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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Alternative Proteins? No Whey!

Posted on: August 26th, 2016 by chewingnoises

Over the past year, I’ve set some challenging fitness goals for myself. From joining a quirky workout group to running my first half marathon – I’ve started a quest to improve my wellbeing and it doesn’t stop at the gym. This fitness journey has sparked my interest in protein and various ways to incorporate it into my day. Protein plays a big part in our wellbeing – it helps promote healthy muscle mass, manages weight, improves heart health, and even stabilizes blood sugar.

Many people immediately default to meat when they hear protein, but there are many alternative sources that are more sustainable. As a food scientist, I get to work with a lot of these unique sources and learn about some of the amazing innovations in our industry. Here’s my quick guide to some interesting alternative proteins and why it’s important to branch away from traditional sources.

Crickets: Bug-based protein is getting a lot of buzz in the food industry. Companies are innovating a wide range of products from chips to bars. Though it may not appeal to everyone, cricket flour is a great alternative because of its sustainability. Crickets require less water and feed, and they produce less greenhouse gasses than traditional meat sources. Not sure if you’re ready to take the leap? Don’t worry – I did it for you and tried the Chapul Thai Bar made from cricket protein powder. Rest assured, there’s no buggy taste or texture.

Whey: Not quite ready to try out insects? Let’s jump into something a little more familiar. Whey is a household item showing up in products from post-workout powders to infant formula. This common protein source may not seem all that exciting, but it is unique because it helps reduce a waste stream. Whey is a natural by-product in the cheese making industry that can be turned into the nutritious powder that we’re all familiar with. Just be careful if you’re trying it out for the first time because some people have trouble digesting it. If you’re in the mood for dessert, pick up some vanilla whey powder and try making these protein ice cream pops.

Algae: Algae is a unique source of plant-based protein that’s packed with nutrition. It can be utilized whole rather than as an isolate from the rest of the plant, meaning it retains other nutrients in addition to protein, such as vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. You’ll find it on grocery shelves as ‘spirulina’ and can’t miss it thanks to its vibrant blue-green color. Spirulina is also gaining steam because it could be a strong option to help combat malnutrition in developing countries. It grows naturally in warm water and has the potential to provide businesses, jobs, and a cheap nutrition source for many people. The Guardian summarizes the economics if you’re interested in learning more. Try adding algae to your morning smoothie bowl for a nutritious (and photo-worthy) breakfast.

Pulses: Even though you might not recognize the term “pulses,” you probably already have some in your pantry. Pulses are dried legumes such as peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas. These items are packed with protein and micronutrients, making them an awesome vegetarian and vegan alternative to meat. Pulses also help the environment since they’re great rotational crops – they balance nitrogen levels in soil which helps keep the land fertile and increase crop yields. Check your pantry for pulses and try making this delicious sweet potato chickpea coconut curry.

Why are alternative proteins so important? While meat may be delicious, its high consumption rates aren’t sustainable. As the population grows so does the demand for meat, which is hard to keep up with. This demand requires a lot of natural resources, funds, and contributes to increased greenhouse gases. Decreasing your consumption of meat is good for the environment and also your health. So join me for Meatless Monday’s with some of these suggestions and keep an eye out for other sources like hemp seeds, nuts, and breadfruit!

Author: Samantha Spaulding, Chew Food Scientist

Foraging Across New England

Posted on: August 18th, 2016 by chewingnoises

I spent the summer of 2010 working in a one Michelin starred restaurant in the heart of California’s wine country.  The restaurant was the kind of place that grew most of its own vegetables. It was there that I learned how to forage for food. Our two-and-a-half acre farm that grew the restaurant’s vegetables not only harvested the foods they had planted, but they also picked anything edible that happened to be growing on the land. We had fennel, purslane, miner’s lettuce, and plums to name a few – straight from the farm. All wildly growing. What many farmers would call weeds, we called delicious. I couldn’t help but start looking at what was growing in the lush landscape around me. I found wild blackberries, parsnips, watercress, and many more. My wife and I gorged ourselves on foods provided by Mother Nature. Best of all? They were free.

When I moved to Boston I was disoriented. I wasn’t seeing the same plants I knew from the west coast. I felt hopeless, yearning for my days foraging in the wine country. But there were things around that were edible, I just wasn’t yet able to recognize them. My eyes weren’t yet cued-in to the shapes of the leaves and the colors of the flowers of New England’s wild edibles. After a few years here I began to learn new species and recognize old familiar plants that looked slightly different. I was relieved to learn that no matter what coast I was on, Mother Nature would still provide. Here are a few of my favorite plants I’ve found in the greater Boston area.

