For The Greater Goods (sm)

Organic Produce: Maximize Nutrients With These Tips

Organic produce is plentiful all year round.  Local farmer’s markets, backyard gardens and your local grocery store are brimming with the vibrant colors of the finest organic produce. We’re all know that adding more veggies to each meal is beneficial, so what’s the best way to prepare organic produce so you can maximize the nutritional value?

Organic Produce From the Ground Up

organic produce

By TSgt Samuel Morse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s start from the ground up. Organic produce is grown in an organic and sustainable manner. Organic farmers use things like crop rotation and organic fertilizers to provide plants with the best nutrients possible for robust growth. Better soil, better nutrition, better produce!

Organic Produce: A Long Haul or Right Next Door?

Once produce is harvested, a number of factors impact what ends up on your plate.  Time in transit and and methods of storage, can greatly influence the nutritional quality of your produce.  The upshot is, the longer it takes between being picked and getting on your plate, the more nutrients are lost.  The best choice is finding fresh, local, organic produce and consuming it within a few days.  If finding local produce is challenging, simply eating seasonally will boost the nutrient value.  If you’re eating blueberries in the middle of winter, chances are they’ve come from very far away and will have lost most of their nutrition by the time you eat them.

Organic Produce: Fresh and Raw

Of course, your best bet for the highest nutritional value of your vibrant, fresh organic produce is to bring it home quickly and eat it soon. Think fresh salads, adding raw fruits to your breakfast cereals, veggie/grain/bean side dishes, even juicing.  Enjoying your produce when it’s at the peak of freshness will maximize nutritional value.

Organic Produce:  Freezing and Blanching

Freezing fresh fruits and vegetables that you won’t consume immediately is the best way to preserve nutrient value of your organic produce. Freeze in small containers so you can pull out just what you need each time. Removing as much air as possible will help prevent the likelihood of freezer burn. Add frozen fruits and vegetables to a morning smoothie with organic protein powder, add frozen veggies to simmering soups and stews, the possibilities are endless.

Blanching is the process of boiling fresh vegetables just long enough to stop enzymatic activity to preserve color and flavor. It can be tricky, though, because over-cooking will contribute to vitamin and nutrient loss; under-cooking will fail to stop enzymatic activity. Be sure to follow time recommendations if you choose blanching before freezing.

Organic Produce: Canning and Drying

In addition to preserving organic produce through freezing or blanching, you can try canning or drying. Canning involves preparing the fruits or vegetables using high heat and sealing the container once the contents have reached a minimum temperature. High cooking temperatures will reduce Vitamin C content, but most other nutrients will remain intact and your summer’s bounty of organic produce will last well into the following winter, spring and beyond.

Drying is a process of reducing water from fresh, organic produce. This process reduces enzyme activity and thereby decreasing the likelihood that your fruits or veggies will spoil. Because water content is reduced, remaining nutrients are more densely concentrated, so you’re boosting your nutrients per serving.

Organic Produce: Heating Things Up

Last, but certainly most common, is cooking. You can steam, microwave, boil, broil or bake fresh produce in a variety of ways. The simple rule of thumb is this: the longer you cook fresh, organic produce and the more heat you use, the more vitamins you lose. Water soluble vitamins like Vitamin C and B vitamins are primarily impacted. Steaming is better than boiling since you are not losing nutrients by soaking your veggies in water. Microwaving is preferable to boiling – again because you retain more of your water soluble vitamins. Roasting, baking and broiling vegetables can caramelize the sugars in the food, creating a nice sweet flavor on your favorite veggies. High heat for long periods of time will reduce some of the nutritional content, but the delicious roasted flavors may encourage picky eaters to chow down on more organic produce than they might otherwise.

No matter how you choose to prepare your fresh, organic produce, you’ll be packing a powerful nutritional punch. Your body will thank you.


Bring on the Fall Recipes: Butternut Squash, Five Ways!

fall recipes

By Julian Fong (Butternut squash) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Fall is the season of orange superfoods, like pumpkin, acorn squash, and my favorite, butternut squash. A member of the gourd family, this fall vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s chock full of fiber and contains lots of great vitamins and minerals, including beta carotene, folic acid, magnesium, vitamins A and C, and potassium.

Just as important, it is incredibly flavorful, versatile, and easy to prepare. Read on for five quick and easy ways to prepare butternut squash that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters!

Favorite Fall Recipes: Butternut Squash, Five Ways!

1 – Simply Steamed. This is the quickest, simplest way to prepare butternut squash, and it retains the most nutritional value when prepared this way. Cut a large butternut squash in half and remove the seeds. Chop into large chunks (3-4 inches or so) to help them steam faster. Place in a steamer – you can use the metal insert that fits into a pot, or an actual steamer. Steam for approximately 20 minutes until a fork inserted in the thickest section of the squash penetrates it easily. Enjoy with salt and pepper, or indulge and add a little vegan buttery spread.

