Whole Foods Laguna Beach

How many times have you heard someone say “it tastes like chicken”? Particularly when referring to unique types of meat. What does frog taste like? Chicken. What does alligator taste like? Chicken. What does a T-Rex dinosaur taste like? Probably chicken. You know why people say that? Because chicken doesn’t have much flavor, it is extremely mild. At least the chicken that most of us eat. If you cooked up a piece of chicken breast and put no salt on it, you probably are eating of the most bland things you can find. Why is this? Is this the way it has always been?

I have been thinking about this recently after reading an article in NPR’s The Salt. Whole Foods Market has announced that they will only allow slower growing types of chicken by 2024. What does the speed a chicken grow have to do with anything?

Over the years people have been breeding chickens that grow faster and produce more breast meat. It’s the lean meat that health conscious people are clamoring for. This process has been going on for years so that now we have chickens that grow to twice the size at half the time. Saves time and money for the producers. Problem is this is not something that would happen naturally without our interference. We have selected breeding our chickens to the point where they can barely move – after generation after generation of breeding together the largest birds. In the natural environment they would surely die. They wouldn’t be able to move properly to eat and drink, plus they would be easy prey for predators. I am not a huge animal rights person, but I do not think it’s respectful to knowingly watch an animal struggle to survive in order to be more profitable. I don’t believe this was the intended result it is what has happened and it’s time to stop and reverse directions.

In terms of flavor, these newer, fast growing chickens do not have it. They are grown and harvest so fast and eat a diet that doesn’t result in flavorful meat. It’s quite bland. If you can ever find a chicken of an older variety that is raised and processed the traditional way, you would be shocked at the difference in flavor. The closet thing I have had is a stewing hen, which is an older bird that has to be cooked low and slow but produces a much, richer, tastier meal. As often with cooking, flavor cannot be rushed.

Air Chilled Chicken Drumsticks

Air Chilled Chicken Drumsticks from Whole Foods Market

Another option would be to try an air chilled chicken. Most commercials chickens are dumped in water in order to get their temperature within range fast after slaughtering. Air chilled chicken are blasted with cold air. Both do the job of stopping bacterial growth. The water method adds water weight to the chicken, diluting the flavor. Air chilling takes longer and is more costly but will result in a more flavorful end product. A lot of grocery stores sell air chilled now, including Whole Foods.

Check out my recipe for Roasted Chicken Drumsticks with Potatoes, Dill, and Kale

whole foods market huntingon

So Whole Foods has decided to not sell the fast growing varieties anymore. But it will take time, not until 2024. Why not just do it right away? They have to give the farms time to change over. If they just pulled them at once, they would have a massive shortage in chicken and a ton of customers would be outraged, probably to the point of not wanting to shop there anymore. As much as people love Whole Foods, it is still a big business and won’t just make this change immediately. The older types of chicken are out there and it will take time for farms to begin raising them instead. It’s possible too that some businesses may choose to not continue to do business with Whole Foods instead, depending on how much their profits are coming from selling to them. There are also stores in many regions of the country that may all carry chickens from different sources, so it takes time to get the entire company up to speed when their sources are from all over.

I applaud them for doing this, for the benefit of the chicken as well as for the consumer who will get a better tasting product in the end.

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Dried Fruit at Costco

One of the things I really wanted to try out when I got my Costco membership was their selection of dried fruit. The prices were pretty good, but I was curious whether the quality would reflect the cheap price or really be a great value.

Here is the selection I found at Costco during a January 2016 trip in Ann Arbor, Michigan (selection and prices may vary)

Dried Fruit Cost
Kirkland Dried Blueberries $7.69 for 20oz bag ($.385/oz)
Kirkland Dried Tart Cheries $7.99 for 20oz bag ($.40/oz)
Organic Apricots $13.99 for 48oz bag ($.291/oz)
Kirland Signature Sunsweet Dried Plums $8.89 for 58oz bag ($.159/oz)
Ocean Spray Craisins $8.79 for 64oz bag ($.137/oz)
Welch's Dried Honeycrisp Apples $9.99 for 30oz bag ($.333/oz)
Nature's Finest Dried Mangoes $12.99 FOR 30oz bag ($.433/oz)
Phililipine Natural Dried Mangoes $9.99 for 16oz bag ($.624/oz)
Organic Made in Nature Black Mission Figs $11.99 for 32oz bag ($.375/oz)
Organic Dried Cranberries $7.89 for 24oz bag ($.329/oz)

Examining these prices show that you can really save some money buying your dried fruit from Costco. Other places I have seen 4 or 5 oz bag of dried fruit going in the $4 to $5 range. As long as you are going to use it all up, then I say go for it. If not you are better off with the smaller bags or buying at a store that sells in bulk.

