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Archive for Top Pick Of The Week

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Pure Leaf Tea House Collection

Pure Leaf Lemon Honeysuckle Tea

Pure Leaf Fuji Apple Ginger

The New Pure Leaf Teahouse Collection from Pepsico.

 

Pepsico has made iced tea more elegant with its new line of Pure Leaf bottled teas, the Tea House Collection. Debuting in select markets nationwide, the teas are certified USDA Organic—and so delicious, we can’t get enough of them!

A super-premium line of the finest organic tea leaves brewed with fruits and herbs, the debut collection has three elegantly layered flavors:

  • Fuji Apple & Ginger green tea
  • Sicilian Lemon & Honeysuckle black tea
  • Wild Blackberry & Sage black tea
  •  
    In signature glass bottles, tall and squarish, both the glass and the metal cap are 100% recyclable. The sugar is restrained—almost 50% less than most sweetened bottled teas—allowing the sophisticated flavors to shine through. Each 14-ounce bottle from the Tea House Collection has just 90 calories.

    We “stretched” our bottles by drinking the teas from ice-filled rocks glasses. Some colleagues—we won’t name names—added shots of gin and vodka to create “Tea-tinis.”
     
    ABOUT PURE LEAF

    There are 8 flavors of sweetened Pure Leaf teas, 2 diet flavors and 3 unsweetened flavors with zero calories—all in 18.5-ounce plastic bottles (you can find the full collection here). The brand recently introduced Unsweetened Black Tea and Unsweetened Green Tea.
     
    The Unsweeted Green Tea is really special, with a delightful undertone of honeysuckle (there’s no honeysuckle in it; the flavor comes from the particular tea leaves). Who needs sweetener?

    Good job, Pure Leaf!

    Here’s a store locator.

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Flavored Salt

    Gourmet Flavored Salts

    Flavored Salts

    Szechuan Peppercorn Flavored Salt

    TOP: Flavored salts from Saltopia. Center: Trio of homemade flavored salts from Chef Eric LeVine | Steamy Kitchen. Bottom: Close-up of Szechuan Pepper Salt.

     

    Do you use flavored salt? Is your spice cabinet as packed with different flavors as ours is?

    We have 10 jars of artisan* flavored salts, of which we often use just our three favorites (rosemary, saffron and truffle). The other seven take up a lot of space. It’s not that we don’t like them; it’s similar to shoes and clothing. We own a lot but wear the same three most of the time.

    It’s tempting to reach for yet another exciting artisan salt. Here’s some of what we see when we visit a specialty salt website like Saltopia or US Saltworks:

  • Fruit-flavored salt: caper, coconut, habanero, jalapeño, lemon, lime, orange, peach, pineapple, pomegranate, strawberry, tomato
  • Herb-flavored salt: basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, garlic, lavender, lemongrass, mint, peppermint, rosemary, saffron, thyme, wasabi
  • Spice-flavored salt: Aleppo pepper, anise, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, curry, ginger, mustard, sumac, vanilla
  • Smoked salt: applewood, alderwood
  • Sweet-flavored salt: brown sugar, honey, maple
  • Vegetable-flavored salt: mushroom, onion, truffle
  • And beyond: balsamic vinegar, Cabernet Sauvignon, chocolate, rose
  •  
    WHAT DO YOU DO WITH FLAVORED SALTS?

    Says Chef Eric LeVine: “One of the easiest ways to elevate your cooking to another level is to use flavored salts, or finishing salts. I call these ‘finishing salts’ because most of the time, its exactly what I use them for. No recipe is needed, really: Flavor + Salt = Flavored Salt.

    “I like to use these salts in place of regular salt. The flavor I use is dependent on either the type of dish I’m cooking, the ethnic cuisine or a flavor I would like to infuse into the dish.

    “Sometimes a dish just needs a little color after plating. A finishing salt is the perfect complement, flavor-wise and eye-candy-deliciousness-wise.

    Learn from professional cooks—who often serve food on white dinnerware—and sprinkle a bit of finishing salt directly on the food and the plate. The vibrant colors are shown off against the white and your dinner guests can dab as much as or as little of the salt [on their food] as they wish. You can make a batch for less than $1….or you could go to a gourmet shop and spend $12 for an itty bitty jar.”

    Spring and summer grilling are another reason to bring out the flavored salt instead of reaching for Morton’s Little Salt Girl or Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt.

    “You can also use it as a finishing salt. And you can use it to add a bit of color to all those beige and brown foods.”

