October 26, 2006

Recipe: Bee Pollen Popcorn

We recently went out for dinner at Gargoyles on the Square in Somerville, and were titillated by a menu that include a Petit Veal Cutlet with cream cheese noodles, bee pollen popcorn, cocoa nibs, and onion powder. (Yes, we do, on occasion, eat veal.) The bee pollen popcorn got more rave reviews than the rest of the meal combined - and it was a very good meal - so we vowed to recreate it at home. After submitting our results to a dinner party of nine on Sunday night and receiving ovations, we feel ready to share.

Note: DO NOT serve this dish to anyone allergic to bees. Also, don't be tempted to up the quotient of bee pollen unless you're accustomed to eating it. Bee pollen can cause an allergic reaction in anyone allergic to bees, and too much of it can cause gastrointestinal distress to anyone who isn't used to it. That said, it's chock full of B-vitamins and anti-oxidants and is said to boost immunity. Also, on popcorn, it tastes really good. (See the Herbal Information Center for more nutritional info on bee pollen.)

Here's the recipe:

Bee Pollen Popcorn a la Jess Brooks*
1/2 cup popcorn (unpopped)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon bee pollen**
Approximately 2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
Approximately 2 teaspoons sugar (to taste)

Heat oil over medium high heat in a large, heavy duty saucepan. Place 3 kernels of popcorn in saucepan and cover. When they pop, you'll know the oil is hot enough. Pour remaining popcorn kernels into saucepan and shake continuously until popping bascally stops, leaving lid open enough to release steam. (You'll want to wear oven mitts, because the pan will get quite hot.) Remove from heat.

Grind bee pollen to a fine powder in a coffee grinder or flax seed mill. Sprinkle over popcorn and stir. Add salt and sugar to taste and stir to ensure that bee pollen, salt and sugar are distributed evenly. Enjoy.

Makes a great accompaniment to soup or salad.

* Again, credit for originating this dish goes to the chef at Gargoyles on the Square. Thank you, Gargoyles, for broadening our palates and exciting our tastebuds once again.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 25, 2006

Organic Wine - Civitella Rosso

We just polished off a bottle of Civitella Rosso, an organic wine with a plucky little porcupine on its label, and cannot resist sharing it with the world.

It's made by Sergio Mottura, an estate winery in Umbria, from a combination of Montepulciano and Merlot grapes, and tasted just incredible with our butternut squash tart. Evidently it's also quite delicious with pizza, duck, barbecue, and roast chicken. Yum.

We bought ours at Hi-Rise Bakery. You can buy yours from a wine importer in Colorado.

Available at Bacco Imports.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

The Ginger People Ginger Soother

Editor's Note: Earlier this summer, we posted a brutally honest review of Synergy Trilogy Kombucha Tea. As you may remember, we (ahem) weren't crazy about it. So, what are we drinking these days? Funny you should ask....

Within the stomach, loins and lung,
Praise of hot ginger rightly may be sung
It quenches thirst, revives, excites the brain,
And in old age awakes love again.

This poem, from Toussaint-Samat's A History of Food, appears on the back of Ginger Soother, a new ginger, honey and lemon flavored drink from The Ginger People. We can't vouch for the awakening of love in old age bit, but one sip definitely has us singing the praises of this tasty little drink.

Made with Chinese yellow ginger, Ginger Soother has 19 grams of ginger per serving. Ginger is a powerful antioxidant with a number of healing properties - soothing sore throats, warming internal organs, and easing nausea. Better yet, it's delicious -- refreshing, spicy, not too sweet. Could be just what the doctor ordered to get you out of your beverage rut.

Available at The Ginger People.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 24, 2006

Bump and Grind: Grinding Flax Seeds

In our review of Uncle Sam's Cereal, we mentioned that you get more nutrional value out of ground flax seeds than whole ones. So, asks the astute reader, how do I get my flax seeds ground? Well, there are a couple of options.

First, you can buy your flax seeds pre-ground. Products like Barlean's Forti-Flax contain flax seed meal which are convenient and can be used straight from the jar. The challenge here is that flax seeds lose their nutritional value when exposed to air and light, so you'll need to keep them refrigerated.

You can also grind them yourself with a flax seed mill - whole flax seeds are far less expensive than ground seeds, and that way, you're only grinding the seeds you're planning to use right there and then.

