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Organic Dried Cranberries: 5 Favorite Ways to Use Them

You may already be familiar with the dried cranberries that go by the name ‘Craisins’.  They’re a delicious snack and they’re great for on-the-go, but I want to let you know why it is important to choose organic dried cranberries instead.  Most commercial dried fruit uses additives and preservatives that maintain the color and the softness of the fruit.  Not only are these additives not necessary, they may be harmful to your health.  Sulfur dioxide, the most common additive in conventional dried fruits, may cause health problems if you have asthma, sulfite sensitivity or sulfite allergy.

Also, when you choose organic dried cranberries, you’re avoiding both pesticides and potentially GMO sweeteners that are often used on conventional cranberries.  Considering this is a great snack for kids and their smaller bodies are more sensitive to pesticides, why buy anything but organic?

organic dried cranberries

Health Benefits of Organic Dried Cranberries

Nutrients like vitamin C and fiber play a very important role in cranberry’s health benefits but its really the phytonutrients in cranberries that are so beneficial.  Containing phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, and flavonoids, cranberries have been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits, help control urinary tract infections, support the immune and cardiovascular systems, benefit the digestive system and are cancer preventative.  All of that in a tiny red berry makes you wonder how you can start to incorporate more of them in your diet on a regular basis.

 

Five Ways to Use Organic Dried Cranberries

 

Desserts

Organic dried cranberries add a tart burst of flavor to your favorite dessert recipes.  Try substituting some or all of the raisins in your dessert recipes for a change of pace.  Recipes like oatmeal raisin cookies, apple pie, biscotti and rice pudding are perfect for substituting dried cranberries for raisins.  Use a 1 for 1 replacement.  Here’s an easy recipe for a cranberry biscotti that is great for the holiday season:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups cane sugar
1 1/2 cups toasted pecan halves
1 cup dried organic cranberries
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roughly chop the pecans and set aside. Combine baking powder, flour, sugar, and salt. In another bowl, beat eggs, yolks, and vanilla and add to dry ingredients.  Mix until a sticky dough is formed.  Add in the pecans, cranberries, and lemon zest. Turn dough out onto well-floured surface.  Sprinkle with flour and knead slightly. Shape into 9-by-3 1/2-inch logs. Transfer to baking sheet and bake until brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool enough to handle. Lower oven to 275 degrees. On cutting board, cut logs on diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Return pieces cut side down to baking sheet. Bake until lightly toasted, about 20 minutes. Turn over and bake another 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack and store in airtight container.

 

 Granola

Making homemade granola is really simple, much less expensive than store bought, and you can customize the ingredients.  Here’s a simple recipe for organic granola using dried cranberries that is perfect for the holiday season:

4 cups regular rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons sunflower oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped raw walnuts
1 cup organic dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix the oats, coconut, walnuts, salt, and cinnamon and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Pour half of the liquid mixture over the oats mixture, in the large bowl. Use your hands to combine them until well mixed then pour in the rest of the liquid and mix again, making sure all of the oats are coated.  Pour the mixture onto the baking sheets and spread it out evenly or in small clumps if you like granola the sticks together. Bake for 10 minutes then stir and bake for another 10 minutes.  Stir again and return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until toasted brown. Stir in the dried cranberries and let the granola cool completely before storing in an air tight container.

Salad Topping

I eat a lot of salads in my house so I’m always looking for ways to jazz them up with something different.  Adding nuts or seeds along with a dried fruit makes the salad come to life.  One of my favorite combinations is pecans and cranberries.  Here’s a recipe for a spinach salad using dried organic cranberries:

6 cups organic mesclun salad mix
1/2 cup organic pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons organic white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons organic olive oil
2 teaspoons organic dijon mustard
Salt and ground black pepper
1/3 cup organic dried cranberries
1/3 cup organic walnut pieces

In a bowl, combine the pomegranate juice, vinegar, olive oil, and mustard and whisk to combine.  Place mesclun mix in a large bowl and pour the dressing on top.  Toss to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Top with cranberries and walnuts and serve.

 

Breads and Muffins

Baked goods get a tart lift when you add organic dried cranberries.  From holiday breads to breakfast muffins, adding cranberries also gives you a boost of antioxidants.  Here’s a recipe for an organic cranberry bread – serve it warm right out of the oven or room temperature.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
zest of one orange
1/3 c fresh squeezed orange juice (from the zested orange)
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup sunflower or safflower oil
½ cup chopped pecans
1 cup organic dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan; set aside.  In a large bowl stir together the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, cranberries and chopped nuts.  In small bowl beat eggs with a fork and stir in milk, orange zest and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened; the batter should be lumpy.  Add the orange juice and stir to combine.  Pour into loaf pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool on wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

 

Snacks

Adding organic dried cranberries to snacks like trail mix, snack bars or popcorn balls is a great way to get healthy antioxidants into your diet.  Here’s a recipe for popcorn balls that are really fun to make with kids for holiday gifts.

