Bite Into the Incredible Health Benefits of Radishes

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radishes

Radishes are the unsung hero of the superfood veggie world. They are one of those vegetables you see sliced and thrown into a salad but are unsure where else they hold value. But while radishes may be a complementary addition to the main meal, the health benefits of radishes are anything but a side note. Here’s a rundown as to why you should incorporate more radishes into your diet, along with a few delicious recipes to get you started.

The radish is an edible root that is part of the Brassicaceae (cabbage) family. It is grown and enjoyed around the world and most often in its raw state as part of a salad. Its taste is sharp and spicy due to its chemical compounds glucosinolate, myrosinase and isothiocyanate.

One cup of radish slices contains 18 calories, 270 milligrams of potassium, 45 milligrams of sodium, 3.9 grams of carbohydrates, 1.9 grams of dietary fiber, .8 grams of protein, 2% of the RDA of calcium and iron, 3% of the RDA of magnesium, 5% of the RDA of vitamin B6 and 28% of the RDA of vitamin C.

The health benefits of radishes are aplenty. They are great detoxifiers, able to purify and the blood and shed toxins and wastes. Radishes contain a special compound known as RsPHGPx, which acts as an antioxidant in the phase 2 liver detoxification pathways. This antioxidant facilitates the elimination of harmful substances from the blood, such as medications, insecticides and cancer-causing molecules. The black radish, in particular, is a strong remedy for inducing bile synthesis and hence detoxing the liver.

The red color of radish skin comes from a red plant pigment called anthocyanin. This pigment operates as a strong antioxidant that is able to stave off cardiovascular disease and improve heart health.

A great source of potassium, radishes can lower blood pressure, decrease the likelihood of developing kidney stones or osteoporosis, prevent diabetes and improve cardiovascular health. As a member of the cruciferous family, radishes contain a unique molecule known as indol-3-carinol, which has been shown to reduce inflammatory intermediates in the blood.

Get the most from the health benefits of radishes by trying out the following recipes:

Related on Organic Authority

Mexican Posole Soup Recipe with Hominy, Avocado and Radishes

7 Delightful Radish Recipes Just in Time for Spring

Sauteed Radishes Recipe with Brown Butter and Lemon Sauce

Photo Credit: Andy Wright

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Antibiotic Use Linked to Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

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Antibiotic Use Linked to Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Antibiotic use has been linked to a host of ailments including antibiotic resistance, pregnancy complications and obesity. Now, new research from the Departments of Gastroenterology and Medical Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania has found certain antibiotics may put patients at risk for type 2 diabetes, reports The Daily Mail.

Researchers looked at more than 200,000 diabetics in the United Kingdom and compared them to 800,000 non-diabetics of the same sex and age. According to the report, published in the European Journal of Endocrinology, patients’ risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes increased when prescribed a minimum two courses of antibiotics—specifically penicillins, cephalosporines, quinones and macrolides.

Patients’ risk increased by 8 percent when prescribed two to five courses, while the risk for those prescribed more than five increased by 23 percent. The use of quinones, used to treat bacterial, lower respiratory, urinary tract, skin and sinus infections, resulted in an even higher increase: 15 percent for two to five courses, and 37 percent after five courses, reports The Daily Mail.

“Gut bacteria have been suggested to influence the mechanisms behind obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes in both animal and human models,” lead study author Dr. Ben Boursi said to The Daily Mail. “Previous studies have shown that antibiotics can alter the digestive ecosystem.”

The study did not find causality, it only found a link. Researchers controlled for factors including obesity, smoking history, heart disease, and a history of infections.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes cases in the U.S. It’s been strongly linked to older age, inactivity, poor diet, obesity and family history of diabetes.

Antibiotic use, especially in livestock, is increasingly being criticized in the U.S. Most recently, McDonald’s said it would stop serving chicken produced using medically important antibiotics, while Senator Feinstein introduced a bill that would require drug companies and producers to prove the drugs are being used to treat diagnosed disease, not just to fatten up livestock.

Related on Organic Authority

FDA Regulations Too Lax on Enforcing ‘Misleading’ Growth Enhancement Claims for Antibiotics

California Governor Vetoes Flawed Antibiotics in Livestock Bill, Says it Won’t Stop the Spread of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Tyson Foods Latest Chicken Producer to Pull Antibiotics from All Hatcheries

Image of antibiotics via Shuttershock

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Freight Farms: ‘Growing’ Sustainable Agriculture in Boston

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Freight Farms is making moves in sustainable agriculture.

Freight Farms, a Boston, Mass. agriculture start-up, was founded in 2010 by Brad McNamara, CEO, and Jon Friedman, president. The sustainable agriculture company has made a name for itself by creating the Leafy Green Machine, a “fully-operational hydroponic farm” built inside an upcycled freight container. The entire system produces high-volume yields.

McNamara and Friedman were able to build Freight Farms because of their smarts and experience – both founders started their careers as sustainable pioneers when they created a rooftop greenhouse consulting company in Boston. After the duo’s first endeavor, McNamara and Friedman chose to work on creating something that would allow urban food production to become more competitive.

The company’s product – the Leafy Green Machine (LGM) – was created to allow people in different locations to easily grow a healthy “local food economy.”

While the overall cost for the sustainable agriculture system is a bit steep (the 2015 version of Freight Farms is priced at $76,000), annual costs and upkeep typically cost $13,000 a year. Anyone who uses Freight Farms can easily grow herbs, lettuce, and various Brassica.

While Freight Farms’ currently run on a “standard single-phase 120/240 volt 60 amp connection,” the company hopes to have its system run on solar, and other types of alternative energies. Other perks of Freight Farms include: The entire system allows crops to easily be herbicide and pesticide-free. Also of note: The farm’s overall hydroponic structure allows it to use 90-percent less water than traditional methods of agriculture.

In addition to a easily-run operating system, these farms also can be run remotely through the Farmhand app. The app allows farm owners to monitor a farm’s air and water quality, and to monitor the farm through on-site cameras.

So far, the company has operating systems throughout the United States and in Canada.

In addition to all of the work Freight Farms’ founders have already done, both men are working diligently to help the company expand. Organic Authority asked the founders a few questions to find out what they have planned for the company for years to come, and how their backgrounds will enhance Farms’ future:

Organic Authority: What new technologies and products is Freight Farms working on?

McNamara and Friedman: The release of the 2015 Leafy Green Machine is a big milestone for us as a company. An incredible amount of work has gone into the design and engineering of this model in order to integrate the most effective growing technologies into a complete farming system that is easy to use and accessible to a wide variety of applications. We took a holistic approach to the new model in order to enhance every aspect of the system to maximize the growing environment and the user interaction. We have tuned the entire farm to enhance the process for the person as much as the plant. The new LGM is programmed with software that gives users of all levels the control and flexibility to operate every aspect of a farm at the highest level of performance. The new system infrastructure will enable us to release additional products in the future that will facilitate new interactions inside and outside of the farm. Everything we are developing continues to be focused on empowering people to create new experiences and opportunities through localized food production.

