Pixie Retreat: Behind the scenes in a raw commercial kitchen

March 18, 2020 by  
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I’ve been vegetarian since childhood and have met people with many different takes on a healthy plant-based diet. The raw foodists I’ve encountered have blown me away with the innovation it takes to come up with a menu beyond salad while limiting cooking temperatures to no more than 118 degrees. The raw food philosophy is that heat breaks down food’s nutritional value, while low temperatures allow food to retain enzymes and vitamins, leading to the body’s ability to prevent and fight disease and generally thrive. So when Theresa Keane, co-owner of Pixie Retreat , invited me to tour her Portland, Oregon raw food kitchen, I was intrigued. Her team produces a full vegan, organic , gluten-free and mostly raw menu on a commercial scale. Not only do they supply Pixie Retreat’s three Portland retail locations, they’ve also started wholesaling to local stores. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at a commercial raw food kitchen. The early years Pixie Retreat was built on a dream and a lot of hard work, trial and error. Keane co-founded the business with Willow O’Brien in 2008. At the time, they wanted to make and sell healthful and delicious food , but were new to the dining business. “We didn’t know what we were doing,” Keane said. “We never worked in kitchens, Willow and I. She didn’t even know how to make food. She made tea and stuff like that.” They started out sharing a commissary kitchen with other vegan businesses. That’s where they met Anna Clark, who later became their third business partner. Clark, a pastry chef, was the only one with formal culinary training. After 9 months in the commissary kitchen, they rented a house and ran Pixie Retreat out of it, working late into the night while filling wholesale orders. Keane described a time when an engineer acquaintance stopped by. Their setup left him shocked. “We had eight refrigerators, freezers, 20 dehydrators,” Keane said. “He said it’s amazing you don’t burn this house down. Every night, the power would trip off. We couldn’t even turn the heat on because it would trip the power.” A spotless, modern raw food kitchen They’ve come a long way. Now headquartered in Southeast Portland’s industrial district, the Pixie Retreat RAW’r Laboratorie & Makery is both a retail outlet and the site of their commercial kitchen. The small front part has a seating area and a case of premade wraps and goodies. “We’re grab-and-go style, because that’s how people are living,” Keane said. “We’re not a sit down-like service restaurant . We’re into flavor, satisfaction and integrity of our ingredients. Plating is not my forte.” Customers can also custom-order kale- or millet-based bowls and coconut cream puddings with toppings. The millet is one of several cooked ingredients available. A big white curtain hangs behind the counter, obscuring the kitchen. “That’s more for health department reasons,” Keane said, indicating the curtain. “And to protect the magic back there.” We step through the curtain and find three workers preparing food in an extremely well-organized kitchen. It’s Thursday, one of the big assembly days for delivering to the two other Pixie Retreat outlets. Tacked up on the door of the walk-in dehydrator are long to-do lists for each day of the week. Keane introduced me to her staff and to each machine, many of which were specially made or adapted to the needs of a mostly raw food kitchen. The walk-in dehydration room is the most exciting and unusual. Keane opened the door, releasing a smoky smell. Inside are trays and trays of eggplant bacon strips, which stay in there for 72 hours. Pixie Retreat bought the dehydrator from a former kale chip entrepreneur who devised tools to streamline raw food making. Keane estimated the walk-in dehydrator is 75% more efficient than the company’s former multiple-dehydrator setup. Pixie Retreat has a Robot Coupe Blixer, which is an industrial-strength food processor. “This tool is a game changer,” Keane said. “I mean, it’s expensive like a car, but it paid for itself in labor. I love this tool so much.” The company uses it to blend ingredients for pizza dough, macadamia nut cheese and raw onion bread. Pixie Retreat makes raw chocolate in its chocolate machine, melting it down at a temperature of 108. The chocolate winds up in treats like chocolate salted “karmals”, “almond butta cups” and dehydrated, oat-based chocolate chip cookies. Other interesting tools include an Italian fruit press repurposed for squeezing excess moisture out of sauerkraut and a specially made enormous cookie-cutter to cut onion bread into uniform squares while minimizing waste . Raw and vegan at home The Pixie Retreat kitchen is cool but daunting. What about the average person who wants to add more raw food into their diet without shelling out for a Blixer? “Make nut milk ,” Keane said. “That’s where I would start.” You’ll need a nut milk bag, available online or in some grocery stores’ produce departments. She recommended starting with hazelnuts or almonds. For flavor and sweetness, add sea salt, vanilla and a Medjool date. Put it all in your blender. “Kick it up on high. Blend it. Then you put it in the nut milk bag and you squeeze it out.” Dry out the pulp and use it as a nut flour for baked goods. Related: How to choose the healthiest, most sustainable milk alternative After you master nut milk, try making nut cheese. Keane recommended blending buttery macadamia nuts with water, Italian seasoning, lemon juice and sea salt for a plant-based ricotta. Going national Pixie Retreat scaled back from wholesale for a while to focus on retail locations. But it has just relaunched, selling chocolate “karmal”, salted “karmal” and raspberry “l’il puddin” at New Seasons stores in Portland. Made with organic young coconut meat and Irish moss, these raw desserts are packed with nutrients . Soon, Pixie Retreat plans to introduce nationwide cold shipping of the “l’il puddin’”. Currently, customers across the U.S. can order sweet or savory Pixie snack boxes . But Pixie Retreat’s goals go far beyond Portland or even the U.S. When I asked Keane about the company vision, she immediately said, “Global. That’s the dream. We want to be the fast food of the future.” + Pixie Retreat Images via Josh Chang and Marielle Dezurick / Pixie Retreat and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Pixie Retreat: Behind the scenes in a raw commercial kitchen

