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Archive for Top Pick Of The Week

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Pizzeria Pronto Stovetop Pizza Oven

September 5th is National Cheese Pizza Day, honoring the original modern pizza, the Margherita. It was named after Queen Margherita, consort to Umberto I, King of Italy from 1878–1900.

As the story goes, during a visit to Naples, she asked the best pizza maker in town, Don Raffaele, to make her a pie. He made it in the colors of the Italian flag, a simple but delicious pie of basil, mozzarella and tomatoes. Here’s the history of pizza.

 
WHAT’S A STOVETOP PIZZA OVEN?

Simply this: a steel case that sits on top of a gas burner and cooks your pizza atop pizza stones. There’s no electricity, no wood chips, no nuthin’ but the Pizzeria Pronto and your gas range.

We love it: from the pizza stones that create an oh-so-delightful crust to the top quality ingredients we used. As long as we have dough in the fridge, we can have a pizza anytime we want, better than anything delivered. efficient new way to make pizza at home.

Pizzeria Pronto is made by Companion Group, a company that began more than 30 years ago with the original Charcoal Companion charcoal chimney starter. The line now includes other grilling tools and accessories, and the Pizzacraft® line of artisan-quality pizza stones, pizza ovens, tools and accessories.

In 2013 the company launched the first propane-fueled outdoor portable pizza oven, which pre-heats in 10 minutes and cooks the pie in 5 minutes. In 2016, the indoor Pizzeria Pronto® Stovetop Pizza Oven was released nationwide—the first gas range-powered indoor oven.

Small but mighty, Pizzeria Pronto transforms your favorite dough and toppings into perfectly-cooked pizzas in just minutes (after all, the name means “pizza in a hurry”). With its heat-efficient design, it traps and reflects heat to harness the power of your gas range, creating an optimal cooking environment of up to 600°F. Yet, the room is no warmer than if you used your oven.
 
How To Use Pizzeria Pronto Stovetop Pizza Oven

  • Simply place the round oven over a gas burner and turn on the flame.
  • The inside of the oven reaches 600°F, much higher than a conventional oven.
  • It preheats in 15 minutes and cooks a personal-size pizza in 6 minutes. TIP: If you want to keep the first pizzas hot while you cook more, keep them warm in a conventional oven preheated to 500°F.
  • You also need a personal-size pizza peel to insert and remove the pizza from the oven. The company sells one separately.
  •  
    The electric plug-in pizza ovens we’ve tried can’t hold a candle to it.

    It’s well worth the space it requires if you’d like to make pizza weekly or more often. We don’t have extra room in our kitchen so we did a bit of housecleaning. So long, old backup food processor and biannually-used waffle iron.
     
    WHERE TO FIND IT

    Pizzeria Pronto is available at major retailers such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma and online. Williams-Sonoma carries a gray-top model instead of the standard red-orange model shown in the photos.

    Prices vary but it’s currently $106.27 on Amazon (a deep discount off the MSRP of $179.99).

     

    Pizzeria Pronto

    Pizzeria Pronto

    Pizzeria Pronto

    Pizzeria Pronto

    [1] Place the oven on the stovetop and turn up the flame to preheat. Add the pizza. [2] Close the oven door. [3] Cook for six minutes. [4] Remove the pizza, fragrant and bubbling. Photos courtesy Pizzeria Pronto .

     
    Before buying, take a minute to look at the bottom of this page to see if your gas burners will work.

    OUR FIRST PIZZERIA PRONTO PARTY

    We invited the crowd over for a pizza party and bought (or over-bought, as is our won’t) the ingredients: regular and whole wheat doughs, sauces and cheeses for red and white pies.

    We provided lots of toppings: anchovies, garlic, jalapeños, mini meatballs, mushrooms, olives, onion and zucchini. But the crust (dough purchased from Fairway), sauce (the Classico brand Riserva line [not Bertolli Riserva]), mozzarella and ricotta (Bel Gioso) were so good that most people opted for a plain pie.

    We personally, however, had anchovies from Cento: not salty, just right.
     
    FEATURES & TIPS

    Features

  • Steel casing with a heat-efficient design (you won’t feel that it’s 600° of heat).
  • Ttwo Cordierite baking stones diffuse the heat and deliver a perfect crust.
  • Very little assembly required. You need no technical skill whatsoever.
  • The built-in thermometer tells you when it’s time to add the pizza.
  • A moisture vent on top prevents the crust pizza from becoming soggy.
  • Dimensions: 16.93 inches x 14.25 inches x 6.69 inches. Weight: 14.7 pounds, which we (non-athletic female) had no trouble lifting.
  • Not for use with electric or induction stoves.
  •  
    Tips

  • You’ll need cornmeal (semolina), so the bottom of the crust doesn’t stick to the stone plate.
  • Be sure to have a good pizza cutter and a brush to clean the pizza stone afterward.
  • One package of store-bought dough (we bought the fresh dough that comes in a plain plastic bag), meant for one large pie, makes two personal pizzas.
  •  
    HAVE FUN WITH IT!

