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Oakland’s Renewal Mill Takes Reuse To Another Level

Renewal Mill’s brownie mix does both a body and a planet good.

See those deep dark, fudgy brownies above that are just calling your name?

Not only are they gluten-free and vegan, but they have a couple of very unexpected and intriguing ingredients in them:

Namely, spent vanilla beans leftover from making vanilla extract, and spent non-GMO, organic okara, the byproduct of soymilk production from premier tofu-maker Hodo Foods of Oakland, no less.

Renewal Mill, based in Oakland and helmed by an all-woman team, is on the noble mission to take food waste from large food manufacturers and convert it into new, delicious, and nutritious uses. Recently, I had a chance to try samples of a few of its products.

The first food waste Renewal Mill has tackled is soybean pulp, which it has turned into a gluten-free baking flour that’s high in fiber ($32 for three 22-ounce bags). It can be substituted in a 1-to-1 ratio in recipes calling for regular all-purpose flour.

Made with organic soybean pulp leftover from making tofu and soy milk.

With the “Upcycled Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix” ($20 for two mixes) just stir in hot water and vegetable oil before baking the batter in the oven. The result is cocoa-tasting brownies with chewy edges and very soft centers. There is a faint vegetative note, but it’s not unpleasant at all. Put it this way — my husband, who can be a bit picky, inhaled these brownies in a heartbeat.

This brownie mix also makes use of vanilla bean pods leftover from making vanilla extract.

The “Vegan Okara Chocolate Chip Cookies” ($39 for 20 single-pack cookies) boast no cholesterol and feature Guittard chocolate chips. They taste of vanilla, and of course, good dark chocolate. I admit I prefer chewy cookies, so the all-around, extremely soft texture of these were not necessarily my favorite. Again, there is a very subtle soybean milk-like note to them, but nothing to distract from the chocolate taste.

Soft chocolate chip cookies that are vegan.

Cookies and brownies are often labeled guilty pleasures, but when it comes to those from Renewal Mill, go ahead and enjoy them wholeheartedly, knowing you’re helping the environment and planet, too.