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Tuesday
Jan142014

Product Review: Navitas Naturals--Health Foods That Won't Scare You Off

After baking with, cooking with, and even looking at Navitas Naturals products, I can say with confidence that they are unique, high quality, and kind of awesome. Like many folks, we at ETR have always been a little wary of all the so-called health foods out there. With stores full of non-FDA-approved supplements, the FDA itself rife with controversy, and vegan, raw, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, organic, and local health food nuts accosting us at every turn, where is one to go?

Navitas Naturals isn’t scary. Their beautiful packaging and not-overly-pretentious product line has a variety of accessible and unique products that just seem, well, so much better than everything else. With products ranging from dried mulberries to lucuma powder (that’s a Peruvian fruit), anyone can take the plunge and try things out. And you know what? Adding hemp seeds and dried fruit to your yogurt isn’t actually scary.

Health food freaks and normal eaters alike will be thrilled with their diverse offerings and bright, well-labeled packaging that includes a back window so one can see the actual product. The dried dragonfruit is a gorgeous dark pink; the mulberries an unexpected white; and the chia seeds a rich black.

We snacked on many of the Navitas products raw (because, quite frankly, they’re quite good and don’t taste like that slightly detestable wheat germ your mother used to sneak feed you), but these products are easy to mix in to your daily cooking. I made fruit and oats granola and threw in their hemp seeds, chia seeds, and low-glycemic-index coconut sugar. Sprinkled with some dried cranberries, raisins, and sultanas, we had a breakfast and snack that the whole family enjoyed. And how nutritious it is! These superfoods are sealed USDA Organic and just don’t have the additives everything else in the store has. In fact, no one in the family could tell they were eating extra nutrients---but they did like the crunch of all those healthful seeds.

This is clean eating at its best. Navitas Naturals showed they’re high quality and mean business. Their products more than stand up for themselves, and we at ETR are eating healthier because of them!


Details:

Most products are sold, bagged, in 3oz-16oz. sizes. Products are available directly on their website, or online through national retailers.


Prices range from $5.99 to $29.99 for rare dried fruits, mixes, cocoa products, and more.

Visit Navitas Naturals online at navitasnaturals.com.


Monday
Jan062014

Product Review: Getting Creative with Inglehoffer and Beaver Mustards

You've probably seen these European-looking mustards on store shelves, just beckoning to be dipped in by a giant soft pretzel or wurst. The packaging screams Oktoberfest to our American eyes, don't you think? Yet Inglehoffer Mustard isn’t, just so you know, German or Austrian. It’s just one brand in a family of condiments called Beaverton Foods in Oregon. They are not involved with anything related to the humane or inhumane treatment of beavers. They just make mustard ‘n’ stuff, all right?

Started in 1929 by Rose Biggi, Beaverton Foods is run today by her son Gene. They’re known as the largest producer of non-refrigerated horseradish and specialty mustards in the United States—a claim I did not know existed until I went to their own homepage. But enough about claims. Let’s talk about the taste of their spreadable yellow goo. And that, perhaps, is where they’re different.

These mustards aren’t that artificial yellow stuff that French’s makes. They’re eggsell-colored, honey brown, pale yellow—even red, in the case of their new Sriracha mustard. There are so many interesting flavors that you won’t want to buy “normal” mustard again. Oddly enough, several of their brands make mustard, so I tried out the Inglehoffer and Beaver brands: A Russian, a honey from their organic line, a sweet hot, and a creamy dill. Our favorite was the unique creamy dill—a blend of mustard, capers, lemon juice, and dill. The honey mustard was sweeter but not overpowering, and still with many aromatic spices. It also had a very pronounceable ingredients list. The sweet hot had lovely spicy-hot, sweet, and even sour notes. But the one with the most pronounced vinegar and heat was the Beaver brand Russian with paprika, ginger, and more. This is FLAVOR!

We enjoyed using these mustards to spruce up drab pasta salads, to create interesting grilled cheese sandwiches (try the creamy dill with American—so simple, and so good), or to make any dish more gourmet, from hot dogs to deviled eggs. Another bonus? There’s none of that brownish liquid that needs to be shaken when you haven’t used the product in a month. Why use the same boring stuff when you can try out mustard flavors such as wasabi horseradish, honey maple, or hickory bacon? You can’t think of a reason, can you.

