Recipes at times can be a cause for confusion. A misunderstanding of a term can cause much trouble, leaving you wondering if you have purchased the right thing. Take a recipe that calls for the new potato for example. I have seen many recipes that call for new potatoes. What is a new potato? The grocery store definition is different from the farmers market definition.

What Do I Get When my Recipe Calls for New Potatoes?
The true definition of a new potato is what it sounds like – a potato that is newly harvested. When potatoes are first harvested the skin is more fragile. The potatoes need time to cure in order for the skin to dry out and be more durable. The skin of a freshly dug potato is more tender, has a better texture, great for recipes where you keep the skin on. This type of potato is not good for the grocery store. They don’t ship very well. Instead new potatoes in the grocery store are generally seen as being small potatoes. My experience is that smaller sized potatoes have more tender skin than the larger types. For your recipe calling for new potatoes buy the smallest potatoes you can find in the store. Bags of small potatoes of multiple colors are common nowadays. Fingerling potatoes are a good choice as well. If at all possible, go to the farmer’s market and look for freshly dug potatoes – these will be the ideal.

What is a Creamer Potato?
Another option you can choose for your recipe is a creamer potato. These can be one off two things. Some see them at potatoes that are picked before they are mature to keep them small and tender. They are still allowed to age or cure so the skin isn’t going to be thin and flaky like farmer’s market new potatoes. Other people define a creamer potato has a potato that is bred to be in the small size. They don’t get very big and are fully mature at a small size.

Little Potato Company

The Little Potato Company
There is a company that specializes in small potato, called the Little Potato Company out of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. They sell creamer potatoes in all different varieties and colors. Watch this YouTube video below to learn more about their potatoes. They have some unique varieties you can’t get elsewhere.

Little Potato Company

Check their website to find what stores carry The Little Potato company potatoes. A few of the stores include –
Albertsons
Walmart
Meijer
Sprouts
Safeway
Sam’s Club
Gelson’s
Stater Bros
WinCo
Woodman’s Market

Wong Fingerlings WFM

Where to Find Other Small Potatoes
Most stores now carry some type of small potato that should work for your recipe. Whole Foods Market carries fingerling potatoes, particulary in the late fall and winter. I have also seen bags of small potatoes in a mix of yellow, red, and purple colors. Trader Joe’s offers you several options – Dutch Yellow Baby Potatoes, Baby Red Potatoes, and Teeny Tiny Potatoes. These all come in bags ranging from 16 to 24 ounces each.

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Store Brand Recalled Salads ALDI Kroger Walmart

I am sure by now most of you have heard about the big Dole salad recall due to an outbreak of Listeria (see the official CDC report). One person has reported died while 12 more have gotten sick as far as what has been recorded. What you might not realize is that this recall goes beyond just what says “Dole” on the packaging. There are store brands that are actually processed by Dole, which you might never know by just looking at the package. For example, the salads Whole Foods says under their “365” or “Whole Foods Market” label are actually most Earthbound salads or in some cases Organic Girl. I have witnessed Trader Joe brand salads come out of an Earthbound box. This is why you need to pay attention to the entire list, even if what is in your fridge doesn’t say Dole.

What Store Brands are Recalled Dole Salads
First when looking at any package see if it was produced at the Dole processing plant in Springfield, Ohio. The manufacturing code will begin with the letter “A” (most likely located underneath the date). I would toss out anything that says it’s from Springfield, Ohio. The brand name also effected besides the Dole name include (this list is accurate to the best of my knowledge, if you are in doubt, throw it out):

Fresh Selections
Simple Truth
Marketside
The Little Salad Bar
President’s Choice Organics

So what stores carry these brands?

Kroger (carries Fresh Selections and Simple Truth)
Walmart (carries Marketside)
ALDI (carries the Little Salad Bar brand)

Check your fridge if you have purchased any packaged salads from these stores. These store don’t produce these brands themselves, they are done for them by Dole, so this isn’t a reason to blame the stores themselves or be concerned about other products they sell. You can still shop there (although these 3 stores are probably where I spend the least amount of my grocery dollars, but that’s me!)

Various Spartan stores carries Spartan Fresh Selections, but I am not sure if that is the same as the Kroger one. Again look for the Springfield, Ohio processing plant listed on the package or that letter “A” for the manufacturing code.

President’s Choice Organics is a Canadian brand available at various stores in Canada.

