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Soak Your Nuts? How To Improve the Health Benefits of Organic Almonds

Almonds by far are the most used nut in my home.  I use organic almonds for everything from making milk and butter, tasty snacks and even savory meals too. I organic almondsjust love the versatility of almonds.   Not only that, but raw organic almonds are jam packed with health benefits.  Now… if we could just get everyone to SOAK their almonds.   By soaking nuts we can unlock even more health benefits that nuts hold.   Almonds have an acid and an enzyme inhibitor in their brown skin that actual protects itself against sunlight and moisture.  So without removing that inhibitor it actually makes it more difficult for us to digest and we don’t absorb the nutrients well.  By soaking the almonds we can shed off its skin which releases the enzymes so that we can then digest them much easier and absorb all of their nutrients.

Here are a few health benefits of soaking organic almonds:

  1. Easy to digest- After soaking you will notice the texture is a little different, they are easier to eat and is easier for children to eat them as well.  Because they are easier to chew this will help with digestion and us being able to absorb the nutrients.
  2. 1 ounce of organic almonds (about 20 to 25 almonds) can contain as much calcium as 1/4 cup of milk. Also, almonds are a great source of magnesium and phosphorous, which are important minerals for building strong bones.
  3. Almonds are wonderful for brain health they contain two vital brain nutrients, riboflavin and L-carnitine, which have been shown to increase brain activity, resulting in new neural pathways and a decreased occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease.
  4. Almonds have two very important fatty acids, both linoleic and linolenic acids. Those fatty acids help to reduce inflammation all around the body, which unfortunately most of us suffer from. The fatty acids also help to reduce the levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol), and they promote healthy skin and hair! All in all, almonds pack a powerful, healthy punch.

Almonds contain folic acid, which helps reduce the incidence of birth defects in newborn babies. It also stimulates healthy cell growth and tissue formation.

How to Soak Organic Almonds (for optimal nutrient benefits):

Ingredients:

 Directions:

In a large glass bowl add your almonds, sprinkle a little sea salt then poor filtered or purified water over almonds so they are completely covered. Leave them to soak overnight or up to 10 hours. Drain them well then store in jars or storage containers and store in the fridge for up to a week.  Also if you have a dehydrator you can dry them on low heat or (nut seed setting) until slightly crispy and store them.  Use them like you would any recipes or just for a perfect snack!

What’s your favorite way to prepare and/or eat almonds?

Top 3 Organic Baby Foods for Busy Working Parents

I myself am a stay a home mom, but I am student right now, so from that aspect I know how precious time can be, especially when you’re in a crunch.   It’s during these times that it’s nice to have some healthy, organic baby foods that are convenient for moms and dads to give their baby.   Today I’m going to give you a list of some of the best organic baby food choices for those days that you are on the go and need something quick, organic and guilt free to feed your baby!

Healthy Organic Baby Foods for Parents on the Go organic baby foods

 

NurturMe- NurturMe (or NurturMeals) are the first and only certified-organic, gluten-free dried fruit and veggie meals created for children 6 months to 4 years. NurturMeal organic baby foods bring together nutrient-packed super-foods such as green kale, quinoa, squash and banana (and so many more varieties) to develop young taste buds with creative and delicious combos. These are rich in nutrition and super versatile. Try them on their own or mixed into other foods for extra nutrition.  Simply mix it up, and mix it in!

 

 

organic baby foods

 

Healthy Times  products are made from organically grown ingredients, no preservatives or artificial additives.  Healthy Times is the only exclusive organic baby foods company providing mothers with products that are USDA certified organic, certified kosher by OU, and addresses baby’s allergies by offering wheat free, dairy free, soy free products for sensitive babies. They have a wide array of products from jarred baby foods, teething biscuits, cookies and cereals and they even make baby care products.

 

organic baby foods

 

 

Ella’s Kitchen – These were one of my toddlers favorites!  I still get them for her from time to time. Ella’s Kitchen’s products are USDA certified organic baby foods and are extremely handy for moms and dads.  They are great for the little ones.  Is your child sensitive to a food? No problem.  On the packaging of Ella’s Kitchen products, they state clearly if it’s vegetarian, gluten free and lactose free.

