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Organic Oatmeal – More Than A Breakfast. 25 Creative Uses For Oats.

A bowl of organic oatmeal is a hearty and healthy breakfast, but did you know how versatile oatmeal really is?  Not only is it a high fiber, delicious breakfast food, it can be used for beauty care, kitchen cleanup, kids’ activities, and more.   Let’s take a look at 25 uses for organic oatmeal:organic oatmeal

Skin Care with Organic Oatmeal:

1. Acne: Spread cooked oatmeal (after it has cooled) over your problem skin. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, then rinse. Oatmeal can absorb and remove oil and bacteria from skin, and exfoliates dead skin cells, all of which can combat acne. Try adding honey and tea tree oil for more acne fighting power.

2. Itch relief:  If you’re suffering from the itchiness of poison ivy, chicken pox or even a sunburn, try an oatmeal bath.  As a kid who got a lot of poison ivy, I can vouch for this one.  Place oats in an an old piece of clean pantyhose and knot it around the faucet in the bathtub so that it hangs in the water.  Draw a warm bath, allowing the water to run through the oats.  Soak in the tub and use the pouch of oats to rub your itchy skin.

3. General skin problems: Its easy to make your own oatmeal soap or scrub for any skin problems.  To make a scrub, grind 2 Tbsp of oatmeal in a blender then add 1 teaspoon of baking soda and enough water to make a paste.  Spread on dry skin then rinse off after 10 minutes.  Oatmeal soap can be made using the bits of soap left in your shower.  Melt them down with a small amount of organic oatmeal and pour into a mold.  Cool and you have your own fresh organic oatmeal soap.

4. Rejuvenating face mask: Mix 1/2 cup hot water with 1/3 cup oatmeal for two or three minutes, then add two tablespoons each plain yogurt and honey, plus one egg white. Spread thinly on the face, then relax for 10 minutes and rinse with warm water.

5. Stress releif: You don’t need itchy skin to have an excuse for an oatmeal bath. Try adding a cup of milk, two cups of oats (in a pouch) and a tablespoon of honey to the bath to moisturize the skin and relax the body. You could also use scented oils in a ground oatmeal pouch, as described in the itch remedy above.

6. Go ‘No-Poo’: If you’re not familiar with the trend, many people are moving away from using shampoo and are using other methods to cleanse the hair and scalp.  Grind oatmeal into a powder and mix with an equal amount of baking soda. Rub into the scalp and let it soak up oils and odors, then brush out.

7. Itchy dogs: Dogs also suffer from dry skin and hair problems. Try mixing equal parts oats and warm water and rubbing the mixture thinly over a dog’s dry, itchy spots. Wrap in aluminum foil and keep the dog still for 10 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water and repeat regularly until your dog is scratching less.

8. Pore Refiner: Mix 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup hot water, and 1/4 cup honey in a food processor. Let cool, and apply. Wait 10 minutes, and rinse.

9. DIY Scrub: To smooth out rough skin your body or face, make your own scrub out of oatmeal by grinding up two or three tablespoons of oats in a food processor. Add one or two teaspoons of baking soda and enough water to turn it into a paste. Smooth the scrub onto the skin and rub gently in a circular motion. After about 20 minutes, rinse off the paste with cool water.

Organic Oatmeal For Your Health:

10. Weight Loss: Oats have more fiber than wheat and other flours so cooking with oat flour offers a more full feeling with fewer calories.

11. Fuel Your Exercise: Studies have shown that oats can help fuel muscles during a workout. Eat oatmeal about three hours before your next endurance run or bike ride and enjoy the benefits of this high fiber complex carbohydrate.

12. Lower Cholesterol: The soluble fiber in oats lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). Oatmeal may curb small LDL cholesterol particles, which may be riskier than bigger LDL particles.

13. Reduce Inflammation: Lab tests show that antioxidants in oats have anti-inflammatory properties. It would be impractical to try to eat the amount of oatmeal needed to get the antioxidant levels used in those tests, but smaller doses over time may have benefits.

14. Cardiovascular Benefits: Since organic oatmeal is high in fiber it offers many cardiovascular benefits, including a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure. Postmenopausal women, who tend to develop high blood pressure, should eat six servings of oatmeal on a weekly basis. Studies show that men can also reduce their risk of heart failure if they eat one bowl of oatmeal, per day.

15. Stable Blood Sugar: A high fiber diet that includes organic oatmeal for breakfast will stabilize blood sugar levels and won’t cause the mid-morning slumps, which comes from eating a lot of sugar and carbs in the morning.

16. Immune System Booster: Oatmeal contains a type of fiber called beta-gluten fiber. This fiber protects against heart disease and also supports the immune system, helping the immune cells seek out and repair areas of the body that may be fighting a bacterial infection.

17. Prevent Diabetes: Oatmeal isn’t just a good source of fiber, it is also a good source of magnesium, which regulates the body’s insulin and glucose levels. It’s been shown that, over the course of eight years, women who eat a diet rich in whole grains like oatmeal can reduce their risk of developing diabetes by up to 31 percent.

18. Lower Risk of Breast Cancer: A study in the International Journal of Epidemiology suggested that premenopausal women can reduce their risk of breast cancer up to 41 percent by focusing on diets rich in oatmeal and other whole grains.