A number of health food stores sell flax seed mills. We like the look of the William Bound Electric Flax Seed Mill, pictured at right, which has three speed settings for coarse, medium and fine grind, and comes with a cleaning brush.

We grind our flax seeds in a regular coffee grinder. Not as fancy as a flax seed mill, but it definitely does the trick.

Seem like too much work to buy a grinder and flax seeds? Wheatgrass Kits sells a Flax Seed Grinding Kit that includes everything you need to get more flax in your diet - the grinder, 5 pounds of flax seeds, and Johanna Budwig's book Flax Seeds as a True Aid Against Arthritis, Heart Infarction, Cancer and Other Diseases.

Buy flax seed-related products

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 23, 2006

Sam's Your Uncle: Review of Uncle Sam Cereal

Really Natural reader Matt from Quincy, MA recently suggested that we offer up a review of Uncle Sam Cereal, his favorite breakfast meal, which he'd been forced to order on Amazon when his local Whole Foods stopped carrying it.

According to Wikipedia,


Uncle Sam Cereal is a ready-to eat breakfast cereal first introduced in 1908 and is presently manufactured and marketed by natural food manufacturer U.S. Mills of Needham, Massachusetts.
It was that year that company founder Lafayette Coltrin of Omaha was instructed by his personal physician to add flaxseed to his diet. Coltrin so enjoyed the taste of toasted flaxseed on the whole wheat flakes he ate for breakfast that he decided to market the combination. Given his resemblance to Uncle Sam, Coltrin named his new cereal after him. The top-hatted silhouette of "Uncle Sam" on the box is, in fact, Coltrin's.

The cereal consists solely of vitamin-enriched toasted whole wheat kernels pressed flat into flakes. Whole, toasted flaxseed is then mixed with the flakes. The result is a high-fiber, ready-to-eat cereal with a low glycemic index and, because of the flaxseed, an exceptionally high amount of omega-3 per serving.

So that's the background.

On a recent visit , our Whole Foods had Uncle Sam in stock, so we recently picked up a box and dug into it yesterday morning. Long story short: Matt's right; it's delicious.

Some tasting notes: We bought original Uncle Sam, because the original is the original, and also because it only cost $1.99 at our Whole Foods (vs. $3.69 for Uncle Sam Mixed Berries). As mentioned above, the cereal has a low glycemic index because of its whole grain wheat flakes and whole toasted flax seeds; it's also got 10 grams of fiber per one cup serving. The flakes are surprisingly (and pleasantly) crunchy - not hard like some healthy cereals which make us feel like we might lose a tooth. And though it filled us up until lunchtime, it was tasty and light.

Two quibbles, or items worth noting: First, there is a note on the box which encourages you to shake it vigorously before opening to better distribute the flax seeds. Do not forget to shake the box. Second, we've read that for maximum health benefit, you should grind your flax seeds before eating them because whole flax seeds are hard to digest. So be sure to chew thoroughly.

Buy Uncle Sam Cereal.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 19, 2006

Which Fish is Safe to Eat?

The Harvard School of Public Health and the Institute of Medicine released conflicting studies yesterday detailing the health benefits and the risks of eating fish. The Harvard study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says the cardiovascular health benefits from eating fish high in omega-3's outweighs the risk of contaminants such as PCBs. The Institute of Medicine is less optimistic, saying eating a diet rich in fish "may" reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.

As reported in The New York Times, both studies have come under fire from environmental groups and the Consumers Union for neglecting to address the risk of mercury in tuna. Nutrition experts like Marion Nestle argue that consumers are already confused about which seafood is safe to eat; these studies won't make it any clearer.

So, what's a concerned consumer to do? Check out Ocean's Alive or the Monterey Bay Aquarium website for downloadable guides to which fish are safe to eat.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 13, 2006

Weekend Reading: Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen

grub.jpg
"What is GRUB?" ask Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry, authors of a new book which bears that name. They then proceed to answer the question dictionary definition style:

1. grub is healthy, local, sustainable food for all 2. grub is food that supports community, justice, and sustainability 3. grub should be universal

Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen is the first collaboration between Lappe, co-author (with her mother Francis Moore Lappe) of Hope's Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet and Terry, a chef and food justice activist. Designed to offer readers compelling reasons to eat food that is organic, local and "fair," it combines education around the differences between "fake" food filling supermarkets and locally produced organics with recipes and suggestions for healthier eating and living. The book includes 24 simple, seasonally-themed menus designed to inspire readers to think about their food and have fun with it.

