Saturday, December 20, 2008

How to Clean Celery Properly for your Holiday Guests (and Yourself)

The ladies over at eDiets, my fellow Atkins ("Strictly Atkins") ladies, gave me the idea for this post. Turns out, in a discussion about eating more fruits and vegetables, that a couple of them had never peeled celery before.

I mentioned that because I am appalled when I go to a party and see that the celery has not been peeled. Does the host actually like green organic dental floss in their teeth after each meal? (Does this bug anyone besides me?)

Celery strings are thicker and tougher on the toughest stalks of the celery bunch . In addition, I learned that the tenderer stalks are the tastier ones and the tough ones should be pulled off the stalk and discarded or used for soup.

So now I'm going to tell you how to clean a bunch of celery so you can discover this wonderful vegetable which requires more calories to eat it than it actually provides! How cool is that!?!!

Celery is also a good thing to give to kids with cream cheese, peanut butter, or "bugs-on-a-log" -- raisins embedded in peanut butter.

I recommend using a paring knife. I knew someone who actually uses a vegetable peeler to do this, but it takes off more of the celery and is more difficult to do (the strings catch in it) yet that method may be quicker, until you learn how to do it with a paring knife.

A paring knife is that little bitty knife - about a 4" knife blade - that is sold anywhere kitchen stuff is sold. They come cheaply, but try not to get one that is so cheap it bends. Your fingers will thank you.
  • So, first remove the outside stalks from the celery bunch and wash the dirt off them. Set them aside for soup or discard (it's kinda fun to watch them spin when inserted whole, and in a standing position, down the garbage disposal, but the strings can cause problems for the garbage disposal -- I've heard-- so try not to have too much fun).

  • Then, cut off the bottom hunk of celery (where it all comes together at the root). You can use that for soup too, if you like, or toss it. Clean it a bit better if you keep it because there are more crevices there for dirt to hide in.
  • Now all your stalks should be "free" and independent of each other. One option is to cut the ends off (just scant) to clear the ending of dried, dirty stalk. Another is to cut it off just below the "joint" and use the top parts for soup (some will be longer than others).

  • The center stalks of the celery are the tenderest, but some of them get to be very leafy. These look pretty in Bloody Mary's but I haven't found a liking for the leafy stalks otherwise, so if you do, enjoy. (My xh, who taught me all this stuff (and came from a fresh foods family), loved that part and ate it. Not me.)
  • So, now we have the parts of the celery we might actually want to eat. Let's clean them up and get rid of those nasty strings.

  • I use water and my hands to remove dirt - these parts are not that going to be as dirty as the other, so this is easy to do.

  • Then I remove strings. The strings can be found easily with your fingernails but they (the strings not the nails) will break off a lot if you do it that way. The fingernails will also get gunky, so now is a good time to get out your paring knife.

  • Putting your thumb on the back of the celery, you place the blade in the end of the celery (think how a vegetable peeler's blade needs to get underneath the peel) and cut in gently until you can pull back the celery flesh, squeezing it with your thumb against the blade. Your other finger is holding the blade firmly against whichever strings your blade located. Normally, you will find a lot of strings the first time, then look for stray strings later.

  • Pull firmly but gently all the way down the stalk and the strings will be the only part of the celery being removed, not the flesh. Once you've gotten this to work, you'll see how easy it is. Go back and pull the other strings out.
You will find the toughest parts/stalks have the thickest strings. The tenderer pieces sometimes have next-to-nothing in the way of strings. Taste them to see which ones suit you best and now you know which celery you like the most.

The de-stringed celery may look a little odd to you, particularly if you mangle it a bit the first few - or dozens - of times you do it.

I recommend cleaning (de-stringing) the whole bunch of celery, then putting it back in a bag in the fridge so whenever someone wants one - straight-up or with PB or cream cheese (Atkins-friendly for Induction with CC or plain) - it's ready to go.

Put the other saved celery in a different baggy so you can just toss it in whenever you make a homemade soup like Chicken Noodle (which Mo made) or Chicken Soup. (Hmmm maybe we should go ahead and make chicken soup the same day and freeze it.)

Do you have any vegetables that you just don't like? Let me know and I'll publish some recipes or hints of ways that can maybe help you like it a little bit better, or maybe even learn to love it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Road Trips or Car Trips - Heaven or Hell?

ROAD TRIPS - Doesn't everything fun just scream "Road Trip!" ?

I love car trips, but after a while they can get boring, and boring can be B-A-D for my hips...because then I want to eat FUN food - the kind that gives your mouth some interesting textures and flavors to deal with...we all have our faves, so I won't get your mouth watering over mine.