How to make a delicious vegan pie for Pi Day

March 13, 2020 by  
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Pie is delicious on any day, but Pi Day may be the impetus to bake — or at least eat — a pie. The annual celebration is named for the mathematical constant ? and observed on March 14, because ? is 3.14. In honor of Pi Day, Lisa Clark, owner of Petunia’s Pies & Pastries in Portland , Oregon shares some of her vegan pie baking tips with Inhabitat. This Pi Day is especially exciting for Clark, as it marks Petunia’s 10th anniversary. Inhabitat: What are the main differences between vegan and non-vegan pies? Clark: The main difference is just the fact that you don’t use butter for the pie dough. We use a blend of half soy -free Earth Balance and half organic shortening. We never use any of the hydrogenated stuff. Even the fillings are not too different: the fruit and a sweetener, which is usually just sugar, and citrus and something to thicken it, whether it’s organic corn starch or tapioca pearls. We do a lot of pies with streusel. We make that the same as traditional streusel but we use, again, the soy-free Earth Balance instead of butter. Related: 12 delicious and crowd-pleasing vegan brunch ideas Inhabitat: What about cream pies? Clark: That’s where it gets definitely a lot more challenging. We make coconut cream pies and chocolate cream pies, and we do key lime pie and banana cream. Depending on what the flavor is, we use a lot of coconut cream instead of regular dairy cream. We try not to use a ton of soy. A lot of people don’t tolerate it well, including myself, so we use a lot of coconut cream and nuts. We try to do some without nuts, because there’s a lot of nut allergies, too. When we make our chocolate cream pie, we use the Mori-Nu silken tofu with the coconut cream just to help the texture be a little more smooth and creamy like it would be traditionally. Automatically, that makes it super thick. Folding in the melted chocolate, it really stiffens up and sets in the fridge. We make coconut whipped cream instead of regular whipped cream for the tops of pies. Inhabitat: How do you make meringue without eggs? Clark: For the meringue, we use dehydrated aquafaba powder. We were using actual aquafaba from a can of chickpeas. But the problem with that is, what are we going to do with all these chickpeas? So there’s a product now that’s dehydrated aquafaba powder; you have to add a certain amount of water per tablespoon and mix it up. Then you cook it on the stove to reduce it down to a third of the volume. You take what’s left, and you whip that up with sugar, like if you were making a traditional meringue with egg whites and sugars. Inhabitat: What are the easiest pies to make? Clark: Definitely the fruit pies are the easiest. Berry pies are the easiest because there’s really no prep involved with the berries . Our most popular pie that we’ve made for the longest time is the bumbleberry peach pie. It’s a mix of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and peaches. We make a coconut hazelnut streusel for the top. ( See the recipe below! ) In the summertime, if people go berry picking, that’s the best time and the best way to make the most amazing pies with fresh, in-season berries. Other times of the year, it’s totally fine to use good frozen berries or even frozen peaches. Frozen fruit works fine, it’s just a little more temperamental with the baking time. There’s more moisture in the fruit because it’s frozen, so all that water is trapped in there. Inhabitat: Can you share any shortcuts you’ve learned over the years? Clark: Chill the fats and mix all your dry ingredients ahead of time. If there’s any fruit to prep, or the lemon zest, you want to do it in advance. I will sometimes measure out the sugar and any of the spices that are going in the filling in a little bowl and have that ready. You can make the streusel in advance and keep it in the fridge. I like to get all the steps of everything ready, so when I want to throw it together, it goes together much faster. Inhabitat: What is the most basic equipment somebody needs to make a pie? Clark: A pie plate and a rolling pin. At the very minimum, that’s what you need. Beyond that, if people have a handheld little pastry blender, that’s really helpful to make the streusel and the pie crust. But you don’t have to one. You can just cut it by hand. Beyond that, if people have a food processor for the crust and streusel, that makes it even faster. A zester for the lemon zest for the filling. A knife. But most people have a knife. And time. You just need some time, some patience. Inhabitat: Any pie mishaps you’re willing to share? Clark: Oh, yeah. I think the most common one would be just not baking the pies long enough. It’s always different. It depends on the weather , it depends on the oven, the flavor of the pie, how much moisture is in the fruit, how long you mix the dough. Sometimes, the crust can start to get too brown in the streusel, but the filling isn’t cooked. We actually bake a pie for the first half without the streusel and then we put the streusel on for the second half of baking to help with that. Every oven is so different. It depends on how thick your pie plate is, too. Like a deep dish or a more shallow pie plate, the baking times can vary so much. The only way to know when it’s really done is by seeing how the fruit bubbles up through the streusel or through the crust on top. It should be bubbling really slowly and look really thick and syrupy. If it just looks watery, like water bubbling out, it’s totally not done. Inhabitat: Any last words of advice for Inhabitat readers? Clark: The biggest advice I want to give people is not to be intimidated. I think when you read the steps, it can sound like a lot. But when you break it down and take one step at a time, it’s really not too bad. The more you do it and practice, it gets easier and easier. Pies are simple. It’s just a dough and a filling you have to sweeten and thicken. And you have to bake it. That’s really all it is. So just remember, it’s very simple and don’t overthink it too much; try to have fun. When people realize that, they tend to do a better job and not get so stressed about it working. As long as it tastes good, too, it doesn’t matter what it looks like. Be brave. Recipe for Bumble Berry Peach Pie with Coconut Hazelnut Streusel By Lisa Clark, Petunia’s Pies & Pastries Pie Crust 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon white rice flour 7 tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons brown rice flour 7 tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons tapioca flour 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons millet flour 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum 1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 3/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup + 1 1/2 teaspoon Earth Balance spread, very chilled & cut into 1/4” pieces 1/4 cup + 1 1/2 teaspoon organic vegetable shortening, very chilled & cut into 1/4” pieces 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons ice cold water Filling In spring and summer, use fresh berries & peaches if possible. The rest of the year, frozen berries and peaches will work just fine. 1 1/2 cups raspberries 1 1/2 cups blueberries 1 1/2 cups blackberries or marionberries 3 1/2 cups sliced peaches 1 cup sugar 6 tablespoons organic cornstarch 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice Coconut Hazelnut Streusel 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned 1 cup coconut 1/4 cup millet flour 1/4 cup white rice flour 3 tablespoons brown rice flour 3 tablespoons tapioca flour 2/3 cup sugar 1/4 tsp salt 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 cup Earth Balance spread, chilled and cut into 1/4” pieces To make the crust, combine the flours, xanthan gum, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and mix well. Add the cold shortening pieces and the cold Earth Balance pieces, and blend with a handheld pastry blender until the fat pieces are in pea-sized clumps. Be careful not to overwork the fats into the dry ingredients. Drizzle the ice-cold water over this mixture and mix by hand until the dough comes together and forms a ball. Again, be careful not to overwork the dough. Flatten the dough into a disk about 1” thick and wrap in plastic. Chill for about 20 minutes. Remove the dough from the fridge and place on a lightly millet-floured non-stick baking mat or countertop. Roll the dough into an even circle, about 1/4” thick. Transfer to a pie plate. Press the dough into the pie plate and form nice fluted edges. Refrigerate the pie shell for 15 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. To make the filling, combine all of the fruit in a large bowl. Mix the cornstarch with the sugar and nutmeg. Sprinkle this mixture over the fruit and mix to evenly combine. Pour lemon juice over the fruit mixture and stir well. Let sit for about 15 minutes (about 25 minutes if you are using frozen fruit) to form juices. Pour mixture into chilled pie shell. Place pie on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 35 minutes (without the streusel). While the pie is baking, make the streusel. Combine hazelnuts, coconut, flours, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl and mix well. Add the cold Earth Balance and work it in by hand until the Earth Balance is in pea-sized clumps. Larger clumps are better than smaller for the streusel. Refrigerate until ready to use. Once the pie has baked for 35 minutes, carefully remove it from the oven and top evenly with streusel, covering all of the fruit. Bake about 35-40 minutes more. The streusel and crust should be golden brown. The pie is ready when you can see the juices bubbling out on the edges and it looks very thick and syrupy. If it appears watery, continue to bake. Let cool (at least 2-3 hours) so the pie can set a bit, then slice, serve and enjoy! + Petunia’s Pies & Pastries Images via Lisa Clark

