Rhubarb Sprouting

Rheum rhabarbarum. What we call rhubarb. It is the thing of which pie makers dream about. They love paring of this tart vegetable – although for legal purposes is it considered a fruit – with berries – especially one with the name “straw” in them. Rhubarb is not available year round, at least in it’s fresh form. So one needs to know when can I get it and you might also want to know where it is grown.

Hothouse vs. Field Grown
First you need to know that there are two ways rhubarb is grown – in greenhouses or in the field. The hot house grown rhubarb shows up earlier in the year, naturally (or not naturally if it’s grown indoors?). I usually see it in the very early spring or even as early as late winter. Since rhubarb sales go up quite a deal in the presence of strawberries, when strawberries prices deep as they tend to do in March, you will naturally find more hothouse rhubarb available.

Hothouse rhubarb is usually more uniformly red in color. Some say it’s sweet and more tender too.

Field Grown Rhubarb
Most of the field grown rhubarb that is sold in the U.S. is from the Northern U.S., particularly Oregon and Washington. They are well suited to rhubarb production. The first field grown rhubarb typically shows up in late March to early April. Around this time the hothouse grown rhubarb is done, so their seasons may just barely overlap.

If you leave in a northern state you should be able to find it locally. Check your local farmer’s market in mid to late spring. Here in Michigan it lasts into June.

The season tends to slow down in the summer time, as the heat turns up. Rhubarb doesn’t grow as well in the heat. You should see how pathetic my rhubarb plants look in August! However, you may still see it into the summer as rhubarb does store well. You can freeze rhubarb as well for later use.

During the fall, you will be hard pressed to find it. I can’t recall ever seeing it. I don’t think there is much imported rhubarb, outside of maybe from Canada.

Grow It Yourself
Rhubarb is easy to grow yourself, depending on where you live. Those in the North can easily grow it. I never put much attention into my rhubarb plants and they come back year after year. I got the plants from a friend who just quickly dug a spot when I was home and planted them there.

If you live in the South, it will be more challenging. Your best plant transplants in fall, and harvest your stalks through the winter months. When the heat gets going, the plants will die off and you have to plant anew.

Recipes

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Muffins

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Muffins | Every year I can’t wait to make these. I like them better than pie!

Pluot Rhubarb Crisp

Pluot Rhubarb Crisp | Try pairing rhubarb with other fruits. They go well with some sweet pluots (a plum-apricot cross)

Cocoa Metro Belgian Chocolate Milk Review

in Products I Like

Cocoa Metro Chocolate Milk

Ah chocolate milk. Does it get anymore comforting? Even when it’s not great, it’s still good. But when it actually is great, woah. Mind blowing woah! Before I was adult I had my share of chocolate milk, either store brand, Nestle, or whole milk with syrup added to it. While I liked those things, none of ever blowed my mind. Until I was an adult and sought out the best. This past week, I found one of the best – Cocoa Metro Belgian Chocolate Milk from my local Whole Foods Market.

Who is Cocoa Metro?
The company behind this life changing chocolate treat formed out of a love for chocolate. The company founders, Mike and Lizzy are chocolate fanatics. So much so that they planned vacations around promixity to cocao plantations. That is a serious foodie. I have to admit I have planned vacations around food, actually pretty much every vacation I do has something to do with food (ex. trip to California to eat Ojai Pixies off the tree). At the very root of this company is a love for chocolate. Besides the milk, they also offer drinking chocolate, cocoa powder as well as body care product like lip balm and lotion bars.

Why is Their Milk So Good?
Simple. The chocolate. This isn’t like putting syrup in your mouth, this like drinking chocolate. So rich. So chocolaty. Not too sweet at all. Just perfectly good to the last drop (and when you drink this stuff, that last drop comes way too fast). Loved, loved, loved it!

The milk contains cocoa, vanilla, real sugar – not HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), milk of course. In order to keep the cocoa from not settling in a clump at the bottom of the bottle, carob bean gum is added. It makes up less than 1% of the contents of the milk. Carob bean gum also called locust bean gum is dervied from the seeds of a carob tree. It doesn’t add any flavor to the milk and was chosen as an alternative to carrageenan, which some consumers are concerned about. I found a website that I thought did an excellent job explaining each of these in a non threatening, non alarmist way. Read more about carraggenan and carob bean gum.

Back to the fun stuff. This chocolate milk is worth seeking out especially if you all you ever known is store brand or the popular national brands. Cocoa Metro Belgian Chocolate Milk is so good, that a picture of it should appear to the word decadent in the dictionary.

To find Cocoa Metro Belgian Chocolate Milk in your area, check out their store locator. Stores include Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Gelson’s, Sprouts, Bristol Farms, and more.

Whole Foods & A Slower-Growing Chicken

in Tips

Whole Foods Laguna Beach

How many times have you heard someone say “it tastes like chicken”? Particularly when referring to unique types of meat. What does frog taste like? Chicken. What does alligator taste like? Chicken. What does a T-Rex dinosaur taste like? Probably chicken. You know why people say that? Because chicken doesn’t have much flavor, it is extremely mild. At least the chicken that most of us eat. If you cooked up a piece of chicken breast and put no salt on it, you probably are eating of the most bland things you can find. Why is this? Is this the way it has always been?

I have been thinking about this recently after reading an article in NPR’s The Salt. Whole Foods Market has announced that they will only allow slower growing types of chicken by 2024. What does the speed a chicken grow have to do with anything?

