Tag Archives: CTVegFest

Breaking News: Dessert Poll Results, Bite Taken out of Cookie Price Index, Favorite Flavor Survey

Happy June everyone! Or perhaps not so happy after yesterday’s unexpected jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor. Analysts were disappointed to see that only 69,000 jobs were created nationwide in the month of May and the unemployment rate rose to 8.2%. This information shows that the nation’s economy continues to recover ever so slowly from the recession that ended more than two years ago.

However, there is a glimmer of hope, particularly for economists who also like to bake cookies. I just calculated the 2012 Q2 SensitiveEconomist Cookie Price Index, which shows a drop of 17% from the previous quarter. Thanks to decreases in the prices for organic whole wheat flour, agave nectar, and grain sweetened chocolate chips, the price to bake a batch of my chocolate chip cookies declined from $13.37 to $11.40. The only ingredient that saw an increase in price (of 4%) was the local honey.

This price index result is running contrary to the latest U.S. consumer price food index, which saw a 0.2% increase in March. However, if we take a deeper look at the components of the U.S. index, there are similarities. The U.S. index saw prices for fruits and vegetables, cereals, nonalcoholic beverages, meats and eggs, and other miscellaneous items all increase – yet those foods (except for the eggs) are not included in the recipe for the chocolate chip cookies. The U.S. food index component that saw a decrease was dairy – which is included in my recipe as butter. The U.S. index does not track the prices of many organic or natural ingredients like agave nectar – so that is why the indices diverge.

Speaking of cookies…thanks to everyone who participated in my dessert poll, either at the CTVegFest or online. I tallied the 54 responses and have declared that Ice Cream is the favored dessert of the respondents, garnering 25% of the votes. This was followed by Cookies with 19%, Brownies with 15%, and Pie with 13%. For all of you ice cream lovers, there are two good recipes on this blog: one that requires an ice cream maker (Peach Ice Cream) and one that does not (Banana Chocolate “Ice Cream”). These are great to try as summer gets into full swing.

Now it is time for a new survey question: what is your favorite dessert flavor? Please participate by visiting my blog’s home page, clicking on your favorite dessert flavor, and clicking “vote.” Is chocolate really the king of dessert flavors? Or will strawberry, mint, or another fine flavor win in the end? I look forward to seeing what emerges from the data.

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Being Naturally Sweet: Results from the CTVegFest

Greetings from a very happy CTVegFest speaker! The festival was a great weekend filled with exhibitors, raffles, cooking demonstrations and speakers. I spoke on Sunday, April 29 all about natural sweeteners. About 30 people joined the discussion “Being Naturally Sweet: The Costs and Benefits of a Refined Sugar-Free Diet.” When I polled the audience, I was quite impressed that the majority were already trying to limit the amount of refined sugars that they consume. I first talked about how I learned that I had food sensitivities, and that by listening to my body and consulting a second physician’s opinion really started me on the right path to adjusting my diet. We discussed how tricky it is to remove sugars from one’s diet, and the possible code words for “sugar” in an ingredient list – including, but not limited to, the following – dextrin, dextrose, glucose, saccharose, sucrose, and some syrups and sweeteners. By looking at cost comparisons we all agreed that the relative low expense of cane sugar is why it is the sweetener of choice for many food manufacturers – it’s just less expensive to make foods sweetened with cane sugar than with a natural sweetener.

Yet do not despair! Even though I cannot have cane sugar, and choose to limit the amount of other refined sugars that I consume, desserts can still be enjoyed! We talked about how to substitute with natural sweeteners using sweet conversions. The question did arise about liquid versus solid sweeteners – I have not found any trouble with substituting liquid alternatives like agave nectar, honey and maple syrup instead of using granulated sugar in baked goods such as cookies, cakes and brownies. For puddings, however, I sometimes have to use a little cornstarch for its thickening properties.

The benefits of natural sweeteners are many – so that’s why many of us at the CTVegFest aim to be naturally sweet. I enjoyed discussing my journey so far with the audience, and I intend to continue the discussion right here on this blog. So thank you for hearing me speak, reading my blog posts, commenting with questions and ideas – it’s wonderful to be part of a supportive community.

At the close of my speech I asked everyone to answer a short survey. Since I am an economist, I just love to collect data! I now have the results prepared for you. The survey consisted of three questions involving rating favorite desserts, naming a favorite dessert flavor, and listing a favorite food. Thirty-one people answered the survey.