How Worried Should You Be?
It’s unfortunate that these things happen. And they make big news when they do. Still not to take anything lightly the odds of you getting sick eating something you bought into the grocery store are much lower than the odds of being injured in a car accident on the way to the grocery store. So I don’t think there is a reason to be super paranoid. Whenever I see a recall like this, if I have any product (never buy Dole salad myself) then I will throw it out. I can understand if people are scared. No one wants to get sick from salad or anything else they bought at a store. When we buy that food we trust that it will be safe for us. I still believe nearly all of the time it is. These cases happen from time to time, but only make up a small portion of all the things that are sold in stores across the country every single day. If you still uneasy I understand. It’s another reason for growing your own food. For peace of mind, you watched it grow, you harvested it, you were a part of the entire process from seed to harvest. Salad greens are easy to grow in the milder weather of spring and fall. Or look into a good local source where you can even visit their farm and see for yourself. Without piece of mind it makes it hard to eat a piece of anything. Do what you need to get that.

Nothing is 100% safe, but I don’t believe we have to live in fear.

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Why Do Halos or Cuites Sometimes Have Seeds

Whether you call them Cuties, Halos, Clementines or whatever marketing name with a smiling fruit on the box, they are all mandarins. And they are all suppose to be seedless, right? The marketing appeal of these fruits is that they are easy to peel and you don’t have to worry about seeds. So how many of you have bite into one of these things and on occasion found yourself spiting out a seed or two? What gives? Are they lying to me? How did this happen?

Halos and Cuties Costco

Clementines are Not Truly Seedless
During the early part of the season the Clementine variety is the type of mandarin you find in Halos or Cuties packaging. This variety isn’t actually seedless. If left to grow on it’s own you would find seeds in the fruit. This happens when bees visit the fruit and cross-pollination tastes place. So why isn’t every fruit full of seeds? In order to produce a seedless product the growers prevent the bees from cross-pollinating with more than 1 variety of citrus. There are 2 ways to counteract this. You could grow each variety in isolation from other varieties. As you can imagine this isn’t always easy or possible. A second option is put netting over top of the tree as you will see in my photos below taken in California.

Citrus Netting 1

Citrus Netting 2

Citrus Netting 3

Of course there is the possibility that a bee or two will get through and still pollinate a flower in either option. This is why from time to time you are going to find seeds in your fruit. Can’t expect a 100% success rate, but not the less it is pretty high, enough for them to still label them as seedless.

Murcotts are Also Not Truly Seedless
Later on in the season, Halos and Cuties switch over to the Murcott mandarin, although most people seem to miss that. This variety also would be full of seeds if measures are not taken to prevent that.

Ojai Pixie Tangerine

Pixies are Truly Seedless
Not all varieties of mandarins have seeds. The Pixie mandarin is genuinely seedless. Even if cross pollination takes place it will not make seeds. The best Pixies are grown in the Ojai Valley of California and are available near the end of the season, starting usually in March. So why don’t the Cuties or Halo growers use varieties like this one? The Pixie variety has not undesirable traits too like producing heavy one year and light the next, that makes it less than ideal. Plus Pixies seem to only be of great flavor when grown in the Ojai micro-climate.

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ThanksgivingQA

Welcome to my 2015 Thanksgiving Q&A series. I will be answering questions asked by the readers of my blog. You can check out all the posts in this series by clicking on the Thanksgiving Q&A 2015 tag.

When are Fresh Figs in Season

Question – Why Can’t I Find Fresh Figs for My Stuffing?

I see recipes for fresh figs in stuffing or dressing. I see people at the store asking for fresh figs for their stuffing. Problem? Fresh figs are out of season in most places by the time Thanksgiving comes around. Unless you like in a climate that grows them, your chances of finding any more fresh figs anywhere are extremely remote. Their season runs mid May to October, maybe even to early November in a good year (click here to learn more about fresh fig season) Doesn’t make much sense to call for an ingredient that it out of season. The reason you might find recipes like this is a lot of Thanksgiving recipes are tested out way before the holiday when you can still find fresh figs in the store. Don’t worry you are not all out of options.

Using Dried Figs Instead of Fresh
Dried figs are easy to find year around. You usually find them two ways – packaged up in a ring or available loose in a bulk bin. Stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are great places to look. I highly recommend the green figs as I think they have the best flavor – more fruity. As for using them in the stuffing just chop them up and use them as you would the fresh or any other dried fruit. Dried fruit does really well in stuffing. When you cook the stuffing the fruit will absorb some of the moisture and plumb up a bit. So not worries if you can’t go fresh, dried ones won’t cause any issues at all.