Household Uses For Organic Oatmeal:

19. Odor Absorber: Oatmeal can absorb odors in your refrigerator or bathroom.  Just leave a container of oats open in your fridge or any other smelly spot.

20. Kid’s Toy: Make your own substitute for Play-Doh with organic oatmeal. Just mix two parts oatmeal with one part flour and one part water.  Add some natural food coloring if you’d like.  Once mixed, it can be molded into virtually any shape and can be painted once dry.

21. Soak Up Oil Spills: Cover the oil puddle with uncooked oatmeal and let it sit for 5 minutes before sweeping it up.

Organic Oatmeal In Your Kitchen:

22. Breadcrumb Substitute: Process oats in a food processor and use in place of breadcrumbs in meatballs, meatloaf and veggie burgers.

23. All Purpose Flour Substitute:  Grind oats in a food processor to create oat flour and use as a healthier substitute for traditional flour in cookies, pancakes, breads and more.  You’ll get twice the fiber with less calories.

24. Homemade Granola:  Nothing is better than fresh warm granola right out of the oven.  Control the ingredients in your granola by making it at home.  Here’s a great recipe for a basic granola that you can add to with whatever dried fruits and nuts you like: http://www.chow.com/recipes/30062-basic-granola

25. Thickener:  Soups, stews and dips can be thickened with some ground oats or oat flour.

Now that you’ve seen the whole list, what are some of your favorite ways to use organic oatmeal?

Eating To Live With Organic Legumes + 3 Lentil Recipes That Aren’t Soup

I’ve become a recent organic legume evangelist.  In my quest to find the best diet for my body, I’ve tried a lot of different eating plans.  I’d been eating a low-glycemic raw food diet for a few months and was pleased with how easy it was for me to stay away from sweets once they were out of my diet completely.  The downside was that to feel satisfied and full, I was eating a lot of nuts, seeds and oils and I had some negative side effects from that.  It was a great conversation with a customer about eating vegan that led me to the embrace organic legumes.  She recommended to me the book ‘Eat To Live’ by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.  Dr. Fuhrman recommends eating at least one cup of organic legumes per day, along with 1 pound of raw vegetables, 1 pound of cooked vegetables and a few pieces of fruit. I picked up a copy and decided to give it a shot.

I hadn’t been using beans or legumes at all in my diet so it was important to introduce them slowly.  You know that song, ‘beans, beans, good for you heart, the more you eat them…’ you know the rest.  Adding organic legumes a little bit at a time allows the body to adjust so that you don’t have to suffer the gassy fate of that song.  It is true though, that beans really are good for your heart – and they have a multitude of health benefits that everyone, not just vegans, can enjoy.

Organic legumes are a staple food in many regions of the world.  Organic legumes and beans are rich in copper, iron, magnesium and folic acid, nutrients that many of us are deficient in.  Peas as well as dried beans are also a good source of absorbable iron, great for anyone, but especially beneficial for vegans. They are low in fat, high in quality protein and are one of the best sources of soluble fiber. That fiber is what makes beans and legumes heart healthy, by lowering levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood.  Eating organic legumes and beans is especially beneficial for people with diabetes as the soluble fiber slows down the absorption of sugars, keeping blood glucose levels stable.

How To Cook With Organic Legumes

It takes a bit of advanced planning to use dried organic legumes.  You’ll want to sort through the dried beans looking for discolored beans and pebbles.   Once they’re sorted through, rinse them in cold water then soak them for 6-8 hours or longer if it works better for your schedule.  I often soak them in the morning before work and cook them when I come home from work so they’re soaking a good 9 hours.  Soaking is the best way to offset their gas-producing effects; it also shortens your cooking time.  When your soak time is up, skim off any beans that are floating on top, then drain the water and rinse.  Place the beans in a pot and add fresh water.  My quick tip is to use enough water to cover the beans plus two knuckles worth of water.  If you put a finger in the water so that the tip of your finger touches the top of the beans, you should fill the water to your second knuckle.  Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until tender.  Depending on the variety it should be about one to three hours.  At this point you can season them however you like.  A bit like tofu, beans take on whatever flavor you add so you can be as creative or as simple as you’d like.  You can use organic legumes as a hot stew or soup, add them cold to salads, or blend them to make a spread for wraps.

organic legumes

Photo credit: Maggie Hoffman / Flickr

Since adding organic legumes to my diet, I am able to fill up easily without adding a lot of fat to my diet.  The versatility of legumes has been a real treat, I can eat them every day and not get bored at all.  My favorite of all of the organic legumes would have to be lentils; here are a few recipes using them in different ways so you can see the versatility:

Red Lentil Dip

1 cup red lentils
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground caraway
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Place lentils and bay leaf in a large saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above lentils. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes until tender.  Drain and discard the bay leaf.  Heat oil in a skillet on medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute until onions are translucent.  Add the remaining ingredients in the list (aside from the lemon juice) and cook for about 5 minutes.  Combine lentils with the onion mixture in a food processor and add the lemon juice; process until smooth.  Enjoy on crackers, pita, with fresh veggies or as a wrap filling.

 

Cold Lentil Veggie Salad

1 cup uncooked green lentils
1 tablesoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
1/8 cup red onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/4 cup red cabbage, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Place lentils in a deep pot and cover with water to 2 inches above lentils. Bring to a boil them cook, covered, over medium-high heat for 30-45 minutes or until tender.  They should retain their shape.  Drain and rinse with cold water.

