Well, would you drink a glass of pesticide? I'm guessing no. So you want to avoid eating pesticides on your food, and eating organic is the best way to do it. Remember, just like plants absorb nutrients from the water and soil, they absorb toxins - so you can't just wash them away.
But organic is more than just food that's grown without pesticides. it also means no chemical fertilizers, sewage sludge, radiation or genetically modified organisms. So if you're concerned about food irradiation, or GMOs, then buying organic means you're automatically avoiding them. Organic food is cleaner, and more naked than conventionally-grown produce. It's been shown to contain more anti-oxidants and micro-nutrients than non-organic produce, so it's healthier for you too.
Since organic produce is more expensive, some people choose to buy organic versions of only the most toxic items. These fruits and vegetables absorb chemicals and pesticides more than others, and often have edible skins. Remember how you mom used to say that the skin contains all the vitamins and nutrients? She was right. But pesticides also like to hang out there. There are annual dirty dozen lists you can refer to, but don't forget that these lists don't only apply to fresh produce. If you decide to stop buying conventional tomatoes and hot peppers (two usual offenders), then think about the other products you buy, like salsa and pasta sauce that contain those items.
There are also yearly lists of conventionally-grown foods that are safe to eat, usually because we don't eat the parts where all the absorbed pesticides congregate, or bugs just aren't that into them, making pesticides unnecessary. But if you can afford the extra cost, buying all organic products lets you do something to promote your favorite causes just by shopping for dinner. Buying organic keeps toxic chemicals out of the soil and water supply, so it's an easy way to help the environment - you were going to the market anyway. Also, since organic farming requires less resources than conventional farming, buying organic can help fight global climate change. Care about social justice? Daily exposure to chemical fertilizers causes health problems for farm workers, so buying organic keeps your money from paying for that.
People often think that organic fruits and vegetables don't taste any different from conventionally-grown. But that's usually before they've actually tasted fresh, organic food. Ever had organic celery? It has a flavor. That watery, bland cliche diet food is full of taste when it's grown organically. Maybe it's all the micro-nutrients absorbed from top-soil that hasn't been depleted by harsh chemical fertilizers. The difference is startling because conventional celery doesn't really taste like anything. And remember tomatoes that taste like tomatoes? Fresh off the vine, really ripe, and not some poor excuse for a tomato that lurks in the supermarket in the depth of winter. Organic tomatoes taste like real tomatoes.
So if your kids aren't enthusiastic about eating their veggies, give them organic. They'll turn into mini-food snobs, but they'll get all their vitamins and nutrients from their food instead of a chewable tablet.
If you care about your health, the environment, or how great your food tastes, then organic really is that important.
I don't know about you, but I'm so over bacon. Bacon in chocolate bars, bacon in doughnuts, bacony beer. At some point the novelty wore off for me. I'm all bacon-ed out and I'm ready to get excited over the next thing.
I say the next food trend will be infusions. It's been popping up for the past few years and I think it's ready to catch on. And I'm not just saying that because of the great infused salsas we have at NAKED Infusions. Though come on, half the fun of our Rustic Blue Cheese salsa, our California Burnt Sage salsa, our Black Silk Espresso salsa and our Oaxaca White Chocolate salsa is the joy of the unexpected combination, the look on your friends' faces when you tell them what it is. (Not to leave out our Fire Roasted Garlic salsa - it's an infusion too. But garlic salsa isn't as unexpected as our other infusions - though it is as remarkably delicious.)
And that's what great about an infused food. It's a combination that you might not have expected. Yet they can taste better than you imagine. It's two tastes coming together to make something wonderfully new.
We're not the only ones mixing flavors. Wine-infused popcorn? It's a thing. And the tasters at local NYC news blog Gothamist thought it was pretty tasty too. And craft brewery Dogfish Head has gotten in on the act with four beer-infused brats, including one infused with both beer and espresso.
And the coffee love doesn't end there. Food Republic recently listed several recipes that infuse coffee into unexpected dishes, including shortbread, barbecue sauce, sauce for roast beef and (sigh) bacon. And there's an Australian-made coffee-infused liquor that will be available in the US in early 2014.