Purslane

Credit: Jason Hollinger

Credit: Jason Hollinger

This is not only one of the most interesting plants you’ll find, but it’s also one of the healthiest. It has a fresh, tart flavor and the highest omega-3 content of any leafy green. It’s naturally high in magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, and iron. The green pairs well with citrus and melons and also adds a bright counterpoint to rich meat dishes.

Pineapple Weed

Credit: Oona Räisänen

Credit: Oona Räisänen

An aromatic yellow flower, these little beauties have a great deal in common with their more familiar cousin, chamomile. They look very similar, except you won’t find any white petals surrounding the pineapple weed flower. Both have citrusy aromas that make refreshing chilled tea, perfect for the hot summer months. Pineapple weed, however, smells distinctly of tropical fruit. To identify the weed, crush the flowers between your fingers and smell for pineapple.

Sassafras Root

Credit: Kristine Paulus

Credit: Kristine Paulus

My absolute favorite discovery, sassafras, is the key flavoring agent for root beer (at least before natural and artificial flavorings came along). The stunning sassafras trees grow abundantly in the Northeast. It’s root, most tender and sweet in the spring, was traditionally used as a digestive aid. Root beer was originally designed as a lightly fermented health drink for pregnant women and sick children. You can recognize the trees by their mitten-shaped leaves.

Wild Sumac

Credit: synspectrum

Credit: synspectrum

Easily recognized by its bright red flowers, sumac is one of the most overlooked wild crops. It’s a close cousin to the sumac found in the Middle East and Mediterranean. It’s often used in preparations such as za’atar and hummus. Most foragers recommend steeping it in water overnight to make a tart, lemonade-like beverage. Next on my list is to dry and grind it for use in my own spice blend.

Garlic Mustard

Credit: Wendell Smith

Credit: Wendell Smith

This spicy green is absolutely everywhere so you’ve probably walked past it a thousand times without ever knowing it. It gets its name from the heady aroma of garlic that comes from the plant when its leaves are bruised. It can be treated like any other hearty green – sautéed in olive oil with crushed red chiles and a heavy dose of salt. No garlic necessary.

Japanese Knotweed

Credit: Gordon Joly

Credit: Gordon Joly

Knotweed is a particularly devious invasive species that has taken over much of New England, strangling native species and preventing them from thriving. One of the best things we can do to preserve our lands is to search out these invasive species, harvest them, and eat them. Knotweed has a terrific mild sweetness accompanied by a tart tang. The flavor is very similar to rhubarb and the plant can be cooked similarly, it’s great for compotes, pies, and sweeter applications.

Lambs Quarters

Credit: Wendell Smith

Credit: Wendell Smith

I’m always excited to see lambs quarters. They’re easy to spot with their dark green leaves that fade to a dusty light green hue where the leaves approach the stem. It’s also known as goosefoot due to the irregular shape of the leaves. The leaves are very tender yet hold up well when cooked. It’s fantastic raw in salads, and you can also be sauté it like a heartier green.

It’s quite simple to get started for yourself. If you’re interested I recommend finding a good guidebook and/or take a class. I like “Wild Plants I have Known… and Eaten” by Russ Cohen. He’s also Boston local who teaches foraging classes in the area and you can find his class schedule here. It’s important to identify something positively before eating it and to make sure that the surrounding soil isn’t contaminated. Don’t worry, guidebooks and a good instructor can help with this. Your first goal is to be safe. Second goal? Have fun.

Author: Sebastian Nava, Chew Product Developer

Friday Flashback to Food Labels

Posted on: July 29th, 2016 by chewingnoises

With nutrition labels making headlines every other day, we can all use a refresher on what all those common food labels actually mean. So let’s revisit one of our first Chewing Noises posts that breaks down the definitions behind everything from organic to whole grain.

***

Food shopping has never been so complicated. You walk into the store knowing you need bananas, yogurt and eggs. Simple, right? Sure, if these weren’t some of the labels weren’t mocking you: organic, conventional, dairy-free, soy-free, cage-free, free-range, non-GMO and the list goes on. You get the point.

So, we stepped in. Here’s a handy little guide on the most common food labels so you can understand what you’re buying. While no label necessarily signifies it’s nutritious, you should at least have the info to make the call yourself.

