Providing the people of Hawaii with healthy alternatives in dining, catering, nutrition and wellness.

Leave a comment

Azuki Beans – a traditional bean

azuki beans

Living in Hawaii, we are exposed to many cultures, especially the Japanese culture. As we welcome the New Year in Hawaii, many families  incorporate cultural foods in their celebrations, and in typical ‘Umeke-style, we are focusing on a particular food that is not only used in New Year celebrations, but is tasty as well as healthy for you.

One New Years dish is Sekihan or “red rice,” due to the coloring of the rice when it is cooked with the azuki bean. The azuki beans are cooked with sticky, sweet rice and topped with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds as a garnish. Sekihan is used at celebrations such as New Years, birthdays, weddings, etc. because the red color is symbolic of happiness in Japan.

Let’s look at the azuki bean itself. This small red-brown bean is sweet and nutty and “a nutritional powerhouse, rich in protein, fiber and folic acid” according to the Livestrong website. It’s used in many Japanese dishes like sekihan, as well as made into a paste and added to the center of desserts like mochi and manju. There is also a sweet dessert soup called zenzai, where it can be served either warm or cold.

You’ll see that we’ve added sekihan to our rice selection, if you haven’t tried it yet, give it a go!


Leave a comment

‘Umeke’s Kombucha


What’s this weirdly wonderful fermented drink people keep talking about?

Kombucha is believed to have originated in Asia then introduced to Russia and India. Some call it “mushroom tea,” but there are no mushrooms in it.

Kombucha is a probiotic drink made by fermenting caffeinated tea with sugar to form a S.C.O.B.Y. (sko-bee.) The S.C.O.B.Y. (aka symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) is a fermented structure of microorganisms that resembles a mushroom.

The tea we use in our Kombucha is Rainforest Alliance Certified™ Lipton® Tea. This means the tea used in our Kombucha “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Kombucha is believed to have healing properties as well as help with digestion, immunity and other ailments. So please try our CITRUS Flavor Kombucha and our STRAWBERRY-GOJI BERRY Flavor Kombucha.

That said, some people should consider the following when deciding to drink Kombucha. According to Dr. Lana Asprey, women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid fermented foods and drinks such as Kombucha. Those with IBS may be sensitive to the caffeine in the Kombucha, drink with caution. Kombucha is high in acidity, consume in moderation.

1 Comment

Japanese Soba Salad with a Twist

Soba SaladAt ‘Umeke, we’re known for putting a healthy twist on local favorites. One local favorite that flies off our shelves is the Soba Salad, and since we blogged about the Buckwheat Groat recently, we thought we’d continue the buckwheat trend by talking about our Soba Salad!

Did you know that soba is Japanese for buckwheat? Yup, many of us have eaten this yummy, chewy noodle (either hot or cold) all of our lives and know it’s made of buckwheat, but we probably didn’t know what the buckwheat groat looked like till we blogged about it.

Soba is a great noodle for those who are on a lower carb diet as well as those who just want a healthier noodle alternative (as opposed to spaghetti noodles). However, if you are on a gluten-free diet, Japanese brands of soba noodles are made with some whole wheat flour, so please check the packaging, especially if the noodles are from Japan.

According to the Livestrong website, “Soba noodles are a good source of manganese. Manganese helps you metabolize cholesterol, amino acids and carbohydrates. It also helps to form bones. Soba noodles also contain thiamin. Thiamin helps your body convert food into energy. It’s vital for a healthy brain, muscles, skin and hair.”

At ‘Umeke we offer a traditional cold Soba Salad, and we just added a Cilantro Soba Salad (see photo above). This new twist on the traditional soba salad comes with a cilantro dressing that brightens up the earthy noodle flavor. Cilantro is amazing, it has crazy amounts of vitamins A and K as well as some anti-cancer properties.  So dig in!!!



Leave a comment

Buckwheat Groats

Buckwheat Groat

Sometimes we like to experiment with our brown rice mixes to keep lunch interesting, so some of you may have noticed a new grain in our brown rice mix. 

