Friday, September 30, 2011

Savings on Tea

There are a lot of great tea coupons out right now - perfect for the Clean Eater. Drink it hot in the morning, cool in the afternoon if plain water doesn't do it for you, and a hot herbal tea before bed to wind down.

.75 / 1 Celestial Seasonings Tea - You will have to give email address to print

$1 / 1 Numi Organic Tea  Click on "Printable Coupons" link to the left of the page

.50 / 1 any Tetley Tea - You have to give email address to print

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Better Oats Raw Multigrain Hot Cereals

There's getting to be a chill in the air, even here below the Mason-Dixon line. Cold yogurt just doesn't hit the warm, comforting spot I need to start the day - and oatmeal takes a little too long in the mornings.

BetterOats has a line of organic multigrain hot cereals that are ready in the microwave in 2 minutes. All organic, with a "bare" unflavored cereal, and also 2 spiced ones: chai ( delicious ) and my favorite, cinnamon plum spice.

Cinnamon plum spice ingredients:  ( all ingredients are organic ) whole grain rolled oats,  evaporated cane juice,  flaxseed, natural flavor ( I assume this is the cinnamon and plum spicing - but why they don't just list then is a little puzzling ), barley, quinoa, rye, wheat, sea salt, guar gum.

I enjoy putting a squirt of honey in the cereal if I have the "bare" variety, and always add some chopped banana or blueberries to give an add of vitamins and to include fruit to my meal. 

Each box has 5 serving pouches which are a great item to keep in the desk at work. I keep a few boxes in the house as well.
These are normally about $2.50 a box, but on sale can find them for $2 each. When there is a really amazing sale, I can find them at my local Safeway for $1 a box. Then if I'm really lucky - I have a coupon to go with it, making them free or nearly free.

That's when I fill the cupboard to the point where my normally laid back former Marine husband starts asking if I expect hippies coming to stay for a few months.

He's a hoot. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Clean Eating and 7-11

Over the weekend, my family and I were out running errands when my husband asked me to stop at a 7-11 convenience store; he wanted to get something to drink. I waited in the car for a moment, and then decided to enter the store; I wanted to get a bottle of water. My husband was already in line, and the clerk was getting him some sort of gawdawful hot pocket like stick of bread and meat from behind the counter grill.

I scowled at him, but I had to admit. I was hungry, too.

I wandered around the store for a second, absolutely sure there was nothing Clean enough for me here. I saw hot dogs, chips, Sodas, candy. But...what's that in the back of the store?

Surprise! A whole case was devoted to fresh foods. A basket of apples, bananas. Yogurts and yogurt smoothies. 2 hardboiled eggs in a little plastic holder with salt and pepper.

Fresh sandwiches ( not on whole grain, but beggars can't be chosers ) A turkey sandwich on whole wheat - fresh made that day. Small cups of what appeared to be freshly cut fruit salad. I also saw ( which would do in a pinch... ) individual packets of quick cook oatmeal.

Beverages? A cup of fresh brewed tea, or a carton of milk, or bottled water ( even a brand that was flavored with natural fruit juice! )

I post this because I surprised myself, and found multiple Clean "on the go" food items at a store where I would have sworn there would be nothing for me to eat. If you are "on the go" and aren't one of those Clean Eaters who packs a cooler everywhere they CAN find Clean options, you don't have to resort to going hungry or breaking your "Clean" streak by eating something processed.

Once again, I am reminded: eyes open, mind open.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Graze Anatomy: The Rule of Twos

Clean Eaters automatically graze. All day long, we're nibbling, crunching, and sipping. Sometimes, it seems like that is all we ever do!  We're moving from one small food to another, constantly keeping our metabolism working, , maintaining a constant insulin level so our bodies are working like the machines they are meant to be. 

There are 3 Rules to grazing effectively - otherwise known as "The Rule of Twos"

1. Eat Twice as Often

2. Eat Half as Much

3. Chew Twice as Long

Rule 1 - Eat Twice as Much - this doesn't mean eating 2x the amount of pizza you'd normally eat. This means if you are used to eating "3 Squares" a day - breakfast, lunch, and dinner - you should insert a mid morning meal in between breakfast and lunch. It should be foods that compliment what you ate for breakfast and what you are planning on for dinner ( if you ate oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, a good mid morning meal would be a cup of yogurt and a handful of nuts ). Likewise, you should insert a complimentary mid afternoon small meal in between lunch and dinner. 

Rule 2 - Eat Half As Much - this is portion control at its finest, ladies and gentlemen. A serving of an apple is the size of a woman's fist. It is not a mammoth gigonzo apple. A serving of meat is about the size of a pack of playing cards. It should not cover your plate. 

A smart person told me "If you are not hungry for breakfast every morning - it means you ate too much the day before."

Rule 3 - Chew Twice as Long - You'd be surprised how many people don't thoroughly chew their food. Chewing is an important aspect of digestion; your stomach can't do ALL of the work  Chew each bite carefully. Significant chewing is also a way to signal the brain that you are full. If you've chewed enough, your brain gets the "all full" signal sooner rather than later. Chewing also slows down your consumption. It takes your brain up to 20 minutes to understand the "I'm full" signals your body sends it. If you slow down your consumption by chewing more - you will be less likely to overeat!

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Tale of 2 Breads - Clean Eating Bread

 For a lot of people, bread is a lily-white, fluffy, doughy loaf of air made by someone named “Wonder.” But for most of human history, bread was dense, heavy, grainy, and dark. It contained four ingredients: ground wheat from the field, some yeast, a pinch of salt and water. Sometimes it would be sweetened with honey.

