15 Minutes To Gourmet Vegan S’mores

Take a ride on the vegan side with these gooey, gourmet s’mores! Brace yourself for change as we introduce a whole new dimension to your fireside favorite — from coconut oil to Cinnamon Clusters, vegan milk chocolate, and marshmallows — your campfire treat will never be the same!


Ingredients:
– 1/2 cup Cinnamon Clusters, crushed
– 1 cup vegan graham crackers, crushed
– 7 tbsp vegan butter, melted
– 10 oz vegan milk chocolate, melted
– 10 oz vegan mini marshmallows

Directions:

  1. Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper.img_6663
  2. Add crushed Cinnamon Clusters, graham crackers, vegan butter and a pinch of salt to a large bowl. Mix until you have a sandy texture. Add mixture to the prepared 8 x 8 pan and press down into an even layer. Use the bottom of a cup to press the crust down firmly.
  3. Add coconut oil to the melted vegan chocolate and stir until well combined. Pour chocolate over the crust and spread into an even layer. Evenly sprinkle mini marshmallows over the top.

Place pan under broiler until marshmallows are nice and brown. Be sure to keep an eye on it so they don’t burn! Let cool and cut into squares!

Enjoy!

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Seattle Launched a Produce “Prescription” Program. It’s a Brilliant Idea.

By Matt Rozsa

When you’re sick and need to take medication, you get a prescription. But what ever happened to that idea by Hippocrates to “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food?”

That’s the idea in Seattle, where the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic has teamed up with Harborview Medical Center and King County farmers markets with a clever idea to reduce diet-related diseases. Health care providers can now prescribe fruits and vegetables to their patients by writing vouchers for them.You don’t need insurance to get this “prescription” — just a doctor’s recommendation. The patients can then redeem those vouchers at farmers markets or farm stands, making nutritious, healthy food more accessible.

There is good reason to think this will work. When Detroit embarked on a similar program back in 2013, it reported a 93 percent success rate. Granted, it was on a much smaller scale, with only 48 participants who stayed on the fruit-and-vegetable prescription program that lasted for four months. That said, it was also very thorough and smart — each patient was allowed to purchase up to $40 worth of fruits and vegetables that were grown locally, averaging out to $10 each week. Because poor diets are born as much of bad habits as the bad foods themselves, the Detroit residents also received nutritional counseling and healthy cooking demonstrations so that they could use these ingredients in the most effective possible way.

Washtenaw County, which is also in Michigan, has a similar program. As long as a doctor determines that their patient is at risk for a food-related disease, the patient can attend a group enrollment visit and receive prescriptions for fruits and vegetables worth $100. These are spread out over 10 visits ($10 in tokens each) and, like in Detroit, program staff will provide information and support to facilitate the transition into healthy eating habits.

We love how Seattle and these other cities are reminding us of forgotten ancient wisdom of food being our medicine, and how they are helping institutionalize the change towards healthier food by working within the current health care system.

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How Food Companies Sneak 100 Extra Ingredients Into Your “Natural” Food

By Matt Rozsa

Unfortunately, these days  eating foods that are labelled as “natural” isn’t enough to guarantee that what you’re eating is actually natural, simple, or good for you.

In fact one of the most common use of the words “natural” is in the ingredient “natural flavor” — I’m sure you’ve seen it. In fact, it’s the fourth most commonly listed ingredient in food (!) after salt, water, and sugar.  

What’s crazy though, is that in those two little words, over 100 other ingredients can often be hiding — all chemicals that “impersonate” the real, natural flavor of your “natural food.”

If an ingredient is listed as a natural flavor, all it means is that it includes chemicals intended to give the impression of a given food’s authentic taste. The FDA defines them as “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

The FDA says it “has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”

Oof.