You can do your own infusing and experimenting as well. Infused water is about as easy as it gets and there are so many combinations to try. It's also such an easy way to add a little luxury to your day, or nudge yourself to drink more water if you need to.
If you want to get more advanced, the web is full of recipes for DiY infused vodka, rum and brandy. Add some fruit to add natural sweetness, or candy if you're feeling playful. Infused liquors are great for parties, and make great gifts.
Herb-infused oils are another culinary combination that you can pick up in stores or make yourself. That basil or rosemary that grows like crazy in your garden? Just add some to a bottle of olive oil and wait for the flavors to mingle. Infused oils are great for dipping crusty bread into, or drizzling over, well, lots of things - homemade pizza, bruchetta, and pasta just to name a few.
The great thing about infusions is that they're a gourmet twist on farm fresh flavor. They take the natural, fresh taste of two separate foods and combine them in a way that they enhance each other. It's exciting and there's lots of room for creativity. I think this is a trend that will be around for a very long time.
Recently, a friend of mine had a gift-giving conundrum. She was visiting some friends in France and couldn't think of an appropriate hostess gift. A bottle of wine? They have those in France. Fancy soap for the guest bathroom? That's another thing that France is known for. Gourmet chocolates? Not with Belgium and Switzerland just across the border.
She couldn't show up to stay with her friends with no hostess gift. But a gift should be something special and unique. Not something that the recipient can pick up at the local market. And we all face this same challenge whether we're visiting friends in another part of the world, or just another part of the US.
The trick is to focus on local specialties. What foods does America do best? Well, yes hamburgers are THE iconic American food, but they're not going to travel well in your luggage. Barbecue is a distinctly American cuisine. Some local BBQ sauce or spice rub would make a great hostess gift. Maybe include a small barbecue cookbook if you think the recipient needs some tips.
We also do TexMex really well, and a few jars of gourmet salsa make a great hostess gift. And you can open one as soon as you arrive to start snacking as you and your friends catch up.
Americans also have a passion for hot sauce, as proven by the hundreds of brands made in the US. Thrillist did a taste test and came up with a list of the top ten.
Don't forget that different people have varying preferences for heat. The country where they live may offer some hints. If you're visiting pals in Thailand, bring the hottest salsa and hot sauce you can find. But if you're going to France, stick with mild or medium. If you're not sure of you're friend's personal preference, bring an assortment such as NAKED Infusions 3-Some gift pack - they'll enjoy the variety.
And why not bring wine? American wines rank right up there with wines from the traditional wine regions of the world. Remember Bottle Shock, aka that movie about wine with Alan Rickman? It tells the true story of how California wines beat French wines in a blind taste test way back in 1976. So don't be shy with wine. A local wine can make a great hostess gift. If you're staying with friends outside of the US, then bring a California wine. And if you're visiting another part of America, bring a local wine. Wine grown in New York or Missouri or your home state is more than just an oddity.
Remember to pack your gifts in your checked luggage, so you don't run afoul of the TSA's restrictions on carrying liquids on planes.
When you're traveling, it's great to stay with friends. And it's wonderful to bring a hostess gift that can show your hosts that you appreciate their hospitality and that you put some thought into your gift. By giving your hosts something local, you're showing them that you're not the only great thing about your hometown or home country.
When you or your child is first diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you may feel like you've been sentenced to never having a hassle-free meal again. Yes, it's great to finally have an explanation for the symptoms and a plan of treatment. But now you have to put extra thought into every single meal. Two weeks ago, you only had a vague idea what gluten was. And now you have to become an expert.
It's only natural to worry that you can't run to the corner store to grab a quick snack anymore, or that you'll have to change your entire shopping list. But you're not doomed to noshing on nothing but carrot sticks.
Salsa is naturally gluten-free and there are many popular brands of chips that are made without wheat, rye, barley or oats. That includes NAKED Infusions Organic White Corn Chips and salsas. You may not even have to give up your favorite potato chips, pork rinds or cheese puffs. Check the manufacturer's website and the package itself to be sure. And be careful not to grab a bag of wheat tortilla chips by mistake.
