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Archive for March 6, 2015

PRODUCT: Marilyn’s Gluten Free Gourmet

The gluten-free life can be a bit of a culinary safari. No sooner do you have the shy creature in sight, then it slips into the brush and you are left wistfully holding your binoculars, waiting for something else to emerge.

This was the story of my favorite cheese crackers: They simply vanished for no good reason. I even went to the bakery’s Facebook page and tried to cajole them into bringing them back (to no avail).

Then, in pursuit of some g-free graham crackers for Magic Bars, I stumbled across Marilyn’s Gluten Free Gourmet products in the natural foods section of an out-of-the-way Publix outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

I grabbed the graham crackers and a pack of their cheese straws as well, ever hopeful that I might find a replacement for my late, lamented cheese crackers.

After thanking the manager for stocking such a good variety of gluten-free products, I made haste to the car and opened the package of cheese straws. Out wafted a pungent Cheddar-y aroma that was the first hint of the Total Cheese Satisfaction that lay in store.

   

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Marilyn’s Cheese Straws. Photo courtesy Agrafrutti.

 
Beyond Delicious

Can I say that they are even better than a wedge of Cheddar cheese? Because these cheese straws combine the sharp, sophisticated flavor of a fine Cheddar cheese with the crunch and texture of a delicious gluten-free cracker.

Now, this is not a diet product. Marilyn’s is based in Georgia, so it is a rich and celebratory treat in the Southern tradition. The great part is that they are so satisfying, you don’t have to eat a whole package in one sitting—although some may choose to do so (ahem).

But one to two straws can hold you down very well between meals. They would also make a great party snack, though one that would quickly disappear, so plan accordingly.

As a bonus, Marilyn’s cheese straws come in several varieties: Traditional Cheddar, Jalapeño Cheddar, and a White Cheddar & Chive. Of these varieties I have to confess that the Jalapeño is my favorite; the spice of the pepper enlivens and cuts the richness of the cracker.

 

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Marilyn’s Graham Crackers. Photo courtesy Agrafrutti.

 

Marilyn’s also makes a great graham cracker, with a hint of cinnamon, and a line of bread mixes that I am eager to try, particularly their Rosemary Sea Salt.

All products are safe for those with gluten intolerance and Celiac disease and contain no trans fats, preservatives, artificial flavors or artificial colors. Some products do contain dairy, so please read the label; and they are produced in a facility that also uses tree and ground nuts.

Marilyn’s products are available at Agrafrutti.com and in some Whole Foods Markets.

  • Five-ounce boxes of each variety are $5.99.
  • Eight-ounce gift boxes are $12.95.
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    The brand also offers Artisan Flatbread Crackers and Cheese Buttons, not yet tried by us (but we look forward to them).
     
    — Georgi Page

     

    ABOUT MARILYN’S GLUTEN FREE GOURMET

    After many years of passionate baking at home, Marilyn Santulli was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. To continue enjoying gourmet baked goods and share them with other GF consumers, she decided to open a gluten-free bakery.

    Her American Gra-Frutti Bakehouse & Shop in Roswell, Georgia is open weekdays from 9 to 5 (fresh breads need to be ordered in advance). In addition to breads, muffins and cakes, the shop carries all varieties of the Marilyn’s Gluten Free Gourmet packaged line.

      

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Frozen Food Day

    While fresh is fashionable, we can’t ignore the importance of frozen foods today, National Frozen Food Day.

    Frozen food revolutionized the way Americans consume food. First came the joy of off-season fruits and vegetables (which are tastier and a fraction of the price when purchased frozen at their peak than shipped fresh from South America or elsewhere). Then the ability to buy larger quantities when on sale. Then the convenience for busy moms.

    In 1984, President Ronald Regan declared March 6th to be National Frozen Food Day, stating: “…I call upon the American people to observe such day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

    Our ceremony consists of frozen foods for breakfast and dinner, at least. We already had a delicious Cedarlane omelet, and cooking SeaPak frozen butterfly shrimp for lunch (thanks, SeaPak, for the samples).

    (For dinner, it’s the last day of New York Restaurant Week and we’re heading out.)

    Most supermarkets today have 2-3 aisles of frozen foods, and many Americans rely upon the convenience of frozen food for their weekly dinners and other meals.

       

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    Today, it’s jumbo butterfly shrimp for lunch at THE NIBBLE. You can bake or fry the frozen shrimp. Photo courtesy SeaPak.

     

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    Butterfly shrimp “scallopini” with lemon, butter, garlic, parsley and white wine. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy SeaPak.

     

    WHO INVENTED FROZEN FOOD?

    Since ancient times, foods were frozen in climates that were cold enough to freeze them (here’s more about early freezing and refrigeration). But the invention of the home refrigerator-freezer after World War II brought modern-age frozen food into every home.

