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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Preparing and cooking with fresh herbs- Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Everyone likes at least a little seasoning in their food, beyond the usual salt and pepper. Seasonings, and herbs in particular, can dramatically affect the way something smells and tastes, thus offering more variety in our meals and more ways to please our palates.

Fresh herbs versus dried

While it is often easier or more expedient to cook with dry herbs -- they come in convenient bottles and are more or less stable for months -- they're not always appropriate, and they don't always provide exactly the right flavor or texture. So how do you know which to use, fresh herbs or dried? According to delishmegish.com, you first need to determine how much of the herb you need:

If you’re making a dish that spotlights a particular herb, you’ll want to use a fresh one. Take pesto, for instance. You’d never pour 2 cups of dried basil into a food processor and hope for a luscious green pesto sauce — you’d use fresh basil leaves, no doubt. For something robust and savory like pesto, it’s important to use fresh herbs or that earthy bite. But, if you’re making chicken ratatouille, a dish that requires several ingredients, it’s safe to use dried herbs. After all, you’d only use a few tablespoons of dried marjoram.

And you should also look at the quantity of other herbs and seasonings in the recipe:

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is, the fewer ingredients a recipe calls for, the fresher and finer they should be. When you’re whipping up something like frico, a crunchy treat that needs only parmesan cheese, lemon zest and basil, fresh leaves are an absolute must. This way, you taste the sharp saltiness of the cheese, the fragrant lemon and of course, the basil, that initial peppery flavor that ultimately dissolves into minty sweetness.

How to prepare fresh herbs

Note: Before utilizing any of the following methods, thoroughly rinse your herbs under cool water. Gently blot them dry with paper towels or use a salad spinner to remove the excess moisture.

The best knife for chopping herbs is sharp with a wide blade, such as a chef’s knife or a Chinese cleaver, that lets you chop without hitting your fingers on the cutting board. Don’t use serrated-edge knives, because they won’t cut cleanly!

Stripping - You can remove tiny leaves from herbs such as thyme by holding onto the stem with one hand and stripping the leaves into a bowl using the other hand.

Snipping - To cut larger clean and dry fresh herbs, place leaves in a measuring cup or bowl and snip them with kitchen scissors, using short, quick strokes. For herbs with tough stems, such as rosemary, strip the leaves from the stem first.

Chiffonade - A chiffonade is a bunch of thin strips or shreds. To create a chiffonade of herbs, roll up larger leaves, such as basil, and cut across the roll

To store unprepared herbs, cut a 1/2 inch from the stems. Stand stem ends in a small jar with some water. Loosely cover leaves with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. Don't refrigerate basil -- it may blacken. Discard wilted leaves as they appear.

Ratio of fresh herbs to dried (substitutions)

When cooking with fresh and dry herbs, there is a general rule when it comes to the ratio of fresh to dry. Because dried herbs are generally more potent and concentrated than fresh herbs, you won't require as much. Roughly speaking, you need about three times the amount of fresh herbs as dry. So, for example, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, you would need 1 tablespoon of fresh if you wanted to do a substitution.

Herbs that are commonly used fresh [courtesy of cookinglight.com]

Basil - One of the most important culinary herbs. Sweet basil, the most common type, is redolent of licorice and cloves. Basil is used in the south of France to make pistou; its Italian cousin, pesto, is made just over the border. Used in sauces, sandwiches, soups, and salads, basil is in top form when married to tomatoes, as in the famous salad from the island of Capri—Insalata Caprese, made with tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil, and fruity olive oil.

Mint - Mint isn't just a little sprig that garnishes your dessert plate. It is extremely versatile and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. In the Mediterranean, mint is treasured as a companion to lamb, and is often used in fruit and vegetable salads. Though there are many varieties, spearmint is preferred for cooking. You can add it to a bevy of dishes and drinks—lamb, peas, carrots, ice cream, tea, mint juleps, and mojitos. Spearmint's bright green leaves are fuzzy, very different from the darker stemmed, rounded leaves of peppermint.

Rosemary - In Latin, rosemary means "dew of the sea"—appropriate since it is indigenous to the Mediterranean. Rosemary is one of the most aromatic and pungent of all the herbs. Its needlelike leaves have pronounced lemon-pine flavor that pairs well with roasted lamb, garlic, and olive oil. Rosemary is also a nice addition to focaccia, tomato sauce, pizza, and pork, but because its flavor is strong, use a light hand.

