Category Archives: organic

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Focus on Local–Ojai Olive Oil

Ojai Olive Oil

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I sure didn’t appreciate the beauty of the olive tree when I had one in the front yard of our first little house.  It was pretty, but I had no idea what was hiding in those little orbs.  The nutritional value of olive oil is vast.  From this website I learned that olive oil can improve the immune system and protect agains viruses.  Heart disease, cancer, strokes, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and other conditions can be beneficially affected by consuming olive oil.  (Very interesting information!)  Olives are an important part of the Mediterranean Diet — you can learn more at the balance me beautiful website — which is a super healthy way to eat!

 

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I recently spent an afternoon with Alice Asquith, who showed me around the Ojai Olive Oil company’s olive grove and pressing operation, and learned so much more about the amazing olive.  It was a gorgeous summer day in Ojai, and Alice was kind and gracious.  

A Little History…

Did you know that until the 1780s, there were no olive trees in California?  The Padres from Spain introduced the trees so that they could have their olive oil.  It took over 100 years before California farmers were interested in growing olives.  In fact, there are still not enough olive growers in America to supply America’s olive oil needs.  Only 20% of the olive oil Americans consume is produced in America, even though there are many climates that are suited to olive growing.  

 

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In 1982, Alice’s husband, Ronald, bought a ten acre orange grove as a retirement project.  They moved to Ojai from metropolitan Los Angeles, and eventually replanted the grove in olives.  In 1998 he bought 36 more acres, where they now have the center of their operation. This grove had been planted in 1880!  The original farmers made oil until 1910, but after that the trees just sat — for 78 years.  No oil was made from the olives–they just fell to the ground and rotted.  Ron began to give them lot of TLC, and after just three years, the trees began to produce beautifully.  In 2001 they made their first olive oil.    The entire grove is now certified organic. 

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They started selling their oil–in their signature blue bottles–at farmer’s markets.

Ron decided to plant other varieties, and now they have nine different olive varieties in the groves.  At first they blended all of the varieties into their blended oil, but now they make both pure and blended variety oils.  

 

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 Three years ago they started suppling their oil to a cosmetic maker, and they have lovely soaps and creams made from their oil.

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Ronald spent many hours studying and learning about olive growing, and he had some wonderful mentors to help him along his way.  The groves now have over 3000 trees, which are thriving, but Alice said that “the weather is the boss.”  From budding to harvest, the trees must be nurtured.

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Photo from Ojai Olive Oil

The olive trees blossom in late April or so, and it takes six months from blossom to first harvest.  The olives will stay green for as long as possible, and then they start to ripen in early October.  During the harvest time they have to constantly watch the olives to make sure they harvest at the right time.  They wait until most of the olives are ripe–have turned color–then they harvest, all by hand.

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Photo from Ojai Olive Oil

It takes sixty pounds of olives to make one gallon of olive oil!  But if the weather has been very hot, the yield will be a little higher.  The olives are taken directly from the groves to be milled the day they are harvested. 

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First the olives are washed and the leaves blown off, and then the olives are crushed–chopped and pushed through a sieve. 

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You can see how the olives would be crushed as they moved down through this part of the machine and into the next step!  

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Once it moves into the drums, the olives are now the consistency of paste, and looks sort of like oatmeal.

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Photo from Ojai Olive Oil

The paste is stirred up slowly.  No heat or water is added.  It is protected from air to prevent oxidation.   

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The paste begins to separate, and then the centrifuge begins to spin to assist the separation by density and weight.  It takes 90 minutes from start to finish!  They can process up to 800 pounds of olives per hour.  The oil is strained and bottled.

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Photo from Ojai Olive Oil

The International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) has established standards for extra-virgin olive oil.  A sample of every batch of Ojai Olive Oil is sent to a lab for blind testing to make sure it meats the highest standards, and has less than 0.8% acidity.

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This Tuscan is one of the Ojai Olive Oil blends!

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Photo from Ojai Olive Oil

At the end of the process, there is a waste made of pulp, skins, and pits, shown above.  Ojai Olive Oil Company uses this to make compost.  