OA: As founders, how are you using your backgrounds to grow this company? (Founders Jon Friedman and Brad Mcnamara have backgrounds in industrial design and environmental science.)

McNamara and Friedman: We came into it wanting to solve a problem for people. Our backgrounds have influenced us to build systems, products and experiences that add benefit to every participant in the ecosystem. The design process plays a large role in everything we do and offers a lens for us to bring the complexities of a global food system into view. Our backgrounds have influenced us to build systems, products and experiences that add benefit to every participant in the ecosystem.

OA: What are expansion plans?

McNamara and Friedman: We’ve just moved into a new HQ with more space that will allow us to onboard and train a wide variety of customers to become farmers. To continue to empower those organizations, communities and individuals who want to take action to increase local food is very important to us. We’ll continue our intention that everyone should engage with the food system by providing the tools (both hardware and software) that makes it easy for anyone regardless of age, location, education, and background. Freight Farms are currently in North America but we have our eyes set on a select group of international markets this year and then we will look at larger expansion globally.

Our vision and  intention is provide food security to the world and we play an active role in developing the solutions required to increase food access. The people and businesses who are using the product are making the biggest impact, we are focused on expanding in ways to support our customers, wherever local supply is needed.

Related on Organic Authority

Community Supported Agriculture 101: Fall in Love With CSAs

‘Field to Market’ Program is Not Sustainable: It’s Big Ag’s Latest Lie

Sustainable Meat Production and Technology Join Forces at Hack//Meat Conference

Image: Freight Farms’ Facebook page

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Homemade Horseradish Recipe with Beets

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This delicious and hot homemade horseradish with beets is a delight for any Passover table and year-round as a spicy garnish for sandwiches, eggs and grilled steak. The Jewish holiday of Passover usually falls in early April or around the first day of spring. Traditionally, horseradish root or bitter herbs are eaten as a symbolic reminder of the Biblical story of how Moses freed the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. The idea is that this very bitter herb is so powerful that it will bring tears to the eyes of anyone who eats it, remembering the hardships of the Israelites thousands of years ago. Modern Jewish families eat a more palatable and enjoyable version of the bitter herb by mixing horseradish with vinegar and sweet beets. The addition of beets makes this a pretty pink and spicy addition to your Passover meal but can also be used on sandwiches and with deviled eggs.

homemade horseradish

The horseradish root is not a pretty vegetable. The oils released when you cut into the root might make your eyes water, and eating this sauce fresh out of the food processor will be a shock to your sinuses. Let the sauce sit in the fridge for two days before you serve and store it in an airtight jar for up to two weeks.

Elevate a boring turkey sandwich to new heights by mixing one teaspoon of homemade horseradish into 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise. Spread on your sandwich bread and add turkey, cheese, lettuce and tomato.

Homemade Horseradish with Beets and Apple Cider Vinegar

Makes 2 cups 

Ingredients

3 small beets

½ lb. fresh horseradish root

4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon salt

Directions

Bring 6 cups of water to boil in a medium sauce pan. Make sure you beets are trimmed of the stem but leave the skin on. Cook for 20 minutes in the boiling water, drain and set aside to cool.

Slice the horseradish root into 1-inch disks for ease of cutting. Use a small sharp knife to peel away the rough skin and chop the root into small ½ inch cubes.

Peel the beets with your hands or a vegetable peeler. Roughly chop and add to the bowl of a food processor along with the cubed horseradish, apple cider vinegar, sugar and salt. Blend continuously until there are no longer chunks of horseradish. Add a tablespoon of warm water or apple cider vinegar if the mixture is too dry. Remove from food processor and store in air-tight jars in the fridge. Horseradish is best about 1-3 days after it’s grated.

Related on Organic Authority

Pickled Beets 

Pretzel Panini with Cheddar and Horseradish Slaw 

Bloody Mary with Horseradish 

Photos by Ally-Jane 

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Probiotic Benefits in Skincare? The Truth Behind This Beauty Trend

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Probiotic Benefits in Skincare? The Truth Behind This Beauty Trend

You’ve likely heard a friend or acquaintance sing the praises of probiotics. Maybe you’ve even taken them yourself or are a kombucha devotee. Now we see probiotics being hailed as the latest hot skincare ingredient. But is there real benefit when used topically?

Have you ever felt beyond bloated or developed a yeast infection while taking antibiotics? This is due to the meds wiping out your helpful bacteria along with the not so good stuff. Doctors often suggest taking a probiotic supplement to balance this out. And, I can tell you from experience, it’s not a bad idea.

Yogurt and some fermented foods, like kombucha and kraut, contain micro-organisms said to offer good bacteria to the digestive system. What works for the gut has to be good for the skin, right? Clean, edible ingredients are a typical cosmetic tagline these days, afterall. It is important to note that not all ingredients that work on our inside perform as well on our skin. But with this particular ingredient, they could be on to something.

Probiotics offer the bacterial balance our system requires to operate properly. These anti-inflammatory effects have some believing these little germs may be good for inflammatory skin conditions like acne, rosacea, and eczema.

A study shows a connection between gut health and skin issues, like acne, and that acne sufferers may benefit from a balanced digestive tract via probiotic usage. This same study suggests there may be probiotic benefits to acne when used topically. When used in skincare treatments, probiotics are believed to reduce inflammation and offer antibacterial effects. Probiotics are also shown to create a barrier on skin, helping to block dirt and bacteria from entering pores and causing futher breakouts.

This barrier means probiotics may be useful in treating other inflammatory skin conditions as well. External elements on the skin irritate and inflame skin conditions like rosacea and eczema. Probiotics could help to protect and calm the skin.

If probiotics are the anti-inflammation wunderkind this could be an important discovery. Inflammation of the skin is linked to premature aging, irritation, redness, and even skin cancer.

I have not tried probiotic skincare myself, but my sister tried two different probiotic skincare treatments a few years apart and broke out in hives both times. This may be an individual case, but until more research has been done on probiotic benefits to skin I would use cautiously. As for rubbing straight up yogurt on your face? The lactic acid will exfoliate dead skin cells, but don’t expect any major probiotic effects.

If you are dealing with an inflammatory skin condition, consult your dermatologist on trying probiotic skincare. Here are some products to try by brands who are committed to safety in cosmetics.

Probiotic Benefits in Skincare Aurelia

Aurelia is an entire probiotic skincare line.

Probiotic Benefits in Skincare Eminence

Eminence Organics Clear Skin Probiotic Mask is spa-worthy.

Probiotic Benefits in Skincare Acure Organics

Acure Organics offers several probiotic-containing products for face and body.

Probiotic Benefits in Skincare de Mamiel

de Mamiel Restorative Cleansing Balm calm while it cleans.