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Upcoming vegan festivals around the US in 2020

March 5, 2020 by  
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As plant-based eating has crept into the mainstream in recent years, vegan festivals have proliferated. In addition to the long-established fests, like those in Boston and Portland , Oregon, vegan fests have sprung up in surprising places, from West Virginia to Houston. This is by no means an exhaustive list of vegan events but a sampling of some of the top 2020 U.S. vegan festivals, large and small. Vegan Street Fair Los Angeles, March 21-22 The Vegan Street Fair in the North Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles takes over a boulevard and fills it with vegan food and product vendors. Sample everything from plant-based “mozzarella” sticks, burgers, fried “chicken”, macaroni and “cheese” bites and more. The event is free, and you can purchase small samples or full meals from vendors. If you live in the area, the street fair is a larger extension of the weekly Vegan Exchange event in the same neighborhood. Related: Best US cities for vegans and vegetarians Savannah Veg Fest, Sunday, March 22 Savannah is simultaneously historic and progressive, with lots of good vegan food . On March 22, locals will celebrate all things vegan in beautiful Forsyth Park at the Savannah Veg Fest . Organizers are asking folks to RSVP for an accurate head count, as they’re aiming for a zero-waste event. Whole food advocate Dr. Michael Greger, author of How Not to Die, is the keynote speaker. Inland Empire Vegan Festival, March 28 The Inland Empire is a vast swath of southern California between Los Angeles and Nevada. While California is known as a land full of vegans, the Inland Empire is less so. Edward Yniguez and Kawani Brown, in partnership with their nonprofit Plant Based For All, are behind several popular vegan events in southern California, including the annual Long Beach Vegan Fest. Last year, they put on the first Inland Empire Vegan Festival . “We didn’t know what to expect,” Yniguez told Inhabitat. “It was just a huge response. That’s why we’re doing it again.” Expect dynamic live performances from musicians like Mia Sera and Rebecca Jane, and a music fest-feel that might make you want to stay all day. Yniguez recommended the perfectly spiced vegan carne asada from Cena Vegan, which will be at the fest. “The seasoning, how they do it, that’s the killer right there.” VIP tickets get you early access to the event, a swag bag and a shady, seated area by the stage. Puerto Rico Vegan Fest, March 29 Started in 2016, the largest vegan festival in Puerto Rico features 25 food kiosks from around the island, cooking demos, an art exhibition, vendors selling cruelty-free crafts and special activities for kids. An exercise pavilion features talks about vegan athletes, a boot camp class with Malcolm Cuadra and Cris “Chally” Maldonado and the Booty Vegan Workout led by trainer and herbal nutritionist Pearl Alessandra. Santa Cruz VegFest, April 11 Santa Cruz, California always makes the lists of top vegan cities. So you can expect it to throw an especially good vegan festival. More than 5,000 people attended in 2019. This year, more than 100 exhibitors will be showing off cruelty-free beauty products, educating people on animal-related nonprofits and offering samples of vegan foods at the Santa Cruz VegFest . Experts will lecture on plant-based kids, food justice and vegan nutrition. Internet sensation Brian Manowitz, better known as the Vegan Black Metal Chef, is sure to draw legions of fans. Alabama Vegan Fest in Birmingham, April 26 Desare Flournoy, owner of Elegance on any Budget, founded this festival last year and was thrilled to have more than 2,000 people attend. Flournoy told Inhabitat that this year’s fest will include several local bands, spoken word performers and belly dancers. She’s also introducing a series of speakers, with topics like managing fibromyalgia naturally and understanding veganism. The Alabama Vegan Fest aims to welcome omnivores and the vegan-curious, not just die-hard vegans. Orcas Veg Fest, May 16 If you find yourself in Washington State’s San Juan Islands in mid-May, support the fledgling Orcas Veg Fest , debuting in 2020. In addition to the food samples and educational booths, the Orcas Winery will facilitate a special wine and beer garden. Plant-Based World Conference & Expo 2020, New York, June 5-6 This one is for the pros. Now in its second year, the Plant-Based World Conference & Expo bills itself as “The only professional 100% plant-based focused event for food service, retail, and healthcare professionals, distributors, investors, manufacturers, and the savvy consumer community.” Want to find out what’s next in revolutionary plant-based products? Looking to invest in the next big vegan thing? Looking for new suppliers for your wellness business? Network on the exhibition floor and attend sessions like “Data-Driven Plant-Based Merchandising: How to Turn Retail Insights Into Results” and “Why Big Food is Betting Big on Plants.” Vegan SoulFest in Baltimore, Aug 22 Baltimore’s seventh annual Vegan SoulFest invites the local community to bring their lawn chairs and spend a summer day in Clifton Park soaking up soul and hip-hop music, watching cooking demos, trying yoga or a workout with Khnum “Stic” Ibomu (now a wellness trainer) of the legendary rap group Dead Prez and, of course, eating lots of good vegan food. Co-founders Naijha Wright and Brenda Sanders are deeply involved in the local vegan scene. Wright co-owns vegan soul food restaurant Land of Kush , and Sanders heads a public health organization and co-directs an animal advocacy group. Portland VegFest, October 24-25 Now in its 16th year, Portland hosts one of the country’s biggest vegan festivals. The schedule hasn’t been released yet, but expect tons of food samples and a full day of lectures and cooking demos from this two-day fest. If you’re especially interested in health, a plant-based nutrition conference takes place on the Friday before Portland VegFest . Boston Veg Food Fest, October 24-25 Another biggie, the two-day Boston Veg Food Fest is turning 25 this year! There will be plenty of exhibits and speakers, not yet announced, not to mention an abundance of vegan foods to try. Expect to be greeted by a huge inflatable cow. The event, parking and food samples are all free. Seed Food and Wine Miami, November 5-8 For a more upscale veg experience, Seed bills itself as, “the premiere plant based food and wine festival in the country.” Activities span a week and include celebrity chef dinners, yoga, spirit tastings and endless vegan food and wine samples from more than 150 restaurants and brands. Via Veg Events Images via Inhabitat, Inland Empire Vegan Festival, Santa Cruz VegFest, Mary Margaret Smith Photography / Alabama Vegan Fest, Orcas Veg Fest, Plant-Based World Conference & Expo, Vegan SoulFest, Boston Veg Food Fest and Shutterstock

