Prisco’s Family Market

1108 Prairie Street, Aurora, IL 60506 | 630-264-9400

Hours: Monday - Friday, 7 am to 8:30 pm | Saturday, 7 am to 8 pm | Sunday, 8 am to 7 pm

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The great fall harvest- Tuesday, October 28, 2014

This week at Prisco’s we are celebrating the Great Fall Harvest. Just head west of our store a few miles and once you cross Orchard Ave. the city melts away and is replaced by beautiful, open fields where local farmers are busy taking in their crops of corn and soy beans. Weather conditions this spring and summer made this one of the best crops we have seen in many years, and whenever we traveled along Prairie Street heading toward Sugar Grove this summer we were struck with a sense of awe at the tall, healthy crops on either side of the road.

When we think of fall, besides the beautiful changing of the leaves, the thought that next comes to mind are the fresh apples waiting to be picked and enjoyed. This is a great time to visit our store if you are an apple lover because we are featuring five of our most popular varieties of apples, all at a common and very affordable price of 99₵ lb.

Sure, they make great lunch box add-ins and after school snacks eaten raw, but we don’t want to forget some of the most loved foods that can be had using apples for cooking.

 

 

Fresh home made applesauce
Sure, you can buy applesauce in a jar and we sell lots every week at our store, but does anything in a jar come close to the taste of your own homemade apple sauce? Don’t fret, it’s a very simple recipe the kids or grandkids would love to help make. (A sure fire way to get them to eat it as well.)

Another apple favorite that is most definitely considered a stick-to-your-ribs comfort food has to be German Apple Pancakes. Once you start making this recipe in any kitchen the whole house smells of sweet cinnamon and sugar and you are guaranteed to get a long list of volunteers to help get breakfast cooked and on the table.

Of course, we would not be doing justice to fall harvest celebrations if we didn’t mention the one food that is synonymous with homemade American baking… Apple Pie

 

Tags :  apples recipes
"Everything that's old is new, and everything that's new is old."- Tuesday, October 28, 2014

- Stephanie Mills – American R&B singer

This clever saying coined by Stephanie Mills is the cornerstone of what I wanted to Shout Out about today. I’m known at Prisco’s as the craft beer and hard cider guru, two subsets of the adult beverage category that are growing leaps and bounds annually and two topics that I love talking about. However, there is another adult beverage that is very new to almost everyone I speak to about it but ironically, it is believed to be the oldest alcoholic beverage known to man. I’m referring to mead, also known as "honey wine" which dates back thousands of years before Jesus Christ performed his miracle of changing water to wine at the wedding feast of Canna.

Made from fermented honey and water, sometimes with added yeast, mead is produced using countless styles and variations—from dry to sweet and anything in between, including sparkling. This is done by tinkering with the ingredient proportions and the fermentation process. Just as a wine’s notes are dependent on the terroir of its grapes (how a particular region’s climate, soils and terrain affect the taste of wine), the flavor of a mead changes based on the flowers that honeybees use to pollinate.

A little about the history of mead

The earliest evidence of mead production dates back to 9000 BC from pottery vessels in northern China. Historically, mead was something of a global beverage: it was consumed by Greek gods on Mt. Olympus, by the Vikings, and by African bushmen. In fact, mead was consumed before men knew how to harness the mead making process; mead fermented naturally on its own when a beehive combined with rainwater and yeast in the air. The great anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss suggested that the invention of mead marks a critical passage in human evolution, the transition "from nature to culture," as he put it.

The term ‘honeymoon’ can be traced to the medieval tradition of drinking this honey wine for a full cycle of the moon after marriage. Mead was thought to be an aphrodisiac, and if it was consumed by newlyweds, offspring would hopefully soon follow. A bride’s father would often include enough mead in her dowry to last for a month.

