Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wellness Cleanse Week 1

And here's how the Wellness Cleanse is going:

Ground Zero:
The hardest part was leafing through all of the cookbooks to find vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free recipes (alcohol and caffeine free recipes are pretty easy to come by).  I had stacks of cookbooks surrounding me, and I did make a list of 20 recipes or meals I could make. (The difference for me between a recipe and a meal is that for a recipe I needed a book (see the paella) but a meal I could just make myself (see Aloo Gobhi)).  Let the cooking begin.

The trip to Target to replace our blender (which had recently cracked) so I can make smoothies and then to the Berkeley Bowl.  What a great grocery store that place is.  Brown rice flour?  Chia seeds?  Goji berries?  Raw cacao?  All check.

I avoided all vegan substitutes, save the butter, and avoided the soy products as well.  I know, I know; soy can be really good for protein, but I have done a little reading on soy, and it has a bit of reputation for being problematic but also really good for you.  Agh.  Controversy.  So since I am doing this cleanse for only three weeks, I am limiting soy in general but am willing to eat it here and there (see Spring Rolls, Day 2).

I came home with mountains of food.  I am little worried I won't be able to eat all of it this week.

Day 1: 
Breakfast:  Oatmeal with golden raisins and agave (which apparently is okay to have, thank god)
Lunch:  Beet, Apple, and Beet Green Smoothie (with cranberry juice and 1/2 an avocado)
Dinner:  Aloo Gobhi (Potatoes and Cauliflower in a spiced sauce) and Sweet Potato Chips (baked in the oven)
Workout:  90 minutes yoga

  • Not that bad.  I didn't really crave anything, but it was only day one.

Day 2: 
Breakfast: Oatmeal with golden raisins, almonds, and agave.  Decaffeinated Chai Tea with Almond Milk.
Lunch: Shiitake and Tofu Spring Rolls, Curried Sweet Potato Soup, and Good Start Juice (celery, kale, broccoli, ginger, and apple) (all at Plant; I love living in an area with a restaurant that puts on the menu what is vegan and what is gluten free, but I am not read to commit to Cafe Gratitude)
Snacks:  Orange, grapes, a handful of Mary's Gone Crackers Herb Crackers, and two tablespoons of almond butter.
Dinner:  A couple of bites of Coconut and Red Lentil Soup.  Mostly didn't feel like eating.  See observations.
Workout:  60 minutes bootcamp

  • Much bloating. Which makes me  feel like not eating anything.  Afternoon was the worst.
  • Giving up caffeine has been easy, but I am not much of a caffeine drinker anyway.  In the past three months, I weaned myself down to one cup of tea in the mornings, so going down to no caffeine in the morning has been okay.  What I miss is the cup of warm tea, so we're trying this decaffeinated tea with almond milk. 
  • The husband is a champ.  Instead of going to the brewery for a beer-and-hamburger lunch, he met me at the organic cafe for a spring-rolls-and-soup lunch.  I made promises to meet him at the brewery after this was all over.
Day 3:
Breakfast:  Red Grape and Blood Orange Smoothie,  Decaffeinated Chai Tea with Almond Milk.
Lunch:  Coconut and Red Lentil Soup
Snacks:  Popcorn, Crackers, Orange 
Dinner: Super Green Smoothie, marinated artichokes, and a bowl of grapes
Workout:  Took the day off...

  • I have begun to enjoy this cleanse.  Uh-oh.  There is something sort of delightful in trying to figure out what the heck I am going to eat next. 
  • Afternoons are the hardest.  Mostly because I am bored and in the mood for sugar.  That's no good. 
Day 4: 
Breakfast: Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie, Decaffeinated Chai Tea with Almond Milk.
Lunch: Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie (the second half)
Snacks: Marinated artichokes, apple, some leftover Aloo Gobhi
Dinner: Ottolenghi's Multi-Vegetable Paella and a mandarin orange for dessert
Workout:  60 minutes bootcamp

  • That smoothie is a champ. Not only filling, but so tasty and I think it helped the sweet craving (what with two bananas and a tablespoon of cacao powder).
  • Sweet Jesus, this paella. So good.
  • I resisted having sherry while making the paella, which was hard, because I love dry sherry, and it smelled so good.  
  • The husband added some leftover chicken to his paella, and he said it was tasty.  I am glad not to force this cleanse on him.

