October 23, 2006

Sam's Your Uncle: Review of Uncle Sam Cereal

Really Natural reader Matt from Quincy, MA recently suggested that we offer up a review of Uncle Sam Cereal, his favorite breakfast meal, which he'd been forced to order on Amazon when his local Whole Foods stopped carrying it.

According to Wikipedia,

Uncle Sam Cereal is a ready-to eat breakfast cereal first introduced in 1908 and is presently manufactured and marketed by natural food manufacturer U.S. Mills of Needham, Massachusetts.
It was that year that company founder Lafayette Coltrin of Omaha was instructed by his personal physician to add flaxseed to his diet. Coltrin so enjoyed the taste of toasted flaxseed on the whole wheat flakes he ate for breakfast that he decided to market the combination. Given his resemblance to Uncle Sam, Coltrin named his new cereal after him. The top-hatted silhouette of "Uncle Sam" on the box is, in fact, Coltrin's.

The cereal consists solely of vitamin-enriched toasted whole wheat kernels pressed flat into flakes. Whole, toasted flaxseed is then mixed with the flakes. The result is a high-fiber, ready-to-eat cereal with a low glycemic index and, because of the flaxseed, an exceptionally high amount of omega-3 per serving.

So that's the background.

On a recent visit , our Whole Foods had Uncle Sam in stock, so we recently picked up a box and dug into it yesterday morning. Long story short: Matt's right; it's delicious.

Some tasting notes: We bought original Uncle Sam, because the original is the original, and also because it only cost $1.99 at our Whole Foods (vs. $3.69 for Uncle Sam Mixed Berries). As mentioned above, the cereal has a low glycemic index because of its whole grain wheat flakes and whole toasted flax seeds; it's also got 10 grams of fiber per one cup serving. The flakes are surprisingly (and pleasantly) crunchy - not hard like some healthy cereals which make us feel like we might lose a tooth. And though it filled us up until lunchtime, it was tasty and light.

Two quibbles, or items worth noting: First, there is a note on the box which encourages you to shake it vigorously before opening to better distribute the flax seeds. Do not forget to shake the box. Second, we've read that for maximum health benefit, you should grind your flax seeds before eating them because whole flax seeds are hard to digest. So be sure to chew thoroughly.

Buy Uncle Sam Cereal.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 17, 2006

Keep It Simple, Stupid: Simple Greentoe Shoes

greentoe-shuf.gifWe mentioned a while back that Timberland has begun adding a "nutrition label" to its shoes, describing the company's environmental and community impact. Well, Simple Shoes takes it one step further (pun intended) with Green Toe shoes. Available in six styles, the shoes are designed for minimal environmental impact, using ingredients such as water-based cement, cork, jute, bamboo and crepe latex.

shuf2.jpgThe "Shuf," featured here, features a "soft boiled humanely harvested wool felt upper" and "a supportive and lightweight natural cork footbed." We tried them on at our local shoe store, and were amazed at how comfortable they are. They are definitely getting added to our wish list.

Available for men and women at Amazon.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 10, 2006

Wooden Plastic Bag Dryer from Greenfeet

plastic bag dryer.jpgWe'd like to live in a world without plastic bags. But for most of us, the reality is, they're cheap, convenient, and well, a way of life. And while we can cut down on our use, we're unlikely to eliminate them from our lives altogether.

Enter Greenfeet's wooden Plastic Bag Dryer - a great way to few more uses out of your plastic bags, saving some landfill space, and saving yourself some money besides.

Wash bags out with soap and warm water, and hang them over the dowel to dry. Do them at night before you go to bed, and they'll be dry by morning. Bonus feature: The center dowel is perfect to dry out wide mouthed water bottles or Tupperware beverage containers. Washes up to 8 bags and one container at a time.

Available from Greenfeet.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 9, 2006

Lunchbox Treat: Crispy Green Fruit Snacks

Trick or treat. Smell my feet. Give me some...freeze dried fruit?!

That's the message from Crispy Green, makers of a series of freeze dried fruit snacks, samples of which arrived at the Really Natural offices a couple of weeks ago. The company uses the same basic principles used by breakfast cereal makers to make the red berries in your Special K so tasty, and then packages the fruit in single-serving snack packs that make it easy to get your apples, peaches or apricots on the go. According to Crispy Green's press release, the snacks would make a "frighteningly healthy" alternative to sugary Halloween candy. We tried the snacks, and sent some home with our co-workers to see how their kids would like 'em.

Parents praised the convenience, healthfulness and simplicity of the product. Each snack package contains a single serving of fruit, the equivalent of which is listed on the package (e.g. one cup of apple, two apricots, or one medium peach). The ingredients are simple - just the fruit itself - and each bag contains 40 calories or less. Folks also liked the fruit's "lunchbox-ability" - unlike a regular peach which might squish or bruise on the way to work, or cut fruit, which would turn brown if left in a lunchbox all morning, the Crispy Peaches stay fresh, crunchy and delicious in their little vacuum sealed bags.

