Archive for December, 2009

A Delicious Blast from the Past…

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

When I was a little girl, my grandfather would take me to visit his older sister – Aunt Lillian. I was very young when my aunt died, and I don’t remember a lot about her. What I do remember, is that I always felt very close to her. I also remember that she was short, she liked to wear house-dresses, and she was always in the kitchen. But what I remember most, were the Chocolate No-Bake Cookies that she would always make for me. I still remember the red tin that she would place in front of me – and I would get so excited!

Eventually, she gave me the recipe, and my grandfather and I made them once – successfully. Shortly after, my Aunt Lillian passed away, and the recipe, somehow, was lost forever.

For years, I would ask my grandfather if he had the recipe, but he’d insist that he gave it to my mom. And Mom would insist that my grandfather still had it. Friends and family members would make recipe suggestions – but they weren’t quite right.

A few weeks ago, I brought the cookies up at dinner – yet again, in what seemed like a futile attempt. But this time, a light seemed to flash on in my grandfather’s head – and he directed my grandmother to a small box in the corner of a kitchen cabinet (where, by the way, he apparently hides his secret recipes for pitzels and wedding soup!). And there it was – on a thin piece of yellowed notepaper, transcribed from memory, in my Aunt Lillian’s handwriting.

Now, I am told that my aunt was a tremendous cook and baker – and by no means were these cookies the greatest thing in her repertoire. But, to me they were. And when I smelled the combination of cocoa, peanut butter, oats and coconut on the stove, it didn’t matter. That first bite brought me back 25 years – to my favorite flavor in the entire world.

I always find it amazing how smells and flavors can unlock memories from long ago. This year, for Christmas, I’m sharing these “cookies” with my friends and family. And as a little holiday gift to our blog readers, I’ve included it below – exactly as Aunt Lillian wrote it.

Enjoy – and Happy Holidays!

Aunt Lillian’s No-Bake Chocolate Cookies

Put into a pan…

¼ lb butter

½ cup milk

½ cup cocoa

2 cups sugar

Stir over low heat until butter is melted and comes to a boil. (Note from Erin: This may seem like it takes forever, but they will not thicken otherwise!) Remove from heat and add…

2 tablespoons peanut butter

3 cups oatmeal (Old fashion)

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup coconut flakes

Stir until everything is mixed well and oatmeal is all coated – drop heaping teaspoon on reynolds wrap or waxed paper. Let stand until dry.

T.G.I.Friday’s Test Markets Pizzas

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

T.G.I. Fridays PizzasWhen we drove to the local T.G.I.Friday’s yesterday for lunch, the last thing we were expecting was to try an exclusive new menu item – but that’s exactly what happened.

If you’re not in the food industry, this may not be very exciting. But for me, a self-proclaimed food nerd, it was the highlight of my day!

Our local Bensalem, PA location is the only one testing the new pizzas thus far. Offered in four varieties – Margherita, Pepperoni, Rustic Italian Sausage, and Tuscan Veggie – the restaurant started serving them on Monday.

The ingredients are fresh – fresh cheese, fresh veggies – and the sauce and dough are both made in-house. They’re smaller than a traditional pie, and oval, with a gourmet pizza look. We ordered the sausage, and shared it as an appetizer between the four of us.

At a price point of $8.99 for the margherita, $10.49 for pepperoni and sausage, and $11.99 for the veggie – it’s a little steep. Certainly more expensive than a pizzeria pie, and smaller to boot. But cheaper than a sampler platter. Great as an appetizer – although each one is suggested as an entrée.

TGI Fridays Pizza Taste Testing

A new oven was brought in to accommodate the pies (which required a little kitchen revamp) – our server (who was fabulous, by the way) compared it to a conveyer oven you would find at a Quiznos.

Our thoughts – the dough was fabulous, as was the cheese, but the sauce could use a little something. (Each pie is served with red pepper and oregano shakers.) Call it spice or flavor – it was a tad too sweet.

If it works though, the pizzas would be a great addition to the Friday’s menu. (They’ve even got little pizza boxes to accommodate to-go orders).

2010: A Look Ahead

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

With minds on the recession last year, consumers returned to simpler fare – homecooked meals, comfort foods, cheap cuts of meat, and more. We even saw a spike in home canning supplies. Of course, a number of other trends were at play here – both concern over food safety, and environmental preservation.