While you can’t go into a wheat field and “pick” a loaf of bread (the wheat obviously has to be ground into flour first), a loaf of 100% whole grain bread made with these four ingredients is about the closest you’ll get to eating wheat off from the stalk.

White bread, on the other hand, is made with flour that has had most of the naturally-occurring components (and vitamins and minerals) of the wheat berry removed, including the bran and germ.  The flour is then “bleached” to remove any of the pigments that would give it dark color (pigments, which ironically, may have potent antioxidant properties.) It’s mixed up in huge batches in a factory somewhere, dough conditioners and chemical preservatives are added, and then it’s “enriched” by dumping a bunch of synthetic vitamins and minerals back into the dough.

This isn’t “natural.” The irony here is that if the flour had been left in it’s whole wheat form, much of this “re-enrichment” would be unnecessary.

If you are eating Clean for weight loss, limit your whole grain bread intake to 3-4 servings a week ( about 2 sandwiches ). If you are eating Clean to improve your overall health and are at a healthy weight, you can afford to have 4-6 servings a week.

1. Remember to carefully inspect the bread labels before purchase.
2. Chose "whole grain" over "whole wheat" - whole grain ensure the entire wheat grain is used in the bread. If it is simply whole wheat, the grain used could easily be processed to remove nutrients, etc.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Newstand Alert: Clean Eating Magazine October 2011

The new issue of Clean Eating magazine for October is hitting news stands now - and there are many, many good features in this month's issue...and one negative so strong...I've already written a letter to the editor in protest.

First, the good:

* A great round up of CE tortilla wraps on page 15- always a good thing to know which brands to look for in the stores. Remember, wraps can be problematic!

* Featured article on skillet dinners has me happy to find a new use for my turkey meatballs. ( see pic on the magazine cover above )

* A nice round up of braised meat dishes. I'm thinking one specific CE reader who lives North of me should try the 5 spice bison and report back...

* A new feature, and one I welcome: a quick roundup of easy to do resistance band exercises on page 92. Getting exercise is important, and I hope this inspires me to get my behind off the sofa!

And now the bad:

* 6 pages devoted to red wines that pair well with the recipes they published.

Alcohol is Unclean. Wine is Unclean. For a CE magazine to promote wine consumption is really disturbing, and I'm not sure which brain trust decided this belongs in a CE magazine. ( See the magazine cover above )

Interestingly, the magazine has some conflicting info in the same issue on alcohol. On page 22, they recommend Mezzetta brand Marinara tomato sauce, but noting that it has Cabernet Sauvignon in it - they advise the reader to heat the sauce thoroughly "to cook out any remaining alcohol". At the back of the magazine on pages 90-91, they highlight wine stoppers and a wine rack. Mixed messages, anyone?

If you are serious about Clean Eating, you should not be drinking wine on anywhere near a regular basis. I will be the first to acknowledge that a few glasses of alcohol a year at a special social occasion is ok. I enjoy whisky, and have a few glasses a year. But that is it. The CE article implies that having a glass of red wine with dinner is a-ok...and it isn't.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Clean Eating Pocket Sandwiches

Got one of these lurking in the back of your kitchen cabinets?

You've got the makings of a tasty Clean meal or snack right there - and maybe a way to get a Cleaner than normal meal into the kids!

Some ideas:

1. Take your ground beef or turkey/seasoned vegetable mixture and pile it between 2 slices of whole grain bread. Lightly oil the inside of the pocket sandwich maker with olive oil ( maybe a flavored oil ? ) and close the lid. Little meat pockets!

2. Put slices of banana, and smears of peanut butter and honey between whole grain. You said you were going to try a fresh fig one of these days. Maybe replace those bananas with figs!

3. Slices of organic cheese and apple slices? Goat cheese. honey, and figs?

4. Slices turkey meatballs, a little organic mozzarella, and a splash of clean tomato sauce - a Clean hot meatball "sub"

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Larabar Flavors ( To Me ) - Peanut Butter & Jelly, Chocolate Coconut Chew, and Peanut Butter Cookie

At the store the other day, I came across flavors of Larabar I had never seen before: peanut butter and jelly, coconut chocolate chew, and peanut butter cookie. The stores in my area only seem to carry the same 3-5 flavors ( apple, cherry, lemon, etc ) - and I can't eat some of them because I'm allergic to cashews. So I have to investigate new flavors as I find them to ensure they are cashew free.

Since I first discovered Larabars,  they have become something of a weekly "must" for me. I eat 2 or 3 a week, mainly with my mid afternoon meal along with a hard boiled egg or a few turkey meatballs. They live quietly and contentedly in the food drawer at my desk - but having the same 3 flavors has been a bit of a yawn. I'm happy to find some new flavors!

Peanut butter cookie ingredients: dates, peanuts, and salt

Chocolate coconut chew ingredients: dates, almonds, walnuts, unsweetened cocoa powder, unsweetened coconut

Peanut butter & jelly ingredients: dates, peanuts, unsweetened cherries, salt

The flavors are really amazing - the PB&J ( at first bite ) didn't resemble the PB&J in my memory ...but then all of the sudden, I smiled as yes...a distinct PB&J flavor came through. Not as sweet, but a very close facsimile for such a simple ingredient list. The chocolate coconut chew was really good, too. Just enough chocolate taste to really give a satisfying experience. I personally didn't like the peanut butter cookie bar as much as the other two - but I know other people will like it and the taste will appeal.