I am going go through and break down each thing Costco had to offer.

Kirkland Dried Blueberries

The Kirland dried blueberries were equally as good. Not as flavorful as the out of this world amazing Trader Joe’s Wild Dried Blueberries – definitely worth their money. Best price I have seen on dried blueberries.

Kirkland Dried Cherries

The Kirkland brand dried cherries are made from Montmorency cherries. They are a tart cherry variety grow widely here in Michigan, the number 1 tart cherry producing state. Tart cherries have more intense flavor than sweet cherries. These Kirkland brands are pretty flavorful too. Would buy them again.

Craisins Costco

These guys you can find elsewhere. The term Craisins has become the “Kleenex” of the dried cranberry world. Since they are so widely available check for sales at other stores, it’s possible with a sale, maybe a coupon you can save even more money elsewhere. I think there are pretty tasting dried cranberries (see below).

Dried Black Mission Figs

These are organic dried versions of Black Mission figs. In fresh form this is the fig you see the most, along with Brown Turkey. Black Mission has a better flavor I believe than Brown turkey, although I do prefer the green varieties overall for flavor. Since fresh figs have a short season and you can’t find them year around, dried ones give you a chance to have them and use them in recipes no matter what month the calendar says.

Made in Nature Apricots

Another option from Made in Nature, also organic. These apricots are Unsulfured, which means they don’t have added sulfure dioxide as a preservative. The fruit won’t appear bright orange like apricots that have been treated. They will be more dark brown in color. I like this better as you are avoiding preservatives that I have heard some people have any allergy to.

Nature Finest Dried Mango

These mangoes are listed as fat free. Why would I have to worry about fat in mangoes? Well a lot of dried fruit has oil added to it, to keep it from sticking. These mangoes are thus oil free.

Paradise Meadow Cranberries OG

I mentioned earlier than there were better tasting dried cranberries than the Craisins. Well this is them. They also have the advantage of being organic. You are going to pay a lot more money for these ones, over twice the price. Make the choice that is best for you.

Philppine Brand Mangoes

A second dried mango option. These are sulfate free and sugar free. You are getting just dried mangoes. These are the most expensive dried fruit at Costco.

Sunsweet Plums

Dried plums, also called prune, are made from a specific style of plum, the sugar or prune plum. They are usually purple on the outside, very sweet on the inside, and the shape of a football. Not my favorite plum in terms of actual taste, but it’s easy to make these into dried fruit without added sugar.

Welchs Dried Honeycrisp

Everyone’s favorite apple nowadays is the Honeycrisp. Well not my favorite, I know people really go for it. With apples available year round, I usually don’t buy much dried apples personally. However if you are a Honeycrisp fanatic you might want to try these, especially when Honeycrisp become unavailable or too expensive during the summer months.

Have you bought dried fruit from Costco? What did you buy and what did you think of it? Leave a comment below.

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The Best Way to Keep Spiral Ham from Drying Out

One of the greatest disappointment in the kitchen has to be dry meat. You spend a lot of your hard earned money on a big piece of meat and it comes out with less moisture than the Mojave desert. That has been my past experience with spiral sliced hams. Anyone that I have had has been dry and stringy. This has keep me from buying one myself. Why is this? Why does this happen?

Kirkland Spiral Ham

Why Is My Spiral Ham Dry?
The reason why anyone buys a spiral ham is that it is easier to carves, since it’s been pre-sliced. The problem with that is it makes it easier for the meat to dry out. Juices can easily run of the meat and into the pan. This is the price for that convenience. What also is not helping most people cause is that they overcook the ham. Most hams come already cooked, so it’s really just about re-heating and if you are applying a glaze, cooking the glaze so it sticks to the meat.

Sam's Club Ham Prices 2015

The Best Way to Keep Spiral Ham from Drying Out
There are two things you can do that will really benefit the juiciness of your spiral ham. First is to cover it with foil to help keep the moisture in. If you are going to apply a glaze do so in about the last 15-20 minutes of cooking with the foil removed. The second and most important thing to do is take the ham’s temperature using either a probe thermometer that stays in the meat while it’s in the oven and check using an instant read. A probe would be the easiest. If you don’t have one use the time guide that came with the ham, but it wouldn’t be nearly as accurate. Those guides can’t take into account all the other variables – like size and shape of meat, actual temperature of your oven, how clean your oven is (burned up junk in your oven can effect the cooking time). Cleaning your oven before cooking any big roast is always a good idea, as the thought if only I had the time goes through head as it does mine!

