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Cleansed Your Soul Over the Holidays? Now Cleanse Your Body with Healthy Autumn Salads

We tend to associate salads, especially green ones, with health, low calories, weight loss, and skinny models and actors. While summertime is often considered to be peak salad season, with the heat and great choice of fresh veggies, autumn is an ideal time for salads as well. The weather has not gotten too cold yet, and there are plenty of seasonal vegetables on the market.

Most of us don’t want to pass up on meat, especially during the High Holiday season. But with the trend of “meatless Mondays” for reasons varying from health benefits to saving the planet, right after the holidays is a great time to incorporate a once-a-week (or more) cleanse of our systems by steering clear of meat products and focusing on healthy produce.

And if cooking is not your thing, you might find that preparing simple and delicious salads is right up your alley. The ingredients are for the most part inexpensive and easy to find and store, and after just a few minutes of chopping, your meal will be ready.

The great thing about salads is that pretty much anything goes. Throw in your favorite vegetables or whatever you have on hand. Add anything from grated cheese to smoked fish to fresh or dried fruits for a delicious, colorful and healthy meal. And don’t forget that nuts and avocado are a great source of protein and healthy fat. They will give you energy, and all the nutrients you need, and will make you feel fitter and healthier even before the holiday pounds start to come off.

Grilled pepper and mushroom salad

Use any salad greens you like as a base. Add:

  • 2 cups of mushrooms, sautéed in olive oil for 2 minutes
  • 3 - 4 red peppers, grilled, peeled and cut in thin strips
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • A few dried figs, quartered

Season with olive oil and balsamic vinegar before serving.

Avocado and Egg Salad on a Bed of Baby Leaves

  • 3 cups of baby leaves
  • 1 ripe Haas avocado, cut in chunks
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced in rounds
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, sliced in rounds
  • A few black Kalamata olives
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp walnuts

Arrange vegetables on top of the baby leaves. Sprinkle with walnuts. Toss with olive oil, soy sauce and lemon juice before serving.

Tuna-Apple Salad

  • 3-4 cups romaine or leaf lettuce
  • 1 can of tuna, flaked
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, diced
  • A few small pickles, chopped

This combination of ingredients goes well with sesame oil, but you can also make a dressing of olive oil and apple cider vinegar.


Happy Challah-days!

One of the ways we recognize traditional Jewish challah bread is by its beautiful braid. But when the High Holidays arrive, suddenly bakeries begin churning out round challahs instead of the familiar braided loaves.

The challah is formed into a round shape for the High Holidays to symbolize the yearly cycle and the “circle of life.” The circle, which symbolizes perfection, also manifests our hope for a perfect year, full of blessings and free of troubles.

Sometimes a braided ring of dough adorns the top of the round challah, reminding us that on Rosh Hashana we proclaim that God is king of the universe.
Many people like their challah sweet, but for Rosh Hashana, when we wish one another a “sweet New Year,” raisins are often added for extra sweetness and then each slice is dipped in honey at mealtime.

Here is a delectable recipe that is sure to sweeten up any holiday table.

Honey Challah with Raisins

  • 1 tsp sugar

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbsp honey

  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 2 tsp salt

  • 3 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 

  • 2/3 cup raisins, plumped in hot water for 3-5 minutes

  • 1 egg white, beaten with 1 tsp water

Dissolve sugar and yeast in water in a large mixing bowl. Add honey, oil, eggs, sugar, salt and 2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Mix until dough is smooth. Gradually mix in remaining flour until dough comes together into a ball and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. (You may need up to 1/4 cup extra flour, depending on how sticky the dough is.) Mix in raisins. Let dough rest for 10 minutes. Knead for 8-10 more minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent the dough sticking. Dough should be smooth, elastic and slightly sticky when finished.

Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Gently remove dough from bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Gently deflate the dough.

Roll the dough into a long rope and coil the rope into a round pan, starting in the center. Brush lightly with egg white. Preheat oven to 375ºF and let dough rise, covered loosely, for 35-40 minutes, until almost doubled. Bake for 30 minutes, until deep golden brown.
Cool completely before slicing.

Wishing you a sweet and peaceful New Year!


Cold Soups to Heat Up Your Summer

Cold Soup. It sounds like an oxymoron, right? Soup is what we eat on a chilly winter’s night to warm us from the inside out. We don’t generally think of it as a summer food!

But sipping pureed produce as a soup is a really refreshing way to enjoy the bounty of the summer’s harvest. They are so flavorful it’s almost as though you’re scooping up the flesh of your favorite fruits with a spoon.

Cold soups can be prepared in a matter of minutes. They’re delicious, nutritious, and they’re a great way to get those daily recommended 5+ daily servings of fruits and veggies.

Cucumber Soup is a quick, easy, refreshing meal for a hot summer day.

