Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cleanse Meals - Tasty I Swear!

For a week starting Jan 3 I went wheat-free, meat-free, sugar free, dairy free, beer-free.  I have to admit, at the beginning (about 2 days), I was hungry all the time.  But then my body got used to it and I really stopped craving bread and carbs and junky stuff and actually started wanting fruit.  Which is weird, because I don't really like fruit.  Vegetables yes, but I'm not really a fruit eater, generally.  But by the end of the week I was happily snacking on clementines and apples and pineapple.  I was glad to get back to eating like a normal person, but even still, I've really found that what I want to eat has changed pretty dramatically.  If you've been thinking about doing "a cleanse" I really recommend it, and I don't think that you even need to commit to a full week.  I felt best about 3 days after I started, and the "wow, I feel better" feeling kind of plateaued around day 4.  

I know that when I decided to do this, I looked online for all kinds of recipes, but pretty much came up blank.  I mean, I found a lot of sites that were like "eat kale!" but that's not all that helpful if you're trying to plan a meal.  And I did eat meals, because I feel like to do otherwise is modeling some pretty unhealthy dieting behavior.  So if you're thinking about trying to reset your digestive system, here are some pretty easy things that were also really tasty.  

Caramelized Onion and White Bean Soup

I have been craving onions like crazy for some reason, and this soup really hit the spot.  It was easy to make and super yummy and really filling.  I actually was sad that I didn't have more. (And sad that I didn't get a picture of it)

1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 carrots, sliced thin
6 c. vegetable broth
1/2 c. cooked leafy green (I used kale, because I had some and, you know, kale)
1/2 can small white beans, rinsed

In a medium pot, saute the onions in about 1 tbsp olive oil over low heat.  Once the onions have become very soft and almost translucent (about 35 minutes - stir occasionally) raise the heat to medium and cook until they are a golden brown.

Add the carrot and garlic and cook about 5 minutes.  Add the broth and simmer over medium heat until the carrots are soft, about 15 minutes.  Add the leafy greens and beans and cook until the beans are warmed through.  

There isn't much to this soup, but it really hits the spot on a cold day when you feel all comfort-foody, but don't want to pile in a thick stew.

Curried Chickpea Patties
These were really really good.  I ate one for breakfast one day.  I resisted the urge to call them "burgers" because then people expect something hamburger-like, which these obviously aren't.  But if you can accept that something yummy and healthy can come in a hamburger shape but not taste like meat, these are the way to go.  
 Pete had his on a hamburger roll 
(and the kids had regular hamburgers.  I know how much I can push it)

2 cans chickpeas (garbanzos) drained and rinsed
3/4 c cooked brown rice (I used the frozen stuff from Trader Joes
1/2 onion
1/4 c frozen peas
1 tbsp yellow curry paste*
1 egg white
 olive oil for cooking

Saute the onion over medium heat for about 5 minutes just so it loses its bite.  Set aside to cool.

Put the chickpeas, brown rice, onion, egg white and curry paste into a Cuisinart, and run until it's a pasty consistency, but still with some chunks of  chickpea. Using a spoon, stir in the peas.  

Heat a generous (6 tbsp?) olive oil in a nonstick pan until hot.  Shape about 1/6 of the chickpea mixture into a patty shape and gently place in the hot oil.  You want to fill the pan but not overcrowd, so decide whether you can repeat with one or two more patties.  Lower the heat to medium and cook undisturbed until the patty is browned on the bottom (about 5 minutes).  Gently flip over and cook on the other side.  Remove from pan and keep warm in a 200 degree oven, and repeat with the rest of the mixture until all the patties are cooked.

*if you can't find yellow curry paste, you can use red, but that tends to be a little spicer, so be careful if you don't like a lot of heat.  As a last resort you can use about 1 tbsp curry powder, but that is going to result in a less flavorful patty.

Lentils and Rice and Fried Onions

I told you I was on an onion kick.  I got this recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison, and just tweaked it a little.  I'm not normally a huge fan of lentils, but when they're hidden under a mess of fried onions, you kind of can't go wrong.

6 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, sliced thin
1 c green lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 c. white rice (I used medium grain, but you could use long grain - anything that has about a 25 minute cooking time)
salt and pepper

In a regular (not non-stick) skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  When hot, add the onions and cook until they are a nice dark brown, about 15 minutes.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add the lentils and let cook, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.  Add the the rice, reduce the heat to low, and cover.  Let the lentil rice mix simmer until all the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked, about 25 minutes.  

Briefly reheat the onions, and serve it atop the lentil and rice mixture, seasoning generously with salt and pepper.

I served this with a simple salad topped with balsamic, a little olive oil, and beets that came cooked from the refrigerated section.  It came together really well.  While the lentils and rice aren't so pretty (this isn't people-over-for-dinner food) it's filling, delicious, healthy, and cheap.

