May 27, 2010

The Clean 15: what you don’t need to buy organic

With all the discussion about organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables, it’s hard to know what you should buy organic without breaking the budget.

I found a few great articles that outline the “dirty dozen” that you should always buy organic and the “Clean 15,” which typically don’t have high levels of pesticides so they may not be worth the money. I found these lists from and

Here are the Clean 15, so save some money and skip the organic.

  1. Onions
  2. Avocados
  3. Sweet corn
  4. Pineapple
  5. Mango
  6. Asparagus
  7. Sweet peas
  8. Kiwi
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplants
  11. Papaya
  12. Watermelon
  13. Broccoli
  14. Tomato
  15. Sweet potato

Make a list, stick it in your wallet and check it when you are shopping. Remember to print the Dirty Dozen list too from my previous post.


May 25, 2010

The organic hype - dirty dozen musts in 2010

Have you ever wondered if buying organic is worth all the hype or the extra money?

I found an article that outlines the “dirty dozen” that you should always buy organic and the “Clean 15,” which typically don’t have high levels of pesticides so they may not be worth the money. I found these lists from

Here’s a quick summary of the dirty dozen. Stay tuned in the next few weeks for more on the Clean 15.

The dirty dozen is a list of fruits, vegetables and other food you should buy organic based on EWC because they have the highest pesticide residue. According to EWC, you can reduce 80% of pesticide intake just by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables.

1. Celery
With no protective skin, it is almost impossible to wash off the chemicals that are used on conventional crops. No. of pesticides detected? 63 Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include broccoli, radishes and onions.

2. Peaches
Multiple pesticides are regularly applied to these delicately skinned fruits in conventional orchards. No. of pesticides detected? 62. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include watermelon, tangerines, oranges and grapefruit.

3. Strawberries
If you buy strawberries out of season, they're most likely imported from countries that use less-stringent regulations for pesticide use. No. of pesticides detected? 59. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include kiwi and pineapples.

4. Apples
Like peaches, apples are typically grown with the use of poisons to kill a variety of pests, from fungi to insects. Scrubbing and peeling doesn't eliminate chemical residue completely. No. of pesticides detected? 42. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include watermelon, bananas and tangerines.

5. Blueberries

New on the Dirty Dozen list in 2010, blueberries are treated with as many as 52 pesticides
, making them one of the dirtiest berries on the market.

6. Nectarines
With 33 different pesticides
found on nectarines, they rank up there with apples and peaches among the dirtiest tree fruit. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include, watermelon, papaya and mango

7. Bell Peppers
Peppers have thin skins that don't offer much of a barrier to pesticides. They're often heavily sprayed with insecticides. No. of pesticides detected? 49. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include green peas, broccoli and cabbage.

8. Spinach
New on the list for 2010, spinach can be laced with as many as 48 pesticides
, making it one of the most contaminated green leafy vegetable.

9. Kale
Traditionally kale is known as a hardier vegetable that rarely suffers from pests and disease, but it was found to have high amounts of pesticide residue when tested this year. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include cabbage, asparagus and broccoli

10. Cherries
Even locally grown cherries are not necessarily safe. Cherries grown in the U.S. were found to have three times more pesticide residue then imported cherries. No. of pesticides detected? 42. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include raspberries and cranberries.

11. Potatoes
America's popular spud re-appears on the 2010 dirty dozen list, after a year hiatus. America's favorite vegetable can be laced with as many as 37 pesticides
. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include eggplant, cabbage and earthy mushrooms.

12. Grapes

Imported grapes run a much greater risk of contamination than those grown domestically (only imported grapes make the 2010 Dirty Dozen list). Remember, wine is made from grapes, which testing shows can harbor as many as 34 pesticides. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include kiwi and raspberries.

  • Make a cheat sheet to take with you for things you should buy organic and what some safer alternatives are.
  • Stay tuned for the clean 15 coming soon!

REMEMBER: OWN WHAT YOUR FAMILY EATS by making healthy choices that can save you money.

