Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pinata Apples

I continue to seek out and try new varieties of fruits and vegetables as I go. Part of life is investigating the new, and exposing yourself to new experiences instead of the same old same old. Last week, I stumbled upon a variety of apples I had never heard of before: the Pinata apple. It was expensive compared to the other apples available that week at Safeway, but I decided to take the plunge on a few anyway.
Pinata's heirloom parentage (it's a cross between Golden Delicious, Cox's Orange Pippin, and the Duchess of Oldenburg varieties) gives the apple a unique flavor. Pinata apples are crisp and juicy with all the classic apple flavors that you love, and a "unique tropical finish." I've found conflicting reports concerning the Pinata apple online. I've found reports that it was originally created in Dresden, Germany, I've seen a website that claims the Pinata variety is exclusive to their orchard,  but the apple I ate had a sticker on it that said it was from New York State.

I found the apple crisp and juicy, but I failed to detect the "unique tropical finish" mentioned above. To me, it tasted a lot like a Honey Crisp apple ( a common sweet apple available this time of year ) . According to other websites, the Pinata is most commonly found in stores from December to March. My apple was okay. Just ok. I can't say I heard swelling music in the background as happened when I tried Sonya apples for the first time. 
As the Pinata apples were really expensive compared to the Honey Crisp, I believe I will stick with the Honey Crisp when I want a sweet apple. ( However, please note that I live on the East Coast, and Pinata apples I ate were grown in New York. These had to travel to get to me; hence the cost and perhaps the less than advertised taste. If you live on the West Coast or in New York,  you might find these apples very affordable and much more unique )

Friday, December 30, 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Homemade Clean Eating Crackers

When I discovered a recipe for Clean Eating crackers over at the blog, I laughed at how easy it would be to make my own. No preservatives. No odd ingredients I don't recognize. Something simple, crunchy, and Clean as a hummus delivery system.

Clean Eating Crackers


2 cups organic whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup olive oil (plus more for the pan)


1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees
2. Put the flour, salt, warm water, and olive oil in a bowl, and stir until all the flour is absorbed (less than a minute). It kind of feels more like dough than batter.
3. Take a baking tray and slather it with more olive oil.
4. Put the dough on the tray and use a rolling pin to smooth it out to cover the whole bottom.
5. Take a knife and cut the dough into squares, rectangles…whatever!
6. Sprinkle the top with a bit more salt
7. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden. The crackers will harden up more after they cool.

As the original recipe contends, this is an excellent blank canvas on which to create.
Add Herbs and Spices. Sesame seeds. Flavored Infused Olive Oils.

If you devoted an hour of your weekend to making something like this and storing it for the coming week, you'd have a healthy, crunchy snack for those times when the munchies hit with a vengeance. Take a few minutes during your Clean Eating prep day 1 or 2 times a month to making a Clean eating swap out like this one, and you'll never look at the cracker aisle longingly again.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fail: Chicken & Eggplant Bean Bake

I've been looking for an eggplant recipe that my whole family might enjoy that doesn't resemble eggplant parmagian - a hated food of my husband. Something Clean I can make on the weekend to freeze in casserole form and reheat for a warm meal on a busy weeknight. I was hoping the recipe I made on Monday night would fit the bill.

My son got sent to his room for the following phrase uttered as he was presented his plate : "What threw up on my plate???"

Miserable fail.

The recipe was essentially diced and browned chicken, tomatoes, onions, and assorted spices layered in between slices of fried eggplant.

My husband gamely tried it, though he knew it was eggplant. ( He tried the "filling" for the eggplant lasagna like dish, - the chicken and bean mixture - and pronounced it "Ok" before I proceeded to the casserole phase of the night's failure. ) But ultimately, he smiled politely and took his plate to the kitchen.

Me? I ate it. It wasn't terrible. I kinda like eggplant, and I thought it was flavorful. I liked the chicken/bean mixture. My husband and son pronounced the exact same dish "bitter."

However, there is a silver lining to this, if there could be one. An hour after dinner, I realized my husband and son had indeed tried my new recipe, where 2 years ago they both would have said "Absolutely not." They are starting to become more adventuresome with food, and my husband in particular took great pains to try a dish containing a vegetable he loathes. So, maybe not a complete failure.

But it has been requested I not make that again.

I won't post the recipe, as a public service. Just know that not every dish is a "winner winner chicken dinner"

Monday, December 26, 2011

21 Days To A New Habit

 Husband and I are watching tv yesterday morning. Upon viewing a Jenny Craig commercial:

Me: "This is the time of year where weight loss and gym commercials are flooding the tv."

Husband: "Better than those Lexus and jewelry store commercials before Christmas that tell you if you don't buy her a car or a diamond for Christmas you are a piece of ****."

( Needless to say, I didn't get a car OR a diamond for Christmas... )

This IS the time of year where people start thinking about New Year's Resolutions. Most of the time, these impulses are half heartedly undertaken, without a serious commitment to change. Do you want something different this year? Do you want to start eating healthier? Do you want to shed old habits that are holding you back physically and emotionally? Do you want to make your Clean Eating better? I've written in the past of 10 Healthy "Pre-Clean Eating" Habits  for people who are just discovering Clean Eating.
How about it? Give one of these habits a try for 21 days. You can start today. You can start on January 1. It is up to you. 

