Green Cooking – Kitchen Efficiency Tips and Tricks

March 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Cooking, Eco-Friendly, Energy, Front Page, Homes, Slideshow

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"Green cooking" is more than eating organic and local; it also includes saving energy by wise appliance use. Photo: © WavebreakMediaMicro - Fotolia.com

Today’s post is by Mark Moran, who works for Toaster Oven Guide. Mark offers tips about making your cooking more efficient. As you might also expect, he suggests using a toaster oven as an alternative to large ovens and microwaves. If you have a toaster oven, please let us all know what you think. Do you find it more efficient than a full-sized oven? Do you agree with Mark that it’s a great cooking alternative? What other energy-saving tips would you add? — Julia Wasson, Publisher


Many of us spend a lot of time in our kitchens, but at what costs? Consider this:

  • The kitchen uses the most energy of any room in the home.
  • It can cost a lot of energy, time, and money just to make one meal, depending on how you make it.
  • Outdated kitchen appliances can waste a lot of water and power; they can also produce large amounts of CO2 emissions.

Refrigeration

Fresh vegetables and fruits require refrigeration, one great place to save money in the kitchen. Photo: © Lev Olkha - Fotolia.com

One good tip is that efficient refrigeration is a big part of efficient cooking. You can’t cook if you don’t have raw materials, right? So, if you want to cook more efficiently, you also need to look at how you use your refrigerator. Start by looking at the age of the refrigerator.

  • On average, an older refrigerator uses about 1,700 kWh of energy per year.
  • Newer refrigerators use about 700 kWh of energy per year.

What that translates to is that you can save about 1,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per year by getting a new refrigerator, especially one that has a high Energy Star-certified rating. You can also save a lot of money in the process.

One of the best things that you can do to save money and conserve energy when you cook is to plan your fridge use. For instance, if you know that you need five ingredients out of your fridge, get them all out at the same time. If you open the fridge door five different times, you only waste more energy. To be precise, you can lose anywhere from 5% to 25% or more of the energy efficiency from your fridge by frequently opening the fridge door when you don’t absolutely need to.

Have you ever found yourself staring blankly into your fridge when you’re trying to cook? Another tip is that every trip into your fridge should be an exercise in efficiency. Know what you want and where it is and get in and out as quickly as you can.

7 Tips to Extend Your Efficiency

Extend that sort of efficiency to everything that you do in your kitchen. For instance:

  • Set up efficient stations in an assembly line format in your kitchen. Each one should be for a certain task, like chopping meat.
  • Make sure that you only have to wash your hands a minimum number of times to avoid contamination. That will save time, water and soap.
  • Install a low-flow aerator on your kitchen faucet.
  • Make sure to keep your vacuum your refrigerator coils at least twice a year.
  • Don’t pre-heat an oven unless the recipe wants you to.
  • Turn off your oven a few minutes early and let the remaining heat do the remaining cooking.
  • Don’t use your large oven unless you have to.

The Great Cooking Debate

Finally, there’s often a huge debate over how to cook. For instance, cooking food in a large oven takes quite a while. It also uses a lot of energy and puts out a lot of heat and CO2 emissions. Not to mention the fact that it can take a long time to clean an oven. Stove tops, meanwhile, are good for some things—like boiling pasta—but not others. You can’t bake a pizza on a stove top, for instance. The same goes for a crock pot.

A microwave is probably the fastest way to cook food. So, if you want to save time and energy, it might seem like a good option. However, there are situations where toaster ovens are a much better option. A Breville toaster oven or other modern toaster oven can often make up to 6 slices of toast at a time. They’re also capable of cooking many other items in less time than a large oven and with better flavor than a microwave.

Common Sense

When it comes to saving time, money, and emissions while you cook, use only what you need to, and use it only how and when you need to. Cooking can still be fun, even while being efficient. In fact, you’re likely to enjoy cooking even more, if you know that you are saving money, time and energy in the kitchen.

Mark Moran

Guest Writer

Website: Toaster Oven Guide

Blue Planet Green Living

T. I. Williams, Contributing Writer

T. I. Williams is a baker and live foods chef-educator based in New York City and, on occasion, Jamaica. Williams explains her philosophy at Live Sip this way:

T. I. Williams, owner of Live Sip. Photo courtesy: T. I. Williams

T. I. Williams, owner of Live Sip. Photo courtesy: T. I. Williams

Every food that is perfect is in easy reach. Live Sip teaches people about food in their most vital states to help folks eat a lil’ bit of what’s perfect and good every day… slow foods, traditional foods, raw foods, complete foods, grandma’s foods… We support the foods that have sustained humankind for most of our existence.

T. I. Williams

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

T. I.’s Posts

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The New Deal Supper Club – A Moveable Feast

The New Deal – A Progressive Supper Club

A Stroll through the Farmer’s Market

David Garman sells whole grain sunflower bread. Photo: Lindsay Rice

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, summer will officially make her debut on Saturday, but Nature’s bounty is already being harvested. If your community has a farmer’s market, consider yourself lucky, indeed. Grab your canvas bag or a little red wagon, and gather up fresh, local fruits and veggies, plants, honey, and baked goods. Tables loaded with luscious, ripe produce are as much a feast for the eyes and soul as they are for the palate.

