Annie’s Vegan Organic Pasta Dinners (Vegan Mac and Cheese)

Annie’s Vegan Organic Pasta Dinners (Vegan Mac-and-Cheese)

Thursday evening I came home from work, anxious to see the responses I had received after officially announcing just that morning that our family will have a new addition scheduled to arrive in April 2016.

(Take a moment to process that fact if you didn’t already know. That just happened this week.)

But before I could make it to the laptop, my wife informed me that we had received a package from Annie’s Homegrown!

It’s funny because before I even opened the box, I sensed what was inside, and I was indeed correct.

Annie’s Vegan Organic Pasta Dinners (Vegan Mac-and-Cheese)

No one from Annie’s had ever told me they were working on “vegan mac and cheese” but I had a feeling they were; as they are keen to cater to organic, plant-based demographics like my family.

When I opened the box, there was a potato and a pumpkin with special messages for me.

Then I saw the brand-new product:

A box of Annie’s “Organic Vegan Shells & Creamy Sauce”, as well as their “Organic Vegan Elbows & Creamy Sauce”, which is made from rice.

Both options are made with pumpkin and sweet potato.

Annie’s Vegan Organic Pasta Dinners (Vegan Mac-and-Cheese)

Here’s a reminder about vegan food: It contains no cholesterol. It may contain fat, but when you look at the cholesterol percentage, you’ll never see more than 0% on the label.

Some other things that make Annie’s vegan organic pasta dinners special compared to the average “mac and cheese” dinners is that these contain no artificial flavors, synthetic colors or preservatives.

I’m the vegan of our family (my wife and son are vegetarians) and I must say it sure was nice being able to eat mac and cheese for both dinner Thursday night and lunch on Friday.

Consider this: I’ve been a vegan for exactly 2 and a half years as of this week. That means no mac-and-cheese for that whole time for me… until now.

My wife was very delighted to see Annie’s had also sent a very nice vegan cookbook; as my wife is by default, a vegan chef. After all, she’s now exclusively been making vegan meals every day for our family for the past 2 and a half years.

Annie’s Vegan Organic Pasta Dinners (Vegan Mac-and-Cheese)

It just so happens we are planning to launch a spin-off of Family Friendly Daddy Blog, which will feature my wife’s journey of “baby #2”, who is currently 12 weeks old inside the womb. My wife plans to also focus on cooking vegan meals as well.

Our son Jack was happy because he took it upon himself to decorate the pumpkin that Annie’s sent us.

So there, you heard it first from me: Annie’s now carries “vegan mac and cheese.”

Annie’s Vegan Organic Pasta Dinners (Vegan Mac-and-Cheese)

Dear Jack: The Cabinets Are Now Installed In Our House

3 years, 11 months.

Dear Jack: The Cabinets Are Now Installed In Our House

Dear Jack,

This weekend was very special. Your Nonna and Papa (my parents) drove up to see our new house we are building in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

On the way to the site, you made sure you had some Annie’s snacks, as well as GoGo Squeez, both of which are contributing to your “No Artificial Anything” 4th birthday party this weekend. (Mommy and I let you sample some from the stashes that were mailed to us.)

Dear Jack: The Cabinets Are Now Installed In Our House

We also were moving most of our stuff into storage this weekend as well, but more on that in the next letter…

As for the new surprises in our house this week, we saw that our cabinets have been installed; both in the kitchen and bathrooms. It’s a pretty big deal to see them. Mommy and I are very pleased with our choice; black with these cool “scoopy” handles.

Dear Jack: The Cabinets Are Now Installed In Our House

It was a decision we made very quickly, along with the carpet, outside color of our house, which type of hardwood floor, etc. So it’s good to know we made a good rash decision a couple months ago.

I stood in front of where the sink and dishwasher will go to get a feel for what it will be like to do the dishes in our new kitchen.

Dear Jack: The Cabinets Are Now Installed In Our House

Mommy and I were also pleasantly surprised with the banister on our staircase. I feel that it is more elaborate than the one featured in the model home.

Another cool surprise was the storage space in the attic. I actually forgot about that!

Dear Jack: The Cabinets Are Now Installed In Our House

We finally figured out what crop is being grown behind our house: soy beans.

Should I thank Monsanto for that? Oh well, it’s a pretty view at least.

Dear Jack: The Cabinets Are Now Installed In Our House

Obviously, the construction is really coming along; we’re actually ahead of schedule. Our closing date is January 29th. However, our agent explained that typically the house is typically move-in ready 45 days after the dry wall is installed.

If that’s the case, in theory our house should definitely be finished before January 29th, since the dry wall was already in a week ago.

Of course, I am keeping my expectations low- to be a realistic optimist. We’ll see what happens on that…

Dear Jack: The Cabinets Are Now Installed In Our House

We finished the morning with lunch at Whole Foods, where you were able to (very easily) talk Nonna and Papa into buying you a new stuffed animal; a penguin who you instantly named “Pingy.”

