Friday, November 30, 2012

Clean Eating & Sugar

One of the hardest decisions for me to make in in efforts to eat clean was to decide what "sugar" to use.  Unless you are chewing on the sugar cane plant directly, EVERY sweetener has been "processed" in some way shape or form.  So how can ANY of them truly be "clean?" 

Currently in my house we have the following:

White sugar: too processed for general use. But I do keep a bag on hand for guests to use in their coffee or tea, or for those times that it is important/required (but there are VERY few of those times.) 

Turbinado "sugar in the raw:" what I currently use for baking.  I love the molasses flavor to gives to cookies, pies, everything.

Liquid blue agave: I use this to sweeten my own coffees and teas, as well as adding to my morning steel cut oats when a bit of sweetness is required.

Stevia: cause I read somewhere that it is one of the better choices in eating clean.  I have yet to try it...

Local Raw Honey: Raw is the key word here, and it should be a bit cloudy.  Clear, golden colored honey has been processed a bit too much.  Local is key too, as it has been made by bees from flowers that are in your area; studies have shown that it helps with pollen allergies!

I am curious as to what YOU use to sweeten your foods!  Please comment back!! 


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Clean Snacking

One of the first things that happened to me when we switched from processed snacks to clean snacks was I lost 11 pounds. 11!!  Not all at once, but it slowly came off over a period of about 3 months.  I noticed that I was snacking a lot less, and I think the salt & preservatives from the processed foods were making me retain some water.

I think clean eating should be a diet all of it's own!  In order to snack, you have to make the snack. There is no more mindless handfuls or chips, or crackers, or cookies.  If you want it, you need to make it!  If I am in the mood for some potato chips, I have to get out the deep fryer, get out the mandolin, scrub the potatoes, heat up the oil, slice the potatoes, cook the potatoes, then wait for them to cool.  It sounds like a lot of work, but truthfully it is not. But how badly do I want those potato chips? I must really want them to go through the work to have them.

11 pounds!!! But then I plateaued and that was it.  But 11 pounds!!  I find that since we started eating clean, ALL of us snack less.

And that's good, right?  Kathy

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saving $$ by eating clean & Costco

One of the first things I noticed was my lower grocery bill.  I was in total shock at hoe much food I got for so little money, once those prepared foods came out of my shopping cart.  My hubby & I were each eating 3-4 frozen lunches a week; my kids were eating at least 2-3 bags of potato chips a week; then you had crackers, granola bars, ice cream...oh my goodness!!

When you fill your grocery cart with fruits, vegetables, and proteins, and dairy, you really are not spending that much.  I found I could easily afford the higher priced organic produce when I was not spending $4 on each bag of potato chips.  For that same $4 I could buy a 5lb bag of potatoes and a bottle of oil; and make the equivalent of 10 bags of potato chips!!  In my estimation, a regular-sized bag of potato chips is 2 potatoes.

I do a lot of shopping at Costo; they have a large variety of organic foods, if you take the time to look.  They carry a lot of "all natural" (I know I've said to be weary of that phrase but if you read the ingredients you can see what is good and what is not) and many items that contain no preservatives.

My favorite find at the moment:  

salsa!! While salsa is easy to make on my own, this is perfect for having on hand for unexpected company.

So am I saving money with this? Yes, I am. For $7.69 I get TWO of these 38 oz bottles. They go really far.  Organic tomatoes run me $3 a pound at the moment; to buy that many tomatoes, this is worth it.

I know ORGANIC does not necessarily mean CLEAN.  I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this!

Keep eating, Kathy

Edit: just found this - all about clean eating AT Costco!! Shopping at Costco

Friday, November 23, 2012

Clean Eating for Thanksgiving Part 3

The apple pie!

Yesterday was such a whirlwind of cooking, preparing, etc that I did not get to take too many pictures. My in-laws are what we call round here "snowbirds." They spend half a year in New Jersey and half a year in Florida.  So as they prepare to flee the chilly weather, we do Christmas on Thanksgiving. So presents are part of my Thanksgiving as well.  But I did get to take pictures of the apple pie!

My version of my mom's 1950-something apple pie recipe:

pie crust for double crust pie, rolled into thinness you like and bottom crust placed in pie pan

2-3T whole wheat flour
1-2t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
3/4-1c sugar; I like turbinado, esp in apple pies; the molasses flavor really adds to the pie
2T butter, cut into chunks

mixture of tart, medium and sweet local apples, # depends on size or pie & size of apples.
      (for a 9" pie I have at least 7 medium apples)

Mix dry ingredients together in a small bowl.  You want this ready as the apples will start to brown pretty quickly. 

