July 16, 2010

Indoor Gardening: Grow Your Own Shitake Mushrooms

shitake mushroom kit.jpgOne challenge for urban dwellers is space for gardening. One easy and fun solution is a Shiitake Mushroom Kit

Grow your own fancy mushrooms with our all inclusive kit! A mushroom treasured by many, our Shiitake Patch (Lentinula edodes) is composed of a unique blend of sterlized, enriched sawdust fully colonized with a select Chinese strain. Esteemed for both is health stimulating properties and its culinary value, our Shittake kit out-produces by far that of any known competitor. Shiitake mushrooms can be harvested at two week intervals up to 16 weeks. A 50-80 degree Fahrenheit environment is ideal. Each kit comes with illustrated instructions and is guarantee to produce.

Unfortunately, our kit has never produced as abundantly as pictured above. We have had several mushrooms at a time, but I have been disappointed with the results, even after contacting the company for special instructions. I don't know what we are doing wrong, as I have friends who have had great results with mushroom kits.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

July 9, 2010

Vegan Garden Recipes: Organic Kale Chip

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As summer time temperatures are heating up, I am searching for ways to use up the kale in my garden before it starts to bolt. One super easy recipe that kids love is kale chips. This snack is healthy and a good replacement for potato chips.

Organic Kale Chips

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Line a cookies sheet with parchment paper.
  • Cut or tear kale into bite size pieces and lay out on cookie sheet. 
  • Spritz kale with olive oil and Bragg's Liquid Aminos or soy sauce. 
  • Sprinkle lightly salt and nutritional yeast over kale. 
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, depending on the oven.

You may want to experiment with different spices to flavor your kale chips. They should turn out crunchy and sort of melt in your mouth. Of course, you can buy kale chips, but it is much more fun and easy to make your own.

Image: daveeza

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

July 8, 2010

New Study: Virgin Olive Oil Protects Against Breast Cancer

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Researchers at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona have discovered that a "key mechanism" in virgin olive oil protects against breast cancer. Eureka Alert explains:

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in Western countries. Research carried out with animal models demonstrate that a diet rich in fats is directly related to the incidence of cancer. Some types of fats however can play a protective role against the development of these tumours. Such is the case of virgin olive oil, rich in oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fatty acid, and containing several bioactive compounds such as antioxidants. A moderate and regular intake of virgin olive oil, characteristic of the Mediterranean diet, is associated with low incidences of specific types of cancer, including breast cancer, as well as with having a protective role against coronary diseases and other health problems...

Scientists demonstrated that virgin olive oil is associated with higher incidences of benign breast tumours and at the same time with a decrease in the activity of the p21Ras oncogene, which spurs uncontrolled cell proliferation and stimulates the growth of tumours. In addition, olive oil suppresses the activity of some proteins, such as the AKT, essential for the survival of cells since they prevent apoptosis, the cell's "suicide" programme. Between proliferation and apoptosis in tumour cells, these effects tip the balance towards cell death, thereby slowing the growth of tumours.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

June 21, 2010

Organic Gardening Magazine

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Whether you are an experienced organic gardener or someone just learning, Organic Gardening is a wonderful periodical.

What You Can Expect in Each Issue:

  • Food: We evaluate new and heirloom varieties of tomatoes and all your favorite vegetables in our nationwide network of test gardens. And we bring you the latest research on how to grow them to the peak of flavor. Each issue also includes hints on serving them simply to show off their homegrown goodness.

  • Landscaping: A well-maintained property enhances your home's value and gives you a comfortable space where you can relax with family and friends. We show you how to create a yard that is filled with color and interest in all four seasons, with details on the flowers, shrubs and trees that demand little care and deliver big impact. And we offer expert suggestions for giving your yard that "designed by a pro" look.

  • Pest and Weed Control: Toxic pesticides and weedkillers not only harm wildlife and poison our fresh water supply, they threaten the health of people and pets. Organic Gardening readers get solutions that are proven to work, but safe for all living things.

