getting specific: good phyte’s 2016 index

What are last dull days of December for, if not reflecting on the year behind us?  2016 was exceptional in many ways, though the defeatist “worst year ever” epithets seem tiring and unproductive. Did the presidential election crush me? Do I wake daily to news that portends the undoing of so many positive things that activists have devoted lifetimes to achieve? Am I enraged by the appointing of insider billionaires with no record of public service whose chief aim seems to dismantle the very agencies they are charged with stewarding? Yes, yes, and yes.

But.

In the many many hours I spend alone in the kitchen, listening to public radio or, lately, “Another Story” by Head and the Heart on repeat (written after the shootings at Sandy Hook, it still feels so relevant), I think often about my original purpose in starting good phyte foods as the mother of a toddler in 2014.  I was motivated as much by frustration and fury as I was by passion and affection- annoyed daily by the profusion of mass-produced snacks that purported “healthiness” with ingeniously designed branding and nearly inscrutable ingredients lists.  Everywhere I turned, moms like me were convinced to keep convenience king and set the bar low when it comes to what constitutes “nutritious.”  Why were people buying what was essentially edible styrofoam, largely corn and potato starch, ultimately profiting global food conglomerates and contributing nothing to the development of their children’s brains?  Surely the solution doesn’t have to be a strict, exhausting regime of freshly made superfood smoothies every time hunger strikes.  Who keeps a blender in their stroller, or in the car?  But I digress.  You can read more on that at the good phyte foods about us page.  Alongside this conundrum, which I began to recognize as a problem befalling grown-ups just as much as children, was that entirely commonplace and yet unparalleled love I felt for my son, and the many kids I watched playing around around him, whose personalities and imagined futures suddenly intrigued me.  I set up good phyte foods as an LLC with a vision to provide nourishing, nutritionally diverse, portable snacks to the Charlottesville community.  I was enamored more than I was enraged.

As my sustainable food and clean water activist friend in West Virginia reminded me in her holiday letter last week, “Hate generalizes. Love specifies.”¹  

So, let me get specific.  2016 was good phyte foods’ first full calendar year of operation, after our first humble sale at Charlottesville City Market in May 2015.  Since January this year, the business has made from scratch and sold 57,024 crackers, 1,003 bars, 160 pounds of granola, 978 pumpkin muffins, 533 kale cookies, and a motley assortment of odd-looking experimental snacks.  In so doing, we have bought sustainably grown (and often certified organic) vegetables and herbs from at least twelve farms² in Central Virginia.  We are grateful not only to our loyal and patient customers at City Market, but to our enduring local partners at The Juice Laundry, Random Row Brewing, Blue Ridge Country Store, Rebecca’s Natural Food, and ACAC Downtown. Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  It is a humbling honor to be part of this evolving local food economy. 

In the coming year, we want to expand our reach to more retail partners, reinvest in new equipment, train some cracker apprentices, experiment with early summer cracker flavors, and give back to community organizations that are helping kids eat more vegetables.  I have recently been appointed to the Advisory Council of the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville, which, among other things, teaches children of limited economic means how to grow, use, and appreciate fresh organic vegetables. 

Though I may be grateful to close the books on 2016, I’m fueled by love for a new year of purpose and potential.  As I was reminded by glancing at the back of butternut & sage crackers while writing this, “No junk. All good.”


¹  Robin Morgan, The Word of a Woman: Feminist Dispatches, 1968-1992 (1992)

² Broadhead Mountain Farm, Bellair Farm, Whisper Hill Farm, Double H Farm, Sweet Greens Farm, Planet Earth Diversified, Elena Day’s Produce, Modesto Farm, Van Dessel Farm, Wayside Farm, Little Hat Creek Farm, Season’s Bounty CSA

butternut & sage crackers

I’ve been looking forward to experimenting with this one for a while now, waiting until an appropriately autumnal time. My husband and I have always grown butternut in our gardens (as I noted in last week’s primal pumpkin spice muffin post, they are as vigorous as they are delicious). In the good ol’ days (when buying bananas at a grocery store seemed a little colonial and gluttonous) we were more loyal locavores, and relied on the sweet hearty squashes to help feed us through the winter. I would slice the neck across into a series of 1/2 thick circles, line them in a glass baking dish, and chop a couple fistfuls of fresh sage. I would spread the sage on the top along with sea salt, black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil, baking until the edges of the circles (the skin) was crunchy and the interior soft and creamy.  That warmth, aroma, and flavor was what I wanted to replicate in cracker form. These come close, and the curry I added (just because) really comes through. A slight creaminess is courtesy of that mysterious property of a good butternut to resemble, well, butter.

