snacking is hard in a cube...

note to self: do not bring celery as a snack on the first day with coworkers in a quiet cube space.


quick, healthy lunches

so, many of you know that i start my new job tomorrow. this new position gives me the great opportunity to start packing healthy lunches and snacks (the old job provided lunch--think white bread turkey sandwiches or chicken fingers over salad...). to not get into a ham-and-cheese sandwich rut, however, i need to start thinking outside of the box.

this week i did swing by the deli counter for some sliced meats, so i will have a sandwich for a couple of meals. i also made some healthy apple-cinnamon muffins (i put cinnamon in the batter, too; these are cora's favs!) that i can grab for breakfast, in addition to some fruit or yogurt for a mid-morning snack. i also enjoy toasting a whole-wheat english muffin topped with crunchy peanut butter for breakfast (finish it with banana slices and my toes curl...).  for an afternoon snack,  i plan to make giada's white-bean dip that i can pair with some whole-grain crackers. other days i can pair the crackers with a light cheddar-cheese stick to mix it up.

what are some good lunch and snack ideas that other people have used? a couple of weeks ago, i made ellie krieger's homemade nutty granola--awesome!--and paired it with vanilla yogurt. i'd love to hear more ideas!


organics on a budget

having just returned from the grocery store, the topic of whether or not to buy organic foods is on my mind. i've been buying organic milk fairly regularly for quite some time now after i read that dairy and meat products should be your first switch, followed by produce, when considering a commitment to organics. that said, i don't like the organic selection of yogurts (has anyone started eating greek yogurt with honey and fruit yet?), and i haven't made the switch with my cheeses. i also haven't convinced myself to pay for the highly marked-up organic meats. $9 per pound for chicken breasts is just too much for me to justify...tyson it is.

now that all sounds really confusing, doesn't it? that's because it is; i go back and forth about where i stand on the issue. yes, i think it's important to reduce the amount of chemicals, hormones, and pesticides we consume. and, yes, i think it's important to treat the earth better when farming. but i can't afford to do it all the time. sorry, mother earth!

so, here's my approach: i make my grocery list each week, pull my coupons (yes, i am a nerd--but a thrifty nerd!), and make my way to the store. my first stop--after oggling the fresh-baked breads--is to the produce section. before i go anywhere else in the section, i head straight to organics. i put whatever is on sale in my cart first, then head to the rest of the section for the other items on my list. i do the same for crackers, etc, and have fully committed to paying the extra $.25 for a can of organic beans--in hopes that buying one organic protein will make up for the lack of buying the previously mentioned chicken. this method allows me to buy organics at a discount, reduce my intake of chemicals for the week, and support organic farming practices. read happy budget, happy me, and happy organic farmers.

the environmental working group published a list of the "dirty dozen" produce items that should always be purchased organic because of the high levels of pesticides found in their non-organic cousins. they are: peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuces, grapes (imported), carrots, and pears. on the flip side, they also published fifteen of the safest non-organic foods, which are: onions, avocadoes, sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, cabbages, eggplants, papayas, watermelon, broccoli, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. do you notice any trends when reading through these lists? as a general rule, thin-skinned fruit and veggies should be purchased organic; foods with hulls, husks, or shells are generally protected a little better. there are a few exceptions, of course, but it's a pretty handy set of guidelines...and it makes it much less ominious when attempting to select organic foods on a budget!

my next step--one that i've been meaning to do for quite a while--is to hit up our local farmer's market for my weekly food yummies. it's important when considering what's good for the environment and for a budget to consider buying locally. the additional cost and pollution is increased dramatically when a plum has to be flown to my store from peru. i love the term that has been dubbed for people who make an effort to eat locally: locavores!

so, that's where i stand so far. i don't want to come across as a tree-hugging, bare-footed hippy (though i do love trees and being barefoot...), but i do think it's important to take responsibility as a consumer. we make a statement with what we purchase, and i hope that mine is that i try to do right by our planet and my body. tell me your thoughts on this.

on the menu this week (it's finally cool outside!): cooktop cassoulet with chicken and sausage (a recipe from my sister-in-law); mahi-mahi with roy's restaurant home-made blackening seasoning recipe, vegetables, and butternut squash-curry soup; slow-cooker pot roast with potatoes and veggies; and a tortellini with spinach and prosciutto. i'll share the reviews and recipes when i can; have a great week!


chicken tacos with mango-avocado salsa

this was my second mango recipe this week. i think subconsciously i am trying to hang on to summer as long as possible by eating warm-weather foods. and, heck, why not--it's still 80+ degrees here!

this recipe is good, but would have been better had my jalapeno not disappeared (i'm wondering if it jumped ship from my shopping cart...?). it's from cooking light magazine--oh, how i love thee--but i made a couple of adjustments. We also served it with a "quick" black-bean soup from food & wine magazine, but i think there are better recipes out there. i'll try again when the weather gets cooler.

so, without further adieu, i present the recipe for chicken tacos with mango-avocado salsa:

4 servings (serving size: 2 tortillas, 1 chicken breast half, and 1/2 cup salsa)

1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced peeled mango (I used one mango)
1/2 cup diced peeled avocado (I used one avocado)
1/2 cup chopped tomato (I used one small tomato, seeded)
1/3 cup prechopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño pepper (didn't have)
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas (I used whole-wheat soft-taco tortillas)
I also added light shredded Mexican cheese and light sour cream (gotta have my calcium!)

1. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Combine first 4 ingredients; stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Rub over chicken. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken; cook 4 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

2. While chicken cooks, combine mango and next 6 ingredients (through jalapeño); stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.

now, this would be an excellent, healthy, and quick main dish, paired with brown rice and black beans as well. with the soup, i could only eat one fat taco, so be prepared to be full!

let me know what you think and enjoy!