There are actually 14 flavors available: Larabar products . Mmmm, Ginger Snap. Banana Bread.
Doggone it. Key Lime Pie and Blueberry Muffin have cashews in them!

What do you think of Larabars? Clean Eating aside, these bars are excellent for anyone who has an emergency stockpile of food. Larabars would be excellent for an emergency bag as well.
Do you like the other flavors I can't eat ( Lemon, Tropical Fruit, Cashew Cookie ) ?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How to Peel a Kiwi Fruit - the EASY Way

I love kiwi fruit - the sweet/tart flesh is refreshing and delicious. One thing I don't like is the peel. What a hassle to peel or remove the skin.

Until I learned the secret to removing the skin from a kiwi: I'll never cut the skin off again!

Simply cut the ends off the kiwi, gently insert a spoon between the skin and the fruit, and with a twisting motion, separate the skin from the fruit. I like to use a grapefruit spoon; it cuts through easily.

Check out this video on peeling a kiwi. If you eat kiwi on a regular basis ( or avoid it because of the PITA skin ) - you've got to give this video a minute of your time!

Monday, September 19, 2011

What Makes Something Clean?

My Brother-In-Law, "The Witty Brit™" -has been trying to eat Clean for a while now. He and my sister have made a conscious effort to clean up their diet about 4 weeks ago. So when I got a phone call earlier today from him about Clean Eating - I wasn't terribly surprised. I get the occasional email from him on it, too. However, his question did surprise me.

"What makes something clean? When I'm at the grocery store and I'm looking at the ingredient there some sort of minimum standard I should be looking for?"

Seriously, Witty Brit™. I love you to bits.

1. When examining a nutritional label, the first thing to scan is the ingredient list. Does it have more than 4-5 ingredients?  ( Obviously, this ingredient # threshold will be different for everyone. I personally aim for 4-5 ingredients. Sometimes 6-7 pass muster. You'll have to decide what number is your "trigger number" and go from there ) Are all the ingredients items you recognize? Items that occur in Nature? If there are more than a few ingredients, don't waste your time examining it further. Move along.

2. If the label passes rule #1, look more closely at the ingredients. Do you see the words "High fructose corn syrup" or "partially hydrogenated" referring to a fat or oil? What about unpronounceable chemicals and words you vaguely recognize but have no idea what they actually are? If so, put it down. Unclean!

3. If you are at stage 3 and your item doesn't include the two phrases above, look to see if you find a sugar source, and examine the sugar per serving in the data table. Does it seem high for a small portion? Look for hidden sugars. Remember, honey, agave nectar, evaporated cane juice, and molasses are all sugars - but there is sugar in fruit, milk solids, and brown rice syrup is another sugar source. Does it seem high, or reasonable? If you have a choice of a product with no sugar added versus sugar added - opt for sugar free       ( like ketchup! )

4. Now examine the sodium level for the product in the data table. Is it high for the serving size? Is "salt" high on the ingredient list, or low? It should be low or not even on the list.

5. So if you have reached rule 5, the packaged item you are holding has only a few ingredients, no corn syrup or anything hydrogenated, and has a low sugar and salt content. There is a high probability the item in your hands is Clean. Is there an organic version next to it? Examine the contents of the label. Not all organic products are necessarily better. Some organic products have added salts and sugars that make them unclean.

If your product has passed all 5 rules - you probably have a Clean food in your hands. More than likely, you can put it in your basket with confidence.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kitchen Tools: OXO Mini Chef's Knife

Since embarking on Clean Eating, I've discovered a significant uptick in time spent chopping fruits and vegetables. Since my diet currently revolves around the prep and consumption of more natural foods...Nature doesn't necessarily make foods in nice bite size packages ( *sigh* Cheez-Its... )
 I found the OXO Mini-Chef's knife ( shown above next to a vegetable peeler for size comparison ) is just right for my small hand, and since buying it just a few weeks ago, it has become my "go to" knife for chopping and dicing jobs. At just over 4" long, the blade has a little weight to it, but is sized down for more delicate chopping work and for a smaller female hand. I have much larger, much more expensive knives in my collection, in a range of materials: steel, ceramic, etc - but this inexpensive ( I paid $7.99 for my knife , on a pegboard at a local grocery store! ) knife has quickly become a favorite beside my other, more expensive kitchen knives.

"I think cooking is a lot of fun and I hate to see people not having fun doing it just because they don't have the right tools--which is not to say they need the prettiest, best, most expensive tools. They just need the tools that are right for them." - Alton Brown, Alton Brown's Gear for Your Kitchen

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Are Mini Babybel Cheeses Clean?

Q: Are Mini Babybel cheeses clean? You know, the little round cheese that come in a mesh bag? Thank you in advance for checking this out for me. I think they are.

A: Thanks for writing in, A. Mini Babybel cheeses are Clean, depending on if you really stick to a totally organic dairy regimen of Clean Eating. Some people will only eat organic milk products - for others, it is a little looser and they will eat dairy that isn't labeled "organic."

Mini Babybel cheeses only have 3 ingredients: Pasturized cultured milk, salt, and microbial enzymes - the 3 essential building blocks of cheese. They are not made from organic milk but the low ingredient count would make them ideal for a Clean Eater. They are a semi-soft cheese - usually a cheddar but they also make a gouda ( my favorite! )

A serving is one small round of cheese; each is about 20 grams - with about 60 calories per round and 130 to 170 mg of salt ( which is a fair amount for such a small cheese weight ).