Related on Organic Authority

5 Signs Your Gut Health is Totally Out of Whack

5 Ways to Fight Inflammation Naturally

8 Ways Probiotics and Healthy Foods Can Heal Your Gut

Image of woman putting cream on face via Shutterstock

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Game played in sync increases children’s perceived similarity, closeness

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Children who played a simple computer game together in sync felt a greater sense of similarity and closeness — suggesting that time-based synchronized activities, including in music, dance and sports, could help bring children closer together.

What helps children who have just met form a connection? A new study shows that a simple game played together in sync on a computer led 8-year-olds to report a greater sense of similarity and closeness immediately after the activity.

Children who played the same game but not in a synchronous way did not report the same increase in connection.

The findings, published April 8 by PLOS ONE, give an example of how a physical activity performed in unison helps children feel more positively toward each other and could perhaps increase their empathy.

“Synchrony is like a glue that brings people together — it’s a magical connector for people,” said lead author Tal-Chen Rabinowitch, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington.

Synchrony occurs when people interact together in time. It’s a fundamental prerequisite for activities such as playing music, singing, dancing and rowing.

But the impact of synchrony goes beyond the ability to coordinate activities with other individuals. In adults, synchrony has been linked to increased cooperation and teamwork, making work more efficient and productive.

Few studies have examined whether the same is true among children.

“We wanted to see if a synchronous, rhythmic interaction could influence the attitudes of children toward peers they had never met before,” Rabinowitch said.

She conducted the study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, where co-author Ariel Knafo is a professor of psychology. The European Research Council funded the project.

In the experiment, Rabinowitch tested 74 8-year-old children in pairs of two boys and two girls. Seated in a quiet laboratory room, the experimenter introduced herself and asked the children to introduce themselves to each other by name only.

After the experimenter explained the task, the children sat side by side in front of a video screen. An animated soccer ball bounced on both halves of the screen, and the children pressed a button whenever the ball on their side of the screen hit the floor.

For some pairs of children, the balls bounced in sync, so their fingers tapped the buttons simultaneously. Other pairs of children had out-of-sync bouncing, so they had asynchronous finger tapping.

They did two 90-second trials of the game, with a short break in between. After the game, the children filled out questionnaires about how similar and close they felt to the child they had been paired with. A control group of pairs of children answered the same questions, but did not perform the game.

Children in the synchronous group reported a greater sense of similarity and closeness.

The findings suggest that time-based synchronized activities, including in music, dance and sports, could be useful tools in bringing children closer together.

“The important ingredient is joint synchronized activity — it is a form of collaboration where individuals perform the same movements at the same time,” Rabinowitch said.

Now at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, Rabinowitch is studying in detail the underlying cognitive mechanisms that enable synchronous interaction in children to shift social attitudes and enhance cooperation.

Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of I-LABS, said: “This study gives important clues about how to promote pro-social behavior in children. There may be a deep truth in saying that children care about being ‘in tune’ with others or that two people are in synch with each other.”

In her studies with Meltzoff, Rabinowitch hopes to reveal how music, and specifically synchrony, is able to guide and improve social and emotional interactions between humans.

“The findings might be applied to formulate new strategies for education in our effort to build a more collaborative and empathic future society,” she said.

And studying this phenomenon in children is especially important, Rabinowitch added, since the connection between music and social and emotional attitudes manifests itself so early in life.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Tal-Chen Rabinowitch, Ariel Knafo-Noam. Synchronous Rhythmic Interaction Enhances Children’s Perceived Similarity and Closeness towards Each Other. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (4): e0120878 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120878

Cite This Page:

University of Washington. “Game played in sync increases children’s perceived similarity, closeness.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 April 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150408145236.htm>

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When health risks go down, worker productivity goes up

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Changes in employee health risk factors have a significant impact on work productivity, reports a study in the April Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

The productivity benefits of improved health are “cumulative over time,” highlighting the need for companies to make “continuous investments in the culture of health,” according to the study by Laura Haglund-Howieson, MBA, of StayWell in St Paul, Minn., and colleagues.

The researchers analyzed health assessment surveys from nearly 97,000 workers between 2009 and 2011. The employees’ “Health Risk Scores” were analyzed as predictors of work absenteeism as well as “presenteeism” — health-related issues limiting work ability. At the initial survey, there was a “fairly strong correlation” between health risks and productivity. In addition, reductions in health risks between surveys were related to improved productivity in future years — an effect that was cumulative over time.

“The key implication is that health improvements must be maintained over time so the productivity impacts can accumulate,” Haglund-Howieson and coauthors write. They note that average health risks decreased “slightly but significantly” over the three years of the study — probably because of the health promotion programs that were available to employees.

The effects of changes in health risks were relatively small, suggesting that other factors not considered in the study also affect productivity. The researchers suggest that additional types of policies — such as flexible work times and worker recognition programs — may be necessary to improve productivity for all workers.


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Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. “When health risks go down, worker productivity goes up.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 April 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150408113259.htm>

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5 Condition-Specific Juice Recipes to Target Your Woes

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juice

If you’ve jumped onto the juice bandwagon, you’ve likely found your favorite juice recipe combination or your favorite juice bar to frequent. However, fresh juice can be more than just a daily go-to, nutrient-dense snack – it is an opportunity to naturally address health ailment you have. Once consumed, fresh juice’s inherent vitamins, minerals and antioxidants enter the blood stream quickly, as there is no fiber for the body to digest. Certain ailments can thus be targeted in a very direct and effective manner. These  5 juice recipes tackle specific health problems.

The proper combinations of various fruit and vegetables juices are important medicinal tools for whatever may ail you. While you should try all of the following juice recipes as they are, keep in mind that you can alter the recipe slightly so that the important, condition-specific ingredients remain and the others change according to your taste preferences. Enjoy!

1. Anti-Acne

Makes 16 oz.

The beta-carotene found in carrots is effective in improving skin health and revealing a radiant glow as well as keeping skin young. Peaches are packed with vitamin C, a valuable antioxidant that reduces wrinkles, improves skin texture and fights skin damage resulting from sun or pollution exposure. It also increases collagen formation to keep skin looking young.

Ingredients:

  • 6-7 carrots
  • 2 peaches
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 handful fresh basil

Directions: Blend in the following order: basil, lemon, peaches and carrots. Serve and enjoy!

2. Blood Cleanse

Makes 16 oz.

Beets help to cleanse the liver while ginger and apple lower blood pressure. The cucumber and celery are hydrating for all cells.

Ingredients:

  • 1 apple
  • 1/2 beet
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1-inch nob ginger

Directions: Juice all of the ingredients and serve.

3. Libido Boost

Makes 16 oz.

Asparagus is known to have libido-boosting effects. Carrots natural sugars help to boost energy and the celery hydrates the body.

Ingredients:

  • 4 asparagus spears
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks

Directions: Juice all of the ingredients and serve.

4. Anti-Inflammation

Makes 16 oz.

Turmeric fights inflammation, which is the root of many degenerative diseases. Ginger is also anti-inflammatory and supports a strong immune system.