    At THE NIBBLE, we use them as in ingredient or a garnish:

  • Baking, especially with lemon salt (lemon muffins, shortbread, garnish a lemon tart)
  • Bread dipper with olive oil and herbs
  • Confections: salted caramels and salted chocolate
  • Cottage cheese, soft cheeses, yogurt
  • Dessert: cobblers, puddings
  • Finishing salt: beef lamb, pork, poultry, seafood, smoked fish
  • Food garnish
  • Fruit salad or grilled fruit (a bit of salt brings out the sweetness)
  • Glass rimmer for sweet or savory salts: Blueberry Mojito, lemonade, Margarita, Bloody Mary, etc.
  • Ice cream or sorbet
  • Pasta, rice and other grains
  • Plate garnish (sprinkle bits on the plate for splashes of color)
  • Popcorn seasoning
  • Potatoes: baked, boiled, fried, mashed
  • Salted nuts
  • Salads and cooked vegetables
  • Any pale-colored food
  •  
    ___________________________
    *Artisan salts are flavored sea salts; as opposed to supermarket garlic salt, onion salt, etc., which are flavored table salts.

     
    SOLUTION: SAVE SPACE & MONEY—BLEND YOUR OWN

    It takes just five minutes to blend salt, herbs and spices in a spice grinder. You can make them on an as-needed basis, or make larger batches for your spice rack.

    At $13 and up retail for a 3.5-ounce jar, you can make your own for perhaps $1 a batch.

    Pick A Base Salt

    If you don’t have sea salt on hand, start with kosher salt or table salt. After you get the hang of blending, you can try more exotic salts, such as:

  • Fleur de sel or sel gris from France
  • Black lava or red alaea salts from Hawaii
  • Pink Himalayan or kala namak salts from India
  • Smoked salt
  •  
    FLAVORED SALT RECIPES

    Here are four recipes, two savory and two sweet. The first three are from Chef Eric; the Blueberry Salt is from THE NIBBLE archives.
     
    Recipe: Szechuan (Sichuan) Peppercorn Salt

    Dry-roasted Szechuan or Sichuan Peppercorn + food processor to grind the peppercorn + sea salt. Chef Eric roasted peppercorns in a hot, dry skillet until they were smoking but not burnt. Let it cool and add to a food processor or piece mill to grind to your preferred granule size. Then add the salt and pulse a couple of times to fully blend the flavors.

    Says Chef Eric: “I like my Szechuan pepper salt a little chunky and not like a fine powder, so I use equal amts of peppercorns and sea salt. You can adjust the proportions based on your tastes. If you are using a very fine sea salt or just regular table salt, decrease the amount of salt.

    “In addition to Asian-accent dishes or for a touch of heat, I also love seasoning my steaks with this salt prior to grilling, instead of the standard salt and pepper. It can also be served as a dipping salt for fried shrimp.”

     

    Recipe: Matcha Salt

    Matcha is Japanese green tea powder made from the highest quality of green tea leaves. It’s very different from simply grinding green tea leaves. It’s a stunning mossy green color, which makes such a pretty finishing salt. Matcha powder + sea salt + couple pulses in food processor if you are using coarse sea salt.

    Chef Eric likes to use it on a chocolate truffle or mousse; you can dip a plain chocolate bar dip in Matcha Salt. Use it with eggs and tofu, and with dishes that are light in texture and flavor, since this salt’s flavor is more delicate and subtle. “Don’t get the super-premium stuff,” says Chef Eric, “It would be a waste to use the expensive powder for the salts.”
     
    Recipe: Citrus Salt

    Peel any citrus and let the peels dry a little bit on a paper towel. Citrus salt is bright, cheery and light, says Chef Eric.

    “Finish your shrimp skewers, any vegetables, grilled chicken breasts or grilled salmon with Citrus Salt. Lighten your risotto or steamed rice.”

     
    Recipe: Blueberry Salt

    For summer, make Blueberry Salt. Start with a small batch (this recipe makes one cup). This recipe takes longer, because you’re drying fresh fruit. Prep time is 35 minutes, cook time is 1 hour to 1 day, depending on whether you choose to oven dry (1 hour) or let dry naturally (24 hours or more).

    After you make this recipe, you can customize it with other ingredients: balsamic vinegar, citrus peel, thyme, rosemary or any of the ideas above. The recipe is courtesy of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
     
    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  •  

    Blueberry Salt

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/blueberry salt saltopia 230sq

    Blueberry salt: You can buy a jar or make your own. Photos courtesy Saltopia.

  • 1 cup coarse sea salt (substitute kosher salt, or for a beautiful flake salt, use Maldon salt, with unique, pyramid-shaped crystals)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LINE two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

    2. SIMMER the berries and water in a saucepan over medium heat until the berries pop and release their juices, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

    3. PRESS the blueberries with a potato masher or the back of a large spoon, reserving the juice. Further strain the berries with a fine wire sieve, pressing out as much liquid as possible; discard the solids. Line the sieve with cheesecloth and strain out the finer particles.

