Seven Things to Watch

The public’s palate is a fickle force, and food trends can fluctuate with the seasons. What makes one stick? These days, the focus seems to be on items with certain desired health benefits or those that are deliciously addictive. Here are seven things we’re watching that you’ll probably see a lot more of in the coming year.

Traditional dietary fats, such as butter, lard, tallow and ghee, were unfairly maligned and vilified in the 1950s as disease-causing and bad for our health. Decades later though, new insight into diet and nutrition has spawned a near 180-degree turnaround for these proud staples of the American diet (now in their more natural, non-hydrogenated, often organic forms) and they are now being heralded by some as “superfoods” with new uses and applications. Local producer EPIC, for instance, offers a line of small-batch, handcrafted, shelf-stable and non-hydrogenated fats available at most larger stores like H-E-B.

Butter coffee, also known by the branded name “Bulletproof Coffee,” is a blended concoction of coffee, MCT oil (a supplement-strength extract of coconut oil) and butter produced from the milk of grassfed cows. While Bulletproof Coffee promotes its own brand of upgraded beans low in “performance-robbing mold toxins,” many quality coffee purveyors have also found ways to minimize toxins via roasting and wet-processing. Dave Asprey, the creator of the Bulletproof Coffee recipe, claims the drink stabilizes energy levels, promotes fat loss, curbs appetite and enhances cognitive function. Millions of people worldwide agree and are hooked. Austin’s paleo-friendly café, Picnik, has been doing big business in butter coffee since opening in 2013. Owner Naomi Seifter was an early adopter and fervent believer, and created a butter coffee-based menu using beans from Austin’s Third Coast Coffee and featuring 10 innovative flavor variations. Local producer Ladybird Provisions has had success with butter coffee “bombs”—individual servings made from a form of butter coffee that uses organic virgin coconut oil and collagen. Find the bombs at various coffee shops around town and at most locations of People’s Pharmacy.

Collard greens are now being touted as “the new kale,” and with three times the calcium, twice the iron and protein and similar deliciousness and versatility as its green cousin, it’s not surprising. Collards’ anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, cholesterol-lowering and anti-cancer properties also surpass those of other trendy greens. Of course, down south, collards have always been popular; traditional recipes often include smoked meat and a side of cornbread to soak up the “potlikker” (the nutrient-rich broth or pot liquor, for you Yanks). A pot of collard greens is sure to cure whatever ails you, even if it’s just the blues.

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Coconut milk and its counterpart, coconut water, are enjoying their time in the sun. What’s the difference? Potassium-rich coconut water is the clear liquid from young, green coconuts and mostly used for thirst-quenching hydration. Coconut milk is extracted from the meat of the mature brown fruit. As a popular nondairy alternative, coconut milk is also used in cooking, mainly for South Asian curries and Caribbean cuisine. You can also find it in tropical drinks, such as refreshing Mexican horchata.

Grain-free tortillas are currently in the spotlight, and sombreros off to Austin-based Siete Family Foods for producing some of the most popular around. When a family member needed a grain-free option for a tortilla, they developed three delicious ones: almond; cassava and chia seed; and cassava and coconut. They’re great for paleo, gluten- or grain-free diets, and two varieties are vegan while the third is prepared with lard, that traditional fat now gaining new popularity. Options for everyone! Siete’s grain-free tortillas are lighter than corn or flour tortillas and meld beautifully with other ingredients while still holding their shape and texture. 

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Pepitas” is Spanish for “little seeds of squash” and is most often used to describe pumpkin seeds. The cultivar on the market has no hard white shell and is harvested from Styrian or oilseed pumpkins. Pepitas are one of the best plant sources of zinc, and also contain protein, iron, vitamin E and other micronutrients. Long a staple in Mexican, Greek and Eastern European cuisines, pepitas were once just a seasonal snack in the U.S. Now, they’re found in everything from salads to salsa. Keep them on hand for a quick and easy nut-free pesto.

Spiralized veggies once conjured images of a few bright crimson beet and orange carrot spirals garnishing a nouveau dish. Now, they’ve taken center stage as the country continues to eschew pasta in favor of low-carb options. Zucchini spirals (or “zoodles” as they’re commonly referred to) are the most popular pasta noodle replacement because zucchini works best with handheld spiralizers. But once you upgrade to a countertop model spiralizer, your refrigerator crisper knows no bounds—broccoli stems, kohlrabi, sweet potatoes all work! Spiralized veggies can help you cut down on calories and add nutrition to your diet; however, they don’t merely need to be a substitute for pasta. Go half and half with spaghetti, or even use a medley as layers for a fabulous lasagna. Creativity is key for a nearly endless palette of color on your plate.

By Michele Jacobson • Photography by Darby Kendall