Friday, March 31, 2017

DIY Fermentation and Fast Cold Brew Coffee at the Housewares Show

I was pleased to attend the International Home + Housewares Show held by the International Housewares Association from March 18 - 21 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The trade show hosted over 2,200 exhibitors from 47 countries representing numerous product categories including beverage makers, food prep & utensils, kitchen electrics, and tabletop & serveware. In this article, I will highlight two trends that I saw at the show – DIY fermentation and cold brew coffee in under an hour.

DIY Fermentation

Fermented foods and beverages are being embraced by Americans for their flavors and health benefits. Kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, and kombucha are rich in probiotics (beneficial live bacteria) and aid digestive and immune health. To reduce the intimidation factor of making fermented foods at home, companies have created fermentation crocks and other devices for the DIY (do it yourself) consumer. Montreal, Canada company Mortier Pilon introduced DIY at-home fermentation kits in fermentation, kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut varieties that are likely to appeal to adventurous cooks. Each kit contains a contemporary looking fermentation crock/jar with a glass interior and white plastic exterior and a recipe booklet. The company says that their crocks are a third of the weight and price of traditional crocks. Another company emphasizing cost savings is Kraut Source that says that buying fermented foods at the store can cost $8 for an organic 16 oz jar while the organic ingredients to produce 32 oz of sauerkraut cost under $3. Kraut Source is a stainless steel device that fits on wide-mouth mason jars to facilitate the preparation of fermented foods in small batches. The small size of the Kraut Source devices takes up less storage space and costs less than traditional stoneware fermentation crocks. England’s The Rayware Group introduced the Kilner Fermentation Set that is based on Kilner’s heritage of producing glass jars since 1842.

Fast cold brew coffee

Cold brew coffee continues to grow in popularity in foodservice and retail channels as it offers a smoother, less acidic and bitter taste than hot-brewed coffee.  Buying pre-made cold brew coffee at the coffee shop or supermarket allows consumers to skip the time-consuming step of immersing coffee grounds in cold water for 12 to 24 hours. But two exhibitors showcased cold brew coffee makers that reduce the brewing time to under an hour. Cuisinart says that its new Automatic Cold Brew Coffeemaker can make cold brew coffee in about 25 – 45 minutes. The machine makes 7 cups of cold brew coffee into a glass carafe and uses a stainless steel filter lid that can store brewed coffee in the refrigerator. Storebound showed a prototype of its Dash Rapid Cold Brew System with a brewing time of about 10 minutes. The company says that the machine uses ColdBoil technology, with water moving back and forth from the brewing chamber to the pitcher. The machine makes concentrated cold brew for 4 – 8 servings and has an adjustable dial to adjust the strength of the brew. Press releases from the two companies indicated that the Cuisinart machine is scheduled for July 2017 availability while the Dash machine is available for pre-sale on


Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Good Food Festival & Conference Spotlights “Good Food Is Good Medicine”

FamilyFarmed has been promoting good food that is locally produced in a sustainable, humane, and fair manner by hosting the Good Food Festival & Conference for 13 years. At its Chicago event that took place from March 16 to 18, the non-profit organization spotlighted the connection between good food and good health. The festival held two standing-room only workshops - Good Food Is Good Medicine and Mood & Food – where attendees learned about the healing power of food and how certain foods can improve their health and mood. To appeal to increased health consciousness among consumers, many of the food and beverage producers exhibiting at the festival & conference emphasized “clean labels”, healthy fats, and lower sugar content. In this article, I will talk about the Mood & Food panel discussion and highlight products featuring coconut oil, currently considered to be one of the healthiest fats.

Mood & Food: What we eat affects our brain, gut, and mood

At the Mood & Food panel discussion, five health professionals talked about how food can impact behavior, mood, and learning. Dr. Ian Smith, creator of the SHRED Diet, said that while Americans need guidance on nutrition and weight loss, doctors are not currently equipped to do so because of lack of training. He said that he received only three hours of nutrition training during four years of medical school. Dr. Smith talked about the brain’s reward system and how the brain has a way of reinforcing things that make us feel good – why we crave fat, sugar, salty things. He said chocolate makes you feel good, with the brain lighting up when you eat certain food.