5 Minute Steel-Cut Oats
This isn't really a recipe, but I guess maybe kinda.  For breakfast every morning I had Trader Joes 5 minute steel cut oats.  I sometimes topped with thawed frozen blueberries and always topped with about 2 tbsp maple syrup.  So good.  I am totally NOT in any way a morning person, but it was worth the 5 minutes to start my day like this

If you've made it this far, congrats.  And you don't have to worry about my getting all preachy about healthy foods.  Aside from a few more fruits and less bread (just because I haven't been wanting it) I'm basically back to normal.  In fact, the day the cleanse ended was Pete's birthday, so we've been eating how he likes which is 
the cupcakes were vegan and so moist and delicious (don't tell anyone) and the frosting was that amazing stuff that I wrote about here

that would be pulled pork, homemade cornbread, collard greens and coleslaw
vanilla cake with &^%* number of candles (and more of that amazing frosting)
Not to mention the delicious dinner out and southern style BBQ feast that my mother concocted for our family celebration.    

So next week's recipes will be a mix of regular ole food and some healthy extras.  But I'm still on that onion kick - we had French Onion Soup sandwiches for dinner tonight (and some amazing brussels sprouts with bacon and walnuts).  Don't knock it til ya try it (and I'll get the recipes up for those next week).

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What I Did Over Winter Vacation

Hope you all had lovely winter vacations.  If you didn't have a winter vacation, I'm both sorry and sad for you.  I dragged myself to Winter Break and really used the time to accomplish very little other than fun.  Yay fun!

There was getting ready for Christmas

decorating the tree at home


 our long-suffering shelf-elf, Jay.

Rudolf?  Is that you?

Christmas fun

 All dressed up from xmas eve mass with Nana.

Lookin' good there, punky nephew.
 So many presents!  So exciting!

 Christmas morning with the new Furby and almost-gingerbread house from Santa.

 Ready to play Harry Potter with the robes from Uncle Dan and wand from the FLA Murphys
He even went with the tie.

Gigantic marble run attempt #1 (Thanks Uncle Bob!)
 And knocking over some dominoes (Thanks Uncle John and Aunt Louise!)

We took a short trip to New Hampshire where we chilled in the new condo by Gunstock (available for rent - let me know if you're interested!)

 Snacking on warm chocolate chip cookies.

Getting ready to go tubing.

Almost there...

Warming up with some hot chocolate after our time in the bitter cold.
Came home to lots of snow, so we did some sledding

Thanks for the sleds, Uncle Tim and Aunt Marva!  They've been well used already!
And then had a big party on New Year's Day, per our tradition.  There were lots of friends, old and new, and a good time was had by all (well, I hope!  A good time was had by me, at least).  
Party, party, party!

As for food, there was lots of good stuff.  

I don't have any pictures of the french toast sticks that I made for the NYD party, but they were super good and easy and perfect for a crowd.  I made a ton (enough for 40 people), so I'm going to try to scale the recipe down.

Baked French Toast Sticks
4 hoagie rolls
6 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Prep the rolls - slice each in half vertically.  Then quarter each half (so that you end up with 8 triangular shaped piece from each roll).
Beat the eggs, milk, and syrup together in a shallow dish (I used a 9X11 glass dish) until well mixed.
On a plate, mix together the sugars and cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375 and generously grease a rimmed baking sheet.
Dip each piece of bread in the egg mix and let it soak a bit, but not so that the bread is falling apart.  Remove it from the egg mix and roll it in the cinnamon sugar and place on the baking sheet.
When you have used up all the bread, bake for about 25 minutes until the cinnamon sugar has carmalized.  
Perfect as is!  No need for syrup.

Since so much junk was consumed this break, I'm now doing a week wheat, sugar, dairy and meat free to try to reset my system a little.  While it's not the most amazing of diets, I think that ultimately I'll feel better for it.  And tomorrow is a normal dinner anyway - vegetarian chili over sweet potatoes.

Vegetarian Chili

1 medium onion, diced
1 medium bell pepper (I usually like to use half of a yellow and half of an orange)
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (or 3/4 tsp ground cumin)
1/2 tsp oregano
2 cans beans (kidney and black are good), rinsed and drained
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
optional: 1 medium sweet potato per person

In a medium pot, heat about 2 tbsp oil to medium heat.  Add the onion, pepper and garlic and saute over medium heat until the onion and peppers are soft.  Add the chili, cayenne, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the beans, tomatoes, and oregano and simmer for about an hour.  This is really easy to make the day ahead.

If you want to bake the sweet potatoes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Poke holes with a fork in several spots in the potato.  Roast directly on the oven rack for about an hour until the sweet potato is very soft to the touch.  Slice and serve with chili in the middle.