Ingredients:

  • 1 apple
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1-inch nob ginger
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 pear
  • 1-inch nob turmeric

Directions: Juice all of the ingredients and serve.

5. Improved Memory

Makes 16 oz.

Blueberries and broccoli have exhibited the ability to boost brain health and improve memory.

Ingredients:

  • 1 apple
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 stalk broccoli
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1/2 tomato

Directions: Juice all of the ingredients and serve.

Related on Organic Authority

5 Important Tips for Drinking a Green Juice Daily

Juice Recipes

How to Make Juice at Home (No Excuses!)

Photo Credit: Breville USA

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Cookbook Review: Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables

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southern vegetables

Ever had to say “Eat your vegetables…” one too many times to your kids? No longer! Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart, the authors of the James Beard Award-winning “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” have brought their expertise to a vegetable cookbook that’s sure to please even the pickiest eaters, with “Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables.”

Those like me who aren’t full-time vegetarians but definitely eat more greens than meat will love the 120 recipes in this book, each of which takes advantage of vegetables native to the South.

The book is organized alphabetically by vegetable, with beautiful, full-page color photos punctuating the chapters. I’ll admit it — I jumped right in and made four different recipes from this cookbook before slowly perusing the intro. What I found when I got there was something that I had noticed in the selection throughout my experience with this book — the authors state that they use the traditional “meat flavorings” used in Southern cooking — in other words, these are not necessarily vegetarian dishes.

corn and squash pudding

This was true, for example, with the corn and squash pudding. The meat of choice in this dish was both bacon and bacon grease, which added a nice seasoning aspect to the otherwise sweet zucchini and corn.

corn and squash pudding

I have always wanted to try a dish like this but have never been able to tear myself away from fresh corn on the cob as-is. But this version really does bring out the best in the vegetables, with just the right amount of “pudding” holding everything together.

corn and squash pudding

I can only imagine that this would be fantastic with yellow summer squash, for a more monochrome, bright yellow dish, or even without the bacon for those who would rather turn this into a vegetarian main.

This is yet another thing I appreciated about this book: the authors encourage cooks to change things up, to build upon the recipes that they provide. And these are not empty words — the encouragement is there in the very layout of the book. Not only are the recipes preceded with a chapter offering general information and summarizing cooking terms that are used throughout the book, but at the beginning of each veggie chapter, the basic, simplest way to prepare the ingredient in question comes first: steamed asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, glazed carrots. This recipe is then followed by more technical recipes that incorporate more ingredients.

In this way, each chapter feels like a true introduction to the vegetable: from the “how do you do” of the first moments to a more complex dish, punctuated with little stories and background information about the vegetable’s history, particularly as it pertains to Southern cuisine. In this way, you really get to know the vegetable by the end, and you have hopefully gleaned not only recipes but techniques that will allow you to bring out the best in the ingredient.

green beans and tomato preserve

This was the case, for example, with the pan-charred green bean recipe I tested. Not only do the authors provide an extensive introduction to the world of beans and peas in Southern cuisine (and what distinguishes a bean from a pea), but they also offered many different ways that these charred green beans could be served.

green beans and tomato preserve

I opted for a tomato preserve, a sweet and vinegary tomato sauce that the authors say may be the ancestor to modern ketchup. This wasn’t surprising once I’d tasted the flavors of the sauce; it balanced sweet, savory and acid perfectly and paired just right with the charred flavor of the beans, offering an incredible sensation of umami that can be hard to come by with purely vegetarian dishes.

whole roasted cauliflower

One thing that the authors highlighted in their introduction is that these recipes are not intended to be mains, but rather side dishes to accompany a roasted or grilled meat portion of the meal. While I noticed this in the way that the recipes were presented, several caught my eye as great vegetarian main options — one of these was the whole cauliflower in cheese sauce.

whole roasted cauliflower

For this dish, an entire head of cauliflower is steamed and then topped with a rich mornay sauce and buttered breadcrumbs. The dish, to this point, can be made in advance (I tested this as well, and it was delicious six hours later). At this point it is merely heated and slightly gratineed in the oven.

What I loved in particular about this dish, aside from its delicious, rich flavor, is that it’s an ideal “centerpiece” main for a vegetarian meal. Whereas meat eaters often have a roast as an edible centerpiece, this cauliflower is just as impressive and, in my opinion, even tastier.

greens stuffed mushrooms

Yet another option that does very well as a main were the stuffed mushrooms. I made these with the largest crimini mushroom caps I could find, stuffed with a combination of spinach and kale. Four per person was sufficient as a main, but these would also be fantastic as a smaller version for a savory accompaniment to cocktails.

All in all, I was quite impressed with “Mastering the Art of Southern Vegetables.” It caters to a good variety of cooking expertises, offering simple recipes that are perfect for an everyday dinner as well as more complex ones for the experienced cook looking to change up their veggie repertoire. Many recipes are perfect for families where not everyone eats meat, as they are savory enough to stand in for a meat main and flavorful and interesting enough to convert veggie skeptics.

Related on Organic Authority

Monica Bhide’s Modern Spice Cookbook Delivers Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen

Out with the Text, In with the Illustrations: They Draw and Cook Cookbook Review

‘The Portlandia Cookbook': Local Food vs. Local Foodies

Top image care of the publisher, all other images by Emily Monaco

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How to Get Rid of Dust In Your Home (Since You’re Probably Doing It Wrong)

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How to Get Rid of Dust In Your Home (Since You're Probably Doing It Wrong)

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the most thankless chore of all? Dusting, obvi. You buy all these dusters and cloths and infomercial doo-dads, thinking you now know how to get rid of dust, and all you end up doing is spreading it around. (You know those clouds of dirt floating in the air? That’s dust laughing at you.)

While getting rid of dust entirely is as likely as you getting that pony you were promised, there are ways to make your cleaning efforts last a little longer. Here are 9 tips on how to get rid of dust:

1. Don’t spray dust directly

When dust is dry, one wrong move and bam—it’s airborne and is harder to get rid of. Whether you try to wipe it with a dry cloth or spray it with your go-to cleaner, you’re just asking for trouble. Instead, spritz your cloth directly and wipe for best results.

2. Clean from top to bottom

Clean the highest surfaces first—ceiling fans, light fixtures—and work your way down for the most thorough clean.

3. Don’t forget your vents

Those sneaky little heating/air conditioning vents of yours are dust magnets. If you miss cleaning them, you’ll end up filling your room with dust all over again. Make it a point to vacuum them with your soft brush attachment anytime you’re vacuuming your floors.

4. Invest in quality doormats

These will help put the kibosh on an overabundance of dust and dirt being tracked into your home from the great outdoors.

5. Adjust the humidity

Make sure the humidity in your home is between 40 to 50 percent to reduce static, which attracts dust and makes it harder to remove.

6. Don’t forget to clean your vacuum’s filters

Since they’re meant to hold fine dust and particles hostage on your behalf, it goes without saying when your filters are clogged dust ends up pushed back into the air (goody).

