Seasonal Produce, Brought to You by Warmer Weather

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Upstate New York has a climate that fluctuates pretty dramatically throughout the year, so if you prefer to buy your groceries with the seasons and keep it local in the process, it can get a bit limiting at certain points. That’s why spring is so exciting: We become exposed to a much wider selection of produce than we’ve had access to in months. Throughout the Spring and Summer months, the availability of fresh local produce is almost unlimited (or at least, that’s how we feel!). This is the perfect time to cultivate your appreciation for what’s in season, and take full advantage of the freshness of it all— and we’re hoping to make it a little bit easier for you!

Here are some great options in season in New York State throughout May and April:
Arugula
Spinach
Potatoes
Fava beans
Green onions
Scallions
Radishes
Asparagus
Mushrooms
Broccoli (late May)
Rhubarb (late May)
Strawberries (late May)

Closer to June, the ballgame changes a bit:
Carrots
Beets
Corn
Cabbage
Summer squash
Peas
Most of the May-April produce is also still available during this time!

In July, things take a turn for the sweeter, with much of the early Spring produce still available as well:
Blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries
Apples
Cherries
Melons
Peaches
Eggplant
Tomatoes
Zucchini
Peppers
Cauliflower
Garlic

Even if you purchase things like berries and peppers year-round, we hope you’ll take advantage of the delicious locally grown ones when the time comes! Buying your food locally and with the seasons is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint while ensuring that you’re eating healthy foods— and you can visit Roma’s to view our selection today!

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Roma’s Guide to Grilling Season

We’re not all crafty outdoorsmen/outdoorswomen— Not everyone can live in perfect harmony with nature, and that’s okay. But all too often, spring comes around and we get excited about the warmer weather, vowing to get outside as much as possible while we can. We eagerly anticipate the warm sun on our faces and the sweet smell of fresh-cut grass, literally itching to get out there and enjoy every second of it as soon as you have the opportunity.

And then all of the sudden, your car is buried under 6 feet of snow, and you’re left wondering how three seasons passed you by and you “really” made it outside less times than you can count on one hand.

It’s grilling season, everyone! Don’t let it pass you by. We’re here to tell you how to make the most of it, and enjoy every second— because the unfortunate truth about living in Upstate New York is that the weather is unpredictable and not always fully enjoyable, as beautiful as it is to live here (but really, in our defense, we’re known for having some of the harshest winters in the US— we deserve bragging AND complaining rights).

Plan on getting outdoors:

This means: Plan on using the grill, shucking the corn, getting herbs from the garden, and anything else you can possibly think of that gives you ample reason to get outside more. If you’re in charge of meal plans and/or cooking, plan on grilling at least a few times a week. It’s delicious, quick, and easy; and it gives you the chance to get the whole family outside (because our kids all love shucking corn so much!).

Eat outside:

Set up a dining table outdoors! We don’t all have a lot of space, but you can find something that will work for you, and it will be well worth it. There is nothing better than enjoying the sunset or some conversation while eating dinner with your family out on the deck or patio. And if you don’t have a deck or patio, set up in the driveway! As long as you’re together and enjoying each other’s company, that’s all that matters. Your whole family will appreciate and remember it.

Host cookouts— Lots of them!

What’s easier than a cookout? The answer is just about nothing. Throw some meat and veggies on the grill for a few minutes, and you’re good to go. Have your guests bring a side of some sort— we all have that one friend who’s famous for a to-die-for potato salad that vanishes before the grill’s even fired up. We always recommend that you strongly encouraging them to bring it. Use paper dishes for a super easy cleanup (just make sure you recycle them after!). These cookouts don’t have to be extravagant! The purpose is to enjoy food and get people together. You can invite 2 friends or 10 (but the more friends you invite the more food you have!)

We truly hope that you enjoy the outdoor grilling season— Amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it can be difficult to get outside and have the experience you’re longing for, but when you finally get to turn that grill on and unwind with family and friends, you’re creating moments that you’ll never forget. Enjoy your loved ones this grilling season— we’ll be doing the same! And if you’re looking for some fresh meat and vegetables to throw on the grill, you know that Roma’s has you covered for that; and our helpful staff is more than happy to answer any grilling questions you may have! We’ll see you next time!