What to do? Most holidays have a trip in there somewhere.

Bring plenty of water, but plan that you may have to buy some while out. Make those stretching breaks and stretch them out a bit.

Take a stretch when you stop at the gas station. Cross your ankle over your knee (like a guy crossing his legs), then either bend forward or lift the other leg up to your chest. I like doing this with the steering wheel helping to hold the leg up to my chest. This is a great "opener" for the opposite hip. Do both sides, breathing and relaxing your muscles, particularly those that are trying to tighten. In yoga, this is called "breathing into (that muscle/joint)" and after a while, it feels just like that's what you're doing. You'll feel the muscles relax and the joint will limber up. Great for car trips that make you stiff.

Dance in the car - can be done driving or riding, but is easier if you control the music you hear ;) Arms are a little difficult, but you can contract your buttocks in traffic - at lights, or just by bouncing on your seat a bit. It's a different form of drumming your fingers. Think of it as being enthused by your music. Just don't lose your grip on reality or the wheel, and keep an eye on all your mirrors and the traffic around you. Choreograph the music in your head.

Buy new music for the trip - this is always good for making me feel less bored.

Vary the music. Use the radio when you go thru a town which has a wider choice of stations.

Try driving to country music when out in the countryside - the beat is interesting, the lyrics at times unbelievable and funny, and the talent is there, too. Or try any music you don't normally listen to - for 1/2 hour or so at a time to break up the monotony of the same-old same-old.

Stop for a real meal instead of drive-thru - treat yourself to a to-go salad at Applebees or another sit-down place that you find- either sit and eat it, or take it on the road - but make sure you're doing something you don't normally do on road trips.

Sometimes traditions are good for road trips, too. If you've got some that work for you in keeping the "bad foods" at bay when boredom sets in, post them here in comments. I usually do a lot of driving alone, so I can control the music and that helps me a lot. For others, having a crowd along may help. What kind of things have worked for you?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Eating Your Weight Thru the Holidays

I've added a Twitter feed to my blog and if you've noticed that, then you know that I'm baking holiday cookies this week, and Barry has an office party at our house this Friday. It just cannot be complete without making a lot of sweets and a lot of carbs!

So how do I handle all this?

1. I have an emergency plan if I lose control. Call this your back up plan.
  • Stop at 3 (3 cookies, 3 candied things) if I do get into the goodies.
  • Call a friend or check online with a support group who can give you encouragement to drink some water instead and wait 15 minutes to see if you can control the craving.
  • Leave the house; take a walk or a drive. A walk is good because it also increases your metabolism. Be gone for at least 15 minutes. If you go on a drive, drink water and go where there is no food - the gym or the library or a walk in a park/woods. (Avoid the mall, Target, Wal-mart and any other store that has any food in or around it - the smells won't help you even if you think you could kill two birds with one stone by getting some errands done.)

2. Increase your exercising during the week by 5-15 minutes a day...for the week, this will give you 30-45 minutes more for the week.
  • If you're short on time, take the 5 minutes to run up and down the stairs somewhere or dance like crazy in the kitchen when a great song comes on (they're only about 3 minutes - I did 3 different songs during the big bake-a-thon).

3. Its winter, so double-duty: Increase your water - add 2-3 cups a day.
  • Another cup when you wake up, one while you dance or run the stairs (when you finish) and another before you go to bed, or wherever you can find the time to suck another one down.
  • This will help you feel fuller when you do eat, and helps hydrate your skin during these drier months, too.

4. Make extra portions for yourself of things you can have on your program and reward yourself by having more of those and limiting your other indulgences.
  • I like veal sauteed with mushrooms and asparagus and maybe crab meat (veal oscar). I use chicken breasts usually for this, and parmesan and egg for the "breading" and maybe italian seasoning.
  • Leftovers can go into an omelet for breakfast the next day and it's really a snap to whip up a one-person hollandaise sauce.

  • If you haven't tried this, you owe it to yourself. A good whisk and the
    microwave - watch the "pot" - does the trick and if not, throw it into the
    blender to eliminate any lumpy mistakes.
  • The blender then goes into the
    dishwasher - easy clean-up (yay!).
  • Crab and asparagus omelets with
    hollandaise - now there's a real holiday treat!

With these methods for reducing your hunger, keeping your metabolism up, and avoiding the worst cravings as much as you can, you can enjoy the holidays and maintain the weight loss you've already enjoyed, and be ready afterwards to kick it into high gear for the spring bathing season coming up....

All you're doing then (since you've increased your metabolism and your exercise and your water) is stop indulging in carbs and sweets (again). Think you can do that? Sure thing!