Whether or not there’s a farmer’s market in your community, we invite you to stroll along with Personal Chef Lindsay Rice through Iowa City’s downtown Farmer’s Market, sampling the wares of local farmers and other enterprising ecopreneurs. We bet your mouth will be watering before you’re finished reading. — Julia Wasson, Publisher


How about some garlic scapes from Adelyn’s Organic Gardens in Tiffin, Iowa? Photo: Lindsay Rice

What to have for dinner? It’s that ever-present question that we ask ourselves night after night, meal after meal. To keep things fresh, I love to take a walk through the farmer’s market to determine my dinner. Early summer at the Iowa City downtown market provides many ingredients to build wonderful meals. Farmers are offering great abundance from their fields now, including fresh strawberries, glistening radishes, green onions, fresh-baked breads, tomatoes, cilantro, and dill.

Sometimes an obscure vegetable can be the inspirational starting point. Hmm... What can I build around garlic scapes? Can kohlrabi slices line the salad plate? How about beets tossed in lemon juice and locally made olive oil, with a drop of Iowa honey?

Farmers are often all too happy to provide instruction and insight about what to do with odd vegetables. When the farmers of Adelyn’s Organic Gardens sold me a $1 bunch of garlic scapes, they told me to cut them like green beans, avoid using the pointy ends, and sauté or fry them with soy and ginger, and meat or veggies.

Eric Menzel from Salt Fork Farm just south of Mt. Vernon, Iowa, said to cut off the tough root and fibrous leaves of kohlrabi, then cut up the bulb. “It’s crisp and sweet,” he said. “Eat it raw, make a slaw, or mash it with potatoes.”

Farmers also often have creative ways of using familiar veggies. After all, they often have great abundances on the farm and quickly get creative when facing yet another pound of broccoli or radishes on their dinner table.

"Try roasting radishes," said the farmer from Pure Prairie Gardens, Mt. Vernon, IA. Photo: Lindsay Rice

The farmer from Pure Prairie Gardens, Mt. Vernon, Iowa told me to try roasting radishes: Slice or leave whole, toss with olive oil, and place in a roasting pan. Roast for 5–10 minutes, then take out of the oven, and sprinkle with sea salt. “Radishes are sweet, delicious, and retain color this way,” he told me.

Also try little cucumber sandwiches: Squirt a bit of lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt on thinly sliced cucumbers. Then pile them on cubes of toasted sunflower bread that has been lightly brushed with farmer’s market olive oil. Ineichen Tomatoes from Blue Grass, Iowa has the best burpless cucumbers I’ve tasted.

Heap green lettuce leaves on a plate... Photo: Lindsay Rice

If you are short on time, the market also offers some ready-made items from local chefs and restaurants. Try incorporating Russian perogies, fried spring rolls, or fresh-veggie spring rolls as an appetizer. Cut the steps of making a sauce or dressing by purchasing Leaf Kitchen’s sesame or ginger salad dressings.

Cocina Del Mundo has great rubs and spices for the grill — like Citrus Honey Mesquite BBQ Rub and Smoked Alder Meat Rub (try them on lamp chops, beef or elk steaks you can also find at the market). They also sell packaged grain, bean, and soup mixtures that just need water and a touch of olive oil. Try exciting flavors like the Cashew Coconut Rice, and Bayou Rice and Beans packages.

Make a Mexican feast by starting with chicken, pork or vegetable tamales from La Reyna, a container of green salsa and a platter of roasted beets and radishes. Heap green lettuce leaves on a platter as an accompaniment. Or start with the tasty green leaves and pile Iowa-grown bacon from Pavelka’s Point Meats, along with sharp green onions, and juicy red or yellow tomatoes.

What to do with kohlrabi? Photo: Lindsay Rice

My personal favorite market catchall is a quiche. Roll out some dough, buy a dozen eggs from a Kalona farmer’s market stall and all the veggies that spark your fancy — plus an optional bit of meat from the market and a bunch of fresh herbs. Bake it all with that bit of cheese left in the fridge. Some of my favorite combinations include: asparagus, yellow squash, and tomato or spinach, ham, shallot, and dill.

There is no shortage of homemade desserts at the market. Cindy Cary gets up at quarter after four in the morning to bake 98 pies for the market, so you don’t have to. She has a variety of flavors: peach, cherry, red raspberry, apple, and pecan. Her small-tin pies cost $3 and are perfect for two, with a half-scoop of ice cream or yogurt.

Many vendors sell other tasty treats, like pumpkin bars, chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes and Rice Crispy treats. And if it’s a movie night, pick up a bag of Kettle Korn made in giant steaming poppers right at the market. And don’t forget to grab a delicately arranged bouquet of flowers from Barbara’s Country Flowers for your table.

Now go home and enjoy your very own feast. Summer won’t last forever.

Lindsay Rice

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Rare or Well Done?

June 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Cooking, Food Safety, Front Page, Health

Eating charred meat is a potential cause of cancer. Photo: © Sima - Fotolia.com

You light the grill. You prep the meat. You cook it: Blackened and charred, well done, pink in the center, or still mooing when it hits the plate… the range of preferences is vast. But which is better for you? Or does it even matter? In the last few days, I’ve read several sources that have me wondering whether there is any safe way to cook meat.