USDA Certified Organic

Well, it depends. The label signifies the foods been grown and processed in compliance to federal guidelines on soil quality, animal raising practices, additives, and more. What factors exactly depends on the type of food but here are some basics:

– Produce can be labeled organic if it was grown on soil without a prohibited substance (e.g. synthetic fertilizer) for three years prior to harvest.

– For meat, animals must be raised in “natural” living conditions, fed 100% organic feed, and not given any antibiotics or hormones.

And to complicate things further, processed organic foods have other considerations – like the use of artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors. But there are exceptions here, like pectin in fruit jams. So, read the ingredient list closely.

Food Alliance Certified

When you spot this sticker, you’re seeing food that’s been sustainably produced according to the Food Alliance’s certification measures. A lot of these match up to the USDA’s organic certification except they require farmers to reduce – not remove – use of pesticides and other hazardous materials. So, this one’s good for you if you’re more concerned about safe working conditions, no artificial ingredients, and animal treatment. Just less strict on the pesticide side.

Natural

Nada. As the FDA says, “A food product has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth.” Right, so basically there aren’t any FDA guidelines on slapping “all natural” on a label so chomp at your own risk. But, they’re accepting comments so if you have ideas, share away.

Non-GMO Project Verified

Believe it or not, this doesn’t mean the product is 100% GMO-free because the contamination risk is too high for anyone to make that claim. But the label does mean it meets the Non-GMO Project’s standards. To summarize 37 pages in a sentence: they require ongoing testing of high-risk ingredients with an Action Threshold of 0.9% (the European norm) so any product containing more than 0.9% GMO must be labeled.

Fair Trade

Google “fair trade” and you’ll probably read the definition: “Goods that are traded fairly.” Thanks. It doesn’t help that there’s a number of fair trade labeling organizations, but most do share some common principles. The label typically signifies that this organization sources ingredients from farmers and workers who are rightly compensated, often in developing countries.

Cage Free

You’re might’ve heard about the push for food companies to go cage-free and wonder what that even means. If the eggs are labeled cage-free, the chickens hatching those eggs are not living in cages, getting their beaks cut, or starved for forced molting. They’re free to walk, nest and partake in other natural behavior but they don’t necessarily have outdoor access.

Free Range

If the thought of chickens living inside makes you cringe, go for free-range. These chickens get to do everything above but they also have outdoor access. Cage-free and free-range don’t say anything about what the chickens are fed, though, unless the birds are certified organic. In that case, their feed is organic, vegetarian, and free from pesticides and antibiotics.

American Grass-Fed

Animal lovers (who eat meat), this is your label. An American Grass-Fed label tells you the producer’s animals were fed a lifetime diet of 100% forage, raised on a pasture, and never treated with hormones or antibiotics.

Rainforest Alliance Certified

This guy tells you the product comes from, or has ingredients sourced from, a Rainforest Alliance Certified farm or forest. To get that certification, the farm or forest has to meet certain environmental, social and economic standards that aim to conserve wildlife and waterways, protect workers and their communities, and promote sustainability.

Whole Grain

You might think you’re eating whole grains when you reach for the multigrain or wheat bread but sadly that’s not the case. The Whole Grain Council offered a fix to this problem – two stamps that mark the product contains all parts of the grain, so you’re getting the nutrition benefits of whole grains. They have two versions – the 100% stamp means all its grain ingredients are whole gains and the Basic stamp requires the product to contain at least 8g of whole grains but allows it to also contain some refined grains.

There you have it – some of the most common food labels and what they really mean, even when it’s not always what you’d think. Happy shopping.

Illustration: Matt Brown

Is Farm to Table Really a Trend?

Posted on: April 27th, 2016 by chewingnoises

We’re in a state of rapid movement, technology, and innovation. Welcome to 2016, right? That new coconut water you tasted yesterday? Well, the next big company will re-formulate it 100 times by tomorrow. Many consider the “farm to table” movement to be one of the biggest trends in the world right now and it’s one that’s rooted in a different sentiment – quality over speed.

But is farm to table really a trend? Not in my opinion – it’s a lifestyle, a demand, and a step in the right direction to protect our environment and sustain our local farmers and community. It’s a global movement that takes us back to our roots.

For me, it started from a very young age. My parents had chickens in the back yard, our herbs and vegetables came from our greenhouse, and the pantry was filled with china – not cans. Weekends were for farmers markets, where I learned early on that we had a household mandate to support our local farmers.