So the answer is yes - if you are ok eating some dairy products that aren't 100% organic, a round or two would be a good way to get a measured amount of dairy in your diet ( especially if you aren't fond of yogurt or kefir ). Just don't eat the whole bag, and keep in mind there is a decent amount of sodium there.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Clean Eating Shrimp Tacos / Tostadas


1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups baby shrimp, cooked
1/2 of a red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 yellow onion, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 cup jicama, peeled and diced
1/2 jalapeno, minced
juice of 1 lime
salt, cumin and chili powder to taste
Tostado shells or organic whole wheat wraps

2 Avocados
1 heaping spoonful Greek yogurt
dash of salt
squeeze of lime juice

To Prepare:

In a large bowl combine shrimp, beans, jicama, red bell pepper, jalapeno, onion and
cilantro. Squeeze in lime juice, add spices. Toss to combine. Make avocado creme 
by mashing avocado with Greek yogurt, salt and a squeeze of lime juice.

Serve on wrap bread or in lettuce leaves as a cup or roll

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chamchijeon - Korean Tuna Pancakes

I was waiting for my son's Tae Kwon Do class to be done last week when I smelled a faint tuna fish odor in the air- it was coming from the Master's office. As I had to pay my bill, I was headed that way, anyway. I entered and saw the Master and his assistant ( they are both native born Koreans ) eating these flat, grilled cakes. They put the food aside, I paid my bill - and I couldn't help but ask about what they were eating. 

The Master explained his wife had made him chamchijeon (cham-chi-jon ) - a small fried tuna fish cake. As I'm always looking for new ways with tuna fish. I was instantly intrigued - and saw the possibilities of tweaking the recipe I found online.  Don't shy away from these because they are lightly fried in oil. You aren't deep fat frying them - but lightly browning them in a few teaspoons of canola oil. 

I would use high quality solid white tuna for this; the expensive stuff. Lower quality tuna tends to have a really unappetizing odor when heated, which solid white albacore does not have.  

Note: the sesame oil is an important ingredient to the taste profile, so if you don't have any, hold on on making this until you can get some. It is easily purchased from the "Asian" section of your grocery store.

Here's a fun little video of a woman with crazy pink hair making chamchijeon. Pretty easy! 


Ingredients (for 2-3 servings):

1 can of tuna - solid white (5 oz: 142 grams)

ground black pepper,
sesame oil
1 organic egg
whole wheat flour
canola oil

  1. Strain out the liquid from a can of tuna and place it in a bowl
  2. Add ¼ cup chopped onion, 1 minced garlic, 1tsp salt, ¼ ts ground black pepper, 1 eggs, 1 tsp sesame oil, choppedchives and 2 tbs flour to the tuna and mix it well.
  3. Heat up a non-stick pan and spread 1-2 tbs canola oil.
  4. Scoop a spoonful of the tuna mixture with a spoon and place it on the heated pan.
  5. Press slightly and round the edges with the spoon.
  6. Make 6 small size pancakes with the tuna mixture.
  7. When the bottom is cooked golden brown, turn it over and cook until both sides of the pancakes are golden brown. Total cooking time is 3-5 minutes.
  8. Transfer the cooked pancakes to a serving plate and serve with rice.   

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Have You Tried Jicama?

Jicama ( HICK-ah-muh ) is a crispy, sweet, edible root that resembles a turnip and contains a high amount of vitamin C, is low in sodium, and has no fat. One serving of jicama, which is equal to approximately 1 cup of cubed jicama or 120 grams, also contains only 45 calories.

It is actually a legume, and it grows on vines that may reach 20 feet (six meters) in length. The vines tend to hug the ground, terminating in tubers that may grow up to 50 pounds (22 kilograms) in size, although the majority of jicama roots sent to market are approximately three to four pounds (1.3-2 kilograms) in weight.

The skin is typically peeled before eating it raw. Raw jicama taste is crisp, sweet and nutty, similar to a pear or an apple, or a cross between an apple and a potato. As a snack it is delicious served sprinkled with lime juice and little chili powder.  When jicama is used in cooking it tends to take on the flavors of the ingredients that it is being combined with.

When choosing jicama at the store, look for medium sized, firm tubers with dry roots. Do not purchase jicama that has wet or soft spots, which may indicate rot, and bigger isn't better - because they may not be as flavorful. Jicama will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

Try this Clean Eating Clementine Jicama Salad

  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • 8 clementines (1 3/4 pounds), peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 pound jicama, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks (3 cups)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup packed cilantro sprigs
  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco or mild feta
  • 1/3 cup raw green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted
Mince and mash garlic to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt, then whisk together with lime juice, oil, honey, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
Just before serving, add clementines, jicama, onion, and cilantro and gently toss. Season with salt.
Sprinkle with cheese and pumpkin seeds.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Look for Sonya Apples

The next time you are in your grocery store's produce section, keep your eye out for a new apple variety : The Sonya. I was shopping and my store had a small display of this new variety. I was instantly drawn to these apples; they had a perfect shape, and a lovely rosy hue.

Without knowing anything about them, I bought some.

The Sonya has an amazingly crisp and juicy apple taste with just a hint of a watermelon flavor underneath. They are yummy apples to crunch. A cross between a Gala and Red Delicious, a Sonya has a distinct, heartlike shape, a firm crunch and a sweet and juicy flavor, similar to a Honey Crisp. The Sonya originated in New Zealand and is now being grown in Washington state.