Some companies will add chemicals and apply heat to the waste so they can extract more of the oil.  However, these oils do not meet the “Extra-virgin” standards, and are often sold under the names, “Pure” or “Extra Light Tasting.”  These oils are about as far away from extra-virgin as can be.  (Do not be fooled by the “pure” label!)  And they do not have the health benefits of extra-virgin olive oil.
 
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Ojai Olive Oil Company also gives free tours and tastings at their grove.  You can see the machines and taste the oils!  For times and more detailed information about their ranch and story, click here.

If you have a morning or afternoon to stroll through an olive grove and learn about olive oil–not to mention taste some delightful deliciousness–I recommend going to Ojai and take a tour.  But if you don’t have the time, remember that you can find this deliciousness at Lassen’s.  
 
Love, 
 
Lassen’s
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Producer Spotlight–Gaia Farm Tour

What a Gorgeous Farm!

 
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Have you ever wondered how those herbs get in the extracts, the tinctures, the capsules, the bulk boxes, and the tea bags?  We had the amazing opportunity to visit the Gaia Farm in North Carolina recently.
 
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With the morning sun gently shining, we looked out over the ginko trees to survey some of the 350 acre farm.  The temperate weather influences and land formations of this area provide a unique habitat–ideal for growing many herbs for their products.  The diverse red clay to black loam soils also provide a fertile landscape.  Gaia Farms grow about 20% of their herbs right here in this beautiful farm.  For the rest of their herbs they scour the world for the best, most ethical, and “clean” producers and gatherers.  

 

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This is Ric Scalzo, the owner, CEO, Herbalist, and Naturopath at Gaia Herbs.  He took us throughout the farms for two days, explaining the herbs that they are growing.  Here he is showing us the Ginko trees.  Ginko is great for mental alertness (in fact, Gaia has a formula called “Mental Alertness” which contains Ginko!) 

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These leaves will be harvested for greatest potency when the edges begin to have a golden edge.

From Seed to Shelf

At Gaia, the herbs are cultivated carefully from seed to harvest.  

 

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Here are thousands of Echinaea seedlings in their greenhouse.  They beging to plant seeds in February. Once they get bigger and stronger, the seedlings are taken outside to the Hoop Frames where the plants get acclimatized to being outside, and are allowed to grow bigger and stronger.
 
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The plants in the foreground are ready to be planted in the fields.  
 
Everything grown at Gaia, as well as all of the herbs they get from sources around the world, is certified organic, according to Oregon Tilth standards, and recertified every year.  Gaia also does yearly soil analysis as well to be sure the soil has all of the nutrients needed for plant strength.  In the winter they grow crops to be tilled back into the soil to increase the nitrogen level in the soil, and it is amended in the spring with fish, kelp, and seaweed amendments, as well as compost, of course.  Pests and fungi are managed organically–no chemicals!  They use wasps to control the Japanese Beetle.

Knowledge

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Here is the group learning about Hawthorn buds and leaves, which were being harvested right behind us.  Hawthorn is a great source of flavanoids, which are extracted right at the Gaia plant.  Hawthorn is a great heart support.
 
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This was the view we had (perfect photo-op area!) as we walked to the fields.
 
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Experience

Ric actually had us taste some of the herbs as he explained their use.
 
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Some of us even planted some Gotu Kola plants from the trays and into the ground.  Here are a couple of rows that had just been planted.  Ric said that Gotu Kola can “calm an overanxious mind.”  Some of us who have a hard time turning off our brains at night could use some of that calming!
 
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We tasted some lemon balm herb, one of the ingredients in formulas for gas and bloating. 
 
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The fields were so well maintained are beautiful.
 
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I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the beautiful herbs!
 
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This is Stinging Nettle.  Gaia farm is allowing it to go to seed this year so that they can harvest 500 lbs of seeds.  Stinging Nettle is an Anti-inflammatory, among other uses.  The seeds, the leaves, and the roots are all used in herbal medicine.  

Purity.  Integrity.  Potency.