 

 

Are you a working parent or just a busy on-the-go parent?  If so, what healthy organic baby foods have been helpful for you?

Organic Recipes for Spring

Spring is finally here; have you been loving spring in your area so far?   I’m in the Northwest and it’s been pretty beautiful.  I made the first of my organic recipes for springtime the other day and it was so much fun. My toddler and I went out in Dandelion-Bacon-Egg-Recipeour little back yard and we picked a whole bunch of dandelion!  Yes, the weed dandelion is edible and highly nutritious.  It can be somewhat bitter but the first pick of dandelion in spring is the tastiest.  It has the texture of spinach with a taste more like kale.

I feel like I can hear some of you already saying “Is she actually going to eat that?!”  The answer is YES! Dandelion is one of the Earth’s superfoods and it’s one of the most nutrient dense greens we can eat.  Learn more about Dandelion here.

After the first flowers bloom (or you mow your yard) is when the leaves start tasting bitter, at least that’s what I’ve found.   I took advantage of the first pick and we got a couple good bowls filled.   When we got inside I had no idea what I wanted to make, it was almost dinnertime and my kids were wanting eggs.   That’s when I figured I just throw a quick egg bake together with the dandelion, and they loved it!  The whole thing was devoured in less than 10 minutes.  I guess it helps that bacon was in it… bacon makes EVERYTHING taste better :)

Organic Recipes for Spring: Dandelion, Bacon & Egg Bake

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped fresh picked dandelion (can’t get anymore organic than that!)
  • 8 eggs (organic, pasture raised, free range is best)
  • 1lb of uncured organic bacon
  • 1T Fat (I used organic ghee for this recipe, but coconut oil would be fine too)
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Organic-Recipes-for-Spring-Dandelion-Bacon-Egg-Bake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Grease 8×11 inch baking dish, here I used a 9″ pie plate and greased generously with ghee.

Throw all the ingredients together and whisk well.  I actually like to cheat and use my blender (it’s quick and easy and works perfectly).  Bake until firm in center.  This took me about 30-35 minutes in my oven.  Some people do like it softer so if that’s you, start checking for your preferred firmness around 25min.

Serve right away.  I ate my serving on top of dandelion greens and thinly sliced onions.  My kids…well they ate theirs with organic ketchup.

*This is just a very basic recipe, feel free to throw any other veggies in there or even some cheese!

Think you are brave enough to try some dandelion out?  You just might be pleasantly surprised!

Here are some other great Organic Recipes for Spring:

Dr. Oz’s Green Drink (one of my favorite smoothies, and perfect ingredients for spring)

Deviled Eggs (perfect for Easter season)

Roasted Fennel and Artichoke Hearts

Leek Soup

Cream of Asparagus Soup with poached egg on toast

What are your favorite organic recipes for Springtime?

Curb Your Hunger with Hulled Barley

Hulled barley has been around for a long time, however, we don’t hear about it much these days.  Dr. Oz recently published an article on the benefits of hulled barley and so we thought we’d dig a bit deeper and list all of the health benefits we could find for this amazing superfood!

hulled barley

By T.Voekler (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

10 Important Health Benefits of Hulled Barley

  1. Hulled barley is high in beta glucan, which helps lower cholesterol levels.
  2. It’s a good source of selenium (shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer).
  3. It contains niacin (the B vitamin that protects against cardiovascular risk factors).
  4. Provides lignans (a phytonutrient thought to protect against breast cancer).
  5. Hulled barley has the most fiber of any whole grain, and so it helps protect against cancer as it can help speed food through your digest track.
  6. It can help prevent heart disease.
  7. It includes healthy doses of iron, protein, and calcium.
  8. Barley can help prevent gallstones.
  9. Can help reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
  10. Many studies have shown barley being linked to protection against diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity and premature death.

