Are you a pod person?

invasion of the body snatchers

Kevin McCarthy as Dr. Miles J. Bennell in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Well, not that kind of pod person. A Chia Pod person. You know, one that likes these cute little things:

chia pod

Vegan and 100% natural, Chia Pods provide a nutritious snack or breakfast option. And they’re portable–just toss one into your lunch box; its compact packaging even contains a spoon! (The lid, cup, and spoon are all recyclable and are made from 30% recycled content.)

Now, if you’ve never tried Chia Pods or chia seeds and you’re sensitive to textures, I will caution you: chia seeds develop a gelatinous coating once they’re exposed to liquid. They have a tapioca pudding-like texture. And if you aren’t used to it, it can be a little weird.

chia pod 2

That being said, there are plenty of reasons to love chia seeds in general, here are a few:

  • high fiber
  • contains 18% of your daily recommended calcium
  • good source for protein
  • may help increase “good” cholesterol while lowering “bad” cholesterol
  • may lower blood sugar for diabetics
  • rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • the gel coating that develops increases the size and weight of the seeds, helping you feel full

So, where do you find Chia Pods? Locally, here in Abingdon, Virginia, you can find them at Whole Health Center. If you’re not in Abingdon, Virginia, some grocery stores such as Earth Fare, Whole Foods, and Fresh Market carry them.

Have you tried Chia Pods? If so, what do you think?

Going overboard on sea veggies

SeaSnax

In my pantry sits a whole galaxy of sea veggie snacks: two bags of seaweed salad, six packs of SeaSnax, eight bags of Sea Veggies, and four sleeves of sesame nori. Once I get locked into a serious snack food collection, the tendency is to push it as far as I can. The only thing that worries me was the dried seaweed salad. There’s nothing more disheartening than sea vegetables that are chewy and taste weird while you’re in the depths of a nori binge. (Yep, that was a nod to one of my favorite books, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.)

Ok, so here’s how my latest obsession started: Recently, while I was at Whole Heath Center, I saw a little eye-catching display of SeaSnax. Since I love sushi, I picked up a pack to try. It was all down hill from there.

Toasted nori (also referred to as “kim” in Korea) is the type of food that you either love or hate (like Marmite). These crispy snacks are paper-thin sheets that have been toasted in a little oil and salt. Some brands use sesame or other plant oils, but SeaSnax uses olive oil, which I think makes it taste better.

Sea vegetables like nori are full of vitamins, too, such as vitamins E, B1, B2, B5, B12, iron, protein, potassium, iodine, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, amino acids, omega-3, and selenium. They’re also easily digested by the body.

If you try toasted nori and decide you’re addicted, too, here are a few ways to enjoy it:

  • Chop it up and sprinkle it on steamed rice
  • Eat as a potato chip substitute
  • Use as a wrap instead of traditional grain wraps
  • Chop it up and sprinkle it on an Asian salad

So have you tried these? If so, what do you think? How do you like to eat them?

sea veggies

Healthy Snacks for Picky Kids

A few years ago, I went to Houston on a business trip and found various NASA inspired retail products at the airport, including Astronaut Ice Cream. So I bought a pack and surprised my son with it when I got home. He really, really liked it. And you have to love a company that lists “Astronauts eat this stuff” among its product features. But, unfortunately, I don’t love the ingredients.

Recently, however, during a visit to my favorite local store, Whole Health Center, I found freeze dried strawberries. While they’re great for snacking during a hike, stirring into oatmeal, or adding to muffin batter, my picky 10 year old loves them right out of the bag, and his first reaction after trying them was “It tastes like Astronaut Ice Cream!” Score.

The brand is Just Tomatoes Etc. They have everything from bananas, pomegranate, and raspberries to persimmons and “fruit salad.” While fresh, organic, local fruit is best, during the winter months or when your finicky child wants a bagged snack on the go, this is an awesome alternative to chips, candy, or Fruit Roll-Ups.

As you can see from the photo of the bag below, my son was rather enthusiastic about getting into these.

Dried Strawberries

Whole Health Center Display

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde

Because my tomatoes and tomatillos have been prolific this year, I’ve had several “Salsa Saturdays”. (Days when I just live on salsa, Xochitl tortilla chips, and Netflix rentals.)

Now, I love both red and green salsa varieties. However, my personal favorite—salsa verde— is OMG good. Therefore, I’m going to share the joy with you. But before I do, I have a confession to make. Lately, I’ve developed a really bad habit of not measuring anything; I’ve just been jotting down the ingredients and moving right along. So the few measurements you see below are actually guesstimates.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde
Roasting the first four ingredients makes all of the difference. This recipe can turn out rather thick, which is great for getting a large amount onto a chip. But if you prefer a more liquid version, simply add more lemon and lime juice as you pulse in the food processor.

