Ojai Pixie Tangerines 2014

Shopping in the produce department can be depressing in the winter when you live in a northern climate. Local fresh produce is long gone. Which is why I am so thankful that I have citrus season to help me deal with the winter time blues. As we head deeper into spring, it means that citrus season is coming to a close. While that is disappointing, the good news is that one of the best tasting pieces of citrus is one that you will find right at the end of the year. For the last several years, I have enjoyed the Pixie tangerine as the last piece of citrus I will have until the cold weather returns. Talk about going out with a bang, these are so rich in flavor, and sweet on the tongue. If you have not tried them before you really need to seek them out.

The 2014 crop wasn’t the largest. There was some damage due to December freezes and California experienced a drought in January. While the size is mammoth this year, the availability and prices are not as good (I paid $2.69/pound without no chance of any sale prices this year). That is why it’s even more important for me to share with you where you can find these tangerines. Lucky for us the Ojai Pixie Growers Association posted the stores where you can find their Pixies this year on their website. For your convenience I have re-posted the list below. I buy mine at Whole Foods Market in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For the first couple weeks they were only getting them on the weekends, however now the supply has improved. Don’t hesitate to pick them up in bunches if you see them as there are no promises you will be able to get more.

Here are some grocery outlets that carry Ojai Pixie Tangerines:

Southern California

Ojai:
Rainbow Bridge, 211 E. Matilija, 805-646-4017 www.rainbowbridgeojai.com
Starr Market, 131 West Ojai Avenue, 805-646-4082
Westridge Market, 802 E. Ojai Ave. 805-646-2762.

Santa Barbara:
Lane Farms, 5091 Hollister Avenue, 805-964-3773
Lazy Acres, 302 Meigs Road, 805-564-4410 www.lazyacres.com
Tri-County Produce, 335 South Milpas Street, 805-965-4558 www.tri-countyproduce.com

New Frontiers Natural Marketplace
1531 Froom Ranch Way San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
1984 Old Mission Dr Solvang, CA 93463

Malibu
Vintage Grocer

San Gabriel
Howie’s Ranch Market

Orange
Pacific Ranch Market

Northgate Markets

http://www.northgatemarkets.com/

Gelson’s Markets – 18 Southern California stores

http://www.gelsons.com/

Bristol Farms – 13 Southern California stores

http://www.bristolfarms.com/

Northern California

Berkeley:
Monterey Market, 1550 Hopkins Street, 510-526-6042 www.montereymarket.com
The Berkeley Bowl, 510-843-6929 www.berkeleybowl.com

Alameda
Dan’s Fresh Produce, 2300 Central Avenue www.dansfreshproduce.com

Draeger’s Gourmet Food & Wine www.draegers.com
Los Altos, 342 First St., 650-948-1563
Menlo Park, 1010 University Dr., 650-324-7700
San Mateo, 222 4th Ave., 650-685-3700

Lunardi’s www.lunardis.com
Los Gatos, 720 Blossom Hill Road, 408-358-1731
San Jose, 4650 Meridian Ave., 408-265-9101
San Jose, 4055 Evergreen Village Square, Suite 140; 408-528-6940
San Bruno, 100 Skycrest Center, 650-952-2851
Belmont, 1085 Alameda de las Pulgas, 650-591-5768
Walnut Creek, 1600 Palos Verdes Mall, 925-939-6477
Burlingame, 1825 El Camino Real, 650-697-5306

Other Bay Area:
Sigona’s: Redwood City and Palo Alto
Rockridge Market Hall: Rockridge
The Wharf Marketplace

Outside California

Whole Foods Market stores across the country (Check store for availability)

Central Market www.centralmarket.com
Austin, TX – Central, 4001 North Lamar
Austin, TX – Westgate, 4477 South Lamar
Dallas, TX – 5750 E. Lovers Lane
Fort Worth, TX – 4651 West Freeway
Houston, TX – 3815 Westheimer
Plano, TX – 320 Coit Road
San Antonio, TX – 4821 Broadway
Eastern US

