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Finding Baobab Fruit in Tanzania

If you spend any time in health food stores you might have started to see Baobab Powder among the shelves of super foods. Boabab is jam packed with Vitamin C, iron, alkalizing minerals and more antioxidants than acai berries or goji berries. Vitamin C aids in iron absorption so this one fruit, containing both iron and vitamin C, definitely qualifies as a super food.

Sacks of baobab fruit at market in Tanzania

I fell in love with the Baobab tree back in 2002 when I first visited Tanzania. The tree is known as the Tree of Life in Africa but is most often an ominous looking tree without any leaves. There are many stories about how this tree came to be so ugly. Most of the stories end with the Gods ripping the tree out of the ground and putting it back in upside down to end its vanity.

The baobab tree is without leaves 9 months of the year.

And in reality, it does look like the tree is just a giant gnarled mess of roots on top of its massive trunk. But the Baobab trees are truly amazing. They store water inside their enormous trucks to ensure survival during the harshest droughts. When you consider the emergency water supply they provide and their super fruit powers, it really is the Tree of Life.

Magnificent Baobab Trees.

When I returned to Tanzania in November of last year to climb Kilimanjaro and raise awareness about the rhinos, I was delighted to see beautiful, lush baobab trees dotting the harsh African landscape. And I was even more excited when a little boy sold me a baobab fruit on the side of the road. I finally got to see where this health food store powder came from. Check out the little video I took so you can see it too. (My apologizes for the slightly blurry video. I was learning my new camera.)

Where the Heck did the Green Girl Go?

Some of you might have noticed that I’ve been away for a while. I’ve been busy working over at Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine (check out my regular article “The Eco-Friendly Athlete”!) and doing crazy stuff like climbing Kilimanjaro to raise awareness about the critically endangered rhino.

I apologize for the extended break but stay tuned because The Green Girl Next Door will be back in 2013.

Happy New Year!

Vanessa

First Flush Feature

Simple Invention Converts Plastic to Oil

The man in this video and his invention are truly amazing. Watching this video gives me so much hope… yet at the same time it leaves me feeling very depressed and defeated. Watch and then let me explain.

Of course the implications of this amazing invention is what gives me so much hope. This could change everything! Like he said, not only can we convert plastic back into oil but we begin to see plastic not as trash but as a valuable resource. I can only imagine that if these machines became our gas stations, the heart wrenching amount of plastic I see littering my local beach (and just about every location on this planet) would begin to disappear.

But then the pessimistic side begins to move in. This machine exists. This man has traveled the world with it. Yet I have not heard of it until now and chances are you haven’t either. The YouTube video of this invention was posted 2 years ago and has just broken 800,000 views. I am only left to believe that governments around the world do not want it. Here in the United States the most powerful politicians are heavily supported by or connected to the oil industry. Of course it’s not just the United States. Dollar wise, the oil industry as a whole is the world’s largest industry. Big money is powerful and it doesn’t go down without a fight.

So what to do with this video and this information? I think the most important thing we can do to see positive change is to educate ourselves. No matter how large corporations or industries get, the people will always be more powerful when we come together. What would happen if we all watched this video and made this invention the topic of conversations and the news headlines? Would we then see this invention become part of our lives?

I dream of the day when our beaches aren't littered with plastic. Photo: Ben Kay, Santa Monica Pier

What do you think? Am I being too pessimistic? Do you think this invention can change the world?
I know many of us are thinking that we would rather see clean, renewable energy supported than the continuation of oil production because we can now convert petroleum products back to usable oil. But wouldn’t it be amazing to clean up the mess we made!
For more information: http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/plastic-to-oil-fantastic/

nobakeBERRYpie feature

No-Bake Berry Pie (Sugar-free, gluten-free & vegan. But don’t tell!)

This pie is perfect for the 4th of July. In fact, when berries are in season it’s perfect for weekdays, weekends, holidays, breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert. I’m not kidding. This pie is free of gluten, processed sugars and it’s vegan so you can have it anytime. This pie is actually raw but I don’t tell people that. I find most raw desserts to be suitable only for raw foodies (no offense) but this pie can be served to any average American and I guarantee you will have a new friend. Full disclosure, I act like this is my pie but it’s really the No-Bake Strawberry Pie from The Joy of Vegan Baking. I made a couple of minor changes so I like to pretend it’s mine. But the genius belongs entirely to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

So, get to the farmer’s market, buy a 3 pack of berries and let’s not bake a pie!

