A Sneak Peak Into Some Upcoming Health-Minded Products Hitting Your Markets

A few weeks ago I had a chance to go through and test out some upcoming products that are hitting the market in the health and wellness world. So far, these are my favorites (but I’m still working through them all so I’m hoping the list continues to grow!)

Pure Growth Organic: White Cheddar Popcorn 

Image Courtesy of @PureGrowthOrganics

So, hear me out on this. I really don’t like packaged anything. But, when you’re not the only person in the house and the only person in the house who will cook up her own popcorn snack with kernel (on the stove – remember this), then pre-portioned, pre-packaged snacks are kind of a necessity. I try to keep them out, but honestly, this brand did a great job of combining no crap (yes, that’s a technical) term, with organic ingredients. It’s organic, gluten-free, kosher, with absolutely no artificial flavors or colors. Oh, and the popcorn inside is actually really good too without that powdery cheese sticking on your tongue. (Your kids will also love it because lovable Mickey Mouse is on the box).

Popzup Popper 

Image Courtesy of @Popzuppopcorn

Back to popcorn once more and then we’ll move on. If you’re not already aware of how horrible those popcorn bags are that you stuff in your microwave, then you should probably just read this first. It’s not the popcorn that’s unhealthy, it’s the bag that it’s being cooked in as well as the number of artificial flavors and colors that are added into the mix. Instead of letting popcorn get a bad wrap, Popzup Popper created a reusable microwave popcorn popper. It’s plastic and chemical free, made in America, and comes with non-GMO and gluten-free kernels.  I confess… I don’t have a microwave so I had to use a friends, but when I did, we both agreed – it’s delicious. Go out and buy one of these for yourself and a bunch for your friends and family. You’ll be keeping them healthy and they won’t even realize it!

World of Chia – Chia Raspberry Fruit Spread

Image Courtesy @worldofchia

We all are guilty of wanting that PB&J once in a while, knowing full well that that jam is just packed full of sugar. Enter the World of Chia. These fruit spreads are the perfect alternative to those jams hiding in your fridge. Packed full of chia seeds that add in tons of omega 3 and fiber to your serving, it’s one of my favorite discoveries. Yes, you can make it yourself, but when the craving strikes, it’s super easy to just pull it out of your fridge. Bonus: My kid LOVES it. What does suck is trying to get all the sticky chia seeds out of his hair…

Mario’s Brands – Mario’s Meatball Mix Classic Italiano 

Image Courtesy of @mariosmeatballs

Ok, I’m going to reiterate what I said before – I do not like things that come prepackaged. I’m much more of a do-it-yourself kind of gal, but there are just some nights where you’re trying to figure out what the heck you’re going to do for dinner and on a night like that is where I grabbed this meatball mix. I had some ground beef in the fridge, some tomato sauce in the freezer, and a box of pasta. I was ready.

Looking at the ingredients, I decided to half the recipe amount of the mix needed and was delightfully surprised at the outcome. Without having to go through my spice cabinet, or soak some bread, etc. I made meatballs that are pretty close to what your beloved Nonna might make for Sunday supper. Like I said, I went light on the mixture, because I’m weird like that, and the flavors came through loud and clear – in a good way. As for the ingredients, the only negative I would say is that lovely “flavour” at the end of the line. Other than that, I’ll give them a B+!

Savory Creations International – Vegetable Broth Concentrate 

As someone who makes soups quite often and probably doesn’t make stock often enough, this product saved my sanity, time, and my dishes quite a few times. It’s extremely simple – just add it to a cup of water and mix it into your soup – extremely easy to store – tiny little individual packets fit perfectly in the spice cabinet – oh and the best part – there’s absolutely nothing crappy in it (yes, I’m using that word a lot in this post.) Instead of flavorings that you can’t pronounce, you’ll find tomato, mushroom, onion, carrot, and celery extracts, a bit of sugar, salt, yeast extract, and maltodextrin, which is used as a preservative. So, even though there’s no substitute for the real deal broth that you make on your own stove, this is a great alternative for when you’re running low in the kitchen and need some big flavor.

Hak’s – One Pot Cooking Sauce Korean BBQ with Sesame and Ginger

@eathaksThis was my husband’s favorite – probably because I used the sauce with baked chicken wings. First, let me talk about the ingredients. It’s exactly what you would put in a marinade at home: water, tamari soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, onions, garlic, sesame oil, canola oil, green onions, ginger, sesame seeds, cornstarch, crushed red peppers. That is all folks! Seriously. I landed up marinating with the sauce, then baking with it, reserving some of the sauce for an extra coating after baking. It was delicious and honestly, I was really surprise just how much I enjoyed it.

