Coco loco Ascend to coconut heaven with Coconut Organics

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You might love coconut, but George Metrik is obsessed with it, so much so that he launched Coconut Organics, a business based in Asheville, NC, that is 100 percent coconut-focused.

“Starting Coconut Organics was a combination of personal passion for a healthy lifestyle, being a foodie, and also realizing that somehow as humans we got lost along the way a bit,” he says. “Coconut was one of the first foods of humankind, yet over the past 40 to 60 years, we completely forgot how amazing, pure and versatile the coconut is in all of its forms.”

All that coconut lovin’ has led to products that touch on coconut’s various nutritional superpowers like hydration, minerals, electrolytes, good fat, probiotics and soluble fiber. Coconut Organics’ lineup includes raw coconut chips spiked with Tahitian vanilla or raw organic cacao, as well as what Metriks has dubbed “coconut bacon.”

Coconut chips in dark chocolate, unsweetened or bacon flavors.

Made from an all-organic blend of toasted coconut chips, coconut oil, coconut sugar, Celtic sea salt, spices and mesquite, coconut bacon has a smoky, savory and slightly sweet kick along with plenty of saturated fats to keep you satiated. Try topping hard-boiled eggs with a couple of flakes, send a flurry over a bowl of salad or just eat them straight from the bag.

At this year’s Natural Products Expo West (the Super Bowl of good food), Coconut Organics introduced eight new products, including infused raw coconut oils, low- glycemic coconut nectar sweetener and an ultra-safe coconut-derived soap, which are all headed for national and online distribution in the next two weeks.

If this is coconut craziness, we’ll take it.

Growing pains You'll never take vegetables for granted again

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Have you been taking your food for granted?

Signs of a failure of appreciation could include lobbing heads of cauliflower into the dark back corners of your fridge or chomping down on an apple with nary a second thought about its provenance.

If taken to vegetable court, we’d find ourselves guilty, too.

Nicole Cotroneo Jolly, the founder of How Does it Grow?, wants to change our relationship with the produce we buy at the grocery store with free, lush videos that tell the stories of our food from field to fork.

In her short videos, she focuses on one crop at a single farm and drills down into the food’s history, nutrition statistics, what it takes to grow and how to prepare it for maximum deliciousness. Right now the episodes cover mushrooms, garlic, cauliflower, cranberries and apples.

DYK: one cup of cauliflower has more vitamin C than an orange? Click to watch the video.

We binged watched the videos and learned surprising facts in each and every one. Did you know that cauliflower turns yellow if not shielded from the sun, that it is fertilized with Peruvian penguin poop (really) and that one cup of cauliflower has more vitamin C than an orange?

Once you’ve gotten to know your produce better, you’ll want to treat it better, too. Utilize the “Where Should I Store?” widget to help you make sure you’re storing ingredients in the proper place. We love the tips on ripening (store avocados at room temperature in a paper bag if you want to make guacamole sooner) and extending the taste and longevity of foods (the longer kale sits at room temperature, the more bitter it gets).

Your kitchen is sure to be a lean, green machine in no time.

Double header Wake up and smell these two new cookbooks

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Blow the horns, beat the drums: Today is a banner day for great cookbooks, with two new indispensible clean-eating guides hitting the stores.

Hold onto your cast iron skillet, coconut oil and coconut milk: things are about to get seriously delicious.

In My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season ($30), the Copenhagen-based Sarah Britton, a holistic nutritionist and the blogger behind My New Roots reveals 100 new vegetarian recipes, most of which are also vegan, many are gluten-free and some are 100% raw. We love how the book is a mix of simple weeknight meals (think Thai-style coconut soup with zucchini noodles) and food “projects” that you can tackle on a weekend, like making ghee, growing your own sprouts or DIY-ing cashew yogurt.

Two great new cookbooks to add to your shelf.