The "21 Day Habit Theory" has its supporters and nay-sayers. Essentially, the theory states:

"Brain circuits take engrams (memory traces), and produce neuroconnections and neuropathways only if they are bombarded for 21 days in a row. This means that our brain  does not accept ?new? data for a change of habit unless  it is repeated each day for 21 days (without missing a day)."

I'm not entirely sure if the above neurochemistry is correct. I'm not a neurobiologist nor do I play one on tv. However, I do know that habits are only habits if they are done repeatedly and consistently. I do know the quote "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit" attributed to Aristotle makes perfect sense.

If you read my blog on a semi-regular basis, you are at least interested in improving your nutrition. You know in your logical brain it is the right path. The flesh, however, likes that Diet Coke a bit too much.
I challenge you to take 21 days and try. Sincerely try to change a bad habit. Pick one thing from the list of 10 Healthy Pre-Clean Eating Habits link above that you aren't already doing now, and really try for just 21 days.

You can post here what you are going to focus upon. You can keep it to yourself. The point is to try. The point is to set your feet in the right direction.

If You Are What You Eat, Chances Are If You Live in Plano Texas You Are A McNugget

Click picture for larger size picture!

The poor folks in Plano Texas spend the most per head on fast food than any other American city in the country, followed closely by Madison Wisconsin and Wichita Kansas. ( I can attest to Wichita obsession personally - my husband's family is from there and I was shocked not only by the number of fast food joints there, but by the shocking frequency his relatives turned to McD's,  BK, or Wendy's for lunch, dinner, or even a mid shopping "snack." )

It is interesting that the fewest fast food transactions occur around major metropolitan cities - and my area ( the Washington DC area ) is the highest ranking "non fast food eaters" in the country. I find graph pictures like this fascinating and factoids like this tend to keep me in line.

I found this over at Huffington Post while doing an image search for something completely different. She's not my favorte person, but proper credit where credit is due!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to my readers!

This time of year is really really hard to stick to a Clean diet. Do your best over the next few days, and we'll get back on the horse come Monday morning. Next week, we'll talk about making a 21 day commitment to changing just one thing in your diet, we'll talk about a new variety of apples I've tried for the first time, and I'll post a chicken, bean, and eggplant recipe I'm going to inflict on my family serve to my family tomorrow.

In the meantime...enjoy your families, grin and bear your relatives, and remind yourself that it is better to give than receive when you open the awful gift your crazy Aunt Susan gives you. Because she really does mean well.

Merry Christmas, all. I'll be back on Monday. Have a wonderful time with your friends and family.

Happy Birthday North!

Today is my dearest friend North's birthday. He is everything his byline says, and more - he is a wonderful husband to his wife, a gifted engineer and maker of things, a gentle man for whom manners mean everything, a responsible and practical gun owner, a talented chef who's grill and kitchen skills are impressive, and the owner of a particularly quirky but delightful sense of humor.

I have had the good fortune to have North in my life for many years now, and to call him my friend is an understatement. They say "Nobody on the Internet knows you're a dog." But call it karma, luck, chance - the Gods smiled upon us and we connected in a meaningful way. He's no dog. North is a human being, and someone I use to measure others by.

Here's his cliched birthday cake I make for him every year.

I think I'll send him a text message on the Clooney phone:

*This message paid for and approved by the North is Awesome Promotional PAC*

Thursday, December 22, 2011

No oodles!

Browsing through the organic / gluten free area of my grocery store the other day, I came across a product I had never seen before. It was a small squishy bag filled with water and noodles. But not just any noodles - these are No oodles. Vaguely reminiscent of thick wet Japanese shirataki noodles, these caught my eye because they have no calories, no fat, no carbs, no gluten, and no soy. What the heck are these made of? 3 ingredients listed on the back: Water, yam flour, and lime ( which I suspect is not a flavoring, but a preservative. I could detect no lime flavor )

The instructions on the side are straightforward. Noodles are precooked. Drain, rinse, and use as you would any noodle. Ok, I think I will. However, the whole bag says that it is 8 ounces, and a serving is 1.6 ounces. Huh?? That's like 4 noodles. Sorry to sound like a pig, but I ate the whole bag - which trust me - isn't all that much.

Upon opening the bag, I immediately detected a funky odor. Not pleasant, but not incredibly off putting. It was hard to describe. "Funky" fits just about as well as anything else. When I rinsed the noodles, the odor eased. I suspect it was partially the lime juice in the water acting as a preservative. Once the noodles were rinsed and drained, I added a light dash of Trader Joe's soyaki sauce and tossed in chopped up pieces of my turkey meatballs. For someone who hasn't eaten a lot of noodles / pasta in a while - these were tasty. I'm impressed that the noodles absorbed the soyaki flavor I added, and kept their shape well. These noodles were good, and it is clear - they take on whatever flavor you add to them. 