Wegman’s Markets – 80 stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland
www.wegmans.com

The Orchard, 1367 Coney Island Boulevard, Brooklyn, NY 718-377-0800, www.orchardfruit.com

Mail Order Sources

Directly from the farmer, at Friend’s Ranches:
www.friendsranches.com, 805-646-2871

Farm-direct certified organic Ojai Pixies from Churchill Orchard:
www.tangerineman.com, 805-646-4212

From Melissa’s World Variety, at
www.melissas.com, 800-468-7111

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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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Whole-Foods-Market-Shopping-Guide
One thing that I have learned to love on my blog is preparing people for the biggest culinary day of the year – Thanksgiving. It can be overwhelming. But it should be the funniest time you have in the kitchen all year. There is not a holiday that is more about food than Thanksgiving. It’s all about the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the stuffing, the sides, the cranberry sauce, etc. I want to help you with your turkey day shopping by guiding you through some of the options you might find at your local grocery store. In this post we will be discussing the Thanksgiving wares available at Whole Foods Market.

*The prices listed in this post are from the Ann Arbor, Michigan store. Prices and product availability may vary by store and region.

The Turkey

This guide could not get started without the turkey. You can pre-order a fresh turkey right now at your store holiday order table. If you are looking for the dirt cheap frozen turkey this is not the place to go. Whole Foods only offers turkeys that fit their series of quality standards. You do get what you pay for.
1. No antibiotics ever
2. No added hormones
3. Vegetarian diet
4. No added solutions
5. Complete trace ability to farm
6. Global Animal Partnership Step Rated

Here are the turkeys that are available at Whole Foods:
Nature’s Rancher Fresh Turkey | $2.49/lb
Larry Schultz Organic Turkey | $3.99/lb
Valerie’s Family Organic Brined Whole Turkey | $2.49/lb
Bone-in Turkey Breast | $4.99/lb
Boneless Turkey Breast | $6.99/lb
Organic Bone-In Turkey Breast | $6.99/lb
Whole Kosher Turkey | $2.99/lb

Nature's Rancher Turkeys

As for value, the Nature’s Rancher Fresh Turkey is a good price for a turkey that meets the standards Whole Foods has established. Nature’s Rancher products are exclusive to Whole Foods. Check their website to learn more about the company.

The Mashed Potatoes

Whole Foods regularly stocks Russet, Red, and Yukon Gold potatoes for your mashing needs. All of these are available as organic. I have seen them on sale for $.99 cents a pound in the past, so watch for sales as the holiday approaches. This time of year you can find organic fingerling potatoes in their produce department, all of sorts of varieties and colors. My Smashed Fingerling Potatoes can be a nice alternative to the standard mashers on the Thanksgiving Day. Also if you head over to the wet display in the produce section you can find celery root. Adding this to your mashed potatoes can bring them to a whole new level of flavor.

The Sweet Potatoes

I like that Whole Foods offers selection when it comes to sweet potatoes. Most places just offer 1 single sweet potato or yam (related post: What is the Difference Between Sweet Potatoes & Yams). At Whole Foods you can find up to 4.

Stokes Purple Sweet Potato

1. Jewel – Copper colored skin with deep orange flesh. They cook up moist and tender.
2. Garnet – Are more red in color than the Jewel and said to have a richer flavor.
3. Beauregard – This is that 1 single variety that most stores carry
4. Stokes Purple – A purple sweet potato that is purple inside and out. The color does not fade when cooked, it actually improves. Excellent option for roasting or in a hash.

The Stuffing or Dressing

Every stuffing recipes begins with the bread. It’s not stuffing without bread. Whole Foods carries several stuffing mixes. Arrowhead Mills Organic Savory Herb Stuffing sales for $2.99 for an 10 oz package. Do the math that is about $4.64 a pound. I would skip the package and instead for the stuffing cubes (look for them near the meat department) that are made right in the store. They sell for $3.99 a pound and you can get the exact amount you want. I think this is a fresher option. Also make sure to check the bakery and see what bread is on sale that week that you can cut up yourself – I don’t think you are going to get cheaper per pound than the stuffing cubes.

