January 16, 2007

Moral Fiber: Gnu Foods' Flavor and Fiber Gnu Bar

GroupShotAD.jpgLooking for a way to break out of your afternoon snacking rut? A tasty, all natural alternative to your Balance Bar? Or maybe you're searching for something to spice up your morning when the bowl of Kashi with blueberries just isn't cutting it. Something healthy, low calorie, high fiber, and quick -- that you can grab and go, eat on the run, and feel good about. Well, we've recently come across something that moves us - in all senses of the word - the Chocolate Brownie Flavor and Fiber Gnu Bar from Gnu Foods.

Gnu Bars
are billed as "functional foods" - designed with health and dietary benefits in mind. Each bar contains 12 grams of dietary fiber (about half the recommended daily value). Plus, they're low fat, contain no high fructose corn syrup, and have only 140 calories per bar. (Compare that to a Balance Bar, which has 200 calories, high fructose corn syrup and other sugars, and contains only 1 gram of fiber per bar.) For those counting Weight Watchers points, Gnu Bars weigh in at 2 points per bar, compared to 4 points for my beloved Luna Bar Lemon Zest, and 5 or more points for the Balance Bar - yikes!

medium-orngcranpack.jpgGnu Bars come in four flavors: Chocolate Brownie, Cinnamon Raisin, Orange Cranberry and Banana Walnut. We did a taste test here at the office, and consensus was -- well, they're actually all surprisingly good. Chocolate Brownie was the hands down favorite (except for the non-chocolate lover), followed by Cinnamon Raisin, Orange Cranberry and Banana Walnut. The taste was characterized as "somewhere between Power Bar and Lara Bar, but really good," "flavorful and chewy," and "definitely more filling than a Luna Bar." Plus, we all agreed that with 50% of the recommended DV of fiber, and no added sugar (except in the Chocolate Brownie Bar, which has real chocolate chips), this bar actually qualifies as a healthy snack.

Gnu Bars are recommended (and, in fact, designed for) people who are trying to get more fiber into their diets. (And honestly, whether we're willing to admit it or not, all of us should be.) If you're not quite ready to come to terms with your fiber needs - I, for one, am NOT ready to start drinking Metamucil (though I do check the daily fiber in my breakfast cereals) - they're a great way to make sure you're getting the fiber you need without mixing up a glass of that telltale orange powder. They're a great snack to keep in your desk -- way better than cookies or other so-called "nutrition bars" -- and at least according to two of the parents in the office, they'd be great to pack in lunchboxes.

Available at GnuFoods.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

January 3, 2007

Newman Organic Dark Chocolate Bar

newman organic chocolate.jpgDealing with post-holiday chocolate withdrawal? Try weaning yourself with these: organic dark chocolate bars from Newman Organics. Dark chocolate with just a hint of orange. All organic, and the profits go to charities supported by Newman Organics.

Available from Newman's Own Organics.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

December 21, 2006

Homemade Cranberry Almond Granola Recipe

Here's something for folks who'd rather make their gifts than head to the store for a last minute shopping frenzy. Or who think spending quality time with the family is more important than material things - and if you can end up with something tasty to give away at the end of it, so much the better. Think of this as my gift to you.

Jess's Cranberry Almond Granola Recipe
(Adapted from Eating Well Magazine)
granola.jpg
2/3 cup frozen concentrated apple juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

5 cups oats
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two cookie sheets (with sides) with parchment paper, or grease them.

Place frozen juice concentrate, maple syrup, brown sugar and oil in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and turn off heat. Stir in cinnamon and salt.

Mix oats, almonds, sunflower seeds and wheat germ in a large mixing bowl. Add wet ingredients and stir to incorporate.

Distribute mixture evenly on two cookie sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring once. Reverse sheets and rotate top sheet to bottom oven rack and vice versa. Bake for another 15 minutes, untiil granola is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets.

Mix in the cranberries and transfer to mason jars. I like to tie a raffia bow around the top to make them more festive. Granola will keep for two months stored in the mason jars.