Day 5
Breakfast:  Jicama and Lettuce Smoothie (which I didn't like much and ate only 2/3 of), Decaffeinated Chai Tea with Almond Milk, Mandarin Orange
Lunch: Leftover Paella
Snacks: Roasted broccoli
Dinner: Baked sweet potato, Green salad, Mandarin Orange.
Workout: 60 minutes yoga and 1.5 mile run (well, a jog really)

  • That smoothie is a little on the nondescript side, but it made a lot of it, and I didn't like it.  I had to go ahead and chalk that one up as a failure.
  • I felt pretty energetic on the run.  It's been two weeks since I was out there for a run, so that felt good.
  • I made a giant pitcher of sparkling water with ginger juice (from The Ginger People) and muddled mint.  It was fantastic.
  • Yesterday, I had what I thought was a bug bite.  Today I have another one.  Please say these are not hives.  

Day 6: 
Breakfast:  Everything but the kitchen sink fruit smoothie (in other words, leftovers from the week:  grapes, mango, blood orange, fennel, spinach, mint, and chia seeds)
Lunch:  More leftover paella.  I wasn't kidding when I said it made a lot.
Dinner: A platter of morsels and sauces:  Carrots and Hummus, Popcorn, Blueberries, Hearts of Palm, Artichoke Hearts, and Date-Cashew-Chocolate Balls (minus the sugar).  Sparkling water with ginger juice and mint.
Workout: None.  I wanted to go to yoga, but then there were the Oscars tearing me away from my regularly-scheduled 90 minutes of flow.

  • I love the Oscars.  I usually create a platter of morsels and sauces (one of my favorite ways to eat).  Normally I would have an array of pâté, champagne and some delectable treat like riacciarelli.  I watch all of the red-carpet, pre-game shows and the whole show from the first bad joke to the final fumbling thank you.  But this year, I cleaned up that plate.  While there was a high amount of sugar (in the dates) and salt (in the hearts of palm), I tried to balance that with some more moderate fruit (blueberries) and vegetables (carrots).  It was delightful, although the Oscars was mediocre, but that's to be expected (and I will be right back here watching ever minute of it a year from now). 
  • Raw cacao may be cheating, I have realized today, given that cacao has traces of caffeine.  I am fine with cheating if it means I get a tiny bit of chocolate.   

Day 7: 
Breakfast:  Everything but the kitchen sink veggie smoothie (in other words, the veggie leftovers from the week:  jicama, fennel, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, basil, lemon, celery, carrots, red pepper, and flax seeds with a little hot sauce).  Decaffeinated Chai Tea with Almond Milk.
Lunch: The last of the paella.  (Finally!  And he said it served two.)
Snacks: Popcorn, Date-Cashew-Chocolate Balls (minus the sugar), hearts of palm, apple.
Dinner: Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango
Workout: 60 minutes yoga, 60 minutes bootcamp

  • I am rocking the smoothies.  Today's was pretty awesome, especially since it was basically a modification of out-of-season gazpacho with a straw. I'll put it in my next trio of smoothies.
  • Still have these bug bites, but no more have developed.  Maybe they are just bug bites (I did garden this week).

Overall observations:
  • I feel great.  I had a friend ask me on the 7th day if the cleanse made me cranky, and the answer really is no.  It has made me a little obsessed with what the next meal will be.
  • I am finding this cleanse to be pretty easy to be on.  Despite the initial legwork of trying to think up or look up recipes for things for me to eat (which admittedly did take me a long time), the desire for sherry the night I made paella, and some day two bloating, this has been pretty easy going.  I hope it stays that way.  
  • Next weekend, I get to go to a family dinner.  I will probably have to bend a little for that meal; I'll keep you posted.
  • I feel lighter all over.  Part of it may be that the scale is 3 pounds down from the beginning of the week, but I just kind of feel good all around.  So far, so good.
  • Didn't crack open the vegan butter.  Hmm, that may have been a waste of five dollars.  Anyone need vegan butter?

    Monday, February 25, 2013

    Ottolenghi's Multi-Vegetable Paella

    Oh, it's true:  I love this cookbookPlenty.  First of all, what a great name for a cookbook, and vegetarian one at that.  Such a sense of satisfaction right from the start.  Second, it came my way via a dear friend who knows my cookbook habit, so it has a special place in my heart.  Third, it is the source of the amazing eggplant noodle dish I made this summer--that dish alone made it worth its weight, in part for its sheer deliciousness and in part for its sheer ability to provide something wonderful for people who had become dear to me quite quickly.  My, what a cookbook it is.

Yotam Ottolenghi, our chef and cookbook author, is an Israeli-born chef who has a little deli (actually four of them) in the heart(s) of London; one of them also doubles as a sit-down restaurant that has been earning rave reviews.  While Ottolenghi himself is not a vegetarian, he knows how to make great vegetarian dishes.  If you're a vegetarian and you do not yet own this cookbook, please just click on over to Amazon and purchase it.  I'll wait for you because I am patient like that.

