7 Essential Kitchen Must-Haves When Eating Healthy

There are just certain things you need when mapping out a plan for eating healthy in your home. At the same time, there are certainly things that make more clutter and are really not needed. The items listed below are things I use often and feel I couldn't live without in the kitchen.

1. Apple Wedger/Slicer. We go through apples like crazy at our house and this gadget is perfect for quick and easy cutting. I recommend using organic apples because the regular ones are on the top 10 "Dirty Dozen" list for pesticide exposure. Leave the peel on for added fiber, but more importantly for the chemicals responsible for making it anti-cancer, specifically breast and lung.

2. Food Processor. This appliance is great for drastically cutting down time prepping for home-cooked meals. From grating carrots, chopping onions to grinding spices and making pesto or this hummus recipe. I couldn't live without my food processor.

3. Cast Iron Skillet. The benefits from using cast iron over non-stick are boundless. As you cook with cast iron, the dietary source of iron dramatically increases, especially with foods that are high in acid such as tomatoes. When seasoned well, it works just as well as a non-stick pan, but without all the harmful effects of Teflon. Cast iron cooks food more evenly and holds the heat longer than other cookware. They are very sturdy and versatile too and can be used in the oven for something delicious like this veggie frittata.

4. Salad Spinner. If you are trying to eat healthy, then green, leafy vegetables will be in your fridge often. It is important that they are thoroughly washed and dried before you eat them... nobody likes wet and heavy lettuce. A salad spinner is a great companion in your kitchen for this reason. It is also handy when cleaning berries and fresh herbs. After you are done with the spinner, it can double as a container to keep your produce fresh in the fridge until you're ready to use it.

5. Blender. My blender is out almost everyday making delicious, healthy smoothies for my family. I definitely could not live without it. I don't have the best blender, but it certainly does the trick. If you have the means, I recommend a Vita-Mix or Blendtec blender.

Honorable Mentions:

1. Fruit and Veggie Wash. If you buy organic, it is still important to wash your produce when you get it home. Even if it has been handled carefully, the produce can still manage to obtain harmful bacteria or bugs. If your produce isn't organic, it is imperative to get it as clean as possible and this spray does a great job.

2. Mango Slicer. Just recently our family has become addicted to mangoes. There are so many wonderful health benefits in eating mangoes you can read about here. Mangoes can be difficult to cut because they are usually very juicy and become hard to handle. This slicer is a must-have for mangoes.

3. Fusion Brand Poach Pods. Eggs are such a healthy way to start your day, especially if they are farm fresh. These little lily pad shaped pods are a perfect way to make poached eggs. No, they are not exactly essential, but they make cooking poached eggs a little more fun.

4. Bamboo Cutting Board. Bamboo grows at a rate of one foot per day making it one of the most sustainable plants in the world and more durable than wood. Using a bamboo cutting board will help cut down on the risks of bacteria because it absorbs very little moisture and does not get deep grooves like plastic cutting boards do.

So there's my list... what are your must-haves? I need to know!


My Journey to Health... Part 2

This part of my journey seems to be a little foggy maybe because it is a part of our lives I want to forget or disassociate myself with. But there is the aspect of knowing it has changed our family for the better and made us wiser because of it.

In Part 1 of my journey, I explained that over a short span of time, my husband and I began to notice our son acting differently. He became destructive, defiant, extremely irritable and was beginning to be labeled a problem child at school. We were so confused because this behavior was not seen in him before he started school. It was devastating to us and we were at a loss for why this was happening. I wouldn't settle for the excuse told to us by our well-intended pediatrician that he was just a normal little boy with possibly a few allergies.

If you know me, you would understand that I am the type of person that dives head first into anything I am passionate about. I am that girl walking out of the library with a wagon-load of books, the one scouring the internet at all hours of the night and calling people who can offer me more wisdom on their area of expertise. That's exactly what I did for our son.

There was nothing that was going to stop me in my search for healing my son. I was not satisfied to hear he just had some behavioral issues or it is just "his unique personality". That was not acceptable. I knew there was more to this story... our story.

I could go on and on about how God intervened and opened up doors of information for us, but for now I will just say He did and in ways I couldn't believe. Over and over I was shown how behavioral issues in children are usually associated with allergies or exposure to harmful chemicals in their environment. I knew as a baby he had severe colic. Was this related? Was milk a culprit?

