Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Recipes With Apple Butter

With the end of summer comes a bountiful harvest of apples and that means plenty of apples to make perfectly spiced, incredibly smooth Graves Mountain Apple Butter. There's nothing better than slathering a dollop of apple butter onto warm toast or biscuits or over waffles, but its sweet spiciness can be an integral ingredient in fall cooking and baking.  Here are some recipes using apple butter.

Apple Butter-Walnut Thumbprints   
Yield: Makes about 40 cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup toasted walnuts
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Parchment paper
1/2 cups Apple Butter
Caramel topping
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Pulse first 5 ingredients in a food processor 10 times or until nuts are ground.
2. Beat powdered sugar and butter at high speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer 4 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add flour mixture, and beat at medium speed 30 seconds.
3. Drop batter by level tablespoonfuls 1 to 2 inches apart on 3 parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Dip finger in cold water, and press into each cookie, forming an indentation. Fill each indentation with 1/2 tsp. apple butter. Dip finger in cold water, and tap down peaks in apple butter.
4. Bake 2 baking sheets at 350° for 14 minutes, placing 1 baking sheet on middle oven rack and 1 sheet on lower oven rack. Rotate pans front to back, and top rack to bottom rack. Bake 4 more minutes or until edges begin to brown. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks, and cool completely (about 10 minutes). Repeat with remaining baking sheet. Drizzle caramel topping over cooled cookies.

Apple Butter Pie
Makes 8 servings

8 ounces gingersnaps
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup spiced apple butter
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Garnishes: whipped cream, crumbled gingersnaps

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Pulse gingersnaps in a food processor 20 times or until finely ground. With processor running, pour butter through food chute, processing until blended. Press mixture into a 9-inch pie plate.
2. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together sweetened condensed milk and next 3 ingredients. Pour into prepared crust. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Chill 2 to 24 hours.
Apple Butter Sparklers
For a kid-friendly version, substitute sparkling apple juice for the Prosecco.
2 tablespoons Apple Butter
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup chilled Prosecco
Garnish: lemon peel

Whisk together Easy Apple Butter and lemon juice until smooth. Whisk in chilled Prosecco. Strain into a glass, and garnish, if desired. Serve immediately.

Creole Apple Butter Mustard

1 cup apple butter
1/4 cup Creole mustard
Serve with pan-fried pork chops on hot sweet potato biscuits for breakfast.

Peanut Butter-Apple Grahams

Yield: Makes 2 servings

2 whole graham cracker halves
2 tablespoons peanut butter
6 Granny Smith apple slices
Spread each graham cracker half with 1 tablespoon peanut butter, and microwave at HIGH for 10 seconds. Remove from microwave, and top each with 3 apple slices.

Apple Butter-and-Cheddar Puffs

To get ahead, make these appetizers through Step 2 and freeze up to 1 month. Go straight to the oven from freezer; simply add 5 to 10 minutes to the bake time.
Yield: Makes 1 1/2 dozen
1 (17.3-oz.) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Apple Butter
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 1/4 cups (5 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
Parchment paper
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Unfold 1 pastry sheet, and roll to a 9- x 12-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Cut pastry into 9 (4- x 3-inch) rectangles. Brush edges of rectangles with a small amount of egg whites. Stir together apple butter and thyme leaves. Spoon about 1 tsp. apple butter mixture into center of each rectangle. Sprinkle each with about 1 Tbsp. cheese. Fold 2 opposite corners together, and pinch to seal.
2. Gently transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush pastries with egg whites, reserving remaining egg whites for second batch; sprinkle each pastry with about 1/2 Tbsp. cheese.
3. Bake at 400° for 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. While first batch bakes, repeat procedure with remaining pastry sheet, egg whites, apple butter mixture, and cheese. Serve immediately.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Crabbin' in Virginia Beach

Last year when we were in Virginia Beach we went crabbing. We were so successful we spent a whole evening cracking and eating our bounty.

You can find out an enormous amount of information on crabbing in Virginia Beach from the VB Guide: From late spring until early winter, the succulent blue crab abounds in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. All along Rudee Inlet and Linkhorn Bay, you will see clusters of people standing on the banks, dangling strings in the water. Although this method of catching crabs may seem primitive, it is highly effective. A mature blue crab is usually between five and seven inches wide, across the back from “point to point”. The back of the blue crab is olive green, but their undersides and legs are white. Their claws have a blue-ish color, hence their name. One way you can tell a male blue crab from a female is by the tips of their claws. A female looks as if she has just returned from having a manicure- her claws are tipped in red. Many people assume that crabs are always red, but actually they become bright red-orange only when they are cooked. A male crab is called a “Jimmy”. In addition to his plainer claws, you will notice that he has a small “apron” on this underside. A “Sally”, or she-crab, has a larger apron. If her apron is rounded and covered with an orange, spongy substance, she is known as a “sookie”, or egg carrying female. If you catch a sookie, you must return her to the water.