Gaia Farms has partnered with several universities, as well as international groups to conduct research on herbs.  They recently did some research on Tumeric with Auburn University.  One thing that I was very impressed with was Gaia’s committment to quality.  They test their own products, as well as the herbs they recieve from other sources, to make sure that they have the purest and most potent products possible.  On their own herbs, they will take a sample to the lab to make sure the plant has the best potency before they harvest.  If it doesn’t, they will wait a few days or longer while the plant continues to grow.  They test again, and will not harvest until the plant has reached the target potency.  
 
Gaia does the processing of the herbs–they generally receive the herbs as raw material.  They test it to make sure that it is not only what the supplier says it is, but that it is the target potency.  They make sure there is no pesticide or herbicide residue.  Gaia has a beautiful lab and plant where quality is job #1.  
 
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Valerian Flowers–the root of the beautiful and sweetly-fragrant plant is a sedative for insomnia, as well as muscle pains and spasms.  It is found in the Gaia Sleep formulas.
 
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Gaia has an amazing website, where you can literally “Meet Your Herbs.”  You can enter the ID number on the box or bottle of product, and the website will give you the history of the herbs in your product.  You can also learn about herbs what they are good for, and how your health can be enhanced by using herbal products.  There you can see how Gaia supports local and global concerns as well.  You can find their website here.
 
Thank you Gaia, for a great tour!
 
love,
 
Lassen’s

Let’s Kick Off the Summer with Grass-fed, Organic Meats!

 It’s Good For You, Good for the Animals and Good for the Planet!

While many people are choosing to go vegan or vegetarian, many others enjoy eating meat.  And if that includes you, how do you know the best meats for you, the animals, and the planet?  
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If you are confused by the many terms associated with this topic, you’re not alone.  Here is a short explanation, but for more details, see this Mayo Clinic article.
 
These are USDA terms, and they mean something–
  • Antibiotic Free–must provide documentation, but be careful with this one.  Animals can have antibiotics in their lifetime, but just must have a period of time before slaughter so that there isn’t evidence of the antibiotic in their meat.  Make sure the label says that the animal has never been administered antibiotics.
  • Cage Free–Laying hens are not confined in cages, but typically are in barns or another enclosed area.
  • Chemical Free–this label is not allowed on meats, so beware when you see it.
  • Free Range or Free Roaming–This term is a USDA term (which means poultry are allowed to roam outdoors) but is not a standard term for other meats.  
  • Grain-Fed–The USDA regulates what grains are included in the diet of the animals labeled “Grain Fed.”
  • Grass-Fed–means grass and forage are the feed source for the animals for their lifespan after weaning.
  • Natural–This means the meat has no artificial flavorings, colorings, or preservatives, as well as no synthetic or artificial ingredients.  They must be minimally processed, and the label must outline what is meant by “Natural.”
  • Pasture Raised–This is part of the National Organic Program, and is an assurance that any meat so labeled comes from an animal that has had access to the outdoors year round.
These are Voluntary or Unregulated Terms–
  • Certified Humane–This term is a voluntary label administered by Humane Farm Animal Care.  They have a list of humane practices, including no antibiotics or hormones, and allowing the animals to engage in natural behaviors.
  • Hormone Free–this term is not allowed on meat products, but beef can be labeled with “No Hormones Administered.”
  • Naturally Raised–this term is one that the label must explain what is meant by the term.
  • Vegetarian Fed–Generally used to suggest that the animal is provided with a healthier diet, including no animal by-products.
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How are the Animals Raised?

Animals, including domesticated animals, have been living on pasture grasses for thousands of years.  Their physiology has a wonderful system to turn those grasses into protein, which humans can consume  and digest (we have a hard time digesting those same grasses!)  In order to eat enough grasses to grow and thrive, the animals have to be free to roam a large range.
 
But in the last several decades, big production farms have changed the order of meat production.  Typically today, the cattle, lambs, pigs and poultry are confined into small cages, and fed corn and other grains, and do not have the freedom to roam the fields.  Often the beaks of chickens are clipped.
 

These animals, raised in confined spaces, produce high saturated-fat meat.  They also are prone to diseases, since they are close to each other and get little if any fresh air or exercise.  They are stuck living in filthy conditions, unlike this calf we saw at Burroughs Family Farm.

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So Why Should We Eat Grass-fed, Free-Range Meats?

