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have you tried? Harissa


Find new ways to spice things up in the kitchen with harissa, a fiery North African and Middle Eastern red-chile paste. What makes harissa so cool is that it’s not just about the heat.

Ingredients vary, but the chiles are often blended with garlic, cumin, coriander, and caraway which adds a layer of flavor you won’t find in your standard hot sauce.

Pick up a jar in the international foods aisle of the supermarket or at a Middle Eastern market, then get creative. Stir into soups, pasta sauces, or couscous; add to a marinade or use as a rub; mix a teaspoon into some olive oil and use to dress roasted veggies; or punch up your brunch by adding a spoonful to a pitcher of Bloody Marys.

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have you tried? Cold Brew

Cold brew’s lower acidity means it naturally tastes sweeter.

Meet iced coffee’s cooler cousin. It is made just like tea; steeped for hours but in cold water. Here’s why we’re excited about it!

Lower Acidity. A cold brew cup will have up to 70% less acid than regular coffee and no bitter bite. Less acid means less digestive distress and less damage to your teeth.

No More Watery Problems. Pouring hot coffee over ice is a quick way to dilute your coffee. Cold brew is already cold or at room temperature, leaving the option of ice or added water entirely up to you.

More Caffeine. Cold brew’s high bean-to-water ratio and longer brew time leaves a stronger buzz. Milk or cream can be added to lessen the intensity.

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have you tried? Collard Greens

Collard Greens

With three times the amount of calcium and twice the amount of fiber as kale, collard greens are on the fast track to the top of the super food chain. They are an amazing source of iron, vitamin A and vitamin C. Collards can be cooked for hours, sauteed, or to help maintain all the vitamins and minerals, served raw. They also pair really well with bacon and smoked pork hocks.

Its a Wrap! Trade out a tortilla shell and make a vegan wrap! Take seasoned nut loaf, guacamole, romaine lettuce, salsa & almond nut cheese and wrap it all up in a collard leaf.

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have you tried? Four Cups of Coffee


A new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows that drinking coffee regularly may protect against malignant melanoma. The largest study to date tracked over 447,000 retirees for 10 years.

Data collected included the amount of sunlight in hometowns, reported risk factors such as exercise, body mass index, alcohol consumption, and coffee consumption. It did not cover all risk factors, such as sunscreen use or skin color.

Participants who drank four cups of non-decaf coffee per day were 20 percent less likely to develop malignant melanoma compared to those who didn’t drink coffee. Previous studies had found correlations to drinking coffee with lower rates of nonmelanoma skin cancers.

Researchers noted the link with caffeinated versus decaf could be due to chance, so the benefits may not be from the caffeine.

Want to make coffee even healthier? Pick milk alternatives such as soy or almond over cow’s milk and skip whipped cream, coffee whitener, sugar, flavor syrups. Stay away from sugar-free syrups, and artificial sweeteners.

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have you tried? Spirit of the Season Mocha Latte

Spirit of the Season Mocha Latte

2 cups hot strong brewed coffee
2 cups Wilton Dark Cocoa Candy Melts Candy
6 cups milk
½ cup chocolate syrup
Assorted liqueurs and spirits, such as: peppermint schnapps, Irish cream liqueur, creamy rum liqueur, caramel-flavored vodka, chocolate-flavored liqueur, cinnamon schnapps, (optional)

In large bowl, pour coffee over dark cocoa Candy Melts candy; let sit to melt.

In large microwave-safe bowl, heat milk and chocolate syrup until steaming, about 4 minutes. Whisk milk vigorously to froth. Whisk in candy mixture until combined.

Divide lattes evenly between eight mugs. If desired, add 1 ounce of your choice of liqueur to each drink. Makes 8 servings. Recipe from Wilton.

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have you tried? Herb Butter

Herbed Butter

Give your baked goods a flavor boost. Stir together ½ cup softened butter, 1 tablespoon snipped fresh herb of your choice, and ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Soften before serving.

