditions

by Wesley Hatch, Produce Clerk

A well-loved tradition in my family, and a time-honored one in many families the world round, is the partaking of citrus during the holidays, specifically in my family those crate-bound, easily peelable miniature oranges. What are they called? Mandarins? Clementine's? Tangerines? Baby oranges? (as a kid, I could not have cared less what they were called: as long as they were juicy and easy to peel, my hands grabbed greedily orange orb after orange orb until my little fingers were sticky and my lips and cheeks stained and my belly full.  A delightful part of my holiday experience.) As I’ve grown older and, I hope, wiser, my palate has grown a bit more refined, leaving me wanting a holiday fruit with a little more complexity.  But first, where do those tasty crate-bound treats come from and how are they related to oranges?
Let’s see if we can’t break this down:
What often comes in crates and is eaten around the holiday are fruit known as Clementine's, members of the citrus family. The citrus family is easily recognizable from their thick outer skin – the rind – their segmented interiors, and their strong fragrance emanating from both the interior juice and the zest on the outside. Grapefruit, oranges, limes, and lemons are among the most popular citrus fruits, along with our old holiday friend the Clementine.
Clementine's are similar to oranges, though smaller, juicier, and easier to peel. The Clementine was first produced through accidental hybridization between the Mandarin and the sweet orange: hybridization in that it is a cross between two distinct fruits – the sweet orange and the Mandarin orange – and accidental in that the hybridization occurred without human intervention. Father Clement Rodier, the Clementine’s namesake, discovered an unknown fruit tree growing among the bushes in his orchard, and by grafting a cutting from the unknown tree onto an existing orange tree, the Clementine came to be.
Although the Clementine is often juicy and easy to peel, I have grown wary of buying the crates due to the seemingly increasing number of duds, or fruit not juicy or soft. What a let down, peeling back the skin and feeling the fruit, which should be soft, and finding it hard and juiceless.
For someone looking for more complexion of flavor in their holiday citrus, tired of disappointment in their Clementine crates, or just looking to try a new fruit, I suggest branching out to another soft, juicy citrus: the Satsuma.

About a month after starting here at the Concord Food Co-op, we in produce received a shipment of Satsuma mandarins – peeling back the skin, exposing the lush orange and white beneath, popping the first easily-separated section into my mouth, the juice burst forth onto my tongue so sweet as my teeth sank in: I was hooked.
Satsuma oranges, also known as Christmas oranges, are actually of the Mandarin variety, making these oranges a kind of step father to the Clementine. Just like the Clementine, Satsuma's are nearly seedless citrus, making it that much easier to eat. Taking their name from the Japanese Providence where the fruit was first exported to the West, Satsuma's are sweet and easy to peel, and are grown all over the world, including Florida, California, and Louisiana, and many parts of Asia. This holiday season, try a Satsuma. You never know, maybe it will be the start of a new, long-lasting tradition.
Thank you, and happy eating.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Baked Brie Two Ways

by Jaimie Jusczyk, Marketing Specialist

At the December Cheesy Wine Down Wednesday tasting class at the Co-op, Heidi suggested that our Executive Pastry Chef Elaine Speer come up with a cheesy treat for us to enjoy and Elaine did not disappoint!

Heidi pouring the Amaretto over the bake brie.
Elaine decided on two different kinds of baked brie that she prepared in advance for us and all we needed to do was bake them! Baked brie is the perfect holiday appetizer to warm your guests and pairs well with so many different flavors and textures. Elaine prepared for us a Henri Hutin Brie Couronne topped with raspberry jam and wrapped in puff pastry and a Blythdale Farm Vermont Brie that she suggested pouring a shot of amaretto over once baked.
These baked brie suggestions are so easy to prepare yourself and wow your audience, I was lucky enough to get the inside scoop from Elaine on how to create the perfectly gooey brie without it turning into a big melted mess. Let me share with you her tips for the brie with raspberry jam.
She first cut the rind off the top of the brie before topping with raspberry jam. Then very carefully she lay the puff pastry over the top trying to centre it as best as possible. Then even more carefully she flipped the brie, so now the raspberry jam top is the bottom with the puff pastry underneath, so she can now wrap the pastry completely around the brie taking care to pinch the dough together completely to seal it in. Once the brie is completely sealed in the dough flip back over so the jam will be back on the top of the brie and you have a nice smooth top. You can use any left over dough to create a decorative topping, like Elaine's grape design.
Elaine created a grape design on the top with the left over dough.