  • Soil: The secret to success in gardening is right below your feet. Organic Gardening is the only magazine that gives its readers information they can use to build the most fertile, well-balanced and healthy soil possible. Plus, find out how easy and rewarding composting can be.

From organic summertime lawn care to keeping backyard chickens, the current issue is full of inspiration.  As an avid gardener, I find I need motivation at times. Reading Organic Gardening gets me excited to be in the garden, and the recipes provide further encouragement when it comes to harvesting and being creative with your bounty.

This magazine has been around since 1942. A two-year subscription only costs $23.94 ($2.00 an issue), and it would make a wonderful gift.

Disclosure: I was sent free samples of these products to review. No prior assurances were given as to whether the review be positive or negative.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

June 18, 2010

NOT NATURAL: Jarritos Mexican Soda

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Once again, we have an example of someone not doing their homework! We were sent a whole case of Jarritos Mexican soda. Although this soft drink contains "100% natural sugar" instead of the high fructose corn syrup found in most American sodas, the other ingredients are not natural. Artificial flavors, food colors, sodium benzoate, etc....my daughter said, "We better not try it." So I can't tell you if this soda tastes good, as I won't drink it.

Disclosure: I was sent free samples of these products to review. No prior assurances were given as to whether the review be positive or negative.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

June 16, 2010

Really Natural Books: Wisdom of the Last Farmer

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Early in my gardening years, a friend gave me Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm. I was moved by this family's tale of Japanese internment, organic farming, and the Sun Crest peach. In fact, I planted a Sun Crest peach in my orchard so I could experience this incredible fruit that is difficult to market in today's grocery store monoculture. Now, David Mas Masumoto has written a new book Wisdom of the Last Farmer: Harvesting Legacies from the Land.

Disclosure: I was sent free samples of these products to review. No prior assurances were given as to whether the review be positive or negative.
Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

June 11, 2010

Really Natural Locavore Cookbooks: Emeril Lagasse Farm to Fork

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If you have a garden or love to shop at farmers' markets, you know the value of cooking with fresh, local ingredients. Famous chef Emeril Lagrasse does to and has written a cookbook to help you stay creative while maintaining locavore ideals. Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh is an aesthetically pleasing cookbook filled with beautiful photographs and delicious recipes.

In this extraordinary new book, Emeril Lagasse continues his lifelong commitment to using fresh, local ingredients in his restaurants and home kitchen. He has spent the past thirty years building close relationships with farmers, fishermen, and ranchers. Farm to Fork is his guide to help you explore the great local bounty through fifteen flavorful chapters--sweet summer in "The Three Sisters: Corn, Beans, and Squash," juicy "Berries, Figs, and Melons," sublime naturally raised meats in "Out on the Range," fresh catch in "Fresh Off the Dock," and home canning tips from "Home Economics: Preserving the Harvest."

One of my favorite recipes is one of the simplest. Mint grows like a weed once planted, and I have a ton of it all over my yard and garden. Emeril offers this wonderful recipe for fresh mint tea:
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh spearmint leaves
1/3 cup sugar
Two 1/4-inch-thick orange slices (do not peel)
6 whole cloves
2 orange pekoe tea bags

1. Bring the water to boil in a saucepan.

2. In another saucepan, combine the spearmint leaves, sugar, orange slices, cloves, and tea bags. Carefully pour the boiling water over the tea mixture, and the let it steep for 3 minutes. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then strain the tea into a small warmed teapot or other serving vessel. Serve hot.


Of course your orange pekoe tea won't be local (and probably not the oranges either), but at least you will have used up some mint!  Most of the recipes in this cookbook do not use entirely local ingredients (depending on your climate), but they do give you ideas for when the season offers a bounty of certain ingredients. 

Disclosure: I was sent free samples of these products to review. No prior assurances were given as to whether the review be positive or negative

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

June 8, 2010

Does Pirate Booty Contain GMO Ingredients?