Today, we’re using farm to table to describe a movement towards building relationships with the people you know, rather than focusing on the distance or mileage involved. On a Discovery Channel Curiosity segment, Tom Colicchio explained, “The farm-to-table movement was born from a desire to buy food from people who produce it on a small scale. This was thought to give you better food because it comes right out of the ground rather than being shipped halfway around the world before it gets to you. Even with the fastest of shipping times, you might get food that’s been out of the ground for two weeks. When you eat food plucked from the ground that day or the day before, the taste difference is undeniable.”

All food has to start somewhere and the farm to table movement focuses on food from where it is grown, which is locally. Is it sustainable? I believe it is if we work together. Each of us has a part to do, whether it’s supporting your local farmer to reduce your carbon footprint or developing local programs to reduce food waste. We can also look at Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a program that’s been around for decades. The farmer can sell their products directly to the consumer, and the consumer in turn has the opportunity to purchase locally sourced products. There are more than 4,500 CSAs.

Another great tool to keep the farm to table movement alive is the Locavore Index by Strolling of the Heifers, a Vermont-based local food advocacy group. The purpose of the index is to support efforts around the country to use more local foods in homes, restaurants, schools and institutions. You can see where your state ranks for its amount of farmers markets and access resources to help you eat locally no matter where you live. Also, by supporting sustainable farming, you’re driving the force with your dollars for a higher standard when it comes to food quality and quality of life for farm animals. Remember, it’s consumers that influence the bottom line.

And how do we practice farm to table sustainability on a corporate level? It starts with understanding and proving the benefits of farm to table in our agricultural supply chain. CPG businesses are moving towards sustainability from beginning to end – trying to stay close to the source from planting to harvesting to production to the store shelf.

A few CPG companies have been doing this for a while; Land O’ Lakes and Ocean Spray both offer farm fresh products. Green Giant prioritizes farm fresh and Cabot Creamery focuses on local Vermont dairy products. Kashi’s motto, “seven whole grains one mission,” reflects their commitment to source authentic, local ingredients from around the world. Amazon Fresh is another newer venture that makes the farm to table connection by partnering up with Fresh Nation and creating the direct “farmer’s market” experience for the consumer. According to the LA TIMES, this new Amazon partnership promises to bring customers high quality locally grown produce even if you can’t get to the farmers market every week.

The farm to table movement represents the relentless pursuit of great flavor, nutrition and innovation. And it all starts with great agriculture. The USDA’s 2014 Census of Agriculture reported that there are more than 14,000 organic farms – with an increase in sales of 72% since 2008. Farm to table isn’t a trend. It’s a lifestyle. And I’ll leave you with this: “We eat every day, and if we do it in a way that doesn’t recognize value, it’s contributing to the destruction of our culture and of agriculture. But if it’s done with focus and care, it can be a wonderful thing. It changes the quality of your life.”- Chef Alice Waters

Author: Jessica Haslehurst, Chew Supply Chain & Operations Manager

Illustration: Matt Brown

Coconut Oil Conundrum

Posted on: April 6th, 2016 by chewingnoises

Coconut oil – healthy choice, miracle ingredient, or just another saturated fat? Join the club, the debate’s been unfolding for years. Let’s break it down.

The Dirt

Coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat making it the most concentrated food source of sat fat out there. To put it into context, even butter is only about 64%. Saturated fat raises total cholesterol levels in the blood, which we know increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. That’s why you hear health advocates preach consuming unsaturated fats like olive and canola oils instead as these fats actually lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels in the blood.

The Praise

Despite the rage against saturated fat, people seem to freak for all things coconut. Some attribute this to the Dr. Oz Effect. He regularly features coconut oil on his show and claims it has ‘super powers’ with more than 100 uses. The health halo comes from lauric acid (LA), a predominant fatty acid in coconut oil. Lauric acid raises HDL as well as LDL cholesterol and has shown anti inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It’s a medium chain triglyceride so the liver can readily metabolize it, meaning it can be immediately burned for energy, whereas long chain triglycerides are more apt to be stored as fat.

Coconut oil is also a popular vegan option for cooking and baking because it remains solid at room temperature. This makes it a great non-animal fat substitute for butter or lard.

The Choice

Now that we’ve discussed the division, let’s cover the varieties available. Simply put there are two types of coconut oil: refined and virgin. Refined is made from copra, or dried sections of the meaty inner lining of the coconut palm. This is typically bleached, deodorized and subject to high processing temps and nasty solvents during extraction. The process will vary slightly depending on the manufacturer. These high temperatures destroy naturally occurring polyphenols. Further, some refined versions extract lauric acid to use in other industries.