David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, sums it up perfectly: “How a food tastes is largely determined by the volatile chemicals in the food. Chemicals that give food a specific smell are extremely important because smell makes up 80 to 90 percent of the sense of taste … In processed food, this mixture of chemicals is called ‘flavor.’ The same mixture of chemicals would be called “fragrance” if it were found in cleaning products, perfumes or cosmetics. The difference between the two is small, and the companies that produce these secret mixtures are often exactly the same.”

There’s growing science as well that these chemicals, though deemed “Generally Regarded as Safe” by the FDA, may not be fully understood by scientists, and in fact could be causing many of the food allergies we see today. So if you want to be on the safer side and avoid eating the 100+ ingredients in “natural flavor,” definitely read each ingredient label to find products that are made with real food ingredients – not “flavor.”

In fact, one could view the use of natural flavors as really just a decades-long effort by big chemical corporations to train us to like a certain taste profile — making us addicted to the taste of their patented fragrance instead of the taste of food grown and eaten as Mother Nature intended, no patents needed.

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Fun Tomato Basil Egg Zucchini Boats

Tired of the same old appetizers with bread, bread, and more bread? That ship has sailed! Our new zucchini boats bring a fun, colorful, and tasty twist to your spread without the typical bloaty breads.

Cooking Time: 30 mins
Makes 1-2 servings

Ingredients:img_6650

  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup tomato, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tbsp parmesan cheese

 


Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and use a spoon to remove the seeds and create a bowl in the zucchini. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together egg, cheddar cheese, diced tomato, diced red onion, minced garlic, chopped basil, salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into the zucchini and top with shredded parmesan.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the the top browns. Serve while hot!

Enjoy!

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The Fascinating History Of How a Tomato Turned From a Fruit to a Vegetable

By Matt Rozsa

It seems to be an American tradition: you refer to the tomato as a vegetable and someone is bound to chime in to clarify that it is in fact a fruit. After all, they’ll point out, a fruit is any edible plant that develops from the fertilized ovary of a flower. Indeed, by this logic tomatoes aren’t the only nominal vegetable that ought to be classified as a fruit —  the same thing can be said of cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, pea pods, peppers, eggplants, and even corn kernels.

Make no mistake about it, though: If Mr. or Ms. Smartypants insists on telling you that the tomato is a fruit, you can rebut them by pointing to no less of an authority than the United States Supreme Court. Back in 1886, an importer named John Nix set the botanical world afire when he insisted on not paying a foreign vegetable import tax on his stock of tomatoes, which he observed were scientifically classified as fruits. When the case finally arrived at the Supreme Court in 1893, however, Justice Horace Gray came down on the side of classifying them as vegetables, arguing that the colloquial uses of the terms “fruit” and “vegetable” were more economically germane than the scientific ones.

“Botanically speaking, tomatoes are the fruit of the vine,” Justice Gray explained. “Just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas. But in the common language of the people… all these vegetables… are usually served at dinner, in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meat, which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits, generally as dessert.”

In the end, this all comes down to a question of literal truth versus cultural truth. If you want to understand the tomato as an organic structure part of the natural world, you need to talk about it as a fruit, because within that context that’s exactly what it is. When talking about dietary issues, however, it is disingenuous to refer to the tomato as a fruit, since it is almost always consumed as a vegetable — in salads, as a topping, as the basis for a condiment, etc.

The tomato’s proper classification may be a surprisingly complicated subject, but it’s still an important one, and we’re all better off being well-informed about it.

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Italy Just Passed Major Legislation to Stop Food Waste. Meanwhile the U.S. Tosses $161 Billion-Worth of Food a Year

By Elena Sheppard

Earlier this year, Italy passed new and much-needed legislation to help reduce the huge amount of food wasted by the country each year. According to the Italian government, the amount of food Italy wastes in a given years costs the nation approximately 12 billion euros annually. Looking more widely at Europe, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation says that, “the food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people.” Turning toward the United States, the amount of food wasted yearly is just as staggering.  