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: JonnyPops, A Smoothie On A Stick

    JonnyPops Mango & Strawberry

    JonnyPops Boxes

    JonnyPops & Yogurt

    JonnyPops in Banana Cinnamon & Cream and Strawberries & Cream. Each bite is a joy. [2] Look for this box. [3] A creative snack or breakfast: added to yogurt. You can also top a pie, or dip the whole bar in chocolate. All photos courtesy JonnyPops.

     

    In 2011, still in college, Jonny Pop’s CEO Erik Brust and his cousin Jonathan imagined starting a business, selling an “all-natural, fruit-forward, purely delicious frozen treat that would take the market by storm.”

    They tried every fruit bar and ice cream novelty they could find, dividing the pops into two categories: icy and artificial, or decadent and unhealthy. A year later, in his dorm room, Erik decided to make it a reality.

    Blend fresh fruit, cream, cane sugar, purified water and a pinch of salt, the team has achieved something special: what they describe as a smoothie-on-a-stick and “frozen goodness.” These are apt descriptions.

    Smooth and creamy, redolent of fresh fruit (often with toothsome bits of fruit in each bite), the ingredients may be simple but the way they come together is outstanding.
     
    JONNYPOPS FLAVORS

    Each flavor as splendid as the next, each bite a joy. We were fortunate to receive samples of each. It’s impossible to choose; but by the same token, there’s no wrong choice. Try them all:

  • Banana Cinnamon & Cream
  • Coffee & Chocolate (coffee lovers: you’ll go wild for it)
  • Mango & Cream
  • Pineapple Coconut & Cream
  • Raspberries Blueberries & Cream
  • Strawberries & Cream
  • Strawberry Banana & Cream
  •  
    The manufacturing facility is completely peanut- and tree nut-free with the exception of the coconut flavor; and are gluten-free.

    Try them direct from the wrapper, as well as:

  • Cubed and added to yogurt.
  • Cubed and used for pie à la mode.
  • Dipped in chocolate (at the Minnesota State Fair—so much better than deep-fried Twinkies).
  •  
    PAY IT FORWARD

    The company’s mission is to make the world a better place, one pop at a time. Each JonnyPops stick is printed with a good deed to be paid forward. You can suggest good deeds on their Facebook page.

    Now for the sad part: Cousin Jonathan, the original co-imaginer, died of a drug overdose before the company came to be.

     
    The product is named in his memory, and the company donates a portion of the proceeds—plus a supply of JonnyPops—to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, a national leader in addiction treatment and recovery. Every pop you buy helps in the fight against substance abuse.
     
    ASK YOUR GROCER

    Here’s the rub:

    JonnyPops is a small start-up with concomitant resources to sell in to retailers. The pops are currently distributed in the Midwest, California, New York and Texas, but in not enough locations.

    You can help! Print out this product request form and bring it to your grocer, deli or convenience store. (Bring it to all of them!)

    We promise, it’s worth the wait!

    For more information visit JonnyPops.com.
     
    FOOD TRIVIA: HOW DID THE ICE POP GET IT’S NAME?

    In 1923 Frank Epperson, a California real estate salesman, made his homemade treats—frozen juice on a stick—for a Fireman’s Ball.

    His “Epsicles” were a sensation, and Frank obtained a patent for “a handled, frozen confection or ice lollipop.” His kids called the treat a Popsicle, after their Pop (so if Mom had made them instead of Pop, they could have been Momsicles).

    Here’s the bigger story.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Choctál’s Singe Origin Ice Cream

    When we first reviewed Choctál ice cream in 2007, it was a unique experience. It still is.

    The California company pioneered single origin ice cream in the two most popular flavors, chocolate and vanilla. The line—four single origin chocolate ice creams and four single origin vanillas—demonstrate how the flavor varies, based on the origin of the cacao and vanilla beans.

    This means you can have one heck of an ice cream tasting for National Ice Cream Month (July).

    It’s a memorable experience, especially for people who enjoy discerning the different flavor profiles between one origin and another in chocolate bars, olive oils, sea salts, wine grapes and so forth. The flavors of these agricultural products and others are greatly affected by their growing environment (terroir).