8 cups popped plain popcorn
1 cup organic dried cranberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons butter

Place popcorn and dried cranberries in a large mixing bowl; set aside. Combine the brown sugar and maple syrup in a small pan and add butter. Cook over medium heat, until butter melts and mixure comes to a boil, stirring frequently until the mixture thickens slightly. Pour over popcorn mixture, stirring until coated. Dip hands in cold water. Shape popcorn mixture into 2-inch balls, pressing firmly to hold shape. Place on waxed paper and cool completely. Let stand overnight to harden. Wrap in decorative plastic wrap. Makes 12 balls.

What are your favorite ways to use organic dried cranberries?  Let us know in the comments!

Avoiding GMO’s Part II: Are There GMO’s in Breakfast Foods?

In this five part series for Non-GMO Month, we’ll take a look at common food items that likely contain GMO’s and we’ll be offering non-GMO alternatives.  Avoiding GMO’s in breakfast foods is quite easy once you know what to look for so we’ll be sharing with you some tips on how to keep your diet GMO free.

Avoiding GMO's in breakfast foods

We’ve all been told that we need to start the day with a good, healthy breakfast but have you ever stopped to wonder if there are GMO’s in breakfast foods you love?  Make sure you’re feeding yourself and your family non-gmo breakfasts by using the guidelines below.  Avoiding GMO’s in breakfast foods is easy once you know the secrets.

5 Tips for Avoiding GMO’s in Breakfast Foods

1 – The easiest way to make sure you are avoiding GMO’s in breakfast foods is to buy organic.  This goes for breakfast foods and any foods that you’re buying. Any product that has the USDA Organic logo on it is by definition non-GMO.

2 – Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified label on packages.  Even if a product isn’t certified organic, it can be non-gmo.  To be certain, look for this third party verification.

3 – Enjoy single ingredient foods for breakfast.  Fruit (aside from papaya) is non-gmo so enjoy fresh bananas, grapefruits, melons, apples, kiwi, grapes or any of your favorite fruits.  Single ingredient hot breakfast cereals are also going to be non-gmo.  Cook up some oats, buckwheat, millet or rice and enjoy a porridge for breakfast.  Add some dried fruit, just make sure there aren’t any added ingredients like sweeteners or oils in the dried fruit.

4 – Make a green smoothie for breakfast.  Using fresh, whole ingredients is an easy way to make sure you’re avoiding gmo’s all the time.  Try blending a handful of spinach with a frozen banana, a couple of dates and a spoonful of coconut oil in a little water for a healthy way to start the day.

5 – When you’re buying packaged breakfast foods, avoid risky ingredients.  Most supermarket snack foods contain corn, soy and canola – ingredients that are very likely to be genetically modified.  Some ingredients will be obvious, like corn flour, corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup, soy flour, soy lecithin, soy protein isolate, soy isoflavone, canola oil, cottonseed oil.  Some ingredients are sneaky in that they don’t list what their made from.  These sneaky ingredients can be GMO if the product isn’t organic: amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, vitamin c, citric acid, sodium citrate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrin, molasses, sucrose, textured vegetable protein (tvp), xanthan gum, vitamins, and yeast.

Avoiding GMO ingredients is easy when you know you have organic alternatives.  The chart above gives you great suggestions for replacements.  For just about any breakfast food you can think of, there’s an organic or non-gmo version, you just have to know what to look for!

Are there any breakfast foods you just love but don’t know how to find a non-gmo version of? Let us know and we’ll direct you to it!

Organic Baby Formula & Other Healthy Alternatives to Breastfeeding

As a mother I have been on every side of the breastfeeding vs. supplementing vs. organic baby formula debate. From not being able to nurse a child at all, to organic baby formula feeding, to breastfeeding with supplementation and currently I am fortunate to say that I was able to breastfeed by youngest child without supplements or bottles for the entire first year of her life.

web-md-photo-organic-baby-formula

Photo credit: WebMD

Having been on all sides of the feeding baby spectrum I must point out how your child’s health benefits from breastfeeding:

  • Breast milk is perfectly designed for your baby’s physical and mental development.
  • Colostrum that is produced by the mammary glands during the first few days of a baby’s life helps guard baby against colds, flu, staph infections, polio and other viruses.
  • They also benefit from appropriate jaw, teeth and speech development as well as overall facial development
  • Breastfeeding diminishes the onset of type 2 diabetes in both the mother and the child.
  • Babies who are breastfed are less vulnerable to allergies and heart diseases.
  • Unlike formula, breast milk is able to adapt to the changing needs of your baby.
  • Breast milk contains live enzymes that help babies produce important antibodies and ward off infections.
  • Breast milk has just the right amount of nutrients for your baby and plays a key role in enhancing its immune system. This also improves the overall health of the mother.

