April 8, 2011
We’re building a new website and I get to be in charge of some of the copy that will be going on it. The section called “Why Organic” is taking me a while to write. One realization I had while I was doing the research for that section is that, as we know, in the history of our species and our relationship to agriculture, we’ve always farmed “organically” because there was never a choice. Indigenous people learned to grow food with nature—following what they saw happening around them; allowing nature to be their teacher. Until fossil fuels, chemical warfare, and industrialization, we’ve always done it that way. Now that we’ve established an industrialized, chemicalized “food” system (I put food in quotes because so much of what we eat I would not consider food) we have a choice about how we want to relate to food, agriculture, our earth. Having a choice means we have to look at what the options really are and be CONSCIOUS of the consequences of what we choose. We’re in a different paradigm than our ancestors—we are doing things very differently than what’s been done before. It means we have to question things in ways our species hasn’t had to. We can’t just trust our elders, or what’s been done before—it’s not that people are purposely trying to mislead us (although in some cases, when it comes to quick profit, I think we are being lied to;) it’s that people don’t know what they know and don’t know anymore. There’s now a generation of people who only know about food from this new, industrialized paradigm. They don’t know what they don’t know.
I have learned not to idealize any culture or time period, but it seems that indigenous cultures do have a connection to nature and the earth and an understanding of our place in it. There is an acceptance of mystery, vulnerability, and limitation. Humility. As we have relied more and more on our heads and our intellect, and revered that aspect of our knowledge base, we have lost the connection to our hearts which is the part of us that knows about what it means to be human. Our hearts teach us of vulnerability, compassion, and connection. It’s what keeps us in our bodies, reminding us that we are just one of many species on this planet, and not necessarily the smartest ones. Supposedly, we are distinguished by the fact that we have an awareness of self, can make choices, have “free will.” That freedom comes with a lot of responsibility, as freedom generally does. It would be very mature and wise of us to recognize the limits of the head and build in some balance with the heart. The “precautionary principle” seems to include that balance somewhat (“When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.” Google for more details.) It’s at least acknowledging that we may not know the full outcome of something even when we think that we do. We are just beginning to learn about the full outcome of some of the choices we have made regarding “conventional” farming. We have displayed much arrogance as we mess with nature, change the DNA of plants (GMOs), try to control a complex system by killing what we have determined to be “pests” without understanding (or caring?) about the consequences. Ugh.
So you can see where my mind goes when I think about writing about why Mary’s Gone Crackers passionately chooses to use certified organic ingredients. It was a “no brainer” for me that we would only use organic ingredients; maybe I should say it was both a brain and heart choice.
March 15, 2011
A colleague forwarded an article in the Wall Street Journal that appeared today, “Clues to Gluten Sensitivity.” I’m excited that there is more focus now on gluten sensitivity as well as celiac disease. I’ve heard of many people who tested negative for celiac disease but when they finally eliminated gluten from their diet, all of their nagging symptoms went away. So many people are told that gluten isn’t an issue for them because of either false negatives on the tests or this category of gluten sensitivity that few seem to be aware of. (See Healthier Without Wheat by Dr. Stephen Wangen.)
Reading the comments brought even more interesting information. Several people connected the unexplained increase in both CD and allergies with an increase in the use of genetically modified foods (GMOs.) I had never made that connection before, although when I’ve spoken with Jeffrey Smith (Seeds of Deception) he says that since there has been so little testing done on all the GM food, it’s really unknown what the impact is on all of us.
What really interested me even MORE, was the article suggested by one of the comments. It appeared in 2005, also in the Wall Street Journal, but I never saw it: “Illness of the intestines gets late notice in U.S.” In it, there is a discussion of how “blind spots” can develop in the US medical system” based on two apparent factors: 1. No drugs or surgical procedures are used to treat the disease, so there is less interest and less funding; 2. The “we didn’t discover it first so it can’t be valid” mentality that’s part of American culture. The 3 most prominent physicians in the US that have been making a significant impact in both educating the public and spearheading research were all trained outside of the US—namely Italy, Ireland, and Australia! I’ve certainly known that Europe and Australia are way ahead of us in their awareness of celiac disease, and I found this article helpful in its discussion and history of the disease.