#vegan #gluten-free #vitaminA

Ingredients:  locally grown butternut squash, organic millet, organic flax seeds, organic raw sunflower seeds, organic apple cider vinegar, filtered water, organic dates, locally grown apples, himalayan pink salt,  fresh sage, organic curry

“the croccoli” cracker with fresh ginger & roasted garlic

Maybe it’s the obligatory recovery period after the Christmas and New Year holiday that’s made me crave green stuff lately, even more than usual. But cold raw salads are not exactly compelling when the temperatures finally start feeling wintry.  I want huge platters of steamed green stuff slathered in some kind of goopy brown garlic sauce a la American Chinese food, in the excessive quantity only an American can appreciate.

Thus, the croccoli was born– a crunchy cracker not shy on nutty broccoli flavor, but matched with fresh ginger and some roasted garlic.

Broccoli is a “no-brainer” health food, packed with compounds found to fight cancer, and in combination particularly effective at detoxifying the body. Read more about that at one of my favorite no-frills nutrition sites, World’s Healthiest Foods.  The croccoli will be available at City Market, The Juice Laundry, and other select retail locations throughout the spring (May-June), and late fall.

ingredients: organic golden flax, locally grown broccoli, organic millet, organic raw sunflower seeds, filtered water, organic dates, Braggs raw apple cider vinegar,  roasted locally grown garlic, fresh ginger, himalayan pink salt

the 2015 good phyte index

I managed to have some time in the passenger seat of a rented minivan on the way back from visiting my dad at Christmas, when my brother-in-law drove the leg between Aiken and Charlotte. To keep my hands occupied (and away from the remaining sunflower cacao cookies), I got out the ol’ digital abacus and reflected on the first year of business, where I had the opportunity to test, tweak, and get feedback on a lot of snaxperiments. I already shared our financial expense breakdown for the season, so let’s look a little deeper at what all our labors actually produced!

  • 7 months
  • 19,152 crackers sold
  • 732 omega bars sold
  • 12 kinds of local vegetables
  • 6 fresh local herbs
  • 7 local farms using organic practices
  • 22 very early Saturday mornings
  • approximately 400 hours of NPR programming heard on a kitchen radio
  • countless lessons learned, thanks to many intrepid and honest loyal customers, and Joell Eifert in the
    Department of Food Science & Technology at Virginia Tech, who helped me understand a little more about the science of crackers!

And by the way, I still ate those cookies in the van. All. By. Myself.

 

 

sunny solstice cookies with cacao

If there’s any holiday I can get excited about in winter, it’s the one reminding me that winter, with all it’s darkness and erratic weather, will end. On the solstice, I am all too eager to celebrate, helping push the pendulum towards longer days, and the spring to come.

This recipe attempts to honor everything about this time of year, when the body craves density and creaminess, and the soul craves color and light. The interweb is bloated with holiday cookie recipes that involve rolling, cutting, sprinkling, or glopping with icing, so I see this as a simple healthy alternative that can save you time but still satisfy the sweet tooth. These guys are dairy, grain, and nut-free (not an easy feat for a cookie), so they can make a nutritious homemade treat packed in a school lunch, or to take to parties in which there may be nut, gluten, and/or dairy allergies. Plus, there’s no messy icing, meaning they can travel or ship without congealing into a disastrously UNfestive mess more unwelcome than a fruitcake. There are people out there I am lucky enough to still call friends who have been in the receiving end of such messes. P.S. I am so sorry guys. I know it was, like, 10 years ago, but I should have known better.

Not only does the sunbutter make the cookie exteriors glossy (the refrain to REM’s ‘Shiny Happy People’) has been running through my head ever since I took them out of the oven), but the little crunch of cacao nibs is like a little surprise inside! If you prefer dried fruits or actual dark chocolate chips inside, swap out the nibs in their favor. Enjoy!

sunny solstice cookies with crunchy cacao
Yields 14
A completely grain and nut--free treat that's creamy, delicious, portable, and fun to eat despite not being covered in sticky frosting.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
18 min
Total Time
38 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
18 min
Total Time
38 min
149 calories
12 g
13 g
10 g
4 g
1 g
39 g
105 g
9 g
0 g
9 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
39g
Yields
14
Amount Per Serving
Calories 149
Calories from Fat 88
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 10g
16%
Saturated Fat 1g
5%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 7g
Cholesterol 13mg
4%
Sodium 105mg
4%
Total Carbohydrates 12g
4%
Dietary Fiber 1g
5%
Sugars 9g
Protein 4g
Vitamin A
3%
Vitamin C
2%
Calcium
2%
Iron
5%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup sunflower seed butter
  2. 1 egg, beaten
  3. 2 tsp vanilla extract
  4. 1/3 cup local honey
  5. 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  6. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  7. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  8. 1/4 tsp salt
  9. 1 cup cacao nibs
  10. 3/4 cup chopped dried dark cherries (optional)
  11. Coarse sea salt, to sprinkle on top (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together all of your ingredients except the chocolate chunks until they come together and mixed thoroughly.
  3. Once the batter comes together, fold in your cacao nibs and optional dried cherries.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and scoop your batter onto the baking sheet to form 12-14 cookies.
  5. If you're in the mood, arrange a few nibs and/or dried cherries on top to make a smiley face.
  6. If you like a little sea salt on the top of your cookies, sprinkle a little onto each cookie before putting it in the oven.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
Notes
  1. Here is a good resource on making your own sunflower seed butter:http://www.tessadomesticdiva.com/2012/09/homemade-sunflower-seed-butter-extra-creamy.html.
  2. Also, my title is a mouthful (I have a weakness for alliteration), so feel free to change it. Shiny Happy Cookies works, too.
Adapted from PaleOMG
beta
calories
149
fat
10g
protein
4g
carbs
12g
more
Adapted from PaleOMG
http://goodphytefoods.com/

