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Where to find the freshest salad ingredients

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Salads are the perfect summer food as they’re quick and easy to prepare and making them doesn’t require turning on the stove. Here’s where you can find the freshest ingredients for all your summer salads.

Farmers’ markets
Make regular visits to your local farmers’ market to find in-season fruits and vegetables, including heirloom varieties that aren’t available in grocery stores. Additionally, be sure to visit merchants selling meats, cheeses and artisanal salad dressings.

Grocery stores

Your local grocery store is another good source of fresh ingredients. Some specialize in locally sourced fruits and vegetables, while others have a section dedicated to local produce.

Your garden
Starting a small garden is easy, and it’ll ensure you get the freshest ingredients possible. Visit local garden centers and nurseries to learn more about which foods grow best in your area.

U-pick farms
If you don’t have the time or space to grow your own fruits and vegetables, visit a u-pick farm in your area that lets visitors harvest directly from their fields.

Making salads is a healthy way to develop your culinary creativity while sampling your local produce. This summer, make the most of all your region has to offer.

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Gourmet bruschetta

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Warning: this version of bruschetta is piled so high with toppings you may need a fork and knife to eat it.

Start to finish: 25 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients

• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 6 basil leaves, chopped
• 1 pint cherry tomatoes
• 4 slices thick crusty bread
• 1 (18 ounce) package pre-sliced fresh mozzarella
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Whole basil leaves (to use as garnishes)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F.
2. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic and basil.
3. Place the tomatoes in an oven-safe dish and pour the olive oil mixture on top. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes start to brown and crack.
4. Meanwhile, toast the bread. Make sure not to overcook it. It should still be a little soft.
5. Cover each slice with cheese and top with the tomatoes. Drizzle a little more olive oil over the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm and garnish with a basil leaf.

To make the bruschetta easier to eat, you can cut the tomatoes in half before roasting them. This will shorten the cooking time, however, so keep an eye on them.

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Coconut-cranberry blondies

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Looking for an alternative to brownies? These festive blondies are the perfect substitute.

Start to finish: 3 hours (25 minutes active)
Servings: 12

Ingredients

Blondie
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 3/4 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
• 3/4 cup dried cranberries
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup white chocolate chips
• 1/3 cup butter
• 1 egg
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sauce
• 1 cup white chocolate chips
• 1 or 2 tablespoons milk

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F
2. Cover the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, letting the edges hang over the side.
3. In a bowl, combine the flour, coconut, cranberries, baking powder and salt.
4. In another bowl (this one should be microwave safe) place the white chocolate chips and butter and melt them in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg, brown sugar and vanilla on medium speed until the mixture has doubled in volume (about 3 minutes).
6. Add the white chocolate and butter mixture to the egg mixture and mix on slow speed. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients until just combined.
7. Pour the batter into the baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.
8. Let cool for about two hours.
9. To make the sauce, melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave (about 30 seconds) with 1 tablespoon of milk. If it’s too thick, add another tablespoon of milk once the chocolate is melted.
10. Cut the blondies into squares or rectangles and serve with the sauce.

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Beef Wellington with port sauce

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Are you hosting an intimate dinner with family or friends over the holidays? If so, this classic recipe may well be the perfect main course.

Start to finish: 2.5 hours (50 minutes active)
Servings: 6

Ingredients

Beef
• 3 pounds beef tenderloin (filet mignon)
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• Salt and pepper to taste

Mushroom duxelles
• 4 tablespoons butter
• 3 French shallots, finely chopped
• 25 ounces button mushrooms, finely chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
• 2/3 cup dry, white wine
• Salt and pepper to taste

Assembly
• 8 slices prosciutto
• Prepared mushroom duxelles
• 4.5 ounces foie gras, thinly sliced
• Prepared beef tenderloin
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 (17 ounce) package puff pastry
• 1 egg yolk, beaten

Port sauce
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 French shallot, finely chopped
• 3/4 cup port
• 1 cup beef stock
• 1 tablespoon butter
• Salt and pepper

Directions

Beef
1. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper.
2. In a pan, heat the olive oil and butter. Once the pan is very hot, sear the beef for about 2 minutes on each side. Place the meat on a plate and dry using a paper towel.
3. Brush beef with the Dijon mustard and refrigerate.

Mushroom duxelles
1. In the pan you used to sear the beef, melt the butter.
2. Sweat the French shallots in the melted butter. Add the mushrooms and sauté them over high heat for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and thyme and continue to cook for about 2 minutes.
4. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and continue to cook the mixture until the moisture has completely evaporated from it. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Assembly
1. Cover your work surface with a sheet of plastic wrap. Place the slices of prosciutto on the plastic wrap, overlapping them slightly to make a large square.
2. Using a spatula, spread the mushroom duxelles over the prosciutto, covering it completely.
3. Cover the mushrooms with the slices of foie gras.
4. Take the beef out of the refrigerator and place it in the middle of the square. Using the plastic wrap to help keep the components together, wrap the other ingredients around the beef, making sure it’s covered completely. Wrap the plastic tightly around the beef and accompanying ingredients and refrigerate the whole thing for one hour.
5. Preheat the oven to 425 °F. Dust the work surface lightly with flour and spread out the puff pastry.
6. Remove the beef from the refrigerator, take off the plastic wrap and place the meat on the pastry.
7. Wrap the pastry around the beef, making sure it’s completely covered. It should be spread uniformly and shouldn’t overlap, so be sure to cut any extra bits off. Brush the pastry with the egg yolk and trace a design using a knife, making sure not to pierce a hole through the dough.
8. Place the assembled Beef Wellington on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes or until the beef reaches an internal temperature of 132 °F.

