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2020 (At Least) Offered Up New, Useful Food Products

by Kara Kimbrough


With an emphasis on only, the necessity of sheltering at home and spending more time with immediate family in 2020 is the only positive in this year’s pandemic. Restaurant take-out dining increased, along with cooking and eating meals at home. As a result, my annual list of the best supermarket products may be of greater interest to all.

I can’t begin my list without urging everyone to dine and shop locally for food whenever possible. Locally-owned and even national chains, which employ thousands of Mississippians and boost local economies, are in need of our support. Ordering online from companies that have no presence in our state might be an occasional necessity. But, let’s do our part to dine and shop locally for food whenever possible. And, let's hope supermarkets continue to provide adequate personnel to check out customers who desire or actually need the service.


My favorite new (and recently discovered) food items of 2020 include:


Baby Ruth Candy Bar – My favorite childhood candy bar is back! The breaking news of its revival in the candy aisle got 2020 off to a great start. It’s not the healthiest item, but who among us hasn’t needed a tasty sugar boost while languishing in the checkout lane or enduring a road trip? With a new and improved formula that includes dry roasted peanuts, it was a star in 2020's dismal crown.


Ruffles Lime and Jalapeno Flavor and Cape Cod Sour Cream Chips – Another improvement in the snack aisle was the addition of new flavors in old-school chip lines. Ruffles’ tangy flavored chips are a great accompaniment to bland sandwiches and perfect crushed topping for taco soup or chili. And, adding classic sour cream and onion to its lineup of delicious crunch chips just made sense for Cape Cod.


Jif & Skippy Squeeze Peanut Butter – Peanut butter is not a low-fat treat, but often, a quick PB&J is the solution to hunger pains. Remedying the problem of hard-to-spread peanut butter, both companies introduced a time-saving squeezable bottle to the delight of adults as well as kids.

Breyer’s Cinnabon Ice Cream – A year of quarantines and lockdowns had almost everyone reaching for ice cream. One of the best heaven-on-earth combinations brought creamy ice cream and sweet cinnamon rolls together in a dish. Swirls of cinnamon and bits of doughy goodness are interspersed throughout Breyer’s delicious ice cream in a product that almost made quarantining bearable.


Freschetta Gluten-Free Pizza - On a healthier note, gluten-free products became more readily available for those with health concerns. Thankfully, I’m not one of them, but an invitation to pizza night at the home of gluten-intolerant friends brought the issue to the forefront. Freschetta’s crispy gluten-free crust, tangy sauce and “real” cheese on my favorite pepperoni pizza proved pizza doesn’t need gluten to be delicious.

Barilla Gluten-Free Spaghetti – Fresh off my gluten-free pizza experience, I gave its pasta cousin a second chance after a previous negative experience. As someone that consumes a lot of pasta, my taste buds are somewhat discriminating. However, if I hadn’t purchased it myself, I’d never have believed the steaming dish of pasta was made from rice and corn flour. Another plus is the noodles don’t break into small pieces like other gluten-free products I’ve tried.


Dave's Killer Bread Sprouted Whole Grains, Thin-Sliced –Dave’s products are always ingenious, but this one takes healthy eating to a new level. Baked with organic oats, wheat and rye and lacking unhealthy high-fructose corn syrup or artificial preservatives, Davie’s thin whole-grain slices are the best thing since, well, sliced bread.

Kind Energy Bars –Energy bars have never been my go-to snack, especially since many are packed with fat, calories and unhealthy ingredients. I became a convert after sampling Kind's new Energy Bars. Each bar contains 35 percent less sugar than many similar bars, are made with whole grains and contain 10 grams of protein and 5 of fiber. Plus, in the energy bar category, the taste is above-average.


Del-Monte Fruit Crunch Parfait – A go-to summer snack was this cool fruity treat offering a healthier alternative to fattening ice cream treats. A mixture of creamy yogurt, crunchy granola and fruit makes this 180-200 calorie snack a viable breakfast option as well.


Kashi Blueberry Waffles – Last, along with strong coffee, breakfast is a required day-starter for me. However, heavy proteins, meats or eggs are not an option for my queasy stomach. A toasted waffle with a touch of low-calorie syrup was my breakfast of choice for years – until I read the ingredient list. Super food blueberries are the star in Kashi’s tasty waffles. Minus the artificial colors in my former heat-and-eat brand and providing a powerful punch through whole grains and a high fiber count, I can now enjoy breakfast without the guilt.

Last, I’m sharing my favorite recipe of the year from my favorite new cookbook, Carmine’s Family Style Cookbook, purchased after I sampled the best chicken parm (and other dishes!) at the NYC restaurant in December 2019. Happy New Year!

Chicken Parmigiana

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients:

- 1 cup flour

- 2 large eggs

- 3 cups bread crumbs

- 2 (5-ounce) chicken breasts, pounded to quarter-inch thickness between 2 pieces of wax paper

- Salt and freshly ground black pepper

- 1/2 cup vegetable oil

- 2 cups marinara sauce

- 5 or 6 quarter-inch thick slices mozzarella, about 7 ounces total

- 2 tablespoons grated Romano cheese


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. or preheat the broiler.


Spread the flour on a large plate. Whisk the eggs in a shallow bowl. Spread the bread crumbs on a baking sheet.


Season the cutlets with salt and pepper. Coat them with flour and shake off any excess. Dip them in the egg mixture and let any excess drip off. Press the cutlets into the bread crumbs, making sure they are covered with bread crumbs on both sides. Set them aside on a plate. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours until needed.


In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cutlets and cook them for about 3 minutes on each side or until they are a deep golden brown all over. Transfer them to paper towels to drain.


Meanwhile, in a medium-sized saucepan, heat the marinara sauce over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until it is hot.


Transfer the cutlets to a shallow ovenproof casserole. Place the mozzarella on top and sprinkle it with the grated cheese.


Transfer the cutlets to the oven and cook them for 3 to 4 minutes or until the cheese is melted. If you are cooking under the broiler, this will take 2 to 3 minutes.


Ladle the sauce onto a large platter. Place the cutlets on top of the sauce and serve.


Recipe from Carmine’s Family-Style Cookbook

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