You may wonder, is the skin edible? I buy organic squash and yes, I eat the skin – which contains a lot of the nutrients of the squash. (Also, to keep food waste to a minimum, you can roast the seeds for a nice snack!)

2 – Simply Roasted. Cut a large butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Rub the halves with coconut oil, inside and out. Place cut side down on a metal cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 40-60 minutes until tender (the amount of time depends on the thickness of the squash and your oven). Sprinkle with a little cinnamon, sea salt, and black pepper, and enjoy!

3 – Baked. Take a large butternut squash, remove the seeds, peel it, and cut it in to 1” cubes. Toss with 2 tablespoons of fresh minced parsley 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, salt and pepper to taste, and about a quarter cup of nutritional yeast. Bake in an uncovered, ungreased shallow casserole dish at 400 degrees for 50-55 minutes until squash is tender.

4 – Mashed. Steam or roast a large butternut squash. Let it cool and remove the peel. Mash the squash with about a quarter cup of vegan buttery spread, a splash of plant-based milk, 2-3 tablespoons of maple syrup, ¼ teaspoon each of cumin, cinnamon, and coriander, a dash of cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste.

5 – Soup. Roast butternut squash and a medium-sized yam (poke holes in it with a fork first) per roasting directions above. While the squash and yam are roasting, saute 3 chopped carrots, 1 diced sweet onion, and 4 chopped garlic cloves in a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil in a stock pot over medium heat. When they are softened, add about 6 cups of vegetable stock (more or less, depending on how thick you like your soup) and heat gently until the squash and yam are finished roasting. Remove the peels of the squash and yam and add them plus salt and pepper to taste to the stock pot. Puree with a stick blender until smooth, simmer until desired consistency and temperature, and enjoy!

And there you have it. These are just a few of the myriad ways to enjoy one of fall’s finest market finds. My collection of fall recipes definitely would not be complete without these easy go-to dishes.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy butternut squash? Let us know in the comments below!

13 Optimal Organic Foods For a Healthy Brain

What does it mean to eat a brain-healthy diet? Well, the brain needs the good balance of nutrients to function well. A variety of organic foods that are rich in antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids is a great start. organic foodsYou’ll also want to make sure to get enough vitamins like C, E, B12 and folate.  How do you make sure you’re getting the right organic foods for your brain? Use the guide below!

13 Optimal Organic Foods For a Healthy Brain

1 – Antioxidant Rich Fruits and Veggies
The best organic foods to reach for here are dark and colorful. Think spinach, kale, beets, red bell pepper, broccoli, blueberries, raspberries, red grapes, pomegranates and cherries. Some light colored veggies are a good addition: cauliflower and onion.

2 – Omega 3’s
Try eating small oily fishes like sardines and mackerel. Cold water fish like salmon, trout, tuna and halibut are good options. Fatty fish have been shown to lower the risk of dementia, and can help improve memory and attention. Our bodies don’t make essential fatty acids (EFAs), so they must be obtained through diet. They are good for healthy brain  function as well as the heart, joints and general well being.  Oily fish contains  EPA and DHA in a form which enables the body to use it  easily.

3 – Vitamin E Rich Nuts and Seeds
Some of the best are walnuts, brazil nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flax seeds. You can also eat nut and seed butters for the same benefit. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that a good intake of vitamin E might help to prevent  cognitive decline, particularly in the elderly.

4 – Vitamin C Rich Foods
Some of the best are red bell peppers, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, spinach and cauliflower. Vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat so make sure to eat some of these foods fresh and raw to make sure you’re getting optimal levels.

5 – Zinc rich foods
Include in your diet oysters, beef, crab, beans, yogurt, cashews, chickpeas, oatmeal, almonds, pumpkin seeds and peas. Just a handful of pumpkin seeds a day is all you need to get your  recommended daily amount of zinc, an important nurient for enhancing memory and thinking ability.

6 – Choline rich foods
Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a substance that helps stimulate the brain; a more stimulated brain is better able to make new connections, which is an important part of memory. Foods high in choline include eggs, liver, soybeans, peanuts, butter, potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, oats, Swiss chard, collard greens, sesame seeds, wheat germ and flax seeds.

7 – Water
It isn’t really a food but it is vitally important. Make sure to get enough water to keep your body and brain hydrated. Dehydration can cause a headache, and several studies have shown that dehydration can affect cognitive function. When a person becomes dehydrated, their brain tissue actually shrinks. How much to drink? A good rule of thumb is to divide your weight by two and drink that number in ounces.

8 – Whole grains & Beans
The ability to concentrate and focus comes from an adequate and steady  supply of energy.  Our brain feeds on glucose in our bloodstream.  One of the best ways to make sure you have adequate levels is to choose whole grains with a low glycemic index. Oatmeal, whole-grain breads, brown rice, lentils and black beans are optimal for promoting glucose rich blood flow to the brain.

9 – Tea, Coffee & Chocolate
Boost your brain power with caffeine.  Modest amounts of coffee or tea can enhance memory, focus and mood.  Green tea is especially beneficial because it is rich in antioxidants that also promote brain health. Dark chocolate includes several natural stimulants including caffeine; it stimulates the production of endorphins, improving mood as well.

