10 Days Later

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Sean and I just completed a 10 Green Smoothie Cleanse. This isn’t the first time we’ve embarked on this exercise of self-control, but it proved to be the most meaningful. The holidays are a time of joy, merriment, and indulging. Great wine, amazing cheeses, authentic tamales, and delectable desserts definitely put the merry in Christmas.

With the new year, new beginnings and resolutions motivate us to reevaluate areas of our life that require personal growth and self-regulation. The intention of our cleanse was to flush out toxins, recalibrate our food cravings, and kick off the new year by putting our healthiest foot forward.

In preparing for this cleanse, it is easy to see why so many people gravitate towards pre-made, processed food. Aside from it tasting delicious, it’s easy to plate dinner for the entire family in no time flat when Domino’s or Chinese take-out can be delivered to your door in a matter of minutes.

Having all of the ingredients on hand and making sure healthy snacks were always within reach proved key to making it through the ten day cleanse without losing stamina or breaking the cleanse rules. We completed the modified cleanse that included two green smoothies a day along with one clean meal. We opted for a breakfast and dinner smoothie and had soup or fresh fish or poultry for lunch. Healthy snacking helped curb cravings and helped keep our metabolism working overtime. Approved snacks included crunchy vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers, apples, hard boiled eggs, a scoop of unsweetened peanut butter, and a handful of nuts. Drinking water and abstaining from alcohol were two important aspects of the cleanse. All of these components together proved to be integral to the cleanse’s success.

Meal planning was a critical part of our 10 day cleanse too. I found a great recipe for Detox Chicken Soup from A Spicy Perspective (www.aspicyperspective.com/chicken-detox-soup/). I adapted the recipe to better suit our likes including subbing cilantro for parsley and adding fresh jalapenos to add an extra layer of heat. We also enjoyed delicious lemon rosemary salmon and lemon pepper chicken. Both of these dishes packed a high dose of protein and flavor for a satisfying and savory clean meal.

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CHICKEN DETOX SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 natural rotisserie chicken, skin removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped and seeded if you like a little less heat
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, stems removed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger until soft. Add the chicken, broth, carrots, apple cider vinegar, and spices and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and add the broccoli, peas, and cilantro. Simmer until the broccoli softens and is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm and enjoy!

Ten days later, I feel energized, healthy, and proud of myself for the exercise in self-control. I failed to recognize how much sugar I consumed prior to this cleanse. I found myself craving whole foods like fresh salmon, produce, and poultry. Going forward I want to continue having a green smoothie daily for breakfast to jumpstart my morning with a healthy dose of greens, fruit, and fiber. If you’re interested, I highly recommend J.J. Smith’s 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse. Her book offers step by step recipes, the science behind the cleanse, and a wealth of other information about its health benefits.

I won’t lie, there were times I wanted to cheat. Who wouldn’t when the scent of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies fills your office? At my lowest points, I felt ready to chew my own arm off. But anyone can do this for ten days if you set your mind to it. I promise you’ll feel amazing after you get past the first two to three day hump. This is when your energy level skyrockets and you really start to feel better than ever. I strongly recommend having a cheerleader to encourage and motivate you to stay on track. Knowing Sean was encountering some of the same challenges made it easier to keep on trucking. The end results are truly worth the sacrifice that comes from doing it. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!

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Standout Side Dishes

*** A quick aside before I delve into today’s post. Because life is a delicate balancing act, I’m moving towards posting three quality blog posts per week. Ideally I will post on Tuesdays, Thursday, and Sundays going forward. When I first started writing this blog, I had grandiose visions of posting daily and for awhile I was able to deliver. The quality of writing is very important to me and so sometimes creating a post truly evolves into a labor of love. To stay true to my writing and true to myself, three days a week of blog posts seems like the most ideal way to share my stories and also balance all of the other complex tasks of keeping things in my life in order.

And on that note, let’s move on to standout side dishes that truly could stand alone on your table and have everyone reaching for the serving spoon for seconds.

As long back as I can remember, cabbage and black eyed peas were a central theme of all New Year’s meals my mother prepared for us growing up. Indulging in black eyed peas guaranteed good luck in the new year, and chowing down on cabbage ensured wealth. Traditionally preparation methods usually include boiling the cabbage and seasoning with salt and pepper. Black eyed peas follow a similar method or might be thrown into a ham soup for good measure. Truth be told, both dishes have rarely wowed me until this year, but I always made sure to put a few of each on my plate for good measure.

