March 31, 2006

The Best of the Blogpire

Cheapfunwines-2Another week and another Best of the Blogpire. Make sure and check out the latest from all of our blogs and also each blog now offers a mailing list and RSS feed for you to read your news from. Now on with the Best of the Blogpire!

Liquor Snob
- Reviewing Booze Is More Than A Numbers Game - Skorppio Vodka: Feel the Sting

Really Natural - Disturbing News About Organic Dairy Farms - Kashi TLC All Natural Snack Crackers Original 7 Grain

Critical Gamers - Warhammer Marches on PCs this Fall - Spice up your Scrabble with Wildwords

Single Serve Coffee - Review: Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Fair Trade Island Coconut™ K-Cups from Single Serve Coffee.com - Reader Reviews: Aerobie AeroPress Coffee & Espresso Maker

Just The Chips - Texas Hold'em Odds - RFID goes all-in at the casino

Kitchen Contraptions - Cheese Scissors - Wine Preservation Steward

Shaving Stuff - Gillette Fusion Razors - 8 for $14.99 - Free Schick Quattro Midnight Razor

Whats All The Racquet - BROKEBACK BORG - THE FINAL CHAPTER! - What do Vince Spadea and Kevin Federline have in common?

TV Snob - Is That the HDTV you Really Want? - Amazon Now Listing the TCD649180 Dual Tuner Series 2 TiVo

Shirt Snob - Falling in Tank by Ya-Ya - Short Sleeve Top with Leather Band by Lauren Moffatt

GPS Lodge - New Navman GPS Receivers: iCN 720 and iCN 750 with Cameras - Garmin Launches GPSMAP 378 and GPSMAP 478

The Cooking News - Recipe News: Taste of Home Recipes - Wine News: The effect of oxygen on wine

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March 31, 2006

Disturbing News About Organic Dairy Farms

Organic milk is the driving the organics market, thanks to the millions of moms who are selecting the healthy drink for their kids. As a result, organic milk products have become the ambassador to the organic food world. That is why this news is so disturbing.

According to an independent study from the Cornucopia Institute, some organic dairy farms (including Horizon Organic and Aurora Organic, two of the largest organic dairy companies in the nation) are not living up to the organic standards and the USDA and the Organic Trade Association is letting them get away with it.

To find out more and, if you are so moved, sign the petition forcing a change in the organics board to stop the factory farms in organics, click here.

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March 30, 2006

Kashi TLC All Natural Snack Crackers Original 7 Grain


My quest to find an all-natural snack cracker that actually tastes good has been akin to what someone tracking Big Foot must feel: after searching for so long, you begin to doubt that what you seek actually exists. I've given a number of all natural crackers a try over the past few years, and have never bought more than one box. Each one I've tried has tasted like stale cardboard. But I've now found cracker nirvana: Kashi's TLC (Tasty Little Crackers).

I love these things. The first time I tried them, I was eating them at a family gathering and didn't know what they were. I had to track down my mother-in-law to ask where she got these delicious crackers. Now they're a regular staple in my home.

What makes them so good, in my opinion, is that they taste so hearty. Kashi's foods revolve around their blend of seven whole grains and sesame which forms the basis of most of their products. The blend includes hard red winter wheat, buckwheat, oats, long grain brown rice, rye, triticale, barley, and sesame. The sodium content is quite low compared to other crackers (160 mg for 15 crackers--the crackers are snack size). But there's so much taste due to the whole grains that you won't miss the salt. The crackers are also pleasantly crunchy with the slightly sweet taste typical of whole grain products.

TLC crackers are a good match for hearty cheeses and peanut butter. Don't pair them with anything delicate like smoked salmon. Kashi also has several other varieties of TLC crackers: Natural ranch, Honey Sesame and Country cheddar cheese. I was somewhat disappointed in the cheese flavor--they don't have the same hearty texture and were rather tasteless.

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March 24, 2006

What's the Whole Story On Whole Foods?

