Full-Fat Yogurt: Have you tried it?

Move over fat-free, high-sugar yogurt. There’s a new kid in town!

I was pumped to see these new Siggi’s full-fat yogurts hit our shelves recently, and was intrigued by the Strawberry & Rhubarb flavor. Siggi’s is one of my favorite yogurt brands for both taste and nutrition. I mean, they use real Madagascar vanilla that you can actually see!

The ingredient list is simple and not overloaded with sugars. Each serving contains only 8 grams of sugar (compared to some brands that can contain up to 30+ grams), 5 grams of fat (full-fat doesn’t necessarily mean “full of fat”), and 10 grams protein.

Check out the 5 strains of healthy gut bacteria!


My favorite flavors are the Strawberry & Rhubarb (what Midwest girl wouldn’t love this flavor combination?) and the Vanilla (especially with fresh berries).

Siggi's whole-milk Vanilla yogurt with fresh blueberries

Siggi’s whole-milk Vanilla yogurt with fresh blueberries

I am happy that the trend in food products lately has been moving towards more full-fat products. For so long, we have been afraid of fat because we thought that “fat makes us fat”. The truth behind that is an excess of any calorie leads to weight gain. But fat has a very important function in our diets. It provides a feeling of satisfaction (have you ever eaten a salad with fat-free salad dressing and just not felt satisfied or “done” with your meal?), helps regulate blood sugars (by slowing down how quickly your body breaks down carbohydrates), and makes it possible to use a variety of nutrients (vitamins A, E, D and K).

*Note, this isn’t an endorsement to go hog-wild and douse all of your food in fats and oils, but it is permission to enjoy more natural sources of fats in moderation!


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Simple Summer Salad with Saladena

I’m always looking for new, delicious and SIMPLE salads. So when I came across these adorably packages Saladena cheese toppers, I got excited.

There’s a blue cheese (with cranberries, orange peels and pumpkin seeds) and a feta (with candied lemon peel, apricots and pumpkin seeds).  It is the perfect blend and a simple solution to my salad dilemma.

All I do with these babies is take some greens (your favorite will work great), top with the cheese toppers, and your favorite dressing.

Today I shook up a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon stoneground mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt-and-pepper to taste
Combine ingredients into a small lidded jar. Shake vigorously until well combined.

Keep this dressing in the refrigerator for up to two weeks 

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Cocoa vs Cacao. What’s the difference?

Besides a couple vowels, there are a few differences between cacao and cocoa. Cacao and cocoa are from the same plant, but processed differently.

Cacao – Cacao is the purest form of chocolate you can consume. Raw cacao is made by cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cocoa and removes the fat (cacao butter). Cacao is a great source of antioxidants and loaded with magnesium. You will often see cacao sold as nibs in stores and are simply cacao beans that have been chopped up into edible pieces, much like chocolate chips without the added sugars and fats.

Raw cacao beans are the best choice for “chocolate” health benefits because the beans have not been heated at high temperatures like cocoa and chocolate. The longer a cacao bean is heated, the less vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals are retained. When choosing dark chocolate, the higher percentage of cacao in the bar, the more bitter the chocolate will taste. To retain the most health benefits, the chocolate should be at least 70 percent cacao.

If you can handle the sharp bitter taste of raw cacao beans, get ready for quite the nutritional cocktail. Cacao beans are high in antioxidants which help to neutralize free radicals. They also contain vitamins E and B complex, as well as iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium and copper.

Cacao, Dutch Cocoa and Cocoa powder.

Cacao, Dutch Cocoa and Cocoa powder.

Cocoa – Cocoa is the term used to refer to the heated form of cacao that you probably grew up buying at the store in the form of cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is produced similarly to cacao except cocoa undergoes a higher temperature of heat during processing. Surprisingly, it still retains a large amount of antioxidants in the process and is excellent for your heart, skin, blood pressure, and even your stress levels.

When buying cocoa powder, be sure you buy plain cocoa powder, not cocoa mixes which often contain sugar. Look for either regular cocoa powder or Dutch-processed (a.k.a. dark) cocoa powder. Dutch-processed cocoa powder (dark cocoa) is cocoa powder that has been processed with an alkalized solution, making it less acidic and much richer in taste. Regular cocoa powder retains a more acidic nature and bitter taste, and is used in baking recipes with baking soda where Dutch-processed cocoa powder is not since it has already been alkalized.

You can use cocoa powder and cacao powder interchangeably in baking recipes, smoothies, oatmeal, cookies, homemade raw treats, or even stir them into your coffee for a homemade mocha. Both cacao and cocoa are highly nutritious for you and are sure to satisfy your chocolate cravings around the clock.

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Papples: You won’t be disappointed!

Walking through the produce section the other day, one of my favorite produce guys, Karl, came running up to me enthusiastically describing this new fruit. For those of you who don’t know Karl, he and I share a passion for great produce, and have both been known to be a bit too excited about most things in life!  -So yes, he was actually running, and nearly stammering with excitement!

The fruit he introduced me to is called a papple. Pear + apple = papple. I just love combined words. “Liger” anyone? Roar!


The papple isn’t really an apple at all, but rather a cross between a traditional pear and a crunchy, Asian pear.

I’m always up for trying something new, and my man Karl didn’t disappoint. I love pears, but really dislike over-ripe, mushy pears. This pear is slightly crunchy and oh-so-sweet.

