Organic Tomatoes and Beans

SillyMonkey is a fan of black beans. One of his favorite meals is black beans, brown rice and pan-seared salmon. Yes, I am talking about a 3 year old. The other day I tried giving him pizza and he screamed in horror proclaiming pizza was “yucky” and that he wanted sticky rice and beans instead. Not going to try to change his mind on that one….let’s just see how long pizza stays yucky.

It’s safe to say that we always have to have black beans available in the house. I used to buy organic black beans from Whole Foods, but then realized just because it’s organic doesn’t mean the can is not lined with BPA. So off I went to research which brands don’t have BPA in them. It’s few and far between but there are definitely options out there. We started buying Eden Organic Beans which do not have BPA in them (hooray) and it says it right on the can. I also found another brand called Fig Food Co. which is packaged in a tetrapack (let’s hope there’s no killer chemicals hidden in tetrapacks…sigh) and not cans and is certified organic and BPA-free. Fig Food Co. and Eden Organic are delicious and I actually buy both brands to help support both companies. The price is about triple what you would spend on a conventional can of beans, so the price was hard to swallow but I knew going organic and BPA-free would be pricey. On the up-side, Eden Organic beans are sold at Target and it’s a little bit cheaper there, about $0.70 cheaper! Who would have guessed! To be honest, it wasn’t too difficult to find a BPA-free alternative when it came to beans. All I had to do was look just a teeny bit harder and google the term “Black Beans BPA free can” and up popped several websites, which I guess is a huge bonus when you’re sort of late to the game, everybody’s already done the hard research for you!

But when it came to canned tomatoes there was no such luck, a BPA-free canned tomato just does not exist. But on the flip side, Eden Organic has started a line of organic tomatoes and sauces in amber glass jars that are BPA-free. The amber glass is used to protect the taste of the tomatoes since sunlight can alter flavor and cause discoloration through chemical changes. I’ve made a few dishes with the Eden Organic tomatoes in glass jars and I can attest that it’s just as good as any canned tomato I’ve ever used. So a huge thumbs up from me to Eden Organic for making a safe and delicious alternative to canned tomatoes. May others follow suit! unfortunately, I was not able to find the Eden Organic glass jar tomatoes at Whole foods, but I was able to find them at Mom’s Organic Market. Whole Foods, I’m beginning to think you’re slacking…more to come on that in a later post (related to organic foods made in China and sold at Whole Foods). For now I’m pretty proud to say that my family is now just a teeny tiny less BPA ridden. Gotta start somewhere!

The great infant formula debate

When SillyMonkey was a baby, I had to supplement him with formula and I used Similac Advanced EarlyShield, that was before I had resolved to buy organic. SillyMonkey grew up just fine, he seemed to like the product and I really had no complaints whatsoever about it other than it was/is not organic. I recently had to start supplementing DramaLlama about a month ago due to some serious supply issues, and when I googled “Organic Infant Formula” an insane amount of information was hurled towards me.

There are some fierce debates out there about which organic formula is best, the ingredients they contain, what the cans are lined with. I’m just going to pause here and point out that some organic infant formula cans are actually LINED WITH BPA! Ugh! I can scream. Why? Why? Why? Why? I really don’t get it. And of course that brand happened to be the exact same one I had bought to supplement DramaLlama. Awesome.

So here I am, reading all the information available on each infant formula and my mind is about to explode. It’s really quite exhausting trying to keep up with all the harmful stuff that might be in each product. I am not going to go into minuet detail about all the different formulas because there’s already a lot of information out there on the subject. What amazes me is that there can be so many options and still no “perfect” formula out there.

Earths Best Organic Formula‘s cans are lined with BPA. Really? How does that make sense? Again with the whole putting organic stuff in cans lined with known harmful chemicals. It’s so boring and so so so stupid. Earths Best Organic Formula was the one I used for DramaLlama but now I had to start looking for an alternative. After a lot of research and reading all the different opinions with which the internet has graced the world, I decided to switch to the Nature’s One Baby’s Only Organic Formula because it’s made in the USA, the cans are not lined with harmful chemicals (BPA free), and it doesn’t contain any sweeteners. Now mind you, even this formula has its “flaws”. Apparently it doesn’t contain the vital ingredients DHA and ARA but does contain the two essential fatty acids that make the body produce them. Reading that right there made my brain hurt. Anyway, supposedly the formulas that do contain those vital ingredients use a harmful synthetized version of it (Hexane processed DHA). Really? Really? Who knows this stuff? Would your average person know this stuff off the top of their head, because I sure didn’t! Again, so so annoying and stupid. Plus, the first ingredient in this formula is organic Brown Rice Syrup which seems to bother lots of people. So if one uses this formula, one would have to go and buy a separate DHA supplement to add into it to make it complete.

Sigh….why is everything so freakin complicated? The stand alone supplements are made of a safe DHA, but what I can’t understand is why formula companies don’t just add the safe DHA to their formulas instead of the harmful one? I don’t know and obviously this is way over my head so I’m just going to have to deal with the annoying two-step process of making a formula for my baby.