As we've mentioned before, when shopping for the most natural and healthy products takes some thought and sometimes even reading between the lines. The article "Is Whole Foods Wholesome?" by Field Maloney on Slate.com uncovers some not so wholesome truths about the grocery chain Whole Foods.

We never said being good was going to be easy.

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March 24, 2006

Keep On Top of the Modern Board and Social Game Revolution at CriticalGamers.com

Criticalgamers BlogadIs your closet full of mid-century board game titles like Monopoly and Sorry!? Are you still answering questions about 1980's science and technology questions from a dusty version of Trivial Pursuit? The staff at www.CriticalGamers.com can help move you from the drab repetitive gameplay of yester-year into the entertaining world of modern Eurogames and social card games.

Blogpire Productions is pleased to announce the addition of www.CriticalGamers.com to our growing family of product- and category-specific Web logs. CriticalGamers.com will provide news and reviews of social board games, Eurogames, and card games. Critcal Gamer's goal is to weed-out the mediocre from the slew of modern table top game titles, and to keep readers posted on what's new and popular in the world of social gaming.

At CriticalGamers

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March 23, 2006

Eat Well Be Well Whole Grains and Almonds Cereal Crunch


There's a lot of information on the Eat Well, Be Well Whole Grains and Almonds Cereal box. The entire back of the box is dedicated to lengthy information about the product's healthy whole grains and lack of sugar and sugar alcohols. Oddly enough, nowhere does it say the word "Splenda." Which it should. If you read the ingredient list, you'll notice the word "Sucralose." Sucralose is Splenda, an artificial sweetener. Not that there's necessarily anything "wrong" with that, but if they're going to be so darn informative about everything else, they should make this fact a little more obvious. They do mention the actual word "Splenda" on their web site, but it's hard to find under all of the talk about how unlike their competitors they don't rely on "smoke and mirrors" to produce sugar-free foods by relying on "sugar alcohols or refined carbohydrates" which "provide no health benefit at all." Um, last time I checked, Splenda wasn't sitting next to the wheat germ on supermarket shelves.

Ok, enough ranting, let's get to the actual product itself. I gave it to my husband to try, and the first comment out of his mouth was, "Is this bird food?" This was based simply on the texture. The cereal contains little tiny whole wheat corn flakes, rice crispy-like brown rice (without the fun of snap, crackle, pop) , and thinly sliced almonds. As for the taste, it has a very sweet, brown-sugar-like flavor, with a lingering and unpleasant artificial sweetener aftertaste.

The bottom line: I might throw this in some yogurt for a mid-morning snack over the next few weeks, but I won't be buying another box. Unless you need to severely restrict sugar in your diet, I wouldn't recommend this product--especially because I don't like the way the company seems to be trying to downplay the fact that it contains an artificial sweetener.

I'm also a little annoyed that I found this in the natural foods section of my local chain grocery store. If you're diabetic or need to control your sugar intake for any reason, it's great that these types of products exist. But they're not really natural!

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March 20, 2006

Boca Original Chik'n Nuggets

I myself am a fan of no chicken nugget. Since I saw "Supersize Me" and was given the visual gift of where the original Chicken McNugget comes from, I decided that it wasn't worth the effort -- much like my feelings towards hot dogs. You could say that my imagination has gotten the best of my eating experiences.

As a general rule, in households with children, chicken nuggets tend to be a life staple, much like air, water or apple juice. They are easy to prepare and children love to eat them with their favorite side dish, ketchup. Having just such a household, I was in pursuit of a decent vegetarian option and something I could quickly prepare during a screaming meltdown, I found the Boca Original Chik'n Nuggets.

Remarkably, these little nibbles are quite tasty. Best prepared baked in the oven, they have a breaded coating that crisps up nicely and the soy "chicken" part definitely tastes like chicken. Clearly it doesn't have the texture of real chicken meat, but then that might freak out the vegetarians. And in a pinch you can even cook them in the microwave, but if you don't want rubber pucks this takes a bit of practice.

