Monday, November 15, 2010

Manna Bread — a little slice of heaven that's also healthful

Simply Living
(First appeared in Orlando Sentinel November 14, 2010)

Many of the foods my family eats are not your typical grocery store finds. One such food, Manna Bread, is a moist, cakelike loaf made from sprouted grains, fruits and nuts. My husband adores Manna Bread. It has been an essential part of his diet for the past 35 years, and when his supply runs low, as it did this past week, he enters a state slightly south of Panic.

"I'm almost out of Manna Bread!" he announced.

"Maybe I can get some in town," I said, hoping to alleviate his anxiety. Although it's not usually available in the grocery store, health-food stores sometimes carry it in their refrigerated cases. I figured I'd go to town and check it out.

We discovered Manna Bread 35 years ago, when we owned a small natural-food store on Cape Cod. For Ralph, it was love at first bite.

"It tastes like carrot cake, yet it has no sugar, no salt, no oil and is made from sprouted grains. What's not to like?" he said, referring to Carrot Raisin Manna Bread, his favorite among the nine varieties produced by Manna Organic.

This concoction is remarkably flavorful despite its minimal ingredient list. Sprouted organic whole-wheat kernels, filtered water, organic carrots and organic raisins are all that's in a 14-ounce loaf of Ralph's favorite bread.

"By fully germinating our grains, we convert the starches into easily digested natural complex sugars, similar to those found in fresh fruits, hence the sweetness," explains Manna Organic on its website, "The sprouts are ground and hand-shaped into loaves, baked at a low temperature, then packed and frozen to preserve shelf life, without any chemical additives."

The bread's sweetness — especially in the Carrot Raisin loaf — makes it a perfect dessert food, and that's how my husband usually uses it. Ralph ends most meals with a serving of Manna Bread.

"It's like having a piece of carrot cake without eating any sugar or oil or salt or preservatives," he explains. "It satisfies my sweet tooth."

With only 130 calories in a two-ounce serving, Manna Bread is kind to the waistline. Flavorful enough to eat plain, it is also tasty when toasted and served with a smear of nut butter, jam or cheese.

"I don't know what I'd do if they stopped making it," he lamented after we returned from a trip to town empty-handed. "I'd be devastated."

I'm hoping that won't happen. Although local stores may not normally carry this less-than-mainstream food, it has been a standard item at large, natural-food chains for more than a quarter-century. It is available in Orlando at Whole Foods Market, and smaller stores can order it if a customer requests it.

We all have special foods that make us happy. For me, it's a cup of stevia-sweetened jasmine green tea. For my husband, it's the naturally sweet taste of carrot-raisin manna bread. If I have to take a 45-minute trip to the city to satisfy my partner's food needs, I'll gladly rev up the motor.

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