Sunday, February 28, 2010

Let's Talk Granola Bars



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(c) photo used with permission of Nature's Path
My Favorite Flavor: What's Yours?



I'm coming up on 3 years of organic eating. The story of my switch is all too familiar--cancer. Shortly after I was diagnosed, a friend gave me a life-changing book, The Hundred Year Lie. I wrote about it in the first days of this blog at Why Eat Organic and Strive to Live Greener?

After reading the book and taking the toxicity test on the website put together by Randall Fitzgerald, the author, I knew I had to take this step to guard any chance of good health I had left. The book was a darn good education for the trusting soul I had been all my life.

Fast forward nearly three years and my pantry, refrigerator, cleaning supply cabinet and bathroom drawer hold a completely different supply of products, all produced without pesticides, preservatives or artificial ingredients, and designed to bio-degrade into the earth without harm to our water supply and the future of our planet as a whole.

That said, let's get down to the fun part. With a little help from Nature's Path, I'm going to give away some granola bars to the lucky readers who are willing to speak up and COMMENT right here on the blog. 

Why granola bars? Maybe because they were one of the last things I was able to convert in my own eating. I used to hardly leave the house without a granola bar tucked in my bag. And I'll admit it was very tough to give them up, at least until I read the label. It was scary how many of the words in the ingredient list I could hardly pronounce, and had no idea what they might contain.

Finally one day I realized that there was little else I needed to convert in my diet, short of restaurant food. I was proud of my accomplishment--finding suitable, palatable replacements for all the products in our pantry and refrigerator was no easy task.  So I simply stopped eating my old standard--no more granola bars :(

When Halloween came around, I went looking for natural goodies to give away, and granola bars were there to save the day.  I sampled a few while giving away others to the children, and found they were quite yummy. 

Last week I heard from Nature's Path and they offered you and me a nice little perk. I get to taste test all their NEWEST granola bars. And for you, they are providing...


A free package


of their new and improved organic granola bars


to the winner of my contest


Here's the deal: I would like to hear from you--LOTS OF YOU! The most creative, sales-worthy comments for your favorite flavor from the new Nature's Path granola bar  selection, will earn you a whole box FREE! Just check their new line out at Nature's Path. Since this new product line has not been released yet, you'll have to pick from the flavors on the website. The idea is simply for you to sound off, speak up, have an opinion!

Some of you may be asking, "How do I comment?" I'm going to make this as easy as I possibly can. There are no ads or graphics or other blog stuff below this paragraph, except what my blogging software puts there. See the cute little envelope icon? Just to the left of it is the word 'comments'. Click on it and you can leave your words of wisdom, sales pitch, flavor favorite, or even a profound statement of the beauty of their USDA Organic symbol on the box.  I'll take your dog's name or your grandchild's last diaper change as an entry...just do it! Comment!

When the samples arrive in my mailbox, I'll select a winner, so don't waste any time. You can enter as often as you wish. I'm looking forward to some marketer's dream phrases, so put your thinking caps on and "think out of the box." Good luck!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Missing Our Green Living Posts?



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You missed the big split, huh? OJO's readers displayed an interest in green living that warranted its own blog, so, now you'll find those posts at New Kid on the Green Block.

In case you would like to know what you're missing over there, consider a few recent articles:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

TEST POST for FEED CHANGE



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All you readers out there can completely ignore this test. I'm just having a little fun behind the scenes!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

OJO's Favorite Picks: Bottled Beverages



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website design
 I see you guys wanting to jump in. You've asked me in your emails: "What are your favorite organic foods and drinks?" You asked for it, and here it comes.

While we all know that water is the best beverage for us, who doesn't enjoy a little variety. I will admit we're not very adventurous, I'm here to share our favorite organic beverages:

FOOTNOTE:

Our family favorite iced drink is good old Southern Sweet Tea. My recipe for this is at the link.

English Breakfast Tea makes great iced tea:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Making the Best of Conventional Food Gifts



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During the holidays, including Valentines Day, many of us get a boatload of food gifts. Gift baskets loaded with cheese, crackers, chocolate, fruit and all sorts of other goodies. So tempting.............


I try very hard to ignore the items that really are not my favorite foods, but sometimes that's not enough. Today, after sampling some of my husband's Valentines goodies, I realized I need some strategies, short of regifting these goodies in new baskets. It was brain storming time:

  • Out of sight, out of mind works well for me, so I'll start by putting those tempting goodies in the back of the pantry.
  • When gift baskets are received, there are always a few stowaways that won't get eaten. These make perfect perks to other gifts that I'm preparing, so I often tuck a few chocolates in with a bag of muffins or add a summer sausage to my mother's doggie bag after Christmas dinner. You get the idea.  Did I say "re-gift?" Of course not!
  • One gift basket included a packaged pumpkin muffin mix. I've been staring at it for nearly 2 months, and today it occurred to me. Use it, silly! I got past the fact that it had some artificial flavoring in it, and doctored it up to make it healthier. After adding the eggs, oil, and milk in organic form, I added nearly a whole can of organic cooked pumpkin. The result is muffins that really are PUMPKIN muffins, not just flavored that way. 
  • Did you receive a bottle of wine that you won't ever think of drinking? A common problem with an easy out--use it for cooking. Add a 1/2 bottle of white wine and Italian salad dressing to a container of cubed chicken, and skewer them up for the grill this weekend. You say you received red wine? Do the same with beef cubes or flank steak for a dinner fit for a king in three days time.
  • Did you receive a full sized ham the day after your company left? It freezes great, and can be made to go a long way, IF you section it and freeze them separately. Frozen ham is great with scalloped potatoes, ham and eggs, bean soup, and the list goes on....
  • Here's one I have often encountered--multiple packages of processed cheeses in various gift baskets add up to a great cheese ball. Take stock of the cheeses you have on hand and you'll find recipes online to suit your selection. Cheese balls freeze well and can be used for your next party. You can even roll it in cracker crumbs, made from the crackers that came in the same gift basket. Cha-ching!
  • Here's another interesting one: little bags of nuts and salty, snack items scattered throughout your gift baskets. Dump them all into a bowl, add seasoned salt and pour melted butter on top. Stir and bake on a cookie sheet to create a unique snack mix all your own. You can even have fun naming it.
  • If you, like me, receive fruit baskets from some of your far away family or co-workers, you'll need to be sure you don't let that fruit go to waste. If you don't eat it while it is at its peak, cook with it or juice it. This way you can freeze the juice and make a punch later, using a variety of juices. Frozen juice also makes great sorbet, when run through the juicer again, leaving the plate on to funnel it all out of one port. Have fun mixing flavors when you serve it.
I hope these ideas will put you on the road to using--as opposed to wasting--those food gifts that you may not be able to eat right out of the gift baskets. Think of all the money you will be saving. A little doctoring up and you won't even recognize their original state. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

WANTED: Vegan-Vegetarian Writer for Bi-Monthly Articles



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logosMaybe "writer" is the wrong word to use here. What I'm really looking for is a vegan/vegetarian who would like to share his or her favorite choices in typical markets around the country. Whether you want to write your own material, or share it with me in an interview, is up to you.

Are you someone who loves to give an opinion and wants to share your vegetarian or vegan lifestyle? This may be your chance to pass along some of your wisdom to those of us who are open to your style of eating and living. You would have the opportunity to share the reasons for your food choices and educate the public beyond the misconceptions that may often cause you angst.

Have you dreamed of writing about your vegetarian lifestyle, but need help to follow through? Perhaps a few trial posts on a blog like mine will be an opportunity to see if you really could find enjoyment in this work.

If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity, OR, if you would simply like to tell me about your favorite Tofu brands, cheese substitutes, alternative milk products, meat substitutes, lifestyle choices, and more, then I would like to talk to you. Drop me an email with "VEGAN/VEGGIE WRITER" in the subject line, to CarrieLeaJohnson@gmail.com.

Friday, February 12, 2010

First in a Series of Brand Name Favorites: I Tackle the Toughest Category


(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2010
Favorite Cheeses at My House
Dairy products....ahhh! I'm certainly no Vegan; I love love love cheese! Real cheese made out of real milk. The thing that makes this category so tough is that among all food categories, dairy products have the fewest diversities. With the exception of yogurt, which can come in so many different forms, most organic dairy products are very similar to their traditional counterparts. Well, except for the base product: milk.


Have you tasted organic milk? The difference in flavor cannot be denied. Even my own family, before they 'bought in' to the idea of changing all our tried and true favorite brands, were immediately on board with the milk. Surprisingly, organic milk tastes richer than in its conventional form. And no, I don't have a clue why.


My guess is the lack of toxins allows the true flavor to come through. All I can say is you absolutely have to try it. Need more convincing? Read this Milk Lover's Interview I did some time ago, for another opinion. We've found the same surprising information you'll read in this interview.


After telling you I would share my favorite brands in many product categories, this one category is going to disappoint you in some ways. I'll do what I can:



  • Organic Valley seems to run more sales and has a wider availability of all the dairy products: sour cream, cream cheese, and some other items that not all brands offer.
  • I also like their website for printing coupons. Who doesn't like to get $1 off a carton of milk?
  • While the flavor of mozzarella cheese seems to be consistent among brands, I like the heavier shred of Whole Foods Markets' mozarella. The only problem here is that they don't seem to keep it in stock reliably. :( 
  • I'm a big fan of sharp cheddar, but have only found it at Whole Foods (8 oz. package) and in slices from Applegate Farms. Mild and medium cheddar just don't do the trick for me. Picky, I guess.
  • One final addition to my dairy list will wrap this up: Pepper Jack slices by Applegate Farms make a truly zippy grilled cheese sandwich, especially when made with pumpernickel or rye bread. Not very traditional, I know. If you like a little extra punch, try this option and see what fun a grilled cheese sandwich can be with a little creativity.
So, there you have it--my favorite dairy products from the organic brands available to me. I'll close by saying that when it comes to milk, we have no preference. When given the choice, we usually choose the least expensive, or store brand when available. I hope this list will get you thinking about trying organic dairy products. The antibiotics, chemical fertilizers, and growth hormones in traditionally produced dairy products have been accused in the growing earlier puberty concerns among pediatricians. Consider your kids when you think about this important decision. Of all the organic products you might wish to invest in, dairy is at the top of the list in terms of importance to your family's health. 