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Why You Should Be Using More Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, henceforth referred to as EVOO. Either it’s a staple in your diet or you’ve got some lying around in a cupboard for the occasional tablespoon or two when a recipe calls for it. Whether you’ve heard good things or bad things about it, the point is, you’ve heard of it. We want to clear up some of the confusion surrounding EVOO— we use it extensively, and we’ve also done our research. We’re hoping that by reading this, you’ll come to know, love and understand the wonders of EVOO— if you don’t already.

Studies have shown that regions where a Mediterranean diet is followed have significantly fewer cases of heart disease, cancer, and obesity. The key ingredient in this diet? You guessed it. EVOO. Of course, there are many other factors in this diet, so to say that olive oil is the sole reason for a healthy lifestyle in these regions would be naïve. But considering the huge amounts of EVOO consumed here and the research done on the matter, there does seem to be a link between healthy hearts and this “wonder oil”.

EVOO FAQs:

What does “Extra Virgin” mean, and how is it different from its non-Extra Virgin counterparts? Contrary to popular belief, all “Extra Virgin” means in reference to olive oils is that it was pressed through mechanical means rather than chemical means. Acidity is also a factor in the classification of olive oils— EVOO has acidity levels lower than .08%. It’s also tasted before classification to ensure quality. Another important distinction between EVOO and other classifications of olive oil is that EVOO is unrefined, meaning that it hasn’t been treated for any flaws within the oil itself. Refining olive oil might remove flaws, but it also removes important antioxidants that make olive oil so healthy in the first place. If you want a quality olive oil with no added chemicals, we recommend going Extra-Virgin.

Isn’t olive oil high in fat? Yes. It is. It’s high in GOOD fats, called monounsaturated fatty acids (but they prefer to be called MUFAs). MUFAs are the key heart-healthy factor in the Mediterranean diet that we mentioned earlier! Without making this a biology class, MUFAs have tons of health benefits that lower risk factors for heart disease, while other kinds of fats increase your risk. Replacing ingredients such as butter or margarine that have trans fats and other kinds of fats that clog arteries and raise cholesterol with EVOO can be a super easy way to improve your health with very little effort. Of course, you won’t see any changes overnight, but you’re taking one step closer to a healthier lifestyle. Just make sure you’re eating foods that are high in MUFAs instead of those high in other fats, not in addition to them. And remember, everything in moderation!

What else does it do? Olive oil is literally magical. It does everything. Okay, not everything, but it really does work wonders. First, it works as an anti-inflammatory. Second, it’s a natural lubricant and moisturizer, making it great for hair, skin and nails— there are tons of people who use it regularly as a beauty product, making hair masks or skin moisturizers using olive oil as the base ingredient. You can even use it as shaving cream. Let us know if you dream up any other uses for EVOO— we’d love to hear them!

So, if you’re not using EVOO regularly, you should be— it’s great for you! And you can find olive oil in all forms right here at Roma’s :) We’ll see you soon!

Spring Clean Your Refrigerator

In our busy, everyday lives, we tend to let small and tedious tasks fall to the wayside. However, this doesn’t mean that the mediocre issues shouldn’t be addressed at some point. One such task is that of cleaning out our refrigerators. We’re all guilty of it— Our fridges, regardless of how hard we try, are almost certain to contain jars of something expired, or a spill (maybe two). As perfectly normal as this is, it’s still important to keep your fridge clean, because this is where you’re pulling your nutrition from! A clean fridge guarantees clean food and good health. We think that “spring cleaning” is a great time to address your refrigerator situation. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Warm, soapy water
  • A bucket
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Baking soda
  • Scrubby brush or tough sponge

Make sure you put all of your food into coolers while you clean your fridge, and then unplug your fridge before you start the cleaning process. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, pull the fridge away from its normal home against the wall and clean up the extra stuff that may have spilled or collected underneath. Wipe down the brackets of the fridge, its exterior, and then get started on the inside, working from the top down with the soapy water. Sprinkle baking soda and then wipe down with the cloths or sponges (the sponge/brush is great for working on tough spills). When you’re finished wiping everything down, lining the inside drawers with paper toweling isn’t a bad idea in case of extra spills in the future.