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE

    In the beginning—some 4,000 years ago—there was ice cream. Here’s the history of ice cream.

    Fast-forward ahead a few thousand years—beyond the labor-intensive ice cream made by servants of the wealthy in pre-electricity Renaissance days, beyond the invention of the ice cream churn in 1851, beyond the soda fountains at neighborhood drug scores, which engendered the ice cream soda along with scooped ice cream to eat at the fountain or to take home.

    Along with home refrigerators, supermarket brands arrived in the 1950s. Many used cheaper ingredients and whipped more air into then ice cream (known as overrun) to keep gallon prices low. This engendered a USDA classification system. “Economy,” “regular” and “premium” ice creams were defined by butterfat content and overrun.

    Häagen-Daz arrived in the 1970s with even higher butterfat and lower overrun than premium ice cream, inaugurating the superpremium category. With butterfat greater than 14% (some brands have 18% and more), overrun as low as 20% and complex flavors in addition to the basic ones), there’s no rung higher to go on the classification scale—by government standards, at least.

    Some companies—including Choctál—have labeled their ice cream “ultrapremium,” but this is marketing rather than an official government standard.

    And now, there’s single origin ice cream.

    WHAT IS “SINGLE-ORIGIN?”

    The term is not currently regulated in the U.S., but single origin can refer either to a single region or at the micro level, to a single farm or estate within that region.

    It is based on the agricultural concept of terroir (tur-WAH), a French term that is the basis for its the A.O.C. system (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, or controlled designation of origin), created in the 1950s.

    Choctal Single Origin Chocolate Ice Cream

    Choctal Single Origin Ice Cream

    Choctal Single Origin Vanilla Ice Cream

    [1] A pint of Kalimantan chocolate, with beans from Borneo. [2] The four origins of chocolate and vanilla may look the same, but the tastes are noticeably different. [3] A pint of vanilla made with beans from Madagascar, the classic raised to the heights by Choctál (photos courtesy Choctál).

    These environmental characteristics gives agricultural products their character. A.O.C. and related terms like Italy’s P.D.O. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or Protected Designation of Origin.) recognize that different plots of land produce different flavors from the same rootstock. In the 1990s, the European Union created a new system to provide a uniform labeling protocol: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).What IS “TERROIR?”Terroir, pronounced tur-WAH is a French agricultural term that is the basis of the French A.O.C. (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) system. It refers to the unique components of the place (environment) where an agricultural product is grown.

    Each specific habitat (plot of land) has unique set of environmental factors that affect a crop’s qualities, down to nuances of aroma, flavor and texture. They include the climate and microclimate, weather (the season’s growing conditions), elevation height and slant of the land), proximity to a body of water, slant of the land, soil type and amount of direct sunlight.

    This means that the same rootstock that is grown in different locations produces different flavors.

    Not only will the product taste and smell somewhat different (Sauvignon Blanc can have grass or grapefruit aroma and flavor notes—or neither—depending on their terroir), but intermediate products also create a difference.

    For example, grass with more clover, wild herbs, and so forth produces a delicate difference in an animal’s milk, and thus in artisan cheese.

    Note that processing will also affect the flavor. Neighboring wine makers, for example, can use different techniques to create wines that highlight their personal flavor preferences.

     

    Choctal Single Origin Ice Cream

    Choctal Single Origin Ice Cream Cones

    Choctàl pints and cones (photos courtesy Choctàl).

    THE CHOCTÀL SINGLE ORIGIN ICE CREAMS

    Choctàl Single Origin Chocolate Ice Cream

    • Costa Rican cacao is distinguished by sweet notes of coffee and a hint of butterscotch.
    • Ghana cacao, from the coast of West Africa, has a fudge, milk chocolate character.
    • Kalimantan cacao, from the island of Borneo in the South China Sea, produces intense cacao beans with a slight hint of caramel.
    • Dominican cacao, from the Dominican Republic on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, has a natural dark chocolate flavor profile with notes of clove and nutmeg.

    Choctàl Single Origin Vanilla Ice Cream

    • Indonesian vanilla is full-bodied, blending the creamy sweetness of classic bourbon (Madagascan) vanilla with a woody floral note.
    • Madagascar vanilla, from the island off the eastern coast of Africa, has been the world standard in vanilla for centuries, smooth and buttery. In the hands of Choctal, it may be the best vanilla ice cream you’ll ever taste.
    • Mexican vanilla has a natural touch of cinnamon. Choctàl adds more cinnamon. It obscures the single origin flavor, but makes a delicious cinnamon-vanilla ice cream.
    • Papua New Guinea vanilla has fruity, floral notes of cherry that linger on the palate during a long, lush finish.

