Back in 2002, when the now-defunct Butler St. Bazaar was about to open, Uele Siebert charged several of her friends with a task: Make something to sell. By bazaar time, she was the only one with a cool idea. Actually, it was more of a groovy idea.
She created Groovy Foods, a line of granola, herbal teas, infused oils and vinegars, and steamed breads, which are now sold at Square Foods, Precious Cargo Coffeehouse, Otherlands, and Mothersville.
Groovy Foods is yeast-free, wheat-free, animal-free. It's only natural for Siebert -- she has yeast, sugar, and wheat allergies, and she's a vegetarian.
She's currently focusing on her most popular item, Civil Granola. It's the only item she makes in bulk to sell at local stores. Other items can be purchased in smaller portions or in bulk by special-order only.
Civil Granola is a salty-sweet mixture of oats and sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, and flax seeds that Siebert calls "seeds of civilization."
"A friend's aunt had come up with this seed mixture that she would wrap in nori rolls. I thought that was a profound way to eat seeds, so I integrated it into the granola," says Siebert. "I'm trying to take information that I've been blessed with in my personal food journey and pass it along."
Siebert says her granola provides a balance of protein and carbs, as well as heart-smart oats and omega-3 fatty acids for brain development.
"With a lot of common granolas, you get pure carbs and they're heavily sweetened," she says.
Siebert uses a small amount of cane juice, also known as turbinado, instead of white sugar. And she uses brown-rice syrup, a healthier alternative to maple syrup, to make the granola caramelized and crunchy. On special request, she makes chocolate Civil Granola by adding vegan chocolate chips into the mix.
Siebert says she never measures but instead eyeballs ingredients according to what feels right. It may sound unorthodox, but it's working. She makes about 20 pounds of granola a month to distribute to area stores and more when selling at festivals and other special events.
Why "civil" granola?
"I thought this is one of the most peaceful offerings I can contribute to the South," she says. "It infuses my own personal lifestyle with a genuine respect for the progress that's been made here."
There are three teas in the Groovy Foods line. The most popular is Oh My Goddess tea, a mixture of peppermint, rosebuds, chamomile, lavender, and candied ginger.
"I had a strange amalgamation of herbs in my cabinet one night while I was studying, and I thought, Why don't I try this out?" she explains.
The Green Tara tea contains basil, rosemary, peppermint, nettles, and mugwort. "All of my teas are female-oriented and goddess-oriented," Siebert says. "That doesn't mean that men can't drink them, but I try to focus on feminine energy in the teas."
The steamed breads are made from brown-rice flour, lemon juice, brown-rice syrup, water, and ground walnuts. Fruit or other nuts are added by customer request.
Oils and vinegars are infused with herbs, but she says the oils have a shelf life of only a few weeks because she doesn't have the equipment to put them through a sterilization process.
"I could have built the business in that direction, but I really wanted to keep it simple," says Siebert. "When I started Groovy, I wanted something that, when I had children, they could participate in. If my daughter wants to join me in the kitchen when she's a little older and develop her own trail mix or something, that would fit right in."
In addition to operating Groovy Food, Siebert co-owns Mothersville, a Midtown maternity store. She also has a toddler daughter to tend to and says she's happy to run the business from her kitchen for now.
That's a good thing for customers because no order is too small. You can even call her for one item.
"The thing about Groovy Foods is that it really is groovy," Siebert says. "You don't have to have a gallon size that you're committed to for life."
Groovy Foods is available at Square Foods, Precious Cargo Coffeehouse, Otherlands, and Mothersville. Call 335-2469 for more information.