Splendor of sea salt
Natural sea salts are one of the hottest culinary trends and add elegance to home-cooked meals. Hunt Valley, Md.-based McCormick introduces an exciting new line of Gourmet Collection Sea Salts, each packaged in a wide-mouth tin for sprinkling ease.
French Grey Sea Salt, an, moist salt, hand-harvested in Brittany, France, is renowned for its light grey, almost purple color. It’s an elegant finishing touch to roasted or grilled meats, seafood and vegetables. Sicilian Sea Salt is hand-harvested off the coast of Sicily. Rich in minerals and with a lower percentage of sodium chloride than regular table salt, its delicate flavor highlights salads or finishing roasts and sauces; Asian Style Spiced Sea Salt, is sea salt paired with an Asian spice blend (garlic, ginger, orange peel, coconut, red bell pepper and sesame seeds); it enhances Asian stir-fries, salads, noodles, rice and veggies. And Mediterranean Spiced Sea Salt is infused with Mediterranean spices (garlic, basil, oregano, lemon peel, red bell pepper, and a touch of red pepper heat). Sprinkle on salads, pasta, fish, chicken and meat.
“People are intrigued by sea salts and love the idea of using them but aren’t totally sure how to incorporate them into their everyday cooking,” says McCormick executive chef Kevan Vetter. “Sea salt is far more versatile than many think; it can be used at the stovetop during the final stages of cooking, sprinkled on meats, fish and vegetables while on the grill or as a last minute seasoning at the dinner table.”
They also make great stocking stuffers for the foodies on your list.
Suggested retail price is $3.79.
Comfort food without the fuss
Sweet potatoes are synonymous with holiday meals, but with the ever-growing interest in health, they are finding a place in the family diet year-round. Minneapolis-based General Mills rolls out boxed mashed potatoes in two varieties: Betty Crocker Sweet Potato (6.3 oz.) and Betty Crocker Yukon Gold (4.8 oz.). The latter is a good all-purpose potato with a texture somewhere between Idaho and red mashed potatoes.
Made from real potatoes, each box serves six people. Simply heat milk, hot water and butter or margarine, add the potatoes, mix and serve for a potato side dish in less than 10 minutes.
“Sweet potatoes and Yukon Gold potatoes have traditionally been holiday favorites and restaurant specialties,” says Andy Kroll, associate marketing manager. “Now, consumers can enjoy these two delicious varieties of mashed potatoes at home year-round, without the hassle of preparing them from scratch. And since they’re coming from a trusted brand like Betty Crocker, these potatoes will come out perfectly every time.”
Suggested retail price is $1.89
Make Santa happy
Santa will do a double take and probably add an extra present or two if you leave him a supply of new mini versions of traditional pure butter Walkers Shortbread Rounds and Chocolate Chip Shortbread Rounds (with dark chocolate chips) to savor with his glass of milk.
Made by Walkers (Aberlour-on-Spey, Scotland), Mini Shortbread Rounds are baked in perfect little bite-sized rounds in small batches for the utmost quality control. Each variety is made using a treasured family recipe that the Walker family has used for more than a century containing pure butter, flour, sugar and salt. Certified Kosher OUD, the cookies use no artificial flavorings, colorings or additives.
Presented in 7-oz. hexagon-shaped cartons with two individually wrapped trays, suggested retail price is $6.50.
A gift for mom
Created with a blend of fresh milk and imported cocoas for real chocolate taste and flavor, Swiss Miss is America's No. 1 brand of hot cocoa, according to IRI. ConAgra Foods Inc., Omaha, Neb., rolls out two new varieties for a nutritional and soothing treat after all that holiday preparation.
Swiss Miss Pick-Me-Up Cocoa swirls smooth and creamy chocolate taste with as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, plus as much calcium and vitamin D as a glass of milk. Swiss Miss Great Start Cocoa begins with imported cocoa, then adds 15 essential vitamins and minerals, including as much calcium as in an 8-oz. cup of milk as well as vitamin D. Good news for women looking for low-calorie indulgences is that both new cocoas have only 110 calories and 2g of fat per serving; less than other chocolate or mocha treats.