Crust:
1 cup raw walnuts
1 cup raw pecans
1 cup pitted dates (make sure they are soft and moist like medjools.)
pinch of salt

Pulse the nuts in a food processor until they are coarsely ground. Add the dates and salt and pulse until you have an even coarse mixture of dates and nuts. Press the mixture into a pie dish or a springform pan.
For a nut-free version, substitute coconut shreds. You know you have the right ratio of coconut shreds (or nuts) to dates when the mixture holds its shape when you press it into a pan but isn’t so moist it sticks to your hands.

Pie filling:
3 cups ripe strawberries sliced thin.
1 cup fresh blueberries.
1 cup ripe strawberries, whole.
5 pitted medjool dates soaked in warm water for 10 minutes & drained.
2 tsp fresh lemon juice.
Dark chocolate bar, make chocolate curls using a vegetable peeler. (optional)

In a blender or food processor, blend the cup of whole strawberries with the dates & lemon juice. Arrange about 2/3 of the sliced strawberries and about half of the blueberries in the prepared crust. Pour the strawberry date mixture into the pie. Use a spatula to make sure the mixture is evenly distributed. Arrange the remaining strawberries and blueberries as the top layer of your pie. Decorate with chocolate curls. Place pie in refrigerator for 1 hour to set the pie.  Feel free to sub with different berries.  Heck, I’ll bet you super sweet peaches would be amazing too!

This berry pie could make anyone a sugar free, gluten free & vegan convert! (I left the chocolate shavings off this one but I could have added it between the pie filling & crust for a little surprise.)

That’s it. Get ready to fall is love. But try to share. It’s hard when something tastes this good but just think about how happy you will make the other person.

(By the way, my friend made the date strawberry mixture as a pancake topping and said it was amazing. I like the way she thinks!.)

Happy 4th of July. Don’t forget to leave music on for you pets if you leave the house. Those damn fireworks have been scaring my dog and cat all week and the 4th isn’t even here yet.

This pie is much closer to the original in The Joy of Vegan Baking. Strawberries with chocolate curls. Nom nom nom!

compostfeature

The Easiest Way to Compost

Did you know that vegetable scraps, paper, yard trimmings and other naturally “biodegradable” items can not decompose in most land fills? This is because most land fills are anaerobic (air-locked) which deprives the biodegradable materials of oxygen and of the micro-organisms that break them down. What this means for all of us, is that we better get good at separating our waste.  Many of us already separate our recyclables but we need to start separating our compostable food scraps as well. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2010 Americans tossed 34 million tons of food waste.

Full confession – I have a worm bin for composting but I don’t use it.  My excuse is that during the last few years I have moved so frequently that I haven’t been able to set it up.  I’ve only been in my current place for 6 weeks, but this is still just an excuse.  I feel horrible when I put plant scraps in the trash – and I do go through a ton of plant scraps – yet I find myself doing it.  But there is an easier solution for many of us that doesn’t require buying a worm bin or other home compost bin.  If you live in a city that provides you with a separate trash can for yard trimmings and debris, then you have your very own, city run composter.  You know the trash can that is usually green?  You can put not just leaves and branches in there but all fruit and vegetable waste as well.

These green bins aren't just for yard debris. Your fruit and vegetable scraps can go in here too!

I called the Bureau of Sanitation for the City of Los Angeles to verify this and to ask if any other items labeled compostable can be put in the green bin.  While all fruit and veg scraps are welcome, you can not put compostable spoons, cups, bags, etc in there.  There is actually a sticker on the inside of the green bin that lists what can go in the can.

Santa Monica also uses a green bin but it comes with no label or sticker.  So I called them up yesterday and found out that in the city’s efforts to be as sustainable as possible, you can now put ALL food scraps in the green bins along with compost-ware (plant starch spoons, cups, etc.) and compostable “plastic” bags made of plant starches.  She wanted to clarify that the label “biodegradable” means nothing to them but if a product is labeled “compostable” then you can put it in the green bin.  I was a bit shocked knowing that items like meat and cheese should never go in a composter.  But yes, in Santa Monica, even animals products can be composted.  The city is using a high temperature composter that makes all this possible.

