A week of new foods: Day 5, feijoas

There are an overwhelming amount of different fruits on this planet. I mean, really. I saw these guys at the market and thought, "I love guava, everything about it, and I love the flavor of pineapple...but pineapple is just too sweet for me. What would a cross between the two of them be like???" So I grabbed a few and made a note of how to eat them by photographing their signage.

These things are INCREDIBLE! Exactly like a guava in texture and consistency but with a somewhat tart, unique pineapple flavor. One was very soft and ripe and the other was a little harder so I got to try both and I enjoyed them at both states. The soft one was easier to peel but the skin on it tasted better while the firm one was a little more bitter but still good! They'd be an easy option for something on-the-go, for a picnic, carrying in a bag (unlike bananas...yeah...never carry a banana in your purse...), or just a refreshing snack or dessert. Super yum! 

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A week of new foods: day 4, sparkling probiotic

I asked my sister for some ideas of new foods I should try because I was feeling uninspired. We were grocery shopping at my favorite bay area shop, El Cerrito Natural Grocery, and she asked me, "Do beverages count?" while staring at the chilled beverages section of the store. 

Sure, why not?

I don't buy beverages...so this seemed like an appropriate challenge for the week.

We settled on the "Mojita" flavor of Kevita sparkling probiotic because mint and lime is one of the most refreshing combos and because the only other options were juices, smoothies, or "natural" sodas, or water. Taste-wise, it was good! Better than GT's Kombucha (yuck) for sure. I hate that stuff. GROSS!! I'm not a fan of added flavors or stevia and this beverage contains both. Also, I like drinking water. Just plain, good ole water. I feel like spending money on any other liquid to drink is a waste of money. I already pay for water. Seriously. I guess I prefer probiotics in the form of food. 

If anything this experience has made me want to take a stab at making my own probiotic teas or beverages at home! Anybody got any tips for beginners? :) 

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A week of new foods: Day 6, tempeh

This is what I look like when I think about (or smell) tempeh....

It doesn't really have a smell but how was I supposed to know that? It sure as hell looks like it smells. I've never tried it before. Unbelievable? Not really. The majority of my vegan and vegetarian clients haven't either. Now THAT surprised me. I thought all vegans ate tempeh. Gross generalization but it made sense in my head, and I'm honest. I lived a vegetarian lifestyle for about 6 years and I NEVER even considered tempeh. It may be appropriate to note that I despise tofu. Like, really. It's just...no. So I assumed that tempeh would smell and taste the same. As well as have the same consistency. I was wrong.

I'm a simple girl and I prefer simple food. So I made my usual kelp noodle stir-fry with hella veggies, ginger, orange, and coconut aminos. And I pan fried the tempeh. Before I flipped it, I poured some of the coconut-orange-ginger sauce from the stir-fry pan over it and crisped it to a golden, glazed, goodness. 

This is officially one of my new favorite dishes. I make the stir-fry regularly, with white fish, but with tempeh it's much more satisfying and I like the "bite" tempeh has. Soft foods sometimes feel like they're not substantial enough and just move right through me. Tempeh is quite a delicious exception. I highly recommend it! 

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New at Costco (September '14)

So as you know, I'm a Costcoholic. I may even be the president and founder of CA (Costcoholics Anonymous). I get my fix at least once per week now that I am shopping and cooking for my meal prep customers. It used to be only 2x per month. Naturally, the more I go, the more obsessed I get. They are constantly bringing in new inventory and expanding their organic product line. They also have majorly stepped up their labeling game and now tell you where most of their meat and seafood comes from, what grade it's rated, how and where the meat was processed and handled, and whether or not the product is considered humane or sustainable. They are doing the same for produce. The are supporting more local farms and being clear about GMOs, pesticides, sustainable farming practices, other environmental impacts, and freshness.

I love Costco.

So these are the two new products I noticed today. They were not there last time I shopped there (which was only about a week ago) so of course I got all excited to play with them.  

NuttZo  nut and seed butter. Availability and type will depend on the store. The Richmond Costco currently only has this flavor. 

NuttZo nut and seed butter. Availability and type will depend on the store. The Richmond Costco currently only has this flavor. 

I didn't purchase this nut and seed butter because I've had to severely cut back on nuts and seeds due to digestion and gut issues. Sadness. However, it looks amazing and I love that it doesn't have peanuts, added oils, added flavors, or sweeteners. That is RARE for nut butters. You should check it out if your tummy can handle it! (But don't tell me if it's good cos I'll be jealous). 