My husband, ever the resourceful cook in the family, dumped a bag into a pot of chicken broth he was making from scratch, then added some egg and mushrooms and made a lovely egg drop chicken noodle soup.

If you see a funny squishy bag of noodles on the shelf, or see shirataki noodles in the Asian market - I suggest you pick them up. They are a welcome addition to my Clean diet.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Have You Tried Pummelo?

The pummelo ( or pummelo or pommelo - or even "Shaddock" in some English speaking Caribbean countries ( where it was named after the sea captain that brought the first pummelo seeds to the West Indies ) is a large citrus fruit that is closely related to a grapefruit - but not quite. Its flesh is either white or a pinkish red and is quite sweet. It is not nearly as bitter as grapefruit can be. You'll notice upon cutting one open that it has a really thick pith ( the spongy inner part below the rind ) and membranes that separate the flesh that are extremely thick and are really considered inedible. Remove the membrane and discard before eating. 

The pummelo is native to Asia and is often highlighted in Chinese and Vietnamese cooking. 
Chose pummelos that are large and heavy, with little give to the flesh. It is ok to buy them with a greenish rind - they will ripen in the house quickly to a light green or pale yellow. They should have a citrus fragrance. 
You eat a pummelo just like a grapefruit: cut it in half and scoop out the sections, or peel it and eat the sections. Either way, you'll probably want to not eat the membrane between the fruit. 

If you like citrus fruits but aren't a huge grapefruit fan - the pummelo is for you. It isn't as bitter tart as a "normal" grapefruit but has a taste vaguely reminiscent of one. You'll be surprised at how thick the pith is on a pummelo, but will be rewarded for your peeling / scooping efforts with a beautiful pink or white fruit inside.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Greens - Go Beyond Frozen Spinach!

This time of year is when a new harvest of greens come into season. Try one of these instead of reaching for that bag of frozen spinach in the freezer. Expand your menu - look for a new green to cook the next time you are at the store or farmer's market. An integral part of Clean Eating is looking beyond the 3 or 4 vegetables you normally eat, and trying new foods. There's a wealth of different food out there- seek and ye shall find.

All greens should be thoroughly washed and dried before cooking. Fill a clean sink with clear, cool water and allow greens to float on top of the water. Gently agitate the greens in the water. Dirt, grit, and other particles will fall to the bottom of the sink as you gently rinse and agitate the leaves.

After washing and drying, prepare the leaves for cooking by taking a knife and cutting the thick stem away from the leaves, leaving only the greens. The stems can make the greens bitter and are best removed before cooking. 


Common kale is deep green with curly leaves. It comes in purple and white varieties as well.

Try it: Kale chips -  Tear leaves into pieces, drizzle with olive oil and sea salt, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 375 degree oven until crispy - about 15 minutes.

Collard Greens

Collard greens are a deep green oval leaf with thick stalks.

Try it:  Cider Vinegar Collards - After removing the center stalk,cook the leaves in boiling water for about 5-8 minutes or until tender. While they are boiling, saute chopped onion and garlic in a pan with olive oil. Add the precooked and drained greens and toss to coat the leaves in the onion/garlic/oil mixture. Serve with a splash of balsamic vinegar over the top of the leaves.

Beet Greens 

Beet greens are easily identifiable because, well...they have beets attached to one end of them. The leaves sometimes have red streaks in them.

Try it Beet Green Salad - Toss precooked greens with roasted beets, and crumbled feta. Drizzle with a dressing made from balsamic vinegar and olive oil.


The stalk of the chard tells you it's variety . Rainbow chard stalks ( shown above ) are orange, red, pink, or purple. Common chard is the chard shown aboe with the yellowish white stalk. Swiss chard commonly has red stalks.

Try it: Greens and Eggs - Saute chopped garlic in oliveoil over medium heat. Add your precooked chard and season with salt and pepper. Top each serving of chard greens with a poached egg and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.

Do you have a favorite greens recipe or preparation you'd like to share? Please let me know in the comments. I'm actually quite new to greens myself, and would love to hear what and how you like them prepared!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Newstand Alert: Clean Eating Magazine January / February 2012

The new issue of Clean Eating magazine is hitting mailboxes and newsstands now - a double issue with several interesting articles worth highlighting.

- Check out the wonderful beef jerky instructions starting on page 17! My husband makes his own jerky using a food dehydrator and read this article with actual ( not feigned!!! ) enthusiasm. He pronounced their technique sound, and the step by step instructions really spot on. He did note, however - that you'll have better success with a deeper flavor profile if you allow the meat to marinate in the seasonings at least overnight in the fridge. The article says "3 to 6 hours." That really isn't enough.

- I really liked the comparison of True Lemon Lemonade versus an old dieting standby : Crystal Light .I hope this is a feature they continue in future issues of the magazine - I really like seeing the unclean food compared to a Clean alternative. This is on page 25.

- The collection of Winter's Best in 25 Minutes or Less recipes and the slow cooker collection are just what I'm looking for - new recipes to try with ease and simple ingredient lists. Nothing crazy or avant garde here - simply "do-able" recipes my family won't balk over!

