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Archive for October, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Peanut Butter

Last month we wrote about Planter’s Peanut Butter, “the creamiest peanut butter ever.”

But what if you don’t like a creamy, homogenized PB paste, writes a reader? Or the amounts of salt and sugar in your PB?

Your dilemma can be solved in minutes, with a bag of peanuts and a food processor.

You can adjust the salt and sugar (or use a low-glycemic sugar substitute) and you’ll end up with a far more aromatic and peanutty-tasting spread. You’ll save a few cents in the process.

PEANUT BUTTER RECIPE

Makes 2 cups. You can split the batch and make some plain, some with honey or low-glycemic agave nectar, for example.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound shelled unsalted roasted peanuts, skinned
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil or canola oil*
  • Salt
  •  

    Turn these peanuts into peanut butter
    in minutes. Photo by Watcha | IST.

     

  • Optional: sweetener (sugar, brown sugar, honey, agave nectar or non-caloric sweetener)
  • Optional: finely diced peanuts for a “chunky” version
  •  
    *Peanut oil and canola oil are monounsaturated fats: good for you. Vegetable oil is a polyunsaturated fat: less good for you. More on healthy oils.

    Preparation
    1. Combine peanuts and oil in a food processor and grind to a creamy paste. Add more oil if needed for thinning. PB will firm up in the fridge. If it’s too thick for you, just put it back in the food processor with a bit more oil.
    2. Sweeten and salt to taste.
    3. Stir in optional chopped peanuts.
    4. Store in the fridge in an airtight jar. Without preservatives, it will keep for 4-6 months.

    PB FUN

  • Check out the history of peanut butter—it was invented for people who couldn’t chew!
  • Take our peanut butter trivia quiz.
  • See our favorite peanut butters and PB recipes.
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    PRODUCT: Prima Pasta Ravioli, Striped For The Cure

    Enjoy delicious ravioli as you contribute
    to breast cancer research. Photo courtesy Pasta Prima.

     

    Ravioli (and its baked cousin, lasagne) is one of our Top 10* comfort foods, even though it isn’t on any published list we’ve seen.†

    While cheese ravioli can be bland, we never turn down butternut squash or pumpkin ravioli. (INSIDER FOOD TIP: Butternut squash, which has a smoother texture and a similar flavor, is often substituted for pumpkin in prepared foods—from ravioli to “pumpkin” pie.)

    Enter 100% Natural Pasta Prima Butternut Squash Ravioli. A delicate balance of sweet and savory flavors including imported Parmesan cheese, sage and cinnamon, each pasta pillow sports three pink stripes for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with $20,000 pledged to cancer research.

    Who can resist? Add your favorite white sauce or a mild red sauce, or simply toss with extra-virgin olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese.

    The family-owned business is one of a number of fine companies to produce a special edition for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Every pink package purchased from Pasta Prima supports The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

     

    Pasta Prima is a good corporate citizen in other ways, too. One-third of the company’s energy is powered by Green Energy. The company has also made the move to renewable packaging: compostable plastics made from corn instead of petroleum.

  • Take a look at beautiful ravioli recipes from Pasta Prima, including Butternut Squash Ravioli in Brown Butter Walnut Sage Sauce, or with fresh herbs: chives, parsley and sage. (We could devour the photos.)
  • Learn more at PastaPrima.com.
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    *For those who care enough to read this footnote, the others on our personal Top 10 list include bagels (with lox and cream cheese, pickled herring or whitefish salad); bundt or loaf cake; Chinese dumplings; gourmet mac and cheese; the ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt group; mashed potatoes (with basil, goat cheese or truffles); pain au chocolat; PB&J with a glass of milk; and scrambled eggs with a toasted English muffin.

    †Comfort food lists typically include beef stew, biscuits, chocolate, cereal, fried chicken, grilled cheese, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, meat loaf, pot pie, soup and spaghetti.

      

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    PRODUCT: Atlanta Fresh Greek Yogurt

    If you’re a yogurt lover who travels, instead of looking for a lunch spot, consider heading to the nearest fine grocer to check out the local yogurts.

    Artisan fresh dairy products tend to be regional businesses, and there are luscious yogurts to be found in many regions.

    The Atlanta Fresh company recently sent us their 2% Low Fat Greek Yogurt line (it’s also available in fat-free and whole milk versions). We ate it as eagerly as if it were dessert—for which it can easily substitute.

    Made using old world methods—by hand, in small batches—this all-natural yogurt is a treat. Talk about “from scratch”: The company makes its own fruit conserves to flavor the yogurt. Nothing premade is added from a jar.

    The yogurt is available in plain, plus eight flavors: Black Cherry & Port Wine (don’t worry—you can feed it to kids), Chocolate Rocket, Ginger Peach, Mixed Berry, Tropical Sweet Heat, Vanilla Caramel, Vanilla and Wildflower Honey.

     

    We eat lots of yogurt—all of it Greek-
    style. Photo courtesy Atlanta Fresh.

     

    Only the Chocolate flavor didn’t work for us. It’s a tough flavor to get right—which is why the market isn’t flooded with chocolate yogurt. For us, the cocoa powder didn’t meld well enough with the yogurt. But we’re sure there are fans aplenty.

