Water, Water Everywhere Meet the Soma, the sexy and sustainable water filter

Soma

Mike Del Ponte was having a no-good-very-bad-dinner-party.

A friend’s request for water sent him scurrying to the kitchen to pour from a homely plastic filtration pitcher. Cue the top of the container falling off and a drenched kitchen floor.“Why don’t they design something beautiful, sustainable and that actually works?” Del Ponte found himself asking as he mopped up the kitchen floor.

Thankfully, that disastrous escapade brought about a curvaceous glass carafe water filter, the Soma, ($99 for the carafe and a year’s worth of filters). Instead of waiting around for a product to materialize, Del Ponte and his partners hired David Beeman, “the world’s leading water guru” to design a compostable coconut shell-based filter that eliminates chlorine, lead, arsenic and selenium for some seriously fresh-tasting water.

One wildly successful Kickstarter campaign later, the Soma is now available for purchase. We love that you never have to remember when it’s time to swap the filter: Soma ships them automatically every two months, and includes recipes such as strawberry-basil ice cubes inside gorgeously minimalist packaging.

And if that doesn’t fully quench your thirst, in the upcoming months Soma will introduce a new family-sized pitcher, a vibrant new color palette and fun design partnerships with artists.

 

BUY: Purchase a Soma Campaign

LEARN MORE: Visit Soma’s Website

GIVE: Soma’s Charity Water Campaign

BE FRIENDS: Like Soma on Facebook

 

The best time to eat butter You can't fake springtime butter

cow

You can’t fake springtime butter.

In the winter months, dairy farmers keep their cows warm by housing them in barns and feeding them stored food, such as dried hay and grains.

But from late April through September, farmers committed to grass-fed dairy let their cows roam verdant fields and chow down on grass and vegetation. This fresher feed yields milk that is naturally higher in butterfat and beta-carotene than winter milk, resulting in butter that teems with elevated levels of beneficial fatty acids (think conjugated linoleic acid and Omegas 3 and 6) and a rich golden hue.

Spring to it by looking for grass-fed butter at your local farmer’s market or co-op. Below, three of our favorites from around the country:

Everywhere: Like all Organic Valley products, the Pasture Butter (find it in the green-foil wrapper) is produced without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones or pesticides.

California: Seek out Straus Family Creamery European-Style butter. These lucky Golden State cows can spend up to seven months grazing on the sweet grasses of Marin and Sonoma Counties in Northern California.

Mid-Atlantic: The butter from Trickling Springs Creamery comes in at a whopping 91 to 93 percent butterfat and Celtic sea salt is used exclusively in the salted variety.

Watch out for exploding grains Chefs can't get enough of popped and puffed whole grains

Pop goes the buckwheat

Forget deep-fried croutons or salty bacon bits, when it comes to adding texture to dishes, chefs across the country are relying on popped and puffed whole grains and rice.

Just think popcorn, but done with the rest of the grains in your pantry.

Take chef Nick Curtin of the New York hotspot Rosette, who told us, “I’m really interested in creating texture in my dishes, but so many people these days are health-conscious and gluten-free.” Instead of relying on the usual menu suspects, Curtin incorporates the earthy flavors of popped grains into his food.

At Rosette, you’ll spot the trend in dishes such as wood oven-roasted cabbage with cabbage marmalade, salsify and puffed buckwheat; roasted avocado with chili yogurt, puffed rice and bonito flakes; and ember-roasted leeks with pecan butter, huckleberry jam and puffed wild rice.

At The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis, the always-innovative chef Paul Berglund adds popped amaranth to beef tartar with cashew milk, horseradish, and watercress to add an extra base note to the dish.

On New York’s Lower East Side, Sabrina De Sousa and Alissa Wagner of the wellness-focused Dimes scatter popped amaranth over their lemon-anchovy broccolini with parsnips for an extra satisfying crunch.

Chef Curtin detailed for us how any cook can recreate this technique at home:

1. Locate leftover cooked rice, quinoa, amaranth or buckwheat in your fridge.
2. Spread the grain out on a cookie sheet to dry.
3. Cover a pan with grapeseed oil and heat until it almost smokes.
4. Add the dry grain to the pan and cook until it pops.

Enjoy!

Very Chocolatly Chocolate Brownies

Extra-chocolaty brownies (with a secret)

Very Chocolaty Chocolate Brownies

Serves 16

 

8 ounces (225 g) high-quality semisweet chocolate

½ cup (120 ml) melted coconut oil

3 tablespoons ground chia seeds

¾ cup (180 ml ) espresso or strong black coffee (regular or decaffeinated), at room temperature

1¼ cups (250 g) packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoonpure vanilla extract

¾ cup (105 g) whole-wheat pastry flour

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

⅔ cup (75 g) chopped walnuts

 

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 350° (180°C). Grease an 8-by-8-in (20-by-20-cm) baking pan with coconut oil. Cover the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper, and then grease the top of the parchment paper.