For 2010, we see a bit of the same on the horizon, only with an updated twist. Consumers will still want to save money – they will still shop thrifty, they will continue to purchase private label goods. But this year, we see the addition of exciting ingredients back into the diet, as we all move forward.

Some of those flavors include florals, like elderflower (making a splash in bar drinks), rose water and lavender. But possibly one of the biggest flavor trends this year, will be hibiscus. Grown worldwide, hibiscus is a tropical flower, with a fruity disposition. It adds flavor to beverages, confections and other sweet applications.

Health is again a top priority, and one concern in particular is sodium reduction. Look for less salt from manufacturers this year – even ConAgra Foods recently announced that they will cut salt by 20% across their entire brand line-up.

Looking abroad, Peruvian foods will make a splash this year. We’ve already seen the Pisco Sour invade the drink menu, but look for more Incan inspired dishes, like ceviche, on the menu. One flavor to watch is the lucuma fruit. Lucuma ice cream is more popular in Peru than vanilla or chocolate!

Look for more fruity inspiration from Asia, as well. While you may not hear the term “superfruit” as much this year as last, antioxidant-rich foods are still a high priority. Jackfruit, red sweet dates, yuzu and sea buckthorn are just a few of the exotic, yet powerful, fruits to watch for.

And finally – black garlic. It’s a foodie fave and a health trend all in one. With a complex flavor that’s unexpectedly sweet, fermented, and almost smoky. It provides twice the antioxidants of regular raw garlic—without the sharp bite or bad breath issues.

These are just a few of our 2010 trend picks. For more – check out our forthcoming 2010 calendar. Don’t receive our annual calendar? Contact your account manager for more details!

“Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double-beatloaf. I hate meatloaf.”

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

I love that scene from A Christmas Story, when the little brother, Randy, won’t eat his dinner, and Mother and The Old Man have to rely on a combination of threats and games to get him to take a bite.

I love it because I was that kid. In fact, Mom and I once held a two-hour staring match over a forkful of peas. I still hate peas.

Sure, I was a picky eater. There’s no question about that. But sometimes, I think I was just bored with the options. Never again will I eat chicken baked in cream of mushroom soup – it was delicious, but I’ve had my fill for a lifetime.

Recently, I read an article from Reuters that stated the average mom in the UK relies on a rotation of nine meals to feed her family. Just nine! While the study was performed in the UK, I’m sure results in the USA wouldn’t be that far off.

Explanations were all pretty similar – time constraints, picky eaters, and expense. Most moms stick with what their families know and love, rather than waste time or money on something that may not go over well. Others also admitted to cooking two meals – something for the kids early in the evening, and a different meal for mom and dad, later at night. Most common are true comfort foods – spaghetti Bolognese, roasts, casseroles, stews and pizza.

When hubby and I first got married, I was on a mission to increase my repertoire. Pre-wedding, our weekly menu consisted of take-out, chicken and stuffing casserole, chicken tacos, and the occasional pasta night. To fight it, I forced myself to try one new recipe a week. Some were complicated, some were not. Some made it onto our regular menu, and some more, did not. The effort may have tapered off, but today we have seasonal favorites, quick options and more drawn-out weekend fare, and more importantly, vegetables! We may average more than nine, but there are definitely items we eat every 10 to 14 days.Meatloaf Cupcakes - mini meatloaf topped with whipped potato "frosting"

It’s important to add a little variety, but I certainly understand how hard it can be most nights. That’s what makes kit meals so important. Allowing minimal effort, but still a sense of self-preparation, kit meals allow many home cooks the advantage of trying out new foods, hopefully at a low cost. Comfort foods are great most nights, but exotic options can help to freshen things up. Take a look at ethnic cuisine, like Thai curry, tamales, and chicken tangine, to create more variety for your consumers.

There are also ways to deliver variety in prepared foods, while tapping into those conventional recipes that everyone loves. At the 2009 Innovation Roadshow, we featured Meatloaf Cupcakes – mini-meatloafs with whipped potato “frosting.” We varied the meatloaf itself, with Italian herb and carmelized onion flavors, and further extended options with the potatoes, in butter parmesan and brown sugar cinnamon sweet potato.

Just a little creativity and flavor can help consumers get out of a food rut!

David Michael & Co. • 10801 Decatur Road • Philadelphia, PA 19154 • 1-800-DM-FLAVORS

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