    4. RETURN the juice to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer (watching closely so the juice doesn’t burn) until the juice is reduced to a syrup thick enough to coat a spoon. You should have 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice.

    5. REMOVE from the heat. Stir in the salt until the crystals are evenly coated, then spread the salt onto baking sheets. Let it air dry, stirring occasionally, until dry. This will take 4-24 hours, depending on the humidity. Alternatively, bake the salt in a 150° convection oven, stirring frequently until dry, about 1 hour.

    TIP: For a deeper purple salt, add food color to the blueberry juice in Step 4.

     
    HOW MANY TYPES OF SALT HAVE YOU HAD?

    Check out the different types of salt in our Salt Glossary.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Tony Roma’s Heat & Eat Barbecue

    Tony Roma's Ribs

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/boneless pork ribs tony romas 230

    Spare Ribs

    Top: We love these meaty boneless ribs. Center: Look for this package in your supermarket. Bottom: Baby back ribs. All photos courtesy Tony Roma’s.

     

    We try to avoid barbecue joints because way beyond the barbecue, we fill up on cornbread, buttermilk biscuits, cole slaw, mac and cheese and banana pudding. We feel overstuffed now, just by thinking of it.

    That’s why it was our lucky day when we accepted Tony Roma’s offer of heat-and-eat pork ribs to consider for THE NIBBLE. They’re available at supermarkets nationwide, and we’re thankful for that! (Here’s a store locator.)

    They’re as good or better than what we get in restaurants…and we don’t face a menu of tempting, high-carb, high-sugar, high-fat choices. And we don’t have to make anyone’s brother’s award-winning recipe.
     
    ABOUT THE RIBS

    The ribs and barbecue are marinated and slow-cooked. Fully cooked and nicely sauced, we microwaved them and they were ready in minutes. We tried:

  • Tony Roma’s Baby Back Pork Ribs
  • Tony Roma’s Boneless Pork Ribs
  • Tony Roma’s BBQ Pulled Pork
  •  
    There are other choices we didn’t taste—but look forward to:

  • Pulled Chicken
  • St. Louis Style Pork Spare Ribs
  •  
    All are available in with either Sweet & Spicy or Sweet Hickory barbecue sauces, and all made us happy. But the boneless ribs are by far our favorite: thick slices of tender meat with no bones to contend with.

    We were in hog heaven, and the boneless ribs have joined our “addiction list”—Top Picks that we continue to buy regularly at the grocer’s.

    Now, we can enjoy delicious ribs without all the empty carb sides and without sticky fingers: We eat them with a knife and fork. We…

  • Ate them with a big, crunchy salad and homemade cole slaw (purchased a package of shredded cabbage and tossed with a light vinaigrette—and sometimes blue cheese dressing).
  • Rolled them in lettuce leaves with shredded carrots, shredded daikon and watercress.
  • Served them with sides of sweet potatoes and sautéed apples* or caramelized onions.
  • Made burritos and tacos.
  • Served three slices atop a bed of [variously] sautéed vegetables, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, grits and San Gennaro polenta.
  •  
    ___________________________
    *We bought a jar of Grandma Hoerner’s Big Slice, delectable and time-saving.
     
    A QUICK PORK RIBS TUTORIAL

    There are two types of barbecue preparation: dry and wet. Dry ribs are rubbed with a mixture of herbs and spices. The rubs don’t require advance preparation; they can be applied just before barbecuing. Wet ribs are basted with sauce prior to and during the barbecuing process.

  • Baby Back Ribs are sourced from the loin area. These ribs tend to be smaller in size than spare ribs, but are considered to be more tender than other rib cuts. Think of them as tender and tasty.
  • Spare Ribs, also called side ribs, are from the belly area. They are longer and fatter than baby back ribs, but less meaty. The mix of meat and fat add to their tenderness and make slow-cooking a great way to enjoy these pork ribs. They’re what you want if you love to chew on the bones.
  • Boneless Ribs are sourced from the shoulder-area of the hog. They are slow cooked at low heat until tender and then portioned into various size boneless rib pieces. Most often, boneless ribs are marinated and seasoned for tenderness.
  • St. Louis-Style Ribs are a particular cut of the pork rib. The shape is almost rectangular and bone has been removed. These are meaty and tasty ribs, typically marinated for tenderness.
  • Pulled Pork is made with meat sourced from the shoulder area. It is slow cooked at low heat until it becomes tender enough to be “pulled” apart. Most often, pulled pork is marinated and seasoned for tenderness and tastiness.
  • Types Of Pork Ribs Chart

     
    Glossary information and chart courtesy Rupari Foods, maker of Tony Roma’s retail barbecue products.
     