An article in the Daily Mail, a publication from the UK, warned to not eat meat that is over-cooked. Columnist David Derbyshire reported, “In a nine year study of more than 62,000 subjects, those who liked their steak well done were found to be almost 60 percent more likely to develop cancers of the pancreas, colon, stomach and prostate.” Derbyshire was referencing a study by Dr. Kristin Anderson of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, who was investigating the connection between charred meat and pancreatic cancer. 60%? Suddenly that charred appearance of a steak on the grill doesn’t look so appetizing.

Danger in the Flames

Flames and smoke from the grill transfer harmful substances to the meat. Photo: © Artyshot-Fotolia.com

Following news of Anderson’s study, Dr. Mercola (mercola.com) warned that anytime meat is cooked too fast or at too high a temperature, three harmful chemicals are created in or on the meat. This is true whether the meat is grilled or fried.

  • Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs): These form when food is grilled at high temperatures, searing the meat, creating blackened or burned areas of the muscle fibers. Those blackened grill lines, the parts that actually sit on the steel grid of your grill, or any sections of the meat that should become burned to a black color, are the most dangerous; those are the areas you should avoid, because they are linked to cancer. How bad is the cancer risk from HCAs? Eating a lot of flame-grilled meats (especially chicken) can raise your risk of pancreatic cancer from the average of 1 person in 10,000 to a shocking 1 in 50.
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): When cooking on the grill, you’re bound to see flare-ups caused by fat that drips onto hot coals. The flames rise up and engulf the meat, searing the flesh. Often, this results in blackened sections where the heat is highest. Sometimes you’ll also see small billows of smoke surrounding the meat. In either case, cancer-causing PAHs are being transferred to the food you are about to ingest.
  • Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs): High temperatures increase the formation of AGEs in food. This happens even when the food is being sterilized or pasteurized, not just when it’s being grilled. Eating food cooked at high heat transfers AGEs to your body. The result can be higher incidences of kidney disease, heart disease, and diabetes.

Digestion Difficulties

There’s another problem with overcooking meat, and this is especially important if you have any digestive difficulties to begin with, according to Nancy Appleton, Ph.D. When food is cooked at too high a heat or cooked too long, your body has more trouble digesting it. This causes the food to stay in your digestive system longer, as your body works to break it down.

Your body is designed to make use of food at the cellular level, but because overcooked food doesn’t break down very well, it’s not readily available. If your body can’t make use of the food you put into it, you won’t function at an optimal level and can become ill.

The upshot is, don’t eat any meat that is burned, charred, or seared. That’s pretty hard to do when you’re cooking on a grill. Grilling is grilling because of the charring and searing. The article concluded that it’s best to eat meat that is raw or only lightly cooked. (Hey, I can do that with a Bic lighter.)

Cook Pork Thoroughly

But wait! The very next article that I read (on Wikipedia) contradicted that wisdom with the title: “Trichinosis and e-coli, the hazards of eating meat that is too raw.”

Trichinosis is caused by Trichinella species (also termed parasitic nematodes, intestinal worms, and roundworms) that initially enter the body when meat containing the Trichinella cysts (roundworm larvae) is eaten. For humans, undercooked or raw pork and pork products, such as pork sausage, has been the meat most commonly responsible for transmitting the Trichinella parasites.

These cysts, or eggs, are nasty little buggers. The enclosure breaks open inside your digestive track and the round worms become embedded in your stomach wall. First you feel stomach pains, and you experience diarrhea and vomiting. If the Trichinella parasite is discovered early, in the intestinal phase, medications like albendazole (Albenza) or mebendazole can be effective in eliminating the intestinal worms and larvae.

Eventually, the larvae enter the blood stream and settle into muscle tissue, where they feed. Once they enter the muscle invasion stage, there’s not a thing you can take for it, other than pain relievers. You’re stuck with these tiny invaders for the rest of your life. And don’t think trichinosis is a disease of the past. A research scientist friend of ours recently told us about observing slides of muscle tissue from a man who has trichinosis. He got it after eating undercooked pork at a family reunion right here in Iowa.

E. Coli Alert

Less than a year ago, U.S. media carried reports of raw spinach contaminated with E. coli and dozens of cases of E. coli-caused food poisoning from undercooked hamburger.

In a Wikipedia article on Escherichia coli (E. coli), I read, “Food poisonings caused by E. coli are usually associated with eating unwashed vegetables and meat contaminated post-slaughter. Meat has to be cooked well enough, or at a high enough temperature to kill the E. coli bacteria. O157:H7, one particularly nasty strain, is further notorious for causing serious and even life-threatening complications like hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). Severity of the illness varies considerably; it can be fatal, particularly to young children, the elderly or the immunocompromised.”

With modern methods of meat production, you never know what has happened to the meat before you bought it. An average pound of hamburger may contain meat from more than 500 different cattle. There’s no way of knowing which meat was contaminated or where it came from.

This hamburger could contain meat from some 500 cattle.

This hamburger could contain meat from 500 cattle. Photo: © Carolina K Smith MD - Fotolia.com

How prevalent is poisoning from E. coli? World wide, a strain of E. coli called ETEC causes more than 200 million cases of diarrhea and 380,000 deaths, mostly in children, every year. And that’s just one strain of four.

