Product Review: Windy City Organics brings a Rawesome Gust to the Palate

Raw.

Vegan.

Organic.

Superfood.

Living food. 

How does that sound?

This is what you get from Windy City Organics, the parent company of some of the most amazing raw food brands that I have come across: DastonySunBioticsRawGuru, and Rawmio. They also work very closely with Sprout Living, one of the leading manufacturers of raw, sprouted, vegan, and organic brown rice and superfood protein powders of the purest nature.

Based out of (you guessed it), Chicago, IL, Wind City Organics, is family owned and operated and is a dedicated raw organic food manufacturer.

Of course, as health conscious individuals, we want to eat fresh foods - never before packaged - straight out of a garden, as often as possible. But the simple fact is that we live in a modern world and not all of us have access to what we need to thrive in our own backyards. We live in a world where we are traveling by cars, planes, trains, buses, trams, subways - and countless other means of transportation. And when we aren't in a vehicle of sorts we are walking, biking, rolling or strolling into our next meeting - bluetooth in ear, coffee in hand, bags and/or babies in the other fighting crowds and desperately trying to keep our energy up. And we have what tucked away for a snack in between meals? What about those times that we are not in the hustle and bustle but we are on play time enjoying nature with a long hike or backpacking trip or taking it easy with a road trip? What's in our pack? An apple? A banana? Protein bars? And what else do we bring to sustain us between or in addition to meals that is nutrient dense?

The average protein bar consists of a long list of hard to decipher 'ingredients' like soy and/or whey protein isolate, dextrin, natural and artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, vegetable oils, gluten (wheat/barley/rye) and genetically modified corn syrup - and even the ingredients that are otherwise healthy like nuts, seeds and coconut are typically highly processed/heated, destroying the enzymes and any nutritional properties - leaving them nutrient void and you unsatisfied. These bars will likely lead to a host of residual effects such as gas, bloating, lethargy and will leave you with hunger pangs shortly after.

I strive to consume fresh foods, that do not come in a package for the majority of the time. This is generally doable for me. I go to the market and fill my cart with oodles of produce. I also incorporate healthy fats and proteins with wild game, raw aged cheese, farm-fresh eggs (thanks Mom!), gluten-free whole grains, and superfood like seeds, nuts, cacao, coconut and concentrated dried or dehydrated fruits like goji berries, cherries and dates.

Enter Windy City Organics, a one-stop-shop for just what I need to fuel my body holistically. Their products are not only packed with nutrient dense ingredients, but the list of ingredients is short and sweet (or even just one ingredient like Dastony's Stoneground Raw Almond Butter...OMG divine) and 100% organic raw unprocessed goodness.

I recently had the opportunity to try some of their products within the Sunbiotics, Dastony and Rawmio brands. All I can say, is that it was hands down the best raw chocolate and almonds that I have ever had. For real.

I started with the Sunbiotics Probiotic Chocolate bar and Chocolate Almonds (soaked & sprouted) whilst sitting outside in the sun reading.

Wow. There is simply nothing about these that I would change. The raw ingredients of cacao, coconut sugar, yacon root and vanilla bean made for such a supple and sweet combination that just melted in my mouth. And the crunch of the sprouted almonds coated with raw cacao was absolutely delectable. Shockingly, I was able to stop myself at half each and enjoy the rest the next day.

My next endeavor was the Rawmio - Organic Gourmet Sour Cherry and Almond Raw Chocolate Bark (naturally I chose the other chocolate bar next lol).

I enjoyed this bar after a hike on a beautiful warm and sunny day. I cannot even begin to describe to you how tasty this treat was after my hike. That day I was totally fueled by carbs and after the hike needed some fat and protein for an added boost. I had this bar, my vegan (SunWarrior) shake and some coconut water. 

And then.. allow me to introduce to you the finest quality almond butter that has ever crossed these lips. Would I lie to ya'll? Of course not. Dude... this almond butter has a decadent flavor so rich and smooth that one would think there is a list 10+ long of ingredients listed on the back. Nope. Simply100% Raw and Stone Ground Almonds.

I topped mine with some raw cacao nibs...whoa.

And lastly, I tried out Sunbiots' Cheesy Almonds over a nutrient dense salad. 

These almonds added such a pleasurable zest to my salad that I did a little happy dance! Yes, this is what fantastic foods do to me ;)

Suffice it to say, that I couldn't have been more pleased with the products from Windy City Organics and I will be leaning on them for much of my rawesome fuel from now on.

