Friday, January 13, 2012

The Cleanse: Post-Game

What breakfast should really look like: poached eggs,
hashbrowns, sausage, blueberries, and avocado.  Yum.
For 10 challenging days, we took on the (admittedly 3- or 4-week) cleanse, brought to you by Whole Living.  Admittedly, we had to improvise to fit our schedule, but the last 10 days were tough all the same, and it feels good to have our friends meat, gluten, and alcohol back.  Of course, if our plan was just to cleanse for 10 days and then go back to old habits, then why bother with the cleanse?  (Although we gorged on the indulgent breakfast featured on the left). We definitely learned some interesting lessons about food and our eating habits during the cleanse.  First, a winner and loser from the second half of the cleanse:

Winner: avocado-vanilla smoothie.  This was a real crowd pleaser, and definitely something we'll incorporate into our future menus.  It's simple to make and delicious.  What more can you ask for?
We spent the day making dumplings.  We missed you,
pork and gluten.  Don't ever leave us again.
Loser: baked trout with broccoli, apple, and fennel slaw.  It's not fair because 1) we never actually used trout for this dish and 2) we didn't make the slaw dressing correctly, i.e. with actual applesauce.  But life's not fair.  Elizabeth thought there was just too much slaw (note: this is the only time that we thought there was too much food), and was not a big fan of it to begin with.  Ben appreciated the use of fennel, but didn't love the slaw.  The slaw is the real loser here.  We have no problem with baked mahi-mahi or tilapia.

Even though the cleanse is over, we're not going to abandon healthy eating completely.  Indeed, there are several takeaways from the last ten days:

1.  You can take pretty much any vegetable, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and roast for 20-40 minutes, and you'll have something delicious.  We've already done this with Brussels sprouts, and we did it during the cleanse with cauliflower, fennel, and garlic.  We will explore this theory further in the coming weeks.

2. It wouldn't crush us to eat mostly vegetables; it's the idea that we can't eat something - like meat, like chocolate, like caffeine - that really drove us crazy.  Vegetables doused in olive oil and salt and pepper or just pretty simple salads - except for the proportions we didn't feel deprived to eat delicious vegetables.  And we should eat five servings at least a day.  And we will.

3. Elizabeth noticed that this diet make her skin clearer, her eyes brighter and her waistline much thinner.  And she still had energy to start our 100-push-up challenge.  She could really get used to feeling this way and if this diet is the way to do it, well, she'd be pretty stupid not to try to incorporate as much of it into her normal diet and routine as she could stand.

We had some leftover dumpling filling and ran out of
flour for the wrappers, so we made meatballs with the rest.
4. Ben treats hunger pangs differently now.  Before, when Ben got hungry, it was a race to the kitchen (or Asian Express) to get lots of food, and he ate until he was full.  Now, the process is more managed. Hunger pangs can signal hunger, but they also might be the body saying you need water.  Or they could really be nothing.  Either way, the cleanse helped him be a little more patient when hunger arrives and a little more reasonable when eating.

Tomorrow, we're headed to LA and one of our favorite restaurants, Jitlada.  Hopefully we'll take some awesome pictures of the food we get (and the friends we are meeting there, of course).  Can't wait!

C & D

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Cleanse: Day 10 - End of Days, End of Cleanse

Yay - the last day of the cleanse is here?  It's weird because simultaneously it feels like we weren't expecting the final day to come so soon but also that we wouldn't last more than a day on this thing.  We're going to do a roundup of how the cleanse went tomorrow.

Steamed salmon with brown rice.
*Not pictured: a bag of Spicy Thai Kettle Chips.
Today we probably ate more than we should since we are preparing to go on vacation and don't want our fresh produce to go bad.  So for breakfast, we had the steamed salmon.  For lunch, the same chickpea burger with all the leftover greens and leftover peppers, which we roasted.  For dinner, the same shitaakes in parchment but with roasted cauliflower and fennel.  For a snack, we had clementines and another avocado smoothie.  And at the stroke of midnight tonight, we'll both be having pieces of chocolate to end our cleanse.  Ahh it feels like Christmas!

C & D

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Cleanse: Day 9 - Start of Week 3

Last night, Elizabeth had a dream that Ben was out of town, so Elizabeth was having snacks with some new people and her friend, Pauline.  Pauline and Elizabeth told their guests that they would get them dinner and suddenly they're running through a closing Asian market in a white tent, narrowly missing tons of closing doors.  Then they were attacked by mooses.

Anyway, given our abbreviated schedule, we started Week 3 today.  This is significant because it's the return of EGGS!  Eggs are Elizabeth's favorite food.  We added poached eggs (something new to our egg repertoire) to our shiitake mushroom and brown rice dinner for a little extra finger-lickin' good.  Even in future cleanses, Elizabeth may never give up eggs again.  The separation was too hard.

Breakfast was another avocado smoothie.  Delicious again and doesn't even feel like we're cleansing. Lunch was chickpea burgers - yummy, but they feel very healthy.

We continually wonder how much of this cleanse is going to stick after the cleanse is over. Elizabeth is totally for more avocado smoothies, fruit and nut clusters and roasted cauliflower. The rest is a little up in the air.  But now that we're less hungry, and don't think about food all the live-long day, the cleanse actually saves a fair amount of time and stress because we have to plan our meals for the week -otherwise, we'd be shopping constantly.  And we've figured out some cheap ways to continue the cleanse - like the peanut and raisin clusters from yesterday.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Cleanse: Day 8 - Hunger Pangs Are Not Controlling Our Lives

Last night Elizabeth had a dream that she ate a piece of chocolate and not only did she feel terribly guilty, but also she was only able to take little tiny bites of the bonbon, and the chocolate was inflaming her mouth and stomach, and it left a bad aftertaste.