Oregano - Oregano grows wild in the mountains of Italy and Greece; its Greek name means "joy of the mountain." The Greeks love oregano sprinkled on salads, while the Italians shower it on pizza and slip it into tomato sauces. Add chopped oregano to vinaigrette, or use it in poultry, game, or seafood dishes when you want to take them in a Greek or Italian direction. Oregano and marjoram are so similar in looks and flavor that they are often confused. Oregano, however, has a more potent taste and aroma; marjoram is sweeter and more delicate.

Thyme -Thyme comes in dozens of varieties; however, most cooks use French thyme. Undoubtedly thyme is one of the most important herbs of the European kitchen. What would a bouquet garni be without it? This congenial herb pairs well with many other herbs—especially rosemary, parsley, sage, savory, and oregano. Its earthiness is welcome with pork, lamb, duck, or goose, and it's much beloved in Cajun and Creole cooking. It's also the primary component of Caribbean jerk seasonings. Because the leaves are so small, they often don't require chopping.

Cilantro - Some call it cilantro; others call it coriander, or even Chinese parsley. Whatever you call it, chances are you either love it or hate it. This native of southern Europe and the Middle East has a pungent flavor, with a faint undertone of anise. The leaves are often mistaken for flat-leaf parsley, so read the tag. One of the most versatile herbs, cilantro adds distinctive flavor to salsas, soups, stews, curries, salads, vegetables, fish, and chicken dishes.

Parsley - No refrigerator should be without parsley. It's the workhorse of the herb world and can go in just about every dish you cook. Parsley's mild, grassy flavor allows the flavors of other ingredients to come through. Curly parsley is less assertive than its brother, flat-leaf parsley (often called Italian parsley). Flat-leaf parsley is preferred for cooking, as it stands up better to heat and has more flavor, while the more decorative curly parsley is used mostly for garnishing.

Chives - Toss chives into a dish at the last minute, because heat destroys their delicate onion flavor. Thinly slice them to maximize their taste, or use finely snipped chives as a garnish. Chives are great in dips and quesadillas, and on baked potatoes.

Some secrets of Italian cooking- Tuesday, September 29, 2015

As most of our customers know, our business started almost 90 years ago when my grandparents opened a neighborhood groceria on Bishop Street on the first floor of their family home. Grandma Mary raised four children upstairs while Grandpa Tony tended to the store downstairs. Grandma was an excellent cook and fortunately she wrote down all of her delicious authentic Italian recipes, most of which we still offer today in the prepared foods section of our deli.

Italian cooking is arguably among the best and most loved in Europe, and even though the country is not large in size, there are interesting cooking styles found in each of the twenty regions of Italy. That’s part of the reason that Italian food appeals to such a broad audience. As a family, we Prisco’s all love food, and we love to cook nearly as much as we love to eat. Today I thought I would share a few secrets that have been passed down from one generation to the next that help make Italian foods so delicious and -- in most cases -- good for your health as well.

Pasta Shapes

Believe it or not, there are over 400 unique types of pasta: Sheets, strips, long strands, cylinders and other unique shapes are common, as well as a variety of flavors. There are more names for pasta than the anyone can recall. However, shape and texture aside, authentic Italian pastas by law are made from the same basic ingredients — 100% durum wheat and water with a specific percentage of acidity and humidity. Yes, there is some room for variation to give some pasta unique attributes, but that again is controlled to assure authenticity. Some light flavors and colors can be added to pasta along with egg yolk, spinach, tomato paste, chocolate, and even squid ink.

Each type of pasta creates its own unique dining experience when properly served. One key reason for all the different pasta shapes is the other ingredients that go into the recipe, specifically the sauce or oils mixed with or topping the pasta. Really, there is a science to it all. Just as different wines pair well with different foods, different types of pasta pair well with different types of sauce. A simple rule of thumb would be as follows: Thick pasta = thick sauce, light pasta = light sauce. For a great article about pasta types and shapes and which sauce to use with each, check this article on Chowhound. http://www.chowhound.com/food-news/54492/when-pasta-met-sauce/

Oil & Water

Contrary to what you may have hard elsewhere, you should not add oil to pasta water! Pasta dressing (and oil is one possible dressing) must be added only after you have drained the water after cooking your pasta. When you add oil to the water all you do is make the pasta slippery and prevent your pasta sauce from sticking.