Bed of romaine, shredded carrot, chopped broccoli and cumber with tomato and raw caraway seed sauerkraut, Sunbiotics Cheesy Almonds, and a side of strawberries.

All of these products can be found online at the specific brand's website listed above, wholesale at Windy City Organics or at RawGuru.

-Ashley

Product Review: Go Raw Junk-Free Snacks

It never ceases to amaze me the amount of dangerous additives, preservatives, and chemicals that are added to otherwise safe and healthy food. For what? While the short and quick answer would be "longer shelf life," the reality is much more complicated. The reality, is that adding these things to food saves money by adding fillers and therefore making more at a lower cost. The reality, is that the chemicals that are put into packaged and processed foods are not only dangerous chemicals made in a lab - they proven to have an effect on mood and behavior leading to or contributing to a vast amount of behavioral disturbances such as hyperactivity, ADHD, tantrums, and even Autism.

These nutrient void "foods" are made to make your mouth water, your taste-buds crave more, and set you up for a sugar crash with urgent hunger pangs causing you to reach for more. 

"Research carried out by Dr. Neil Ward at Surrey University found that 89% of 357 diagnosed hyperactive children were adversely affected by artificial colours." (foodsmatter.com).

Be Aware of Food Additives 

We've all seen them on the back of packages and this list is no where near exhaustive but here are some of the scariest additives out there:

  • Artificial Colors: Azo & Coal Tar Dyes worst offenders (E102, 104, 107, 110, 120, 122, 123, 124, 127, 128, 132, 133, 150, 151, 152, 155). These colors and dyes have been known to trigger reactions in asthmatics as well as trigger or cause allergic reactions. Artificial colors are found in products such as beverages, condiments, and other processed foods.
     
  • Artificial Flavors:  An artificial flavor must be comprised of one of the nearly 700 FDA-allowed flavoring chemicals or food additives categorized as “generally recognized as safe,” or any of 2000 other chemicals not directly regulated by FDA but sanctioned for use by an industry group, the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association of the United States. Most of these chemicals exist as natural flavors or can be extracted from them (ewg.org).
     
  • Artificial Sweeteners (aspartame, sorbitol, mannitol, acesulfame, saccharin, saccharin, xyitol): Artificial sweeteners provide zero benefits, are void of nutrients, and cause or contribute to a vast amount of ailments and disease including but not limited to diabetes, tooth decay, weight-gain, bacteria overgrowth, and toxin build-up.
     
  • Carrageenan: A thickener and emulsifier derived from an indigestible seaweed causing inflammation and linked to cancer, ulcerative colitis, and other diseases such as diabetes. Ironically, this one is generally found in alternative milks (like almond milk), juices, and infant formula.
     
  • Flavor Enhancers such as Monosodium Glutamate - MSG (E621): "One of the scariest ingredients out there...Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board-certified neurosurgeon and author of Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills; explains that MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain damage to varying degrees and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities: Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's Disease, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and more." (Found in Eat Raw Not Cooked by Stacy Stowers).
     
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): The term 'GMOs' is being tossed around the health community like a ball in a dog park these days- but the fact is, GMOs are scary. If you aren't already worried about them - you should be. Hate to put it so bluntly, but there simply must be an awareness of GMOs and how they can and will effect your body. 
    • In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. In the U.S., the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale.
    • GMOs (or “genetically modified organisms”) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering, or GE. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
    • Virtually all commercial GMOs are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. Despite biotech industry promises, none of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit. Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights.
    • Unfortunately, even though polls consistently show that a significant majority of Americans want to know if the food they’re purchasing contains GMOs, the powerful biotech lobby has succeeded in keeping this information from the public. In the absence of mandatory labeling, the Non-GMO Project was created to give consumers the informed choice they deserve.(http://www.nongmoproject.org/)
  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup: This one has stirred quite a debate. As it's name entails, high-fructose is derived from corn - and it is... you guessed it, fructose. What's the big deal? Yes, it is higher on the glycemic index but what concerns me with HFCS the most, is that it is coming from an ingredient that is highly likely to be genetically modified (corn) and it is completely void of an nutrients. And yes, this too is made in a lab. Stick with 100% pure maple syrup, raw honey, coconut sugar, or dates to sweeten up your foods/beverages where you will be getting the benefit of minerals, enzymes, and vitamins while you get your sugar fix.
     