If you are looking for a gluten free option and don’t want to bake your own bread, they do have a gluten free cornbread for stuffing made by Glutino. That sells for $4.69 for a 8 oz package.

Notes on Chicken Stock
For your stuffing recipe you are probably going to want some type of stock or broth as well as for your gravy. I cook multiple turkeys for blogging reasons each year, so I have homemade turkey stock from the bones on Thanksgiving Day, but I don’t expect other people are going to do the same. A little reminder, stock are made from bones, and broth are made from meat (and/or vegetables). Here is a list of prices I found on chicken stocks and broths.

365 Organic Chicken Broth | $1.99 for 1 qt
365 Organic Chicken Broth | $2.99 for 1.5 qt
365 Chicken Stock | $1.99 for 1 qt
Imagine Organic Chicken Stock | $4.99 for 1 qt
Imagine Organic Low Sodium Chicken Stock | $4.99 for 1 qt
Imagine Kosher Chicken Broth | $4.99 for 1 qt
Imagine Free Range Chicken Broth | $3.69 for 1 qt
Pacific Organic Free Range Chicken Broth | $3.69 for 1 qt
Pacific Organic Free Range Low Sodium Chicken Broth | $3.69 for 1 qt
365 Vegan Vegetable Broth | $2.29 fir 1 qt

The Gravy

Since we are on the topic of broth, let’s talk gravy. You will need something to thicken your gravy. And yes you can use the flour you have sitting at home, but I have some better recommendations. I like using potato starch in gravy. Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch sells for $4.39 for 24 oz. I combine it with flour in my gravy. By using two different starches you can prevent the gravy from becoming a solid mass shortly after it hits the gravy boat. Also you can use all potato starch for a gluten free, non-GMO option.

The Cranberry Sauce

Organic cranberry sauce can be a part of your Thanksgiving Day. They do carry 365 Organic Jellied Cranberry sauce ($1.99 for 14 oz can) that contains no high fructose corn syrup, which is what you get in Ocean Spray and most store brands. But if you know me, I won’t be getting anything out of a can this Thanksgiving. Head over to Produce and pick up a container of organic fresh cranberries. To make things really fun, try making your own cranberry sauce by mixing in a can of 365 Brand Ginger Ale for 99 cents.

Related Post – How to Make Jellied Cranberry Sauce

The Sides

Whole Foods produce departments carries a wide selection of vegetables for any side you are making. Items like green beans and celery will be very well stocked and easy to find. They have a good selection of organic root vegetables ready for the roasting. They have some unique roots too like black radishes, sunchokes, scarlet turnips, etc. along with your parnsips, rutabagas, and purple top turnips. Their frozen department carries some cheap frozen vegetables with organic and non-GMO options available. You can also pick up some organic shallots, an ingredient that seems to find it’s peak usage time at Thanksgiving.

Need mushrooms for your side dish? Whole Foods is one of the best retailers for buying mushrooms. They sell them in bulk so you can get exactly what you want or make your own mushroom mix. They also sell a lot of varieties of dried mushrooms not available fresh, these should be located near the fresh mushrooms in the produce department.

Note on Spices
I think one area in which people end up wasting a lot of money on the Thanksgiving meal is with spice and dried herb purchases. They go and buy a container of something that they use for the meal and then never use again. You can save a lot of money by just buying what you need by purchasing your spices in the bulk department. They carry spices from Frontier Nature Products. The size of the bulk section depends on the size of your store, but you should be able to find anything you need.

The Cheese

I am all about cheese being a part of any special meal. It’s nice to have a cheese on hand for guests to snack on as they wait for the big meal to make it’s appearance. Whole Foods has a special cheese that fits right in with the holiday meal – Henning’s Cranberry Cheddar. It’s on sale for $7.99/pound at my store. You can also pick up a chiptole edition.