    Fot us, the hands-down winner is Tropical Sweet Heat: diced mango, pineapple and ginger with habanero and ginger heat (plus brown sugar for complexity). We were sad when carton was empty. The heat and ginger accent enliven the creamy yogurt in a way you can’t imagine until the spoon is in your mouth. It’s the first “hot” yogurt we’ve had, aside from our homemade concoction of plain yogurt with pepper jelly. Yogurt artisans of America: Follow the heat!

    The runner up: Vanilla Caramel, a delicious dessert masquerading as yogurt.

    The handmade artisan yogurts are rBST-free. The freshly cultured yogurt, made from the milk of happy Jerseys at the nearby Johnston Family Farm, is very high in active bulgaricus and acidophilus probiotic bacteria.

    Learn more at AtlantaFresh.com.

    What Is Greek Yogurt?

    Greek yogurt (or more accurately for products made in America, Greek-style yogurt) is triple-strained to make it thicker and creamier than American-style yogurt. It often has the consistency of sour cream. Most yogurts are thickened with gums, starches or milk powders. Greek yogurt is thickened by removing the moisture.

    Greek yogurts can also be sweeter, meaning less tangy, than European- and American-style yogurts. While many mass-marketed American yogurts have evolved from tart-and-tangy to pudding-like, there’s nothing like the texture and flavor of Greek-style yogurt.

    How “Cultured” Are You?

    How much do you know about yogurt? Talk the talk like a pro: Check out our Yogurt Glossary.

    Find more of our favorite yogurt products, recipes and other yogurt information in our Gourmet Yogurt Section.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Remove Wax From Apples & Other Produce

    Our favorite Honeycrisp apples, beaming with
    a wax coating. Photo courtesy
    TheFruitCompany.com.

     

    Those shiny, tempting apples are wearing make-up: a layer of wax. Waxing apples (and other fruits and vegetables) not only makes them look better, but it also helps them last longer.

    All-natural waxes—such as carnauba wax, derived from the leaves of a Brazilian palm tree, and candellia wax, made from a small desert shrub native to the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, are certified as edible by the USDA and have been used on fruits and vegetables since the 1920s.

    After harvest and before the apples are packed and shipped, they undergo several washings to remove dirt. The extensive washing removes the natural wax that many fruits and vegetables make to help retain moisture.

    Replacing the wax also helps inhibit mold growth and protect fruits and vegetables from bruising. The amount of wax used is minuscule: Each apple (or other waxed produce) is coated with only a drop or two.

     

    You don’t want to peel the apple to remove the wax: Most of the nutrition is in the skin and the seeds. (But don’t swallow too many seeds for the nutrients—they have minute amounts of cyanide that build up in quantity.)

    How To Remove Wax From Apples

    We don’t have a problem with the wax—although we are wary that it can cover pesticides that aren’t fully removed during the washing cycle.

    But we do miss the apple aroma we enjoy when picking apples at orchards. Removing the wax releases the lovely apple scent and completes the organoleptic* experience.

    Take your pick of these wax-removal techniques:

  • Lemon Juice Technique. Use a vegetable brush and a lemon juice or vinegar bath (one tablespoon in a bowl of water, along with a tablespoon of baking soda). Scrub, then rinse well.
  • Boiling Water Technique. Immerse the apples in boiling water for 10 seconds and immediately wipe with a kitchen towel.
  • Commercial Wash Technique. Use a vegetable wash spray.
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    Buying organic isn’t the solution: Organic apples may also be waxed. But you can find unwaxed apples at some supermarkets and farmers markets.

    Wax may turn white on the surface of fruits or vegetables that have been subjected to excessive heat and/or moisture. This whitening does not impact the flavor or the healthfulness.

    Thanks to Rainier Fruit Company for much of this information.

    *Organoleptic: Relating to qualities that stimulate the senses: appearance, aroma, color, feel and taste.

      

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    PRODUCT: Crystal Head Vodka

    While both are in the spirit of Halloween, a skull of vodka may be an even better gift than a bottle of Death’s Door Vodka.

    The packaging of Crystal Head Vodka is based on an archaeological mystery:

    Thirteen crystal heads have been found in regions around the world, from the American southwest to Tibet. They are between 5,000 and 35,000 years old, and are believed to have been polished into their shape from solid quartz chunks over a period of several hundred years.

    Inside Crystal Head Vodka’s glass heads—or skulls, as we prefer to call them—is premium vodka that is quadruple-distilled, then triple-filtered through polished crystals known as Herkimer diamonds. (You can read that story on the company website).

    The vodka is made in St. Johns, Newfoundland with water from a deep glacial aquifer and a proprietary blend of grains. The result is a creamy texture with a slightly sweet taste on the finish.

    The brand owes its existence to actor Dan Aykroyd, whose interest in archaeology and the supernatural got the ball rolling. (His Wikipedia bio describes Aykroyd as “a Canadian comedian, actor, screenwriter, musician, winemaker and ufologist.”)

     

    A glass skull filled with premium vodka is a treat, not a trick. Photo courtesy Crystal Head Vodka.

     

    According to the company website, the heads are “thought to offer spiritual power and enlightenment to those who possess them, and as such stand not as symbols of death, but of life.”

    As to why the skulls are called “heads” when “skulls” seem more accurate: We have an email in to Mr. Aykroyd.

    The vodka is certified kosher by OU. Here’s a store locator.

    Find more of our favorite spirits, plus cocktail recipes, in our Cocktails & Spirits Section.

      

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