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UK carbon emissions decline 29% in past decade

March 5, 2020 by  
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A recent analysis by Carbon Brief has revealed that the United Kingdom’s carbon dioxide emissions fell by 2.9% last year, bringing the total reduction to 29% since 2010. The data indicates that declines in coal use was the main factor that led to last year’s carbon emissions decrease, as both oil and natural gas usage levels remained unchanged. When viewed over the course of the past decade, U.K. carbon emissions from coal dropped by as much as 80%, while natural gas was by 20% and oil by only 6%. Carbon Brief was quick to point out two encouraging pieces of news from its study. First, “U.K. carbon emissions in 2019 fell to levels last seen in 1888.” The U.K. has also seen a faster decline in emissions compared to any other major economy. Related: Renewable energy surpasses fossil fuels in the UK Decarbonization and the move to expand renewable energy capacity have been important goals for the U.K., especially given that nations across the globe have been striving to limit rising temperatures under the Paris Agreement . According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), “Through the 2008 Climate Change Act, the U.K. was the first country to introduce long-term, legally binding national legislation to tackle climate change. The Act provides the U.K. with a legal framework including a 2050 target for emissions reductions, five-yearly ‘carbon budgets’ (limits on emissions over a set time period which act as stepping stones toward the 2050 target), and the development of a climate change adaptation plan.” The CCC explained that the U.K. is making some progress toward meeting its carbon budgets but is not yet up to par with its legally binding carbon targets. It has met its first three carbon budgets, “but is not on track to meet the fourth, which covers the period 2023-27.” Carbon Brief elaborated that U.K. carbon emissions need to fall by another 31% in the next decade to meet its carbon budget, but based on current policies, only a 10% cut is projected. While there has been a transition in the U.K. toward decarbonization, there is still urgency to focus on renewable energy while further reducing reliance on coal, oil and natural gas. + Carbon Brief + The Committee on Climate Change Image via Paisley Scotland

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UK carbon emissions decline 29% in past decade

Innovative food tracker uses app to help you live zero-waste

February 24, 2020 by  
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Industrial designers  Altino Alex  and  Savin Dimov  have just unveiled an innovative product geared towards helping families around the world reduce their food waste. The  Bubble Food Tracker  is an app-controlled food tracker that monitors products in your kitchen, keeping you aware of what you have in stock and your regular consumption habits, all to bring you closer to a  zero-waste lifestyle . Food waste  is one of the world’s most pressing issues. In fact, according to the  Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations , approximately one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year (around 1.3 billion tons) gets lost or wasted. And unsurprisingly, its fruits and vegetables that have the highest wastage rates of any food. Related: Supermarket happy hour reduces food waste Thankfully, ambitious and eco-conscious designers are beginning to put their thinking caps on when it comes to helping us all reduce our food waste. Industrial designers Altino Alex and Savin Dimov have just unveiled the Bubble Food Tracker, an innovative concept that makes it easier and more efficient to truly have a zero-waste kitchen. The Bubble is a smart, user-friendly and app-controlled tracker. When food items are placed in its capsule-like container, the information is sent directly to a smartphone. This way, people know, at the touch of the screen, no matter where they are, just what food products they already have in stock. The system is designed to take the guessing game out of shopping , enabling shoppers in the moment to avoid buying what they already have at home. Additionally, the Bubble regularly registers your eating habits, keeping track of which food products are consumed the most in the household and what is often left behind. This helpful tool allows families to work together to become more efficient about food shopping and to teach children about the true cost of wasteful food habits. + Altino Alex + Savin Dimov Via Yanko Design Images via Altino Alex

