Catamount Hills Cheese

Let’s welcome back a series of my blog, dedicated to things that I find at Whole Foods Market. These items are special items that I either encountered there for the first time or are exclusives to Whole Foods. Today I am going to talk about one of those exclusives. Many of you have probably heard of Cabot. Their cheeses can be found all over the country in stores like Walmart, Kroger, Meijer, etc.

What’s So Special About Catamount Hill Cheese
Even thought Cabot cheese is sold all over, their Catamount Hills cheese is an exclusive to Whole Foods Market. The sticker describes the cheese as “A hand-selected, hard Italian-type cheese with notes of swiss and Parmesan flavors.” It is a type of cheddar cheese. When I offered a sample up to my wife, the first thing she said is that is tastes like swiss and Parmesan together. The milk that this cheese comes from was produced by cows that are never given artificial growth hormones. The cheese also contains 0 grams of lactose.

How Much Did This Cheese Cost?
Is it a regular part of their rotation of 3 day sales cheese. Every Friday to Sunday, you will find some cheese in their cheese department on sale. I have seen Catamount Hills make a couple apperance in that rotation. Normally the cheese is priced at $8.99/pound. For this 3 day sale it was $4.99/lb – which is a fantastic value.

Does Catamount Hills Cheese Melt Well?
This cheese is a wonderful melter. Grilled cheese fan? Totally go for it.

Kid Approved Mac & Cheese
My 7 year old daughter was not really feeling mac & cheese that night, but after she ate it said it was the best mac & cheese. My other daughter asked for 3 helpings of it. To say it was a hit with the kids would be underestimate. I know it’s not hard to get kids to like mac & cheese, but I have turned mine into mac & cheese snobs. I can’t just throw any cheese in the sauce and call it a day (and just try and serve them the blue boxed stuff, you don’t even want to go there). They usually really go for a gouda & cheddar combo, but Cabot Catamount Hills did the work that it normally takes two cheeses to do. It’s aformentioned swiss & parmesan like flavor, really shines in the mac & cheese. I was absolutely floored at what one cheese could accomplish all on it’s own.

When Do Cuties or Halos Go Out of Season? Can You Freeze Them?

in Fruit & Vegetables

Halos in store

No doubt that biggest success in the produce department in recent years has been the marketing of mandarins under the names “Cuties” or “Halos”. People are using these terms to describe all mandarins or tangerines (much to my cirginy) – just like Kleenex the brand is used to describe all types of tissues. Unlike Kleenex, Cuties, Halos, and every other mandarin does not remain on store shelves year round. The end is coming. So how long do I have left to enjoy these easy to peel, seedless fruit?

When Do Cuties or Halos Go out of Season?

One of the biggest factors that most consumers don’t think about when it comes to the end of the season is store shelf space. When May rolls around, peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums, etc start coming into season. Stores need places to put these products. Usually it’s at the expense of citrus. It’s downsized. Growers find it harder to sell their mandarins as we get closer to summer, even if they have them in June, although decades ago no one could imagine having them much past Christmas, so we have come along way. But to answer the question of this post, Cuties or Halos season ends near the end of April to early May. It all depends on the retailer, but if you are reading this at it is near the end of April, then this would be the time to stock up.

Ojai Pixie store display

Are There Other Mandarins Available after Cuties and Halos are Gone?
Even if you can’t find Halos or Cuties anymore, you still may be able to find some last season mandarin varieties. This time of year Ojai Pixies are in season and they are one of the best tasting mandarins money can buy. I was fortnate enough to tour an Ojai Pixie grove this year! Also look for Gold Nugget mandarins, another late season gem. You may find them marketed under the Dimples name. I have always preferred those over the Cuties or Halos brand mandarins.


Can You Freeze Cuties or Halos?
One way to prevent a season from ending is to employ your freezer. First, we must ask another question. Can you freeze them? Can you. Of course. Do you want to? Probably not. Fruits that contain a lot of moisture did not do well when thawed. The texture would be awful. Yes people do freeze grapes, but it’s usually to be eaten frozen, not thawed and eaten. If you like frozen mandarin segments, then by all means have at it. You could juice them and freeze the juice. For whole eating your best to enjoy them when in season – when they are done you will have stone fruit to replace it with anyway. Good news is that if you put mandarins in the fridge you should be able to get a good couple weeks of use out of them. As you get close to the end of the season, buy up, so you can have them even a couple weeks after stores stopping carrying them.

Can You Dry or Dehydrate Cuties or Halos?
I have not tried this but it can be a good option. Here is a link to another blog, telling how they dehydrate their citrus.

Why are the Grapes I Buy at the Store Sour? Can I Make Them Sweet?

in Fruit & Vegetables

Why are My Grapes Sour

We all have experienced this. We go to the store, pick out what looks like a perfectly fine bags of grapes. We bring them home. Clean them off, excited to eat them, and then boom, we are stopped right in our tracks, with the disappointment of having just tasted a sour grape. You hope it’s only a fluke, only to realize that after several test subjects fail, that you are now an owner of a bag of sour grapes. How could this happen? The sign at the store promised that these grapes were sweet – how could a grocery store sign let me down. Be assured that your disappointment did not begin in the grocery store, but out in the field – where profit often trumps flavor and sweetness.