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have you tried? Buttered Coffee

Buttered Coffee

The latest coffee craze? Blend butter with your coffee. Sounds insane, but people swear by it. Drinkers say it helps keep them full, keeps them focused, gives fewer cravings, and increases their metabolism. Wellness experts appear to be split on the health benefits, but regardless this rich combo is a delicious drink to keep you warm this fall!

1 cup black coffee
1–2 tablespoon unsalted
grass-fed butter
1–2 tablespoon coconut oil
¼ teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Blend for about 30 seconds, until frothy. Sweeteners such as milk, honey, cinnamon or vanilla are optional.

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have you tried? An Old-World Starch


Common in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, couscous is a tiny, round pasta made from semolina wheat flour. Whole-grain varieties are good sources of protein, fiber, and B vitamins, but as with other pastas, not all varieties sold are whole-grain, so use care when buying.

The most common variety in grocery stores is pre-steamed Moroccan couscous, so all you need to do is drop into simmering (not boiling) water for five minutes to rehydrate the tiny granules, then fluff with a fork.

If you’re looking for a change, this quick-cooking side is a suitable replacement for rice or other pastas.

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have you tried? Capers


What are they?. Dating back to 1200 BC, capers are the unripe flower buds of a prickly perennial plant native to the Mediterranean area. Harvesting can be labor-intensive, so capers often carry a relatively high price tag. The buds are dried, then pickled in vinegar brine. Once prepared, their flavor and texture are similar to that of green olives. Some varieties are similar in size, but capers are typically smaller than peas.

Cooking with capers. Capers are common in Italian and Greek cuisines, especially in piccatas and tapenades. Use capers in place of olives to dress up your favorite potato, chicken, tuna, or egg salad. Sprinkle them on pizza or add to a lemon cream sauce for fish.

Buying and storing. Capers can usually be found in the condiment aisle with the pickles and olives. Like all canned foods, they are shelf stable until opened, then should be refrigerated. When kept in the brine, capers will stay good for at least 9 months. You may wish to rinse before using to remove excess salt.

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have you tried? Quinoa


Buzz food. Perhaps you’ve heard a lot about quinoa lately. Although this hardy seed has been around for thousands of years, its popularity as a diet superfood has skyrocketed in recent years. It has been termed the “gold of the Incas” because the Andes dwellers cultivated quinoa for its nutritive values. It is used in both savory and sweet dishes and makes a nutritious hot breakfast cereal.

Complete protein. Quinoa is a worthy replacement for other grains and seeds alike—it has a higher protein content than any other grain. Moreover, the protein in quinoa is a complete protein; it carries eight essential amino acids that our bodies don’t produce on their own. Quinoa is also a significant source of calcium, lysine, B vitamins, and iron. And it’s not only easy to digest but also naturally gluten-free.

A rainbow of colors. Quinoa comes in a rainbow of colors—tan, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, and black. Most grocery stores now carry some variety of quinoa either in bulk or packaged in the health food and/or grains sections. Any type of quinoa should be rinsed with cold water for a couple minutes before cooking to remove the bitter coating. Cooking is similar to rice—one part quinoa to two parts water or broth. When the quinoa is done, the seed will be translucent and the germ will partially detach to look like a spiral. It has a mild, nutty flavor and a texture that is soft but with a slight firmness when bitten.

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have you tried? Polenta


What is it? Polenta is made from coarsely ground cornmeal. It originated as a peasant dish in Italy and is similar to grits, the Southern favorite. The difference? Polenta can be made from yellow or white corn; only finely ground white corn, usually hominy, is used to make grits.

Preparation. Polenta is typically slow-cooked in water or broth until the liquid is absorbed and the mixture turns creamy. Like other grains, a quick-cooking version is also available for time-challenged cooks. Soft polenta can be served in the place of any other starch, but it can also be cooled until firm and cut into rounds or wedges that can be baked, grilled, and fried.

Blank canvas. Because polenta itself is relatively bland, it takes on other flavors well. Serve soft polenta with a sauce topping, like you would pasta or rice. Use baked or grilled polenta cakes as bases for appetizers in place of bread or a cracker. Press cooked, cooled polenta into a pan for an alternative pizza crust.