In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and vinegar.  In a medium bowl, combine cooked lentils, green onion, parsley, red onion, carrot and red cabbage. Add olive oil and lemon mixture to lentils and toss well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to meld.

 

Spicy Lentil Tacos

1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 cup dried green lentils
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup jarred salsa
12 corn tortillas (I like Ezekiel brand)

Sauté the garlic and onion in the oil in a medium pot for 4-6 minutes, or until they become soft and fragrant. Add the lentils and the chili powder, cumin and oregano. Stir to combine. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for about 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.  Uncover and cook for 5 minutes more to allow the mixture to thicken. Mash the lentils with a fork and stir in the salsa.  Spoon the mixture into the tortillas and top with your favorite taco toppings like shredded lettuce and fresh tomato.

 How do you like to use organic legumes? Please share your favorite recipes in the comments!

Organic Nut Butter; A DIY Homemade Nut Milk Trick

As a vegan who’s picky about the ingredients in the foods I eat, finding a milk alternative wasn’t easy.  organic-nut-butterMost commercial nut beverages contain added ingredients to stabilize the liquid.  I also found that I’d open up a carton of nut milk and it would go bad in my fridge before I used it all.   I decided to explore making my own so that I could control the ingredients and make just what I’d need without wasting anything. The easiest way I found is to make nut milk out of organic nut butter.  It’s so simple you’ll never buy packaged nut milks again.

How To Make Nut Milk From Organic Nut Butter

The basic recipe is 1 tablespoon of organic nut butter to 1 cup of water.  You’ll need a blender, but it doesn’t have to be a high powered one, a regular blender will do.  Just whizz the nut butter and water together until it is milky and smooth.  Use more water if you like a thinner consistency, less water if you want a thicker consistency.  A thicker nut milk makes a great creamer substitute.

Making your own nut milk out of organic nut butter allows you to make only what you need so that you’re not wasting any.  The most common nut butter used to do this would be almond butter but experiment with other nut butters like cashew butter, walnut butter, peanut butter and pecan butter.

Keeping organic nut butter on hand is a great way to make sure you’ll always have nut milk available for recipes.  Cashew butter, when made into milk, is the best cream substitute I’ve found.  One of my favorite recipes to make is a creamed spinach recipe using cashew milk instead of cream.  It is so rich and delicious, my 11 year old step-son was even asking for more.

How to make vegan creamed spinach using nut milk:

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 c cashew milk
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • pinch of salt

Steam sauté the spinach until wilted and drain to remove the water. Add cashew milk and spices to the pan and stir constantly until the mixture thickens, 2-3 minutes. Serve hot.

Organic Salad Dressing: Make Your Own For the Freshest Flavors

organic salad dressingGreens.  We know we’re supposed to eat a lot of them, but how do you do it without getting bored of the same old salads?  Make your own organic salad dressing!  Nothing beats the freshness of homemade organic salad dressing and they’re really so simple to make with just a few key ingredients and whatever spices and seasonings you have on hand.  I’ve got a handful of organic salad dressing recipes tucked in my back pocket that I can pull out and use when I’m in a rut.  Salads never have to be boring again, once you know the tricks.

There are two main types of organic salad dressing – vinaigrette and creamy dressings.    The basic formula for a vinaigrette is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil with whatever seasonings you’d like to add.  The key is find the right balance between the acid, fat and seasonings.  Since oil and vinegar naturally repel each other, these dressings will separate when standing.  Creamy dressings add an emulsifier like mayonnaise to keep the ingredients from separating.  You can either use a homemade mayo (simply whisk 1 ounce of egg yolk with 1 cup of oil until you reach the right consistency) or use a commercially prepared mayonnaise.

I’ll share with you some of my favorite organic salad dressing recipes but the flavors can so easily be tweaked for your own taste buds.  By varying the type of oil (olive, sunflower, safflower, sesame, etc), the type of vinegar (balsamic, white wine, red wine, apple cider, flavored), and the seasonings, there’s nearly endless combinations.

Here are some of my favorite organic salad dressing recipes:

Raw Vegan Italian Salad Dressing

Ingredients
3 stalks celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 lemon, squeezed
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.  While this works best in a high speed blender, any blender will do.

‘Crack’ Dressing

I don’t know what else to call it because it is so good and you’ll crave it once you try it – its that good!  I found a version of it online a while back and it was an instant addiction.

1/2 cup shoyu or tamari
1 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup olive oil
1 cup water
Blend all in a blender; store in the refrigerator.

Miso Tahini Organic Salad Dressing

The flavor of this recipe depends on the type of miso you use.  If you use a lighter miso, the dressing will be mild and sweet; if you use a darker miso, the flavor will be strong and bold.
1/4 cup tahini
1 Tbsp miso
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup waterWhisk all ingredients together until creamy; you may need to add more water to thin the dressing.

Mustard Vinaigrette

1 cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, pressed or smashed
1 tsp of dried oregano
1 tsp of dried thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, add the vinegar, garlic, mustard and mix well. Slowly add the olive oil while either whisking or stirring rapidly with your fork. Add the oregano and thyme, salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasonings.