How to Curb Your Hunger with Hulled Barley

What if I told you that eating hulled barley is not only very beneficial to your health, but it can also help reduce an insatiable appetite?  Hulled barley is actually an all-natural appetite suppressant.  The fiber in hulled barley expands in your stomach making you feel fuller for longer.  So include it in your meals day-to-day and start curbing your hunger for high-calorie foods.

Hulled Barley Recipes

There are so many different ways you can incorporate hulled barley into your diet and every meal (soups, salads, breakfast, etc.).  It can be made into a breakfast porridge like oatmeal, or used in the place of rice or other grains.  It can be used in hot dishes as well as cold salads.  Here a are a few recipes you can try:

Hulled Barley Breakfast Bowl

Hulled Barley Veggie Salad

Barley Mushroom Soup

Moroccan Chickpea Barley Salad

Do you incorporate hulled barley into your diet?  If so, what is your favorite way to do so?

Organic Pecans: Health Benefits & Recipes

Now that we are about a week into April, I thought it was fitting to bring to you some fun facts, health benefits and recipes for organic pecans!  Why?  Because April is National Pecan Month!  Now, let’s look into why this slightly sweet, delicious nut is so wonderful!

A Few Fun Facts about Organic Pecans:organic pecans

  • Pecans are a Native American tree nut which is actually a member of the Hickory family.
  • Pecans were an important food for the Indian tribes of the Southern United States before Europeans settled.
  • George Washington was known to frequently carry a stash of pecans in his pocket, and Thomas Jefferson dedicated part of his time to help cultivate them.
  • The US produces about 80% of the world’s pecan supply.

Organic Pecans Health Benefits and why you should eat them:

1.  They’re packed with 19 vitamins and minerals in just one serving (1 ounce=19 halves).

2. 1 serving contains 60% Manganese which is a naturally occurring mineral in our bodies and is a powerful antioxidant which seeks out and destroys the free radicals in our body.

3. Organic pecans have no cholesterol in them.

4. Eating just a handful a day may help protect the nervous system against neurological diseases.

5. Pecans are the highest ranked nut for antioxidant content.

6. Pecans are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and an excellent source of phenolic antioxidants. Regular addition of pecan nuts in the diet helps to decrease total as well as LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increases HDL or “good cholesterol” levels in the blood.

7. Organic pecans are a good source of protein with about 3g per serving.

8. One serving provides 10% in your daily fiber intake.

9. They help regulate your body’s metabolism.

10. The nuts are very rich sources of several important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates.

11. These nuts are a good source of vitamin A, which helps vision and bone growth.

 

Get organic pecans in your diet:

  1. Eat a handful a day.
  2. Lightly toast them and throw them on a salad.
  3. Chop them up on sprinkle them on your favorite ice cream.
  4. Crush or grind them to make a yummy crust for your favorite protein (meat, poultry, fish, etc.).
  5. Soak and dehydrate them which makes them easier to digest.
  6. Blend them in a high power blender to make pecan butter or buy it here.

One of my favorite recipes is Chocolate Pecan Brownie Bites (or bars):

Ingredients:

Directions:

Throw all the ingredients in your food processor expect for the 1 ounce of dark chocolate and process until it blogs up  into a big crumbly dough.  I like to test it for stickiness: grab a piece of the dough to see if when you press it together it sticks nicely.  If it’s still too crumbly sometimes I just add a table spoon of coconut oil or a few more dates.  When it’s sticky enough to your liking you have a few different options: you can lay out some parchment paper on pan and scoop out by tablespoons and roll into balls, or you can form the whole dough into a flat rectangle shape.  When done forming your shape you can add some of the chopped dark chocolate to the top or your balls or sprinkle over your rectangle form and press into the dough.  Now chill in your refrigerator for a couple hours until firm and chewy, after chilled you can cut the dough you formed in to a big rectangle, into bars and store in the freezer for a quick snack.

 

More great Pecan recipes:

Pecan Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Pecans

Sweet Crispy Pecans (personal favorite)

Grain Free Granola (feel free to use ALL pecans for the nut ingredient)

Clean Eating Nut Crust Chicken

Hope you enjoy your next handful of pecans now. How do you incorporate pecans into your diet?