Crabbing is a major industry for the Chesapeake Bay and the Eastern Shore. Commercial crabbers usually trap their crabs in “crab pots”, although some set long baited lines along rivers. In winter, when crabs are dormant, boats dredge the bay. In the late spring, Watermen traditionally bait their pots by using a Jimmy as a male siren to attract the innocent Sallies.

Although crabbing for a living is a hard life, catching enough crabs for dinner is fun and easy. Crabs will eat almost anything. Watermen say they prefer eel, but weekenders usually save chicken necks or hunks of “trash fish” for them. Tie the meat to a piece of twine, and throw it into the water. (You may need to weight it down with a spare key or fishing weight.) Wait about 5 minutes, then slowly put it in. Crabs are greedy and this is often their downfall. A crab will usually hold onto the line as you gently lift it up. Bringing them in is not difficult, but don’t try to grab the crab or remove it from the line! Crabs will protect themselves! Carefully retrieve the crab with a net and then flip it into a cool container. Do not kill the crabs you catch. They must be alive when you begin cooking them. Just keep them cool until you are ready to begin dinner.

Crabbing is permitted in Virginia Beach without a license, but there are certain regulations. Crabs must be a minimum of five inches wide from point to point, and all egg-carrying females must be thrown back. You may catch only one bushel a day. Most crabs you catch will probably have hard shells, but you may come across a soft-shelled crab. When a crab has grown too large for its shell, it will molt or discard the shell. The remaining skin hardens in a short number of days to form another hard shell. But in the meantime, it is very vulnerable and is referred to as a “soft-shelled” crab. Watermen and crabbers can tell when a crab is going to shed its shell. Some companies sort out the crabs and hold the shedders until the day they molt. On that day, the tender soft-shelled crabs are sent, still alive, to the market. But because soft-shelled crabs can remain soft for such a short time, many are now frozen and then distributed. Soft-shelled crabs are prized as delicacies. They are best when small, lightly floured and sautéed in butter. However, most local restaurants serve large ones, battered and fried. You eat the whole crab-claws, skin and all-sometimes in a sandwich. Many watermen augment their incomes by selling fresh crabmeat. Commercial firms also cook and pick the meat and then pack it in cans, often pasteurizing it. Undoubtedly it keeps longer, but the process also tampers with texture and flavor. Really fresh crabmeat is unbelievably sweet and delicate, and it needs very little cooking because crabs must be cooked before the meat can be removed from the shell. Just sauté the crabmeat in butter with a little pepper and lemon. Another favorite is a spicy, steamed crab dish. Add some seafood seasoning to a couple of inches of water in a large steamer or pot. Pour in a beer or two and some vinegar. Bring to a boil and dump in live crabs. Cover and steam the crabs until they are bright red-orange. Pick and dip in fresh, melted butter.

Crab Balls
Our Southern Shores Specialties Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes and Crab Balls come from the Chesapeake Bay. A fluffy blend of jumbo lump and backfin crabmeats are combined to impart the sweet flavor of the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab. Crab meat washed and cooked within an hour of delivery, then handmade and frozen to ensure freshness. Delicious!!

This year we're hoping to try again to collect enough crabs for a crab ball or crab cake feast.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Peachy Summer

Peach Brandy Preserves
In Virginia, peach season typically runs from early June through September. This year, the cold winter means there are fewer early-season varieties available. However, starting in mid-July a great crop of the best tasting varieties is expected. The dry conditions have been perfect for developing a really sweet-tasting peach. The drying-off period really brings out the sugar.

Gift Box Sampler
Graves Mountain Lodge will be celebrating peach season on July 26, 2014 from 10:00 - 4:00. Their 3rd Annual Peach Day Festival will highlight the peach harvest with Peach Ice Cream, Peach Pie, and Fresh Peaches as well as other Graves Mountain Foods.

 Can’t make it to the Peach Day Festival, try some Graves Mountain Peach Preserves or Graves Mountain Peach Brandy Preserves. Also available in Samplers and Gifts Sets.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

July Events at Graves Mountain Lodge

Graves Mountain Lodge, nestled deep in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains north of Charlottesville near Syria, Virginia does not only makes delicious old-fashioned preserves and apple butter, it is also a place to visit for celebrations and music festivals.

Just in the month of July there will be two reasons to visit. Celebrate July 4, 2014 with a Graves Mountain Picnic dinner available to purchase at the Sycamore Picnic Pavilion from 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM. The menu will include Hotdogs, Pork BBQ, Chicken Tenders, Ice Cream, Fried Dill Pickle Chips, Funnel Cake Sticks and more. A sit-down dinner will be served at the Lodge from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM . The menu will include Fried Rainbow Trout & Spaghetti and much more. The Cody Austin Band will be playing music from 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM at the Sycamore Picnic Pavilion. Stay for fireworks at 9 PM. Pony rides will be available from 4:00 to 8:00.

Later in the month, join them on July 26, 2014 from 10:00 - 4:00 for their 3rd Annual Peach Day Festival. There will be live music by James River Cut Ups from 11:00 to 3:00, craft vendors, hayrides, pony rides, and more. Of course there will be Peach Ice Cream, Peach Pie, Fresh Peaches as well as other Graves Mountain Foods.