Throughout the ages, across the globe, mead has been celebrated as a source of health and happiness, of strength and inspiration, the preferred drink of poets and scholars, warriors and kings. Though mead faded from prominence after the Middle Ages, many European monasteries continued to make it, most famously the Holy Island of Lindisfarne off the coast of England. Craft mead is now poised to make a comeback, although it hasn’t yet been commercialized on a large scale. There are at least 165 meaderies in the U.S., according to the American Mead Makers’ Association (AMMA). Why is mead so alluring now? It possesses a mysterious, ancient aura, and it’s also not widely available in bars, making it more of an exclusive drink for those in the know.

So just what is mead?

There’s a lot of confusion about what this stuff actually is. Is it a wine? Is it a beer? Sort of. Not really. Yes and no. The most basic mead recipe contains just three simple ingredients: honey, water and yeast. We usually think of wine as fermented juice, with no water added, so in that sense mead resembles beer. But beer is made with grain, which must be malted and mashed and lautered (separating the sweet wort from the mash) and sparged (rinsing the grain of residualsugrs) — a complex process which has nothing to do with making mead. In the end we might have to conclude that mead is its own sweet thing. Technically, mead is classified as wine by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which regulates alcohol sales and labelling in the US. This means that mead has to be labelled as "honey wine", which doesn't help combat people's perception of the drink as being as cloyingly sweet.

Don’t be thrown off by the word honey. Mead is not necessarily sweet, there is a great proliferation of not only dry meads but also meads flavored with fruits, herbs, and spicy peppers.

But what about taste?

OK, so it’s not nearly as important to know what mead is as to know how it tastes.

It’s true that mead tends to be on the sweet side, but just how sweet is a matter of preference and choice. As with any other wine, you can ferment mead until it is bone dry. But chemically speaking, the sugars in honey are very simple. If you ferment them away entirely, you risk losing all the flavor. The challenge for the mead maker is to find the right balance, the sweet spot, if you will, to preserve the delicate, mellow character of the honey, without being too sweet.

What if I don’t like sweet wine?

If you’re curious about mead, I would ask that you set aside your feelings about sweet versus dry and let the mead be mead. Let yourself be open to the possibilities. You might be surprised at what you find.

Start by pouring a small amount of a mead that sparks your interest. Swirl your glass and take in the aroma with your nose. What do you smell? Flowers? Fruit? Fresh herbs? Or perhaps something you can’t identify, but some earthy rich scent. Now let the taste buds explore as you take a small sip and let it roll around in your mouth over and under the tongue. How does it feel in your mouth? Thin, full, smooth, rich? How does it taste? Buttery, acidic? How would you describe the aftertaste? Warm, lingering, vaguely lemony?

What has led to mead’s recent surge in popularity?

Ironically, most people credit the credit with the resurgence of the mead business with the very popular craft beer movement "I was a home brewer, and at first I liked mead because I had never had it," says Brad Dahlhofer of B Nektar meadery in Detroit, Michigan. "Every home brewer has the same dream of, 'Hey what if I could sell this? Wouldn't that be great?'" says Dahlhofer.

After he spent months making batch after batch of mead, perfecting his recipe, he realized that mead was "kind of an untouched category", and that no-one, at least back in 2008, was really doing it commercially. So when he and his wife, Kerri, were both laid off of their jobs in Detroit's car industry during the recession, they decided to take the plunge. Today, B Nektar is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, US meadery, shipping 1,100 cases a week across the country.

Brad and his fellow mead enthusiasts, however feel that things are just getting started in the craft mead industry. Twenty five years ago, craft beer garnered a mere 1% of the total beer market but today it’s over 8%.

Mead can be enjoyed in a variety of ways – chilled, iced, at room temperature, or warmed. These variations change the flavor, mouth feel, and personality of the mead. Meads can easily substitute for and surpass your favorite red or white wine and they pair well with fish, meats, vegetarian meals, cheeses, and desserts. Bottom line I think mead has a distinct and interesting taste which I find most enjoyable. It’s delicious! But don’t take my word for it. Try some for yourself!