  • Natural Flavors: According to its website, the FDA does not have a definition for 'natural' as it appears on food labels, and its willing to let marketers use it so long as the food does not contain added colors or synthetic substances. Yet Natural flavors are still made from compounds that were made in a lab utilizing chemicals and synthetic materials! Comforting right?
    • Further ... the FDA says that natural flavor is one that's derived from a "spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable  juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof"...Basically a natural flavor is one that's derived from a plant or animal (including insects). An artificial flavor, on the other hand, does not come from a plant or animal source, and instead is generated from scratch (in a lab).
    • Sodium benzoate and benzoic acid (E210, 211): Food additive/preservatives linked to worsening hyperactivity, allergies and taxing organs such as the liver and kidneys.
    • Sodium Nitrates: Food additive (typically in cured meats as a preservative) linked to gastric cancer, kidney disease/stones/failure. This one may seem relatively harmless on a label but it's a biggie - we humans have a threshold with the amount of sodium that our body can handle. Surpassing that threshold is a serious danger zone. In infants and toddlers, high concentrations of nitrate can lead to a condition called "blue baby syndrome," which can be fatal. The United States Environmental Protection Agency notes that this happens with nitrates bind to red blood cells, blocking their ability to carry life-giving oxygen throughout the body. Nitrates are also associated with an increase risk in cancer and specifically brain tumors, leukemia and nose/throat tumors.
    • Sulfites/sulphites, Sulfur Dioxide : These two are different chemical compounds but are similar. Sulfites and sulfur dioxide are added to a slew of products to preserve their color and extend their shelf life. Sulfites are also used an alternative to bleaching (in things like white flours, spices, coconut and is also sprayed on shellfish and some fish right on the boat). Both of these additives have the ability to cause major allergic reactions. In fact, sulfites is amongst Canada's top 10 common allergens. Note: Sulfites are also found naturally occurring in fermented foods and beverages such as wine - though some wine makers add more to preserve it further, kombucha and fermented veggies many people can tolerate these naturally sulfites. These two additives are seriously everywhere so get accustomed to reading labels - but also know that if it is under a certain amount (10 ppm), they do not have to be on the label so severely sensitive individuals should also check with the maker/manufacturer. 

Before I go on, allow me to just give you some brief insight as to what I have experienced with some of these additives:

  • Artificial colors & dyes: Anaphylactic, itchy throat, dilated pupils, elevated heart rate
  • MSG: Joint pain, migraines, dizziness/vertigo, flushing, elevated heart rate, facial pressure and sensitive skin 
  • Sodium Nitrates and Sodium benzoate: Kidney stones 
  • Artificial Sweeteners: lethargy, joint pain, brain fog, digestive upset, headaches
  • Sulfites/sulfites, Sulfur Dioxide: Anaphylactic, itchy throat, dilated pupils, elevated heart rate, itchy/watery eyes, brain dog, confusion, depression, joint pain, anxiety

Keep in mind that just because something is derived from a plant or animal (like in 'natural flavors' doesn't mean that it's safe. For example, Citric Acid - a seemingly harmless preservative is often derived from mold. And, ever hear of castoreum? Tastes like vanilla right? Well, this 'natural flavor' is actually a secretion that comes from two castor sacs located under a beaver's tail, right next to a pair of anal glands. This evidently tastes and smells like vanilla and is classified as a 'natural' food additive because it comes from an animal source. Yup, beavers butt. 

I recommend these few simple guidlines:

  • 7 ingredients or less rule: Many folks will say 5  but some of my favorite go-to healthy products contain celtic or Himalayan sea salt or spices like ginger and cinnamon that put it over the 5 limit. 
  • If you can't pronounce it - chances are you don't want to it. For real. 
  • If you don't recognize the ingredient, chances are your body won't either. Our bodies do an awesome job of assimilating and breaking down real whole foods - and naturally begins to reject things that it does not recognize as food.

So, let's step away from the "what  you don't know won't hurt you" mentality and get educated. Knowledge is power my friends.

Product Review: Go Raw Junk-Free Snacks

This post took a bit of a detour - apparently I had some ranting to do before I praise one of my go-to organic food brands: Go Raw. I eat Go Raw products on a regular basis (their spicy pumpkin and sunflower seed mix is out of this world). All of their products are free of sugar, oil, flour, and 100% vegan. 

Their products use a delicate process of soaking, sprouting, and drying (under 105º fahrenheit), ensuring a nutrient dense and enzyme rich finished product. 

I had the pleasure of sampling a variety of Go Raw's new Sprouted Cookies. 