    Many people think that Clarence Birdseye invented frozen food; but in fact, others preceded him. However, before Birdseye, foods were frozen at a fairly slow rate. This caused large ice crystals to form, which ruptured the cell membranes of the food. When the food was defrosted, the ice crystals melted and water would leak from the food, taking with it flavor and texture.

    What Birdseye did invent, in 1924 was the quick freezing method, which produces the type of quality frozen foods that we know today.

    While working as a fur trader in Labrador, Newfoundland, Birdseye discovered that the fish that he caught froze almost immediately after being pulled from the water—and that the fish was just as delicious when thawed out months later. He developed quick-freezing methods that retained the taste and texture of foods.

     
    Another revolution in frozen food came in 1948, when Sea Island Packing Company (SeaPak) in Georgia developed the Individual Quick Freezing (IQF) to flash freeze shrimp, lock in flavor at its original state of freshness. This new process forever changed the way the shrimp industry (and others) would freeze products. [Source]

     
    The First Home Freezer

    The first home refrigerator with a small freezing compartment that held two ice cube trays was launched in the 1923 (it was a Frigidaire—Source.)

    Large “deep freezers” for retail use only became common during the 1940s. That’s why people in period novels and films went to the neighborhood drug store to get ice cream! Big freezers did not go into mass production for home use until after World War II. Along with new refrigerator-freezer units, they enabled American homes to stock ice cream and other frozen foods.

    Prior to World War II, Americans primarily ate locally and regionally grown foods. The technology didn’t exist to pack and transport fresh foods over greater distances. Consequently, only those who lived near coastal waterways had access to shrimp, clams, oysters, and other seafood.

    Since shrimp is America’s #1 consumed seafood—a lot of that, for both home and foodservice use, is frozen—and SeaPak Shrimp & Seafood Company is the #1-selling retail brand of frozen shrimp entrees, we make them our choice for lunch. Check out all the varieties at SeaPak.com.

      

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    TIP: Microwave Kale Chips

    “I am so sick of kale,” our friend Bonnie exclaimed, as we sat down to a restaurant lunch. We have nothing against a kale salad, but we were trended-out by the kale Caesar salad as a menu item. We wanted the original Caesar salad: We wanted romaine!

    The one thing we agreed upon was kale chips as an alternative to potato chips or fries. Unlike baked kale chips, they can be ready in five minutes, in time to join a cold beer or soft drink.

    We made this recipe in advance of St. Patrick’s Day, to test how much we’d need for a party.

    You can make chips (of any kind) in minutes with the Microwave Chip Maker, a handy device from Mastrad. Two trays are $20. We bought a second set, since they can be stacked to turn out a greater volume of chips.

    You can use a microwave-safe plate also; or cook the kale directly on the glass turntable.

    Using herb-infused oil adds another layer of flavor to the chips.

       

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    Kale chips made with conventional curly kale. Photo courtesy Mastrad.

     
    RECIPE: MICROWAVE KALE CHIPS

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 bunch kale, cleaned and thoroughly dried
  • 4 tablespoons regular or herb-infused olive oil or canola oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
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    Lacinato kale, also called black kale or dinosaur kale and Tuscan kale. Photo courtesy TheGoodEggs.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. REMOVE the stems from the dry kale. Tear the leaves into 2″ pieces. Toss with the oil to coat and place the pieces in one layer on the tray. Don’t overlap the pieces; doing so can cause arcing* in the microwave. Season with salt and pepper.

    2a. WITH MICROWAVE CHIP MAKER TRAY: Microwave on HIGH for 1½ minutes. Continue microwaving in 30-second intervals until the desired crispness is reached. Allow to cool before removing to a bowl.

    2b. WITH A REGULAR MICROWAVE-SAFE PLATE: Microwave for 3 minutes, continuing in 30-second intervals until the desired crispness is reached. Transfer to serving bowl.

    3. REPEAT with additional batches. For the best flavor and texture, serve immediately; but you can store the chips in an airtight container for up to a week.
     
    WHICH KALE SHOULD YOU USE?

    There are more than 50 varieties of kale, of which four are most often found in the U.S. Curly kale is the variety typically found in grocery stores.

     

    You may have to hit farmers markets or specialty produce stores for the others: lacinato kale (also called black kale, dinosaur kale, and Tuscan kale, among other names), redbor kale (ornamental kale, which is equally edible) and red Russian kale.

    For kale chips, we personally preferred using lacinto kale or red Russian kale. The leaves are longer, flatter and better to tear into chip-size pieces. But you may prefer curly kale, which was used in the photo above.

    Here’s more about kale.
     
    *Arcing, or sparking, is rare and the USDA can’t explain what causes it. Theories include the mineral or moisture content of certain vegetables; and foods with sharp rather than round edges arranged too closely in the microwave.

      

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