Dearborn Spiral Ham

What Temperature Do I Cook a Spiral Ham to?
If you using a probe thermometer place it in the deepest part of the ham without hitting any bone (the bone will throw off your reading). Then set the alarm to go off at 130 degrees (at 120 degrees is when I would apply a glaze). Remove the ham from the oven and cover again with foil – do it very loosely if you have used a glaze. The ham’s temperature will continue to rise (the carryover effect) and should be at 140 degrees in about 10 to 20 minutes depending on the size and shape of your ham.

I would love to hear back from you if you gave my tips a try and had better results. Leave a comment below.

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What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmer's Market

The grocery business in an ever changing landscape. Stores come and stores go. Recently I had to say a sad farewell to Hiller’s Market in Ann Arbor (the store where I first tasted Cotton Candy grapes), now a member of the Kroger company. But as Hiller’s presence in Michigan fades away, a new store is just beginning to make it’s presence known in the Mitten State. Over the 4th of July weekend, I got to visit my first ever Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market store in East Lansing. Three other locations in Michigan are about to open up this week: Troy, Rochester Hills, and Northville. Plans have been submitted for a store in Ypsilanti.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

The purpose of this post is to guide you through some items that are worth buying if you find yourself inside a Fresh Thyme store. This isn’t meant to be an overall critique of the store.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

1. Produce Sales
Produce is to me is the heart and soul of every grocery store. Without good selection and good prices including amazing sales, then you won’t find me shopping there much. Fresh Thyme does have those things. They were offering blueberries for 88 cents a pint when I was there, which is a great place only topped when the Michigan crop comes out. This is the kind of sale that brings people into the store to begin with. I easily felt I could grab any vegetable I needed for dinner without “overpaying” for them.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

2. Bulk Foods
Every good grocery store should have a bulk foods section – that place where you can buy a small amount of a item to try. I was disappointed years ago when Meijer did a way with their bulk food bins. On this shopping trip my daughter wanted some key lime yogurt pretzels. She has been a big key lime yogurt kick lately. We saw in a 1 pound container but didn’t want to make that big of a commitment. Thanks to the bulk bin I was able to get her a few to try out for a snack. Without a bulk section, I probably wouldn’t have made that purchase at all. Besides yogurt pretzels, they had all the traditional standbys of nuts, dried fruits, granola, flour, oats, etc. And they have some more unique, trendy bulk items like…

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

3. Honey
Besides just your regular bulk stuff, Fresh Thyme also has honey in bulk. They have local Michigan honey that you can depense yourself so you only buy actually how much you want. Besides honey they also have bulk…

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

4. Bulk Oil
Add oils to the list of great bulk options at Fresh Thyme. Again buy as much or as little as you want. Only need extra virgin olive oil for one recipe this week, then you can buy a small amount and you don’t need to commit so much of your weekly grocery budget to a big ticket item.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

5. Cheese for a Good Price
We are a cheese loving family, so good prices on cheese is a must for us. Fresh Thyme had a lot of basic cheeses that were affordable (in the $2.99 to $5.99 per pound range). The mild cheddar you see in the bottom of the above photo was price at $2.99/pound and made in Michigan!

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

6. Chicken Breast Sales
Whenever you can get boneless skinless chicken breasts for under $2/lb is a time to rejoice. While this may not be the everyday price, a sale like this gives you a chance to stock up and freeze them. And most grocery store will repeat these kind of sales regularly enough so that when you run out, it will be on sale again soon.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

7. Ground Beef Sales
At the same time as the chicken sale, was a time to stock up on ground beef as well as it was going for $3.99/lb for 85% lean. Another thing to stock up on.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

8. Ground Game Meat
Like an alternative to beef? Fresh Thyme carries Blackwing ground meats that include venison, antelope, elk, and bison (labeled as buffalo). These kinds of meat can be more difficult to find in the larger supermarket chains, so I am glad to see Fresh Thyme carrying these products. The now departed Hiller’s also sold frozen game meat, so it’s good for local consumers to immediately have a new option in the general area.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

9. House Made Sausage
Their meat department isn’t a huge one, yet the selection of sausage is incredible. We tried three different types for our dinner a night later and were very pleased with the taste. We tried both pork and chicken sausages.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

