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Meet The Interactive Butcher!

Do you ever feel baffled at the butcher counter? Do you gasp at the skyrocketing cost of beef? Do you want to try new cuts but you don’t want to experiment too much in case the final product is a flop? Do you like to buy meat on sale but often don’t know what to do with those featured cuts?

Well, I’ve discovered a new and nifty little digital tool that just might solve your quandary. Meet The Interactive Butcher Counter! Available online and on smart phones, this very practical resource will put a lot of these answers right at your fingertips…literally.

While at IFBC in Seattle last weekend, I attended an afternoon breakout session, Know Your Beef, Know Your Butchery: Cut Education Session with the Beef Checkoff. The reps from The National Cattlemen's Beef Association did an excellent job addressing the fact that drought and smaller herd head counts are some of the factors contributing to the skyrocketing prices of beef. They readily acknowledged that prices won’t be coming down for some time due to the nature of raising and rearing cattle.  As result they came prepared and ready to share tips, charts and infographics for cutting large purchases of meat and for serving those cuts in thrifty ways.  

While chatting with Bridget Elliott Coon, the Director of Consumer Information from the Washington State Beef Commission, I was impressed when she showed me “The Interactive Butcher Counter” on her phone. Bridget demonstrated how you can explore by a specific cut or be guided to the right cut. You can also select a cut. From there, Bridget showed me how you can search recipes for those cuts and decide if those professionally tested recipes will be right for your needs! Once you select a cut, the relevant information available includes the alternate names used, the best cooking methods, a link to the recipes using it, and nutritional information for those recipes.

Frankly, I can’t think of a simpler or more effective way to help customers tackle the quandary and cost confronting them at the butcher counter these days. I’ve cooked a lot of beef in my life but I know I’ll use this tool the next time I’m scanning the counter looking for flavorful, successful and economic alternatives. 

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Rediscovering Endive

While at the International Food Blogger's Conference here in Seattle on Friday night, I was pleased to stroll through the event's Grand Opening Reception. After being welcomed with beautifully prepared Bristol Bay Sockeye, I headed towards the Gift Suite where sponsors were on hand to talk about their products and to offer samples. When I worked my way around the room to California Endive, I was thrilled to see that they were sharing gorgeous packages of freshly picked white endive!

I was first introduced to endive when I traveled to Paris and lived with a family while in high school back in the 1980s. I was always amazed at how my host mother would work at the post office all day and then somehow manage to serve beautifully prepared endive salads before she served our main course dinner each night. Admittedly, I don't manage to do that in my home each evening and I rarely serve endive. However, my interest in this nutritious and crunchy vegetable was reinvigorated after traveling to Paris this summer.

When the California Endive representative discovered that I lived in Seattle, she encouraged me to take three or more packages home. (Many of the other conference attendees were from all over the US.) She told me that they will last about two weeks in the fridge. I tucked three packages into my goody bag and used them in a super simple tomato, lettuce and endive chop chop salad today. Dressed with a light lime and cumin vinaigrette, the dish was ridiculously quick and simple but the crunchiness of the endive made it very satisfying and refreshing...Basically it was just what I needed after a weekend of indulgence. 

If you haven't thought about California Endive in a while, then consider these tidbits of information, which are posted right on their packaging: Endive is low in fat, calories, and sodium and delivers almost 50% of the potassium found in a banana. Endive is easily served with hummus, guacamole, salsa and other healthy dips and it makes a very good gluten-free and carb free alternative to chips, crackers and bread! 

Now, admittedly, my French host mother in high school probably wasn't concerned with gluten and carb free alternatives for her family back then,  but clearly Madame  Vidal was on to something healthy and delicious way back then! Are you an endive fan? For recipes, check out the California Endive recipe section for ideas. 

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