Number One–Better For You:

There is mouting evidence that grass-fed beef is much safer and better for your health than grain-fed beef.  Grass-fed animals are much less likely to have diseases or e-coli than those in confined cages or lots.  Grass-fed beef has less saturated fat, but more healthy Omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a nutrient that is generally lacking in our western diet.  CLA is associated with heart health and lowered cancer risk.  Grass-fed, Free Range meats are also leaner.  Meat produced on Factory Farms are generally full of antibiotics–they are used at an alarming rate.  There is a great discussion on NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook, which you can listen to here.  Of course, we all know that over-use of antibiotics renders these amazing drugs much less effective, and encourages antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria to thrive.
 
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These piglets enjoy rooting around at Highwood Farm

Number Two–Better for the Animals:

Organic, Grass-fed, Free Range animals are allowed (even required!) to be outdoors, foraging for their food, engaging in natural behaviors like spreading their wings (for poultry) and rooting (for pigs) and walking over a large range (beef and lamb).  Factory Farmed animals are packed into small cages or lots, often up to their knees in manure.  Free Range animals are healthier, live longer and are less likely to need medical intervention (sounds like a great benefit for being a “free-range” human!)  When we visited Burroughs Family Farm they told us that their milk cows had a productive life of ten years, where the industry average was only 2 1/2 years!  
 
Also, animals that are fed diets that their bodies are not designed to eat struggle with much less fiber and much more starch.  Because of their unatural diet they are susceptible to parasites and diseases, as well as e-coli.  And this of course, makes their meat healthier for us. 
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Number Three–Better for the Planet:

The land and the soil is much healthier with grass-fed, free-range productions.  Factory Farms produce mountains of waste, methane, pollution, and greenhouse-gas emissions.  This article goes so far as to say that eating Free Range, Grass Fed meat can save the planet.  It has some very interesting points, such as small farm, organic, free-range production is beneficial to the grasses and soils (fertilizing and eating a range of plants, which makes the soil healthier and eliminates weeds), and discourages pests and predators.  
 
Factory Farms are environmentally very harmful.  Pollution, run-off, groundwater contamination–those are just a few of the problems with raising thousands of animals in small spaces.  This Time Magazine article (from 2010) exposes many of those problems.
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How Hard is it to Change to Meat that is Better for Me, the Animals, and the Planet?

Not hard at all.  Lassen’s carries a wide selection of all kinds of meats that are organic, grass-fed, free range, humanely treated meats.  We always have something on sale, and you’ll find that the meat is so delicious and tender.  If you have any questions about the meats that we carry, our friendly meat department can help you.  
 
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If you haven’t tried our delicious meats, the first barbecue of the summer would be a good time to give them a try!  We have everything from ground beef to turkey sausages.  
 
This article has more details on why eating grass-fed meat is beneficial.
 
Have a great summer, and enjoy all of the healthy foods and products that we carry!
 
love,
 
Lassen’s
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What’s the Big Deal About Organic?

I May Be Preaching to the Choir, Here

You may already be convinced that eating organic foods is the best thing for you, your family, and the planet.  But just in case you aren’t, here’s some information and some reasons why choosing organic makes a lot of sense.

 

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First, a Definition of Terms

“Organic” refers to the way in which food is grown.  This includes produce, dairy products, grains, and meats.  Farmers who grow organically do not use chemical pesticides or herbicides or drugs to control bugs, weeds, or diseases.  They are committed to using methods and practices that encourage healthy soil and water, as well as that reduce pollution.  Food that is not produced organically is termed “Conventional.”
 
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As you can imagine, an organic farmer has chosen to use methods requiring more labor and time.  For example, a conventional farmer will just preemptively spray crops for bugs and weeds.  But an organic farmer will examine the crops regularly for weed or insect infestation, and then pull weeds, use traps, hand-remove pests, or use friendly insects and birds to take care of the pests.  They may also use sophisticated crop rotation and organic fertilizers to encourage healthy growth and healthy soil, rather than chemical fertilizers.  They will spread mulch or manure to discourage weed growth.  Organic farmers also use targeted watering systems (such as drip or water tape) to make sure the water goes directly to the plants, rather than to weeds.  This also conserves water resources.   