Peel, core & slice the apples. I have been reading a lot about NOT peeling the apples; how we are throwing away all that great fiber and other nutrients when we do that.  I want to try it one day and see how it comes out.  For Thanksgiving, I needed to keep my pie the same as always.  If you are fortunate enough to be able to get/afford organic apples, I can see leaving on the skins.  But regular store apples I most likely will not.

Once they are all sliced, toss the apples with the dry ingredients.

Slowly pour them into crust-lined pie pan, stopping to pat them down, adjusting to fill in large gaps.  The apples will settle as they bake; but if there is too much gaping, you will end up with a space between your apples and top crust.

Dot the apples with butter.  I like to stick in the small butter cubes as I am layering the apples.

Prepare top crust. I used three small cookie cutters to cut out leaves; sometimes I just carve an apple out of the center.  Whatever you like!! Make sure to put small air vents around large crust areas; helps crust mold to top of pie.

I use aluminum foil all around the bottom of my pie, bring it up and around the crust edges to make my little crust guard.  Burned edges are such a turn off on a pie!  You can see mid-process in the picture on the side.  Last 10-15 minutes of baking, loosen the the foil to brown up the crust edges.  This method also catches and contains the drips.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes, depending on size of pie. Beautiful!!

Cool on wire rack at least two hours.  I remove the foil for cooling.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Clean Eating for Thanksgiving part 2

Desserts!  My personal favorite part of the meal.

Due to gallbladder problems, I am in a strict "as low fat as I can go" meal plan at the moment,  but that will not stop me for preparing Thanksgiving desserts!  While I may not get to enjoy a lot of what I am making, I am doing everything I can to make sure I can enjoy part of it.  I will come back and post pics as I am cooking.

Desserts for our Thanksgiving Meal:
apple pie                                    toppings:  chocolate syrup, caramel, whipped cream
apple crisp
pumpkin biscotti
ice cream

I can't eat the pie, so the crisp is really for me. If I am just going to eat out the filling of the pie, I might as well make something else.

My apple pie is an old recipe of my mom's.  She had a Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook from 1953 that I have kept and use whenever I can.  I love old cookbooks, since they were made before most processed foods, they give you great recipes. One thing that drives me nuts is when I get a recipe and it calls for something already prepared. I don't like when tv chefs do that either.  I will do a separate entry on the pie.

I am thrilled to have found some GREAT cooking websites.  One of my favorites is Simply Recipes.  Elise's blog is my first stop for recipes.  In fact, most of what I am using today comes from there.

Elise's Apple Crisp

Elise's Pumpkin Biscotti

Elise's Caramel Sauce

Another frequent stop for me is Tiffany at The Gracious Pantry.  This is a great place for information on "real" clean eating.  For Thanksgiving, I will be serving her:

Tiffany's Chocolate Syrup

The whipped cream comes from  Kathy Maister's Start Cooking Her site is great as it gives instructions AND information about cooking, so you can be a bit more informed about what you are making.

 Whipped Cream

So that leaves me with ice cream.  I have an OLD (we're talking 20 yrs) hand crank which works really good.  I used to use this recipe: Vanilla Ice Cream 4 ingredients!! And I lower the sugar to 1/8 c turbinado. I can't find low fat whipping cream anywhere, sigh.  So I will be skipping the ice cream & caramel cause this year. But the whipped cream I may get a dollop of. :)

Unless you have an ice cream maker, you really won't want to try this.  So if I need to buy ice cream, what do I buy? The only one I have found so far is Breyer's Lactose Free Vanilla. Whether or not you are lactose intolerant, this is a decent alternative for when you cannot make your own, or you need to bring ice cream somewhere and you don't want to fill your body (or the body of others who will be eating it) with additives.

           Lid and side panel

 Here is the lowfat Breyers Vanilla:

           Lid and side panel

Both include a "gum" but the lactose free is "free-er" of other stuff.  So if I need to bring, this is what I buy.  So one has noticed that it is lactose free. :)  Again, clean eating "my way."

Happy eating!!   Kathy

Monday, November 19, 2012

Clean Eating for Thanksgiving part 1

Skipping ahead in my pre-planned introductory posts to think about Thanksgiving.  I am working on my shopping list for the week.  The stores can get crazy this week, I'm sure you know, so I'm getting out early.

I was very successful last year in keeping with my clean eating for the holidays, and fully intend to keep it up again this year.  How about you?

I have been put in charge of the salad and the desserts.  The salad is easy, until you get to the dressing. That is when it gets REALLY hard.  Bottled dressings are filled with extra stuff that we really don't need!  A simple oil & vinegar can taste quite yummy when you play with the oils & vinegars, and can be much cheaper than buying a bottle dressing in the long run.

