Thursday, November 27, 2014

Homemade Chocolate Treats to Savor & Share

by Maria Noel Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

'Tis the season for a little indulgence, especially if it's in the name of gift-giving! Here are a few of my favorite chocolate treats to bring to parties and give as treats, all of which just happen to be gluten-free...

Herbs that Combine Well with Chocolate

Peppermint & Other Mints, Vanilla, Lavender, Ginger, Orange Zest, Rose Petals, Tarragon (esp w/white chocolate), Chiles, Coffee, Bay, Star Anise, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Basil, Holy Basil/Tulsi... Let your imagination go wild!

Infusing Herbs in Chocolate:

Heat your chocolate recipe, remove from heat and add some flavorful herbs. Let sit 30 minutes or more, (reheat if necessary to liquefy) then strain and proceed with recipe. Be very careful not to overheat the chocolate or it will separate.

Simple Chocolate Recipes:

* These recipes use this infusion technique or could be adapted with it.
  • Lavender Chocolate: Grind one teaspoon of dry lavender flowers to a coarse powder. Melt 3 oz of dark chocolate in a double boiler or carefully in the microwave. Stir in lavender, and spread onto wax paper to make a new bar, let harden.
  • Peppermint Brownies: Add one to two tablespoons of dried peppermint leaves to your favorite brownie recipe or mix and prepare as usual. Cut into small brownie pieces (~20 pieces for a box mix makes it around 100 calories per brownie).
  • Chocolate Sauce*: Whisk together equal parts real maple syrup and pure cocoa powder, add vanilla extract to taste. Use about 1 tablespoon per serving to drizzle over fruit. 
  • Coconut Chocolate Fudge*: Melt and mix together equal parts dark chocolate and unrefined coconut oil in a double-boiler. Pour onto a rimmed sheet covered in wax paper, cool in the fridge to harden. You can also sprinkle this with nuts, a dusting of nutmeg or cinnamon, etc. (It will melt if you let it get too warm.) 
  • Decadent Gorp: Chocolate chips, almonds, and dried cranberries (one small handful is a serving!)
  • Herbal Cocoa: Make 6 oz of tea using a chocolate-friendly herb like rose petals, holy basil, peppermint, cinnamon, or star anise. Strain the herbs and then add an all-natural hot cocoa mix to the tea. 

    Favorite Fancy Chocolate Dessert Recipes

    Brigham's Hot Fudge Sauce*

    This recipe makes a QUART of hot fudge, so plan to bring it to a party, give some away, or freeze it in smaller containers. It keeps for about a month in the fridge. When cold or room temp, it will be very thick, almost fudge-y, so you'll want to warm it to pour over ice cream or brownies. ( like to just eat it in this semi-solid state by the spoonful, though. Why ruin it with ice cream? You can adapt this recipe by changing the vanilla extract for mint, orange, etc, but I love the original so much I've never done this. Buy the best quality chocolate you can find or afford, your fudge will be much better for it. I've doubled the chocolate and halved the sugar on the original recipe - my adaptation is below. One heaping teaspoon (1/2 oz) has about 50 calories.

    ·       8 oz of quality baking chocolate or equivalent of powdered baking cocoa
    ·       1/2 lb of confectioner’s sugar
    ·       1 stick of butter (no substitutions!)
    ·       1 can (13 1/2 oz) evaporated milk
    ·       1 teaspoon vanilla

    Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan. Alternately add milk and sugar. Stirring, bring to a slow boil (bubbles just around the edge of the pan). Remove from heat, add vanilla, stir. Pour into 1 quart jar or into smaller jars. Keep refrigerated or freeze. (It is NOT shelf stable.)

