The Dirty Dozen (and the Clean Fifteen)

By Rachel Sircy

So, in my attempts to eat healthier this year, I am buying a lot more vegetables and fruits. But, it turns out that not all fruits and vegetables are created equal. It matters (at least to me) that the fruits and vegetables that I eat and that I feed to my family are as chemical free as possible. Of course, the best place to find fresh fruits and vegetables that are chemical free (or close to it) is the farmer’s market. I’ve already written about how much I love the SC State Farmer’s Market. You really can do pretty much all your produce shopping there. And, even if the farmers can’t afford to purchase the “organic” label for their produce, it’s likely that since they’re not farming on a huge scale, like the corn and soybean farmers in the Midwest – they’re the farmers who supply the stuff used to make high fructose corn syrup, etc. – that they’re not spraying some of the crazy chemicals on their produce that a huge corporate farm would. Plus, local produce hasn’t had chemicals added or been processed in a weird way in order to keep it fresh during shipping, because it hasn’t had to travel far to get to you. And the prices of this fresh, local produce are not as high as you’d think.farmers-market-1329008_1280

However, most of us can’t make it to the farmer’s market for a leisurely shopping experience. If you’re like me, you go to the grocery store when you’ve run out of all of your kitchen staples and you’re desperate. And most of us probably try to squeeze our shopping in after work and in between running our kids to this sporting event or band concert or what have you. Unfortunately, the price of organic produce can be prohibitively expensive for some (including me) at the grocery store. Of course, places like Aldi and Lidl (which just opened in Lexington), carry a variety of organic products for fairly cheap. However, if you can’t get to an Aldi or to the new Lidl, or if the prices are still out of the range of your budget, you can choose which fruits and vegetables to buy organic by following the guidelines of the clean fifteen and the dirty dozen.

If you’re not already familiar with these lists – the clean fifteen and the dirty dozen are two lists of fruits and vegetables that are released every year by the Environmental Working Group. The Clean Fifteen is the list of the fifteen fruits and vegetables that are least likely to contain pesticides or which contain fewer pesticides than your average fruits and veggies. So, the produce listed on the Clean Fifteen list are probably pretty safe to eat even if they’re not organic. In other words, these are the things that you can get away with just buying the regular, cheaper version of. And yes, you guessed it, that means that the Dirty Dozen is a list of the produce that is MOST likely to have pesticides. So, if you can only afford to get a limited number of organic fruits or vegetables, choose the organic version of anything you want or need that is on the Dirty Dozen list. Sometimes I have just planned my shopping list around the items on the clean fifteen list, so that I didn’t have to worry about buying organic!

You can find the 2018 lists and a lot of other resources at www.ewg.org or you can just look below, since I’m going to write out the lists for you 😊

The CLEAN FIFTEEN:avocado-2644150_1920

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbages
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen Sweet Peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplants
  11. Honeydew Melons
  12. Kiwis
  13. Cantaloupes
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

 

The DIRTY DOZENstrawberry-2960533_1920

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Potatoes
  12. Sweet Bell Peppers (they also list Hot Peppers as a 2018 Dirty Dozen member)

 

Happy Shopping!

Happy (I think) birthday!

By Jeanne Reynolds

I hope I’m not offending anyone here, but what’s up with these super-extravagant birthday parties for children? Even infants and toddlers who don’t know what day it is, much less that it’s their own birthday, are being feted like royalty.

A tattoo bar for a 3-year-old. Vegas-style showgirls at a bar mitzvah. Petting zoos of exotic animals. I’m not making this stuff up, although believe me, I wish I was. And that doesn’t even include the celebrity baby bashes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

birthday-cake

Whatever happened to regular, simple birthday parties for children: half a dozen youngsters, those cone-shaped party hats with the snap-prone elastic, a couple games of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and drop-the-clothes-pins-in-the-milk-bottle, some cupcakes and ice cream, and off you go. All done in about an hour, not counting the sugar-fueled hyperactivity and nap-deprived tantrums later in the day.

And please, invite other children — not the entire extended family, neighbors and anyone else who can be guilted into gifting the oblivious youngster. Yes, your offspring is incredibly adorable, but children’s birthday parties are for … well, children. (OK, grandparents get a pass.)