10. Michigan Made
Nowadays everyone is getting into carrying local products, even the Meijer and Kroger of the world. So any new store has to feature them and Fresh Thyme does it well with several end caps featuring Michigan made products. So you can get your favorite local jams, jellies, BBQ sauces, coffeees, etc.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

11. Local Milk
Each store is going to cater to it’s local region. I am glad to see that the Fresh Thyme in East Lansing is carrying Mooville milk, one of my absolutely favorite dairies in the country. Their chocolate milk may be the best ever. They also carry cream-line milk that has not been homogenized – very to find. People believe this milk is easier to digest.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

12. Salt Water Taffy
If you got a sweet tooth, make sure to grap some salt water taffy on the way out the door. They have a nice selection in a very appealing display. They brilliantly marketed a bag full of patriotic colors for Independence Day. It’s fun to let the kids pick out a few flavors of their own for a road trip or to have a bowl of them on your dinner table when welcoming guests.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

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What to Buy at Sprouts Farmers Market

I am such a foodie that whenever I go on vacation one of the things I look forward to the most is visiting different grocery stores. Heading to Orange County, California meant that I would have plenty of stores to check out. The one store that I was most looking forward to visiting was Sprouts Farmers Market. The last time I was in California, 4 years ago I visited a Henry’s Farmers Market store in Mission Viejo. I enjoyed the store. During my 4 year absence Henry’s merged with Sprouts and took on the Sprouts name. I was curious to see how the store would change or not change during that time. The interesting thing is that both stores were started by the same family. They sold the Henry’s brand and eventually started up Sprouts. Years later they re-acquired the Henry’s brand and merged the two together. I was delighted the store I enjoyed 4 year previously was still a great place to shop. I visited a Sprouts, 3 times during my 2 week stay in California.

What to Buy at Sprouts

So what did I buy at Sprouts? Here is a photo from my first shopping trip of all the good stuff I got.

What to Buy at Sprouts

I also did my first ever grocery haul to give you a little more detail into what I bought.

What to Buy at Sprouts

What to Buy at Sprouts Farmers Market

What to Buy at Sprouts

1. Produce

The number one reason to go to Sprouts is the produce. I mean if you are going used the word “Farmers Market” in your name you better deliver the goods. And they do. I got some amazing deals on some quality produce (asparagus for .88/lb, broccoli crowns for .98/lb, Brussels sprouts for $1.99/lb.). This alone would be enough to bring me into the store each and every week. For me to have an outstanding produce department you have to have something unique – you must have items that not every grocery store carries. I knew already that Sprouts is a big supporter of the country’s premier grape growers – the Grapery, the ones who brought Cotton Candy grapes to the world. I saw first hand when I spotted the Kiwi berries. These are small kiwis that are completely edible, skin and all. You just pop them in your mouth like a kumquat. So not only do they have great sales on quality produce, they have special items to add some excitement to your cart.

What to Buy at Sprouts

2. Organic Produce
If you are looking for organic produce, you can find all your stables here from apples to kale to swiss chard. The every day prices are cheaper than what you find at Whole Foods.

Sprouts Yogurt

3. Premium Yogurt
If you are a yogurt consseiur who would rather starve than eat cheap store brand yogurt, then Sprouts is a good place for you. They have a good selection of some of the nation’s top premium yogurts including Greek Gods, Brown Cow, and Noosa (they even sell the large containers which is a better value). They had many flavors that I had not seen before. Sales were offered as well.

What to Buy at Sprouts

4. Super Cheap Cheese Sales
$1.99 a pound for mild cheddar! You can’t get any better than that. My kids love their cheese and mild cheddar is definitely the cheese of choice. The way my kids go through a block of cheese this is a really big savings. I would have stocked up on more if I wasn’t on vacation. By the way, the cheddar is pretty good, it doesn’t reflect it’s deeply discounted price (normally it goes for $5.99/lb). I also picked up some Kerrygold cheeses for the family St. Patrick’s Day feast.

What to Buy at Sprouts

5. Bulk Section
I love a good bulk section. I like being able to purchase the amount I want to buy. It saves money and you can try new things you normally would not. Their bulk section has all the nuts, seed, dried fruit and yogurt pretzels you will ever need. I love the look of the barrels that some of the items are in.

What to Buy at Sprouts

6. Bulk Spices
The only good way to buy spices is in bulk. They are usually fresher than jars that usually are overpriced and contain more than you’ll use before they lose their potency. The section wasn’t a huge one, but they had all the basics that you would use on a regularly basis. Back when this store was Henry’s, I bought a bunch of spices and dried herbs to include a gift basket for my sister-in-law’s wedding.