2. Chop 3 ounces (85 g) of the chocolate into pieces no larger than chocolate chips. Set them aside. Break the remaining 5 ounces (140 g) of the chocolate into pieces about ½ inch (12 mm) wide and put them in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl suspended over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir frequently, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove it from the heat and transfer the chocolate to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the coconut oil, and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Put the chia seeds in a small mixing bowl and whisk in the coffee. Let sit 5 to 10 minutes until it thickens (this is our egg substitute). Whisk again to make sure there are no lumps.

4. Whisk the sugar into the chocolate mixture. Add the vanilla and the chia mixture and whisk vigorously until blended.

5. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the reserved chopped chocolate and the walnuts. Do not overmix. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the top feels dry and the brownies feel firm when a toothpick is inserted in the center. Watch them closely during the final minutes of baking to make sure the edges don’t burn.

6. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool. These brownies are best when they cool overnight or are refrigerated for 2 hours after they come to room temperature. When they are ready to serve, cut into 16 squares. The brownies will stay fresh at room temperature for about 5 days in an airtight container, and they also freeze well.

 

1 square: Calories: 270 | Fat: 15g | Carbs: 34g | Protein: 3g | Sodium: 100mg | Dietary Fiber: 8% | Copper: 10% | Magnesium: 10%

From the Straight From the Earth: Irresistible Vegan Recipes for Everyone Cookbook by  Myra Goodman & Marea Goodman

A Note from Clean Plates: We recommend using the following ingredients in recipes whenever possible: locally grown and/or organic produce, organic grains and beans, animals raised without hormones and antibiotics (ideally pasture-raised), sea salt (rather than table salt), natural sweeteners such as palm sugar, raw honey or maple syrup (rather than refined sugars), and better-quality cooking oils such as coconut oil, ghee or pastured butter (for high-heat cooking) and organic extra-virgin olive oil (for cooler-temperature cooking and dressings).

 

Bug Appétit! Insects are more nutritious (and delicious) than you may think

chapul crickets

We took one for the team and taste-tested cricket treats, which turned out downright yummy—and ridiculously good for sustainability and health.

Before you go eww, consider this: It takes ten pounds of feed to raise just one pound of beef; the same amount can feed can produce eight pounds of crickets. Bugs are full of protein and in nutrients including iron, calcium and vitamin B12. Humans have a long evolutionary history of eating bugs, so enzymes in our digestive tract are particularly good at aiding the absorption of insect protein.

In 2012, hydrologist and whitewater rafting guide Pat Crowley founded Utah-based Chapul, and was first-to-market with cricket food. Chapul’s raw-diet friendly protein bars are dense, moist and nutty. Choose from three versions: dark chocolate, coffee and cayenne; peanut butter and chocolate; or coconut, ginger and lime. They’re releasing a matcha tea bar this spring and are considering selling their FDA-approved cricket flour to competitors.

Chapul is available online and in 200 stores internationally. Last week, Crowley won a $50,000 investment from entrepreneur Mark Cuban with his national television debut on ABC’s Shark Tank, so don’t be surprised if you find Chapul backordered.

What’s next? Crowley is experimenting with other insects. More than 2,000 species are eaten around the world, he says, so that’s like saying, “What plants are we going to eat next?”

Other cricket-based grub options: San Francisco-based Bitty Foods offers chocolate chip cookies and packages of the cricket flour itself. NYC-based EXO was founded by two Brown University grads who worked with a Michelin-starred chef to perfect their protein bars.

Buy Chapul Bars

Never Bean Better These Mexican legumes with a mission don’t jump—they shout

Rancho Gordo Moro beans

Through the humble bean, Steve Sando of California-based Rancho Gordo is doing something for genetic diversity and local tradition.

He’s on a mission to remedy an ironic phenomenon: the growing middle class in Mexico increasingly buys commercial beans grown as far away as China even though Mexico itself is a major bean producer. Beans are indigenous to the New World, but heirloom varieties near extinction. So Sando teamed up with a Mexico-based company to launch the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project and has revitalized American (and Mexican) demand for unique beans grown in Mexico.

The imports round out his main selection planted in Napa. Sando offers an ever-changing selection of 20 to 30 varieties.

We loved the purple-grey, rattlesnake-patterned Moro bean. Thin-skinned with a fudgy smooth middle, it tastes somewhere between a black bean and a pinto. Try it in stews, salads or on its own as a fiber- and protein-rich side dish.

We’re not the only legume lovers around: A little restaurant called The French Laundry serves Sando’s beans: “I ran into [French Laundry chef-owner] Thomas Keller at the farmers market, and he told me ‘What you’re doing is very important,’” Sando says.

Buy Moro Beans

What Hippocrates Said And sugar isn’t what the doc ordered

Dr Mark Hyman

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

We were reminded of that wise Greek guy when we talked to Dr. Mark Hyman, a modern-day Hippocrates.

The author of seven New York Times #1 bestsellers, Hyman heals with food. He’s a pioneer of Functional Medicine, which targets the roots of chronic disease by balancing the body system rather than Band-Aid the symptoms.

“Americans think that fat makes you fat, but it’s actually sugar that causes sickness, obesity and the FLC (Feel Like Crap) Syndrome,” he says.

Hyman’s new book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, promises a whole reboot: increase energy, break the sugar addiction, rid all symptoms and lose weight through whole foods, supplements and actions like journaling.