phything for 2015

I know you’re about to Google “phything,” but I’ll tell you right now that I just made it up, and will get more into that in a bit.

First, the unconventional approach to philanthropy recently announced by Facebook’s founder (and his wife) has got a lot of people talking. As someone who studied nonprofit management, I, too, am intrigued by the idea of leveraging the third sector to push for-profit and governmental organizations to improve their practices. Whether setting up their foundation as an LLC rather than a 501(c)(3) will more effectively achieve a positive social impact remains to be seen. With far more meager resources, I also set up good phyte foods as an LLC, with a vision to provide nourishing, nutritionally diverse, portable snacks to the Charlottesville community. This is my home, and I want everyone in it to thrive.

Tithing, technically speaking, is based on Old English for “tenth,” in reference to the 10% of one’s income that was expected to be contributed to the church. Have you ever been able to donate back 10% of your income to any cause, whether religious, social, or political? Me neither.

But good phyte is all about giving back, even if what we’ve got to give is not going to weigh down anyone’s collection plate. Seven months after our first sale on May 16th, 2015, we are proud to announce that 5% of good phyte’s first year’s profits are going to go to the International School of Charlottesville’s Edible Schoolyard Project. While that’s a greater percentage than many corporate philanthropy programs (think 1% for the Planet) donate, don’t be too impressed. What constitutes a “profit” is tricky when you are the sole laborer in a business. I’ve just finished combing through receipts for the year, and though I may have missed a few crumpled bits of evidence somewhere along the paper trail, I now feel comfortable sharing the details of how this first half-year of entrepreneurship unfolded, financially speaking.

So, what do I mean when I talk about “profit”? First, let’s start with gross sales, minus state and local sales tax ($182.40).  Then, we subtract the following expenses, some of which of course will last into 2016:

equipment purchases (new industrial NutriBullet for grinding seeds, baking sheets, used fridge, etc.): $263.99

supplies (including bags, branded shirts, blank product labels, label printing, and other assorted supplies): $1,359.37

printing & labeling: $478.17

market fees: $415.00

licenses & city business tax: $185.00

training/workshops: $15.00

kitchen rental (I used Trinity Episcopal Church’s kitchen twice to test it out): $40.00

ingredients, mostly certified organic (some of which we still have on hand, and some were used on marginally successful experiments, and which I chalk up to R&D): $2,545.55

labor (my own, valued at a flat rate of $60/week for 28 weeks of sales, which works out to about $2-$3/hour, if I’m honest about how much I work): $1,680.00

Please note that these expenses do not include the original cost of logo design and the building of our web site template, which mostly took place in 2014, under the generous talent of SQN Communications.

At year’s end, this leaves us with just enough in the bank to invest in some new equipment in 2016, so we can continue to improve and grow, and maybe eventually hire some help.

We are reserving 5% for causes that further the goal of nurturing a love of growing and eating fresh nutritious food. Fortunately, Charlottesville is home to several organizations working toward this vision, so it wasn’t easy to choose where this meager but very special first year phythe should go. After a lot of thought, we are going to donate the 5% ($21) to the ISC Edible Schoolyard Project, a nascent volunteer effort led by the energetic and endlessly-skilled Lynsie Steele, one of my fellow ISC parents and founder of DinnerDivide.com. I, too, am involved in the garden, and have witnessed its power to transform little veggie skeptics into kale lovers. In 2016, I hope our small contribution can support fertile soil, new tools, and the inspiration children can feel when hands get dirty going good work.

Preschoolers learning how to plant seeds from Lynsie Steele, Edible ISC Schoolyard Garden Coordinator.

beet thins

These crackers were first inspired by a millet cracker recipe in Ruth Yaron’s Super Baby Food (page 509). As I gushed in my book review back in March, I adore the book’s simple, practical language, and brief, to-the-point recipes. Her style makes it easy to experiment, using her recipes as templates from which to swap ingredients and play around a little with flavors. Some of my experiments are abject failures.  This one is, hands, down, my favorite cracker. Ever.

