Monday, April 29, 2013

Color Me Green

Food dye causes (ahem) diarrhea.   Did she really just say that word on her blog?  Yes.  Yes, I did.  As long as I'm blogging about being healthy inside and out I will post my experiences, good and bad, as I learn about the wonderful world of processed foods.  Don't worry, I'm not sharing details on this specific incident.  You all have experienced it yourself I'm sure!

My eyes have been opened up to all sorts of un-natural habits we humans have gotten into over the last century. Though I've been gradually getting rid of all our processed junk in the kitchen, things keep popping up that I have never thought twice about in the past.  Like, for instance, food dye or food coloring.  This has been a staple for many Pinterest-inspired food treats.  Like these for example:

These little gems were perfect to help us celebrate Earth day and get my kids excited about learning how to take care of our planet.  And they were very tasty too with very little frosting on them.  However, they had one really bad side effect.  You guessed it.  I have never noticed this before but that might be because I have never used as much dye as I used in those cupcakes.  My ENTIRE family was suffering that day and I couldn't figure out why until my husband said, "honey, it must be your cupcakes."  But how?  It was a recipe I'm sure I've used before or at least very similar.  Nothing bad right?  Later on it hit me.  The food dye!  That had to be it.  It was the only thing different.  And the color of the stoo... well you don't need to know that part.  Lets just say it was pretty obvious what the culprit was.

So I did what I always do... googled the dangers of food coloring.  There was plenty of information out there to make me a little nervous about using it in excess in the future.  Or maybe even using it at all.  I was surprised by the sheer number of foods that use color additives simply for looks. Some were not surprising though like Kraft macaroni, Cheetos, and Mountain Dew.  Most "kids" packaged foods have tons of dye and almost every soda pop has it in there.  Whats worse... it's used to color our produce.  Citrus Red #2 is injected into oranges to give them the perfect orange color to be displayed in the supermarket.  Yet another reason to buy organic.  I read that a lot of food coloring is made from petroleum - like what we put in our cars.  Gross!  It's nice to know that by staying away from processed foods I am also staying away from the artificial colors.

Not all food coloring is created the same and there are plenty of natural options out there from bottled food coloring to simple ways to color your food using other foods or spices.  This site had some great ideas on how to color food naturally.  And I know from experience that spinach makes a great green dye and does NOT add a lot of extra flavor. I'm not done with food dye for good.  There are too many cool recipes out there for me to try.  But I will certainly be more careful about what I color our food with from now on!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Playground Abs

On this beautiful sunshiny, 63 degree, Colorado spring day I took the kids out to the park for a picnic lunch.  While we sat at the picnic table eating our little lunches I started thinking about doing a workout while the kids played.  There was no one around to watch so it was the perfect opportunity to try some things out.  My focus today?  Abs.

First let me say that I am not one of those perfectly ripped people with abs that can be displayed in a two piece swim suit, or a sports bra active wear top with matching yoga pants, though I do dream of the day.   I, like many women, would LOVE to have a core like that.  It could happen.  Maybe.  Well at least I can say I tried!  After two kids and a 70 pound weight loss, my mid section is a bit - shall we say fleshy, er, I mean "flabby."  So I will push forward to continue to bring my total body fat percentage down (which by the way is the best and most effective way to have VISIBLE abs) and strengthen my core muscles while I'm at it.

But there are more benefits to a strong core than just aesthetics.  Having a strong core can help you with everyday tasks, improve your balance, and even help alleviate lower back pain.  So if you have kids or grand kids, head to the park and "play" around!  And if you don't, find your inner child and try something different!

The Bucket Twist
 At my neighborhood park there is this little bucket looking thing that kids can sit in and spin around real fast in.  My boys LOVE to be pushed in it until they can't walk straight afterwards.  I have a different purpose for it.  Sit in the bucket and use your core muscles to move you from side to side.  The challenge is that the seat is designed to easily spin.  Try not to let it spin you around.  Use your core to keep you moving side to side in a steady controlled manner.

Reverse Swinging
 Another move inspired by my kiddos.  Lay on the swing instead of sitting and use your legs to keep you going.  Pull your knees to your chest as you move forward and push them back out as you move backward.  It's opposite of kicking and pulling your legs while swinging the traditional way.  This will really work your lower abs though I will say it is not the most comfortable positions!