    Chocolate Truffles*

    This recipe is adapted from the one at on You can find similar recipes by Susan Belsinger in Not Just Desserts and Jerry Traunfeld in The HerbFarm Cookbook.
    • 14 ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped block chocolate
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • Herbs to Infuse: 1 cup loosely packed fresh herbs (ie: peppermint leaves or dried spices), coarsely chopped, or 2-4 tablespoons dried herbs
    • 8 ounces premium white or semisweet chocolate, tempered** or melted
    • Optional to roll around truffle: About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar or tinted sanding sugar, garnish
    Make Ganache/Truffle Filling: Place chocolate chips or chopped chocolate in a large bowl and set aside.
    Combine cream and coarsely chopped herb leaves (or spice of choice) in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring mixture to scalding point, turn off heat and steep the herb(s) in warm cream about 30 minutes. Strain cream into another nonreactive saucepan to remove herbs. Squeeze herbs over pan to recover any retained cream; discard herbs.
    Gently reheat cream to scalding point. Strain hot cream through a fine-meshed sieve directly onto chocolate chips or chopped chocolate. Let mixture sit 1 to 2 minutes before stirring to allow cream to melt chocolate; gently whisk until chocolate and cream have come together and the filling is perfectly smooth. If chocolate does not melt completely, place bowl over barely simmering water, stirring as needed to achieve desired consistency. Pour filling into a small bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight, until mixture is very firm.
    To Finish: Using a 11⁄4-inch melon baller, scoop truffle mixture into small (1⁄2-ounce) spheres. Roll spheres between palms to smooth out any lumps or divots. Place a single sphere on a fork and submerge in tempered or melted white or semisweet chocolate. Shake off excess and set truffle on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining spheres. (You can stick a shelf-stable indicator – such as a dried rose petal or piece of crystallized ginger – to the top of the truffle while the chocolate is still warm.) As soon as cookie sheet is filled, set it in refrigerator to allow dipping chocolate to solidify completely. Transfer truffles to an airtight container and store in refrigerator until ready to eat.
    Just before serving, remove truffles from refrigerator, trim off any chocolate “feet” with scissors and roll truffles in confectioners’ or sanding sugar, as desired.
    **Google “how to temper chocolate easy” for techniques. It’s not necessary, but it will make for a shiny rather than dull finished product.

    Peppermint Fudgy Black Bean Brownie Bites (Gluten-Free!)

    (with a Raspberry Brownie variation in the description)

    Hoping to make something a little more virtuous yet still indulgent? These brownies are a riff off the dairy-free, gluten-free recipe found here; however, I've made a lot of adaptations. It's particularly amazing baked as mini cupcakes and topped with ganache. This recipe is easily adapted to other flavors. For example, you can skip the peppermint and top the ganache with a raspberry.
    •  One 15-ounce can (or 2 cups homemade, slightly overcooked) black beans, drained and rinsed very well
    • 4 large eggs
    • 3 tablespoons melted butter (or canola oil)
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (or maple syrup)
    • 1/2+ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (to taste - I use about 1 cup+)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract or 1 tablespoon dry peppermint leaves, optional
    • Pinch salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided (optional – I like better without)
    Preheat the oven. Prepare pan or cupcake tin and set aside.
    Place the black beans in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, butter/oil, sugar/syurp, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, peppermint extract/leaves, baking powder, and salt and process until smooth. If using chips, add 1/4 cup of the chips and pulse a few times until the chips are incorporated.
    Pour the batter into the prepared pan (for brownies, smooth the top with a rubber spatula) and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips, if using.
    Bake until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before slicing into squares (if serving as regular brownies) or frosting with ganache.
    Traditional Brownies: Bake at 350°F in a lightly oiled 8x8-inch baking pan for 30-35 minutes. Makes 16 brownies (cut into 2-inch squares). Chocolate chips work better in this recipe b/c they have more time to melt.
    Mini-Cupcake Brownie Bites: Bake at 350°F in a mini cupcake tin with cupcake papers (or w/o, if it’s well-oiled or nonstick) for approximately 15 minutes. Makes 24 mini cupcakes. Chocolate chips work better in this recipe b/c they have more time to melt, but this is amazing when topped with a bit of ganache.
    Ganache: I make ganache by melting down equal parts heavy cream and dark chocolate. Once it cools I scoop it into a ziplock bag, snip an end, and use that as a pastry bag. If you have leftovers, you can just put that bag into another ziplock and store it in the freezer til you need it next.
    Freeze It! To really wow guests with fresh-baked desserts, freeze the raw dough in the cupcake tin (using wrappers). Once solid, put them in a freezer bag. When you want to cook them, pop the desired number of frozen cupcakes into your tin.

    Chocolate Tea Blends

    Chocolate Mint Tea 

    Delicious like an Andes candy with no sugar at all!
    • 2 tsp peppermint
    • 1 tsp cocoa nibs
    • 1/8 – 1/4 vanilla bean, snipped into small pieces (or a squirt of vanilla extract)
    Steep approximately 20-30 minutes or to taste. It can be weak if under-steeped or bitter (from cocoa nibs) if over-brewed.

