ThanksgivingQA

Welcome to my 2015 Thankgiving Q&A series. I will be answering questions asked by the readers of my blog. You can check out all the posts in this series by clicking on the Thanksgiving Q&A 2015 tag.

Question – What is the Cost of a GMO Free Turkey?

The first question of the season is about how much money it costs to buy a GMO free turkey for your Thanksgiving table. But before we get into cost, we must identify what a GMO free turkey is.

What is a GMO Free Turkey

People are starting to become more aware of where their food is coming from and what goes into making it. The purpose of my new e-magazine series “Fruits of their Labor” is about telling the stories behind where our food comes from. More people are becoming concerned what is going into the meat they eat. It all starts with what diet the animal is eating. For a turkey to be considered GMO free it’s all about what they eat. There aren’t any turkeys on the market that has been genetically modified themselves. But much of the feed produced in this country that is consumed by poultry is derived from genetically modified corn and/or soybeans. This is what you need to be concerned with.

non-GMO Project To know if a turkey is GMO free there are two things to look for on the packaging. If you see the Non GMO Project logo on a wrapping you know you are good. Check out the Non GMO Project website for a complete list of choices. The second thing you can look for is organic. If your turkey is certified organic that by law it cannot be fed a diet with any GMOs in it.

The Cost of a GMO Free Turkey

First off you are NOT going to find one of those budget/bargain turkeys that cost under $1 a pound that is going to be GMO free. The cheapest feed you are going to find for a turkey is going to be GM, so the cheapest turkeys are almost guaranteed to have been fed a GM diet, unless they appear on the Non-GMO Project list. I would expect to pay around $3.99 per pound for a turkey that is organic and verified Non-GMO. You might be able to find one as low as $2.49/lb. $4.99 to $5.99 a pound would be on the high end. Even the highest priced turkeys are still cheaper than many of your cuts of beef, even if the final cost is a lot higher – it is more meat. If you are on a budget, get the smallest size turkey you can find (10-12 pound range). Make sure you safe the all bones to make your own turkey stock to really maximize your purchase.

Two brands that I recommend buying are Diestel and Mary’s. Both for them are committed to raising turkeys the right way – which is best for the turkeys, the environmental, and our nutrition and enjoyment.

Where to Buy GMO Free Turkey
If you have a turkey farm nearby that you can buy a turkey directly from that might be your best choice. You can talk to the farmer, see what they feed their turkeys, even see the turkeys themselves. For most of us, we will have to settle for the grocery store. You have more likely going to have to look at the more specialty grocery stores over the cheaper chain stores. If you have a Whole Foods, they will have GMO Free turkeys. Any store that offers a wide selection of organic meats every day is a good place to start. Take your time to look around and call around before you make your choice. Thanksgiving comes once a year and I think it’s worth the extra effort when it comes to select the star of your Thanksgiving show.

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SweeTango Apple non GMO

If you have been paying any attention to food in the last year or two, the three letters G.M.O. would have at least crossed your path once if not a bunch of times. Everyone is talking about GMOs. With good reason, I don’t think they are good for us. However when an issue gets this much publicity they are bound to be some confusion and misinformation out there.

As the GMO debate has been raging on a new apple variety has been taking the nation by storm. I am talking about the SweeTango. It is a cross between a Zestar and a Honeycrisp. Now when people hear this, is when some get worried. They see the word cross and think someone started gentically modifiing Honeycrisp to make a better apple. I have had people coming to my site searching for this information. Well I am here to clear the air about this. SweeTango are NOT GMOs. Nor is any commercially available apple. Yes, SweeTango was created directly by man. But it was done in the way that apples have been crossed for centuries. Whenever a popular apple comes along or one with at least 1 desirable trait, people will try cross it with another apple to create a new apple that may be even better. Every apple you are going to have is some kind of cross. Like I said before a SweeTango was made when someone at the University of Minnesota crossed a Zestar apple with a Honeycrisp. The Honeycrisp itself was a cross between a Macoun and a Honeygold. Other crosses of popular apples include: Gala (Golden Delicious X Kidd’s Orange Red), McIntosh (Fameuse X possibly Detroit Red), Golden Delicious (Grimes Golden?), Jonagold (Jonathan X Golden Delicous).