Tips to get started:
1. If you don’t have a green bin, call the city and ask if they have them. If green bins are offered they will be happy to deliver one for free and you shouldn’t pay to have service for your green bin. Cities want you to compost so they encourage you to with a free service. I live in an apartment building that doesn’t have a green bin but I made sure the landlord knows I would like him to order one for us. We all have big patios with trees that drop a ton of leaves so I think we need them anyway. Until then, there are plenty of green bins in the alley that I can use.  Just don’t tell on me.
2. Food waste can get wet, mushy and rotten pretty quickly. Even if you don’t fill your green bin, make sure you put it out every week for pick-up. My mom leaves her fruit and veg scraps out in the sun for a day before she tosses them in the green bin. This dries out the produce and prevents her green bin from becoming a hot wet mess. If you want to compost meat scraps I suggest you collect them in a bag in the freezer first and then put them out for trash day. This should avoid nasty smells that would attract hungry little critters.

A compost pail makes collecting food scraps easy peasy.

3. Keep a food scrap container in the kitchen to collect your scraps throughout the day. Any container with a lid works but you can also buy a compost pail. If you are all about convenience, you can buy a compostable food waste bag by BioBag to place in your container. This keeps the food contained and keeps your food scrap container clean.

BioBags are great for easy clean up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. If you don’t have a city green bin, then look into getting a compost bin. Worm bins compost very quickly but only get worms if you can take care of them. It doesn’t take much, just make sure they have scraps to eat and some water. Or you could always designate an area of your yard to be a compost. We did this growing up. Right by our vegetable garden we had a pile that served as our compost. Just keep that compost to plant scraps. Again, you don’t want eggs, meats, etc rotting in your backyard.

So it doesn’t get much easier.  Collect your food scraps, toss in green bin, done!  No more excuses for me and I hope for you either.

Caesar feature

The Best Damn Vegan Caesar Salad Ever

Can you tell I love this salad? Seriously though, Todd and I eat this salad every week. The dressing is sublime and the salad has everything to make it a complete meal. It’s one of the few salads that can easily be a stand alone meal for Todd, even when he is training a few times a day. We make sure to make a ton so we have some for the next day as well.

This salad is more of a caesar on crack. It has quinoa, home made tempeh fakin’ bits, shredded carrots, tomaotes, avocado & home made gluten free croutons. And the dressing is so good you’ll be licking your plate. I’m not sure where this dressing first originated. It’s been passed among my veg friends and, like a game of telephone, keeps getting altered. I’ve seen many versions of this caesar dressing on websites and in cookbooks. I apologize to the originator who inspired this dressing craze. I would bow down to you if I knew who you were.

There are so many ways to serve up this salad. I mix up the greens between some combination of romaine, spinach and kale and sometimes I even serve it hot. Yes, a hot salad. I always find myself eating fewer salads in the winter because I crave warm foods. So when the weather is chilly I serve this salad when the quinoa, tempeh and croutons are just finished and are nice and hot. I usually start with a layer of hot quinoa, followed by my greens and veggies and topped with the hot tempeh and croutons. It makes the whole salad warm but never wilty. Try it some time! If you want this salad cool, then just be sure to make the quinoa, tempeh and croutons first.

Salad
Greens of your choice. I love romaine mixed with either spinach or kale.
1 or 2 carrots freshly shredded
Chopped tomatoes
Chopped avocado
1 tablespoon hemp seeds (optional)
Cooked quinoa. I like to cook my quinoa in a salt free vegetable bullion for added flavor.

This salad is made with kale & spinach. The salad at the top of the article is made with romaine & spinach. Yum either way.

Gluten Free Croutons(inspired by the People’s Co-op in Ocean Beach)

Always in my freezer for my next crouton moment.

5 slices of Food for Life Gluten Free bread. The brown rice bread & millet bread make the best croutons.
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 Tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 Tablespoon dried basil
Sea salt to taste.
Preheat oven to 350. Slice the bread into small cubes. Combine oil and herbs in a bowl and then toss the bread cubes around until mixture is evenly distributed. Bake until toasty; 15 – 25 minutes depending on oven.

Gluten free croutons straight out of my toaster over.

Tempeh fakin’ Bits
1 8oz package of tempeh
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 – 3 Tablespoons reduced sodium tamari
Cut tempeh into small cubes. Heat olive oil in skillet on medium for 30 seconds. Add tempeh and cook until tempeh starts to brown. (Keep the temeph moving so it doesn’t stick to the pan.) Add tamari and cook until the tamari is absorbed and the tempeh begins to brown further.
I understand this isn’t the healthiest preparation for tempeh. Sometimes I reduce the oil and tamari. But honestly the salty tamari combined with the oil makes a damn good bacon substitute.