10 – Avocados
Avocados help to lower blood pressure.  Since hypertension is a risk factor for the decline in cognitive abilities, eating foods which lower blood pressure may promote brain health.  Eating avocados contributes to healthy blood flow and healthy blood flow means a healthy brain.

11 – Garlic
Garlic may help stave off some forms of brain cancer, according to research published in Cancer, the medical journal of the American Cancer Society. Investigators found that the organo-sulfur compounds in garlic worked to kill glioblastoma cells,a type of malignant tumor cell.

12 – Vegetables rich in Betacarotene
Some of the best organic foods in this category are carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach.  They have all been shown to improve the health of the brain.

13 – Spices
Certain spices like sage, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron, basil, thyme, rosemary and ginger have been shown to improve brain function and stave off disease.  These spices are anti-inflammatory and contain many antioxidant compounds that are protective for the brain.

Along with adding these foods, make sure you’re also reducing oxidized cholesterol, like trans fats and fried foods.  Avoiding processed foods is another helpful tip toward keeping your brain at its peak.

Is Organic Quinoa Nature’s Perfect Food?

It seems that organic quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a food superstar – and it’s showing up on menus all over America. So, what is quinoa and what can you do with it? Is it really nature’s perfect food? Let’s find out!Organic Quinoa

A nutritionist I once knew had declared beans the perfect food for their fiber, protein and nutritional power. And she’s right, but organic quinoa has many of the same attributes.

Organic Quinoa: A little history

Quinoa is a plant that was originally cultivated by pre-Columbian civilizations in the Andes in Peru and Bolivia. It was a staple food at that time, but was replaced by cereals when the Spanish arrived. Evidence suggests it was cultivated sometime between 3,000 and 5,000 BCE and was a primary food source later replaced by corn, millet and other grains.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2013 was declared the International Year of Quinoa “in recognition of the indigenous peoples of the Andes, who have maintained, controlled, protected and preserved quinoa as food for present and future generations thanks to their traditional knowledge and practices of living in harmony with nature.” [Source:].

Quinoa is related to amaranth, spinach, Swiss chard, and beets.

Quinoa production worldwide has more than quadrupled since the 1970’s and quinoa has gained popularity due to its unique crunchy texture, nutty flavor, high protein and nutrient content and fast cooking time.


Organic Quinoa: Nutrition Packed

On a pound for pound basis, organic quinoa has about the same calories as corn, rice or wheat.  Nutritionally, it has more protein, iron and zinc. Due to the manner in which all of these foods are typically processed, quinoa also generally has more fiber than these other grains.

Also available is sprouted organic quinoa. Sprouting does not mean that you’ve got live plants in your hand, but that the plant was germinated, activating even more nutritional super powers. Sprouted organic quinoa can be prepared just as regular organic quinoa though lower heat and shorter cooking times make the sprouted variety really easy to add to your culinary cupboard.

Organic Quinoa Varieties

Organic quinoa comes in white , red, black and rainbow (also called tricolor). White quinoa is the most commonly used, but red and black quinoa add great color to your dish and make a perfect choice for a side dish like quinoa salad or quinoa cakes.

Organic Quinoa Preparation

You can serve quinoa as a breakfast cereal, mixing with oatmeal, add cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, vanilla, raisins, walnuts, pecans, dates, you name it.

You can make it as a salad – use instead of bulgur wheat for tabbouleh, add roasted vegetables such as asparagus, beets, onions, mushrooms or eggplant; add fresh chopped veggies like scallions, onions, mushrooms, carrots, celery – add chopped nuts, dried fruit (raisins, figs, cranberries), dress lightly and enjoy an energizing lunch, side dish or salad or add quinoa to a hearty Cobb salad.

You can also add organic quinoa or use organic quinoa flour for tasty and nutritious oatmeal-quinoa-raisin cookies, almond-cranberry-quinoa cookies or any recipe that calls for a bit of crunch.

 Organic Quinoa Reigns Supreme

It should be pretty clear why organic quinoa is such a rock star in the food realm. Valued for high nutritional content, high fiber, great texture and quick cooking time, there’s so many delicious, nutritious reasons to keep organic quinoa in your pantry for a regular addition to your healthy meals.

Click HERE for some great organic quinoa recipes!

Top Ten Foods In My Plant Based Pantry

Plant-Based-PantryIt can be intimidating to stock a kitchen for plant based living, especially if you don’t have a lot of cooking experience or a health coach guiding you. One of my number one tip as a plant based living educator is this: set yourself up for success. If you have a well-stocked pantry, you can be prepared to make all kinds of amazing plant based meals – with just the addition of fresh produce – without a lot of fuss! Read on for my top ten must-have vegan pantry items.