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have you tried? Arugula


Turning over a new leaf. If iceberg lettuce is a bit too plain for your palate, arugula might add the zing you’re after. Depending on the maturity of the picked leaves, its flavor ranges from sweet and nutty to strong and spicy. Arugula’s popularity has been increasing in recent years; many packaged salad mixes contain the tasty green (it’s the one that looks like dandelion leaves).

The list goes on and on. Like other dark, leafy greens, arugula’s list of health benefits is astounding, and it’s worthy of being a regular part of any healthful diet. Among other benefits, it contains high levels of vitamins A, C, and K and folic acid and is a good source of calcium, magnesium, and iron.

Put it to use. Arugula is most often eaten as a salad green; however, the possibilities are endless for this versatile leaf. Wilt it in a saute pan with olive oil and garlic to make a hearty side dish or blend it into a pesto in place of basil. Arugula can also add a fresh, peppery flair to pizza, sandwiches, and pasta dishes.

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have you tried? Prosciutto


What is it? Prosciutto is a dry-cured ham that originated in Parma, Italy. To make the variety most common in America, the ham—or rear shank—is salted heavily and gradually pressed for at least two months until it is dried out. Then it is rinsed and hung in a cool environment to finish drying. The entire curing process can take from two months to three years!

Serving. As with any cured meat, the saltiness of prosciutto appeals to our savory palate, making it a great appetizer, especially when paired with something sweet. Prosciutto-wrapped melon is a party favorite, as are Caprese salad skewers—prosciutto, basil, tomato, and mozzarella stacked on a toothpick. Prosciutto is also a great choice for submarine sandwiches and paninis.

Buying local. True Italian prosciutto is still imported from Italy. However, Norwalk-based La Quercia produces an American version that has national recognition. Grocery stores and restaurants across the country offer this local Iowa fare.

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have you tried? Edamame


What is it?
Don’t be put off by the fancy name—edamame (pronounced ed-a-MA-me) is simply a boiled green soybean. Packed with soy protein, fiber, iron, and heart-healthy fats, it is a star ingredient. It has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor and an appealing firm, not mushy, texture.

Buying and storing.
Farmer’s markets and natural-food stores may carry fresh edamame in summer through early fall, but it can be found year-round in the grocery store freezer aisle. Frozen edamame is available in the pod or shelled. Store the beans in an airtight container in the freezer or refrigerator.

Eating it.
Fresh edamame will need to be boiled before consuming, but the frozen product is precooked and only needs to be thawed. Edamame in the pod makes for a great snack—because the soybeans need to be removed from the inedible pods, you’ll eat slower and consume less. Shelled edamame is more convenient for using in cooking—add to your favorite casseroles, soups, rice dishes, and salads.

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have you tried? Fennel


The basics.
Fennel, a relative of parsley, is an aromatic vegetable used most often in Mediterranean cuisine. Its flavor is reminiscent of licorice, and it is often mistaken for anise. Fennel is best known for its seeds, which are frequently used for the punch of flavor in Italian sausage. However, fennel is good for more than just its seeds.

Use it up.
The whole fennel plant is edible, offering many textures and uses for this versatile vegetable. The wispy, featherlike leaves of the fennel plant look similar to dill and make a good bed for steaming fish. The stalks are similar in color and texture to celery and can be used as an aromatic for soups and stews. The bulb can be sliced and sauteed to bring out the sweetness and release the licorice aroma.

Fennel tea, made from the ground seeds, is often used to treat intestinal discomforts. The seeds can be chewed after meals to facilitate digestion and freshen breath. It is also an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. Fennel is also thought to improve eyesight; ancient Romans called it the “herb of sight.”

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have you tried? Cooking with Honey

cooking with honey

Honey is honey, it's just that simple. A bottle of pure honey contains the natural sweet substance produced by honeybees from plant nectar and nothing else. The color and flavor are determined by the blooms the bees visit. Clover, alfalfa, wildflower, and tupelo are a few of the more than 300 unique kinds of honey produced in the United States. Honey contains naturally flavored sugars, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.

Find local honey at farmers' markets and roadside stands. Common varieties, such as clover and orange blossom, are available at any supermarket. Always look for "100% pure honey" on the label; avoid those that list corn syrup or other additives. Store honey in an airtight container up to two years.