The Bicycle 
 This can be done anywhere that you can lay back on your elbows.  I used this surf board looking thing to make it a little more challenging.  The board is designed to tilt and helps kids learn balance and they pretend to "surf" on it.  Lay back on your elbows and extend both legs in front of you.  One leg at a time, bring your knee to your chest and then return to your starting position.

Bench Tucks
 Find an empty bench.  Sit on the edge and extend your legs straight out in front of you.  Slowly bring your knees to your chest and return to your starting position.

 You can find all sorts of ways to do planks on a playground.  I used these concrete balls.  I have no idea what their intended purpose is other than to look like fun decorations.  Place your arms on the object of your choice and plant your feet behind you making a straight board with your body.  The lower to the ground you are, the harder.  You can even just use the ground or find some nice plush spring grass and take it all the way down to your elbows.  Try using the bottom of a slide, a ladder, or rock walls.  You can even use a cargo net which would make you have to balance a little more, causing you to engage your core muscles even more.

Slide Leg Lifts
This one is similar to the Bicycle.  Sit at the top of a slide and hold onto the bar for support.  One at a time, lift your knee to your chest and lower it back down to your starting position.  When you are finished, slide on down!!

The amount of reps for each exercise will depend on your fitness level.  I recommend starting with 12 - 15 reps each and moving up from there.  I love to work out to music.  I have made a playlist of songs that I cut into 1 and 2 min segments so I typically will do one exercise per song and not worry about counting reps.

Enjoy your workout!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Top 3 Loaves Using my Bread Machine

There is just nothing like fresh bread right?  The smell, the warmth, the melt-in-your mouth with some butter or honey... are you salivating yet?  A few years ago I started making bread but it was just for fun and only occasionally   Then around the time we moved I stopped making it all together opting instead for the fast and easy loaves at the grocery store.  Most of the time it was the low fat, 45 calorie Sara Lee variety for sandwiches and my favorite store bought bread sticks that resembled the Olive Garden.  It wasn't until I started paying attention to the ingredients labels that I decided to give bread a go again.

I am so glad I did!  The two most frequently used appliances in my kitchen are my Kitchenaid and my bread machine.  I've had this handy bread machine since, well probably since we were married over 10 years ago but all I knew how to do was buy a mix at the store and push a button.  Turns out that little bread machine is a miracle worker and helps cut the work tremendously!  We do not buy any bread from the grocery store anymore.  And I've upped the quality of my ingredients significantly too because your finished loaf is only as good as what you put in it.

Before I go into my recipes I want to show you WHY I make our own bread.  The other day I needed to make some quick sandwiches to take along with us as we were going to be running around with no time to come home to eat.  I would rather pack sandwiches than stop to get fast food.  BUT I had no time to make a loaf of bread.  So I went to King Soopers to pick me up some bread and a few other items.  I was very disappointed as I looked for a REAL loaf of bread to make our sandwiches with.  Almost every loaf contained high fructose corn syrup and those that didn't had an ingredient list a mile long.  Even the "Fresh Baked" bread had long ingredient lists."  I finally chose one but I think we'll stick to our bread machine from now on!  Check out this label from a fresh loaf of bread in the bakery.

Enough of that!  Now on to the recipes!

1.  Sandwich Bread

This is my go to bread.  We probably make this 2-3 times a week and we use it for PB&J's, toast, grilled cheese, etc.  It is perfectly soft yet slice-able without crumbling.  I have made just a few adjustments to the original recipe that I found on  You can find the original recipe here.  Keep in mind that some of my alterations are due to altitude so you will not have to make these adjustments if baking in Kansas.


1 cup warm water (approx 110 degrees)
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast*
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp salt
2 cups bread flour**
1 cup whole wheat flour


Place warm water, yeast, and sugar in your bread machine pan.  Let yeast proof for about 10 minutes.  This is not a normal bread machine process but it really helps the bread turn out great.  Add the rest of the ingredients and start your bread maker on the Basic setting.

If you are not using a bread machine:  After the yeast proofs, mix the other ingredients in by hand or mixer.  Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for several minutes.  Let dough rise for about an hour in a covered bowl.  Punch the dough down and place in a bread pan.  Let rise again until doubled in size.  Now you can bake it in your oven at 350 for 50-55 minutes.