7. Don’t rush vacuuming

Vacuuming slowly gives your machine time to catch as much dust and dirt as possible. Also, make sure you vacuum in all directions and not just one so every last speck is caught.

8. Use blinds instead of curtains

They’re so much easier to clean than drapes, saving you time and frustration. If you love yourself a good drape, dust your curtain rods first, then use your vacuum’s brush attachment to clean your valances and curtains.

9. Become a minimalist

Declutter your home of knickknacks—the less you have, the less places for dust to hide.

What are your favorite tips on how to get rid of dust?

Related on Organic Authority

13 Clever Spring Cleaning Hacks to Clear Out the Cobwebs

20 Places You Always Forget During Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning Tips: How to Naturally Deep Clean Your Carpet

Image: Woman with duster photo via Shutterstock

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Reboot with the Spring Renewal Goodie Box

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Goodie_Box_OA_banner_550x400_201504

Reboot your life with Organic Authority’s 2015 Spring Renewal Goodie Box, featuring over 21 innovative products from 18 different brands.

This Goodie Box is filled with eco-friendly, non-toxic, and organic springtime goodies galore, including 9 Beauty + Wellness, 4 Home + Garden, and 5 Kitchen + Food products for friends, family, hubbies, co-workers, and, of course, you!

We only have 50 Goodie Boxes available, each filled with $480+ worth of products for the hot sale price of just $129.00 + free shipping! That’s a 74 percent discount!

Beginning Friday, April 10th, we will reveal several brands per day. The Goodie Box will go on sale Monday, April 13th, 2015 at 8 o’clock am Pacific Time. Set your timers and mark your calendars–these will sell out fast. Buy one, two or three, for yourself and all your friends and fam! The last box sold out in just a few hours. This offer is only available to the first 50 buyers. When we are out, we are out! Check back daily to see what the big reveals are.

Read on to discover today’s products.

THE Herbal Face Food

The Herbal Face Food™
In short, this stuff works–wow! The Herbal Face Food™ is the World’s first, organic, raw, edible, 100 percent plant super antioxidant face serum with an ORAC (anti-oxidant) rating of over 10 million, making it the most potent and powerful antioxidizing product of any kind. This unique eco-friendly serum is made from only organic and wild-harvested plant concentrates sourced from all over the world. The Herbal Face Food™ also nourishes and hydrates skin to bring back youthful, even skin tone. The herbal scent is aroma-therapeutic and creates a sense of well-being. Upon application you will feel a heating sensation, which means the powerful antioxidants and enzymes are working to heal your skin. The superior plant properties in The Herbal Face Food™ make it antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-aging. Addresses wrinkles, acne, large pores, melasma, hyper-pigmentation, fine lines eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, brightness, sagging skin, scarring, redness, smoothness, and more.

Value: $100 

B True Beauty

 

B True Beauty’s All Natural Eyelash Enhancer
Nourish, condition, thicken, and fortify your eyelashes without the yucky stuff! B True Beauty’s All Natural Eyelash Enhancer is an eco-friendly product, 100 percent natural, and made with certified organic ingredients. B True Beauty uses only the highest quality natural and certified organic ingredients to create luxurious products that give you the best of both worlds: they’re strong enough to effectively accelerate the length of eyelashes, yet delicate enough to nourish, condition, thicken, and fortify. B True Beauty’s All Natural Eyelash Enhancer is formulated with:

  • Certified organic argan and vitamin E oil to accelerate lash growth
  • Certified organic aloe vera penetrates the root to stimulate keratin to lengthen, thicken, and fortify lashes
  • Certified organic castor oil to thicken lashes
  • Apricot kernel oil to condition and hydrate
  • Certified organic rosehip seed oil works as an emollient to strengthen the hair shaft
  • Essential oils help regenerate new lash growth and thicken lashes
  • Vitamins and antioxidants to nourish and strengthen weak and brittle lashes.

Value: $59

The Magic Pads

The Magic Pads
Add some magic to your skincare regime this spring with The Magic Pads, the newest and most revolutionary product illuminating the road to perfect skin! A unique blend of glycolic and salicylic acid combined with aloe, The Magic Pads are designed to destroy acne, clear breakouts, smooth skin, tighten pores, exfoliate, tone, clarify and fight aging, as well as moisturize all in one swift swoop of the pad. The magic is truly in this pad!

Value: $19.95 

Aunt Fannie's Flypunch

 2 Fruit Fly Pack Starter Kits from Aunt Fannie’s FlyPunch!
Make sure you’re the only one enjoying your spring-fresh organic food. Aunt Fannie’s FlyPunch! is a non-toxic, powerful fruit fly formula safe for use around food. Originally designed for household kitchens, FlyPunch! is also perfect for restaurants, bars, snack bars, wineries, breweries, cafeterias or anywhere food is grown, distributed, sold, stored, served or prepared. FlyPunch! is a liquid formulation that attracts, disables, and kills fruit flies. Unlike toxic vapor alternatives, fruit flies do not die off haphazardly on countertops, floors, or potentially in food. Fruit flies are attracted to FlyPunch!, away from where they would typically frequent–produce, sauces, drains, soda fountains, beer taps, liquor bottles, etc.–and focus their attention on the FlyPunch! formulation. The formulation attracts fruit flies inside of the DiveJar dispenser, close enough to make contact with the disabling agent for a true FlyPunch!

$10.99/box
Total value: $21.98

Zing Anything

Zing Anything’s Original Citrus Zinger
When life gives you lemons, put them in your Citrus Zinger. This unique bottle makes drinking water simple, easy, and tasty. Designed specifically for citrus fruits, Zing Anything’s Citrus Zinger offers a quick and simple way to extract juice and flavor to infuse lemons, limes and more directly into your water with an all-in-one bottle. Drinking enough water is a daily challenge; a little flavor can help increase your water consumption with ease. Here is the way to infuse water with flavor, but without those added sugars or chemical sweeteners. Put a little Zing in your day! Features include:

  • Wide mouth opening for drinking
  • Finger loop provided for easy carrying
  • Easy to add ice via the bottom opening
  • Easy to clean, removable citrus press
  • 28 oz / 820 ml bottle
  • BPA/Halogen/EA and Phthalates free
  • Patented design

Value: $15.99

Handigger

 

Handigger’s Trowel
Release yourself from pain and inconvenient gardening tools this spring. Handigger reinvents the garden trowel. Pull soil toward you, not away from you with this ergonomic tool–no more sore wrists! Originally developed for the construction industry. After two years of testing, it was rebuilt for gardening amateurs and professionals alike. Developed to make digging easy for people with rheumatic pain. Lightweight basket style scoop for digging, transplanting and leveling. No moving parts. Precision manufacturing process. One size fits all hand sizes. Comes with a lifetime guarantee.

Value: $26.99

Reveled 4/11:

201504-Day2

Reveled 4/12:

201504-Day3

Total value of the Organic Authority 2015 Spring Renewal Goodie

Box: $480.80. 