Creamy Caesar Dressing

Ingredients
2 anchovy fillets
3 garlic cloves
1 cup mayonnaise
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Place anchovies and garlic in a food processor fitted with the S blade. Pulse until finely minced. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until it reaches a smooth consistency.  This dressing is better the next day after the flavors have combined overnight.

5 Fantastic Organic Quinoa Recipes

organic quinoaAn exotic little seed that sprouts a tiny tail when its cooked, organic quinoa has so much going for it I barely know where to start.  It’s a gluten free grain that is very high in protein, it’s easily digested and can be used for a wide variety of dishes from pilaf to cold salads, breakfast porridge and muffins (yes, muffins!), savory sides and sweet desserts.

A South American staple food, organic quinoa was first used for food at least 3,000 years ago in the Andean region of Bolivia, Peru and Columbia.  The Incans called it the ‘mother grain’.   In the 1980′s quinoa was introduced to the US and its cultivation began to increase for the first time since the fall of the Incan civilization.  So powerful is this ancient food, the United Nations declared it a ‘superfood’ and NASA ranked it high on its list of possible foods for long duration space flight.  A good source of complete protein as well as other nutrients, organic quinoa is a great addition to any meal.

The number one reason I’ve heard from people who have eaten organic quinoa and didn’t like it is that it tastes bitter.  Organic quinoa has a coating on the outside of each seed of a compound called ‘saponin’, a bitter resin that needs to be rinsed off the grain before cooking.  That bitterness goes away completely once you rinse the quinoa.   Pour the amount you’re going to cook into fine mesh strainer and rinse it with water.  You’ll see soapy bubbles; that’s the saponin.  Rinse until the soapy bubbles stop.

There are a few different types of organic quinoa – white quinoa, red quinoa, black quinoa, and a combination of the three which is sometimes called tricolor or rainbow quinoa.  The darker varieties have a slightly nuttier flavor but they can all be used interchangeably depending on what color you’d like your final dish to be.

Now that you know the secret to cooking great tasting quinoa, I’ll share with you some of my favorite recipes: a breakfast porridge, a muffin, a hot pilaf, a cold salad and a dessert.

Five Fantastic Organic Quinoa Recipes

Organic Quinoa-Hemp Breakfast Porridge

Get a good start to your day with this protein-rich, hearty breakfast that is full of antioxidants and omega 3′s.

Ingredients:
½ cup organic quinoa
1 cup hemp milk
¼ cup frozen blueberries
1 Tbsp hemp seeds
1 tsp cinnamon

Rinse and drain quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Combine quinoa and hemp milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 10 to 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is soft. Add hemp seeds, blueberries and cinnamon. Enjoy!

Quinoa Turkey Meatloaf Muffins

These muffins make it easy to get great nutrition on the run – perfect for lunchboxes for kinds and adults alike.

Ingredients:
2 lb ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped raisins
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup grated carrots
1 small minced onion
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp milk
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 450 F.  Combine the turkey, raisins, quinoa, carrots, onions, salt, pepper, oregano and Worcestershire sauce together, combining well. Add the egg and milk and combine well so that the mixture holds together.  In an ungreased muffin pan, distribute mixture evenly, mounding the mixture on top.  Bake for 20 minutes or until completely cooked through.  Remove from oven and let cool a bit before turning them out of the pan.

Quinoa & Mushroom Pilaf

Enjoy this earthy, nutty pilaf instead of rice with dinner or try eating this cold on a bed of salad greens.

1 cup quinoa, pre-washed or rinsed
1 2/3 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 small carrots, diced
1/2 tsp thyme
1 ounce dried mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Rehydrate dried mushrooms in boiling water and slice into strips.  Combine quinoa and broth in a medium sauce pan.  Bring to a boil then turn the heat down, cover, and simmer until quinoa is cooked, about 15 minutes.  While the quinoa is cooking, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until they start to soften, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the carrots and thyme and cook until carrots are tender, another 5-7 minutes.  Add 1 Tbsp olive oil, mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring constantly for a few minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  When quinoa is finished, remove from heat and combine the quinoa and vegetables and stir in the chopped parsley.  Enjoy!

 

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

A twist on a classic Mediterranean dish – by using organic quinoa in the place of bulgur wheat the dish becomes gluten free while maintaining all of the traditional flavors.

Ingredients:
1⁄2 cup quinoa, prewashed or rinsed and drained
1⁄3 cup olive oil
1⁄4 cup lemon juice
1 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1 cup roughly chopped fresh mint
6 or 7 radishes, diced
1⁄2 cup chopped scallions
2 tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Place the quinoa in a small saucepan with 3⁄4 cup water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water, 15 minutes or so.  Remove from the heat and let rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Toss the cooked quinoa with the oil and lemon juice and sprinkle with pepper.  Let the quinoa cool completely, then add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Adjust seasonings and serve.

Chocolate Quinoa Pudding

A twist on a classic rice pudding recipe, made even more decadent with dark chocolate.

Ingredients
1 cup quinoa
3 cups almond milk
¼ cup maple syrup
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 Tbsp chia seeds

Add quinoa, milk and maple syrup to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir in cocoa powder. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently until the water has been almost completely absorbed.  Remove from heat and stir in chia seeds.  Let cool – serve warm or chill to serve cold.

Now that you have organic quinoa recipes for any meal of the day, which are you going to try first?