Another habit some folks have picked up along the way is rinsing pasta after it has been cooked. Don't rinse the pasta!  Unless you're planning on using your pasta for a cold pasta salad, don't rinse it after draining! If you are using it for a salad, it is a good idea to give it a quick rinse to wash away any residual starch which will make it gummy, and then toss it with a touch of olive oil to keep it from sticking.

Olive oil -- extra virgin or pure?

There definitely is a difference between pure olive oil, virgin and extra virgin olive oil. Not by the type of olive that's used, but the process used to extract the oil, as well as by the additives and the oil's level of free oleic acid. Olive oil is graded by its level of acidity. The amount of free oleic acid in olive oil indicates the extent to which fat has broken down into fatty acids.

Extra virgin olive oil is an unrefined oil and the highest-quality olive oil you can buy. Because of the way extra virgin olive oil is made, it retains more true olive taste, and has a lower level of oleic acid than other olive oil varieties. It also contains more of the natural vitamins and minerals found in olives. Extra virgin olive oil is considered an unrefined oil since it's not treated with chemicals or altered by temperature. What sets it apart is the low level of oleic acid and the absence of sensory flaws. It contains no more than 1% oleic acid and typically has a golden-green color, with a distinct flavor and a light peppery finish. The one drawback to extra virgin olive oil is that it does have a lower smoke point than many other oils, which means it burns at a lower temperature.

One step below Extra virgin is Virgin olive oil which does contain slightly more oleic acid. Pure olive oil is processed differently. This oil is typically a blend of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil. Heat and/or chemicals are used in the process of extracting oil and removing flaws from the fruit. Pure olive oil is a lower-quality oil than extra virgin or virgin olive oil, with a lighter color, more neutral flavor, and oleic acid measuring between 3-4%.

So when do you want to use Extra Virgin Olive oil, and when is it better to use pure olive oil? As a rule of thumb, use the more flavorful extra virgin olive oil for dipping bread, in dressings, dips, and dishes that will not be cooked, and for finishing, so that the flavor can shine through. But when a recipe calls for something to be cooked using olive oil, use the pure olive oil, which has a lower smoke point.

This seems like just the tip of the iceberg but I’ll the rest for later updates.

 

Buon Appetito!

Beth (Prisco) Guzauskas – Deli Manager

Wheat: Is it good or not-so-good for our health?- Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Lately wheat has been getting a bad image laid on it. First there was the no carb craze that was very popular a few years ago and more recently food manufacturers are making great efforts to point out that their foods are gluten/wheat-free. Many folks, both doctors and lay people alike, have claimed that wheat contributes to weight gain and makes the consumer more susceptible to a variety of medical issues such as inflammation, fatigue, diabetes, arthritis, and even acne.

However, many of the facts cited by these individuals are largely subjective or circumstantial. Most nutritional research still supports the benefits of eating whole-grain foods* (including whole wheat) for weight maintenance, limiting diabetes risk, and improving cardiovascular health. "It's true that refined wheat products contribute to weight gain and diabetes, but (the) claims that 'wheat make(s) you fat' is not supported by science. Americans may be overeating cookies, muffins, baked goods and wheat-based snacks — but it is not because of the wheat that we overeat." -- Nick Rose, M.S.

Other people assert that modern wheat is genetically modified to increase gluten levels; however, that is a misconception. According to Nick Rose, M.S., "Modern wheat does have a higher gluten content than ancient varieties of wheat such as Einkorn, farro and spelt. This lower gluten content explains why home bakers have a difficult time making bread from these ancient grains and/or gluten-free grains...But there is no GE wheat approved for market...Genetic engineering is not the reason for higher gluten levels in today's wheat varieties."

So, a better question to ask when determining if eating wheat is right for you is, "How does eating wheat make me feel (physically)?" If you frequently experience abdominal pain, distension, constipation, diarrhoea or other gastric upset after eating wheat-containing products -- signs of IBS or Celiac disease -- then you should absolutely steer clear of them. However, if you do not experience any of these symptoms, then avoiding wheat really isn't necessary. In fact, it's always important to maintain a varied diet -- one which includes whole grains, which are still associated with a significantly lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke.

Indeed, going wheat-free isn't all it's cracked up to be anyway. One study from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, suggests that people on a gluten-free or wheat-free diet can be missing out on fiber and essential nutrients, such as thiamin, folate, vitamin A, magnesium, calcium and iron. Also, going gluten-free/wheat-free also means saying no to many common and nutritious foods...And, as far as convenience goes, also limits your options when eating out and traveling.