* I did not have any trouble using active dry yeast instead of bread machine yeast.  I buy active yeast in bulk.  Also, normally a "packet" of yeast is about 1 tbsp.  I used a little bit less for altitude reasons.  I live in Denver and if you do not reduce the yeast a little, your bread will collapse.
** Original recipe calls for 3 cups of bread flour.  I like to add whole wheat flour to my recipes.  The loaf does NOT turn out tough or condensed as it sometimes can when you add whole wheat.

The great thing about making it from scratch: you can make it colorful if you want!  We made this green bread for St. Patrick's day.

2.  Pita Bread

Besides regular sandwich bread I have discovered the "dough" cycle on my Bread Maker.  It is genius   This pita bread is a perfect recipe made super easy by my trusty machine.

Another recipe from, Peppy's Pita Bread is a winner.  You can check out the recipe for yourself as I don't have to make any changes to this recipe. The altitude does not seem to matter.  Just dump your ingredients into the bread maker and press the "dough" cycle and half the work is already done for you!

3.  Ciabatta Bread

Another bread.  Are you sensing a pattern here?  I have a fabulous app on my computer that lets me save recipes from their site.  I love it!  You can find almost anything you can think up on there!  Anyway, back to the bread.  This one also uses the dough cycle on my bread machine.

Here is the recipe link.  This one is super easy and is possibly the stickiest dough I've made.  It is a very wet dough and like the original author says, you must resist the urge to add more flour.  This recipe made two beautifully golden brown loaves but you can also make little rolls if you choose.  We had a loaf with dinner one night and for sandwiches for lunch another day.  It was so yummy and easy!

I seem to have lost my pics of the other two breads.  No worries - I'll make some more and update the post later!  Stay tuned for more bread recipes using good old elbow grease and time.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Natural Eyeliner and Mascara

So this week I ran out of a few makeup essentials.  I truthfully do not wear a ton of makeup but there are a few things that I can't live without.  Mascara being the most important to me.  Other things like my press powder and lip gloss are also very important to me.  Those three items are my everyday items.  When I go out (which lets be honest is about once a month) I wear eye shadow, eyeliner and lipstick for bolder colors. When I'm having a bad zit day I also use concealer.

When I discovered that I am totally out of eyeliner, very low on mascara, and OUT of my pressed powder I started thinking of other ways to "paint my face." I didn't want to go out and buy expensive - wait I NEVER buy expensive makeup as I'm too cheap for that - toxic makeup.  I figured if I'm going to rid my food of the nasties and my house cleaners of toxic chemicals that I might want to think about changing my make up and toiletries too.  Stay tuned for a post coming up about my challenge to go "all natural" with things like shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, and lotion.

On to my make-up dilemma.  I started doing some searches on natural home made makeup and found several interesting techniques.  While a lot of them would work great, I wanted a recipe I could make without having to buy anything as cash is a little tight right now.  This method was the winner.  ***Disclaimer***  I am EXPERIMENTING with this.  I am NOT an expert.  However, I am excited to see how it works out and will blog later with an update on continued use.

A little background on Kohl eye cosmetics.  "Kohl" has been used for centuries as a method to paint eye lids and eyelashes and can be dated back to the Egyptians.  Back then they would have used lead as the main ingredient but of course today we know that lead can poison our bodies and therefore it is no longer made that way.  There are several ways people make it but I like the almond method best as I had them on hand.  

The "Kohl" powder:

Toast almonds (slices or whole ones chopped up - I even blended mine up a bit before I started) in a skillet until black all the way through.  Warning: this will smoke!!!  I ran my fan on the oven hood and also turned on my attic fan so as not to set off our smoke detector.  Once they have blackened, remove from heat and let cool.

Once the almonds have cooled, grind them into a very fine powder using a food processor, Magic Bullet (in my case), or mortal and pestle.  Place in a small clean container for storage.

Now for the fun part!!!  Are you ready to be brave and frugal with me?  I've made a tutorial as I went through the steps so follow along and lets make some inexpenive (free if you already have everything!) eyeliner and mascara.

For Eyeliner:

Mix together 1-2 tsp of Kohl powder with a few drops of olive oil.  Place in a clean and sterilized container.  I used a pill container from Walmart that I had around the house.  To apply, use a makeup brush or paint brush.  Clean brush out with soap and water after each use to keep bacteria out.