    Cocoa Coconut Tea 

    Deliciously rich and reminiscent of a candy bar or cookie - no cream or sugar needed.
    • 2 tsp toasted shredded coconut (unsweetened)
    • 1 tsp cocoa nibs
    • 1/8 – 1/4 vanilla bean, snipped into small pieces (or a squirt of vanilla extract)
    Steep approximately 20-30 minutes or to taste. It can be weak if under-steeped, so give it time.

    And, it's lovely weather for a...

    Holiday Cocoa Tea

    This blend features evergreen needles, mint, and chocolate in a delightful blend that makes it feel like Christmas!
    • 2 tsp peppermint
    • 1 tsp cocoa nibs
    • 1 tsp hemlock* needles
    • 1 tsp lemon balm
    • 1 tsp rose petals
    • 1/4 vanilla bean, snipped into small pieces
    Cover with 16 ounces of near-boiling water and let steep for 10 minutes. Enjoy!
    * Hemlock TREE (a common evergreen in these parts) is totally NOT poisonous and unrelated to the deathly poisonous hemlock wildflowers. Click here to learn more about hemlock needles and how to identify and harvest your own.

    Maria runs Wintergreen Botanicals in Allenstown, offering on-site and online classes and herbal health consultations. For more herb-inspired recipes and information about herbs, visit Her first herbal book is due out from Storey Publishing by spring 2016.

    Monday, November 24, 2014

    Nutrition & the Holidays

    by Dr. Amanda Hegnauer, ND, Naturopathic Doctor & Co-op Wellness Educator

    How did it get to be November already? Summer has come and gone. Autumn feels like it’s practically over. And, somehow, the holidays are just around the corner. I propose that now is time to grasp the inevitable and plan for the future so we can enjoy the holiday season in a healthy way!

    I am a firm believer in a good plan. By planning ahead we are setting ourselves up for success.

    Step 1: Schedule wisely.

    Review your social calendar and be consciously aware of what your functions will include. Make time in your schedule to prepare and enjoy your gatherings. Remember, it’s okay to allow yourself a bit of indulgence this holiday season. We all know that we cannot hide from that tin of fudge at the office party. 2: Know your limits.

    Try bringing a healthy (but still tasty!) dish to your next gathering. If you have worked hard to lose those five pounds prior to the holidays and know that you will instantly gain them back just from looking at a piece of decadent chocolate cream pie, than perhaps the best plan is to bring something healthy. Do some research, there are many different options for low-calorie, low-sugar desserts that won’t destroy your hard work! Scour your healthy cookbooks or for inspiration.
    A few words on sugar. Sugars have a more detrimental effect on weight and cholesterol levels than fats do. The average American consumes 22.2 teaspoons of sugar each day. That’s 335 calories with zero nutritional value. One 12-ounce soft drink has 8 teaspoons of sugar, according to the American Heart Association. This triggers inflammation in your body, which in turn contributes to increased health risks including diabetes and heart disease. Think back on this when you go to have that punch, fun cocktail, or second serving of dessert.

    Step 3: Don’t forget good foods.

    As we are well aware, food is one of the foundations of the holiday season. This leads us to step three; when considering what your menu will be, please don’t forget good foods. Include good oils, whole grains, nuts, fruit, and vegetables in your dishes. As you are preparing your meal, consider food sensitivities and be considerate of others. Bringing a gluten-free, dairy-free dish – that is still delicious – will be sure to score you an invite to the next social engagement.

    Step 4: Balance nutrition & exercise.

    The energy that we utilize during exercise is derived from the good sugars and fats that we acquire through good foods. If the balance between these foods are off (perhaps due to too many extra indulgences...), those five pounds that you worked so hard to lose will reappear faster than you can say “Happy New Year.” Find ways to fit in a brisk walk or hike, a run at the gym, or a night dancing with your spouse.

    With the holidays rapidly approaching, there are parties to plan, meals to cook, and many blessings to share. By keeping up with your exercise regimen, healthy foods, and naturopathic care, you can let go of the guilt during this most joyous season and enjoy!