Over in California, husband-and-wife team Hugh and Sara Forte of the Sprouted Kitchen blog have a similarly resplendent style, full of seasonal produce and whole grains, and with the addition of small bits of animal protein here and there. In their new book, The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl and Spoon: Simple and Inspired Whole Foods Recipes to Savor and Share ($25), the two tap into our desire to eat everything from one vessel, whether serving guests a Caribbean bowl with jerk-seasoned whitefish or spooning up curried sweet potato soup with crispy black lentils on the couch while binging on Netflix.

Both books emphasize the importance of making simple healthy choices daily and the wonders of gathering people around a table to eat. With that in mind, we’re sharing the Forte’s recipe for a tropical “smoothie bowl” spiked with anti-inflammatory turmeric (an ingredient Britton also features on her blog). The idea takes a smoothie from something you gulp down on the run to a rainbow-hued bowl (frozen yogurt-like in its thickness) that is gorgeous enough to serve for a weekend breakfast at home with friends.

Tropical Smoothie Bowl
Adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl and Spoon: Simple and Inspired Whole Foods Recipes to Savor and Share

Serves 12

2 cups frozen mango
1 cup frozen pineapple
½ cup coconut water
½ cup orange juice
¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
2 bananas
1 to 2 tablespoons bee pollen (optional)
1 cup crisped rice cereal
¾ cup toasted coconut flakes
¾ cup toasted, chopped macadamia nuts

Blend the mango, pineapple, coconut water, orange juice, coconut milk, and turmeric until very smooth. Distribute evenly among four bowls. Cut the banana into thin slices. Garnish each bowl with portions of banana slices, bee pollen, crisp rice cereal, coconut flakes, and macadamia nuts.

My sweet SugaVida is your new sugar alternative

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Refined white sugar is a cruel mistress. She pulls you in with sweet claims and leaves you with toxic results.

Try making the switch to SugaVida ($14 for 8.8 ounces), a new sugar alternative that is organically certified and is now rolling out in stores across the country and online.

Even though this sweetie is showing up to the party with a new name, it’s been around for a long time. You might know SugaVida as jaggery, which is often used in Southern and East India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and several African countries. Derived from the sap of the palmyra palm tree, SugaVida is harvested sustainably (without cutting down trees) in Southeast India while supporting local producers and biodiversity in farming communities.

Test out SugaVida with the yummy gluten-free clementine almond muffin recipe below.

SugaVida has a low glycemic index, doesn’t raise blood insulin, and is a plant-based source of the hard-to-get vitamin B-12 along with calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, sodium and phosphorus. The flavor brings to mind a mild caramel with a slight nutty kick. It’s a great alternative to stevia, which can leave a bitter aftertaste, and is more neutral tasting than coconut sugar. Plus SugaVida can be used in both cold and hot drinks and for baking.

New studies are even claiming that it has anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effects and can reduce blood cholesterol levels. But don’t take that as a sign to go buck wild, remember this is still a sweetener. We’re for moderation in all things (except for vegetables).

Gluten-Free Clementine
Almond Muffins



 Makes 12 small muffins
1 cup + 1 tablespoon organic butter
¾ cup of SugaVida
4 organic eggs
Zest of 2 organic clementines and juice of one organic clementine
2 cups ground organic almonds
½ cup organic gluten-free flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice

1. Heat the oven to 350F degrees.
2. In a bowl beat the SugaVida and butter together until light. Slowly add the eggs one at a time until well mixed. Add the zest and juice and gently fold in the rest of the ingredients to make a smooth batter.
3. Pour into muffin wrappers and bake for 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Note: Make this recipe grain-free by omitting the flour and adding ½ cup more of ground organic almonds.

It’s a date Deliciously Ella goes beyond the blog with a new book

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For Ella Woodward, simplicity reigns.

This means a plant-based diet free from gluten, dairy, refined sugars and anything processed. The lifestyle choice for the author of the new Deliciously Ella: 100+ Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Plant-Based, Gluten-Free Recipes ($20) isn’t just a aesthetically driven one, but rather a commitment driven by some very real medical concerns.