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This is Burroughs Family Farms–Happy cows and happy chickens, and healthy soil and pasture grasses!

Organically producing foods generally takes more space, too.  Animals are allowed to have a large range to wander, rather than being grown in small-space cages.  Crops often have smaller yields, since the farmer is not using chemical fertilizers to spur growth.   

The United States Department of Agriculture has established strict guidelines for a food to carry the USDA Organic label.  Any product that carries this label must adhere to those guidelines, and be certified by the USDA.  There is an exception for those who produce less than $5,000 worth of produce per year, but if it is labeled “Organic” (even without the certification) it has to be grown according to the certification standards.  Lassen’s works only with reputable producers to make sure that what we carry in our stores really is the best quality organic food available.

What Does the Organic Seal Mean?

 

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“100% Organic” means that everything in the product is wholly organic.  “Organic” means that at least 95% of the ingredients meet the organic standard.  Products labeled with “Made with Organic Ingredients” have to have at least 70% of the ingredients organic.  If a product has less that 70% organically grown ingredients, it cannot use the word “Organic” on the label or include the USDA seal, but it can list the organic ingredients in the ingredient list.  
 
Organic regulations also prohibit or severely restrict the use of food additives, processing agents, and fortifying agents.  This means that organic processed foods (such as cereals and canned goods) will not have the preservatives, colorings, artificial sweeteners and flavorings, as well as chemicals such as MSG that conventionally produced foods may have.  Produce will not have waxes and dyes sprayed onto the foods to make them look better and may give them a longer shelf life.

So What’s the Benefit of Buying and Eating Organic Foods?

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No Pesticides.  I know that conventionally grown foods do not exceed the Government Standard for an acceptable level of pesticides in my body.  But I don’t really want to be voluntarily eating any poisons.  This link will take you to an article about the produce items that have the most pesticides in them.  Their premise is to cut back on pesticide ingestion by changing to organic on these dozen items, but although those are the worst, all conventional produce has pesticides and insecticides.  My goal is to eat as little as possible.
 
No Chemical Weeds Killers.  Ditto the above.  No matter how much I wash my produce, those chemicals are designed to be absorbed into the plants.  And they are still there when I or my family eats them.

 

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Taste.  I think organic just tastes better.  It is subjective, but a fun family activity might be to do a taste test.  Buy both conventional and organic foods and compare the taste.   We have found that apples are a good test subject.  And meats!

Nutrition.  The jury is still out on the question of if organically produced food is more nutritious than conventionally produced food.  There are some studies that suggest it is.   There is clear evidence of more phytonutrients in organically produced foods.  Click here for more information about some of the studies being done.

 

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Better for the Environment.  If more of our food was produced organically, we would not have the threats to our water and soils that we do now.  The residue of all of those chemicals is washed through the fields, absorbed into the soil, and spilled into our waterways.  Then the fish and other sea life are impacted by those chemicals. 

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You can tell this Burroughs Family Farm almond grove is Organic because there are grasses under the trees.  A commercial grove would be bare–the grasses killed by herbicides

Sustainable.  Many fertilizers are made from fossil fuels, on which I think we’d all like to reduce our dependence!  Soils are healthier when organic farming is practiced.   

No GMOs.  This is a big topic that will have to wait for another day.  There is some great information in this article (17 Essential Reasons to Eat Organic Food) on GMOs, as well as other great ideas.  
 
Better for Farm Laborers.  One day several years ago after riding my bike past some fields on the Oxnard plain, I developed a rash all over my skin that had been exposed to the air.  Legs, arms and face.  It was itchy and blotchy and took several weeks to go away.  I have no idea what had been sprayed on those fields as I was riding by, but can you imagine the exposure to dangerous chemicals that the farms workers and the neighbors are suffering?  

What About the Cost?

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Lassen’s always has several delicious–and always organic– produce items on sale!
There can be a concern about the cost of organic produce and other food.  As you can see, producing organic food takes more space, time, and labor, thus higher costs.  But we at Lassen’s are committed to bringing you the very best value in organic produce and other organic foods.  We also bring you local produce whenever possible, thus cutting down on shipping expenses (and, as a bonus, helping to reduce the carbon footprint.)  Click here for our website, and you will find a link there for our monthly sales newsletter, which always has great produce specials.  You can also find a link to the newsletter on the right-hand side of the blog.
 