Plug the fridge back in, and let it cool down for at least an hour before putting the food back in. Organize your fridge based on what works for your household— we always recommend keeping the meats on the bottom of the fridge in case of spills that might leak into other areas. As you’re re-stocking the fridge with your current supplies, be sure to get rid of what’s expired and keep track of what to add to your shopping list, and be sure to stop by Roma’s when it’s time to replenish! Happy cleaning and happy Spring!

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The Scoop on Tahini

If you’ve ever come into Roma’s and browsed the shelves to take a mental inventory, you’ve probably noticed some pretty interesting items that you may have never heard of. Among these items one may have been tahini. Relatively high in protein, calcium and fiber and a great source of amino acids, tahini is used in a plethora of ways— everything from sauces to desserts. If you’re interested in expanding your views of the culinary world and incorporating a new ingredient into your diet, tahini may be a great option for you!

Tahini is an oil-based paste, made out of ground sesame seeds. It’s used in various cultures throughout the Eastern hemisphere, especially in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions. Each one of these cultures manipulates the use of the ingredient to adapt to their culinary palette. For instance, in Iraq, tahini is used in sweet syrup with dates and eaten as a dessert; but more often than not, it’s used as a savory addition to dishes— such as its major role in the popularized hummus dip.

Considering tahini has been on the market in the United States since the 1940s, it’s interesting that commercial use of the ingredient hasn’t taken off quicker! In hopes to expedite that process, we’re supplying you with this great recipe for Baba Ganoush, a popular eggplant dip in the Mediterranean diet. However, there are so many other ways to incorporate tahini into your dishes. Tahini isn’t difficult to make on your own, but if you’d rather skip that step, we hope you’ll make Roma’s your choice when purchasing yours. Happy snacking!

Baba Ganoush (Eggplant Dip)

What You’ll Need:

  • Eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Tahini
  • Sea salt

(Seriously, that’s it)

How to Prepare:

  • Slice eggplant into ¼ inch slices, sprinkle with sea salt and let dry in a colander for several minutes
  • Rub with olive oil, place on baking sheet and broil on high for 5-10 minutes, flipping halfway to even out each side
  • Remove skins of eggplant and add flesh of eggplant into food processor with juice of the lemon, garlic to taste and sea salt to taste, plus 2 tablespoons to 1/3 cup of tahini (depending on what kind of texture you want)
  • Blend until smooth and creamy
  • Serve with pita chips or veggies!
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Why Do People Eat Fish on Fridays During Lent Anyway?

So to answer the big question, we have to look into the tradition. In a nutshell, Lent is a period of 40 days lasting from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. During this time, Catholics make changes in their lives to better themselves and their spirits. One way they do this is by giving up meat on Fridays for this timespan, choosing instead to consume fish— why fish, you might ask? Why is fish any different from pork, beef, poultry or the likes? Allow us to tell you!

The explanation behind this tradition can be traced back a pretty long way. When Lent first began, many people felt that meat from land-dwelling animals simply tasted better than fish, and for this reason it was more expensive to purchase. This led to meat being considered a luxury, while in contrast, fish was fish was readily available, cheap, and easy to catch. For this reason, it was considered a “poor man’s” food. Without a luxurious stigma, the Catholic population turned to fish as a substitute for meat in their meals on these days as a means of donning a simpler lifestyle.

While the tradition of Lent echoes a culture that has since changed and fish no longer has such a stigma, it does represent a deeply rooted value in Catholic history. Here at Roma’s, we are pleased to offer alternatives for those observing, but our seafood option is delicious even for those who simply got a hankering for fish while reading this!

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Why Do People Eat Fish on Fridays During Lent Anyway?

