Sunday, December 30, 2012

Harmless Harvest has made me a coconut water snob

fresh coconut water, St. Thomas, Ritz-Carlton, Donnie B.
Coconut courtesy of the good peeps at Ritz Carlton, San Thomas US-VI
I consider myself to be somewhat of a coconut connoisseur. Anything that smells or tastes like coconut gets my attention. Much of the experimental cooking during my formative late teens/early twenties consisted of three primary components; heat, onions, and coconut.

For years I've been drinking the canned coconut water with the chunks of pulp that can be found in almost any Mexican super mercado and many taquerias. It's very sweet and the can is virtually indestructible, which lends to the tinny, metallic taste. And then there's the frozen coconut water with pulp slices that come in a bag. These can be found in the frozen food section of your local Asian super market - and you can usually order it in Vietnamese restaurants - primarily pho houses. For me, the frozen bags of coconut water were the next best thing to popping off the top of a fresh baby coconut.

Needless to say, I was genuinely stoked when the whole coconut water craze kicked into high gear over the past few years, thanks to broad exposure via Dr. Oz, and others. In the months running up to our wedding last May, Kristi had instituted an all organic, low carb death march diet. Luckily, she started bringing home different types of coconut water. We drank O.N.E., which tasted great and was competitively priced with the other big brands in the coconut water wars. After a few months, we switched to Zico because it had a higher electrolyte level. Zico lacked the flavor of O.N.E.. In my opinion, Zico tastes a bit, off.

Harmless Harvest: It can harm your wallet
It was sometime in late June when Kristi brought home a case of Harmless Harvest coconut water. I was not immediately impressed. The bottles were small (8 oz), the labeling was hokey at best, and worst of all, Kristi had spent over $30 for 12 bottles. What the hell was running through her mind?

Then I opened a bottle. Easily the best tasting coconut water on the market, hands down. The stuff tastes pretty much exactly like it does straight from the coconut. This is because Harmless Harvest, unlike the other products out there, is bottled raw. The coconut water goes through some sort of cold high pressure process that allows for storage without having to pasteurize the product. Apparently, this prevents the loss of nutrients.


coconut water, Harmless Harvest
5 cases of 8 oz bottles = no shelf space
  • Superior taste to other coconut water brands (Zico, Vita Coco, O.N.E., Naked) 
  • Great source of potassium, electrolytes, fiber
  • Better than sports energy drinks
  • Supposedly sustainable
  •  Pricey: A 16 oz bottle of Harmless Harvest coconut water costs $4.49, while a 33.8 oz bottle of Zico sells for about the same price
  • Short shelf life: Since this product is raw, it lasts about as long as a carton of milk - and it must remain refrigerated before and after opening
  • Limited supply: We've only seen this Harmless Harvest at health food stores such as Whole Foods, New Leaf and Sprouts. And even then, they're often out of stock
At the end of the day, I eventually became accustomed to spending more on a coconut water that provides me with an authentic taste, and I can't really consider going back to the other coconut waters available today. @HarmlessHarvest, if I can't afford to send my kids to college, please know that it's your fault - and my pleasure.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Let dinner cook itself while you're at work

I love feeling smart. A busy lifestyle makes it difficult to actually make a dinner you want to eat. But with a little pre-planning, dinner can cook itself while you spend your day in meetings, con-calls  and glazing over road maps & spreadsheets. It's called throwing everything into a slow cooker when you leave in the morning and come home to a dinner that's already cooked! Yesterday we slow cooked rosemary garlic chicken. Damn, it was good.

 Don's been in Pragmatic Marketing training all week, and I've been swamped at work myself. The idea of cooking up something from scratch when I got home was about as appealing as watching a season of Honey Boo Boo.
Slow roasted garlic rosemary chicken ftw
Roasted garlic rosemary chicken - easy Real Food recipe

 This is a fairly easy paleo diet dish and its easy it is to make:

8 cloves garlic, sliced
5-6 sprigs fresh rosemary, separated from the stem
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Tbsp white wine (don't use anything old)
2 Tbsp water
2 lbs skinless, boneless organic chicken breasts
cooking spray (coconut oil preferred)

Spray slow cooker with the cooking spray. Mix all ingredients except the chicken in the slow cooker. Mix well. Add the chicken one piece at a time, making sure to turn each piece to cover. Cook on low for eight hours or high for four hours. Makes approximately 8 servings of 4 oz each. I usually prep and turn it on before I go to work and it is ready when I get home.