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ThanksgivingQA

Welcome to my 2015 Thanksgiving Q&A series. I will be answering questions asked by the readers of my blog. You can check out all the posts in this series by clicking on the Thanksgiving Q&A 2015 tag.

Costco Turkey Thanksgiving Prices 2015

Question – How Far In Advance to Buy a Fresh Turkey?

So you have decided that you want to go with a fresh turkey this year. You may be wondering how long does a fresh turkey keep, especially if you are use to a frozen turkey that you just defrost and then cook immediately. It won’t last indefinitely. You need to treat it as you would any other poultry. A fresh turkey should have a sell by date on it. I asked a couple of my favorite turkey farms their thoughts on the manner. The general consensus was that a fresh turkey bought in the store should be cooked within 3 to 5 days. Now if you buy your turkey directly from the source you have a lot more time, up to 10 days. If you want to buy your turkey far in advance of Thanksgiving, go directly to the source. Find a nearby turkey farm.

The reason the grocery store turkey has a shorter shelf life, is that takes time to get from farm to store. The turkey probably had to go through the store’s distribution center before it even arrived at the store. Then it has to make it out to the sales floor. I recommend that you buy your fresh turkey as close to Thanksgiving as you can. Tuesday morning (hey that’s right now) would be a great time to head to the store to buy it. You don’t want to wait too last minute or your selection might not be what you want. A lot of stores will reserve a turkey for you so that you can be guaranteed to get what you want and when you want it. If you want to get it the day before, I would recommend reserving it. Even if it’s past their deadlines you can still call a store and ask them what they have in stock and see if they will set something aside for you. Any store with good customer service should be more than willing to help.

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ThanksgivingQA

Have you ever been in this scenario: You are looking for a real pie pumpkin that does not come out of a can. You are a week before Thanksgiving. Where have all the pumpkin gone? You knew you saw a ton of them a few weeks ago, while aren’t they here when you need them! AHHHHH!!! I have seen this before. Stores are stocked with pumpkins as early as September and all the way through Halloween. And then before you can bake your pumpkin pie, they are gone. Who is to blame? The store. The guy stocking the produce (never blame that guy!). The growers. Yourself? Doesn’t matter who is at fault, you don’t have your pumpkin. You could do what most people do and settle for a can, or you could look at these as an opportunity to branch you into new territory that you may have tried out before. In this post, I am going to share with you what you can use in place of a pie pumpkin (hint, you won’t need a can opener for any of these options).

What Can You Use in Place of a Pie Pumpkin?

Butternut Squash
This is the easiest solution to your problem. Butternut squash are so plentiful this time of year you should have no trouble tracking one down. Butternut squash is sweet enough to pass for pumpkin. It is also easier to slice through the most pie pumpkin. The orange color on the inside matches pumpkin enough that no one should notice. The texture is close enough as well. You could try an acorn squash if you wanted, but I think butternut is the closet. Obviously do not make a pie out of a spaghetti squash. The texture of that would be way off.

Hubbard Squash for Replacement Pumpkin Pie

Hubbard Squash
Not as popular as butternut or as easy to find, but if you can find the large, often blueish color squash, it is known for being excellent for pie. These squash may be slightly easier to track down this time of year than a pie pumpkin. They have a long storage capacity. I have seen then last through an entire winter and beyond without even being refrigerated. Also a lot of people are intimidated by them, so they end up sitting longer in the grocery store than do pie pumpkins.

How Much Replacement to Use?
No need to change or alter what your recipe calls for. Use the same amount of your replacement as you would a pie pumpkin.

Come On, Can’t I Just Use a Can of Pumpkin
Of course you can (pun intended). However your end result will never be as good as it can be. I have eaten things with canned pumpkin and I can tell there is something lacking. The can pumpkin lacks the dimension of flavor of fresh, you really can’t beat it. I have heard some people say they can’t taste the difference and maybe they can’t and that’s ok. My personal experience has been I surely know when the real deal is being used as the depth of flavor is so much more. Stil I would rather you go for a can and make the pie yourself then overpay for a grocery store pie that you can easily best yourself.

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ThanksgivingQA

Welcome to my 2015 Thanksgiving Q&A series. I will be answering questions asked by the readers of my blog. You can check out all the posts in this series by clicking on the Thanksgiving Q&A 2015 tag.