Popcorn is another great option. Even movie theater and sports stadium popcorn should be safe. Pre-packaged popcorn from the supermarket or corner deli may also be fine. If you prefer your popcorn au naturel but don't want the hassle of making it on the stovetop or lugging out an air popper, Food Network personality Alton Brown has a recipe for microwaving popcorn in a paper bag held closed with staples. (Try it at home first if you don't quite believe his assurances that the staples won't make the office microwave explode.)
You don't have to bid adieu to crackers, either. Rice crackers are naturally gluten-free and there are several companies that make gluten-free crackers that mimic classic saltines and other snack staples. Eat them on their own or treat 'em like little plates. Cheese, peanut butter and many brands of jam are still your friends.
Going gluten-free doesn't mean that you'll never have another piece of cake or a brownie again. Even if you don't have a celiac-friendly bakery nearby. King Arthur Flour has gluten-free flour and baking mixes that you can whip up at home. You or your child may not be able to eat someone else's birthday cake, but you can bring your own cupcake to the party so you're not completely left out.
You may be surprised at the variety of packaged cookies available in your supermarket's gluten-free aisle, just a few aisles away from where the gluten-tastic cookies are kept. And some of your regular sweet treats are naturally made without gluten. You don't have to turn your back on pudding, rice pudding, or flan, which all come in single serving snack packs. Meringue cookies and flourless chocolate cake are made without flour, and so are macaroons (usually).
Once you've gotten the hang of gluten-free snacking, you'll see that you don't have to make as many adjustments as you initially feared. Your life will be as full of delicious treats as it was before.
Most of us have our Tex Mex and California Mex with a margarita or a beer. But there are plenty of wines that go wonderfully with chips and salsa, (especially NAKED infusions brand) chicken mole and quesadillas. The trick is pairing the right type of wine with your meal.
Even if you think you don't know anything about wine, you probably have a basic understanding of which types of wines go with which dishes. Having fish? A red wine would be too heavy with a light-tasting food like fish, but a white would go well. But imagine drinking a delicate white wine with a steak. It sounds wrong, doesn't it? With steak, you need a red wine that can stand up to the steak's robust flavor.
When it comes to Tex Mex, the spices call for wines that can stand up the complex flavors of the food. Award-winning wine writer Alice Feiring says that, "You need powerful wines for this kind of food: think strong, spicy wines with plenty of flavor, no shrinking delicate violets." She cautions against any wines that are oaky, since, "strong oak flavors clash," with all the flavors in a burrito. ("Oaky" wines are aged in oak wood barrels, and include Chardonnay. CNN's Eatocracy has a detailed examination of oaky wines.)
Though you may usually drink Italian wine with lasagna and Japanese sake at your favorite sushi restaurant, you don't have to stick with wines from a specific region when you're having Tex Mex. What region would that be, anyway? South Texas? Southern California? What we call Mexican food is a cuisine that evolved in the United States, so it only seems fitting that wines from all over the world pair well with the classic meat, cheese, tortilla and salsa combo.
Ms. Feiring says that she, "prefers red wines with Tex Mex, including Zinfandel from California, Spanish Riojas, Italian Primitivos, and Grenache or Carignane from just about anywhere." She also thinks that, "a hefty sort of Rosé is also a good bet."
If you want white wine with your fish tacos, Ms. Feiring suggests Alsatian field blends (wines from Alsace made from multiple types of grapes, such a Reisling, Muscat and Pinot Gris), or New World Roussanne/Marsanne (wine made in the US or Australia using both Roussanne and Marsanne grapes). " If all else fails," she says, "get a solid cava - the fierce, clean bubble and edge has what it takes to cut through the texture and complexity of Tex-Mex.
Don't be afraid to ask questions when you're buying a bottle in your local wine shop. No one expects you to walk in to the store, grab the first bottle you see and proceed to the counter without talking to anyone. The wine store isn't the corner deli. The differences between the wines aren't obvious, and anyone working there will be delighted to help you find one of Ms. Feiring's recommendations, as well as make some suggestions of their own. Don't be shy. Your meal will be better for it.
Whether you're eating out, having dinner in or throwing a dinner party, you can enjoy wine with your enchiladas. You may find it adds a whole new dimension to food you've eaten countless times before.