    LOVE PORK?

    Check our the different cuts of pork in our Pork Glossary.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Garlic Bread, Old School & New School

    American-style garlic bread is a descendant of Italian bruschetta and crostini. The first recipe we found was published in 1940 in Edith Barber’s Cook Book, written by the editor of the New York Sun food column. [Source]

    The Americanized version used a baguette or narrow loaf of Italian bread, substituted butter for oil, mixed with garlic powder/salt instead of rubbed with cut fresh garlic cloves, and topped with dried oregano. It might also include grated Parmesan or other cheese.

    The loaf is sliced vertically or horizontally, topped with the butter spread and heated in a hot oven (400°F). Often, the loaf was sliced vertically and buttered between the slices before heating. Our Mom first lightly toasted the bread slices crostini-style, though she didn’t hear the word “crostini” for decades.

    THE HISTORY OF GARLIC BREAD

    American garlic bread began life as bruschetta, a peasant food. Some sources say in was made in ancient times, others cite medieval times as the origin. It was common for Italian peasants, who lacked costly ceramics plates, to eat their meals on slices of grilled bread. Charred, bread, rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil, was grilled over the fire.

    In medieval cuisine, “sops” were common across Europe: stale bread soaked in broth, soup or wine and topped with other foods.

       

    Garlic Bread Recipe

    Classic American garlic bread. Photo courtesy La Panineria | Facebook.

     

    Over time, the recipe was refined into an antipasto (appetizer), on more easily handled small toasts. It became a popular bread basket freebie in Italian-American restaurants. By the 1990s, visitors to trendy restaurants were paying for bruschetta (grilled from a thinner loaf) or crostini (toasted from a wider loaf), with different toppings and the original olive oil and minced fresh garlic.

    These days, garlic bread is old school, and bruschetta and crostini are the rage. Here’s the old-school recipe, followed by an example of the new school.
     
    RECIPE #1: CLASSIC GARLIC BREAD (OLD SCHOOL)

    This recipe first slices the entire loaf in half, horizontally.

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 baguette (1 pound), halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat)-leaf parsley
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE butter and garlic in a small bowl. Brush the mixture over the top of the slices and sprinkle with parsley (you can also blend the parsley into the butter).

    2. PLACE on a baking sheet and bake at 350° for 8 minutes. Broil for an additional 2 minutes or until golden brown, 4-6 inches. from the heat.

    3. CUT into 2-inch slices. Serve warm.

     

    Spring Pea Crostini

    Spring Peas

    Top: Creative crostini. Bottom: Fresh green peas. Recipe and photos courtesy Good Eggs | SF.

     

    RECIPE #2: GARLIC CROSTINI WITH SPRING PEAS & BURRATA (NEW SCHOOL)

    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

  • 3 thick slices of country bread or sourdough
  • 1 eight-ounce burrata
  • ½ pound English Peas, shelled
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • 12-14 castelvetrano olives, pitted and roughly chopped (substitute other green olives)
  • ¼ cup parsley or mint, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. DRAIN the whey from the burrata in a colander lined with a paper towel. Don’t pierce the skin of the burrata.

    2. TOAST the bread until golden brown—even with a bit of char around the edges. Rub the tops with the cut side of the garlic and drizzle with olive oil.

    3. USE clean hands (instead of slicing) to carefully divide the burrata among the three pieces of toast, including all the creamy drippings. Divide the peas, olives and herbs among the slices.

    4. FINISH with a hearty drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Cut in half or allow each dinner to do so.
     
    DIFFERENT TYPES OF BREAD

    Check them out in our Bread Glossary.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Halos, Sweet & Lovely Mandarins

    Bowl Of Halos

    Halos Peeled

    Photos: Halos, unpeeled and peeled, and perhaps the easiest fruit to peel. Photos courtesy Wonderful Foods.

     

    April is the end of the season for the sweet little mandarins called Halos. We have been enjoying them by the bagful, and in addition to flavor and nutrition, they keep us from eating refined-sugar snacks.

    They deserve their halo!

    WHAT ARE HALOS?

    The fruit aisle can be confusing. Depending on the store, you can find clementines, Cuties, Halos, Dimples, tangerines and mandarin “oranges” (mandarins are not oranges, but a different species—more about that in a minute).

    Welcome to the world of single serving, easy to peel, sweet and juicy—and branded—citrus.

    Halos, Cuties and Sweeties are mandarins from California, different brand names for what are often clementines.

    Don’t call them mandarin oranges: While both are from the genus Citrus, mandarins are a different species, just as broccoli and cabbage, both members of the genus Brassica, are different species.