    Dr. Hegnauer practices Naturopathic medicine at Whole Health Concord. Her specialties include autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, endocrinology, gastroenterology
    and women’s health. Learn more at

    Friday, November 21, 2014

    Sweet & Savory Winter Squash

    by Shawn Menard, Produce Manager

    With all of the winter squash varieties to choose from at the Co-op it can be challenging to decide which type to pick.  And once you pick, it can be even more challenging to find a new and exciting recipe you haven’t tried yet. Below are some of the squash you will find at the Co-op and my favorite way to use each one. Hopefully this will make it easier for you to decide what will be for dinner.

    This mild sweet squash is easy to handle and absorbs flavor well. Acorn squash is excellent stuffed with your favorite meat stuffing or bean and vegetable mixture.  Cut in half from top to bottom and remove seeds.  Score the flesh in ¼ inch increments and place each half in a baking dish cut side up.  Brush the flesh with olive oil or butter and bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until slight caramelization occurs. Fill each half with desired stuffing and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

    Blue Hubbard
      Its thick bumpy skin is more difficult to handle and cut, but the orange flesh on the inside is well worth it.  The flavor is sweet and nutty. Both flavor and texture are comparable to a sweet potato.  Blue hubbards are great with butter and maple syrup.  Cut in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place halves cut side down in a baking dish with a half inch of water. Bake at 400 degrees for one hour. Let cool and mix in butter and syrup to your liking.  Finish with salt and pepper.
    This large and misshapen squash is one of the most challenging to deal with.

    This petite squash is one of the easier varieties to handle due to its size and relatively thin skin.  Peel and cut into one inch pieces. Mix 2 tablespoons each of agave (or honey) with balsamic vinegar. Brush liquid mixture over squash pieces and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

    This is the squash everybody knows.  Its delicious, easy to find, and you can do almost anything with it. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut in half lengthwise and peel.  Scoop out seeds and cut into ¾ inch pieces.  Coat pieces in olive oil and roast for 30 minutes. Heat 6 cups chicken stock on low heat. In a separate large pan melt 5 tablespoons of butter and sauté 2 ounces of diced pancetta and two diced shallots until shallots become translucent. Stir in 1.5 cups Arborio rice until coated. Add a half cup of dry white wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and 1 cup grated parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.

    This cylindrical squash is very easy to handle and is my personal favorite.  The skin is edible when cooked making it hassle free. I love using delicata in quesadillas this time of year.  Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place halves in a baking dish with the cut side down in a half inch of water and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Allow squash to cool to the touch and cut into quarter or half inch pieces.  Saute the pieces with sliced mushrooms, garlic, onions, dried sage, salt, and pepper.  Cook the mixture in your favorite tortillas with a nice sharp cheddar and enjoy dipped in hot sauce.

    Also know as the “Japanese Pumpkin” this squash is exceptionally sweet and also nutty in flavor.  It’s texture is reminiscent of russet potatoes and can either be very smooth and creamy or firm depending on how it is cooked.  This is by far one of the most dynamic winter squash varieties and can be used in almost any winter squash recipe.  To get the best out of kabochas, I like to bake in half (with seeds scooped out) at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  Place each half face down and add about a half inch of water to the bottom of the baking dish. This will allow some parts of the squash to remain slightly firm while other parts are soft and smooth.  Allow squash to cool for a few minutes then carve out the flesh away from the skin with a large spoon.  Partially mash and add spices that compliment the rest of your meal.

    Red Kuri
    The red kuri squash is often mistaken for sugar pumpkins as their shape, size, and color are similar. The orange flesh provides a chestnut aftertaste. I like using red kuris for breakfast.  Try adding some mashed red kuri squash into your favorite potato cake recipe.  You could also add small cooked pieces to potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, and corned beef for an awesome breakfast hash.

    The name says it all here, spaghetti squash is an excellent alternative to pasta, especially if you are on a gluten free diet.  Cut in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds out.  Place flesh down in a baking dish and add a half inch of water to the dish.  Bake at 450 for 30 to 40 minutes.  Allow squash to cool for a few minutes.  Grab two forks, using one to hold the squash in place and the other to the scrape along the flesh.  As you scrape the flesh it will yield spaghetti-like fibers.  Place all the fibers in a bowl and mix with your favorite pasta sauce.