This is a helpful article on organic eating.  And even TLC (the channel that brings us all kinds of shows about sugar–Cake Boss and DC Cupcakes!) has an article on why we should eat organic!  Click here to see their 15 reasons to eat organic food.

Come to Lassen’s and enjoy our beautiful, organically produced food and supplements!

love,

Lassen’s

Should you get on the Paleo bandwagon?

Eatin’ Like a Caveman… or Woman…

There has been a lot of chatter about the Paleo Diet lately.  Have you wondered what it is all about?
 
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Well, it is basically eating what our cave ancestors in the Paleolithic Age ate.  

Meat

 
 
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Free-range or grass-fed beef, pork, lamb, poulty, fish and other seafood, eggs, and game meats.  According to the Paleo Diet, our diet should be comprised of between 20-35% of calories provided by protein, instead of the 15% that the Western Diet has now.  There are many vitamins and minerals in meats as well.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

 
 
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Non-starchy, low-glycemic fresh fruits and vegetables provide much more fiber than other (grain based) carbohydrates.  They are slowly digested and absorbed, unlike refined carbohydrates.  And of course we know that fresh fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamins and minerals essential for good health.
 
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Nuts and Seeds

 
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These provide healthy fats as well as protein and fiber.

Healthy Oils

 
 
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Olive, coconut, walnut, flaxseed, avocado, and macadamia.  These fats provide healthy monosaturated and Omega-3 fats.

A diet of the the above foods will provide a balance between acid-producing and alkaline-producing foods, which helps prevent conditions that thrive in an acid environoment.

This website says that a “lifetime of excessive dietary acid may promote bone and muscle loss, high blood pressure and increased risk for kidney stones and may aggravate asthma and excercise-induced asthma.”  This diet balances acid and alkaline.

The Paleo Diet also increases the dietary intake of potassium and lowers the intake of sodium.

Our hearts, kidneys and other organs depend on potassium to function properly.  When sodium intake is higher and potassium intake is lower, we are at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes.

 

What Should I Not Eat?

Dairy Products, Cereal Grains, Refined Sugars, Legumes (including peanuts), Starchy Vegetables such as Potatoes, Salt, Refined Oil, and Processed Foods.

There is a lot that makes sense in the Paleo Diet.  We do have a lot of diseases and conditions that are caused by our modern diet and lifestyle.  And eliminating refined foods certainly would help our overall health.  
 
Following the paleo diet is healthy and nutritious, and there are lots of ways that you can combine foods to make delicious breakfasts. They don’t all involve eggs, either! Here are just 10 paleo diet-friendly recipes to try out for your breakfasts.
 
Here is a fun chart to help you understand how to know if a food complies with the Paleo Plan.
 
 
I’m not sure I agree with the “That crap will kill you,” but this chart does help clarify what is Paleo and what isn’t!

Have You Tried the Paleo Diet?

Please comment if you have tried the Paleo Diet and let us know what you think.  Is it hard to eat the Paleo way?

Lassen’s carries everything you need to eat on the Paleo Diet!

paleo+diet

In upcoming posts I will share some recipes that comply with the Paleo Diet Plan!

 
Love,
 
Lassen’s
home+gardening, earth+friendly, earth+day, composting, composting+tips, how+to+compost, gardening, healthy+soil

Reduce Your Waste for Earth Day!

It’s a Beautiful Thing

When I was a teenager I went to visit my sister who was living is Seattle in a darling, tiny house.  She had strings of sweet peas lining the whole side of her garage, and I thought she had created paradise within sight of Lake Washington. 

And to go in her house and have the scent of those amazing little flowers, placed all around in jars and vases, permeating the air–it was heaven!

But she had done something else that didn’t strike me as quite so beautiful (at least until I was older!)  She had a compost pile.

Now, isn’t that a beautiful sight?

Composting…  Made Easy!

