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Tips for Making Neon Pasta.. or Why You Should Make Neon Pasta

Neon Pasta

I first posted these photos in 2012 as a fun tribute to the opening of Disney’s the Lorax. This answers the question of why I originally wanted to make neon pasta. Yes, the broccoli was meant to represent the trees from the movie and the blue alfredo sauce- the river.  But after my neon pasta photo was listed as a Pinterest favorite photo of the day and has been shared thousands of times, I figured that maybe more than Lorax fans would want to cook up some neon pasta of their own.  Here’s my tips to making your pasta pop (we’ll answer the “why” later):

The Lorax Pasta

Toni’s Tips for Making Neon Pasta

Tip #1:  Choose A Fun Shape

Bowtie, penne, elbow, or my favorite- cavatappi pasta…. the purpose behind making neon pasta should undoubtedly determine its shape. Having a rainbow-themed party? Elbow. Want to bring the 80’s to dinner? Linguine.  And, for a formal affair, use bowtie, of course.

Tip #2:  Use Premium Food Dye

You can use an entire bottle of a cheap grocery store food dye and it still won’t give you the bright colors a professional food dye can (can you say “Pinterest fail”?). My favorite dyes are Wilton and Duff, which can both be found in Michaels or Walmart. In fact, Duff has a special line of neon colors like “Electric Pink” and “Electric Purple”.

Tip 3:  Don’t Toss Your Gold (your pasta water, that is)

If you follow any of my tips, you’ll want to follow this one. I call my pasta water liquid gold because I save it to the side for when my pasta gets dry and dehydrated, I simply splash some pasta water over the pasta to get it shiny again.  Take a glass measuring cup and scoop out the water before draining the pasta, one cup for every half pound of pasta.

scoop out pasta water

Tip #4:  Don’t Mix Your Water

Yes, you will have to boil each color individually (I know, duh). I start with my lightest color first and work my way up to the darkest colors. This makes saving your pasta water to rehydrate the pasta even more critical. The alternative is to get out three or four pots and boil them at the same time in separate pots, but personally, I only like to wash one pot.


Why You Want to Make Neon Pasta (come on, you know you want to)

I know you’re probably searching your brain for a reason to make neon pasta by now, right? The truth is that it’s just a fun touch to a party. Here are my reasons:

Reason #1:  80’s Themed Party

A few years ago I threw an 80’s themed party for my niece and thought a nice addition to some pizza would be a big bowl of neon spaghetti with their choice of marinara or alfredo sauce to top. It turned out to be one of the biggest hits of the party when I only thought it would be just a nice added touch. The girls talked about it all night.  You can read more about it here:

80s party

Reason #2:  Beach Themed Party

Okay, I might have gone a bit too far with this one. A friend was having beach-themed party for her daughter and needed some help so I made some “Surf’s Up Pasta” (blue cavatappi pasta for the waves) with a choice of Shark Attack Sauce (marinara) or “Sunset Sauce” (alfredo).  Yep.  Big hit.

Surfs Up Pasta


Reason 3#:  Because It’s Fun

Do you really need a reason to make neon pasta?  If you do, please refer to reasons 2 & 3 above.

Share Your Neon Pasta Photo #OrganizedCook

If you decide that neon pasta should be served at your next party and decide to take a photo, please tag me at @OrganizedCook on Instagram or Twitter, or post a photo to my Facebook.  Would love to share it with the rest of our readers!


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7 Reasons To Grow A Home Garden

I’m not a gardening expert. In fact, I don’t know that I even qualify as a “gardener”.

What I do know is that each Spring I get out in my home garden with the kids and do my best (okay, perhaps not my “best”) to learn more about growing our own fruits and vegetables at home. My efforts have yet to yield a harvest that can be viewed by anyone as worth the effort. Last Summer I think we got four radishes. That doesn’t seem worth the hours we put into gardening each week.

So why do I garden? Here are seven reasons.