So to answer the big question, we have to look into the tradition. In a nutshell, Lent is a period of 40 days lasting from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. During this time, Catholics make changes in their lives to better themselves and their spirits. One way they do this is by giving up meat on Fridays for this timespan, choosing instead to consume fish— why fish, you might ask? Why is fish any different from pork, beef, poultry or the likes? Allow us to tell you!

The explanation behind this tradition can be traced back a pretty long way. When Lent first began, many people felt that meat from land-dwelling animals simply tasted better than fish, and for this reason it was more expensive to purchase. This led to meat being considered a luxury, while in contrast, fish was fish was readily available, cheap, and easy to catch. For this reason, it was considered a “poor man’s” food. Without a luxurious stigma, the Catholic population turned to fish as a substitute for meat in their meals on these days as a means of donning a simpler lifestyle.

While the tradition of Lent echoes a culture that has since changed and fish no longer has such a stigma, it does represent a deeply rooted value in Catholic history. Here at Roma’s, we are pleased to offer alternatives for those observing, but our seafood option is delicious even for those who simply got a hankering for fish while reading this!

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Say “I Love You” — With Food

Valentine’s Day is almost here, and while the shelves are lined with infinite inspiration for gift ideas, some of us are looking for new ways to tell our loved ones that we care. So, how do we go about making this year’s Day of Hearts memorable and unique, without falling into the same old exhausting annual Valentine’s Day slump?

You’re in luck— there are sneaky little ways to send a message via cuisine (everyone’s favorite thing!), and Roma’s has everything you need in order to do this perfectly. From start to finish, there’s nothing better than a day full of delicious foods lovingly hand-crafted by someone special.

Since Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, you have the luxury of doing things at your own pace, or getting someone else (ahem, kiddos/beau) to spoil YOU. Rather than waking up at the crack of dawn to make red velvet pancakes for your family before a busy weekday, talk your partner into (talking your children into) making you a hearty (no pun intended) V-Day breakfast in bed, instead.

As for dinner, we all know that’s the most exciting part. Roma’s Valentine’s Day Specials are the perfect starting point. Two cold water lobster tails and two 12-14 oz. New York Prime Strip steaks for just $49.95— a surf and turf dish guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face. Whether you’re cooking for just the two of you or for the whole family, we recommend broiling the lobster tails and grilling the steaks (here’s how):

Cold Water Lobster Tails: Preheat the broiler and place the lobster tails on foiled baking sheets, slicing the top of the shell open lengthwise. Broil the tails for 5-10 minutes or until the shell is slightly browned. When finished, the meat should no longer be translucent. Melt some butter to dip the meat in while the “surf” portion of your meal is sizzling away. Garnish with heart-shaped lemon rounds and enjoy!

New York Prime Strip Steaks: Start up your grill, and take your steaks out of the fridge about 45 minutes prior to cooking them so they warm to room temperature. Rub with your favorite seasonings and let the steak absorb the flavor while you wait for the grill to heat. The time it takes for the steak to cook will depend on how thick the steak is. A good rule of thumb is 4 minutes per side per one inch of steak thickness (be sure to measure beforehand!). Depending on your personal tastes, you may want to leave it on longer.

And for dessert? Roma’s white and milk chocolate covered strawberries are all you need. Just a few will be satisfying enough, but it’s fruit— how bad can it be?? Indulge all you want on this special day, and continue to indulge in any leftovers tomorrow. You deserve it!

So, this Valentine’s Day, keep the heart-themed gifts to a minimum and focus on something that will truly make for a special memory. Make your loved ones a dish to remember (and be sure to tell us all about it!). Buon Appetito!

Say “I Love You” — With Food

Valentine’s Day is almost here, and while the shelves are lined with infinite inspiration for gift ideas, some of us are looking for new ways to tell our loved ones that we care. So, how do we go about making this year’s Day of Hearts memorable and unique, without falling into the same old exhausting annual Valentine’s Day slump?

You’re in luck— there are sneaky little ways to send a message via cuisine (everyone’s favorite thing!), and Roma’s has everything you need in order to do this perfectly. From start to finish, there’s nothing better than a day full of delicious foods lovingly hand-crafted by someone special.