Port sauce
Start making the sauce halfway through the meat’s cooking time.

1. In a pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the French shallot. Add the port and simmer for a few minutes.
2. Add the beef stock and simmer until the sauce has reduced about halfway. Add salt and pepper to taste. Strain the sauce using a sieve and rinse the pot.
3. Return the sauce to the rinsed pot and melt the butter in it.

Allow the Beef Wellington to cool for about 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with roasted potatoes and the port sauce. Enjoy!

In order for this recipe to be a success, the mushroom duxelles must be very dry. Even a small amount of moisture will impact how the puff pastry cooks and result in a soggy crust.

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A brief history of Pie

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At first blush, it might seem like a classic that has remained pretty steady and predictable over the years. Pie is pie, right?

Look a little closer. It turns out, we can sneak a peek into history and fads when we consider what types of pie were popular at the time. Consider these, from Taste of Home:

Earliest pies: Probably meat pies and fruit pies. As long as there have been apples, someone has put them into a crust.

* Icebox Pie. Nothing screams old-timey like the term icebox. This dessert came to prominence in the 1910s, when insulated boxes with ice were still a popular method of keeping food cold.

* Vinegar Pie. Though it sounds more like a punishment than a dessert, this custard-type pie, which emerged during the Great Depression when ingredients were limited, apparently has a mellow sweet-tart flavor.

* Jell-O Pie. A little Jell-O, a little fruit, a pie crust: boom. 1950s, anyone?

* Mini Pies. These took off in the 2010s. Are we more indecisive about fruit or cream pies? Do we just like to sample? Is it a by-product of a tapas phase? Who knows. And who cares, so long as they’re delicious!

* Allergen-friendly pies. Also a recent trend, pies today can be nut free, gluten free, dairy free, Keto, you name it. Again, so long as it’s yummy, bring it!

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From the moon to your table, turkey is tops at Thanksgiving

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When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin tucked into their first meal on the moon, it was foil packets of roasted turkey and all the trimmings. With their special packaging, they likely were not concerned about food safety, but it should be at the top of your to-do list for the holidays. Be sure that you purchase, store, prepare and serve food safely and handle leftovers appropriately.

The holiday season requires special consideration to keep food safe. Parties, dinners and special events mean feeding large groups over extended periods of time, and that adds to the need for extra care. Here is a quick refresher course from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Avoid the Danger Zone. Harmful bacteria can grow rapidly in the danger zone between 40° F and 140° F. Try to make food shopping your last errand before going home. At the store, select frozen and refrigerated foods just before going to the checkout register, and when you get home, store them promptly and properly.

Clean thoroughly. Make sure everything that contacts food is as clean as possible. Start with clean hands because they are the most frequently used utensil in the kitchen and can spread bacteria very quickly. Clean dishes and utensils thoroughly, launder dishcloths and towels frequently and sanitize work surfaces, cutting boards and sponges with a mild bleach solution between uses.

Store safely. Plan ahead so you will have adequate storage space in the refrigerator and freezer for all perishable items. This is a good time to clean out and throw away leftovers. Keep cold foods cold – 40° Fahrenheit or less in the refrigerator and 0° Fahrenheit or less in the freezer. Keep a thermometer in each area and remember to check it often.

Cook correctly. Cooking enhances the flavor of food, but its main function is to kill disease-causing microorganisms. To do this job effectively, the internal temperature of the food must reach the recommended level as shown on an instant-read thermometer: beef – at least 150° F; pork – 160° F; poultry – 165° F. Cook ground meats until there is no pink left and the internal temperature reaches 160° F. Reheat leftovers to at least 165° F to kill bacteria that might have multiplied in the cooling process. Cook meat, poultry, fish, egg dishes and casseroles thoroughly in one operation. Do not cook partially and plan to complete the cooking process later.

Separate. Keep raw and cooked foods and their juices separate at all times. Be sure that raw meats do not drip on other foods in the grocery basket, in grocery bags or in the refrigerator. Marinate meats on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to keep juices from spilling on other foods and do not reuse the marinade. Never use the same plate or utensil for cooked food that you used to prepare or transport the raw product.

Entertain safely. Keep the two-hour rule in mind when serving a large meal, buffet or reception. Do not leave perishables at room temperature for more than two hours in cool weather or one hour when it is warmer. Offer food in small serving dishes and replace them often, using a clean dish each time. Keep the replacement food in the refrigerator or oven to maintain the proper temperature until serving. To keep hot foods hot when serving them, consider using an electric serving dish, warming tray or chafing dish. Nest dishes in bowls of ice to keep them cold.