Each of the 10 days is driven by a theme: Satisfy, Detox, Empty, Move, Listen, Think, Nuture, Design, Notice and Connect. 600 people from Hyman’s online community tried it, and they lost more than 4,000 pounds in 10 days.

Hyman shares three easy tips to start cutting sugar:

Go zzz. When you’re tired, you’ll resort to consuming quickly absorbed sugars to get energy, stat.

Fight sugar with fat. Fat makes you full and balances your blood sugar. Fuel up with good fats: nuts and seeds, olive oil, coconut butter, avocados and omega-3 fatty fish.

Breathe. Taking deep breaths activates the vagus nerve, which switches your metabolism from fat storage to fat burning. De-stressing also decreases cortisol, which makes you prone to sugary cravings.

Get the Book

Photo credit: Ian Grey, courtesy of Mark Hyman

Further the Cause What do French fries, a Mercedes and your hands have in common?

Further product shot

We first discovered Further Products hand soap at a Clean Plates-approved restaurant, the same type of establishment from where L.A.-based founders Marshall and Megan Dostal source the discarded vegetable oil they use to make their line of hand soaps, dish soaps and candles.

Marshall is the sort of uber-eco guy who makes his own biodiesel fuel, and gave Megan an aha moment when she found him surrounded by drums of glycerin, a byproduct of the biodiesel-making process and a key ingredient in many soaps and beauty products.

The Dostals combined the glycerin with a homespun blend of essential oils to create their first batch of biodegradable hand soap. Five years later, Marshall has recycled 50,000 gallons of restaurant grease.

We washed up with the stuff and found it happily sudsy with a pleasant, herby scent of bergamot, olives and grass.

You can find Further Products at top restaurants (like L.A.’s Pizzeria Mozza and NYC’s WD-50) and retailers around the country. Or buy it straight from the source.

BUY FURTHER SOAP

Mix it Up Who knew? Kombucha goes great in your drinks.

Black Magic kombucha cocktail

We were surprised when we got carded while buying some kombucha, that probiotic-packed sparkling fermented tea that’s good for your gut.

Certain formulas, we learned, are now subject to the same regulations as beer, wine and liquor if they contain more than 0.05% alcohol.

Research has shown that kombucha may help immunity and digestion. A new study has even linked probiotics to improved thinking and emotion.

We figured that if we’re getting a kick from our kombucha, why not go all the way (sometimes)? Our plan: kombucha cocktails.

We found a kindred spirit in Rich Awn, the founder of the kombucha blog and brand Mombucha (named after his mother, who first taught him how to brew his own kombucha).

“Kombucha is naturally carbonated and acidified, adding subtle sweetness and sourness without all that high-fructose corn syrup and other artificial nasties in soft drink mixers,” he says. “You might use it like cola—or even a traditional shrub or drinking vinegar.”

So ward off the winter bugs and blues with his Black Magic, a black tea-, coconut- and pineapple-flavored kombucha cocktail Awn created for us.

Black Magic

Makes 4 drinks

4 ounces black tea kombucha (Mombucha or another brand)
1 tablespoon chopped dried pineapple
1 tablespoon shredded toasted coconut
1 teaspoon finely chopped vanilla bean, including pods and seeds
4 ounces rye whiskey
8 ounces club soda
4 orange twists, for garnish

1. Make the black vanilla kombucha mix: In a jar, combine the pineapple, coconut and vanilla bean with the black tea kombucha. Let steep for 10 minutes (or longer to taste). Strain out the solid ingredients.

2. Make the cocktails: For each cocktail, fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Then add 1 ounce infused kombucha and 1 ounce whiskey. Shake well and strain into couple or other cocktail glasses. Top off with 2 ounces club soda. Garnish with the orange twists and serve.

Photo credit: Chelsea Perry for Zaarly

Eat Your Veggies A farm-to-table restaurant makes vegetable yogurt

Web_BlueHillYogurt_4flavorswithvegetables_BenAlsop

It’s sweet. It’s savory. It’s everything you could ever want. (In a yogurt.)

We love this new line of vegetable yogurts created by chef Dan Barber and his team at New York’s Blue Hill restaurants and made from hormone-free, grass-fed milk from Blue Hill’s own farm and other small farms in the Northeast.

So far you can choose from six flavors: beet, carrot, sweet potato, butternut squash, tomato and parsnip. The yogurts are gently sweetened with touches of maple sugar, maple syrup or honey. And while typical fruit-flavored yogurts contain only about 6 to 8 percent fruit, Blue Hill’s line are comprised of 30 percent vegetables in each container.

You’ve raised an eyebrow. We, too, were skeptical before we tasted our first veggie yogurt. But after many happy bites we found that the puréed vegetables (no chunks, no stirring) made for a rich, custardy texture that reminds us of the Greek variety.

Aside from snacking, we’re finding other uses for the vegetable yogurts in our kitchen: You can whisk them into salad dressings, blend with fresh herbs to make a sauce for roasted vegetables, use them as a milk substitute in frittatas or dollop them on tacos in place of sour cream.

Click here for even more recipe ideas.

Buy Blue Hill Yogurt.