Dr. Peter Green (the Australian who heads the Columbia University Celiac Disease Center) notes that the average length of time before a US celiac is diagnosed is 11 years! In my case it was closer to 40. I have often joked that I’ve been like Moses, wandering in the desert for 40 years. But at least I found the Promised Land in my lifetime!
February 24, 2011
How do we say this…we’re thrilled, excited, and jumping up and down because we’ve almost reached 2,000 followers on Twitter! We’ve had so much fun talking with our new friends about food, nutrition, being gluten-free, different causes we support and so much more that we want to celebrate this fantastic milestone!
To reach 2,000, we’re enlisting the help of our favorite Twitter followers – you! From now until we reach our goal, follow @GoneCrackers and retweet our messages that includes the hashtag #MGC2000. Or, feel free to tweet the following:
I’m helping @GoneCrackers reach 2,000 followers! Follow them & RT for a chance to win new Double Chocolate cookies! #MGC2000
To say thank you, we’ll be giving away boxes of our new Double Chocolate love™ Cookies to 10 followers who have participated. Tweet or retweet once a day for additional chances to win, but don’t forget that hashtag! Once we hit 2,000 followers, the winners will be drawn at random. We will also send a box of cookies to our lucky 2,000th follower!
From all of us at Mary’s Gone Crackers, thank you for your continued support.
November 15, 2010
My friend, Mimi Clark, is a vegan cooking instructor and natural foods consultant. She lives in the D.C. area and has helped us out with our shows on the East coast. She teaches vegan cooking and uses our products frequently. www.veggourmet.wordpress.com.
She recently sent me a recipe for mini-pumpkin pies using our “love Cookies” Ginger Snaps as the crust. They look delicious! The crust can be used with your favorite pumpkin pie filling, or follow her vegan recipe below. Be sure to use organic ingredients, particularly with the corn starch and the canola oil, so as to avoid genetically modified ingredients (GMOs.) I imagine the crust could be used with a variety of fillings as well–from cheese cake to pecan pie. A box of Ginger Snaps makes one full size (9 inch) pie or about 3 dozen minis (using a mini cupcake pan that is 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 1 inch deep.)
Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake
8 oz. dairy-free, non-hydrogenated cream cheese
1 cup organic canned pumpkin
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
2 Tblsp. organic cornstarch
1-1/2 tsp. organic molasses
1 Tblsp. organic canola oil
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/8 tsp. ginger powder
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. sea salt
Opt: pinch ground cloves
Mary’s Gone Crackers Ginger Snaps crust (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
1. Drain liquid from cream cheese if necessary and pat dry. Combine ingredients in a food processor and blend for 2 minutes until smooth, scraping down as necessary.
2. Spray 9″ pie pan with vegetable oil. Pour mixture into MGC Ginger Snaps pie shell (directions follow). Bake 30-45 minutes or until brown around the edges (top may start to crack).
3. Cool on wire rack; transfer to fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight, if possible.
4. Top with vegan whip cream.
To make ginger snaps mini pie crust: Put one box of MGC Gluten Free “love Cookies” Ginger Snaps in food processor. While machine is running, slowly drizzle in water or apple juice, one teaspoon at a time, just until the crumbs hold together (they shouldn’t be wet, just moist enough to stick together). Spray the cavities of a mini muffin tin that is 1-1/2″ in diameter with cooking oil. Press 1 tsp. of crumbs into the bottom of each cavity. Put one tablespoon of filling on top of crumbs. Bake approximately 15 minutes or until brown around the edges. For 9″ pie, process cookies as above and press into oiled 9″ pie pan. Follow full size pie recipe for recommended baking time.
October 4, 2010
I’m grateful to the Wall Street Journal for its thoroughness in explaining Celiac Disease, wheat allergies, and gluten intolerance. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703846604575447413874799110.html?KEYWORDS=gluten+free. It appeared August 24, 2010.