While eating vegetables may not light up the brain, changing what we eat can change the microflora in our gut. Drinking more water and consuming more vegetables was recommended by Judy Fulop, ND, MS, FABNO, who practices naturopathic medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. To create an emotional connection to vegetables, Fulop suggested visiting a supermarket and asking the produce manager to recommend a new vegetable and a recipe. Jane Hawley Stevens, Owner, Grower and Creator Four Elements Organic Herbals, talked about the mood-lifting powers of herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm, and lavender tea. Stevens recommended lemon balm tea for joy, adding that lemon balm is good for digestion and anti-viral. She said that adaptogens such as Siberian ginseng and holy basil are plants that help to bring you into balance. Stevens likes holy basil, also known as tulsi, because it helps with mental clarity, helps people feel grounded, and is also delicious.

Coconut Oil is the new superfood “healthy fat”

Numerous companies exhibiting at the Good Food Festival & Conference offered products containing coconut oil. After decades of being shunned because of its high saturated fat content, coconut oil has recently become known as a superfood “healthy fat” and received a boost from Dave Asprey’s creation of Bulletproof Coffee. The original recipe for Bulletproof Coffee called for coconut oil due to its high MCT (medium chain triglycerides) content, coffee, and unsalted grass-fed butter. A number of studies have linked MCT consumption with weight loss by increasing the amount of calories burned compared to other fats. Some coconut oil producers are marketing it as a superfood that it is anti-viral and anti-bacterial, curbs appetite, helps memory, raises “healthy” (HDL) cholesterol levels, help regulate hormones for thyroid and blood sugar control, and aid those with Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy.

Cocoghee combines raw organic coconut oil with organic grass-fed ghee

Among the exhibitors at the festival, Grass Fed Gourmet offered a unique twist on coconut oil by combining it with organic grass-fed ghee. Ghee, a clarified butter used in traditional Indian cooking, has become better known to Americans due to the rise of the Paleo diet which permits ghee. Ghee offers several advantages over butter in that it is lactose-free, casein-free, and shelf-stable. Compared to butter and ghee made from grain-fed cows, grass-fed butter and ghee contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and CLAs (conjugated linoleic acid) that may reduce high cholesterol levels and prevent cancer. The cocoghee spread is a versatile product that can appeal to multiple consumer segments. The plain variety can be used to sauté meats and vegetables while the rosemary garlic and garlic + salt varieties can be used on bread or crackers. The indulgent flavors of mocha hazelnut, vanilla cardamom, and cinnamon honey cocoghee can be used to make butter coffee or as a coffee “creamer” substitute.

Sacred Serve Organic Vegan Gelato contains coconut oil, meat, and sugar

Another product combining health and indulgence at the festival was Sacred Serve’s organic vegan gelato. The small batch, handmade frozen desserts are vegan and free of gluten, dairy, soy, lactose, and egg. The “clean labels” product contains organic coconut oil, organic coconut meat, organic coconut sugar, Himalayan pink salt, and either organic matcha green tea or 70% raw dark chocolate. Using coconut sugar instead of cane sugar allows the company to market the product as naturally low glycemic with trace amounts of vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron.  

Tea Squares Tea Infused Energy Snacks uses coconut oil and matcha green tea

Skyline Kitchen Inc was another exhibitor using coconut oil in its products. The energy snacks are infused with either organic matcha green tea or black tea and contain organic coconut oil, organic puffed millet, raw almonds, organic pumpkin seeds, organic brown syrup, organic honey, sugar, and Himalayan salt among its ingredients. The Tea Squares are similar to a Rice Krispies Treats but with the power of caffeine from tea and a lower sugar content. The Citrus Green Tea Matcha variety contains about 8mg of caffeine and 7g of sugar per 20g serving.

The Paleo Cookie Company uses coconut oil and shredded coconut

The Paleo Cookie Company offered its line of cookies that are free of gluten, grains, dairy, preservatives, and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and Paleo friendly. The original chocolate chip variety contains organic unrefined coconut oil, unsweetened shredded coconut, kosher almond flour, organic eggs, organic pure maple syrup, and 70% cacao chocolate chips. The Paleo Cookies allow Paleo diet followers to indulge their sweet tooth while eliminating dairy, gluten, grain, soy, refined sugars, legumes, and reducing carbohydrates.

Tiny But Mighty Popcorn switches from canola to coconut oil

Tiny But Mighty Foods Inc showcased new packaging, flavors, and product formulations at the Good Food Festival & Conference. Among the changes was the company’s decision to change the oil for its Sea Salt popped popcorn variety from canola oil to coconut oil. The revamped packaging highlights the company’s heirloom popcorn in big capital letters and its use of “100% Virgin Coconut Oil”.