Now adult birthdays are another matter. April is major birthday season in our family, and I say you’re never too old to celebrate being above ground another year. Both my husband I have birthdays this month. However, the celebration usually consists of taking the day off work, a round of golf, dinner out at a nice restaurant and several cards (our cats are big on greeting cards for every occasion). Nary a unicorn in sight. And the only petting zoo will involve the aforementioned felines.

Milestone birthdays get a little extra treatment, especially those sneaking up on three digits. My mother-in-law turns 90 this month and we expect a couple hundred well-wishers at her drop-in (don’t worry, it’s not a surprise party like my father-in-law’s 90th last year). With that kind of crowd, we’re springing for a caterer, but there won’t be any caviar or edible gold whatevers. Unless you count pimento cheese.

Still, I wouldn’t mind if someone brought a unicorn.

Front Porch and Kitchen Memories

By Chaunte McClure

By now, you know I love to reminisce about growing up with Grandma. I was scrolling Facebook on Sunday night and came across a meme with an image of peas in chipwood baskets, and of course, my mind traveled back to summer months sitting on the porch at Grandma’s.

On occasion, she’d shell peas or butter beans while we, the grandkids, frolicked in the yard. Some days I didn’t have that privilege or thought I was “too grown” to play with the others, but my time wouldn’t be idle because I’d have to get a bowl and help shell peas. Geez, if Grandma could’ve seen the eye roll I imagined upon her demand. Of course, she always knew whether or not I wanted to do what she asked. I’ve heard her say, “If you can eat ‘em, you can shell ‘em.” That meant get your fingernails ready to open the seams of 2,000 pods. (Clearly, I’m exaggerating.)

fresh-peas

It just seemed like it took forever to see the results of my labor, for I thought my bowl would never get full and the pile of unshelled beans always looked so large.

We snapped beans too. I’d much rather the snapping because it was much easier to break off the tips and snap the stems and that was easier on the fingernails, thumbs and index fingers.

Those are classic moments because today I don’t eat fresh vegetables often enough nor do I have a garden like many families did during my childhood. Food was better for you and oh, the memories we made just with food. Picking, peeling, cutting and bagging tomatoes. Canning peaches, apples, and beans. And making biscuits from scratch. I only watched Grandma knead biscuit dough and even at 42 years old, sadly, I’ve never made homemade biscuits nor have I canned fruits and vegetables. But some of my fondest memories were made on the porch and in the kitchen at Grandma’s House.

What are some of your fondest memories growing up in the South?

No Electricity!? OH NO!!

By Shannon Boatwright

A rockin’ storm pounded through my area of Lexington, SC recently, with four tornadoes touching down. Not cool. On many levels. The main level being that many people suffered damage to their properties. From what I’ve heard, I don’t think anyone was hurt thankfully. Most of us were just inconvenienced with power outages. One of those people being my family. We were without power for over 6 hours. Yes, only 6 hours. I know, that’s totally & absolutely nothing compared to what so many Americans have had to suffer through when it has come to Mother Nature ravaging our cities with her craziness over the past few years across the country.

But the truth is, you never know how much you truly use electricity, until you no longer have it! It was comical how many times we’d all try to flip on light switches and other basic things, knowing we had no power, but doing it out of habit. My 12 year-old son would start flipping light switches on & off repeatedly as if the simple act would make it actually work & bring the electricity back.

Naturally I was in the middle of doing loads of laundry. And of course I’d also planned to wait until later afternoon/night to bathe, wash my really dirty hair and do more housework and school work.

I learned firsthand that in my house apparently, I need electricity in order to have hot water. Having to wash my big head of hair, leaning over the tub to wash this thick mane of mine, with incredibly cold water, was not fun. Though my hubby may say otherwise, as I think he enjoyed the laugh that my squirming and squealing gave him as I suffered through the cold water and attempted to give myself a literal washcloth bath trying to get clean with zero hot water.IMG_7093

We thought my angel boy, Sawyer, would totally lose it without internet access. Heaven forbid a kid nowadays have to go without a connection to the internet and gaming world! And my angel girl, Mina, completely prepped our bathroom with all the amenities that she thought we’d need in the event that a tornado hit and we have to take shelter in the tiny downstairs bathroom. Here are the things she made sure to place in the bathroom for our protection and survival…

One blanket, a candle, a stale package of saltines, bananas, a can of beans, some cotton balls, one cup of water and some chocolate – cause you know, no one should have to battle a tornado without some chocolate.  I asked Mina, why the cotton balls? There’s already a basket of toilet paper rolls in the bathroom. She said, “Mama, if anyone gets cut, the cotton balls will soak up the blood better!”

