Category Archives: Food Products & Recipes

Cooking with Oats

The first meal most people think of when they hear the word “oats” is Oatmeal for breakfast, and with good reason.  A substantial, warming breakfast, loaded with fruit to add sweetness and extra nutrition, is a very healthy start to the day on a cold winter’s morning.

The nutritional benefit comes in particular from the soluble fiber which has been shown to help lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, reduce the risk of some cancers and increase the resistance to infections, among other things.  Oats also have substantial mineral content, being particularly high in manganese and selenium.

Oats are roasted after being harvested and cleaned, which helps give them their distinctive flavor. They are then hulled, but this doesn’t remove all the bran and germ, so they keep much of their nutritional value. They are processed by steaming and rolling (rolled oats), slicing thinly (steel-cut oats), partially cooking (instant oats), or grinding (oat flour) to give them the consistency and cooking time required.  Watch out for the additional sugar and salt often added to instant oats which makes for a quicker, but less nutritious breakfast.

In addition to breakfast cereals, oats are often used in cookies and cobblers, and oat flour can be used to make cookies, pies and muffins.  Since the natural fats in oats can go rancid, it is best to buy oats in smaller quantities and store them in the refrigerator if you’re not using them regularly.

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PepsiCo moves toward plant-based foods

The trend of mainstream companies producing vegan products continues. PepsiCo, the third largest food company in the world, say they’ve formed a joint venture with Beyond Meat to create, produce and market snacks and drinks with plant-based ingredients.

The partnership gives Beyond, a relative newcomer to the food world, a chance to leverage Pepsi’s production and marketing expertise for new products. For its part, Pepsi can deepen its investment in plant-based categories, which are growing increasingly popular, while working with one of the top creators of meat substitutes. Pepsi says, “Plant-based proteins represent an exciting growth opportunity for us, a new frontier in our efforts to build a more sustainable food system and be a positive force for people and the planet, while meeting consumer demand for an expanded portfolio of more nutritious products.”

The trend of plant based products being produced by mainstream companies was undreamed of by many just a few decades ago. This is another sign of the success of the veg movement.

Unilever moves toward plant-based foods

Another corporate giant, Unilever, has read the writing on the wall and is entering the plant based food industry. Unilever is a huge company, owning many well-known food products such as Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Lipton’s Tea and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise. So it’s a big deal when they announced that their sales target for plant-based foods would be around $1.2 billion by the year 2027.  This ambitious target is part of the company’s Future Foods initiative which commits the food giant ‘to make healthier and sustainable food affordable for everyone.’  It has also pledged to continue lowering calorie, salt and sugar content in its products.

In an online statement, Unilever wrote, “Animal agriculture is known to be the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions after fossil fuels. [It is also] a cause of deforestation, water and air pollution, and biodiversity loss….Reducing our meat consumption is essential… We know that a diverse, plant-based diet is better for our health and the health of the planet. But if we want people to make the switch, we need plant-based options to be more accessible, affordable, and appetizing.” Unilever added that its sales target will result in a ‘wider range of vegan and vegetarian’ options.

The president of Unilever’s food and refreshment business said that the initiative will help the ‘world figure out how we can eat more plant-based…that way we may not lose the planet.’  She noted that in most developed countries, plant-based foods are currently only 5% of meat or dairy. Some predictions say that this could go to 50%.  Of course we hope that it goes much higher than that!

Meghan Markle invests in Oat milk latte company

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex who is married to Prince Harry, has followed a mostly plant-based diet for several years.  She recently announced that she will invest an undisclosed amount in a vegan start up Clevr Blends, which is selling instant SuperLattes made with oat milk.  Clevr is a woman-led company focused on offering specialized wellness products that contribute to a healthier planet and a more just society.  They offer a number of different flavors of instant lattes, where you just add water. In addition to oat milk powder, they use coconut milk powder, monk fruit (a natural, no-calorie sweetener) and various spices. They use only organic or non-gmo ingredients and are working diligently on improving the sustainability of their packaging.

Markle said “This investment is in support of a passionate female entrepreneur who prioritizes building community alongside her business.  I’m proud to invest in Hannah’s [the owner’s] commitment to sourcing ethical ingredients and creating a product that I personally love and [that] has a holistic approach to wellness. I believe in her and I believe in her company.”

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Ten Top Reasons To Skip The Turkey On Thanksgiving

We’d like to take this opportunity to invite you to join the growing number of people who’ll skip the turkey this Thanksgiving. There are lots of good reasons to find better and healthier ways to celebrate one of our favorite holidays. Turkey has the same disadvantages as other kinds of meat. To help you along, here are our top ten reasons to skip the bird this year. Remember that what we say about turkey is true of other holiday favorites such as ham as well. Read more

Big News from McDonald’s: the McPlant Burger and Chicken

This is important. McDonald’s has almost 14,000 restaurants in the United States (and 39,000 world wide) and is finally rolling out vegan options to all its stores.

McDonald’s is developing what it calls a plant-based platform called the McPlant that will debut in markets around the world early next year. McDonald’s confirms creation of McPlant plant-based burger and the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, which will debut in 2021. McDonald’s has finally joined the plant-based burger battle and Chicken Sandwich War.