I adapted the recipes below from several different websites and added my own flair to create two side dishes that stole the show at our New Year’s Eve dinner. We also enjoyed a low key, kid centered New Year’s Eve that included fireworks, noise makers, and bunuelos. An easy dessert made with flour tortillas, butter, and a blend of cinnamon and sugar. Enjoying bunuelos is another traditional New Year’s food I’ve enjoyed since childhood. It is also eaten to ensure good luck in the new year. Between the bunuelos and black eyed peas, I’d say we’re set for a year of absolute good fortune!

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SOUTHERN FRIED CABBAGE

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cabbage, thinly cut in narrow slices
  • 6 slices of thick cut bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • salt & pepper, to taste

This dish highlights southern cooking and comfort with the savory flavor of bacon. As an aside, I used a soup pot for this dish because of the volume of cabbage. Sauté the bacon on medium heat until browned. Remove the bacon pieces and set aside. Add the diced onion and sauté in the bacon grease. Then add half of the cabbage and continue sautéing. When the cabbage starts to cook down, add the remaining cabbage and the cooked bacon. Stir frequently to evenly distribute the heat. Cook until the cabbage is softened. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm!

Recipe reference: http://www.4theloveoffoodblog.com

BLACK EYED PEA & SWEET POTATO HASH

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled & grated
  • 1 fire roasted red pepper (jarred), diced
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp harissa spice blend (see recipe below)
  • 1 to 2 cups black eyed peas, cooked
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, stems removed & roughly chopped

This vegetarian dish is ready to enjoy in just a few simple steps. In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium heat. Then add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add the grated sweet potato and cook until softened. Then add the red bell pepper and spice blend and stir until the mixture is evenly coated. Finally add the black eyed peas and cilantro and cook until the peas are warmed through. And viola, enjoy!

This dish would be exceptional served atop Naan or with a side of scrambled eggs. Consider substituting the black eyed peas with black beans and stuff in flour or corn tortillas for delectable tacos.

Recipe reference: http://www.veganricha.com

HARISSA SPICE BLEND

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After a little online research compliments of Google, I discovered that harissa is is a Maghrebi hot chili pepper paste or rub derived from a variety of peppers. Because I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand when I happened upon this recipe, I adapted the recipe and created my own version below. I stored the remaining spice blend in an air tight container and will consider integrating it into some new recipes soon. I’ll be sure to share my results in a future post.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, dry roasted on medium heat briefly until browned
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup of ground chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons of paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Mix all spices in a small container and blend evenly.

Recipe reference: thereapeuticcuisine.tv

 

 

A Halloween State of Mind

Christmas is undoubtedly Liam’s favorite holiday, but Halloween is a very close second. He wholeheartedly embraces the spookiness and mystique that encompasses the spirit of Halloween. This weekend he embarked on his first independent venture of carving a pumpkin. Now granted he needed a little parental supervision and guidance, but overall he successfully orchestrated a pumpkin work of art.

Carving a pumpkin is truly a labor of love, and you certainly can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Liam squealed with delight as his fingers combed through the squishy, stringy pumpkin as we made our best effort to get every last seed and all of the pumpkin pulp. He also meticulously combed through the pulp with an eagle eye to gather all of the seeds for roasting.

Liam spent the better part of the morning cutting his pattern, gutting the pumpkin, using the poker tool to outline his pattern, and finally carving out his design. The end result proved to be both a labor of love and a source of pride for him.

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Carving a pumpkin creates quite the mess. Liam served as my little helper and in almost no time flat, our kitchen was spotless. We realized we’d worked up quite an appetite, so we snacked on some of our roasted homemade pumpkin seeds and relished in the beauty and artistry of Liam’s first solo carving venture.

If you haven’t carved your pumpkin this Halloween, consider saving your seeds for a savory treat. They are great as a stand alone snack but also would be ideal sprinkled over oatmeal or on top of a fresh salad.

ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

Ingredients:

  • pumpkin seeds
  • sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons of butter
  • parchment paper

Directions:

Melt the butter and pour over the pumpkin seeds. Mix together and then spread the seeds evenly on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. Stir at least halfway through. The seeds are roasted to perfection when they are golden brown.

A side note: the buttery smell that permeates the kitchen as they roast is absolutely heavenly. Enjoy!