On the flip side, virgin coconut oil starts with fresh coconut meat and is extracted with a more gentle process referred to as cold expeller pressing. Both end products look similar, but refined coconut oil lacks flavor and odor while virgin coconut oil maintains a slight coconut flavor and odor.

So where does that leave us? Well, here’s what we know:

1. We need more research to state definitively how coconut oil consumption impacts health.

2. Most academic bodies take the stance that coconut oil should only be consumed in moderation. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that “Because it is a saturated fat, use coconut oil in moderation, and buy the kind labeled virgin.

3. If you are going to consume coconut oil make sure it’s virgin.

Author: Ashley Pruett, Assistant Director of Food Science

Why We Need Modernized Home Economics

Posted on: April 1st, 2016 by chewingnoises

When we say home economics, what comes to mind? Sewing machines, Stepford Wives and Betty Crocker? At some point people started to associate home economics with anti-feminism as it implied that a career in the home was the only possible path for women. But removing home ec from school curriculums entirely isn’t doing anything for our future now.

At this year’s ExpoWest, Sam Kass, former White House Chef and Chew Culinary Board member, called for modernized home economics. He argued that teaching children how to cook is transformative because it empowers the younger generation to take health into their own hands. Cooking enables them to manage health and move past barriers like affordability and accessibility.

Our ideal modern home ec class would teach both sexes the traditional skills of sewing and shop but also things like household maintenance, financial literacy, and nutrition. But for the purpose of a blog post that doesn’t become an essay – let’s focus on one component of this fantasy course: cooking. Sure, we’re biased, but we also believe that learning basic cooking skills sets you up for success in so many areas of your life –nutrition, financial responsibility, and a general confidence within your own home.

Let’s look at the facts. One in three American kids and teens are overweight or obese, and obesity levels in children have more than tripled from 1971 to 2011. This is leading to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, low self-esteem, and depression. Meanwhile, millions of children aren’t taught how to eat or cook nutritious foods. Families resort to fast food and gluttonous restaurant meals for price and convenience, while sacrificing their health in exchange.

Yet we know intuitively that we can eat better when we control exactly what we’re putting into our body. You can prepare a grilled chicken breast, roasted vegetables and brown rice in the same time it takes to order delivery. But many of us make it all the way to college without the skills to create a decent meal like this, let alone scramble an egg. So, we go deeper into our pockets and succumb to the next size up in our favorite jeans. It doesn’t have to be this way. Imagine if you learned the basics of nutrition and cooking alongside your grammar and algebra. Empowering, right?

Let’s look to the University of California, Santa Barbara for their pilot “Food, Nutrition and Basic Skills” program as an example. The program’s goal is to fill in the gaps left by a lack of home economics – kitchen skills, meal planning, shopping on a budget, etc. In one lesson, students learn how to make a meal from scratch for the very first time. In another they’re shopping the bulk bins to take the best advantage of weekly sales.

Or we have a nonprofit like Seed Life Skills that provides curriculum tools to classrooms to “get kids cooking, connecting science to real life problems, and engineering sustainable solutions.” Led by Hugh Acheson from Top Chef, Seed Life Skills is teaching basic cooking, financial intelligence, and life skills (think how to understand health insurance forms) to public school students across Atlanta.

We need modern home economics now more than ever as horrifically bad food (not sure most of this food actually makes the definition of food, but for illustrative purposes, we will call it food) is everywhere, kids are getting unhealthier, and parents are working even harder while losing more time to cook for their children. We rely on our school system to teach children everything from addition to physics. It’s about time they also learn how to compose a nutritious, sustainable, and affordable meal.

Illustration: Matt Brown

Dining Dilemma – How to Prepare an Allergy Free Meal

Posted on: March 30th, 2016 by chewingnoises

Let’s face it. Preparing an allergy free meal is not a walk in the park. You’ve been tasked with a laundry list of things to look out for but don’t know where to start. You might be second guessing why you invited anyone over in the first place, but we’ve got you covered. You’ll be cooking safe meals for you and your loved ones in no time.

Know Your Allergens: The top eight allergens in the U.S. are peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, eggs, soy, fish, and shellfish/crustaceans. These names may be familiar but what about casein? Do you know which grains contain gluten? Before heading to the store, research alternate names for those allergens so you’re better prepared to determine what you can and can’t buy. Also, ask your guests specifics about their allergy – someone with a cashew allergy might be able to eat walnuts but not pistachios or surprisingly mangos. Maybe they can have goat’s milk even though they can’t tolerate cow’s milk. They’ll know the ins and outs of their allergy best.