What to Buy at Sprouts

7. Honey
The bees are the only ones who love honey more than me. I don’t dream of touching overprocessed clover honeys that most grocery stores throw out there. Sprouts had enough selection to keep me entertained. The best thing I found was their selection of Sola Bee honey. So many intriguing options – I choose the wild blackberry – it has a berry flavor that you swear they add blackberry flavoring to it. They also sell the most excellent Ambrosia Honey company honey from Colorado that comes in a easy to depense bottle.

8. Deli Meat
I hit up Sprouts right before heading out to the beach for a picnic lunch and tide pool exploration. I picked up several small packs of deli meat, that were already pre-wrapped for easy grab & go. Good price and good quality. I also got a bottle of Dietz & Watson Cranberry Honey Mustard to go on our sandwiches.

What to Buy at Sprouts

All I kept thinking when I was in Sprouts is I wish there was one close to me. It’s the kind of store that I would be in, week in and week out. If it was the only store in the area, I could get by and I don’t say that about most stores. From the fabulous produce deals to the bulk selection to the special treats in the yogurt and honey aisles, Sprouts is the place to shop in Southern California.

Shopping Tip
Go there on Wednesday! They have double ad Wednesday, which makes it’s the last day of one week’s day and the first day of the next week’s ad. You get to shop off two ads on the same day. There will be more on sale and more ways to save. Plus Wednesday is the slowest grocery day of the week, so you can likely get through the checkout much quicker than if you went on a weekend.

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Black Sesame Seeds

Are you a sesame seed fan? Do you like them other than on top of your fast food burger? Do you throw them into your salads or your dressings? They you must be a sesame seed fan. Have you ever tried black sesame seeds? A couple weeks back, I wrote about the differences between the white and black sesame seeds (see What is the Difference Between Black and White Sesame Seeds?). The black sesame seeds have a stronger flavor than the white counterparts. It’s a reason why people seek them out. They often have more of crunch as they are not hulled like most white sesame you find are (although you can get unhulled white sesame seeds at Whole Foods Market).

How to Find Black Sesame Seeds
Typically black sesame seeds are harder to find, hence the motivation for writing this post. If you look in the spice section of most large supermarket chains you won’t find them there. If they have them they are most likely in an international section. When I see them they tend to be in large containers, too large unless you are a serious sesame user. I did however locate a small package (which is featured in the photo at the top of this post) at Hiller’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The store is known for having a great international selection. You also should be able to find them in any good Asian market. Do a Google search of your area. A lot of those markets are “hole in the wall” places that many of us overlook. They might be hidden gems. Or also look for a bulk food or spice specialty store. Don’t forget if all else fails you can find them on the world wide web.

What Sesame Seed Flowers Look Like

Flowering black sesame plant (photo from rareseeds.com)

Grow Your Own Black Sesame Seeds
As I was pursing through the Whole Seed Catalog from the Baker Creek Seed Company I came across their grains & cover crops section. I discovered that they sell black sesame seeds. You could grow your own! It is what Thomas Jefferson did! Story goes he received sesame oil and fell in love with it (see for more info on the Monticello website). He decided he wanted to grow them. They still grow on site today. And they can grow at your house as well. I myself am going to grow them. I am further north than in Virginia where Jefferson grew them, I have heard of people being successful here Michigan. Even if I don’t get a lot of or any seeds, there are still the leaves. The leaves are edible. You may see them sold at Asian stores as perilla leaves. They can be used in salads and are popular to wrap rice, veggies, or meat in. One of the benefits to growing something yourself is experiencing the plant in new ways that you may have not experienced if you just go to the store and buy the seeds. Not to mention they produce pretty white flowers that will beautify your yard.

Stay tune to my gardening blog, the Pea Project, for updates on how my sesame seed crop does.

You can order white or black sesame seeds from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Here are the links to order them:

Sesame, Light Seeded
Black Seeded Sesame

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6 Tips Perfect Peach

Is there anything that can beat a high quality, sweet, juicy, flavorful, ripe peach? I think not. However how many of you struggle to find that perfect peach? Have you had that experience where the peach looks great but when you brought it home you were disappointed? I have six tips for you that should help you avoid peach disappointment.


1. Know the season

It all starts with understanding how peach season works. I have written about peach season before, so make sure to check that post out. To summarize it – domestic peach season begins here in the U.S. in early to mid May. It is starting to become earlier with Florida peaches now hitting the market place earlier than the California and Georgia crop. Typically peaches then remain in the stores until September or at the most early October. Keep this in mind, the very earliest peaches typically aren’t the most flavorful just the earliest available. End of season peaches can be left in cold storage too long and be rubbery and off tasting. If it’s the beginning or end the season don’t make a big financial commitment if you want peaches, buy a couple to prevent mass disappointment or if you can get a sample before you buy.