Ultimately, making the decision not to eat wheat or other grains is a personal one. There's no right or wrong answer when determining if grains are appropriate for you: Do what makes you feel best, and don't feel pressured to change your preferences based solely on popular trends!


* Whole grains: These are unrefined grains that haven't had their bran and germ removed by milling. Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium. Whole grains are either single foods, such as brown rice and popcorn, or ingredients in products, such as buckwheat in pancakes or whole wheat in bread.

Here are some delicious recipes that feature whole wheat products as primary ingredients:

Asparagus and Dilled Salmon Pitas

Bean Salad Pockets

Baked Turkey Fillets

Spa-Style Turkey Loaf

 

Our Fresh Meat and Seafood Bounce-back Program- Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Being a small family-owned retail has its advantages. We can try things and offer things that the big chains simply cannot be agile enough to pull off successfully in all their stores.

A few months ago we decided to test a new promotional concept that we dubbed our "bounce-back meat program". Simply stated, if you were to purchase $50 or more of our fresh meat, fresh or frozen seafood, or homemade sausages in a single shopping trip, you would earn a FREE $10 Prisco’s gift card good on any future purchase, no restrictions.

Yes that’s correct: A 20% discount just for buying delicious, fresh Prisco meats and seafood. We didn’t limit the offer to regular priced items, either, so if you shopped carefully it was possible to save up to 50% on some select items. We made the offer because we want to introduce as many new shoppers to our excellent meat department as we can.

Well, it worked very well.  We had a number of new customers visit us, with several telling us that they heard we had great meat, but they had never been willing to travel far enough to give us a try. People can’t resist a good bargain, however, and the savings got a number of folks to head down (or up) to Prairie to enjoy the discount.

Given its success, we decided to add the meat savings bounce-back offer to our marketing plans, and we intend to repeat the offer every couple of months until it gets old (hopefully never). So this week and through next Tuesday 9/29, we are once again featuring our 20% off bounce-back offer...and we have a $10 gift card waiting for you!

Best Way to take advantage of this offer:

Some of you may be saying, "Gosh, $10 off a $50 purchase is great...but there are just two of us. When can I use that much meat?"

1) One of the great things about meat is that it can be frozen. Think of meats that have multi uses and buy extra and put it in the freezer. Ground meats for burgers, chili, meatloaf and lots of other recipes. Stew meat for chop suey, beef goulash, beef stroganoff, chili, and of course stew.

2) The holidays are coming, why not start to stockpile some frozen seafood items like shrimp, or crab meat?

3) Treat you and your mate to something that you might otherwise not splurge on like fillet mignon, ribeye or strip steaks.

4) Stock up on sale items. Here are a few of this week’s sale items that really make sense stocking up on:

  • Prairie Fresh all natural baby back ribs @ $4.99 lb.
  • Prairie Fresh all natural Boneless Rolled Pork Loin @ $3.99 lb.
  • Prisco’s Homemade Brats Family Pack Bratwurst @ $4.49 lb.
  • Prisco's Homemade Family Pk. Size Ground Round @ $3.99 lb.
  • USDA Grade “A” Chicken Wings @ $2.49 lb.

 

Enjoy the sale! I’ll see you at the meat counter.

Chris Tope - Meat Manager

How to save time, money, & work being a great cook!- Tuesday, September 15, 2015

If you own a crock pot or slow cooker you have one of the best kitchen helpers there is after the dishwasher.  If you don't own one, we recommend giving the purchase of a slow cooker or crock pot serious consideration.  They save time and cut down on mess, and in general make preparing dinner a simpler endeavor, and something that you can do from the tennis court, your office, or while watching your kids at a swim meet.  All you have to do is fill it with the ingredients found in a recipe, turn it on and leave.  Hours later you come home to a house filled with wonderful smells and dinner ready for the table. 

To help you take full advantage of this mighty kitchen genie, we did some Googling and found an article on about.com written by Linda Larsen -- an author, journalist and Home Economist who has worked for Pillsbury and Malt-O-Meal.  The following tips from Linda will make using your slow cooker or crock pot even more enjoyable.