Manage leftovers. Refrigerate leftovers as quickly as possible, discarding any that have been at room temperature for two hours or more. Divide large quantities of hot foods into smaller containers so they will cool more quickly when refrigerated. Reheat all leftovers to at least 165° F and heat gravy to a rolling boil. Use cooked dishes within three days and stuffing and gravy within two days.

Finally, when in doubt, throw it out.

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Scary mummies with devilish dipping sauce

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This spooky twist on pigs in a blanket is fun to eat and even easier to make. Kids of all ages will be delighted.

Start to finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 20

Ingredients

Mummies

• 12-ounce package of crescent roll dough
• 10 hot dogs

Dipping sauce

• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Red food coloring (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 ° F.
2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Cut the hot dogs in half to make two shorter pieces (or you can keep them whole and make ten bigger mummies).
4. Unroll crescent roll dough and cut it into strips that are about half-an-inch wide.
5. Wrap the strips around each hot dog, leaving a portion unwrapped near the end to make the “face.” Place the dough covered hot dogs on the baking sheet.
6. Bake for 15 minutes or until the dough is golden brown.
7. While the hot dogs are baking, in a bowl combine all the dipping sauce ingredients.
8. Let the mummies cool for 5 to 10 minutes and then serve with the sauce. Enjoy!

Give your mummies eyes by using cream cheese and black peppercorns — or any other ingredients you have on hand. Happy Halloween!

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‘Tis the Season

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Upcoming Events

Dec
12
Thu
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 12 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, December 4 and Thursday, December 5: Gingerbread and Candy Canes will be the delicious theme of our stories, songs, and craft this week! Siblings welcome.[...]
Dec
13
Fri
6:00 pm Holiday Open House @ Ruby Yoga
Holiday Open House @ Ruby Yoga
Dec 13 @ 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Holiday Open House @ Ruby Yoga
Ruby Yoga will host a Holiday Open House Friday, Dec. 13. Doors open at 6 p.m. with free gentle yoga starting at 6:20, followed by refreshments and door prize drawings.
7:30 pm Canticum Novum: Sing a New Song @ Front Royal Presbyterian Church
Canticum Novum: Sing a New Song @ Front Royal Presbyterian Church
Dec 13 @ 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Canticum Novum: Sing a New Song @ Front Royal Presbyterian Church
The Blue Ridge Singers presents its 2019 Christmas concert titled “Canticum Novum:  Sing a New Song” featuring some of the finest Christmas choral music across the centuries at one of the most popular events in[...]
Dec
14
Sat
11:00 am Celebrate George Washington @ Samuels Public Library
Celebrate George Washington @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 14 @ 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Celebrate George Washington @ Samuels Public Library
December 14 is the 220th anniversary of George Washington’s death. Today we will learn more about this great leader of our country and celebrate his legacy. Refreshments will be served. For ages 7 to 18.[...]
1:00 pm “Clara, Little Mouse & the Golde... @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
“Clara, Little Mouse & the Golde... @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Dec 14 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
"Clara, Little Mouse & the Golden Key" @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Join us for this original version of the timeless story ballet The Nutcracker Suite. Follow Clara and Little Mouse on a journey to find what the Golden Key unlocks… Christmas will never be the same[...]
Dec
15
Sun
4:00 pm R-MA Hosts Community Christmas C... @ Randolph-Macon Academy | Boggs Chapel
R-MA Hosts Community Christmas C... @ Randolph-Macon Academy | Boggs Chapel
Dec 15 @ 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
R-MA Hosts Community Christmas Concert @ Randolph-Macon Academy | Boggs Chapel
The local community is invited to join the Randolph-Macon Academy family for an afternoon of holiday spirit with the R-MA Band and Chorus! The annual R-MA Christmas Concert will be held on Sunday, December 15th,[...]
Dec
17
Tue
4:30 pm Science Scouts and More @ Samuels Public Library
Science Scouts and More @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 17 @ 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Science Scouts and More @ Samuels Public Library
Tuesday, December 3: Kids will explore popular books and book series through science, games, food, and more! After reading a Christmas story, we’ll discuss giving and how it affects us and the people around us.[...]
7:30 pm Christmas Concert @ Boggs Chapel on the R-MA Campus
Christmas Concert @ Boggs Chapel on the R-MA Campus
Dec 17 @ 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Christmas Concert @ Boggs Chapel on the R-MA Campus
Christmas Concert | Presented by the American Legion Community Band Tuesday, December 17, 2019, at 7:30 pm Boggs Chapel on the R-MA campus in Front Royal, VA
Dec
18
Wed
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 18 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, December 4 and Thursday, December 5: Gingerbread and Candy Canes will be the delicious theme of our stories, songs, and craft this week! Siblings welcome.[...]
Dec
19
Thu
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 19 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, December 4 and Thursday, December 5: Gingerbread and Candy Canes will be the delicious theme of our stories, songs, and craft this week! Siblings welcome.[...]