I'll leave you with a favorite family recipe for homemade pizza, which uses--as you might have guessed--a luscious bag of mozzarella cheese. More good news; it only takes 20 minutes to prepare. Here's your answer to dinner in a hurry. Let me know what you think.
(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2009
Organic Sweet Pepper Pizza


Want to learn more about dairy product issues? Here's a good start:

Monday, February 8, 2010

My Favorite Picks: Helping You Get Started with Organic Food Choices



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The requests have continued to hammer me. Please give us names….name your favorites; you get the idea.  Lots of you have asked me to publish a list of favorite organic foods.

I’ve pondered this long and hard. I know the companies who are not represented on my list will be sad L . But it’s time to break the rules, as I said on New Kid on the Green Block.  In categories where I have no personal preference, I’ll get input from people I know who do. Some areas may include more links than opinions, when necessary. I’ll do my best, though, to include favorites and tried-and-true products that real people like to eat. Here’s what I’ll be covering for you, in no particular order:

l. Organic pastas
2. Canned, organic soups and sauces
3. Fresh and frozen organic bread, pizza crusts, muffins, etc.
4. Organic sweeteners: sugar, agave, honey, Stevia, etc.
5. Organic dairy products
6. Meats, fresh and processed
7. The All-American Favorite: frozen pizza and fresh pizza ingredients
8. Organic bread machine mixes
9. Organic cereals: cold and hot
10. Packaged, organic seasonings and spices
11. Organic rice
12. Organic Wines and beers
13. Organic Peanut butter
14. Organic teas and coffees
15. Organic broth
16. Organic snack foods, salty and on the sweet side
17. Organic ready-made cookies
18. All natural gelatin mixes, flavored
19. Condiments: Organic salad dressings, ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, etc.
20. Organic individual beverages
21. Gluten-free staples
22. Vegan and vegetarian meat substitutes (anybody want to volunteer to be my "official tester" here?)

Whew! That was quite a list. I’ve got my work cut out for me. Any suggestions? If you’d like to request another category, write to me at CarrieLeaJohnson@gmail.com, or leave me a comment below the post at the comment link. I’ll be thrilled to receive your ideas and opinions. Get those comments flowing folks, and watch for this logo to flag this series:

logos




Friday, February 5, 2010

Organic Cinnamon Apples--A Simple Kid Pleaser, and they're Low Fat too!



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Have you every tried to get a child to eat a baked apple? Tough, huh? That's partly because cutting them up is a difficult job for their less-coordinated hands. Add to that the fact that many children don't like to eat the cooked skin of an apple, and you have got a wasted baked apple.


When my children were little, I set out to solve this predicament with a little ingenuity. I compromised on the skins by removing them, for starters. Then, in order to assure the kids ate as much as they could enjoy, I took the extra step of cutting up the apples before cooking them. Finally, success! And with that came a new favorite of my kids. There's nothing to it, really. You try it:


Carrie's Low-Cal, Organic Cinnamon Apples

  • 6 organic apples, peeled, sliced, cored; even over-ripe ones will do, so don't waste them (you can leave the peels on if you prefer) NOTE: Prepare the apples last so they don't turn brown!
  • Smart Balance Spray (with organic Soy)
  • 1/4 cup Organic sugar
  • 1/4 cup Organic brown sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons Organic cinnamon
  • Benefiber (pssst...don't tell my kids about this one)
Instructions:

*Before beginning, make up a small jar of the sugar and cinnamon mixture to use for apples, cinnamon toast or adding to raisin breads in your breadmaker. I use about 3-4 tablespoons on one recipe of these apples, but you can adjust that to your own family's taste.
  1. Add sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon to a bowl and stir well. Store in an air-tight container.
  2. Place the apples in a casserole dish with 1-2 tablespoons of water in the bottom.
  3. Add 3-4 tablespoons of the sugar mixture to the apples.
  4. Spray about 4-6 pumps of Smart Balance into the mixture.
  5. Stir well.
  6. If extra fiber is desired, stir in a few tablespoons of Benefiber.
  7. Microwave 4-5 minutes on High.
  8. Stir and test for tenderness.
  9. Cook 2-4 minutes and repeat until tender.
  10. This dish can be made ahead and rewarmed easily. Serves 4.

Need more ideas? Try this:


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