- I really like edamame, but the sweet & sour edamame salad on page 90 has me dying to make it this week. The simple oil, mixed vinegar, and tamari dressing sounds simple but I think will really waken up the beans with a clean Asian taste.

However, there is one thing I noticed that appears to be suspiciously absent lately from the pages of Clean Eating - and that seems to be advice and directions on how to eat Clean. They've got recipes galore - but very little information on how to start eating Clean, and why as a lifestyle choice it would be beneficial to anyone considering changing their nutrition.

I'm not quote sure why this is - but with this issue it really struck me that while the magazine has a load of recipes, it has very little fundamental information on the whys and hows of Clean Eating.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Are Newman's Own Products Clean?

     While I was researching this post on Clean Eating spaghetti sauce,  I discovered Newman's Own pasta sauces were definitely unclean. Added sugars, starches, and a lot of sodium. Then, I started researching Kashi - and discovered many of their "post-Kellogg's acquisition " products are Unclean - but the core products that built the company remain Clean. I started thinking about Newman's Own, again...and decided to do more research.

 Newman's Own was started by actor Paul Newman and A.E.Hotchner in 1982. The brand started with a home-made salad dressing that Newman and Hotchner prepared and gave to friends as gifts. Since 1982, Newman's Own has donated all of its profits after taxes to thousands of causes and charities. In total since inception, the company has donated over $300 million to charity.

Despite Newman's death in 2010, the company remains in private hands, and has not been acquired by a larger food conglomerate.

Are Newman's Own products Clean? For the most part - no. They are not Clean. You have to examine each item carefully for the answer, however. They make everything from salad dressings, sauces, and marinades to frozen foods and cereals.

Their salad dressings, sauces and marinades are largely Unclean. There is a lot of added sugars and salts to these foods - immediately placing them in a "Border Food" at best category. Some contain things like corn syrup ( buried low in the ingredient list ) and xanthan gums to improve the texture of the product. While xanthan gums are low on my "That is Unclean" radar - almost every single product I checked has it in it.

However - there are far worse products on the market today, so if you chose to consume Newman's Own products, do so sparingly and with an eye on your water bottle.

Newmans' Own eventually began a line spearheaded by Paul Newman's daughter Nell  that focused on organic products - almost exclusively snacks and treats, with some organic fare for your 4 footed friend, and a line of organic fair trade coffees.

Are Newman's Own Organics products Clean? The answer is a murky and somewhat hesitant "Ummmm..."
The answer - like Kashi's products - is taken on a case by case basis. Don't assume when you see the word "Organic" written boldly on a package that it means the product is Clean. It simply means the product was grown without hormones or pesticides.

When you examine many Newman's Own Organic products, you find that yes indeed, the ingredients are organic. But sugar is organic. So is salt. I picked up 20 or so Newman's Own organic products at random in the store and looked at the ingredients - cookies with high sugar content - in some cases, identical to Nabisco or Keebler cookies. Many of the products use corn syrup as a sweetener, and just aren't Clean. 

Like Kashi, however...don't throw the baby out with the bath water, as they say. Examine each. for example, the Alphabet Cookies  are what I like to think of as a "Border" food. Something not eaten every day - but something to eat once or twice a week. 

Alphabet Cookie Ingredients:

  • Vanilla:
    Organic Unbleached Flour, Organic Sugar, Palm Fruit Oil, Arrowroot Flour, Honey, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Salt, Natural Flavor.

  • Cinnamon Graham:
    Organic Unbleached Wheat Flour, Organic Sugar, Palm Fruit Oil, Graham Four, Honey, Cinnamon, Natural Flavor, Salt, Sodium Bicarbonate (leavening).

  • Chocolate:
    Organic Unbleached Wheat Flour, Organic Sugar, Palm Fruit Oil, Cocoa (Processed with Alkali), Natural Flavor, Sodium Bicarbonate (leavening), Salt, Unsweetened Chocolate.

  • And as an occasional crunchy treat - Newman's Own Organic Soy Crisps are Clean enough for you not to be hating life afterward.

    Organic Low Fat Soy Flour, Organic Rice Flour, Salt, Seasoning (dehydrated cane juice, sea salt, onion powder, garlic powder, tomato powder, extractives of paprika, natural flavor, spices, citric acid with not more than 2% sunflower oil and silicon dioxide added), Sunflower Oil. 

    Cinnamon Sugar:
    Organic Low Fat Soy Flour, Organic Rice Flour, Salt, Seasoning (dehydrated cane juice, cinnamon and not more than 2% silicon dioxide and vegetable oil added as a processing aid), Sunflower Oil. 

    Lightly Salted:
    Organic Low Fat Soy Flour, Organic Rice Flour, Salt, Sunflower Oil. 

    White Cheddar:
    Organic Low Fat Soy Flour, Organic Rice Flour, Salt, Seasoning (cheddar cheese [cultured milk, salt, enzymes], whey buttermilk, salt, disodium phosphate), Sunflower Oil.