Reason #1: “It’s Fun”- Cassidy Spilsbury (It’s Also a Great Learning Experience for Kids)

According to Cassidy who is standing right next to me as I’m typing, gardening is “fun”. “It’s fun doing all the steps, from planting to watering”, she continues. I’ll throw in the fact that it’s an amazing learning opportunity for the kids to not only learn about growing food, but about where food comes from. In fact, studies have shown that students who participate in school gardening programs score higher on standardized testing (Bartosh, 2003).

Home Garden

read “A Bit of Earth” blog post here

The truth is, there’s no better family project to do while purposefully working toward something together than gardening. It’s where team work and learning meet fun and creativity for every member of our family.

The kids help me plan our garden by choosing which vegetables and herbs we’ll grow. We research growing season and carefully select seeds. Okay, that sounds like we know a lot more about what we’re doing than we actually do… let’s just say that it’s been a big learning experience.

Read more here about the Great Tomato Seedling Disaster of 2011:

Home Garden

Read “The One That Got Away” blog post here


Reason #2: Not To Sound Cliche, but It’s Relaxing

I may not be an expert on gardening, but I do know a thing or two… or three about the need to relax. My sister recently described me as a “cyclone” that is “constantly in motion”. Here’s what I said in early 2011 about gardening:

“After spending a couple hours working in my garden today, I came inside feeling as light and crisp as a freshly picked snap pea. I totally understand now why gardening is a hobby for so many people.”

Home Gardening

oh yeah, these died too.


Reason #3: What If

Last year I wrote about “Victory Gardening”, a movement during World War II to help the food shortage by planting home gardens. During the war, the government’s edict on rationing kept food supply at an all-time low, so Americans began growing food in any plot of dirt they could get their hands on.

Our food supply is fine right now. But what if. What if something happened (God forbid) that disrupted that supply: war, pandemic, bee shortage? Hello!- bee shortage?

I don’t want to be the person trying to figure out how to plant a garden a day late and a dollar short. Many apologies for the dramatic scenarios, but I’m “just saying”.

Victory Gardening

read “Victory Gardening” blog post here



Reason #4: GMO’s (No More Frankenstein Food, Please)

If you’re one of the many Americans who is completely oblivious to the severity of the situation of our genetically modified foods (GMO’s), I urge you to take a minute to learn more about it now because I guarantee you will be outraged. (video at bottom of this page)

If you’re my age, then like me, you remember a time when kids could pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school. You remember growing up and entering adulthood having never heard the word “gluten”. There were no gluten-free foods because everyone could eat it. You are what you eat, and when your food is being mutated, your body will follow.

Before you write off the need to educate yourself on GMO’s, know that in Europe, 7% of their food comes from genetically modified crops, while in the U.S. it’s 77%. Stupide Americaans (in French accent). Major chocolate manufacturers create two batches of chocolate- one made with GMO’s for the ignorant Americans and one batch of chocolate made from ingredients not genetically modified for the rest of the world that cares to care.

I don’t know where this road is taking us, so I’m going to learn more now about growing my own food.


Reason #5: Photo Opp

Let’s lighten the mood a bit with another reason to grow your own home garden. It creates great photo opportunities.

If you’re a photography addict like I am, you know a good opportunity when you see it. A few years ago I created an entire photo shoot of my kids in the garden to use for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day photo gifts.

Summer Garden Photo Shoot

check out “Kids Garden Photo Shoot” here

Reason #6: Economics

Unless radishes are running around $75.00 each, I can’t honestly say that gardening has been “frugal” for me… yet. I still consider the time and money I’ve put into gardening well worth it however, just in educational experience and fun with the kids.

If you are able to yield a harvest that enables you to reduce your grocery spending, that’s a huge benefit combined with the fact that it’s organic and all-natural. A recent trip to my local farmers market brought me avocados at $2.50 each (yes, each) and organic kale for $3.00 a bundle. I use two bundles of kale a week just for my green smoothies. You do the math.

Now that I’m composting, I expect my future gardens to bear much fruit.

one of our garden successes



Reason #7: Because You Get To Do This

One thing I have managed to grow well in my garden is herbs. For someone who uses many herbs in recipes, this has been a great resource. I love cooking in the kitchen and running out to my garden to clip some rosemary or basil (or asking the kids to do it) to use in my meal.