The results of the favorite dessert choices are shown in this pie chart. As for first choice selections, the group was evenly split between cookies and ice cream.
However, if the first, second and third choices are included, ice cream slightly edges out cookies.

When asked to list a favorite dessert flavor, the choice is overwhelmingly chocolate! Twenty-three of the respondents selected chocolate as their favorite dessert. I am certainly not surprised by that result! Vanilla was a distant second with three responses, and cinnamon came in third with two mentions.

And what were the respondents’ favorite foods? The answers ranged from green smoothies to pasta, and from filet mignon to chickpeas. However, eight of the responses involved seafood. Yum!

Would you like to provide your dessert preference? Please do in my first poll! All you have to do is click on which dessert category is your favorite and then click on “vote.” It will be interesting to see if the results are the same as or differ from the CTVegFest audience. The poll will be available on the front page of my blog for the rest of the month, and then we can check the answers.

Thanks again to all of you who participated in the CTVegFest! And thanks for taking my dessert poll!

Be a Guest at the CTVegFest

The Connecticut Vegetarian and Healthy Living Festival (CTVegFest) is only two weeks away! It is taking place at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford on April 28 and 29. Whether you have been a vegan for years or do not know the definition of a vegan, there is a wide assortment of speakers, demonstrations, exhibitors and entertainment that will interest you. As you know from reading my blog, I am not a vegetarian although I love vegetables and healthy living.

Speaking of speakers, the schedule is complete and there will be a great variety of issues being discussed during the course of the festival. There are presenters involving:
* Nutrition, Exercise, and Wellness
* Animal Treatment
* Cooking and Raw Foods
* Alternative Medicine
* Energy
* Film
* Entertainment

Continuing to speak about speakers, I am honored to be one! I will be discussing the costs and benefits of natural sweeteners on Sunday, April 29 at 12pm! My talk is called Being Naturally Sweet: The Costs and Benefits of a Refined Sugar Free Diet. I certainly hope that you can stop by while enjoying the rest of the festival!

If you have any ideas or questions that you would like me to address in my talk, please send me a note or comment below. Enjoy your day!

CTVegFest and Volunteer Request

There are only a few weeks until the first annual Connecticut Vegetarian and Healthy Living Festival – otherwise known as the CTVegFest. It is being held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford on April 28-29, 2012.

There is something for everyone to enjoy at the CTVegFest including:
• Enter for free with the donation of a non-perishable vegan/vegetarian food item
• Enjoy free vegan food samples
• Sample free vegan personal care and beauty products
• Speak with natural medicine practitioners
• Take a class with Yoga, Reiki and Meditation instructors
• Learn from vegan chefs during cooking demonstrations
• Understand home improvements to save money, be eco-friendly and reduce your carbon footprint
• Attend a screening of VEGUCATED, the “journey of 3 meat- and potato-loving New Yorkers who take the vegan challenge for 6 weeks”
• Enter raffles and give-aways throughout the event
• Be entertained with performances by local musicians
• Listen to children’s book readings by the authors

For a detailed listing of the events, click here for the Festival’s schedule. You can learn even more by reading my January 28 blog post about the overall goal of the event.

In addition to attending, the CTVegFest coordinators are looking for volunteers. If you are able to volunteer any amount of your time, prior to or during the event, please click here for more information.

I am looking forward to attending and to speaking at the CTVegFest…more details about that will follow.

Enjoy your day!

The VegFest and Recipe Request

Greetings! Back in November I interviewed the founder of Wholesome Creations and mentioned that she was also organizing a healthy living festival. Well, the details are out and I want to share them with you! The Connecticut Vegetarian and Healthy Living Festival is taking place at the Connecticut Convention Center from April 28-29, 2012. It will bring together people who want to live a healthy lifestyle with exhibitors and professionals who can help them achieve their goals. Whether you live in the area or not, there are ways in which you can participate. Below are a few ideas:

1. Save the Date! The festival will be held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford from April 28-29, 2012. There is no entrance fee (wow!) except for a non-perishable vegan/vegetarian food item to donate to food banks and shelters. What a wonderful way to encourage event attendance and help those who rely on the generosity of others for their meals. You can stay up-to-date on the details of the event by visiting the web site, ctvegfest.org, following @ctvegfest on twitter, and joining the CT VegFest group on Facebook.

2. Participate! The CTVegFest is looking for people who are willing to volunteer – a little bit or a lot – to help make this event a success. Fill out the volunteer form on the web site to explore your options, or join the meeting on February 8, 6pm, at the Holiday Inn Express on Brainard Road in Hartford.