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DIY sweet treats for Valentines Day

February 14, 2020 by  
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From pesticide residue on cut flowers to the questionable ingredients in conversation hearts, standard-issue Valentine romance won’t cut it for your earth-conscious sweetie. But don’t worry, you can make DIY treats that are delicious, personalized and easier on the environment than conventional Valentine’s Day candy. Fair-trade ingredients The best Valentine’s Day candy starts with fair-trade ingredients. Cocoa is one of the most important fair-trade items, as 90% of the global cocoa supply comes from small family farms in tropical places. The 6 million farmers earning their living through growing and selling cocoa beans are vulnerable to pressures that drive the market price down. If you buy chocolate bars and chips that are Fair-Trade certified, you know that the farmers are being fairly paid for their work. Since 1998, this program has invested about $14 million into cocoa-producing communities in places like Peru, Ecuador, Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Many other ingredients besides cocoa are covered by the fair-trade certification system. Some of these items that you might use in Valentine’s Day recipes include sugar, coffee, honey, tea and fruits like bananas . Simple Valentine’s Day treats Does the intricacy of the treat reflect your love for your partner? Not necessarily. Even if you’re challenged by lack of time and/or kitchen skills, you can still produce a thoughtful and tasty Valentine’s Day gift. Related: 14 vegan and vegetarian Valentine’s Day dinner ideas Three-ingredient vegan chocolate pots contain only chocolate, dates and almond milk. You melt unsweetened chocolate in a microwave, throw it in a blender with the dates and almond milk, then refrigerate until it solidifies. The trickiest thing is remembering that you’ll need to refrigerate it for at least four hours, so plan ahead. Get the full recipe here . Another option for those who have trouble juggling multiple ingredients, this three-ingredient velvety chocolate fruit dip combines coconut cream, cacao powder and maple syrup. Just add a fourth ingredient — some fruit — and you’ll be ready for Valentine’s Day. Try bananas, mango slices or chunks of pineapple for best results. Does your darling love ice cream? The simplest vegan ice cream consists of two ingredients: cocoa powder and bananas, both of which you can get fair-trade certified. You just need a blender or food processor and a freezer. Want to jazz it up? Add coconut, berries or nuts. Prefer to be even more minimalist? Make a one-ingredient ice cream of bananas only. Chocolate delicacies For a more traditional Valentine’s Day candy gift — but still vegan and fair-trade — make your own vegan chocolate salted caramels . You can get really romantic by shaping them into hearts. What if your love is not only vegan, but a gluten-free raw foodie? A vegan chocolate almond cheesecake with a gluten-free crust is an excellent solution to this Valentine’s Day gift-giving challenge. This recipe tops the cheesecake with cocoa nibs and extra almonds. Perhaps cookies are your loved one’s favorite treat. These heart-shaped chocolate sugar cookies are vegan and gluten-free. You’ll need heart-shaped cookie cutters and a rolling pin for this recipe. Fancy and fruity desserts It’s hard to fathom, but not everybody rates chocolate as their favorite. Some people don’t like it at all and would even prefer fruit ! If your partner values berries over cocoa, whip up a raw strawberry cashew cream tart . The crust is made of dates, coconuts and almonds, and the filling is strawberry cashew cream. Remember that strawberries usually top the dirty dozen list of produce that you should buy organic, so shop accordingly. No pesticides for your valentine! Strawberry donuts with jam frosting make for a sweet Valentine’s Day breakfast. If you like decorating, you can heap on the pink frosting and arrange freeze-dried strawberry bits or candy sprinkles. Related: 9 ways to have an eco-friendly Valentine’s Day Few vegan desserts involve dusting off your blowtorch. But this vegan crème brûlée recipe made with coconut milk will awe and impress your partner, especially when they see you welding that blowtorch in the name of love. Flowers for those who don’t like sweets What if your partner doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth? Cut flowers are a Valentine’s Day staple, but they are notoriously pesticide-ridden, and many flower farms don’t treat workers or the environment well. If you’re concerned about sustainable practices in the floral industry, the internet provides a few tools. For California-grown flowers, you can look at Bloomcheck , which measures wildlife protection, air and soil quality and impact on workers and community. Rainforest Alliance monitors South America , with more than 1.3 million farms using Rainforest Alliance methods to protect local ecosystems and workers. Veriflora vets farms in the whole western hemisphere. A low-key Valentine’s Day Sometimes Valentine’s Day is the worst time to go out to dinner or to dessert shops. The stress of making reservations and battling a sea of lovers can put a damper on romance. Instead, consider celebrating at home with a simple, homemade dinner followed by DIY treats. Whipping up dinner together is a good way to show your love and is much more personal than making a reservation. Images via Shutterstock

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The best sources for plant-based protein

