Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Do You Know About Bioregional Eating?

Eating bioregionally is gaining in popularity. Here's what you need to know, including how it differs from the locavore moment.
Growing local has its merits, but a growing movement suggests perhaps we need to let the region dictate what we grow locally. (Photo: Arina P Habich/Shutterstock)
There's a growing trend in sustainable food that sort of fine tunes locavorism. Sourcing from within bioregions is the one of the big food trends for 2016, according to Forbes, and although eating bioregionally has a lot in common with locavorism, it's not the same. What are bioregions and how can paying attention to them help us eat and live more sustainably? Here's a primer.

What are Bioregions?

A bioregion is a "geographical area with a unique combination of plants, animals, geology, climate and water features." When it comes to growing and raising food, each bioregion will have foods that it can naturally sustain and foods that it cannot.

Bioregional Eating vs. Locavorism

I have neighbors here in New Jersey who have a lemon tree in their house. They are avid vegetable gardeners and grow seasonally in both their backyard and a plot in a community garden. They certainly do their part to support the locavore movement. That lemon tree is something completely different, though. The climate where we live doesn't support citrus, so the tree is purely for fun. The number of lemons the tree produces may never equal or surpass the amount of money it costs to buy and sustain the tree, and the resources used to make sure it thrives are considerable.

I mention this not to put down my neighbors. In fact, I would love a lemon tree in my home. It would be fun to pick a fresh lemon each time I needed one, but I've established that my enthusiasm for growing my own food doesn't match my enthusiasm for eating it. So I mention this as an example of how growing locally isn't always sustainable.

Food that comes straight from your backyard has been hailed by many as the holy grail of sustainable eating for about a decade now. It's the ideal that resonated with me when I began my personal blog about eating local in the South Jersey/Philadelphia region. What I've come to learn along the way, though, is that eating sustainably is much more complicated than buying everything I possibly can from within a 100-mile radius.

Tomatoes grown in a hot house during every season may be local, but the practice isn't necessarily in keeping with bioregionalism. (Photo: Tree of Life/Shutterstock)

As with the lemon tree example, just because it can be grown locally doesn't mean it should be grown locally, especially when you take sustainability into consideration. My friends' lemon tree barely makes a dent, but large-scale production of foods that a bioregion doesn't naturally support can make a big dent in un-sustainability. Take for instance, energy-intensive hot houses that grow tomatoes out of season that are sold within the region. Are the tomatoes local? Yes. Are they sustainable? It gets more complicated then, doesn't it? They may (or may not) be more sustainable than a tomato grown in a warm region and shipped across country. Both methods of obtaining a tomato in the winter months in a place where they won't grow naturally use a lot of energy.

The concept of eating bioregionally seems to fine tune locavorism. Eating a locally grown hot house tomato in February is not eating bioregionally; eating a farm- or garden-grown tomato in July is. To truly eat bioregionally, we should forgo all fresh tomatoes once they're out of season.

Bioregionalism Beyond Food

This concept is easy to grasp when it comes to food, but it goes beyond that.

Your food bioregion may contain several towns, more than one state, and even more than one country. Part of bioregionalism is the idea of basing our political borders on nature. When you do that, you can see how it could get complicated fast. Instead of several different local, state or even national governments existing within one bioregion, there would be one political government within its natural borders. If we arranged "political structures around ecological regions and the cultures within them," argues Rachael Stoeve in Yes magazine, there would be sustainability in many areas of life.

There's a whole other blog post to write about that aspect, but it's interesting to look at the food concept with that broader scope. The decisions made about the resources within a bioregion would be more likely to benefit the environment and the people than corporations and those with a financial interest. That's something to chew on.

Monday, December 14, 2015

20 Gluten-Free Treats for the Holiday Season

It's mid-December, which means it's time for some holiday sweets. You won't find wheat flour in any of these sweets, but it's one ingredient you'll never miss. Whether you follow a gluten-free diet or not, these desserts from cookies and candy to cakes and edible gifts, will make your holiday season complete.

