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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Organic

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Pacific Foods Organic Beans

Proust had his madeleines; we had our mother’s baked beans: made in an old-fashioned glazed ceramic crock, topped with strips of bacon. They were so good, we have never been able to eat canned baked beans—overly sweetened and one-dimensionally bland.

But thanks to Pacific Natural Foods’ new line of USDA Certified Organic beans in a carton, we now enjoy baked and refried beans at home as often as we like.

With January 1st the day to make resolutions to eat better, they’re a logical Top Pick Of The Week to usher in the new year. Rich in plant-based protein (Pacific beans have up to seven grams of protein per serving) and fiber, beans are a better-for-you food.

The line debuted last spring at Whole Foods Markets nationwide and expanded to select natural food stores and grocery chains. You can taste the quality and slow-cooked flavor and texture of the baked beans—the closest we’ll get to Mom’s (especially when we add crispy strips of bacon across the top).

 

Baked beans with a garnish of bacon. Photo © Viktor | Fotolia.

 
The refried beans are better than what we get most Mexican restaurants. Varieties include:

  • Organic Refried Pinto Beans (vegetarian or non-vegetarian [with added pork fat])
  • Organic Refried Black Beans (vegetarian)
  • Organic Refried Black Beans with Green Chiles (vegetarian)
  • Organic Baked Beans (vegetarian or with pork—but the pork amounts to a few tough bits)
  •  
    A bonus for those who are concerned about the BPA plastic lining of tin cans: the Pacific Natural Foods cartons have no such potential problem. They’re priced at $2.69 to $2.99 for a 13.6-ounce container.

     

    One of six varieties of baked and refried
    beans. Photo courtesy Pacific Natural Foods.

     

    HOW TO SERVE BAKED BEANS

    Franks and beans are a natural part of the American diet. But even better than that is your own version of “pork and beans.” Instead of the meager bits of pork fat tossed into cans of beans, make your own with leftover roast ham.

    Especially brought to live with a garnish of fresh herbs. We prefer basil, chives, cilantro or parsley.

    BAKED BEANS FOR BREAKFAST

  • With eggs any style: try them on a toasted English muffin, topped with a poached egg
  • On toast: on toasted or grilled baguette or rustic bread, with fresh herbs and optional shredded Gruyère (for breakfast or a light lunch)
  •  
    BAKED BEANS FOR DINNER

  • With sausages or roasted meats: chicken, duck, ham, pork
  • With hearty grilled fish: we like cod atop a bed of beans
  •  

  • With potatoes: In a baked potato or a nest of mashed potatoes (top with shredded cheese and fresh herbs
  • As a side: with a crisp bacon garnish, a garnish of sour cream and a square of corn bread or gratinée
  • Wildcard: on pizza, mixed with elbow macaroni or other short cut (a great way to expand a limited amount of leftovers), to thicken creamy soups
  •  
    WAYS TO SERVE REFRIED BEANS

  • Dips: bean dip and layered dip
  • Eggs: scrambled or an omelet with onions, chorizo, and a side of beans
  • Mexican dishes: burritos, fajitas, layered casseroles, tacos, quesadillas
  • Mexican lasagna: layer corn tortillas in a baking dish with beans, shredded cheese, ground beef or other meat, jalapeños and red chile sauce (“enchilada sauce”)
  • Sandwiches: including burgers and wraps
  • Mexican pizza: pizza crust or tortillas spread with red chile sauce, then topped with refried beans, sausage, black olives, chopped red onions, jalapeños and cheese; optional “taco garnish” of chopped tomatoes and lettuce
  • Sides: rice and beans (you don’t need Mexican main dishes in order to enjoy the sides); potatoes and beans; potatoes fried with onions, topped with chiles and Mexican cheese; by themselves topped with sour cream or Greek yogurt and cilantro
  • Stuffed peppers: stuff with rice or other grain and beans, top with cheese
  •  
    How would you use them? Let us know!