February 4, 2020 by  
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Many researchers and doctors around the world agree that a plant-based diet provides many benefits. It is credited with lowering inflammation in the body and disease prevention. But many people are concerned that a plant-based diet does not provide enough protein, an essential nutrient responsible for fueling the body and a critical component in building body tissue. Unfortunately, a long marketing campaign sending the message that meat is the primary source of protein has led to a lot of misinformation about the quantity of protein found in plants. If you are looking for ways to bring more plant-based foods onto your plate, here are 10 excellent sources of plant-based protein. Please note that the minimum recommended amount of protein for a sedentary lifestyle is 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women, but this amount increases with factors including activity level, general health and age. Talk to your doctor to learn more about how much protein your body needs. Related: 10 vegan sources of protein you can grow at home Seeds Although seeds are small, they pack a punch when it comes to providing protein. Adding some chia or flax seeds to your fruit smoothie will keep you feeling full for longer. Tossing sesame seeds into your vegetable stir-fry or snacking on sunflower seeds is another easy way to up your protein consumption. One cup of pumpkin seeds provides 12 grams of protein. A couple of tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 11 grams, and even those teeny-tiny poppy seeds add 2 grams in just over a tablespoon. Quinoa Although typically cooked like a grain, quinoa is actually a member of the spinach, chard and beet family. The frequent debate about whether it is a vegetable or a grain is somewhat satisfied with the label of pseudocereal, which means it’s not part of the grass family. Whatever you choose to call it, quinoa is a versatile and protein-packed food with over 8 grams per cooked cup. Lentils Once you get the hang of cooking lentils, you’ll find them to be an essential addition to or centerpiece of your diet. They are versatile and tasty. Plus, one cup of lentils provides more than 1/3 of the minimum recommended daily amount of protein at around 18 grams. Beans Beans rank nearly as high as lentils on the protein scale, and there are myriad options to match any taste profile. Daily value (DV) amounts for one cup look like this: white beans (35%), split peas (33%), pinto beans (31%), kidney beans (31%), black beans (30%), navy beans (30%), chickpeas (29%) and lima beans (29%). Nuts Nuts are a great snack, and they provide both protein and healthy fats. But they also make a nice addition to many recipes . Pick your favorites and experiment. For example, peanuts, almonds and pistachios contain 12 to 14 grams of protein per 1/2 cup. Nut butters are another option for adding protein to your diet. Watch for added salt and sugar when choosing your peanut butter, almond butter or cashew butter. Two tablespoons is considered a serving size of these nut butters. Soybean products There are a variety of products sourced from soybeans. Edamame contains about 8 to 9 grams of protein per 1/2 cup and can be eaten boiled or shelled. Tofu has long been associated with vegan and vegetarian diets as a protein replacement for good reason. It contains around 10 grams of protein per 1/2 cup, and tofu can be added to just about anything, from soup to salads to sandwiches. Tempeh is another soybean-based food that brings 31 grams of protein per cup. Related: How to choose the healthiest, most sustainable milk alternative Peas Vegetables should be a priority in any diet. While most offer some protein, veggies also offer a variety of other vitamins and minerals. Peas, however, rate among the highest when looking specifically at protein content, with 8 grams per cup. Plus, they are convenient to toss into most meals. Leafy greens You’ve probably been lectured before to eat your leafy greens. That’s because they are loaded with nutritional benefits, including 3% to 12% of your daily recommended amount of protein. So load up on spinach , kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard and collard greens to increase your protein intake. Unsweetened raw cocoa powder You may not have expected to see chocolate on the list, but unsweetened raw cocoa powder provides a host of nutritional value, not the least of which is 1 gram of protein per tablespoon. Sprinkle it on fruit or throw it in your smoothies for a delicious protein boost. Nutritional yeast Nutritional yeast offers the essential vitamin B12, and a single tablespoon has about 5 grams of protein. Nutritional yeast can be used as a substitute for cheese. Shake it on popcorn, pasta, pizza, soups, potatoes and cooked veggies for a savory flavor and added protein. Via Choose My Plate , Health and My Food Data Images via Shutterstock

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1920s building in Buenos Aires becomes a gorgeous, solar-powered residence

February 4, 2020 by  
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Buenos Aires is known for its beautiful architecture, but retaining the city’s historic character while breathing life into its abandoned buildings is often challenging. Thankfully, local firm Moarqs  rose to the challenge when presented with the task of renovating a 1920s building into what is now the Tacuari House — a modern, energy-efficient residence that operates on solar power. Located in the Barracas neighborhood of Buenos Aires, the home was previously a dilapidated building that, according to local records, dates back almost a century. The building was originally broken up into several rental units centered around two open-air courtyards . Related: A Seattle midcentury home is restored to its original brilliance with a modern twist Led by architect Ignacio Montaldo, the design team faced numerous challenges when working on the historic building’s renovation . The first objective was to update the space into a modern residence while retaining its character. According to the studio, some elements, such as the ironwork and some ornate plasterwork, were able to be salvaged in the updated building. The first step was to rework the home’s layout so that the first central courtyard on the ground floor would become the heart of the home. To expand this space, the team demolished the back rooms to create a new central space, complete with a swimming pool and garden. The second step to the renovation process focused on adding a new building on the second floor, which would be used as the primary living space. Setting the new structure back from the official line of the home allowed the residents to have more privacy as well as more outdoor space. The new structure is made of a metal enclosure painted jet-black to contrast nicely with the bright outdoor space. A series of operable black shutters shade the interiors from the harsh sunlight in the summer , while welcoming in the heat and light during the cold winter months. Moarqs was able to restore the original calcareous and wooden floors as well as some of the home’s original ironwork. To modernize the space into an energy-efficient home, the designers added an array of solar panels on the roof and thermal panels for heating water. Now, the home perfectly blends its historic character with contemporary, green design. + Moarqs Via ArchDaily Photography by Albano Garcia and Javier Agustin Rojas via Moarqs

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1920s building in Buenos Aires becomes a gorgeous, solar-powered residence