I learned that 1 out of 3 children in America currently suffer from some form of allergies and food allergies are skyrocketing and now considered an epidemic. Also scientists are finding they have no idea the effects that genetically altered and processed foods have on our children.

The first thoughts after my studies made me believe there were chemicals he was exposed to at his school. Why were we not seeing this erratic behavior at home? When you receive a phone call every day from a school teacher explaining another incident, the light bulbs start to come on. In the book, Is This Your Child?, the author states that people with severe allergies can be fine in some places and terrible in others... light bulb!

We never researched to find out if there were specific allergens in the school, but there was a voice from within me saying, "get him out". And that's exactly what we did. We persevered through that school year and decided to homeschool thereafter. Even though I was never interested before in homeschooling my children, at this point I couldn't wait.

During that school year, we had him tested for environmental allergens. The results were what we expected, but even more so... he was severely allergic to almost all environmental allergens namely mold, dust, pollen, ragweed, trees, grass, dander, dust mites, and more. And his face told the story. Puffy eyes with huge red circles underneath which is the tell-tale sign in most children. He constantly sneezed and rubbed his nose as well.

Our next step was to totally eliminate all harmful chemicals in our home. I switched to all natural cleaners and replaced most by simply using vinegar. The first two items I pitched were Chlorox and Lysol... both containing carcinogens. Another cleaner eliminated was my dishwasher detergent which contains xenoestrogens which are known to radically disrupt the endocrine (hormone) and immune systems. We also ripped up old carpets and replaced them with hardwood, cleaned up some moldy spots and regularly ventilated our house even in the winter.

Amazingly and almost immediately, we saw positive results in him...

But the results just kept getting better when we changed the way we ate.

To be continued...


What Husbands Really Want From Their Wives...

Father's Day is tomorrow and hopefully the card and gifts have been purchased for the father of your children. I think gifts are great because who doesn't love a gift? But as wives there is always more we can give that will make their day, their year a great one.

I did a little one-on-one with my husband to see what he thought men in general would love to get from their wives as intangible gifts on their special day. I asked him to think of things a wife could do to really make her husband feel special and loved. So along with the gifts you have purchased, give your husband these five things he really wants...

1. Show Respect... About 7 years ago I read a book that rocked my marriage world. In it the author profoundly states something that I have never forgotten. Through her research she found that "men would rather feel alone and unloved than inadequate and disrespected". Our man wants affirmation and encouragement even more than our affection. So I encourage you to build him up with your words and do your best not to nag or worse, tear him down behind his back. Remember the qualities that first drew you to him and tell him those things. Express to him what a gift he really is.

2. Smile... Men are naturally drawn to happy women. Do you enjoy the company of a grouch? No one does. There is something magical that happens when you smile and your husband sees your approval in him. You are essentially saying, "You make me a happy girl!". My husband adamantly stated that the most important time to smile at your husband is the moment he comes home from work. He does not want to come home to a grumpy wife. Even if you've had a rough day with kids... perk up and smile! He will think he's got the best girl around.

3. Silence... After talking to my husband about this list he mentioned he wants to spend Father's day with us, but he would love to have a short time to himself... in silence. Grab him his favorite drink, a book or the remote and let him enjoy a little quiet time. Just like moms, dads need some down time and a few moments to reenergize.

4. Submit... Hear me out. This is not the 1950's June Cleaver "submit" that is sometimes associated with this word. I am referring to the submit that happens when we understand our position before Christ. When you submit to your husband, you see that he is under God and your love for God naturally places you beneath your husband's leadership. There is no better place to be in your marriage ~ it is a beautiful picture of the gospel.

5. Sex... This is a gift that only you can deliver. Even if his whole world is falling apart, but has this time with you, he will feel he can conquer anything. Also it is important (according to my husband) that you really show him you want him... this is crucial. Don't act like you're doing him a favor. Be creative and passionate and make him feel he's the hottest man in the world!


7 Ways to Save so You Can Eat Healthy

Yesterday I was talking to a good friend of mine who is striving to feed her family healthy like me. Of course, the conversation came up about the rising costs of gas and food and how it is getting trickier to buy healthy foods when the junk foods tend to be so much cheaper.

It would be much easier to grab the junk stuff, but keep focused on the bigger picture of growing a healthy future for you and your family. It may become a challenge to budget for better foods, but it can be done.

Here are some ways I have found that really help my family to buy healthier in a struggling economy...