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cranberry Infused Vodka

    Your own holiday bottling of cranberry
    infused vodka. Photo courtesy Prairie
    Organic
    Spirits.

     

    Make cranberry vodka to bring as a house gift or place on your own bar. It will be ready in three to four days.

    It’s easy to craft your own cranberry vodka infusion. Instead of vodka, you can use silver tequila, genever, Plymouth gin or a London gin with a low level of aromatics.

    This recipe is courtesy Prairie Organic Spirits, which makes both organic gin and vodka (including cucumber-infused vodka) in Minnesota.

    The vodka is handcrafted with single vintage organic corn. The line is certified organic by the USDA, which ensures that no genetically modified seeds, chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides are used. The price: just $19.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

     

    RECIPE: CRANBERRY CLOVE INFUSED VODKA

    Ingredients

  • Whole fresh cranberries
  • Whole cloves
  • Vodka
  •  

    Preparation

    1. POUR 1/3 of the vodka into a pitcher or a measuring cup with a spout and set aside.

    2. FILL the empty bottle space with cranberries and cloves.

    3. TOP OFF the bottle with the reserved vodka and tightly securing the cap.

    4. STORE in the fridge or in dark, cool space for three to four days. Then, it’s ready to serve.
     
    MORE INFUSED VODKA RECIPES

    How about:

  • Espresso-Cinnamon for Valentine’s Day
  • Jalapeño-Horseradish-Garlic for Cinco de Mayo
  • Honeycrisp Apple for Mother’s Day
  • Lemon Lime for Spring
  • Orange-Tangerine for Winter
  • Strawberry Basil for Summer
  •  

    It’s easy to infuse vodka: Just add simple ingredient to the bottle. Photo courtesy Prairie Organic Spirits.

     

    Download the pdfs at PrairieVodka.com.

      

    Comments

    STOCKING STUFFERS: Conventional & Sugar Free Sweet Treat Favorites

    Sugar free bridge mix, licorice and Gummi
    Bears (inside package) from Nuts.com. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Nuts.com is a third-generation purveyor of nuts, dried fruits, chocolates and other sweets. They offer some 3,000 items sold by the pound, but will also package the wares into snack packs, 3.2 ounce bags sold in packs of 12. The 12-packs range from approximately $18 to $24, creating an inexpensive stocking stuffer that has a higher-value appearance.

    We love the snack packs as stocking stuffers or party favors, the cheery green bags hinting at the goodies inside. There are hundreds of sweet options, that you can search by category (or however you like):

  • Chocolate: bark, gourmet PB cups, chocolate-dipped fruit
  • Classic treats: just about everything you can name, from malt balls to chocolate-covered ginger, grahams and marzipan
  • Gluten-free, organic and raw options
  • Nutritious treats: dried fruits and edamame, energy squares, nuts, trail mix and fun items like freeze-dried chickpeas, broccoli and spinach
  • Nuts: chocolate covered and bridge mix, yogurt covered, candied, sugar roasted
  •  

  • Sugar-Free: chocolate covered nuts, espresso beans, bridge mix, and pretzels; hard and soft candies (jellies, gummies); mini peanut butter cups; licorice; yogurt raisins and more—an impressive sugar-free selection
  •  
    There are also Gummy Sugar Plums for gifting or as a garnish for cakes, cupcakes or other desserts.

    Check out all the options (well, maybe not all 3,000) at Nuts.com.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Cheeky Monkey Peanut Butter Puffs

    A tasty, gluten-free snack—organic and
    kosher, too. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    Imagine if cheese puffs tasted like peanut butter instead of cheese, and you’ve got Cheeky Monkey Peanut Butter Puffs.

    They’re airy, peanutty, kosher, gluten free and organic.

    The ingredients are simple: organic corn, organic palm oil, organic peanut butter and salt. Produced by Hasadeh Organic, the melt-in-your-mouth snack is good for everyone from toddlers to grown-ups.