It’s important to thoroughly wash all raw meat before cooking it. And, as any experienced cook will tell you, it’s also necessary to wash all surfaces that came into contact with the raw meat. That’s because E.coli can be transmitted to other foods that touch a cutting board the meat sat on or a knife used to cut the meat. Finally, make sure to cook the meat hot enough and thoroughly enough to kill any E-coli bacteria on it.

These guidelines printed in the New York Times in 1996 are still used by the Department of Agriculture today:

  • Wash hands, utensils and work surfaces that touch raw meat and poultry before and after handling the food, using hot soapy water.
  • Do not allow raw meat or chicken to sit at room temperature for more than 30 minutes; refrigerate.
  • To prevent problems, cook food thoroughly.
  • Cook both beef and pork to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees, so that it is slightly pink. The fleshy parts of poultry should reach 180 degrees.

Weighing the Options

So what’s the right thing to do? Do you want to cook those chops or that steak till it’s well done, or eat it rare? Do you want to get cancer of the pancreas, colon, stomach or prostate? Or do you prefer to take your chances with the possibility of tiny worms burrowing into your muscle tissue, or getting sick from E-coli and possibly dying? For some people, this is a hard decision. But not for me.

That veggie burger’s looking better all the time. And pass the potato salad.

Joe Hennager

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Healthy Kids – Yours, Mine, Ours

I’ve been called diminutive, and I guess I am, at 5’2” and kinda thin. So when I walk anywhere with my son, who’s 6’4”, 330 lbs., no one believes I’m his mom. In fact, when he was little, people thought I was his nanny — he was so big compared to me even then.

Chef Helen Sandler with a spread of all natural foods. Photo courtesy of Helen Sandler

Chef Helen Sandler with a spread of all natural foods. Photo courtesy of Helen Sandler

His high school football team had a good laugh when I walked onto the field with him during Mom’s Day. His dream was to be an NFL defensive lineman, and although his workout routine still, at 24, equals NFL stats, he changed his direction to pursue another lifelong dream unrelated to sports. Most of his friends are athletes, and most of them stayed with us at one point or another. And they all came to know and really appreciate the food he was brought up on — whole grains, greens, beans, and sugars all as organic as I could find and cooked at home from scratch. Before their next visit, they’d phone in their orders to me or through him. Feeding a football team, if you’ve never done it, even for a few days, can be daunting. But surprise of surprise, they finished it all and wanted more.

DOC APPLAUDS OUR LIFESTYLE

My son ate his first beef burger at age 12 or 13, inadvertently, and never really did develop that much of a taste for it. True story: During a football game in high school, he banged bodies with an offensive lineman, also big. What a hit! What a horrible sound! It was a clash of the titans. And they were both carted off to the hospital. The orthopedic surgeon reported to us that the other kid came away with a broken shin bone, I’m sorry to say. However, he was incredulous at my son’s injury, a slight bone bruise. With taped leg and crutches he went back to the sidelines to cheer his team on.

“Whatever you’re feeding him, keep doing it. I’ve never seen bones that size or that dense in a kid before!” Those were his exact words. That was an extraordinary feeling to have our lifestyle applauded, though not the way I would have chosen.

A LIVING ANSWER TO QUESTIONS

He’s still my trophy and my testament to natural foods for kids, especially when he visits my cooking classes. People just don’t believe it. True, you’re thinking there must be some big genes somewhere in the family, and yes there are, but it’s not the size, it’s the quality. He’s a walking testimonial to a lifetime of natural foods, with a presence that answers their questions: “Will my child get enough calcium?” “Will they grow?” “Won’t they get sick more?” “Can they grow up healthy without all the protein and vitamins from meat and dairy?……… Yes, yes, no, and yes. Absolutely. Here. Look. And in he walks.

I’ve had non natural foods kids raiding my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator forever. One 10-year-old made a B-line for seaweed whenever he came. Didn’t bother him at all what it was. He just wanted it. Loved the taste, and he said it made him feel good. You can’t argue with that.

KIDS KNOW

Like that 10-year-old. They want to be shown, but also to be allowed to experiment.  I have another true story here: I was asked to make two dishes for a grand opening for a holistic heath center last year in Coronado, CA. One of the dishes was an Asian style tofu appetizer (go to my website, www.chewbite.com, and click on Asian Style Tofu Wrap-Around — the very same one). A 13-year-old boy (difficult to please at that age regardless, unless…) came by in the line and wouldn’t try it (Tofu, yuk!) until I told him he could spit it out in front of me if he didn’t like it. No pressure. That intrigued him enough to try it. Guaranteed, he liked the idea of spitting it out in front of me.

I was distracted by other people asking questions and didn’t see his reaction or his leaving. About ten minutes later, he returned with a few friends. They didn’t say a word, but they did polish off the entire platter and left. Maybe they had a new regard for tofu after that. I like to think so. Kids want to know you care by giving them options, challenging them, and respecting their opinions. And what better place to start than in your own kitchen, where your daily soul replenishment for the five senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and feeling all come together to create the ultimate sense of well being from food. “Home (and hearth) is where the heart is.”