  • 1 cup cucumber, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 green onion, diced
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp dill
  • 2 Tbsp parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Blend ingredients in food processor or blender and until smooth.
Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.
Garnish each bowl with cucumber slices, yogurt and sprigs of fresh dill before serving.
Gazpacho is a delicious, nutritious cold soup that bursts with garden freshness in every bite.

  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic, crushed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Puree vegetables in blender or food processor for about 30 seconds. Add tomato juice and seasonings. Pulse to mix. Chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Summer Fruit Soup is a delicious way to start – or end – a meal.

  • 10 red (Santa Rosa) plums
  • Other seasonal fruits (strawberries, cherries, nectarines) as desired
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Cut up the fruits into small pieces. (Peeling is not necessary.) Add water to cover. Add sugar, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Cook for 20 minutes or until the fruits start to fall apart. Strain to remove cloves and cinnamon sticks. Blend soup with a hand blender until it reaches the desired consistency. Refrigerate; serve cold.


Quinoa - Quino-What?

Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”) has recently come on the radar as a protein-rich grain-like superfood that is perfect for vegetarians, vegans and the gluten-free crowd alike. Although it looks and tastes like a grain, it is actually a seed related to spinach and beets, and is therefore gluten-free and safe for celiac sufferers.

In addition to having as much protein as a glass of milk, quinoa will give you your daily does of vitamin B6, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and potassium. It’s also a great source of iron, fiber, zinc, magnesium, copper and folate.

Quinoa can be served as a main dish or a side dish, mixed into a salad, or added to soups, stews or stir-fries. It can even be ground into flour and used to make gluten-free baked goods. Here are some of our favorite healthy, delicious recipes incorporating quinoa.

Some notes on cooking with quinoa:

  • If not rinsed before use, it can have a bitter after-taste. Make sure you rinse it thoroughly before you cook it or add it to other ingredients.
  • Quinoa cooked without salt will come out softer and fluffier. Cooking it in salted water will make it come out firmer. Consider whether to salt it before or after cooking based on what you plan to use the quinoa for.
  • You can tell the quinoa is ready when the water is absorbed, the seed becomes transparent and you can see a fine spiral sprout.

Quinoa Burgers

  • 1 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 large egg, beaten

  • 4-5 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped

  • 1/4 cup bell peppers, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • Salt, pepper and seasoning,
to taste

Bring water or broth to a boil; add quinoa and stir.
Simmer, covered until all liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes).
Let stand (covered) 5 minutes to cool. Add 1 beaten egg.
Sauté onions, peppers, and garlic in 2 Tbsp oil until softened and lightly browned. Add to quinoa mixture along with salt, pepper and herbs of your choice.
Form the mixture into patties and sauté in olive oil until browned on both sides.

Quinoa Salad with Fruits and Feta

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1-2 apples, peeled and diced
  • 1 orange, peeled and cut in chunks
  • 3 scallions, chopped (green part only)
  • Handful of walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Handful of dried cranberries
  • Feta cheese
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring water or broth to a boil; add quinoa and stir.
Simmer, covered until all liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes).
Stir in olive oil and lemon juice. Refrigerate until just before serving.
Add in scallions, fruits and nuts. Top with feta cheese and serve.

Breakfast Quinoa “Oatmeal”

  • 1 cup milk or coconut milk
  • ⅔ cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 tsp sugar (optional)
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Toppings – fruits, nuts, chocolate chips (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.
Simmer, covered until all liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes).
Fluff with fork.
Serve with whatever toppings you like.

Peanut Butter-Quinoa Cookies

  • 1 cup water or milk
  • 2/3 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup natural salted peanut butter

  • 1/3 cup honey

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup dried, shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350º.
Bring water or broth to a boil; add quinoa and stir.
Simmer, covered until all liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes).
Flatten tablespoons of cookie dough onto lined cookie sheet.
Bake 15-20 minutes or until brown.


The Cheesiest of Holidays

On Shavuot, the holiday commemorating God’s giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, many Jewish families have the custom to eat dairy foods. Some say the tradition comes from the Song of Songs, in which King Solomon compares the Torah to milk: "Like honey and milk, it lies under your tongue” [and sustains you]. Others say it is because when the Jews received the Torah and learned the laws of kashrut, they had to eat dairy until they were able to ritually slaughter, kasher and cook fresh meat and kasher their pots and dishes.

Whatever the reason, Shavuot has become a celebration of dairy foods in many Jewish homes, and no Shavuot meal would be complete without the traditional Ashkenazic blintzes (cheese-filled crepes) and kreplach (cheese-filled dumplings); Sephardic bourekas and sambusak (cheese-filled savory pastries), and of course, cheesecake.

But don’t feel obligated to stick to the old favorites. Give Shavuot a modern twist with a risotto cheese ball appetizer, a savory leek and goat cheese quiche, or homemade ice cream in new and funky flavors.

Here are recipes for some tasty traditional and not-so-traditional Shavuot dishes.

