Archive for the 'Comfort Foods' Category

Celebrating National Soup Month

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Throughout many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, January brings with it the chill of winter weather but it also brings with it the warmth of National Soup Month! Although we can’t quite seem to get to the bottom of the origin of national soup month, it’s become a beloved time in America to celebrate and recognize one of winter’s favorite global comfort foods: the one and only spoonable, slurpable, shareable soup.

As one of the oldest forms of food, soup has rightfully earned its respect throughout the thousands of years that we’ve been consuming it. It’s a staple in many cultures worldwide and we just adore its versatility and seemingly infinite varieties. Here’s just a short list of soup’s many admirable qualities:

  • Plays well with others (namely sandwiches and salads)
  • Comforts us when we need it most
  • Time-efficiency via the convenience of leave-alone crock pot recipes or instant and microwaveable versions
  • Frequently opens the door to regional and ethnic ingredients and introductions
  • Resourceful! Makes great use of fridge and cupboard contents that are nearing their life’s end
  • Exhibits strong family values and traditions (that legendary chicken soup recipe that’s been passed down for generations)
  • And of course (whether real or imagined) its indisputable healing powers

Since National Soup Month is about commemorating soups that span the world, here are some of our favorite new soup products that have launched globally this winter:

Green Shoot - Broccoli, Coconut Milk and Green Curry Soup

Broccoli, Coconut Milk and Green Curry Soup (France; Green Shoot)

Morrisons M Christmas Cream of Roast Parsnip and Pancetta Soup

Cream of Roast Parsnip & Pancetta Soup (UK; Morrisons M Christmas – private label)

Bertolli - Ricotta and Lobster Ravioli in a Seafood Bisque

Ricotta & Lobster Ravioli in a Seafood Bisque (USA; Bertolli Meal Soup)


New Covent Garden Soup Co Indian Style Chicken Soup

Indian Style Chicken Soup (Belgium; New Covent Garden Soup Co.)

Whether it’s clear or creamy, hearty or lite, veggie-based or meat-centric, we hope you celebrate National Soup Month with a pot-full of your favorite broth, bisque or bouillabaisse – and at least one helping of a new-to-you soup find. Happy slurping!

Fall: Nature’s Perfect Culinary Muse

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

The leaves are slowly beginning to turn, the dog days of summer are in the rearview and somewhere ahead awaits winter’s wrath. But in the meantime we are on the precipice of what is arguably one of the most beautiful and enjoyable times of the year, at least here in our little corner of the world where we get to delight in the splendor of all four seasons.

The hum of the air conditioner is replaced with the street noise flowing in through the open windows. The weekends are filled with Farmer’s market harvests and football games. Scarecrows and pumpkins make their way onto lawns and porches while in the October air dangles the unmistakable smell of fall – and with it, promises of frosty mornings and cozy nights.

We get to wrap our chilly necks in scarves and hold a cup of hot chocolate for warmth.  We can carve jack-o-lanterns and give candy to adorably costumed neighborhood kids.  There’s less mowing the lawn and more playing in piles of crunchy leaves.  What could possibly make this time of year any better?  Only one thing, well, make that two: fabulous fall food and lavish libations!

For many, this time of year is synonymous with traditional autumn comfort foods and seasonal drinks.  From hearty chili and freshly baked apple pie to warm cider and orchard sangria, the list of this season’s beloved eats and treats is as lengthy as it is titillating. For those of you who love your traditional autumnal dishes, we’ve decided to take a look at some classic fall favorites with a fresh spin – whether it be through flavor or application. For the more daring palates out there, there are some new products to inspire and refresh your fall feasts.

Take a look at these new domestic product launches that caught our eye.  Hopefully you can snag these seasonal steals at a store near you or use them as inspiration for home-made deliciousness.

Barefoot Contessa Pumpkin Cupcake and Maple Cream Cheese Frosting Mix


What: Barefoot Contessa Pumpkin Cupcake & Maple Cream Cheese Frosting Mix


Why: Because bathing suit season is over and cupcakes can be our friends again.




Kashi Autumn Wheat Breakfast Cereal


What: Kashi Autumn Wheat Breakfast Cereal

Where: Supermarkets and superstores [Walmart]

Why: Because there’s no reason breakfast shouldn’t be festive!



Baker’s Pantry Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix


What: The Baker’s Pantry Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix

Where: Select supermarkets and superstores [Cost Plus World Market]

Why: Because a fall weekend morning is perfect for an indulgent at-home brunch.




Toigo Orchards Pear Butter


What: Toigo Orchards Pear Butter

Where: Natural/Health Food Stores [Whole Foods Market]

Why: Because lightly seasoned tree ripened Bartlett pears are what fall is all about!




Trader Joe’s Sugar, Chocolate and Coffee Bean Grinder


What: Trader Joe’s Sugar, Chocolate & Coffee Bean Grinder

Where: Supermarket [Trader Joe’s]

Why: Because there are very few things in life that cannot be improved by adding sugar and chocolate.