According to information provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), it’s estimated that 30-40% of the American food supply is wasted in a given year. Economically, that settles in at around $165 billion in waste, and 133 billion pounds of food. With this amount of unconsumed food, we could be dramatically assisting the 48.1 million Americans who live in what are called “food insecure households.” This amount of food also does damage to our environment due to the large amount of methane that is emitted from food disposed of in landfills, rather than consumed or composted.  

It’s not just uneaten food in restaurants and households that lead to these high percentages of unconsumed food. Food waste also comes from unharvested crops, high aesthetic standards for food (i.e. people not wanting to buy a perfectly good but weirdly shaped peach), food wasted in grocery stores, distribution centers, and improperly disposed of.

We can do better, and America knows it. In 2013, the USDA along with the Environmental Protection Agency began the U.S. Food Waste Challenge to help grow  food waste reduction efforts. The country’s goal is to reduce food waste by 50% by the year 2030. The Challenge is approaching these efforts in three ways. 1. Reducing food waste — by promoting better storage developments, marketing initiatives, and shopping, ordering and cooking methods. 2. Recovering food — and distributing unconsumed food to hunger relief organizations. 3. Recycling food — by using it to feed animals, make fertilizer, and create compost and bioenergy. So far, initiatives have exceeded expectation.

On a global scale, roughly one third of the food produced annually goes to waste. To put that in other numerical context, that amounts to roughly $680 billion of waste in industrialized countries and $310 billion of waste in developing countries. Luckily, through legislation like that in Italy (and similar measures passed in France) as well as the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, there’s hope that those numbers will soon be far lower.

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The Healthiest Apple You Can Eat This Fall Is This Color

By Elena Sheppard

It is officially apple season. And while an apple a day might keep the doctor away, certain types of apples are better for you than others. While comparing apples to apples might seem a bit overkill, there is somewhat of a hierarchy when it comes to apples and health.

There are over 7,500 types of apples out in the world. All of those types are low in calories and high in fibers and nutrients; AKA good for you. When it comes to which color apples are the best of the bunch, red apples take the cake. According to research done by Men’s Health, the red color is a product of “anthocyanins, a class of heart-disease-fighting polyphenols.” This information puts Red Delicious apples and Pink Lady apples at the top of the health list.

Pink Lady apples have another study in their corner. According to research done at the University of Western Australia, it was found that pink lady apples have the highest level of antioxidant flavonoids — which help repair cellular damage and decrease inflammation.

Other incredibly healthy apples include the Pendragon apple (also red), as well as organic versions of the Golden Delicious (yellow), the Collogett Pippin (red), Ben’s Red (red), Granny Smith (green), and Devonshire Quarrenden apples (red). So look for those names when you’re going apple picking or shopping.

Also, when buying apples, choose organic vs conventional apples. Organic apples carry far less toxic pesticides on them, and also are grown in a way that is much gentler on the farm and safer for the farmworkers picking your apples.

The other thing to keep in mind when it comes to apples is how nutrient-rich the peels are. The super good for you antioxidants in apples, (like quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin) are all found in the skin. So no matter what type of apple you eat, peeling it is for the birds.

Bottom line, eat your apples! Any apples. But if you want the apple that’s the best for you, go for something red and unpeeled. And with a Pink Lady, you truly can’t go wrong.

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Hops and Barley In Your Favorite Beer? Nope, It’s High Fructose Corn Syrup

By Elena Sheppard

Many healthy eaters drink beer on the regular. And while beer isn’t terrible for you when consumed in moderation, a closer look at beer ingredients makes it clear that more often than not when we toss back a cold one we’re ingesting different ingredients than we thought; most notably high fructose corn syrup and GMOs.

Have you ever noticed that beer labels don’t include nutritional information or ingredient lists? Thanks to regulations put in place by the FDA we know pretty much exactly what goes into all of our foods for purchase. But beer and spirits are an entirely different story. We might assume that our beer is made of hops, malt, and yeast but you know what they say about assuming . . .