Go Raw's products are sourced from 100% organic ingredients. These cookies are made from a base of 3 simple ingredients: unsulphered coconut, sprouted sesame seeds, and dates that when combined, create a taste-bud experience unlike any other cookie. The good news? The cookie is actually good for you. Go Raw has come up with a variety of cookie flavors like Chocolate (yes please!), Lemon (heaven...), Carrot, Masala Chai, Ginger (OMG yum!) and Original. There was not one that did not like though my favorites are Chocolate, Lemon and Ginger. I may have had three of each in one bite for an epic combination....and by that, I mean that I did... 

For those that have nut allergies, Go Raw is a dedicated nut-free facility. 

Sesame, dates and coconut are nutritional powerhouses. 

Sesame Seeds:

Don't let their size fool you, these tiny seeds are loaded with goodness. Protein makes up 20% of the seed, offering 4.7 grams of protein per ounce. High in magnesium, sesame is an excellent way to get this nutrient in; which aids in digestion, sleep, blood sugar control, lowering anxiety and stress and is critical in preventing diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. The phytosterol is the highest in sesame in comparison to any other nut or seed - this compound has been found to have anti-cancer properties. In addition, sesame contains a high amount of iron, which everyone needs but particularly those with anemia or prone to anemia. And, just a small handful of sesame contains more calcium than a glass of milk. The list goes on and on from healthy skin and hair to eye health - these babies are indeed a superfood. 

Coconut:

If you've been tapped into the health community, you already know that coconut is pretty much a miracle. You can read about the 101 uses for coconut by the lovely Wellness Moma here. Coconut can be used internallyand externally for a wide array of things, but I will tell you that as far as internally, it truly is a miracle food. It is high in lauric acid and Medium-Chain Fatty Acids (MCFA); which helps to boost the metabolism and aids in weight-loss. Yeah, it's 2015 and time to let go of the fallacy that saturated fat is bad. Here are a few of the other awesome benefits of regular use of coconut: helps to support thyroid function, has been shown to possibly prevent or reverse Alzheimers, controls insulin levels, boost hormone production, boost immune system, improve digestion and is a natural anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial and, antioxidant.

Dates:

I'm happy to go out on date with this marvelous fruit any day. A sweet product of the date palm, dates are packed with an impressive mineral, nutrient, and vitamin profile of: fiber, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, vitamins A, B6, K and folates and contains antioxidant flavonoids such as b-carotene. Here are just some of the benefits of consuming dates: digestive health, reduced stroke risk, brain health, heart health, reduced blood pressure, weigh-management, anemia prevention, respiratory health and decreased (colon) cancer risk. 

Eat real whole foods. Go simple. Go Raw.

- Michael Pollan

www.goraw.com

-Ashley

Product Review: Clif Gluten Free Bars

Call me crazy (go ahead, most people do), but I feel my best physically and mentally when the food that I eat is properly sourced. For me, this means that in a perfect world, I would be eating organic 100% all of the time. And in this perfect world of mine, I would not be eating food that is packaged - as I would be eating fresh unprocessed food at all times (ha!).

Well, dear friends of mine, we live in an imperfect world (but that is kind of cool right? Because imperfections are beautiful...), and this means that I do infact eat foods that are packaged. But the beauty here is that I get to choose which products I buy and allow to pass through my lips.

food is medicine.jpeg

It goes without saying (except I'm about to say it), that any food I eat that comes from a package needs to be free of gluten, dairy, and sulfites. And I prefer organic... and of course non-GMO ingredients. I also like to stick to my  'Rule of 7.' Meaning, the product does not contain more than 7 ingredients. While our world (especially in the States) is becoming more and more aware of how ingredients are sourced and the damage that occurs as a result of processed foods, these natural products are still hard to come by.

World, meet Clif Bar

Wait... you may have already met. But, did know that Clif bars are all organic and they have bars that are gluten free? Not only that, Clif Bar was born out of an innovative business model guided by Five AspirationsSustaining our Business, Brands, People, Community and, the Planet.

That's a company that I can stand behind and feel good about consuming their products.

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I had the pleasure of trying out some samples and my favorites of the fruit & nut and fruit & seed line, happen to meet my 'Rule of 7.' These are gluten, dairy, and soy free.

Favorite #1) Cherry Pumpkin Seed

Holy goodness! I love this bar, it's not too sweet and with the superfood pumpkin seeds, they are the perfect snack. These contain just 6 ingredients: 

Organic Dates, Organic Pumpkin Seeds, Organic Cherries, Organic Apples, Sea Salt, Organic Rosemary Extract.