Check out some of these products yourself and see what you and your family think of them. Again, I am a gung-ho make everything yourself girl, but honestly, sometimes I’m just tired and I need some pantry heroes to turn dinner into a reality (instead of a call to takeout).

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Orange… Actually It’s Onion’t You Happy I Said Onions?

After a fun trip to Stockton Market, an absolute must visit for any lover of all good things that you put into your mouth, I had the opportunity to hear about a newly released cookbook dedicated to, you guessed it, ONIONS. I wrote about the cookbook for JerseyBites.com (check out my article here) and they even contributed a recipe for their Appalachian Chimichurri sauce for a BestofNJ.com article (read that one here) that celebrates not only cookbooks written by New Jersey authors, but also GRILLING!

Those two articles were fun to write, but now I want to give a shout out to the whimsicialness (is that a word?) of this book and their authors. First off, I love the idea of taking an under appreciated ingredient… basically the middle child of the culinary world (they’re there, they’re most likely being the mediator, but its rare that people say “oh I wish I was the middle child” – on a side note, I love middle children, I may not be one, but I married one and I love my sister). That said, taking a book and delving into the intricacies of the entire allium family is actually quite fascinating, especially for you food loving people.

We may applaud certain varietals (ramps – that garlic and onion powerhouse- in spring) for their uniqueness, but then look over other varieties (the yellow cooking onion) because they’re just… always there. Instead of just using them as your base, Onions Etcetera: The Essential Alliums Cookbook by Kate Winslow and Guy Ambrosino (NJ residents shout out!), gives you over 150 opportunities to treat them as a main player in the recipe, from the Chimmichurri sauce mentioned above that’s made with ramps to a one pan chicken dish that featured quartered red onions.

Little did we know, but the allium family also offers a number of health benefits from lowering total cholesterol and blood pressure to destroying infection causing bacteria. Dr. Perricone, a leading doctor in the health and wellness food, even named alliums as the SECOND in his top 10 superfoods.

Alliums, which include both onions and garlic (think of how often you use these two ingredients!), contain “organosulfar compounds,” think sulfar, that give these foods their characteristic flavor. Obviously each specific allium is different, so a leek may be a great source of Vitamin K, while a yellow onion is a good source of biotin and dietary fiber. But, as a whole, alliums are packed with antioxidants including quercetin, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Manganese, Iron, and Folate, essential fatty acids including Omega-3s, and even calcium. So what do those lovely compounds do for our body?

Alliums can…

  • Lower total cholesterol while still raising HDL aka “good” cholesterol.
  • Lessen the hardening of the arteries.
  • Lower blood pressure while reducing the risk of blood clots aka reducing the risk of heart attacks.
  • Reduce the risk of certain cancers by producing cells in the blood that naturally fight tumors and infections.
  • Protect against neurological diseases – think brain health!
  • Reduce toxins by enhancing detoxification.

Have I convinced you yet that these kitchen staples deserve a little more appreciation once in a while? I hope so, if not, go on Amazon and order up a copy of Onions Etcetera, I promise it will inspire you. As for me, I’m already inspired and want to share one my favorite ways to not only highlight onions in a dish, especially in the summer, but really make them a can’t miss condiment.

Let me start from the beginning. Many years ago I was in Mexico on vacation, in a little town with dust on the streets, when I had the taco that would change my life. It was simple – the steak was grilled with a few peppers and white onions, the corn tortilla was light, and the salsa was extraordinary. But, what I took away from that taco was the pickled red onions. Ever since that taco, I’ve added this refrigerator staple to almost anything and everything that needs a little zing – from tacos to eggs, rice dishes, salads, and sandwiches. It’s something that’s so simple, but brings such joy, and the best part is… you can make it in a few minutes, for pennies!

I’m giving you the golden culinary ticket here…. I just want you to understand and appreciate this moment.

Ok, so here’s how you make a quick red onion pickle.

First, boil 2-3 cups of water while you peel and thinly slice (think bite sized pieces) one good sized red onion and then peel and chop a garlic clove in half. Get yourself a heat safe glass mason jar, add the onion, garlic, a dash of sugar (I sometimes leave this out), a dash of salt, and 3/4 cup of vinegar (you can use white wine, apple cider, rice… whatever suits your fancy). For the first time, just add the water, stir, place the cap on the jar, and you’ll have pickled onions in a few hours (store in the fridge). Now, when you have become obsessed, you can play around with flavorings, adding in a dried chili, allspice, thyme, etc. Have fun with it!