    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    Thanksgiving Food Blog Round Up

    The holiday season is upon us with just about a week til the big T-day! We've covered all sort of holiday dinner topics previously on this blog, so we wanted to do a little round up for you...

    The Turkey

    The Veggie Sides


    Special Diets

    Sweets & Treats
    Want more inspiration? Check out EatingWell and Vegetarian Times.

    Holiday Cooking with Fresh Herbs

    by Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

    In November, I’m still harvesting fresh herbs from my garden to complete a dish for dinner or a party. Even though most of our garden sleeps during the winter, a few hardy herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, and savory will persist into the snowy weather. It’s no surprise that they pair so well with the foods of the season: roasted poultry, squash and root vegetables, cranberries, apples, and baked goods.

    Whether you’re harvesting these herbs straight from the garden or “cheating” and purchasing them from the Co-op’s produce department, the few minutes it takes to add fresh herbs to these dishes are worth the amazing flavor.

    Roast Turkey & Chicken

    Stuff sprigs of rosemary, sage, winter savory, and thyme under the skin of the turkey or chicken before roasting. This prevents the herbs from burning and allows the flavors to penetrate the meat as it cooks. I usually put 1 to 3 sprigs per pound of poultry. (Sage and rosemary are potent, but thyme is mild.)


    Separate the leaves from the stems of several sprigs each of rosemary, sage, and thyme. Place the stems in the hot gravy for several minutes to infuse it. Strain out the stems, then add 1 tablespoon of chopped leaves per cup of gravy. Or simply place the whole sprigs of rosemary, sage, and thyme in hot gravy for 10 minutes, strain, and serve. (I learned this trick from famed herbal chef and author Jerry Traunfeld.)


    Sage and thyme offer classic flavors to stuffing. For 12 servings of stuffing, chop 1 to 3 tablespoons of fresh herb leaves and fold them into your stuffing. Add 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley for bright flavors.

    Biscuits, Rolls & Butter

    Fold chopped fresh chives and grated cheddar into biscuit batter for a tasty quick bread. Rosemary, sage, thyme, savory, and dill hold their flavor well when baked. Add a handful of fresh, chopped herbs into any dough or batter. If you don’t have time to make fresh bread, flavor the butter instead. Use a food processor to mix 1 tablespoon of chopped chives and 1 teaspoon of fresh squeezed lemon into a stick of softened butter. Reshape in wax paper or place in serving dishes, then
    refrigerate to harden slightly before serving. Using the same technique, add roasted garlic and finely chopped rosemary leaves to softened butter.


    In a food processor, blend any tender herbs into softened butter, then add that butter to mashed potatoes. Parsley or chives work well. Use 1/4 cup of herbs and 6 tablespoons of butter per 2 pounds of potatoes.

    Squash & Roasted Vegetables

    Sage brown butter adds creamy goodness to mashed squash and pureed root vegetable soups and chowders. In a small skillet, fry a handful of whole, fresh sage leaves in a half stick of butter. You can use the fried leaves as a garnish or remove them before adding to your recipe. Frying sage transforms and mellows the flavor. For roasted squash and root vegetables like potatoes, add several whole sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and/or savory to the pan. Or fold in chopped chives a few minutes before the vegetables are done roasting.

    Apple Cider

    A crock of cider accompanies all our fall and winter get-togethers. Pour 1 gallon of local cider into a crock pot and add 2 to 3 cinnamon sticks, 10 whole cloves, 3 allspice berries, 2 bay leaves, a sprig of fresh rosemary, 1/2-inch of fresh ginger root (sliced), and some freshly grated nutmeg. Let simmer at least one hour. Serve with local maple liquor or homemade cordial. (Available in liquor stores. Make your own by combining equal parts maple syrup and good vodka.)


    I’m a cranberry purist, but a sprig or two of fresh rosemary infuses nicely in homemade cranberry sauce (remove before serving). Or make this easy cordial: On the stove, dissolve 2 cups of sugar in 1 cup of water. Add cranberries and cook until tender. Fill a mason jar halfway with the mixture, then top it off with quality vodka and a few sprigs of rosemary. Let sit for two weeks, strain. Serve solo or in cocktails at parties. It also makes a nice gift.

    Maria teaches and sees clients throughout the country. Her first herbal wellness book is due out from Storey Publishing in February 2016. Visit for more herbal recipes.