****UPDATE:  I have found this method to be a bit smudgy.  And if you do not grind the burnt almonds as much as you possibly can, it can also be clumpy.  Two things you don't really want in an eyeliner.  I am going to try this with coconut oil and see if it helps smooth things out.

For Mascara:

Mix together 1 tsp of Kohl powder and 1 tsp of honey.  I used an old mascara tube that I had, removed the rubber stopper, and filled it with my mixture.  This was after I cleaned it out really well and sterilized it.  If it is too thick or gloppy, you can add a drop or two of water by using the wand to plunge it in.  Be careful though, if you add too much water you have to start over so only use a few drops and then see how it works for you.  Apply like normal mascara.  It does dry on your lashes so don't worry about having sticky honey lashes all day.

Here is my basic tutorial.  Again - I do not claim to be an expert!!  But I do love that this is all natural and free!!!  Enjoy.  Leave a comment if you try it and tell me what you think!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Pizza Night!

Made from scratch pizzas.  Easy to make.  Easy to freeze.  Easy to have on hand.

Who doesn't love pizza right?  Pizza night used to be a regular thing at our house.  We would order from Domino's or Papa John's or even pick it up at Papa Murphy's (which was my favorite.)  This could get really expensive over time.  To remedy this problem we also had frozen pizza.  Especially when I was short on time.  I always had those little Totinos pizza's in the freezer.  You know the ones: 10 for 10 dollars on sale at Price Chopper?  But with a tight budget and a desire to go less processed, I devised a way for us to continue pizza night without the cost and extra ingredients.

Pizza dough is actually really easy to make!  I'm not just saying that.  It really is.  There are lots of great recipes out there but I have found one that I really like here.  I have modified it a little bit as I do not have a pizza stone and I prefer to bake with bread flour when making pizza crusts.  The great thing about this crust is you can roll it out without making it rise first.  OR if you have the time you can let it go through an hour rise before rolling it out to make the crust even chewier and fluffy.

Great Pizza Crust (Valentino's Pizza Crust)


1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1 tbsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups bread flour


1.  Preheat oven to 425.  Stir water, sugar and yeast together until dissolved.  Add the olive oil and the salt.  Mix in flour, kneading the dough on a lightly floured surface until dough is smooth and stretchy.  Let dough rest for 10 minutes.  If you have the time, here is

2.  Roll out dough or toss it if your brave!  Here's a video on how to do it just for fun.  I am no pro - I roll mine.  The recipe makes 1 14-16 inch pizza however, I like to make smaller sized pies to keep in my freezer.  I usually double the recipe and get about 6 10-12 inch pizzas.

3.  To Bake immediately:   Spray a pizza pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Sprinkle with corn meal.  Place rolled out dough on pan and use a fork to poke holes in it.  I like to bake mine for about 5 min first and then take it out and top it with my favorite toppings.  Bake for another 10 minutes.

4.  To make crusts for the freezer:   Spray a pizza pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Sprinkle with corn meal.  Place rolled out dough on pan and use a fork to poke holes in it.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Take out and let cool on a cooling rack.  When completely cooled, place in a large zip lock or other freezer safe bag, date it with a marker, and store in your freezer until the next pizza night.  It should keep for about 6 weeks.

Now you have crust that you can take out and top whenever your need a quick meal.  My kiddos like just plain old cheese so I usually have the other ingredients on hand.

Pizza Sauce

As far as sauce goes, I made an exceptionally well flavored pasta/pizza sauce the other day.  BUT, I did not write it down as I went.  I know, bummer.  Basically I sauteed yellow and orange peppers, onions, garlic, carrots, squash, and zucchini until the vegetables were very tender.  I added water so they would continue to soak up liquid.  Then I used my Magic Bullet to blend them together.  I don't think I could get away with chunks of anything in our pizza sauce.  I also blended up 2 cans of organic diced tomatoes.  Then I cooked this all together in a sauce pan and added Italian seasoning, garlic salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes until it got to the taste I was looking for.  It turned out fantastic and I had plenty to save.  I put them in smaller sized containers in my freezer with a label so I can easily take one out and use it next time we want pizza.

Spinach and Herb Pizza

My favorite pizza right now?  Spinach and herb with feta and fresh mozzarella.  It's a great way to use up my spinach when I get a little over board and buy too much for our family to eat before spoiling!  It was an experiment to try to use up my spinach so I didn't have to waste it.  I was so pleased with the outcome that I have now made it several times.  Unfortunately my picky eaters were not willing to give it a try but I LOVED it.