Since Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, you have the luxury of doing things at your own pace, or getting someone else (ahem, kiddos/beau) to spoil YOU. Rather than waking up at the crack of dawn to make red velvet pancakes for your family before a busy weekday, talk your partner into (talking your children into) making you a hearty (no pun intended) V-Day breakfast in bed, instead.

As for dinner, we all know that’s the most exciting part. Roma’s Valentine’s Day Specials are the perfect starting point. Two cold water lobster tails and two 12-14 oz. New York Prime Strip steaks for just $49.95— a surf and turf dish guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face. Whether you’re cooking for just the two of you or for the whole family, we recommend broiling the lobster tails and grilling the steaks (here’s how):

Cold Water Lobster Tails: Preheat the broiler and place the lobster tails on foiled baking sheets, slicing the top of the shell open lengthwise. Broil the tails for 5-10 minutes or until the shell is slightly browned. When finished, the meat should no longer be translucent. Melt some butter to dip the meat in while the “surf” portion of your meal is sizzling away. Garnish with heart-shaped lemon rounds and enjoy!

New York Prime Strip Steaks: Start up your grill, and take your steaks out of the fridge about 45 minutes prior to cooking them so they warm to room temperature. Rub with your favorite seasonings and let the steak absorb the flavor while you wait for the grill to heat. The time it takes for the steak to cook will depend on how thick the steak is. A good rule of thumb is 4 minutes per side per one inch of steak thickness (be sure to measure beforehand!). Depending on your personal tastes, you may want to leave it on longer.

And for dessert? Roma’s white and milk chocolate covered strawberries are all you need. Just a few will be satisfying enough, but it’s fruit— how bad can it be?? Indulge all you want on this special day, and continue to indulge in any leftovers tomorrow. You deserve it!

So, this Valentine’s Day, keep the heart-themed gifts to a minimum and focus on something that will truly make for a special memory. Make your loved ones a dish to remember (and be sure to tell us all about it!). Buon Appetito!

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How to Throw a Great (Super Bowl) Party

This year’s Super Bowl competitors have finally been announced: Denver Broncos face off against the Carolina Panthers. Regardless of whom you’re rooting for, we’re willing to bet you’ll be engaging in a Super Bowl party. Even if you’re not hosting, keep reading anyways (specifically, tip #4) because your services may still be required.

While geared towards the great American pseudo-holiday that is the Super Bowl, these tips can still be tailored to any party you may find yourself struggling to plan. Mixed in with the daily chaos of work, social life, carting the kids to and from practice, making dinner, catching up on your favorite show, etcetera, we understand that trying to get the details worked out for a proper shindig can be a bit of a challenge. No matter the occasion, we want to ensure that you’ll be the host(ess) with the most(est), without losing your sanity.

1— Planning ahead: A brief timeline.

A week before: Be sure to invite your guests ahead of time, and ask them to bring a dish to pass to make it easier on you! Don’t invite more people than your home can hold, and make sure there are enough places for your guests to sit where they’ll be able to watch the game comfortably. We’ve all experienced that time where one or two guests have to stand awkwardly in the corner or sit on the floor while the rest cheer on from the cushy comfort of the living room couch. No bueno.

The night before: Be sure to set up the gathering areas before your guests arrive. Use plastic tablecloths and set out serving bowls, utensils, cups—anything your guests may need in order to enjoy themselves between plays. We recommend plastic utensils and paper plates to make your life easier (and trust us, it will). If having less dishes to wash means one more bag in the trash can or that your recycling bin is a little bit fuller than usual, it’s definitely worth it— unless you’re one of those people who enjoys washing dishes… then, by all means.

If you have decorations you’d like to put up, we highly recommend getting this out of the way the night beforehand as well. Streamers, banners, team paraphernalia, or a life-sized Peyton Manning inflatable— just make sure they’re relatively tasteful and won’t fall down/deflate into a sad mushy blob throughout the course of the party.