My recollection is that my sister had dug down a foot or so deep, and then added organic materials such as kitchen scraps (including fruit and vegetable peelings and egg shells, but no meats or dairy), yard clippings, even coffee grounds and shredded paper!

According to this article, there are 5 easy steps to composting.

1.  Shred and Chop.  The smaller your ingredients, the faster you’ll have usable compost.
2.  Mix dry browns and wet greens.  This means to mix yard waste (grass, dry leaves, etc) and kitchen waste (vegetable and fruit peelings, cores, etc).  Make sure not to make the mix too wet and bogged down.
3.  Strive for Size.  Your compost pile should be about 3x3x3 so that there is enough material to heat up and compost more quickly.
4.  Add water as needed.  The compost should not be soggy, just damp.
5.  Keep things moving.  The compost needs air to be mixed in.  The article has a couple of methods to do that–the easiest it to just pitchfork it around, regularly mixing the stuff on the edges into the middle.

Here’s an easy, inexpensive way to Compost

 

 

 

Or If You Want to Go All Out…

 
Or…
 
 

Or…

 

Looks so tidy!

 

So to sum up…

 

  

This article from Purdue University was really helpful.

Here is another article on composting that you might like.

I liked this website that had six great ways to make compost.

I’m going to celebrate Earth Day by getting my hands in the earth!  

I’ve had a compost pile in the past, but gotten away from it lately.  But I’m inspired now!  Look out, I’m composting again!

And then I’m going to plant hundreds of sweet peas!

 

Don’t forget to stop by Lassen’s this Saturday, April 20, for our Earth Day Celebrations!

Click  here  to see our Earth Day flier for more information on all of the fun activities and celebrations going on at Lassen’s this Saturday!
 
Love,
 
Lassen’s
 
herb+garden, diy+herb+garden, grapefruit+gardening, windowsill+garden

It’s Almost Spring! Time to Get Your Hands in the Dirt!

Nothing Like Getting Dirty! 

 
grapefruit+rind+garden
 
I love going into garden centers and seeing all of the little plants; It takes me back to when my mom and dad (with a lot of forced kid labor!) would plant a great big garden each spring.
 
And checking out all of the neatly lined-up packets of garden seeds–Oh!  The possibilities!  We would start the tomatoes from seed in egg cartons, and I loved checking to see if the little leaves were pressing their way through the soil.
 
So in honor of impending Spring, here is a fun idea to start your garden, kitchen herbs, or flowers.
 
grapefruit+rind+garden
 
Since we’ve been eating a lot of grapefruit lately (it is SO delicious!) we have plenty of grapefruit rinds.  You could also use orange or lemon rinds, too.  I pulled the membranes out of the rinds, but that isn’t necessary.
You’ll need some potting soil–or just some rich dirt–and some seeds.  Lassen’s has just stocked a large variety of organic garden seeds.
 
grapefruit+rind+garden
 
Fill the rind with some soil.  Doesn’t that feel good?
 
grapefruit+rind+garden
 
I decided to plant Sweet Basil, since I cook with it every week.
 
grapefruit+rind+garden
 
Sprinkle a few seeds over the soil, and then add 1/4 inch more of soil on the top.  Water lightly (it doesn’t take much in this little planter, 
and you don’t want the rind to get moldy!)
 
Place in a warm sunny place, and watch for the sprouts!
 
grapefruit+rind+garden
 
There’s nothing like using your own fresh herbs!
 
You can start tomatoes or peas or beans or other vegetables in the citris rinds, and when it is time to plant in your garden (or larger containers), you can just put the whole thing in the ground.  The rinds will decompose and enrich your garden soil!  You’ll be both gardening and composting!  Now, doesn’t that make you feel green?
 
Happy Gardening!
 