 10 Must-have foods in my plant based pantry:

  1. Beans: Inexpensive, filling, and versatile, beans are a staple in my kitchen. I keep both dried and canned organic beans on hand, and I often cook a batch in the slow cooker on Sunday for use in various dishes throughout the week. My favorites are black beans, green split peas, and pinto beans.
  2. Lentils: Did you know that lentils are “pulses,” the edible seeds of legumes? They are good sources of fiber and protein and also contain high amounts of calcium and vitamins A and B. The most common varieties are brown, green, yellow, and red lentils. The yellow and red ones break down a lot during cooking, while the brown and green ones hold their shape. Make your choice based on your desired outcome, in terms of texture! I use the red ones for my Red Lentil Dal.
  3. Jarred or canned tomatoes: Tomatoes are an excellent base for a variety of soups, stews, and sauces. I keep a variety of them on hand, both canned and jarred tomatoes . Diced tomatoes, spiced or not, are preferred for some recipes, while whole or stewed tomatoes may be better for others. I also keep sun-dried tomatoes on hand for some recipes, as they have a depth of flavor and a richness you don’t get from regular tomatoes.
  4. Whole grains: Whole grains contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. When processed, meaning cracked, crushed, rolled, or cooked, the grains deliver the same rich balance of nutrients found in the original grain seeds. Brown rice and quinoa are my go-to grains. They are great on their own or with a little sauce/dressing, and they can be incorporated into tons of dishes, like soups, stews, vegetable stuffing, and cold salads.
  5. Nuts: Nuts are versatile in the kitchen and contain healthy fats. Cashews are probably the nut I use most often. With just two base ingredients – raw cashews and water – and whatever spices or flavoring you prefer, you can make cashew cream cheese (enjoy plain or add your preferred flavors – I add walnuts and agave nectar), cashew sour cream (add lemon juice and garlic powder), cashew creamer, and cashew milk. For the creamer and milk, I usually add a little agave nectar and a little vanilla.
  6. Seeds: My favorites are flax, chia, and sunflower. I use the first two in smoothies and breakfast dishes, and I use sunflower seeds in a variety of ways! My favorite way is to soak them and make a white sauce for pasta that is absolutely divine. You can also put them on salads, roast them with spices as a snack, or incorporate them in a stuffing – the possibilities are endless!
  7. Plant-based milks: You can find plant-based milks in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, but I prefer the aseptic (shelf-stable) packaged milks. They aren’t as perishable, of course, and they come in smaller containers! My personal favorite is hemp milk, as it tastes good and hemp is a nutritional powerhouse – packed with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
  8. Nutritional yeast: Affectionately known as “nooch” in the veg community, this is a deactivated yeast in powder or flake form that is sold commercially as a food product. It contains folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein, and it is often fortified with vitamin B12. It has a nutty, “cheesy” flavor, so it’s an excellent substitute for dairy cheese in many recipes. I like nutritional yeast best on organic popcorn and as a pasta topping in place of parmesan.
  9. Tahini: It’s hard for me to imagine that just a few short years ago, I had never heard of tahini. Now, it’s one of my go-to ingredients for salad dressings and sauces! It’s simply ground sesame seed paste, and it is commonly used in North African, Greek, Iranian, Turkish, and Middle Eastern cuisine. It is remarkably versatile, and it packs a ton of flavor. It’s usually my dressing base instead of oil – this Tahini Lime Dressing is my absolute favorite!
  10. Agave nectar or maple syrup: I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but a lot of savory recipes need just a touch of sweetness. Agave nectar and maple syrup are my preferred sweeteners. I use one of the two in my plant-based milks when I make them from scratch. I also use one or the other in veggie chili, in some salad dressings, and in a lot of the soups and stews I enjoy.

If you stock your pantry with these staple ingredients, an easy, plant based meal is at your fingertips every day. Just add fresh produce, and the variety of dishes you can make is limited only by your imagination. Bon appetit!

Committing to Gluten Free Living

You’ve heard the term gluten or gluten free somewhere, but you’re still wondering what the heck is this gluten business all about, right? Well trust me, I’ve been there and I am still learning new information all the time. When I was first diagnosed in June 2015 as being severely intolerant to gluten, a wave of confusion fell over me.

Time and time again I had observed all of the gluten free products on store shelves, I even knew a couple gals who were gluten free and I saw the GF bread at the farmers market, but I had no clue why one would elect to go GF unless it was just another stupid diet fad. (i.e. Atkins, South Beach, The Zone, etc.) Being highly unsupportive of diets, I always snubbed my nose to the gluten free living craze. I figured it was bound to fade out and it would be replaced by something new such as grinding animal bones into powder and drinking them in smoothies. I mean seriously, who knows what the next diet fad will be? That was until I started to learn more about my diagnosis and that for people who are indeed allergic, intolerant, or worse, have an autoimmune disease such as Celiac where gluten can do serious damage to a person’s digestive tract and make them very ill, gluten is no joke. What being gluten free means to this category of people definitely isn’t a diet fad.

gluten free living

Okay so what is gluten? It’s the elastic protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten literally means glue in Latin. Do you love how doughy a fresh loaf of bread feels or how cake springs back from your fork after pressing down on it? That would be gluten doing it’s magic and creating the elasticity most people love and crave.

