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FRESH Start in 2016

FRESH Start in 2016After an indulgent holiday season, I actually look forward to the peace, quiet and renewal that comes with the New Year. January is a month to evaluate, change and establish new routines. It’s also a great way to ReFRESH your diet and start some healthy habits for 2016.

Here are a few ideas for a wholesome and healthy start to the New Year:

Frozen Fruit & Yogurt Smoothie: In a blender, combine 1 cup Full Circle Fat-Free Milk or Full Circle Almond Milk with 1/2 cup Brookshire’s Frozen Fruit and 1/2 cup Brookshire’s Low-Fat Yogurt. Blend to combine. Add more milk to reach desired consistency. Use a variety of yogurt and fruit flavors throughout the week.

Hot Green Tea: Full Circle Organic Green Tea has so many health benefits and is a great way to stay warm during a chilly time of year. Give it an additional antioxidant boost by adding Full Circle Honey and fresh lemon juice to a hot brewed cup of tea.

Overnight Oats: This is one of my favorite breakfasts on the go. Add 3/4 cup of Full Circle Fat-Free Milk or Full Circle Almond Milk to a Mason jar with 1 tablespoon Full Circle Raisins and 1 teaspoon Full Circle Organic Brown Sugar or Full Circle Honey. Stir to combine and then add 1/2 cup of Brookshire’s Whole-Grain Oats. (Quick Cooking or Steel Cut Oats are not recommended for this method.) Refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours. Fresh fruit or nuts can be added before eating.





A FRESH Take on Full Circle Soup

Creamy Tomato BisqueDuring the cold months of winter, I often want homemade soup but don’t have the ingredients or time to make a batch. That’s why I like to grab the Full Circle Organic soup boxes.

Available in three classic flavors – Chunky Tomato, Lentil and Chicken Noodle – these soups are made with organic vegetables and no preservatives or MSG. The vegetables used are fresh and plump, and in the Chicken Noodle, you will find juicy chunks of chicken and delicious egg noodles.

My favorite is the Chunky Tomato paired with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. It is so good on a cold, rainy day, but other times, I like to turn the chunky tomato into a delicious, velvety bisque. It is the perfect first course for a dinner party, and no one will ever know that it wasn’t homemade.

Creamy Tomato Bisque

Ingredients:
1 large fresh tomato, seeded and diced
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 (17.3 oz) box Full Circle Chunky Tomato Soup
3/4 cup half-and-half
fresh basil, for garnish
Full Circle Soup & Snack Oyster Crackers, for serving

Directions:
In a saucepan, add the tomatoes and oil. Sauté over medium heat. Add the garlic powder, black pepper and broth. Pour in the box of soup and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the half-and-half. Use an immersion blender or electric blender to liquefy the soup until it is very smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Warm bisque again before serving. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, and serve with Full Circle Soup & Snack Oyster Crackers.

Serves 4

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Rise & Shine with a FRESH Healthy Breakfast

Maple Hill Creamery Yogurt paired with FRESH Signature Granola Summer has ended and September is almost here. It’s a time to get back into school and work routines. That means early mornings and the daily rush to get out the door.

So, you hit the snooze a few times; that doesn’t mean you can skip breakfast. There are still some great options that are quick, healthy and easy to eat on-the-go when you are short on time.

Maple Hill Creamery Yogurt paired with FRESH Signature Granola is one of my favorite breakfast combinations. Top with a drizzle of honey and some fresh berries, and it’s almost like dessert for breakfast.

Not only is it delicious, but it’s healthy, too. The yogurt is made with milk from 100% grass-fed cows. They are committed to making the highest quality 100% grass-fed, organic, whole-milk dairy products. With a variety of flavors in their cream-line yogurts and handcrafted Greek yogurts, you are sure to find a favorite. They even have drinkables for an on-the-go healthy snack.

The FRESH Signature Granola is made in-house with organic rolled oats, walnuts, organic pumpkin and sunflower seeds, coconut, currants, cranberries, apricots and blueberries. It is lightly sweetened with brown rice syrup and baked in a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, ginger, cardamom, vanilla, orange essence, and canola and sesame oils.

It’s a wonderful mixture of all-natural flavors, and the protein and fiber keep you satisfied and away from unhealthy snacks.