Best Dressing Ever (makes approximately 16 ounces)
1/4 cup (heaping) raw almonds
6 heaping tablespoons nutritional yeast
6 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/4 cup Braggs liquid aminos
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
1/2 cup to 3/4 quarter cup water (depending on how thick you like your dressing.)
Place all ingredients in a powerful blender (Vitamix) or food processor and process until smooth. If your blender/processor can’t handle almonds very well, soak them for a few hours or overnight first. It’s healthier to soak them anyways!

Try it tonight and let me know what you think.  Or take it to a potluck and blow everyone away.

 

 

soy products

To Soy or Not to Soy? That is Today’s Question.

Today’s post is in response to a question posted on my Facebook page:

Green girl, I have been asked by meat eaters where I get my protein with soy getting such a bad rap. Can you shed some light on what soy products are supposed to be harmful?

Soy is absolutely a healthy food…sometimes.  Let me explain.

Soy is one of the complete plant proteins (quinoa, hemp seed, & chia seed are also complete proteins) and it provides calcium, folic acid, iron, and fiber. Fermented soy products (tempeh, miso, natto, tamari, even some brands of tofu) are generally seen as the most healthful since the fermentation process adds nutrients & aids in digestion. This is the good.

So what’s the soy problem? The problem is politics and the way soy is grown & processed in modern agriculture.

1. Soy became too popular and millions of dollars from the meat and dairy industry were poured into fake science and smear campaigns. Hear something unhealthy about soy? Chances are the study was funded by the meat or dairy industry to get you to put that soy milk down. You always have to dig deep to find the source of funding for any research you hear about no matter what the topic. Just because a Harvard scientist published the study doesn’t mean the dairy industry didn’t pay for his research.

Here is an example of one such headline: Soy Reduces Sperm Count! Did you hear that one on the news? This was a study paid for by the dairy industry. Here are the intimate facts: soy actually increases ejaculate fluid, but the sperm count remains the same. There is just more semen so the sperm is less concentrated. But what we hear on the news is that a given measurement of semen from a soy consumer contains less sperm than that of a non-soy consumer.  By reporting this small fact without providing all the information, madness ensues. Suddenly soy is going to make men sterile, feminine or even down right curvy. In Asia, men have been eating soy for many generations. The men don’t have boobs and they can still have babies. Enough said.

2. Soy is killing the Amazon. We used to hear that cattle grazing was destroying the Amazon. Then it was the soy bean. Except that just isn’t true. Studies have shown that cattle ranching is responsible for 70 – 80 percent of Amazon deforestation. Soy farming is a fraction of the remaining percentage. If you ask me, any Amazon deforestation is too much but don’t blame your tofu. The soy grown in the Amazon is for feeding livestock. I guess the burger is to blame after all.

3. Conventionally grown soy is dirty, dirty, dirty. The soybean is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, receiving both large quantities of various pesticides and herbicides. Conventional soy is also a GMO crop (genetically modified). When you choose soy it is so important to always choose organic.

4. Soy allergies are very common. This is true for most genetically modified crops. If you have a soy allergy, then steer clear. Soy intolerance is common as well. (An allergy is an immune system response. Intolerance is usually noted in the digestive system, by an upset stomach or gas.) People with a soy intolerance might find that they are only affected by processed soy such as soy milk or tofu. Minimally processed and fermented soy products such as tempeh and miso are more often easily digested without any problems. You just need to experiment to find what works for you.

5. There has been some evidence that soy can interfere with thyroid medicine and possibly the thyroid itself if you already have a thyroid problem. Don’t panic here. Studies show that people need to eat a lot of soy (about a package of tofu a day) before their thyroid starts responding. A healthy vegan diet is actually known to regulate your thyroid. If you are on thyroid medicine, do not consume soy near the time you take the meds. Disclaimer: I’m no doctor, I’m just sharing what I’ve read in the peer reviewed scientific journals. Talk to your doctor if you have a thyroid condition and love your soy (but understand that your Doctor probably never took a nutrition course). Better yet, find a dietician that is familiar with the vegan diet.