And that’s just to name a few, there are so many other added benefits to breastfeeding your child, the one I like most is that it’s ALWAYS readily available.  I remember packing around water, formula, bottles and that was just no fun.  It’s so much easier when your baby’s meal is attached to you ;) Having said all that, I must express that even though mother’s milk is far superior to formula, the fact of the matter is sometimes it’s just not an option.  Some mothers are unable to breastfeed for medical reasons or they may have an inadequate milk supply or it may be that they’re not able to produce milk at all.  Each mother is different and every situation is different and there will be times when a mother needs to supplement.  In that case there are a few alternative options you may want to look into.

Healthy Alternative Options to Breastfeeding

A wonderful first option would be to find a trusted friend or a relative who might be willing to donate fresh milk or you can even find a milk bank to purchase donated milk (which has been tested).

Secondly, if that is not an option the next best thing would be to make your own formula, and personally if I had known this information with my formula fed baby, this is the direction I would have gone. Here are some great whole foods based formula recipes, based on Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions.

Organic Baby Formula

Lastly, if none of the above alternative options work for you that’s when I would look into pre-made organic baby formula.  Make sure you read your labels and stay away from conventional formulas and always make sure you buy organic baby formula.  Here is a good organic baby formula option.  This brand of organic baby formula is suggested for a baby 12 months and older. For infants less than 12 months, use as directed by a healthcare professional.

The most important advice I could give to any new mom, is to do your research and educate yourself on breastfeeding and organic baby formula feeding and that way you can make the best decisions for you and your child.

*Note on Goat milk: Although goat milk is rich in fat, it must be used with caution in infant feeding as it lacks folic acid and is low in vitamin B12  (both are essential to growth and development).  Look here and under the first recipe it will say, Variation: Goat Milk Formula which will instruct you how to make a proper goat milk recipe.

Avoiding GMO’s Part I: Are GMO’s Lurking in Your Snack Foods?

In this five part series for Non-GMO Month, we’ll take a look at common food items that likely contain GMO’s and we’ll be offering non-GMO alternatives.  Avoiding GMO’s is quite easy once you know what to look for so we’ll be sharing with you some tips on how to keep your diet GMO free.

 

Avoiding GMO's

Do you ever wonder if there are GMO’s lurking in your favorite snack foods?  If you do, you’re not alone, and if you’re not eating organic snack foods, there probably are GMO’s in your snacks.  Since GMO’s aren’t labeled in the US, how can you tell?  Here are some tips:

3 Tips for Avoiding GMO’s in Snack Foods

1 – The easiest way to make sure you are avoiding GMO’s is to buy organic.  This goes for snack foods and any foods that you’re buying. Any product that has the USDA Organic logo on it is by definition non-GMO.

2 – Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified label on packages.  Even if a product isn’t certified organic, it can be non-gmo.  To be certain, look for this third party verification.

3 – Avoid risky ingredients.  Most supermarket snack foods contain corn, soy and canola – ingredients that are very likely to be genetically modified.  Some ingredients will be obvious, like corn flour, corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup, soy flour, soy lecithin, soy protein isolate, soy isoflavone, canola oil, cottonseed oil.  Some ingredients are sneaky in that they don’t list what their made from.  These sneaky ingredients can be GMO if the product isn’t organic: amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, vitamin c, citric acid, sodium citrate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrin, molasses, sucrose, textured vegetable protein (tvp), xanthan gum, vitamins, and yeast.

Avoiding GMO ingredients is easy when you know you have organic alternatives.  The chart above gives you great suggestions for replacements.  For just about any snack food you can think of, there’s an organic or non-gmo version, you just have to know what to look for!

Are there any snack foods you just love but don’t know how to find a non-gmo version of? Let us know and we’ll direct you to it!

October Specials at shopOrganic

Each month shopOrganic offers a different selection of sale items so that you can save a little money on the path of making better choices.  These specials also give you an opportunity to try some new products that you might have overlooked before. We’ve highlighted some of these great products below. Be sure to head up to shopOrganic.com’s Sale section to see all of the October specials at shopOrganic.

October Specials at shopOrganicoctober specials

Andalou Naturals
All products 10% Off

Andalou Naturals is the first body care company to obtain Non-GMO Verified certification.  Andalou infuses the best of nature and knowledge into mindful and effective products that are good for people and the planet.  Their products are made with fruit stem cells which renews skin at the cellular level, blending nature and knowledge for visible  results. Click HERE to try this October special now.

Cherryvale Farms Organic Mixes
Select varieties 10% Off

Cherryvale makes baking healthy breads and muffins quick and easy.  They make great lunchbox additions, easy breakfasts and outstanding sides or desserts.  Made with organic ingredients, just add a few simple ingredients and you’ve got fresh baked goods to make your house smell wonderful and your tummies happy.  Click HERE to try this October special now.

Edward & Sons
Organic Breadcrumbs 10% Off

Just in time for the holiday season, we have Edward & Sons line of organic breadcrumbs on sale for you.  Great for breading chicken, fish or tofu, for adding to meatloaf, stuffing and casseroles.  Click HERE to try this October special now.