Unconventional Organic Flours Add a Twist to Conventional Recipes

organic-flourDid you know that there is a great variety of organic flour to choose from, even if you’re trying to eliminate wheat from your diet?  It may take some trial and error to get your recipes where you want them but with all sorts of gluten free organic flour options, there’s surely a variety that will work for your needs.

Using these different types of organic flour also means that you’re going to be getting a broader range of nutrients than if you just used organic wheat flour.  If you’re not avoiding wheat and you want to increase the nutrition in your baked goods, just substitute a small amount of a different organic flour for the wheat flour in your recipes.

Let’s take a look at some of the more unusual varieties of organic flour and how to use them:

Organic Millet Flour – This type of organic flour is best used in combination with wheat flour, either to reduce the overall gluten content or to add nutrition and color to your baked goods.  As a substitution, use no more than 1/3 millet flour in place of the same amount of wheat flour in your recipe.

Organic Amaranth Flour – Originally from South America, amaranth flour can be used to replace up to ¼ of the wheat flour in your recipes.  It is also great for gluten free baking when combined with other gluten free flours.  Organic Amaranth flour is particularly high in lysine, an amino acid which is not typically found in other grains.  It is very high in protein, fiber and phytosterols.

Organic Buckwheat Flour – One of the best plant sources of protein, buckwheat is actually a complete protein, containing all of the essential  amino acids.  Buckwheat is naturally gluten free – don’t let the ‘wheat’ in the name fool you.  Buckwheat flour has a mild flavor that is great for pancakes and crepes.  It is also a great gluten free replacement for when you use organic flour as a thickener in gravy and sauces.  Used with other gluten free flours, buckwheat flour is great in cookies and other baked goods.

Organic Quinoa Flour – One of the oldest cultivated grains in the world, quinoa is high in protein, calcium and iron.  When using organic flour made from quinoa, you can completely replace the wheat flour in recipes, or just use any portion of quinoa flour as a substitute if you’re just looking to increase the nutrient content of your baked goods.  The high protein content can cause dishes to be heavy or sticky so experiment with using a blend of flours.  Organic quinoa flour can also be used as a thickener in sauces and gravy.  Because quinoa is a seed, the flour can go rancid rather quickly so store it in the refrigerator or freezer to extend the shelf life.

Organic Coconut Flour – This organic flour is made from dried, defatted coconut meat that is ground into a flour.  It is very high in fiber and very low in carbohydrates, with a tablespoon containing 2.5 grams of fiber and 4 grams of carbs.  A favorite of the paleo community, it has a light coconut flavor that makes a great coating for chicken and fish in place of wheat flour or cornmeal.  Add extra fiber to traditional baked goods by substituting up to one third of the wheat flour with coconut flour. Coconut flour absorbs quite a bit of liquids so you’ll want to increase the amount of liquid in your recipe to compensate.  Since coconut flour is naturally sweet, you can also use less sugar in your recipes.

Organic Rice Flour – Made from ground rice, this organic flour is very popular in gluten free recipes.  It doesn’t add much in the way of nutrition but it is a great base when mixed with other flours, for gluten free baking.  Brown rice flour is made from the whole grain, while white rice flour is made from polished white rice.  The brown rice flour will contain more nutrients; however it will go rancid more quickly.  Both types of rice flour work the same way in baked goods.  This flour can produce grainy baked goods when used on its own so you’ll want to blend it with other flours for a better end product.  An easy blend for all purpose flour substitute would be 1 cup rice flour, 1/2-3/4 cup potato starch  and ¼ cup tapioca starch.

Recipes using non-traditional organic flour:

Gluten Free chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons organic vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buckwheat flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare two cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper.  In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until blended.  Add the egg, salt and vanilla extract and blend until combined.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the buckwheat flour, rice flour and baking soda.  In 1/3 cup increments, stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture and blend until smooth.  Add the chocolate chips and stir.  Drop large teaspoons of cookie dough onto cookie sheet leaving 2 inches between each cookie.  Bake one sheet at a time in the middle rack of the oven for about 7-8 minutes until they are just barely browned on top.  Remove from oven and let cookies sit for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.

 

Quinoa Pancakes (courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill)

2 Tb Vegetable Oil
2 cups + 1TBS Water
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
4 tsp Baking Powder
2 cups Organic Quinoa Flour

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Add liquids and whisk to mix. Preheat pancake griddle until a drop of water will “dance” on it. (Oil or spray griddle as needed). Spoon batter onto hot griddle to make pancakes about 4-5” across. Turn when edges seem dry (they won’t brown much because they don’t contain sugar). Keep cakes warm while you cook remaining cakes (or cool on racks to use as flatbread). Batter may thicken as it stands. Before spooning subsequent rounds of cakes on the griddle, stir in 1-2 tablespoons of water as needed.  Makes 12 pancakes.

 Gluten Free Banana Muffins

1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup amaranth flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup xylitol
1/4tsp salt
1/3 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 mashed bananas
1/2 cup almond milk
1/3 cup liquid coconut oil
2 tbsp ground flax

Preheat oven to 350. Blend all of the wet ingredients then add the flax to the wet mixture.  Whisk together the dry ingredients then combine the wet with the dry.  Pour into muffin tins (makes 10) and bake for about 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Shifting to an Organic Vegan Food Diet – Easy Tips

Why would someone want to eat an organic vegan food diet?

