The Big “O”


Let’s take a minute and talk about the “O” word. No, not that “O” word. I’m talking about the word “organic.” It seems this simple word has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon and everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to suddenly “go organic.” But what does the term “organic” really mean? Quite simply, it means that a certain piece of produce or food ingredient has been grown without the use of pesticides, chemicals, synthetic fertilizers, sewage (mmmm, sewage), genetically-modified organisms or ionizing radiation. For some reason, consumers have come to think that the term “organic” somehow means that the food is also low in fat, sugars, sodiums etc., but in reality, that is not always the case. Sugar can be labeled organic but when broken down calorically, it’s still sugar. It still provides the same amount of carbohydrates and calories as conventional sugar, it just hasn’t been treated with any pesticides or chemicals. So is it actually healthier for you? Technically, yes, since you aren’t exposing your body’s cells to harmful agents, but in the end, your body still recognizes it as sugar and thus utilizes and stores it in the exact same ways. I find it unfortunate that people are willing to shell out exorbitant amounts of money on an item simply because it is labeled “organic” without really figuring out if it’s worth the extra cost. Granted, there have been some studies to show that eating certain foods grown organically are actually more nutritious for you. And by nutritious, I mean that they contain more antioxidants, vitamins and phytochemicals than conventionally-grown foods do and at times, are even superior in taste and quality. Ever had an organically-grown strawberry during the peak of its season? Mind-blowingingly delicious! And perhaps for those items, it is worth it to spend the extra money. But in my opinion (and that’s all that this is, remember), choosing to stick with conventionally grown for a certain portion of my groceries, is still an okay thing to do, physically and especially financially speaking.

Now one of the areas that I pay close attention to when deciding whether to buy conventional or organic is in the produce section. These items seem to be hit the hardest with pesticides if not organically farmed so I make sure to know which ones are safest to buy if I go the conventional route and which ones I should only buy organic. The Environmental Working Group has made a list of the fruits and veggies that are the most toxic when grown non-organically. Take this list with you the next time you go grocery shopping.

The Dirty Dozen (listed in order of most toxic)
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Grapes
  • Pears
  • My Beloved Carrots

The good news is there is also a list known as the Clean Fifteen which is comprised of the fruits and veggies that are acceptable to purchase without the organic stamp of approval. Mostly due to their having thick, protective skins that tend to shield the edible parts from harmful pesticides.

The Clean Fifteen
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet Peas
  • Sweet Corn
  • Watermelon
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Sweet Potato

Okay, enough about organic foods for the time being. I’ll get off my little soapbox for a while. Just long enough to provide you with a delicious recipe that incorporates quite a few items from both the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.

Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Topping

2-3 large sweet potatoes, chopped into large chunks

1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt

1 tbsp Earth Balance or Butter

2 tsp canola oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb. ground 99% fat-free Organic turkey breast

2 large zucchini, chopped

6 oz. tomato sauce

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

3 tbsp water

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp dried thyme

salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup frozen corn

dash of Nutmeg


1) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 2 qt deep casserole dish with cooking spray.

2) Place potatoes in a large pot of water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain and return to burner (make sure burner is turned off). Add yogurt and Earth Balance and blend with a hand mixer until smooth but not watery. Set aside.

3) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the onions, carrots, ground turkey and garlic. Cook until turkey is no longer pink. Add the zucchini and saute 2-3 minutes.

4) In a small bowl, mix the flour with the water. Add to the skillet along with the tomato sauce, Worcestershire, thyme, salt, pepper, peas and corn. Stir well to combine and simmer 5-7 minutes to allow sauce to thicken.

5) Pour turkey mixture into bottom of prepared casserole dish. Spread sweet potato mash evenly over top of turkey and sprinkle with nutmeg.

6) Bake 30 minutes or until sweet potato topping is slightly browned.

7) Remove from oven and allow to sit 5-10 minutes before serving. Dig in and enjoy all the goodness of a deliciously healthy autumn-inspired casserole.


Another recipe that doesn’t photograph too well, but still tastes amazing. Thank you, shepherds, for this great idea for a pie.

Now if you don’t mind, I must be going. I need to go finish writing up my thesis on the anti-carcinogenic benefits of Daucus Carotus consumption in Latin American canines.


3 responses »

  1. I used to keep this list in my purse but lost it. So glad you posted this so I can use it again. Great advice! Also, will be trying the sheperds pie soon now that we’re having this fall weather.

    • Thanks Abuela! I’m glad you found my advice useful. Let me know how the pie turns out if and when you make it. Te amo 🙂

      • We had it last night and it was really delicious! It makes a lot so we’ll be having it again tonight and I can’t wait. You’re abuelo went on and on about how good it was after 2 heaping helpings. Thanks, Teeny!!

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