Please welcome our friend Justin Penoyer, co-creator of AcroAma Blends, a family-owned and operated business of herbal culinary geniuses. Together with his partner, award-winning Master Chef, Stephen Dowe, AcroAma Blends is one of the only 100 percent certified organic, hand-blended, FRESH herb and seasoning purveyors you’ll find.
Why are our taste-buds so taken with these blends? Savoring them makes us smile because they’re free from any GMO’s, fillers, flow agents, anti-caking agents, or color preservatives. And, they’re naturally gluten free and vegan friendly! Christine even featured the Tex Mex blend in one of the culinary cocktails in her new book! What can we say, we’re a bit obsessed!
Garden Eats: Congrats! AcroAma has the 100% organic certification, a very difficult stamp for seasoning blends to achieve. What was this process like for the company to reach approval?
Justin: Getting our 100% organic certification was lengthy, expensive, and difficult for a small company like ours. It took us a little over a year to source the high quality ingredients we needed. Even the sugar we use in our Caribbean blend is the only 100% organic sugar sold in the United States. In order to get the 100% designation, we couldn’t use fillers, anti-caking agents, GMO’s, fragrances, or dyes, all of which you’ll find in other seasoning blends. It was against our policy to use these ingredients anyway, which is why the 100% organic certification was so important to us. It’s the best way for us to ensure the trust of our consumers. Our product is exactly the way Nature intended, with none of the BS or hidden adulterants that prevail in the marketplace today. One of our greatest goals is to become a standard of ethical business in a market that is otherwise full of deception.
Garden Eats: You know we’re big fans of health food chefs. Tell us a little about Stephen Dowe, your partner’s background.
Justin: Stephen is a classically trained chef with a gold medal winning 40+ year career around the globe. He is a master of ethnic cuisines and has the number one restaurant in Illinois and one of the top 100 restaurants in the U.S. I honestly don’t believe you will find a more skilled or talented chef anywhere in the world. I consider myself fortunate that he is willing to share his seasoning blends with us to cook with at home. Stephen and I both want to promote home cooking and a re-adoption of traditional cultural and ethnic cooking as a foundation of health.
GE: Garden Eats loves medicinal foods and that your blends are handcrafted in small batches to ensure potency. Can you tell readers about the actual process of blending the herbs and spices?
Justin: I do as well! The process is very simple. Before we blend the spices we make sure that our ingredients are from suppliers who produce them with 100% organic and sustainable practices. Most are unaware of the dramatic difference in quality available to producers. The spices are literally the best that money can buy. This is the difference between a $1000 kilo of lavender and a $10,000 kilo, for example. When it comes time to prepare the seasoning blends, Stephen and his crew utilize their hands, mortar and pestle, and a large mixing bowl. That’s it! Whereas the average age of a bottle of spice purchased at a store is 10 years plus, our seasonings are months old at the time of purchase. The medicinal affects of the spices are largely due to their volatile oils, and once you have one of our bottles you can smell the potency. Compare our product to any other and the difference is readily apparent.
GE: AcroAma is awesome because it encourages home-based cooks to experiment with new flavors, but takes the thought process out of it. What about professional chefs? Are they using the blends as well?
Justin: Although we have been focused on home users thus far, it is only a matter of time before they find their way into the hands of other chefs… considering they are designed by a world- renowned chef!
GE: Can we buy AcroAma locally?
Justin: AcroAma Blends began retailing in the Midwest as early as last winter and can be found at several locations in Illinois. They are also available via our website and at Amazon.com. We are in the process of joining several nation-wide distributors and should be available at Whole Foods locations by the end of the year.
GE: We teach our clients about ideal food combining for maximum, bio-available nutrient absorption. What blends are best for assisting in nutrient absorption from greens? Are there blends that you suggest to promote ideal enzymatic activity necessary for digestion?
Justin: For greens I would recommend the Northern European blend. It has the largest amount of coriander, one of the primary herbs for assisting in the breakdown of cellulose. This is followed closely by the Mid Eastern, which is a soft yellow curry that has been used for several thousand years to assist in the digestion of foods such as grains, fibrous vegetables and beans. Not only do these spices assist in digestion and absorption of nutrients and fats, they also neutralize harmful anti-nutrients and wild bacteria and yeasts found on vegetables. That said, all of our seasonings contain the spices found in the Northern European blend. No matter which you choose, each will deliver that benefit with variations. For example, the Mediterranean blend contains lavender that acts as a powerful antibiotic shown to kill MRSA, and the Tex Mex contains cilantro which protects against heavy metals such as mercury.
GE: We’re adventurous in the kitchen. We just used your Mediterranean blend to rim the glass of an organic vodka lemonade. Do you have a unique use for the herbs and spices?
Justin: That’s a great idea! Love it! I might have to make one for myself tonight. There are many ways these blends can be used. I enjoy the feedback from our users and have been impressed by their creativity. At home, I cook with the seasonings, add them at the dinner table, and often make an olive oil/balsamic vinegar/Mediterranean blend mix to dip bread in as an appetizer.
GE: How about personal care use? Have you heard of anyone adding any of the blends to a body scrub?
Justin: I have not, but that’s a very clever idea! Anyone who has tried our seasonings can testify to their strong aroma. I can imagine that some of the more fragrant mixes such as the Mediterranean would make for an interesting body scrub.
GE: Well, we’re thinking of trying it- we’ll let you know how it works out ;)!
After this interview, Justin let us know that their blends are now available in refill pouches- they can offer these at a great price due to the absence of the expensive bottles and decreased shipping costs!
Let us know what blends are your favorite and if you have any fun recipes to share!
J U S T I N is an Oriental medical physician and scholar living in San Diego, California, where he maintains a holistic primary care practice specializing in Chinese herbal medicine and fertility. Justin was raised on a small family farm along the Mississippi River in northwestern Illinois, where he learned the importance of such things as slow cooking, traditional recipes and regular family mealtimes. In addition to practicing medicine, Justin educates on the importance of re-adopting tradition-based cultural food preparation and mindful eating habits.
Cocktail courtesy of Sean Cassidy Images