Study after study shows that eating a diet that is low in animal products and high in fruits and vegetables has a protective effect on disease.  By minimizing your exposure to toxic pesticides and herbicides through an organic vegan food diet, you’re well on your way to good health.

A huge benefit to eating this way, especially with a focus on fresh fruits and vegetables is that you can stop counting calories! Seriously, you can eat enormous amounts of food if you’re eating whole organic vegan food.

You might ask – what does it mean to eat organic vegan food, what can I actually eat?

organic vegan food

Image courtesy of Jennifer at www.SweetOnVeg.com

For breakfast, fill your bowl with an assortment of fresh fruits and sprinkle with just a bit of hemp seed or cacao nibs and you’ll have a satisfying and energizing start to your day.  This time of year, I’m indulging in gorgeous cantaloupe, fresh blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, plums, mangoes and more.  It’s a truly glorious time of year to enjoy an abundance of those juicy summer fruits.

For lunch, try a huge salad – and I do mean HUGE.  You can really fill up on leafy green veggies and other veggies like spicy radish, sweet red peppers, carrots and fresh juicy tomatoes.  Add some sprouts or microgreens – my favorites are broccoli and clover sprouts and arugula and kale microgreens.   Top the whole thing with some garbanzo beans and squeeze fresh lemon juice on top to add some zing to your salad.  How’s that for some delicious organic vegan food?

For dinner, why not try a chopped veggie salad?  Dice your favorite summer veggies like zucchini, yellow squash, cucumber, red onion, pea pods and tomatoes.  Add some chopped fresh parsley and cilantro and make a quick dressing with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper and you can eat it as is, use lettuce leaves to make wraps, or top a fresh green salad with your chopped salad.

If you’re just starting, I would recommend following some recipes to start with.  It will give you ideas on substitutions that will make your dishes delicious.  For instance, did you know that using blended cashews in a soup will make it as creamy as if you used heavy cream?  Blending cashews and other nuts and seeds to add to dips, salad dressings and soups is just one great tip you’ll find in recipe books like the ones below:

 

It’s a whole lot easier than you might think to switch your meals to using more organic vegan food.  There are lots of ways to transition.  You can start with one meal a day, then two, then all three.  You can switch to being a ‘weekday vegan’ and only eat meat and dairy on weekends.  You can eat vegan every day for breakfast and lunch and then make a choice for dinner whether you want to include meat.  Any way that you start to transition toward eating more organic vegan food will be a benefit to your body.  Don’t worry about being perfect, just do better and better every day.  Your body will thank you for it!

Organic Beans: 4 Meatless Monday Recipes

organic-beansI love the idea of Meatless Mondays for anyone who’s looking to eat a little healthier but doesn’t know where to start. Picking one day a week to replace animal foods with plant foods provides an opportunity to think out of the box and one of the easiest replacements for animal proteins is organic beans. Anything but boring, organic beans can be turned in to all sorts of delicious dishes from soups to burgers to pasta dishes and more. Here are some of my favorite recipes for organic beans for Meatless Monday or any day of the week.

4 Easy Meatless Monday Recipes With Organic Beans

Curried Vegetable and Chickpea Stew with Lemon Couscous (courtesy of Frontier Coop)

Ingredients
2 cups onion, diced
1 cup green bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, and diced
1 cup red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, and diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups sweet potato, diced
2 cups zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or try this stew with other organic beans like cannellini or baby lima beans)
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
5 cups vegetable stock or filtered water or 5 cups vegetable broth made from vegetable broth powder
6 tablespoons fresh or bottled lemon juice
3 cups whole-wheat couscous

Sauté onion, green bell pepper, and red bell pepper in olive oil in a large pot over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes or until softened. Add garlic, curry powder, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper; sauté an additional 2 minutes. Add sweet potato, and sauté an additional 5 minutes. Add zucchini, chickpeas, diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup vegetable stock, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice; stir well to combine. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. While vegetables are simmering, combine remaining 4 1/2 cups vegetable stock and 4 tablespoons lemon juice in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add couscous, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and stir to combine. Cover, remove the saucepan from heat, and set aside for 5 minutes to allow couscous to absorb liquid. Remove the lid and fluff couscous with a fork to loosen grains. Serve individual servings of stew over couscous.

Black Bean Polenta Pie (courtesy of Eden Foods)

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups organic finely ground corn grits (polenta)
2 cups water
1 pinch Eden Sea Salt

Topping:
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
15 ounces Organic Diced Tomatoes
4 oz Green Chilies, do not drain
1 cup organic sweet corn, fresh or frozen
1/3 cup Eden Organic Spaghetti Sauce
15 ounces Eden Organic Black Beans, rinsed and drained (or try this recipe with other organic beans like pinto or kidney)

Bring the water to a boil for the polenta. Whisk in the corn grits and salt, stirring constantly until it thickens. Cover, reduce the flame and simmer 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375°. Evenly spread the polenta on the bottom and sides of a pie plate. Set aside. Heat the oil in a medium skillet and sauté the onion for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the peppers and sauté another 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in the beans, tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and corn. Simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the bean and tomato mixture over the polenta and evenly spread it out. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for 5 minutes before slicing.