Dear Jack: The Cabinets Are Now Installed In Our House

To be continued…

Unboxing Of Annie’s “Grass Fed” Surprise Package

Last night as I got back from Jacksonville for Toyota’s “Family Reunion Preview”, I noticed there was a box waiting there for me at the door.

I have been expecting a book that I will be reviewing about managing time as a family in the age of smart phones, so I thought that’s what it was. However, this box was bigger and heavier than a box for a paperback should be.

So after using my knife to cut open the box, I found a letter from Annie’s Homegrown. Plus, I felt something sort of cold, and moist, and alive, with the tips of my fingers.

My wife suggested that she film me opening the box; after all, people apparently love “unboxings” these days.

And that’s exactly what happened. What you see in the video below is completely unscripted, unplanned, and unpracticed:

As you can see from this unboxing video, Annie’s sent my son 2 boxes of their new “grass fed, organic, non-GMO” mac and cheese along with a really cool wooden plant holder with live grass to celebrate their new grass fed mac and cheese.

Like I said in the unboxing video, I accept their grass plant as an early housewarming gift; as we are scheduled to close on our new house on January 29th, with our townhouse currently on the market as of this week.

Something I am quick to point out is that I strictly only feature brands and products I believe in.

Unboxing Of Annie’s “Grass Fed” Surprise

Just in the past month, I’ve turned down about $450 in gift cards because between 3 different companies all reaching out to me, wanting me to promote their products on Family Friendly Daddy Blog. However, their products include high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and dyes, and were obviously not organic or non-GMO.

With that being said, I’ve always proudly believed in Annie’s Homegrown. It’s hard to argue with that non-GMO label on their boxes.

I’m happy for Annie’s and I’m happy to see them growing as a company, finding larger distribution.

Thanks to Annie’s for helping me be able to spread the good word about food without GMO’s and artificial junk!

Dear Jack: 1st Day Of Fall/Mountain Biking Selfie Explanation

3 years, 10 months.

mountain biking selfie

Dear Jack,

You almost got to see your 1st tow truck in action yesterday morning. As I was driving you to school, the radio cut off, I lost power steering, and the fuel gauge dropped to empty.

I warned you that we may have to stop driving.

By a miracle of God, I was able to make it to the parking lot of KinderCare and drop you off. But from there, my 2004 Honda Element wouldn’t start.

So I called a tow truck and ran back inside to get you so you could watch my car get towed.

Fortunately, my car started back again once the tow truck arrived and I was able to drive it around the block to Firestone; it needed a new alternator, for starters…

Car Trouble? Need A Tow? No Problem... I've Got A Mountain Bike!

Also fortuately, I had access to my mountain bike, which fits into the back of my Honda Element along with our jogging stroller, so I was able to bike back to work until my car was ready several hours later.

It was an adventure of a day for us! And that’s how we started the first day of fall.

Autumn is by far my favorite season and it appears it is yours as well. For the past two mornings before walking you into school, you have asked to walk over into the school’s front lawn and pick out a fallen leaf.

Monday morning, you saw two baby deer on the way to school and two more on the way back, explaining to me, “It’s getting colder now so the deers come out for food.”

Well, even though it appears to be the shortest of seasons, I’m glad that the two of us can truly appreciate the subtle yet undeniable beauty of Autumn.

To celebrate it even more, we’re planning a family friendly road trip to Asheville, North Carolina in the next couple of weeks. I have a feeling it’s going to be pretty awesome!

Love,

Daddy

Annie's Halloween Snacks

 

Experiment: Compare Annie’s Homegrown Ingredients A Year From Now in September 2015

Last night I posted Why I’m Happy About Annie’s Homegrown Being Bought Out By General Mills, to which a friend who actually was instrumental in my own transition from vegetariasm to veganism responded with this comment:

Monica Lang I’m not buying it. Keep a box today and compare the ingredients a year from now.
#noGMorAnniesinourhouseanymore

Actually, I think she’s got an excellent idea! She makes a great point. So I literally am going to do exactly what she suggested…

Experiment: Compare Annie's Homegrown Ingredients A Year From Now

I took close-up pictures of the Annie’s Homegrown products we happened to have in our pantry. (In case you’re wondering, my son is a vegetarian, not a vegan- which explans the mac-and-cheese.)

A year from now, I will take and post pictures of the same products, if available, and compare them for everyone to see.

Experiment: Compare Annie's Homegrown Ingredients A Year From Now

While I definitely could be wrong, and would quickly admit it if I am a year from now, I doubt think General Mills will mess with Annie’s Homegrown’s dedication to keeping their products organic, non-GMO, and free of artificial dyes and flavors.

Experiment: Compare Annie's Homegrown Ingredients A Year From Now

The reason I am confident to say this is because General Mills can’t afford to “Monsanto-size” their newly acquired product line. The whole point in them acquiring Annie’s was because they know how much money a market we organic/non-GMO consumers shell out each year.

Experiment: Compare Annie's Homegrown Ingredients A Year From Now

If they General Mills changes Annie’s ingredients, then people like me would simply start buying products of other food companies who do still have integrity.