Why is it, however, when I read this article that I keep thinking no one is talking about the Elephant in the Room?
The debate regarding the value of people choosing to eat gluten free when they don’t need to for health reasons seems to be skirting the real issue. The key element to being on a gluten free diet is the opportunity to eat more healthfully, more CONSCIOUSLY. I would hope that the vast majority of people who are exploring going gluten free (by choice vs. because they are ill) are doing so because they are waking up to what healthful eating is all about. Obviously, if you are swapping out gluten containing junk food for gluten-free junk food, there is really no benefit.
Before I discovered my need to eliminate gluten from my diet, I was already eating organic, whole food. Fresh organic fruits and vegetables, organic whole grains (albeit the wrong ones!), minimally processed foods. I knew that my health problems were related to the food I was eating so I had been on a crusade to eat as cleanly as possible. Discovering that gluten was the culprit afforded me the opportunity to learn about alternative ingredients, equally healthful—like quinoa, millet (both of which I had actually already been eating!), amaranth, and teff. Over the years, I have discovered more and more healthful and interesting ingredients and my food choices continue to change.
If one wants to be healthier (or lose weight), an examination of our food choices is in order. CONSCIOUS EATING—some are calling it ethical eating—means, among other things, eliminating the highly processed foods from your life, finding whole food that still has its nutrients intact. Since so much of the gluten containing foods in the Standard American Diet (SAD) are based on refined white flour, refined sugars and often unhealthy fats, going gluten free, even when you technically don’t have to, can be the opportunity to say no to all of that refined, highly processed “food.” Of course, every once in a while we all may need a brownie or some pizza, but this “trend” to eat gluten free, I hope, is really the awakening in our culture to the truth about the problems with the way the majority of Americans eat: It is unsustainable, it is killing us and most disturbing, making our children ill at an early age.
August 6, 2010
A friend wrote and offered the recipe below using our crumbs. The motto in their household is “everything is better with butter”. . . like Julia Child!
“WOW! Just made our favorite breaded chicken dish with your crumbs. It was amazing. These crumbs are the best. . . These should be in people’s homes. They have the crunch of the Panko breadcrumbs we often use, but are packed with flavor. Yummmm.”
One package boneless chicken thighs
Mary’s Gone Crackers crumbs – original or savory
Grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper (just a little)
Mix Mary’s Gone Crackers crumbs with garlic powder and grated parmesan cheese.
Trim excess fat off chicken pieces. Pat dry.
Beat egg with salt and pepper.
Dip boneless chicken in beaten egg mixture, then roll in crumb mixture.
Fry in butter till golden brown.
For a less rich version, you can bake the chicken in a baking dish at 350 for about 25 minutes until done.
July 8, 2010
Today I am introducing a guest blogger–Valerie Douglass. Valerie is my assistant and she is writing about a conference we recently attended.
I attended the Food as Medicine Conference in Washington, DC June 10-13th, 2010, sponsored by the Center for Mind-Body Medicine (http://cmbm.org .) The conference was held at the historic Capitol Hilton, just two blocks away from the White House. The conference was primarily attended by physicians, registered dietitians, psychologists, health counselors and students. People had very diverse backgrounds and yet had the same purpose: to heal and change the lives of those who need to be healed. This group of healthcare professionals has tremendous impact on our nation’s health. It was so wonderful being around people who knew what good, quality, wholesome ingredients were. The amount of energy at the conference was unreal. I could tell as soon as I walked into the conference hall that everyone who was there was excited to be there and was willing to learn.
Mary’s Gone Crackers held a table located in the hallway outside the conference room. We sampled all our products (Crackers, Sticks & Twigs and Cookies). We were the hot spot during the several 30-minute breaks throughout the days. We were by far the busiest booth there.
It was great to see people interested in the nutrition of our products. I thought to myself, “Wow, finally someone who knows what a chia seed is!” Almost every person visiting our table picked up the boxes and scanned the ingredients list. People were blown away by the nutrition and incredible taste of our products. Every single person said that they would recommend our products to all of their patients, not just those with gluten intolerance.