1 pizza crust
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Italian dressing
garlic salt
generous amount of Italian Seasoning
onion powder or dried onions
2 oz fresh mozzarella
3 - 4 tbsp feta crumbles
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

Brush pizza crust with olive oil making sure to get the outer edges as well.  Brush Italian dressing over that.  Sprinkle garlic salt and onion powder/dried onions all over.  Generously sprinkle Italian seasoning all over.  Add the feta, sprinkling all over.  Next up - spinach leaves.  Spread them out evenly over the crust.  Do not be shy with these - it will love like a gigantic salad at first but it turns out awesome.  Finally add your mozzarella on top.  Because I find it harder to shred fresh mozzarella  I usually cut it up in to small chunks and spread the chunks out as best I can.  They melt just fine.  Put it in the oven and bake to perfection!

Enjoy!  Happy Pizza Night!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

5 Reasons Water Classes are AWESOME

Currently I teach a fitness class in the water Mon/Wed/Fri mornings.  I call it Aqua Groove.  When I first began teaching classes in the water I was a little skeptical.  I wondered who would be interested in such a class and whether anyone would actually show up.  I am not certified through Zumba Fitness for the water so I could not call it "Aqua Zumba" but it's basically the same thing.  Or at the very least, extremely similar.  (This will be remedied in June when I get my Aqua Zumba certification.)  I have been pleasantly surprised by the response.  In my Mon/Fri classes it is not unusual to have 25 people in the pool and we've even gotten up to 32.  It has far exceeded my expectations and has been so rewarding for me as a fitness instructor.  I LOVE seeing the joy on peoples faces as they burn off the stress and calories.

But not everyone is willing to give this class format a try.  Water aerobics has had a history of being only for "elderly" or pregnant women.  This is NOT the case!  I have a wide variety of people in my classes.  Young, older, fit, not fit, pregnant, not pregnant, men, women... the list goes on.

Check out this teaser for Aqua Zumba and tell me it doesn't look like a blast!

I decided it was time to get some REAL facts on water aerobics.

5 Reason's water is awesome

1. No one can see you!

You can shake it and no one can see all those parts that you don't actually want to shake!  Plus if you don't do the right move or go on the wrong foot, no one knows.  And if you have to modify something because it's too difficult, no one would be the wiser.  In my opinion, the pool is the great equalizer.  Some people cringe at the thought of getting in a swim suit but when you are in class, the only thing anyone else sees is your bright beautiful face and that smile you can help but sport as you let the music take you away.

2.  You WILL burn calories  

Do not be fooled.  Just because you don't feel your heart racing, lose your breath, or sweat a ton, does NOT mean you are not burning calories.  According to the Aquatic Exercise Association you can actually burn about 400 - 500 calories in an hour class depending on your size, the intensity of your movements and water temperature.

3.  Helps build muscle

Exercising in water is 12 times the resistance of air.  That means that simply by pushing against the water or cupping your hands, you are already working harder than you would on land.  Add in the water weights for the handful of songs we do with them and you compound that even more.  In my classes we do 4 water weight segments that work your arms, legs, and core muscles.

4.  Easy on joints

This one kind of goes without saying but being in the water is simply easier on your joints than on land.  Water classes are considered a low-impact workout.  In fact, your body may feel up to 90 times lighter in the water.  That's a lot of stress taken off those joints and muscles!  If you have any problems doing regular Zumba classes, walking a treadmill, or taking any other fitness class on land, try taking a water class.  To put it in prospective you could walk on a treadmill for an hour and burn 400-500 calories but your joints might scream at you.  Instead, you could take a water aerobics class and burn the same calories while saving yourself from joint pain.

5.  Water keeps you cool

Working out in water is especially great if you are overweight or tend to overheat easily.  The water will naturally keep your body temperature down so you can keep going.

Come take a class with me or check out classes at your local gym!  You won't regret it.  Check out my FB page for times and locations.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit...

