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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Best Gluten and Allergen Free Products from The GFAF Expo

A couple of weekends ago, I covered the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo in Chicago.  The expo drew crowds, all searching for the latest and greatest in gluten free and allergen free eats, drinks, and products.  This expo did not disappoint them.

As the numbers of those of us diagnosed with food allergies, celiac, and gluten sensitivities grows, demand for healthy, convenient, allergen free foods and products increases.  I remember when I first went gluten free.  My choices were contained to a small, 3 foot shelf at my closest health food store.  Now, even Walmart and Jewel have larger dedicated sections.  True, they’re only about 5 feet; but, there are 6 shelves, today.

In this post, I’d like to review some of my favorite items from the expo.  I was able to talk to many of the vendors about their products.  I’ve also partnered with a few of them to bring giveaways and coupons over the next few months.  I’ll be announcing those soon. 

Now, there really wasn’t much food-wise, I could sample.  So, in times of need, I reached out to other expo-goers to give me their opinions.  One of these wonderful taste-testers was Wendy from Allergy Free Kitchens.  You should definitely check out her blog if you or your child suffers from food allergies.

Wendy actually helped me out with the first product I’m mentioning, Sonoma Flatbreads by Donatos.  On Saturday, when I was searching for anything paleo to eat, I discovered Sonoma Flatbreads  .  Obviously, I couldn’t eat the flatbread part; but, I could pluck off a lovely slice of uncured pepperoni to sample.  On Sunday morning, I brought Wendy directly to the Sonoma Flatbreads booth for a sample.  Her eyes actually lit up when she tasted the small portion of flatbread pizza.  She gave them a rave review.  The children, shoveling their small portions into their little mouths, gave it rave reviews as well.  The Sonoma Flatbreads come in 4 flavors, Uncured Pepperoni, Three Cheese, Margherita, and Chicken and Fire Roasted Peppers.  The company uses no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, nitrates, nitrites, growth hormones or antibiotics.  The best part, they can be found at many of your local grocery stores.  Make sure you “Like” their Facebook page for access to coupons and specials.

Green Valley Organics was one of my personal favorites.  I don’t really eat or drink dairy very often.  When I do, it’s usually goat, sheep, or raw dairy.  I would like to add some kefir to my diet, however.  So, I decided to give their organic, lactose free kefir and sour cream a try.  Not only did the flavor knock my socks off, but I experienced no tummy troubles after tasting it.  The Sour Cream was so tasty, I could have eaten an entire bowl of it.   Green Valley Organics’ Lactose Free Kefir, Yogurt, and Sour Cream can be found at Whole Foods Market and fine natural and specialty food stores.  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter for promos, contests, and more.

There were two grass fed meat vendors I think are worth mentioning, Tallgrass beef Company and Thankful HarvestTallgrass beef is currently available to order online and will soon be available through local grocers.  From May 1, 2014 to July 1, 2014, they are giving a free pack of gourmet beef hot dogs with an online purchase of $100.00 or more.  Be sure to tell them Mo Perillo sent you.  Thankful Harvest offers free home delivery in the Chicagoland area of Organic and Grass fed beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, and eggs.  For more information, visit their website; or, call 712-830-3281.  By the way, if you’re in the delivery area, there is no minimum order.

Then, there was chocolate…and, beer.  Although I couldn’t sample most of the chocolate offered, I was able to taste some Amore di Mona chocolates. Yum, yum and yum!  They offer some amazing flavors, Caramela, Dark Chocolate with currants, Dark Chocolate with crunchy coffee beans, and more.  These can be purchased online here or in some fine food stores. 

It was no surprise to me that gluten free beer vendors were very popular.  I, for some very distinct members of my readership, used myself as a test subject to find the best tasting gluten free beer.  Bard’s was the first beer I tasted.  It was pretty tasty.  I did think it tasted less like real beer than some of the others I tried.  Green’s Gluten Free Belgian Ale and Lager was the next in line.  I tasted their Pale Ale, because that’s what I prefer.  It was nice! Their ales and lagers can be purchased through Binny’s and other fine liquor shops.  I then tried Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider.  That was my favorite!  It can also be purchased through Binny’s .  Lastly, I sampled Omission Lager & Pale Ale.  Once again, I went with the Pale Ale.  Now, that tasted like real beer!  I’d have to say that Omission had the truest beer flavor.  Too bad the rudeness of the women running the booth left a bitter taste in my mouth.  I was unable to find out where it can be purchased.  I’m sure there is something on the website.