DIY: Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

naturally dyed easter eggs

By Will Merydith from Fairfield, Iowa, USA (Natural Easter Colored Eggs) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that you can dye Easter eggs naturally using herbs, spices, fruits and veggies?  Dyeing times are a little longer and the colors are less intense than chemical dyes, but these naturally dyed Easter eggs are a better choice for your family and for the environment.

There are two ways to dye Easter eggs naturally; either boil raw eggs in the naturally colored water, or soak hard boiled eggs in the colored water overnight.  The first way is faster if you’re only using one or two colors but if you want to use a lot of different colors, its easier to make the colored soaking water and use smaller bowls to soak the hard boiled eggs in the refrigerator overnight.

To make the natural dyes, choose a natural ingredient from the list below.  The quantity that you use will determine how dark the color is.  Add distilled water and either cream of tartar or white vinegar to a non-aluminum pot.  Use 1 TBSP cream of tartar or vinegar per cup of water.  If you’re using raw eggs, boil them in the colored water like you normally would to cook hard boiled eggs.  You can then either remove the eggs or if you want them darker you can continue to soak them in the refrigerator.

If you’re using hard boiled eggs, you can make batches of different colors, then use smaller bowls to soak the eggs overnight in the refrigerator. If the eggs don’t come out as dark as you want the first time, you can make a darker colored soak water and let the eggs soak a second time.

Natural dyes are made with just a handful of ingredients.  You’ll need water, the natural material for coloring, and a mordant to help the colors penetrate the eggshell.  The mordant can be cream of tartar or white vinegar.

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs Instructions:

  • Place the eggs in a single layer in a pan. Add water until the eggs are covered.
  • Add vinegar or cream of tartar.
  • Add the natural dye materials. Use more dye material for more eggs or for a more intense color.
  • Bring water to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • If you are happy with the color, remove the eggs from the liquid.
  • For more intensely colored eggs, remove the eggs from the liquid. Strain the dye through a coffee filter or cheesecloth.  Cover the eggs with the filtered dye and let them soak in the refrigerator overnight.

Here’s a list of some herbs and spices you can use and the colors they yield:

Hibiscus flowers – Reddish blue/lavender
Turmeric root powder – Deep gold
Curry powder – Pale orange
Chili powder – Reddish brown
Paprika – Orange
Dill seed – Golden brown
Beet Juice – Pink
Coffee – Brown
Cranberry Juice – Pink
Red Cabbage Leaves – Blue
Onion Skins – Red or Yellow depending on the type of onion
Orange Peels – Pale Orange
Grape Juice – Lavender
Spinach Leaves – Green
Pomegranate Juice – Red

Find many of these natural dye materials HERE.

What are your favorite Easter traditions? Share with us in the comments below.

Natural Cleaning Products You Should Be Using

 

Spring is officially here.  I love this time of year, when all things become new again. It the perfect time to start yournatural cleaning products Spring Cleaning.  It’s always a refreshing feeling when we can clean our homes and make it feel fresh and new!  For those of you who dread doing anything with the word CLEAN in it, I’ll try to help you make it as painless as possible.  This year instead of cleaning the traditional way with chemical-laden cleaning products that do more damage to our environment and bodies than good, let’s switch out those products with more organic or natural cleaning products that are environmentally safe!

To make the switch to all natural cleaning products easy, I’m going to name well-known conventional product brand names and list natural cleaning product alternatives.  Here we go!

Natural Cleaning Products for the Kitchen

Instead of these all purpose cleaners: Mr. Clean, Simple Green, and 409,
try Better Life-Whatever All Purpose Cleaner or Biokleen All Purpose Cleaner.

Instead of these dishwasher detergents: Cascade, Finish or Ajax,
try Ecover Zero-Natural Automatic Dishwashing Powder or Tablets.

Instead of these window/glass cleaners: Windex or Zep,
try Earth Friendly- Window Kleener or Better Life Glass Cleaner.

Instead of using Drano for a clogged drain,
try Earth Friendly-Earth Enzyme Drain Opener or Biokleen Bac Out Drain Gel.