Is there a risk of a GMO apple in the future? Yes they is. While currently no GMO apples are available commercially here in the United States – Okanagan Specialty Fruits from Canada are trying to get approval from the USDA to introduce GMO apples to the market. They have developed both a Golden Delicious and Granny Smith GMO apple that resists browning and bruising. So until that happens and I am hoping it doesn’t, you won’t find GMO apples in any store.

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Peach VinaigretteT

When it comes to salad dressings for me – I opt for a vinaigrette every time. I am not a fan of ranch dressing or any dressing that has mayo in it. What I am a fan of is a nice mixture of vinegar and oil. What makes the mixture even better is the addition of some fresh in season fruit. During peach season I really want to try throwing some peaches into the mix.

This is one of those cases that choosing good ingredients is the key. This recipe ha so few ingredients, 3 to be exact. It all starts with the peach. Choose the best of the season peaches (check out my post on when peach season is). That need to be full of flavor or I would pass on them. Can or frozen just aren’t going to cut it. That means there is a limited window in which to use good fresh peaches to make this vinaigrette. I am ok with that. I am all about eating seasonally – enjoying what’s available at the time. When winter comes I make dressings made with citrus. When life is ready to give me good peaches that is what I am going to use.

Peach Vinaigrette

I have read several other peach vinaigrette recipes online. Some called for the use of sugar. I think if you need to use sugar that means you don’t have the right peaches.

This vinaigrette uses white balsamic vinegar. This vinegar has a good fruity flavor that really complements any fruit it comes in contact with. It’s not as strong or overbearing as it’s dark cousin. I like the white balsamic available at Trader Joe’s. It’s not very expensive and has an excellent flavor.

As for the oil part of this dressing, choose something that is mild. This isn’t the time to break out the expensive extra virgin olive oil. I don’t want any other flavor that is going to diminish the flavor of the peaches. I recommend using grape seed oil, sunflower seed oil, or rice bran oil. All of these are neutral in flavor and are non-GMO oils. In the past I might have used canola oil but a lot of canola oil available is from genetically modified canola and I have no reason to be eating that.

When you combine all three of these ingredients in the right proportions you come up with a well balanced dressing that is sweet and acidic, and most important flavorful. I was extremely happy with what I could do with just 3 ingredients (and a little salt if needed).

Peach Vinaigrette
 
Ingredients
  • 1 large fresh peach, pit removed
  • ½ cup oil
  • ⅓ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • optional salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Place all the ingredients into your food processor. Leave the skin on the peach as it will add nutrition and a pretty color to the dressing.
  2. Process for about 1 minute until everything is incorporated.
  3. Store leftovers in the fridge.

 

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Food for Our Brood Finding a nutritious and wholesome snack for our kids that doesn’t take hours to make or cost a fortune is hard to come by. We have discovered a wonderful and quick snack that is not only healthy but delicious too!

Tiny Heirloom non-GMO Popcorn

A non-GMO Snack

Tiny But Mighty popcorn is our new go-to snack for our kids. It is an heirloom variety passed from Native Americans to a pioneer family in 1850. It was almost a lost variety until the 1970s when the last remaining jar of popcorn was planted and a new business was born. Read the whole story at their website.