    The bags, graced with a humorous monkey juggling peanuts, make fun stocking stuffers and party favors.

    The snacks are gluten free certified by Gluten Free Certification Organization, and certified kosher (parve) by OU.

  • A 2.12-ounce bag is $2.49 on Amazon.com.
  • A case of 12 bags is $31.55.
  • For those who like a spicy kick, there are Peanut Butter Chili Pepper Puffs.
  •  
    Learn more at CheekyMonkeyOrganic.com.

     

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Bare Fruit Apple Chips

    An apple never tasted better. Photo by Elvira
    Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Our favorite packaged sweet snack, Bare Fruit apple chips has expanded the line to two new “flavored” chips. The lineup now includes

  • Chili Lime Apple Chips
  • Cinnamon Apple Chips
  • Fuji Red Apple Chips
  • Granny Smith Apple Chips
  • Sea Salt Caramel Apple Chips
  •  

    They’re as satisfying as candy—in fact, much more so, since they’re a guilt-free, all fruit and just 50 calories per bag. Each bag is the equivalent of eating an apple, so you also contribute to your recommended daily fruit and fiber servings.

    Caramel Apple is perfect for Halloween; all varieties of these naturally sweet chips (no sugar added but a special baking process caramelizes the apple’s natural sugar) are great for:

  • Dieter Gifts
  • Glove compartment, desk drawer, gym bag, etc.
  • Stocking Stuffers
  •  

    Here’s our favorite packaged salty snack, which also should be on your stocking stuffer radar: HalfPops, fiber-filled half-poppped popcorn that we like even better than conventional full-popped.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Blake’s All Natural Comfort Food

    Lobster mac and cheese: elegant comfort
    food. Photo courtesy Blake’s All Natural.

     

    Comfort food: does the term need an explanation? Those favorite foods from childhood, rich with nostalgia (and often, rich in calories), are so satisfying. For a brief period of time, they can make you feel that all’s well with the world.

    Apple pie, banana pudding, beef stew, chicken pot pie, chocolate chip cookies, fried chicken, a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and meatloaf…the list goes on and on.

    Depending on your ancestry, there will be additions from foreign lands. Borscht with boiled potatoes and sour cream and bagels with chopped herring or smoked whitefish are on our list.

    Blake’s All Natural Foods specializes in frozen comfort food entrées from American and U.K. traditions. The line consists of all natural, frozen meals. They get popped into the oven or microwave, wanting only a large side salad to round out a convenient, healthful, and delicious lunch or dinner.

    There are individual portions and family-size:

     

  • Mac & Cheese: Chicken Mac & Cheese, Lobster Mac & Cheese (family size only), Old Fashioned Macaroni & Cheese, Veggie Mac & Cheese
  • Old-Fashioned Macaroni & Beef
  • Pot Pies: Chicken Pot Pie, Garden Vegetable Pie, Gluten-Free Chicken Pot Pie
  • Shepherd’s Pie (gluten free)
  •  

    Most varieties can be cooked in either a microwave oven or a conventional oven. For the pot pies, you’ll want to use the oven so the lovely crust will crisp delightfully.

    For more information and to find a retailer near you, visit BlakesAllNatural.com.

    The products are made from scratch by actual people (not machines) in small batches by hand. The ingredients are all natural, the poultry and meats antibiotic- and hormone-free, the cheese rGBH-free.

    There’s also an organic line that includes most of the varieties above plus All Meat Chicken Pot Pie and Upside Down Chicken & Waffle Pie. The organic meals contain at least 70% organic ingredients and some varieties are 100% organic. The organic vegetables are also used in the all-natural line.

     

    Pot pies are made in three varieties, one with a gluten-free crust. Photo courtesy Blake’s All Natural.