 

Mexican Bean Salad (courtesy of La Preferida)

15 oz. can La Preferida Black Beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz. can La Preferida Chick Peas, drained and rinsed
15 oz. can La Preferida Pinto Beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups frozen organic corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup each chopped red, yellow and orange bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped, seeded cucumber
4 oz. can La Preferida Diced Green Chiles
16 oz. jar  La Preferida Salsa (mild, med or hot)
1 tablespoon chili seasoning
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tomato, chopped

Place the organic beans, corn, green onions, bell peppers, cucumbers and diced green chiles in large bowl and mix well. Combine the salsa, lime juice and  taco seasoning in a separate bowl. Pour over the salad and mix well. Add cilantro and tomato and mix gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours prior to serving to allow flavors to blend.

 

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

Ingredients
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 cups short grain Brown Rice, cooked
2 (16 oz) cans Mexican style pinto beans
3/4 cups smoky BBQ sauce
4 to 6 whole grain buns

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and green pepper; cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add rice, organic beans and BBQ sauce. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until heated through. Serve on buns.

With these four recipes you’ve got a whole month’s worth of Meatless Monday recipes with organic beans to try.  What are your favorite ways to eat organic beans?  Do you like them mild or spicy?  In soups? In salads?  Organic beans are so versatile and so full of nutrition and heart-healthy fiber.  They’re a staple in my household – how about yours?

 

Organic Hemp: A Closer Look For Hemp History Week (June 3-9)

organic hempEndorsed by celebrities like Alicia Silverstone, musicians like Ziggy Marley, athletes like Brendan Brazier as well as bestselling author and alternative health advocate Dr. Andrew Weil, Hemp History Week is a time to educate about the benefits of industrial hemp for fiber, food, fuel, paper, building products, plastic and more.  Learn more about Hemp History Week HERE. There are lots of reasons why organic hemp is beneficial – let’s take a look at some:

Organic Hemp is good for Our Bodies

Hemp seeds are high in protein and beneficial Omega fatty acids.  In fact, they have a perfectly balanced 1:3 ration of Omega 3’s to Omega 6’s – a balance that is critically important yet hard to find in most foods.  Organic hemp seeds are easily digested, are free of gluten and have no known allergens.  As a food source, organic hemp is nearly perfect.  Their light, nutty flavor lends itself well to making plant based milk, cereals, granolas, protein powder and more.  You’ll find organic hemp as an ingredient in many Nature’s Path products – cereals, oatmeal, granola, granola bars and more.

Organic Hemp is good for Our Earth

As an environmentally sustainable source of raw material for a wide range of products from paper, fabrics, plastics, fuel, building material and food, hemp is a low impact agricultural product as it can be grown without pesticides.  It grows like a weed, which is how hemp’s cousin marijuana got its nickname.  In case you think that hemp and marijuana are the same thing, rest assured, they are different and I’ll address that a little later.

Since organic hemp can be grown easily without chemical inputs, using it as a clothing fiber it can replace the use of cotton, a crop that accounts for nearly 25% of the pesticide use in the U.S.  By shifting our clothing choices to organic hemp, we’re making a significant impact on the planet.

Hemp has even been used to clean up soil contamination.  After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, industrial hemp was tested to help clean up the soil.  Because of its fast growth rate, hemp showed great potential in cleaning up land contaminated with a number of pollutants from fly ash, sewage sludge to heavy metals.

Organic Hemp is good for Farmers

Hemp can easily be grown organically; it is beneficial for suppressing weeds and building soil, making it a perfect rotation crop.  The market for hemp products is nearly a half a billion dollars a year and it is only growing.  Since it is currently illegal to grow industrial hemp in the U.S., we are importing all of our organic hemp from Canada.  As a crop that grows well wherever wheat grows well, organic hemp would be a boon to farmers in the U.S.

Organic Hemp History

Hemp is one of the earliest domesticated plants known to man and has been crown by many civilizations dating back over 12,000 years. . Archaeologically, hemp dates back to the Neolithic Age in China, with hemp fiber imprints found on pottery dating from the 5th century BC. The Chinese later used hemp to make clothes, shoes, ropes, and an early form of paper.

Did you know that organic hemp is part of our nation’s heritage?  George Washington planted hemp seeds in his vineyard at Mt. Vernon from 1765 to 1796.  Thomas Jefferson planted an acre of hemp at Monticello in 1811 and promoted its cultivation.  In fact, this country’s declaration of independence is written on paper made from hemp.  Up until the 1930s, hemp cultivation was legal and hemp was a common crop. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that the US government and media began spreading lies and misinformation about marijuana that its prohibition became imminent. It was banned in the USA under the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and remains banned to this day.

Dispelling the Myths of Organic Hemp

Although hemp and marijuana are both from the cannabis species, hemp contains virtually no THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. If you smoke hemp you will likely get a headache. You will not get ‘high’. Its THC level is less than 1%, whereas marijuana may contain between 5 – 15%. Consuming hemp products will not cause a false positive drug test.

How to Use Organic Hemp

Organic Hemp Seeds

Available hulled or in the shell, hemp seeds are a great addition to salads, sandwiches, wraps and more.  Blend the hulled hempseed into smoothies, use them in oatmeal, granola or other cereals, bake them into cookies and cakes – the uses are nearly endless.  I love Ziggy Marley’s roasted whole hemp seeds; they have a crunch that makes the seed pop in your mouth with a burst of flavor.