On mornings that are rushed, I pack my yogurt to-go. Simply grab a Mason jar and layer the ingredients – yogurt on the bottom, a drizzle of honey, a layer of fruit and granola on top. It’s easy to eat and will stay fresh in the office refrigerator. You can even make it the night before. With the granola on top, it stays crisp and dry, and whenever you’re ready, there’s a healthy breakfast at your fingertips.





Italian Pasta Made the Old-Fashioned Way

Montebello pastaItaly is such a romantic place with great tradition and expertly-made pasta dishes that are crafted from the best ingredients.

That’s why I love Montebello pasta. It’s an Italian classic made by artisan pasta makers who use Old World techniques to create distinctive flavor, texture and shapes.

Named after the Montebello Monastery in Marche, Italy, the fields surrounding the monastery have been growing wheat to make pasta since 1388. They’ve followed the same agricultural practices and pasta-making techniques for centuries.

Picture this: a small farm in the rolling hills overlooking the Adriatic Sea that grows organic wheat, which will be carefully ground into semolina flour and combined with mountain spring water. It creates a fine dough that is extruded through handmade bronze molds.

Instead of flash-drying in ovens, the artisans of Montebello dry their prized pasta slowly in traditional drying rooms. These Old World practices produce delicious handcrafted pasta with a unique porous texture that cooks evenly and holds sauces beautifully.

FRESH carries several different shapes that are great for a variety of sauces. My favorite is the strozzapreti, a narrow tube that is twisted and rolled around its center. The folds capture sauce and help create the perfect bite.

Enjoy Montebello knowing that it is the finest pasta available. Buon Appetito!

Pasta with Zucchini Sauce

Ingredients:

1 lb Montebello pasta, uncooked
4 fresh zucchinis
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Bring water to a boil and season with salt. Add pasta and cook to al dente. Drain and reserve some of the pasta cooking water. Cut the ends off of the zucchinis and thinly slice into circles. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over high heat until hot. Reduce heat to medium; add the zucchini, salt and pepper. Sauté until very soft, stirring often. Add pasta to the zucchini. Stir in the cheese and cook for about 1 minute. Add just enough pasta water to create a creamy consistency to the sauce. Garnish with basil and serve.

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Family Central: Love at First Bite!

September is a big month for most families, as it starts a brand-new school year. A daily schedule is developed which includes set meal times, and we all know that growing kids require a lot of food. Back in the days of my school years, I recall always being hungry right after school and rummaging through our kitchen pantry. A select option of potato chips, Fruit Gushers and bananas were all that I could ever find, and that combination was only appealing for so long. I always begged my parents for more snacks, but their answer was always, “I am about to cook; find something in the pantry.” Oh, how I wish I could go back in the day to educate them of healthier snacks that could replace the unhealthy ones they made me eat.

As I was strolling through the aisles of FRESH, I noticed an aisle full of flavored crackers. My eye caught one particular brand, Back to Nature Spinach and Roasted Garlic Crackers. If I’m being honest, the “Spinach and Roasted Garlic” part was what mainly caught my attention, as I am a huge fan of both spinach and roasted garlic. The organic and gluten-free part was just an added bonus.

It was definitely love at first bite. The flavor was there, but it wasn’t overpowering. Did I also mention that these crackers are whole-grain crackers? I decided to pair the crackers with Lilly’s Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, and I can say that this was a good decision on my part. Lilly’s Hummus is also All-Natural, Gluten-Free, Vegan AND Organic!

What I love about both of these products is knowing that you are eating all-natural products. Both Back to Nature and Lilly’s Roasted Red Pepper Hummus take pride in providing non-artificial food to customers without losing that savory flavor.

This flavorful combination is guaranteed to be a hit with the family. Try different flavors of Lilly’s Hummus with these crackers, or try different flavors of crackers with the Red Pepper Hummus. The combination is endless, which will make it a fun snack for everyone!





Family Central: It’s Late July!

Family at the BeachHow did we arrive upon the end of July already? This year seems to be flying by faster than I can keep up. One thing I don’t want to fly by so quickly is the summertime. While it is hot and humid most days, there’s just something about the summer that I love. The feeling I have when I think of summer brings me back to my childhood days. I love to eat watermelon while looking out at the lake. I love to go swimming and soak up the sun. I love to watch the waves crash on the beachside while my feet are buried deep in the sand. I love all the fruits and summer vegetables that are available during the summer. Things this time of year just seem simple, pure and good.

