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Getting to Know Acai and Pitaya

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I had no idea what these were until our college-age daughters educated me. I had heard of the acai berry but not pitaya, and I had no idea what these had to do with a bowl. I like noodle bowls and rice bowls but acai and pitaya sounded like a fancy name for a bowl of fruit. And a bowl of fruit is fine, but not something that I get all excited about like I would a warm, soothing, steaming bowl of carbs in a salty broth or smothered in a sweet, salty teriyaki. Salty. That excites me. Frozen fruit, not so much. So our middle daughter who goes to school in LA, land of juicing, blending, raw food, yoga, and acai/pitaya bowls, informed us that we were lacking in the bowl arena. She worked at Living Foods last summer and was so irritated we didn’t have acai or pitaya bowls. So what does a father do? He told her to look into it and figure it out. Lo and behold, we had acai bowls on the menu! Then last month at the Fancy Food Show (I love alliteration), we met a vendor from Maui who was selling frozen pitaya pulp to make pitaya bowls. I still had yet to taste either one of these bowls because I live mostly in the Central Valley of CA (where potatoes are a vegetable) while our youngest daughter finishes school. Back to topic. We tasted the pitaya, loved it, and now it’s on our menu as well. Needless to say, our daughter feels vindicated.

I had my first acai bowl a couple weeks ago while I was on Kauai. I’m not one to eat ice cream, sherbet, or smoothies. I have sensitive teeth and those foods are freezing but I also feel like it’s a lot of calories for something that I don’t get to chew. I don’t like to drink a meal, I want to chew. So that’s where these bowls come in.  They have fresh fruit and a granola-like topping that totally satisfied my need to chew. And the frozen acai on the bottom was like ambrosia. Disney word. It was sweet, tart, smooth, and totally delicious. Our daughter said she likes the pitaya even better but I have to wait to try it when I go back at spring break.

So what are acai and pitaya? Well, acai is a berry that grows on a palm tree in the Amazon rainforest. Doesn’t get any more exotic than that. Pitaya, also known as dragon fruit, is a fruit that grows on a cactus mostly found in Nicaragua, or so I’m told. Both contain high amounts of antioxidants, which as I mentioned in the chia article, are responsible for fighting free radicals in our body. Here is a good article on antioxidant activity in our body and the benefits. They are harvested and then processed into a frozen pulp. We buy the frozen pulp and then blend it with coconut milk to make the slushy bottom part of the bowl. The granola mixture goes on next, that is topped with fresh fruit and voila, a pitaya or acai bowl. Seriously yummy, lactose and gluten free, vegan, and can be breakfast, lunch, dessert, or snack. I wouldn’t have it for dinner because it probably wouldn’t compliment my wine. But that’s just me. – Liz Sacchini

Organic vs. Non-GMO

I am Liz Sacchini, the wife of Living Foods owner Jeff Sacchini, the sister of owner Howard Warner, and thus I suppose by default or marriage, another owner of Living Foods!  I also happen to be, by way of University of California at Davis, a retired nutritionist with strong opinions and beliefs on what we should and shouldn’t be eating.  That said, I am also a strong believer in the 80/20 rule.  Make good choices and eat well 80% of the time so you can throw caution to the wind 20% of the time.  My 20% usually starts on Thursday night and slows down Sunday afternoon but this doesn’t mean I don’t make good choices during that time as well!  And so I’ve asked Jeff and Howard (or rather told them) that I would love the chance to periodically express an opinion, of which I have many, on topics relating to Living Foods and our philosophy around good food and good living.  Which brings me to the topic of organic vs. non-GMO.

Jeff, Howard’s wife Susan, and I just attended the West Coast Fancy Food show in SF last week and we had a blast, but I was frustrated with the number of products labeled non-GMO, as if that’s the way to inform consumers a food item is healthy for consumption.  It’s definitely better that products come from non-GMO sources, but it’s far more important to buy organic because organic means so much more.  According to Maxwell Goldberg, author of LivingMaxwell, Your Guide to Organic Food and Drink, organic means grown without the use of:

  1. Synthetic fertilizers
  2. Chemical pesticides and insecticides
  3. Growth hormones or antibiotics

It also means it cannot:

  1. Be irradiated
  2. Contain genetically engineered organisms
  3. Contain genetically modified organisms- known as GMO’s!!!

See his entire article here.  In other words- buy organic and you are also getting non-GMO.  We do the best we can to source organic products and when we can’t, we look for non-GMO.  This is especially important when buying corn, soy, and wheat based food items.  So we found some really cool new products at the show and hope to have them in the store soon!

Pineapple Express Member February Coupon!!

We love that you have embraced our Pineapple Express loyalty program and  want to continue to offer members market and cafe specials, wine tastings, and more.

As a mahalo for your continued support of our local business, we would like to offer all Pineapple Express Members a 10% off coupon for February.  The coupon can only be used for one visit in February, and has no cash value.  Please bring a copy of the coupon along with your Pineapple Express card and you will be  on your way to great savings!  You can download the 10% off coupon here.