I believe General Mills will make the right decision- not from the heart, like Annie’s always has, but because of the bottom line; it’s directly related to them making a profit.

So, let’s watch together how this works out. None of us can know for sure until September 2015.

See ya in a year!

Experiment: Compare Annie's Homegrown Ingredients A Year From Now

Actually… please come back before then. I just mean, I’ll do a follow-up post on this in September 2015.

Why I’m Happy About Annie’s Homegrown Being Bought Out By General Mills

This week on Facebook, Annie’s made it public that they have been purchased by General Mills (for $820 million):

Hi Annie’s Fans,Today we announced exciting news that Annie’s will join General Mills. We are thrilled because this opportunity will fuel Annie’s future growth and allow us to more rapidly expand our line of high quality, great tasting products made with organic and natural ingredients that you’ve come to love over the last 25 years. So what does this combination mean for you, our loyal fans? Expect to see Annie’s in more stores, in more categories and in more varieties.Annie’s has never been a company that compromises on its values. With General Mills’ support, we will stay true to our mission and committed to doing well by doing good. We remain dedicated to real food; simple, organic, non-GMO and natural ingredients; a clean planet and sustainable business practices. These values are part of our DNA and they will remain so.

Thanks for being a loyal Annie’s fan and celebrating this new chapter in our story.

Sincerely,
John Foraker
Annie’s CEO

Since then, the current CEO, John Foraker, has assured Annie’s supporters that Annie’s integrity will remain intact:

I want you all to know that our mission, culture, and values and the things we stand for will remain the same. We’ll continue to make the same great products, more of them actually, using ingredients we are proud of, business practices that are respectful of the environment, and that make our planet a better place. We’ve spent 25 years building trust with consumers, one interaction at a time. We will continue to do that. Count on it. I always ask people to listen to what we say, but more importantly, watch what we do! We will not let you down! Our mission: We cultivate a healthier, happier world by spreading goodness through nourishing foods, honest words and conduct that is considerate and forever kind to the planet. that mission is hard won and has been built with integrity. We will never abandon it, but rather we will further it, by putting our product into millions of new homes, which will expand our positive impact even more. I have given 15 years of my life to that mission and I am not stopping now. Best, John, Annie’s CEO

In the past couple of days, I have observed the astonishment from many (but not most) Annie’s fans online, that a company like Annie’s that has pushed for mandatory government labelling of GMOs, would join forces with a company like General Mills that is known for investing money to keep mandatory GMO labels off their food products.

Why I’m Happy About Annie’s Being Bought Out By General Mills

However, that doesn’t personally bother me.

I’m simply neutral on that- I don’t see why we need the government to force companies to label whether or not their products contain GMOs.

Here’s why:

The free market will decide anyway. As long as Annie’s packaging continues to advertise itself as “non-GMO,” and that it contains no high fructose corn syrup, or artificial dyes or flavors, and it’s organic… I will continue buying Annie’s- even if it is actually now a division of General Mills.

Because I’m not caught up in the war against labelling. I represent the Annie’s fans who are actually happy for Annie’s products getting better distribution and more opportunities to get their higher quality products to the mainstream.

For those of us who are passionate about avoiding GMOs in our food, we already check for the voluntary non-GMO label on food when we are shopping.

We also know that if a company doesn’t make a deliberate effort to make it known that there are indeed no GMOs in their food, then it must be assumed their food indeed contains GMOs.

Any company that is catering to non-GMO consumers would be stupid not to flash it all over their packaging and advertisements.

Based on what the CEO of Annie’s is telling everyone on Facebook, it sounds like he’s promising that Annie’s will continue to be dedicated to staying organic, non-GMO, and free of high fructose corn syrup, artificial dyes and flavors.

If not, he knows that families like ours would stop buying Annie’s. However, I truly do not believe that will be the outcome.

Why I’m Happy About Annie’s Being Bought Out By General Mills

Here’s why:

A huge company like General Mills sort of needs Annie’s at this point. Influential food bloggers like Food Babe are educating the general public about how unethical GMOs are.

She has been helping to inform Americans about GMOs in Cheerios, for example.

The result? General Mills gave in to the pressure, announcing their plans to start making Cheerios without the GMOs.

It appears General Mills is already losing enough money to Annie’s. It’s apparently cheaper, easier, and more efficient to just join Annie’s efforts than to try to beat them.

But… they know to be taken seriously, they have to continue the “organic, non-GMO, no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial flavors or colors” commitment that Annie’s is known and respected for.

I am remaining completely optimistic. This means that snacks that are organic, non-GMO, and have no high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or colors will be integrated into the mainstream even more.

Personally, I’m happy about the buy-out. I’m cool with just the voluntary food labels; ones that are not mandated by the government.

organic-nongmo

I say, let the free market decide. I say, celebrate the good news that Annie’s products will be more accessible (and possibly more affordable) to those who wouldn’t normally consider buying Annie’s food and snacks.

The way I look at it, it’s what on the inside (no GMO’s) that matters, not the outside (government-mandated labels).