Many of America’s favorite beers are loaded with unhealthy ingredients like GMO corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, caramel coloring, and MSG. The reason we’re not generally aware of this information is because, as USA Today reported, there are some “fairly complicated legal designations that separate food (headed up by the FDA) from some, but not all, alcohol (which is regulated by the Department of the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau).” For that reason, beer companies get away with keeping their ingredients hush.  

Independent consumers and health blogs have done their own research and have found which beers exactly are the ones we should be avoiding. A few beers at the top of that list include:

  • Budweiser — which contains genetically modified rice
  • Corona Extra — GMO corn syrup and propylene glycol
  • Miller Lite — GMO corn and corn syrup
  • Michelob Ultra — genetically modified sweetener
  • Coors Lite — GMO corn syrup
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon — GMO corn and GMO corn syrup

While that’s all pretty bad news, the good news is that the laws might soon change and nutrition labels on beer may be just around the corner. According to CBS News, earlier this year “Anheuser-Busch InBev, Molson Coors, Constellation Brands and Heineken, which produce more than 80 percent of the beers sold in the U.S., announced plans to begin providing consumers with more nutritional information about the beers they sell.” The hope is that by 2020 this information will be common on beer packaging.

Pulling back the curtain on what’s in the beer we drink will only be a good thing. And truthful labels, which will show the less than stellar ingredients, are likely the first step in pressuring beer manufacturers to replace unhealthy ingredients with healthier ones. There’s no reason a night cap should involve GMOs or corn syrup, especially when we’re doing all we can to live healthful lives during the day.

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This Revolutionary Patent Might Just Take Down Monsanto

By Dylan Love

To many, it has long seemed hopeless that independent farmers could stand a chance under a Monsanto monopoly. Paul Stamets is a man with a plan: A David ready to fight the Monsanto Goliath. Except Stamets isn’t throwing stones; he’s growing mushrooms.

In 2006, Stamets obtained a patent that’s being hailed as revolutionary, with claims that it could undermine Monsanto’s grip on the farming industry.

Stamets is an eminent mycologist, a person who studies fungi and its uses. “Fungi are the grand recyclers of the planet,” he says in one media report. They have the potential to regenerate ecological systems and “re-green” the planet. Before taking on pesticides, he developed mycotechnology with petroleum-eating mushrooms that clean up oil spills.

SMART pesticides, a mycotechnology he successfully patented in 2006, wouldn’t just strike a blow to Monsanto — he suggests that using mycopesticides could fuel an ecological revolution, restoring and rehabilitating polluted ecological sites. So-called “SMART” pesticides work via “sporulation,” sprouting fungi in the insects that consume them. Once the first batch of insects dies, other pests are driven away from the area.

Without pesticide control, insects can ruin crops, destroying farmers’ livelihoods and causing produce shortages. So farmers both big and small rely on chemical pesticides for success when growing food in bulk. But the costs are massive: ground water pollution, the epidemic of dying bee populations, and numerous other problems mean that there are many more difficulties than conveniences to growing food successfully. California saw over 1,000 cases of pesticide poisoning a year in the time Stamets was developing his patent.

Stamets first discovered fungi’s insect repellent potential when his own home was infested with carpenter ants. Using mushrooms with entomopathogenic (insect-killing) properties, he found a solution to his home improvement issue. Saving the environment was an added bonus.

Monsanto’s domination has expanded the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides that they produce, like Bt and Roundup. The corporation encourages farmers to spray more chemicals  as insects and weeds become resistant, to the detriment of the global environment and our collective health.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Monsanto’s pesticide practices “fly in the face of established science and common-sense precautions…in favor of the company’s annual bottom line.”

SMART pesticides, on the other hand, provide an eco-friendly and natural solution, eliminating use of harmful chemicals and their negative side effects.

Most importantly, the SMART pesticides could cripple Monsanto’s monopoly on seeds – a monopoly built on their foundation of seeds  genetically engineered to withstand these strong chemical herbicides and pesticides. As they spread, farmers must conform to keep their crops. Now, all that could change.

