January 31, 2006

Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce

The Environmental Working Group has published a "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce" on its FoodNews.org Web site. You can download a handy pocket guide to the fruits and vegetables that have the highest and lowest levels of pesticides based on the results of more than 100,000 tests for pesticides on produce collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration between 1992 and 2001. This list is extremely helpful for consumers on a budget who can't necessarily buy exclusively organic products. Personally, it helped me figure out which items were worth making the drive to my local Whole Foods Market, especially since many of the fruits listed are ones I regularly feed my kids, including grapes and apples.

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January 30, 2006

Peanut Butter & Co. The Heat Is On

Brooklyn-based Peanut Butter & Co.'s The Heat Is On all-natural peanut butter blend is not for the faint of heart. They're not kidding when they describe it as a blend with "fiery spices."

The first hint that this is no ordinary natural peanut butter (well, outside of the NAME of course) is the alarming red hue to the separated oil on top. Be careful mixing it up on a white countertop! I thought maybe it would be pretty much like regular peanut butter with just a hint of spice, but no, this is full-boar hot. It's masked a bit at first by the creaminess of the peanuts, but there's a real kick afterwards. Definitely not something I would eat on my morning bagel, even though I am a spicy-food freak. However, I can see using it in recipes and am fantasizing about trying this stuff on a peanut-butter-and-bacon sandwich. I don't think jelly would mesh well, but I'd be willing to give mango chutney a try.

About the Peanut Butter & Co.:

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January 27, 2006

January 26, 2006

Amy's Organic Refried Beans with Chiles

Once upon a time, I purchased, and rather religiously I might add, any old brand of refried beans with reckless abandon. I didn't care that texture and color were an afterthought in their creation. I just plopped the molded can shape into the pot to heat, doused it with Tabasco, and spread it on under the guacamole.

Then I found Amy's Vegetarian Organic Refried Beans with Green Chiles.

Who knew that refried beans could taste like... well ... beans! They actually have whole beans with a distinguishable shape, rather than what I'd come to expect as the standard of just a pile of pasty brown. Amy's Vegetarian Organic Refried Beans have a texture and a smoky bean taste that is delightful and surprising. And with no meat products in the mix I'm not even afraid to eat them cold!

The little chiles are a wonderful addition. Now, I leave the Tabasco for my eggs. The spice of the chiles is subtle and it isn't until 3/4 of my bean burrito is missing that the tingle in the lips starts to spread.

Thank you Amy's Kitchen for creating wonderful tasting refried beans that are completely organic and don't have any questionable meat ingredients. I'm now a brand loyalist! You make eating nachos feel like doing a good deed.

About Amy's Kitchen:

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January 25, 2006

Naked Juice: The Superfoods Selection

Trying to find an appropriate time to stuff a couple of teaspoons of blue green algae into your mouth can be difficult, not to mention wheat grass, barley grass, spirulina, and chlorella. However, the Naked Juices Superfood line makes taking in ultimate nutrition with ultimate taste a treat.

nakedgreen.jpgNaked Juice is made from "bare-naked fruit", with no added sugar, preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, and claims to have a pound of fruit in every bottle. A Superfood is any food that is high in enzymes, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, Chlorophyll, and antioxidants.

Naked Juice offers 3 flavors in their Superfood line.
"Green Machine" in my opinion, is the best of the three offering 5 superfoods in just one drink. While the color can cause a bit of anxiety (green juices do not have a history of good flavor), this one tastes more like apples, bananas and kiwi then grass -- something Odwalla has yet to master in their own green nutrient dense juice.

"Blue Machine", contains a host of berries and vitamins and general opinion would probably state that it is the best tasting of the three. More like a bottle of blueberries and blackberries, you could almost pour this stuff over vanilla ice cream it is so sublime.

"Red Machine" is a follow-up to the green and contains red algae or dulse and grain flax seed (for the omega-3 fatty acid content). Red Machine's motto is "Tangy, tart, good for the heart".

Be sure to drink your Superfood smoothie cold (kept at below 38 degrees Fahrenheit). Naked Juice lists the juices as available in 10oz, 15.2oz, 32oz, 64oz and 128oz.