Crock pot Cooking Tips

  • You will want to fill the crock pot one half to two thirds full.  When overfilled, foods will not cook properly.  Likewise, if the food/liquid level is too low your food cooks too quickly.
  • Be mindful of how you load the crock pot.  Vegetables do not cook as quickly as meat, so they should be placed in the bottom of the appliance.  Foods cooked on the bottom of the slow cooker cook faster and will be moister because they are immersed in the simmering liquid.
  • Fats on meat and poultry will melt and leave an unpleasant texture.  Unlike with dry cooking methods, the fat is not necessary to tenderize tougher cuts of meat, so be certain to remove the skin from poultry and trim excess fat from meats.
  • You can thicken the juices and concentrate flavors by removing the lid and cooking on HIGH for the last half hour of cooking time.
  • Slow cooking not only saves time but money as well.  This is where you can best use your cheaper cuts like pork butts, bottom round roasts, pot roasts, stewing chickens, etc.  These economy meat cuts have less fat, which makes them more suited to crock pot cooking.  Moisture and long cooking times result in very tender meats.
  • Avoid the temptation to lift the lid to smell or stir, especially if you are cooking on the low setting.  Each time you lift the lid, enough heat will escape that the cooking time should be extended by 20 minutes to half an hour.  Here is a clever trick:  You can check progress by spinning the cover until the condensation falls off.  Then it's easy to see inside.
  • For best results, ground meats must be cooked in a skillet before cooking in the crock pot.  Large pieces of meat can also be browned in a skillet before cooking in the crock pot.  Browning, while optional, adds color and helps in flavor development.
  • Seafood should be added during the last hour of cooking time, or it will overcook and have a rubbery texture.
  • Be careful when adding spiced heat.  Cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce tend to become bitter if cooked for long periods of time.  Use small amounts and add toward the end of the cooking time.
  • Although you can turn on the crock pot and walk away until dinner time for many dishes, some recipes require more attention toward the end of the cooking process.  Stir in spices for the last hour of cooking.  They will lose flavor if left to cook with the rest of the ingredients for a longer period.  Add tender vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini during the last 45 minutes of cooking  time so they don't overcook.  With dairy products, wait to add until the last 30 minutes of cooking time (unless the recipes states otherwise).
  • Liquids do not boil away in the crock pot, so if you are making a recipe that wasn't specifically developed for the crock pot, reduce the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2 unless you are cooking rice or making soup.

 

Oktoberfest, Beer, Brats & Pretzels ... What a concept!- Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I don’t know about you, but there is something comforting in the air in the fall: the feeling of a cool, crisp breeze, the warmth of a bonfire, cozy sweatshirts, Sunday afternoons with friends and family watching exciting football games...

What is even more exciting to me is that in the fall, culinary experimentation seems to sky rocket. Hundreds of chili recipes seem to appear on my desk every September and October, along with stories of different smoking techniques and unique marinades for pork tenderloin, all causing me to salivate with excitement over these new taste combinations. Last year I bought a Dutch Oven to try a new spin on old Boy Scout recipes, of which my favorite so far is an “adult’s only” version of Peach Cobbler. I sprinkle the peaches with a little sugar and then douse them overnight in whiskey (pick your favorite), top with yellow cake batter and oats rolled in butter and brown sugar, and let caramelize to perfection. I know holiday food is delicious, but I hold a special place in my heart for the comfort foods of fall.

Another fall favorite of mine is Oktoberfest. Wursts, schnitzels, mashed potatoes, kraut, pickled cabbages, and beer are all easy ways to my heart. Lederhosen and polka music (no, you will not get to see me partake in either of those), although not my style, are very fun to be around and conjure up images of a relaxed afternoon talking with friends and enjoying a good German festival. What is equally important is what’s in the mug. When it comes to Märzens, nobody does it quite like the Germans. Hofbräu (Hof-brow), Spaten (Schpa-ten), and Weihenstephaner (Vine-schtef-anner) brew amazing examples of traditional Oktoberfest Märzens. Some great American-brewed examples of Märzens come from the breweries of Flying Dog (Dogtoberfest), Great Lakes (Oktoberfest), and Left Hand (Oktoberfest). A slightly different take on Oktoberfest styles is Two Brother’s Atom Smasher. A favorite of Prisco’s customers, Two Brother’s takes a Märzen beer and ages it in French Oak Foudres.

We carry many other great examples of Oktoberfest beers and pumpkin beers, so have fun and explore! If you are looking for suggestions, feel free to ask myself, Megan, or Nick, and we would be happy to get you set up with something tasty!

