Thursday, January 19, 2012

Week #2 of the Cleanse- Trying New Foods

  As Week #2 of the cleanse has gone past, and Week #3 draws near its end I've been left feeling great about my food choices.  Not only have I been pretty much solely subsisting on whole fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and fish but I've been trying new foods I never even knew I liked. 
  Take the sardine, for example.  My mom used to eat them out of the can, the mustard kind.  I was disgusted, as any adolescent girl probably would be.  Until recently, the gross mustard image was all I knew of sardines, and for that reason I had pretty much condemned them to my list of fish that I don't eat.  But let's re-examine the sardine.  Actually several types of fish related to the herring, sardines are a whopping good dose of all things healthy.  These little soft-boned fishies contain Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, tons of protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, and more.  Not only that, but Pacific Wild-caught sardines are about the most ecologically friendly fish you can buy and eat.  At the bottom of the oceanic food chain, sardines feed on plankton and have been found to be lacking in high levels of heavy metals. 
And boy are they delicious!
Mixed greens w/ tarragon, clementines, sardines and toasted pumpkin seeds

Breakfast continues to be something I look forward to.  The offerings were:

Tofu scramble w/ beet greens and turmeric
Try the tofu scramble with black beans and Sriracha for a little kick. 
Vegetable-miso soup with chickpeas
This soup is so delicious it has made it into the breakfast rotation two weeks in a row.  I know, you're thinking: Soup for breakfast?  And really, that's all you need to ask yourself, and then you need to eat it!

My smoothie creation: Kiwi + pineapple + mango

Lunches have been just as satisfying, but with more substance.  The sardine salad above makes an excellent lunch for two (or two days!)  But who can resist spicy black bean salad with mangoes?  Raw kale salad with pomegranate?  Or red lentil soup with turnips and parsley?  I couldn't...good, good, gone.

Red lentil and turnip soup with parsley
Spicy Black Bean Salad- Try this with mangoes and/or avocado for a savory treat

Raw kale salad with pomegranate and toasted walnuts

Dinners have been the height of delectable.  I've learned to cook en papillote, as the French say, or in parchment paper as we Americans say.  It's a great way to preserve nutrients and cook food fast!  Plus, it's fun to open up your dinner like a present.

Rainbow trout cooked en papillote with fennel, apple and broccoli slaw
Grilled salmon and bok choy with avocado salsa
Roasted winter vegetables with cannellini beans
Snacks remain by far the most important component of this eating plan!  I've stuck with a few of the same recipes from Week #1, and added a new dessert-like snack.  
Pistachio-stuffed dates with toasted coconut
Meet, the date.  Nectar-sweet, golden and sticky, the date has become my new favorite dried fruit.  Could.  Not.  Stop.  Eating.  Them!  Even when they weren't smooshed with delicious pistachio crumbs and dusted in coconut.  It's a good thing they're so darn good for you!  Packed with vitamins A1, B1, B2, B3, B5 and over twenty essential amino acids, there's a reason this fruit has been a staple of the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean diet for centuries.  I buy the kind already pitted to save myself the messy, sticky trouble of pitting them.  

It's quite remarkable the difference food can make in your life- whether it's good food or bad food.  I feel fortunate to be able to try new things and make wise choices about what I'm consuming.  I also feel fortunate to have some new kitchen toys that I'm bursting to write about!  After the cleanse...and after I write AT LEAST ONE poem for a poetry gig next weekend...Here's to feeding my inspiration. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Week #1 of the Cleanse- Lessons in Willpower & Weakness

Life is a journey.
  As week one of the cleanse draws to a close, I'm pleased to find that I am already feeling the benefits of eating more fresh, healthy foods.  That's not to say that it has been easy though.  In addition to feeling really healthy and good, I have had a very hard time resisting my sugar cravings.  I never knew how much I depended on dessert after dinner!  Habitually, we have eaten dinner and then gorged ourselves on all kinds of processed sugar and junk.  Habits like that are hard to break, let me tell you.  The ultimate food torture of the week was baking a cake for a co-workers retirement party.  This cake smelled so amazingly delicious, and was chocolate, my favorite.  Of course, I had to have a crumb or two...

Chocolate-Cinnamon Bundt Cake with Mocha Frosting
  Keeping a food journal has been immensely helpful in examining my relationship with food.  I can compare what I was eating before the cleanse to what I'm eating now, and the difference has been like night and day.  From ice cream and Snickers candy bars to fresh juices, smoothies and veggies.  It even looks better written on the page!  Also, I am more mindful of what I eat, as I am documenting every morsel.
  Having the recipes and guidelines for this cleanse is only half of the battle.  While you have the tools, it also becomes a battle of the mind and the body.  At times I wonder where the cravings stem from, and if they are based more on a physical or a mental dependence.  Or both.  As my physical self purges the toxins, I feel that my mental self is also detoxifying.  I would almost compare it to a withdrawal- where the absence of the normal substances shocks the system into a panic.  What I would do for a cheeseburger... 
  But in moments of weakness, where I really think I might give in to the whims of my junk-food addicted stomach (and brain), I remember the fresh food waiting to be transformed into something nourishing and flavorful.  I savor the time spent in preparation- rinsing, peeling, chopping, roasting, seasoning.  The final anticipatory moment before the first bite, when you're not quite sure that it's going to be what you thought.  But then it always is, and sometimes exceedingly so.
  These recipes don't disappoint, and some of them were so wonderful that I will be making them far beyond this cleanse.  

First things first...
Drinking warm water with lemon juice before breakfast helps stimulate the liver and release digestive enzymes!

Breakfast I normally skip this meal, but it is oh so important because it helps to keep you full until lunch or your first snack!  So the moral of this story?  Eat breakfast! 

Green Machine Smoothie- Intense Green!

Grapefuit + Carrot + Apple + Ginger

Beet + Carrot + Apple + Mint

Lunch!  I start dreaming about lunch soon after breakfast, and I need something that will both energize me and keep me full until a snack or dinner.  These were delicious!

Kale and Red Cabbage Salad with Mixed Seeds and Tangy Dressing

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

Avocado Salad with Tomatoes and Bell Pepper
Dinner  This is the easiest meal to compromise.   You're tired and you don't feel like cooking, so you order a pizza or get some other kind of carry out or fast food.  I find when I eat a little snack and take the time to prepare dinner that I'm much more satisfied with my meals.  I eat every bite, and I enjoy it.

Delicata Squash and Broccoli over Mixed Greens with Tahini Sauce

Roasted Garlic-Beet Soup w/ Sauteed Beet Greens

Roasted Cauliflower, Red Peppers and Almonds with Olives and Parsley

Snacks Having a good supply of healthy snacks on hand has been crucial for me when it comes to sticking with the cleanse.  It's so easy to go to the vending machine, but when you have these treats at your fingertips there's no need to cheat!

Crispy Roasted Cauliflower
Fruit and Nut Bites
Spiced Crispy Roasted Chickpeas
Kale Chips- Eat as much of this powerhouse food as possible!
I can't wait to begin Week 2!  The recipes are a bit more substantial (read: no liquid meals!) and you start incorporating lean proteins like fish and tofu.  I rather underestimated the ease with which I would adapt to this new diet, but I am quickly feeling pride in being able to make these changes and noticing a difference in the way I feel.    

Difficulties make you a jewel. 
~Chinese proverb