Enjoy with yogurt or milk.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

December 13, 2006

Not So Natural, but Oh-So-Delicious: Clementines and Cappuccino Truffles

Looking for a simple yet sophisticated holiday dessert that will have your guests oohing, ahhing and asking for more? One that requires basically zero prep time, and might even count as healthy? images.jpegt.2003jan19_clementines.jpgWell, you should probably keep looking, but I can tell you about something that knocked my socks off in Whole Foods yesterday afternoon:

Clementines and Cappuccino Truffles.

Recipes for Cappuccino Truffles abound on the Web. Amazon sells a pretty cool make-your-own-truffles kit which looks positively gourmet. Me, I was happy to plunk down four bucks and change for the Whole Foods variety, which had me moaning in the produce aisle.

Clementines are at their peak right now, so don't dillydally. Pick up a box, and next time you have the neighbors over, prepare them to be impressed.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

November 17, 2006

Wekend Reading: What to Eat by Marion Nestle

whatframe.jpgWhat to Eat: An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices by Marion Nestle is this week's weekend reading. Nestle is a professor of nutrition at the NYU School of Public Health. I guess you could say she wrote the book on food politics. (In fact, she is the author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, a 2003 book that started much of the conversation around food and health that's taking place today. )

Explaining the inspiration for the new book, published this spring, she writes

What to Eat is is a book about how to make sensible food choices. Consider that today’s supermarket is ground zero for the food industry, a place where the giants of agribusiness compete for your purchases with profits—not health or nutrition—in mind. This book takes you on a guided tour of the supermarket, beginning in the produce section and continuing around the perimeter of the store to the dairy, meat, and fish counters, and then to the center aisles where you find the packaged foods, soft drinks, bottled waters, baby foods, and more. Along the way, it tells you just what you need to know about such matters as fresh and frozen, wild and farm-raised, organic and “natural,” and omega-3 and trans fats. It decodes food labels, nutrition and health claims, and portion sizes, and shows you how to balance decisions about food on the basis of freshness, taste, nutrition, and health, but also social and environmental issues and, of course, price.

I cannot begin to tell you how much fun this book has been to research and write. It turned out to be as challenging a project as any I have ever undertaken, but also a lot more entertaining. Every time I walked into a supermarket, I discovered something new and often unsuspected. The most seemingly mundane products (eggs! bottled water!) led me to discoveries I had not even imagined possible. I found something astonishing—and often quite amusing—in every section of the store. I hope that you are just as amazed and amused reading this book as I was while writing it. I also hope that you put it to immediate use. Enjoy, eat well, and change the world (for the better, of course).

Available at What to Eat.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

November 15, 2006

How to Make Your Thanksgiving Dinner Sustainable

turkey2.jpgOkay, you've got your organic turkey. Looking for more ideas to make your Thanksgiving dinner sustainable? Shirley Gregory has these tips:

First, start with a local harvest. The first Thanksgiving featured a regional bounty of fruits, vegetables, grains and meats native to the 17th Century Plymouth, Massachusetts, landscape, such as deer, lobster, dried gooseberries, pumpkin (though probably not pumpkin pie as we know it) and rabbit. While that menu might not please the modern holiday crowd, you can celebrate your own area’s bounty by buying as many fixings – potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, apples, pumpkins, squash and more – at your local farmer’s market instead of at a chain grocery store, where much of the food is trucked from hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Second, make the centerpiece of your dinner table a sustainably, humanely raised turkey. Check your local food co-ops or farmer’s markets, or search online for organic poultry farms in your area (be sure to start looking well ahead of time). And if you can find a heritage turkey producer (someone who raises historic American turkey sub-breeds, as opposed to the Large White variety that dominates industrial farms) in your area, all the better; people who choose these types of birds claim they are firmer, richer and more flavorful than standard turkeys.

Third, invest in a nice set of cloth dinner napkins. A set of four sateen-finish, organic cotton napkins might set you back $12 to $19 or more, but you won’t have to buy attractive paper napkins for the rest of the holidays … or the coming year. Even if you figure you spend only $2.50 every two months on ordinary paper napkins, that amounts to $15 for the year, and contributes a lot of waste to the environment as well.