I've been noticing my cabinet (or rather my sorry excuse for a pantry) has been thinning out since we've started eliminating processed foods from our life.  Those three little shelves used to be stuffed to the brim with Cheese-its, Goldfish, tons of pasta, canned veggies, canned soups, canned beans, canned fruit, instant rice, instant <cringe> mashed potatoes, microwave popcorn, and a whole number of other pre-packaged snacky foods with claims of being "low fat" or "only 90 calories."  

I did not really cook a lot with beans but when I did, I ALWAYS used canned beans.  Up until 3 weeks ago I had never even thought of using dry beans.  All that work and time?  No way - I wanted it NOW.  But I have learned a fantastic little kept secret.  Dry beans are NOT that difficult to make, they taste better, AND they are not full of - well who knows what, right?!  An excellent source of protein and fiber, a diet rich in beans can actually help you reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure as well as improve diabetic blood glucose control.  Preventive medicine in a tiny little bean.  Yes please!  

Of course you can still benefit from using canned beans so don't let that stop you from eating them.   But if you have never tried them from their dry state, give it a go.  Here are a few ways to do so.  

Method 1
Place the beans in a container that has a lid.  Pour cold water over them until the are submerged and then cover.  Let sit overnight.  (I left mine in the refrigerator until I needed them the next day for my recipe.)  You might need to add more water before you go to bed.  This method does not cook them.  The beans are ready to be cooked the next day. This is the longest method but yields the best results while keeping the nutrition benefits high.

Method 2
The "quick" method.  This works great for me.  Preheat your oven to 250.  Place the beans is either a dutch oven (on my wish list) or a regular pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil for about 3 minutes.  If using a dutch oven, transfer them directly to the preheated oven.  Otherwise, transfer the beans to an oven safe dish with a lid.  Let them bake for 75 minutes.  After the initial 75 minutes add water if needed and check every 15 minutes until you have your desired consistency.  Mine usually take about 90 minutes total.

Now what? Of course you can use your beans on their own like black beans or pinto beans on taco night or throw some in a salad.  Or you can get a little fancy.  Are you ready?  Lets make some bean recipes!  Click on the links below the pictures for the recipes.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

10 Ways to Cut Toxins from your Kitchen

Making the switch from insanely processed foods to simpler choices seemed a bit overwhelming at first.  Was I to throw ALL of my food away and start from scratch?  Seemed like a waste to me - not to mention costly.  Gradually we whittled away at the foods, condiments, and household cleaning supplies we had in our house.  Each time we ran out of something I set out to replace it with a healthier, safer option.  Here are the top 10 items we switched and LOVE!

1. Butter

Only a handful of months ago I was buying Blue Bonnet Light ALL the time.  I used it for all my butter needs completely convinced that I was eating healthy because it was so low in calories.  This was my go to butter when I was on Weight Watchers.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVED Weight Watchers and lost a lot of weight on it, but in trying to keep my points down I tended to lean towards low fat, low calorie options that were, unknown to me, chalk full of extra chemicals, toxins, and just plain junk.  Check out the difference in making one simple switch.  I went from 14 ingredients to 2 and it tastes sooooo much better!  And when used moderately it's really not a great difference in points either for those of you out there still doing WW.

2. Salad Dressing

Kraft was my best friend when it came to salad dressings.  Especially fat free or low fat varieties.  I have found salad dressing very easy to make and with the help of my Facebook friends, I had several recipes to try.  This is my favorite one so far: Balsamic Vinaigrette.  I plan to try making Ranch and French dressings soon.  I'll report back!

3. Cooking Oil

This one was a no-brainer for me.  I was a little nervous at first when I heard of using coconut oil to cook with.  Would it taste like coconut?  The verdict: Not at all.  Now let me clarify one thing.  I do not cook with VIRGIN coconut oil which is actually a much healthier option but DOES have a coconut-ish flavor.  The brand I use is called Lou Ana and while it is more processed than virgin coconut oil, with only one ingredient I find it MUCH better than any alternative.  I have used it to fry, saute, and bake with and so far it has worked everywhere I would have otherwise used Crisco or canola/vegetable oil.

4. Maple Syrup

I was shocked when I turned around that cheap pancake syrup bottle and looked at what was actually inside.  What was so shocking is that "maple syrup" wasn't even listed in the ingredients!  We now enjoy 100% maple syrup with our whole wheat pancakes in the mornings.  So simple.  All I needed to do was look at the label and make a wiser choice.