 

Cheers!

Andy Guzauskas – General Manager  

Dealing with Food Allergies - Tuesday, September 8, 2015

If you or someone in your family is suffering from a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, you understand how important it is to know what is in the foods you buy. While all types of non–processed raw meat are gluten-free, the same is not always the case when it comes to processed meats and deli products.

Part of the reason that this becomes complicated is that fresh meats are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and are therefore not required to follow Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allergen or gluten-free labeling laws. Plain meats are gluten-free, but lunch meats can contain other ingredients, so they don’t fall into that category. Despite not being required to follow allergen labeling laws, the USDA says about 90 percent of companies do so voluntarily, calling out wheat when it’s used.

But like all foods, you have to know what’s in your lunch meat — not always an easy a task at the deli counter. Not every brand of meat and cheese can say they’re gluten-free. Some may use fillers and seasonings that aren’t safe for people with gluten allergies. But at Prisco’s we have made certain that you have a wide variety if lunch meats, cheeses and condiments that you can rely on to be 100% free of gluten. All of our Boar’s Head deli meats use pure poultry, pork and beef, combined with spices. That’s it. 100% natural, gluten-free ingredients.

Like fresh meats in most cases, cheese will be gluten-free. However, as with most types of food you'll consume while following a gluten-free diet, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Cheese is made by combining milk, rennet (enzymes which curdle the milk) and bacteria, which ferments the milk to produce cheese. Plain cheese made with as few ingredients as possible will have undetectable levels of gluten in virtually every case. Store-bought cheeses also may contain salt and sometimes preservatives; many also include extra ingredients to add flavor, such as herbs or spices. When extra ingredients are used, the risk that some may contain or may have been contaminated by gluten increases.

Processed cheeses like American cheese are made by combining natural cheeses, such as Colby and cheddar, along with salt and added emulsifiers. These cheeses can also contain milk, milk fat, butter, cream, whey, milk protein concentrate, milk solids, and whey powder. Some processed cheeses also contain artificial colors to improve their appearance and preservatives to increase their shelf life. These added ingredients sometimes contain gluten.

The good news is that when purchasing your deli items at our store, if you are concerned about gluten for yourself or someone else that you will be feeding you have nothing to be concerned about; simply stick with Boar’s Head meats, cheeses and condiments, and add fresh lettuce, tomatoes or other vegetables as additives. Of course, you don’t want to overlook the biggest culprit when it comes to gluten -- the bread for the sandwich. To get around that, we also offer a number of gluten-free bread and rolls in our frozen food section. The Udi’s gluten-free brand is our most popular.

In closing, let me explain that we are always looking for ways to help our shoppers have access to the foods that they need or want, so if there is a particular item or product line that you would like us to carry for you, please, by all means let us know. You can email us via the "contact us" button on the website or speak with any staff member directly.

 

Thank you,

Andy Guzauskas – General Manager

 

Tags :  allergies food
Get the most out of your fresh vegetables- Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Everyone knows that vegetables are an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet...

As it turns out, however, cooking vegetables can dramatically reduce their potency. The act of heating can destroy essential vitamins and minerals in some types of produce, which means that you may not be getting as much value out of that plate of broccoli as you thought. If you want to maximize the benefits of your veggies, you need to understand which cooking techniques will best preserve, or even enhance, their nutritional content.

It's important to note that not every vegetable reacts in the same way to a given cooking method, or lack thereof. For example, while some veggies are best eaten raw for maximum nutrition, tomatoes are actually more healthy for you after they've been cooked. Why? Because cooking them boosts their antioxidant levels. Likewise, mushrooms are best eaten cooked (grilled or roasted, preferably) because doing so increases the available potassium content.

Advantages and disadvantages of common cooking methods

[Info courtesy of organicgardening.com & rodale.com]

Microwaving
When in doubt, microwave your veggies for maximum antioxidant preservation. According to a Spanish study of how various cooking methods impact vegetable antioxidant capacity, microwaves reign supreme in prepping vegetables to retain their nutrients. Exception: Keep cauliflower out of the microwave; it loses more than 50 percent of its antioxidants if nuked.