Add blanched carrots or broccoli, rubbed in olive oil and grilled for a few minutes on each side and viola, you've got yourself an easy, delicious meal. BONUS: this meal will avoids the whole "grocery bill too high" syndrome.

Healthy recipes are easier, and tastier than you think.
You can modify the recipe to your tastes and lifestyle. You can replace the protein with pork tenderloin of a beef brisket. What? you don't like garlic? Use shallots. Swap out rosemary with thyme. Its your dinner and we want you to experiment to find the flavors that work for you and your family. A recipe is simply a guideline, you make it what you want. But one rule to adhere to: cooking with healthy recipes are easy to do, once you make it a routine. And dammit, enjoy yourself - and have a glass of wine.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Silicon Valley phenomenon, or are you living in a blur too?

It doesn't stop.

I'm not sure if anyone who doesn't live and work in tech in Silicon Valley can appreciate how the pace, even at a large company, does not slow. Having worked at start-ups during the dot-com boom, I don't miss the days of staying in the office till 9 or 10pm, but this is a different kind of pressure.

You can't unplug.

I wake up at 4:30am everyday to check my work email. Did something happen in EMEA overnight that I need to address? If the answer is no, I go back to sleep. About half the day is spent in meetings and after an hour commute (10 mile drive down the 101), I come home to walk the dogs, whip up something to eat, and then I'm back online. Yeah, I know. It sounds like any normal adult life - try adding kids into the mix, you might say. And to those with kids, I have no idea how you do it.

In the valley, we never, ever unplug. There's an unsaid expectation to be available, to reply to emails immediately, regardless of the time. In fact, I'm sitting here at the dining table watching Kristi multitask in the kitchen: a chopping knife in one hand and her iPhone in the other.

Enough sounding like a brat: We are lucky though. We're having roasted rosemary garlic chicken with sauteed yellow wax beans (which are way tastier than green beans), and couscous.  Kristi is in Napa this weekend, the weather is good, albeit cold, and I'm not worried about bills.

There's certainly a price you pay for living in a center of innovation, but the key is striking that balance where you can unplug. And that's what we're working on.

In the meantime, here's dinner...thank you Cuisinart slow cooker, and thank you Olive Press!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Make real food granola at home

Alright, so let me start with this: I love granola. All time favorite cereals (besides Cap'n Crunch with Crunch Berries) is granola. 

Since Kristi discovered the Real Food blog earlier this year, we've taken some of the spirit of the concept and adapted many of their recipes to suit our personal tastes.

This recipe is based on Alton Brown's recipe for granola, but with the Real Foods influence. The result is a sweet, healthy and delicious granola that serves as a breakfast cereal or a snack.

 We usually double the recipe; it keeps for a while in airtight jars. If you want to stay 100% away from unnatural sugar use raisins, I have yet to find unsweetened cranberries. You can add some nutmeg in there if you like, some recipes also call for a little bit of powdered ginger. Once you make it, you can alter, add/omit ingredients it to your taste. Sometimes we will just use 1C honey or 1C syrup instead of both. I hope you like the recipe; it is awesome for breakfast in Greek yogurt or cereal! ☺

• 3 cups rolled oats
• 1 cup slivered raw organic almonds
• 1 cup raw organic pumpkin seeds
• 1 cup raw organic sunflower seeds
• ¾- 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
• 1/4 cup raw organic honey
• 1/4 cup Grade A maple syrup
• 1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil (A good extra virgin oil makes a huge difference vs. regular coconut oil)
• 1- ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
• 2 teaspoons or so of cinnamon (Depends on your taste how much)
• 1 cup raisins or cranberries

Double the recipe, it's worth it.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Heat up coconut oil in small pan on low to melt it. Add the vanilla to the oil and set aside to cool a bit.
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the oil mixture and cranberries/raisins.

Pour oil into the large bowl with ingredients and combine both mixtures well and pour onto sheet pan/s (I use two when I double the recipe). Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.

Remove from oven and add raisins or cranberries and mix until evenly distributed.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Oh, We Celebrated National Can It Forward Day Alright

Today my sisters Kelly and Tiphany, our friend Jen, and I celebrated National Can It Forward Day 2012 by going overboard in the kitchen.

We canned the following:
- Blushing Peach Jam (peach-rasberry)
- Peach-Strawberry Jam
- Vidalia Onion and Maple Conserve
- Texas Jalapeno Jelly
- Jalapeno Peach Jelly (Chevy's recipe)
- Peach Bellini Jam
- Pickled Jalapenos
- Cowboy Candy

More pictures and tips from our experience to come... What an awesome day spent canning little pieces of heaven.