Bellaire Peaches


2. Buy Local

If you can buy local by all means do it. Your farmer’s market is your best source. Those peaches are not grown to be shipped across the country, so they may remain on the tree longer before picked. Establish a relationship with your local farmers, so you know when their best tasting peaches are available. Make sure to ask exactly what variety they are growing so if you like it, you can ask for it again.


3. Find Varieties If You Can

Lots of people don’t release their are hundreds of varieties of peaches. It’s not just one type of yellow peach or one type of white peach. Orchards tend to grow many different varieties that ripe at different points. Peach trees are harvested in a 7-10 day window. If you only plant one variety then they will all have to be picked at once. Instead you plant varieties that will ripen over a couple months, so there is a continual supply. This is also why you can go to the store and buy some amazing peaches and go back a week later and buy more, only to find that you don’t like them as well. They were probably a different variety.

What is the Difference Between Peach Varieties

Peach varieties do not differ as much as apple varieties do, but there are differences you can tell if you become a peach connoisseur like me. The biggest difference is in the sweet/tart ratio. Flavor also differs. Some have that old fashion peach flavor, I have some that taste just like peach pie (see the Peach Pie donut peach from Family Tree Farms) or that they have been drizzled with maple syrup. I have had white peaches taste so sweet you think you are eating candy. If you taste several varieties of peaches side by side I am confident you will be able to taste the difference. My wife and I love getting a couple different varieties at once and doing a little taste testing as an after dinner snack.

Spring-Flame-Peaches(Text)

Finding the Variety

Finding out what variety of peach you are eating can be difficult. Generally grocery store only market a peach as being white or yellow flesh. I wish stores shared took the time to share that information as I think when people find a great variety and see that name again they would buy a ton, and I don’t think it will hinder sales to people who don’t care what they are getting just because the sign says “Spring Flame peaches”. Almost all peaches arrive to the store with the information on the side of the box telling you what variety it is. If you store displays peaches in the box they come in, then you can read the side of the box. You can also try asking one of the employees, although most probably don’t even bothering looking at that information. If you are buying from a farmer’s market then should by all means know exactly what variety they are selling you even if they don’t put out a sign saying what it is.


4. Check stickers

If you can’t find out varieties at your store there is an another thing you can do to find great peaches – find great growers. Learn to be a sticker reader. The sticker tells you who grew that peach. What I would do is get a piece of paper, place it on the fridge. Make two headings – like and didn’t like. Whenever you buy a peach, take the sticker off and place it on the paper under whatever heading is appropriate. That way you can learn to spot them in the store in the future. A few growers that I do recommend are :

Strawberry Heirloom Peaches

Strawberry Heirloom Peaches

Kingsburg Orchards | Check out their website

They harvest over 200 varieties of fruit in Kingsburg, California (which is in central California, south of Fresno). They are known for their development of many different kinds of pluots and apriums, including their dinosaur brand and velvet apricot series. You can find their peaches under their Flavor Farmer brand and their Flying Saucer brand of donut peaches. You can find a calendar of where their various peaches ripen on their website. One of their special varieties of peach is their Strawberry Heirloom peach. Here in Michigan, I have found their fruit at Meijer, Whole Foods Market, and Randazzo stores.

Peach Pie Donut Peaches

Family Tree Farms | Check out their website

Family Tree Farms really is a family affair. Seven generations and counting of farmers. It shows in the consistent quality of their fruit. I am particularly a fan of their Peach Pie Donut Peaches, which really do remind me of a fresh peach pie. Check out their availability chart.

GaLa Peaches

GaLa Peaches

Pearson Farm | Check out their website

Straight out of Fort Valley, Georgia, Pearson Farm offers amazing peaches. Look for their logo on peaches labeled as southern peaches at your grocery store. A couple years ago I received a box of their GaLa peaches right to my doorstep.


5. Avoiding green

Color is only important in one regard to peaches and it’s not the color, red. Red means nothing but how much sunlight a peach got. People seem to believe this which is why a lot of peaches today are almost all red, particularly the varieties from California. What I really care about when looking at the color of a peach is do I see any green. I want the peach to picked after the green has turned to yellow, even if still hard. Peaches are going to be picked hard, otherwise they could never be shipped anywhere. The key is to buy them from sources that allow them to mature enough on the tree for all the green to be gone. That way the peach has had enough time to develop full flavor.