Not only is gluten found in a lot of cakes, cookies, breads and pastas, but guess what, gluten is also found in barley. Barley is in beer. Beer has gluten. Beer, people. I was so sad to learn this news. I don’t drink beer often, but with all of the valley breweries to choose from, I do enjoy having a glass of local craft beer here and there….I now weep for Mr. Pineapple.

The third biggest gluten culprit is rye, but I never really ate much with rye in it so I don’t worry as much about that. Gluten can also be found in other wheat related grains so take a look at this link for the full list. My main focus is wheat because wheat is in so many products. Even products you wouldn’t suspect, wheat can lurk, especially in condiments. Take a look at this list from Gluten Free Girl and my own research of where gluten can hide:

soy, fish & oyster sauce soups licorice, hard candy
seasoning packets natural flavoring BBQ sauces, ketchup, mayo
salad dressings syrups cereals
chocolate ice cream broth and bouillon cubes
chipotles in adobo sauce yogurt and other dairy products miso
cold cuts, hot dogs mole and Mexican sauces beverages- iced tea, sports drinks
beer, vodka, wine coolers breaded foods oats

So what was my first step with receiving the gluten free blues news?

Initially I thought…okay not a big deal. I will just take this with a 80/20 approach and as long as I’m gluten free most of the time, I can do this. No sweat. For the first couple of weeks I did just that. I mainly ate the same way I was eating before which was a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, organic chicken, fish, nuts, whole grains and dairy. However, a girl steers off the course sometimes and wants a brownie, crackers & dip, pizza or sushi. Or she goes out to eat and may order something that contains gluten that she would have never suspected. This is where I needed to tighten up and stop making assumptions that I knew what was GF and what wasn’t. I needed to start questioning more and accept that this will be a learning curve and it’s okay to not have a handle on this new challenge immediately. I needed to educate myself further and do some research.

gluten free living

Once given the diagnosis, a lot of stuff began to make sense. I’ve had digestive issues since all the way back in high school. I’ve always gotten sick from fried foods, anything with heavy sauces, pastries & cake, salad dressings, fast food, even beer occasionally. I had seen a Gastroenterologist in my early 20’s and had a colonoscopy at the ripe age of 23, but there were no polyps, cysts, Crohn’s or other diseases detected. The diagnosis was IBS. I was prescribed medicine and was on my way. The IBS was so bad that often I would have to plan my night around it. I never liked going to parties because if I had an episode, I didn’t want to mortify myself and hang out in the bathroom half the night. I was never tested for gluten intolerance or even told to change my diet so I didn’t. I continued eating the way most 20 something year olds eat, and suffered the consequences for many years. In addition to digestive issues, gluten can also cause brain fogginess, headaches, bone & joint pain, chronic fatigue, depression, diarrhea and bloating. I have experienced a lot of these symptoms especially the brain fog, pain, bloating and fatigue.

Interesting enough I don’t look at gluten free living as this life-altering complication I now have to face. I’m actually excited by the challenge to try and make myself healthier. Thankfully I started looking at my health differently in my late 20’s and I realized that diet is so key to everything. For the past 5 years or so, I have been on a quest of eating healthy, cooking, taking supplements, exercising and trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Once I recognized the diet and IBS connection, my IBS symptoms reduced significantly, but not 100%. Even with all of the positive changes I’ve made, there was still the gluten issue that I was unaware of until recently. Now that I have this piece of valuable information, I look at it like a piece of a puzzle. I have been looking for the missing piece for so many years and now I have it. I can choose to use this new wisdom to really get to that next step of feeling vibrant, energized and pain free.

I learned that when you are GF, there is no halfway. You are either gluten free or you’re not. This totally shot down my plan on just being 80/20 with it. Kerri Kreuger of Natural Healthy Concepts sums it up well

The gluten-free diet is put into action to not only keep gluten damage from occurring, but to help your gut heal, too. In those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, ingesting gluten causes varying levels of sickness. That sickness can last for days, and if you’ve been faithful to the gluten-free diet for any amount of time, you know how great being gluten-free can make you feel. So, why would you willingly make yourself miserable?

Well I guess I’m 100% gluten free then. I have read other information online about the havoc that gluten can do on a sensitive digestive system along with the wildfire of inflammation that it spreads into bones and joints. I want to feel better so I want to commit. I want to go GF for real, not just part time. It’s been almost 2 months now and so far so good. I have been exploring different gluten free products, cooking a lot more at home and researching GF friendly restaurants. I have had a few mishaps not by choice, but by not realizing there was gluten in something I ate (condiments and sauces are the biggest culprits for me). I am learning and that is okay. I’m also learning to deal with the comments from people like “well what do you eat then” or “it’s just this once.” Also the misconceptions others have about my reasoning or what gluten intolerance even is, and the label of being a “picky eater.” People often judge what they don’t know. Just because someone is GF, doesn’t mean they judge you for eating gluten. I’m a “picky eater” because I care. Sometimes I wish I didn’t, but I do. I am super excited to see where this road takes me on my path to wellness. How will I feel in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years? As a cancer survivor, I have dealt with a lot of medical issues that I had no control over and if this is something I can put a leash on and control to feel healthy and strong, you bet your bagels I’m on board.