What about all the talk about phytoestrogens (isoflavones)? Soy phytoestrogens are known to have very weak hormone like activity. Men hear “estrogen” (thanks to the meat and dairy industry’s soy smearing campaigns) and begin to think their manhood is threatened. Not the case. Phytoestrogens have very weak estrogen and ANTI-estorgen effects. Studies hint that these phytoestrogens just might prevent several cancers, including prostate cancer in men. Maybe that little bit of estrogen isn’t so bad! To be honest, the jury is still out on whether phytoestrogens are really beneficial for us but many studies hint that they just may be beneficial to both men and women.
The conclusion? If you like soy, go for it. It’s healthy and it’s a whole food. Just look for organic and preferably USA grown soy.  And choose unprocessed or minimally processed soy like the whole bean, tempeh, tamari, etc. Soy cheese and soy burgers would fall under the processed title and should be eaten sparingly. Personally, too much soy milk upsets my stomach but I can eat tempeh all day. Figure out what works for you.
If you have a question you’d like me to answer or a topic for me to research, let me know.  Send me an email (vanessa@thegreengirlnextdoor.com) or a Facebook message.

 

NOAH feature

The Best Eco-Friendly & Vegan Shoes for Guys & Gals (that you’ve never heard of)

I don’t even remember how I came across the website for NOAH’s Italian made vegan shoes but I’m glad I did. I really thought I knew every vegan & eco shoe line out there but somehow the 3 year old NOAH line remained elusive. Not anymore. NOAH has shoes for both men and women but I think it’s their men’s line that really shines. From casual to dress, these shoes are stylish, gorgeous and many of them are made from eco-freindly materials like flax and natural rubber. There is such a dearth of eco-freindly men’s shoes that go beyond casual shoes and NOAH nicely fills that gap.

Love these shoes made with organic flax and a rope sole.

NOAH has several men’s dress shoes to choose from.

 

NOAH microsuede, flax and rubber. Love this casual shoe.

Now, the women’s line is not to be underestimated. It is a more conservative line that seems great for work or for women that are just a bit more conservative with their wardrobe. The women’s line would be perfect for someone like my mom who is vegan and works in a court house. Actually, their women’s boots are pretty rockin’ so they really have something for everyone. (Their sale page has some boots that I wish I had for this past winter!)

NOAH ballet in organic flax.

NOAH has classic pumps with all heel heights.  Because who really works in 3 inch heels?!

These classic lace ups are too cool for school.

This elegant flat in natural & black is perfect for work.

 

You can tell by NOAH’s website that they are proud to be vegan. They even have a page explaining why they don’t use leather. They cover the environmental, world hunger, and animal benefits.  (Seriously love this company!)

“Our vision is a world in which human beings, nature and animals may live in mutual respect and peace with one another, and in which each one shares happiness with the other.”  From the NOAH website.

NOAH shoes are not yet carried by any U.S. retailers but we can order them on-line. If you are in Germany, they have a store front in Spessart and even a gourmet vegetarian restaurant! I’m going to send Moo Shoes an email asking them to consider carrying NOAH shoes. If you know a great veg/eco shoe retailer, tell them you’d love to see NOAH shoes in the store.
Feature best new products

Best of Expo West 2012, Part 2: Favorite New Products

Last week I told you about my favorite new companies from Expo West (see post). This week I’m bringing you my favorite new products from some  of our ol’ time favorite companies. From snacks to steel cups to soap, these are the products I was pretty stoked about.

Klean Kanteen‘s new steel pint cups. Klean Kanteen has a new pint cup that I think is just awesome, especially if you get the silicone ring to go with it. Just attach a carabeener and then clip it on and take it everywhere with you. If everyone that ends up at house parties had their own pint cup that attaches to their belt loop/purse/?, then we could stop using those plastic party cups for good. Of course it’s not just great for beer lovers. It’s great for kids, it’s great as a travel cup, basically, it’s for everyone. Cliff Bar and Klean Kanteen partnered together for Expo’s Ziggy Marley concert and gave every beer drinker their own steel pint. It was quite the sight seeing everyone with a reusable steel pint cup!

Klean Kanteen's new pint cup. Add the silicone ring and a clip and it's ready for adventure.