    So- to sum up, you really need to inspect each food item individually - but as a round generic statement - Newman's Own food products are not good for Clean Eating - but some of their Newman's Own Organics snack products will be a welcome occasional treat.

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    Happy Baby or Happy Human?

    Read without prejudice for a moment - or as Lit types like to say - "suspend disbelief." 
    Focus on the contents of the package...not the intended end user. 

    My son and I were grocery shopping last weekend. We were in the organic/natural section of a large grocery store when he picked up a small package and brought it over to me. 
    Him: "Look at this weird baby food, Mom. In a little pouch. How does the baby eat it?
    Me: "You twist off the cap and the baby sucks it out of the pouch. Like a juice bag for toddlers. Or you can squirt it into a bowl for littler babies to eat with a spoon."
    Him: "Hey, look. It's organic. Apricots and sweet potatoes. Too bad you aren't a baby, Mom. Clean Eating in a bag."

    I just stared at him as he walked back down the aisle to put the little bag of food back.

    What about it? 

    1. It's a small portion controlled serving of all natural, organic, Clean Eating fruit and vegetable combinations. No artificial colors or preservatives. 
    2. It is a portable package - easily thrown into a purse, a tote bag, the car, for eating on the fly. Easily accessed during travel or when you find yourself without a sit down meal while on the run. No spoon needed. 
    3. It is shelf stable; it can be stored in an office desk, a pantry, or emergency stores for years. If you are  a believer in the "WTSHTF" movement,  these little bags could potentially provide you and your family with "fresh" fruits and vegetables.

    But most importantly:

    4. The quality of the fruits and vegetable puree in there is actually very good. This is NOT the odd colored goo you remember feeding to your baby from a glass jar. Baby food has come a long way since then, and the focus for many companies is to provide incredibly wholesome, good tasting food.

    I ended up buying the pouch my son had in his hands - just for giggles. I wanted to try it. It intrigued me. I liked the idea of how portable it is. I liked the whole, "un-messed around with" ingredients: Apricots and sweet potato - no salt, no sugar. no stabilizers. 

    The brand I tried is Happy Baby Organic Food pictured above. But there are a few other "pouch" brands out there: Ella's Kitchen,    and Plum Organics are the most notable brands.
    Sprout Baby Food is by celeb chef Tyler Florence. No little top sipping spigot; you'll need a spoon with this one - but same idea.

    Is it every day adult food? No - and I don't mean to imply that at all. Eat the real thing - crunch it, slice it, bake it, dice it. Whole fruits and vegetables are meant to be our foods. However, for a convenience, on the run Clean food - you just can't beat it. 

    I was impressed with the taste and the texture. And as someone who has a pretty impressive WTSHTF stockpile of foods - you can be sure I'm adding some pouch foods to my emergency stores.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    More Portion Distortion - 20 Years Ago Versus Now

    More visual portion distortion - the difference between the portion that were common only 20 years ago and what we typically get today is shocking. A fundamental guiding hand in Clean Eating is portion control - recognizing how much is a healthy portion of food and sticking with it. A serving of rice is about the size of 2 golf balls put together. It isn't Mt Fuji on your plate. While we don't count calories - you can see with today's out of control "More is better" portion sizes that you really need to be careful. And while a gigantic slice of pizza isn't what a Clean Eater would get the idea.




    In the early ’70s ( more than 20 years ago... ) , 6.5 ouncers were popular. Today it’s 20 ounces, or more (Super Big Gulp = 44 oz = 700 calories!)

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    9 Ways to Breaks the Cycle of Comfort Eating

    I found this excellent advice over at for people like me who eat for comfort. It's such a good article, I'm reprinting it nearly word for word in its entirety.


    Many people turn to food to manage their moods. Unfortunately, what we call “comfort food” is usually loaded with saturated fats and sugary carbohydrates. Eating too much of these feel-good foods can cause weight gain, which in turn makes us feel ashamed of our bodies. These feelings, of course, can have an effect on our moods. It’s a good idea then to talk to other people who are trying to manage their moods and to work toward creating healthier strategies.

     1. Eat Mindfully

    The first step toward breaking the food-mood cycle is to take a few days and begin to eat mindfully. In our fast-paced, multitasking culture, we are usually in a rush, with multiple family and job responsibilities. We may eat quickly to manage stress, but we rarely eat mindfully, unless it is a “special” occasion. It only takes a few additional minutes to eat in a more relaxed way. Turn off the TV, put down the laptops and phones, and pay attention to the texture, taste and aroma of your food. Read More: Clean Eating & Mindfulness

    2. Don’t Deprive Yourself

    Overly restrictive dieting can lead to an all-or-nothing attitude with food, and over time, severe hunger can lead to binge eating. Portion control solves a lot of this. It’s perfectly healthy to eat the food you crave -- if you keep the portion small. You might also spend some time prepping smaller portions of your favorite calorie-laden foods in baggies for you and your family.