Elaine suggested preparing this a few hours in advance and freezing before baking. This will help the cheese melt slower so the pastry has more time to bake to a golden crust and the cheese will be less likely to leak through.
Once frozen and about 25 minutes before you are ready to serve, place your pastry wrapped brie on an oven safe tray and paint with an egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown at 400 F. Once baked you can carefully place on a serving dish to sit for five minutes before presenting your masterpiece to your guests. Don't forget to place a cheese knife on the platter to help your guests break into your treat. Serve with some crusty French bread or crackers, sweetened almonds and a glass of Predator Old Vine Zinfandel. Elaine tells me this is a nice hearty wine that goes well with the creamy brie.
If you were present and need a refresher for the rest of the cheeses we tried on the platter here is the list:
  • Brillat Savarin Cranberry (this is the one that we thought tasted like a cheesecake, yum!)
  • Mimolette (the bright orange cheese)
  • Petite Basque (he light colored, firm cheese)
  • Fresh goat cheese from Vermont Creamery covered in herbs or cranberry

And let me also give a shout out to Derek who came in especially to sample the Co-op Wines of the Month from Charles Smith Wines. I think everyone left the tasting class with a new favorite wine too, I know I left happily with a bottle of Boom Boom! Syrah in my bag. If you are looking for the list of Co-op Wines of the Month: 
  • Eve Chardonnay
  • The Velvet Devil Merlot
  • Boom Boom! Syrah
  • Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon
  • King Fu Girl Riesling
Derek educating us on the Charles Smith wines while we enjoy samples.
And of course if you ever have any questions or suggestions, either leave a message in the comments or come in store to chat. Elaine and her team of bakers love to help you out, especially with holiday baking!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Homemade Chocolate Treats to Savor & Share

by Maria Noel Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

'Tis the season for a little indulgence, especially if it's in the name of gift-giving! Here are a few of my favorite chocolate treats to bring to parties and give as treats, all of which just happen to be gluten-free...

Herbs that Combine Well with Chocolate

Peppermint & Other Mints, Vanilla, Lavender, Ginger, Orange Zest, Rose Petals, Tarragon (esp w/white chocolate), Chiles, Coffee, Bay, Star Anise, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Basil, Holy Basil/Tulsi... Let your imagination go wild!

Infusing Herbs in Chocolate:

Heat your chocolate recipe, remove from heat and add some flavorful herbs. Let sit 30 minutes or more, (reheat if necessary to liquefy) then strain and proceed with recipe. Be very careful not to overheat the chocolate or it will separate.

Simple Chocolate Recipes:

* These recipes use this infusion technique or could be adapted with it.
  • Lavender Chocolate: Grind one teaspoon of dry lavender flowers to a coarse powder. Melt 3 oz of dark chocolate in a double boiler or carefully in the microwave. Stir in lavender, and spread onto wax paper to make a new bar, let harden.
  • Peppermint Brownies: Add one to two tablespoons of dried peppermint leaves to your favorite brownie recipe or mix and prepare as usual. Cut into small brownie pieces (~20 pieces for a box mix makes it around 100 calories per brownie).
  • Chocolate Sauce*: Whisk together equal parts real maple syrup and pure cocoa powder, add vanilla extract to taste. Use about 1 tablespoon per serving to drizzle over fruit. 
  • Coconut Chocolate Fudge*: Melt and mix together equal parts dark chocolate and unrefined coconut oil in a double-boiler. Pour onto a rimmed sheet covered in wax paper, cool in the fridge to harden. You can also sprinkle this with nuts, a dusting of nutmeg or cinnamon, etc. (It will melt if you let it get too warm.) 
  • Decadent Gorp: Chocolate chips, almonds, and dried cranberries (one small handful is a serving!)
  • Herbal Cocoa: Make 6 oz of tea using a chocolate-friendly herb like rose petals, holy basil, peppermint, cinnamon, or star anise. Strain the herbs and then add an all-natural hot cocoa mix to the tea. 
 