Hope you enjoy – check out our wide selection of featured meads in today’s online ad. http://www.priscosfamilymarket.com/specials/department_id/8

 

- Andy

How to Prepare an Artichoke- Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Artichokes take a little effort when it comes to preparation and cooking but yield a mild, nutty flavor that compliments a variety of foods. Artichokes are used for main dishes, side-dishes, appetizers, and as an ingredient in dips and sauces. With just a little preparation, fresh artichokes can be easy to cook -- just follow these step-by-step instructions:

  1. Decide if you need to cook just one artichoke or multiple artichokes at a time. Either way, you can cook artichokes in advance and store them in your refrigerator for several days before using them.
  2. Next, take your fresh artichoke and rinse it well under cold water. If you have one handy, we  even suggest using a soft kitchen brush and giving the 'choke a quick scrub down. This helps remove the natural, light film an artichoke produces while growing; the film has a generally unpleasant, bitter flavor.
  3. “Top and tail” the artichoke with your knife: With a sharp, serrated kitchen knife, cut about one inch from the top of the artichoke. Then, trim the stem about one half inch, or remove the stem completely if you need it to “sit up” on a plate for stuffing or filling. Remember, the artichoke stem is a continuation of the Heart, so don’t cut it off unless you need to. Many cooks also like to rub the cut portion of the artichoke with the juice of a fresh lemon to prevent it from browning. (This step is optional).
  4. Lastly, don’t be afraid to spread open the petals slightly to allow any seasoning you may use to fall in between the artichoke's petals for flavor.

Now your artichoke is ready to cook!

Nutrition

If you’ve always loved artichokes for their flavor, you’ll love them even more for their nutritional value. A large artichoke contains a mere 60 calories! In addition, artichokes are a great source of vitamin c, potassium, magnesium, and fiber, too -- but more excitably, artichokes have become recognized as one of the nutritional "super foods" because they are also a great source of powerful, disease-fighting antioxidants. In fact, recent research shows cooked artichokes are the best source of antioxidants among all fresh vegetables. As if that weren't enough, research has also shown that cooking increases the total antioxidant content, with steaming and microwaving being the best methods.


 

Prisco's offers cooking classes- Tuesday, October 21, 2014

If you’ve ever attended one of our locally famous cooking classes at Prisco Family Markets you know what a delicious learning experience our local cooking expert and teacher Phyllis Kramer has in store for you. If you have never before attended a class … what are you waiting for?

This year’s fall sessions have had to be a bit compacted for good reason. For the entire month of October, Phyllis has been in Europe (mostly Tuscany Italy) visiting wonderful cooking schools, chefs and restaurants. When she arrives back home she will be loaded with all sorts of exciting news that is certain to rock our food world and as always Prisco’s customers are invited to get a front row seat at any of her lively and interactive cooking classes.

All about spices

This is a must do class for anyone who is serious about expanding their cooking and baking horizons. If you are like most home chefs you have a basic understanding of about a dozen common spices. Truth is these basic spices are just a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of spices, blends and herbs now available at Prisco’s Family Market. Recently we introduced an exciting new line of 100% organic spices and early indications are that customers love this new offering. Please take advantage of Phyllis’ years of cooking and teaching experience and see a new world of taste open up to you by attending our spice class.

Annual Cocktail Party

Shortly after the cooking class and just a bit prior to Thanksgiving, Phyllis will once again be hosting our very popular pre-holiday cocktail party. This evening of fun, food and drink is always a sell out so don’t hesitate. Call this week and make your reservations because you don’t want to hear from you friends and neighbors all the fun that you missed out on.

For complete details on both upcoming food classes click here.

Hope to see you in class!

 

- Georgette Prisco

Winter squash – more than just a table decoration.- Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Part of any fall decoration, it seems, are pumpkins and various gourds and squash varieties.  Unfortunately, for many of us who enjoy the delicious seasonal taste of winter squash as well as the appearance, it is something we don’t get to enjoy very often. This is primarily because most of us only know how to properly prepare these autumn beauties in a couple ways, and our palates require more variety.