When she was 19 years old, Ella was diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome, a rare illness that left her bed-ridden 95 percent of the time.

Ella calls herself a former “sugar monster.” Out went a diet that revolved around pints of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream and spoonfuls of Nutella. In came the motivation to start a food blog and develop new recipes like sweet potato brownies, butternut squash risotto and quinoa and turmeric fritters.

As Ella’s diet stabilized, so did her symptoms—the blackouts, heart palpitations, unbearable stomach issues, chronic pain and constant headaches were gone and she was able to go off her medication completely.

Ella Woodward, self-proclaimed former “sugar monster” turned Britain’s “new Nigella”.

Ella’s blog, which chronicled her experiments, earned her the title Britan’s “new Nigella” and quickly grew into a popular app and now this vibrant book filled with vivid recipes.

We were struck by one recipe that’s so simple it’s hardly a recipe at all—just a very, very good suggestion. Take portly Medjool dates, pry them open, stuff their bellies with almond butter and a dusting of raw cacao powder. (Attempt to) wait an hour while they chill in the fridge. As Ella says, “This may not be the most complicated recipe in the book, in fact it may well be the simplest, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the best! It’s sweet and satisfying and oh-so-delicious. The caramel-like dates complement the creamy almond butter so well—it’s a match made in heaven.”

Medjool Dates Stuffed with Nut Butter

 

Makes 12 dates

12 Medjool dates
12 teaspoons organic nut butter (Ella recommends almond butter)
Optional: a sprinkling of organic raw cacao powder

1. Peel the dates open, without totally cutting them in half, and remove the pits.
2. Place a small teaspoon of organic nut butter and a sprinkling of organic raw cacao powder where the pit was and push the 2 halves of the date together again.
3. Place the stuffed dates in the fridge to firm up for about an hour and then enjoy.

Drip drop Why you need Honeydrop by your side this winter

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David Luks, the CEO and founder of Honeydrop, has upgraded everyone’s mom’s secret weapon (a spoonful of honey in your tea, that is).

His cold-pressed juice business was inspired in the wake of a cancer diagnosis. He says, “I was inspired by a nutritionist who told me to consume less processed foods such as white bread, white rice and white sugar. She told me pure raw honey is unrefined, never heated, and thus naturally contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and most importantly, does not spike your blood sugar as fast as highly refined sweeteners.”

Think of the antimicrobial manuka honey as nature’s antibiotic.

Honeydrop specifically uses New Zealand Manuka Honey, which is packed with methylglyoxal, a powerful compound that can fight infections. “We source Manuka Honey with a 12+ Unique Manuka Factor (UMF),” he says. “The UMF measure is the standard way of describing the bacteria-killing power of the product.” Think of the antimicrobial Manuka honey as nature’s antibiotic.

When you drink a refreshing Apple Ginger Lemon Daily Immunity Honeydrop ($7; find a store near you here or order online), you not are only consuming two cold- pressed Fuji apples, one lemon, an ounce of ginger and a tablespoon of Manuka Honey, you are also supporting the company’s “Buy A Bottle, Save a Bee” initiative to fight Colony Collapse Disorder. A percentage of proceeds from every bottle of Honeydrop is donated to local beekeepers to build new beehives.

Mom always had it right. Now Honeydrop does, too.

Know more about Colony Collapse Disorder

Follow the rules This celebrity wellness pro has the prescription you need

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We’d love to have a sit-down with Dr. Frank Lipman and ask him, “Hey doc, what can I do to improve my health?” But since Lipman is a bit busy attending to his wellness-focused clients, which include Gwyneth Paltrow and Arianna Huffington, we have the next best thing: his new book, The New Health Rules: Simple Changes to Achieve Whole- Body Wellness ($20).