Envirokidz Cereal
Eco-Sizes 10% Off

Buying cereal in bulk can save lots of money – save even more on Envirokidz Eco-Pak Organic Cereals this month at shopOrganic.  Available in kid-friendly varieties like Peanut Butter Panda Puffs, Cocoa Koala Crisp and Gorrilla Munch.  Click HERE to try this October special.

EO Products
Everyone Soap For Kids & Organic Deodorant 10% Off

For frugal families, EO’s Everyone Soap for Kids is a great deal.  A 3 in 1 product, you can use it for shampoo, body wash and bubble bath.  Available in kid-friendly scents like tropical, citrus and lavender.  EO’s Organic Deodorant Sprays are an effective way to stay smelling fresh all day long; available in three cool scents.  Click HERE to try this October special today.

Farmer’s Market
Canned Organic Vegetable Puree 10% Off

With the holidays just around the corner, its a great time to stock up on canned pumpkin, sweet potato and butternut squash.  Great in casseroles, soups, stews and desserts.  Click HERE to try them all.

Lundberg
Organic Rice Cakes, Pasta & Sauce Meals & Whole Grain Rice Entrees 10% Off

A perfect low-cal afternoon snack, Lundberg’s organic rice cakes are great to have on hand, especially with their new flavors like Hempalicious, Sweet Chili, and Kettlecorn.  Their new products, Pasta & Sauce meals and the Whole Grain Rice Entrees are flying off the shelves.  They make it really easy to prepare some home cooked food without the hassle.  Click HERE to try them all.

Newman’s Own Organics
Hermit Cookies, Dog Treats, Mints & Cookie-O’s 10% Off

We’ve got a whole variety of Newman’s products on sale this month, from their famous Newman O’s cookies to the delicately spiced and sweetened Hermit cookies, to dog treats to their 4-packs of mints, you can’t go wrong with Newman’s.  Click HERE to check out this October special.

Othentic
Select varieties of Organic Jarred Vegetables 10% Off  

Imported from Poland and made with simple old world ingredients, Othentic’s jarred vegetable salads and pickles will leave your taste buds tickled with great flavors.  The pickled baby beets are so tender and sweet, the spicy vegetable salad is tangy with a kick, the dill pickles have just the right amount of sour and crunch; try them all!    Click HERE to try them now.

Pure Bar
Organic Snack Bars 10% Off  

Made with great organic ingredients, these bars taste like real food because they are! Vegan, Kosher, Gluten Free and Non-GMO with intense flavors, they’re really satisfying.   Click HERE to try this October special now.

Simple Squares
Organic Snack Bars 10% Off  
Simple Squares are organic, whole food snack bars made from simple, delicious ingredients.  They are great for a variety of diets – they’re raw, gluten free, kosher and paleo.   Click HERE to try them now.

Veggie Go’s
Organic Fruit & Veggie Snacks 10% Off  
Like fruit leather but better with veggies!  Veggie Go’s make a great lunch box addition, a perfect snack to keep in a purse or in your drawer at work.   Click HERE to try them now.

Take advantage of these great sale items and more throughout October at shopOrganic.

Organic Gelatin Powder: Benefits, Uses & Cooking Tips

I don’t know about you, but in the past when I heard the word, gelatin I would automatically think Jell-O! After learning more and more about it, I’d now say it could almost be classified as a superfood, because of its many

organic-gelatin-powder

Photo credit: NaturalHealth365.com

amazing health benefits and uses.  We have even incorporated organic gelatin powder into our family’s whole food diet and use it often. Here is why:

Benefits of Organic Gelatin:

  1. Organic gelatin contains half of the 18 essential amino acids, needed for survival with one of the most important amino acid called glycine.
  2. It improves digestion by naturally binding to water and helps food move through the digestive tract more easily.
  3. If you want to lose weight gelatin is thought to increase the production of Human Growth Hormone and to boost metabolism.  And with its nutrient-dense content, it also helps keep you full!
  4. Check this out: some experts suggest adding gelatin to the diet to help alleviate a number of allergies.
  5. It can help tighten up loose skin and reduce wrinkles when taken internally. Some say it helps with cellulite.
  6. Organic gelatin is good for both joint and bone health because it contains many of amino acids important in helping to prevent the weakness of cartilage in joints.  With its anti-inflammatory traits it has also been shown to reduce  the pain of inflammation of arthritis.
  7. Organic gelatin can help speed to heal wounds more quickly.
  8. Organic gelatin has an amnio acid called glycine which plays an important role in the neurotransmitters within the brain. Glycine helps us to get a more restful sleep and not only that it will also help reduce daytime sleepiness and help improve your memory during waking hours.
  9. Organic gelatin is a great detoxifier, helps liver remove toxins from our body.
  10. Lastly, look no further for healthy, strong hair, nails and teeth. Organic gelatin contains karatin a protein which is found in our hair, nails and teeth.