At just about every break we were visited by a man who works with Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, scooping handfuls of crackers from our bowls. “I only eat food with sunshine in it and these crackers are full of sunshine,” he said. “War veterans have a lot of rain in their lives. Food should be uplifting and make us happy. If it is bringing us down, it should not be something we choose to put in our bodies.” His quote really touched me and will be something I will remember for a long time.
The most popular items at our table were our new Love Cookies. No one believed that they are gluten-free, vegan, organic and healthy. The most popular cookie varied by the time of day. The N’Oatmeal Raisin was the breakfast and mid-morning favorite. The Chocolate Chip was the perfect finish after lunch. And towards the later afternoon, the spices in the Gingersnap became the most popular. Another big hit were the Curry Sticks & Twigs.
I also met a young woman who was really inspiring to me. She was a physician who spoke about the chronic disease she sees every day in the emergency room at her hospital. She said the emergency room is constantly full of patients with diabetes, food allergies and other diet-related diseases. As a physician she only receives two hours of training per year on nutrition. She said she attended the conference to learn of more ways to help her patients. She hates the fact that often people are discharged from the hospital without knowing how to best help themselves. She stated when people come to the emergency room they are scared. This is the time when people are the most willing to listen and change their lifestyles.
We were personally recognized by James Gordon, MD founder and director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine. Dr. Gordon thanked us for our great products and stated he could not stop eating them. It seemed like the entire audience of 275 people were nodding their heads and smiling.
As a graduate holding my Bachelor’s of Science in Nutrition and Food Sciences, I felt as if the speakers covered material that was only skimmed in my studies. The topics about detoxifying our bodies were the most fascinating to me. Speakers recommended a diet of organic, non-GMO, whole foods and said that what we consume has a huge effect on disease. Food is the medicine that we choose to give our bodies each day. Choosing the right foods is the best natural medicine we can provide ourselves.
Speakers also emphasized the importance of exercise and mental health. If one of the three main components (healthy eating, exercise and mental health) is out of balance, optimum health cannot exist.
Celiac Disease was the disease most commonly cited by the conference speakers. Physicians said that when they began their practices they never saw patients with Celiac Disease, and now they see numerous patients per week. Many of them believe that Celiac Disease is a neurological disorder and is primarily influenced by genetics as well as environmental factors. It was great for all of the healthcare professionals to try our products, fall in love with them, and now have new products to recommend.
The lunches that were provided were fantastic! They were prepared under the direction of Chef Rebecca Katz, who is the Executive Chef in the Center’s training program. Rebecca’s goal as a chef is to “transform health through the power of food.” She is most famous for her cookbook titled “Cancer Fighting Kitchen.” It was great to see vegan and gluten-free options in a buffet setting. All the entrees had an ingredients list card which eliminated the guess work for those living with food allergies or intolerances. One lunch included delicious, wild Alaskan salmon—especially wonderful after hearing from one of the speakers about the hazards of farm raised fish and seafood.
Every day at lunch our crackers were served. As I glanced around everyone’s plates, I saw piles and piles of crackers. This proved to me that our crackers are much more than a Celiac-friendly cracker—they are really for everyone!
June 15, 2010
I haven’t done much writing in the blog for a while, mostly because I’ve been working so hard on our new cookie production. For the first few months, we were letting another bakery manufacture the cookies for us (with my supervision.) For a variety of reasons, beginning in April we brought the cookie production into our own facility, where we have always made our crackers and Sticks & Twigs. (Our cookie packaging still says “ MANUFACTURED IN A FACILITY THAT ALSO MAKES PRODUCTS CONTAINING PEANUTS, TREE NUTS, MILK, EGGS, WHEAT AND SOY” but the only possible contaminant for the cookies we are making now is the soy—the tamari that’s in our crackers and some of our Sticks & Twigs. However, we use separate pans and a different conveyor belt on our packaging line so the chance for contamination is very minute. We will change the packaging on the next print run.)