There were four other food companies who really stood out.  Door to Door Organics is a service that delivers locally grown, organic produce to your door.  I’ll be doing a review of their service in the next couple of weeks, after I get my first box.

Allen’s Honey Candles is another company I adored.  I purchase the most delicious raw honey from their booth.  I also picked up a bottle of honey to wash my face with and a gorgeous sculpted beeswax candle.  I’ll be writing another post about using local honey in your beauty products to reduce allergies.  Allen’s Honey uses the most natural non-toxic honey for all his products.  You can purchase them here.  Tell them Mo sent you.  I told them I would be talking about them!

Go picnic offers ready-to-eat meals and snacks.  While these are not as unprocessed as I like to eat, I think they’re much healthier a choice than fast food.  They are great for when you need something for you or your child, in a hurry.  Visit their website for where to purchase.

U-Be-Livin-Smart muffins are amazingly tasty!  Each muffin includes 1 serving of fruit & veggies.  They contain no flour, oil, added sugar, additives, or preservatives.  They are also gluten and nut free.  I bought 6 boxes at the expo.  The flavors include Smoothie Berry Medley with Chia Seed, Orange Cinnamon with Mango, Belgian Chocolate with Banana, and Apple Cinnamon with Chia Seed.  Visit website for retailers.  I’ll be doing a full review of their muffins and a giveaway soon.

I’ll finish my report of the best products from the expo in my next post.  There was simply too much goodness to contain in one post!  My next review will focus on the best allergen and gluten free skincare, cosmetics, cleaning products and helpful books and magazines.  I’ll include the story on meeting Carol Kicinski, Editor in Chief  of Simply Gluten Free Magazine, whom I admire greatly.  She was so sweet; she took a selfie with me.

So, I leave you with all these wonderful products to try.  If you get a chance to go to the GFAF Expo in your area, go.  Trust me, it is so much fun to try different products.  I always think it’s good to sample items before I buy them.  That way, you can be sure you like them before spending your hard earned money on them.

Until next time, God Bless.
#glutenfree #allergyfree #allergyfreekitchens #allergenfree #lactosefree #organic #gfaf #simplyglutenfree #tallgrassbeef #ubelivinsmart #doortodoororganics #glutenfreepizza #glutenfreebeer #darkchocolate #reviews

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My First Garden- Ten Tips For First Time Gardeners

Now, I should begin this post by letting you know I am not an expert gardener.  I used to help my grandmother in her garden when I was a little girl.  Then, I grew herbs, pretty successfully, here and there, over the last 14 years.  I am currently attempting to grow my own organic and heirloom vegetable and herb garden.

It seems to be going pretty good, so far.

I planted my seeds a couple of weeks ago.  These pictures show what is now happening, SEEDLINGS!  My arugula was the first to burst forth.  Next came my butter lettuce.  It seems almost everything has started to pop out now.  The hardest part, so far, has been keeping Boho from sticking her nose into the pots.  She's fascinated by them!

I've heard from a few people, who started their seeds at the same time, that they're not having as much luck with their seedlings.  I'm going to go through everything I've done to get my seedlings so healthy.  Like I stated before, I am not an expert.  So, feel free to use this information, if you would like.  It's worked for me.  I mean, look at my little seedlings!
1. Use quality seeds.  There are many companies who sell quality, organic and heirloom seeds.  My favorite is Planet Natural.  You can also find some great companies here.

2. Use quality soil.   This is the one I used.  I suggest organic soil, especially if you're growing organic veggies.

3.  Keep the soil moist.  Do not let your soil dry out.  I water mine every other day.  If the soil is still moist to the touch, you probably don't need to add much.  Don't drown them either.

4.  Read the packet of seeds for information on sun.  Some plants will require full sun, some partial.  Read and follow.  I planted all seeds that needed full sun together.  Likewise, with partial sun seeds. 

5.  Pay attention to your seeds.  Every day, I check on my seeds.  I make sure to move them as the sun moves around my three season room.

6. Keep pets and children away from seeds and seedlings.  This is the hardest for me.  Boho just wants to get all up into my dirt.  Just do your best to keep them away.

7. Protect them from the elements.  I started my seeds indoors. I highly recommend this.  There were a couple of days we had low temperatures.  I put warming lamps over my seeds.  It's a bit extreme, but it worked.

8. Be sure to mark your seed pots with what you're growing.  I was so paranoid that my labeled pics would fall out, I drew out a full planting diagram.  I wrote it's location in the room, what was planted where, and sun/water instructions. 

9. Talk and/or sing to your seeds and seedlings.  This one is optional.  But, I found mine really liked 70's tunes.  Like I said, optional, but recommended.