Here is my salad:   (organic is always preferred, but not always easy to find)
     1 package baby spinach
     small to medium can of mandarin oranges (juicer than fresh, plus easier to find)
     sliced baby portabello mushrooms
     chopped pecans or walnuts, your preference
     2-3 hard boiled eggs, chopped

That's it - yummy flavors & textures that work together so well!  I'll take a picture and post it after it's made.

The dressing:
    1/2 c oil (light oils better than olive here; I use grapeseed)
    2T balsamic vinegar (I like  more; we can also use a white balsamic for a slightly different flavor)
    2T sugar
    pinch of salt

Wisk together in liquid measuring cup, pour over salad & mix in (if everyone likes it that way) or serve on side.  Yummy!!!

My dessert entry will be quite long, so I'm going to put that in a separate post.

Happy eating!! Kathy

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Single Ingredient Items

Single ingredient items can be very confusing.  You think when you buy a bag of flour, or a container of cream, you are buying something that is well, wheat or milk.  It's important to always read the labels of everything you buy.

True story:

I was so proud of myself last Thanksgiving.  After reading the label on a can of whipped cream, I set out to make my very own whipped cream and it came out delicious!!  I boasted to my friends and co-workers, how easy it was to whip together cream, sugar & vanilla. Three ingredients! All who tried it loved it!  Later in the week that followed, I was incredibly surprised to read what was in the cream; I thought it was only milk! I was so surprised when I accidentally read the side of the cream assumption? Cream was made from an early part in the milk making process, when there was still a lot of fat in it. What is in the ingredient list, you may be thinking to yourself?

Here ya go: 

I am breaking my rule: I had NO idea what mono and digylcerides, polysorbate 80 or carrageenan are.  So am I eating clean? Not by the real "clean" standards.

Here is the side of the canned whipped cream:

I'm doing a bit better - in this case.  But not in every case. But I can tell you I went and looked up what those were, and decided as often as I make whipped cream, and with how well we do with all of our other meals, that on the holidays a little but won't hurt.  So you now know, and can decide what is best for your family...

According to Wikipedia:
Mono and diglycerides:
Mono- and diglycerides are common food additives used to blend together certain ingredients, such as oil and water, which would not otherwise blend well. It is important to note that the values given in the nutritional labels for total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat do not include those present in mono- and diglycerides.
The commercial source may be either animal (cow- or hog-derived) or vegetable, derived primarily from partially hydrogenated soy bean and canola oil.[citation needed] They may also be synthetically produced. They are often found in bakery products, beverages, ice cream, peanut butter, chewing gum, shortening, whipped toppings, margarine, confections, and candies.

Polysorbate 80:
Polysorbate 80 is used as an emulsifier in foods, particularly in ice cream. Here, polysorbate is added to up to 0.5% (v/v) concentration and makes the ice cream smoother and easier to handle, as well as increasing its resistance to melting.[4] Adding this substance prevents milk proteins from completely coating the fat droplets. This allows them to join together in chains and nets, which hold air in the mixture, and provide a firmer texture that holds its shape as the ice cream melts.

Carrageenans or carrageenins (play /ˌkærəˈɡnənz/ KARR-ə-GHEE-nənz) are a family of linear sulfated polysaccharides that are extracted from red seaweeds. There are several varieties of carrageen used in cooking and baking. Kappa-carrageenan is used mostly in breading and batter due to its gelling nature. Lambda carrageenan is a non-gelling variety that assists in binding, retaining moisture, and in contributing to viscosity in sweet doughs. Iota carrageenan is used primarily in fruit applications and requires calcium ions to develop a heat-reversible and flexible gel.[1] Gelatinous extracts of the Chondrus crispus (Irish Moss) seaweed have been used as food additives for hundreds of years.[2] Carrageenan is a vegetarian and vegan alternative to gelatin.

Apparently there is seaweed in my cream. :)  I will continue to make my own cream; the three ingredients in mine are better than the ingredients in the canned stuff.  I am curious to see if the frozen stuff has the same ingredients. I will try to remember my camera next time I go to the grocery to snap a pic.

Happy eating!  Kathy

edit: here's a pic from the frozen whipped cream 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"My" Clean eating "Rules"

Yes, that is a LOT of quotes.  I want to emphasize that these are the choices I have made for my family.  True clean eaters go beyond these guidelines.  My family can only do so much!!