    Here’s the difference (Produce Pete and Wikipedia take note!).

    From a visual perspective:

  • Oranges are medium to large round or ovoid shapes covered with a thick peel that can take time to remove. They are in the genus Citrus, with separate species (e.g. Citrus sinensis, the sweet orange group, includes the common sweet orange, blood orange, and navel orange). Sometimes they’re sweet, and sometimes they aren’t; you don’t know until you buy and try.
  • Mandarins are small and roundish with flatness on the top and bottom, and a loose, easy-to-peel skin. They are in the genus/species Citrus reticulata. The ones from California are reliably sweet and usually seedless. That’s why we prefer mandarins like Halos.
  •  
    WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT NAMES ALL ABOUT?

    Why the different names? Branding! The names are not varieties, but trademarked names, encouraging the consumer to look specifically for Cuties or Halos.

  • The Cuties trademark is owned by Sun Pacific.
  • The Halos trademark, also “Wonderful Halos,” is owned by Wonderdful Citrus, which also owns the trademarks POM Wonderful pomegranates, Wonderful Pistachios, Wonderful Almonds and Sweet Scarlett red grapefruit (also a passion of ours). It is the #1 mandarin brand in the U.S. and 100% California-grown (some producers may augment their domestic supply with imported fruit). Even their website sounds delicious: Wonderful.com.
  • The Dimples trademark is owned by Cecelia Packing. Dimples are a branded name for the Gold Nugget mandarin. Their season is later than clementines, beginning in April.
  • Tangerine is a different species of mandarins,—Citrus tangerina—and not a brand name.
  • Murcott is a mandarin/sweet orange hybrid. In the trade they are referred to as tangor, “tang” from tangerine and “or” from orange. They are also called the temple orange. Their thick rind is easy to peel. Some are trademarked as Golden Nugget, some as Tango.
  •  

    Now for a twist:

  • The season for California clementines is November to January.
  • A similar mandarin, the murcott, is available from February to April, and they substitute for Cuties and Halos clementines during that time.
  • Non-branded murcotts are often called clementines at retail, because the name is more familiar to consumers and it sells better.
  • If you see clementines after April, they are likely imported.
  •  
    HOW TO USE HALOS

    Like oranges, mandarins are very versatile. The first thing anyone would think of is hand fruit. The term refers to fruits small enough to eat from the palm of your hand, such as apples, pears and stone fruits—but not pineapples or other fruits that need to be cut up.

    But why stop there? Use luscious mandarins:

  • On cold or hot cereal.
  • Sliced in a cup of tea instead of lemon.
  • Juiced, or added to smoothies, cocktails and mulled wine.
  • In fruit salads, green salads and Asian chicken salads.
  • In stir-fries with proteins and/or vegetables.
  • In cake batter or cheesecake batter, or as a garnish on top.
  • Atop single crust pies or tarts, in segments or slices (we cover the entire top of a cream or custard pie with slices).
  • In puddings, gelatin and other desserts.
  • As a garnishes on desserts and beverages.
  •  
    To find a store near you, here’s the Halos store locator.
     
    MANDARIN TIPS

  • For garnishing, you can separate the segments or slice horizontally across the peeled fruit for wheels.
  • Because of their thin skin, mandarins don’t keep as long as oranges. Store them in the fridge and enjoy them within two weeks.
  •  

    Green Salad With Clementines

    White Chocolate Tart

    Top: Toss segments into a green salad (photo courtesy Wonderful Foods). Bottom: Garnishing a white chocolate tart with a macadamia crust. Here’s the recipe from Rodale’s Organic Life.

     
    MANDARIN HISTORY

    Thanks to Etienne Rabe, Vice President, Agronomy, for Wonderful Citrus, for this history of mandarins:

    It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the name, but we know that mandarins were grown for many centuries in China. The first mandarin tree was brought to England from China in 1805, and its progeny went from England to Malta, then to Sicily and continental Italy.

    Little information is available about mandarins in Chinese literature, but as far back as 1178 C.E., Chinese author Han Yen-chih described 27 different varieties of mandarins.

    The clementine originated in North Africa and made their way to Morocco in the 1960s and Spain in the 1970s. Spain started exporting them to the East Coast of the U.S. in the 1990s.

    The murcott variety was bred in Morocco and introduced to the U.S. in the mid-1990s.

    As imported clementines became popular, American citrus growers saw the potential of the fruit…and how lucky we are!

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Peter Pan Simply Ground Peanut Butter

    Peter Pan Peanut Butter

    Peter Pan’s Simply Ground is part creamy, part crunchy. Photo courtesy Mastercook.com.