    Monday, November 17, 2014

    Superfoods of the Season

    by Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG), Registered Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

    Step back goji berries, chia, and acai. You’re nice and all, but it’s late autumn in New England. Our kitchens are stocked with good-for-you goodies that make up for what they lack in exotic by in affordability, accessibility, and taste. It’s time to look at your seasonal standards in a whole new way.

    Pumpkins & Winter Squash

    This is the time to enjoy winter squash and pumpkins before storage takes its toll on their flavor and texture. Right now they’re bursting with betacarotene and other carotenoids that bolster your immune system, keep skin supple, and help you stay lubricated during the cold, dry winter. They also improve eyesight, reduce cancer risk, and are good for your heart. Their fat-soluble nutrients will be even more powerful when canned, roasted, simmered into soups, and baked into delicious treats. Think of them as the original gluten-free carb, the likes of which kept the Pilgrims from starving during the first harsh winters. Toast up those seeds for a mineral-rich, high-fiber snack.

    Brussels Sprouts

    I hope I didn’t lose you at “Brussels” because these petite cabbages are completely transformed into a mouth-watering side dish when prepared properly. Saute them with olive oil or butter (and perhaps a little white wine or hard cider), salt, and pepper. To spruce it up, mix in sauteed mushrooms, garlic, crisp bacon, or dried cranberries. These babies rank among the highest anticancer foods, help lower cholesterol, and give your liver a boost (and, admit it, with cocktail season in full swing, you could use that). Also try one of the newfangled and surprisingly tasty thinly chopped raw Brussels salads.


    U-pick season has ended, but now’s the perfect time to up your daily produce ante with baked apples, applesauce, and other dessert-y treats from apple crisp with whole grain topping to handmade apple pie. Experiment with less and less sugar and let the tangy tart flavor of apples and a sprinkle of cinnamon satisfy your sweet tooth.


    Talk about tart! These local fruits pack a wallop in terms of flavor and antioxidant content. Play around with natural sweeteners like maple syrup, OJ, or pomegranate juice concentrate to give them a lift without the usual sugar hit. What will these berries do for you? Besides their famous ability to fend off urinary tract infections, they also fight both arterial and dental plaque, and decrease inflammation. Add them to apple dishes, goat cheese salads, make a fresh cranberry chutney, and more.

    Cinnamon & Cardamom

    Maybe these super spices won’t grow in our soil like the rest of the seasonal powerhouses, but chances are you already have them in your kitchen, and they will bring your food and health to a higher plane. Almost any culinary spice improves digestion and decreases inflammation. Cardamom is one of my favorites  for kicking up digestive juices while providing a special chai-like flavor to baked goods, soups, baked beans, bacon and ham, smoothies, and eggnog. Cinnamon helps improve your body’s ability to process sugar and insulin while also patching things up in cranky bowels. Simmer a few sticks or let them sit in a thermos for an hour for a surprisingly sweet sugar-free tea that you can enjoy after meals. And, of course, add it to any dish you’d like!

    Maria runs Wintergreen Botanicals Herbal Clinic & Education Center in Allenstown. Her first herbal wellness book is due out from Storey Publishing in February 2016. For herbal recipes and more herbal inspiration, visit

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014

    The Three Variables of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

    by Laura Piazza, Recipes for Repair Cookbook Co-Author & Co-op Wellness Educator
    When going on an anti-inflammatory diet, we choose to eat foods that can influence how we feel and progress with chronic illness and chronic symptoms. There are three variables to an anti-inflammatory diet, one of which can often be overlooked.

    Eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help in many ways because you fuel yourself with nourishing foods, many of which have anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, you work to remove foods that are said to promote inflammation. These foods often have little to no nutritional value. There is a third variable though, one which many of us don’t know to look for – hidden food sensitivities.

    If you have a food intolerance but don’t know it and continue to eat the offending food(s), you will just add to the inflammation that’s already present in your body. This can create or aggravate symptoms. It is especially important to learn of any food sensitivities if you are battling a chronic symptoms or chronic illness, because some of your symptoms and/or inflammation may be dietary. Remove the offending food, and symptoms can either be minimized or even disappear altogether!
    Food sensitivities are not the same as food allergies, which are more immediate and can be severe or even deadly. A reaction to a food that you are sensitive to won’t be as severe and can happen hours to days after eating that particular food. The symptoms can vary greatly, which makes it even more of a challenge to determine if the food you ate an hour or a day ago is causing discomfort.