Check out the book's website for recipes, ideas, and Lappe's own blog.

Buy Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 10, 2006

Forage Your Food!

God, the farmer's market is so passe. According to The Sunday Times, these days, all the cool kids are foraging their food.

You can hardly strike up a conversation these days without a "lovely little farmers' market" this and a "supporting an entire Guatemalan village" that. Once you're on the bandwagon, it's clear the bandwagon can run out of control pretty quickly.

Which might explain why I am standing in the sludgy shallows of the River Severn, eating bits of vegetation I find swirling around my wellies. I am foraging for my supper, which is either incredibly sophisticated and will trump any other food show-off for some time to come, or is incredibly unsophisticated and won't. I suspect it's both.

Read more.

Via Treehugger.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 9, 2006

Lunchbox Treat: Crispy Green Fruit Snacks

Trick or treat. Smell my feet. Give me some...freeze dried fruit?!

That's the message from Crispy Green, makers of a series of freeze dried fruit snacks, samples of which arrived at the Really Natural offices a couple of weeks ago. The company uses the same basic principles used by breakfast cereal makers to make the red berries in your Special K so tasty, and then packages the fruit in single-serving snack packs that make it easy to get your apples, peaches or apricots on the go. According to Crispy Green's press release, the snacks would make a "frighteningly healthy" alternative to sugary Halloween candy. We tried the snacks, and sent some home with our co-workers to see how their kids would like 'em.

Parents praised the convenience, healthfulness and simplicity of the product. Each snack package contains a single serving of fruit, the equivalent of which is listed on the package (e.g. one cup of apple, two apricots, or one medium peach). The ingredients are simple - just the fruit itself - and each bag contains 40 calories or less. Folks also liked the fruit's "lunchbox-ability" - unlike a regular peach which might squish or bruise on the way to work, or cut fruit, which would turn brown if left in a lunchbox all morning, the Crispy Peaches stay fresh, crunchy and delicious in their little vacuum sealed bags.

One colleague lamented all the packaging that goes into single serving snacks, but noted that Crispy Green is hardly the only snackmaker to go this route. And the fact is, single servings aren't just easy to pack; they also make it easy to monitor serving sizes.

Size-wise, folks noted that the individual snack bags of fruit work better as lunchbox addition than as a stand-alone snack. "If this was all my kids ate when they got home from school, they'd need to eat three packages." Then again, three servings of fruit vs. three chocolate chip cookies? You be the judge.

The final and most important question: How did they taste? Michelle's boys, Alex, Colin and Caleb, ages 5-9, loved 'em - for lunchboxes, an afternoon snack, or even Halloween. Caleb thinks they're better than a Snickers bar. Mike's kids said A-OK for lunch, but don't try to swap them for candy at the end of October. The grown-ups in the office were also big fans, though we weren't quite ready to give up the leftover candy. I liked mine in the morning over yogurt.

According to Crispy Green's website, the Trenton Times called the fruit snacks "one of the most wholesome new snacks to come out of New Jersey during the past few years." We find that statement itself kind of funny, but we don't doubt it.

Crispy Green fruit snacks cost $7.99 for a 6-pack or $81.50 for a case.

Available at Crispy Green.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 6, 2006

Fall Foliage Without the Raking: Eleni's Cookies

Okay, this is stretching the limits of "natural, wholesome and organic" but there are some things we just can't resist. Like these cute little squirrel cookies, sitting on a pile of autumn leaves and acorns. Yep. They are irresistable.

Eleni's of New York City offers these "Fall Foliage" cookies in two varieties - ginger spice and sugar. Squirrels, acorns, and bright colored leaves you don't have to rake. What more could you ask?

Eleni's uses all natural ingredients - you know, sugar, butter, flour. So while the cookies aren't "organic," they should at least get points for "wholesomeness." And after all that raking outside, don't you deserve a little treat?

Eleni's is currently offering a 10% discount on all web orders delivered by October 12th. Enter promotion code FALLFOLIAGE06 at check out. And save us a squirrel!

Available at Eleni's.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

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