PRIDE OF CREATIVE OWNERSHIP

Make it a game, interesting, fun. Dress it up. Make it all natural and as organic as you can. Make it look like what they’re used to, but the ingredients can either mimic or be completely different. Season it and spice it up with a familiar aroma, appearance, and mouth feel. But whatever it is, it’s got to taste great! Another thing about them, which you probably already know, they don’t spare your feelings. They tell you the truth. So ask them what the dish needs, and get them involved in the kitchen and the preparation by letting them fix it the way they want.

Let them make it their own. For you, it’s hands off unless asked. Whatever the mess, whatever their tastes, whatever their additions or deletions, it’s theirs and not only deserves, but requires, your respect. My son is getting to be one incredible chef, choosing food and spice combinations I would never think of in a million years. He astounds not only me, but his friends, with his choices and complexities of taste, while still sticking to organic whole grains, veggies, even meat, chicken, and wild fish. Allow them the gratification of astounding you. Their tastes are often so different from ours. There’s no age limit or requirement, by the way. So much more fun than going to formerly frozen formula Chili’s or McDonald’s or wherever, and their memories are priceless. Oh yeah! And invest in a bread machine. Let them invent variations on their staple. So easy.

PARENTAL GUIDANCE REQUIRED

Prenatal to post natal to pre-school to post college, they need and want guidance from mom and dad. Their culinary creativity being rewarded early with applause and respect will give them the confidence to continue natural foods in their lives and to teach their friends and their own children. Give them their jump start by changing to whole grains and veggies during pregnancy. When nursing, they’re already used to the foods. And when you start introducing solid foods, they intuitively know them already. Even seaweeds. Really. Yup, even seaweeds can be luscious. It all depends on your creativity and that intangible ingredient that makes it all a hit, your LOVE.

My son once observed to us from a boarding school he attended for one year for football before going to college, that he thought he was the only person there who loved his parents. Wow! Now that blew us away. He realized that we always inspired him to achieve and create, to have his own opinions, and respected his choices. Experiment. That was the year he started cooking for himself and starting teaching me. Very gratifying. He’s still teaching me.

SOME ANSWERS REALLY ARE THAT SIMPLE

With the meteoric rise of childhood and young adult health diseases: diabetes, obesity, eating disorders, high cholesterol, asthma, high blood pressure, depression, ADD, ADHD, and the lists goes on and on… Diseases once thought to be brought on by age deterioration in adults are now epidemic, even plagues, among our children. Drugs are not the answer. One definite answer is natural foods. Too simplistic? Things in life don’t have to be that complicated. You really are what you eat.

WE SOLD OUR SOULS AND OUR HEALTH

It’s the insidious invasion of the soul snatchers in the guise of the big pharmaceutical companies and the big brand name food manufacturers all in collusion with the advertising companies and the food/chemical lobbyists in Washington, D.C. I refer to Dr. David Kessler’s (former FDA commissioner, 1990-1997) new book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. He writes about just this, not that we didn’t know it already, but a former FDA boss telling us from the “inside” about how our souls and health have been hijacked for profit is pretty frightening, along with our disastrous eating habits being engineered by those companies’ food scientists. Very scary, but not irreversible.

CREATE YOUR OWN GOOD HEALTH

Get your whole family into the kitchen. Have fun creating a lifestyle change that makes you happy and gives you the power of choice. Food becomes an exploration into a culinary world of individual tastes designed by you that changes with your whims by adding a little bit of this or a whole lot of that. And your children? They’ll love it!

Helen Sandler

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

BPGL Puts Newman’s Own Organics to the Taste Test

About a month ago, we received a large box from Newman’s Own Organics (N.O.O.) in California. It was stuffed with a variety of wholesome goodies, assorted salty snacks, some chocolate sweets, one bottle of olive oil and another of balsamic vinegar.

It’s only fair that we inject a word of warning: We are not foodies. We don’t often write about food, and we don’t list it as one of our areas of expertise (unless you count Joe’s many varieties of “slippery food,” stuff that doesn’t even require chewing). You want to know the exquisite details of how the food feels or tastes on an expert palate? You’d have more luck channeling Julia Child.

The BPGL Video (and Tasting) Crew: Aaron, Justin, and Jake

The BPGL Video (and Tasting) Crew: Aaron, Justin, and Jake

So, back to where the box of manna fell off the UPS truck… Coincidentally (or were they psychic?), our video guys: Justin, Jake, and Aaron — three big appetites in their 20s — came over to work on a project that day. Our friend Sam was here, too. You can guess what happened: mass consumption edging toward gluttony. (We’re not saying who were the biggest gluttons, but it may not have been the young people.)

The snacks didn’t all disappear in one session — there were far too many of them. We shared our treats with friends who passed through our office over the next few days, making sure that we (Joe and Julia) got to taste at least a sample of each item. (Purely in the interest of fair and accurate reporting, of course.)

Miriam shows us the right way to eat a Newman-O's cookie.

Miriam shows us the right way to eat a Newman-O's creme-filled cookie.

So, what did everyone think about the stuff in the box? We each had our favorites, and they weren’t always the same. A couple of items didn’t quite register high on everyone’s taste scales, but when one of us didn’t like something, someone else invariably did. So, here’s a report from the BPGL team (with minor melodrama added, but no truths altered).