    Favorite Fancy Chocolate Dessert Recipes

    Brigham's Hot Fudge Sauce*

    This recipe makes a QUART of hot fudge, so plan to bring it to a party, give some away, or freeze it in smaller containers. It keeps for about a month in the fridge. When cold or room temp, it will be very thick, almost fudge-y, so you'll want to warm it to pour over ice cream or brownies. ( like to just eat it in this semi-solid state by the spoonful, though. Why ruin it with ice cream? You can adapt this recipe by changing the vanilla extract for mint, orange, etc, but I love the original so much I've never done this. Buy the best quality chocolate you can find or afford, your fudge will be much better for it. I've doubled the chocolate and halved the sugar on the original recipe - my adaptation is below. One heaping teaspoon (1/2 oz) has about 50 calories.

    ·       8 oz of quality baking chocolate or equivalent of powdered baking cocoa
    ·       1/2 lb of confectioner’s sugar
    ·       1 stick of butter (no substitutions!)
    ·       1 can (13 1/2 oz) evaporated milk
    ·       1 teaspoon vanilla

    Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan. Alternately add milk and sugar. Stirring, bring to a slow boil (bubbles just around the edge of the pan). Remove from heat, add vanilla, stir. Pour into 1 quart jar or into smaller jars. Keep refrigerated or freeze. (It is NOT shelf stable.)

    Chocolate Truffles*

    This recipe is adapted from the one at on www.herbcompanion.com. You can find similar recipes by Susan Belsinger in Not Just Desserts and Jerry Traunfeld in The HerbFarm Cookbook.
    • 14 ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped block chocolate
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • Herbs to Infuse: 1 cup loosely packed fresh herbs (ie: peppermint leaves or dried spices), coarsely chopped, or 2-4 tablespoons dried herbs
    • 8 ounces premium white or semisweet chocolate, tempered** or melted
    • Optional to roll around truffle: About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar or tinted sanding sugar, garnish
    Make Ganache/Truffle Filling: Place chocolate chips or chopped chocolate in a large bowl and set aside.
    Combine cream and coarsely chopped herb leaves (or spice of choice) in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring mixture to scalding point, turn off heat and steep the herb(s) in warm cream about 30 minutes. Strain cream into another nonreactive saucepan to remove herbs. Squeeze herbs over pan to recover any retained cream; discard herbs.
    Gently reheat cream to scalding point. Strain hot cream through a fine-meshed sieve directly onto chocolate chips or chopped chocolate. Let mixture sit 1 to 2 minutes before stirring to allow cream to melt chocolate; gently whisk until chocolate and cream have come together and the filling is perfectly smooth. If chocolate does not melt completely, place bowl over barely simmering water, stirring as needed to achieve desired consistency. Pour filling into a small bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight, until mixture is very firm.
    To Finish: Using a 11⁄4-inch melon baller, scoop truffle mixture into small (1⁄2-ounce) spheres. Roll spheres between palms to smooth out any lumps or divots. Place a single sphere on a fork and submerge in tempered or melted white or semisweet chocolate. Shake off excess and set truffle on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining spheres. (You can stick a shelf-stable indicator – such as a dried rose petal or piece of crystallized ginger – to the top of the truffle while the chocolate is still warm.) As soon as cookie sheet is filled, set it in refrigerator to allow dipping chocolate to solidify completely. Transfer truffles to an airtight container and store in refrigerator until ready to eat.
    Just before serving, remove truffles from refrigerator, trim off any chocolate “feet” with scissors and roll truffles in confectioners’ or sanding sugar, as desired.
    **Google “how to temper chocolate easy” for techniques. It’s not necessary, but it will make for a shiny rather than dull finished product.

    Peppermint Fudgy Black Bean Brownie Bites (Gluten-Free!)