6. Invest in paper bags

The final step to the perfect peach is how you store it when you get home. First if it came home in a plastic bag, remove it immediately. Plastic bags will draw moisture right to the skin of the peach and this could cause it to mold or rot. What you need to do is put the peaches until a paper bag until they are soft enough to eat. They should give to very gentle pressure. Never put the peaches into the fridge before they are soft enough. Once in the fridge I would say enjoy them within 3 days, 5 days tops. They will eventually start to shrivel up and the taste will be off.

If you follow these steps, your success of having a perfect peach will dramatically increase!

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Bridge Card
Question: Can You Use a Bridge Card/EBT in Another State?

Answer: If you are heading on vacation or just crossing the border into a neighboring state and are wondering if you can use your food assistance, the answer is Yes. If you are someone that qualifies for food assistance whether it’s called a bridge card, EBT card, or SNAP card you can use it in other states other than the one who issued it to you. I got this information directly from USDA website by submitting a question to their Ask an Expert. I know for certain that a Michigan bridge card will work in Ohio.

If you think about it makes complete sense, if it didn’t work that would be confusing. A bridge card/EBT card in some ways are like a debit card. You have a certain amount in the account. You can use a debit card from a bank that doesn’t have a location in another state.

This is a big advantage if you live right near a border but never tried shopping in that state. It’s great for people who have to travel since they have a card they don’t have a lot of extra money to spend so being able to go into any grocery store (of course it has to accept food assistance cards to begin with) and buy food without having to just eat out is a huge help. I would imagine that farmer’s markets across the country that accept cards would also be an option. If you have a certain store you plan to shop it, it would be good to make sure they accept the card before heading in, that shouldn’t be a problem at the chain stores.

Has anyone tried to use a card in another state? Please share your experience below in our comment section.

If you live in the state of Michigan, take a moment to check out my list of stores and farmer’s markets that accept the Bridge Card.

Want to eat healthy food and support your local economy?. Learn how to eat locally grown food on a budget.

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Whole-Foods-Market-Shopping-Guide Looking to buy that perfect ham to complete your Christmas meal? If you have a Whole Foods Market nearby here are some options that are available for you.

Selection and prices are based on what I found in the Ann Arbor, Michigan store in December 2013

Wellshire Farms

Type Price
Semi Boneless Half Ham $6.99/lb
Spiral Cut Half Ham $4.99/lb
Spiral Sliced Boneless Half Ham $7.99/lb
Black Forest or Virginia Ham Nugget $12.99 for 28 oz
Boneless Black Forest Half Ham $7.99/lb
Virginia Boneless Half Ham. $7.99/lb

Wellshire Farms is based out of Swedesboro,NJ. The entire line of products are free of nitrates and nitrites and never contain artificial ingredients or preservatives. You will see their meats labeled as “uncured” because they do not have any added nitrates or nitrites. All of their hams are fully cooked and come from pigs fed a vegetarian diet that is free of any added antibiotics or hormones.

The company began in 1993 under the name Yorkshire Farms. They changed the name to Wellshire in 2003. They began selling their products exclusively to Whole Foods Market in 2008.

What is a Black Forest Ham
One of their offerings is a Black Forest Ham. Originally Black Forest Ham come from Germany. It contains certain spices that give it it’s unique flavor. Ones made in the United States are not officially defined so it may vary from company to company. They should be flavored in the Germany fashion as well as a similar process of a long cold smoking that gives the ham a black coloring on the outside.

What is a Virginia Ham
Like the Black Forest, this is a type of ham that is based on the seasonings and curing process of hams in Virginia. A Virginia style ham very well may be a country ham. These hams in hung to age in a smokehouse. They tend to be more salty than city hams, which is the ham style most of us are accustomed to. Again the name is not necessarily regulated, so you might find a Virginia ham to be seasoned but not necessarily cured like a country ham.

Pederson’s

Type Price
Organic Uncured $7.99/lb
Organic Uncured Petite $10.99/lb

Pederson’s Natural Farms is based out of Hamilton, Texas. They have been around since 1992. They do not use any artificial ingredients or preservatives in their products. To read more about how they treat their animals, check out their website.

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Time to complete your Christmas shopping with the purchase of your holiday ham. Below you will find a list of stores throughout Michigan and what they have to offer in terms of price and selection of hams. I typically go for a shank portion bone-in ham. The cheapest deal I saw is at ALDI where you can get a shank portion ham for 99 cents a pound.