The book is like peeking into Lipman’s personal playbook of integrative health mantras. The 175 actionable, bite-size tips (each accompanied by a stunning photo) provide practical and simple answers in an ever-growing morass of confusing health advice.

Since we are always thinking about our next meal, we got Lipman to tell us three of his best food-focused tips.

Dr. lipman shares his personal playbook of integrative health mantras.

1. Eat the yolk: No more egg-white omelet nonsense! Let Lipman put the cholesterol myth to bed once and for all. He says: “Contrary to popular belief, the cholesterol you eat has virtually no impact on the cholesterol level of your blood. It’s sugar and carbs that trigger production of bad cholesterol in your body.”

2. Caffeine can have a half-life of seven hours: We are going to have to rethink our afternoon coffee dates after reading Lipman’s manifesto that, “At the very least, you should never consume caffeine after 1:00 p.m. If you are struggling with insomnia or intense stress, eliminating caffeine can make a huge difference.”

3. Think of dairy as a condiment: Although we were taught as children to consume massive amounts of dairy for strong bones, we need to reconsider our intake as adults. Lipman says, “Most adults can’t process cow’s milk. Keep servings to a dollop, max. You can get all the calcium you need from dark-green, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, without stressing your gut.” Seek out raw cheeses made from sheep, goat and buffalo’s milk, instead of commercial cow-based products.

Buy the book

Digital revolution Three new must-have apps for clean eating

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We’ve taken a tip from the Girl Scouts (their motto that is, not the cookies) when it comes to eating better: “Be Prepared.”

That means we consider it our duty to be armed with a stainless steel water bottle and a bag with a couple of tasty snacks thrown in. Recently, we’ve included our phones in our ongoing healthier eating quest with three wonderful apps.

Clean Plates Healthy Restaurant Guide
(New York and Los Angeles, with more cities coming soon.)
Yes, this is a shameless plug, but if you’ve used our free iOS app in the past, get ready to have your mind blown by version 2.0. We’ve given it a makeover with a totally new interface and our list of Top 100 most highly rated, Clean Plates-approved restaurants in NYC and LA. Our nifty geo-location tool means you can easily find restaurants near where you are at any given moment and search by location, cuisine type, cost and dietary preferences including: Clean Meats, Clean Fish, Vegetarian Friendly, Gluten-Free and Clean Desserts. You can even add restaurants to our “My List” feature so you’ll always have a gameplan for new places you want to check out.

Pair up the clean plates and ROC apps for a clean eating, socially responsible dining option power search.

ROC National Diners’ Guide
If you care about where your food comes from and how it was raised or grown, you should also care about who is making your food. This free guide for iPhone or Android from Restaurant Opportunities Center United provides information on the wage and benefit practices of the 150 most popular restaurants in America, while listing responsible picks in major cities across the U.S. That kale salad tastes better when it’s made by a chef who’s provided with paid sick days and served by a waiter who makes a living wage.

James Beard Foundation Vegetables: Recipes by JBF Award–Winning Chefs
Download this app for iPhone or Android (5 recipes free; $3.99 for full access; free to JBF members) and it will be like you’ve got a private chef (take your pick from Thomas Keller, Alice Waters and others) in your home kitchen. Recipes like seared fennel with fennel purée, swiss chard ribs and beet salad with mango, feta, orange and mint are demonstrated in step-by-step high-definition photos and short videos. The app can even email you a complete shopping list or suggest needed cooking gear.

 

Herbs fully loaded A reference book worth a thousand Google searches

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Our shelves are practically buckling under the weight of cookbooks. But our reference library could use a refresh.

We’ve recently been taken with Stepehn Orr’s The New Amercian Herbal ($27.50).

With 900 entries on every herb we’ve ever heard of (plus plenty we haven’t) and dozens of herb-centric recipes, it’s a newly indispensable tome on our table.