Organic Hemp Oil

Use in salads or smoothies for a burst of beneficial Omega fatty acids.  Organic hemp oil has a bright green color and a nutty flavor that may seem strong at first.  Try using a little bit at a time until your palate adjusts and make sure to store any opened organic hemp oil in the refrigerator.

Organic Hemp Protein Powder

A great addition to smoothies and protein shakes to up the usable protein in your diet.  Try adding a little organic hemp protein powder in baked goods in place of some of the flour – you won’t taste the difference but your body will know.

Organic Hemp Milk

A great non-dairy alternative to milk, hemp milk provides a creamy texture that is rich and flavorful.  Use it in place of dairy milk anywhere you’d use it.  Hemp milk is especially good in smoothies and shakes – try it in chocolate to make chocolate shakes for the kids.

Let us know which organic hemp products you’ve tried and how you use them!

Favorite New Organic Foods

I’m always on the lookout for new organic foods, I have been for years.  It excites me when a product that hasn’t ever been available organic suddenly comes to market.  One of the things I like best about being in this industry is being able to identify new organic foods quickly and making them available right away.  Since I’ve got my ear to the ground for new organic products, I’ll probably write a similar column every couple of months because I just get so excited and I assume you all will be too!  So here’s my list right now:

Six Favorite New Organic Foodsnew organic foods

Othentic Jarred Vegetables – For the longest time I wondered why I couldn’t find organic pickled beets anywhere.  I craved that earthy pickled taste but I didn’t want to eat all those added ingredients that are so often in conventional jarred products – the preservatives, the additives – yuck!  That’s why I was so excited when I discovered Othentic.  Their organic baby pickled beets are incredibly tender and delicious and if you’re a pickled beet fan, I would recommend these in a heartbeat.  Not only does Othentic make organic pickled beets, they have a whole line of fermented vegetable salads and slaws.  Made using traditional recipes and techniques, they are old world style.

new organic foods

 

Gimme Seaweed Snacks – One of the big snack crazes to hit the market recently is the toasted seaweed snacks.  There’s no denying that they’re incredibly healthy on a lot of levels.  For one, they have nearly no calories.  They also have a perfect crunch and they melt in your mouth as you eat them.  In addition, seaweed provides a range of minerals that we often lack in our diets.  Seaweed also counteracts the possibly detrimental effect of eating too many goitrogenic but otherwise healthy foods like broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts and kale.  Too much of those foods in their raw state can mess with thyroid function and we don’t want that.  So if you’re a kale chip fan, why not switch up your snack with seaweed snacks.  While seaweed snacks have been on the market for a while now, this brand makes our list favorite new organic foods because it is one of the few that is actually USDA certified organic.

 

new organic products

Native Forest Marinated Mushrooms – I have great memories from when I lived in New Jersey of visiting Kennett Square, PA – aka ‘The Mushroom Capital of the World”.  There was this little gift shop, mushroom exhibit and tasting room where I literally could have spent all day sampling different flavors of marinated mushrooms.    Since I’ve been in the organic industry I hadn’t seen anyone make an organic marinated mushroom – until now.  Edward & Sons is sort of famous for finding the holes in the organic market and filling them and they did it again with their Native Forest brand organic marinated mushrooms.  Juicy, flavorful and for me, an instant time machine, I could eat a whole jar in one sitting – no kidding.

new organic products

Good Boy Organics Snacks – This line of new organic products came out just in time for summer picnics and barbecues.  BOPS (Baked Organic Potato Snacks) are the first line of certified organic baked potato chips on the market.  In classic flavors like sour cream and onion, bbq, and cheddar cheese, they make a great alternative for conventional chips.  I was really excited that they also have an organic version of a cheese puff.  Called ‘Organicasaurus‘, they’re shaped like little dinosaurs so they’re really kid friendly and fun.  And did I mention delicious? Yeah. Definitely on my favorite new organic foods list.

 

new organic products
Curry Love Organic Simmer Sauces
-  Of the new organic foods on my list, this one is actually a new old food.  Curry Love came out a number of years ago, was pulled from the market, reformulated and was reintroduced this year.  If you’ve tried it before and you weren’t blown away, give them another try.  The new formulations are bold, flavorful and have just the right amount of kick.   I’m a big fan of big flavors and these simmer sauces definitely deliver.   We were especially excited to offer these sauces to our customers as an alternative to Seeds of Change simmer sauces.  You may know that last year, shopOrganic removed all products from our site that are made by brands whose parent company donated toward the opposition of GMO labeling.  There weren’t many brands that were in that category because we were already pretty picky about our products.   Seeds of Change, owned by M&M/Mars, was one of them and so even though their products are organic, unique and tasty, we would rather support a small independent business like Curry Love.  We hope you feel the same!

 

organic hempZiggy Marley Roasted Organic Hemp Seeds – Until I tried these, the only hemp seeds I’d ever eaten were the hulled, soft hemp seeds.  The hulled seeds are incredibly nutritious but I found that unless I made hemp milk out of them, their nutty flavor got lost in whatever dish I’d use them in.  The roasted organic hemp seeds are completely different.  The flavor is stronger and more nutty and the crunch is fantastic – each little seed creates a burst of flavor when you crunch on them.  They are definitely one of my absolute favorite new organic foods.  I love them on salads or straight out of the bag.

 

That’s my list of favorite new organic foods  – what are yours?

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