1 ½ lbs. Tomatillos, husked and rinsed
3-4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 Vidalia onion, peeled and halved
2-Pasilla peppers, seeded and halved
Fresh cilantro, chopped (to taste)
Fresh lime juice (to taste)
Fresh lemon juice (to taste)
Kosher salt
Pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

Place the first four ingredients (reserving half of the onion for later) on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until you notice that the tomatillos are beginning to brown and the peppers are blistering.

Remove from the oven and set aside. Allow to cool.

Next, peel the garlic and the peppers and add them along with the tomatillos and onion to a food processor. If you have any “tomatillo goo” left on the baking sheet, use a spatula to scrape it into the processor, too.

Then add the cilantro, citrus juice, salt, and pepper. Pulse.

Now, just before you’re ready to pour the salsa into an airtight container, throw in the raw half of the onion and pulse until it’s chopped.

Refrigerate and enjoy later .

Kale Chips and Chickens

Let me begin this blog post by saying, “I love kale.” Chef Dave has cooked it for me several times, using onions, balsamic vinegar, sugar, and beets (even though he hates beets), and I have to say that I like his kale best. But kale chips are pretty dang good, too. There are all kinds of recipes (like this one) that you can find online for these wonderfully healthy chips, but I had them the easy way: prepackaged.

During my lunch break the other day, I picked up a bag of kale chips from Whole Health Center and broke into it at the nearest stoplight. I was hungry and hadn’t eaten much for breakfast. And boy were they scrumptious! The brand was Just Pure Foods Cheesy Kale Chips, but I have to say, they didn’t taste cheesy to me. They had more of a marinara taste, which is odd because tomatoes aren’t even in the ingredients. Nonetheless, I believe the copy on the back of the bag is accurate when it describes them as “insanely delicious”.

The only down side to this wonderful snack is the crumbs. After eating them in the car and at my desk, I realized that I desperately needed a Mini-Vac and a toothbrush.  I had specs of green everywhere, including my teeth. Far worth it, though.

As WebMD states, kale is a nutritional powerhouse, one cup yielding “36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.” Since it is high in vitamins A and C, eating plenty of it is also great for your skin. But there are precautions you must take. . . .

Make sure you know the difference between kale and chicken. Evidently, according to Chick-fil-A, distinguishing between a green leafy vegetable and a bird is “confusing” to the American public. Therefore, increase your consumption of kale, but don’t encourage anyone else to do it. And if you become perplexed about the whole kale-chicken thing, here’s a simple comparison chart that will help:

*breathing deeply* Okay, I think my job is done here.

A Good Pickle Is Hard to Find

No, Flannery O’Connor would not be pleased with the title of this blog post, but alas, everything that rises must converge. Yeah, that context made no sense, but I’m a wise blood. Okay, I’ll stop.

High fructose corn syrup in dill pickles? Yes. Not even these seemingly innocuous snacks are immune from this ubiquitous beast of a sweetener, so be sure to read the label the next time you pick up a jar. And it’s not just HFCS that you’ll find. You’ll also see Yellow 5 and polysorbate 80 listed. The former is a coal tar derived colorant and the latter is an ethoxylated compound also known as polyoxyethylene-sorbitan-20-monooleate.  The term “ethoxylated” is a fancy way of saying that this compound was processed with ethylene oxide (a primary petrochemical), which means it could be contaminated (via the manufacturing process) with 1,4-dioxane, a probable human carcinogen.

However, not all brands are chemical laden. I was pleasantly surprised by a small family-owned brand that I found at Kroger called Frog Ranch. I picked up a jar of the peppered bread & butter pickles, and the ingredients were simple:  cucumbers, vinegar, peppers, sugar, onions, garlic, spices. Woo-hoo! Score! No HFCS. No dyes. No ethoxylated compounds. I also noticed that they have a program called Five for the Phibs where they donate 5% of their profits to support amphibian research. I’d love to know more about this, but they don’t have much information about it on their website, and their social media presence is a bit stagnant. Nonetheless, how is the taste?

Whoa. They’re spicy and delicious! I’m glad I bought two jars. These aren’t going to survive the week.

Xochitl Tortilla Chips

The. Best. Most Amazing. Tortilla. Chips. Ever. Period.  One taste of these and you’ll never buy Tostitos again. Let’s see. . . .How do I describe them: Extremely light. Crisp. Perfectly salted. Highly addictive. Life-changing.