Everyone at NAKED Infusions is extra excited that our products are now available in nine Whole Foods locations in California. With more coming soon. But it's more than just the thrill that comes with growing a business and carrying out our plans for world domination.
We get excited any time we get a chance to make NAKED Infusions salsas and chips available in new locations. Yay us! We know our salsas are fresh-tasting and delicious, but we still love it when other people agree with us. And we love knowing that so many more people will get a chance to enjoy the tasty fruits of our labors.
But when we brought our salsa to Whole Foods, they had just about had it with jarred salsas. They were poised to stop carrying them entirely, and only offer freshly made salsa.
And who can blame them? How many times have you decided to try a new brand of salsa only to discover that it tastes vinegary, bland and just like every other jarred salsa your supermarket carries? You think that maybe this brand will be different because the label looked interesting. But then you got it home and discovered that the actual salsa? Not so much. No one wants to eat salsa that tastes like disappointment and kudos to any supermarket that thinks their customers deserve better.
If you live in California, land of plentiful fresh produce (and where we're based) then you can make or buy fresh salsa year round. But if you live anywhere else, then it's difficult to find the perfect tomato, even at the peak of the season. So are you doomed? Doomed to disappointing salsa? We're living in the future. We've got little computers that fit in our pockets. We can pause live television. Is building a greenhouse in your backyard really the only way to have great salsa?
Nope. Because NAKED Infusions is jarred salsa that tastes like you bought it fresh from the farm. When Whole Foods tasted NAKED Infusions salsa, they started to rethink their stance on jarred salsas. We showed them that it's possible to make a jarred salsa that's complex and interesting and everything a fresh salsa could be. And they've decided to keep jarred salsas in their stores, including ours.
So yay us! And yay for rich, clean flavor. No one needs to sacrifice taste in the name of convenience. Because NAKED Infusions is salsa as it should be.
You don't want to show up to a party empty-handed, but you don't want to bring something lame, or worse - something that won't be appreciated. I was once at a party where there was enough food to feed twice the number of actual guests. And one guy brought a four-foot long hero from a local deli. Not only was the hostess insulted by the implication that this guy thought he wouldn't like any of the seven dishes she'd prepared, but now she had to find room in the overstuffed refrigerator and coolers for a four-foot long hero!
I remember another party during the busy Holiday season where one friend of mine brought a bottle of wine - and so did fifteen other guests. Since there was no chance of anyone opening my friend's wine by the end of the evening, she took it with her when she left. It may have been a little tacky, but she had half a dozen other parties to go to before the end of the year, and all those bottles of wine were adding up.
So what should you bring to your next party?
If you know a thing or two about wine or beer, then go ahead and bring a bottle or a six-pack. Your libations will be opened before anyone else's because you really know what to pick. If you can get locally-made wine or beer, perhaps at a farmer's market, then that's a good bet too.
Bring a snack that's interesting and unique. The latest trendy treat sweeping the US is the cronut (a croissant/doughnut hybrid). Even though it's only made in one New York City bakery, there are several copycat recipes. A few years ago, everyone in NYC was standing on long lines on Sunday mornings so they could bring cream puffs to brunch. Is there a shop in your town that makes unusual cupcakes or cookies? Can you find a mom and pop doughnut shop? Anything out of the ordinary will be a big hit.
Pick up some gourmet treats from the supermarket. I've gone to plenty of parties where I've stopped by a grocery store on my way there to pick up a back of ordinary pretzels or chips. But if you have the time to shop ahead you can bring something special like NAKED Infusions gourmet salsa, imported pate or a variety of olives.
If you have a special dietary issue, then bring a dish that you can eat, and will appeal to everyone else. Bean salad and pasta salad are always a hit at parties, and they're perfect for vegans and vegetarians. Use gluten-free pasta and either one of those salads is perfect for the gluten-averse. Check with the host in advance about bringing anything more substantial than nibbles so that you don't end up duplicating efforts, or stepping on their toes.
Making a great impression at any party can start with what you decide to bring. When everyone there knows you as the person who brought that amazing dip, they'll all want to be your new best friend.