    ( Maura's 2 cents: For Clean Eaters - Reworking favorite foods into Cleaner versions is very satisfying. Knowing that yes - you CAN have pizza { ok, its not Pizza Hut pizza... ) seems to be the little "relief valve" many Clean Eaters find helpful. )

    4. Analyze This

    If you are like many people, you have a good idea of what your food issues are in general. But if you take a few days to track what you eat and why in a food diary, you will probably understand yourself better. For example, if you are on a severely restrictive diet and skipping breakfast, you’ll realize that your 11:00 a.m. donut binge in the staff lounge is actually a normal response to extreme hunger. Or you might notice that you turn to your good friends Ben and Jerry at night, especially after a loss or disappointment. Read More: Food Journaling

    5. Plan Ahead

    If you want to change your relationship with food, you’ll need to change your environment. Use your food diary to determine whether you need to clean house. Literally. Packages of cookies, bags of chips and quarts of full-fat ice cream must go if you’ve identified them as unhealthy mood managers. Smaller packaging will help, as will more attractive displays of fruits and vegetables you enjoy. Make it easy on yourself: Cut up celery, carrots and peppers, and keep them toward the front of the fridge, not in the vegetable drawer (which Jerry Seinfeld appropriately refers to as “the Rotter”).Read More: Changing to a Clean Eating Pantry, Sunday: Clean Eating Prep Day - Be Prepared!

    6. New Mood-Management Strategy #1: Get Active

    Now that you are eliminating food as your mood manager, identify other techniques that work for you. Regular exercise improves mood overall. If you’re feeling sad or anxious, try a short burst of any physical activity, like taking a short walk. Many women climb some stairs to burn calories and release tension. Keep a pair of sneakers at the office so that there are fewer barriers to getting moving at work.

    7. New Mood-Management Strategy #2: Change Your Music

    Music is one of the most powerful mood changers. In fact, researchers conducting psychological experiments often use mournful music to create sad moods in volunteers. Conversely, you can use your favorite dance music or popular music from your teenage years to boost your mood. Have fun while you create some upbeat playlists. There may well be times when you want to listen to the blues or a violin symphony to fully experience your sadness. But when you want to escape, turn on the cheerful music.

    8. New Mood-Management Strategy #3: Make an Acceptance Plan

    We sometimes use food because we want to eliminate negative moods quickly, but sometimes it’s better to accept the situation. Whether you’re feeling sadness, anger or anxiety, try to identify the source of your low mood. If it is something you can change, sketch out new solutions. For example, if a co-worker is annoying you, role-play with a friend about how you can be more assertive with the person. If, on the other hand, the situation is something you cannot change at this time, try to accept it. Breathe deeply and often. Take time to relax your muscles, especially your head, shoulder and neck muscles. Visualize a pleasant scene. It’s also a good idea to try to remember the big picture -- your values and goals -- and work on a plan of acceptance, rather than avoidance. You may, for example, have a difficult job, but you and your family need the income.

    10. New Mood-Management Strategy #4: Find Your Friends

    People with similar problems created the earliest weight-control and other self-help groups because the medical field did not know how to help them. This is still somewhat true in the area of food and mood. You may find some experts to be a bit judgmental or lacking in empathy, but talking to other women (and men) who practice comfort eating can feel like a big support. You will feel connected and understood, and you may be able to share new techniques for mood management.

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Have You Tried: Kohlrabi

    Kohlrabi can be one of those intimidating vegetables if you haven’t been around it much. It has the look of an organic green tennis ball, with a taste like fresh, crunchy broccoli stems accented by radish. The name kohlrabi comes from the German kohl, meaning cabbage, and rabi, or turnip, and that kind of sums it up.

    Although these green bulbs look like they were dug up from the earth, the round bulb is a swollen stem that grows above ground. Not a commonly used vegetable in American cuisine, kohlrabi is widely used in Central Europe and Asia. It is still patiently waiting to be discovered in this country.

    Of kohlrabi's two varieties the purple globe is sweeter and tastier than the apple-green. Both have a pale green, almost ivory colored, flesh inside. While the entire vegetable is edible raw or cooked, the small, young kohlrabi, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches (3.5 to 5 cm) in diameter, is ideal for its flavor and texture.
    Handling: If the kohlrabi leaves are still attached to the bulb, trim them and store separately. If the leaves are in good shape—firm and green—they can be cooked but will need to be used within a couple of days. The bulbs should be stored, unwashed, in a plastic bag. They will hold for about a week in the refrigerator.

    Smaller kohlrabi are the sweetest and most tender. Bulbs much bigger than the size of a tennis ball won’t be as tasty and often have a pithy flesh.

    Simple preparation: Tender, young kohlrabi is delicious eaten raw. Peel the outer skin with a paring knife. Slice, dice, or grate, and add to salads. Use on raw vegetable platters or serve with a creamy dip. Substitute in recipes calling for radishes. Grated kohlrabi can be added to slaw, but lightly salt it first and let stand for several minutes. Squeeze to remove any excess water before adding dressing. Kohlrabi can also be steamed or boiled. For this preparation don’t peel until after they are cooked. Steam or boil until bulbs are tender, peel skin, and season with butter, salt, and pepper, a cheese sauce, or just enjoy plain.