The Pie

No good Thanksgiving meal ends without a delicious slice of pie. Of course they sell a lot of already made pies, but you are going to make your own from scratch, right? You can find canned organic pumpkin and organic pie pumpkins ($1.69 a pound). The bulk section is one again your best friend when it comes to pies. You can get the flours and thickeners you need there. You can buy your pumpkin pie spices or pecans in bulk. As for apples, all stores should have organic Granny Smith and Braeburn apples as well as Honeycrisp that could work in an apple pie.

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Smashed Fingerlings

I love to be at the grocery store and be inspired by what I see. My local Whole Foods Market got some really nice looking fingerling potatoes in last week. They had 3 different varieties that all looked in peak condition. And they were on sale, so just had to bring some home. With Thanksgiving getting closer I have been looking to post more about different ways to serve potato with your holiday bird. With these fingerlings I wasn’t thinking mashed potatoes, more like smashed potatoes!

Different Varieties of Fingerling Potatoes

Here are the three different types of fingerlings I got at Whole Foods. They were grown by Klamath Basin Fresh Organics, which is a co-op of 17 shareholders, growing potatoes in the Klamath Basin of northern California and southern Oregon. This is a beautiful region of the country that was fortunate to visit 10 years ago. It’s a great place for growing potatoes. All there potatoes are organic.

Fingerling Potatoes Varieties

Russian Banana
This is the fingerling potato that you probably see most often and no wonder these are delicious! They have a buttery flavor with a light colored skin, much like a Yukon Gold. They are an heirloom variety grown by Russian settlers.

Ruby Crescent
This was the first time I have seen a fingerling quite this color. It is brown but with some pink hue in it. It’s really a pretty potato. It has a sweeter more earthy flavor than the Russian Banana, making it a nice compliment to it.

Amarosa
This fingerling was a deep red color, almost a little purple. The inside of this potato was the same color as the skin. The color is retained when cooked, making for an excellent presentation.

Smashed Fingerlings

Making this potato dish is a two part cooking process. First you boil the potatoes. Second you smash them and fry them in a bit of oil or better yet bacon fat! This second part gives the potatoes a crispy outside that just add another textural element. I am not claiming it makes them healthier just tastier! They still can be served with gravy and your Thanksgiving turkey. Or they are great as a side any time of year with some ketchup.

Smashed Fingerling Potatoes
 

Ingredients
  • 2 to 3 pounds fingerling potatoes, assorted varieties if possible
  • cooking oil or bacon fat
  • kosher salt to taste

Instructions
  1. Wash the potatoes, but do not peel.
  2. Place the potatoes in a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer until fork tender.
  3. Completely drain out all the water. Lay the potatoes out to dry for 5 minutes.
  4. Slightly smash the potatoes with a meat tenderizier, a big spoon, or your hand. Just gently push down on them until they are flatten just a bit.
  5. Cover a frying pan with enough oil or fat to cover the surface. Heat the pan up over medium high heat.
  6. Add the potatoes without them touching, you’ll have to work in batches. Cook until brown on one side and flip. About a couple minutes per side. You may need to add more oil or fat between batches.
  7. Salt to taste and serve hot.

 

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Almata Apples

I love the world of apples. So many varieties to try. The search for new ones is never ending. They are so many unique heirloom varieties that small farms grow that it’s really a treasure when you find one. Even more so when you find one at Whole Foods. The Whole Foods market stores in Ann Arbor receive shipments from Tree Mendus Fruit out of Eau Claire, MI. They grow over 200 varieties on their farm. You can guarantee I will be trying every variety this year that makes it to Whole Foods.

First new one for me to try this year is the unique Almata apple. This apple has a red flesh that is striking. It is said to originate from South Dakota and it is a cross between Beautiful Arcade x Fluke 38) x Redflesh cross.