Crispy Cheese-Stuffed Risotto Balls

  • 1 ½ cups cooked risotto

  • Dry breadcrumbs
  • Your favorite cheese (cheddar, Parmesan, mozzarella), cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • Oil for frying
  • Sea salt

Roll 2 Tbsp risotto into a ball. Press a square of cheese into the center and roll it closed.
Roll each ball in breadcrumbs.
Heat 1-2 inches of oil to 180º in a deep saucepan.
Fry the balls a few at a time, turning as needed, until they are golden brown. Remove from pan with tongs; drain on paper towels.
Sprinkle with sea salt; serve immediately.

Cheese Blintzes
Cheese filling

  • 3/4 pound farmer’s cheese

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in food processor until smooth; Set aside.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp sugar (omit for potato blintzes)

Add salt, sugar and milk to beaten eggs. Stir well to blend.
Add flour gradually, stirring until smooth.

Grease a 6”-7” skillet; Heat over medium heat. Pour batter to thinly coat bottom of skillet, rotating skillet quickly to create and even coating. Cook until batter sets and edges of crepes begin to peel up from the pan. Place the crepes in a stack on a plate until you’ve used up all the batter.

To make the blintzes, place 1 Tbsp cheese filling on one end of each blintz leaf and roll it up to encase the filling. Fry on both sides until golden brown. Serve with sour cream or jam.

Leek and Goat Cheese Quiche

  • 1 9” pie crust
  • 2 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp chives or tarragon, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 375°.
Simmer leeks in a pot of boiling water until tender (5-7 minutes). Drain. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, and seasonings.
Spread leeks onto pie crust and dot with goat cheese. Pour egg mixture over the leeks and 40-50 minutes or until puffed up in center and lightly browned. Set aside to let cool until warm or serve at room temperature.

Sinfully Decadent Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

  • 1 cup (5 ounces) chocolate sandwich cookie crumbs
  • 2 Tbs butter, softened

In the food processor or blender, grind cookies into fine crumbs. Add butter and blend until smooth. Press crust into bottom of a 9-inch round pie pan.
Pie Filling

  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened and cut into pieces
  • 1 ½ cups sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325º.
Blend sour cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Gradually add cream cheese while blending. Add butter; blend well. Stir in chocolate chips.
Pour filling into pie crust. Bake 35 minutes or until set in center. Chill thoroughly.


Irish Slow-Cooker Cooking

Like many other cuisines, Irish dishes and recipes are a bit removed today from where they originated. The foods that were readily available in Ireland included root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, onions, parsnips and cabbage. These were added to a big pot of water with some mutton or bones for flavor. The ingredients were stretched as far as they could go to save money. Potato soup in particular was a staple, and sometimes a bit of meat or bone was added if it was available.

When an Irish family was able to get ahold of some beef, they had to finish it fast before it spoiled or else figure out a way to preserve it. “Corning,” or salt-curing beef is a way of preserving it so it will last – this is how corned beef became known as a quintessential Irish food. Back in the day, corned beef was a tough cut of beed that was added along with vegetables and slow-cooked in stews. Since then it has evolved into a tastily seasoned cut of beed that you can buy ready-prepared in the grocery store.

Fresh water was hard to come by in barren Ireland of yore, and the Irish, as did people in many other cultures, learned to ferment grains in water so they would have something safe – and tasty – to drink. They also discovered that when used in cooking, beer tenderizes meat and makes bland soups and stews taste better.

In those days, most people didn't have choice cuts of meat to cook so if they wanted their dishes to be tender, they'd have to cook them slowly. That's why the slow-cooker is perfectly suited to cooking Irish stews or corned beef-and-cabbage. All the traditional Irish foods are well-suited to being cooked in a slow-cooker. Don't forget to add some stout Irish ale to the pot so that you can enjoy a truly authentic Irish meal.


Indian Cooking In Your Own Home

When we think of Indian cuisine, we often think of vegetarian dishes made with lots of curry. While spices are an essential part of Indian cooking, there is a balance required between spicy and sweet that a lot of novice chefs are not aware of.

Since most cuisines developed based on the ingredients that were available in the region, Indian food always included a lot of spices. These include cumin, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, mustard seed, cloves and chili pepper. Curry, which we so often associate with Indian food, is not actually one spice but a mix of spices. Actually called “garam masala,” it usually includes cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, and sometimes other spices as well.

Indian cuisine is largely vegetarian because of the influence of Buddhism on the country's population and because Muslims are forbidden from eating pork and Hindus are forbidden from eating beef. There are delicious chicken recipes from India, including the tender, juicy Tandoori chicken.

Indian cooking is a delicious way to enjoy all kinds of new spice and flavors – and your slow-cooker is the perfect place to experiment with them. Season your meal with delicious spice blends and, when you're ready for a cool and refreshing dessert, try some kheer, which is a traditional rice pudding sprinkled with cinnamon.

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