They even have their own website:

From their website:

Originally developed in the uplands of Central Otago in New Zealand, Sonya apples are now being grown in the rich volcanic soils in Washington's Yakima Valley. In this fertile lowlands microclimate, the Sonya apple is cultivated to maximize flavor and size. This crisp refreshing apple, available from December through April, is a cross between a Gala and Red Delicious - only sweeter (high brix level) with a unique aroma.
Characterized by a distinctive broad shouldered shape, a Sonya is bi-colored with a light-to-dark red over a creamy-to-yellow background. A very pleasant and tasty apple, the Sonya is delicious straight from the fridge or served with a favorite cheese, in salads, or baked into pastries and pies. Known for an excellent shelf-life, the Sonya maintains a firm texture and is relatively easy to handle and store.

Two Clean Eating Eve Thumbs Up on the Sonya apple. Ok, only one thumb shown here. But the other thumb is up, mentally.

Go buy some.

Yeah, like right now.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Clean Eating Sriracha Crackers

It's a general rule that hot = clean. Hot foods and cuisines tend to be less processed, more homemade. While there are exceptions to this rule, Sriracha is a Clean-ish condiment ( it is high in sodium ) that can really liven up anything from eggs to pork chops.

When I came across multiple recipes across the Net for sriracha crackers, I knew a Clean version would be a snap.

Sriracha Crackers

Prep time: 45 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 1 hour

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
  • 1 bunch of fresh chives, minced or snipped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a sprinkle more for cracker topping
  • 8 tablespoons of cold organic butter (1/2 cup, or one stick of butter)
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha sauce ( or less, if you care to have brain cells left after eating )
  • 8-10 tablespoons of organic half and half or organic whole milk (Between 1/2-5/8 cup.)                    Note: if you use less than 1/4c of Sriracha,  you'll need to add more milk to balance the amount of liquid out
  1. Preheat your oven to 425ยบ.
  2. Using either a food processor, a pastry blender or two knives, cut together the flour, chives, 1 teaspoon salt and cold butter until the dough takes on a granular, sandy consistency.
  3. Blend in Sriracha sauce.
  4. Slowing mix in milk or half and half until a moist dough ball is formed.
  5. Divide into three equal balls.
  6. Cover and rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Lightly flour a piece of parchment paper or lightly oiled foil the size of a cookie sheet and roll out one dough ball.
  8. Score with a pastry wheel, pizza wheel or knife in desired cracker shape and sprinkle with kosher or sea salt.
  9. Move the dough and the liner onto a cookie sheet.
  10. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until crackers are crisp.
  11. Repeat baking for remaining two dough balls.
 Rolled dough:

Crackers baked on parchment sheet:

Rolling out the dough on parchment paper or foil makes it easier to transfer the dough to your cookie sheet, prevents sticking and burning the underside of your crackers.

Crackers will crisp up even more as they cool down after baking.

Thank you to Sarah Sprague  for the opportunity to kill my friend's brain cells with these spicy bits - and the great photos.

September 12, 2001

My son was 6 months old in September of 2001. A long wished for pregnancy that finally came to be and  despite the odds against us - a perfect little boy joined my family.

I was working nights then. My husband and I couldn't afford daycare, so I stayed home with our son during the day, and I worked evenings and weekends. For several years, my husband and I didn't see each other much.

September 11, 2001, I was walking through the living room with my son in my arms when something on the tv caught my attention. I stopped. I watched. I called my husband. I cried.

I remember sitting on the couch, watching the tv. Holding my son in my arms. He slept, he woke. I fed him. We didn't move from in front of the tv for hours. I remember hearing the sorties flying overhead. F-18s cruised the skies over DC.

By September 12th, the magnitude of the attacks was clear.

Later on that day, I looked down into the face of that beautiful sleeping child and I remember being profoundly thankful - perhaps for the first time in my life. Thankful for my family, my safety, my freedom.

Now, my sleeping baby is a rambunctious, gifted 10 year old. My thankfulness remains.

I know now September 11th is not about the attacks. September 11th is about September 12th.

Life after the attacks. Coping with the sudden and swift change to our world view. Learning from mistakes and moving forward in a positive direction. Our complacency as a nation was exposed, and we closed ranks. Being reminded that soldiers, civil servants, the Government - they work for us. They didn't show just remarkable heroism: they did their jobs - the jobs they had quietly sworn to do - and for which we the civilian public had lost sight of. We were reminded.

Once again, love of country and pride was in the forefront - as it should be.

Bless the people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thoughts On Focused Imagery

Focused Imagery is the psychological technique of using a thought or emotion to guide your behavior. It is a thought or a phrase, when focused upon, that reminds you and allows you to focus on your goals. 

When beginning Clean Eating, or suddenly find yourself needing some self motivation and focus, a phrase you can focus on - a mantra - can be of great help for some people. 

For me, this focused phrase is "This will not get me where I want to be."

I say this phrase in my head, when faced every Thursday with a lunch menu at work; my boss buys lunch for the office each Thursday. Bacon cheeseburger with fries? This will not get me where I want to be. Grilled salmon on a bed of salad greens with a side of fresh fruit? Better. 

I say this phrase to myself when I watch my husband ( who is much more physically active than I am ) eat ice cream and cookies after dinner. Evening snacking? This will not get me where I want to be. 

I say this phrase outloud when I'm by myself on the weekends. Running errands. At the grocery store. A chocolate bar sings a siren song only I can hear while I'm in the checkout lane. I glance down. I'm tempted. Nobody would know I ate it. Wait. Somebody would know. I would know. This will not get me where I want to be. 