Question – Do You Have to Brine a Natural Bone-In Turkey Breast?

Thanks in much part to Alton Brown, brining has become a big thing in turkeys. So much so that you now find turkeys that are brined for you or you find brining kits in the store (both of which I wouldn’t waste my money on). I love brining. It makes for a really flavorful, juicy turkey. I had someone ask if it was necessary. Do I have to brine my turkey, particularly if I am just doing a turkey breast.

The answer is no. You can still produce a fine, tasty bird without brining. I believe there is one thing that is more important that the brine. Temperature. The best thing you can do for your turkey is cook it to the proper temperature. For turkey breast that is 165 degrees. If you cook the turkey to that temperature, they you will have a perfectly juicing turkey each and every time.

Why Brine?
If cooking to the proper temperature produces a juicy turkey why take the time and effort to brine. First, I look as brining as being insurance. You have more leeway when it comes to temperature when you brine. A turkey that is cooked to 175 that is brined will be noticeably juicier than one that wasn’t. Of course a brine adds flavor, deep into the meat.

Flavor Without the Brine
You can still add flavor without the brine. Place fresh, chopped herbs or spices under the skin. Or make a really killer gravy. If you take the time to season properly then you can have a tasty turkey even if you do not choose to brine.

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ThanksgivingQA

Welcome to my 2015 Thankgiving Q&A series. I will be answering questions asked by the readers of my blog. You can check out all the posts in this series by clicking on the Thanksgiving Q&A 2015 tag.

Question – What is the Cost of a GMO Free Turkey?

The first question of the season is about how much money it costs to buy a GMO free turkey for your Thanksgiving table. But before we get into cost, we must identify what a GMO free turkey is.

What is a GMO Free Turkey

People are starting to become more aware of where their food is coming from and what goes into making it. The purpose of my new e-magazine series “Fruits of their Labor” is about telling the stories behind where our food comes from. More people are becoming concerned what is going into the meat they eat. It all starts with what diet the animal is eating. For a turkey to be considered GMO free it’s all about what they eat. There aren’t any turkeys on the market that has been genetically modified themselves. But much of the feed produced in this country that is consumed by poultry is derived from genetically modified corn and/or soybeans. This is what you need to be concerned with.

non-GMO Project To know if a turkey is GMO free there are two things to look for on the packaging. If you see the Non GMO Project logo on a wrapping you know you are good. Check out the Non GMO Project website for a complete list of choices. The second thing you can look for is organic. If your turkey is certified organic that by law it cannot be fed a diet with any GMOs in it.

The Cost of a GMO Free Turkey

First off you are NOT going to find one of those budget/bargain turkeys that cost under $1 a pound that is going to be GMO free. The cheapest feed you are going to find for a turkey is going to be GM, so the cheapest turkeys are almost guaranteed to have been fed a GM diet, unless they appear on the Non-GMO Project list. I would expect to pay around $3.99 per pound for a turkey that is organic and verified Non-GMO. You might be able to find one as low as $2.49/lb. $4.99 to $5.99 a pound would be on the high end. Even the highest priced turkeys are still cheaper than many of your cuts of beef, even if the final cost is a lot higher – it is more meat. If you are on a budget, get the smallest size turkey you can find (10-12 pound range). Make sure you safe the all bones to make your own turkey stock to really maximize your purchase.

Two brands that I recommend buying are Diestel and Mary’s. Both for them are committed to raising turkeys the right way – which is best for the turkeys, the environmental, and our nutrition and enjoyment.

Where to Buy GMO Free Turkey
If you have a turkey farm nearby that you can buy a turkey directly from that might be your best choice. You can talk to the farmer, see what they feed their turkeys, even see the turkeys themselves. For most of us, we will have to settle for the grocery store. You have more likely going to have to look at the more specialty grocery stores over the cheaper chain stores. If you have a Whole Foods, they will have GMO Free turkeys. Any store that offers a wide selection of organic meats every day is a good place to start. Take your time to look around and call around before you make your choice. Thanksgiving comes once a year and I think it’s worth the extra effort when it comes to select the star of your Thanksgiving show.

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Black versus White Sesame Seeds

One of my favorite things to teach people on this blog is differences. To understand varieties of fruits, vegetables, seeds, etc and what makes them unique. I remember years back going into the grocery and being upset that I did not understand the different in apple varieties. Boy how clueless I was back then. I wouldn’t have had a clue what apple made the best pie or even which was one tart. That lack of knowledge has inspired me to really learn varieties. The other day I was wondering what the difference was between white sesame seeds and the black ones. I have heard people particularly seeking out the black ones. There must be a reason why they are doing so.