3. Share Recipes that are Great! A vegan (no animal-derived ingredients used) cookbook is being produced as a fundraiser for the festival, and we have been asked for our favorite recipes to be included. You can submit your dish online – I just shared a recipe for Golden Raisin and Apple Stuffing.

The CTVegFest is shaping up to be a great event. As more information becomes available I’ll share it, and I hope to see you there!

Exclusive! Interview with Wholesome Creations Founder

Last week I met the founder of Wholesome Creations, a company that makes a very special line of salad dressings. The dressings are 100% natural, vegan, and gluten free. I tried the Lemon Paradise and Mediterranean flavors, since both are void of vinegar, sugar and mustard, and I must say that they are delicious! I left our meeting with a new bottle of salad dressing under my arm! Below is a Q&A between Ani Tirpan and me about her company, how she has had success, and a few other topics including how you can get involved with an upcoming event. I think you will really enjoy her story; it is truly inspirational.

–When did you start Wholesome Creations, and why?
I started the company in 2008. I’d been making my Lemon Paradise dressing for my family since my children were old enough to eat ‘people’ food. I developed it based on their own tastes to encourage them to eat vegetables. It soon became a staple in our home and we used it on everything. As the kids got older, friends and family regularly pushed me to market the dressing but I didn’t take them seriously. And one winter Sunday, while I sat in my apartment on the 18th floor flicking through 1000 cable channels with nothing to watch, my daughter thought it would be a perfect day for me to take some time and check into how one goes about marketing dressing. I started to surf the internet to see about the feasibility of adding yet another dressing to the ridiculous selection that was already on the shelves. After a short search, I chose the brands that would be my competitors and realized that my dressing was the only recipe that called for all fresh ingredients that didn’t include any preservatives, added colors or flavors. It was delicious just as it was. After a little more research, I found that our dressing was gluten free, all natural, vegan and antioxidant rich. This combination added to a fresh squeezed lemon juice base just didn’t exist out there. I realized that I had a recipe to be able to create a niche within the specialty dressing market. Once I decided that we had a good chance for success, we began to do some market analysis. I wanted to make sure that the general public would love the dressing as well. So we went to street fairs every weekend during the summer of 2009. And the dressing was a HUGE success. 90% of the people who tried it loved it and purchased it. But they all had the same question: Is this your only flavor option? So I set about creating other dressings with the same healthy attributes. I was still working full time as COO of a textiles importing company so it was a night/weekend effort at that time. Meanwhile, my brother worked with me to find our current office/manufacturing location in North Haven, CT and set about getting all the necessary permits and licenses. I quit my job at the end of 2010 and decided I was ready to put all my efforts into growing the business. We didn’t sell anything to anyone until March 2011 to one Whole Foods store in Hingham, MA. From there, it’s just history.

–What has inspired you to create the salad dressing flavors?

I chose ingredients that were in line with today’s health trends: pomegranate, cranberry, green tea, ginger, chick peas and sesame paste. It took time to develop the recipes that would coordinate well with the Lemon Paradise. I wanted the first 4 flavors to cover the pallet spectrum. After thousands of trials (with my kids as guinea pig taste testers), we ended up with Mediterranean (chick pea based and a little on the spicy side), Green Tea/Ginger (unique and light) and Pomegranate/Cranberry (like a smoothie for your salad).

The inspiration for everything I do in my life are my children. I work hard every day to be an example for them and make them proud of me. Up until now, my goal was to raise good, caring human beings who would make a positive impact on the world. I am proud to say that I couldn’t be prouder of any of them. My daughter Taline in completing her residency for a doctorate in Psychology. My son David will be graduating from Medical School in June and beginning his residency. My son Eric is currently working with me but once the business is strong enough, he plans to join the New Haven Police Department. Both my sons have been volunteer firefighters and EMTs. Having reached my goal as a mother, I felt that I was ready to do what I wanted to do: follow the American Dream of being a business owner.

–What has been one of the best outcomes of starting your own business? What is a challenge?
The very best outcome of starting this business was the fact that I get to work with my son Eric every day! There is no way that we would have come as far as we did in such a short time without him. He’s the power behind my dream. When I lose my motivation or get a setback, he’s right there to put be back on track. Each and every day, I feel blessed to have him by my side, tirelessly pushing forward. He works several overnight shifts driving a tow truck to make some extra money so that he doesn’t have to be a financial burden to the business. He’s amazing and I adore him!!

