McCormick pecan pieThere are a few things I enjoy more than eating. One is the Northwestern University lacrosse team (7 times NCAA champions!). Another is puttering around the garden. And a third is talking and reading about food, restaurants and cooking.

The public relations industry goes into overdrive this time of year, with press releases about baking, roasting and recipe ideas. Two such releases crossed my desk this week. Sterling-Rice Group of Boulder, Colo., dusted off its crystal ball and made forecasts for 2013. McCormick & Co., Spear, Md., dusted off its cookbooks with recipe ideas for the holidays.

It is important for processors of dairy foods and beverages to stay current with consumers' tastes. Some of these trends call for less fat (bad for butter). Others mention ethnic flavor influences. If you strip away the puffery and concentrate on what the forecasters are saying, you'll glean some insights.

2013 top 10 food trends, according to Sterling-Rice Group

Sterling-Rice Group said its "2013 Top Ten Food Trends" comes from its "culinary council," described as "a team of more than 100 famous chefs, restaurateurs, and foodies." It describes itself as having "a deep bench of culinary expertise" that "has counseled and supported seven of the top twelve food manufacturers in the country." (So you can trust they will be at least 7/12 correct.) Here now are the Sterling-Rice Group's predictions:

1. Sour gets its day. Fermented cherry juice and sour beer? In 2013, yes, as food palates move beyond sweet, salty and fatty to tart, acidic, and
2. Chefs watch your weight. Chefs are changing their habits and exchanging their butter and bacon for broth and beets.
3. Asian infiltrates American comfort food. The spicy and fresh flavors of Thailand, Vietnam, and Korea will give consumers a new take on comfort
4. Veggies Take Over the Plate. No longer prepared as just a side or salad, vegetables will get their chance to star as the main dish.
5. Kids' menus grow up. Mac and Cheese and chicken nuggets take a backseat to kid-friendly versions of adult dining options.
6. American Artisans save you a trip to Europe. With the emergence of local artisans budding in cities across America, why fly to Paris when you can go to Philly?
7. Small plates for me only. Small plates for sharing will be replaced with smaller, singular servings of meat, veggies or starches for a truly
customized dining experience.
8. Savory Fruit. Look for fruit used with savory flavors, incorporated as a touch in appetizers, soups and meat dishes.
9. No diner left behind. From gluten-free to vegan, more and more restaurants will offer all-inclusive menus and services to accommodate all eaters.
10. Popcorn is the snack of 2013. Sweet or savory, the all-time favorite (and healthy) snack will pop up everywhere — in ice cream, as croutons.


McCormick & Co. says these "seasonal seven" spices are perfect for holiday recipes

For its part, spice-meister McCormick & Co. identifies the "must-have flavors" this holiday season. It calls these flavors the "Seasonal Seven" — cinnamon, nutmeg, poultry seasoning, ginger, sage, vanilla and peppermint.

McCormick sage cheese toastThe company helpfully provides these suggestions for the spices:

Sage. Savory Herb Rub Roasted Turkey. Also try: Sage Cheese Toasts 6 Ways, Sage and Cranberry Crab Cakes, Sage and Cheddar Potato Gratin.

Cinnamon. Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Pecan Crunch. Also try: Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread, Spiced Cider, Snickerdoodle Cookies.

Poultry Seasoning. Orange-Glazed Turkey Meatballs. Also try: Classic Herb Stuffing, Turkey/Chicken Pot Pie, Wild Rice Stuffing.

Ginger. Gingered Orange Cranberry Sauce. Also try: Glazed Brussels Sprouts, Ginger-Glazed Carrots, Gingerbread Men Cookies.

Nutmeg. Roasted Harvest Vegetables. Also try: Pecan Cookie Balls, Cheesy Bacon and Egg Casserole, Eggnog Thumbprint Cookies.

Vanilla Extract. Vanilla Pecan Pie. Also try: Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake, Red Velvet Cupcakes, Sugar Cookies.

Peppermint Extract. Peppermint Bark. Also try: Double Chocolate Chunk Mint Cookies, Peppermint Hot Mocha, Peppermintini.

Dairy processors are using many of these spices in ice cream and eggnog. Think about how you can use them in yogurt, fluid milk beverages and cheeses.

Photos of pecan pie and Sage Cheese Toasts 6 Ways courtesy of McCormick & Co.