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

 

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.

Food is Love A gluten-free romance

shauna_and_danny_CCcrop

“I never liked Valentine’s Day when I was single,” says Shauna James Ahern, the blogger and cookbook author also known as Gluten-Free Girl.

This was before she met her now-husband Daniel Ahern, a restaurant chef, almost exactly one year after she was diagnosed with celiac disease. He turned his restaurant gluten-free so that he could feed her everything that he made.

Forget that fancy restaurant reservation. A delicious, nutritious homemade dinner means more than any bunch of roses. “I’ll tell you, if someone is willing to do the research and make me a safe meal, that is an act of real love…and a huge turn-on,” says Ahern.

Ahern remembers a quiche the pair had while honeymooning in Rome: it featured a brown rice crust and a filling of chicken, kale and preserved lemons. It was so good that she included the recipe in Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, her latest cookbook.

The protein, greens and the brightness from the lemons make for a one-dish dinner that’s perfect for Valentine’s Day, says Ahern. Though the recipe calls for brown rice, you can use any leftover cooked rice you have on hand, which makes this quiche just as easy, every day.

GET THE RECIPE

 Photo courtesy of Shauna James Ahearn.

Brown Rice Quiche with Chicken, Kale, and Preserved Lemons Gluten-Free Girl's most romantic quiche

rice from Gluten Free Girl SMALL

I never thought of using brown rice as a crust until [my husband] Danny and I ate the first meal of our honeymoon in Rome,” says Shauna James Ahern, the blogger and cookbook author also known as Gluten-Free Girl. 

“We’d saved up for months and months to go there. We stepped off the plane exhausted and excited. That first meal didn’t disappoint. Danny had a dish of veal cheeks with stuffed squash blossoms. It was the first time in our life that he curled his arm around the plate and prevented me from having a bite. (The recipe is in our first cookbook because I wanted him to make it for me!) I wasn’t suffering, however. The waiter lay down a sunny-yellow quiche with brown rice as the crust.”

“I love my gluten-free pie dough recipe, which doubles as a quiche crust, but sometimes a quick brown rice quiche is really satisfying. When we’re cleaning out the refrigerator, and I find a couple of bags of cooked rice, I’m making this. With a quiche batter based on Thomas Keller’s method and the bright taste of preserved lemons, this is one of my favorite quiches.”

Feeds 8

  • Neutral-tasting oil for greasing the pan (CP suggests grapeseed oil)
  • 4 cups cooked brown rice, at room temperature
  • 8 large eggs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups milk (nondairy milk works fine here too)
  • 2 cups cashew cream (recipe here) or 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • Several scrapings fresh nutmeg
  • 1 cup shredded roasted chicken (preferably organic)
  • 1/2 bunch Lacinato kale, finely chopped (you can use any kind of kale you want)
  • 1/4 cup Preserved Lemons (recipe here)
  • 3/4 cup grated Gruyere

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly grease the inside of a 9-inch springform pan.

Making the brown rice crust. Combine the rice and 2 of the eggs in a large bowl. Using your hands, smoosh them all together until you have a slightly wet pile of rice. Season with salt and pepper.

Wet your hands. Press the rice mixture into the springform pan. Your hands will be sticky with it and the rice will cling to itself at times–don’t worry. Keep working, patiently, until the rice mixture has evenly covered the bottom and halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Put the pan on the baking sheet and slide it in the oven. Bake until the crust is set and just starting to brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.

Making the batter. Pour 1 cup of the milk, 1 cup of the cashew cream, 3 of the remaining eggs, 1/2 tablespoon of salt, and a couple of pinches of fresh nutmeg in a blender. Blend on low speed for 10 seconds. Turn up the speed to high and blend until the mixture is frothy, about 30 seconds. Pour this into the cooled quiche crust.

Layering the ingredients for the quiche. Scatter the chicken, kale, preserved lemons, and 1/2 cup of the Gruyere evenly over the bottom of the quiche crust.

Finishing the quiche. Blend the remaining ingredients for the batter in the same manner as instructed above. Pour this in to the quiche shell, taking care to cover all the ingredients. Scatter the rest of the Gruyere on top.

Baking the quiche. Bake the quiche until the eggs are firmly set and the top is browned, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove the quiche from the oven and let it cool completely to room temperature before serving.

 

Feel like playing?

To be honest, this quiche (like all quiches) gets better every day that it is in the refrigerator. It’s worth making the day before.

If you want to serve the quiche hot, preheat the oven to 375°F. Slice the quiche into 8 pieces. Put them on a baking sheet and into the oven until they are hot, about 15 minutes.

Recipe and photo reprinted from Gluten-Free Girl Every Day by Shauna James Ahern. Copyright © 2013 by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.