When I was trying to figure out where Earths Best Organic Formula was made, it seemed to be close to impossible. Nowhere on the can does it have a place of origin, and I could not find the information of where it’s made anywhere. I can’t seriously be the first person to ask this question online but I couldn’t find the info anywhere on the internet. I had to call the customer service and I was put on hold for almost 20 minutes. DramaLlama woke up from his nap and I had to hang up. This mama does not have time to stay on hold for that long, plus I had already made up my mind to switch to Nature’s Own so I gave up. If anybody knows where Earths Best Formula is made please feel free to let us know!

When it came to finding an organic, not made in China, isn’t lined with BPA and doesn’t contain ingredients that are crazily synthesized, I’d say it was rather difficult and annoying. The amount of reading and research one would have to do to find all that information out was a bit too much for your average consumer. I never, in a million years would have thought that Infant formula cans would be lined with BPA, I never thought it would be so hard to find where a product was made, and I certainly never would have anticipated the whole DHA/ARA issue. When I shop I usually see the words “Now with added DHA” and think that’s a good thing, but now I know better and I’m going to have to research each product and what kind of DHA they put in it to make sure it’s safe. This is just insane. Like really really insane. Why is it so hard to buy something that doesn’t contain something that is known to be harmful? I need to just go live on an Amish farm. Those Amish really are on to something.

I’m running out of things to drink. Gasp! I might have to drink water…. (Unsatisfyingly Successful)

If you were to look at a pie chart of things I drink on a daily basis, diet coke, coffee with creamer and water would all be divided up quite unevenly. I’m embarrassed to say that I really am  addicted to Caffeine-free diet coke. Yes, I buy the caffeine-free kind to delude myself into thinking it’s “healthier”, plus I’m breastfeeding my 8-month old so I can’t be drinking much caffeine. I also drink caffeine-free coffee (I know….what’s the point right?) but I love the taste and crave it everyday. It’s also the only sane way I can have coffee creamer without looking like a completely insane person.

During each of my pregnancies I went cold turkey and never drank diet coke or coffee. Somehow it was easier to do with each of the little guys in my womb. I even held strong for a couple of months after each of them were born, but eventually I always started up again and then lost all the will power to stop. With my new resolve to be as chemical-free and organic as I can tolerate, I started researching into my beloved diet coke. Yeah…..part of me already knew this stuff was bad for me, but I drank it anyway and ignored it. The kicker is that not only is the diet coke itself pretty bad for me, the aluminum cans it’s packaged in are lined with BPA. Awesome.

Apparently I’m late to the game and totally lame, but I didn’t know that almost all cans are lined with BPA. If you buy diced tomatoes (which I do ALL THE TIME) then sure enough you’re eating BPA laced tomatoes. How about tomato paste? or canned vegetables? tuna? beans? Yep, lined with BPA (with an exception of a few brands, see link above. I’ll go into detail in a later post). I still have a couple of cans of diced tomatoes and beans in my pantry but I am dreading having to find an alternative to them when the time comes to buy some more. I’m starting my research and slowly realizing that it’s going to take quite some effort to make sure what I am buying doesn’t have BPA. I already buy organic canned black beans, but the cans have BPA in them! How in the world does that make sense? Why would you go through the trouble of making sure you didn’t put chemicals on the beans while growing them and then turn around and put them in packaging that has chemicals to begin with? Sigh. It’s really just amazingly backwards and outright stupid.

I am going to post about canned beans and tomatoes later when I actually run out of those items, but for this specific post I’m going to focus my efforts on finding alternatives to my beloved coffee creamer. I’m a snob when it comes to my coffee creamer and I love love love the Trader Joes Hazelnut flavored one. It tastes so yummy and actually comes close to literally brightening  up my day when I drink it. I have about two days worth of creamer left, so I went to take a look at the label to see where it was made….and nothing. Nowhere on the label was there a place of origin. Why would there not be a clearly marked place of origin? Does this happen often? I guess I’ll find out soon enough. There wasn’t even a number for me to call to inquire about the product. They’re really trying to make this hard for me. Don’t they know I have two young children that never nap at the same time and keep me busy all day long?

I’m going to have to find another alternative anyway because the creamer is not organic. I can almost start crying about it right now. I love this stuff but I know that I should probably find a healthier alternative….gasp, even maybe just drink water instead of all this coffee and creamer.

I resort to google. I google “Organic Flavored Coffee Creamer” and this website pops up with recipes and instructions on how to make your own coffee creamer. So apparently I’m not the only one struggling with this and most definitely not a pioneer in the “organic coffee creamer” department. Make my own coffee creamer? Sounds interesting and scary. I bet it would taste great and be a lot cheaper than buying creamer every week. It’s going to take some planning on my part to make in bulk and store in the refrigerator, but maybe once I start getting used to it I’ll find that it’s not as complicated and disastrous as I’m imagining it to be (I barely have time to properly dress myself in the morning let alone make fresh coffee creamer daily).