There are several reasons why we love this popcorn. First of all, it is non-GMO, and that takes a high priority in our family. It is “virtually hull-less” which means that once it is popped the hull or shell has mostly disintegrated. We have young children, and regular popcorn is difficult and even dangerous for them to eat because the risk of a hull getting stuck in their throats. Tiny But Mighty popcorn is so small and tender that we even feed it to our one-year old son. We have never found anything else on the market quite like it!

non-GMO Popcorn

Popcorn is a wonderful way to add more fiber into our kids diet, and they love the way it tastes! My favorite way to prepare it is by placing 1/3 cup of kernels into a brown paper lunch sack. I fold the top over once and place it into the microwave. I have a “popcorn” button in my microwave, and it is just the right time for one bag. My kids will eat the popcorn plain like this, or sometimes I will drizzle some Organic Virgin Coconut Oil and sprinkle some Real Salt onto it. The gobble it up,and it is a guilt free snack for mom and dad too.

non-GMO Popcorn

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Our Brood’s Food For Today:

Little Guy is basically eating everything with the family with only a few exceptions. He seems to have outgrown his wheat issues! That’s a BIG woohoo! from me 🙂

Breakfast:
Oatmeal with sliced strawberries, milk

Snack:
Grapes, raspberry herbal tea (very diluted, their request), purple popcorn

Lunch:
Napa cabage and carrot ribbon salad with sweet and sour dressing, peanuts, sliced apples, sliced colby-jack cheese, milk

Snack:
Peanut butter on a spoon, bananas, water

Dinner:
Grilled ham (leftover from Saturday), steamed broccoli, baked potato with sour cream, milk

More on Purple Popcorn:

Eric (hubby) found some Amish Country Purple Popcorn when he was out shopping that we absolutely love as a snack for the kids…and ourselves! Not only does this variety of popcorn have softer hulls, and less of them, but it also has some of the benefits known to be found in purple foods- antioxidants. This particular brand is GMO free (YES!). Grace wasn’t really into popcorn before, she didn’t like the hulls of yellow popcorn. Our kids (minus Little Guy he is too young for popcorn) love to eat it plain- no butter or salt. Making popcorn is fast in the microwave- and you don’t have to stain your hands neon orange with hydrogenated oils either!. Simply put 1/3c of kernels into a small lunch sack-sized paper bag and fold over the top once. Pop the bag into the microwave and cook for 2-3min or until the popping has stopped for 10 seconds. We serve it right out of the bag, and they gobble it down! It’s fun for them to have their own bags to eat out. If they don’t eat it all in one setting, they can have fun writing their names on their bags in crayon. Seal it up tight and keep it in the bag so it doesn’t get stale. They can enjoy the next day.

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Zulka Morena Pure Cane non-GMO Sugar

We have been striving in our household to avoid GMOs when we can. One of the problems has been sugar. I have found some non-GMO alternatives. However the cost has been so high that I really couldn’t call them affordable. I have been hoping to find a sugar that is closer in price to the traditional white granulated sugar I have been buying for years, which is all likelihood contains GM0s since about 95% of the sugar beets now grown in the United States are genetically modified. I did not expect to find what I was looking for at Walmart, who typically does not have what I am looking for.

Affordable Non-GMO Sugar

A couple weeks ago I was in our local Walmart to pick up something (can’t remember what anymore) and was just pursuing the sugar section to see if they had any non-GMO options. I wasn’t expecting to find anything. However I spotted a shelf containing 2 lb bags of Zulka Morena Pure Cane Sugar. Check the packaging, confirmed non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project. The price for the 2 lb bag was $1.29! They also offered 4 lb bags for $2.59 but those were all gone at the time.

What is Morena Pure Cane Sugar

The term “Morena” refers to the light golden color of the sugar. It’s a term used in Mexico where the sugar is cultivated. Morena Pure Cane Sugar differs from granluated white sugar in several ways.

1. It is not processed to remove color like white sugar. The sugar is naturally golden brown – not white. Morena is never refined.
2. Morena is processed minimally. You lose less of the flavor and nutrients of the sugar cane. This sugar actually tastes like something more than just sweet. Just a little hint of a caramel like flavor on the tongue.
3. Morena sugar has larger crystals than white sugar. If that is a problem for you, you could always break it up in your food processor.

How is Morena Pure Cane Sugar Made?

The easy way to describe it is the sugar cane is pressed into juice. Then the liquid from the juice is evaported in a vaccum until you have dried sugar crystals. No refining takes place after that.

Can I Use Morena Pure Cane Sugar in Replace of White Sugar?