The plant-based chicken sandwich announcements were part of the company’s new growth strategy called “Accelerating the Arches.” The strategy includes a commitment to the core menu. In the future, McPlant could extend across a line of plant-based products. Interestingly, instead of buying existing products and incorporating them into their menu, McPlant is crafted exclusively for McDonald’s and by McDonald’s. They’re going it alone.

Compared to some other fast food chains in the U.S., McDonald’s has been something of a laggard. Burger King has worked with Impossible Foods to launch the Impossible Whopper, and Beyond Meat has partnered with KFC on a plant-based nugget. These two leading alternative protein makers have done a fairly good job of carving up the fast food market to date — but the McDonald’s entry with its exclusive formulation must come as a blow to these companies (and the other startups that were hoping for a bite of the McDonald’s food empire).

The veg movement is making progress. Some of us thought we would never see the fast food restaurants serve vegan meals in our lifetimes, but it seems that all the major chains are now embracing the concept, making it much easier to find vegan options on the road and hopefully encouraging many more people to give it a try.

Jackfruit – A great meat alternative

Jackfruit growing on treeResearchers say jackfruit, a large ungainly fruit grown across south and southeast Asia, could be a replacement for wheat, corn and other staple crops under threat from climate change. Jackfruit is the largest known tree borne fruit. Even a small jackfruit weighs in at 10-15 lbs, and farmers have recorded specimens of more than 100 lbs. A single tree can often supply over two tons of jackfruit per year.

Jackfruit can fill the gap on a number of counts, said Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank, which works on sustainable agriculture. “It is easy to grow. It survives pests and diseases and high temperatures. It is drought resistant,” she said. “It achieves what farmers need in food production when facing a lot of challenges under climate change.” It’s also thought of as playing a role in alleviating global hunger. Originally from India, today jackfruit is grown across many parts of south and southeast Asia as well as Brazil.

Upton's Jackfruit

Featured at Vegfest! We were proud to feature Upton’s debut of their line of jackfruit-based meat analogues – one of the most popular foods we ever had at the festival.

At markets around the world, vendors slice open the big yellow orbs, cut out the fleshy bulbs of the inner part of the fruit, and sell them by the pound. Ripe, the fruit tastes like a cross between a mango and a pineapple. But young more neutral-tasting jackfruit can also be shredded, seasoned, cooked, and served up as an alternative to meat.

Young jackfruit has a great “chew.” The flavor is neutral, so it will adapt to any herbs or spices you choose to add. The pods are usually about 2-3 inches around and are very nice to add to stews. It can be chopped, shredded, or sliced, and formed into cutlets, steaks, burgers, and balls, or used as a meat crumble.

While like most fruit, it is low in protein, Jackfruit is great for the calorie conscious. For instance a serving of Upton’s Barb-B-Que Jackfruit has only 45 calories per serving and 4 grams of fill me up fiber. You can also buy young jackfruit in cans and add it to your own favorite recipes to get a great meaty texture. BBQ Jackfruit Taco Recipe

Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Italy

San Giuliano has been a regular participant at Vegfest. We were curious to know more about the company and the olive oil they produce, so we asked Jean Mollmann, their local representative, to fill us in:

First of all, what exactly is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or EVOO, is the raw juice of olives. There are a few grades of olive oil. “Extra virgin” is the highest grade and best olive oil, packing anti-inflammatory antioxidants and remarkable flavors. To be considered extra virgin, the olives must be washed in cold water and cold-pressed within 24 hours of harvest without using heat or chemicals (and contain less than .08% acidity). Second and additional pressings of olives lack antioxidants, flavor, and have undergone either a chemical or heat process.

San Giuliano’s EVOO is produced from 100% Italian olives, sustainably grown, cold-pressed, and bottled by San Giuliano in Alghero, Sardinia, Italy. It’s “Non-GMO Project” verified and certified organic under the European Organic Standards.

How did San Giuliano get started?

What began as a trade of milling olives in the late 1800s, in the town of Alghero on the northwestern coast of blue-zone Sardinia, Italy, is today a four-generation strong, sustainable agricultural farm and master producer of world-class extra virgin olive oil. Branded as San Giuliano in 1975, namesake for the lands where the olive groves reside, the Manca family attributes San Giuliano’s ongoing acclaim to their extensive experience, technical skills, and the values they place on their people, land, and tradition.  

Tell us something about the company today. How does it operate?
The lands of San Giuliano in the Mediterranean present a geologic composition and climate that is ideal for cultivating olives. Because San Giuliano is vertically integrated, we grow, harvest, press, store, and bottle under our complete supervision, ensuring meticulous oversight of the product lifecycle.

San Giuliano EVOO is rich in polyphenol (antioxidant) properties because it contains a high percentage of early harvest olives, is cold-pressed within hours of harvest, stored in climate-controlled stainless steel tanks, and bottled on-demand in custom bottles designed to preserve its nutrients and all its delicious flavors and nuances.