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A Message from Jeff and Howard ~

Thank you for your continued support of your local gourmet grocery store and cafe. Our major focus this month is to continue to create the finest bakery offerings on the island.  In the last couple of weeks, we have added a remarkably talented pastry chef, Catherine Vire from Paris, in our bakery to expand our pastries and desserts.  Please come in and try our new baked goodies.  We think they are of the highest quality on the island. Of course, we will continue to expand our bread offerings and gluten free products.  On another note, we will be moving the wine, beer and spirits section to the opposite corner of the store later this month so we can expand our offerings and open up the space. We hope it provides a better shopping experience for those looking to purchase fine wines, hard to find spirits.  We already have one of the finest beer selections on Kauai, however we will be looking to enhance this with more craft brews and a wider selection of other varieties. We continue to listen to all of your comments and feedback regarding product assortment, new items and things you want to see fine-tuned.  We have added Stevia to the coffee bar selection as a sweetener, improved our chocolate syrup offering and our coffee station has been reorganized in a more efficient manner.   Our prepared salad offerings have been expanded to include some new favorites.  The grab and go section has been tremendously successful as we continue to expand items and explore new, creative dishes that are suitable to eat on the run.

As always, thanks for your suggestions and comments.  They are enabling us to serve you better!

Game Day Pretzel Recipe and More!

Homemade Pretzels
Horseradish Beer Mustard
Choucroute Garni
Apple and Pear Kuchen

Pretzels
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 4 cups All purpose flour
  • 2 Tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten with 1 Tbs. water
  • Kosher salt for coating

Dissolve the yeast in warm water and let sit for 5 minutes. Add flour and salt and stir to combine.  Knead on a floured surface about 8 to 10 minutes till smooth and elastic.
Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel.  Let rise in a warm place 45 minutes till doubled in size; punch down and turn out onto a floured surface.
Divide into 24 equal pieces rolling each out to a rope 12 to 15 inches long. Take by the ends and make a loop bringing each end back to the middle of the loop to form the traditional pretzel shape- any shape will work- don’t worry. Place each with room on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees; brush the egg mixture on the pretzels and sprinkle with Kosher salt.  Let them rise for 20 minutes and place in the oven 16 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.

Horseradish Beer Mustard

  • 1 cup coarse grained mustard
  • 1 Tbs. Colemans Mustard powder
  • 2 Tbs. dark Bavarian style beer
  • 3 Tbs. prepared horseradish

Mix well.

Choucroute Garni

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 smoked ham hocks
  • 8 assorted sausages (smoked bratwurst, kielbasa, knockwurst or beer sausage, mild chorizo, Italian or chicken sausage)
  • 2 # slab bacon such as Nueskes- cut into thick 1 inch pieces
  • 4 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and rough chopped
  • 12 peeled garlic cloves, smashed
  • 8 shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 2 Tbs. caraway seeds
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 2 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 # sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups light lager beer
  • 15 small Yellow Finn potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • parsley for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy casserole on medium high and when hot but not smoking, brown the ham hocks, bacon and sausages thoroughly. Remove them to a platter and drain off all but 3/4 cup of the oil. Saute the onions, carrots, apples, garlic and shallots for 5 or so minutes till wilted.  Add the caraway, bay, black pepper and sauerkraut and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, beer, potatoes and reserved meat and combine thoroughly. Cover with aluminum foil or the casserole lid and cook in a 350 degree oven for 1 1/4 hour.  Remove from the oven and arrange the sauerkraut and vegetables on a serving platter and place the meats on top with the potatoes. Arrange with parsley.  Serve with the Horseradish Beer Mustard.

Apple and Pear Kuchen
Pastry

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 Tbs. finely ground hazelnuts (Filberts)
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 # well chilled butter cut into small pieces
  • about 3 Tbs cold water

Combine flour, nuts, sugar and salt in a bowl. Mix with chilled butter and as little of the water as needed to bring it to a dough.Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead to evenly distribute the butter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Filling and Glaze

  • 1 # Granny Smith apples, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 # firm Anjou pears, cored and sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche
  • 2 Tbs. cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup currant or apricot jelly for glazing

Roll pastry dough out to a 1/4 inch thick round disk and place into a 10 inch fluted tart pan. Prick the bottom with a fork. Preheat oven to 350.
Arrange the apples and pears in a spiral pattern in the tart pan and bake 30 minutes. The shell should be a light brown color.
As its baking, mix creme fraiche, cream, sugar and eggs in a bowl and take the tart from the oven and pour the mixture evenly into the tart. Continue baking 15 minutes or until just brown.  Heat jelly in a sauce pan and brush carefully after it is done cooking and cooled slightly.
Serve slightly warm, if possible. Serves eight.

Note: To make creme fraiche mix 1 part sour cream with 4 parts cream, heat it to 98 degrees, cover and allow to stand at room temperature overnight. Chill.