    You can identify unknown food sensitivities by going on an elimination diet and keeping a food journal, or by asking your health care provider to perform specialized testing. Once your sensitivities are discovered, it’s essential that you take the appropriate steps to eliminate those foods from your diet in order to have the full benefit of an anti-inflammatory diet.

    When you pay close attention to your body, you may find that the foods that cause you distress are common allergens like gluten, corn or dairy, or something more obscure. A few uncommon sensitivities that readers have shared with me are turnips, carrots, and cashews.

    To some, the prospect of changing your diet or giving up certain foods feels overwhelming. But this doesn’t have to happen overnight. In breaking old habits and introducing new ingredients into your kitchen, new cooking habits and a healthier way of eating will result. A gradual change will feel less stressful and will allow you to slowly ease into a new way of eating.

    One way to ease your fears is to try new recipes or products. If you believe you may be dairy intolerant, for instance, try some recipes or products that are dairy-free. You may be surprised to find that a recipe or product doesn’t taste much different when a dairy-free milk, like almond or rice milk, takes the place of milk.

    To exemplify my point that eating allergen-free and/or anti-inflammatory meals can still be appetizing and delicious I have provided an easy-to-prepare, healthy breakfast recipe (see below).

    If you suspect food sensitivities and/or want to implement an anti-inflammatory diet into your life, you can view the physician-developed anti-inflammatory/elimination diet featured in our book on our web site, Here you can try over three dozen professionally-developed recipes, all of which were developed for the diet and are identified as gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and/or vegetarian.

    Recipe ~ Carrot Almond Pancakes

    These pancakes may look a little different than what you’re used to, but they taste sweet, nutty and very satisfying. Top them with a teaspoon of raw honey and some blueberries for a complete breakfast treat. Prepare and refrigerate the pancake batter the night before, so that you can make your breakfast in a few minutes.
    Gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian.
    Prep: 10 minutes, Cook: 12 minutes. Makes 4 pancakes.

    1 cup peeled and grated carrots (2-3 carrots)
    ¼ cup almonds
    1 slice fresh ginger (1/8-inch thick)
    1 teaspoon ground flaxseed
    2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
    ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 egg
    ¼ teaspoon sea salt
    ½ teaspoon vanilla
    1-2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil
    1 teaspoon raw honey
    Blueberries (optional)

    1. Place the grated carrots in a medium-sized bowl.
    2. Place the almonds, ginger and flaxseed in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 5-6 times until the almonds are finely ground.
    3. Add the almond mixture and all of the remaining ingredients, except for the ghee, honey and blueberries, to the grated carrots.
    4. Heat the ghee in a small frying pan over medium heat for 2 minutes, or until hot.
    5. Pour two ¼-cup portions of pancake batter into the frying pan, and cook for about 3 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Repeat with the remaining batter.
    6. Top with honey and blueberries if desired, and serve hot.

    Recipe & photographs reprinted from Recipes for Repair, with permission from the authors. To learn more about Laura and her award-winning anti-inflammatory cookbook, visit

    Friday, November 7, 2014

    Identity Crisis: Yam or Sweet Potato?

    by Jay Sjostrom, Co-op Produce Clerk

    This week in the Concord Food Co-op’s produce department we are highlighting the Japanese yam/sweet potato. Before I go into the detail of that particular variety I’d like to address a question we’re often asked in produce: Is there a difference between Yams and Sweet Potatoes?

                There are two separate answers to this question, one in regards to culture, and one to botanical truth. Starting with the latter, most of the “yams” we sell in the USA are botanically sweet potatoes. This goes for all varieties available at the Co-op. In fact yams and sweet potatoes are from two different plant families. True yams are largely unavailable; most people have probably never seen or eaten them. While sweet potatoes have a generally smooth looking and attractive appearance, the yam has a much wilder looking, tree bark exterior. It is also much drier than a sweet potato. So with this knowledge in mind: why do we call sweet potatoes yams in the USA?
                For one, it’s a cultural thing, but it’s also marketing too. There are two are varieties of sweet potatoes: a firm, light tan variety, and a soft copper colored variety (Garnets and Jewels). The light tan variety was the first to be introduced in this country.  This variety was first called and still is labeled a sweet potato. The copper color variety came after and was called a yam in order to better tell the difference between the two. This difference of look, feel, and labeling has estranged so-called “yams” from the sweet potato family and thus left customers with the question we started with.
                Japanese yams are also in the sweet potato family. In fact, they are the sweetest variety we offer at the Co-op and if not over-cooked retains a unique flavor, setting them apart from the garnet and jewel. Its purple skin makes it easily identifiable amongst the earthier hues of its neighbors. So if you’re looking for the sweetest variety of yams this holiday season, look no further. We have yams at a great reduced price of $2.29/lb starting Friday November 7th, 2014.