If you can't make it to the Peach Day Festival, try some Graves Mountain Peach Preserves. Also available in samplers and gift sets.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Blue Crab Bay Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer is 20 Years Old

Seafood Lover's Gift Basket
Blue Crab Bay Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer is 20 years old! According to the folks at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan , the Bloody Mary began as the “Red Snapper” cocktail in the early 20th century when their bartender, Fernand Petiot, concocted it for one of his vodka-loving clients who asked him to recreate a tomato juice cocktail he’d had in Paris. At that time, the name “Bloody Mary” was deemed too vulgar for the hotel’s elegant King Cole Bar, hence it originally was named the “Red Snapper.”

Blue Crab Bay is all about incorporating the local flavors of the bay into wonderful products. The unique combination of flavors they’ve created for Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer blends clam and tomato juices, spiced with Chesapeake Bay seasoning and freshly grated horseradish, to create a thick, rich, morning jolt of a Bloody Mary. We also recommend it as a cooking sauce, with Recipes for interesting dishes like our favorites Bloody Mary Shrimp and Pasta and Scallops Italian.

Southern Gourmet Treasures
Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer as won gold and silver sofi awards at the Fancy Food shows (National Association for the Specialty Food Trade) for outstanding beverage. Although it might be sound strange at first, clam juice adds a natural earthiness to the usually spice-forward cocktail, and Sting Ray does an incredible job of blending these flavors together.

At the Virginia Marketplace we put Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer in many of our Seafood Gift Baskets:
Seafood Lover's Gift Basket, Bloody Mary Brunch Basket, Party at the Beach, Nutty Seafood Lover and
Many Ocean Bounty! Baskets. Sting Ray is also includes many other Virginia Marketplace Gourmet Gift Baskets such as Southern Gourmet Treasures, Barbecue Time,  Bloody Mary Breakfast, Tasteful Gourmet Treats, Tasteful Gourmet Treats Galore, and  Ready for Spring.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Peanuts and Peanut Butter are Good for Your Diet

April 2 was National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day. Peanuts and peanut butter are good for your health. Research studies suggest peanuts may be good for your heart, and eating them may make it a little easier to lose weight. They're a good source of protein, fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, niacin, folate and vitamin E. Peanuts and peanut butter also contain resveratrol, which works as an antioxidant.

Peanuts and heart health: Peanuts are heart healthy because they're a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids. Eating peanuts may help lower your total cholesterol. The United States Food and Drug Administration allows the following claim to be placed on the packaging of foods that contain whole or chopped peanuts:Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts such as peanuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.

One and a half ounces of peanuts is equal to about 50 nuts, and would have about 240 calories -- but you can divide that into two different snacks. Or you can use peanuts in your recipes or sprinkle them on a salad.

Peanuts and weight loss: Peanuts are not low in calories because they're energy-dense. But as long as you watch your portions, eating them may help you lose weight. Studies indicate that people who eat nuts, including peanuts, tend to have lower body mass indexes. So how can food that's high in calories help you lose weight? Part of the reason may be that peanuts are high in good fats, protein and fiber, so just a small serving can satisfy your hunger and keep you feeling fuller longer. The key to eating peanuts and losing weight is to watch your serving sizes closely. Next time you get hungry between meals, eat one ounce of peanuts (about 35 individual nuts). That will add about 160 calories to your daily intake, but may tide you over until your next meal and this may help stop you from overeating when that meal is served.

Peanuts and weight gain: It may seem a little odd that the same food can be good for losing and gaining weight. But it's true -- a small amount of peanuts may help curb your appetite, but they provide extra calories and encourage weight gain when eaten in larger amounts. If you want to gain weight, you should do so by increasing your intake of nutritious, energy dense foods, not by eating more junk foods. Since peanuts and peanut butter are higher in calories -- but still nutritious -- they're a good choice for adding extra calories or try a healthier Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Natural Bridge to Become Virginia State Park

Natural Bridge, a 215-foot-high stone bridge once owned by Thomas Jefferson and a centuries-old tourist attraction, has been sold by its private owner, Angelo Puglisi, at a fraction of its value to a conservation group and is destined to become part of Virginia's park system. Once the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund repays the loan it used to pay Puglisi, the attraction will be transferred to Virginia as a state park. Angelo Puglisi donated the 215-foot limestone arch, valued at $21 million, to the newly formed Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund and received conservation tax credits estimated to be worth about $7 million along with $8.6 million in cash for the balance of his Natural Bridge holdings that encompass more than 1,500 mostly forested acres. For Puglisi, entrusting the historic structure to the state offers the assurance that generations to come can stand in awe of Jefferson’s bridge on property surveyed by George Washington and hear the story of the nation’s founding. That could occur as early as 2015.

Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president, bought the property from the British crown and built a log cabin on it. It has since been in private hands. The site was a popular destination for tourists in the 18th and 19th centuries and ranked with Niagara Falls as a must-see attraction. The Bridge is a Virginia Historic Landmark as well as a National Historic Landmark.