Instead of those Pledge or Clorox surface wipes,
try GreenShield Organics- Biodegradable Fresh Sent Surface.

Natural Cleaning Products for Laundry

Instead of these toxic laundry soaps: Tide, ALL, Surf, Gain etc. ,
try Ecover – Zero Natural Laundry Powder , Ecos Laundry DetergentAllens Naturally Laundry Detergent.

Instead of these Fabric Softener and dryer sheets: Snuggle and Downy,
try Ecover-Fabric Softner and Mountain Green-Dryer Sheets-Free & Clear.

Instead of Shout and Spray n’ Wash for stain removers,
try Ecover Stain Remover.

Instead of Woolite for delicates,
try Ecover Delicate Wash.

Natural Cleaning Products for the Bathroom

Instead of Scrubbing Bubbles toilet bowl cleaner
try Earth Friendly-Toilet Cleaner or Biokleen Soy Toilet Scrub.

Instead of KaBoom Tub and tile cleaner
try Naturally Clean-Tub and Tile Spray Cleaner.

Instead of Soft Scrub,
try Ecover-Cream Scrub.

Natural Cleaning Products for the Home

Instead of these floor cleaners/wood cleaners: Mop & Glo or Pledge,
try Better Life-Simple Floored Floor Cleaner and Ecover Floor Soap.

Instead of air fresheners like: Glade and Air Wick,
try Air Scense-Natural Air Freshener or Orange Mate-Air Freshener.

Now that you know there are natural cleaning products for all those traditional conventional products, I hope you start going through your cabinets and start swappin’ out the bad with the good!  Trust me you will feel so much better making the switch!  Which are your favorite natural cleaning products?

Learn more about how to make the switch to Green Cleaning.

3 Vegan Recipes for the Great American Meatout

Have you seen the study that came out recently that found that eating meat and cheese is as unhealthy as smoking cigarettes?  The study, published by the University of Southern California found that excessive protein consumption is linked to a dramatic rise in cancer mortality andvegan recipes that middle-aged people who eat lots of proteins from animal sources including meat, milk and cheese are also more susceptible to early death in general.  While it’s not necessary to go completely vegan to get the health benefits of eating less animal products, these vegan recipes will make it easier if that’s your goal.

In honor of the Great American Meatout, I’m sharing three of my favorite vegan recipes.  Since I eat a vegan diet and I love to cook, I’ve played with lots of vegan recipes to make them satisfying and delicious.  The Great American Meatout encourages people to pledge to go vegan for a day, for one day per week, or every day.  Reducing or eliminating your intake of meat and dairy is possibly one of the best things you can do for your health.  When giving up meat and dairy, its still important to eat a whole food diet, so don’t get sucked in to buying meat analogues – they’re full of processed junk and you don’t need them to make a satisfying meal.  These vegan recipes will make you forget you ever needed meat and cheese.

Three Amazing Vegan Recipes

Vegan Recipe #1:  Macaroni and Cheese

8oz organic dry pasta of your choice
1 1/2 cups raw cashews
3 TBSP fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Soak the raw cashews in filtered water for about an hour, then drain and add them along with the rest of the ingredients into a blender – a high powered blender like a VitaMix or Blendtec works best but a regular blender will do, you’ll just need to blend for a longer amount of time.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  You can use any type of pasta you like: quinoa pasta, gluten free pasta, whole wheat pasta, semolina pasta.  Elbow pasta or shells are traditionally used for mac and cheese but use whatever shape you like.   When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and pour the sauce into the pot and heat through.  You can serve the mac and cheese just like this or to make it even better, add some cooked broccoli, spinach, peas, mushrooms or any other veggies that you’d like.

 

Vegan Recipe #2: Three Bean Chili

1 TBSP Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 TBSP cumin powder
3 TBSP chili powder
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
15oz can black beans
15oz can pinto peans
15oz can red kidney beans
28oz can diced tomatoes
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 TBSP chia seeds

In a large pot, heat the oil on medium heat. Add garlic, pepper, onion, carrot and sauté until everything is soft, 5-10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and cover, simmering for about 30 minutes on medium heat.  The chia will thicken the chili quite a bit so if you find that it is too thick, add a little bit of water.