 

So Delicious no sugar added coconut milk ice creams, now with 2 new flavors!  So Delicious is a well known house hold name for bringing us the best tasting non-dairy milks, creamers, ice creams and yogurts.  In 2011 they debuted their no sugar added coconut milk ice creams in vanilla, chocolate and mint chip.  And now they have added two new flavors: butter pecan and toasted almond chip. These treats are so delicious there is no need for sugar added ice creams!  The texture is a bit icy when they are really frozen hard, but let them soften and they turn into the creamy ice cream you were wanting.  It’s called So Delicious for a reason.  At Expo they were out of the butter pecan and toasted almond chip every time I went by the booth.  It was so popular everyone was eating it up!  But I have had the original flavors and can definitely say it’s called So Delicious for a reason.

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The So Delicious no sugar added family of ice creams. Wish my family was as sweet

 

Vega’s new Vega Sport line of products. Vega has long been one of the best sports nutrition companies with everything from protein powders to energy bars. Now they have the Vega Sport Performance System.  It consists of a family of products that help you  prepare, sustain and then recover from your workout. My fiance Todd and I have used almost all the products at this point and can honestly say these are now the best tasting and best performing products out there. Todd loves the Pre-Workout Energizer and the Performance Protein. I was thrilled to discover their Endurance Gel – it’s date sweetened and perfect for a Tough Mudder or trail runs. To be honest, Todd and I never really liked the taste of Vega’s powders. But Vega stepped it up and reformulated everything and now it is beyond awesome. Vega is sold at Whole Foods, on-line at Vitacost and more.

Vega's new Vega Sport line. Gluten-free, soy free, no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners. 100% awesome.

 

Hail Merry raw vegan miracle tart – now in coconut cream! Okay, so normally I don’t allow any sugar in my diet unless it is fruit. But at Expo I had to make the exception for Hail Merry’s Miracle Tarts. These are seriously the best deserts around and there isn’t much to feel guilty about. Last year they debuted their chocolate and almond butter tart  – and won a best new product award from VegNews magazine. This year, they had a coconut vanilla creme tart that made me want to do back flips. If you haven’t tried the Miracle Tart yet, get thee to your local health food store. Tarts are typically 3.99 (on the website they sell for more b/c they have to be overnighted and kept cold). Choose from chocolate, chocolate mint, chocolate almond butter, meyer lemon, persian lime and now coconut vanilla creme. I’ve yet to see the coconut ones in the store but I’m sure they will appear soon.

The meyer lemon tart is my favorite. Todd loves the chocolate almond butter. Look for the new coconut vanilla creme tart.


Alaffia‘s new Liquid African Black Soap. Alaffia is by far one of my absolute favorite skin care lines. Unfortunately they’ve found their way onto many a blacklist for using palm oil. Palm oil from Indonesia is responsible for incredible amounts deforestation and for the decline of the orangutan as their natural habitat is cleared for palm oil farms. I’m all for boycotting palm oil from Southeast Asia…BUT Alaffia’s palm oil comes from West Africa. No orangutans, no deforestation. In fact, everything Alaffia does is a model of sustainability. Okay, now back to their new product. Their new liquid African Black Soap is an all purpose soap – think Dr. Bronners but thicker. It’s non-drying, it’s great for sensitive skin, it’s truly natural and fair trade. All Alaffia products support West African communities and the environment. In addition to creating a women’s cooperative of fair trade products, and supporting reforestation programs, Alaffia provides roofs, chairs and materials for rural Togo schools and they have donated over 3,000 bicycles to children in Togo so they can get to school. Alaffia is simply an amazing company with some of the best products around.

Feature best new companies

Best of Expo West 2012 Part 1: Best New Companies

During the extended weekend of March 9 – 11th, I, along with 60,000 other people, attended Natural Products Expo West 2012 at the Anaheim Convention Center.  Expo West is where the natural products industry comes to show off their products and to meet up with distributors, buyers, sellers, and press.  There are beauty products, supplements, house hold products, and tons and tons of food.  In my 3 days at Expo West I managed to get through just about the entire show.  I found so much fun stuff that I’ll have to do a few more posts to cover it all.

Here are my favorite NEW COMPANIES from Expo West. (In no particular order)

Qunioa gives Qrunch Burger its name and its crunch.

