#SFMChickpeaParty: Getting to Know HOPE

So, guess what I did Thursday night? OK, I’ll tell you: I went to my first blogger’s event! After so many years of blogging, it was high time I attended one. As soon as I arrived I thought, why haven’t I done this kind of thing already? But of course I well knew the answer. Because I hardly ever leave the house from summertime onward, and when I do, it’s typically obligatory, or an infrequent get together with people I already know I like a lot. And actually, the latter is kind of new in itself, too. Since little big boy’s arrival nearly three years ago, I only reinstated monthly girls’ nights this past January. (As a random aside, does it frustrate you like it does me when people lead into news with ‘guess what’ and then wait for you to actually guess?)

SFMChickpea

To be completely honest, homebody tendencies weren’t the only factor at play in “non-blogger-eventing”. Equally signigificant is, the blogosphere is replete with prolific bloggers with daunting presence.  Dave often laughs when I stress that I am shy, but he doesn’t account for how comfortable I am with him, nor has he had the chance to see me in my most wallflower self-consciousness. Cyberspace offers a unique platform for the whole spectrum of us extroverted introverts/introverted extroverts to share as if actually comfortable with things like mingling and public speaking.

In any case, on Thursday I decided to be brave and go meet other bloggers for a cool event hosted by Sprouts Farmers Market at HOPE Foods, and walking in the assembled group was not what I expected. The other bloggers were dynamic, interesting, and down-to-earth nice. Even better, so were the hosts/leaders of the event.

Once we were all gathered, we went to a kitchen area where we were greeted with a colorful and eclectic spread of yummy goodies and samples around which we could mingle and also get to know some of the HOPE Foods team. Young, talented, dynamic, and successful, these entrepreneurs bring a whole bunch of could-be intimidating factors to the table, but at the same time they were so impressive in their friendly warmth and genuine commitment to quality, as we discovered first-hand in the course of the evening.

SFMChickpea2What better ice breaker and introduction to an amazing product than getting to play with your food? Each blogger was given two sizeable bowls of hummus base, a sweet and a savory, with which to experiment by choosing from a fun array of ingredients to mix in. Once our new blends were complete, we got to scoop them into these cute personalized jars to take home. The savory base was so tasty on its own, I was initially reluctant to add a whole lot, but after doling in some sundried tomatoes, basil, garlic powder, red chili flakes and a dash of cayenne I started to feel a little bit of a buzz. The end result was so good that a) I’m thankful the take home jar was only so big, and b) I think I just may add a dash (or extra dash) of cayenne to every hummus I make or purchase from now on.

As for the sweet base, I remain hesitant to declare a verdict on the success of my own concoction, which included pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon, almond butter, vanilla and cacao nibs. That said, if I swap labels from ‘hummus’ to ‘cookie batter’, I am much more confident in saying the results were a pleasant surprise. Testament that a rose called something other than a rose may not smell as sweet, but if not, it is probably all in your head. In any case, why not call a chickpea base with sweet addends like the aforementioned “cookie batter”? We bake chickpea cookies all the time, and garbanzo flour is a favorite choice for pancakes, waffles and everything sweet and baked I can think of.

To conclude the evening, we were treated to a tour of the HOPE Foods facility, and on my honor they made a great case for there being a place for packaged foods…at least prepared foods like theirs. The HOPE story is an inspired and inspiring one, so much so I felt like breaking out into applause at points. The humble origins, for one thing. HOPE began when a group of friends graduated from college and began making hummus together in kitchens. They sold at the local Farmers Markets and grew, grew, and grew, maintaining their commitment to natural freshness and high standards.

One gem I learned on the HOPE tour was, unlike the mix-in method we got to play with, each HOPE product is made from scratch. As in, no bases. Every hummus flavor has its own unique blend of quantities, even when the ingredients heavily overlap. What stood out most of all, however, was how HOPE utilizes technology to optimize flavor, color, safety, nutrition, and shelf life without any additives and artificial preservatives. Through HPP (High Pressure Processing), bacteria, yeast, and all pathogens are destroyed by applying pressure six times that of the Mariana Trench. After being vacuum sealed, products are treated to an HPP cold water bath that eliminates disease and decreases spoilage.

Speaking of products, HOPE is best known for its hummus…probably because of the wide range of awesomeness (Thai coconut curry!!). It is also producing pretty rocking guac now, too, and is taking on sweet territory with new products like CHOCOLATE HUMMUS that tastes a lot like brownie batter. If you, like me, experience mental hurdles too full enjoyment because of the “hummus” name, try thinking of it as chocolate chickpea batter. I haven’t attempted this yet, but I think this may need to be the base, or inspiration, or even the substitute for frosting on my Little Monkey’s birthday cupcakes next month. Will keep you posted. 🙂

Thanks, Sprouts Farmers Market and HOPE Foods, for a super evening!