Uses For Organic Gelatin:

  • You can use this just as you would any gelatin powder. The difference is that it’s organic meaning it will not contain any preservatives, additives or chemicals.  You will be getting a better quality outcome with wonderful health benefits.
  • Organic gelatin is very versatile.  Try adding a bit to the next soup or stew you make.
  • Powdered gelatin can be used in making tasty desserts of all sorts.  Homemade Jell-Os, mousses, and puddings with organic gelatin are so yummy.  You can even make marshmallows.
  • Add 1 tsp to your shampoo to help your hair grow thick and strong.
  • Take as a daily supplement. I like to actually drink mine in tea. Add 1 Tbsp to your tea and stir.
  • Using in place of your protein powder for smoothies is an excellent alternative.
  • 1 Tbsp in a cup of chamomile tea before bed will help you get that good sleep (I mix the gelatin in with a little cold water first then poor in the hot – this helps with clumping).

Organic Gelatin Cooking Tips:

  • Jellies should never be frozen. After defrosting they lose their smooth consistency and become brittle.
  • Too much sugar can inhibit gelatinization. The more sugar in the recipe, the softer the resultant gelatin will be.
  • When making jellies and puddings using raw kiwis, figs, pineapple, papayas or mangoes you should briefly steam the fruit or pour hot water over it prior to preparation. These fruits contain an enzyme that splits protein, which breaks up the gelatin and makes it liquefy.
  • Never add gelatin to boiling liquid because it loses its gelling strength.
  • Unprepared gelatin has an indefinite shelf-life as long as it is wrapped airtight and stored in a cool, dry place.

Do you use Organic Gelatin Powder?  What are your favorite uses?

A Guide to Organic Sweeteners

I’ll admit it, I’ve got a sweet tooth.  I ditched refined sugars many years ago and have since turned to various natural and organic sweeteners to satisfy that craving.Organic Sweeteners

Most of us know that white sugar has no real nutritional value. But more importantly, because white sugar is so refined, it can rob your body of essential nutrients as it is digested. That’s why, as a general rule, it’s better to eat less-processed foods – they are typically more nutritionally complete and do not rob your body of essential nutrients as they’re digested. Some even contribute to your overall health by providing added nutrients.

So, next time you want to create something that’s naturally sweet and good for you too, reach for one of these alternative organic sweeteners. While some are better than others, you can be sure that organic sweeteners are going to be better than regular sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  Experiment and enjoy the new taste sensations you can create, knowing you’re contributing to your health.

11 Favorite Organic Sweeteners

Here is an alphabetical listing of the various natural and organic sweeteners available along with their benefits and how to use them.  You might find a few organic sweeteners you’ve never heard of or ones you’re interested in trying!

Agave Nectar
Agave nectar comes from the agave plant, which grows naturally in the desert southwest and is found abundantly in Mexico. The plant itself is a succulent that looks a bit like a pineapple. The nectar of this plant is obtained by pressing the leaves of the agave plant. Agave nectar, or syrup, is about 50% sweeter than table sugar but has a low glycemic index.  It has come under a lot of scrutiny lately because it is highly processed, and while it technically has a low glycemic index, the reason for that is the primary sugar in agave is fructose, not glucose.  Fructose can be damaging to your liver and heart. The liver processes fructose into triglycerides, or blood fats, which increase the risk of heart disease as well as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. It also increases LDL cholesterol, promotes the buildup of fat around organs, increases blood pressure, makes tissues insulin-resistant (a precursor to diabetes), and increases the production of free radicals.  As a liquid sweetener, agave can be useful in certain recipes, however this is one of the organic sweeteners to use caution with.  While we should all try to consume less sweeteners in general, try to consume this one as little as possible.

Barley Malt
Barley malt is unique in this list of organic sweeteners in that is made from sprouted barley. It’s a thick brown syrup that has a taste similar to molasses. It can be used as a substitute for molasses or other organic sweeteners. It’s about half as sweet as table sugar, so you’ll need to adjust amounts to taste. It can be combined with maple syrup in recipes to yield a sweeter result. It contains complex carbohydrates as well as minerals and protein.

Brown Rice Syrup
Brown rice syrup is made from brown rice and has a slightly butterscotch flavor. It’s about half as sweet as table sugar and can be used in recipes like other sweeteners. It can be combined with honey or maple syrup to yield a sweeter result.

Date Sugar
Date sugar is made from dates and comes in a granulated form. Date sugar is a course, brown granule that can be used instead of table sugar. However, date sugar burns easily, so use caution in recipes where high temperatures or long cooking time (stove top or oven) come into the picture. Date sugar contains complex carbohydrates and is fairly high in folic acid.

Honey
Honey is made by bees, which extract nectar from flowers. The color of honey depends on the plants from which the bees extract nectar – the color can be a light golden color to a rich dark golden brown. It is about 20-60% sweeter than table sugar, so you should adjust your measurements accordingly. Honey contains complex carbohydrates and some proponents believe that consuming honey from your local area may help reduce seasonal allergies, if those allergies are related to local plant pollen.

