Tag Archives: bananas

Made in Nature Review & Giveaway!

Welcome to the relaunch of Turning Veganese! We are celebrating by trying out fantastic products from Made in Nature that will please both vegans and non-vegans. My discovery of Made in Nature came at a perfect time: I’ve been working really hard to eat more cleanly along with exercising regularly. One of my favorite snacks is dried apricots, and Made in Nature has these and much, much more for anyone who wants a healthy and natural snack.

Made in Nature selects the freshest, finest organic fruit, picks them at their culinary peek, and dries them to pure perfection to capture all of the flavor you crave. How do we do it? We work with the most dedicated family of farmers to grow the best tasting, organic fruit on the planet to guarantee true ‘taste of place.’

Made in Nature

Made in Nature has products from dried fruit to pizza to fresh produce. We were lucky to have the chance to try out their dried bananas, pineapples and apricots (my favorite!) as well as two products from their new line of healthy snacks! So, how are they different from anyone else? Here’s a list:

  • All their products are organic
  • NO sugar added
  • NO sulfur-dioxide
  • NO artificial color or additives
  • NO artificial fertilizers or pesticides
  • NO gluten or nuts
  • NO GMOs

I had my best taste testers assist me. I’ll admit that I was worried: these kids love their sweets. But they also love fruit and were game to try everything!


Juliana was most interested in trying out the bananas. Now, I’ll admit that we was a little shocked when I opened the bag to find dark, dried banana pieces. I was expecting something that looked more like a banana chip but these were dark brown and chewy. Juju immediately put a whole piece in her mouth. “Interesting… mmmm, this is delicious!” I agree with my niece’s assessment. For any Filipinos out there, the taste and smell of this reminds me of turón!

Made in Nature

Jocelyn is a girl after my own heart, so she wanted to try the apricots. Again, these are much darker than a conventional dried apricot, but she did not hesitate at all in trying a piece (or 3). “These are really good!” I agree and can guarantee that the rest of the bag will go quick.

Made in Nature Dried Fruits

I tried a taste of the pineapple. Like the others, I really enjoyed the pineapple and especially enjoyed how much healthier it is than dried pineapple you’ll find anywhere else.

Finally, we all tried out the Fruit Fusion snacks. We sampled the Antioxidant Fusion and the Tropical Fusion.


The Antioxidant Fusion consists of cherries, blueberries, cranberries, raisins, goji berries and pepitas. Yum!!! It’s hard to believe that there is no sugar added to this mix. Same goes for the Tropical Fusion: bananas, pineapples, mangoes, coconuts, ginger and cacao nibs. I’ll state right now that cacao has definitely been an acquired taste for me, but this mix is tasty and beautiful. Both snacks hit the spot in terms of satisfying that mid-afternoon craving. The best part is that I don’t feel one bit guilty about it!


Do you want to try Made in Nature products? Duh. Of course you do! And thanks to the generosity of Made in Nature, you have the chance to win Made in Nature prizes. Be sure to read the rules of this giveaway carefully:

  1. Follow us on Twitter @turningvegan or on Instagram @turningveganese.
  2. To enter on Twitter, tweet about your healthy favorite snack and mention @turningvegan and @madeinnature and include #vegantvsnack.
  3. To enter on Instagram, post a photo of your favorite healthy vegan snack and mention @turningveganese and @madeinnature and include #vegantvsnack.

You MUST include both mentions and the hash tag in order to be eligible. You can enter on both sites to double your chances! The giveaway will close on Sunday, July 27 at 11:59pm Central Time and winners will be announced on Monday, July 28. P.S. By mentioning us, you are giving us permission to retweet or regram your photos. Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

I hope you like the new (and improved, in my opinion) Turning Veganese! –Melissa

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Is “GMO” a bad word?