Awesome Gluten Free Bloggers
Gluten Free Girl
Gluten Dude
Gluten-Free Goddess
Gluten Free on a Shoestring

 Has gluten free living changed how you feel? Share below!

Coffee & Beyond: Seven Organic Drinks to Start Your Day

I will admit that I love the taste of coffee.  I love the smell, I love the rich dark color, I love the energy boost it gives me.  Unfortunately, my body doesn’t love it as much as my taste buds do.  I’m far too sensitive to caffeine to have a morOrganic-Drinks-For-Morningning cup of coffee so I’ve learned to replace it with other organic drinks instead.  Along the way I learned that I really don’t need coffee to wake up in the morning and I actually feel better without it.  Even if you tolerate coffee well, you might want to try one of these seven organic drinks to start your day instead and see how it feels!

Seven Organic Drinks To Start Your Day

1 – Fresh Squeezed Organic Lemon Water: Squeeze a half a lemon into a 16oz glass of lemon and drink it first thing in the morning and reap the benefits.  The vitamin C in the lemon will give your immune system a boost.  It will help detoxify your liver by encouraging the production of bile.  The potassium will give your brain a boost, helping to lift depression. The alkalizing effects of lemon water help decrease systemic inflammation. Drinking lemon water first thing can even help decrease your appetite.

2 – Organic Green Smoothie:  If you have a hard time getting all of your veggies in, this is a great way to start your day.  As simple as a handful of spinach, some almond milk and a frozen banana whizzed in a blender, you’ll be starting your day ahead of the game nutritionally, fueling your body right from the start.  Try these Green Smoothie Recipes if you need ideas.

3 – Organic Chai Tea:  If you let Starbucks make your chai latte, not only will you be overpaying, you’ll get way too much sugar in your morning drink.  Brew your own organic chai tea at home and let the spicy aroma and flavor wake you up. You’ll get antioxidant benefit of the black tea, and the spices in chai have been used for centuries for general health and vitality.  These spices, in Ayurvedic tradition are considered both calming as well as vitalizing and mentally clarifying.  One of the best organic drinks to counteract the stresses of daily life.

4 – Organic Matcha Green Tea:  High in antioxidants with a caffeine boost, drinking matcha green tea is a great way to start your morning.  Learn more about the antioxidant benefits HERE.  Try it hot or iced in the morning or any time of day for a healthy pick me up.

5 – Organic Coconut Water:  If you had a little too much red wine the night before, this is one of the best organic drinks for a hangover.  The naturally occurring electrolytes in coconut water are perfect for replenishing what you may have lost the night before.  Coconut water is perfect for extra hydration in the summer or when you’re extra active.

6 – Organic Fresh Pressed Vegetable/Fruit Juice:  Another great way to start the day if you have a hard time getting all of your veggies in once the day starts.  I like to make fresh juices with really minimal amount of fruit.  It’s better to juice your veggies and eat your fruits because your body will overload on sugar if you don’t consume fiber along with it.  So when you’re making a fresh green juice in the morning, don’t go overboard on the fruits.  A simple green juice recipe would be something like this:

Apples – 2 medium (preferably tart like a Granny Smith)
Celery – 3 large stalks
Cucumber – 1 large cucumber
Ginger Root – 1/2 thumb (1″ dia)
Lemon – 1/2 fruit (including rind)
Parsley – 1 bunch
Spinach – 2 cups

7 – Organic Yerba Mate: If you’re not familiar with yerba mate, it is a South American beverage made by steeping the ground leaves and stems of the yerba mate plant.  It does contain caffeine – about twice the amount of black tea but less than half the amount in coffee.  It doesn’t give me the coffee jitters, nor does it give me the crash that happens with coffee.  When I’m looking for something strong to start my day, this one is my go-to.

What organic drinks other than coffee do you start your day with?  Share with us in the comments below!

Seven Unexpected Health Benefits Of Organic Ginger

Organic ginger is most widely known for its anti-nausea effects.  When you were a kid, did your mother give you a glass of ginger ale when you had a stomach ache?  It’s no wonder!  Ginger is incredibly beneficial for stomachaches and nausea.  Even MythBusters did an episode on motion sickness and confirmed that ginger was actually beneficial.

organic ginger

By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Ginger Uploaded by Magnus Manske) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Newly pregnant women, travelers, chemotherapy patients and others have successfully used ginger to treat nausea but did you know that organic gingerdoes so much more?