     

    We tasted a few varieties—all comforting, some requiring a bit of extra seasoning (a tablespoon of grated Parmesan, a shake of nutmeg, some fresh-cracked pepper). In particular, the sauce for the Veggie Mac & Cheese was very buttery, but not cheesy enough for us. A couple of heaping tablespoons of Parmesan solved that!

     
    ABOUT BLAKE’S

    The company traces its origins to a 25-acre farm purchased in Concord, New Hampshire in the Great Depression the farm’s first season in 1929. Clara Blake’s son Roy grew up to farm award-winning turkeys.

    In the third generation, grandson Charlie was experimenting with his grandmother’s recipe for turkey pot pie. With a dozen pies in 1970, he sold out in 20 minutes. For the next 40 years, he sold turkey and chicken pot pies throughout New England—through modern distribution networks, not the back of the van.

    Charlie’s daughter Amy and her husband joined the business, and expanded the line to accommodate the wishes of their own young family—a fifth generation that one day may be the face of Blake’s.

    Grandma Clara would be proud.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Organic Honey From Whole Foods Markets

    September is National Honey Month, a good reason to focus on our favorite ways to use honey.

    Even if you’re not Jewish, you can start this week with a Rosh Hashanah tradition:

    Celebrate the Jewish New Year with a traditional snack of apples and honey. The custom ushers in a sweet new year.

    We never thought to dip apples and honey until we were invited to our neighbors’ home one Rosh Hashanah 10 years ago. It’s become a favorite treat.

    TIP: Instead of placing the honey into a small dish for dipping, as in the photo, think of hollowing out a large apple and placing it, filled with honey, in the center of a plate of apple slices.

    We recently discovered that there’s a special prayer to recite before the honey and apples are consumed. THE NIBBLE doesn’t publish religious content, but we were so charmed by the thought of a prayer of thanks for honey and apples that we couldn’t resist:

     

    Honey and apples are a Rosh Hashanah tradition. Photo courtesy Voices-Magazine.Blogspot.com.

     

  • Recite the first part of the prayer: Blessed are you Lord, our God, Ruler of the world, Creator of the fruit of the tree. (In Hebrew: Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, Borai p’ree ha’aritz.)
  • Take a bite of an apple slice dipped in honey.
  • Recite the second part of the prayer: May it be Your will, Adonai, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You renew for us a good and sweet year. (In Hebrew: Y’hee ratzon mee-l’fanekha, Adonai Elohaynu v’elohey avoteynu sh’tichadeish aleinu shanah tovah um’tuqah.
  • Enjoy the rest of the apples and honey.
  •  

    The new 365 Organic Mountain Forest Honey
    line. Photo courtesy Whole Foods Market.

     

    CERTIFIED ORGANIC HONEY FROM WHOLE FOODS

    Just in time for fall apple-dipping, Whole Foods Market has introduced 365 Everyday Value Mountain Forest Honey, U.S. Grade A in four varieties:

  • Light Amber
  • Amber
  • Raw Honey
  • White Raw Honey
  •  
    Organic honey is made from the nectar of plants in fields that have not been treated with chemical pesticide. The fields must be pesticide-free for 20 miles in every direction of the beehives.

     

    In addition to organic certification, the honeys are also Whole Trade, a certification similar to Fair Trade. It ensures that the products were produced in a way that ensures fair prices to producers, safe and healthy working conditions for farm workers and environmentally-friendly production. (More about Fair Trade and similar certifying organizations).

    RECIPES WITH HONEY

    Try honey in these delicious recipes from Whole Foods:

  • Honey Lime Salmon Kabobs
  • Honey Mustard Coleslaw
  • Baklava With Honey Syrup
  •  
    MORE BUZZ ABOUT HONEY

    Here’s everything you need to know about honey: types, storing and using, pairing, trivia, history, and more recipes.

    Have a sweet September.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The Dirty Dozen & The Clean Fifteen

    The bounty of summer produce encourages us to eat more fruits and vegetables. It seems like the healthy thing to do, and it is.