The hours before: Finish up your cooking prior to your guests arriving so that you can enjoy their company without the added stress. Your focus should be on the people you invited into your home (and on the game/great commercials). If it’s absolutely necessary, use halftime as a break to get more food into the oven and replenish the tables. Just make sure you’re still able to enjoy the halftime show (because for many, that’s the most important part).

 2— Clean house. Enlist the services of every vacuum, mop, duster and child, both before AND after the party. The more the merrier, and the less stress for you the better (and if one of your guests offers to help you clean up afterwards, let them help! Just be sure to thank them). Wipe down the counters, dust the corners of every room, clean the bathrooms (make sure an air freshener is readily available just in case) vacuum each room and let the smells of the food you’re cooking take over the house. After the party, make sure any sticky spill is cleaned up as soon as possible so that it doesn’t fester until the next day when elbow grease will truly be required. Get any leftovers that might have found their way into your Tupperware, into the fridge, and cans and bottles into bags to take to the recycling center. Make sure the bags tie, and put them outside or in the garage so that your home doesn’t become infused with the unforgiving scent of stale beer.

3— Use a self-serve system. Set up a table or two where food and drink can be placed and your guests can easily serve themselves while they enjoy the game. Don’t stress out over using fancy serving bowls or platters, because that’s not what your guests will be focusing on. The food is what matters, and while little details are great, nobody will be upset if you save the energy from that for a different gathering.

For a Super Bowl party, finger foods are fine and divine. There’s no need for anything intricate; so you can keep it simple and encourage your guests to do the same. Place the foods where they’ll be easy to reach and won’t get messy. Use serving spoons and tongs to the fullest advantage. Be sure to place ketchup, mustard and relish (plus any other fan-favorites) in a centralized location. Some of your guests may be bringing small crockpots, so find a place to set the table near an outlet or in easy reach of an extension cord.

You might want a separate table for beverages. If there are minors at your gathering, you might want to consider keeping the alcohol in the kitchen where those of age can easily access it. Regardless, using plastic cups is one must, and making sure your guests mark their cups with their names is another. To make this more fun, put out Sharpies in the colors of the teams playing, and have each guest mark their cup with the Sharpies in the color of the team they’re cheering on. Every time their team scores, they can do a “cheers” or take a sip.

4— Get your guests involved. When you’re handing out the invitations, whether they’re through Facebook, on paper or verbally, make sure your guests feel welcome from beginning to end. Be sure they RSVP by a reasonable date, so that you know how many people to expect. Ask them to bring a dish to pass— this will make it easier on you, because you won’t have to spend countless hours laboring over the stove cooking every delicious little finger food that the party will have to offer. Just make sure they know to bring a dish that goes with the theme (i.e. Super Bowl foods are typically finger foods, but a holiday party might require something a little more intricate). Whatever your guests have to offer, be sure to thank them for bringing it.

If your guests offer to help you with anything when they arrive, let them help. It will make them feel more welcome- even if it’s something as simple as setting a bowl on the serving table; and you get the added bonus of one less thing to worry about. Win-win.

Be sure they know that whatever they take will be going home with them. Of course, there’s always that one dish that you can’t get enough of, so if you want to say yes to keeping leftovers, it really is your unspoken right as a host(ess). However, we all know how big of a pain it is to be stuck washing and re-distributing the serving dishes your guests brought their offerings in. Just like any national park, the beauty and integrity of your home must be preserved, so if you want to spare yourself from this hassle, make it clear to your guests that this will be a carry-in, carry-out ordeal.

5— Enjoy the party. You’ve done everything you could have possibly done to prepare for this party— the house is clean, the food is out, your guests each have a cup with their name firmly established in Sharpies in the color of their favorite team… This is your time now.Have a few glasses of your beverage of choice, make a plate (ensuring to try each one of your guests’ dishes) and relax. Enjoy the company of your guests and bask in the glory that is a successful party. As your guests stagger out, you’ll be left with the satisfaction of knowing they’ll all want to come back next year, and you’ve gained the title of Master Party Planner. Your home will echo with the energy of wonderful, happy people for days (maybe even weeks) to come, and the best part? Now that you’re a seasoned party-thrower, the next one will be even better.

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