May 22, 2010

What's cookin' this week? May 22, 2010

After being gone for two weeks and practically clearing out the entire refrigerator, I’m back at it and ready to cook this week. I actually missed it while I was gone! This week I had some extra time to work on the menu early so it starts Saturday and goes through Friday giving you a few more menu options to enjoy.

This week has a few familiar favorites and some easy recipes to enjoy the grill while easing back into the swing of things. Between the refrigerator survivors and the happy box, I tried to pick menus that used as much of what we have as I could. I’ve included some of the recipes below for you to try out so apologies for the long post.

Spinach and Asiago Cheese Chicken Sausages (they are basically brats and they are fantastic!) – Sam’s Club
Mustard Potato Salad
Baked Beans

With a church picnic tomorrow, I am also making a fantastic macaroni salad and a strawberry pie. I will also whip up the marinade for tomorrow’s dinner.

Chicken with Mediterranean marinade
Grilled avocado

Greek salad with warm pitas

Garlic Bread


Eggplant, prosciutto and mozzarella cheese “sandwiches”
Hummus and pitas


Hope you enjoy a few recipes from this week and remember…



Macaroni Salad (Aunt Mary’s recipe)
If you are worried about being outside, this is the perfect macaroni salad. It doesn’t have much dressing and is packed with veggies! It is really tasty. This recipe doesn’t really have measurements so you have to just cut and see.
Small box macaroni, cooked
auliflower, chopped
Celery, chopped
Colby jack cheese, cubed or grated
Broccoli, chopped
Onions, chopped
Bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
¼ cup sugar

Use amount of vegetables as desired, same for cheese and bacon. Dressing can be multiplied to desired creaminess

Mediterranean marinade (from Weber’s Real Grilling™)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Mix ingredients – makes about ¼ cup

Greek Salad with warm pitas (adaptation from Rachael Ray’s 365: No Repeats recipe)
This is one of my husband’s favorite meals. We’ve adapted it slightly.
1 ½ lbs. chicken tenders
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon grill seasoning
2 pitas split open
1 large garlic clove minced and mashed to a paste
Zest of 1 lemon and juice of 2 lemons
1 seedless cucumber sliced into half moons
4 vine-ripe tomatoes cut into wedges
1 small red onion (if desired)
½ cup fresh parsley leaves coarsely chopped
¼ cup fresh mint leaves coarsely chopped
1 cup pitted kalamata olives coarsely chopped
Feta cheese (crumbled)
Romaine lettuce coarsely chopped

Cook/grill chicken and season with oregano and grill seasoning. Grill the split pita halves for a minute. Remove when crisp, break or tear into large pieces and reserve. Combine garlic with zest of lemon and juice of 1.5 lemons in bottom of a large shallow bowl. Add cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, parsley, mint, olives, romaine lettuce and reserved bread. Add olive oil and lots of salt and black pepper. Toss salad with hands to combine well. Top salad with grilled chicken and feta cheese.

Option – instead of tearing up pitas, put salad into pitas and eat.

Spinach and Cheese Manicotti (modified from Aunt Mary)
1 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (you can also use fresh spinach)
1 15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 c. shredded mozzarella
¼ c. shredded parmesan cheese (I’ve also used the grated parmesan)
1 egg
2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. pepper
Manicotti shells
2 jars spaghetti sauce of your choice

Mix together ingredients. Stuff uncooked 8 oz. package of manicotti with filling. Combine two 28-oz. jars spaghetti sauce with 1 ½ c. water. Spread 1 c. sauce into 13x9x2” pan. Arrange stuffed shells over sauce and cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with more mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake uncovered at 350 for 40-50 minutes or until heated through.