Maple sugar
Maple sugar is the granulated product made from maple syrup, which comes from the sap of maple trees. Maple sugar is a coarse light brown sugar that has roughly the same sweetness as table sugar. It contains complex carbohydrates as well as calcium and potassium. It can be used in recipes as an equal replacement for sugar.

Maple syrup
Maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees and is a rich, deep golden brown color. It is about as sweet as table sugar and less sweet than honey. It can be used in recipes where sugar is called for and can be combined with other less sweet sweeteners (brown rice syrup, barley malt) for a combined flavor that’s both pleasing and unique. Like maple sugar, it contains complex carbohydrates, calcium and potassium. Maple syrup comes in different grades. Grade A Amber is a light syrup with a mild flavor often used for making maple candy. Grade A Medium Amber has a slightly stronger maple flavor and is most often used as table syrup. Grade A Dark Amber has a stronger maple flavor and a darker color. Grade B, sometimes called cooking syrup, has the strongest maple flavor and some caramel flavor. It is sometimes used as table syrup for it’s distinct (and strong) maple flavor and also works well in cooking. With maple flavor, a B will get you A+ results!

Sucanat
Sucunat (a registered trademarked name) is made from dehydrated fresh cane juice. The process leaves more nutritional components in the product and it contains calcium, potassium and a small amount of iron. It has a taste similar to sugar and molasses. It comes in both syrup and granulated form and can be used in recipes calling for sugar of all kinds.

Stevia
Stevia comes from a South American plant by the same name and is related to the Marigold family. The leaves can be used, but the most common form found on the market today is a fine white powder that looks similar to aspartame or artificial sweeteners. The powder is 250-300 times sweeter than sugar, so small amounts will provide significant sweetness. Stevia has no glycemic value and does not contain carbohydrates, glucose or any form of sugar. Thus, it is safe for diabetics and has no side effects that artificial sweeteners (and aspartame) can have. Stevia has been used for thousands of years by the ancient people of South America and it is widely used in Japan to sweeten soft drinks, ready-made beverages and tea. It can be difficult to use in baking because it does not caramelize or melt like sugar does and it does not make baked goods crispy or gooey. If you want to use it for baking, look for stevia recipes or experiment, but don’t use it as straight substitute for sugar in baking. It’s great in non-baked products that require sweetening. Interestingly, it also has properties that help prevent cavities, so you can get your sweets and help your teeth all at once. One of my favorite ways to use flavored stevia is in beverages – try some rootbeer, cola, or vanilla creme stevia in some club soda and you’ve got a refreshing ‘soda’.

Turbinado sugar
Turbinado sugar is made from the cane plant, as is white table sugar. Turbinado sugar is slightly less processed than table sugar and through a tumbling process has about 2/3 of the molasses removed from it. This yields a light brown sugar that has the same sweetness as table sugar but is slightly less refined. It contains some complex carbohydrates has a slightly better nutritional profile than refined white table sugar.  Of the organic sweeteners in the list it is the most easily substituted sweetener for recipes.

Xylitol
Xylitol, a sweetener made from birch trees, does not require insulin in order to be metabolized so it is a great sugar alternative for diabetics.  It doesn’t cause any increase in blood sugar levels or serum insulin response.  Xylitol has other benefits as well.  It is great for your teeth and gums.  Xylitol creates a barrier between germs and your gums and has been shown to be beneficial for dental health.  It’s why you’ll find a lot of chewing gums using this natural sweetener.  It is also beneficial for sinus health; the antibacterial properties in the xylitol are beneficial for sinus infections.  (*Xylitol is highly dangerous for dogs so make sure to keep any xylitol products out of their reach. Even small amounts from candies can be toxic. If your dog eats a product that contains xylitol, it is important to take the dog to a veterinarian immediately. )

What are your favorite organic sweeteners and how do you like to use them?  Let us know in the comments!

Elderberry Syrup Recipe for Combating Flu Season

Now that summer has almost ended and most of our kiddos are back in school, there is one thing looming on my mind… the dreaded flu season.  I love it when the kids go back to school, but what I DON’T love is what they elderberry-syrup-recipeBRING home from school: GERMS!   With all the onslaught of germs comes the sniffles, pukes, night time coughing and fevers… and what I hate even more is that after one kid gets sick, the other ones soon do too… and it seems to go on forever.  Even me, who prided myself on not getting sick had to drag myself to my N.D. last year when I got the flu for the first time in 6 years (and it took me down…hard!).  At the end of my appointment my N.D. typed up my “prescriptions” and first thing on the list was Elderberry Syrup.

He began to tell me that a study was done between Tamiflu (a well-known flu medication) and elderberry syrup comparing how they treat the flu and elderberry syrup knocked Tamiflu out of the park!  Elderberries contain a ton of healthy properties (including antioxidants, tannins, vitamins A, B, and C, flavonoids, and much more), which help strengthen the immune system, which makes elderberry syrup very effective in treating the flu.  But to buy elderberry syrup through my N.D. or health food store it seemed to run anywhere from $15-$20 for a 4-8 oz. bottle.  I thought that was a little steep so I decided I wanted to save some money and take a stab at making my own.  I did and I was able to make 2 batches (of 16 oz. or more) in what it cost for a 4-8 oz. bottle.  What’s even better is that elderberry syrup tastes delicious!  It’s not a syrup I have to fight my children to take…they ask for it!  Now let’s get started with the recipe!