Until next time… Bee Well,

Melissa

 

Packing In the Protein… Vegan Style

organic vegan protein powder

Let me just start by saying that normally, I don’t do protein powders, whether they’re organic, vegetarian, or vegan. However, there’s always a time when I know I need more than just my normal smoothie routine.

On those particular days, which have become more often then not, where I’m exercising a little bit more and know that the rest of my day might not pack the protein punch that my body craves, I reach for SunWarrior Vegan Protein in combination with all the other smoothie staples that will keep me fuller, longer.

organic vegan protein powderWhy this particular brand in particular? Well, beyond the very cool name (which as a yoga teacher I am particularly drawn to), SunWarrior is everything that I would want in an organic vegan protein powder. It’s soy free, gluten free, dairy free, with no sugar added, and completely vegan. They’re motto of “transforming the planet one warrior at a time,” is pretty spiffy as well.

I tend to be a minimalist, which is why I chose the the natural flavored powder, which when combined with your favorite fruits and veggies, you won’t taste… at all. How many protein powders have you encountered that has that in their repertoire? (Not many!)

organic vegan protein powderThe “Classic Plus” organic and vegan protein powder uses the strength of whole-grain brown rice, pea, chia, quinoa, and amaranth protein – all ingredients that you’ve packed in to your smoothie before, but this time it’s just in one scoop! This American made product that’s created in Utah, has definitely upped my health game.

Head to their website to download your very own Smoothie E-Book that has 52 recipes to get you through the year. Or, try out one of my smoothies on my blog and just add a blast of protein with one scoop of SunWarrior. But since they’ve got me kind of hooked, here’s another smoothie bowl recipe that will have you going bananas!

sunwarrior smoothie recipeKiss the Sun Warrior Smoothie Bowl

1 Scoop SunWarrior Protein
1 Banana
1/2 cup Organic Kefir, Unflavored
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup blackberries
1/2 avocado
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup ice
1/2 cup granola

Mix all ingredients together except for granola. Top your bowl with your favorite crunchy granola or cereal and you’ve got yourself a warrior’s breakfast or power snack!

Sunshine Smoothie Recipe

smoothie recipe

The other day was the first in quite some time where the temperatures climbed into the low 70s. There’s nothing quite like feeling the warm sunshine on your face as you’re working in the dirt.

I spent the day outside after teaching some yoga classes, digging things up, cleaning up the yard, starting seedlings (I know I’m a little late), and really just enjoying the outside with my two dogs (who also got a little spring fever).

smoothie recipe
Picture Courtesy of The Juice Theory

Of course, hard work, especially when you’re using your hands, requires some sort of food to keep you going. I mean, how else are you supposed to get that garden soil ready? For lunch I had an amazing salad from The Juice Theory, an amazing little store that makes some of the freshest and tastiest salads around. I went for the salad special of the day with some avocado. It held me over until my mid afternoon slump when I just had to have something else (especially after having some vines kick some dirt into my mouth). So I made this smoothie with ingredients that I had in the fridge and it’s so good I have to share it with you.

Sometimes creative genius happens when you least expect it!

Enjoy!

smoothie recipe

Sunshine Smoothie
(makes 1 serving)

1/2 cup cooked oats (with some extra water)
1 mango, diced and peeled
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 cup organic Kefir or yogurt
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

Blend all the ingredients together and you’ve got yourself sunshine in a smoothie!!

Now go take a nap!
Now go take a nap!

Meditation On Staying Strong and Showing Weakness

international womens day

Happy International Women’s Day! As a woman, I can name so many women in my life, both past and present, who have affected me and made me into who I am today. There are women that I was close with, those who only came in my life for a fraction of a second, those I’m still connected with, and those that I’ve never met, however they all share a common demoninator and it’s the fact that I will forever be thankful of the bond between us.

meditationMost women (and a lot of men too), tend to feel like they have to “do it all” and “be it all” for their friends, family, and work. However, it’s when we constantly think that “having it all” is what we want, to lose site of what “it all” actually means to us.

Is it a new car?
A new house?
A clean house?
An aspiring career?
Successful kids?
Being able to work 10 hours, take care of the kids, cook dinner (in the spotless kitchen), all while folding laundry and looking like you’re about to step onto the red carpet?

Whatever it is, it’s days like this (that also coincide with the New Moon) that I take a step back and do a little self assessment because if we don’t look inward at our true self then we tend our self worth goes down.