All of these drinks are certified Kosher and vegan approved. The Naked Juice Superfood line makes great breakfast boosters.

Click the following link to read ingredient lists...

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... and Really Not: Silver Patron Tequila, A New Mother's Best Friend

margarita.jpg...and Really Not is a section devoted to those decidedly unnatural products that we just can't seem to purge from our lives. Today's candidate: Silver Patrón Tequila.

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The Pleasures of Porridge

I used to shop for the oatmeal variety packs with glee, until I realized how much sugar and very little nutrition those envelopes serve up. Here are some inexpensive ideas to create your own hot porridges without all the sugar and suspicious dried cubes of fruit:

porridge.jpg* Use any sort of grain or grain combination: whole oats, barley, quinoa, millet, amaranth and brown rice offer the most nutrition. You can even re-heat last night's dinner leftovers, provided they weren't cooked with something else. (Mmmmm, shrimp porridge.)

* For apples and cinnamon oats: (1 part oats to 2 parts liquid when cooking) cook with 1/2 apple cider and 1/2 water, then sprinkle cinnamon on while cooking... no sugar necessary!

* For maple flavored oats: cook with water or milk (cow, goat, soy, rice, etc.) and a vanilla bean (cleaned). After cooking, add pure maple syrup to taste. This way the sugar is pure (and unrefined) and you control the amount.

* Add sunflower seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), flax seeds, dried cranberries, raisins, and nuts to the cooked grains. Not only does it boost the texture and flavor, but they add nutrition and protein as well.

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Baked Risotto

I tried this recipe from the Muir Glen web site. This is an extremely easy dish--just mix the ingredients, throw it in the oven and you're basically done. The risotto/pasta mix was creamy and the slivered almonds added a nice crunch. Test the rice about 5 minutes before the cooking time's up, because you may need to add more liquid (I just added a bit of water).

A few modifications: I used reduced-sodium chicken broth, Fantastic Food's Arborio rice, and Tinkyada's Brown Rice pasta shells. I substituted a yellow pepper for the green pepper as I find that the latter can sometimes take over a dish. I also added two Boca Italian meat-free sausages to make it a little more hearty.

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...and Really Not: Wrigley's Orbit Bubblemint Gum

...and Really Not is a section devoted to those decidedly unnatural products that we just can't seem to purge from our lives. Today's candidate: Wrigley's Orbit Bubblemint Gum.

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January 22, 2006

Best of the Blogpire

Tvsnob 125 Macnn-1What a week! Things are getting busier and busier around the Blogpire. We're giving away $50 bucks if you design a new logo for TV Snob.com at TVSnob Logo Contest. Overall if you didn't catch this new Melitta One:One - A Better Way to Make Coffee Commercial you should see it. Liquor Snob.com also has Shotgun Party Video Review from Transworld Skateboarding that is QUITE interesting. Now on with the Best of the Blogpire!

Single Serve Coffee: Imus and Tassimo Tie-Up One of The Better Promos Around - ProctorSilex Single-Serve Pod Coffeemaker

Kitchen Contraptions: The Garlic Card - Citrus Trumpet - Bongos Portable Kitchen from Emme Group

Shaving Stuff: Pubic Shave dom com - Review of Zia for Men, part 1

TV Snob: Logitech Harmony Advanced Universal Remote for Xbox 360 Review - Will My Current TV Still Work When Digital and HDTV Take Over?

Shirt Snob: Urban Outfitters Controversy - More From Threadless

GPS Lodge: SiRF star III Chipset- Patent Infringement? - GPS Review: Cobra NavOne 4500

The Cooking News: Wine News: Winter whites satisfy summer cravings - Recipe News: Coconut Shrimp and Avocado Salad Recipe

Liquor Snob: Guinness Ice Cream Recipe - Beerbelly Stealth Beverage Dispenser Review

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January 20, 2006

Arrowhead Mills Buckwheat Pancake & Waffle Mix

arrowbuck1.jpgarrowbuck2.jpg(I think they have recently updated their packaging, so check for either/both when browsing the aisles.)

This is a wonderful mix that takes a little practice to get exactly what you want out of it. Before you panic, let me explain. Buckwheat is much denser than wheat, and a little like lava rock when compared to the Bisquicks and Aunt Jemima's of the world. However, once you go buck you'll never go back. There is a nutty, full bodied taste that makes the other "white" versions taste like whipped wonder bread.