Sale Price: $129.00 + free shipping!  That’s a 74% discountThe box goes on sale Monday April 13th at 8 o’clock am Pacific Time. Set your timers and mark your calendars–these will sell out fast. Buy one, two or three, for yourself.  This offer is only available to the first 50 buyers, when we are out, we are out!

Offer good anywhere in the continental U.S. (International shipping is not available at this time.) Buy, one, two, or three boxes! Please allow up to three weeks for delivery. All sales are final. Due to the nature of this exclusive one-time sale, we cannot accept any returns or exchanges. Any inquiries or concerns regarding purchased Goodie Boxes must be submitted via Customer Service within 30 days from date of purchase. 

Related on Organic Authority

7 Spring Cleaning Tips for That Messy Makeup Bag of Yours

13 Cool Home Decor Craft Ideas to Spring You Forward

Sustainable Gardening 101: A Spring Refresher Course

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Oh, This? Just a Bunch of Small-Scale Farmers About to Save the Human Race [Video]

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Oh, This? Just a Bunch of Small-Scale Farmers About to Save the Human Race [Video]

Is there anything small-scale farmers won’t do? Now, in addition to providing yummy, healthy food, they’re also cooling the planet and preventing a global meltdown. Thank you.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter and Instagram

Related on Organic Authority

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FDA Pushes to Get Illegal Livestock and Pet Medications Off the Market

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FDA Pushes to Get Illegal Livestock and Pet Medications Off the Market

Livestock and pet medications that are manufactured and sold without proper FDA approval potentially put the lives of both animals and people at risk. As a result, the FDA is stepping up its efforts to halt the sale of illegal animal drugs.

“There are different pathways to FDA approval and legal marketing of an animal drug product, but each pathway requires a drug company to expend both time and financial resources to generate the appropriate scientific evidence to support the approval,” Martine Hartogensis, D.V.M., Deputy Director, Office of Surveillance and Compliance at FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine wrote on the FDA Voice blog. “Companies that bypass the FDA drug approval process may be endangering the animals given unapproved drugs and people who either handle the unapproved drugs or eat food from animals treated with them.”

The agency wants to ensure all pet medications that make their way onto the market have been tested.

“Our enforcement actions could include seizures of violative products and/or injunctions against manufacturers and distributors of unapproved animal drugs,” Hartogensis continued. “We also continue to regularly update the agency’s web page on unapproved animal drugs with information for veterinarians and industry.”

Last month, the FDA reported dairy farmers who’ve been breaking existing laws regarding the use of illegal antibiotics. The report found that not only are some farmers using antibiotics not included in standard testing, but medications that aren’t supposed to be used in dairy cows at all.

It’s difficult to know how widespread the practice of selling illegal pet medications has become, but it’s large enough that the agency sees fit to crack down on the rule-breakers.

Related on Organic Authority

FDA: Dairy Farmers Are Breaking Existing Antibiotic Laws

California Governor Vetoes Flawed Antibiotics in Livestock Bill, Says it Won’t Stop the Spread of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

‘Low Dose’ Antibiotics in Chicken Feed for Weight Gain Widespread, Investigation Finds

Image of veterinarians treating livestock via Shuttershock

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13 DIY Tips and Tricks to Learn How to Quilt

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Learn how to quilt.

Quilting is a great way to repurpose household textiles and many are taking the time to learn this important craft from our past. Have you been wanting to get in on the action and learn how to quilt? Read on for a roundup of tutorials and tips and tricks on how to quilt.

How to Quilt

  1. 3 Tips for Beginner Quilters – It all starts with the basics. Learn these useful tips for handling seam allowances, pressing and for using a design wall.
  2. 5 Steps to Increasing Your Piecing Accuracy – Follow these suggestions for increasing your piecing accuracy, or cutting out, lining up and sewing your quilt pieces.
  3. Easy Sewing Cheat Sheets – Sewing is the obvious skill you need to develop if you want to learn how to quilt. These handy infographics will help with those basics.
  4. Straight Line Quilting Techniques – I’m sure we all know just how difficult it can be to drawn, cut and sew a straight line in any and all DIY projects. You are not alone.
  5. Quick Quilting Tips – Here are some tips for making short work of your quilting projects.
  6. Basic Quilting Supplies – Before you start any project, it is of the utmost importance to make sure that you have all the necessary tools and supplies. Quilting is no different.
  7. Quilt Pressing Tricks – One of the keys to making beautiful and accurate quilts is your pressing technique.
  8. 40 Sewing Hacks – More sewing basics to help you be a better quilter.
  9. Best Way to Sew Bias Tape – Here are some super great tips and tricks for how to quilt with bias tape.
  10. Binder Clips Trick – Binder clips are actually quite a useful tool in the the world of quilting.
  11. Big Stitch Hand Quilting Tips – Learn some techniques for hand stitching using big stitches.
  12. General Sewing Hacks – More sewing tricks to help you how to quilt.
  13. How to Work WIth Quilt Patterns – Finally, a key to learning how to quilt is to understand how to work with quilting patterns. Learn more here.

Related on Organic Authority

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Image: BeingGypsy

 

 

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5 Beautiful Houseplants to Bring Spring into Your Home

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Fill your home with beautiful houseplants.

Houseplants are the easiest, freshest, and most natural decorations you can add to your home. I’ve become somewhat of a houseplant addict over the years. I blame my dad for my addiction, as he has always kept our home (especially the family home’s back bedroom, aka his greenhouse dude space) filled with leafy greens and colorful blooms.

Now, as far as I’m concerned (and in my incredibly unprofessional opinion), there are two types of houseplants: beautiful houseplants and useful houseplants. Beautiful houseplants are plants that have vibrant green leaves and blooms, while useful houseplants actually serve a purpose (you can cook with them, etc.).

Here are a few of my favorite beautiful houseplants:

1. Donkey’s Tail

Donkey's Tail: Beautiful houseplants

Image: Vik Nanda

This succulent features dainty green leaves. Similar to most succulents, the Donkey’s Tail doesn’t require a lot of water, isn’t poisonous, and does best in a sunny spot.

2. Hoya

Hoya: Beautiful houseplants

Image: Quinn Dombrowski

Place this funky plant in bright, indirect light to help it thrive. It is not poisonous, too.

3. African Violet

One of the beautiful houseplants.

Image: Jim, the Photographer

These plants grow easily and aren’t toxic to animals. They bloom year-round and come in different varieties. They do best in warm conditions and filtered sunlight. These plants don’t grow too large, either.

And now, for a few useful houseplants:

4. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is a useful houseplant.

Image: Powerhouse Museum

Keep this succulent out of your cat or dog’s way, as it’s toxic to furry friends. However, it will help treat burns you may suffer while cooking a great meal. Care for this plant by keeping it in the sun and not giving it too much water.