Related ham posts : Reasons NOT to Buy a Boneless Ham | Alton Brown’s City Ham recipe | Difference in Types of Ham | Spiced Root Beer Glazed Ham recipe | Can You Freeze Leftover Ham?

Whole Foods Market
Check out my guide to the hams available at Whole Foods.

Meijer
Various locations throughout the state. Prices may be slightly different in each store, check your store to be sure.
Cook’s or Hormel Cure 81 Spiral Sliced Half Ham (in natural juices) $1.37/lb (limit 2)
Dearborn Spiral Sliced Ham $3.99/lb
Cook’s Shank or Butt Portion HaM $1.19/lb (Limit 2)*

Hiller’s
Stores in Ann Arbor, Berkley, Commerce Township, Northville, Plymouth, Union Lake, and West Bloomfield.
Hiller’s Signature Fire Glazed Spiral Sliced Half Ham $2.49/lb
Butt or Shank Portion Fresh Half Ham $1.79/lb
Winter’s Fire Glazed Spiral Sliced Ham $2.99/lb
Dearborn Torch Glazed Spiral Sliced Ham $3.99/lb
Dearborn Classic Trim Semi-Boneless Half Ham $2.99/lb
Kentucky Legend Quarter Sliced Hams (Original, Brown Sugar, Black Forest) $3.99/lb

Busch’s
Stores in Ann Arbor, Saline, Clinton, Tecumseh, Dexter, Pinckney, South Lyon, Plymouth/Northville, Carleton, Livonia, Novi, Farmington Hills, West Bloomfield, and Rochester Hills.
Dearborn Spiral Half Ham $3.99/lb
Busch’s Spiral Sliced Ham $2.49/lb

Spiced Root Beer Glazed Ham

Kroger
Various locations throughout the state. Prices may be slightly different in each store, check your store to be sure.
Kroger Spiral Sliced Ham $1.37/lb (limit 2 with additional $10 purchase)
Smithfield Shank Portion $1.17/lb
Cumberland Gap Semi Boneless Ham $1.67/lb
Hickory Hills Boneless Ham $2.89/lb
Private Selection Spiral Sliced Bone-In Ham $2.99/lb

Nino Salvaggio
Locations in St. Clair Shores, Troy, and Clinton Township.
Dearborn Spiral Sliced Ham $3.99/lb
Winter’s Spiral Sliced Ham $2.99/lb

Neiman’s Family Market
Locations in Alpena, Tawas, and St. Clair.
Spartan Whole Boneless Ham $1.99/lb
Spartan Honey Glazed Spiral Sliced Ham $1.99/lb
Winter’s Spiral Cut Ham $2.99/lb

Plumb’s
Locations in Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Norton Shores, Muskegon Heights, Newaygo, N. Muskegon, and Whitehall.
Spartan Spiral Sliced Half Ham $1.99/lb
Sugardale Whole Boneless Ham $1.69/lb
Frick’s Shank Portion Ham $1.49/lb
Frick’s Butt Portion Ham $1.59/lb
Kentucky Legend Quarter Sliced Hams (Select varities) $3.99/lb
Spartan Whole Boneless Ham $2.69/lb
Spartan Boneless Half Ham $2.89/lb
Alexander & Hornung Half Ham $1.99/lb

Tom’s Food Center
Locations in Portland and Okemos
Smithfield Honey Glazed Spiral Sliced Half Ham $1.26/lb
Smithfield Whole Bonless Ham $1.58/lb

ALDI
Locations throughout the state
Appleton Farms Spiral Sliced Half Ham $1.49/lb
Appleton Farms Shank Portion Ham $.99/lb – LOWEST PRICE IN MICHIGAN
Appleton Farms Butt Portion Ham $1.19/lb

What I Use When I Bake A Ham

Here are some tools that I use whenever I am baking a ham.
1. Roasting Pan – You need something big to bake your ham in and a roasting pan is the perfect vessel. I don’t recommend not stick in this case as I always find that I still end up with burnt sugar in the bottom from my glaze. It’s harder to clean a non-stick pan without scratching it and ruining the non stick. So just go with an stainless steel that you can scrub easier.
2. Electric Knife – Makes carving the ham a whole lot easier. You don’t need something expense here. A cheap one works just fine.
3. Probe thermometer – Even thought hams come cooked most of the time, you still need to heat it up. Don’t trust the instructions that came with your hand, trust a probe thermometer to get your ham reheated to the properly temperature. I have had ham that has been overcooked, a dry ham is not something you ever want to experience.

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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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