As stated, I'm not the biggest fan of any nugget, but these work. But if it is any testament to their tastiness (if not completely chicken like), my kid won't let her father touch any of her Boca Chik'n Nuggets, but he always gets to eat most of her Chicken McNuggets.

Boca Original Chik'n Nuggets are made with soy and wheat proteins and have no artificial flavors or preservatives. While there are a couple of Boca products made with organic soy, these aren't one of them.

About the Boca Foods Company:

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March 17, 2006

Stonyfield Farm Organic Creme Caramel Low Fat Frozen Yogurt

In keeping with this week's junk food theme, I gave Stonyfield Farm's Organic Creme Caramel low fat frozen yogurt a try last night. Here at ReallyNatural, it's tough to follow a St. Patrick's theme this week as there's nothing natural about green food coloring, and I'm not sure how enlightening it would be to review frozen peas and spinach. But I'll bet there's a heck of a market for organic green beer!

The one thing you'll notice right away about this product is that it is very, very sweet. The yogurt itself is caramel flavored, and there are caramel swirls throughout. This gives it a very rich, yet slightly overwhelming, taste. Don't eat this unless you're really enthusiastic about caramel. I think it'd be great as a complement to a fruit tart or apple pie, but I'm not sure I'd buy it again to eat straight up. (Note: the only picture I could find on the Stonyfield site was of the ice cream version--the low fat yogurt has a blue top.)

In terms of texture, it has the consistency typical of a good high-quality frozen yogurt. It ain't ice cream, but that's a trade-off I'm willing to make considering the inordinate amount of fat in regular hard ice cream. Check out this article if you want to know the staggering truth about how many calories and fat grams you're getting with a typical ice cream shop concoction. (Warning: it's depressing reading, as indicated by the title: "Ice cream shops serving coronaries in cones." Personally I wish I'd remained blissfully ignorant!)

That said, this frozen yogurt is low fat and organic, but it still packs a good 25 grams of sugar per serving. And who really eats a 1/2 cup (1/4 cup of the pint) serving? (C'mon, I know I'm not the only one!) As Mikko said earlier this week, these types of organic or "natural" foods are fine when viewed as what they really are: a treat that should be indulged in sparingly.

Stonyfield carries a wide line of low fat, non-fat and full fat organic ice cream and yogurt products including Javalanche, Minty Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Raspberry Swirl, and an ice cream version of Creme Caramel. For the full line, including nutritional information, click here.

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March 16, 2006

You Didn't Want To Know Anyway, Did You?

Part of the reason we can review and report on what is going on in the spin of the food world is reading the packaging (ingredient lists, etc.) and evaluating what is inside. But what if food producers didn't have to label what was going on under the lid?

Read "How Big Corporations are Taking Away Your Right to Know What's in Your Food" and then consider if this bill gets passed into law what would happen in the scenario presented in this article. Both of these are found on the Organic Consumers Association website.

And in case you wanted your voice to be heard, go here.

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March 15, 2006

Cheetos Natural White Cheddar Cheese Puffs

I love the concept behind this product. To me, Cheetos Natural Cheese Puffs signifies the explosion in the healthy food market. Nothing like taking one of America's least nutritional snack foods, sprinkling in a decent ingredient or two, add a couple of marketing buzz words in 48 point font, and voila! Instant health food!

While the idea of natural cheese puffs greatly amuses me, I have to confess something... they taste pretty good. Much like their "unnatural" version, they are light and crunchy and full of cheesy taste. However, these natural cheese puffs don't stain your fingers neon orange, apparently another beneficial side effect of cheese puffs found in the wild (even the signature cheetah character is paler on the natural packaging!)