Not only can you, but you really should try to. The taste is better, it is less refined, your getting more of the natural nutrients of the sugar cane plant, and you can use it in any white sugar recipe, cup for cup. You don’t have to change any measurements.

Where to Buy Zulka Morena Pure Cane Sugar

I said early I purchased mine at Walmart. You can also purchase it online or at these other retailers (if you know a store not on this list leave a comment to let me know):

Walmart
Safeway
Kroger
Albertsons
Food 4 Less
SUPERVALU
Superior
Winn-Dixie
El Super
WinCo

If you visit their facebook page you can receive a coupon for 50 cents off a 4lb bag. Check that out for some savings.

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I am getting ready to make my seed purchase for this year’s gardening season. When selecting seeds for my home garden they are a couple of things I look for.

1. Unique varieties
I want to grow stuff that I am not going to be able to find easily in stores or at the market. I love cooked carrots, especially when you have a mix of different colors. But I only find them in a store on a rare occasion.

2. Non-GMO Seeds
We get enough GMO products in the store. I certainly don’t need to grow any. So I am careful to make sure that the seeds I buy are not genetically modified.

3. Buying Seeds from a Company That Deserves Support
I want to support a company that deserves my support. I don’t want to support a company who is associated with Monsanto either directly or indirectly. I want to support a company who is out there trying to do what’s best for the seeds and for bringing unique and heirloom varieties to the public.

Buy from the Seed Savers Exchange
These three reasons are why I am buying most of my seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange this year. They are a non-profit organization that is out to preserve diversity of seeds. They don’t sell GMO seeds. They offer many heirloom varieties. Most people might think heirloom is a buzz word used by people to sell something at a higher price, often heirloom tomatoes for example are priced higher per pound than varieties that aren’t considered heirlooms. What I like about heirlooms is that they generally are more flavorful. They are varieties that have been passed down for decades. Because they taste good. It’s not just about what produces best. If I am going to take the time and effort to grow something I want it to be out of this world amazing in taste.

More About Seed Savers
Seed Savers has a membership program that you can be a part of. If you are able to you can even save your seeds to be apart of the exchange but that’s not required for membership. You can buy seeds from them without a membership as well ((I don’t have one). They have a catalog you can view online or have mailed to your house. It’s full of awesome things. The advantage members get is they get access to even more varieties of seeds – more than you probably could imagine.

What Seeds I Am Buying This Year
Here is a list of what I plan to purchase from them this year. When the growing starts I will be covering each variety with pictures and updates on the process.

Arugula, Apollo
Bean, Climbing French OG
Brussels Sprouts, Long Island
Carrot, Dragon
Carrot, Jaune du Doubs
Corn, Golden Bantam OG
Cucumber, Holland White OG
Cucumber, Parisian Pickling OG
Lettuce, Bronze Arrowhead
Lettuce, Crisp Mint OG
Lettuce, Red Iceberg
Pea, Green Arrow OG
Squash, Long Island Cheese
Tomato, Kellogg’s Breakfast
Tomato, Speckled Roman OG

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Oil – an essential ingredient to have in the kitchen. For a long time I have been using canola oil. It is cheap. Easy to find. It doesn’t throw off the flavor off what you are cooking. However recently I decided to stop using canola oil. The main reason being the high likelihood that the canola oil I was buying was produced from Round Up Ready GMO Canola. According to the Non-GMO Project, 90% of the U.S. canola crop is genetically modified (in 2011). Canada also grows a lot of canola, but after watching the documentary “The Future of Food” I would not trust any canola grown in Canada.

So What’s the Big Deal?
Whenever I can I want to avoid consuming a product that I can be 90% sure contains genetically modified ingredients. I believe that these ingredients are not good for our health, even in the face of the government and the developers that claim that GM products are safe. GM crops are so much apart of our diet nowadays it’s quite the challenge to completely avoid them. In the case of canola oil, it’s easy to switch over to another type of cooking oil.