Prime Rib with Horseradish Herb Crust au jus ~ Chef Michael Simpson

There are several approaches to salt cooking. One involves making a crude pastry with coarse salt, water and flour that is wrapped around the food. Another is burying something, say a whole fish, in a pile of loose salt before baking, while still other methods call for adding water to make a salt paste.

The theory behind certain types of salt cooking is that heat and moisture are trapped under a hermetic crust, forcing seasoning to permeate the food rather than allowing them to escape, as can happen in broiling and sauteing.

The cementlike enclosure of a salt crust creates a kiln effect that cooks up to a third more quickly than other methods. Moreover, people concerned with fat in their diet could benefit because the hot salt absorbs some fat from meat.

The technique of salt cooking has parallels in many cuisines – Indian clay-pot cooking, the French ”en papillote” style, which requires paper, and Oriental techniques that involve wrapping food in the leaves or bark of plants – and all are aimed at minimizing moisture loss and maximizing the effect of seasonings.

One account of salt cooking’s history dates to ancient Mongolian warriors who carried food preserved in salt on long journeys. They cooked their food over open fires while it was still encased in moist salt. The heat formed a petrified crust, no doubt dulling many a warrior’s sword when he tried to break it.

Considering the essential role that salt played as a preserving agent in the centuries before refrigeration, it seems logical that many peoples must have cooked this way at one time. More recently the method has been associated primarily with the Chinese, who have several recipes calling for lining a wok with salt, and to a lesser extent the Spanish and French.

Raymond Richez, a retired French chef who has worked in various New York restaurants in the past 25 years, recalled a French style of roast beef cooked under a lid of coarse salt.

”You know how often here in America when roast beef is cooked the inside is rare and the outside can be almost black,” Mr. Richez observed. ”In France I have seen people make a paste of coarse salt, flour and egg whites. The roast is cooked in the oven for about a half hour, then the paste is put over the top. It becomes hard, and as you rotate the roast you keep moving the crust on top of the meat. This keeps the outside meat moist.”

We at LFM for Christmas are using this time honored method with our offering of prime rib on our Holiday menu.

Without getting into too many details, the following is roughly the procedure:

  • 5 or 6# Prime Rib
  • garlic
  • horseradish- fresh is best- grated
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh herbs
  • Olive oil
  • Black pepper

Make a paste with the above and apply to the entire surface of the meat. Roast at 350° for 1 ½ to 2 hours to an internal temperature of 125° with a meat thermometer.

Merry Christmas! From the Culinary Team at Living Foods

 

 

Butternut Squash, Parsnip and Apple Soup

Serves 8

  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion rough chopped
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 2  roasted garlic cloves
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 cups peeled, cored and sliced parsnips
  • 2 peeled, cored and chopped Granny Smith apples
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • ½ Tbs. curry powder
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • chopped chives for garnish

Sweat the onions in the olive avoiding and color on low heat. Add the garlic, squash, parsnips and apples and white wine and reduce slightly.

Add the stock and seasoning and cook till the squash is soft enough to puree. Do just that and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish each bowl of soup with chopped chives.

 

Linzer Wreath Cookies

Yields 2 dozen

  • 1 ½ cups toasted and finely ground almonds
  • ½ tsp lemon zest
  • 1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ¼ tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 yolk
  • raspberry jam, preferably unseeded
  • powdered sugar for dusting

In a stand mixer blend the first 8 items and cut the butter in on low till it looks pebbly. Don’t overmix.

Add the egg and yolk and vanilla and mix till it forms a ball. It will be sticky. Divide into 2 equal balls. Flatten and wrap. Chill several hours. Roll out under fresh plastic wrap into two disks ¼ inch thick and chill one.

Remove the top layer of film wrap and cut 2 inch cookies with a fluted cutter and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350 9 or so minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Let them cool a few minutes and move them to a cooling rack to cool more.

With the other cut 2 inch rounds and cut the centers out with a ¾ inch fluted cutter. Save the scraps to make more cookies. Bake them the same as the first batch and cool.

Sift powdered sugar over the rounds with the cutout circles. Spread the remaining circles with 1-2 teaspoons raspberry jam. Top each with a cut out round and press gently together. Spoon a little more jam into the opening of each. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Eggnog and Walnut Breakfast Muffins

  • Yields approx. 15 large muffins
  • 4 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 ½ Cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts
  • ½ Tbs. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. clove
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2# cold butter cut into ¼” pieces
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 Cup cold eggnog an
  • ¾ Cup sour cream

In a large bowl mix the dry ingr. and spices

Cut in the butter and keep it intact.

In another bowl mix the wet and add to the dry. Combine thoroughly and spoon into buttered muffin tins. Bake at 350 and add the streusel after 12 minutes continuing another 10 or so till a toothpick comes clean.

Streusel

  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup packed brn. Sugar
  • 1# unsalted butter cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 tsp lemon zest

Mix in food processor and pulse in the butter