1. Shop the sales. Very obvious, but very important. And if possible, stock up on those items if you can. When strawberries and peaches are cheap, load up and then freeze them for something good later. 

2. Stop buying the junk. If you stop buying junk, it clears the way for the healthy stuff!
3. Find ways to cut back... specifically you! I have personally made decisions to cut back on my own luxuries so there is a little more leftover for buying food that will benefit my family, specifically my kids. I only get my hair cut once a year, I don't ever get my nails or toes done... and to be a little transparent here, I purchase over 90% of my clothes and shoes either from the Target clearance racks or from my personal favorite, Goodwill. 

4. Shop at different stores to get better deals. I know, more work for you, but this can really help your budget. If grapes are on sale at one store, but apples are cheaper elsewhere those little changes will add up.
5. Clip coupons. Most coupons are for processed foods, but if you look, sometimes there are really good coupons for healthy foods. Like coupons for cherry tomatoes, clementines, Dole salad bags, healthy protein bars, organic juices and more. Here are a few sites to check out for coupons and savings... Mambo Sprouts, Frugal Living, Saving Naturally, and Stonyfield, Seventh Generation, Whole Foods Market.

6. Buy generic where you can. Aldi is a great place to shop. Did you know they are owned by the same family that operates Trader Joe's? I like to buy several things at Aldi like tortilla chips, whole grain pasta, bread and crackers, 100% fruit juices, oats, ground turkey and they have the cheapest and best veggies chips around.
7. Make your own sweets and snacks. My family is a "sweets" family. So this can be a challenge, but I have found when I make my own, from-scratch treats, it helps cut costs plus is so much healthier. Things like oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, homemade granola bars, super healthy brownies and of course, smoothies.

What ways help you buy healthy in our economy?


Feta & Parsley Turkey Burger

Here is a simple recipe for quick, Feta & Parsley Turkey Burgers...

2 lbs of ground turkey (preferably range-free)

1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs (in Asian section... I use panko because they contain less sodium and calories than normal breadcrumbs)

2/3 cup of low fat Feta cheese

1-2 shallots, finely chopped

1/2 t. Chipotle flavored Tabasco sauce

1 t. Worcheshire sauce

1-2 T. fresh chopped parsley

1/2 t. dried oregano

1 egg (slightly beaten)

salt and pepper

Mix together in bowl with your hands. You might need some dabs of water to form the patties.

Grill about 5-7 minutes on each side or until juices are clear.

Serve with sauteed onion, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, avocado, pickles... or any of your favorite healthy toppings.


Why I Said "Good-Bye" to Beef

I have pretty much swore off all red meat... except for one occasion, a date to Ruth Chris, then I might have to reconsider. But until then, when I shop for meat/protein for my family it will mainly consist of the following... local, range-free eggs, turkey and chicken, wild caught fish and beans.

I have mentioned before I have inherited a high cholesterol gene (a double whammy of high LDL and low HDL)... BUT I am determined that I will reverse this "birthright." There are some diseases that just happen, even to the healthiest of people. But I feel there is a huge percentage of diseases that can be reversed through healthy food choices.

But cholesterol issues aside, I have read that there are new findings from an international study disclosing the correlation between consuming too much red meat and colorectal cancer occurrences. The study estimates that as much as 45% of colorectal cancers can be prevented by a high-fiber diet, consuming less red meat and alcohol, and getting an adequate amount of exercise. And as frequent as meat recalls are occurring, it is hard for me to justify feeding my family beef products all the while knowing of the potential risks of heart disease and cancers it also causes.

I have found that ground turkey is a perfect alternative to recipes that call for ground beef. You still need to watch your portions, but overall there are so many health benefits in eating turkey. And it is really the perfect high-protein, low-fat food.

One note-worthy ingredient in turkey is the trace mineral selenium which is highly proven to increase the efficacy of the thyroid and immune systems, but it also plays a major role in antioxidant defense. This important system is key in attacking free radical cells that can turn into cancer cells. In fact, one study shows that cancer patients who added selenium to their diets "had a reduced incidence of the development of new tumors throughout their bodies, and the group also had a 39% reduced mortality rate over the other group".

Other benefits include helps to lower LDL levels, enhances mood and boosts testosterone and aids in insomnia. How can you go wrong?

So stayed tuned because tomorrow I will share one of our favorite turkey burger recipes to enjoy this summer as you grill out.