    If the leaves attached to the kohlrabi bulb are fresh and green, they can be enjoyed as a cooked green. Wash the leaves and remove the ribs. Blanch in boiling water until just wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze excess water from leaves. Chop leaves, then saute in a little olive oil or butter. Season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of vinegar or squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    Just Need To Hit the Pause Button For a While...

    Late last night / early this morning, I decided what I need isn't to step away from my blog entirely, but to hit the pause button for a few days - so that is what I'm going to do.

    I'll be back to posting CE entries on Monday. 

    My blog is important to me, and knowing I'm helping someone out there is important as well. This isn't a personal blog as much as an informative one, and knowing I'm making a difference in someone's life by posting is why I'm doing this.

    Thanks - I appreciate the support!

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Trader Joe's Candy Cane Green Tea

    Run, don't walk to your nearest Trader Joe's store and pick up a box or 5 of their seasonal Candy Cane Green Tea - a Winter product they've brought back again this year after being missing from shelves for Christmas 2010.

    It's a delicious lightly peppermint flavored green tea and you'll love having this in the evenings. If you are missing out on candy canes - sipping on a cup of these with a little stevia or honey in it will put you in the Holiday mood. When you add stevia, it also has a mysterious rich "back taste" that is vaguely reminiscent of gingerbread. It is quite different and wonderful. And best of all, it is is decaffeinated - so you can have some late at night without worrying about staring at the ceiling all night long.

    Seriously - if you like tea, and you like peppermint - get some before TJ's is sold out for the year. It is a seasonal "Once it is gone, it is gone" product.

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Newstand Alert: Off The Couch Magazine

    If you are having trouble keeping or staying motivated, this once a year magazine is WELL worth your effort to find at news stands at CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens. Off The Couch magazine is a special edition for Oxygen Magazine, and they are huge supporters of Clean Eating ( in conjunction with weight lifting / exercise ).

    If you can look past all the ads for protein powder drinks and dieting supplements ( admire the models, but take the product claims with a suspicious eye... ) you'll find a magazine of pure Awesome. Real motivation and tips for women who are overweight and need that momentum to "get off the couch." Real motivation for current Clean Eaters to incorporate weight lifting and exercise into their program to sculpt and create a lean, fit body.

    I bought this magazine at this time last year - and it was EXACTLY what I needed to get me to take my Clean Eating to the next level. If you need a little kick in the pants, I encourage you to go out and find this magazine. The tips are sound, it has some good recipes in it ( I'll be highlighting those chicken spud cakes asap! ), and the life changing vignettes of real women who have turned their lives and nutrition around through Clean Eating and exercise is motivating.

    Go buy this.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    7 Habits of Naturally Slender People

    Have you ever noticed that some people seemingly eat whatever they want and don't gain weight? Those are the people that you know order dessert when you go out to eat, or they seem to enjoy the foods that you and I look at and gain a few pounds? Frustrating.

    Over the past year plus, I started quietly observing a few people in my life like this. I tried to note the subtle differences of their eating habits compared to my former ( and occasionally current... ) ones. I discovered that many naturally slender people actually follow a relatively Clean diet more than 75% of the time.

    The 7 Habits of Naturally Slender People

    1. Naturally slender people eat breakfast: Day in, day out - they eat a generous portion of food for breakfast. It is not a meal to be skipped, or worked through. They eat fruit, protein, and a complex carbohydrate in the morning to fuel their bodies and kick start their metabolism. It's pretty simple - if your body is busy digesting food, your metabolism runs higher.If you have more energy, you will move more. Read more: Breaking out of the breakfast rut.

    2. Naturally slender people balance their meals.  They understand that if they enjoy a plate of spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread, the next few meals after that spaghetti will be light: fruit and vegetable centric, and they'll be mindful of temptations for the short term. Naturally slender people also ( consciously or unconsciously  - I've yet to figure this out ) eat a balance of fruits, vegetables, meats, and carbohydrates. They graze among the items on their plate and instead of focusing on eat all the steak first, then the potato, then the green veggie - they have a small bite of each item and end up eating most of every item on their plate ( but generally not all! )

    3. Naturally slender people don't eat a lot late in the day.  They eat a vast majority of their daily food before about 3-4 in the afternoon, and then eat a light dinner. Naturally slender people enjoy their food during the day when there is a higher potential for that food to be burned for energy. They don't eat a large, late dinner and then sit on the couch until it is time for bed.