At under $4 a bottle (some 4-oz. bottles cost as little as $1.25!), you’ll feel good purchasing something better for you, something supporting a family company, and something that looks a lot cooler than those ol’ yellow bottles. Oh yeah, and it tastes better, too.

Details:

Beaverton Foods sells mustards, horseradish sauces, mayos, ketchups, salsas, and other condiments in stores across the USA. If you can’t find a retailer locally, you can purchase online at beavertonfoods.com. They can also be reached at 800.223.8076.

Many of the condiments are gluten-free, organic, or kosher. All are sorted and searchable on their site.

Items are available in 4 oz., 8 oz., and 12 oz. plastic or glass bottles, depending on flavor.

Prices range from $1.25-$3.75. 

Photography by Victor Leung

Wednesday
Sep182013

Product Review: Bella Sun Luci Sun Dried Tomatoes

Mooney Farms' Bella Sun Luci Tomatoes from Northern California

Far be it for me to take the subject of testing sun-dried tomatoes lightly. Upon receiving this shipment of tomato products to test, I sprang into action and got testers, recipes (though several were included), and my camera ready for this month-long test. I had my test subjects--a jar of Roland plain sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, and a local market's own sun-dried tomatoes--to compare with my samples. Missing, unfortunately, was my favorite condiment: Cal Sun-Dry tomatoes. Until now, they were the only herbed-oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes I'd ever had, and I remembered them being salty, sweet, tangy, bursting with flavor. Needless to say, I was excited to try everything that had been sent by Mooney Farms, which owns Bella Sun Luci and operates out of Chico, California. Zesty Peppers sun-dried tomatoes next to store-brand halves

We had three varieties of dry, julienned sun-dried tomatoes: Italian Basil, Greek Oregano, Basil, & Garlic, and Zesty Peppers, and four jars of sun-dried-inspired goodies. There were tomato halves with Italian herbs packed in olive oil, julienne-cut tomatoes with herbs in oil, a sun-dried tomato pesto, and bruschetta of the sun-dried variety. And though my fingers may now be tired from typing sun-dried so many times, our mouths haven't tired of this snackable but fancy snack. (Well, it's meant to be an ingredient and topping, but we spent much of our time just snacking on it straight.)

We dug in immediately, and cooked a variety of dishes over the next few weeks. I had mozzarella ball pasta salad, parmesan and sun-dried tomato quiche, pastas and breads dipped in the pesto and bruschetta, and more. I even made breakfast burritos the sun-dried way rather than using my usual salsa. Jars of sun-dried snackables

The dried bags of sun-dried tomatoes were very snackable. While I'm not normally one to enjoy munching on dried veggies, these tangy morsels were awesome straight from the bag. The jarred products, while delicious alone, were also quite useful as add-ins, toppings, and sauces for a variety of foods.

The bruschetta is not your normal chunky-tomato fix. Instead, it's an interpretation on a sun-dried tomato spread, with tangy bits of basil, pine nuts, walnuts, and spices. If you're picturing a traditional jar of fresh herbed tomatoes will be sorely disappointed. But if you can open your mind to a different kind of bruschetta topping, you'll be pleasantly surprised. After all, Bella Sun Lucci isn't a fresh tomato company: sun-dried is their thing! I rather prefer this spread to the fresh thing now. It's less messy and much more zesty. I used it as a topping on pasta, a dip for buckwheat bread, and a spread on pita.

The pesto was very tasty, though much chunkier than one normally sees. It's not a traditional tomato pesto paste--nor does it claim to be. I enjoyed nibbling it and using it as a spread (we LOVED the soft chew of the whole pine nuts) in addition to using it on pasta. 