Why Grocery Store Grapes are Sour
There are several factors that play into why grocery store grapes are so inconstient – sometimes sweet, sometimes sour, sometimes flavorful, often times not. Grapes are picked when they appear ready, even if they haven’t reached their peak levels of sugar and flavor. They quicker they are picked, the quicker money can be made. If the sign and appearance of the grape is there, then it’s removed from the vine. Often growers remove all the grapes at once. Problem is that not all bunches are ready at the same time. It takes a skilled picker to determine which grapes are perfect, and which need more time. That requires more money on the part of the grower to pack more skilled workers and to spend time go back over the same vines. It’s cheaper to pay someone to pick them all and move on.

Brand Recognition
People buy grapes while disregarding brands. I have seen companies put more effort in recent years to make more attractive packaging with names on it that customers will remember. But I don’t think it’s getting through to the customer. Stores cycle through so many grape brands from day to day that sometimes it’s hard to find the same one in back to back trips. The grape industry is far away from being as recognized as say the Halos and Cuties of the citrus world. You can choose to be a smart consumer and keep track of the brand you buy. Take a moment to look over the bag, not just grab and eat. Where do they come from? What company? And when you find something like, save the bag. Maybe cut out the logo and tap it to a piece of paper you keep on the fridge.

Marquis Grapes

Different Varieties of Grapes
Red, black, and green are the most we normally see on signs of grapes. We don’t see Sugarone, Thompson, Crimson, Autumn Royal, etc. We often do not know which type of grape were are getting. These grapes all have different levels of sweetness and different flavors. Some are more likely to be sour when picked too early. Some varieties are sadly grown not for flavor, but for profit alone.

Can I Make Grapes Sweeter
Grapes ripen on the vine. They don’t get sweeter off the vine, they just rot. It’s not like a banana that sweetness as it matures. Once the grape is picked, it’s as sweet as it’s going to get. You could put sugar on the grapes, but that just seems wrong to me. The best advice I can give you to make sure you don’t experience again is taste the grapes first. Any store that won’t allow you to taste the grapes is not a store worth shopping at. Over the years I have become more bold, so I don’t mind going for a sample myself. Grapes are the easiest fruit to sample in the store. It’s not like taking a bite out of a watermelon (but if I wanted to, I would ask the nearest produce worker).

Cotton Candy Grapes with Bag

A Grape Growers to Watch Out For
Anyone that regularly reads my blog, knows I am a huge fan of Grapery. They are a grape grower out of Bakersfield, California. To me they produce the best tasting grapes I have ever tasted. Take a moment to check out my post on what to expect from them in 2015.

What is the Difference Between Flat Leaf, Italian, and Curly Parsley

in Fruit & Vegetables

Flat Leaf Parsley Difference

Differences. We spend a lot of our time trying to sort through the differences between this thing and that thing, this person, and that person, this place and that place, etc. Its no wonder that the topics on my blog that talk about the difference between one type of produce and another similar type of produce are among the most viewed. I strive to continue to explain differences. I racked my brain trying to think of questions people often ask in produce. One I came up with is the differences between flat leaf, Italian, and curly Parsley.

Difference Between Italian and Flat Leaf Parsley
Let’s get the simple explanation out of the way first. Italian and Flat Leaf Parsley are essentially the same thing. It really depends on what store you are currently shopping in, what name would be used. Parsley is native to southern Italy, so that is where that name came from. Whatever you call it, this parsley has a flat leaf that resembles cilantro. It’s easy to mix these up if you are not paying close enough attention. I was at a grocery store yesterday and saw the two stocked right next to each other, ready to be confused. Trust me, you will know that you have cilantro instead of parsley really fast when you taste it. To not mistake the two, remember that parsley leaves are pointy and cilantro leaves are round. There should also be a tie around the bunch saying which herb you have in your possession. You might find cilantro labeled or called Chinese or Mexican parsley, although I have never seen this before myself.

Flat Leaf Parsley Difference

Difference Between Italian/Flat Leaf Parsley and Curly Parsley
It’s much easier to distinguish curly and flat leaf parsley than flat leaf and cilantro. Curly parsley is exactly what the name says, it’s curly. Set appearance aside and these two still differ. In my opinion curly parsley has a stronger, more robust flavor. It’s flavor is more assertive. When you use flat leaf in a dish it’s there as a background flavor, usually to add some freshness to the dish (I love adding flat leaf parsley to my Moroccan Pot Roast). Curly parsley doesn’t hide, you will know that there is parsley in this dish.

Italian Parsley on top of my Moroccan inspired Pot Roast

Italian Parsley on top of my Moroccan inspired Pot Roast

Can I Exchange Curly Parsley for Flat Leaf in a Recipe?
This is all about taste preferences. They can be interchanged in case the store is out of one or the other. I would watch how much curly you use. Since parsley is added often at the end of cooking you can add a little a time until your tastes are satisfied. I feel like more recipes call for flat leaf, probably because it is easier to cut due to it’s flat nature.

Which Parsley Do I Buy?
I typically go for the flat leaf, especially if I am using it in a recipe for the blog. I like the look of it chopped up better on a dish than curly, although if you are going to use the whole thing, curly looks better untouched on the plate.

How Much Should Parsley Cost
Parsley normally sells for between 75 cents and 2 dollars a bunch depending on what type of store you are in (high end or discount) or whether it’s organic or not. The actual size of the bunch depends on who grew it and whatever that grower decided, so often you see differences in sizes from one trip to the store to another.

When you buy parsley, which one do you buy? I would love to hear what you think in the comment section below. Whether your like curly or flat leaf, or whether you call it flat leaf or curly, parsley is an easy way to bring that sense of freshness to a dish.

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