5. Herbs

herbs cc

Image: Alice Henneman

I like to keep a bunch of basil, lavender, thyme, parsley, and oregano near my stove. I have each herb in a separate, small pot. I water them when their soil begins to dry and keep them in indirect sunlight. So far, they are thriving (and my cooking taste amazing).

If none of these plants appeal to you, check out a few other articles Organic Authority writers have done on houseplants:

Which Indoor, Hanging Houseplants Suit Your Home?

5 Best Low-Maintenance Houseplants

Related on Organic Authority

11 Easy Indoor Plants That Practically Take Care of Themselves

7 Easy Ways to Clean Your Indoor Plants

5 Inventive Ideas for Bringing Natural Elements Inside to Create an Indoor Oasis

Image: F. D. Richards

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Spring Vegetable Lasagna Recipe

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vegan lasagna

Nothing spells summer like the light flavors of zucchini, zesty lemon and fragrant basil. But just because we’ve emerged from the harsh throes of winter doesn’t mean you have to give up comfort foods like lasagna that helped you make it through the cold-weather months. Instead, it’s an occasion to lighten up traditionally heavy dishes so you can get satisfaction without bearing the not-so-figure-friendly consequences. The following vegetable lasagna recipe is not only vegan but also full of spring-apropos deliciousness. Enjoy!

Vegan Vegetable Lasagna Recipe

Serves 8-10

For the zucchini:

For the noodles:

  • 12 ounces dried lasagna noodles
  • Sea salt

For the filling:

  • 2 pounds soft tofu, drained
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For assembly:

  • A few handfuls fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cups of your favorite marinara sauce

Directions

For the zucchini, preheat the oven to 375°F and cut the zucchinis lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Place each slice in a single layer on one or two lightly-greased baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pop into the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the zucchini are lightly browned and wilted, but not burned.

For the noodles, bring a large pot of water that has been heavily salted to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for about 7 minutes. Drain. Lay out the noodles on a lightly-oiled baking sheet.

For the filling, into a food processor, add the tofu, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process until well combined.

To assemble the lasagna, spread a thin layer of the tomato sauce onto the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish. On top of the sauce, place a single layer of noodles. Top the noodles with a quarter of the tofu filling and spread evenly. Next, add a layer of the zucchini (1/4 of all the zucchini slices). Spread another layer of the marinara sauce atop the zucchini slices and sprinkle with some fresh basil leaves. Continue to make three more layers of the noodles, tofu filling, zucchini slices and sauce.

Cover with foil and pop into the oven for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for a bit before serving. Serve with fresh basil leaves.

Make this vegan vegetable lasagna recipe throughout the spring, whenever you are craving more bulk but do not want something that will weigh you down as you approach the summer.

Related on Organic Authority

A Customizable Vegetarian Lasagna Recipe

Lasagna Gardening

Summery Sweet Zucchini Bread

Vegan Lasagna with Tofu image via Shutterstock

 

 

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Simple and Delicious Stuffed Artichokes Recipe

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stuffed artichokes

Artichokes are a delicious way to get the bulk you want in your diet without packing on the pounds. Many people avoid preparing artichoke-based dishes from scratch because the vegetable appears intimidating. However, artichokes are much easier to work with than meets the eye. This stuffed artichokes recipe is a simple introduction to artichokes and the perfect complement to a wholesome evening meal.

While this is not a vegan recipe, it can most certainly be transformed into one. Replace the ricotta cheese with 1 cup of mashed baked sweet potato and the Parmesan cheese with the same measurements of nutritional yeast. While the flavor profile will change, the general stuffed artichoke concept stays the same. Knowing this, you can prepare two versions of the recipe to satisfy everyone at the table.

Simple Stuffed Artichokes Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 artichokes
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup whole-wheat/whole-grain breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup  + 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs, garlic, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix until evenly combined. Fold in the ricotta cheese.

Thoroughly wash the artichokes and slice off the the stem and about 1-inch off the tops. Remove the center choke with a spoon. Stuff as much of the filling as possible into the artichoke, between the petals and in the center. Drizzle with olive oil and place in a steamer or a large pot with a steamer basket and lid and cook as such for about 45 minutes. Once finished, transfer the artichokes to a baking dish, sprinkle with 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and broil for 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy this stuffed artichoke recipe as an appetizer or a main meal!

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Toxic Endocrine Disruptor in 50 Popular Snacks, Finds Environmental Working Group

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Toxic Endocrine Disruptor Found in 50 Popular Snack Foods

Propyl paraben, a controversial preservative considered an endocrine disruptor, has been discovered in close to 50 U.S. snack foods, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.

Products including Sara Lee cinnamon rolls, Weight Watchers cakes, Café Valley muffins and La Banderita tortillas all tested positive for propyl paraben, and the group has issued a warning and call to action for consumers.

The ingredient, which is banned from foods sold in the European Union, is a known endocrine disruptor. “The findings are significant because a review of the latest scientific research shows that propyl paraben acts as a weak synthetic estrogen and can alter hormone signaling,” EWG said in a statement. “A recent study by Harvard School of Public Health suggested that exposure to the chemical might be associated with diminished fertility, while another study found that it led to decreased sperm counts in rats.”

Now, EWG has launched an online campaign targeted at the brands whose products contain the controversial ingredient, asking them to remove propyl paraben from their products in order to protect the health of American consumers.

Environmental Working Group has also asked the FDA to reconsider the GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status it granted to propyl paraben, particularly as new research points to the human health risks of the ingredient.

“It is of great concern to us that the use of an endocrine-disrupting chemical in our food is considered safe by our own government,” Johanna Congleton, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., a senior scientist at EWG said in a statement. “Studies show that chemicals that disrupt hormone signaling can lead to developmental and reproductive problems.”

“The U.S. regulatory process is failing to protect us and our food supply,” Congleton said. “European Union regulators do not permit propyl paraben in food. So why do we?”

Propyl paraben has been restricted in the EU since 2006 after research found it had a significant impact on sex hormones and sperm counts in lab animals.

Propyl paraben is also common in personal care products and cosmetics, including body washes and lotions. “Some companies, including Johnson & Johnson and cosmetics giant Revlon have taken steps to cut out some parabens from their products because of relentless pressure from consumers and health advocates,” the group reports.

“Companies that still add parabens to their products need to hear from us loud and clear,” said Renee Sharp, EWG’s director of research. “Ingredients that can disrupt hormone signaling should not be in any product we eat or put on our bodies.”

“It is clear that some companies have figured out a way to make their products without this unnecessary and potentially harmful chemical,” Sharp said. “It is time for the rest of them to catch on and go ‘paraben free’.”

The EWG says consumers should be diligent in label reading and avoid parabens including “propyl paraben, isopropyl paraben, butyl paraben and isobutyl paraben.”