I encourage you to find your phrase. Find the words that keep you on track. Find that which motivates you.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Refections on a Day's Meals

Today ( well, yesterday - you are reading this in my tomorrow... ) was a crazy, nutty day. I woke late - later than I usually do. I quickly did my morning routine, and got lunch prepared for my son to take to school, and me to take to work. Terrible traffic in the DC area due to our monsoon like weather, and when I got to work, I unpacked my lunch onto my desk. When I looked at it, this is what I saw:

 ( Sorry for the meh quality of the pic; it is from my phone )

A Chobani vanilla yogurt.
A banana
A kiwi fruit
A stick of organic cheese
5 homemade turkey meatballs
An apple

When I looked at my food for the day again, I realized I had quickly gathered these items. Without thought or hesitation. What a change from last year, when I would have grabbed a Pop*Tart to gobble down while driving to work, and the bag of 3 leftover pizza slices from the night before. And these items were in the house - Pop*Tarts and Pizza. Now? Fruit. Yogurt. Lean meat. Dairy. I remember sitting at my desk yesterday morning, regarding these food items with a bit of curious amazement. Now, I automatically gather healthy, nutritious Clean items.

My crazy, nutty day turned into a crazy, nutty night - and I ate much later than my family did. I wasn't particularly hungry, but knew I should eat something. I heated a sweet potato in the microwave, and ate a handful of almonds and raisins while I waited for it. By the time my ancient microwave was done cooking the potato, I was actually hungry. I took the sweet potato in a bowl to the couch, sat down, and proceeded to eat it. No butter, no cinnamon. Plain. And I honestly didn't notice it until I was halfway through. The potato was delicious, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Again- what a difference over a year ago, when the poor potato would have drowned in margarine.

I'm writing this to assure you - the beginning Clean Eater ( or perhaps, you've been Clean for a bit but finding yourself swinging back and forth between Clean and Unclean )  - that eventually, your habits will change, and your Clean diet will be so ingrained in you that you will do it without thought.You will naturally gravitate towards foods that are healthy, unprocessed, and Clean

The way there is to stay on the mental track you've set for yourself. Focus on the goal you know you want, and don't allow a momentary weakness to dissuade you from eating Clean.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Perfect Hard Boiled Egg

Hard boiled eggs are another Clean Eater's friend - compact and portable protein in a tasty little 90 calorie bundle. As a good source of Riboflavin, Vitamin B12 and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Protein and Selenium - the egg also has a downside - cholesterol. However, that downside is a lot less than Americans have been lead to believe and in recent years, most nutritionists have come to agree that the egg is a great natural food source.

I eat a few hard boiled eggs each week, usually as my mid-morning meal or with lunch. As such, I have had chance to improve my egg boiling techniques, and consistently get some of the prettiest darned hard boiled eggs you'd see this side of a church picnic.

Here are some tips to make your hard boiled eggs perfect every time.

1. Ever find that your hard boiled eggs were difficult to peel? The eggs you boiled were too fresh. Buy a dozen eggs and stick them in the fridge for a week to hang out, then boil them. In that week, the inner membrane separates from the shell. Your hard boiled eggs will be much, much easier to peel.

2. Place your eggs in the pot and put cool tap water into the pot to cover the eggs.

3. Heat the eggs over high heat until the water starts to boil. Remove the pot from the heat, and cover the pot.

4. Leave the eggs to sit in the just boiling water for approximately 12-15 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs.

5. Ever get a green ring around the yoke? You overcooked the egg. Warning, science content ahead:
When eggs are boiled, the sulfur present in the egg white combines with the iron in the egg yolk, producing ferrous sulfite, which creates a green film on the border between the white and the yolk. The presence of this line means the egg is overcooked.

Once the eggs have been undisturbed in the hot water for the 12-15 minutes, drain them and immediately fill the pot with cold water from the faucet. This will stop the cooking process and cool the egg - thus preventing the "thin green line" from forming.

Once cool, dry your eggs and place back in the carton ( labeled "Boiled Eggs!" with a Sharpie ) or in a ziploc bag for a week or two - if they last that long.

Quick deviled egg tip: mix the egg yolks with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, dijon mustard, a spice like paprika, Old Bay, chile powder, and some of that leftover spinach from dinner. Mix it together in a ziploc sandwich baggie. Bring the egg halves to work, and when ready to eat - snip the end of the baggie and use it as a pastry bag to "pipe" the filling in to your waiting eggs.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

41 Recipes Using Greek Yogurt

You have to love Greek yogurt - thick and creamy - the 0% fat varieties are a great friend to the Clean Eater. It is healthy and so versatile. Eat it plain, and fruit, or cook with it.

Behold, a link for 41 recipes that use Greek yogurt in them. Thanks, Serious Eats!

Note: Not all recipes are as Clean as they could be - this isn't a CE-centric website. But from reading my blog long enough, I'm sure you know what ingredients to swap out, which ingredients to use their organic counterparts. If not - just ask me!

Lemon Greek Yogurt Mousse ( I'd cut the amount of sugar in this recipe... )

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dissecting the Cult of Bacon

     Everywhere you turn these days, someone is waxing poetic on their love of bacon. Pictures, songs, products, demotivation posters - bacon as meme is as popular as ever.

Bacon is worshiped as an ultimate indulgence or laughingly revered as necessary for brain function., suggests bacon mania is rooted in an act of rebellion: eating bacon in the modern, health-conscious world is rebellious: "Loving bacon is like shoving a middle finger in the face of all that is healthy and holy while an unfiltered cigarette smolders between your lips."