Trader Joe’s Sweet Potato Tortilla Chip Rounds


What: Trader Joe’s Sweet Potato Tortilla Chip Rounds

Where: Supermarket [Trader Joe’s]

Why: Because even football tailgates can be spiced up with fall flair.




These next picks may be a bit harder to get your hands on, unless you’ll be doing some traveling this season, but there’s no reason these global muses can’t inspire your fall cooking.


AP Gourmet Blueberry Pecan Brie CheeseTopper


What: AP Gourmet Blueberry Pecan Brie Topper

Where: Canada

Why: Because traditional appetizers can get boring. Also consider maple walnut or cranberry almond variations.




Knorr Secrets De Grand-Mère Potiron Pumpkin, Carrot and Rosemary Soup

What: Knorr Secrets De Grand-Mère Potiron Pumpkin, Carrot and Rosemary Soup 

Where: France

Why: Because your crock pot has felt neglected all summer.




Vegetarian Goats' Cheese & Butternut Squash LasagneWhat: Asda Chosen by You Vegetarian Goats’ Cheese & Butternut Squash Lasagne 

Where: UK

Why: Because butternut squash was made for more than just soup.



 Casino Délices Cranberry, Pecan & Pistachio Bars made in France

What: Casino Délices Cranberry, Pecan & Pistachio Bars 

Where: France

Why: Because this will spice up your fall dessert tray while adding a healthier option.




Sampford Courtenay Elderflower Cider made in the UK



What: Sampford Courtenay Sparkling Elderflower Cider 

Where: UK

Why: Because edible flowers are making a huge comeback in food and beverage and because cider is to fall what iced tea is to summer.




Fireball Cinnamon Whisky made in Finland



What: Fireball Cinnamon Whisky 

Where: Finland

Why: Because a cinnamon-infused nightcap will bring sweeter dreams.



Hopefully these picks get your fall flavor wheels turning. We’d love to hear about your favorite autumnal treats or any new products that have caught your eye, so don’t be shy, comment away!

A Trip to the Times Square Pop Tarts World Café

Friday, September 10th, 2010

This past weekend, I took my niece to New York for her 13th birthday. It was a day of firsts for her – first time in New York, first Broadway show, first cab ride, and first Pop-Tarts Café. OK, well that last one was a first for me too.

Being the food nerd that I am, I made sure that a stop at the new Pop Tarts World in Times Square was included on our itinerary. I’ve been reading about the shop for a few weeks now, and couldn’t wait to check it out for myself.

Pop Tarts World - Times Square - New York, NY

Inside, is a Pop-Tarts lover’s dream – tote bags and coffee mugs emblazoned with the brand logo, both new and retro. A “Varietizer” at the center of the store allowing customers to create their own variety packs – this area proved to have the longest lines.

But the area I was most focused on for this trip was the café. Having read countless “ewwws” and “ahhhs” for Pop-Tarts Sushi (minced Pop Tarts wrapped in a Fruit Roll-Up) and Fluffer Butters (marshmallow spread between two fudge tarts), I couldn’t wait to try for myself.

Pop Tarts Sushi

I chose the S’mores Stick – dark chocolate covered marshmallows on a stick, dotted with small cubes of s’mores flavored Pop-Tarts. Indulgent, delicious and decidedly adult. My niece was enamored by the Pop-Tarts Sushi, but in that crucial moment of ordering, caved in to her fears of weirdness, and ordered a toasted frosted strawberry Pop Tart – that she ate cold on the train ride home.

Pop Tarts S'mores Stick and Frosted Strawberry Pop Tart

To me, the store appeared to be more for grown-ups than the kiddies. It was us, the adults, acting like kids in a candy store, while the kids were mildly impressed. It was the adults ordering the Pop-Tarts sundaes, sushi and sandwiches, while the kids stuck with the traditional tarts, and clung to the Varietizer.

What I also noticed, was that the café really focused on extending the Pop-Tarts brand, beyond the toaster. All summer, we’ve spotted the ad campaign in which a mom helps her kids set up a Pop-Tart stand where they sell various frozen treats, including Pop-Tarts ice cream sandwiches (an awesome idea, by the way). The café brings those ideas to life along with so many more – supported by a generous recipe section on the Pop-Tarts website. Like Rice Krispies before it, the Pop-Tarts brand is leaping into snacks and desserts – and the results are pretty awesome.

And lest you think that only sugar-laden treats can come of this, take a moment to enjoy Pop-Tarts Ants on a Log – celery sticks filled with peanut butter and dotted with squares of wild grape flavored Pop-Tarts!

Here We Come A-Waffleing

Monday, June 14th, 2010

This weekend, while browsing through a department store home sale with a friend, we came upon a rack of on-sale specialty electrics – or what we quickly dubbed, “dust-collectors.”

You know what I’m talking about – the circus animal waffle iron, the mini donut maker, the cupcake maker! (Seriously…why wouldn’t you just use mini-cupcake tins??)