Elderberry Syrup Recipe

Ingredients:

elderberry-syrup-ingredients

  • 2/3 cup dried elderberries
  • 3-3 1/2 cup water (distilled, spring or filtered is best, preferably not tap water)
  • 2 tbsp. of one of the following : garlic (chopped), Ginger root, dried echincacea)
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks or powder
  • 1 tsp. dried whole cloves or 1/2 tsp clove powder  (optional)
  • 1 cup raw or local honey or local honey

Step 1: Place berries, water, and spices in a saucepan.

elderberry-syrup-recipe-step-1

Step 2: Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 45-50 minutes. (I was busy with my toddler and mine simmered for around 60 minutes, and it was fine) The liquid will reduce a bit, and that’s perfectly normal.

elderberry-syrup-recipe-step-2

Step 3: Smash the berries to release remaining juice and strain the mixture, I used a fine strainer here but I have also used a nut milk bag and was able to squeeze a lot more juice out, I was a just a little lazy this time around.

elderberry-syrup-recipe-step-3

Step 4: Now that the liquid is cooled down a bit, stir in your honey.  We do this here because if we did this step in the beginning when the liquid is very hot it would kill all those important flu fighting enzymes in the honey.

elderberry-syrup-recipe-step-4

There you have it your very own, flu fighting Elderberry Syrup!

Elderberry-Syrup

Standard dosage for prevention:

Babies – Under the age of 1 should not take syrup which contains honey.

Kids – 1/2 -1 tsp. a daily

Adults – 1/2 tbsp. – 1 tbsp. daily

When the onset of flu or colds strike take normal dosages every 2-3 hours until symptoms are gone. Elderberry syrup stored in a glass container, tightly in the refrigerator will last up to two months!

Not into making Syrup. Try this Elderberry Juice and here are some other good immune boosting supplements!

*Note:  In my recipe above I used garlic.  I usually use grated ginger or dried Echinacea. I wasn’t sure how it was going to taste with the garlic so I decided that  I would grate some organic orange zest purely for flavor.  Using the garlic did change the flavor profile but thankfully the kids still like it…just wouldn’t want to pour it over my pancakes.  Experiment with the flavors you like!

Do The Math: Making Your Own Elderberry Syrup vs. Buying It

I want to show you how much I spent making this flu fighting syrup I want to break it down for you.

  • 2/3 c dried Elderberries = $3.40 (1.70 an oz. at my local herb store)
  • Spices combined (unless you are using Echinacea root then it might be a little more) = less than $1.00
  • 3 c Distilled water= $0.25
  • Raw honey = $3.50 (depending on honey brand you use it could be more or less)

Total= $8.15

That’s a HUGE savings compared to this and you should yield around 190 tsp or 60 Tbsp per batch!

Oh, one more time with the reminder: I’m not a health care professional (yet, starting school next week though, yippee!) and this blog post does not take place of any medical advice. If you have questions, please consult your health care professional.

Here’s to a healthy flu season!   Don’t forget to drink your water.  Good tip is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day (for example: if you weight 150lbs drink 70 ounces of water)!

Share with us in the comments what you do to help keep your immunity up during the flu season!

Why Organic Matters To You – Share Your Story!

Why Organic?

shopOrganic co-founder ponders the question of why organic matters during Organic Harvest Month

In just the past few weeks, I’ve had some remarkable conversations with people when they find out I am one of why organicthe co-founders of shopOrganic.com; the topic of ‘Why Organic’ keeps coming up. In one conversation, three women and two men spontaneously started asking questions about whether we offered specific products. Thankfully, my product knowledge (we have over 4,000 products) was strong enough that I was able to answer almost all of their questions – but what it showed me is how many people, who are well-informed on the benefits of organic and non-GMO foods, are still looking for a trusted source for organic products. My takeaway was that we have a lot of upside potential to make shopOrganic better known! In another conversation just last night, I was at a social function for women in leadership in the community (thank you Quarles & Brady for that wonderful event) and when I stood to introduce myself and mentioned shopOrganic.com, there was a fairly loud outburst of chatter – mostly “I need to write that down” and “what was the URL again?” – and my conversations throughout the evening focused around food (my favorite topic) and how clean food is so important to health. “Why Organic” came up again and again as we talked about healthy, clean food choices.