    Okay, good, now that you own this cookbook, let me give you a great recipe for you while you wait for it to arrive on your doorstep.  This vegetarian version of paella gives the eggplant noodle dish a run for its money (but because of the necessity of acquiring paella rice (which is quite dear), it certainly also demands more of your money).

Paella--vegetarian, seafood, snail-based, or just plain meat-based--is so darned good.  As the dish of Valencia, people get touchy on what makes proper paella, and some may say that this version is, indeed, not true paella  for it doesn't have the requisite meats and/or seafood (which could include anything from chicken, rabbit, duck, snails, mussels, shrimp, sausage).  However, let the purists be, let them scoff as they must, because this paella is wonderful.  And I give you full liberty to tweak and add; I sure did (Ottolenghi used a yellow pepper and a red pepper; he also used cherry tomatoes, and I had regular).  (I made my changes below.)

    Be sure to pick up smoked paprika, and don't, no matter how much you might want to save some pennies by substituting turmeric for the saffron, skimp on the saffron (although the recipe also calls for turmeric).  Those two flavors--smoked paprika and saffron--are the flavors of paella.  Rich, slightly bitter, slightly sweet, slightly smoky, definitely complex.*

    *Click here to read my favorite poem ever about saffron from a wonderful poet, Craig Arnold. 

But the best part about paella is the rice at the bottom of the pan, called socarrat in Spain. This part of the paella gets a little burnt and a little crispy and a lot fantastic.  It is the stuff of gods, and for that reason Ottolenghi cautions you not to disturb the rice too much.  Take his word for it, and you will be deeply rewarded.

    Finally, a word about one of my favorite shops in Berkeley (although it originated in Seattle and has locations in Santa Fe and Mill Valley), The Spanish Table.  This little place has bookshelf after bookshelf of Spanish cookbooks, Spanish novels and poetry, and Spanish travel books.  In addition to a rich selection of wines (seriously, the entire back of the store is devoted to wines and paella pans), they offer a wide variety of cookware and Spanish foods (including the smoked paprika and the grilled artichoke hearts in my dish). 

    Bonus:  They also sell haunted pirate temporary tattoos, which I did not pick up on this visit.  A true shame.  Next time, people.  Next time.

    In the mean time, enjoy this fabulous dish, and ignore the fact that Ottolenghi says that this dish will feed two.  You'd have to be pretty hungry for it to feed two.  So far, we think it will feed four, and there seems to be one serving left.

    One Year Ago: Chicken with Charred Cauliflower and Red Peppers
    Two Years Ago: Buttermilk Squash, Bacon, and Sage Risotto
    Three Years Ago: Frakh Ma'amra (Mediterranean Pigeons or Squabs Stuffed with Couscous)

    Ottolenghi's Multi-Vegetable Paella
    Adapted from  Plenty

    Serves 2 generously [Okay, really this serves 4-5.  Don't let Ottolenghi fool you.]

    3 tbsp olive oil
    ½ yellow onion, finely chopped
    2 small red peppers, cut into strips
    ½ fennel bulb, cut into strips
    2  garlic cloves, crushed
    2  bay leaves
    ¼ tsp smoked paprika
    ½ tsp ground turmeric
    ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
    1 cup paella rice (I used Bomba rice, but you can also use Calasparra rice)
    6½ tbsp good-quality medium sherry*
    1 tsp saffron threads
    2½ cups vegetable stock
    3/4 cup shelled fava beans or peas (fresh or frozen)
    12 cherry tomatoes, halved
    5 small grilled artichokes in oil from a jar, drained and quartered
    15 pitted Kalamata olives, crushed or halved**
    2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
    4  lemon wedges

    1. Heat up the olive oil in a large shallow skillet, and gently fry the onion for 5 minutes. Add the peppers and fennel and continue to fry on a medium heat for about 6 minutes, or until soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook for 1 further minute. 

    2. Add the bay leaves, paprika, turmeric and cayenne to the vegetables and stir well. Then add the rice and stir thoroughly for 2 minutes before adding the sherry and saffron. Boil down for 1 minute, then add the stock and teaspoon salt. Reduce the heat to the minimum and simmer very gently for about 30 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Do not cover the pan and don't stir the rice during the cooking. 

    3. Remove the paella pan from the heat. Taste and add more salt if needed but without stirring the rice and vegetables much. Scatter the tomatoes, artichokes and beans or peas over the rice and cover the pan tightly with foil. Leave to rest for 15 minutes. Take off the foil. Scatter the olives on top of the paella and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with wedges of lemon.

    *I went ahead and used the sherry, even though my current diet says no alcohol.  The alcohol cooks out.  Or so I told myself.
    **I forgot the olives.  All was still okay with the world.  But I bet they would have been good...