Stamets’ SMART pesticides were called “the most disruptive technology” that the industry has ever witnessed by pesticide executives themselves. His discovery has the potential to completely alter the future of food with sustainable and non-destructive growing methods.

It’s also good for business — SMART pesticides could potentially free farmers stuck under Monsanto’s thumb, paying for genetically engineered seeds and pesticides. Stamet’s patent indicates that the mycopesticide fungi can be grown at home using agricultural waste, practically for free. For small business farmers, Stamets’ SMART pesticides could be the ticket to truly sustainable, organic and independent farming. Fungi may just hold the ticket to the future of farming.

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Purple Corn Exists (And It’s Really Good For You)

By Elena Sheppard

There is a place in Minnesota where the fields are literally filled with purple corn.

It’s not a joke.

Most of us have grown up eating white and yellow corn (corn on the cob, corn salad, canned corn), but we’re here to talk about purple corn and the surprising nutritional benefits packed within its kernels. Purple corn is more than just beautiful — though images of purple corn fields spreading across Minnesota certainly confirm it’s beauty — it’s actually brimming with more protein, fiber, and antioxidants than yellow corn. Sparknotes: Purple corn is very good for us.  

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Purple corn, though probably uncommon to most people in North America, is nothing new. South Americans have been using the natural dyes in purple corn for centuries and have been eating and drinking purple corn products for just as long; perhaps most famously in the traditional Peruvian fermented drink chicha morada.

These days, purple corn is no longer specific to Latin American countries, and is indeed becoming more and more popular in the United States, in large part because of the health benefits associated with it.

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Research over the last decade or sohas cast a spotlight on just how good for us purple corn really is — many think it is well on its way to becoming a certified superfood. First and foremost, purple corn is rich in anthocyanins, flavonoids that are under the antioxidant umbrella. A study out of Ohio State University compared the effects of anthocyanins from different plants (purple grapes, purple corn, purple carrots) to see which had greater success reducing in vitro cancer growth. The anthocyanins from purple corn had the strongest effect against the cancer cells.

In addition to the anthocyanins, studies have also shown purple corn to be rich in anti-inflammatory capabilities; to potentially be able to help fight obesity; and to help cardiovascular health. Not to mention, purple corn has more protein and fiber than modern yellow corn.

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While there are many ways to enjoy purple corn — chips, breads, craft beer — Back to the Roots has a purple corn cereal that’s organic, delicious, and loaded with all of the purple corn benefits. Bring on the purple corn!

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Are Mushrooms Intelligent?

By Dylan Love

Mushrooms are fantastic little fungi with plenty of health benefits. They’re great for you, but they serve an even greater purpose in nature.

You might remember learning about mushrooms in high school biology, when you were introduced to the fungi kingdom. Mushroom bodies are made up of mycelia, which are structures composed of tiny spider web-like threads called hyphae. Think back to pictures of mold you may have seen when learning about this — up close, mycelia are simply a thick white or cream-colored network of interwoven fibers.

Mycelia are also the real stars of this story. According to fungi expert Paul Stamets, mycelia are highly intelligent structures. That’s right: intelligent.

They spread out and respawn, forming massive networks. Mycelia are made up of rigid cell walls, which allow them to move through soil and tough environments. They’re capable of breaking down structures in nature and holding up to 30 times their mass. Mycelia also extend the area in which the fungi they’re attached to can find water and nutrients. In fact, Stamets refers to mycelia as “extended stomachs, lungs, and neurological membranes.”

Most importantly, mycelia can attach themselves to the roots of plants, forming a symbiotic relationship with them. Fungi of this nature are known as mycorrhizal fungi (in a mycorrhizal relationship).

By attaching their mycelia to existing plant root systems, mycorrhizal fungi have created a massive underground neural network that plants and fungi use to communicate. Research shows that mycorrhizal fungi are compatible with about 90 percent of land plants.