     

    Something great has happened in the world of peanut butter. Peter Pan has introduced all natural Peter Pan Simply Ground Peanut Butter.

    What’s new about that, you ask? While there’s plenty of all-natural peanut butter on store shelves, Simply Ground is delightfully ground.

    Its unique texture lies between creamy and crunchy, reminiscent of finely home-grouund PB. It spreads easily and evenly and is universally useful for everything from sandwiches and soups to baking.

    There are two varieties, Original and Honey Roast, the latter with a touch of real honey. There’s not a big flavor difference; eating the peanut butter straight from the spoon is a nuanced experience. The main difference is 3g sugar per serving versus 6g sugar per serving.

    It’s a winner! National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day is April 2nd, so head to the nearest store.

    FOOD TRIVIA: Peanut butter was developed by a physician to provide a protein food to people who lost their teeth and could no longer chew meat. Here’s the history of peanut butter

     
    RECIPE 1: KING OF MONTE CRISTO SANDWICH

    This recipe is from Chef Spike Mendelsohn, owner of D.C. restaurant Béarnaise, a Top Chef contestant and consulting chef for Peter Pan Simply Ground.

    Ingredients For 4 Sandwiches

  • 8 slices country bread
  • 1/2 cup Peter Pan Simply Ground Original Peanut Butter
  • ¾ cup banana slices
  • 8 slices applewood-smoked bacon, cooked
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 4 teaspoons butter
  •  
    For The Topping

  • 1 cup blackberry preserves
  • 1 tablespoon water
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the blackberry topping: Combine the preserves and water in a pot add heat, stirring, until smooth. Serve on the side

    2. SPREAD the bread with peanut Butter; fill with bananas and bacon to make 4 sandwiches. Press the edges of sandwiches together to seal.

    3. HEAT a large skillet, add the butter and melt over medium heat.

    4. WHISK the egg, cinnamon and milk in bowl until well blended. Add the sandwiches, one at a time, turning to evenly moisten the bread.

    5. ADD the sandwiches to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

    ABOUT THE MONTE CRISTO SANDWICH

    A Monte Cristo is a fried ham or turkey sandwich with cheese. It’s an American variation of the French Croque Monsieur sandwich.

    Traditionally, the sandwich is dipped in batter and deep fried, but there are regional variations. In some regions of the U.S. it’s just grilled; in others, French toast is used as a base, with cheese melted under a broiler.

    In this version, the sandwich is fried like French Toast.

    Monte Cristo sandwiches originated in southern California; the earliest reference is printed on a 1941 menu from Gordon’s restaurant in Los Angeles and a recipe was published in the 1949 The Brown Derby Cookbook. The sandwich became very popular in the 1950s-1970s.

    Check out the different sandwich types in our Sandwich Glossary.

     

    Peanut Butter Monte Cristo Sandwich

    Peanut Butter Wraps

    Top: Spike Mendelsohn’s re-interpretation of the Monte Cristo Sandwich. Photo courtesy Peter Pan. Bottom: PB&J Lettuce Wraps. Photo courtesy CoffeeandQuinoa.com.

     

    RECIPE 2: PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY LETTUCE WRAPS

    The recipe is adapted from Crofter’s Organic.
     
    Ingredients For 2 Servings, 4 Wraps

  • 4 spring roll wrappers
  • Boston lettuce or romaine leaves
  • 4 spring roll wrappers
  • Peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
  • Mango or apricot fruit spread
  • Optional: 1/4 cup lightly crushed peanuts—raw, roasted, honey or spicy
  • Optional: peanut dipping sauce (recipe)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the spring roll wrappers by softening in hot water, one at a time to avoid sticking.

    2. SPREAD a teaspoon of peanut butter over each, followed by a teaspoon of fruit spread. Sprinkle the optional crushed nuts over the fruit spread.

    3. WRAP the lettuce over the spring roll wrappers. Cut if desired and serve.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Australian Lamb

    While Mom always served great meals, a leg of lamb was a special treat. It was the star of our yearly Easter dinner, served with mint jelly and sides of spring peas and roasted potatoes.

    When the folks from Aussie Lamb contacted us with the offer to try Australia-raised lamb, they didn’t have to twist arms. The lamb arrived frozen, but it didn’t stay that way for long. We defrosted a different cut overnight in the fridge, and the next day enjoyed an exceptional lamb dinner.

    Australia is known worldwide as a producer and exporter of high-quality lamb with a top food safety record. The lamb is 100% free-range, feeding on grass. It is all-natural, free of artificial additives including hormone.