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We recently received the following comment on our Ahoy Matey! 6 Flavors of All-Natural Pirate's Booty post.

I find this Pirate's Booty post VERY interesting... being that it is right after a GMO post... When Pirate's Booty does come from GMO corn. Just to let you know.

I was shocked to hear this information, as my kids are hooked on Pirate Booty, and I thought my only complaint was that it was not organic.

I did a little research online and could find no information to back up our reader's comment, so I emailed Robert's Gourmet and got the following response:

Dear Jennifer,
Thank you very much for taking the time to address your concerns with us. We value your opinion and truly appreciate your feedback. At this time, we seek out and purchase ingredients from non-GMO sources.

However, due to possible cross-contamination during processing and transportation and naturally occurring cross-pollination we cannot ensure that our products are 100% GMO-free; thus, we feel that it is misleading to our consumers to advertise as non-GMO.

As you may know, there is very little consistency in non-GMO labeling claims. Manufacturers can currently make claims according to their own internal criteria, which can unfortunately include empty and unsubstantiated claims. Non-GMO labeling requirements remain grey and unchecked by any federal or state regulatory entity.

Pirate Brands is committed to providing the highest quality snacks available to our consumers. At this time, we are working to tighten our systems to control those critical points where the risk of cross-contamination is highest. We appreciate you letting us know that this is important to you.

I'm not sure how I feel about this response. Either the company is being brutally honest and ethical about the state of cross-contamination or they are trying to pull one over on consumers. What do you think?

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

May 28, 2010

Time for a Tea Party!

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The traditions of drinking tea are largely absent in American culture except for in the play of little children. Lisa Boalt Richardson, certified tea specialist, can change all of that with her two books!
Tea with a Twist: Entertaining and Cooking with Tea

The parties are simple to put together. Each tea includes easy-to-follow instructions and budget-friendly tips for brewing specialty teas, preparing delicious recipes, and decorating tables. Whether the cook chooses to pour tall glasses of the unusual bubble tea for fun-loving friends or hot, exotic masala chai tea for those seeking an adventure, it's certain that tea time has a new twist!

I love the layout of this book, and how it includes recipes for food to accompany each tea party idea. From a Mexican tea party to your basic iced tea, everything is covered. It is truly inspirational!

The World in Your Teacup: Celebrating Tea Traditions, Near and Far
Sojourners learn the history of tea and its influence on eight specific regions, including China, England, and Russia. From the many recipes Lisa has collected and Lauren has photographed, readers discover that a savoury honey scone is perfect with dark Kenyan tea and a rich almond cookie called a ghoriba tastes great with a glass of sweet Moroccan tea. And every tea party planner will appreciate the helpful tips to create fun and tasty teas for their family and friends.

This books provides a cultural education for people like me that think of tea as something to drink when you are sick. It also includes recipes. I find the history fascinating. From Iran to France, readers learn cultural tips, as well as authentic ways to make teas.

Disclosure: I was sent free samples of these products to review. No prior assurances were given as to whether the review be positive or negative.

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

May 27, 2010

International Ban on US Milk: 20% Still Contains rBGH

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The rest of the world does not want our milk and hasn't for over ten years! In 1999 over concerns of growth hormones used in US dairy production, the United Nations Food Safety Agency did not endorse rBGH essentially banning US milk. Despite international concerns, 20 percent of US milk still contains the hormone. Healthy Child Healthy World reports:

About 20 percent of our milk is genetically engineered, technically known as rBGH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone), which contains high levels of a natural growth factor known as IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor one). This survives digestion and is readily absorbed from the small intestine into the blood. Increased levels of IGF-1 have been shown to increase risks of breast cancer in 19 scientific publications, risks of colon cancer in 10 publications, and prostate cancer in seven publications. Of further concern, increased IGF-1 levels block natural defense mechanisms against early microscopic cancers, known as apoptosis.

Image: Muffet

Jennifer Lance at Permalink social bookmarking

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