Apologies in advance, this isn’t a simple issue so I have to make a lengthier post than you’re probably used to here on Turning Veganese. Also, please don’t hesitate to ask me questions. I have trouble talking like a normal person because I spend most of my time with other eggheads so I understand if more explanation is needed. Genetically modified organisms or GMOs are often a hot topic in news reports and nutrition bulletins, and I want to give you the perspective of a scientist.

A GMO is any organism whose genes have been altered in a laboratory. Genes are passed back and forth between organisms in nature often enough that there are dedicated natural mechanisms to promote and facilitate gene transfer. Scientists have harnessed these mechanisms as tools for understanding and interacting with the world around us. The intent behind each genetically engineered product is colored by the perspective of the engineer. My point is that, genetic engineering isn’t necessarily bad.

Golden rice is an example of a GMO created in 2000 as a humanitarian tool. Above is regular polished rice next to golden rice. Golden rice was engineered to contain beta caroteine which is a precursor to vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is the culprit for 1-2 million deaths annually, 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness and millions of cases of xeropthalmia (that means “without tear ducts”) in countries where dietary vitamin A is scarce. Golden rice has the capability to end the horrors of this tragic and preventable vitamin deficiency cheaply. Golden rice has been distributed and hybridized with local varieties to maintain genetic diversity (which I’ll talk more about shortly).  Several of the researchers who developed this boon to impoverished earthlings went on to work at big agriculture and chemical corporations which takes me to a criticism of a GMO crop.

Genetic use restriction technology (GURT) is a seed that will either produce sterile offspring or must be sprayed with a chemical sold by the company that created the GURT plant in order to activate the engineered properties of the plant. Many farmers, particularly in poorer countries save some of their seeds from each crop to plant next year. This means that farmers who buy this plant can’t save seeds (which also stifles diversity; don’t worry, I’m getting to it); they either have to buy more seeds from the company or buy more chemicals. I would compare it to drug dealing where seeds are methamphetamines and withdrawal is almost as disillusioning as being high. Still GURT is just one example of how GMOs can be bad, not a broad statement about genetic engineering, so I’m going to cover some of the shades of grey involved in genetic engineering.

The most common and most desirable mutations are ones that allow crops to survive adverse environmental conditions like frost or drought and ones that prevent them from being susceptible to pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. It really depends on the individual gene that confers these advantages as to whether I can have an opinion on whether they’re good and bad in the context of our bodies. The next obvious issue is whether or not they’re doused with poisons. If there isn’t an alternative I would buy a GMO product that was grown organically versus a non-GMO that was grown conventionally. For example, the picture to the right has a wild type peanut plant (above) and an engineered peanut plant (below) grown without pesticides. The modified one appears healthy and untouched and the wild type is looking gnarly. This particular plant is producing a natural toxin from a soil microbe, Bacillus thurongensis. This particular toxin affects insects by binding to part of the insect’s gut. People just don’t have that part so it doesn’t affect humans, kind of like how antibiotics hurt bacteria but not people (though some people have allergy responses to some antibiotics).  For decades the toxin itself was isolated from the bacterium and sprayed on crops. The issue was that it then washed into the water supply affecting insects other than those targeted by farmers. Putting the gene in the crop meant that only insects that fed on the crop were affected which good because fewer chemicals and less work would be needed to grow the crop but there’s also something not necessarily dangerous but also “not peanut” in it. So, yes. I might buy these GMO peanuts if they were grown organically. Still, I favor organic and non-GMO.

On the other hand, there’s RoundUp Ready soybeans and other crops. These babies are engineered to be resistant to glyphosate. Glyphosate is a highly toxic chemical that’s capable of killing animals, fish, birds and pretty much anything else, including weeds (above). RoundUp Ready crops can be sprayed liberally with this chemical and survive. This would be great except that some of the chemical stays in the crop that eventually people eat. Even in small doses it’s known to be a teratogen (causes birth defects) and carcinogen. Still, I might buy RoundUp Ready crops that had been grown organically because it’s the pesticide that’s an issue, not the genetic modification.