It was great eaten by itself as a snack and would be amazing chopped up on a salad. It has a lovely refreshing taste, perfect for snacking on, and is a fun alternative to an apple a day. The biggest advantage of trying something new is that it solves the produce boredom that we often get into.

Even working in a grocery store, I find myself reaching for the same produce items time after time. After awhile, I get bored of eating oranges and don’t look forward to my afternoon snack.  Trying something new solves this dilemma and brings back the produce excitement again!


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10 Reasons to LOVE Dairy

10 reasons to LOVE dairy.

1. Calcium – Dairy is probably best known for its calcium, which helps to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth.

2. Vitamin D – Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is one of the nutrients Americans lack the most. It helps promote the absorption of calcium and enhances bone strength. But beyond bone health, science is discovering just how important this little guy is. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to heart disease, Seasonal Affective Disorder, cancers, stroke and maybe more. Pouring a glass will get you 25% of the RDA.


3. Protein – A glass of milk provides 8 grams of muscle-building protein. Protein builds and repairs muscle tissue and serves as a source of energy during high-powered endurance exercise. Protein is essential for every function your body carries out. Because you can’t make all of the amino acids (protein building blocks) you need, eating protein-rich foods helps you get the ones you can’t make on your own.

4. B-vitamins – Milk is a great source of several key b-vitamins often lacking in our diets.

  • Vitamin B12 helps build red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to working muscles. .  
  • Riboflavin helps convert food into energy – a process crucial for exercising muscles.
  • Niacin is important for the normal function of many enzymes in the body, and is involved in the metabolism of sugars and fatty acids.

5. Cheese – I love cheese! It is probably one of the foods I would have the hardest time giving up if I had to. And with only about 100 calories per serving and 7 grams of protein, you don’t have to feel guilty anymore!

6. Recovery – After a vigourous workout, your body is “hungry” for carbohydrates and protein. Chocolate milk has the perfect ratio (plus hydration) of carbs and protein (specifically whey protein) to help refuel your body and give it what it needs. You don’t want to work your butt off for nothing!

7. Hydration – Water isn’t the only way to get your fluid in each day. Milk is a whopping 87% water. Still pounding sports drinks after a tough workout? You’re behind the science times. Milk, thanks to its natural balance of sodium, carbohydrate and protein, helps the body retain fluid, researchers report in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, making it an effective recovery drink for exercisers.

8. Milk mustache – Like suspenders and bow ties, I love a good mustache. So when my little ones drink their milk a little too quicly, or eat their yogurt a little too aggressively and walk away with an adorable milk mustache, my heart nearly swoons!

9.  Milk is a local food! It takes only 48 hours to get milk from the farm to your table.

10. It is convenient and delicious – I’ve often talked about how I’m efficient not lazy, and dairy fits this mantra. If I’m needing a little pick-me-up, yogurt, string cheese, or even a glass of milk are common choices. So the next time you’re feeling a little snacky, go ahead, reach for your favorite dairy good!

The reasons to love dairy don’t end here. Check out more from Midwest Dairy Council.

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Holland Peppers

There’s a “new” guy in town.

Okay, so Holland peppers aren’t new, but they are new to me. I’ve been working in a grocery store for over 7 years and this is the first year that I have seen (or at least paid attention to) Holland peppers.


They aren’t just your normal pepper. Holland peppers come in all sorts of colors. Red, orange, yellow, green, purple,brown, white, and even striped! These bell peppers are prized for their uniform, almost perfect, shape, thick walls, and sweet flavor. The sweetest variety is white, and generally the lighter the color, the sweeter the pepper.

Holland Peppers

Most Holland peppers are grown in green houses under strict controls of humidity and sunlight. Because of these conditions Holland yields beautiful “meaty” peppers that hold up well to cooking.

The first time I took a bite of these crunchy and juicy peppers I fell in love. My absolute way of enjoying them is to cut them in half (remove the stem and seeds) and spread with hummus.  It is a perfect afternoon snack that I don’t feel guilty about!

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5 reasons to love milk

In honor of National Dairy Month, here are five more reasons to love milk:

1. It’s a Nutrient Powerhouse. Milk is the top food source for three out of the four nutrients Americans are most lacking – including calcium, vitamin D and potassium. All milk – including fat free, lowfat or organic – has 9 essential nutrients, including B vitamins for energy, vitamin A for a healthy immune system plus several bone-building nutrients.swimming-pool-boost-2

2. It Ups the Protein Ante in the Morning. While many experts now recommend 25-30 grams of protein at each meal, the average breakfast plate only contains 13 grams. Add an 8 oz. glass of milk to your eggs or Greek yogurt and get an extra 8 grams of high-quality protein!

3. It is not Easily Replaced. It’s hard to get the nutrients you need without real dairy milk in your diet. Dairy milk has 8 times the protein of almond milk and rice milks, which can contain a long list of ingredients, including added sugar, salt and thickeners.street-dancer-boost-2

4. Protein Power for Your Dollar. Milk is one of the best protein bargains for your dollar. For about 25 cents per glass, milk packs 8 grams of protein in every 8 ounce glass. This calculates to around 32 grams of high-quality protein per dollar! That’s a big protein bang for your buck.14_ml_milk_glass-4p-2

5. It’s Wholesome, Real and Local. Did you know 97 percent of dairy farms are still family-owned and operated? Little handling is done from farm to fridge – and that’s why you can trust the milk you buy at the store is safe and wholesome.


Information from MilkPEP

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