Qrunch Burger.  Qrunch Burger is not your everyday veggie burger.  The taste and texture alone make it a stand out.  It’s super crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  This is a crazy good patty made out of quinoa, millet and veggies.  They had an original and Italian seasoned one – I loved the Italian. Qrunch also happens to be free of every common allergen.  We are talking gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, corn-free, wheat-free, egg-free and nut free.  Basically anyone is free to eat these.  I made sure I frequented the Qrunch booth whenever I was hungry at Expo.  Look for them at your local store or ask your store to carry them.

 

 

Harmless Harvest coconut water.

Harmless Harvest is probably the company I was most excited to check out at Expo.  From the never ending crowd around their booth, it was clear I wasn’t the only one.  Harmless Harvest is the first raw and organic, ready to drink, coconut water.  Prior to meeting the Harmless Harvest team I had no idea that other coconut waters were heated.  No wonder all the other packaged coconut waters didn’t taste like real coconut water!  Harmless Harvest sources their coconuts from small family farms in Thailand and uses a heatless high pressurization process to inhibit bacteria growth and make it safe.  What this means is that it actually tastes like it is coming right out of the coconut AND it’s still raw so you aren’t going to miss out on any of coconut water’s amazing benefits.  If you happen to see a bottle of pink coconut water by Harmless Harvest, don’t worry.  The level of phenols in the water can make the water turn pink.  Other companies add chemicals to stop this from happening.  But pink is harmless, so HH let it be.  Unfortunately the coconut water is packaged in plastic but that is the only option that can handle the high pressurization processing at this stage.  This company cares about doing everything as sustainably as possible so I’m sure they will forgo plastic if another option arises.

One Degree organic foods.  At Expo West, One Degree was debuting its line of veganic sprouted grain breads.  From the field to the bakery, every step is vegan and organic – veganic.  This is a company that is staying true to the meaning of organic and adding transparency so you can see it for yourself.  On the front of every package is a square QR code so anyone with a smart phone or internet access can scan the code and see the entire life story of every ingredient used, down to the family farm on which it was grown.  Pretty cool, right? Just when you think bread can’t get any more exciting, rumor has it they have a gluten-free option on the way.

Rumor has it they are working on a gluten-free bread.

Common Good bulk refill soap.  Common Good is my favorite new non-food company.  They provide refill stations at your grocery store where you can refill your own bottles of soaps and detergents.  Think about how much less waste we would all have if we refilled our bottles instead of buying new ones, not to mention the manufacturing, labeling, shipping and everything that goes into getting a product onto the grocery store shelves and into your home.  Right now the company has laundry, dish, hand and all purpose soaps and they also sell recyclable plastic bottles AND glass ones in case you forgot to save yours.  If you want Common Good in your store, ask the store manager for it.  And keep asking until they give you a bulk station.

In my dream store, all soaps are sold in bulk refill stations like this.

Hydroflask.  Hydroflask isn’t a brand new company, but they are new to me and I think new to Expo West as well.  Hydroflask makes stainless steel reusable bottles that have a double wall vacuum insulation.  This means that your hot drink stays hot (up to 12 hours) without the bottle ever burning your hand and the cold stays cold (up to 24 hours!) without causing your bottle to sweat and get everything wet.  These bottles are lightweight, durable, sweat-proof, freeze-proof, and recycleable.  Hydroflask is also a member of 5% back, donating 5% of their gross profits to charity.  They come in all shapes, sizes, including a food flask for soups or whatever you want to keep cold or hot.  I’m loving this bottle so much I’m going to do a video review as well.  Stay tuned.

I picked up the 18oz wide mouth. Check the website for more shapes and sizes.

Food for Lovers Vegan Queso.

Now also in "mild".

Okay, Food for Lovers was at Expo West last year debuting their vegan queso.  But I think many of us still don’t know about this company so I’m adding them to this year’s list.  Plus, this year they debuted their mild queso.  Food for Lovers is brought to us by vegan Texans Chris and Crystal Tate, the sweetest couple around.  Trust me, meeting them makes you love their queso even more.  They love each other, they love animals and they love their queso.  Lucky for us, they decided to share their vegan queso with us.  Find them at Whole Foods or check their website for more retailers.  FYI, there is another vegan queso on the market that just happened to be trusted with the Food For Lovers recipe.  Chris and Crystal are now fighting this in court.  Support this amazing couple and get yourself some Food for Lovers vegan queso.

Look for these new products at your local stores, or help the company out and ask your store to start carrying them.  You might have to ask a few times but eventually the store will listen, especially if they are a small co-op or natural foods store.