Seven Unexpected Health Benefits of Organic Ginger

1 – Beneficial for Diabetes
Ginger has been found to reduce blood glucose, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol.  The beneficial effects come from ginger’s ability to increase insulin sensitivity and inhibit enzymes in carbohydrate metabolism.  It can be used both for prevention and treatment. Ginger also has protective benefits against certain common complications of diabetes, offering protection to the liver, kidneys and eyes.

2 – Healthy Circulation
Ginger is a stimulating herb that gets the blood flowing.  It contains chromium, magnesium and zinc which can help improve blood flow.  It supports circulation has also been shown to help lower high blood pressure and it has blood thinning properties and prevents clots.

3 – Anti-Viral
Ginger is a natural anti-viral agent.  It heats up the body, inducing fever, so it will help your body fight off colds and flu while you’re relieving the symptoms as well.

4 – Strengthens Immunity
Consuming a little bit ginger every day can help boost your immune system and provide a wide range of benefits –antimicrobial, antibiotic, antiparasitic, cancer-protective, tumor inhibition, and is a powerful antioxidant.

5 – Reduces Pain and Inflammation
Ginger contains some of the most potent anti-inflammatory fighting substances known and is a natural powerful painkiller. A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that ginger was as effective as ibuprofen for relieving painful menstrual periods. Ginger blocks the formation of the inflammatory compounds-prostaglandins and leukotrienes-and also has antioxidant effects that break down existing inflammation.  Try it for muscle pain, cramps, and arthritis pain.

6 – Memory and Cognitive Function
Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation can accelerate the aging process, leading to memory and cognitive decline.  Researchers studied middle-aged women who had developed some form of cognitive and gave them a daily dose of ginger.  After two months the women who had taken ginger had better test results for memory, attention and cognitive processing than women given a placebo.

How To Use Organic Ginger

  • There are many ways to enjoy ginger in your diet depending on how much you want to consume.
  • For a hot tea, steep 2 tablespoons fresh sliced ginger root in water for 15 minutes, strain, and enjoy with some lemon and your favorite sweetener.
  • In soups, add fresh grated ginger or ground ginger powder to add a little zest and zing.
  • In stir fries, add fresh grated or ground ginger to spice things up.
  • In sweets, ginger is wonderful in cookies, pumpkin or apple pies, ice cream
  • In marinades ginger gives a delightful fresh tangy flavor to your meat, fish, poultry or tofu.

What are your favorite ways to use organic ginger?

Matcha Green Tea: 7 Amazing Antioxidant Benefits

We all know that green tea is supposed to be high in antioxidants, great for weight loss, energy and vitality.  Did you know that not all green tea is created equally?  Matcha green tea is made from the nutrient-rich young leaves picked frmatcha green teaom the tips of shade-grown Camellia sinensis plants.  It is them steamed and de-vined before being stone ground into a fine powder.  Stored away from light and oxygen in order to preserve its color and nutrients, Matcha green tea is now ready to be enjoyed for its flavor and antioxidant benefits.

Why are antioxidants so beneficial?  Well, they are responsible for fighting the negative effects of free radicals that we encounter in everyday life from pollution, UV rays, radiation, and chemicals.  These free radicals can lead to cell and DNA damage.  Antioxidants combat free radicals and have numerous health-promoting benefits like preventing cancer and other life threatening diseases as well as making us look younger, with glowing, radiant skin.  All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants but Matcha green tea has the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score – one bowl of Matcha green tea has over 5 times as many antioxidants as any other food.  So what will those antioxidants do for you?


7 Amazing Antioxidant Benefits of Matcha Green Tea

  1. Anti-Cancer
    Matcha green tea contains a specific type of antioxidants known as catechins.  Catechins are the most potent and beneficial of the antioxidants. A specific catechin called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg) makes up 60% of the catechins in Matcha Green Tea. Out of all the antioxidants, EGCg is the most widely recognized for its cancer fighting properties. It has been found that Matcha Green Tea contains over 100 times more EGCg than any other tea. EGCg has been found to not only inhibit an enzyme required for cancer cell growth, but also kills cancer cells with no ill effect on healthy cells.
  2. Detox
    Chlorophyll is what gives green tea its beautiful green color.  It is also a powerful detoxifier, helping to eliminate both chemicals and heavy metals from the body.  Because matcha green tea is shade-grown, it is richer in chlorophyll than other green teas, making it a superior detoxifying drink.
  3. Immune Support
    The levels of vitamins C and E in Matcha Green Tea along with the catechins, have been shown to improve immune health. Studies have even suggested that the nutrients in Matcha may have the ability to inhibit the attacks of HIV on human T-cells.
  4. Healthy Teeth & Gums
    A study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that among 940 men, those who regularly consumed green tea had better periodontal health than those who did not. Researchers in the study found that for every cup of green tea participants drank per day, there was a decrease in every indicator of periodontal disease studied.
  5. Heart Healthy
    A 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consuming green tea beverages or extracts significantly lowered serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.  Matcha treatment significantly lowered the glucose, triglyceride, and total cholesterol levels.
  6. Anti Aging
    Matcha Green Tea’s potent anti-inflammatory effects makes it an incredible boost for the skin – protecting it from UV damage and improving skin elasticity.  Regular consumption of Matcha Green Tea is one of the reasons attributed to the longevity of the Okinawan people, some of the longest living people on the planet.
  7. Weight Loss
    Studies have suggested that drinking matcha green tea regularly helps burn calories at nearly 4 times the normal rate – a great benefit as we age and our metabolism slows down. Other studies have shown that green tea helps git rid of belly fat; dieters who drank green tea lost more from the waistline than those who weren’t drinking green tea.