What has been so interesting to me is that even though the formulas for the cookies have not really changed since we started production, moving from one facility to another, tweaking little things like the order of adding the ingredients, or the mixing time or the baking time and temperature, can turn out a different product. This is a work in progress and what I think of when I consider the term “Artisan Baking.” You will never get a box of cookies from Pepperidge Farm or Nabisco that differ from one another. Mary’s Gone Crackers love Cookies will probably change, especially in the early stages of our production, and possibly as seasons change as well. The differences might generally be slight, but right now they are more noticeable. The chocolate chip cookies are the best example. At first we had to use the really tiny chips because the larger chips didn’t work in the machine we were using. Then we got a better machine and I could go back to the larger chips and put more in without them flying all over the place. And who doesn’t want more chocolate chips! More recently, I discovered that when we bake the cookies a little longer, the coconut palm sugar caramelizes more and the flavor improves!
The reason that different times of the year might have an impact on the cookies is because the weather changes the way we make our products. North-central California gets very hot in the summer and so does our factory. It usually means we have to change the bake times of our products slightly and for the cookies it will mean keeping the ingredients and the finished product in conditioned space as well. Also, some of our more exotic ingredients occasionally vary from season to season, which will also change the finished product a bit.
Mary’s Gone Crackers is getting bigger, but we still have that homemade feel—our production team has a lot of fun when they are making our products and that joy can be felt in every bite. We recently had a colleague in our plant who has over 25 years of experience working in and consulting with large bakeries. After helping us for several days, she commented that she had never seen employees having so much fun while working so hard. What a great compliment to all of us!
I recently found this “definition” of artisan on www.thenibble.com:
ARTISAN: There are no standards for “artisan” and unfortunately, it has been co-opted by big business. Large businesses de facto cannot make artisan products: they are labor-intensive, small-batch products handmade, often of the finest ingredients, by skilled craftspeople. Machines don’t make the cheese, chocolate, jam, etc.: People make it. Artisan businesses are family-owned; some, which grow large enough to be purchased by Big Business, may still make good products from good ingredients, but the special quality that comes from small-batch production and the love and attention that the artisan invests in the product is lost.
At Mary’s Gone Crackers we still use the “finest ingredients” and put a lot of love and attention into everything we do, even though our batch sizes might be bigger than their definition. But I would add another perspective to this discussion: When you use real food ingredients without the super-refined processes that take all the variations (and nutrition) out, manufacturing can be a little riskier, with the outcome being a slightly less perfect looking product. I’m willing to risk that for the taste, nourishment and satisfaction that we bring to the table!
We truly appreciate the people who eat our products and support our vision. You are part of our story and we would love to hear your thoughts!
May 10, 2010
In honor of National Celiac Disease Awareness Month in May, Mary’s Gone Crackers and the Celiac Disease Foundation have created a list of 10 ways to help promote awareness of the disease. Celiac Disease affects approximately one in 133 people; nearly three million Americans nationwide.
Celiac Disease is one of the most common genetic conditions in the world, but often goes undiagnosed because it is a multi-symptom, multi-system disorder. It is estimated that 97 percent of Americans with the disease often go undiagnosed.
10 ways you can help raise awareness include:
1. Support National Celiac Disease Awareness Month by spreading the word! Send out an email, or post it on Facebook or Twitter.
2. Prepare your favorite gluten-free dish for your next gathering, then print copies of your recipe and place it by your dish to share!
3. Write your congressperson and ask them to co-sponsor/support H. Con. Res 110 designating May as Celiac Disease Awareness Month.
4. Give the gift of health – Next time you give a gift, consider a basket filled with your favorite gluten-free products. Include Mary’s Gone Crackers and let people know that you don’t have to be gluten intolerant to enjoy the healthy, wholesome taste!
5. Contact the health editors of your local newspaper and ask them if they know about Celiac Disease. Write them a letter and share your story.