Why is San Giuliana so popular? What’s their secret?
Behind the brand of San Giuliano is the Manca family and a team who, through over a century of farming olives and producing extra virgin, have perfected the timing of harvests and the masterful blending of cultivars, and operate some of the most advanced mill technology in Italy. San Giuliano’s passion for producing excellence from olives represents generations of dedication to one of nature’s most amazing fruits. The secret to San Giuliano’s success, in particular, as summarized by President Pasquale Manca as, “We wake early, work hard, and we operate as a team.”

What’s next? Can you give us a hint of things to come?

With an eye to your great, great, grandchildren and beyond, San Giuliano invests in the future of olive oil production through regenerative agricultural practices, ongoing planting of olive trees, and by being a carbon neutral operation. The cultivars San Giuliano focuses on are those which are indigenous to Italy. In Spring 2021, San Giuliano will offer its first monocultivar (the juice of one type of olive versus a blend) to the North American market, in response to the growing demand for high quality extra virgin olive oil with distinct regional profiles.

Jason Wilson, James Beard award-winning chef and seed-to-fork restauranteur (Pacific Northwest), took special interest in San Giuliano after discovering their extra virgin olive oils. In 2019, Chef Jason visited the family’s lands and facility in Alghero, and has since become a vocal champion of the brand.

San Giuliano enlisted a team based in the Pacific Northwest to further its growth in North America. Their just-launched website www.ExcellenceFromOlives.com retails some of their award-winning olive oils. Recipes, resources and more coming soon. You can drop the Team a note at livewell@excellencefromolives.com. Salute!

Vegan Ice Cream is all the Rage

It’s been hot lately so naturally many people want ice cream, but many don’t want the dairy that comes with it. If you like dairy-free ice cream, you’re not alone.  

Vegan ice cream is made from various natural plant sources such as almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, and rice milk, and it’s getting more and more popular. Many flavors are available such as caramel, chocolate, coconut, coffee, vanilla, and fruit. In 2019, caramel was the most popular, but the fruit flavors are growing rapidly.

According to one report, the global vegan ice cream industry was estimated at $520.9 million in 2019, and is expected to hit $805.3 million by 2027. Where there used to be only a few makers of vegan ice cream, its growing popularity has seen a number of companies enter the market. They know it’s the ice cream of the future. Meanwhile, us consumers have more and more varieties to choose from. You scream, we scream, we all scream for dairy free ice cream!

Back to School – 9 lunch ideas to eat at home!

Eating habits begin in early childhood. Plant-based meals provide excellent nutrition—they are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that boost kids’ health. Children who are raised on healthful vegan diets have a reduced risk for heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and other conditions. Adolescents raised on a plant-based diet often find they have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight. They also have fewer problems with acne, asthma, and gastrointestinal problems than their friends who eat animal products.

Projections from the CDC show that 1 in 3 children will develop type 2 diabetes during their lifetime. More and more children are gaining excess weight, paving the way for health problems later in life. Twenty-five percent of children ages 5 to 10 years have high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, or other early warning signs of heart disease. In fact, American children often have cholesterol plaque in their arteries before they finish high school. Plant-based meals promote health, because they are free of cholesterol, low in saturated fat, and full of fiber.

If children were going back to school in person, we’d be encouraging schools to provide healthy school lunches based around nutritious plant-based foods as much as possible.  But this year, it looks like most kids will be eating lunch at home, so it’s important to make sure you always have nutritious snacks and lunch ideas ready to go, while cutting back on purchasing junk food items that may be all-too-tempting.

The best foods to have ready for snacking are always going to be fruits and vegetables, with nutritious dips to have along with them.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Serve easy-to-eat vegetables along with hummus, guacamole, pesto, or a black bean dip.
    • Baby carrots
    • Snap peas
    • Prepared celery sticks
    • Cherry tomatoes
    • Red pepper sticks
    • Roasted cauliflower florets
  2. Mock tuna spread is great as a sandwich filler served on rye crackers or toasted whole wheat bread – see recipe.
  3. Roasted or grilled veggie strips such as zucchini, eggplant or red pepper strips are delicious in sandwiches, with hummus, baked tofu, or meat substitute products.
  4. Whole wheat wraps, with hummus, lettuce, grated carrot, and red pepper sticks, can be rolled up and sliced into child sized roll-ups.
  5. Of course, remember that the classic favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are plant-based.  Just choose a whole wheat bread, a brand of peanut butter without lots of additives, and a low sugar jelly or jam.
  6. Crackers can be served with a cheese substitute product.
  7. As the weather moves towards the colder months, prepared soups (such as Imagine Foods brand) or instant soup pots can be the basis of a nutritious lunch.
  8. And of course if you’ve had a healthy meal for dinner the night before, heated up leftovers make a great lunch!
  9. Having fruit prepared and easy to grab, such as grapes, melon slices, strawberries, and plums or other stone fruits, is a good way to encourage these choices to round out a healthy lunch, rather than chocolate or cookies.

With a little planning and intentional shopping, you can keep the fridge well stocked with foods to make easy lunches, and prevent the temptation to rely on snack bars and cookies for meals and snacks.

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