But what IS bacon? Have you thought about it?

 ( Seriously, 5 lbs of bacon as a late night snack? And the husband reported missing bacon to the police? )

Bacon is the belly meat of a pig ( side meat in Canada and Europe ) , preserved in a brine mixture and then either air dryed for a few weeks, or smoked. What differentiates bacon from ham is the addition of sodium nitrite in the brining solution.

Bacon brine has added curing ingredients, most notably sodium nitrite, and occasionally sodium nitrate or potassium nitrate (saltpeter); sodium ascorbate or erythorbate are added to accelerate curing and stabilize color. Flavorings such as brown sugar or maple are used for some products. If used, sodium polyphosphates are added to improve sliceability and reduce spattering when the bacon is pan fried. Today, a brine for ham, but not bacon, includes a large amount of sugar. Historically, "ham" and "bacon" referred to different cuts of meat that were brined or packed identically, often together in the same barrel.( From the Wiki )

But this is not a mutual admiration society. You might love bacon, but most assuredly - bacon does not love you back.

In multiple studies, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have found that eating a daily serving of processed meat, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, or processed deli meats, was associated with a 42% higher risk of heart disease and a 19% higher risk of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, the researchers did not find any higher risk of heart disease or diabetes among individuals eating unprocessed red meat, such as from beef, pork, or lamb.

 The processed meats contain four times the sodium and 50% more nitrates than their ( naturally occurring ) unprocessed counterparts. "This suggests that added salt and preservatives - rather than naturally occurring fats - may account for the risks."

Harvard School of Public Health : Heart Disease and Processed Meats

Also, multiple studies have concluded that the high cooking temperatures used when cooking bacon could form nitrosamines, proven cancer causing compounds.

So, a heart attack, diabetes and cancer. Can I get a side of kidney failure with that?

Can you get bacon without the "added" nitrites and preservatives? Yes, you can - but I've only seen it at 2 grocery stores - Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market. I almost bought some to try for this post specifically - but when I flipped the package over and discovered the sky high salt content ...I declined and put it back on the refrigerated shelf.  However, I did note that the TJ's bacon contained celery juice powder, which I thought rather odd. After a little research, I quickly discovered the reason: celery juice powder is actually high in naturally occurring nitrites - so ultimately by being processed with celery powder, TJ's bacon IS processed with nitrites - nitrites from a more natural source and not the pure chemical. A little deception there, TJ!

( As a side note on naturally occurring nitrites - you'd literally have to eat hundreds of stalks of celery to get the same nitrite load a single slice of bacon contains - so munching on celery as a snack is not any danger whatsoever! )

“No nitrites added” does not mean “No nitrites,” rather, it means, “We used celery because it is high in nitrites so now we get the benefit of nitrites and are able to claim in the ingredients we used celery and that we did not add any nitrites thereby exploiting of America’s ‘nutritionist’ culture for profit.”

I actually really like bacon. I remember it well from my "PCE" ( Pre Clean Eating ) days. I also remember Diet Coke, Krispy Kreme donuts, and my beloved Cheez-Its.

These are edible products I've come to understand that are not food.
Food is something you put in your body to nourish it that is as close to how it is originally found in Nature as possible. Not something that comes off a production line in a factory far away.

Health issues aside, bacon is edible, but not Clean. Bacon did not roam the Earth, nor is it grown from vines and trees. Bacon is a processed product, a result of treating a Clean food ( pork ) with chemicals, salt, and other preservatives.

For your health and for the continued healthy operation of your body's machine, leave the bacon meme where it belongs - on a demotivational poster.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Have You Tried...Fresh Figs?

They're not that unusual, but for some reason, many Americans have never eaten a fresh fig.  I blame Fig Newtons and dried figs - those are nothing like a fresh fig.  A member of the mulberry family, the fig possesses a sweet, chewy flesh and crunchy edible seeds. A fresh fig tastes like a mix of a peach and a strawberry! Those seeds don't get stuck in your teeth like they do in a Fig Newton - so don't worry about that!

I've heard multiple people proclaim the deliciousness of figs as a sandwich filling - sliced fresh fig, a smear of honey, and a smear of organic peanut butter. Sounds good to me! 

 People also seem to like to grill fresh figs with a light brush of olive oil on them, and then serve with a smidge of feta or goat cheese.

  • Purchase fresh figs. Look for plump and tender figs that possess a deep purple color. They should give off a slightly sweet scent. Avoid figs that are hard, mushy or sour-smelling. If your grocer does not carry figs, head to a specialty food store, such as Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe's. Inspect your figs carefully before purchase, and avoid ones that are clearly bruised. Figs bruise easily, and this bruise will be the first area of the fig to go bad.
  • Wash the fresh figs in cool water.
  • Cut off the small stem with a sharp knife.
  • Figs are usually eaten whole---skin and all.No need to peel. I slice mine into slices or chunks and eat with my yogurt.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Clean Eating Anniversary - 1 Year

I'm celebrating a personal milestone right now - one that I never thought I'd reach - one that I never dreamed was remotely possible for a Diet Coke devoted, craptacular eater like I was 366 days ago. I am celebrating Eating Clean for the last year. It has been an eye opening, transformative path I started - and continue on today.