Oh and Whole Foods sells organic coffee creamers too. Well that’s just fabulous! Now I have more than one option and alternative so I can quit my whining. I google “Whole Foods Coffee Creamer” and up pops an instructional video on how to use the creamer. Really? I need a video to tell me how to use creamer? I click and watch it in anticipation of having a little giggle, but it’s not really a clip about how to use the Whole Foods brand organic coffee creamer, it’s actually a lady talking about how to choose a “whole” food creamer and reading labels. She makes a couple of valid points and that’s the end of the clip. Thanks lady!

I decide to go to Whole Foods and buy a couple of organic creamers and test them out. Mr.Research works from home, which is both a blessing and a curse for this stay at home mom. Today it’s a blessing because I can quickly go to the store during SillyMonky’s afternoon nap instead of dragging both kids along with me like I normally do.  I put SillyMonkey down for his nap and grab DramaLlama to quickly change his clothes and get him ready to go. I throw on some jeans and a sweater and try to be out of the door quickly so I can be back before SillyMonkey woke from his  usual two-hour nap.

Of course DramaLlama had other plans. Before I could make it out of the door I smelled the unmistakable and incriminating smell of a dirty diaper. When I dressed DramaLlama I had checked his diaper and it was bone dry and clean, but of course in the 5 minutes it took for me to get dressed, DramaLlama relaxed enough to let it all out. Back up the stairs I went to change the little guys diaper. One realizes that there can never be a “quick” anything when dealing with kids.

Finally we make it to Whole Foods. I grab a cart, put the cart cover on and situate the baby comfortably in. I have a few things on my list but I’m trying to focus on the coffee creamer section. I see a few options and start to pick some up and read the labels. DramaLlama starts to get a little fussy and is once again refusing to stay seated for my convenience. Lucky for me I brought the Ergo (baby carrier) with me. I take my time strapping it on and putting him in. He’s not too happy to be in the Ergo but it’s better than the shopping cart. My time is limited since I know the baby is going to lose it very soon (poor baby is having a terribly fussy teething day) and I have to get back before SillyMonkey wakes up. I quickly grab two organic creamers that are made in the USA. One is the 365 organic hazelnut creamer (the Whole Foods brand) and the other is the Organic Valley Soy French Vanilla creamer. I grab a few other quick items, bananas, onions and chicken, then quickly pay for them and make my way back home. I arrive before SillyMonkey wakes up.

The 365 Organic Hazelnut Creamer: One word to describe it…..Meh. I mean, it’s not bad. It was creamy, it was sweet and tasted like hazelnut, but it had a sort of oddly displaced caramel taste that just didn’t really agree with me. Would I buy it again? Maybe. I’m still going to keep looking for other tastier options if they’re actually out there. If I had to keep drinking it that wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it was not as tasty as the Trader Joes Hazelnut creamer, at least not to me. Now I’m not going to go into the minute detail and specifics of every ingredient in each of these two products I’m comparing. I’m just your average consumer going from non-organic to organic. When I become a fancier organic consumer who starts to compare organic brands and their ingredients to one another I will be sure to revisit this review, but for now I’m just going by taste. The overall rating for this product would be a 6 or maybe 7.

***Disclaimer: My ratings are really based on nothing but my taste buds and the fact that the product is organic. Take all my “ratings” with a grain of salt. Enjoy!

***Double Disclaimer: Apparently I can not spell the word hazelnut and the red squiggly lines kept popping up every time I would write it. Awesome.

The Organic Valley Soy French Vanilla Creamer: One word to describe it….yuck! Ok, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into with this creamer. When one sees the word vanilla one usually thinks of some kind of whitish product. When I poured this creamer out it looked exactly like chocolate milk. The color difference was a little off-putting. The product is not very sweet (which most would consider a good thing) and the taste was just not that great. I was disappointed, I really wanted to like this product. It seemed so great on paper. It’s organic, non GMO, without carrageenan, no HFCS  and has no BPA in the  lining of the carton. Sounds absolutely perfect but didn’t taste as perfect. I think I might try to give some other flavors a try before completely dismissing this brand. I’m sure plenty of people love this creamer and think it tastes great, but not this soccer mom. The overall rating for this product would be a 3ish, maybe 4. Are you in total aw of how precise and scientific my ratings are? You should be.

So of the two organic products I bought, I sort of liked one. There were definitely a lot of options out there for coffee creamers, and I’m going to continue with my search for the perfect creamer. Plus I’m still going to try and make my own creamer per the website I linked to earlier. I’ll let you all know how that goes.

In conclusion, when it came to coffee creamers, it didn’t seem to be that difficult to find an organic alternative, but the taste so far was just not as good. It’s always hard to give up a product you love, so I think I might be having some Trader Joes withdrawal here, but I’m confidant I can find a suitable replacement without too much effort.