Canola Oil Alternatives
First off you can avoid GMO oils if you purchase imported European oils. Europe does not allow GMOs. Two different types of cooking oil I have been using lately are grape seed oil and sunflower oil (from Europe just to be safe). Neither of these come from GM crop sources.

Grape Seed Oil

I wanted to try grape seed oil after I saw Robert Irvine use it extensively on the show, Restaurant Impossible. This oil has a delicate flavor that is perfect when you don’t want your oil to overpower. The flavor is slightly nutty without overwhelming the flavor of say a salad dressing. It has a high smoke point of 421 degrees, making it a good for frying, sauteing, or any high heat cooking.

In the cholesterol battle, grape seed oil is on your side. It provides good cholesterol and is low in saturated fats. I also have to mention that it does contain some antioxidants. It is a source of Linoleic acid (Om-6) I would consider it a healthy oil option (of course still don’t go overboard with it).

Below you will find a video on the making of grape seed oil. Sorry that the quality isn’t the best.

Sunflower Oil

The last time I bought this oil I got it at Trader Joe’s for a reasonable price. The oil was from the Ukraine (they don’t allow GMOs). Refind sunflower oils have an even higher smoke point than grape seed coming in at 450 degrees! While I don’t think it’s as healthy as grape seed oil, sunflower oil does contain it’s share of vitamin E and is low in saturated fat, although the types of fats can vary depending on what variety of sunflower(s) are being used. Again consume in moderation.

Here is another video – this one shows sunflower seeds being pressed for oil.

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Question: Do You Have to Worry About GMOs in Baking Powder?

Answer: More and more people are start to learning about the GMO issue. How growing amounts of the food we eat contain ingredients that are genetically modified organisms. There is major concern that these GMO foods are and will cause major health problems. Europe won’t even allow them because they are so concerned. But here in America we find they are showing up everywhere. In order to avoid them you have to be very careful what you eat and the ingredients you use. Today I want to talk about one ingredient you find in most households that do any kind of baking – baking powder. First we need to know what is in baking powder.

Generally speaking baking powder is a combination of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), a starch, and an acidic component. The starch most commonly used in baking powder is corn starch. This is where you run the risk of having a GMO ingredient. According to the Non-GMO Project about 88% of the U.S. corn crop in 2011 was genetically modified. It’s a really good chance that if you are using a baking powder that has corn starch in it’s ingredients that you are adding GMOs to your baking goods. Unless the container says otherwise I would automatically assume that the baking powder contains GM corn starch.

What Baking Powder is Non-GMO

So what options do you have? I have been doing a little research into non-GMO baking powders and I found one national brand that has non-GMO written on their label – Rumford Baking Powder. It is also an aluminum free baking powder. So baking powders use sodium aluminum sulfate. The aluminum can give baked goods a slightly bitter taste, which you don’t want. There is also concerns (meaning not confirmed) about possible health issues such as Alzheimer’s from too much aluminum.

The same company that makes Rumford Baking Powder also makes Clabber Girl, another popular brand. However this brand does NOT say non-GMO on the label and it does contain aluminum, so don’t think your safe because you are buying from the same company with just a different name on the product.

Make Your Own Baking Powder
You can make your very own baking powder. However homemade versions are only single acting. That means once the baking powder hits comes in touch with liquid it begins to do it’s thing. So you must get your baked good in the oven immediately. Store bought baking powder is typically double acting. So there is that first leavening when the liquid is added and then a second leavening occurs when heat is introduced. Most of us aren’t going to have access to what we need to make a double acting. But a single acting can be made by combining cream of tartar, baking soda, and a starch. For a starch you can use potato or arrowroot to avoid having to hunt down a non-GMO corn starch.

So as you can see if you are opting for a non-GMO lifestyle you are going to have to watch careful what baking powders you use. Making your own single acting powder or buying Rumford’s non-GMO double acting powder are the best options that I know of.