Winter squash come in many sizes and shapes, but all have hard outer rinds that surround sweet, often orange flesh.  Winter squash arrive late in the growing season; they have a long shelf life, so they've long been a staple in winter and spring, when other vegetables are harder to come by. Unlike summer squash, winter squash must be cooked. They're usually baked or steamed, and occasionally puréed.

This week, let’s focus on just three varieties of winter squash in order to help take away some of the mystery of these vegetables.

Acorn squash
These are popular because of their small size--one squash can be cut in half and baked to make two generous servings. The biggest drawback to this variety is that the rind is quite hard and therefore difficult to cut. Select acorn squash with as much green on the rind as possible. We've found some helpful tips on how to prepare acorn squash on http://homecooking.about.com

Acorn Squash Cooking Tips

* You'll need to remove the fibers and seeds from the center of the acorn squash before steaming, broiling, or baking.\

* Save the acorn squash seeds to toast for snacking just as you would pumpkin seeds.

* A sturdy knife to slice acorn squash in half is a necessity. To make the squash easier to cut, pierce the skin in a few spots, place it  in a microwave oven and heat on high for 2 minutes. Let stand for another few minutes before carving.

* When halving, cut through the stem end to the point rather than across the diameter.

* To prevent halves from rocking on the baking tray, cut a small slice off the bottom to flatten it.

* The ribbed shape of the acorn squash makes peeling it virtually impossible, but wonderful for stuffing with a wide variety of fillings. It is most often served cooked in its shell. If you need the pulp only, you will need to cook it first and then scoop the pulp from the skin. It is done when the flesh is very tender, usually about one hour baking time at 400 degrees F. for halved squash. Timing depends on the size of the squash, but it's difficult to over-bake.

* Avoid boiling acorn squash. Boiling damages both the flavor and the texture.

* To quickly microwave acorn squash, cut two whole squash in half, cover and cook for 13 minutes on high. Do not add water.

* Acorn squash can also be cooked whole. Pierce the skin in several places. Place on a baking sheet in 350-degree F. oven for about 1-1/2 hours. Squeeze the squash to test for doneness. When it yields to gentle pressure, it's done. You can then cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and serve or cool and use the cooked innards.

* The deeper the yellowish orange color of the flesh, the sweeter it is. If you end up with a stringy squash, you can beat the pulp with an electric mixer on high speed for ten seconds and then switch to low speed for sixty seconds. The strings should wrap around the beaters for easy removal.


Butternut Squash
This variety is very popular because it's so easy to use. It's small enough to serve a normal family without leftovers, and the rind is thin enough to peel off with a vegetable peeler. As an added bonus, the flavor is sweet, moist, and pleasantly nutty.

If possible, buy long-neck butternut fruit as it contains more meat and less hollow cavity and seeds. Cut the stem end and slice the whole fruit into two equal halves. Remove central net-like structure and set aside seeds, then cut into desired sizes. In general, wedges/small cubes are used in cooking. Almost all the parts of the butternut squash plant--fruit, leaves, flowers, and seeds--are edible.

Here are some serving tips:

* Like in pumpkin, butternut has a beautiful nutty flavor and mildly sweet taste. Fresh raw butternut cubes may add a special tang to vegetable salads.

* It is favored in both savory as well as sweet dishes. It can be used in a variety of delicious recipes either baked, stuffed, or stew-fried. However, steam cooking is best for preserving the maximum number of nutrients.

* Like in pumpkin, it can also be used in the preparations of casseroles, pies, pancakes, custard, ravioli, bread, muffins, etc.

* Roasted and tossed butternut squash seeds can be used as snacks.


Spaghetti Squash
Though much larger than summer squash, a spaghetti squash is an oblong, slightly rounded squash with a skin similar to that of a summer squash. You can cook spaghetti squash in a number of ways, including boiling, baking, steaming...even barbecuing!
 
When spaghetti squash is cooked, the inner flesh comes off the rind and separates into strands which closely resemble pasta. Though they taste like squash, these "noodles" can be served as a low-calorie, nutrient-rich substitute for pasta.
 
