The truth about the grocery store brands you love (infographic)

Think you know everything there is to know about the brands you love? Maybe not. This infographic (shared by depicts the reality of the majority ownership of brands in the grocery store aisles. It’s a bit on the salacious side (“dominate”? “disturbing”?) but the information seems sound and pretty interesting. And, if you’re like me, you shop in the produce and fresh protein section more than anything else and might not even care. But it’s good to know. Pass it on.

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What to buy at Trader Joe's: The full guide to their food

Trader Joe's Loot

Although it’s been three years since I moved to California, I still wallow in the awesomeness of Trader Joe’s (TJ’s). Their business model of offering only private-branded food and beverage is unique, so you kind of have to test out the merchandise to see what your favorite items are. Not that this is grueling work. They sell an insanely varied line of foods (around 4,000 SKUs), from über gourmet chocolate to some of the best frozen foods you can find. Having the corner on each specialty item appears to be working for them. Based in Monrovia, California outside of Los Angeles (but owned by a German company), TJ’s is privately held and the actual producers of their grocery items remain secret. This is a fantastic story from highlighting Trader Joe’s success and reveals some of their inner sanctum. I know my friends in Tampa FL have been anxiously awaiting the opening of their first TJ’s, and I heard there was line snaking around the block when their doors finally unlocked. Wait no longer.

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Fruits and veggies: Buy organic or not? The dirty dozen

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

My husband and I “went organic” many years ago, figuring that — assuming all the research is correct — spending more money now is better than spending money in the hospital later. Eating real food is way more fun than “eating” from a tube, right? And tastier, I might add. Whether you espouse the “pesticides and fungicides suck” attitude or not, non-profit organizations like the Environmental Working Group have assembled a tome of evidence that recommends staying away from the chemical residue on food. But a huge factor that keeps people from buying organic fruits and vegetables is the higher price. It’s not the farmer’s fault — they have to spend more producing the food so they pass on the added cost to the customer. Although not all conventionally-farmed fruits and vegetables are slathered in chemical residue, there are some worst offenders. To keep track of the pesticides levels on a myriad of fresh food, I recommend a free app called Harvest but here’s a short list of those that should always be purchased from the organic section.

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Food EDU: Jamie Oliver’s TED Talk

In a disturbing 20 minute TED talk about the future of food in America, Chef Jamie Oliver attempts to shock us into becoming more curious about the food we eat. Also watch Robyn O’Brien’s TED talk about our food supply. “Obesity costs the U.S. 10 billion dollars a year.” (Jamie Oliver) “Your child will live a life ten years younger than you because of the landscape of food that we’ve built around them.” (Jamie Oliver)

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Video: How the shape of food provides insight into how they keep us healthy

It’s kinda complicated how to introduce what this interesting (yet, admittedly over dramatic) video is about. They provide examples of the shape and make up of food indicate the organ they help. According to the video, the Chinese have been following this wisdom for thousands of years. Perhaps another way we can learn from the wise people in the east?

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Video: How safe is our food supply? Robyn O'Brien at TedX

A disturbing talk presented at the innovative TedX program by Robyn O’Brien, an advocate for food safety. Robyn is a former food industry analyst, Fulbright grant recipient, author and mother of four, who brings unique insight into the impact the global food system is having on our health. Once you watch

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Top ten travel tips for the Cook Islands and Rarotonga

Part two of the Cook Islands trip. But what else is there to do besides eat and drink, you ask? Well, let talk about transportation. Most people zip about on little scooters that accommodate only one or two people. Right hand-drive cars are available as well if you are more than two or really can’t live without climate control. Either way, you’ll have to get a Cook Islands drivers license. Scooters will also require a short training course if you don’t have a motorcycle certification of some sort. Or if you’re daring, there are a few places that will rent bicycles. On the islands, they are called “push bikes” – some are squeaky, old mountain bikes with terrible brakes (like we had), others have battery-assisted power for when you get tired. Your choice. But, and I emphasize the “but” here, when the sun goes down, the island gets dark, and push bikes don’t have lights. We made it home alive after a leisurely dinner stuck us five or six miles from our hotel after sunset. It’s the only adventure on the island I don’t recommend.

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Top foodie travel tips for the Cook Islands and Rarotonga

Ika Mata speciality of the island

Every now and then internet travel sites splash some really intriguing vacation packages up on my screen. And every now and then, like a big game fish, we bite. So when Living Social tossed out a trip for two to Rarotonga, Cook Islands… Sorry, where, you just asked? The Cook Islands are a Polynesian island chain in the South Pacific, kind of like an English-speaking Tahiti, with clear lagoons and beautiful reefs surrounding the island. And Rarotonga, the largest of the islands, is home of the Maitai, a freighter that went down on the reef on Christmas Day, 1916, carrying Model-T cars from San Francisco. So if you like tropical vacations on tiny islands populated by the Maori (who swear they’ve given up cannibalism) then put this rock on your must-see list. But I’ll share some of my insights with you first so you really can have the tropical paradise you’ll be dreaming about.

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Pillsbury Bake-Off prize winner is wholly pumpkin ravioli: Recipe and pictures

On Monday, the Doughboy came to Mickey Mouse’s turf in Orlando at the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest, the premier American cooking competition. Five men and 95 women, aged 25 to 77, all amateur cooks came from cities like Brookline, MA, Beaver Dam, KY, Koloa, HI, and a few miles away in Windermere, FL to debut their original recipes. The prize seekers baked, braised and whisked their dreams and talent in 100 mini-kitchens set up in the Peabody Orlando Hotel ballroom. Each vied for the sweetest bragging rights of all, a $1 million grand prize and $10,000 in GE appliances.

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Winemakers' opinion: What foods pair with Zinfandel wine? (video)

I went to the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Festival in San Francisco with one mission: to find out, once and for all, what food pairs with Zinfandel from the people who make the juice. This grapes is often low in tannins and acidity with a reputation for hefty alcohol… what would these winemakers say? I got the goods from nine winemakers and principals, from tiny producers to large. The answers might surprise you…

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