Baking
Baking, or roasting, is hit-or-miss. Based on the study results, bake your artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, and peppers, all of which retained their antioxidant values, but not your carrots, Brussels sprouts, leeks, cauliflower, peas, zucchini, onions, beans, celery, beets, and garlic, which all saw decreases in nutrient levels. Where baking really shines is with green beans, eggplant, corn, Swiss chard, and spinach, all of which saw their antioxidant levels increase after baking. Toss a handful of those veggies into your next casserole.

Frying

It’s probably no surprise that this method fails the test when it comes to antioxidants and nutrition levels. In addition to adding way too much fat to your meal, it caused a loss of between 5 and 50 percent of each vegetable’s nutrients.

Pressure cooking and boiling
Generally speaking, don’t use these methods if you want to retain antioxidants in your vegetables. “In short, water is not the cook’s best friend when it comes to preparing vegetables,” says lead researcher A.M. Jimenez-Monreal. Peas, cauliflower, and zucchini are particularly susceptible to losing nutrients through boiling. If you do need to boil your vegetables, save the nutrient-rich boiling water and use it the next time you make a soup or sauce.

Steaming
Those same Italian researchers found that steaming is the best method for preserving antioxidants found in broccoli and zucchini. But contrary to what you may think, this may not be the healthiest way to prep vegetables anyway. Many of the vitamins and nutrients in vegetables are fat soluble, meaning your body absorbs them better in the presence of fat. If you prefer steaming your vegetables, toss them with a small amount of olive oil before serving to boost nutrient absorption.

Sautéing

None of the studies on nutrient levels and cooking techniques have included sautéing vegetables over high heat in a little bit of oil. However, the process of sautéing is similar to that of microwaving: cooking your vegetables over high heat in a short amount of time. That minimizes nutrient loss, and the oil in which you’re sautéing them helps your body absorb more of the nutrients.

So, now that you have the lowdown on cooking methods and their potential consequences, you can start making more informed choices on how to prepare your food for maximum results. Bear in mind, though, that just because your favorite technique may not be the best choice for cooking a particular vegetable, doesn't mean you should no longer use it. You may be sacrificing some nutrients, but if the only way you can eat those Brussels sprouts is boiled then boiled they shall be.

 

Cooked Vs Raw Vegetables -- Which offers the most nutritional value?- Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It has long been debated by raw food enthusiasts and the more traditional schools of cooking as to which way to eat vegetables is healthier, raw or cooked.

Vegetables contain many nutrients essential for good health. These plant foods supply carbohydrates, antioxidants, fiber, minerals and vitamins. The nutritional values of vegetables may change during processing or cooking. Different preparation methods (including cooking temperatures) can affect the vitamin content of most vegetables.

While some foods may lose many of their nutritive benefits between harvesting and eating, using certain cooking techniques may help your vegetables retain many of these important nutrients. Cooking is a process that is adopted to make food easily digestible, destroy disease causing germs, and to enhance its taste and flavor. Naturally, it has several advantages as well as disadvantages.

Carbohydrates: The starch swells during cooking and becomes gelatinous. Thus, cooking helps in proper digestion of carbohydrates.

Proteins: Moderate heat splits protein and shrinks it in size. As a result, it becomes more easily digestible. However, severe heat (during roasting, baking and frying) reduces the nutritional value of proteins.

Thiamine: About 20% to 50% of thiamine (Vitamin B1) is lost to cooking, with the greatest loss occurring when foods are boiled, baked or fried. It is also depleted if you add soda for cooking vegetables.

Folic acid and Vitamin B12: Both these vitamins tend to be lost when using cooking methods such as pressure cooking, roasting or frying. In addition to the loss due to heat, folic acid and vitamin B12 are also lost when excess water is discarded after cooking.

Vitamin C: This vitamin is lost by oxidation due to exposure to air and by discarding excess water after cooking. About 10% to 60% of vitamin C is lost during cooking depending upon its method and the vegetable cooked. Furthermore, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Sodium, Potassium, and Magnesium are all lost when excess water is discarded after cooking.

Techniques for cooking vegetables include microwaving, steaming, stir-frying, deep-frying, baking and boiling. Using low heat and quick methods of cooking can help retain vitamins.

According to North Dakota State University, microwaving foods provides a method of cooking that helps to retain the vitamins in vegetables. Microwaving foods takes less time than conventional methods and reduces the need for water. Steaming vegetables until slightly tender may also help preserve both vitamins and color. Another quick method of cooking, stir-frying, adds a crisp texture, without requiring long cooking times.