One colleague lamented all the packaging that goes into single serving snacks, but noted that Crispy Green is hardly the only snackmaker to go this route. And the fact is, single servings aren't just easy to pack; they also make it easy to monitor serving sizes.

Size-wise, folks noted that the individual snack bags of fruit work better as lunchbox addition than as a stand-alone snack. "If this was all my kids ate when they got home from school, they'd need to eat three packages." Then again, three servings of fruit vs. three chocolate chip cookies? You be the judge.

The final and most important question: How did they taste? Michelle's boys, Alex, Colin and Caleb, ages 5-9, loved 'em - for lunchboxes, an afternoon snack, or even Halloween. Caleb thinks they're better than a Snickers bar. Mike's kids said A-OK for lunch, but don't try to swap them for candy at the end of October. The grown-ups in the office were also big fans, though we weren't quite ready to give up the leftover candy. I liked mine in the morning over yogurt.

According to Crispy Green's website, the Trenton Times called the fruit snacks "one of the most wholesome new snacks to come out of New Jersey during the past few years." We find that statement itself kind of funny, but we don't doubt it.

Crispy Green fruit snacks cost $7.99 for a 6-pack or $81.50 for a case.

Available at Crispy Green.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 5, 2006

Tazo Chai, Take Me Away!

tazo chai.jpgIt's October. The days are getting shorter, there's a chill in the air, and our wool sweaters are starting to see the light of day again. It's time for Tazo Chai. I'll take mine in the Decaf variety. Tazo describes it as

"a sensual blend of exotic spices and rich black teas relieved of their caffeine. Naturally decaffeinated under the watchful eye of a Tazo tea shaman, the leaves first surrender their native caffeine, then joyously mingle with African rooibos, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom to create a hearty potion which can dance on the tongue all night long. Sweeten and serve with milk (or yak butter, when available)."

Not sure about the yak butter bit. I like mine with honey and whole milk. It reminds me of the sweet and spicy chai I drank while building houses with Habitat for Humanity in Nepal.

Available at Tazo.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

September 15, 2006


So as a girl who grew up on Bonne Bell Lip Smackers, and as a grown woman who is positively addicted to lip balm, it gave me great pleasure to discover Un-petroleum.

As the name suggests, Un-petroleum replaces the petroleum-based products traditionally found in lip balm with plant oils, natural waxes, essential vitamins and therapeutic herbs. Better yet, it comes in a cherry flavor that smells just like Bonne Bell's Dr. Pepper.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

September 11, 2006

Organic Veggies By Mail

We've spent the summer digging in to local organic veggies through our CSA share with a local nonprofit farm. (CSA stands for community supported agriculture - you buy a "share" of the farmer's crop at the beginning of the growing season, and it pays "dividends" in the form of fresh veggies all summer.)

But what if you're stuck someplace where you don't have access to fresh, organic local produce? Well, the folks at Diamond Organics have a solution. Place an order for one of their organic sampler boxes, and founders Jasch & Kathleen Hamilton will ship you whatever's freshest right now, well, right now. The price on Amazon - $69 for 9lbs of fresh produce in their Original Organics or Organic Fruit samplers - includes free overnight shipping from their farm on Highway 1 in Moss Landing, CA to almost anywhere in the U.S.

Rebecca Johnson tried the service via Amazon, and had this to say:

The lettuce and greens reminded me of my days living on a farm where we made fresh salads from greens selected on that very day. There is nothing like it, well, not until I found this company. The lettuce seems to last longer and the baby spinach is delicious. A week later and the lettuce still looks fresh. That never happens when I buy produce at the store.

At Really Natural, we believe the best tasting and eco-friendliest produce comes from local organic farms. But if you want to eat organic and can't find a local source, then "Go Web, young man (or woman). Go Web."

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

June 30, 2006

Dr. Woods Shea Vision Peppermint Castile Soap

My husband and I were shopping for shampoos the other day and we were looking for something natural. My first hint that something was not quite right was that I was shopping for hair care products with my husband. Both intrigued by the Dr. Bronner's brand, we investigated the range of castile soaps. While Dr. Bronner's is 100% natural, cleans every inch of your body and then your pet's as well, it is also quite expensive. Not wanting to give up on our pursuit of an environmentally friendly solution, we purchased a less expensive version in Dr. Woods Shea Vision Pure Peppermint Castile Soap.

Much like the more expensive brand, this soap claims to be a shampoo, body wash, facial cleanser, shaving lotion and even a mild laundry detergent. It is all natural, eco-friendly and contains organic shea butter for moisturizing purposes.