If that’s all I had to report, it would be a short story. But there’s more. In the first event, one woman later told me she was a breast cancer survivor and though she’d always eaten a nutritionally sound diet, she hadn’t really ‘put much stock in organic.’ After her diagnosis, she told me, she got really serious about looking at what she was putting in and on her body. Her answer to ‘Why Organic’, was that organic food, organic body care and non-toxic cleaning products were the only sane way to approach her post-diagnosis life. I’m happy to report she is 100% healthy and cancer-free now, and she is a strong advocate for organic products. It was affirming to hear from her perspective why organic was so vital to the health of our bodies and our planet.

At the event last night, one woman sat down with me and told me how she’d been tired, stressed from work and running ragged for months. She’d been putting on weight gradually (stress weight) and that things just weren’t going smoothly. She had decided about three weeks ago to clean up her diet. She stopped eating a lot of processed foods and moved to cooking more and using organic and non-GMO ingredients – from fresh fruits and vegetables (always important) to organic grains, nuts, dried fruits, juices and more. She said she felt better in three weeks than she’d felt in years and was astounded at how much more energy she had. Her answer to ‘Why Organic’ was  connected to her increased energy after eating a much cleaner diet.  She clearly came to understand the connection between the things she eats and the way she feels. While that can be said of conventional ‘junk’ food versus a nutritious diet, she took it one step further and also made the connection between chemicals (additives or residual) in conventional foods, even those deemed health, and her own health. She’s convinced that organic food is the most healthful approach and she’s begun incorporating organic food into her diet. She, of course, was thrilled to find out about shopOrganic.com.

These heart-felt conversations made me understand that more and more people are making the connection between their health and the health of the planet. It sometimes is slow going, a one-by-one process, but ultimately that’s how things change. I was heartened to hear these stories and wanted to share them with you. This month is organic month and to celebrate, I’d love to hear your story.

Organic Goji Berries: A Powerful Superfood

With superfoods being all the rage, let’s take a closer look at organic goji berries.  Often praised as the next fountain of youth, organic goji berries look like a shriveled red raisin.  They are both tangy and sweet with a raisin-like texture.organic goji berries

Organic goji berries are also known as wolfberries.  They come from a shrub that is native to China but grows in many parts of the world.  In Asia, goji berries have a reputation for extending life and are eating for many health reasons.  They have been associated with health benefits for diabetes, high blood pressure and age-related eye problems.

Filled with powerful antioxidants, organic goji berries join the list of other berries like acai, blueberry, cranberry and strawberry that have very high antioxidant levels.  The body uses antioxidants to combat damage from free radicals that can injure cells and damage DNA, creating abnormal cells.  Antioxidants can combat the destruction that free radicals cause.

High in Vitamin A and other carotenoids, organic goji berries can protect or even improve your vision.  They also contain the synergistic antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which are beneficial for eye health.

Organic goji berries are a great source of protein and minerals, containing 19 amino acids (including all 8 essential amino acids) as well as zinc, iron, copper, calcium, selenium and phosphorus.

Known as an adapotgen, organic goji berries help strengthen the body wherever it needs it.  They support the adrenal glands and endocrine glands, helping to keep stress feelings under control.

With all of those health benefits, you may be rushing to order some immediately, but what do you do with them once you have them?  Organic goji berries can be eaten dried like raisins in trail mixes, added to smoothies or desserts.  They can also be cooked into baked goods or used in herbal teas. Make sure to buy organic goji berries and not conventional, as the sulfites used on conventional dried fruits can be harmful to your health.

Organic goji berries recipes

Easy Organic Energy Bars

1 cup organic walnuts
1 cup organic almonds
1 cup organic pumpkin seeds
6-8 organic medjool dates
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp organic vanilla extract
1 Tbsp organic coconut flour
½ cup organic maple syrup
½ cup organic cacao nibs
1 cup organic goji berries

Preheat oven to 350F.  Process in a food processor the walnuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds..  Add the dates and pulse a few times to combine but leave some texture.  Place the mixture in a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.  Mix well to combine ingredients.  Spread mixure into an 8×8 baking dish.  Bake for 20 minutes, cut into squares and serve or store.  These freeze well for handy snacks.

Super Immunity Tea

2 cups filtered water
2 tsp fresh grated ginger root
1/2 lemon, sliced into thin slices
6 whole cloves
3 orange peels
1 Tbsp raw honey
Handful goji berries

Bring water to a boil then turn heat to low and add the  ginger, cloves, orange peels and lemon.  Steep for 10 minutes. Strain into tea cup and stir in honey and goji berries.  Enjoy.

Superfood Trail Mix

½ cup raw almonds
½ cup raw walnuts
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup organic goji berries
¼ cup coconut flakes
¼ cup cacao nibs
¼ cup pumpkin seeds

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and store in an airtight container.

Chocolate-Banana-Goji Smoothie

2 frozen bananas, peeled
1/4 cup cacao powder
1/3 cup dried Goji berries
2 cups (or large handfuls) of fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
6 ounces of filtered water

Start by adding the liquid to your blender, then add the fruit, then the spinach. Blend on high for 30 seconds or until the smoothie is creamy.  If you do not have a high-speed blender, soak the goji berries for 10 minutes before adding them to your blender.

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