There are so many new plant-based products and business these days that it’s difficult to keep track of what’s up-and-coming. It seems as though each week brings news of an innovative vegan product, from protein-infused plant milks to vegan eggs to plant meats that seem to get more authentic by the minute.
I recently came across this article in the New York Times. It profiles food startups that are holding their own in what remains a heavily corporate culinary landscape. A few days later, I read this article about the food landscape in Boulder–a city whose culinary and economic landscape seems to be uniquely suited to help food businesses grow.
The first article in particular describes the challenges that these small businesses have faced. So much of what we read about startups examines their stories only after success has been achieved, which makes it easy to overlook the fact that failure is part of the process. I had more admiration for these brands after reading about their regrets and learning experiences. And I’m glad that so many food companies keep moving forward in an effort to offer up something creative, original, and valuable.
Change can be difficult to measure, especially when the evidence is incremental. When I think about what was available to me as a vegan ten years ago versus today, it’s amazing to consider the sheer variety of new options. I still remember the one soy cheese brand that I could find at my local health food store; today, the same section of the same store has everything from melty vegan pizza cheese to vegan parm to Miyoko’s cultured nut cheeses. The fridge that used to house Tofurky as a lone plant meat option has about five or six different brands, and within that selection are options for folks with specific food considerations, like allergies or intolerances.
My hometown now has a dedicated vegan grocery shop: Orchard Grocer, which opened recently and features a bunch of small, local brands as well as nationwide labels. I had a chance to visit yesterday, and it was so cool to see creative vegan food options being celebrated. But it’s equally, if not more impactful that so many mainstream grocers carry vegan products at all different price points. It’ll be exciting to see what’s available in another five or ten years, as demand for plant-based options continues to grow.
Such are my thoughts on a cold, drizzly Sunday. Hope you’re all keeping well and warm, and here are some recipes and links to keep you company!
The next time you’ve got a little extra time for breakfast, try Sarah’s delightful Southwestern potato hash. I love the recipe because it comes together in a single roasting dish or sheet pan, and then all of the fresh garnishes make it sing. It would be perfect for a brunch with friends, or for serving as a dinner side.
A couple weeks ago, I had a chance to say a few words about Ashley Melillo’s lovely Blissful Basil cookbook. In spite of the book publication, Ashley has been busy crafting more colorful recipes for her blog, including this simple formula for vegan, gluten-free carrot gnocchi. Great option for a date night dinner.
Lily always has a way of making simple, wholesome food look like artwork, and her citrus avocado kale salad is no exception. It’s a perfect salad for making while citrus is still in season, and Lily offers up three pesto dressing options (including a basic fennel pesto and a creamy vegan version, made with hemp seeds).
Comfort food with s spicy twist! I’m loving Lindsay’s creamy bowl of vegan jalapeno mac n’ cheese, made with chickpea pasta. It’s another good dinner date option, and I had to laugh at Lindsay’s description of the first time she tried making gluten-free pasta for her now husband (we “‘kinda sorta’ ate it,” she writes).
I can definitely relate to failed pasta dinners, and in fact I think I’m still mastering the art of pasta-making, even without the wildcard factor of a non-traditional pasta variety.
Finally, if you’re looking for a super easy, chocolate treat for Valentine’s Day, Heidi Swanson has hit the mark with these awesome double chocolate cookies. They’re made with rolled oats and banana, and they couldn’t be more wholesome–equally good for dessert or a sweet snack.
2. The New York Times profiles a couple of “little kitchens that could”–small, unconventional food companies that are working to enrich and diversify the food landscape.
3. A number of years ago, I was surprised to learn that exposure to artificial light in the evenings might have an impact on fertility in women, to say nothing of its effect on sleep habits. I remembered this when I read this NPR profile of a sleep researcher who sends the sleep-deprived on winter camping trips in order to reset their circadian rhythms.
Not surprisingly, rising and sleeping in tune with natural light helped to normalize participants’ release of melatonin, which regulates wakefulness and sleep. Winter camping isn’t likely to become a widespread sleep remedy, but studies like this one might encourage more people to experiment with trying to copy a natural light-dark cycle at home.
4. A very sobering look at what cancer treatment can cost, even if one has both resources and insurance to work with. The author, Kate Washington, makes clear that she and her husband, Brad, were in many ways blessed with a best case scenario for treatment. Still, they didn’t escape without financial sacrifice, and she worries for those who are more vulnerable:
Out-of-pocket costs gave my husband’s and my personal responsibility an expensive workout in 2016. We are extraordinarily fortunate that we could sort of afford it. We felt the pinch but kept our house, and — unlike some of our friends who have endured cancer treatment — we didn’t have to declare bankruptcy. Unlike many whom ACA repeal threatens, we can keep our insurance, and for that we are thankful. Brad is currently in remission, recovering slowly at home from his long ordeal, and our expenses so far this year are lighter. But if we’ve learned anything from my husband’s long illness, it is that cancer is unpredictable — and so are medical expenses.
5. Finally, an interesting new peek at food trends within the last several decades. The USA released trends in per capita food availability from 1970 to 2014. It’s a lot of information, but Marion Nestle does a good job of summing up some of the major points on her blog.
The report includes information on how average caloric intake from specific dietary food groups has changed; unsurprisingly, calories from all food groups increased. What has increased most of all are calories from fats, oils and meat; calories from dairy, fruits, and vegetables have increased least. Calories from added sugars and sweeteners are up, but the increase isn’t as dramatic as the caloric gains from meats and fats. Good reason for plant-based eaters to keep on keeping on, and to share strategies for enjoying more plant foods with those they love.
Alright, friends. I wish you a great Sunday. I’ll be back on Tuesday with a simple, Valentine’s Day breakfast treat.