After making a few batches of these beet crackers with millet and pumpkin seeds (falling quickly in love), I swapped in quinoa, which I have since stopped using because the deep earthy grain flavor overshadowed the other subtle flavors.  The beets (which I’ve sourced from several farms, including Broadhead Mountain Farm, Double H Farm, Lettuce Grow Farm, and Bellair Farm) and figs combine with rosemary and sea salt to generate a sweet and savory quality without any added sweeteners. After making these with local pastured butter for many weeks, I responded to requests for a dairy-free cracker and managed to create a vegan version that should still satisfy crunch-craver. No one wants something that called itself a cracker when the crunch factor just doesn’t hold up to expectation.

These are tasty on their own and even better with some Caromont Farm goat cheese. A groggy post-nap Fionn gobbled several after sneaking them from the still-warm cookie sheet on top of the oven. Enjoy, and thanks for the inspiration, Ruth!

Ingredients: locally grown beets, organic golden flax, organic millet, organic pumpkin seeds, organic dried figs, himalayan pink salt, lemon juice, fresh rosemary

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Millet & Fig Crackers with Rosemary

These crackers were inspired by the Millet Crackers featured in Ruth Yaron’s Super Baby Food (page 509). As I gushed in my recent book review, I adore the book’s simple, practical language, and brief, to-the-point recipes. Of course, this recipe absolutely fails to uphold the simplicity principle, as her recipe instructions are a mere three and a half lines while mine are at least, um, well, just see for yourself. Crackers are a fickle art; what can I say? In any case, I found this to be a successful experiment in adding essential fatty acids, protein, salt, and sweet without crystalline or liquid sweeteners, nuts, or gluten. A groggy post-nap Fionn gobbled several after sneaking them from the still-warm cookie sheet on top of the oven. Enjoy (and thanks, Ruth)!

Millet & Fig Crackers with Rosemary
Serves 16
A crunchy, sweet, nutty cracker with pepitas, figs, and rosemary.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
35 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
35 min
92 calories
12 g
8 g
4 g
2 g
2 g
29 g
76 g
1 g
0 g
2 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
29g
Servings
16
Amount Per Serving
Calories 92
Calories from Fat 35
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 4g
6%
Saturated Fat 2g
10%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 8mg
3%
Sodium 76mg
3%
Total Carbohydrates 12g
4%
Dietary Fiber 2g
8%
Sugars 1g
Protein 2g
Vitamin A
2%
Vitamin C
0%
Calcium
1%
Iron
3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup raw millet
  2. 3/4 cup pepitas
  3. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  4. 1/2 cup hot water
  5. 4 dried figs
  6. 4 tablespoons butter
  7. 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
Instructions
  1. Remove any stem pieces from dried figs and cut each in half. Place the halves in a glass or metal measuring cup and add 1/2 cup hot water. Add the butter so it can melt. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Grind millet and pepitas in a blender (I use a Nutribullet) until a coarse powder consistency. Place this powder in a medium bowl and add the salt. Then crush the dried rosemary with your hands as you add it to the bowl, stirring everything until thoroughly combined.
  3. Blend the fig/water/butter mixture in a blender until the figs are pretty well blended (some small chunks are okay, but nothing larger than a pea).
  4. Combine the fig slurry with the dry ingredients, stirring thoroughly until the dough is a thick and just a little sticky. With oiled hands, roll into a two equally-sized firm balls, then flatten them to about 1 inch thick.
  5. Put them them back in the bowl, cover with a cloth, and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  6. Roll out a large sheet of parchment paper (at least 2 feet long) and place one of the dough balls in the center. Fold the parchment over the ball and then continue to roll it out to about 1/8 inch thick. Trim off jagged edges and score the rolled dough into 1 by 2 inch rectangles. Delicately move this sheet over to a cookie sheet.
  7. Add the trimmed dough to the second ball and repeat step 7. For any additional jagged edges, you can flatten then into cracker pieces with your hands or roll them into balls and let your kiddo taste-test them.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take the crackers out of the oven and spread them out on the sheet, flipping each over to make sure they cook evenly. Turn off the oven and put the cookie sheets back in the oven, setting a timer for 5 minutes. Check them at this point, removing all the crackers except those that still seem too soft in the middle, putting them back in the warm oven for up to 5 additional minutes.
  9. Let them cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Notes
  1. This recipe will yield about 80 1 by 2 inch crackers. I estimate a toddler serving to be about 5 crackers.
beta
calories
92
fat
4g
protein
2g
carbs
12g
more
Adapted from Millet Crackers from Super Baby Food (p. 509)
http://goodphytefoods.com/