Nature also has a leg up on us and a dry sense of humor. Above is a map of the distribution of weeds that are now resistant to glyphosate, undermining the appeal and advantages of RoundUp Ready crops. Coincidentally the reddest areas are also are the places where RoundUp Ready crops are most frequently planted. As I noted earlier, nature has mechanisms that allow the very genes we manipulated in the laboratory to be exchanged between related organisms as well as the simple elegant process of evolution in its formidable arsenal. If there’s anything I’ve learned as a scientist and farmer it’s that you can’t beat nature; you can only try to work with it.

Now on to my reasons for favoring non-GMO foods. Genetic diversity is important. Often when a crop or livestock is genetically engineered, they all have identical genes. This is important because things that have identical genes have identical susceptibility to disease or adverse environmental conditions. Genetic variation is how some organisms survive while others perish. Humans often plant huge fields with the same crop. This makes fields like big cities where a common cold spreads rapidly because people are in close proximity with one another and can spread disease. Of course some people just don’t get sick. This might be genetic, chance or maybe they’re just healthier. When we engineer crops, we can take away the opportunity for plants to rely on genetic diversity to fight disease.  The icky looking photo [above] is an early image from the 2009 late blight that ravaged tomato and potato crops in the Northeast. I’ve never seen anything like it. I watched entire greenhouses go from emerald green leaves and bursting with beautiful plump tomatoes to steaming heaps of putrid grey mush in only 3 days. THREE DAYS!

Reliance on one major crop in combination with a late blight was what caused the Irish potato famine between 1845 and 1842 and after seeing it in action, I understand why it was so devastating. If you’re not familiar with that example, consider what happens when when an entire crop of soybeans or corn or other staple is destroyed: food prices skyrocket, farmers lose their livelihoods, people starve to death. The most vulnerable people would be the most severely affected: the poor, elderly and children. This is actually my biggest reason for avoiding GMO foods: to preserve the genetic diversity that’s only possible when seeds are hybridized, harvested and saved by farmers instead of cloned by big corporations. I can’t make any other sweeping statements about abuses of the technology.

So to conclude, it’s more nuanced than “GMO good” or “GMO bad”. Sorry folks, it might not be the concrete answer you wanted but hopefully you learned something. I can still offer this word of wisdom: buying organic shows reverence for the earth in it’s entirety. It made you. Recognize.

This is Christie, signing off.

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Tostones… vegan junk food, not a party game.

Plantains are like bananas in appearance but they’re not as sweet. Usually they’re cooked (fried, boiled, grilled, baked, whatever) green when their texture and flavor resembles that of a potato. When overripe they’re either eaten raw or fried in thin chips. Plantains are basically the Inspector Gadget of the banana world.

Here’s me peeling one… they’re a little stubborn. I’m going to make them into tostones, a regional specialty, sometimes called patacones.

Most recipes for tostones call for twice fried plantains, but I prefer to boil for the first round instead of frying. This results in a tostone that remains soft after it cools. Traditional recipes can get hard and unpalatable when cool. Anyways, I chopped my plantains into inch long sections (2-3cm) at a slight angle. I dropped them into water, brought it to a boil, reduced the heat to a low boil and allowed to simmer for another 25 minutes.

After boiling, they should be soft and yellow. I poured the water over a strainer to collect the plantain pieces.

One by one I placed each piece onto a clean plate that I moistened with warm water…

… and SMASHED it with a clean damp glass jar. Do this carefully to maintain the aesthetic or just smoosh them for the fun of it.

Then I fried it on each side for about a minute in grapeseed oil, until golden brown. You can use whatever kind of oil you like as long as it’s suitable for frying. I know Melissa likes safflower oil. I place them onto a clean dry paper towel to drain off some of the oil. They’re great with hot sauce, mojo (a garlic and parsley sauce) or just salt. They’re also rich in vitamins A and C as well as magnesium and potassium.

Let me know how you like them!

This is Christie, signing off!

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