Almata Apples

My Experience with this Apple (Rating Scale 1-10)

Aspect Score
Crispiness 7
Tartness 9
Apple Flavor 6
Sweetness 1
Juiciness 2
Where I Got Them Whole Foods Market (Ann Arbor MI – Grown by Tree-Mendus Fruit)

Overall Feeling: Unless you like your apples on the tart side you won’t want this for out of hand eating. Only a crab apple would be more tart. They are also on the dry side. The flavor reminds me of fresh cranberries. It’s still not the most flavorful apple ever, but it’s a lot better than other apples that I have had that were similar to this type. These apples are best used for making a beautiful red applesauce or dried apple chips, which I made and they were amazing! It’s an early season apple, which means that it won’t keep very long. Use them up within a week.

Here are some apple related kitchen tools I recommend:
Amco Dial-A-Slice Adjustable Apple Corer and Slicer : Allows you to slice apples into either 8 or 16 pieces
Zyliss Soft Skin Peeler : The best peeler I have ever owned. Does a great job peeling an apple.
Mirro Foley 2-Quart Stainless Steel Food Mill : A great tool for making your own applesauce. You can make the sauce without having to do any peeling.

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Black Bean & Red Rice Taco

I love it when dishes come together through multiple inspirations. This is the story of how our Black Bean & Red Rice tacos came into existence. We have been really enjoying the stone ground corn tortillas available at Trader Joe’s. They are $.99 for a pack and are non-GMO as is every Trader Joe’s brand product. They are the best value corn tortilla I have found. My wife also has been getting into eating more black beans. She wanted to do tacos sometime this week.

This taco story continues at Whole Foods. We spotted some Red Himalayan rice in the bulk food section. This rice is grown in South Central Asia. It is a short grain rice with a nutty flavor like brown rice. It is very aromatic and adds a beautiful red rosy color to any dish. To prepare the rice, I like to bake it. Red rice takes longer to cook than white, so it’s easy to toss it in the oven and not have to worry about it sticking to a pot.

Next up the cheese. I found some 10oz packages of queso fresco at Kroger for $2.00. This is a white, mild crumbling cheese that is the perfect addition to salads and of course tacos.

Organic Finger Limes

The final ingredient that brought this whole dish together is organic finger limes. I received some Organic Finger Limes from Frieda’s Produce this week (check out my post on them). They are like citrus caviar. Slice them open and squeeze out the “caviar”. It gives the tacos a pleasant zing of lime flavor.

Black Bean & Red Rice Taco

Black Bean & Red Rice Taco with Finger Limes
 

Ingredients
  • 1 cup (8 oz) dried black beans
  • 1½ cups red rice
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, minced
  • 1 package of organic finger limes (use about ½ of a finger lime per taco)
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 10 oz queso fresco or other crumbling cheese
  • 1 head or heart of your favorite lettuce (romaine, green leaf, etc)
  • corn tortillas
  • sour cream or guacamole for serving

Instructions
Preparing the black beans
  1. Start by soaking the black beans overnight or for 8 hours. You can use canned if you like and skip the soaking but I think dried beans have a more pleasing texture in the end.
  2. Cover the beans with enough water to just cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer until and cook until most of the water is gone and the beans are soft.
  3. Mash the beans up until they are creamy.
  4. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic powder.
Preparing the rice
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the rice into an oven safe dish. Add 2½ cups of boiling water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour.
  2. Remove from oven and fluff with a fork.
Assembling the tacos
  1. Place the beans on the bottom of the taco, then add some of the rice.
  2. Add the lettuce and chopped tomato. Then sprinkle on the cheese and cilantro.
  3. Cut finger limes in half. Squeeze out the “caviar” on top of the taco. About ½ of a finger lime is good for 1 taco.