Product review: The Better Chip, spinach & kale with sea salt

I don’t often do product reviews…at least, they’re few and far between. Yet here we go with the second product-focused post in a row. That’s the way the chips fall sometimes, I guess, some chips being better than others. It goes without saying of course, The Better Chip is one of those good–and better–ones.

I’m happy to say, I am feeling soooo much better this week than I had been for the two previous, so much so I can make and follow through on plans again (hooray!). That said, pregnancy acid reflux well and truly bites. Not that you’d be in any doubt, but it is no fun at all.

I guess I’m lucky in a sense, for me the reflux reaction is manifesting as random but regular, sometimes uncontrollable coughing spells that stop short of actually gagging. There don’t seem to be any clear triggers, but (a bit of a given) meals are no more, and steady, small snacks are the order of the day. How nice for me then, when it comes to the timing of a happy introduction to The Better Chip’s newest flavor, Spinach & Kale.

I’m not one to go for lots of prepared snacks, but I do love a good corn chip. Problem is, how hard is it to find corn anything that’s GMO-free? Even farm fresh, beautiful ears of corn keep you wondering more often than not. The Better Chip products are verified non-GMO, all natural, and as made in a completely nut-free environment.

Last time I was sent some of these chips to review, they weren’t yet available in Colorado. Since then, the company has expanded its range considerably. In our state, you can buy them at King Sooper’s. They’re available through Amazon, too. As for the new flavor, can you really go wrong with the likes of power greens spinach and kale? You can actually see the pressed torn leaves in each chip. They taste as fresh as a chip with any kind of shelf life whatsoever can get. That’s the kind of snacking I want to support.

 

Two Pregnancy Product Saviors

I haven’t been much in the mood for posting lately, only because I’ve been sick, and being third trimester pregnant and sick  sucks. I really can’t complain much, because everything has honestly gone swimmingly up until the past week or so. So much better than I would have expected. But I got run down, and was hit with a double whammy, an upper respiratory infection plus pregnancy-induced acid reflux. The result has been utter misery and NO sleep for constant hacking.

Luckily though, I’m on the Z-pack now, and on the mend. I can feel positive spirits slowly returning, and creative thoughts venturing beyond the topics of mucus, moroseness, and chicken broth. Also, I’m remembering things like how I wanted to share two items that have been just utterly brilliant throughout pregnancy, at least one of which is 100% awesomeness whether you’re pregnant or not. They’re not culinary, but I do use them in the kitchen.

Well in advance of the baby’s arrival-to-be, Dave set to belly-proofing our life full throttle. What I mean is, he showed commendable energy and focus figuring out how to make the hormonal 10 months of baby-growing as comfortable and informed as possible. A new nonslip bathmat and BPA-free, eco-friendly curtain appeared magically in the shower, breastfeeding and midwifery sites were bookmarked, and I got this amazing , sustainable Imprint comfort anti-fatigue mat with no curl edges placed in prime position in the kitchen:

Until you’ve tried it, you can’t fully appreciate how amazing the difference is standing on one of these. It conforms to the shape of your feet and provides both comfort and stable support. It’s no secret I love cooking, and I didn’t want to let the occasional backache and growing sense of heaviness force too much of a backoff. Thanks to this one purchase, I haven’t really had to, and here we are closing in on 37 weeks. These mats have been tested and shown to reduce overall fatigue and discomfort by 60%…excellent for everyone, and revolutionary for anyone with issues such as chronic back trouble.

The other thing that has been an absolute saving grace–and pairs nicely with my comfort mat–is the Gabrialla Maternity Support Belt. I wasn’t going to bother with one, but wonderful, gorgeous Tressa gave me hers, and I largely attribute the fact that I’m still running (albeit a very loose, modest interpretation of “running”) in my late third trimester because of it. It adjusts to accommodate your evolving belly, is comfortable, and offers amazing abdominal and lower back support. I wouldn’t be surprised if it even helps ward off stretch marks. I wear it on most hikes, a large number of walks, and all “runs”, but also in the kitchen. When I’ll be standing for awhile, cooking or cleaning up, there’s a night and day difference in how I feel depending on if I put it on.

No one asked me to post review on these products, but they’ve been so beautiful to me I had to record their worth somewhere, whether here or the baby log. I hope baby agrees that the treatment we’ve received from them has been good. Not long now till we can ask him in person… 🙂

 

Better Whey of Life Yogurt

I know, I just made a point of saying I don’t tend to review products very often, and within two weeks, I’ve found two new products I can’t resist sharing.