We begin to think that our weaknesses are just that, weaknesses, things that should be avoided, taken down, hidden. But, admitting our weaknesses only show us that we are strong and by turning the attention inward, we become self aware of who we are, who we want to become, and why we want to go there. So think first:

What is my version of “having it all” and is it really what I want?

true self meditationIt’s so easy to get caught up in what we perceive as being “it all” whether it’s from society, our family, or our friends. Our own personal image can get clouded by other people’s ideas of what “it all” actually is.

On this new moon, a time when we need to reconnect with ourselves and reaffirm what we are looking for. It’s a time when our thoughts can become scattered if we don’t focus and take the time and energy to turn inward. It’s also a time when we may beat ourselves down a little bit, feeling lethargic, apathetic, and just down. That’s ok if you’re looking at it with an honest eye and instead of continuing the self beat down, focus on the truth in your comments and see where you can make changes that will help you move forward towards your true self.

true self meditationThis is an easy meditation that anyone could use to help focus on their true self while also opening (which isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign that we are embracing what the universe is offering us). Do it for 2 minutes, 5 minutes, or 40 minutes. Just make some time for yourself. I hope you realize that your strength comes from what you perceive as your weaknesses.

international womens dayFind a comfortable seat. You can sit in easy seat or sukhasana on the floor or on a pillow or bolster. Just find a place where your spine can reach towards the sky while your tailbone grounds down to Mother Earth. Allow space to open between each vertebre of the spine while it helps you lengthen your torso. Roll the shoulders up to the ears on an inhale through the nose and then exhale out the mouth as you bring your shoulders back and down.

Come into your natural breath. Focusing on the breath going in and out through the nostrils. Allow any thoughts or feelings to just float by. Don’t get discouraged if there are a number of thoughts, instead just allow them to move on without becoming attached to them.

Now that you’ve centered yourself, begin to deepen the breath and on an inhale chant (internally or externally) “I am” and on the exhale chant (internally or externally) “strong.” Continue for as many breaths as calls to you.

meditationNext follow the same breath but chant “I am” on the inhale and on the exhale “kind.” Continue for as many breaths call to you.

Next follow the same breath but chant “I am” on the inhale and on the exhale “love.” Continue for as many breaths call to you.

Next follow the same breath but chant “I am” on the inhale and on the exhale “enough.” Continue for as many breaths call to you.

Next follow the same breath but chant “I am” on the inhale and on the exhale “me.” Continue for as many breaths call to you.

Next follow the same breath but chant “Sat” on the inhale and “Nam” on the exhale meaning “I am truth.” Continue for as many breaths call to you.

Finish the meditation by coming back to your breath and bowing to your inner light.

Wishing you love and light.

As always, “bee well,”
Melissa

My Visit to Stone Barns

It’s been a dream of mine, well I mean something that I needed to check off the list, ever since I read Dan Barber’s book The Third Plate. I didn’t agree with everything he had to say, but I thought it was a start. I mean, what we’re eating, how we’re eating, and how fast we’re eating it is not sustainable. And if you think it is, take a look at the big picture.

What We Would Love to See, However, it's Not True in Today's Large Farming Culture
What We Would Love to See, However, it’s Not True in Today’s Large Farming Culture

American’s eat, on average, 210.8 pounds of meat including red meat, chicken,and turkey per year, per person. It may be lower than the all time high (ever recorded) of 220.2 pounds in 2004, but seriously, that’s still a lot. Do you know how many animals it takes to make that many pounds? Well according to Slaughterhouse, there’s about 500 pounds of meat per cow and about 40-45% of each slaughtered animal is used for meat. Which means, a single cow can be used to make over 2,000 quarter pounders and a typical American eats about 280 of those per year. (I know you’re most likely not eating quarter pounders, but give me a break on the math).

The point? All these animals that are being used for slaughter are not only living in horrible conditions (I won’t touch on that here, but you can look it up yourself), but they’re also responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from ALL transportation. Basically, all those lovely farts from those cute animals, are causing major problems for the environment, not just our health. There are some other great facts here if you’re looking for more information.

Ok, so what about organic? What if I’m a vegetarian? Vegan? Isn’t that helping the planet just a little bit more? Isn’t organic farming what nature intended? Yes and no. We all know that our ancestors were hunter and gatherers, searching for berries, wild vegetables, and then hunting the latest game, every single day. It wasn’t until 10,000 – 13,000 years ago that the domestication of animals first began. Yes, a long time ago. Then soon, villages began cultivating grains, figs in the Jordan Valley, and squash in Mexico. Keep going and soon the potato in South American began being harvested along with tobacco. Natural fertilizers were used and farmers really had to work with the environment. Droughts, torrential rain, and more.