I was tired of working 80 hour weeks for the success of other people’s businesses. Now I work that hard for my own business and get the satisfaction of knowing that my own family will reap the rewards of all that hard work. And creating products that are healthy and affordable is the greatest satisfaction of all. I knew that I could make the company successful without cutting corners or being greedy. Using chemicals of any kind is not necessary to succeed. That was the easy part. Getting into the food industry was nothing like I thought it would be. There are huge financial hurdles to overcome. Unlike other retail industries, the supermarkets want tremendous amounts of money to put your product on the shelves, kind of like purchasing the shelf space. But other large retailers, like Whole Foods are very supportive of local businesses and we were not required to pay any slotting fees to them. Because of these fees, we’ve not been able to pursue large placements.

–Where are your salad dressings available for purchase? How can someone get your dressing in his/her local store?
You actually can’t purchase the dressings on line any more. The shipping charges makes the internet sales unfeasible. But today, we do have a good selection of stores where they can be purchased. We are in most of the Whole Foods in the North Atlantic Region (MA, RI and Northern Connecticut), King Kullen on Long Island, McQuades Stores in the Mystic, CT area, Donellan’s in MA, Camomille Natural Store in Danbury, CT, New Morning in Woodbury, CT, Thyme and Season in Hamden, CT, Haggen’s in Washington State and New Seasons in Oregon State. There are several other smaller independent stores in CT and MA. Anyone interested in having their local grocer carry our dressings should speak directly with the grocery buyer or team leader in their stores and request that they carry our dressings. That’s the fastest and best way to get us into the stores and co-ops.

–What is one of your favorite recipes using your salad dressing?
The dressings are all so versatile that we call them ‘Meal Magic in a Bottle’. They can be used for marinating anything from fish to tofu, as a mayonnaise substitute for your sandwiches, as a dressing for your vegetables and a million other things. But my personal favorite is Salmon, marinated and baked with the Lemon Paradise. It’s the easiest and most delicious dinner ever! Marinate the salmon in a ziplock bag with the Lemon Paradise dressing overnight in the refrigerator (or you can keep it in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy it). Place it on a cookie sheet, including all the dressing from the ziplock bag and cook it in the oven on low heat, 275-300°F for 30-35 min (for about 1 lb) until it’s tender and juicy. You can make some coordinating garlic bread by slicing your favorite baguette or Italian bread down the center, spread the Lemon Paradise dressing and toasting it. A little tomato and arugula salad with some Mediterranean dressing, you’ll be licking your plate clean and sorry that the meal is over. If you prefer a vegan meal, replace the salmon with a healthy slice of tofu. Instead of putting it in the oven, you can fry it on the stove top, a few minutes per side until it’s a golden color.

Our dressings are all made without any yeast or dairy products. Our Lemon Paradise and Mediterranean have NO added sugar at all. The Pomegranate/Cranberry and Green Tea/Ginger have only small amounts Agave Nectar and NO cane sugar at all.

–Is there anything else you would like to share with this blog community?

It’s NEVER too late to follow your dreams. Life is short and when you leave this world, you want to leave looking forward to the next step in your journey, not back to what you wish you had done. We all arrive in this world butt naked and we are going to leave butt naked (except for our funeral garb). Don’t be afraid to lose it all for a CHANCE at it all. It’s more rewarding to reach your dreams when they are for YOURSELF and YOUR pleasure, not necessarily to make loads of money; that should just be a fringe benefit of living your dream. Each day that passes that your dreams stay only in your thoughts is one less day that you could have made the dream come true.

I’ve followed my dream of owning my own business and making it successful. It may not be a huge financial success yet but I’ve accomplished the goals I set for myself for 2011. To help me fill my next dream, Wholesome Creations has just begun a non-profit organization, Wholesome Creations Cares dedicated to raising awareness about the many benefits of healthy eating and living and eco-friendly lifestyle. We are hosting the First Annual Connecticut Vegetarian and Healthy Living Festival on April 28-29, 2012 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. All money raised will be used to help fill local food banks, homeless shelters and continue to promote healthy eating and living. We are currently looking for volunteers, sponsors and vendors. We are in the process of developing our websites, http://www.wholesomecreationscares.org and http://www.CTVegFest.org but until they are ready, we are happy to send a vendor/sponsor packet to anyone who is interested in being a sponsor or a vendor. We would love all our vegan/vegetarian and Healthy living friends to contact us to be on our committees to make this event like no other, anywhere. For the time being, you can email your inquiries to CTVegfest@wholesomecreations.com. We need all the help we can get our hands on I promise that you will be proud to be part of this event.