How Much Matcha Green Tea Should I Drink?

It only takes a small amount of matcha green tea to get its potent antioxidant benefits.  Just 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon whisked with hot (not boiling) water gives you great benefit.  Feel free to drink more; there are no negative side effects.

If you don’t like to drink tea, try matcha in these recipes:

Matcha & Avocado Popsicles
Matcha Green Tea Muffins
Matcha Crepes with Chocolate Ganache
Matcha Chia Pudding
Matcha Coconut Fudge

Do you already enjoy drinking matcha green tea? How do you like to use it?



7 Tips On Using Your Garden’s Abundance of Organic Tomatoes

My garden, at this very moment, is overflowing with organic tomatoes and its right about this time of year that I wonder how on earth I’m going to use them organic tomatoesall so that nothing goes to waste!

I love eating my Cherry and Pear tomatoes in salads and my Black Krims on sandwiches but sometimes there’s just too much to use at once and I have to break out my tricks.  Here are some of my best tips on using up all of your garden’s abundance.

7 Tips On Using Organic Tomatoes

1 – Dehydrate

Its easy to make ‘sun dried’ tomatoes in a food dehydrator.  They can be used as is once they’re dehydrated or rehydrated to add a richness to soups and sauces.  All I do is slice them in half, sprinkle a little bit of salt on them and pop them in the dehydrator.  It can take about two days of dehydrating depending on how big your tomatoes are so keep checking to see if they’re dry and once they are, store them in an airtight container. *bonus tip: I like to use a smoked salt when dehydrating cherry, grape or pear tomatoes.  Sprinkled on salads, they taste a little like bacon bits!

2 – Salsa

You can use just about any type of tomato for a salsa and it stores well in the fridge for nighttime and weekend snacking.  Click HERE for some awesome summer salsa recipes.

3 – Spaghetti Sauce

I recently had an abundance of Roma tomatoes so I decided to make homemade spaghetti sauce and it was so good I could barely believe it.  Its so simple yet so delicious.  First you’ll need to blanch your tomatoes: boil a big pot of water and fill your sink with ice water.  One by one, score the bottom of the tomato with an x and place it gently in the boiling water.  As you see the skin peel back, remove the tomatoes and place them in the ice water bath.  The skins will come right off.  Set aside your blanched and peeled tomatoes for a moment.  In a large pot, saute garlic and onion until translucent, then quarter your tomatoes and add them to the pot. Season with salt, pepper and any Italian seasonings that you like.  I like to add a bit of dried fennel and bit of crushed red pepper for a sausage-y taste.  Let this cook down for 45 minutes to an hour.  Once it is at the thickness you like, taste and adjust seasonings then either use right away or freeze for later use.

4 – Flavored Butter

This recipe for Tomato Basil Garlic Butter looks amazing and can be stored in your freezer for use all year long.

5 – Juice it

If you have a juicer or a blender you can enjoy the refreshing flavor of tomato juice.  Add a few other veggies like celery and red onion to kick up the flavor or you can add some seasonings and turn it into Bloody Mary Mix.

6 – Tomato Paste

If you really have more tomatoes than you could ever know what to do with, tomato paste is the way to go.  In the winter months I find myself buying a lot of organic tomato paste, but making use of the summer’s abundance allows me to enjoy the freshness of the season all year long.  Just use the same instructions for making spaghetti sauce, omitting the herbs and spices, and cook for another 2 1/2 hours or so until the sauce is a very thick consistency.  At this point you can freeze or can the tomato paste for use later in the year.

7 – Fried Green Tomatoes

Often at the end of the season as it is cooling down, I’m left with a whole lot of green tomatoes that I know aren’t going to ripen.  That’s fried green tomato season for me!  You don’t have to be Southern to enjoy them – and they’re not very hard to make.  Slice your green tomatoes in 1/2 inch thick slices.  In a shallow bowl make an egg bath with a beaten egg and a little milk (or buttermilk).  In another shallow bowl, add your breading.  You can use breadcrumbs, cornmeal, or a mixture of both.  Heat safflower or sunflower oil in a pan to about 375 degrees.  Dip each tomato slice in the egg bath then the batter, then fry until crisp and golden.  Transfer to a plate lined with a few paper towels to absorb the oil and enjoy!

Of course if you don’t have a garden or aren’t the happy recipient of a nearby gardener’s overabundance, you can always get that fresh flavor of organic tomatoes in a jar.

How do you like to use your garden’s abundance of organic tomatoes?