    The line is certified kosher by OU.

    While the main experience is to taste and compared the different origins to each other, they are also splendid in everything from à la mode to floats.

    WHERE TO FIND CHOCTÁL ICE CREAMHere’s a store locator to find the nearest pint of Choctàl.You can also order pints and gift cards on the Choctàl website.

     

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Lactaid Ice Cream

    July is National Ice Cream Month, a time for celebration among ice cream lovers. But not for every one of us.

    According to research studies, 30 to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant. Some have been that way since childhood; some lose the ability to digest lactose as adults.

    Says HealthDay.com, “The condition is so common—and so natural—that some doctors don’t even like to call lactose intolerance a disorder.

    But that’s no comfort to anyone who can no longer have cheese, ice cream, milk, yogurt and even butter, including butter-rich foods such as buttercream frosting and caramels.

    Lactose intplerance cuts across ancestral lines, creating gastrointestinal problems in:

  • 70% of African Americans
  • 90% of Asian Americans
  • 53% of Mexican Americans
  • 74% of Native Americans
  • 20% of Caucasians, however…
  •  
    …people of Arab, Greek, Hispanic, Italian and Jewish ancestry have a much higher incidence than other groups.
     
    LACTOSE-FREE ICE CREAM FROM LACTAID

    Ice cream lovers: Eat all of the frozen delight you want, without incurring the distressing symptoms of lactose intolerance.

    (Second thought, eating too much could give you an ice cream headache or make your inner and outer mouth feel like Alaska in the winter.)

    Lactaid Ice Cream, made by Hood, is a delicious line. And what a choice:

    The Basics

  • Chocolate
  • Vanilla
  •  
    The Mix-Ins

  • Butter Pecan
  • Cookies & Cream
  • Mint Chocolate Chip
  •  
    The New & Glorious

  • Berry Chocolate Crumble
  • Salted Caramel Chip
  •    

    Ice Cream Lactose Intolerant

    Lactaid Ice Cream

    [1] Lactaid has delicious specialty flavors, like Berry Crumble and Salted Caramel Chip (photo courtesy NotQuiteSusie.com). [2] Chocolate and vanilla Lactaid (photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE).

     

    The magic is simply that the brand adds lactase, a natural enzyme that is no longer produced by the stomach of lactose-intolerant people. It’s the same ingredient as in Lactose supplement pills. It helps break down the lactose so that dairy products are easily digested.

    Lactase has no impact on taste or texture. Unless they saw the carton, no one would know the products are lactose-free.
     
    Now…

    Have an ice cream cone, a shake or a sundae!

    Make ice cream sandwiches and ice cream cake!

    Eat ice cream straight from the carton!

    But there’s more!

     

    Lactose Free Sour Cream

    Lactose Free Cream Cheese

    [1] (photo courtesy FoodForMyFamily.com). [2] Photo courtesy MyLilikoiKitchen.com).

     

    MORE LACTOSE-FREE DAIRY FOODS

    From Lactaid

    Lactaid also makes lactose-free milk (0%, 1%, 2%, whole and chocolate), low fat cottage cheese, and holiday nog.
     
    From Green Valley Organics

    Green Valley Organics adds still more lactose-free dairy options:

  • Cream cheese
  • Kefir
  • Lowfat and whole-milk yogurt
  • Sour cream
  •  
    Use the store locator on the home page to find a retailer near you.

    Might we add: No one would know all these products are lactose free.
     
    BOTH LACTAID & GREEN VALLEY PRODUCTS ARE DEE-LICIOUS.
     
    LIKE CHEESE?

    If you’re just mildly lactose intolerant, you may find that buffalo’s, goats’, and sheep’ milk cheeses are easier to digest than cow’s milk.

    If you’re substantially lactose intolerant, even cheeses with only 2% lactose can upset your stomach. The only 100% lactose-free cheese is Cheddar.

    Fortunately, it’s the most popular cheese in the U.S.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: SunGold Kiwi From Zespri

    You may think of kiwifruit as green, but in the wild they are found in red and yellow as well.

    In the late 1970s, New Zealand kiwifruit growers began experimenting with the breeding of a golden kiwifruit (in the U.S., we call it “kiwi” for short).

    In 1992, Zespri—the world leader in premium quality kiwifruit—selected one offspring plant from the breeding stock to create the the golden-fleshed berry* now known as Zespri© SunGold© Kiwifruit. It is available at supermarkets nationwide from May through October.