Some people are on diets that require them to avoid foods that are high in carbohydrates. Given this restriction, these individuals often find spaghetti squash to be a very good substitute for a pasta.

"Age is something that doesn't matter, unless you are a cheese."- Tuesday, October 14, 2014

- Luis Bunuel

We’ve got some exciting news to share.   We recently added a large number of delicious varieties of cheese, many of them difficult to find locally. Some of these cheeses are made by local artisans and many are imported from countries like France, Greece, Spain, Great Britain, and elsewhere.

As you know, we have always been your source for the finest quality of commercial cheese offered by Boar’s Head, Shullsburg and others.   These cheeses are ideal as complements to a sandwich or as ingredients on a pizza or in a pasta dish or quiche.   This new cheese offering, on the other hand, is in an entirely different category.   These cheeses are meant to stand on their own and are often complemented with a fine wine or craft beer.   They make delicious side dish offerings when paired with certain meats or special cuisines.   They are enjoyed as appetizers or desserts and are often served as a special treat to guests, or something you can indulge in yourself.

What is Artisan Cheese?

Cheese produced by artisans is cheese that is made in small batches with the cheese maker's very own hands. The cheese is given plenty of care and attention, unlike mass-produced cheese that comes from pushing a series of buttons on large machines.   Artisans don't use artificial ingredients, flavor additives or preservatives -- just expertise, experience, and heart.   They work on farms and small creameries, not massive production plants and automated factories.   It is original, authentic cheese, and we are very proud to bring it to you.

 The Cheese Basics

Understanding the difference between cheese that is "artisan" and cheese that is "mass-produced" is only one way to increase your knowledge of cheese.   Here are three more components to understanding cheese:

We begin by categorizing fine cheese into six categories:

  • Blue cheese - This classic cheese marbled with bluish-green veins that develop after the cheese is pierced and air is allowed to enter, its ranges in texture from crumbly (Stilton, Roquefort) to creamy (Gorgonzola).
  • Fresh - A mild, delicate and pleasantly tangy flavor. Because it is unaged, it has no rind or surface mold.
  • Bloomy Rind - Small cheeses with velvety, edible rinds ranging from downy white to golden-red in color.
  • Washed Rind - With their orange to red, shiny, damp exteriors and powerful aroma, these rinds are washed repeatedly with brine, wine, beer, brandy or cider as they age to encourage the flavor producing surface ripening.
  • Semi hard - Aged for several months. They generally have thick, gray rinds, and may be finished with a wax rub to cut moisture loss.
  • Hard - These large cheeses are made with cooked curds, pressed firmly into forms, and aged for several months or years. They can have a solid, slightly crumbly texture, or a very dense, flaky, granular consistency.

In a future Shout Out”, I’ll go into greater detail about each variety.

Beyond the basic cheese variety the other important factors that contribute to the popularity and taste of the cheese are the type of milk(s) used and the region where it was produced.   Lots more to come on those subjects as well.

For now, let me just invite you to visit our specialty, premium cheese shop across from the deli, and on weekends be certain to try samples of the wide range of cheeses being featured.   If you are a cheese novice, no problem. Ask questions and try everything until you hone in on your favorites.   If you are a cheese aficionado, welcome; and please share your comments and requests for anything special that you have a taste for.   If you have a preferred cheese that we don’t carry, whisper in our ear and we will do our best to add it to our offering.

Till next time,

Beth

 

Tags :  cheese artisan
Prisco’s Italian Heritage, Part 2- Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How it still impacts us in 2014

Today we, members of the third and fourth generations of the Prisco family of Aurora, seek to emulate those who have gone before us by giving back wherever possible. Our two holiday food drives in November and December have provided those in need in our community with tens of thousands of dollars of food for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Our charitable gift card program is one of the most generous in the area and gives local schools and churches a way to raise much needed funds. We also partner with many local service clubs and organizations by helping in their fund raising efforts. Prisco’s continues to reflect and promote those values of honesty, hard work, and treating people fairly as our forbearers did. It’s the only way to do business.