Free food is free food, and we definitely appreciated the gift. But, unlike certain media outlets that pretend to be “fair,” we can’t look ourselves in the mirror if we try to fool anyone. So here goes…

Julia: I’m not much of a junk-food junkie. I’ll pass on the sodas (most of the time), candy (unless it’s got chocolate/carob and nuts/raisins), and cookies (except homemade chocolate chip). I’m long past the days when a plateful of sweets could pass my lips without taking up permanent residence on my body. So checking out a variety of snack foods — even organic snack foods — didn’t sound too appealing at first. But it seems I underestimated the allure of Newman’s Own Organics.

Joe: I’m the snack food maniac. I will eat anything crunchy, salty, sweet, or fattening. The more sugar and chocolate the better. My metabolism can handle the sugars — at least for now. I’m the kind of guy who will buy a chocolate chip cookie in every gas station, fast food restaurant, and greasy spoon that crosses my path. When the N.O.O. box arrived, I was worried that anything organic would taste bad. But in the interest of … er… journalism … I engaged in a taste test of my own.

COOKIES

Julia: My very favorite is the chocolate chip version of the Champion Chip Cookies. I usually like chewy chocolate chip cookies (I make them at home with oil, not shortening). These were a bit on the crispier side, but so delicious! I didn’t even want to share them, but I had no choice with Joe around.

Aaron: Cookies? Chocolate chip cookies? Hey, I didn’t get any!

Joe: I know you didn’t, Aaron. I stashed them behind my computer monitor. I latched onto those suckers as soon as Julia turned her head. Crunchy, and just big enough for two good bites each. When I was in a hurry to eat them — like when I heard footsteps — they were small enough to jam a whole one in my mouth to hide the evidence. I doubt if anyone tasted the Fig Newmans, either. Very moist and chewy. The bag fit  perfectly in my desk drawer.

What happened to my Newman-O's?

Joe asks, "Who ate the rest of the Newman-O's?"

Justin: The ones I’m crazy about are the Champion Chip Orange Chocolate Chip cookies. (Couldn’t they think of a shorter name?) Julia and Joe actually let me work on this bag without stealing it away every few minutes.

Julia: It’s good that you liked those, Justin. That way I got more of the regular Chocolate Chip cookies.

Joe: Besides the Chocolate Chip cookies, I focused mostly on the Newman-O’s. Man, the ones with the chocolate centers were really good. Break about six of ’em up in a bowl of cold soy milk and eat it like cereal — pure heaven!

The Alphabet Cookies were like Newman-O’s without the centers. Those were good in soy milk, too. The Newman-Os Mint cookies were a little different with soy milk. Kind of like chocolate-mint flavored ice cream. Tasty, but not very breakfast-like.

Julia: They’re not supposed to be for breakfast, Joe. They’re cookies.

Justin: Hey, I only got two Ginger O’s. What happened to the rest of the bag?

Sam: Well, it’s like this… I had to hide them so the rest of you would leave them alone. Best cookies I ever had.

Aaron: What happened to the Hermits? I didn’t get any of those, either.

Julia: Not to be a spoilsport, but I wasn’t a big fan of those. Somebody ate them, though. Joe, was it you?

Joe: The Hermits were the last to go. One bag had a cinnamon flavor, the other tasted more like molasses. I’ll eat most anything, but I wouldn’t pick those as my first choice. But somebody must have liked them; both bags are empty.

Jake: The Hermits? They were great. Did somebody want some? Too late.

PRETZELS

Joe drains all the salt from a bag of Newman's Own Organics Pretzels.

Joe drains all the salt from a bag of Newman

Julia: The Thin Stick Pretzels are totally lickable (if you like to like the salt off a pretzel — and I do). I thought the Honey Wheat Mini Pretzels were delicious, too.

But I wasn’t as fond of the Spelt pretzels. Their redeeming feature is that they’re made with a type of wheat (spelt) that some folks with wheat allergies can eat; so that’s a good thing. But give me the Stick Pretzels anytime.

Aaron: Yeah, I thought the Spelt Pretzels were a little bland, but I liked the Stick Pretzels.

Jake: They all tasted like they should. You know, like real food, not cardboard.

Justin: The Newman’s Own Organics Pretzels were probably the best bag pretzels I’ve ever had. If you’re going for a hard pretzel, this is the one.

Sam: Who ate the White Cheddar Soy Crisps?

Justin: I only ate a couple. They were okay, but I wouldn’t rave about them.

Julia: They reminded me a bit of rice cakes. Crispy and puffy. I liked the white cheddar flavoring, but I’m not the one who emptied the bJoe? … Joe? What are you doing?

Joe: Just licking the inside of a pretzels bag.

Julia: You’d think I never feed you.

Joe: You don’t.

Julia: Oh. Well, that explains it.

DRIED FRUIT

Julia: I have to confess that I was driven (“Honest, Judge. It wasn’t my fault!”) to a fit of real selfishness with the dried fruit packages. They “somehow” wandered to my office and hid themselves next to my laptop. I shared — really, I did — just not often. The samples we got included Organic Apples, Organic Cranberries, Organic California Prunes, and Organic Apricots.