Over the years people have been breeding chickens that grow faster and produce more breast meat. It’s the lean meat that health conscious people are clamoring for. This process has been going on for years so that now we have chickens that grow to twice the size at half the time. Saves time and money for the producers. Problem is this is not something that would happen naturally without our interference. We have selected breeding our chickens to the point where they can barely move – after generation after generation of breeding together the largest birds. In the natural environment they would surely die. They wouldn’t be able to move properly to eat and drink, plus they would be easy prey for predators. I am not a huge animal rights person, but I do not think it’s respectful to knowingly watch an animal struggle to survive in order to be more profitable. I don’t believe this was the intended result it is what has happened and it’s time to stop and reverse directions.

In terms of flavor, these newer, fast growing chickens do not have it. They are grown and harvest so fast and eat a diet that doesn’t result in flavorful meat. It’s quite bland. If you can ever find a chicken of an older variety that is raised and processed the traditional way, you would be shocked at the difference in flavor. The closet thing I have had is a stewing hen, which is an older bird that has to be cooked low and slow but produces a much, richer, tastier meal. As often with cooking, flavor cannot be rushed.

Air Chilled Chicken Drumsticks

Air Chilled Chicken Drumsticks from Whole Foods Market

Another option would be to try an air chilled chicken. Most commercials chickens are dumped in water in order to get their temperature within range fast after slaughtering. Air chilled chicken are blasted with cold air. Both do the job of stopping bacterial growth. The water method adds water weight to the chicken, diluting the flavor. Air chilling takes longer and is more costly but will result in a more flavorful end product. A lot of grocery stores sell air chilled now, including Whole Foods.

Check out my recipe for Roasted Chicken Drumsticks with Potatoes, Dill, and Kale

whole foods market huntingon

So Whole Foods has decided to not sell the fast growing varieties anymore. But it will take time, not until 2024. Why not just do it right away? They have to give the farms time to change over. If they just pulled them at once, they would have a massive shortage in chicken and a ton of customers would be outraged, probably to the point of not wanting to shop there anymore. As much as people love Whole Foods, it is still a big business and won’t just make this change immediately. The older types of chicken are out there and it will take time for farms to begin raising them instead. It’s possible too that some businesses may choose to not continue to do business with Whole Foods instead, depending on how much their profits are coming from selling to them. There are also stores in many regions of the country that may all carry chickens from different sources, so it takes time to get the entire company up to speed when their sources are from all over.

I applaud them for doing this, for the benefit of the chicken as well as for the consumer who will get a better tasting product in the end.

Coconut Secret Aminos Sauces Review

in Products I Like Whole Foods Finds

Coconut Secret Amino Sauces

I love sauces. BBQ sauces. Tomato sauce. The orange sauce that costs my favorite orange chicken at my local take out Chinese place. Sauces are a great way to really deliver flavor to the tongue. They are the first thing you taste when you bite into whatever they are coating. I love making my own sauces but am not against of giving others a try, especially when they are unique and hard to make at home. This brings me to a pair of sauces that I tasted at Whole Foods Market made by Coconut Secret. They are known for their many coconut based products – aminos, vingear, oil, and even snack bars. The sauces I am reviewing here today utitlize their coconut aminos.

What are Coconut Aminos?
Coconut aminos are made from the sap of the coconut tree. It is naturally aged and is fermented. Coconut secret adds sun dried sea salt. Coconut aminos can be used as an alternative to soy sauce. It contains no wheat like some soy sauces do, thus it is gluten free. The name aminos comes from the 17 amino acids that are within.

As with a lot of things in the store, soy sauce has been cheapen for the sake of time and most importantly profits. Most commercial soy sauces do not undergo the traditional fermentation process that came them better flavor and more health benefits. Instead mass produce soy sauces is produced quickly and with lots of added salt to make up for the lack of natural flavor. If you buy the generic cheap soy sauce you are no doubt getting exactly what your paying for.

In terms of comparing the flavor of soy sauce to coconut aminos, I find them to be comparable with coconut aminos being more sweet and less salty than most soy sauce. I think that most people wouldn’t be able to tell that you used them over soy sauce unless you told them.

Coconut aminos are the base for the two sauces from Coconut Secret I am about to talk about.

Garlic Sauce
The ingredients for the garlic sauce : Organic Coconut Sap, Organic Garlic, Sea Salt, Organic Ginger, Organic Cayenne Pepper. The sauce is very well balanced. It is sweet with plenty of garlic flavor and the spice of the ginger and cayenne. I tried with some sauteed asparagus and mushrooms – a winning combination for sure. Add it at the very end of cooking and let it steam for a moment to slightly reduce, carmelize, and coat the vegetables. Use it to flavor any vegetables or rice.

Teriyaki Sauce
The ingredients for the teriyaki sauce : Organic Coconut Sap, Sea Salt, Organic Onion, Organic Ginger, Organic Garlic, Organic Cayenne Pepper. The difference in this sauce is that it contains onion with less garlic. A wonderful sauce to use on chicken or pork. You could use it as a marinade or just add it at the end or at the table. I have to say that I do like the flavor of the garlic sauce just a hint better, but that doesn’t mean this one isn’t a winner itself.

Both these sauces are uniquely flavorful and since I don’t have any coconut sap I can gather in my backyard this one of the few bottled sauces that’s worth the money. To find them in your area, use Coconut Secret’s store locator. You can also purchase the sauces online, see link below (this is an affiliate link)

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WELCOME TO MY BLOG

I'm Eric. I live in Ann Arbor, MI with my wife, 3 kids, and a flock of ducks. I love grocery shopping, trying new fruits, farmer's market, and traveling.
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