The Sesame Seed
A little background on the seed. It has been around for quite along time – over 3000 years. It is known for being a heavy producer of oils. It is grown in warm climates in places like Burma and India. They can be grown in the U.S., but we import than way more than we grow. Thomas Jefferson grew them at Monticello in Virginia! Most people encounter them on top of a hamburger bun from their local fast food joint. A lot of people may not know they encounter it in most of the hummus they eat. Traditional hummus is made from chickpeas and Tahini, a sesame paste, that is kind of like peanut butter.

The Difference Between Black and White Sesame Seeds
Most of us are use to the white sesame variety, however if you have not seen black ones before, keep a look out out for them. I did a taste test with both. Just popped some seeds in my mouth. I found that the black sesame seeds had a stronger, nuttier flavor than the white counter – like a white sesame seed with the volume turned up. You may find the texture is different as well as the black often come with their thin outer hull still attached unlike their white counterparts.

Uses for Black Sesame Seeds
You can use them anyway you use the “regular ones”. Although the black seeds may not look as nice on a bun as the white, they can produce a stunningly black ice cream. I found several recipes online for black sesame ice cream, such as this one from the blog, Spicie Foodie. That may sound strange but it produces a stunning black ice cream that would look lovely served along side a nice white vanilla ice cream.

Tip for Buying Sesame Seeds
Whenever you buy sesame seeds check to see if they are toasted or roasted already. If not, you will want to do that before using, to bring out their nutty flavor. You can put them in a 350 degree oven until browned or in a frying pan with a little bit of oil over medium heat until browned and you can smell them. Both are fairly fast, so don’t leave the room. Burning your white sesame seeds black is not what you are going for here.

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How to Freeze Turkey

The turkey is done, the day is over. You have yourself plenty of leftovers, but you are really not in the mood for more turkey right now. That is when it is time to employ your own personal time machine – the freezer. By properly freezing the turkey you can return to that 4th Thursday in November anytime you want.

How Long Will Frozen Turkey Last in the Freezer
In the freezer I would say the turkey would be perfect for 3 months, then quality would start going down. I would say 6 months tops, but I would really aim for finishing it up in 3.

What Do You Need to Freeze Turkey
There are three things that I use whenever I freeze meat – plastic bag, heavy duty aluminum foil, and a permanent marker.

How to Freeze Turkey

How to Freeze Leftover Turkey

I start out by laying a piece of foil down on the counter or cutting board. I always use heavy duty foil. It doesn’t rip like the regular stuff does, I feel it’s worth the less extra money. I perfer to portion my meat into single servings, that way I can pull out what I| need without having to defrost any entire batch. Make sure you use enough foil so that the meat is tightly wrapped without any of it showing.

How to Freeze Turkey

In order to prevent the meat from freeze burner I then place the meat into a plastic bag. I love the ones with the slider zipper top. This gives us double protection. You can either use quart size bags which will probably only fit a single serving, maybe two. Or the large gallon size that can fit more. Then again it’s easy to be organized and find what you need in your freezer.

Make sure you have little air in the bag as possible. This will not only save space, but air is not your friend for long keeping food. Make sure to press all the air of the bag before sealing. Some people like Alton Brown, stick a straw in the bag and suck all the air out.

A moment about freezer bags. When shopping for plastic bags you will see bags marked freezer bags. I never ever buy these. You always get less bags for buck. I have never had a problem with just using the regular ones, so no reason to switch over.

How to Freeze Turkey

You have taken all the proper steps to ensure all life for your soon to be frozen food, there is still one more step and it’s a key one. Label the food. I love a black Sharpie for this. You don’t want what you wrote to come off easily. I always write exactly it is and put today’s date on the bag. This is a vital step as if you come back to it later on and don’t know what it is your likely to skip using it or just throw it out. Make sure to label clearly.

With these few simple tips a leftover turkey salad, sandwich, soup, etc can easily be at your finger tips, weeks after Thanksgiving has ended. Don’t let those leftovers go bad in the fridge, freeze them!

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I'm Eric. I live in Ann Arbor, MI with my wife, 3 kids, and a flock of ducks. I love grocery shopping, trying new fruits, farmer's market, and traveling.
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