While there wasn’t a loser in the bunch, I favored the cranberries and the prunes (yes, the prunes — no smart remarks, Joe). The cranberries were just sweet enough without being too sweet. I wanted to try them in a mixed greens or chicken salad, but my daughter and I ate them like candy. The prunes were chewy without being tough, just moist enough without being gooey, and sweet enough so they didn’t taste like prune juice.

Our friend Gay snacks on Newman's Own Organic Raisins that we bought for a gathering.

Gay enjoys Newman's Own Organics Raisins we bought to share with friends.

Aaron: The dried cranberries were good. Someone (I’ll avoid mentioning names) hogged the rest of the dried fruit.

Joe: I liked the apples especially well — the few that I got!

Sam: Dried fruit? There was dried fruit? How come I didn’t get any?

Jake: No problem here. Like I said, I’m a picky &*(&*(^%^. I might not have eaten them anyway.

Justin: I’m not much on dried fruit, but I did get to sample a dried apple or two. Pretty tasty, considering they’re not my favorites.

Julia: Joe and I liked the dried fruit so well that we bought some N.O.O. raisins for a meeting at our place. They were fresh and chewy, much better than the ones I usually buy (until now, that is). Our friends liked them, too.

MINTS

Julia: The Spearmint Mints? Delicious. Peppermint? Yummy. Cinnamon Mints and Ginger Mints? Not a fan. I don’t care for ginger or cinnamon, so this is no surprise.

Aaron: I liked the Spearmint and Peppermint Mints. But the Ginger Mints had a bit too strong a taste at first. Once I got past the initial shock of the ginger, it mellowed out a bit. I didn’t get to try the Cinnamon Mints.

Justin: I loved the Ginger Mints! They had an unusual taste. It was different than anything I’ve ever had, and they left my mouth feeling fresh. What I liked best was the way the flavor came out after the initial shock of the ginger.

Jake: I did NOT like the Ginger Mints! But I snagged some Peppermints Mints to take home to my wife. Now those were delicious.

Justin: I thought you said they were for your wife.

Jake: Yeah, well, we share everything …

Joe: There were mints? I didn’t get any mints.

Sam: You snooze, you lose. You’ve gotta pay closer attention to these things, Joe.

So many snacks, so little time!

So many snacks, so little time!

CANDY

Joe: Did anyone but me get to taste the chocolate and caramel candy? Melt-in-your-mouth fantastic!

Julia: Uh. Yeah. That was me you shared it with. I’m glad to know I’m so memorable.

Joe: I must have been overcome by the taste of the chocolate. Nothing personal, of course.

Julia: Of course. I’m sure you don’t mind that I took the second candy package and kept it for myself.

Aaron: Candy? There was candy?

Jake: What candy?

Sam: I think you may have a mutiny on your hands…

CONSENSUS

Besides taste (admittedly the #1 criteria for most of us), the real value for us in the Newman’s Own Organics products is that we were eating food that had been organically grown. No scary additives. No dyes. No preservatives. Just healthy, organic food. Sure, some of the goodies have their fair share of sugar, but they’re goodies, after all.

Most of us weren’t keen on anything made with ginger, as the taste was pretty strong. But Sam and Justin liked Ginger O’s cookies, and Justin thought the Ginger Mints rocked!

Anything chocolate, whether candy or cookies, got nods of approval — and didn’t last long.

The dried fruit, presumably one of the healthiest snacks, got rave reviews from those of us who ate them. (Apologies to the rest of the crew.)

Salty snacks were a hit, too. Most of us liked the Pretzel Sticks, though there wasn’t really a bad one in the bunch. No one jumped up and down over the Soy Chips, but no one hated them, either.

The mints were mostly yummy, and we all had our favorites. The Ginger Mints were a hit with one of us, but the rest think they must be an “acquired taste.”

And the olive oil and balsamic vinegar? Looks like they’ll become permanent members of our BPGL family.

We hope you find our review helpful. Our best suggestion to readers is to try a few products for yourselves. Then let us know about your favorites. There are quite a number we haven’t yet tasted, and we’d like to know what you think.

Joe Hennager and Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living

Related Posts:

Part 1: Fishing with Nell

Part 2: Nell Newman: “Late Bloomer” to Organic Ecopreneur

My 5: Nell Newman, Newman’s Own Organics

Warming Foods for Winter Weather

Keeping the body warm and nourished during persistently bitter temperatures can give us the courage to reach Spring. Winter is still a time for inward focus, for reserving internal strength and encouraging organs to function steadily.

The element of water is associated with this season. Water is changeable and fluid and an important part of the human body and the planet. The bladder and kidneys help process water in the body, and water is connected to the cycles of the moon and the reproductive organs. This element can stir deep emotions, so allow yourself to feel and be gentle, to rest and dream a little more in these remaining cold weeks.

Root vegetables, such as carrots

Root vegetables, such as carrots, are good this time of year. Photo: Joe Hennager

Nurturing the body with good warming and healing foods can make a significant impact. Foods that support the kidneys include the whole grains: millet, barley, and buckwheat; and beans: black, aduki, kidney and soy.