5. Kitchen Cleaners

Is there anything more dangerous in my kitchen than my cleaners?  I mean what do they put in 409 anyway?  I try not to think too hard about it but with a 2 and 3 year old I'm afraid I MUST think about it.  At least a little.  Of course I try to put them where they won't be played with and I don't imagine my kids drinking them but you just never know.  Not only that but there are tons of toxins released into the air when I clean the counters, windows, floors, and attempt to "freshen" the air.

I have recently learned that Asthma is becoming a huge problem for kids, even kids under 5, due to environmental factors.  I feel it my duty to make our home (especially the kitchen where we do most of our living) as toxin free as I possibly can.  Enter Shaklee.  I've said it before, I do not represent them in any way and there are probably others out there but I LOVE their long commitment to clean, green, safe products.

6. Popcorn

I'm sure we've all heard some rumor about microwave popcorn causing cancer before.  Sometimes I feel like everything causes cancer so why should I even try.  Ever feel that way?  Well I don't know if microwave popcorn causes cancer but I DO know that there is more to it than just popcorn kernels and butter.  Recently my husband and I purchased a 1970's air popcorn maker at the local thrift shop for 8 bucks!  You can buy a brand new one from Walmart for $20-$30.  It is well worth it.  The kids LOVE to help make it and I know that the only thing in our lovely snack is popcorn kernels, a bit of butter, and a sprinkle of salt.

7. Snacks

When I started examining what was in all the snacks I used to eat and feed my family I was disgusted by the "extras" that made up the ingredient list. So I set out to make my own snacks.  You can check out my post, 4 Great Snacks for Clean Eating here.  Now, I love to cook and bake but I know a lot of people don't or just don't have time to do it.  One thing that would really help cut out those extra toxins is to snack on fruits and veggies.  We love hummus at our house.  It's easy to make and it's a great dip to give those veggies a kick.  My kids love dipping stuff.  You can also make a pretty simple yogurt dip for fruit.  In fact, I'm seeing a "dip" post in the future!  Another option is to buy organic snacks like Annie's Bunnies.  I buy these at Sam's club for those times when I don't feel like baking something or I need it fast.

8. Cheese and Milk

Cheese and milk were some of the first things we switched out in our house.  You can read about my switch to natural cheese here.  Before I started really getting into nutrition I never bought organic milk.  Why?  Because it's so expensive!  Or at least I thought it was.  Then I found this great local company that delievers fresh milk to our doorstep.  That's right, we have a milk man!  The kids think it is the greatest thing that he visits our house once a week and leaves us milk, cheese, eggs, and butter while they are sleeping.  But even if you do not have this kind of service near you, consider making the switch at your local grocery store.  It is worth the money to not have the extra hormones and antibiotics.  Especially if you go through milk as fast we do!

9. Organic Produce

I will admit that this one was a little difficult for me at first.  I had a real problem justifying spending so much more money on "organic" verses regular.  As I started reading more and more and understanding the kinds of chemicals and toxins that are sprayed on our produce I felt compelled to buy "the good stuff" no matter the cost.  I look for sales and I shop at a place here in Denver called Sprouts.  I'm really looking forward to the grow season so that I can grow our own vegetables and shop at farmers markets.  This switch did not happen over night.  Some organic produce is easier to find and cheaper to buy than others.  So I started out small and even now, I am still making the switch on some stuff I buy.  We tried an organic delivery service called Door To Door Organics for a week and really liked it.  It was a bit out of my price range though so I shop sales and find it where I can.  Bottom line is, I feel much better knowing that I am doing my best to keep those unwanted and unnecessary toxins out of our refrigerator.  I've also found that our grocery budget has not been adversely effected since we no longer spend lots of money on processed foods.  It seems to balance out.

10. Bread

Whenever possible I try to make our own bread.  Slowly I have switched from buying breads to making our own healthier versions without the preservatives.  It always weirded me out a little that my 45 calorie bread stayed untouched by mold for weeks.  In a later post I will give some of my favorite bread recipes.  So far I've made lots of bread in my bread machine but I've also been making hamburger buns, pitas, corn and flour tortillas, dinner rolls, and pizza crust. It takes extra work and planning but it cuts out a lot of processed junk and it saves money!

As I said earlier these changes did not happen over night but hopefully you have some ideas on how YOU can help cut out the toxins in your own kitchen.  Thanks for reading!  Have a blessed day.