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Winter. Once the festivities of the holidays are over with, all we’re really left with is damp, cold, gray days.  And I live in south Texas so I don’t even get snow out of the deal.  The grass is dead, the trees are just sticks, and you don’t breathe in a public place for fear of catching the cold or flu.  It’s not my favorite time of the year, in case you can’t tell.

However, there is always a bright side (or so my mom says, there’ve been plenty of times where I really see no bright side…) to everything.  And winter’s bright side is comfort food.  And snuggling up in bed all day with Mr. T, watching movies and drinking a big mug of cocoa.  Man, that sounds nice.  For those of you who can actually do that I am so stinkin jealous.  That’s the one downside to having a one year old I guess, there is no “stay in bed all day.”  Or the time/energy to sit through a movie.  (Sigh).  So anyway, back to winter comfort food.

Ooey Gooey  Mac n Cheese with a crispy crust, chicken and dumplings, homemade beef stew, chicken pot pie, chili and cornbread – the kind of food that makes you warm and fuzzy just thinking about it.  The kind of food that makes a snowman thaw out into a little boy (I’m hoping you’ve seen that commercial…).  One of my favorite winter comfort foods is not the most common, but it evokes the same sensations.  It’s a stew that Mr. T made for me during our “courting period.”  It’s been a favorite ever since, partly because it reminds me of when we were dating, and partly because it’s delicious and super easy to make.

Spicy Pork and Hominy Stew – I have no idea where he got the original recipe, but we’ve modified it over the years to fit our taste.  It may sound odd to some who are not familiar with hominy, but it is worthy of a chance.  For this recipe you can use either white or yellow hominy or a combination of both.  If you are really anti-hominy you can also substitute corn, but the stew will have a sweeter flavor.  Besides the cilantro garnish, we have also topped it with a dollop of sour cream.  It makes a lot, too, but it freezes well, which means you don’t have to get out of bed to cook the next day.  Enjoy your movies, stay warm, and happy eating!

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Unless you’ve been living in a hole (which, if you have, thank you for using your first venture out of the hole to visit my blog!) you’ve likely heard that eating organic foods is safer and therefore better for you.  You’ve probably also noticed that most organic food costs a lot more money than its non-organic counterpart.  I sure have.

But I’m not cool with feeding my family food saturated with pesticides either.  I was a little grossed out to learn that eating the 5 daily servings of USDA-recommended fruits and veggies from the 15 most contaminated meant I could consume an average of 10 pesticides a day.  Don’t despair though. You won’t need to spend your life’s savings on strictly organic food.  According to the Environmental Working Group, consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating only the cleanest.  [i]

So what produce tops the most contaminated list?  Here’s the updated 2010 list, complements of The Daily Green:

Celery: Without a protective skin it’s hard to wash off all the 64 pesticides used on it.  64 – yummy…

Peaches: These fleshy girls get pounded by 62 different pesticides.

Strawberries: Since they are now available year round (but can’t be grown year round in the US), they are more likely to be grown in countries not so concerned with the amount of pesticides used.      (59 pesticides found on these tasty gems)

Apples: To ensure you don’t have worms and other critters/pests eating your fruit before you do, apples have been detected with residue from 42 different pesticides.

Blueberries: You could pop up to 52 pesticides in your mouth when chomping on blueberries.

Nectarines: Residue from 33 different pesticides have been detected on nectarines.

Bell Peppers: These thin skinned (yet delicious) veggies get saturated in up to 49 different pesticides.

Spinach: One of the most contaminated of the leafy green veggies (in case you’ve read my Spinach post, yes, I buy organic), spinach can be laced with up to 48 different pesticides.

Kale: Less than spinach, but still enough to be on the top 12 list.

Cherries: Ok, cherries seem to be expensive regardless (unless you live in a cherry growing region, in which case I’m severely jealous), however, buy organic when possible.  (42 different pesticides)

Potatoes: A sad day for Irish Americans…as many as 37 different pesticides found on the spud.

Grapes: Oh no.  Wine is made from grapes.  And grapes can harbor as many as 34 different pesticides.  I’m screwed…now I have to buy organic wine too?

Those are the new 2010 Dirty Dozen – however, other offenders from frequent years to avoid are leafy greens (lettuce), carrots, pears, and tomatoes. And that’s just for the produce section.  Meat, dairy and coffee can also be loaded with pesticides, additives and even growth hormones that I won’t go into today.

Scary, huh.  I thought so…which is why I spend the extra money at the store on organic.  I also try to buy from local, trusted sources.  And the best way to avoid pesticides – grow your own produce!

Hopefully this will help when you’re freaking out in the store about what to buy organic and what you can save your spondoolies on (that’s apparently a slang term for money…I’m not kidding, look it up.)  Happy, safe eating, everyone!

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