To better understand how women get themselves going to face their busy day, Swiss Miss recently conducted a survey of 500 women ages 25-44 and found that when women need a daily boost, most look to chocolate, caffeine and fortified foods. In fact, nearly three out of four women surveyed crave chocolate more than any other sweet and consume caffeine at least once per day, while the majority seeks fortified foods to enhance diets lacking in important vitamins and minerals.
“The survey revealed that caffeinated drinks are important to the lifestyle of many women, and that vitamin and mineral enrichments are also of importance to this demographic,” says Sergio Pereira, vice president of Swiss Miss marketing. “The new Swiss Miss varieties give women the chocolate they crave in a sweet, rich, lower-calorie drink but with an added boost – either as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, or 15 essential vitamins and minerals.”
Suggested retail price for a box of eight 1-oz. packets is $2.69.
Slam dunk from the Elves
Straight from the Hollow Tree and the popular Keebler Elves, who are employed by Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co., comes Keebler Dipping Delights, a sandwich cookie designed with a long, narrow shape for easier dipping in milk, sure to delight your family.
Keebler Dipping Delights contain zero grams trans fat and come in two varieties -- Chocolate with Vanilla crème and Graham with Cheesecake creme. They come in six creative designs with dunking directions baked right onto the cookie.
"Sandwich cookie eaters love to dip and dunk," says Susan Kwolkoski, brand manager, Kellogg Co. "Dipping Delights offer elfin' rich, delicious taste and the opportunity for a magical experience."
Suggested retail price is $2.99.
A bit of bubbly
Australian sparkling red wines have an international reputation for excellence, but red bubbly from Down Under remains relatively unknown in the U.S. A unique wine choice for the holidays is Princess Royal Sparkling Shiraz from Burra Creek Wines, which is located on the Princess Royal Station at the edge of the Australian Outback.
Created from 100 percent Clare Valley Shiraz grapes in the methode champenoise tradition, the wine has a pure fruit character with small, elegant bubbles that create a creamy texture on the palate. Best served cold, Princess Royal is a drier wine with fresh red cherry and berry fruits, hints of chocolate and spicy pepper on the nose, subtle yeast, silky tannins and a creamy mousse, a perfect accompaniment to turkey.
You can locate a retailer in your vicinity from Chicago-based JDI Imports, 773-276-7752 or 773-909 0676.
Suggested retail price ranges from $21 to $25.
Yöghund, for a better dog's life...
In response to a growing demand by discerning dog lovers for a healthy treat for their family pets, The Barking Dog Ltd., Exeter, N.H., introduces Yöghund organic frozen yogurt for dogs.
Jointly developed by pet care professionals with more than 25 years experience and a frozen yogurt professional, the treat is made only with organic yogurt (with all the benefits of live cultures), banana, peanuts and spring water. The ingredients are blended and frozen to create the treat. There are no additives, chemicals or fillers, and the environmentally friendly paper packaging is biodegradable and minimizes the risks of accidental ingestion by your pet.
Suggested retail price is $6 for a pack of four, plus shipping at www. yoghund.com.
Baking is believing
Terre Haute, Ind.-based Clabber Girl Corp. changes the future of baking with Clabber Girl Sugar Replacer for Baking, which optimizes appearance, taste, texture and calorie reduction.
Clabber Girl partnered with Cargill to create this innovation in sugar-free baking, which contains Cargill’s SweetDesign sugar replacer. Unlike other sugar replacers on the market, Clabber Girl Sugar Replacer for Baking allows home bakers to make sugar-free baked goods that bake up with the same great taste and texture as they would have if they were made with actual sugar. Per serving, it has 70 percent fewer calories than sugar and you don’t have to change your recipes; it measures equally, cup-for-cup.
“People have said to us - wow - this is not just another sugar replacer, it really, truly works,” says Eric Gloe, vice president of sales and marketing. “Years of research and testing went into the creation of Clabber Girl Sugar Replacer for Baking,” adds Gloe. “For a long time, consumers wanting to eliminate sugar or reduce calories in their favorite baked goods have sought a product that can effectively deliver the functional and taste benefits of sugar. No other product can deliver what this one does – let people have their sugar-free cake and enjoy eating it, too.”
Suggested retail price is $7.99 - $8.49.
Side dishes for the holidays
Unilever, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., rolls out five limited edition flavors to its Country Crock Deluxe Side Dishes line, perfect accoutrements to your holiday menu.