    Naturally lean, tender and juicy with superb flavor, the lamb is aged to retain moisture and then vacuum-packed. Our “Lambathon”—three consecutive days of lamb dinners—has made us a big fan. The chops were wonderful, the rack of lamb celestial.

    All of the cuts are available, from ground meat and kabobs to shank and shoulder—for special occasions to every day. The lamb is certified Halal.

    And, it is half the price of fresh lamb (we checked prices at FreshDirect.com). No one could tell the difference.

     

    Rack Of Lamb

    Cooked Lamb Shank

    Top: Elegant rack of lamb for special occasions. Bottom: Luscious lamb shank for every day. Photos courtesy Australian Lamb.

     
    LAMB: A HEALTHY RED MEAT

    Lamb is a lean protein with low cholesterol. An average 3-ounce serving is just 175 calories. Lamb is an excellent source of protein, niacin, selenium and vitamin B12, and a good source of riboflavin.

    And here’s a surprise: Lamb has three times more iron than chicken and two times m ore iron than pork and salmon. While fish contains the highest level of omega-3 fatty acids, lean lamb is close behind.

    Australian Lamb is a healthy choice for any lifestyle—a naturally nutrient-rich food with high levels of zinc, Vitamin B12, iron, riboflavin and thiamin.

    In our neighborhood, it is carried by the best markets, Citarella and Whole Foods among them. Here’s a store locator.

    There are more recipes than you can shake a tail at, at AustralianLamb.com, along with cooking tips and a video library.

    The council will also send you a free cookbook.

    Could you ask for anything more?

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Curate Snack Bars

    America doesn’t need another “good for you” snack bar. The $6.2 billion U.S. snack market is plenty crowded as it is. The Curate brand’s research turned up more than 1,000 varieties of snack bars.

    But when you taste Curate, you’ll be delighted that management decided to enter the premium snack bar market.

    The brand took a chef’s approach to developing recipes, testing combinations of ingredients that are both nutrient-dense and luscious, with a bonus of eye appeal.

    All-natural, gluten free, non-GMO, soy free and lightly sweetened, the bars contain 4 to 7 grams of protein and are a good source of plant-based fiber.

    Each bar comprises some six ingredients including quinoa supergrain, omega 3-packed seeds, a fruit and a nut. They’re non-GMO and gluten-free.

    Each of the first six flavors out of the gate is equally tempting, depending on whether your temptation is chocolate or a fruit profile:

  • Dark & Tempting Balsamic Fig & Hazelnut: balsamic vinegar, hazelnuts, Mission figs, orange zest, quinoa, sunflower kernels
  • Harmonious Blend Marcona Almond & Apricot: apricot, balsamic vinegar, honey, lemon, Marcona almonds, quinoa
  • Indulgent Dark Chocolate & Hazelnuts: almond butter, dark chocolate, hazelnuts, quinoa, sea salt, vanilla
  • Irresistible Dark Chocolate Strawberries & Pistachios: almond butter, dark chocolate, pistachios, quinoa, strawberries, toasted oats
  • Salted Decadence Dark Chocolate & Almonds: almond butter, dark chocolate, hemp, Marcona almonds, quinoa, sea salt
  • Sweet & Tart Berry Bliss: almonds, blackberries, blueberries, chia, cranberries, flaxseed, quinoa, raspberries
  •  
    The line is certified kosher by OU.

    More products are in the works, including bars designed for kids, with plans to extend the offerings with other better-for-you snacks.
     
    You can buy the bars at retail (here’s the store locator) or online on Amazon.com, Soap.com and Target.com.

     
    WHO MAKES CURATE SNACK BARS

    Curate bars are made by Abbott Laboratories, a $20+ billion global company that makes healthcare products as well as nutritional products: from Glucerna, PediaSure and Similac to as Zone Nutrition Bars and EAS Sports Nutrition.

    The company decided to further its nutrition heritage with a consumer snack brand. A new division, Curate Snacks, was born.

    As big as the snack category is, the company feels that the opportunity for delicious, nutritious snacks has “tremendous” potential.

    Take a bite, and you’ll discover why.

    Learn more at CurateSnacks.com.

     

    Curate Dark & Tempting Bar

    Curate Indulgent Bar

    Curate Irresistible Bar

    Curate bars in three of the six flavors: Dark & Tempting Bar, Indulgent Bar and Irresistible Bar. Photos courtesy Curate Snacks.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Modern Oats Instant Oatmeal

    Two years ago we recommended Modern Oats, a packaging concept that places elegantly-flavored, gluten-free* oatmeal in stylish grab-and-go cups.

    All you have to do is add hot water to cover the oats in the coated paper cup. Put the lid back on, wait a few minutes and enjoy. No added sweetener, milk or microwave is required. The colorful designs give a boost to starting the day.