Ingredient Substitutions: You want to bake dessert but can’t use eggs? Use flax seeds instead or try this delicious Blondie recipe that uses chickpea water. You want to make a pizza but your sister is gluten free? Try this cauliflower crust. There are millions of alternatives for those tricky ingredients that you can’t use. Before you write it off, try that recipe you love with an alternate ingredient. If you’re not sure where to start, find recipes dedicated to allergy free eating on websites like Allergic Living.

Shop Till You Drop: With your list of foods to avoid and things to replace them with, head out for your goods. This next step is crucial – read the label of every product you pick up before you put it in your cart. The FDA requires that the top eight allergens must be called out on the label if present. Look for the terms “contains”, “produced in a facility that processes”, and “may contain”. Use this to your advantage to buy foods that are safe to consume. You can also keep an eye out for brands that cater to allergy friendly needs like Ian’s Natural Foods, Daiya, Glutino, and Enjoy Life Foods.

Kitchen Prep: Now that you’ve brought home your food, it’s time to make sure it stays allergen-free. If you own “safe” and “unsafe” items (like soy sauce and tamari sauce) – keep these items stored in separate spaces. Have a designated area for your safe storage so that it won’t get contaminated. Storage isn’t enough alone. Did you stick a knife in peanut butter and then use the same one to get the jelly? Your jelly is now a hazard. Be aware of everything you’re doing and make sure everything is clean – your plates, your grill, your spatula, your hands – the possibilities are endless. Once you’re sure nothing will succumb to contamination, get to cooking!

You’ve come a long way – you’ve done your research, scoured labels, and heavily sanitized your home. All of this dedication prepares you to create a safe meal that you can proudly serve. Go enjoy your hard work – bon appetite!

Author: Samantha Spaulding, Food Scientist

Illustration: Matt Brown

The How, Why, and What’s of Lacto-Fermentation

Posted on: March 23rd, 2016 by chewingnoises

Home ferments are on the rise, whether that’s home-brewing beer, mothering a kombucha, or feeding a sourdough starter. My fermentation obsession centers around one of the oldest vegetable preservations methods: Lacto-fermentation. If you’ve ever eaten a homemade sauerkraut or kimchi, you’ve eaten the results of lacto-fermentation. Let’s break down the how, why and what’s actually happening here.

How

Fermentation involves the cultivation of helpful bacteria while blocking the growth of malicious bacteria. With Lacto-fermentation, you are creating two barriers: oxygen and acid.

In the microbial world, there are aerobic bacteria (need oxygen to live) and anaerobic bacteria (don’t need oxygen to live). By eliminating oxygen from the equation, aerobic bacteria cannot survive. That’s your first barrier. Your second is acid. In the absence of oxygen, harmless lactic acid-producing bacteria (LAB) thrive and live on all vegetables. When provided food and no oxygen, they produce lactic acid. This prevents any acid intolerant bacteria from joining the fermentation party.

So how do you keep out oxygen? By submerging vegetables in the salty brine. When you salt your vegetables, water leeches out and creates a brine as it combines with veg juices. The salt helps maintain the vegetable’s texture during fermentation and provides minerals for your helpful bacteria.

To start a vegetable ferment, all you need is your vegetable(s) of choice and salt. That’s it.

1. Shred or finely chop your veg, exposing as much surface area as possible. Place everything in a clean bowl. No sanitization necessary, just good clean kitchen practices.

2. Sprinkle 1-1 ½ teaspoons of salt per pound of shredded or finely chopped vegetables. Aim for balanced salinity, starting with less since you can always add more salt later. Don’t be afraid to taste – just use a clean utensil and no double dipping!

3. Let veg and salt mingle covered for 30-45 min. There should be some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. That’s your brine!

4. Transfer veg and brine to a Mason jar or crock. Using a wooden spoon, cocktail muddler, or Vitamix plunger, press the veg down to extract more liquid and to eliminate any air pockets. To keep your veg under the brine, weigh it down with a plate or a zip lock bag filled with water.

5. For the best results, LAB enjoy 55-75°F temperatures and no direct sunlight. I keep mine in a closet on a sheet pan to catch any displaced brine. Most take 5-10 days to start getting a nice, sour flavor. Begin taste testing your ferment after day 5. Keep in mind that like people, LAB will be sluggish at colder temps, more active at warmer temps. When you think it’s ‘done,’ put it in the fridge to put a hold on fermentation.

Why

Here’s why you should try fermenting vegetables today:

– It’s healthy. You hear this about all ferments. But with vegetables (and fruits) you’ll be packing a probiotic and prebiotic punch. Microbes and fiber in one go. Ferments also retain nutrients like Vitamin C and help generate more B vitamins.