Vegan Recipe #3:  Meatballs

1 cup (packed) fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
8 oz organic tempeh
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup cooked hulled barley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried fennel seed

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.   Chop the tempeh into small pieces; it should be crumbly.  Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the oil and garlic.  When the garlic is aromatic, add the chopped spinach and a tablespoon of water.  When the spinach is wilted, add the tempeh, stir to combine then add the tomato sauce, tomato paste and barley.  Stir to combine then turn off the heat to let the mixture cool.   In a bowl, mix together the vital wheat gluten, flour, nutritional yeast, salt, basil, oregano, dried pepper flakes and fennel.  Add the tomato/spinach/tempeh mixture to the bowl.  Stir to combine and knead for a couple of minutes.  This helps the gluten keep the meatballs in a ball shape.  Form 1 inch balls from the mixture; place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  This makes about 35 meatballs.   Bake for 15 minutes and then turn them over. Return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.  Take them out of the oven and let them cool undisturbed for 5-10 minutes.  This allows the inside of the meatball to become firm.  At this point you can choose what to do with your meatballs.  Add them to marinara, make a swedish meatball sauce, slice them thin and put on pizza, make spaghetti and meatballs, sliders, its up to you.

What are some of your favorite vegan recipes? Share with us in the comments below!

 

 

Understanding Organic Food Labels

I get many questions about this topic.  How do I know if I’m buying organic food?  How do I know if it’s safe to buy?  What does “All Natural” mean?   Well, this is my goal today, to help you find and buy organic food easily and give you some tips for what to watch out for.organic food

I’ll start with what to watch out for.  You need to ALWAYS be wary of the word “Natural” on a product especially if it’s a processed food product (packaged).  All I can say is to ignore it.  Unlike the term “Organic” which is highly regulated, the term “Natural” only means that the product doesn’t contain artificial colors and flavors.  There can still be plenty of unnatural ingredients in products simply labeled “Natural”.  Read more HERE.

How to read organic labels

Even today I run into people who don’t understand the importance of organic food or why they need to buy them.  Honestly, buying organic food and especially organic whole foods have never been so important.  There are many reasons to buy organic; here are the big ones:

  1. No toxic pesticides
  2. Support local farmers and preserves family farms
  3. Sustainable
  4. No GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms)
  5. High nutritional value
  6. Very few cases of food poisoning have ever been linked to organic foods or farm processor
  7. Humane treatment of animals and animals cannot be fed slaughterhouse waste
  8. Organic Farming prohibits use of sewage sludge
  9. Organic certification prohibits irradiation

How to read labels to find organic food

How do I know if fresh produce is organic?

If you are trying to find organic produce, what you need to look at is the PLU code. If it has 5 numbers starting with a 9, that is organic.   This also might be accompanied with or without the USDA Organic Label sticker.  Conventional produce will have 4 numbers usually starting with a 4 or a 3.

What about packaged items?

These are what you might see on packaged items:

  • “100% Organic”:  If you see this on a package then all the ingredients in that package are organic and it may have the USDA organic seal on it.
  • “Organic”:  When a package is labeled organic then it means that the ingredients in that package are at least 95-99% organic. The product may also bear the USDA organic seal on the package.
  • “Made with Organic Ingredients”:  What this means is that the ingredients must contain 70-94% organic ingredients. It will NOT have the USDA organic seal on it. Instead the package may list a certifying agency like QAI, CCOF or one of many independent organic certifying agencies.  The ingredients list will identify which ingredients are organic.
  • If the product is below 70% organic it will not have the USDA organic seal and it might only list organic ingredients in the nutritional information panel.

Even if a producer is certified organic, the use of the USDA organic label is voluntary.  Some brands have higher standards than USDA and have chosen not to use their certification; Eden Foods is a good example of this.

Many people ask about the remainder of the ingredients in a 95% organic or 70% organic product.  Those remaining ingredients still have to meet a strict set of standards – they cannot contain GMO’s and they cannot contain artificial ingredients.  Oftentimes in a USDA organic product, the only things that aren’t organic are salts and those can’t be considered organic because they are minerals.