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Favorite #2) Dark Chocolate Almond Coconut

When the afternoon rolls around and you just want a handful of chocolate chips... (wait, is that just me?) Get your fix and then some with the Dark Chocolate Almond Coconut bar. Simply heavenly and with a perfect mixture of healthy fats, this bar curbs that sweet tooth square away (I don't even know if that expression makes sense but it did in my head). Six simple ingredients in these bad boys also: Organic Dates, Organic Almonds, Organic Unsweetened Dark Chocolate, Organic Coconut, Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, Sea Salt.

dark choc clif bar.png

Though they don't meet my 'Rule of 7' criteria, the Mojo Trail Mix Bars are also amazing. And they remind me of Chris Beard's song, All Night Long. Since they have a bit more ingredients including rice and soy, I save these for my long hikes. It is probably of no surprise that my favorite Mojo is the Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond.

Favorite #3) Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond

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I was talking with my sister about the Mojo Clif bars and how I was going to write this post and she also tried these bars -  and I couldn't have articulated it better myself:

"It's something more fun - it's not like other bars where you're like 'OK, I'm going to eat this bar to get my nutrients and protein in even thought's not that great - the Mojo bars are actually good they have a different texture and great taste. It's a bar I'm actually excited to eat." 

So there ya' have it folks, for your next trip, hike, or snack after coffee - pack along some Clif bars. For the gluten free bars, stick to the ones below:

And stay connected with Clif Bar @Clifbar and www.facebook.com/clifbar

-AEB

Product Review: Tagliatelle Jovial Pasta

This pasta dish was by far the best pasta that I have made and I am thinking it may be the best pasta I have ever had. I know, that is a bold statement.

Jovial was kind enough to send me a box of their Gluten Free Brown Rice Egg Tagliatelle and a jar of their Diced Tomatoes to do a product review. The timing was perfect as I had been craving pasta for a while. Being gluten-free for as long as I have been, I can assure you that is indeed the best gluten-free pasta that I have had. I would feed it to any gluten-eater out there. Any day.

Tagliatelle Jovial Pasta & Chicken Sausage

1 box Jovial Brown Rice Egg Tagliatelle Pasta
1/8 jar Jovial Diced Tomatoes
2 tbls grapeseed oil (for your skillet)
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
1/4 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 handful of kale, chopped
4 Al Fresco Chicken Sausage (Roasted Garlic), thinly sliced
2 basil leaves, chopped

Method: 

Boil the pasta.

Meanwhile, heat your grapeseed oil in a large skillet (I do think grapeseed makes a difference in this recipe - it adds a nice buttery and somewhat nutty flavor). Add the fennel, zucchini, onion, carrot and garlic and begin to saute. 

jovial.jpeg

 

Set the pasta aside.

Add the kale and chicken to the saute. Once the chicken is thoroughly heated, combine with the pasta and add in the diced tomatoes and basil leaves.

And... Viola! ;)

jovial pasta bowl.jpeg

Serves ~ 4 (or 1 with the best leftovers ever ;))

So looking forward to eating this dish again.

Enjoy ;)

-AEB

Product Review: Artisana Butters

Artisana! I even love to say their name. I had the pleasure of trying out some samples from Artisana recently and... I am certain I will be finding room in my kitchen for more Artisana products. 

Now, for these heavenly lil' packets...

variety.jpg

Cashew Butter: The cashew butter is almost like a frosting. Not in sweetness but in the buttery, smooth texture. This could be used for various frosting or cream cheese replacements. Loved it.

Almond Butter: I eat quite a bit of almond butter and loved this one because it is simply raw almonds. Many other almond butters have other  ingredients such as salt and cane sugar. There are SO many uses for almond butter. I like to enjoy just by itself or with a banana or apple. Yum :)

Cacao Bliss: OK- not sure this needs much of description. Cacao Bliss is bliss. Seriously. Delicious.

Macadamia Butter: I LOVE this butter. So good. I have made my own macadamia butter in the past theirs has cashew butter in at as well (here is why) which makes it super creamy. I enjoyed this plain but macadamia butter can be used in various recipes to replace cheese (especially ricotta), cream cheese or frosting.

Pecan Butter: Well, I love pecans to begin with but this butter was fantastic. I like to enjoy this one by itself but could be added to so many different foods... Perfect...

My favorite? 

If I had to choose, I may choose the pecan and macadamia....together... A wonderful bit of mother nature. 

Perhaps the best attribute to Artisana products is that their ingredients are completely natural and simple. The butters have few ingredients and often just one. Purely simple and natural :)

Discover more about Artisana here.

Enjoy! 

-AEB