    Success has enabled the brand to expand the number of flavors to 10. The lineup now includes:

  • Apple Walnut
  • Chocolate Cherry
  • Coconut Almond
  • 5 Berry
  • 5 Berry No Sugar Added
  • Goji Berry
  • Just Oats
  • Mango Blackberry
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Vermont Maple
  •    

    Grab & Go Oatmeal

    Cheerful packaging adds to the enjoyment of these delicious flavored oatmeal cups. Photo courtesy Modern Oats.

     

    Suggested retail price is $3.50 per cup.

     

    Modern Oats Coconut Almond

    Coconut Almond, one of 10 flavors. Photo courtesy Modern Oats.

     

    MODERN OATS ARE GOOD OATS

    The rolled oats in the containers are grown by family farmers in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. They are minimally processed by steaming and flaking; you look into the carton and see what looks like “real oats,” instead of the small particles familiar to consumers of instant oatmeal.

    Not surprisingly, the oat flakes provide a textural differences that deliver a more solid bite (and, the company says, optimal absorption of nutrients).

    Modern Oats are produced in a 100% gluten free facility and are Certified Gluten Free, Non-GMO, Halal, Kosher, Vegan and 100% Whole Grain. (Whew: There’s no more room left on the carton for any more certifications).

    Bonus: Oats are the only major grain proven to help blood cholesterol†.

     

    If you can’t find the cups locally (here’s the store locator), buy them on the Modern Oats website.

    There’s a four-flavor gift-boxed set; an assortment of flavors makes a nice Easter gift for the nutritionally-focused.
     
    ____________________
    *To be certified gluten-free, they must be processed in a facility that does not also process grains with gluten. In the milling and processing process, oats are susceptible to cross-contamination; so not all oatmeal and other oat products are gluten free.

    †Eating three grams of soluble fiber from oats each day, as part of a diet that’s low in fat and cholesterol, has been shown to lower blood cholesterol. This may reduce the risk of heart disease.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Shpickles Pickled Vegetables, Shmolives Pickled Olives

    Last summer, when scouting a Brooklyn food festival, we came across Shpickles, Shmolives and Shnuts. They’re made by hand by a mom-and-son company called Brooklyn Whatever.

    Mom, a social worker and son, a chef, started a family business to add more flavor to pickles, olives and nuts. The result: unique, assertively spiced, better-for-you snacks, garnishes, or for a relish tray.

    Or for gifts. We can’t think of a better house gift for hosts, combining flavor and fun. Shpickles and Shmolives will be our go-to house gifts for the forseable future.

    The line is all natural and certified kosher by Rabbi Dovid Chaoi. Shpickles and Shmolives are free of dairy, gluten, soy, sugar and wheat, making them vegan as well.
     
    SHPICKLES: PICKLED VEGETABLES

    Other companies make great pickle cucumbers. Brooklyn Whatever has started out with other pickled vegetables:

  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower & Beets
  • Jalapeño Peppers
  • Kale Slaw
  • Okra
  • String Beans
  •  
    We can’t choose favorites here: We like them all. And we feel so good about eating them: So much flavor, so few calories.
     
    SHMOLIVES: SPICED OLIVES

    Shmolives is a blend of seven different olives, marinated in a “secret mix” of herbs and spices that adhere to the olives, giving you a mouthful of zing with each bite.

    Made by hand in small batches “the old way”—stirring to coat the olives with wood spoons—they are a must for any olive lover.
     
    SHNUTS: SPICED NUTS

    Shnuts are a mix of almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans and walnuts—no peanuts.

    They’re sweet and savory: herbs and spices with a touch of brown sugar. Made with all natural ingredients, filled with “good fat,” a handful is a healthful snack.

    HEALTH NOTES: The USDA-approved heart-healthy nuts are almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. These nuts contain less than 4g of saturated fats per 50g. Walnuts have the highest amount of the heart-healthy alpha linolenic acid, which many studies show lowers total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) levels.

    As with Shpickles and Shmolives, Shnuts are prepared by hand, roasted twice and flavored to perfection: the perfect “shnack.”

     

    Shpickles Brussels Sprouts

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/carrots 230

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/cauligflower beets 230

    A sampling of Shpickles: Brussels Sprouts, Carrots and Cauliflower & Beets.

     
    Shpickles are $10 per 15-ounce jar, Shmolives are $15 per 15-ounce jar. Shnuts are not yet on the website, but should be there soon.

    Get yours at BrooklynWhatever.com.

    Plan ahead for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifting.

    Not to mention green gifting for St. Patrick’s Day, with Shpickles Brussels Sprouts, Jalapeños, Kale Slaw, Okra and String Beans.

      

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