Orr lays out the alphabet of herbs (agrimony to yarrow) and describes herb families, herb-drying techniques and fun new words to use like “demulcents,” a class of herbs (including coltsfoot, horehound, licorice, marshmallow, mullein and oats) that coat and lubricate inflamed throat tissues. Plus, the stunningly lush photographs are a reminder that spring surely will come.

Stephen Orr opens your eyes to herbs you didn’t even know you needed. 

The book introduced us to a new Persian dish that we are wild about: Panir Sabzi, a platter of herbs and feta that truly equals more than the sum of its parts. Orr says, “I admire its simplicity: just handfuls of various green herbs combined with cheese, nuts, and radishes and, rather surprisingly, no dressing. It truly is an appetizer as it seems to wake up the senses and digestion for whatever main course is coming.”

Serve the salad with sprouted flatbread and dig in using your hands to pluck a customized mix of herbal flavors.

  Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer

1 small bunch fresh mint
1 small bunch fresh tarragon
1 small bunch fresh parsley
1 small bunch fresh cilantro
1 small bunch fresh basil
4 scallions, trimmed of roots and any damaged leaf tops
4 to 6 small radishes, topped and tailed
1 cup walnuts
¾ pound feta cheese

1. Remove any damaged leaves or tough stems from the herbs and place them in groups in a salad spinner to rinse and dry them thoroughly. Set aside.

2. Wash the scallions and quarter them lengthwise. Wash the radishes and cut them in half. Dry ­roast the walnuts in a skillet until they are lightly brown. Slice the feta into 1⁄4­ inch slices.

3. Arrange each type of herb on a large flat platter, add groups of scallion, walnuts, radishes, and cheese, and serve. Everyone should eat with their hands, grabbing the cheese, vegetables and nuts and using the herb leaves to wrap them in tidy bundles.

 

Buy the book

Flower power Cook up a cruciferous vegetarian steak

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We’re equal-opportunity eaters.

We see no reason a piece of vitamin C-rich and fiber-filled cauliflower can’t be a big, fat and juicy as a resplendent grass-fed steak.

Good thing chefs around the country agree with us. Meet the cauliflower steak: A full head of cauliflower, core intact, sliced from top to bottom and temptingly seared and caramelized. It deserves to be the centerpiece of your table, as much as any piece of meat.

At New York’s new Café Clover, executive chef David Standridge serves golden-brown steaks with fresh greens, a chutney of pickled cauliflower and herbs, a cauliflower puree (simply made with water, cauliflower and a touch of cream) and a sauce made of piquillo peppers, garlic, almonds, sherry vinegar and olive oil. “My inspiration was to create a vegetable-centric entree that a pork loving chef, like myself, is fully satisfied by,” he says.

Superba Snack Bar’s cauliflower steak comes with edible flowers, a parsley puree, crispy horseradish and dill.

At Brooklyn’s Eugene & Co, the pan-seared vegetable incorporates cumin, coriander and paprika and is finished off with carrot ribbons, feta and toasted cashews. Park Avenue Winter serves their T-bone with black rice and goat cheese, while Kin Shop puts a Thai twist on theirs with a Siamese green curry with Szechuan peppercorn tempura, kabocha squash and turnips.

Across the country, LA’s Superba Snack Bar has been rocking the trend since 2012, but is changing things up with a new plating with edible flowers, a parsley puree, crispy horseradish and dill.

Thankfully, this is a preparation that is not just for the pros, chef Standridge tell us. “The technique is very simple and something that anyone can easily replicate at home.”

Follow his instructions for your new favorite non-steak steak:

1. Trim a whole head of cauliflower of its leaves and then cut into steaks 1 to 2 inches thick. The best way to do this is to trim from the outside until you can see that the stem is holding the steak together. That will give you an idea of where to cut.

2. Once you have a nice thick piece, it’s just a matter of heating olive oil in a pan until hot and getting a nice golden brown sear on each side.

The health benefits of cauliflower.