 

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Organic Finger Limes

I am always trying to stay up to date with what is the latest and greatest in the produce world. So when Frieda’s produce offered to send me some organic finger limes, I was all over that! Finger limes are one of the “it” items of this year. They originated in Australia. They are now starting to be grown more in the United States. The particularly ones I got were grown by Deer Creek Heights Ranch out of Terra Bella, California. They are organically grown – certified by the USDA.

Finger Limes

So what’s so special about these limes, besides them being so small, which I didn’t realize from the pictures I saw online. Yeah on the outside they look like really tiny, elongated limes. But when you open them it’s a whole different experience. It’s best described as citrus caviar. The vesicles inside the fruit look a lot like caviar. How cool is that? What’s even cooler is they can range in color from bright green to rusty red and the vesicles from white to pink.

What Do They Taste Like?
They have the tart and tang of a lime. I don’t think they are so tart that you can’t just pop them in your mouth, like they were Pop Rocks. They crunchy liquid fills balls. That is what really amazed me when I first tried them. I was expecting them to be softer. I do like that the “caviar” are firm enough not to just burst when you touch them.

How to Use Finger Limes?
Besides just popping them in your mouth they have other uses, which I am excited to explore myself (recipes coming soon!). You can toss them in salads, desserts, in beverages, or anything you would like to add a citrus bite to. They work great as a garnish.

When Are US Organic Finger Limes in Season?
Frieda’s began shipping them this year in July. They expect to have a supply through December. This is really the first year they will be more widely available, althought keep in mind quantities are still limited. This is a really new crop to the U.S. I will try and keep track of places you can buy Finger Limes. You can download a $1 off coupon from Frieda’s to use on the finger limes.

Where to Buy Organic Finger Limes
Here is a list of some places they have, had, or will have finger limes:
Select HEB and Central Market in Texas
District Markets in PA and OH
Whole Foods in Dallas
Tops (NY, PA)
Rouses ( New Orleans area)

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Red Velvet Apricots

There a few weeks each year around mid-April to mid-May that I like to call the Great Fruit Drought. Citrus has peaked for the most part and we are awaiting the first stone fruit and cherries to come out of California. Thankfully I have made it through another drought and am starting to enjoy stone fruit again. One piece of fruit I have been looking forward to in particular are Red Velvet Apricots. I had these beautiful fruits last year and they rocked my world.

What are Velvet Apricots?

The fruit has the same shape as your everyday apricot but as you noticed the color is way different. How can this be? Kingsburg Orchards are the creators of this unique apricot. The apricots are pollinated by plums. They are NOT a pluot or plumcot which is a plum/apricot mix showing more plum characteristics. That is where the color comes from. Kingsburg developed a series of these apricots, each one ripening at a different time with the Red Velvet being the first. They have enough varieties of velvets to last from mid-May to the beginning of August – each a different color: blue, crimson, gold, black, and ruby. Each apricot has a dinosaur sticker with the PLU code and a link to Kingsburg Orchards’ kid web site.

My Experience with this Apricot (Rating Scale 1-10)

Aspect Score
Sweetness 9
Tartness 3
Flavor 9
Juiciness 9

Better not be wearing a nice shirt when you sink your teeth into these apricots! They are juicy and super sweet without much of a hint of acidity. The flavor is amazing too. It’s a shame they are only around for a few weeks each year. One of the nicest features of this apricot is that they seem to arrive to the store ready to eat. They don’t arrive green or rock hard like other apricots do. It’s such a rare treat to get to pick a piece of stone fruit from it’s display and enjoy it as soon as you take it home (if not on the car ride home!). These things are so sweet and have so little acid they ripen up quickly. If they are ripe make sure you store them in the fridge when you bring them home.

How to Pick a Ripe Red Velvet Apricot

As the fruit ripens it turns a more darker red color, more like a purple. It should just barely give to gentle pressure. It can be eaten more firm than you would eat a peach.

Where to Buy Red Velvet Apricots?

Below is a list of stores that I have carried them in the past. If you know a place not on this list please leave a comment below with the store and location.