Adventurous, sustainable cricket-based snacks

January 29, 2020 by  
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For Westerners, snacking on  insects  isn’t mainstream. But that may change, thanks to the rising trend of edible bugs and cricket-based snacks — like those from Chirps, Don Bugito, EXO, Hotlix, Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch and SEEK. There are even dog biscuits from Chippin (yes, even a cricket-based Scooby Snack!). A recent market  study from Meticulous Research Ltd finds that “The global edible insects market is expected to reach 7.96 billion by 2030.” Food security  worries have prompted food innovators to rethink the wheres and hows of sourcing healthy protein. As the  Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) has documented, “by 2050, Earth will host 9 billion people. To accommodate this number, current food production needs to double. Land is scarce, and expanding the area devoted to farming is rarely a viable or sustainable option. Oceans are overfished, and climate change and related water shortages could have profound implications for food production.” Related: Pet food manufacturers are experimenting with insects instead of meat A possible solution to the food insecurity conundrum is insects as a food source. The FAO consequently announced, “Edible insects contain high quality protein, vitamins and amino acids for humans. Insects have a high food conversion rate –  crickets  need six times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep, and twice less than pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein. Besides, they emit less greenhouse gases and ammonia than conventional livestock…Therefore, insects are a potential source for conventional production (mini-livestock) of protein, either for direct human consumption, or indirectly in recomposed foods (with extracted protein from insects).” “Of the 1.1 million species of insects scientists have identified and named, 1,700 are edible,”  PBS News Hour reported. Over 2 billion people already dine on cicadas, grasshoppers, locusts, crickets and more. These insects’ textural crunchiness can be likened to that of crawfish or shrimp popcorn. And just as sushi was not yet widely appealing 40 to 50 years ago, so, too, can Western culture learn to accept crickets as a viable meal source. Crickets, after all, present many advantages. For one, they’re a more sustainable alternative to beef, lamb and pork. David Glacer,  Entomological Society of America (ESA)  academic, elaborated that crickets “reproduce rapidly, have short lifecycles, can be farmed in urban agriculture at high concentrations without antibiotics, unlike what’s seen in farmed vertebrates. And, insects do not produce potentially harmful byproducts, unlike pig farms that have large and toxic liquid lagoons, and unlike the salmonella issues we have with chickens and E. coli from beef.” Secondly, crickets don’t spread diseases as cattle do with mad cow disease, or as pigs do with swine flu. As described by Brian Fisher, California Academy of Sciences entomologist, “There is almost zero chance that any disease that affects an insect could actually impact a human after it’s cooked.” Moreover, crickets are generally healthier than traditional meat by being low-fat, iron-rich, high-protein and even high in omega-3 content. As PBS News Hour explained, “A six-ounce serving of crickets has 60% less saturated fat and twice as much vitamin B-12 than the same amount of ground beef.” Likewise, a  University of Wisconsin-Madison study  found that crickets are beneficial for gut bacteria and for reducing systemic inflammation in the body. That’s attributed to the crickets’ chitin fibers , which are unlike plant-based fibers. These cricket-derived chitin fibers promote a different set of bacterial growth, or probiotic environment, found to be beneficial to the gastrointestinal tract. Given the positive feedback on crickets as a meal source, these edible insects can be processed into protein-rich flour for baked goods or into other meal products, since cricket-rich nosh also packs a nutritious protein punch! Here are Inhabitat’s recommendations for cricket-based morsels to try: Chirps Cricket Protein Chips and more.   Chirps  crafts 100% pure cricket powder, plus several varieties of chips, protein powder, flour and cookies. Chirps Cricket Protein Chips are popular, emblazoned with the “Eat Bugs” logo. They’re flavored in cheddar, barbecue or sriracha. Bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts can try Chirps Cricket Protein Powder for high protein milkshakes or smoothies in either creamy vanilla or rich chocolate flavors. Those preferring to bake their own goodies can try Chirps Cricket Powder, a cricket-based flour free of gluten, GMOs , grain, soy, wheat and whey. Or, sample the Chirps Chocolate Chirp Cookie Mix to bake homemade cricket cookies. Don Bugito edible cricket snacks.  San Francisco-based  Don Bugito  offers “planet-friendly protein snacks, featuring delicious edible insects.” Don Bugito’s merchandise includes Chile-Lime Crickets with Pumpkin Seeds, Dark Chocolate Crickets with Amaranth Seeds, Cricket Protein Powder, Granola Bites with Cricket Flour, and Toasted Crickets. EXO cricket energy and protein bars.  Originally founded by Brown University graduates,  EXO  was eventually acquired by Aspire Food Group (AFG), becoming AFG’s consumer brand. EXO’s forte includes cricket-based energy bars and protein bars, whole roasted crickets, and even cricket flour. EXO energy bar flavors include banana bread, blueberry vanilla, coconut, and PB&J. EXO’s indulgent protein bar flavors are chocolate chip cookie dough, chocolate fudge brownie and peanut butter chocolate chip. The whole roasted insects come in Crispy Taco Roasted Crickets, Sea Salt and Vinegar Roasted Crickets, Sriracha Roasted Crickets and Texas BBQ Roasted Crickets. Crick-ettes and cricket lollipops from Hotlix.   Hotlix  began as a Pismo Beach candy store back in the early 1980s. The proprietor crafted candy products reflecting his interest in entomophagy, the consumption of bugs and insects. So, in 1982, Hotlix unveiled its first insect product, a tequila-flavored lollipop with a real worm inside it. Ants , crickets, earthworms and arachnids were later added to other lollipop offerings, followed by Crick-ettes and Larvets snacks. Hotlix claims it began the candy insect food revolution almost four decades ago. It continues its mission “to bring a smile to people’s faces when they see our amazingly colorful and creative insect-based sweets and savory insect snacks.” Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch cricket jerky and cricket pasta.  Colorado’s first edible insect farm, the  Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch (RMMR) , has raised crickets for wholesale as well as processed them into flour. RMMR’s client list includes restaurants, food manufacturers and wholesalers. For example, RMMR crickets and cricket flour goes into the hand-crafted Insectables Roasted Crickets snack, which comes in Ranch, Mexican-Spiced or Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper flavors. But perhaps RMMR’s uniqueness is its cricket-based Chirpy Jerky, made from whole crickets, as well as its Cricket Tagliatelle Pasta, made from cricket flour.  SEEK’s cricket protein granola.   SEEK ’s online store features flours, granola and energy bites — all made from cricket protein. Another favorite is SEEK’s Cricket Cookbook with delicious recipes to make use of all its cricket protein products. Chippin cricket-based dog treats.  Your family’s canine best friend can also enjoy cricket protein snacks.  Chippin ’s Smokehouse BBQ dog snack is made from sweet potato and cricket. Bananas, crickets and blueberries, meanwhile, are combined to formulate Chippin’s Antioxidant Boost dog snack. What’s wonderful about Chippin dog treats? These dog snacks have no artificial flavors nor preservatives. Neither do they have wheat, corn or soy. Images via Pixabay