– It’s traditional. If your grandmother didn’t ferment pickles, certainly her grandmother did. It’s one of the oldest means of food preservation humans have. Consider it an edible history lesson.

– It’s safe. The chance of you culturing the wrong bacteria is slim. Brining and keeping veg submerged in that brine prevents unfriendly bugs from gaining a foot hold. LAB further protect your ferment by acidifying the brine.

– It’s quick. In the right conditions, your kraut or pickles can be ready in as little as 5-10 days. Keep your veg submerged, and all will be fine.

– It’s delicious. Sausage with sauerkraut? Korean bibimbap with Kimchi? Kosher dill pickles? All involve fermented vegetables. Acid pairs well with almost any dish.

What

Now that you want to try fermenting veg at home, what are you going to ferment? Cabbage is a natural choice. But that’s a bit boring. Here are 5 fruits and vegetables (other than cabbage) that you can ferment:

– Celeriac Root – That gnarly looking root in the produce section? Makes a fantastic ferment. It has that herby celery flavor, but it won’t get soggy when acid hits. Throw in paprika and a mild chili pepper for a kick.

– Eggplant – Need to whip up a quick spread or side dish? Fermented eggplant tastes like it’s been spiked with lemon juice, perfectly seasoned as a quick add in!

– Hot peppers – Fermented hot peppers makes a mean hot ‘n sour pepper sauce. Use red jalapenos or fresnos and garlic for a sambal like sauce.

– Basil – Whole leaves or finely chopped, both hold up to the fermentation process and make a killer pesto base.

– Lemons – Aka “preserved lemons” pack a punch in any stew or salad.

For more information, instructions, and inspiration, check out these resources:

– The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz

– Fermented Vegetables by Kristen K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey

Now that you’re armed with the basics of lacto-fermentation, go forth and ferment!

Author: Lena Sawin, Product Developer

Illustration: Matt Brown

Real Ingredients, Real Connections

Posted on: March 18th, 2016 by chewingnoises

Food defines us. It defines the tastes, textures, and feelings that flood through our memories. Food reminds us of are our firsts, our lasts, and our loves. The first time we had a peanut butter and jelly. The last time we ate a creamsicle on a warm summer’s night. The loved ones who fed us along the way.

For me, nothing causes an avalanche of emotions like a homemade ground beef burrito topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and Colorado green chili. Nothing is unique about this combination other than that this was the food headliner at every birthday dinner from the ages of 8 to 18. Those years might not mean much to you, but in my mind, they mean everything. First kiss. First time driving a car. First time voting. Last time seeing my grandparents. And great grandparents. And so on. Throughout all of that was my homemade ground beef burrito topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and Colorado green chili (with pork, not vegetarian, obviously. ha!).

It’s true that some food is best served cold while other food is best served hot. In my experience, all food is best served with emotion. Emotional connections with food (like my beloved burrito) shape who we are. Why else do we always emphasize that the food we’re eating is “Wisconsin” cheddar or “Vermont” maple syrup or “Colorado” green chili or <Insert Location Name> <Insert Dish>? For some people, it’s rooted in pride or prestige. For me, it’s tradition.

Emotional connections with food shape not only who we are but also who we want to be. For food embodies life. When meticulously prepared and nurtured at a recipe’s height of ripeness, food can help us transcend that moment. Why else do we food spot and post photos of the food we’re about to eat on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter? Why else is there even a foodspotting(.com) website for this purpose? (Recently acquired for $10 million dollars might I add.)

Food makes us feel like we’re better than perhaps we even are. Sushi does that for me. Delicately filleted, properly fine tuned and dressed, resulting in a rainbow of mouthwatering flavors and emotion. In my favorite sushi restaurant the chef actually serves each sushi (or sashimi) with simple instructions: “Eat as is, no soy sauce needed.” He’s right. I’ve never needed it.

Sometimes food embodies health for it defines how we have to be. In my life, some food comes out of necessity as the years tick by. The easiest example is salad. Shocking, I know. The trick is… 1.) Everything else in moderation and 2.) Forage for the delicious parts. Luckily, I love cool, crisp, fresh spinach with other goodies like green peppers, carrots, cheese, and almond slices. Throw in some ranch and… boom! Mind blown! I always tell myself…not too much ranch, but I only win that battle 60% of the time. I’m human.