Hearty and sweet vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, parsnips, squash and sweet potato, can provide long-lasting sustenance and soothe the emotions. Mushrooms, beets, burdock, and sea vegetables (kombu, kelp, dulse, hiziki, arame) also provide concentrated nutrition.

The kidneys contain a deep energy source of the body, Jing, which supports constitutional strength as well as physical and mental health. Specific foods can help the body acquire this vital energy, including almonds, milk, clarified butter or ghee, fish, micro-algae, and bee pollen.

Cooking styles for this season use higher heat and longer cooking times. Try broiling, baking, boiling, pressure cooking, and — occasionally — frying foods. The water element is also associated with the salty flavor, and the fermented soy products of miso and tamari can be tasty additions. Pickles added to dishes or eaten as a condiment can also provide the body with the healthful salty taste.

Engaging in activity at this time of year is important to proper organ function. A brisk winter walk, strengthening yoga class, or invigorating indoor swim can do wonders.

When you pack your daytime meal, try taking a thermos of soup. For a snack, grab a handful of dry-roasted almonds. Experiment with buckwheat pancakes or a low-fat, low-sugar muffin recipe. Stay prepared for Spring’s upcoming cleaning by eating more cooked greens, such as kale and collards. Don’t forget to drink plenty of delicious water.

For more winter menu ideas, visit Nourishing Spirits‘ winter menu choices page. And try the following cookie recipe for a delightful winter snack.

ALMOND BUTTER COOKIES
(adapted from Natural Foods Cookbook by Mary Estella)

Serving: 30 cookies
Time: 30 minutes
Equipment: 2 mixing bowls, whisk, 2 cookie sheets, parchment paper

Dry Ingredients:

3+ cups whole wheat flour pastry flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Liquid Ingredients:

1 lb. almond butter (unsalted, smooth)
2/3 cup safflower or canola oil
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift flour into mixing bowl, then add sea salt.

Cream almond butter, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla together in a separate, larger bowl, using a whisk. Cream until smooth.

Add flour to almond butter mixture and stir to fully combine flour.

Form dough into walnut-sized balls and press down, then mark with a fork.

If dough does not form easily when rolled, add a bit more flour.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown on undersides of cookies.

Allow to cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack till completely cooled.

Lindsay Rice, Nourishing Spirits

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Related Posts:

A Time for Gathering and Harvesting

A Time for Gathering and Harvesting

For centuries, traditional healing societies have recognized a correlation between the human body and the cycles of the Earth. Each season has its own unique characteristics and the body responds and adjusts to live in harmony. Specific foods are ready for harvest at specific points throughout the year. The enjoyment of these seasonal foods is most supportive to healthy living.

Fall is the season for root crops, such as onions and carrots. Photo credit: Joe Henager.

Fall is the season for root crops, such as onions and carrots. Photo credit: Joe Hennager.

Autumn, which started around the beginning of October, is the entry into the dark, yin cycle. Changes we have prepared for earlier in the year start taking place. Nature contracts, moving inward and downward; daylight decreases; and the air turns cooler. Autumn is the time for gathering and harvesting pumpkins, squash, beans, cabbage, turnips, onions, garlic, root vegetables and herbs, apples, grapes, barley, and rice.

This season is associated with the metal element, representing the mineral ores and salts of the Earth. It is linked to the mind, communication, and creating structures. Autumn encourages us to finish outward projects, to clean and clear, and focus on activities, including study and school, canning and preserving foods, reading, repairing the home, and sinking into more mindfulness, meditation, and quiet time. The associated emotion of this season is grief and sorrow, so don’t be afraid to express these emotions and move toward deeper internal peace.

In the body, autumn is related to the lungs and large intestines. To protect and purify, include more mucilaginous foods, including seaweeds, burdock, pumpkin seeds, and fiber-rich vegetable skins, grains in their whole form, flax and fenugreek seeds, and marshmallow and comfrey roots. Crisp autumn weather is a perfect time for soups and for adding more sour foods, like pickles, sauerkraut, olives, sourdough bread, citrus, and vinegars. When cooking, use less water, include more oils, and use lower heat for longer periods of time to help internalize your foods.

Autumn's bounty is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Photo credit: Joe Hennager.

Autumn's bounty is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Photo credit: Joe Hennager.

To assist the lungs at this time, try the herbs licorice, wild cherry bark, slippery elm, mullein, yerba santa, and horehound; the essential oils of eucalyptus and lemon verbena; and the gemstones of fluorite, gold, hematite, and green jasper. To help the large intestines along, try cascara sagrada, licorice root, Oregon grape root; the oils of cardamom, cinnamon, lemon, and tea tree; and the gemstones of garnet, moonstone, obsidian, and quartz. Also, don’t forget to include a balanced exercise program to keep your circulation flowing.

Try making a simple brown rice bowl topped with blanched kale, toasted pumpkin seeds, flax oil and a spoonful of sauerkraut. Or, make a hearty vegetable stew with squash, beans and garlic, served with sourdough bread. Grab a bunch of organic grapes or crisp apples for that potluck!

Take the time to prepare your mind and body for the cooler weather to come. Look for Nourishing Spirits’ future healing and cooking tips to continue a beautiful, internal (yin) part of the year.

Lindsay Rice, Nourishing Spirits

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)