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If you are looking to avoid eating foods that do not contain any GMOs, then you are in for an uphill battle. According to the Non-GMO Project (“non-profit organization committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products”) at least 88% of the U.S. crops of these crops are GMO: canola, corn, soy, and sugar beets. The amount of products on your grocery shelf containing at least one of these items is staggering. Not to mention if your dairy is coming from a cow whose feed contains GMOs, you are getting them in your system that way. This is why this is such an uphill battle. But before you get discouraged I say let’s start with breakfast. Start by going GMO free for the first meal of the day. To help you do that, I am going to look at some alternatives to popular breakfast cereals. Up first Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. (I plan doing a post on alternatives to Wheaties next)

Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
Right off the bat, we know that Corn Flakes contain corn. Corn is considered a high risk GMO crop by the Non-GMO Project. Most of the corn grown in the U.S. is GMO corn. So it is one ingredient that you need to keep on eye on. Is there a chance that maybe Kellogg’s uses non-GMO corn? Highly unlikely. I found a letter online send from a Kellogg’s employee saying they do not use biotech ingredients in Europe (they are banned there). But they say in the U.S. those concerns are low. This pretty much confirms that a box of Corn Flakes for the U.S. market contains GMOs. IF that isn’t convincing enough Kellogg’s contributed money (reported as $790,700) to defeat Prop 37 in California this past November. Prop 37 would have required the labeling of GMO foods.

So what are some alternatives if you are a Corn Flakes fan (I will be adding more over time):

Nature’s Path Organic Mesa Sunrise Flakes

Nature’s Path Organic is very committed to being non-GMO. In fact it’s the first thing you see in huge letter when you go on their website. They have multiple cereal they could be an alternative to Corn Flakes, but I have only had one myself, which is their Mesa Sunrise. This flakes cereal uses corn meal or yellow corn flour from non-GMO corn. It also contains a number of other grains: buckwheat, flax, quinoa, and amaranth. The flakes are extremely crunchy that stay that way during the entire eating duration with milk added. It’s not a pure corn flake, but you still get that corn flavor along with the added nutrition of the other grains. The flax seeds in it provide a source of ALA omega-3. The cereal contains 3g of fiber per 3/4 cup serving. Kellogg’s Corn Flakes contains 1g of fiber per 1 cup serving, so obviously your getting a lot more fiber. I am more than happy to use this cereal as a corn flake alternative! No only am I not getting the GMOs, I am getting a lot of good things for my body as well.

Here is a description of the cereal from the bag itself:
“Was it the trail of tasted gluten-free flakes or the sprinkling of ALA omega-rich flax seeds that led you here? Maybe you were looking for a nutritious bowl of cereal when you came upon this unique blend of quinoa, corn, and nutty amaranth. Or maybe you just wanted a breakfast inspired by the traditional foods of the Mesa Verde Mountains.”

Where to Buy
Nature’s Path products can be found at various retailers throughout the country. Check out their website for their store locator. I purchased Mesa Sunrise in a 26.4 oz ECO Pak Bag at my local Walmart store.

Kashi Indigo Morning

Kashi is another company that is jumping on the non-GMO wagon. Don’t be misled not all their cereals have been verified yet. Also don’t be misled that the parent company of Kashi is Kellogg’s who were just said contributed money to stop GMO labeling in California. This doesn’t mean the people at Kashi agree with everything their parent company does. I recently gave their Indigo Morning cereal a try. It is one of 7 cereals they have been confirmed non-GMO by the non-GMO Project. These corn flakes are a bit different in texture than the traditional corn flakes. They more puffy. Those who are looking for an exact replica of Kellogg’s product might have to look elsewhere, but this is still a close enough alternative to be included here. The cereal includes freeze dried berries which bring a nice little pop of flavor in your mouth.

Where to Buy
Their website has a store locator. I got my box at the Meijer store in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I plan to review several other corn flake cereal in the coming weeks. So come on back for more!

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WELCOME TO MY BLOG

I'm Eric. I live in Ann Arbor, MI with my wife, 3 kids, and a flock of ducks. I love grocery shopping, trying new fruits, farmer's market, and traveling.
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