    SunGold is sweeter than a green kiwi, and tastes like a cross between a mango and a strawberry with just a hint of tanginess. We adore it.

    NOTE that SunGold is a proprietary strain from Zespri. You may find other golden kiwifruit; we can’t vouch for it. Look for the Zespri label.
     
    ENJOY KIWI ANYTIME

    Like regular kiwi, SunGold offers healthy ammounts of vitamins C and E, potassium. Its sunny yellow sweetness boosts the nutrition and color on the plate.

    You can simply scoop it and eat it with a spoon, or peel it for just about any fruit recipe. A few examples:

  • Breakfast: with cereal, cottage cheese, yogurt, smoothies
  • Lunch: green salad, garnish for egg, chicken or tuna salad, salsa, sliced on sandwiches (especially ham or turkey)
  • Dinner: cocktails and mocktails, fruit soup, garnishes, sides
  • Dessert: compote, fruit salad, garnishes, ice cream and sorbet, pies and tarts, pudding
  •  
    HOW TO RIPEN KIWIFRUIT

    Golden kiwi is usually ready to eat when you buy it. It should feel slightly soft to the touch, like a ripe peach. Once ripe, it should be stored in the refrigerator (the same for green kiwi).

    Green kiwi may be a bit firm when you buy it, and will usually ripen at in three to five days at room temperature. The firmer the fruit, the more tart it will taste.

       

    Sungold Kiwi

    SunGold Kiiwi

    [1] SunGold kiwifruit have a smooth skin, not fuzzy like green kiwi. [2] All you need is a spoon (photos courtesy Zespri).

     
    To speed up the ripening process, place kiwis (or any fruit) in a closed paper bag on the counter along with an apple or banana. Fruits like apples and bananas produce natural ethylene gas, which accelerates ripening.

    By the same token, any ripe fruit should be stored away from ethylene-producing fruits—never in the same produce drawer. If you want to store the fruit for longer than a few days, keep it in a plastic bag in the fridge.
     
    _____________________
    *Yes, kiwi is a very large berry. It grows on a vine.

     

    Kiwi Cocktail

    Baked Brie With Kiwi

    [1] Kiwi-banana cocktail. [2] Baked Brie with kiwi compote (photos courtesy Zespri).

     

    COCKTAIL RECIPE: KIWI-BANANA—TINI

    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 1 Zespri SunGold kiwi, peeled† and chopped
  • 1 ounce banana rum
  • 1 ounce Bärenjäger or other honey liqueur‡
  • 1-1/2 ounces heavy cream
  • 1/2 ounce Licor 43 or other vanilla liqueur**
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: a kiwi wheel, lime wheel or other garnish of choice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MUDDLE the kiwi and rum in a shaker. Add the Bärenjäger and shake with ice. Strain into a Martini glass.

    2. PLACE the cream and Liquor 43 in a shaker. Shake for 30 seconds until frothy.

    3. PLACE a teaspoon (flatware) against the inside edge of a Martini glass, with the well facing the glass. Slowly pour the cream mixture over back of spoon onto the kiwi mixture, creating a layered effect. Garnish as desired and serve immediately.
     
    _____________________
    †A serrated peeler works best for peeling kiwifruit.

    ‡You can substitute another honey liqueur and can also easily make your own honey liqueur.

    **Licor 43 is made from citrus and other fruit juices, flavored with vanilla, herbs and spices. You can substitute another vanilla liqueur or a citrus liqueur.

     
    RECIPE #2: BAKED BRIE WITH SPICY KIWI COMPOTE

    Ingredients For 16 Servings

    Prep time is 10 minutes, total time is 25 minutes.

  • 1 Brie cheese round, about 13 ounces
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper jelly (or other pepper jelly)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Zespri green kiwi, peeled† and diced
  • 1 Zespri SunGold kiwi, peeled† and diced
  • Assorted crackers or baguette slices
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oven to 350F. Unwrap the Brie; trim and discard the top rind. Place the Brie in a baking dish or pie plate. Bake for 15 minutes or until the Brie is softened and beginning to melt. Meanwhile…

    2. STIR together in a microwavable bowl the jelly, mustard and pepper. Fold in the kiwi and microwave on high power for 1-1/2 minutes, stirring halfway through heating, until hot.

    3. TRANSFER the Brie to a serving plate. Top with the kiwi compote and serve with crackers or breads.
     
     
    VISIT ZESPRIKIWI.COM FOR MANY MORE RECIPES

      

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