6. Share current books – Celiac Disease for Dummies, by Sheila Crowe, MD and Ian Blumer, MD; Revised and Updated: Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic by Peter H.R. Green, MD; or Healthier Without Wheat by Stephen Wangen, MD. Read them and pass them on to people who you think may benefit from learning more about Celiac Disease or how gluten may be the cause of their illness.
7. Find out if there is a health fair or vendor fair coming to your town and offer to set up a table with information on Celiac Disease and how to get tested. Contact the Celiac Disease Foundation for the free awareness brochures, “Are You The One?” which covers symptoms, testing, tips and more!
8. Check to see if there are any local benefits or marathons that support Celiac Disease – join or volunteer! Check out Team Gluten-free™ and help raise awareness and funds through participation in local and regional races.
9. When you visit a friend or neighbor in the hospital, or have a regular physical or dental exam, take the opportunity to talk to doctors, dentists, nurses, healthcare workers, and dieticians to help increase their awareness of Celiac Disease and the gluten-free diet needs of Celiac patients.
10. Word-of-mouth. The best way to raise awareness is to just tell somebody about Celiac Disease. Share your story!
Common symptoms of recurring bloating, gas, abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, constipation, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, bone or joint pain, migraine headaches and unexplained anemia are often and unknowingly caused by Celiac Disease. Since many people living with Celiac Disease go undiagnosed, it is important for anyone displaying one or more of these symptoms to consult a doctor for testing. Symptoms vary and are not always gastrointestinal.
April 3, 2010
Conscious Eating is our tag line–it’s on all of our packaging, all of our advertising. What does it mean when we use the phrase CONSCIOUS EATING?
There are so many layers to be aware of (CONSCIOUS) when we look at our food. When I buy whole, unprocessed food, whether it’s fresh or frozen—vegetables, fruits, nuts, meat, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy—I want to know first, is it organic, where was it grown, is it seasonal to my region or did it have to travel from another part of the world? Have the animals been treated well, allowed to roam in pastures, fed food that they are meant to be eating (grass fed beef, free range chickens, fertile eggs).
When I’m buying more processed foods—things that come in a box or a bag or a jar, like our products–I’m looking at the same issues. Are the ingredients organic? (In my case actually, the first question I’m asking is “Is the product gluten-free?) Are there chemical additives, or other ingredients that don’t sound like real food? Are the ingredients whole foods or highly processed? Are there ingredients that I know are particularly hurtful to us, such as high fructose corn syrup, or hydrogenated oils? If it’s not organic, does it contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)?
Most products don’t get very far into my questioning when I start looking at the labels.
Why does all of this matter? It matters to my body, because I don’t want to ingest toxic chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) that have not been tested. (see www.seedsofdeception.com for more information on genetically engineered food.)
It matters to the earth, air and water for the same reasons: when farmed organically, the earth is being replenished and nourished instead of getting loads of toxic sludge, fertilizers, pesticides and other topsoil depleting processes. It matters to the insects, birds, earthworms, soil bacteria, bees, and all other wild creatures, because they are allowed to live, do their jobs to help sustain the planet, and not be poisoned. It matters to the farmers because they don’t have to handle and breathe poisons. They don’t have to have abusive, hostile relationships with animals. They can put love into their work, into the earth and into our food.
And maybe more abstractly, it matters to our economy. I want to support farmers and companies that are behaving in truly sustainable ways; who understand that the future of our country and this planet depend on long-term thinking.
The industrial food systems that have been developed in the U.S. over the last 50 years have dismantled our systems for truly feeding this country and are destroying our health on many levels. We will not survive if we don’t re-learn sustainable ways of farming, ranching, living and eating.
So, eating consciously to me means learning about the food you are eating, making choices based on a deeper knowledge of your environment and the impact that your choices have on your own body, your family, the earth, and even the economy.
There are many more aspects to how we can be conscious in our eating, including the mechanics of HOW we eat as well. Eating in a hurry, on the go, vs. sitting down at a table and paying attention to tasting and enjoying your food is just one example. Let me hear what goes into your food choices!