Try adding honey to a marinade for pork tenderloin or ribs. Use it to sweeten mustard or peanut butter for an easy dip. Drizzle honey over fresh fruit, like bananas, pears or oranges, or onto ricotta cheese for a light dessert. Honey is sweeter than sugar (helpful to know when measuring), and it helps keep baked goods moist longer than other sweeteners. Pale-colored honeys are generally mild in flavor; dark ones can be richer and more robust.

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have you tried? Eggplant


Eggplant, or aubergine, as the French call it, is a vegetable described as having a pleasingly bitter taste and spongy texture. Available in markets year-round, they are at their peak from August through October.

Find eggplants heavy for their size and free of blemishes, like discoloration or bruises, which can indicate the underlying flesh is damaged or decayed. Smaller eggplants tend to be less bitter than larger ones.

To test for ripeness, gently press the eggplant. If the skin bounces back, it is ripe. If the indentation remains, it is overripe, and if it has no give, it has been picked too early.

Eggplants are very perishable and sensitive to both hot and cold. Ideally, they should be kept around 50˚F and used within a day or two of purchase. They deteriorate quickly after cutting, so only cut right before using.

Eggplant can be eaten with or without its skin. To remove the skin, peel the eggplant before cutting or scoop out the flesh once it is cooked.

“Sweating” an eggplant will tenderize its texture and make it less bitter. To do this, sprinkle with salt after cutting, let it sit for 30 minutes, then rinse to remove the salt. Pat dry and press the eggplant to drain out air and water.

A versatile vegetable, eggplant can be baked, grilled, roasted, steamed, or sauteed, and pairs nicely with tomatoes, garlic, onions, and cheese. It should never be eaten raw, as it contains the toxin solamine, which can cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

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have you tried? Tomatillos


With a flesh that is slightly acidic and tart, tomatillos do not taste like their relative the tomato.

Also known as ground cherries, jamberries, or husk tomatoes, tomatillos are small fruits common in Latin America. The fruit is encased in an inedible husk, which splits open when ready for harvesting. Yellow indicates the fruit is ripe, but tomatillos are usually used when they are still green. In fact, they are also called “tomate verde” (“green tomato”) and are considered a staple in Mexican food, especially in green sauces.

Choosing. Pick tomatillos that are firm and bright green. The husk should be fresh and intact, not shriveled or dried. Size indicates the level of sweetness, with smaller fruits usually sweeter than larger ones. If fresh tomatillos are hard to find, canned ones are available at specialty markets.

Preparing. Remove the husks and rinse off the sticky residue covering the fruit. Tomatillos do not need to be peeled or seeded.

Cooking. Tomatillos may be used raw for salsas and salads to add a fresh citrus flavor or cooked for sauces and stews. They have a high pectin content and are often made into jams. Whatever you are making with tomatillos, feel free to add some sugar if they are too tart for your taste.

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have you tried? Escarole


What it is
For people who enjoy using endive in various dishes, escarole is a form of endive that is both versatile and tasty, with leaves that are broader, paler, more tender, and less bitter than other endives. In taste, it is almost indistinguishable from radicchio. Other names for escarole include broad-leaved endive, Bavarian endive, Batavian endive, grumolo, scarola, and scarole.

Use it raw
Try using escarole in a simple endive salad: Tear the lighter leaves into small pieces and toss in a vinaigrette or a dressing made with mayonnaise and sugar. Add cherry tomatoes cut in half, raisins for texture, and croutons. This is a nice variation to the usual salad, full of visual interest and taste!

Use it cooked
Escarole can also be cooked and added to many different dishes. Steam the darker outer leaves, prepare with a little garlic powder and pepper, and add to a fish or chicken dish. Escarole can also be cut into fine strips and added as a green to just about any type of soup.

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have you tried? Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash

What it is
From the outside, this bright yellow, oblong squash looks similar to other winter squash you might find. But in reality, it is very different once you look inside. Once cooked, its tender flesh separates into the spaghetti-like strands that give the vegetable its unique name. Mild and slightly sweet, it pairs exceptionally well with an array of flavors.