Those of you who are as old as I am recall Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet of PBS fame. Smith was particularly fond of Italian cooking and liked to say that Italian cuisine was the second best cuisine in the world after Chinese with French being a distant fourth or fifth (take that Julia Child). Anyway as one of our good bakery suppliers says, “Everyone loves a little Italian”, and that pretty much sums it up. Long after the Italian club has closed and the Italian community has succumbed to intermarriage and the automobile, the love of Italian cuisine in this country is stronger than ever.

Here at Prisco’s we take our own family recipes and traditions and turn them into great products for you to enjoy. Grandma’s homemade Italian sausage made from lean all natural pork and spices (never any preservatives or artificial anything) is one of the top selling items in the entire store. Just last week, a retired couple came in who lived over 25 miles away to get our meatloaf/meatball mix (my father’s recipe of ground chuck, pork, and veal). They happily informed me that the meatballs and sauce they were going to produce would be traveling the country as they made the rounds to visit all of their children. Our homemade lasagna recipe is Grandma’s (my aunts and mother still can’t figure out how I got it from her) as is our pasta fagioli. Italian beef, pasta salads, tomato salads, potato salad, cannoli; the list goes on and on. Our produce and grocery departments are also chock full of additional Italian favorites. This is what you our wonderful customers ask for and this is what we strive to produce.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we have a whole freezer full of great pasta treats including ravioli, tortellini, tortellacci, and more. Sophia Loren once said, “Everything you see I owe to pasta.” At Prisco’s, everything you see we owe to our Italian Heritage.



- Rob Prisco

Forget the pie! Here are some other uses for pumpkin- Tuesday, October 7, 2014

October is here, and along with it comes one of the most popular produce items of the year: fresh, local pumpkins!

As far as mainstream foods go, pumpkins have become almost synonymous with Autumn (right alongside apples and mulled cider), and just about everyone is familiar with their use as seasonal decorations -- and, of course, pie fillers. What many folks may not realize, however, is that pumpkins have a lot more uses beyond aesthetics and as a complement to vanilla ice cream.

Here are some unusual but legitimate uses for pumpkins that don't involve carving faces into them...

[The following info is courtesy of mnn.com]

Outdoor uses

Compost

Hey, it's traditional. Pumpkins go great with compost, where they will help enrich the soil as they break down. So say boo! to your landscaper with some pumpkins in the compost.

Planter

Biodegradeable planters come in mighty handy, and this one doubles as fall decor. Now that you have a hollowed-out pumpkin on your hands, fill it with soil and bright plants like fall mums. For the first few days, you can leave it in place on your porch or somewhere else you want on your porch, and then you can bury the whole setup. The pumpkin will protect the roots from frost while the plants get established, and as it breaks down, it will provide lots of needed nutrition.

Health uses

Gastrointestinal distress

Pumpkin is very high in fiber, so if any mammals in the house (including the people) happen to be having some discomfort (a big problem with rich fall foods), try eating some plain pumpkin puree. Dogs and cats alike enjoy pumpkin and it can help regulate their digestive tracts, while humans may appreciate it with some flavoring (try making pumpkin oats as a mild, fiber-rich snack). Of course, if the problem persists, it's time to call a doctor. Or a vet.

Beauty Care

Pumpkin face mask or peel

Pumpkin is great for the skin. It exfoliates, nourishes and helps tighten up the skin to increase skin tone. All these factors make it great for masks and peels. Mix pumpkin, milk (a classic skin soother), and spices you like to make a smooth cream to apply to your face, and then enjoy the results. Honey makes a fantastic addition, as it will provide a moisturizing effect.

Pumpkin body butter

Yes. It's luxurious, great for your skin, and it feels amazing. After you've scrubbed your skin to lift up all those dead cells and get a refined polish, try applying a rich and creamy blend of 1:1 pumpkin butter to coconut cream (or the solid part from a can of coconut milk). Add spices if you want to smell like pumpkin pie!