    Looking for recipes?
    Try these links:
    Maple-Cranberry Sweet Potatoes
    Quinoa Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Peppers
    Black Bean- Smothered Sweet Potatoes
    Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges with Jalapeno Sour Cream
    Maple-Cranberry Sweet Potatoes
    Maple-Cranberry Sweet Potatoes

    Thursday, November 6, 2014

    A New England Cheese Platter

    by Jaimie Jusczyk, Marketing Specialist

    At last nights Cheesy Wine Down tasting class, the Co-op's cheese expert Heidi showed us how to create the perfect New England themed cheese platter. Heidi brought along lots of props to help inspire our own creations for the upcoming holiday season including a variety of platters, boards and various dishes that she likes to use to present her selections to her guests. A great idea she had was using ramekins to serve nuts and jams. We all have ramekins hidden in the back of the kitchen cupboards that hardly get to see the light and they are the perfect size for small spaces and servings. Heidi also pointed out that while traditional plates are great for serving already cut cheese, they don't make for a very elegant cheese cutting board, so stick to flat boards or slates when serving cheese that your guests will be cutting into themselves.

    So onto the cheese selections; the Co-op's cheese buyer Suzy has been busy finding seasonal cheeses that make great conversation starters from local New England farms. These selections make great gifts this time of year too. We tried Olga cheese from Seal Cove Farm in Maine, that is a blend of raw cows and goats milk. From New Hampshire we tried Toma and Piermont from Robie Farm. Robie Farm is a 140 year old dairy farm in Piermont along the Connecticut River. Then we tried a nice selection of cheeses from Vermont Farms like Lake's Edge and Crottina from Blue Ledge Farm. The Lake's Edge cheese has a dramatic ash-vein through it which makes for a very eye-catching selection on a cheese platter and tastes out of this world with a dollop of honey. From Grafton Village we tried the Leyden cheese that is inspired by an area of the Netherlands. And lastly from Von Trapp Farmstead we tried the Mad River Blue cheese and Brie from Blthydale Farm.
    It sounds like a lot is going on, but for a group of 25 people it served us very well (there was plenty for seconds and even thirds) and only cost about $65 for the cheeses and another $20 for a blueberry spread, a couple apples and some walnuts. That works out to less than $4 per person. (Don't worry you definitely get your money's worth at our tasting class, we also prepared 2 other similar sized platters plus the wealth of knowledge that Heidi provides.)

    Now lets move on to the wines of the month. Clos LaChance winery is a small family owned and operated winery near the Silicon Valley in California. The vineyard and production facility are both Sustainably Certified via the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. This means that when you purchase Clos LaChance wines you are supporting environmentally sound practices, economically feasible agriculture and socially equitable conduct. I think this makes the wine much more enjoyable!
    We started the evening with a glass of Chardonnay and Meritage. The Chardonnay would pair lovely with a manchego, but the goats milk cheeses on the platter were a great alternative. The fruitiness worked well with the Reine des Rennette apples too. The Meritage was a lovely splash to enjoy with the Mad River Blue and nuts. The strong personalities of each worked well.
    Then we tried the Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. I thought the Cab Sav was a great wine with anything on the cheese platter. It was fresh and fruity, even though it looked dark and mellow. The Sav Blanc worked well with the goats milk cheeses on the platter like the Olga from Seal Cove Farm or the Crottina from Blue Ledge Farm. the fresh citrus notes left a crisp taste on the palate.
    Like Heidi always tells us, pairings are a personal thing, you either like a combination or not, so get out there and try something new from the Co-op! Make sure to print your coupons to save $5 on cheese with your wine of the month purchase, click here.