    But it’s also time to consider the issue of pesticide residues, and when you should buy organic versus conventional produce.

    Rinsing the produce does not remove all of the chemical residue. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) creates an annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides to reduce your exposure to chemical pesticides. For fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residues—the list below on the left side, known as the “Dirty Dozen”—it is the most important to buy organic versions.

    But the organization also underscores that:

  • The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.
  • Eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.
  •  

    Affordable in the summer months, we love eating blueberries as often as we can. They’re so high in antioxidants—but also high in pesticide residue. Photo courtesy Siggi’s.

     
    As far as the most chemical-free produce, look to the list on the right: the “Clean Fifteen.”

    Why is some produce “dirty” and others “clean?”

    Crops differ in their hardiness—whether they’re more or less susceptible to intense heat, cold, rainfall, drought, fungus or other disease, etc.

    In the case of bugs, some crops are more readily attacked and destroyed by the hungry little critters. So chemical pesticides are used to kill the bugs, fungus, etc. before they kill the crop.

    Though the Environmental Protection Agency has been restricting the uses of the most toxic pesticides, they are still detected on some foods. For example, green beans were on last year’s Dirty Dozen Plus list because they were often contaminated with two highly toxic organophosphates. Those pesticides are being withdrawn from agriculture. But leafy greens still show residues of organophosphates and other risky pesticides. That’s why they are on the Dirty Dozen Plus list for 2013.

    Learn more at EWG.org.


     
    Infographic courtesy EWG.org.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Riso Venere, Black Venere Rice

    Black rice turns dark purple when cooked.
    Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

    You may have come across black rice in a Thai restaurant as an optional side. Black when harvested, it turns dark purple from the heat of cooking.

    Black rice is an easy way to add excitement to a dish, from main courses to desserts like rice pudding. And now there’s a new black rice variety from Italy.

    Riso venere (REE-zoe VEH-neh-ray) is a medium-grain hybrid that has a naturally black pericarp (the outermost skin of the grain). In Italian, the name means “Venus rice.”

    The variety was created by Dr. Wang Xue Ren, a Chinese hybrid specialist. It is not genetically modified (that is, it is non-GMO) but is a hybrid of forbidden rice, also called emperor’s rice, a species that has grown in China for centuries. Until the 1800s it was cultivated only for the emperor and the nobility (hence, “forbidden” to others).

    The Chinese cultivars of black rice could not adapt to cold European winters, but the hybrid does well in the Lombardy and Piedmont regions of Italy. Some Americans call the new hybrid “black vernere rice” or “black Venus rice.”

     

    The heat from cooking turns the anthocyanins* in the hull from black to dark purple. Beyond the stunning color, the whole grain rice has a nutty, sweet taste.

    If you can’t find it locally, you can buy black venere rice online.

    Under the brand name Tenuta Castello, an organic-certified brand, the rice is produced using artisan techniques. The grain kernels are left largely intact, without polishing or shining. The result is great flavor and texture.

    Rice is a complex carbohydrate; black rice is a whole grain. In addition to fiber, the hull contains magnesium, manganese, molybdenum and phosphorus, plus 4 times as much iron and twice the selenium† as white rice. There is no cholesterol, fat or sodium.

    *Anthocyanins are flavonoids, a type of antioxidant.

    †Selenium is an important antioxidant: It helps to improve immune response, slow the aging processes and potentially reduce cancer risk.

     

    WAYS TO SERVE BLACK RICE

    Dramatic color is the name of the game. It is equally successful with bland colors (chicken, halibut, squid, tofu) and vibrant ones (Arctic char, salmon and shrimp). Serve it:

  • Instead of white rice, potatoes or noodles
  • With bright vegetables: green beans or peas, red cherry tomatoes
  • Indian style, as a side dish with green or yellow curries or with tandoori chicken
  • Italian style, with grilled artichoke hearts, fennel, radicchio and a garnish of pine nuts
  • In a rice salad, with complementary colors (green onion, red bell pepper or cherry tomatoes) and cubes of mozzarella cheese
  • In a risotto
  • With red or white beans for a new take on “rice and beans” (perhaps with some corn as well)
  • In rice pudding
  •  

    Black rice makes a beautiful bed for proteins, like this wild Alaskan salmon. Photo courtesy ILoveBlueSea.com.