That said, the Arrowhead Mills Buckwheat Pancake & Waffle Mix is hearty but not like mixing gravel. In the recipe on the package it lists the most wholesome ingredients for preparing the recipe. I personally like to add some cinnamon or on special occasions, fruit and/or chocolate chips (Hey! There is a little sinner in all of us!) If you find the consistency is too dense, then add milk -- too thin, add some more mix. Just feel your way around the batter. And I usually find that butter on the griddle works best.

About Arrowhead Mills:

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January 19, 2006

Best Ever Banana Muffins

This is a recipe that I have taken from the Central Market cookbook out of Lancaster, PA and altered to make it more healthy. Of course, if you would like your muffins completely Puritan, then eliminate the chocolate chips.

muffin.jpg

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January 16, 2006

No-ice fruit smoothie

For a thick, creamy smoothie that's not watered down with ice, try this trick:

--Slice and freeze a banana

--Puree yogurt (I use plain flavored and add a little sugar to the blender), the frozen banana slices, and fresh or frozen fruit(s) of your choice

Just make sure to break the frozen banana up into its individual pieces so you don't kill your blender. I speak from experience, my friends.

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One pasta sauce, two recipes

My husband and I have a thing for spicy food. Our kids, to put it mildly, do not. Even ketchup sends my son running to the fridge for milk with a stricken look on his face because it's "too spicy!!!" This makes finding a red sauce for pasta challenging. I recently tried Amy's Premium Organic Pasta Sauce, Family Marinara flavor. Straight from the jar, it has a decently hearty tomato taste (and thankfully, no sugar), but it's certainly a "simple" sauce as described on the jar. I made the kids pasta with the sauce straight up, then doctored up a version for the grown-ups to eat. I added capers, red pepper flakes, a few sliced olives, and some basil. Yum!

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Uncle Walter’s Annie’s Homegrown Organic Alfredo Delight

Here’s a “gourmet” version of Annie’s Organic Alfredo that grown-ups can enjoy as well, created by Walter Brownsword of Richmond, Vermont:

• Prepare recipe according to box directions, but add a little olive oil in addition to the butter called for in the recipe.
• In the meantime, saute onions in a separate pan using a bit of butter or olive oil. Add meat or tofu if desired.
• Lightly steam broccoli, peas, and/or any other preferred vegetable.
• Mix everything together, and toss in a few handfuls of shredded Gouda cheese, a pinch of any spices you may enjoy (Walter uses cumin, oregano and basil).

Walter’s daughter, a notoriously picky eater, loves this meal. Please share your own recipes using Annie's Homegrown pasta products!

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January 10, 2006

Alba Organics Cocoa Butter Hand and Body Lotion

I tested Alba’s cocoa butter hand and body lotion, part of their “Hawaiian” skin care line, which was available in the natural foods section of a chain grocery store. The first thing you’ll notice is that this product has a very strong, sweet cocoa butter scent. (Quite frankly, I had to fight a very strong urge to lick my hands after applying it.) If you miss the smell of suntan lotion over a long winter, you’ll love it, but you wouldn’t want to mix it with any other scented product.

The lotion is a bit watery, but on the flip side it was light and non-greasy once it was fully rubbed in. My only complaint was with the packaging. The tube stands on its lid, and because the lotion is so watery, it drips all over the place when you open it up. It’d be better in a pump bottle.

The manufacturers claim the product is 72% organic (no mention of certification), with 100% vegetarian ingredients and no animal testing. Part of Avalon Natural Products, they have several different lines of skin care, hair care, bath and body, and sun care. According to a company press release, the Hawaiian product line is "a collection of natural Hawaiian beauty secrets. Tropical fruit and flower extracts, nourishing nut oils and certified organic aloe vera, revered for their curative and rejuvenating properties, are blended together to create exotic skin care and spa treatments that best reflect the beauty, vitality and spirit of the Hawaiian Islands for soft, healthy, luminous skin." The line relies on ingredients such as pineapple, papaya, passion fruit, and the kukui nut.

About Avalon Natural Products:

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