Ready in five minutes, these hassle-free, fully prepared, chilled sides are available in four varieties: Cinnamon Apples, apples in a golden cinnamon sauce; Corn Medley, yellow and white corn in butter sauce; Cornbread Stuffing, Homestyle Stuffing and Mashed Sweet Potatoes, seasoned with cinnamon, brown sugar, and nutmeg.
Packaged in 22-24-oz. tubs, suggested retail price is $4.69.
Bite-sized specialty cheese
Boursin, Stamford, Conn., introduces Toppers, a unique variation of spiced French Gournay cheese first in the New York tri-state area and New England markets, followed by other regions.
Attractively packaged in colorful mini-canisters, and resealable for freshness, convenient bite-size pieces of this creamy cheese are available in Garlic & Fine Herbs and Zesty Green & Black Olives. Also available is a limited-edition holiday variety – Apple, Cranberry & Cinnamon.
Suggested retail price is $5.99 - $6.99.
Chocolates enhance tea experience
Approximately 127 million Americans already count tea as their favorite beverage and tea industry sales have quadrupled over the past three years, from $1.6 billion in sales in 2003 to $6.5 billion in 2006, with continued rapid growth projected in the near future, according to the New York City-based Tea Association of the U.S.A.
San Francisco-based San Francisco Chocolate Factory is adding an extra drop of pleasure to tea drinking with the launch of Tea Lover's Chocolates, an exclusive line of sophisticated, premium chocolates crafted to complement one's own perfect cup of tea.
Shaped into bite-sized drops, a perfect nibble between sips, they are available in three varieties: 31% white chocolate for delicate green teas, 38% milk chocolate for chai teas (typically consisting of black tea combined with a blend of spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, vanilla, and nutmeg); and 55% dark chocolate for robust black teas.
"Today's tea lover has a discerning palate,” says founder Mike Litton. “While our customized chocolates have had a great reception with coffee lovers and wine lovers, tea drinkers deserve equally palate-pleasing chocolate experiences. These chocolates have been specially designed to pair with popular tea varieties, offering a point of discovery for tea aficionados and new tea drinkers alike.”
Suggested retail price for a 3.5 oz tin is $4.99, or three tin gift sets for $15.99. http://www.sfchocolate.com.
A spicy twist to old classics
Portland, Ore.-based Oregon Chai’s seasonal concentrates, Oregon Chai Cider and Oregon Chai Nog, take both of these traditional favorites to a whole new level, and both varieties are made with certified USDA organic ingredients.
Oregon Chai Cider features light, crisp apple cider blended with black tea, honey, and chai spices. To enjoy this cozy treat, mix the concentrate with equal parts water, and heat. To spice things up even more, add a dash of caramel syrup and top with whipped cream, or include a festive cinnamon stick.
Oregon Chai Nog is an egg-free alternative to traditional nog. The concentrate is blended with black tea, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and other seasonal spices. Just mix equal parts concentrate and milk or a milk substitute, and serve the drink hot like a latte, or frosty cold over ice. For an adult version of the beverage, mix in your favorite holiday spirits.
Suggested retail price for a 32-oz. box is $5.99.
Stuff your menu with new possibilities
The ingredients you turn to for moist and delicious stuffing during the holiday season can also be the source of culinary inspiration throughout the year thanks to San Antonio, Texas-based Mars Foodservices. With exciting recipes and special mix-in ideas for Uncle Ben’s Brand stuffing mixes, you can take the ultimate holiday comfort food to unusual and elegant new places year-round.
Varieties include Uncle Ben’s Traditional White Bread Stuffing Mix and Uncle Ben’s Classic Cornbread Stuffing Mix.
For more information, call 1-800-432-2331, or visit www.MARSfoodservices.com.
A rare tribute
For the very special person on your holiday list, a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label King George V from London-based Diageo is a rare tribute.
Produced in Scotland, this ultra-deluxe blended whisky celebrates the first Royal Warrant granted to John Walker & Sons to supply Scotch whisky to the British Royal Household in 1934. Only whisky from distilleries operating during the reign of King George V have been used to create this blend – some from stocks dating back to the early 20th century and many from distilleries which no longer exist.
“The blend is so rare it is only available on special allocation,” says Jonathan Driver, brand ambassador.
Suggested retail price is $500.