SunnyValley uncured bacon. 

SunnyValley uncured bacon. 

I didn't buy this bacon either because I've also cut down on processed meats for my own household.  I haven't done the research yet to find out about the animals and farms who supply meat to this company. The processors seem credible, I'll give them that. The bacon is leaner and even looks a lot better than any of the other bacon they sell (including Niman Ranch). And it is currently the ONLY bacon Costco sells that is free of preservatives. That was enough to make me smile. I encourage you to do your own research before choosing meat products. It's very important as a meat eater to make informed decisions. The "I don't want to know about it just give me my burger attitude" is not cool and never will be. 

What products do you enjoy from Costco?? 

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Aidells...a reliable source of clean meat products?

****update (4/18/14)

Earlier today I received the following email:

Now this email definitely contradicts what I was told on the phone (see original blog post below) AND what is written on their "new" packaging! I am led to believe that this company is unclear about their own product and also apparently misleading many people. If you choose to include Aidell's products in your diet, please always choose the organic line of products only. This whole experience has completely reinforced my new dietary goal of further reducing my intake of processed meat products (jerky, deli meats, sausages, bacon, etc). Right now, I'm down to just once a week which I am OK with...for now. I will no longer include Aidells on my list of acceptable brands. You just can't trust processed meats! Certainly not meats processed by the industry. We're much better off cooking all of our food ourselves. If you haven't seen this talk by Michael Pollan...watch it now!  

So, as many of you know, I began investigating Aidells products for "cleanliness" earlier this month after I noticed a discrepancy in their packaging. While making a trip to Costco and Grocery Outlet in another town recently, I realized that Aidells sells BOTH "organic/hormone/antibiotic free" and "all natural" versions of many of their products. I think this is very deceiving as "all natural" means close to nothing in the world of processed meat products and there's no reason to make two versions of the same product in my opinion. Either you produce quality or you don't!

From left to right: Aidells older packaging with no mention of antibiotics, only hormones at the bottom, Aidells new packaging with the antibiotic and hormone info more prevalent at the top, and Aidells organic packaging.

When I realized this, I was a little upset as I know many people rely on them as a reliable and healthy food product without making sure they are picking up the package that is labeled as both hormone and antibiotic free (which, as you can see, looks IDENTICAL to the other package). So, I sent out several emails. When I didn't hear back within 2 business days (not even a confirmation that my email was received), I got on the phone and I called the customer service line. However, the customer service rep didn't seem to understand my question. Our conversation went a little something like this:

Me: "Hi, I'm calling in regards to your products because I am a little confused as to how I am to be certain whether or not they contain antibiotics."

Rep: "Which product are you inquiring about?"

Me: "Well, sort of all of them but let's go with the chicken apple sausage. If I buy the nonorganic sausages, am I to assume they are made with chicken that contains antibiotics because the packaging does not state that they are antibiotic free and your online allergen info doesn't either. In fact, according to that online information page, most of your products may contain chicken raised with antibiotics."

Rep: "No ma'am, all of our products are 'all natural' and made with all natural chicken." 

Me: "I understand that. But 'all natural' by definition, does not mean without antibiotics. I am asking specifically about antibiotics." 

****insert about 2-3 minutes of back and forth about the difference between "all natural" and "antibiotic free" between the rep and myself...****

Rep: "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to do some research to find out the answer to your question because you are right, this information is not listed on the allergen page of our website."

Several days went by I didn't hear back from her. So, I called representatives at the corporate level and I wrote a letter. I mean business, OBVI. I have a right to know what is in these products and exactly how, where, and with what they are made. We all do. Within 3 days, I received a call back and a formal apology for the late response. This is the information that was relayed to me, this is NOT a direct quote as this was a phone conversation: 

All of our products at Aidells have been and are always made with chicken and turkey that is hormone free and raised without antibiotics. We do not use the "all natural" label to imply this fact as you are correct, that is not what all natural means. The reason for the discrepancy in the packaging and allergen info is because neither are up to date, and we apologize for that. We are in the process of changing our packaging and you will now see that the packaging states that our chicken is never raised with antibiotics or hormones so look for that for assurance. 

Am I satisfied? Definitely. I trust that their chickens are humanely raised as they say they are and they comply with the standards set forth for all of their claims. I will still always choose the organic line of Aidells products and the same rules will always apply for me when I do purchase processed foods.

ALWAYS READ THE ENTIRE LABEL and NEVER be afraid to ask questions!

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