When I’m producing more herbs than we can use, I like to chop them up and store them in ice cube trays with melted butter, olive oil and garlic. Then, during the Fall and Winter months, I simply pop out a couple of these cubes to use in sautes or soups.


Herb Garden



Learn more about composting:

Home Composting

home composting


And just in case you’re interested in “getting in the know” about the food you eat every day that comes from genetically modified crops (GMO’s):


Grow A Home Garden

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Fourth Fireworks, Family, Fun, Friends & Food

It’s not a 4th of July celebration without……

What makes the 4th of July a celebration? For me, it’s all about my favorite “F’s”: Family, Fun, Friends and Food. Oh, and let’s not forget the Fireworks.

As I prepare for our 4th of July celebration this year, I enlist the details that make it a celebration.

To start off, I select just the perfect way to let my friends and family know they’re invited with this fun invitation. By creating an image for my invitation, I can Facebook, text message or email it. I can even do things the old-fashion way and print it.

4th of July Party Invitation

1. Food

Some of my favorite 4th of July recipes can be found here, like my Herb-Marinated Flank Steak and Red, White & Blue Potato Salad:


4th July Steak

Herb Marinated Flank Steak Recipe


Potato Salad Recipe

Red, White & Blue Potato Salad Recipe


2. Fun

I always have something fun for the kids to do. This year we’re making our Lemonade Stand again so the kids can entertain themselves and guests.

Kids Lemonade Stand

“A Family Tradition”- Kids Lemonade Stand, read more here


3. Fancy

It’s time to decorate! With a few special touches, it’s simple to create a celebration your guests will not soon forget in my “4th of July Fun in Retro Blue & Red”.

4th July Decor

4th of July Decorating, read more here



4. Fireworks

We’re fortunate to have a jaw-dropping aerial fireworks show each year (thanks to some awesome neighbors), but I it’s not the 4th of July without sparklers. Here’s last year’s celebration redone in 1960’s Picasa:

2012 4th of July Celebration in 1960’s Picasa



 5. reFreshments

For a party, I love to make my Homemade Summer Sangria. Some non-alcoholic favorites, I make a simple punch with fresh blueberries and strawberrries.

Homemade Sangria

Summer Sangria Recipe


Pomegranate Crystal Light with fresh blueberries and strawberries

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We’re Composting!

That’s right, the Spilsbury family has taken the not-so-giant leap to composting.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to trade in my BCBG pumps for a pair of Birkenstocks just yet. The fact of the matter is that I just couldn’t not compost anymore.

For an entire year I’ve felt guilty each time I tossed out wilted lettuce, eggs shells, banana peels or tomato tops. I would look out onto my struggling garden that seemed to be begging for nutrients. It was like throwing food out in front of starving children.

Las Vegas isn’t exactly the ideal place for growing fruits and vegetables, with nutrient-deficient soil being one of the main problems. I started to feel like I was throwing out gold.

It didn’t require a lot of work to begin composting. I simply purchased a compost container for the backyard from and assembled it (okay, I had someone else assemble it), but you get the picture. Most of the work in composting comes from training your family to not throw away compost material.

Home Composting

egg shells are awesome for compost

I keep a small bucket on the kitchen counter while we accumulate scraps throughout the day. While I’m cleaning the kitchen that evening I have the kids run the bucket out and toss the contents into the compost container. Once a week I have the gardener throw in a bag of grass clippings and then I toss in any brown paper bags (like the ones from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods) that I acquired from forgetting my reusable shopping bags.

It’s actually pretty simple. Of course, I never use any animal fats, pet waste or other non-organic materials in our compost. For a great beginners guide to composting, visit Whole Foods Home Composting: The Basics.

I’m thinking that by this time next year my garden will be as fertile as a Montana prairie.

Banana Split French Toast by The Organized Cook

don’t toss these babies in the trash!


Why Do I Garden?

Recently I wrote about 7 Reasons To Grow A Home Garden here:

Home Gardening

read “7 Reasons To Grow A Home Garden” here


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