Fourth, serve organic juices, milk, beer or wine with dinner, as opposed to standard beverages. Your local food co-op should offer a variety of organic beverages, and you can often find a few organic beers and wines at your larger grocery or liquor stores. Among the breweries and vineyards that produce organic beverages are Dogfish Head Brewing Co., Frey Vineyards, Silver Thread Vineyard and Sprecher Brewery, which also creates natural sodas.

Via Associated Content.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

November 14, 2006

Where to Buy Organic, Free-Range Turkey

turkey.jpgThanksgiving is approaching. Have you ordered your organic, free-range turkey yet? Our local farm stand is taking orders; so is Whole Foods. The question is this: What should you look for in your organic bird?

As you probably know, organic means different things to different people. There are a lot of buzz words flying around out there - cage-free, organic, antibiotic free, free-range, to name a few - that may or may not get you what you need. As Michael Pollan points out in The Omnivore's Dilemma, "free-range" may conjure the image of birds romping freely across green pastures, but the reality is it may still mean birds are packed tightly into confined spaces with only a small entry to the outdoors. Don't believe the hype.

Wholesome Harvest has a great breakdown of the different terminology, and what it signifies. The site makes a good case for why organic may be the minimum standard you should look for, and why "beyond organic" can be a better way to go.

Not sure what you're getting from your local grocery store when you buy an organic bird? Ask questions.

Want to buy your bird online? Here are some sites that can help you do it:

Local Harvest can help you find a local farm near you
Sustainable Table talks about heritage breeds of turkeys, and Slow Food USA has a list of farms that raise them
Wholesome Harvest is a coalition of over 40 concerned small family farms committed to "beyond organic" agriculture
D'Artagnan is selling organic birds on Amazon

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

November 1, 2006

Annie's Cheddar Bunnies - Like Goldfish, Only Better

We love it when someone takes a favorite food from our childhood and makes it better. Like Natural White Cheddar Cheetos. The Cheetos taste you remember, but made with real cheddar cheese. So while they may not be good for you, you can feel just a little bit better about eating them. (Okay, it's a stretch. But they're just so darn good.)

Anyway, we feel the same way about Annie's Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies. And this time, we think it's legit. Annie's are made with real cheddar cheese and organic wheat flour. They're made without hydrogenated oils (look ma, no trans fat!), and they're baked, not fried.

You can buy them in a large box or a tray of six 1 oz single serving snack packs (depending on whether you want to conserve packaging or control your portions). And bunnies are just plain cute.

Available at Annie's Homegrown.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 31, 2006

Happy (Healthy) Halloween, Really Natural Readers!

It's Halloween. Time for trick-or-treating, and with it, big bags of candy. Does that mean those of us at Really Natural are hiding our heads under a sheet?

Nope. We embrace our inner monster and give in to dressing up, ringing doorbells, and yes, all the tasty treats that go along with it. But we also keep an eye out for more wholesome ways to celebrate. If we're going to be digging in to Kit Kats and Snickers Bars, we might as well make sure we get our fruits and veggies in as well.

Whole Foods is there to lend a hand with their guide to Halloween Party Recipes and Tips. In addition to the cute little clementine jack-o-lanterns pictured at right, they've got recipes for Crunchy Bones Party Snack Mix and Halloween Mini Meatballs in Bloody Barbecue Sauce.

More at Whole Foods.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 30, 2006

Save Us Obi Wan Cannoli -- Welcome Baby Ewan!

There's a new kid on the blog(pire). Blogpire Prez Jay Brewer, his wife Maya, and their daughter, Anya, welcomed a new baby into the world this weekend. In honor of brand new baby Ewan, we'd like to revisit a classic video that had us in hysterics when it first made the rounds: Grocery Store Wars, a short film by the Organic Trade Association.

Watch Cuke Skywalker, Princess Lettuce and Ham Solo do battle against the Darth Tater and the dark side of the farm. Giggle at Tofu D2 and C3 Peanuts. Roar like Chewbroccoli. And take some satisfaction in knowing that the folks who care about organic foods also have a sense of humor about it.

Use the Farm, Cuke. Obi (e)Wan, this one's for you.

View Store Wars.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

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