Buying and Storing
Look for ones that are heavy for their size and have very few blemishes or signs of decay. Spaghetti squash can be kept in a cool, dry place for up to a month.

Why it’s good for you
Spaghetti squash is a great source of vitamin C, and is a nutritious stand-in for your favorite pasta. At about 40 calories per cup (compared with spaghetti’s 220), it’s a wonderful way to reduce the calories in a dish. For something different, try topping it with your favorite sauce.

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have you tried? Pomegranate


AN EXOTIC FRUIT. Pomegranates have been grown and used since ancient times in Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean, and India. The reddish fruit is chock-full of bright, scarlet seeds. Choose pomegranates that feel heavy for their size and are free of soft spots or cracks. Keep whole pomegranates in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.

HEART-HEALTHY. The juice found in the seeds of a pomegranate is full of vitamin C and potassium, as
well as polyphenols. Studies have found pomegranates are richer in antioxidants than red wine, green tea, and most other fruits. Pomegranate juice is also believed to ward off heart disease. So drink up! Go for the 100% pomegranate juice at the store.

HAVE SOME FUN. Pomegranate seeds are great tossed in salads, yogurt, and salsa. Use pomegranate juice as the star of a fun cocktail or put a little in a hot cup of tea. And a pomegranate smoothie will always
hit the spot.

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have you tried? Cocktail Bitters

cocktail bitters

JUST A DASH. Cocktail bitters is a common ingredient in a variety of mixed drinks. Originally used as a cure for seasickness, the distilled concoction now helps balance flavors and adds depth to such cocktails as manhattans, old-fashioneds, and pisco sours. Bitters come in a variety of flavors; the most common is Angostura bitters. Look for other varieties such as lemon, grapefruit, plum, celery, and even chocolate. And if you ever find yourself at a bar with the hiccups, a couple drops of bitters on an orange slice works every time!

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have you tried? Oysters


A LUXURIOUS TREAT. Enjoying oysters dates back to prehistoric times. An oyster’s flavor comes from the minerals and salts in the water and mud bed, so oysters of the same species can vary in taste depending on where they are found. Oysters are eaten many ways, but one of the more popular is on the half shell. Try them with a bit of lemon juice and horseradish for a briny yet clean flavor and a velvety texture. 

SHELLFISH SKILL. Opening an oyster requires skill. Oysters should always be opened with an oyster knife. Click here to learn how to properly shuck raw oysters. Prefer to leave it to the professionals? Pull up a seat at the raw oyster bars at Waterfront Seafood Market, Django, and Splash.

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have you tried? Dried Porcini Mushrooms


BETTER THAN THE BEST. Think of porcini mushrooms as the queen of the mushroom world. Often hard to find fresh, these delicious fungi have a smooth texture and aromatic, mildly woodsy flavor. They grow wild in Oregon and California, but buying dried porcinis imported from Europe is a good option because the mushrooms are easily reconstituted by soaking in hot water.

PACKED WITH PROTEIN. Porcini mushrooms have no fat and are high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

COMFORT FOOD. These little morsels are great sauteed in butter and added to pasta, risotto, soups, and more. Let your imagination run wild: Try them in a quiche, as an accompaniment to steaks, and tossed in your favorite stuffing mixture.   

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have you tried? Fresh Mozzarella

fresh mozzarella

BUFFALO OR COW? You’ll often find fresh mozzarella labeled by the source of the milk. (Italian mozzarella was first made only with water buffalo milk!) Usually white, the cheese can look slightly yellow depending on the season and the animal’s diet.   

GET CREATIVE. While the cheese is perfect sliced up and put on pizza and in lasagna, it’s also excellent baked on Italian bread with sliced tomato and pesto. Or try marinating the mozzarella in a little olive oil and fresh herbs such as oregano, parsley, and red pepper flakes for 20 minutes. Serve with olives and crackers.

FREEZE IT. Because this cheese has such high moisture content, it can be hard to grate. Try sticking it in the freezer for about 20 minutes before grating. Works like a charm!

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