Yes, we are a fan of Cheetos Natural White Cheddar Cheese Puffs in our household (as of this writing, I'm still looking for the opened bag that I was supposed to review), but I believe this is a VERY dangerous and VERY telling product to hit consumer grocery store shelves. Whether or not this food uses organic materials (it does, organic corn meal) is besides the point of eating healthy. I believe the average consumer is already miseducated and misinformed about what it means to eat healthy, and labeling Cheetos Cheese Puffs as a "natural" food, only leads to the confusion. Just as there once was the obsession with the "no sugar" food products and the "no carbs" food products, we are now seeing the "natural" obsession.

So, should you buy them? Of course! If you are eating a well balanced diet of fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains, there is no reason why Cheetos Natural White Cheddar Cheese Puffs can’t grace your pantry as the occasional treat. But if you feel relief now that Cheetos has gone organic and is actually good for you, put the bag down, back away and go buy yourself something that really is found in nature.

About Frito-Lay

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March 14, 2006

Parents who bottle feed will soon have an organic option

Just-food.com reports that Hain, makers of the Earth's Best Baby Food line, will be introducing a first-of-its-kind organic infant formula this spring. This is sure to be welcome news to readers who bottle-feed, and we'll keep you posted when it becomes available.

Hain's Earth's Best Organics baby and toddler food line includes a wide variety of products such as jarred foods, biscuits, soups, and cereal bars.

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March 10, 2006

Learn to Pick the Most Luscious Wines on the Planet for Under $20 at CheapFunWines.com

Cheapfunwines-1We're pretty excited here at Blogpire Productions to tell you about our new site - Cheap Fun Wines.

How many times have you shelled out ten bucks for a bottle of wine only to have your hopes dashed when you poured the first glass? The staff at www.CheapFunWines.com is here to help. They're goal is to find the most luscious bottles of affordable wine on the planet for under $20.

Kim and the staff at CheapFunWines.com love wine. There is little in life that’s more fun for them than pouring a new wine or revisiting an old favorite.

What they don’t love is wine snobbery. At www.CheapFunWines they'll promise to write about wine in plain English and make fun of people who don’t. That said, they don't profess to be a wine experts. They're totally wine beginners - each with a keen sense of smell, a decent palate, a passion to learn, and a sense of humor.

For the past six years, the staff at CheapFunWines.com has often trekked to wineries in Napa and Sonoma, trying dozens of reds and whites. Slowly, they've learned what they like (Full-bodied Cab and peppery Syrah) and don't like (Bombastic fruity Zin and overblown Chardonnay).

At CheapFunWines the staff won’t always be right. They won’t always use the proper wine vocabulary. But that’s OK. They're all learning together. So pop a cork and join them on a fun journey to a cheaper, better bottle of vino. And send them your favorites!

At CheapFunWines.com

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March 8, 2006

Wolfgang Puck Organic Tortilla Soup


Before I even begin telling you my impressions of this soup, I must get one thing off my chest: Wolfgang Puck annoys me. I'm not sure exactly what it is that rubs me the wrong way, but I think it has something to do with his over-the-top self-promotion vibe. The bio on his soup web site, discussing his path to becoming "the most famous chef in America and arguably the world," breathlessly exclaims "Fame and acclaim quickly followed - a combination of a dynamic personality and a culinary brilliance that bridged tradition and invention." Well, that's tootin' your own horn, ain't it?

Anyway, all of that aside, I do have to say this soup was a winner. Based on a vegetable stock base, the soup's texture was thick, thanks to the tortilla flour, and chunky with black beans, corn, and tomatoes. My husband noted that the veggies were "surprisingly crunchy" compared to the overcooked mush of many canned soups. There was a mild spicy flavor but nothing to be afraid of. My one complaint was that is was a bit too salty for my taste. Like most canned soups, it contained an outrageous amount of sodium (980 mg per cup!), which means if you down the whole thing in one sitting you'll need to be pretty much salt-free the rest of the day to stay within daily values.

Wolfgang's line of organic soups currently has at least 8 varieties on the Web site, including minestrone, butternut squash, and chicken with wild rice (I say "at least" 8 because the one I tried isn't up there yet--so the picture above is of the non-organic version). I might even give a few more a try, even though it means I'll have to be subjected to Wolfgang's smiling mug sitting in my pantry (yes, his picture's right on the front of the can).