Love,
 
Lassen’s
pumpkin+recipes, pumpkin+cheesecake+squares, pumpkin+dessert, harvest+dessert, healthy+dessert, healthy+recipes

Halloween Recipe Winner #2… Organic Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares

We Love our Recipe Winners! 
 
 
pumpkin+cheesecake
 
The bats are flapping their leathery wings against the Autumn breeze which carries the distant howl of a werewolf. Meanwhile, in an ancient castle teetering menacingly on a jagged cliff, a congregation of witches, ghouls and beasts guzzle down potions from bubbling cauldrons and laboratory beakers and dance the night away to the grizzly musical stylings of a five-piece jazz band of the undead. Children hop up and down neighborhood streets dressed as goblins, super heroes and troubled celebrities, all on a mission to seek out the one thing that can placate their mischievous nature on this Halloween night…. SWEETS!
  
Come the 31st of October, I know my sweet tooth gets extra sharp and my eyes get wide for anything of the sugary persuasion. So I ask you, what better to sooth this savage beast than the creamy, spicy, & perfectly crumbly 2nd winner of our Halloween Recipe Challenge: Organic Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares? That is of course a rhetorical question, the answer being… dreamy eyed, slack jawed awe.

This recipe was shared with us by Carrie, a lovely customer from our Lassens store in Thousand Oaks. Not only was this recipe so absolutely mouth watering, but it is SO easy to make!

 
pumpkin+cheesecake

Organic Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares

You’ll Need:
For the Crust:
  • 1 cup flour (try Arrowhead Mills organic flour or do what I did and add ½ cup regular flour and ½ cup, you guessed it, Bob’s Red Mill coconut flour, which adds a new dimension of soft texture and heavenly aroma )
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (I used Wholesome Sweeteners organic dark brown sugar)
  • 1 stick butter (try Organic Valley unsalted cultured butter OR for a reduced fat option, 6 tablespoons of applesauce with 2 tablespoons Earth Balance natural buttery spread, which incidentally has come to permanently replace butter in my kitchen)
  • 1/2 cup raw chopped walnuts (Lassen’s has great deals on delicious bulk nuts)
 
Filling:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (Organic Valley cream cheese is organic and delectable)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used Wholesome Sweeteners organic sugar)
  • 2 eggs (try Organic Valley organic cage-free eggs)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (try Farmers Market Organic canned pumpkin or puree one of our organic pumpkin pie pumpkins yourself!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla (try Simply Organics pure vanilla extract)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (try Frontier organic nutmeg)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (try Frontier organic cinnamon)
  • 1/2 tsp ginger (try Spice Hunter organic ginger… or if you’re cabinet space it getting limited, Spice Hunter’s pumpkin pie spice blend makes as a great all-in-one option and it’s great to go in just about anything that you want to make festive: from coffee to ice cream)
 
Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • To make the crust, blend ingredients in food processor until a ball forms. It’s really tempting to go to town on that ball of dough before you get a chance to make the cheesecake portion, but if you have the determination and restraint, I suggest you hold out because the more crust on this desert, the more scrumptious.
  • Press ball into 8×8 pan
  • Bake for 15 – 20 minutes. Let crust cool.
  • Blend filling ingredients until smooth. Pour mixture over cooled crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until set. Let cool and cut into squares and enjoy!
 
This recipe can be adapted easily for vegans by substituting
  • CREAM CHEESE with a dairy free cream cheese such as Follow Your Heart’s vegan cream cheese
  • EGGS with flax or chia seed gel which can be made by adding 1Tb ground seed to 3Tb hot water. This = 1 large egg
  • BUTTER as I mentioned before with applesauce and Earth Balance natural buttery spread. We also have several other delicious vegan butter alternatives including Earth Balance coconut oil buttery spread (which I can’t wait to try!)
 
 
pumpkin+cheesecake

 

Present this dish in lovely bite sized squares to your guests this Halloween and watch how, like magic, they disappear! 

We are also now taking entries for our Thanksgiving Recipe Challenge! We’re looking for the most unique and savory options for traditional, gluten-free and vegan Thanksgiving feasts! If you’d like to enter (and I sincerely hope you will), click on the link above of the Lassens store which you frequent most often. The link will take you to the Lassens facebook where you can share your recipe (and any pictures that you’d like for me to feature on this blog) right on the Lassens facebook wall. The winning recipes will be featured on this blog as well as in each Lassens location as FREE recipe cards for all of our Lassens customers to try and enjoy.
 
I hope you all have a safe, happy and healthy Halloween!
 

 Love,

Lassen’s