It smells fresh, kind of like a combination of mint ice cream and furniture polish. The washing was an extremely cleansing experience. Dr. Woods Peppermint Soap lathers up nicely and when rinsed out of my hair, left it so "squeaky" that it practically hurt to run my hands over it.

That is where the fun stops. This has to be the WORST feeling hair care product on the market. Now I'm not one to get into the actual styling of my locks (much to the dismay of many), however I do agree to a reasonable threshold of beauty to remain a part of general society. Dr Woods Shea Vision Peppermint Castile Soap left my hair feeling as if I had a damp, limp washcloth on my head. My hair was fat, dull and clung to my head like a helmet. I looked so bad that I went out to the store and immediately purchased a salon shampoo. And I'm more than a little embarrassed to admit that even though this new salon product has crushed pearls in it, my hair looks fantastic.

I'll still buy Dr. Woods products because I value their eco-friendly approach and would work nicely in a camping situation where no one will see my head, but for every day use I'll leave it for my dog and my husband -- the ones with helmet hair.

About Dr. Woods:

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June 13, 2006

Sweet Seasons Lemon Bread Mix

I claim to like baking, but as much as I enjoy perusing recipes, the long list of ingredients with all of their tiny, precise measurements calls for more energy and patience than I can often muster up. Unfortunately, a lot of the baking mixes out there contain all sorts of suspect ingredients, so I stay away from them as well. I'm always on the hunt for a high quality mix with natural ingredients--that's why Sweet Seasons Lemon Bread Mix caught my eye (well, that and the jaunty yellow packaging). In preparation for a play group I'm hosting this week, I decided to whip this up as I have never, in the year-long history of the group, actually prepared anything "homemade" (hey if it involves melting butter and cracking eggs that's close enough in my book) the way every single other person in the group manages to do each and every time they host. The competition's brutal here in the 'burbs, folks, and I intend to dazzle the other moms with my "top secret" lemon bread recipe ;)

See my tabblo (below) for pictures and my review, and see the extended entry for the ingredient list.

How could you not love this peppy little package?  Just looking at it tastes good. ... See my Tabblo>

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Synergy: Trilogy Kombucha Tea

So, faced with reviewing either a well-tasted ginger beer, an almost mainstream pomegranate soda or Synergy Trilogy Kombucha Tea, I decided to take my life into my own hands and drink the tea. I'm pretty sure I'm going to sorely regret not jumping into the soda.

Kombucha tea (pronounced kom-BOO-cha) is the latest "miracle cure". According to the Wikipedia website, the chef at the Google cafeterias prepares it from scratch for the employees and over 100 glasses are consumed. The packaging of Synergy: Trilogy indicates that Kombucha supports digestion, metabolism, immune system, appetite control, weight control, liver function, body alkalinity, anti-aging, cell integrity and healthy skin and hair. Also mentioned is the fact that the creator, G.T. Dave, began bottling this tea after his mother's success from drinking it during a battle with breast cancer.

Kombucha is inappropriately referred to as a mushroom. Actually it is the symbiosis of a live culture, much like what is found in yogurt, when mixed with yeast and fed a diet of sweetened black or green tea. The result is a filtered sparkling beverage, Kombucha tea, that holds the health properties of the cultures, as well as a slight alcohol content (less than 0.5%) from the fermentation. Essential nutrients are then present after fermentation such as active enzymes, viable probiotics, amino acids, antioxidants and polyphenols.

Bottom line: drink this and all will be well again... sort of.

First of all, there is no proven documentation on the health benefits of Kombucha, despite the fact that it has been around for centuries. No matter, the company's website boldly proclaims, "Feel the healing power of Kombucha."

Second, it is expensive. A 16 oz. bottle of the stuff cost $3.50.

Thirdly, Synergy: Trilogy Kombucha Tea tastes awful. It smells like yeasty ginger bread and tastes like sparkling raw lemon juice. There is nothing sweet about this. And thanks to the bits of yeast floating around, I stupidly shook the damn bottle, which caused it to explode upon opening and now my kitchen smells like bread dough.

Do I feel better? Not completely, although I do feel oddly wide awake, and I'm guessing I'm going to have to choke down more than 2 sips to find out the full story. The best part? Because of the unstable nature of the contents within, it has been known to create intestinal problems and in one case death. (It only has a 160 day shelf life.) It cannot be left improperly stored, which means I have to figure out a way to consume all 16 oz. this evening.

But by tomorrow my intestines should be glowing and my body balanced and ready to attack the day. I'll have to let you know.

(By the end of this article and 2/3 of the bottle of the tea, I was feeling very alert, like a cup of coffee alert without the jitters, despite 2 margaritas earlier in the evening and the taste was growing on me. No pun intended.)

About Millennium Products:

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