So what does it mean for these structures to be connected?

According to Stamets, it literally means that “Earth’s natural internet” exists right beneath our feet. Think of this plant-fungi neural network in terms of how our human-created internet works.

Mycelia in fungi are capable of collecting intelligence and transmitting it to their corresponding plants and neighbors — whatever they’re connected to, really. This intelligence includes information about how to survive and fight disease, warnings about nearby dangers, and guidance in raising a host plant’s defenses. Mycelium also act as a kind of “mother” that allows the transfer of nutrients among interconnected plants.

A single cubic inch of soil can contain up to eight miles of mycelium cells. Quite literally, that’s a lot of ground to be covered, and a lot of intelligence to be shared.

Mycelia essentially extend a plant’s root system because the long, thread-like structures are particularly good at reaching out and capturing moisture and nutrients from soil. There’s plenty of surface area to collect nutrients from, which mycorrhizal fungi then share with the roots of the host plant, who in turn, share them with surrounding plants. Younger seedlings are able to get carbon from older donor trees — they literally help each other survive.

Remember the relationship between plants and fungi is a symbiotic one, so the fungus gets a little something out of it, too. In return for nutrients, plants provide fungi with photosynthesized nutrients (mostly sugars and carbohydrates) so they survive and thrive and the relationship can continue.

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This Statistic About What Defines “Whole Grain” Will Stun You

By Elena Sheppard

You’re probably not eating what you think you’re eating.

Here’s a wild statistic: The FDA defines whole grain “as food that contains 51 percent or more whole grain ingredient(s).” And even that 51% can be “reconstituted” — meaning it’s made up of pieces of wheat kernels from various farms being blended together – definitely not a whole grain.

The Western diet is packed with grains. While many of the grains we eat are refined, research proves that whole grains are really what we should be consuming. Unfortunately finding purely whole grain products is more difficult than one might assume. With the FDA statistic in mind, the best way to know the food you’re buying is whole grain, is to look for labels that say, “100% stoneground whole grain” or “100% stoneground wheat” or “100% stoneground whole wheat.”

That said, understanding why making the switch to whole grains is important requires a look at what exactly refined grains really are.

What are refined grains?

Grains, (refined grains,) are a pretty traditional staple of the American breakfast. Refined grains are in our morning toast, our cereal and oatmeal, in addition to rice, pasta and foods we usually indulge in during non-breakfast moments of the day. While grains, generally speaking, are good for us and loaded with complex carbohydrates, making the switch to whole grains is important if we want to be getting  all the nutrients we can and enjoying the most delicious flavors.

Refined grains are grains that have been milled, which is a process that removes their bran and germ and simultaneously lengthens their shelf life. Unfortunately, the milling process also rids the grains of many nutrients — including protein, fiber, and many other micronutrients.

When it comes to breakfast foods the switch from refined grains to whole grains is pretty easy to do. Swap your white toast for whole-grain bread, your regular cereal for 100% stone ground cereal, or your normal old pancakes to whole-grain buckwheat pancakes. The health benefits are hard to ignore.

Why are whole grains better for us?

The main reason: they’re loaded with more nutrients. In addition to having more fiber, whole wheat also has more magnesium, potassium, and selenium (which has antioxidant properties). More reasons why whole grains are good for you?

  • They’re digested slowly, which means they help regulate insulin and blood sugar levels.
  • They help prevent against Type 2 Diabetes.
  • They lower cholesterol levels
  • Whole grains also help prevent heart disease.
  • And they reduce risks of stroke, cancer, in addition to reducing blood pressure.

Of course, eating whole grains alone is not enough to turn an unhealthy diet into a healthy one. The truth is though, it’s all about making healthy choices. And making a choice as simple as switching your refined grains to whole grains is a pretty painless way to look after your health. Who wouldn’t want to start every morning by taking their health into their own hands?

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