So what have I learned? Much of what I wrote at my 6 month anniversary rings true today. I've learned I need a lot less food to satisfy my hunger now that the foods I eat are nutrient dense and without the heavy fats, calories, and preservatives I used to consume. I've marveled that my Diet Coke addiction - which was such a formative part of my entire adult life - is part of a past I don't ever want to see again. It IS possible to give up Diet Coke and instead crave water. I've learned that naturally slender people eat Clean naturally and without much effort. They eat breakfast, they eat fruit and water at every meal and as snacks, they eat lightly at night, and they avoid both heavy processed foods and alcohol.

Has anything changed in the past 6 months? No, not really.

At the 6 month mark, I was just shy of a 40 pound weight loss. Today, at 1 year, I have lost 63 lbs in total. A number I am proud of, a number I marvel at, a number that a year ago was in my wildest dreams. But it has been easy - a LOT easier than I anticipated. Once I put my mind to it - once I truly embraced that my old ways got me fat, and new ways had to be better - I was on the path to healthy eating. Clean Eating.

I wrote this, back in February:

In order for me to be healthy, I have to accept that I can't eat like others eat. 
In order for me to be healthy, I need to make some choices for myself which others might not understand or accept.
In order for me to be healthy, I need to remove processed foods from my diet.

Every bite counts. Every one either supports the CE choice I've made, or takes me away from it. 

At the one year mark, my resolve remains unwavering. I have changed how I think and feel about food. I am mindful of what I put into my body. I don't just grab and go. I plan, I prep ahead, and I eat with purpose.
I hope my blog continues to inspire you. If you are a devoted Clean Eater or one who is just landed here after a tentative Google search for "Clean Eating" - I hope the past year has helped guide you towards better choices, and strengthened your resolve to eat Clean.

I look forward to sharing what I've learned and observed about Clean Eating.

Salad Bars: Helpful to Clean Eaters but Hard on the Wallet!

If you've ever stopped by your local grocery store for a quick Clean salad on your way home from work, you know the salad bar is both a best buddy and a mine field of occasionally Unclean choices. Skip the bacon bits, the cheese, the chow mein noodles. Yummy single quick salad of veggies on the go when you don't have time to make one at home.

But what about the money side of things? The average grocery store salad bar costs $5.99 a lb. What are the good deals on the salad bar, and what are you better off buying from the produce section and adding to your salad later?

A thank you to Food Network magazine where I found this list of the average markup on typical salad bar foods. Note - not all of these items are Clean. I've included the entire list, but only for informational purposes.

What an eye opening list!

Salad Bar Bargains:

Blue Cheese - 57% markdown from regular retail
Bacon bits - 55% markdown
Grilled Chicken - 44% markdown
Peas - 40% markdown
Walnuts - 19% markdown
Ham - 14% markdown
Cheddar Cheese ( shreds ) - 14% markdown
Dried cranberries - 11% markdown

Marked Up but Still Affordable For Small Servings:

Grape Tomatoes - 13% markup from regular retail
Avocados - 31% markup
Broccoli ( raw ) - 50% markup
Carrot shreds - 50% markup
Chow mein noodles - 50% markup
Sunflower seeds - 63% markup
Black olives - 78% markup
Coutons - 87% markup
Pepperoncini - 97% markup

Items Not Worth Their Weight on the Salad Bar: Add at Home!

Celery - 150% markup over regular retail
Hard boiled eggs - 167% markup
Mandarin oranges - 188% markup
Mushrooms - 200% markup
Green beans - 201% markup 
Beets - 212% markup
Cucumbers - 274% markup
Baby corn - 277% markup
Radish slices - 302% markup
Chickpeas - 368% markup

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to Make Your Own Infused Olive Oils

Olive oil is a wonderful Clean resource for preparing a flavorful meal with a heart healthy oil. Infusing the oil with a spice or flavoring is an easy way to add additional flavor to your meals without added salt or preservatives. However, there is a right way to make infused oils at home - and a unsafe, wrong way. Despite numerous direction to do so on the Internet, you can't just plunk a garlic clove in oil and let it "steep" for a few weeks.

Following the directions to keep your additives moisture free will ensure a quality infused oil!

The unsafe way is to put anything in the oil that contains any trace of water or moisture.  That would include garlic, lemon peel, fresh peppers, fresh herbs and spices.  The oil will not support bacterial growth but the water from fresh herbs and peels will.  Botulism bacteria can grow in this type of environment, even in a sealed bottle. DON'T  just throw any ingredient into olive oil and let it infuse. You are just asking for trouble!

Your best bet is to heat the olive oil before the infusing process to kill any bacteria present in the infusing medium ( garlic, herbs, chilis ) Heating the water in the garlic/herb/chili will remove any potential for bacteria to be present. It also speeds up the infusing process and instead of taking 3-4 weeks to develop flavor, the oil reaches a full flavor within a matter of days after cooking.

For example, my husband's future wife Giada di Laurentiis advises:


- 1 cup olive oil
- 4-5 fresh rosemary sprigs (each 5 inches long), bruised lightly ( rub springs gently in hands to bruise )

In small saucepan, combine oil & rosemary. Cook over  low heat until a thermometer reaches 180 F, about 5 minutes. Remove, cover, and let cool to room temp. Transfer the sprigs to a clean bottle, then add the oil.
 Seal and refrigerate up to 1 month

Some potential olive oil infusions to try at home using the above method:

Citrus peels - lemon, lime, grapefruit
Fresh Herbs - rosemary, basil, thyme
Garlic - use slightly crushed cloves to allow garlic flavor to infuse
Chilis - small and hot Scotch Bonnets, Jalapenos, or Milder varieties
Peppercorns - slightly cracked to allow infusion

I just love salmon baked lightly with a drizzle of lime infused olive oil!