Brothers and sisters and lovers of food that feeds,
Stephen here. First a personal update and then some yummy food news…
With the generous help of our small local groceries, we’ve been selling peanut butter cups for over a year now! I know that may not sound like a big deal but I’m really proud of our dedication. I’m also feeling blessed with a recipe that is so feelgood tasty and lucky to have a job that’s given me the time to experiment in the kitchen. But a transition is coming. It feels like a monster swell is about to hit the shore. I feel unprepared more than I feel excited at this point, but I know that I’ve got what I need. Some brains, some inspiration, a beautiful woman, a playful dog and a fat cat, and a cozy home to shlub around in when I need to chill out. The big news, for those of you that know me, is that I’ll be saying goodbye to a day job of over eight years at the end of April, the last five years of which I’ve been telecommuting from home. I’m guessing the insanely rad reality of this will sink in at some point soon. It’s such a big deal! And so necessary. It’s been one of those jobs where passion, creativity and fulfillment are sacrificed for comfort, avoidance of officewear and awkward sports conversations about some game I didn’t know happened, and a sense of freedom. At least that’s what it’s felt like for a while. Working at home, doing something I don’t care about, and doing it without any comradery has been really hard. Both on how I feel about myself as well as how connected I am with others. And on my bones. I’m moody and I feel like I’ve been on a mild bipolar pendulum for a while. It seemed fine at first but all the feelings of meaninglessness and confusion and resentment towards inner laziness take a serious toll. If you would’ve asked me five years ago what I wanted out of life, I wouldn’t have had an answer. I absolutely hated the “so what do you do?” question. Things are different now. I know that I want to contribute to something in whatever way is meaningful to me. And not just want – I need to. Even if it’s just making healthy choices. Wherever the heart is.
So that brings me to food, since eating’s like a microcosm of the bigger inner landscape and I feel like now, after having tried different diets myself, I’ve actually got some food wisdom to offer. But the big questions like “how do I nourish my inner world if it means letting go of the things I crave?” aren’t what motivates me. At least not yet. Too deep. I like making food because it’s exciting to eat, experimental, and artistic. And with the way things are today, what future generations wouldn’t benefit from visions of a cleaner system?
I really don’t recall how, but a few months ago the idea of culturing nuts surfaced. I’d been using cider vinegar and lemon juice to create a tartness in my cashew icings (carrot cake with cream cheese icing has been my favorite since my fifth birthday party). It’s really tasty and those are two of my favorite ingredients, but when I realized how much better cultured cashews made me feel, there was no going back. They’re lighter and fluffier, like a whipped cream cheese, and they’re literally partially digested. To me, the effect is so much more substantial than simply soaking nuts to remove some enzyme inhibitors. Plus, depending on the specific bacteria you use, you get a more authentic taste. More on gut flora and their important role in the digestion of carbohydrates (our primary energy source), here.
So after playing with different recipes and testing different cultures, I finally found one that I liked! It was Treeline (based out of NY) and their scallion flavored cheese that inspired me to develop a new product. Becky had been taking a break from dairy and was stoked to find something that actually tasted like real cream cheese. I was too. It was spendy but well worth it once you know what you’re getting, especially if you eat vegan or are sensitive to lactose (milk sugar) or casein (a milk protein). Adapted from the back of the Treeline label, the green onion cultured cashew spread was born. I did try chives and other herbs in an attempt to make it unique, but some classics are best left alone. This was one of them, and now it’s made in Olympia, packaged in biodegradable containers, and made with organic ingredients!
A few weeks after developing that one, I was at the farmer’s market with an out-of-town buddy and wanted him to try Johnson’s Berry Farm‘s pepper jams. We had some samples and I picked up a jar of their Strawberry Habanero XXX. It’s a wicked flavorblast if you haven’t tried it. I had some unflavored cashew cheese in the fridge and thought it’d be exciting to mix in some jam. And oh, it was. It’ll depart from our usual cane sugar alternatives, but the overall sugar content will still be much lower than an actual dessert. I love it because they grow certified organic berries, they’re local, and I hear they’re working on transitioning to organic cane sugar once they find the right source.
And that brings me to the third flavor that I’m really excited about, white truffle. Been wanting to do something cool with truffle oil for a while. I’m still in the process of testing different mushroom powders and trying to locate the best oil, but its essence will be truffle-infused olive oil, powdered mushrooms, garlic powder and a little smoked salt. Very organic and medicinal! We don’t have packaging worked up quite yet, but keep an eye out in the local fridges. Here is a photo of the first two flavors. Look for us sampling at the co-ops within the next week or two!