I found this great product on the shelf at FRESH that I just had to buy. The name initially sold me and then when I started reading about it, I knew it was going in my buggy for sure. On the cracker aisle, I noticed a product called Late July. These are delicious, bite-sized cheddar cheese snack crackers that I just haven’t been able to put down. That’s not even the greatest part of them! Not only are they delicious but they are also organic, produced without synthetic pesticides, non-GMO and made with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. If that wasn’t enough greatness about these bite-sized goodies, they are also kosher, made with no trans fats, no high fructose corn syrup and lacto vegetarian. Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything else that would make me happier in a tasty snack. Now if you aren’t a cheddar cheese fan (which I find that hard to believe!), they have several flavors to choose from like classic, classic saltine, mini peanut butter sandwich crackers and mini cheddar sandwich crackers.

I know one thing for sure—I am hiding these crackers from my husband and when I go back to FRESH, I will be stocking up and getting a few different varieties for my upcoming beach vacation next month. These will definitely be found in my pantry for my go-to salty snack in the future!





A Well and Good: Under the Nile

Expecting a baby is an exciting time… and it’s filled with decisions. From baby beds to formula to diapers and toys, there is a seemingly endless list of things this new one needs.

And then there’s the rompers, onesies, frilly dresses and other fun things to choose for the newest member of your family to make their grand appearance.

The decision on what clothes and toys to buy might be more important than you realize… especially for babies who are sensitive or allergic to some common additives.

Babies have developing skin and lungs that need special attention. What does that have to do with baby clothes and toys, you ask? More than you might think.

Did you know that $2.6 billion in pesticides is used on cotton crops each year? Because babies’ skin is ultra-sensitive, these pesticides, even in the low amount that makes it to the final garment or toy, can cause major skin and respiratory irritations.

Organic cotton is not grown with herbicides, pesticides or artificial fertilizers that can be the cause of these irritations. If you are looking to avoid these, FRESH has a solution for you!

Introducing Under the Nile… a completely organic clothing and toy company for infants and children. Soon, you will see the Wellness shelves stocked with adorable, super-soft clothes and toys for your children, from infants to age 6.

Under the Nile uses organic Egyptian cotton in everything they produce.

Keep a look out for the newest addition to the Wellness department… Under the Nile!





Well and Good: Organic Labeling – Hype or Help?

Navigating the aisles here at FRESH with health in mind can be overwhelming. With labels like “made with organic ingredients”, “natural”, “sustainable” and “Non-GMO”, it can be difficult to decide how to feed your family and spend your grocery dollar.

Let’s take a look at the labeling guidelines for organic products. These labels and claims are regulated by the government.

“100% Organic Ingredients” and “Organic”
In order for a product to claim it is “made with 100% organic ingredients”, it must be completely organically grown and processed, not including water and salt. Some organic produce farmers do not use the label; look for the “100% organic” signs and ask your FRESH produce partner if you have any questions.

Products certified to be “organic” can also use this label. In this case, the product and its ingredients are at least 95% organic. The remaining 5% is also regulated; this remainder must meet criteria set by the government. Again, produce farmers may choose to not use the label; look for the “organic” signs with the product and ask your FRESH produce partner if you have any questions.

Products that Cannot use the USDA Organic Seal
Some products are partially organic, and even though some of the product has been grown and processed organically, it doesn’t contain enough organic ingredients to use the USDA Seal.

“Made with Organic Ingredients”
Products that use this claim must be made with or contain a minimum of 70% organic ingredients. In addition to the claim, they can also list up to three of the organic ingredients used on the product’s front panel. These products cannot use the USDA seal; they may use an icon like the one above or just the “Made with Organic Ingredients” claim on the product’s front panel.

Products that contain less than 70% organic ingredients cannot use the term organic or the USDA seal anywhere on the package except for the ingredient list on the nutritional panel.





Well and Good: Low-Calorie Quinoa

When the weather turns crisp and we finally have to get out our boots and sweaters, it’s natural to start longing for hearty soups to help keep us warm.

It’s a good idea. Not only is soup a comforting and warming food, it is a great thing to eat if you are trying to lose weight.  It is hot so you have to eat it slowly and if you fill it full of veggies you will not be skimping on your vitamins.  Especially if you have added the grain quinoa (pronounced kee-wa).

This grain was a staple in the Incan diet.  Quinoa has a wonderful balance of the amino acids cysteine, methionine and lysine, a critical amino acid missing in the common grains like  corn, rice and wheat.  It is also high in protein, and contains vitamin C and thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and B-6.