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Carbon-negative snack company AKUA offers kelp jerky and pasta

January 22, 2020 by  
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Amidst the growing awareness about our planet’s climate crisis , there is now a burgeoning need for more sustainable food resources. In recent years, seaweed has been quite a catch for health-conscious consumers, in turn, making kelp, a brown macroalgae, one of the more in-demand types of seaweed offerings. As such, startup business AKUA is set to enhance the sustainability of the snack industry with its product line of kelp-based jerky and pasta. “I started the company when I was an adviser to GreenWave , a nonprofit that trains ocean farmers. When I asked the farmers what they truly needed, they answered, ‘We need your help creating a consumer market for kelp.’ So, I started sending out 5-pound bags of frozen kelp to all my chef friends across the U.S.,” said Courtney Boyd Myers, co-founder and CEO of AKUA. “We came up with dozens of cool products and hosted tastings in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. One chef came up with kelp jerky, burgers and sausages — all vegan and made from kelp and mushrooms. That made me think, ‘Wow, what if we could create a line of meat alternative products from one of the most sustainable sources of food on the planet?’ Together with my co-founder Matt Lebo, we set out to launch AKUA and to bring regeneratively grown, kelp-based products into the world.” Related: Eating seaweed could reduce cows’ methane production Why is kelp a good idea for food sustainability? For one, Harvard University has documented that kelp plays a significant role in reducing global warming . That is attributed to kelp’s rapid growth rate, typically about 2 feet per day. Kelp is also able to naturally remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, mitigating rising temperatures and climate change. Kelp is also appealing because of its nutritional value. According to the University of California – Berkeley’s Wellness page , kelp, as a seaweed, “is a rich source of several vitamins, including vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and B vitamins.” Because kelp has been called a sea vegetable, alongside other seaweed, it likewise “contains vitamin K, which plays a role in blood clotting.” Kelp’s health benefits extend beyond vitamins, as documented by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) FoodData Central site . Kelp is abundant in several minerals, such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and potassium. A University of California – San Francisco Medical Center study even documented that kelp has more calcium content than leading vegetables such as bok choy, collard greens, corn, curly endive and even kale. Kelp is particularly important for its high iodine content, a characteristic it has in common with other brown seaweeds. Iodine is vital for the human body to optimize thyroid hormone production, metabolic functions, immune response and the health of both the central nervous system and skeleton. Pregnant women especially need iodine for the proper bone and brain development of the fetus. Besides that, iodine helps remove free radicals from human blood cells, in essence counteracting the free radicals responsible for accelerating a cell’s aging process. Because of the health value of kelp, AKUA sought to leverage this as it developed its first product. “After studying trends in high protein snacking meets plant-based eating, we decided on creating a high-protein, soy-free vegan jerky made of kelp! In fact, today, Kelp Jerky is the world’s first meat alternative snack made from ocean-farmed seagreens and the only high-protein, soy-free vegan jerky in the market,” explained Myers. With the dawn of this new decade, AKUA has been seeking new and innovative ways of presenting kelp into meals. This is why it also offers kelp pasta as another nutritious product. “We have always wanted to introduce this product because eating kelp in this way is how we fell in love with kelp to begin with, literally just dehydrated kelp cut into noodle form,” continued Myers. “But because it is such a simple product with almost zero barrier to entry, we wanted to wait until after we had introduced Kelp Jerky, which is an incredibly innovative product — Time magazine named it one of 2019’s Best Inventions.” When asked about other food innovations and future plans for AKUA products, Myers eagerly shared, “In March, at Expo West 2020, we will debut our Kelp Balls, a slightly sweet snack focused on gut health that we created in partnership with next-gen microbiome company Biohm Health. If Kelp Jerky is all about protein and energy, our Kelp Balls will be all about improving your digestion.” Besides being a food innovator, AKUA is also committed to leaving a positive impact. One of the ways it does this is by donating part of its annual profits to GreenWave , a nonprofit devoted to training the next generation of ocean farmers. AKUA additionally partners with Parley for the Oceans , an environmental organization that raises awareness about the fragility of our oceans and seeks to prevent ocean pollution . Yet another key value for AKUA is its dedication to collaborating with local ocean farming communities. “Today, 98% of all seaweed is sourced from Asia, while AKUA sources 100% of its kelp from U.S.-based ocean farmers,” Myers said. “In fact, we are one of the first companies to utilize the emerging U.S.-based supply chain of ocean-farmed kelp, supporting the creation of hundreds of new jobs in our coastal communities.” Minimizing its carbon footprint is another crucial mission for AKUA. Last year alone, the company’s Kelp Jerky product utilized “40,000 pounds of regeneratively ocean-farmed kelp … and pull[ed] 2,000 pounds — 1 ton — of carbon from the sea,” according to Myers. “As a comparison, this is the same amount of carbon created by just 300 cheeseburgers. Based on our conservative projections for our Kelp Jerky product alone, by year five, we will be removing 1 million pounds of harmful carbon from our seas each year. With this data in our pocket, we are positioning Kelp Jerky as a ‘ carbon negative snack’ and building a brand that raises awareness for the climate crisis, food sustainability and ocean health.” + AKUA Images via AKUA

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