You may have heard me whine (just a little) about the tests and trials I’ve been enduring perfecting the supposedly easy process of making yogurt. For various reasons, I’ve had several failures, along with a few successes. First they were on the amusing side, and then they became plain annoying. Most recent: the slow cooker yogurt. This was the seemingly long, easy way of yogurt making without a yogurt maker. I equated it in my brain to a long, slow run, something I enjoy. Perhaps that’s why I felt inexplicably a little offended when the pure concoction of beautiful consistency that resulted had an odd taste I can only describe as “slow-cooker ghost meals” attached, like a bad aftertaste.

Long story short: I’m not sure it’s worth my while, with all the other, much more rewarding creative kitchen tasks dabbling each week, to regularly prioritize homemade yogurt. That said, I’m not about to run out to buy a rod of fluorescent GoGurt, and a lot of “grown-up” yogurts aren’t much better when  it comes to heavy amounts of sugar, coloring and additives. That’s why I’m excited about Better Whey of Life brand yogurt.

There are a lot of yogurt styles being marketed right now, and I need to do a little research on the ins and outs of Greek versus Australian, and how many live and active cultures are optimal, etc. Regardless of what I learn, however, I do know that when I eat yogurt I want it to be naturally rich in protein and low in sugar, and it should taste like something worth eating in the first place, too.

Better Whey of Life recently hit the shelves in Colorado, and is available in King Soopers and City Market stores. Launched by Tula Foods, Inc, a healthy foods manufacturer, Better Whey of Life uses whey protein from grass-fed cows. While many Greek yogurts strain out the whey, rich in amino acids that help maintain muscle and burn fat, the Better Whey of Life brand uses a unique process that retains the whey.

The best part of the delicious, thick, creamy product to me (aside from creamy deliciousness, that is) is that there are only 4 grams of sugar per 6 ounce cup (compare to other brands, and you’ll see a difference of up to over 20 grams). It’s high in calcium, even higher than typical brands, contains prebiotics and probiotics, and is free from artificial ingredients. Bonus, four of the six current flavors are extraordinary: there’s your standard, must-have plain and vanilla bean, but also strawberry goji berry, raspberry white grape, acai mixed berry, and blackberry pomegranate, created with assistance from a James Beard award winning chef.

I’m not saying I’m throwing in the towel on homemade yogurt. But products like these make it tempting. And, seeing the movement towards real health,  not just claims reeking with chemicals and empty calories, is just whey (ok, sorry…way) cool.

Hot Product: The Better Chip

Product Reviews | February 29, 2012 | By

You’ve probably noticed, I don’t often do product reviews, what with being so engrossed in Kitchen Science/DIY. But lately I’ve been stumbling upon products that really do wow me, and underscore the incredible trend towards better methods, ingredients, and portions. We may have to pay a little more for the quality, but that just adds incentive to equally important moderation.

Whether you’re a chips and dips, chips and salsa, or crunch and munch for crunch alone kind of person, you’ll want to look out for The Better Chip chips. Here’s why: standout taste, natural ingredients, no preservatives, genetically modified ingredients, animal bi-products, or cholesterol, and crazy crunch. They’re even produced in a completely nut free environment.

These double-thick, all natural tortilla chips  come in jalapeno and sea salt, sweet onion and white cheddar, red pepper and salsa fresca, and fresh corn and sea salt flavors, and are available in handy 1 and 2 ounce snack packs, and 6 ounce deli packs. They taste like a harmonious love affair between tortilla chip and potato chips. That may sound strange coming from me, since I don’t personally care for most potato chips. They’re often too greasy and leave your skin with an uncomfortably semi-oily itchy feeling–a powerful deterrent, considering we can get that feeling from putting them in our mouths, not smearing on our faces. But these have more of a temptingly tasty and healthier than expected quality that embody the appeal potato chips have in general. I’d even say they pose a little bit of danger to otherwise orderly and structured cabinetry (snacks are Dave’s height only, and I rarely experience any longing for his “shelf”).

It sounds like an ad line, but you really get flavor explosion with each crunch. That’s hugely owing to quality ingredients, and their propotions. Straight from the package of red pepper and salsa fresca flavor (which is awesome): the recipe “includes 40% fresh red bell pepper and onion pieces that put the flavor inside the chip; combined with non-GMO corn masa and finished with a light dusting of natural spices”. Great with dips, but equally so dip-less, my only issue with The Better Chip is that they’re not currently available in Colorado, though they’re trying. Currently available in 13 states, this fresh new brand is bound to work its way into every corner over time. In the meantime, look out for it and help with a little urging when you can.

We all know deprivation only creates greater desire, but you needn’t fear that you’ll splurge too much by giving in a little. You can eat just one. You probably won’t want to, but you can stop within reason, unlike fake foods engineered to increase your cravings and foster food addiction. And chances are you won’t have reason to linger with guilty later, anyway.

Disclosure: I was provided with samples but was not paid to write this post.

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