1. Caramel Pecan Turtle Clusters

It's hard to resist the addictive combination of buttery pecans and chewy homemade caramel nestled under a creamy milk chocolate shell. Wrap up a few in pretty tissue paper and give a box as a holiday gift.

2. No-Bake Nutella Peanut Butter Cookies

The only thing better than a no-bake cookie is one that involves a winning combination of Nutella and peanut butter.

3. Crisp Meringues with Whipped Cream

This is just about the simplest dessert imaginable. You can make it with meringues purchased at the grocery store or at a bakery, or make them yourself. Together the crisp meringue and soft cream melts together into one sweet and simple dessert.

4. No-Bake Sesame Coconut Ginger Cookies

Moist and naturally sweet with a gingery bite, these cookies contain just five ingredients and couldn't be easier to make.

5. Coconut Snowballs

When it comes to cookies, deliciousness usually arrives in the form of flour, butter, sugar, nuts, and chocolate. But when you can't eat any of those foods, coconut — in all its delicious forms — is your new best friend.

6. How To Make a Chocolate Soufflé

Not only are chocolate soufflés one of the most heavenly things you can eat with a spoon, but they're also surprisingly not all that hard to make.

7. Classic Southern Pralines

You can call the praline a cookie, because it's shaped like one, but it's rightfully a type of candy. These no-bake treats are made entirely on the stovetop, and take just 15 minutes.

8. Eggnog Marshmallows

Homemade marshmallows make the perfect gift this time of year. And what better way to celebrate the season than with eggnog?

9. How To Make the Best Coconut Macaroons

Crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle — a good coconut macaroon has some texture for you to bite into. As long as you have some shredded coconut stashed away in your cupboard and a few eggs in the fridge, a batch of sweet macaroons can be yours in less than 30 minutes.

10. Holiday Nut & Fruit Brittle

Enrobed in caramelized sugar, the nuts and seeds in this holiday nut brittle look like little gems. It's easy to swap in your favorite nuts, dried fruit, and spices to create your own unique version.

11. Raspberry-Coconut French Macarons

French macarons make the most perfect, bite-sized presents. These macaron shells feature finely ground freeze-dried raspberries for sweetness and color. The raspberry flavor is subtle, and pairs beautifully with the coconut filling.

12. Baked Eggnog Custards

This seasonal treat is surprisingly light and smooth, with a subtly sweet eggnog flavor and a slightly boozy aftertaste.

13. How To Make Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

There's a lot to love about chocolate-covered strawberries. The crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth shell and the cool, sweet strawberry beneath. Whether you serve them for a party or give them as a gift, they're bound to be a hit.

14. Gluten-Free & Vegan Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread, in all its many forms, is a classic holiday treat. And this moist, richly flavored gingerbread cake is certainly not one to be missed.

15. Heavenly Hash Bars

Just when you thought you'd filled your arsenal with enough delicious homemade holiday treats, along came heavenly hash to sweep them all under the carpet. The combination of bittersweet chocolate, roasted almond, and marshmallow is truly a gift.

16. How To Make French Meringue

With a crisp outer shell, slightly chewy center, and a subtle sweetness, baked meringues are a melt-in-your-mouth delight.

17. Chocolate-Dipped Figs with Sea Salt

Dried figs are a sweet and easy treat any day, but dip them in chocolate and sprinkle with a little sea salt and they become a treat worthy of anyone's holiday gift list.

18. Raw Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bites

These truffles might be raw and vegan, but trust me — they still taste like an indulgent treat. They'll certainly suit nearly everyone on your gift list.

19. Sweet and Savory Roasted Cashews

These crisp and flavorful roasted nuts offer a little something for everyone. There are brown butter-sage cashews if savory is your thing, and cocoa-dusted cashews for those of us with a sweet tooth.

20. How To Make the Easiest Chocolate Fudge

This classic fudge has a dense, textured chewiness as you bite into it, and then melts in your mouth. It's a classic holiday gift to give for a reason.
[via The Kitchn]