Prepared foods I still buy:

Pasta. I do not have a pasta maker, and while I was raised by an Italian, she rarely cooked (I was raised on prepared meals) and when I do try it comes out really thick.  I hope to one day buy a pasta machine and try to make my own. 

Bread.  I do not have a bread maker, and while I was raised by an Italian, she rarely cooked (I was raised on prepared meals) and when I do try it comes out really dense.  I hope to one day buy a bread machine and try to make my own.  Yes, I know I copied that description...LOL

Yogurt: I cannot live without my Chobani. Totally addicted. Yes, it can be a bit expensive, but I feel that the expense is justified based on how little I spend on other foods.  I usually buy it at my local warehouse store, which makes it much less than the grocery.  I have a super Wal-Mart in a neighboring town that sells it cheaper than a grocery as well, for when I want more flavor choices.

Graham crackers.  Because of my gallbladder problems, I have to eat as low fat a diet as possible.  While I bake my own cookies all the time for my kids, they still include butter and/or eggs which are too high in fat for me.  I have seen recipes for clean graham crackers, but they scare me.  One day I will try.

Pretzels. I tried to make my own, but they came out horrible! Still trying...

Breakfast cereals.  I do buy healthy ones, no artificial colors/flavors in my Cheerios, but there are some mornings my kids need that quick breakfast option before school.

Macaroni & Cheese. I am still perfecting the cheese sauce, but there are days when my son comes home from high school starving. There is no time to grate & melt cheese.  I do buy an organic brand though, none of the Kraft stuff.

That's about it.  Everything else is made by me with whole, natural ingredients. My grocery savings was unbelieveable when I cut out the higher priced foods. We'll talk about that in another post.

My "rule" is this: is it in it's natural form?  
Yes? I can eat it.
No? Why not? How has it been modified? (I am not grinding my own wheat into flour...) How many ingredients are on the label and more importantly WHAT ARE THEY? If I don't know what it is, I WILL NOT EAT IT.  With the exceptions above. :) But even in my exceptions, I read labels closely.  Minimal ingredients are key for me. 

That's about it!! Over the next couple weeks I plan on sharing some of my favorite "clean" products and I'll also share with you WHY I chose them as clean.  I think they WHY is as important as the WHAT.  When you are reading labels, be wary of products labeled "natural." I've been reading more and more about how food companies are abusing the term when their products are not truly natural.

In the meantime...happy eating!!  Kathy

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hello and Welcome!

Hi there! Nice to meet you!! I am Kathy and I started this blog to help others out there, that are like me, and are trying their best to lead a healthy food life in this over-processed world that we live in.

Most likely you found my blog through a search for "clean eating" or "healthy foods" or "how to avoid processed foods" or something along those lines.  That is exactly where I started October 2011.  Late September 2011 I started having digestive issues; heart burn, rib pain, chest pain.  My doctor told me to keep a food journal, note times of day and what foods were bothering me, what happens (or doesn't happen!) when I avoid those trigger foods.  This process got me thinking about what I was putting in my (and my family's) body every day.  That, along with the constant reports of cancer increasing in younger and younger people, got me interested in what can be called "clean eating."

I started an internet search on my symptoms, acid reflux, GERD, and gallbladder disease.  Clean eating kept popping up all over the place.  I continued my search and found a plethora of blogs, recipes and wonderful looking recipes that were "healthy" for me and my family.  I'm sure by now, if you have been at this for a while, you are a bit overwhelmed.  I sure was.  All these "rules" about what is clean and what is not; paleo vs clean vs natural vs organic; oh boy!!! I printed out list after list of ingredients I should have in my home, got shell-shocked at the price tag in the grocery store of these ingredients I had previously never heard of, and tried my best to figure it all out.

The first thing I did was NOT throw out everything processed in my house.  I slowly over time used it all, so as not to make a drastic change to my family.  I have a wonderful hubby of 20 years, and two teenage boys, currently 13 & 15.  "What do you mean no more Oreos???"  I heard OFTEN.  So my first recommendation, if you are trying to change your family's eating habits, is to GO SLOW.  Don't do it to them (and yourself all at once.)  They will NOT be happy with you!

I grew up with HORRIBLE eating habits.  Food was not a priority in my house, for many reasons which I won't share at this time.  My husband grew up the opposite; no sweets in the house, you snack on lettuce.  Total opposites; as time went on, of course I brought him over to the dark side and ruined all his mom's hard work.  So now we are working on a happy, unprocessed medium.

My goal for this blog is to share with you my journey in removing processed foods.  I want to share products I found that I feel fit in with "my" clean eating rules.  I look forward to getting to know other folks out there in cyberspace like me; we do our best and hope for the best.

Hello, and welcome!!  Kathy