Eggplant, prosciutto and mozzarella cheese “sandwiches” (from Weber’s Real Grilling™)
2 medium red bell peppers
Extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 globe eggplants (about 1 pound each, trimmed)
8 thin slices prosciutto
8 slices mozzarella, each ¼ inch thick
8 medium fresh basil leaves

Grill the bell peppers over direct medium heat until they are blackened and blistered all over (12-15 minutes) turning occasionally. Place the peppers in a medium bowl and cover with plastic to trap steam. Set aside for at least 10 minutes, then peel the skin and discard the stems and seeds. Place peppers in a food processor with 1 Tbsp. oil and salt and pepper. Process until smooth scraping down the sides as needed.

Cut each eggplant crosswise into 8 slices, each about ½ inch thick. Lightly brush or spray both sides with oil. Grill over direct medium heat until the underside is well marked (3-4 minutes). Transfer half of the slices to a tray with the grilled sides facing up. Turn the remaining slices over and grill until well marked on both sides (3-4 minutes)

Place a Tbsp. of red pepper mixture in the center of the grilled side of each eggplant slice on the tray. Place a slice of prosciutto, slice of mozzarella and basil leaf on top of red pepper mixture. Top each “sandwich” with a slice of eggplant that has been grilled on both sides. Place uncooked side of sandwich onto grill over direct medium heat until cheese is softened and the sandwiches are heated through (2-3 minutes).

Serve warm with remaining pepper mixture spooned, if desired.

May 17, 2010

Smart Vacations on a Budget

For the past four years, my husband and I have taken vacations around the country and are usually pretty frugal about our trips. I wanted to share a few vacation planning tips to help you stay on a budget, own what you eat and still enjoy your vacation.

Find some place inexpensive that has a kitchen or kitchenette. My husband often uses (vacation rental by owners) to find great condos or cabins near our destinations. We can find inexpensive places to stay that give us more space for the money.

On our recent trip, we used and found a Candlewood Suites for around $70 per night, which included a large room, kitchenette and separate bedroom. This was perfect for us. It gave us more room to move around with the little one.

Why is the kitchen or kitchenette key? See next point…

I stay true to my vacation from the kitchen while we are on vacation, but having a kitchen or even a kitchenette saves us a ton of money and time without me spending a lot of time in the kitchen.

Whenever we get to our destination, we stop at a local grocery store and buy food for breakfasts and lunches. We also pick up some snacks and drinks. This saves us time and allows us to see more. We usually eat a quick breakfast and can eat lunch at a park or on the road to our next destination.

Healthy snacks, fruit and water help us avoid the quick fixes from vending machines or fast food places. Like I said before, it also saves us a ton of money without extra time in the kitchen.

Aside from the money saving and healthy aspects of this approach, it also has another huge benefit for our family. Marriage saving! My husband and I are both pretty indecisive when it comes to places to eat so not having to choose breakfast or lunch places every day saves a lot of arguments and headaches, which ultimately saves our marriage! J

In honor of my vacation from the kitchen, we usually eat out each night. We like to try the local cuisine and try to test out a new local restaurant each night. We try to find something new, something relatively healthy and something tasty all at the same time! We really enjoy this part of our vacation and write reviews in our personal vacation journal about each place we visit. Some day I’ll have to post my vacation restaurant reviews for you all to see!

So with smart staying and smart eating, I hope you all have a smart and enjoyable vacation this year!

OWN WHAT YOU EAT, even on vacation.

May 10, 2010

A vacation from the kitchen

This week I am taking a vacation from the kitchen with the family in Colorado to celebrate my husband's graduation from his MBA program! YAY!

We are also celebrating Mother's Day. Happy belated mother's day to all the fantastic mothers out there who make such a difference in the lives of their kids every day. I hope to do the same with my little one.

Although we aren't cooking this week, I wanted to share an interesting article I came across. It highlights the 20 worst drinks and shows their equivalent in sugar or calories. It's pretty eye opening.

How many of these drinks do you drink? How much pop or mocha lattes, etc. do you drink in a day? How many gallons of pop do you think are consumed by your co-workers in one week?

OWN WHAT YOUR FAMILY EATS (even on vacation...)