Also, not every food producer wants to go through the rigorous process of becoming certified.  This is especially true of small farm operations who cannot afford to go through the process. So when shopping at a farmers’ market, don’t be scared to ask how they grow their food.  Also, if you are shopping at a grocery store and in the produce section you see “Farmed Locally”, many times it is organic and a much better choice than conventional.  If you are concerned just find someone to ask!

I hope this helps your shopping a little easier when trying to make sense of the organic food labels. Do you have any tips of your own that I missed? Leave them in the comments!

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs – A Tradition Worth Sharing

Dyeing and decorating Easter eggs is a fun family tradition, but have you ever made naturally dyed Easter eggs?  My mother grew up in Switzerland and passed this fun family tradition on to me, my sisters and brother. She showed us how to dye Easter eggs using natural materials that left beautiful, natural colors and designs – simple, artisanal and great family fun. If you have other techniques for naturally dyed Easter eggs, share them here, I’d love to hear them. Using natural elements to dye Easter eggs is a great way to engage your family and friends – and keep it chemical-free! Try naturally dyed Easter eggs this year for a more organic spin on Easter.

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs Supplies

Supplies for making naturally dyed Easter Eggs

The first step is to go outside and gather anything that is green – leaves of a bush or tree, grass, parsley or anything from the garden. Make sure that it’s not toxic or poisonous. You’ll use these supplies, so get creative and gather your green materials.

You’ll also need yellow onion skins. If you have a bag of organic onions, you can cull the skins. If not, go to the grocery store, pick through the organic yellow onions and gather up the loose skins. Usually if you tell the person working in the produce section and/or the cashier what you have in the bag and what you’re going to do with them, they’ll just let you take them. (I use about a produce bags worth for a dozen eggs.) These skins form the foundation of your naturally dyed Easter eggs, so this is an important ingredient, don’t be shy; gather those skins.

Finally, you’ll need thread. This is what you’ll use to wrap around the eggs to hold the greens in place. Though you might be able to use string, I’ve never used it and would recommend you stick with thread – the color of the thread doesn’t matter.

OK, you’ve got your greens, yellow onion skins and thread – oh, right, and uncooked eggs, preferable organic, of course. I use white eggs – I’ve never tried eggs that are brown or blue/green (from Araucana chickens), but that could be fun too.

Wrapped Eggs For Naturally Dyed Easter EggsBy wrapping the greens on the eggs, the greens will leave a yellow color. So, the greens are the decoration or the design element. You can put as much or as little on as you like. You can wrap the entire egg or use just a few pieces – your choice.  All of your naturally dyed Easter eggs will be totally different from each other – just like snowflakes! The onion skins will dye the eggs a beautiful earthy red color and coupled with the yellow creates  naturally dyed Easter eggs worthy of art.

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

Finished naturally dyed Easter eggs – no two are alike!

Use the thread to tie the greens to the egg. The pattern of the thread will also become part of the design. The good news – there is no wrong way to do this. So, it’s a great activity for the whole family, though it does require some manual dexterity to handle the egg, the greens and the thread. Wrap the thread any which way, many times around to hold the greens tight to the egg. Tying off the thread is usually a bit tricky, so if you’re doing this with younger children, help with this part.  You’ll need to look for a loose area to thread the string through so that you can tie a knot and keep the thread tight while it is boiled. It doesn’t need to look nice or be tidy – it just takes a bit of patience – you’ve got plenty of that, right?

Now it’s time to dye and hard boil your Easter eggs.  Add cold water to a large pan and place the eggs and the onion skins inside.  Bring the water to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, turn off the heat, cover the pot and let it sit for 17 minutes without disturbing the eggs.  Pour off the water and rinse with the eggs in cold water and let them cool.  Discard the onion skins.  Once the eggs are cool enough to touch, you can begin to unwrap your little treasures and marvel at your beautiful, artisanal, naturally dyed Easter eggs. Refrigerate until you’re ready to hide or get cracking and eat them right away! Happy Easter!

 

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