It got me thinking about some of the lesser used items in my own kitchen – the crème brulee torch, the deep fryer, and the Belgian waffle iron. I spent the evening trying to imagine ways to make use of these things beyond the obvious – ok, well, a few minutes at least – and I wasn’t coming up with much.

Then, I spotted a post from last week’s Tasting Table on the very subject (seriously, if you are not signed up for this newsletter, you should be!). My waffle iron being the most perplexing of the bunch, I was thrilled to find their recommendation for, a blog dedicated to finding 30 new uses for a waffle iron, other than waffles.

Are there 30 uses, you ask? Try it as a panini press or a pizza oven, bake up cookies, muffins and pretzels, or even “fry” up some yummy hash browns. Waffleizer ventures into the sweet and savory – some closer than others to the waffle comfort zone.

Yet another reminder of how a little creativity in the kitchen, or the product development lab, can garner a whole new world of food and flavors!

The Case of the King’s Fries

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

To say it’s been snowy around here lately would be, well, an understatement. Hit by two blizzards in five days, the Philadelphia area has been immobile.

Snowy Branches in Philadelphia

Before cabin fever sets in, most of us deal with this imprisonment with food. After all, we have to get all that shoveling energy from somewhere, right? And eat we did – hearty meals like turkey chili, turkey meatloaf, sausage & peppers, and from-scratch pancakes.

But the morsels that we were most looking forward to were two little impulse items I grabbed while stocking up for the Snowpocalypse – Burger King’s frozen fries in King Krinks™ and King Wedgez™, from ConAgra (launched Fall 2009).

Burger King King Krinks and King Wedgez

Housed in this oversized wedge-shaped cardboard container is a single serving of microwaveable French fries. The instructions are easy – Shake, Vent, Zap, Tap, Rip. First, shake the container to equally distribute the fries, then vent by opening on each side of the package where indicated.

Burger King Microwavable French Fries

Microwave for three minutes, then rip off the top. Presto – they’re ready to eat! Burger King branded fries fresh from the microwave, in a handy dandy FRYPOD®.

Burger King King Krinks Microwavable Fries

Burger King King Krinks Fries

Burger King King Krinks Closeup

The verdict? Pretty tasty! Both versions were well seasoned, if not a bit overly so (but frankly, on French fries, that’s not necessarily a bad thing!). The Wedgez were definitely the spicier of the two. Both tasted great on their own, and with ketchup. They had a nice texture – crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside, similar to an oven fry.

But, there were a few drawbacks in the process. The recommended three minute cooking time appeared to be way too long. For the Wedgez, this meant fries stuck to the interior packaging. And for both, the desirable texture quickly turned chewy and hard.

Burger King - King Wedgez

And how about the price? I found them on sale for $0.77 each, a bargain compared to the drive-thru (I believe non-sale price varies from $1.20 – $1.77, depending on the store). Maybe not comparable to the cost savings on a family-sized bag of oven fries, but worth it for the novelty, or for kids who are not allowed to use the oven.

So, would hubby and I buy them again? Certainly! (Of course, we’d reduce the cooking time a bit.) Maybe next time we’ll try the unseasoned Kolossalz™ too!

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.

“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!

A Question of Favorites…

Monday, October 12th, 2009

I was traveling in the mid-west last week, talking new food flavor trends. After finishing a presentation, one of our newest account managers, Olivia Klose, asked me “of all the foods you’ve tried, what’s your favorite. What would your last meal be?”

My answer was quick – “cereal, ice cream and French fries (with lots of Heinz ketchup).”

Chocolate Ice Cream

I spend my days reading up on the latest flavors, and researching exotic foods. While some become trends, and some fizzle out, the flavors that last are those we’ve known forever.

Worldwide, our favorite ice cream flavors are chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. And in beverages, orange, apple and lemon flavors top the list. Garlic, chicken and cheese are savory flavor favorites.

Comfort foods feel like home. They remind us of simpler times and have broad appeal. Once in a while, exotic flavors break the mold, and become new comforts. Examples include burritos, tacos, pomegranates (the fifth most popularly launched beverage flavor in the U.S. right now), fried rice and sushi.

Don’t confuse my message – we all like to try new foods, and add them to our regular diets. Heck, I have a box of savory Japanese KitKats® sitting next to me right now that’s testing my best will-power not to devour. But, like mom always says, sometimes less is more.

You know, with a little more time to think, I’d probably add to that last meal list my favorite diner’s tuna melt, my grandparents’ pasta sauce, my mom’s chicken cutlets, my dad’s meatloaf, and my hubby’s quesadillas.

Think about what foods you count amongst your own favorites, and I bet many of them will be what some may describe as “basic” or even boring. But don’t feel inferior – you’re actually right on trend. In the current economy, comfort foods and familiar flavors have resurfaced as consumer favorites.

Sneak Peek!! We’re debuting a few nouveau comfort foods at this year’s Innovation Roadshow. Register now to see them in person!

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

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