    4. Naturally slender people drink water, tea, or coffee over soda.  This was something that surprised me - but then again, it didn't. I know some slim people who drink soda. I know some overweight people who only drink coffee. But as a generalization - slender people drink a spare amount of carbonated beverages and instead opt for water, tea, or coffee. The next time you are in the grocery store and see someone with a lot of soda in their cart - note if they are overweight or slender. You'll see both - but more often, you'll note they are overweight. Read more: 3 Reasons to Rethink that Diet Coke

    5. Naturally slender people practice portion control. They don't sit and eat something tasty until they have to unbutton their pants or get uncomfortably full. They don't have seconds, thirds - and sometimes fourths. They don't have multiple servings of a "border food" or something that is a real "once in a very long while" treat - they have small, reasonable portions of everything they eat. A steak isn't a pound of meat; it is 4-5 ounces. A serving of rice doesn't fill a quarter of your plate; it is the size of 2 golf balls put together. Read more: Visual guide to portion control

    6. Naturally slender people shy away from high sodium, high fat foods on a regular basis.  This doesn't mean they always turn down a serving of french fries - but more often than not - they will only have one or two - not a full large plate full. When given a choice between a fatty, salty appetizer and one that is more wholesome ( say, deep fried mozzarella sticks versus a salad )  - they will either take the salad or skip the appetizer all together.

    7. Naturally slender people don't eat empty calories; they focus on nutrient dense foods. Again, I have yet to decide whether this is an unconscious or conscious decision on the part of naturally slender people - but they seem to gravitate towards those foods that are nutrient dense and give a lot of nutritional value for the food quantity they are consuming. They eat whole grain breads instead of white bread, They eat bright and colorful salads with a variety of vegetables and meat for protein rather than an iceberg lettuce salad with some carrot shavings on it drowning in salad dressing. And - they drink alcohol sparingly, if at all.

    Adopting these habits has really helped me see what I was doing wrong for so many years. I didn't eat a lot - I just ate poor combinations, without thought for what I had eaten the meal before. I wasn't well hydrated, and I gravitated towards high fat, high salt foods. This has been a real revelation for me. I wasn't just eating poorly - I was eating wrong. I believe slender people naturally "eat to live" instead of "live to eat." Having changed my focus to now view food as fuel for my body only - the years of poor nutrition are behind me, and for the first time in my life I'm in control of my weight.

    It's a good feeling.

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Clean Eating Principle: 5-6 Small Meals Per Day

    Clean Eating is essentially 5 principles for healthy nutrition:

    1. Avoid processed foods / eat as close to how the food occurs in nature as possible. 
    2. Drink a lot of water each day to stay fully hydrated - at least 40-60 ounces per day depending on your body size.
    3. Eat 5-6 mini meals spread out throughout the day. 
    4. Eat for maximum nutrient density - eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals, with complex carbohydrates and proteins combined in every meal.
    5. Avoid processed sugars and excessive salts.

     Over the next few weeks, I'm going to discuss each principle at length. This week- the mini-meal concept.

    Clean Eating Principle #3: Spread your food out over 5-6 smaller meals, consumed every 2-3 hours

    This is the Clean Eating principle that many people scratch their heads over, especially since we’ve had the “three-square meals” idea pounded in our heads since childhood.
    This principle isn’t necessarily about eating more food (although you might), but rather distributing your daily food over smaller, more frequent meals. This has four benefits:
    1. By keeping your meals smaller, you make sure you are only eating an amount of food that your body can utilize for energy and recovery over the next 2-3 hours. This discourages overeating, or calorie intake in excess of what your body needs, which will keep you lean or help you shed body fat.
    2. Better, more sustained energy. Eating smaller meals, more frequently, helps keep your blood sugar levels stable which prevents energy crashes. Blood sugar spikes also encourage excess calories to be stored more readily as body fat, so when you keep blood sugar stable, it can help you lose fat or at least maintain leanness.
    3. Improved metabolism. It takes energy to digest food. Eating more frequently can have a slight positive impact on resting metabolism.
    4. Improved macro-nutrient availability. This is especially important if you are performing weight or resistance training. Reducing body fat, while building muscle, requires food — and your muscles need carbs, fats and protein to recover and grow. By consuming food every 2-3 hours, you always make sure there is enough energy available to fuel recovery.
    So under the Clean Eating approach, your meals for the day might look like this:
    • Breakfast: Bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit and scrambled egg whites with one whole egg
    • Morning Snack: Apple with almond butter
    • Lunch: Sliced chicken breast (from a home-cooked chicken breast, not deli lunchmeat) on Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain bread with lettuce and tomatoes and a side salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing
    • Afternoon Snack: Low-fat, low-sugar homemade granola with Greek yogurt
    • Dinner: Salmon fillet with herbed brown rice and steamed asparagus in Dijon mustard sauce
    • Evening Snack: Cup of low-fat cottage cheese with a handful of almonds 
    Six small meals and snacks, all balanced with protein, carbs and healthy fats, none over 500 calories each, spread out over the day. Depending on your goals (fat loss versus building muscle), the amount of calories in each meal can be adjusted up.

    Just as important as having mini meals is having variety. Don't eat the same thing for breakfast, day after day. Eventually you'll mentally prepare yourself for a big slip up and it will be almost impossible to ignore those donuts your co-worker brought in to work. Mix it up. Remember, your body is a machine. It doesn't care if you eat yogurt for dinner, though you might classify yogurt as a "breakfast" item.

    Next week: Focusing on foods as they occur in Nature - a core tenant of Clean Eating.