IMG_7096

She also pointed out that she could admit that in the case of a tornado she actually liked our toilet lights that normally aggravate her, because they run off of batteries. (We have those super fun toilet lights on our toilets that are motion detected and create a mini dance party in your toilet if you go to use the bathroom without turning on the room light. I personally love it because then I don’t have to blast the bathroom light when I have to go potty in the middle of the night.)  I was only reminded to take a picture of the little bathroom survival set-up when our dog, Monte, caught our attention as he kept trying to eat the chocolate and crackers in the bathroom.

So here’s the deal – the lack of electricity issue was only, simply, an inconvenience. As we dealt with the aggravation throughout the day, making the best of it all, I kept thinking about what it would be like to live in a world without electricity and not know any better. Back in the day, there were no luxuries of what electricity brings. No warm water, no easily, quickly heating up/cooking food. No fancy washing and drying machines. No computers, tvs and gadgets that provide entertainment, and certainly no internet.

Did the power outage totally throw off my to-do list and plans for the day with the family? Absolutely. When you’re used to doing things a certain way, no matter what, it’s gonna throw you off. But could I still live, survive and thrive? Of course. Do you have to have the luxury of electricity to survive? Absolutely not. Do I feel totally bad fussing about losing ONLY about 6 hours of electricity? YES!

The positive point in all this…I appreciate this luxury of electricity something fierce! Especially the warm water part. I could do without internet and even without being able to cook food using electricity, but goodness, do I ever totally appreciate the ability/luxury to take a hot bath or hot shower!  It’s these occasions that create an appreciation in you that words may not be able to express. Let’s just say I’m ever thankful to be growing up in a world that provides us so many incredible luxuries that spoil us so very much!

Take the time to think on it. What would your life really be like without electricity? How would you cope? And I mean if AFTER experiencing the joys and pleasures of electricity, how would you deal with suddenly not ever having it again? Something to ponder for sure.

Berry Good Muffins

By Mary Pat Baldauf

We’re in the throes of Spring, and there is so much to do in the Midlands right now. If one of the things you’re doing is picking strawberries at a local farm, you’ll want to check out this recipe for strawberry muffins from my friend April Blake. These muffins are incredible and the perfect way to share your strawberries!

Cottle

STRAWBERRY MINI MUFFINS (from The April Blake)

INGREDIENTS

Makes 48 mini muffins

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced or diced
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs beaten

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter and flour muffin tins (two large tins, or one large and two mini, or four or five mini muffin tins).
  2. Slice strawberries, and place in mixing bowl. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, and set aside while preparing dough.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in large bowl and mix well. Pour oil and eggs into strawberries. Add strawberry mixture to flour mixture, blending until dry ingredients are just moistened. Make sure all flour incorporates. Divide batter into pans.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes for mini muffins (or 25-30 if you’re going for large muffins), or until knife inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn muffins out, and cool completely.

Quick and Easy Pizza Night

By Rachel Sircy

Well, truthfully, I wasn’t planning to write about this, but after I tried Mama Mary’s gluten free pizza crust, I thought I had better share my experience. My husband had been asking about home-made pizza recently – I make a pretty mean chicken pizza – but the thing is, I really don’t like to make gluten free pizza crusts. Somehow, the mixes always give you something weird. I really dislike the Bob’s Redmill pizza crust mix. It’s like dry, crusty bread. My favorite, as far as pizza crust mixes go, has always been Namaste, but even that wasn’t ever a normal pizza crust. It was white with greenish flecks of Italian seasoning in it. It was also the consistency of cake batter with the weirdly elastic properties of marshmallow cream. It was weird, but at least it was a kind of weirdness I could handle. Actually, I haven’t even made the Namaste pizza crust in so long, that I don’t know if the formula is even the same anymore.

So, when my husband asked for pizza, I really just wanted to hand him $5 and point him in the direction of the nearest Little Cesar’s, but then I remembered something. Walking down one of the aisles of the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Cayce, I remembered seeing little personal-sized pre-packaged pizza crusts that were labeled “gluten free”. I figured they couldn’t be as bad as Bob’s Redmill, and their small size also solved another one of gluten free pizza’s big problems: leftovers.