It is a fast-cooking grain but needs to be rinsed well first to make sure its protective covering of saponin is removed.  A 5-minute soak followed by a good rinse should take care of it.

One of my favorite ways to cook auinoa in the winter is to make a stew.  The following recipe is made in a crock pot and needs just 15-20 minutes of prep time.  Done in the morning and left all day to simmer and cook, it is ready after a busy day of work or play. Enjoy!

Organic Quinoa Stew
6-8 servings

2 cup organic quinoa
8 cup water
1 large organic onion, chopped
3 medium organic potatoes, cubed
2 stalks organic celery, chopped
2 organic tomatoes, chopped or 1 (16 oz) can organic diced tomatoes
1 1/3 cups organic corn kernels
1 (16 oz) can organic black beans
6 cloves organic garlic, minced
1 tsp dried chipotle flakes
1/2 tsp organic cinnamon
1 Tbs ground cumin
Sea salt, to taste

Soak quinoa in water for at least five minutes. Rinse and drain.

Place all ingredients in a crock pot turned on low and let cook all day.  Just add a salad and hearty roll and you are ready for your feast.





Well and Good: A Better Kind of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has been called the world’s healthiest oil, and it’s long been a staple ingredient of both food and medicine in tropical nations around the world.

But here, coconut oil has often gotten a bad rap as being bad for cholesterol. And, yes, the naysayers would be right if they were talking about the hydrogenated coconut oil found in many processed foods.

However, I am talking about pure, extra virgin, organic coconut oil.

The benefits of this oil are pretty extensive. Consuming the “right” kind of coconut oil is linked to stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity and a better metabolism.

No wonder the coconut palm is often called the “tree of life.”

Coconut oil contains about 50% lauric acid. The body converts this component to monolaurin, which can help strengthen the immune system.  Lauric acid, as well as capric acid and caprylic acid (which are also found in coconut oil) have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and antiviral properties.

According to the Coconut Research Center, coconut oil helps kill viruses that cause influenza, measles, hepatitis, and herpes, plus bacterias that cause ulcers, throat infections and uterine tract infections.

Finally, coconut oil contains fewer calories than other vegetable oils, and its fat does not lead to fat accumulation in the heart or arteries.

The company Barlean’s gets its coconut oil from the Quezon province in the Philippines, where plantation farmers and their families harvest the product. Every coconut is hand-selected; no immature coconuts or those that have fallen to the ground are used. The coconuts have also been certified organic by the USDA.

One final thought: Coconut oil is easy to incorporate into the diet. I use it in stir-fries for that tropical flavor.  You can also substitute it for butter, whether on a bagel or when baking muffins, cookies or cakes.  Use your imagination for your own FRESH ideas.

Coconut oil has been called the world’s healthiest oil, and it’s long been a staple ingredient of both food and medicine in tropical nations around the world.

But here, coconut oil has often gotten a bad rap as being bad for cholesterol. And, yes, the naysayers would be right if they were talking about the hydrogenated coconut oil found in many processed foods.

However, I am talking about pure, extra virgin, organic coconut oil.

The benefits of this oil are pretty extensive. Consuming the “right” kind of coconut oil is linked to stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity and a better metabolism.

No wonder the coconut palm is often called the “tree of life.”

Coconut oil contains about 50% lauric acid. The body converts this component to monolaurin, which can help strengthen the immune system. Lauric acid, as well as capric acid and caprylic acid (which are also found in coconut oil) have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and antiviral properties.

According to the Coconut Research Center, coconut oil helps kill viruses that cause influenza, measles, hepatitis, and herpes, plus bacterias that cause ulcers, throat infections and uterine tract infections.

Finally, coconut oil contains fewer calories than other vegetable oils, and its fat does not lead to fat accumulation in the heart or arteries.

The company Barlean’s gets its coconut oil from the Quezon province in the Philippines, where plantation farmers and their families harvest the product. Every coconut is hand-selected; no immature coconuts or those that have fallen to the ground are used. The coconuts have also been certified organic by the USDA.

One final thought: Coconut oil is easy to incorporate into the diet. I use it in stir-fries for that tropical flavor. You can also substitute it for butter, whether on a bagel or when baking muffins, cookies or cakes. Use your imagination for your own FRESH ideas.





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