Why salad? Admittedly it is the most prototypical and boring ‘healthy’ food. But I believe the food I eat shapes how healthy I can be for my wife and children. For others, it may determine how they want to look for their next date. Or how they want to perform on the athletic field. Or… <Insert Your Reason Here>.

In the end, real ingredients inspire real combinations that create real connections with real emotions. At its core, food can taste great, connect with consumers, and even challenge their tastes. Consumer foods can be more than just the perfunctory foods of yester year. They can establish indelible experiences and moments we’ll try to recreate endlessly.

Author: Les Morgret, Director of Food Science

Illustration: Matt Brown

Beyond Açaí: Meet These 5 Superfoods

Posted on: March 8th, 2016 by chewingnoises

Just when you learned how to pronounce açaí, it’s time to move on. Well, not move on but expand. Açaí’s hit the mainstream market and for good reason. Its health benefits hold up and the fruit adds a tropical flair even in the dead of winter. But there are other superfoods worth your dime. Plus, we all want to be that guy who drops something like “camu camu” in the office kitchen when a coworker asks what’s in your smoothie.

One tiny but important detail that’s often missed – for any of these superfoods to make an impact, you need to eat them regularly. If you simply fall in love with a flavor, then more power to you but know that the health claims depend on consumption. A spoonful every now and then won’t justify the price if you’re grabbing them for nutrition alone.

Goji

We’ll start you off with something you probably recognize but aren’t quite sure why it’s the rage. First off, anything that also goes by “wolfberry” is worth a second look. Goji berries have a sweet, tart flavor and are usually sold dried in bulk bins or packaged. They boast similar health benefits as açaí – high in antioxidants like vitamin C and a good source of fiber and iron. Like other super foods, you might see the occasional study claiming benefits like enhanced athletic performance or diabetes prevention but their antioxidant properties are unshakable. You could eat them on their own like a raisin, add them to oatmeal and yogurt, or bake them with turkey or pork to lend sweetness for a savory dish.

How much? A ¼ cup serving packs 180% of your recommended daily value of Vitamin A and 30% of Vitamin C.

Camu camu

This one grows in flooded areas of the Amazon rainforest, where its fruits and leaves are used mostly for medicinal purposes (think cold sores, shingles, common cold, etc.) The fruit’s chock full of vitamin C, potassium, serine (an amino acid key for digestion), leucine (another amino acid great for muscle and bone density), and flavonoids that act as antioxidants. The tart flavor can be slightly overpowering but you can find camu camu in powder form that’s perfect, once again, for blending into smoothies.

How much? A teaspoon has 1180% of your recommended daily value for vitamin C. That’ll do.

Baobab

A popular African fruit, baobab looks like a pale watermelon on a diet and tastes like a pear. This fruit has six times the vitamin C as an orange and twice the calcium as milk, and it’s packed with B vitamins, magnesium, and iron. Athletes love it too thanks to its high electrolyte content.

How much? A tablespoon of powder gives you a third of the fiber you need per day. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on fresh baobab, 100g of its pulp offers 10 times the amount of vitamin C as an orange.

Moringa

Moving on from fruits, moringa is a plant that grows in West Africa, South America and South Asia, particularly in climates with little water and poor soil. Thanks to its low maintenance and nutritional punch, some think it could be a good tool in fighting malnutrition. Gram per gram, moringa has twice the protein of yogurt, three times the potassium of bananas, four times the calcium of milk, and seven times the vitamin C of oranges. And the taste? The leaves are bitter but the powder tastes more like green tea.

How much? Two tablespoons of moringa leaf powder meet 60% of the recommended daily values for calcium, 84% for iron, 163% for Vitamin A, 226% of Vitamin E, and the list goes on…

Maca

You’ll typically find this root vegetable packaged in a powder form, and it’s been said to do everything from boost energy to increase muscle mass. Another fun fact? It’s a relative of the radish family yet somehow smells like butterscotch with a nutty flavor. Most people blend maca into drinks or add it to fruit salads, oatmeal, and raw desserts. If you want to use maca in a cooked food recipe, add it at the end because high heat alters some of the nutrients.

How much? To tap into maca’s benefits, you can start with 1 tablespoon daily and work your way up to 2-3 tablespoons throughout the day.

You might need to go to Whole Foods or your local co-op to find these super foods, but we bet they’ll follow the footsteps of açaí and hit major retailers soon. Also, there’s always the option to order through a natural online grocer like Thrive Market. And if you can’t find these superfoods no matter where you look, there’s always spinach. Now your turn – what other super foods do you know and love?

Illustration: Matt Brown