The julienned and halved sun-dried tomatoes packed in herbs and olive oil are my favorite for snacking. Twice a day I probably reach into my fridge for a bite. Other times, I'll throw them into a pasta salad, mix them with eggs for a unique baked dish, or just...nibble some more. A spinach wrap encompasses egg, cheese, and strips of herbed sun-dried tomatoes from Mooney Farms

Though Bella Sun Luci isn't the only company doing dry and oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, they're likely one of the best--and certainly better than Roland or even store-brand varieties. They've got more zest, more flavor, and more...oomph.  

Bella Sun Luci Tomato Products          

3.5-oz. dry bags retail for around $2.99

Glass jars packed in extra virgin olive oil retail for around $4.99

Bella Sun Luci also sells pasta sauces, dips, olive oils, and more. 

PS - Enter your original recipe online in the Bella Sun Luci recipe contest through July 1st, 2014, to win $2,500. Even if you don't win, you'll still love these sun-kissed edibles.

Wednesday
May082013

Product Review: Sriracha Peas by Hapi Snacks

Cirque du Soleil. iPhones. Sriracha. All of these were once in great demand, but now flood the market. Consumers aren’t as excited as they used to be. Sriracha chips? They exist. Sriracha-bundled restaurant dishes? Yep. But these, Sriracha Peas, came out before all the hullabaloo.

Made by Hapi Snacks, I first tasted them, thought they were okay, and then came back for more. And more. I became addicted on the spot. As you can imagine, I was ecstatic when I was given a tin to review.

The best chili garlic coated green peas you've ever tasted

Don’t make the mistake of thinking these are just green peas dredged in Sriracha. Like wasabi peas, these little flavor explosions bring your tastebuds on a mini journey, from flavorful to sweet to spicy. You just keep popping them into your mouth.

 

They look exactly as they do on the packaging: orange-y, irregular, and spicy. But you don’t get the spiciness right away. You get a flavor you wouldn’t expect—an Asian-inspired savory taste, followed by more than a hint of sweetness. Spicy, you say? Ha! And you keep popping them. But then, much like the actual Sriracha sauce, your poor decision to have too much comes back to haunt you. These are spicy. They just take some time to show their true colors. They are darn delicious, though.



If you’re surprised that they’re sweet, just glance at the ingredients list. Sugar is the second ingredient, right after peas. Funny enough, Sriracha is not an actual ingredient. Odd? Definitely. But these are made in Thailand, after all, so we’ll just say something got last in translation. Inside the package

 

While you may think these spicy-sweet treats are difficult to find, you’ll be please to hear they’re sold everywhere from Walmart and Amazon to Asian food stores and imported specialty outlets.

 

If you can eat just one, call me. You have a problem.

 

Hapi Snacks Spicy Sriracha Peas are sold in 4.9 oz. and larger tins. They ain’t cheap, either. Approximate retail value: $4.99

Tuesday
Apr092013

Product Review: La Gallinara Imported Spreads, Creams, and Pestos

For a special savory treat, you might want to (once again) look to Italy. The amazing gourmet products coming from this country never fail to disappoint—though the food in the country itself doesn’t blow me away too often. Still, for canned goods, no country measures up to the standards of Italia.

 Spreads minus breads. The artichoke garlic cream (top) is best!

These products were given to me by some lovely Italian ladies I met at the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York. These products come from Liguria and are made in a coastal town not too far from Genoa (where I was just a few months ago!). Ingredients are listed in both Italian and English, making it much easier to decipher what is so tantalizing about these cans of goodness.


I was given an olive spread, a green pesto, and an artichoke garlic cream. While the tapenade and pesto were tasty, what really stopped me in my tracks was this surprisingly tangy, creamy artichoke garlic spread. I had to have more.

 

Made with just five ingredients—artichokes, olive oil, garlic, cahews, and extra virgin olive oil—this product works wonderfully as a dip, spread on bread, baked onto meat or fish, thinned with olive oil over pasta, and more. I just keep craving it. It’s that good! So next time you’re in an Italian imports store, don’t pass this simple white bottle labled “Crema all’ aglio” up. It houses a sweet and savory garlic crème that packs zest into each little bottle.

 

La Gallinara sells olives, tapenades, creams, sauces, and pestos in 130 gram jars. All products are imported from Italy.

Visit http://lagallinara.it/ for more details.