May 5, 2010

A family of food lovers

Three of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received are cookbooks and not just any cookbook. A family of cooks have inspired my love for cooking and love for trying something new in the kitchen almost every day.

First, for my bridal shower my family started a new tradition and it was the greatest gift I’ve ever received. My amazing aunts put together a cookbook of family favorites to start my kitchen off right. Now I want to try them all! I love seeing what other families prepare and I think this is such a great gift for a newly married couple. It gets them started down the right path.

Since my wedding, my aunts have worked together to add more recipes to every book created after mine. I love this recipe book and go to it often. There’s just something about a family recipe…

Another incredible gift I received was a collection of recipes from a very dear friend. When I was in college, I wanted to cook more and was looking for recipes. She put together a recipe book with all of her favorites handwritten. I treasure this book for the time it took, the love that was poured into it and the incredible recipes that are in it. I still haven’t tried them all, but I will some day.

Last, for Christmas one year I received a recipe book that didn’t seem like much at the time. It was a church cookbook with a collection of recipes from people from all over the church. Little did I know that it had several recipes from my late grandmother that I never saw. I was so blessed by this book. My grandma made a rhubarb pie that my brother loved more than anything. I was able to find the recipe and surprise him with a pie one day. Having those recipes means the world to me because my grandma always seemed to enjoy cooking for her large family of nine. That in and of itself is inspiration to me! If she can cook for 11 people every day, surely I can cook for three.

Giving the gift of family recipes is a gift that continues to give. I love finding new recipes in my family cookbooks and remembering times I shared those meals with family. It inspires me to make those same memories with my family so my daughter can look back on a book of recipes from our family some day and think of all the times we shared those meals together.

So for the next bridal shower, wedding or baby shower you go to, can you put together a personalized recipe book?

May 3, 2010

BAKE FOR HOPE - baking for a cure for breast cancer

Now I know that I am focused on making healthy meals for your family, but that doesn't meak you should completely deny the sweet tooth, especially when it's for a good cause!

Sitting at work last week I got an e-mail about Bake for Hope, an event in the office park I work in. This wasn’t your average bake sale though. This bake sale supports the Susan G. Koman foundation’s fight against breast cancer.
Bake for Hope is a grass-roots nationwide event run by volunteers that host bake sales in local communities across the country supporting the cure for breast cancer. The bake sale runs annually the week before Mother’s Day.

This year, I am one of those volunteers. I am organizing the Bake for Hope event in my office building. For two days, my co-workers and I will be baking and selling goodies to raise money and awareness to find a cure for breast cancer. I work with some incredible bakers and women who are always ready to help others. A huge thanks to them for being willing to bake.
I am excited to be a part of the event. Obviously I love cooking and baking so this is a natural fit. I have met some pretty incredible fighters and survivors of cancer. It may seem small, but every little bit helps find a cure. I’m doing my part to support those brave women who battle this horrible illness every single day.

A second cousin of mine isn’t even 30 years old and is fighting breast cancer. She is an amazing picture of strength and determination. She is amazing! These cookies are for you, Monica! =)

Are you baking for hope this year? Do you have co-workers that like to bake?

Go to to learn more about this year’s bake sale and how you can help.

May 2, 2010

What's Cookin' This Week? 5/2/10

This week seemed to just fly by! Dinners, hikes, girls day, etc. with family and friends made for a great week! But, dinners didn’t exactly go as planned. Good news for me is I don’t’ have to do much shopping this week. Bad news for you is that I’m reusing some of my menus from last week that we didn’t get to in all the craziness of the week.

Here’s to hoping you have a fabulous week and try something new in your kitchen!

Lime & Honey Glazed Salmon with Warm Black Bean and Corn Salad (from last week)

Pitas and hummus
Fruit or veggies from the Happy Box

Healthy Chicken Nachos (from last week)

Early anniversary dinner – no cooking tonight!

Shrimp and Asparagus Fettuccini
Garlic bread