     

    HOW TO COOK BLACK RICE

    Like brown rice, black rice contains the hull so requires a longer cooking time than white rice.

    1. RINSE one cup of black rice; soak for 1 hour in a pot with 1-3/4 cups water. Do not drain.

    2. ADD 1/2 teaspoon salt, bring to boil, cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes.

    3. REMOVE from heat; allow to sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff and serve.

    It takes longer to cook if it has not been presoaked, and less time in a pressure cooker.

      

    Comments

    EARTH DAY: 10 Reasons To Eat More Organic Food

    Fresh fruit is even better for you when you’re
    not consuming pesticides. Photo courtesy
    The Fruit Company.

     

    “Organic” doesn’t simply mean that the food is chemical-free; it’s also produced in ways that are good for the planet. The USDA’s National Organic Program certifies products as organic based on farming, handling, manufacturing, distribution and labeling practices.

  • For crops, no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers containing synthetic chemicals are permitted, no sewage-sludge fertilizer, no bio-engineered foods or irradiation, and no GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Farming practices should enhance and preserve soil and water. A government inspector must certify the farm after visiting it; farmers must keep detailed records on crops.
  • For animals, no antibiotics or growth hormones are permitted, animals must be raised on organic feed and have free range to graze.
  •  
    Some products may be more expensive than conventional foods, but see how you can save money with bulk organic foods.

     
    Today is Earth Day. According to EarthDay.org, more than one billion people in 192 countries are taking some action to save our planet. Eating organic food is one of them.

    Here are 10 reasons to eat more organic products—today and every day:

    1. Nutrition without chemical pesticides and fertilizers. While no studies have yet proven that organically-grown produce has more vitamins and minerals, we know one thing they don’t have: chemicals.

    2. No GMOs. Organic products are governed by the USDA’s National Organic Program. When you buy organic, you’re guaranteed that no genetically modified organisms are in your food. Here’s the scoop about GMOs in food.

     

    3. No antibiotics. Humans consume unwanted antibiotics in conventional meats. Conventional cattle and poultry are shot with antibiotics as a matter of course, so animals in crowded feedlots don’t become ill. Conventional milk is loaded with rBST, recombinant bovine growth hormone, banned by all but three nations. If an animal in an organic herd becomes ill and needs antibiotics, it is removed from the organic herd to a conventional herd.

    4. No chemical additives. Organic food is free of colorings, artificial flavorings and chemical preservatives. Natural, organically-certified flavors can be used, as well as natural preservatives such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C, from citrus).

    5. No irradiation. Irradiation is used to color foods synthetically. Here’s more about food irradiation.

    6. Government inspected. Organic farms and production facilities must be inspected by the USDA at least once a year.

     

    Organic milk is free of antibiotics and hormones. Photo by Rob Waterhouse | SXC.

     

    7. Environmentally friendly. There are no chemical pesticides to not sink into the water table (from which we all drink); the land is farmed sustainably to prevent erosion and other degradation of the soil.

    8. Good for animals. Animal welfare is a key component of organic meat production. Here‘s the scoop on organic meat.

    9. Good for the climate. Organic production watches its carbon footprint and emits less carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that erodes the ozone layer.

    10. Better taste. While there are no scientific studies on flavor, most fans agree that the pure taste of nature simply tastes better. Maybe it’s the halo factor of knowing that the food has been produced in ways that are better for us and our planet.

    LEARN YOUR ORGANIC FOOD TERMS IN OUR ORGANIC FOODS GLOSSARY.

      

    Comments

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