10. Show your seedlings some love.  I take pics of mine, tell them how proud I am of them, and share my coffee with them.  Actually, it's coffee grounds.  When I noticed my first seedlings popping out,  I put 1 tablespoon used coffee grounds into each seed pot compartment.  I, then, watered as usual.  Turns out, they really like it.  I add new grounds every other week.

I don't know if any of these tips will help your garden grow; but, mine seems to be doing exceptionally well.  Being a first time gardener doesn't have to be difficult.  Just have fun with it.  If something doesn't grow, it wasn't meant to be.  Chances are, you'll be able to grow at least a few things.  That will save you some money at the grocery store.

The next step for me will be transplanting my seedling pots into containers.  I'll be posting all about that experience.  I decided to do container gardening because I'm going to try to bring my garden indoors for the winter months.  We'll see how that works out.

Until then, good luck with your garden, and God Bless.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Spring Cleaning- 10 Best Natural Non-Toxic Cleaning Products That Really Work

Spring Cleaning- 10 Best Natural Non-Toxic Products That Really Work

Saturdays are cleaning day, at my house.  It’s the day when I scrub, scour and shine everything in sight.   It’s the one day when my house is as clean as I want it to be. 

I used to use big name products, because of convenience, mainly.  I knew they weren’t the safest products; but, I really didn’t have the time or money to waste, finding and using more natural products.  Everything was Febreezed and Swiffered to a fresh smelling glimmer.

Then I adopted Boho.  Every Saturday, after I finished cleaning, she would vomit.  All of the cleaning products were making her sick!  I had to make a change.

I researched DIY natural cleaners; and, set about trying them out.  I also researched some of the non-toxic, eco-friendly brands on the market.  I tried some of those out as well.  Anything that made Boho ill, was out.
The following are the 10 Best readymade and DIY products, I have found to be effective:

1.  Baking Soda - I use baking soda for so many things.  I actually have jars of it, scattered around my house, for baking soda emergencies.  It’s great for cleaning sinks, showers, toilets, and greasy pans.  I sprinkle a little baking soda on the surface I want to clean.  Then, I spray on some vinegar, which makes it foam up.  Apply a bit of elbow grease, with a sponge and, ta-da, clean.  It’s also great for freshening carpets and garbage cans.

2.  White Vinegar and Apple Cider Vinegar-  These are great as all purpose and glass cleaners.  This diy citrus cleaner is easy to make with white vinegar and orange peels.  It works great on stainless steel.  I also mix them with essential oils to make different scented cleaners.  Mixing vinegar with tea tree oil is a great mold deterrent.

3.  Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap-  I add this to some of my DIY cleaner recipes for extra cleaning power.  I also use this to clean my dishes sometimes.

4. Melaleuca Products-  Melaleuca is a factory direct, online company who makes non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning , personal care, and nutritional products.  I’m a preferred member, which helps me save money.  I simply place my order every month for the products I need.  And, their cleaning products are phenomenal.  I use almost all of their cleaning products.

5.  Grab Green Automatic Dishwashing Detergent-  I like the red pear scented ones.  Many of the natural dishwasher tablets I have tried, do not work.  I’ve even tried to make my own and ended up with a chalky film over my dishes.  This is the only one I’ve found that is effective.

6.  Seventh Generation Stainless Steel Cleaner-  This is the best natural, non-toxic, stainless steel cleaner I have tried.  None of the others I tried, did the job as well.

7.  Method and Seventh Generation products (general)- These are two companies I trust not to poison me and my family.  Although I’m not currently using any Method products, I have used a few in the past and found them to be effective.  Seventh Generation has been a favorite at my house for many years.  I love their paper products, especially.

8. Earth Friendly Products Ecos Laundry Detergent -  This is another product I’ve used for many years.  I love the Magnolia scented formula!  They also make a Pet’s Formula to wash your pet’s toys and bedding, safely.

9.  Essential Oils-  I mainly add Lemon, Thyme, Tea Tree (Melaleuca), Clove, Lavender, and eucalypsus to my vinegar or castile soap mixtures.  I also use them to scent my home by adding about 20 drops to a Small spray bottle filled with distilled water and a couple of drops of vitamin e oil.

10.  Fruit peelings-  I clean hard water stains with banana and lemon peels.  I use apple peels to scent my home by boiling them in a pot of water with spices.  And, of course, I make my all purpose cleaner with orange peels.

These are the products I use every Saturday.

 For more DIY cleaning recipes, check out my Pinterest board, Green Cleaning.

Happy Cleaning and God Bless!


#naturalcleaners #diyrecipes #greencleaning