Find Jill on Twitter and Instagram

Related on Organic Authority

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4 Processed Foods You Can Make Better, Cheaper and a Whole Lot Yummier

Cinnamon rolls image via Shutterstock

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There’s an Organic Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Obsession in America and It’s Totally Insane

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There’s an Organic Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups Obsession in America and It’s Totally Insane

Pretty much every natural food store in the country is bursting at the aisles with organic chocolate peanut butter cups… and it just may be a sign of the apocalypse.

If you’re old enough to remember when health food stores were those funky little spots that smelled like wheat germ and Dr. Bronner’s soap, you’re probably also old enough to remember when chocolate wasn’t a health food.

The natural foods industry has always been about making healthy knock-off versions of conventional foods. And before chocolate’s health benefits were all the buzz, carob reigned as the dark waxy alternative to mass-produced chocolate candy products. We didn’t complain much about it back then, although, it was before public shaming on the Internet was a thing. And while we may have thought #CarobSucks, we didn’t make a public fuss about it. I can recall eating quite a few carob bars while I was a line cook at a little health food co-op. Those carob bars were so good and satisfying that even in the gloomy western Pennsylvania winters where hot chocolate would have soothed the soul, it felt as if the world was a little bit brighter with that carob, even though it wasn’t chocolate.

Fast-forward a century or two and the organic food industry is a booming multi-billion dollar mecca glorified by the Temple of Whole Foods. The little health food stores of yesteryear focus more on vitamins and dietary supplements these days while big box stores sell us our food. (Some of it healthier than the rest.) Not only are we obsessed with eating healthy these days, but eating seasonally, insuring better wages for workers around the world and more transparency and accountability in our food system. But have you noticed anything else? Like shelves and shelves full of organic chocolate peanut butter cups?

While carob’s heyday has come and gone now that chocolate has bona fide health benefits, chocolate seems to be legitimizing the burgeoning organic candy industry—and it is totally insane. From Whole Foods to Costco, you will find astonishing giant end caps, displays and shelf after shelf (after shelf!) filled with Justin’s chocolate peanut butter cups, the darling of the organic candy industry. The dark and milk cups are becoming the top-selling items in health food stores across the country. They are to the checkout impulse buy areas what kombucha is to the cold case.

At the recent natural products industry trade show held in Anaheim, Calif., Justin’s took home the coveted “Best of West” award for its mini peanut butter cups, launching soon at a store near you. Technically speaking, these peanut butter cups are natural (isn’t everything on earth?) and they’re cleaner than the product they’re designed to mimic. (You know the one: the conventional brand best known for ads exclaiming, like it’s a bad thing, “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!”) But the best product at a natural foods trade show? Shouldn’t that award go to wheatgrass or oatmeal or everyone’s supposed favorite: kale?

Made with organic ingredients, Justin’s is certainly cleaner than the conventional chocolate peanut butter cups. Justin’s doesn’t contain TBHQ (a preservative in Reese’s) or polyglycerol polyricinoleate, an emulsifier, but the rest of the ingredients are pretty identical save the organic distinction: chocolate, sugar, palm oil, cocoa butter, peanuts and dairy. Justin’s manages to deliver a few less grams of sugar per serving (Reese’s is 21 grams, Justin’s 16), the equivalent of about a teaspoon and a half of sugar. But none of those factors make it anything less than a candy bar conveniently divided into two little paper-wrapped “cups” stamped with the word organic.

Sales of Justin’s products (the brand also makes nut butters including a Nutella knock-off) grew 227 percent from $5.3 million in 2010 to $20 million in 2012, according to BizWest, and while the company won’t disclose its current revenues, it does say it’s in the $50 million-$100 million range. That’s a lot of chocolate-covered peanut butter.

Whole Foods Market, where Justin’s does a huge amount of its business, doesn’t market itself as a health food store—but it does certainly allude to it. And we already know consumers are continuously confused by claims on product packaging, particularly when it includes the words “organic” or “natural”, and especially when those products are purchased in stores like Whole Foods. Ignorance is blissful, and in the case of what’s sold at Whole Foods, it’s also delicious.

So are we buying tens of millions of dollars worth of organic peanut butter cups because we think they’re healthy? Or because they taste better? Or just because they’re at the check out aisle clocking our inner Reese’s-loving child like an older brother about to raid our Halloween spoils?

I put the question out to Facebook and got a few interesting answers, most of which boiled down to people who say they buy them “on occasion” because they’re a healthier treat than the “real thing” (Hershey’s Reese’s cups).

Healthier than the “real thing.”

Organic is better for us than conventional without a doubt, but better can mean a lot of things. Conventional peanuts can contain residue from a number of pesticides and herbicides. The USDA found eight in recent samples. There can be as many as 15 pesticides on conventionally grown chocolate. Pesticide reduction benefits the farmers and communities where the crops are grown. It keeps dangerous toxins out of waterways, our air and the soil. But what are we really buying here?

Just because something is free from pesticides doesn’t make it a health food. And as much as Whole Foods toots its horn about a genuine commitment to fresh and healthy ingredients, I’ve never seen apples or watermelons stacked at the checkout aisle. Just chocolate. And where there’s chocolate, there’s sugar.

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Above is a picture I snapped at my local Whole Foods earlier this week. Granted, they pushed Justin’s to the bottom shelf, but that’s because they know people will bend down to reach for them. No other brand at checkout gets two shelves for just five items (they also sell white chocolate cups and bags of individually wrapped Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups, not to be confused with the award-winning bags of minis I mentioned earlier, which will come wrapless).

Justin Gold’s story is a familiar one; a vegetarian who tired of plain old peanut butter, he started making his own nut butters and a booming business was soon born. According to Justin’s website, the company has ranked “15 on the Inc. 500/5000 Fastest Growing Companies list in the Food and Beverage category two years in a row, and has been recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young.”

Of course, it’s not just Justin’s. Theo Chocolate, which makes delicious organic and Fair Trade chocolates has launched its own peanut butter cup. UNREAL chocolate has its versions too. And let’s not forget Newman’s Own, which was making peanut butter cups long before Justin’s was even selling anything.

So why has the organic peanut butter cup category taken off now? I can see only two possible scenarios:

  • We’re about to enter an age where major food companies become forces for good. Like, for real good. After all, Hershey’s, which owns Reese’s, just announced plans to ditch genetically modified ingredients from its top-selling products, and rival Nestlé is ditching artificial ingredients.
  • Or, we’re simply going to replace unhealthy junk foods with slightly less unhealthy junk foods and continue to make excuses for not eating fresh, wholesome ingredients instead.

Which brings us right back to where this story started. Maybe we traded away those tiny, dimly lit health food stores and their definitions of “healthy” too soon. Maybe we need to reevaluate our old friend carob (and celery, for that matter). Because even if Nestle’s, Hershey’s and Justin’s are going to make candy “better”, we can’t afford to lose sight of the fact that they’re still making candy–and we’re still eagerly eating it up.

Find Jill on Twitter and Instagram

Related on Organic Authority

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Image of peanut butter cup stack via Shutterstock

The post There’s an Organic Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Obsession in America and It’s Totally Insane appeared first on Organic Authority.


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