Meijer (spotted in Ann Arbor, MI)
Whole Foods Market (spotted in Ann Arbor, MI)
Kroger (spotted in Ann Arbor, MI)

Here is a video I found online from the CBS Chicago station recommending the Red Velvet:

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Asparagus Ends Soup

If there is one thing I hate it is wasting food. Anytime you waste food is like emptying your wallet into the trash. Often with produce you have parts of the fruit or vegetable you are not going to eat. I will never eat an apple core or the peel of an orange or outer layers of an onion. What about the ends of asparagus? Those woody ends that either end up in the trash or at least hopefully in your compost pile. Is there a better fate for them? Should I try to choke them down? I think they are definitely usable in a way that is delicious and will keep you from spending an hour flossing asparagus strains out of your teeth. Make soup.

Asparagus Ends for Stock

This past week I saved up about 40 or so ends from 2 bunches of asparagus I purchased. Then got out pot, covered them completely with water and boiled them until they were the mush you see in the picture below. I also had another secret ingredient up my sleeve. In the theme of using discarded “waste” I threw a couple rinds of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese that I got at Whole Foods on the cheap. This would infuse the flavor of the cheese into the stock.

Asparagus Ends Soup (Stock)

While it may not look pretty or tasty, the liquid that was left behind after I turned the ends into mush only a baby could appreciate was a flavorful asparagus stock that was little green in color.

Asparagus Ends Soup (Strained Stock)

Once the stock was made, I cooked about 3 peeled and sliced Russet potatoes. Although I wish I had some Yukon Gold on hand as I like their butteriness (it’s my word!) in soups. All that was left was to season and cook the potatoes until done. As for the seasoning I used kosher salt and freshly ground Grains of Paradise or alligator pepper. Grains of Paradise has a more mild, sweet bite than your standard black pepper. I really like it in soups. You could also use white pepper or maybe some smoked peppercorns to add a bit of smokey flavor to the soup. I pulled out my immersion blender to blend it up but not without leaving some chunks of potatoes. If you like serve it with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt. My 5-year daughter loved the soup and she doesn’t like asparagus.

Asparagus Ends Soup
Soup
 

Ingredients
  • 30-40 asparagus ends (about 2 inches a piece)
  • 3-4 medium sized Russset potatoes or 4-6 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
  1. Place asparagus ends and Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds into a pot. Cover with at least 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce to a simmer. Cook until the asparagus can be mashed with a potato masher about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Strain out the ends and rinds through a mesh strainer.
  4. Add the potatoes. Bring back to a boil. Then simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Blend with an immersion blender until completely smooth or leave some chunks.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.

 

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Price: $12.99/lb
Strength: Sharp
Purchased At: Whole Foods Market (Ann Arbor, MI)
Would Buy Again: Maybe

I am a big fan of raw milk cheeses. I think they have more flavor than cheeses made with pasteurized milk. I wrote last year about raw milk cheddar, which has been the only kind of cheese I have had in the raw. But now you can add gouda to the list. I saw some wedges of a raw milk gouda at Whole Foods Market recently. The wedges were going for $12.99/lb, which is more than I like to pay for my cheese, however they had a lot of little wedges to give you a try that I could get for under $2.

Not only is this gouda a raw milk variety, it is a farmhouse cheese. This means the people that milk the cows, make the cheese right on site. A cheesemaker can’t get milk any fresher than that. For this cheese to also meet it’s farmhouse guidelines the cheese can only be made when the cows are in pasture, so it is not made during the colder winter months.

As for how the cheese fared with my palate, I found it to be creamy and full-flavored cheese. It has a pleasant sweetness to it. A good quality gouda, but I don’t know if I would pay that price again, when I can get other goudas that are just as delicious to me. It’s still worth your time and money if you are a huge fan of gouda. You can purchase the cheese at Whole Foods and online via Zingerman’s Mail Order.

Want to learn more about gouda, check out my what is gouda post?

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