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March 6, 2006

Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Diapers

Ask most any mother, and she will tell you what a conundrum the diaper experience is. No one wants to be responsible for creating another new landfill, and yet, the visual of a screaming toddler in a leaking cloth diaper somewhere in public sends chills down our spines. Therefore the best course of action, according to my husband and myself, was to purchase our diapers based on brand recognition -- and of course, cheaper is better.

For the first year of my daughter's life, I blissfully set about purchasing the top two brands with their cute animation characters because it was easy and relatively inexpensive. I told myself that the natural version of disposable diapers would leak and were terribly costly.

After purchasing a package of 15 no-name brand diapers for $6 on a vacation, and seeing the inflamed bumpy red consequences on my kid just 1 hour later, I began seriously considering what I was wrapping her up in 24 hours a day. And I couldn't get past the fact that I was exposing her to toxins so that I could save $6.

While Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Disposable Diapers are more expensive than the national brands (Huggies, Pampers, etc.) and cannot solve all diaper dilemmas (for some reason, I thought that purchasing the more environmentally conscious brand would mean that they magically disappeared once in the trash), they are a much more valuable product than standard diapers.

Because Seventh Generation Diapers are made with chlorine free wood pulp, they do not contribute to the dioxins found in the environment that are released when bleaching paper. This also means that chlorine is not touching your baby's skin.

The Seventh Generation Diapers are not only safer for the baby and better for the environment, but they are extremely absorbent -- a critical factor when you are potty training and someone isn't always upfront about their bathroom needs.

7Gsizechart.jpg
The only criticism I have regarding this product is that their sizing scale is confusing. According to their measurements, my daughter can fit into 3 different sizes, which induces blank stares from my husband in the grocery store. However, the silver lining to this little cloud is that we get 4 more diapers in the small sized package. See! There are bargains to be had everywhere!

To get your very own bargain, click here to buy Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Diapers.

About Seventh Generation:

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Whole Foods Market 365 Moisturizing Bath and Shower Gel

The first thing that caught my eye about Whole Food Market's 365 Moisturizing Bath and Shower gel was the price: $1.99 for a 12 oz bottle! Now that's a pretty good deal, I said to myself, especially where I live because things tend to be more expensive. Plus I could use the "moisturizing" bit having spent the last week being pummeled by frigid winter winds coming off of the ocean. I want to avoid the painful condition I like to call "dry butt" at all costs. TMI, I know, but there is nothing worse than a dry chaffed backside. Stop laughing! It's more painful than it sounds!

So I gave the bath gel a whirl, and overall was pretty happy with it. It came out of the pump bottle in clear gel form, and then made a nice foamy white lather when rubbed between your hands. I used it to shave my legs and it clung nicely to let me do the job. The last bottle of shower gel I bought was a cheapo drug store brand which would immediately slide off my skin, so I appreciated this aspect. As for the scent, it was very mild--suitable for men as well as the fairer sex. The fragrance, which is described on the bottle as being comprised of "a blend of herbal and citrus components" had a faint scent of rosemary, which for me brought back flashbacks of a traumatic "facial" given to me by my older sister at 11 years old that involved holding my face over a steaming bowl of rosemary-laced water, then lying on my back as she slathered my burning face with toner. (I secretly think her motivations were driven not by the pubescent state of my complexion but her desire to finally punish me from knocking her off her only child perch with my arrival a decade earlier.) However I doubt you'll have the same issue.

The gel is made with pure plant and seed oils and contains no animal fats. So if you're looking for something cheap, natural, and pleasant, this is a decent bet. Given that I can spend hours in Crabtree & Evelyn with my nose buried in soaps I would prefer something with a bit more of a scent, but for those who like their shower gels mild this is a good option.

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March 3, 2006

March 1, 2006

...And Really Not: Ajax with Bleach

...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: Ajax with Bleach Powder Cleanser.

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