This new grain is not really a grain at all, but a fruit seed related to rhubarb called BUCKWHEAT GROAT. It’s grain-like, plump like a small tapioca ball and tender with a mild nutty flavor. This complex carb is rich in magnesium and manganese, and is gluten free. Being a complex carb that is fiber-rich, buckwheat groats help promote a healthy digestive system, reduces cholesterol and can regulate blood sugar levels. 

If the term buckwheat sounds familiar (and no, not the character from that tv show about rascal kids), it’s because this is what is used in buckwheat soba. So the next time you come in for a healthy plate lunch, opt for the brown rice / buckwheat groat mix. 

Information provided by http://www.livestrong.com/article/291696-buckwheat-groats-nutrition/

Leave a comment

Amaranth Breakfast Bowl

Amaranth Breakfast BowlAre you tired of oatmeal for your morning hot breakfast cereal? Wanna try something new? How about our NEW Amaranth Breakfast Bowl!

You may be asking yourself, “what’s amaranth?” Good question! Amaranth may be new to some of you so here we go.

Amaranth is a whole grain popular in Central and South American countries and other developing countries around the world. It’s only recently becoming better known here in the United States. According to the Whole Grain Council website, “Amaranth contains more than three times the average amount of calcium and is also high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.” It also has more protein than most other grains. Not to mention that it’s perfect for gluten-free diets.

If you are wondering about the texture, unlike standard (and even steel-cut) oatmeal which can be a little soggy and mushy, amaranth is more like grits, cream of wheat or quinoa. It’s a little grain that slightly “pops” which gives it a bright texture.

What about taste? There’s really no distinct taste, except when you add yummy fresh or dried fruit and honey to the cereal. Amaranth is great that way, you can have a different flavor depending on how you dress it up.

So if you want something new that’s packed full of nutrients, give our Amaranth Breakfast Bowl a try!

Leave a comment

Caring for your Reusable Grocery Bags

Reusable Grocery BagSalmonella? E. coli? You betcha!

As our State transitions from providing paper and plastic bags at the grocery store it’s important to know how to care for your reusable grocery bags. Most of us already use reusable bags on a regular basis, so this information may or may not be new to you.

According to Foodsafety.gov, “The fabric or materials in reusable grocery bags can get contaminated with germs like Salmonella or E. coli from food or other items. These germs could then cross-contaminate other food or items we carry in the reusable bag and make us sick.” YIKES!!!

Here are a few tips to ensure you, your family and your foods are safe:

  1. Wash often – Wash cloth bags in the washer (dry in dryer or air-dry) and scrub plastic lines ones (air-dry) with detergent. Make sure they are completely dry before you store them for the next use.
  2. Storage – Living in Hawaii, it’s hot and humid so store your bags in a cool, dry place, not your car, to prevent bacterial growth.
  3. Keep ‘um separated – Put your meats in those plastic disposable bags found in the produce or meat section to keep any leakage contained. Bring enough reusable bags to the store to keep your produce, meats and ready-to-go foods separated.
  4. Single-function – Bags are so multi-functional we put clothes, baby stuff (diapers), tools, etc. in them, but please use your grocery bags only for groceries to prevent cross-contamination.


Photo credit: http://bondwithkarla.com/reusable-shopping-bags/

Leave a comment

It’s Greek to me

Greek YogurtAs far as trends go, it’s all about the Greek. It seems that every conventional yogurt brand now has a Greek version, and with so many options out there, how do you know which one to get?

We came across this great article in the Better Homes and Gardens, June 2013 issue, which gives a little insight into choosing the right Greek yogurt. Besides the health benefits such as reducing LDL cholesterol, preventing hypertension, Greek yogurt is high in protein, probiotic, and low calorie and sugar snack (if you get the plain flavor.) According to the article, not all Greek yogurts are made equally.

Greek-style yogurt is made by straining out the liquid whey, lactose and sugar, which gives this yogurt a creamer, thicker consistency. “But some brands achieve that texture with fillers like gelatin, cornstarch, or milk protein concentrate.”

The article also mentions that “some brands of yogurt are treated with high heat to prolong their shelf life, a process that kills beneficial microbes.” Look for brands with the “Live & Active Cultures” seal, because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration now requires a disclosure on those varieties that have been “heat-treated after culturing.”

So please look at the labels in selecting your Greek-style yogurt, you may not be getting what you pay for.