    (with a Raspberry Brownie variation in the description)

    Hoping to make something a little more virtuous yet still indulgent? These brownies are a riff off the dairy-free, gluten-free recipe found here; however, I've made a lot of adaptations. It's particularly amazing baked as mini cupcakes and topped with ganache. This recipe is easily adapted to other flavors. For example, you can skip the peppermint and top the ganache with a raspberry.
    •  One 15-ounce can (or 2 cups homemade, slightly overcooked) black beans, drained and rinsed very well
    • 4 large eggs
    • 3 tablespoons melted butter (or canola oil)
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (or maple syrup)
    • 1/2+ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (to taste - I use about 1 cup+)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract or 1 tablespoon dry peppermint leaves, optional
    • Pinch salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided (optional – I like better without)
    Preheat the oven. Prepare pan or cupcake tin and set aside.
    Place the black beans in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, butter/oil, sugar/syurp, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, peppermint extract/leaves, baking powder, and salt and process until smooth. If using chips, add 1/4 cup of the chips and pulse a few times until the chips are incorporated.
    Pour the batter into the prepared pan (for brownies, smooth the top with a rubber spatula) and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips, if using.
    Bake until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before slicing into squares (if serving as regular brownies) or frosting with ganache.
    Traditional Brownies: Bake at 350°F in a lightly oiled 8x8-inch baking pan for 30-35 minutes. Makes 16 brownies (cut into 2-inch squares). Chocolate chips work better in this recipe b/c they have more time to melt.
    Mini-Cupcake Brownie Bites: Bake at 350°F in a mini cupcake tin with cupcake papers (or w/o, if it’s well-oiled or nonstick) for approximately 15 minutes. Makes 24 mini cupcakes. Chocolate chips work better in this recipe b/c they have more time to melt, but this is amazing when topped with a bit of ganache.
    Ganache: I make ganache by melting down equal parts heavy cream and dark chocolate. Once it cools I scoop it into a ziplock bag, snip an end, and use that as a pastry bag. If you have leftovers, you can just put that bag into another ziplock and store it in the freezer til you need it next.
    Freeze It! To really wow guests with fresh-baked desserts, freeze the raw dough in the cupcake tin (using wrappers). Once solid, put them in a freezer bag. When you want to cook them, pop the desired number of frozen cupcakes into your tin.

    Chocolate Tea Blends

    Chocolate Mint Tea 

    Delicious like an Andes candy with no sugar at all!
    • 2 tsp peppermint
    • 1 tsp cocoa nibs
    • 1/8 – 1/4 vanilla bean, snipped into small pieces (or a squirt of vanilla extract)
    Steep approximately 20-30 minutes or to taste. It can be weak if under-steeped or bitter (from cocoa nibs) if over-brewed.

    Cocoa Coconut Tea 

    Deliciously rich and reminiscent of a candy bar or cookie - no cream or sugar needed.
    • 2 tsp toasted shredded coconut (unsweetened)
    • 1 tsp cocoa nibs
    • 1/8 – 1/4 vanilla bean, snipped into small pieces (or a squirt of vanilla extract)
    Steep approximately 20-30 minutes or to taste. It can be weak if under-steeped, so give it time.


    And, it's lovely weather for a...

    Holiday Cocoa Tea

    This blend features evergreen needles, mint, and chocolate in a delightful blend that makes it feel like Christmas!
    • 2 tsp peppermint
    • 1 tsp cocoa nibs
    • 1 tsp hemlock* needles
    • 1 tsp lemon balm
    • 1 tsp rose petals
    • 1/4 vanilla bean, snipped into small pieces
    Cover with 16 ounces of near-boiling water and let steep for 10 minutes. Enjoy!
    * Hemlock TREE (a common evergreen in these parts) is totally NOT poisonous and unrelated to the deathly poisonous hemlock wildflowers. Click here to learn more about hemlock needles and how to identify and harvest your own.



    Maria runs Wintergreen Botanicals in Allenstown, offering on-site and online classes and herbal health consultations. For more herb-inspired recipes and information about herbs, visit www.WintergreenBotanicals.com. Her first herbal book is due out from Storey Publishing by spring 2016.