While eating vegetables raw or lightly cooked may help them retain healthy amounts of vitamins, cooking can provide benefits as well. According to the arthritis foundation, cooked tomatoes supply three to four times more lycopene than raw tomatoes. Cooking releases this antioxidant from the fibrous portions of the vegetables, making it easier to absorb. Cooked carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage, peppers and many other vegetables also supply more antioxidants, such as carotenoids and ferulic acid, to the body than they do when raw.

A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2002 showed that cooking carrots increases their level of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene belongs to a group of antioxidant substances called carotenoids, which give fruits and vegetables their red, yellow and orange colorings. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which plays an important role in vision, reproduction, bone growth, and regulating the immune system. Cooking can also help destroy bacteria and parasites.

In conclusion, there are strong arguments for eating both raw and cooked vegetables and since the latest guidelines from the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services calls for the consumption of 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day, we recommend that you balance what you eat and enjoy some prepared each way every day. One thing we can assure you here at Prisco's is that you never need be bored eating the same old thing day after day.

Sometimes we need to stretch beyond the common to find amazing new insight.- Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I recently noticed a young shopper had placed several heads of fresh cauliflower in her shopping cart and my curiosity got the best of me. I asked her what she planned to do with four giant heads of cauliflower. She explained that she was on a diet that restricted the intake of carbohydrates and that cauliflower could be used as a low calorie, high fiber substitute for starchy foods. She encouraged me to look it, which I did -- and I was astonished by the health benefits of cauliflower, as well as the endless list of unique ways to prepare it beyond the usual boiling and baking in a casserole.  

Here is just one example I discovered: A serving of mashed garlic cauliflower has about 17% less calories and 74% less carbs that a serving of garlic mashed potatoes. As for taste, I’ve tried them both and while I won’t say that you can’t tell the difference, I’ll be the first to admit that there isn’t a whole lot of taste going on in mashed potatoes and you can pretty much say the same for mashed cauliflower. “It’s all in what you put on them that gives them taste.”

Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables. Other cruciferous vegetables include; arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga and turnip.

Cauliflower contains an impressive array of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals. It’s also very versatile. You can eat it raw, add it to salads, or use it in your cooking.

Because of its beneficial effects on numerous aspects of health, cauliflower is included in the group known as "superfoods".   It has been described as having the following attributes:

  • Fights cancer – Cauliflower contains a sulfur compound that has also been shown to kill cancer stem cells, thereby slowing tumor growth. Some researchers believe eliminating cancer stem cells may be key to controlling cancer.
  • Boost Heart Health - That same sulfur compound found in cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables has been found to significantly improve blood pressure and kidney function.
  • It's Anti-Inflammatory - You need some level of inflammation in your body to stay healthy. However, it's also possible, and increasingly common, for the inflammatory response to get out of hand.
  • It's Rich in Vitamins and Minerals - One serving of cauliflower contains 77 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. It's also a good source of vitamin K, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, and manganese.
  • Boost Your Brain Health - Cauliflower is a good source of choline, a B vitamin known for its role in brain development. It may even diminish age-related memory decline and your brain's vulnerability to toxins during childhood, as well as conferring protection later in life.
  • Detoxification Support - Cauliflower helps your body's ability to detoxify in multiple ways.
  • Digestive Benefits - Cauliflower is an important source of dietary fiber for digestive health.

So, now that I’ve got you all pumped up about our new friend and superfood extraordinaire, it’s only right that I give you some new ways to fix cauliflower. Here are a number of new recipes we recently added to our website along with a few tried and true old favorites. When you are in the mood to switch it up a bit and add a new healthy bent to your meal planning, go back to the archives of food blogs on our website, search for this article by typing in the word cauliflower and pick out two or three dishes that look interesting... and remember who told you about the great benefit of that great ball of white delight, cauliflower.

Buffalo Cauliflower Bites with Cashew Ranch Dressing

Cauliflower-Curry Latkes

Roasted Chicken with Cauliflower

Cauliflower cheese with walnuts & crumbs

Cauliflower Puree Topped With Roasted Cauliflower

No Carb Garlic Mashed “Not quite Potatoes”

Cauliflower au Gratin

Cauliflower Cheese Bake

Cauliflower Gruyere au Gratin

Cauliflower Tomato Casserole

Cheese and Cauliflower Soup

 

Enjoy your veggies!

Bill Vella - Produce Manager