Located in Dallas, Texas, Xochitl has been around since 1921. And not only do they make fantastic corn chips, they have an awesome Asada Verde Salsa. I could seriously sit down with a spoon and eat an entire jar of it. I haven’t tried the other flavors, but I suspect that they’re delicious too.

So have I piqued your interest? If so, the next time you’re at the store, look for the bag pictured below and buy two: One bag for the Asada Verde Salsa and one bag for your own homemade pico de gallo.

Real Popcorn!

GUEST POST! January 19 is National Popcorn Day. Allison Tray, Owner of Tres Belle Petite Medi-Spa in Brooklyn, NY, originally wrote this post on her own blog, Tres Belle Buzz. As soon as I read it, I knew I just had to post it on Uncanny, and Allison was kind enough to share. So without further ramblings from me, read all about real popcorn:

I LOVE popcorn. I’m not talking about that microwave in a bag stuff. I’m talking organic pop-it on the stove top REAL popcorn. If you’ve fallen prey to “the bag,” take 2 minutes and make it from scratch; it’s also more economical. I actually USE popcorn. That’s right. I’m a total user. I use it as a delivery system for all sorts of healthy spices, especially when I’m under the weather. Here’s my simple vegan recipe for super healthy “cheesy” p-corn bursting with flavor:

U need:
1/2 cup organic popcorn kernels
a few tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Earth Balance (You may leave it out but WHY?!)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon or more of organic cayenne pepper
sea salt to taste

U do:
Coat the bottom of a tall pot with vegetable oil, as it’s a good high heat oil. I do NOT use olive oil–it burns and when you use EVOO for intense heat, it may release toxins. No bueno.

Ok, pan coated, put 2 kernels of popcorn in the pot, put stove on medium heat and cover.

Once the 2 kernels have popped, add the rest and cover. Move the pan back and forth NON-STOP as the kernels begin to burst open in the pan. Keep moving that pan! I mean it!

When the popping stops, remove from heat immediately and dump the hot popcorn into a bowl.

Add Earth Balance to the hot pan and once it melts, pour it over the p-corn, then add in the remainder of ingredients and eat, eat, eat.

Here are some reasons that cayenne kicks major tush:
It can kill cancer cells in the prostate, lungs, and pancreas; immediately stop a heart attack within 30 seconds; cleans arteries; and rebuilds stomach tissue.

Here are some reasons why nutritional yeast totally rules:
It tastes amazing, like cheese. It is rich in B12, folic acid, and amino acids; helps regulate blood sugar; and it might actually help relieve stress!

Get Poppin’!

XO, Allison

Pepitas

Don’t throw those pumpkin seeds away! They’re high in zinc, which is beneficial for healing wounds and supporting the immune system. Toast them and eat them as a snack.

2 c. pumpkin seeds, dried
2 ½ Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. sea salt

Drying method: Thoroughly rinse to remove any pumpkin flesh sticking to the seeds. Place seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet to dry.

Note : Cushaw and spaghetti squash seeds are good too.  You can use them for this recipe as well.

Heat oven to 350. Toss seeds in oil and spread onto a shallow baking sheet. Toast for about 20 minutes until the seeds are fragrant and are beginning to darken. Season with sea salt. Serve.

Hot Boiled Peanuts

Ah, yes, boiled peanuts, a traditional snack in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. You can’t drive through these states without seeing a boiled peanuts stand. They’re an acquired taste. Most of my friends outside of the Deep South don’t really care for them, but I think they’re addictive.

Though they’re typically cooked in large pots or pressure cookers, I’ve been making them for years in my crock pot. Here’s how to do it:

6 quart crock pot
1 ¼ c. sea salt
2-16 oz. bags of raw peanuts

Rinse peanuts in a colander and place them in a 6 quart crock pot. Fill crock pot with water. Peanuts will float to the top. Just place the lid on top of them.

Cook on high for 4 hours.

Add a cup of sea salt and cook for another two hours. Taste the water to see if you need to add more salt. It is at this point that I add the other ¼ cup, but you may not like them as salty as I do.

Check crock pot periodically to be sure you don’t need to add more water.

Continue to cook for another 2-3 hours until most peanuts are dark brown and no longer float to the top.

You can determine when they are done by tasting them for saltiness and firmness. They should be soft with a bit of texture, but it’s really personal preference.

Want to see what harvesting peanuts looks like? Visit the Warthan Farms page.