Then came The Green Revolution, which increased agriculture production around the world, modernizing techniques and expanding the distribution of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The good part? Many lives were saved from starvation as yields increased dramatically. The bad part? It was also the start of rice, corn, and wheat providing 60% of the human food supply and monoculture.

monokulturaSo the question is this – we have a situation where people don’t know what to eat that will help save the world while keeping them healthy. Organic is a great option. Backyard growing even better. Buying in season produce from local farmers – right on. However, not everyone can do that and with issues like the California drought, what do people do when watering their backyard vegetables is in conflict with a ever decreasing water supply? And that’s just in America. The population of the Earth continues to rise and feeding everyone without using excess fuel, emitting large amounts of greenhouse gasses and promoting monoculture – can it work? I don’t know.

Stone BarnsBack to Stone Barns. Barber has made a name for himself as a chef that not only cooks with the seasons, but cooks with ingredients that are in season, locally to his restaurant, while also using techniques that promote using every piece of the land, preserving the land, feeding the land, and leaving it better off then when he stepped on it.

This beautiful and peaceful setting includes pasture raised pigs, geese, sheep, and chickens; a half-acre green house; bee hives; and a hilly vegetable plot. Take a walk by yourself and hop on any one of the tours. If you’ve got (a lot of) cash in your wallet, you can book a reservation at the famous Blue Hill at Stone Barns where Chef Barber creates dinners that are especially tailored the the diner and the season. (One day.)

 

The Greenhouse at Stone Barns
The Greenhouse at Stone Barns

As we enjoyed the tour, our knowledgeable guide continued to share Stone Barns philosophy that the system must always give back. That struck me. We take. We take the carrots from the ground, we take the eggs from the chickens that stomp and poop on the ground, and we take the water from the rivers, lakes, and streams. But, what do we actually give back?

I think that’s the answer to our problems in more ways than one.

What do we give back?

When we chop a tree down, do we plant another one in its place? When we dig up the soil to plant and harvest vegetables to nourish ourselves and our families, do we in turn take the time to put nourishment back into the soil? If we just took the time to give back, maybe we’d have a bigger appreciation for what we’re taking and we would only take what we needed to stay healthy and vibrant.

So when you’re confused about what to eat for dinner, what to feed your family, how those who are not as fortunate as you are are surviving, and how the planet will support the increasing population of people – figure out how you can give back to Mother Earth. It may not be The Third Plate, but it’s a philosophy that’s all encompassing.

Enjoying Nature and Giving Back
Enjoying Nature and Giving Back

Finding Mother Nature Inside of Us

This past Saturday morning, I laid in bed and listened to one of my favorite Podcasts from Margaret Roach from A Way to Garden talk about acorns. Yes, acorns. I had been especially interested in this story because the backyard (and front yard) of our new house was completely covered in them. Way more than what we thought was there just a year ago when we moved in.

mother natureWe were wondering if we had missed something – maybe the seller hid all the acorns before we moved in? How could we have missed that! But, we didn’t. Turns out, this year has been a mast year for maples, which means that they’ve produced an abundance of acorns. It’s Mother Nature at her best, as we humans just try and figure out why.

Well, Dr. Rick Ostfeld gave us the inside scoop on what makes these not so little seeds an intrinsic part of our ecosystem. No, they’re not just headaches (literally when they fall on your head), acorns are the telltale signs for for an increase or decrease in rodents such as mice, squirrels and chipmunks (even though I can’t bring myself to call chipmunks rodents), song birds, ticks, Gypsy Moths, and lyme disease! Who knew?

I’m not going to go over the details here, I would recommend tuning in yourself to the podcast, but what I found most intriguing was that as humans, we feel like we know so much, that we understand everything, and that this Earth that we’re living on is something to live on, not with.

mother natureWhat struck me was the way Mother Nature balances herself and how us humans, as smart as we are, can’t seem to figure out all the pieces to the puzzle until years later and then even years later, we find even more connections. What was even more fascinating to me was that not only are we more likely in the dark when it comes to Mother Nature’s agenda, but that it all works without us even intervening.

This thought reminded me to trust nature and my own instincts. Nature is constantly changing, evolving, nourishing, all while remaining true to itself. Our natural instincts are reminiscent of Mother Nature. When we stay true to ourselves and allow ourselves to let go, trust, change, evolve, and nourish ourselves and others, it’s at those moments when we feel at peace. Just like the great maple in your backyard changing colors, allowing the leaves and acorns to fall to grow and support new life.

It’s ok to let go. It’s ok to evolve. Listen to Mother Nature’s calling deep inside you to help you find your way.

Until next time, Bee Well, 

Melissa xoxo