My husband loves cold pizza – I’m not such a huge fan, even in my gluten-eating days, I disliked the way that the refrigerator turned all of that luscious, gooey cheese into something like cold leather – but cold, leftover gluten free pizza is pretty nearly inedible. Not only does the cheese turn to leather, but the something that happens to most gluten free pizza crusts that causes them to become so hard that – should you be desperate enough to try to eat a piece – you have to gnaw on the slice like a wild animal trying to peel the last bit of meat off of a carcass. And, in my opinion, reheating a gluten free slice of pizza doesn’t make matters much better. The microwave may melt the cheese, but it doesn’t do much for that awful crust. I have always hated making an entire huge pizza and pretty much having to throw out the leftovers. Yes, some of you may be thinking that you have a perfect (albeit really time-consuming) recipe for gluten free pizza crust that tastes good the next day, but here’s the thing: I’m lazy. Especially when it comes to baking. I kind of hate it. I used to love to bake before I discovered that I have celiac disease, but that love died in the first few months of going gluten free and I’ve never been able to revive it. If you want to see me at my absolute worst, ask me to make a gluten free pizza crust. Or worse yet, a gluten free pie crust. In the case of the pie crust, you might have to pick me up off of the kitchen floor because I will have fallen over, weeping.

Long story short, I decided to give these little pizza crusts a try. And it turns out that they’re pretty good. I mean, they’re not the best pizza crusts I’ve ever had, but I personally think they beat Bob’s Redmill by a mile. (Sorry to beat up on you, Bob. You’ve given us a lot of great products, but your pizza is the pits.) So, I am making a recommendation: if you, like me, are lazy and want a quick and easy pizza without leftovers, try these Mama Mary’s pizza crusts. I didn’t take a picture of the crusts in the package, because I wasn’t planning to write about them, but I took a picture of the back of the package:

Pic 1

And here’s the finished product:

Again, I found these pizza crusts in the gluten free section of the Neighborhood Market in Cayce. They’re not refrigerated, they right there on the shelf next to the gluten free snack bars and whatnot. I feel fairly certain, however, that almost any Walmart would carry them. Walmart is pretty good at having the same products in every store. Happy Eating!

 

 

 

Read to your Kids

By Jeanne Reynolds

I had to hear it a couple of times for it to sink in. When it did, I could hardly believe it.

“Here’s a great hack for your home virtual assistant device,” the radio announcer enthused. (For those like my husband who think a hack is a terrible golfer or someone who sneaks into your computer system, “hack” is current slang for a quick fix, trick or work-around.)

“You can get (name of device) to read your child a bedtime story!” she continued. “Just say, (name of device), read Billy a bedtime story. Then you both can sit back and listen until one of you falls asleep.”

This may be the single worst piece of advice I’ve ever heard. I mean, it ranks right up there with, “Here, eat this sausage dog right before you get on the roller coaster” and “Don’t worry, these bungee cords almost never break.”

Seriously? Take a beloved childhood ritual – one of the most important things you can do to help your child develop a love of reading that will reap untold lifelong benefits – and ask a machine to do it for you?

Now, I totally get how exhausted, frazzled and pulled in 7 directions parents of young children are at the end of the day, especially if they’re also holding down jobs outside the home. And reading a story may seem like another chore there’s just not enough time for. The digital voice is better than nothing, right?

No. It’s not.

Because that’s no more “reading” than is watching a movie version of a book. Both are entertaining, but very different. And just getting Billy to shut up and go to sleep is not what a bedtime story is all about. bedtime-story

Reading – seeing the words and pictures, turning the pages – is essential to a child’s future. Children who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. And two-thirds who are still struggling by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare.

And it’s not just being able to read, but loving to read. A third of high school graduates never read a book after high school. Living in a house overflowing with books, and remembering trips to the public library as a highlight of the week as a child, this is harder for me to understand than black hole theory. And incredibly sad.

It’s one reason I’ve been volunteering for the past school year with Midlands Reading Consortium. Even though my pre-K student can’t read a lick (yet!), I’m trying to model the joy of reading and help him develop not just a skill but an avocation he’ll enjoy the rest of his life.

No batteries required.