It makes a huge difference doing the cleanse with someone else.  (Thanks, Ben!)  His feelings of hatred towards Elizabeth regarding starting the cleanse have mostly subsided.  The 2 pounds he loses per day probably don't hurt either.  We saw an old friend today and she noticed how great we looked.  It also doesn't hurt that the last time she saw us, the semester was ending and we were preparing for finals on a steady diet of Asian Express - now, we are quite well-rested and eat almost nothing but vegetables.

For breakfast, we had the avocado smoothie.  It was just deliciously creamy.  Ben was initially skeptical about the flavor combination of avocado, pear, and vanilla, but it worked quite well.

For lunch, we had the spicy black bean salad.  It wasn't as spicy as Elizabeth had thought it would be, but that's probably good since Elizabeth can't take the heat sometimes.  (Side note: we're planning a pretty awesome trip to Jitlada, our favorite ridiculously spicy Thai place on Saturday.)

For dinner, we had the same meal as yesterday but this time with tilapia instead of mahi-mahi.  The fish we bought actually came as 4 fillets of 3 oz whereas the recipe calls for 4 oz so we each ate 6 oz of fish instead.  We know it's much more than the recipe calls for but Elizabeth is getting a little worried about our rapid weight loss and doesn't think it's too terrible an idea if we just add a few hundred calories here and there to our sub-1,000 calorie diet.

For a snack, we had the fruit and nut clusters.  I think they're actually called fruit and nut balls but we're so immature that we laughed every time we said it.  If you just mix in raisins and peanuts - incidentally the cheapest dried fruit and nut - they taste just like PB&J balls.  Haha, there we go again.

C & D

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Cleanse: Day 7 - Making It Look Easy

While getting pedicures today (note: this, like the cleanse, was Elizabeth's idea), Elizabeth stumbled upon a magazine article discussing Jennifer Hudson's diet strategy and success.  We both had the same idea:  her diet is a piece of cake (Ben could go for a piece of cake) compared to this cleanse.  That being said, having fish on the menu has definitely made sticking with the cleanse significantly easier.

Even though we had leftover miso soup for breakfast, lunch featured a watercress salad with sardines, tarragon, and clementines. We were surprised the sardines weren't dirt cheap but they're actually not that expensive for fish, especially sustainable fish that you can keep in the pantry for whenever.

This is the cauliflower snack that we've had so often. Delish.  This is seriously a snack that is going places.  Move over, popcorn at the movies. Step aside, peanuts and Cracker Jack at the baseball game.  Some other time, Kettle Chips - actually, we'll probably go back to Kettle Chips when this cleanse is over.  But we could see adding a little roasted cauliflower into the rotation.  If there's one thing we've learned in the last seven days, it's that vegetables can be your friend, especially when you have no other choice except to eat nothing (imagine a Brussels sprout pointing a gun at our heads).

Dinner was something of an improvisation.  The recipe called for trout, but we couldn't find any at Harris Teeter when we went so we opted for mahi-mahi instead.  We think it worked well.  We also forgot to buy applesauce for the fennel slaw, so we had to make a bit of a makeshift applesauce using some random internet recipes.  This was probably less successful.  Ben enjoyed the slaw, though found the dressing a bit lacking.  Elizabeth thought the slaw was a little too raw.  Doesn't sound like a keeper.

Given our more recent feelings of success with the cleanse, we think it's actually possible to incorporate some of the objectives of the cleanse into our regular culinary lives.  The cauliflower snack is just one example.  Our meals have usually followed the traditional American approach to plating:  one big piece of meat, some sort of starch, and some vegetables.  But the meals we've prepared on the cleanse have been much more heavily focused on the veggies, and even the meals with fish are veggie-centric.

Will we give up enjoying the occasional rack of ribs?  No.  Is a double helping of macaroni and cheese still in the cards?  Sure.  Will we be going to Fogo de Chao at some point in the next 6 months?  I'd bet on it.  Is asking yourself questions and then answering them kinda douche-y?  Of course it is.  But that doesn't mean that a few tweaks to our everyday meal planning are not in order.

C & D

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Cleanse: Day 6 - The Benefits of Starvation

This is going to be a weird visuals day since we had miso soup for breakfast.  Yes, breakfast soup.  It was quite delicious and hearty but was definitely a strange way to greet the day.  It's no stranger than drinking vegetable smoothies for breakfast.  Besides, weird soon becomes normal on the cleanse - like our constant (normal) hunger and our constant (normal) thinking about food.

On the plus side, we got on the scale and weighed ourselves today.  Elizabeth lost 5 pounds and Ben lost 10.  It might be a little bit of muscle mass for Ben but Elizabeth has no and has never had any muscle mass so she's probably just losing weight.

We better be losing weight since we're only eating about 800 calories a day, even with small cheats.  Small cheats like this green smoothie - which we had leftover from yesterday.  It seems like we're doing the real person's version of this cleanse because something that doesn't seem to be brought up in the reading materials is the possibility of certain foods going bad because you have to buy 10 green onions but only use 2.

The kale salad we had for lunch is below.  This was actually a Week 1 lunch, but we already had the ingredients for it.  This salad was meh, though the dressing was nice enough.

For dinner, we had salmon and bok choy.  Yay for having fish!  It was delicious and beautiful and we really wish we remembered to take a picture of it.
For a light dessert, since we're a little tired of the cinnamon-poached apples, we had a mango salsa, which was basically the salsa we had with the fish, but with a leftover, lonely mango.  See, real people.

Now that fish - actual protein - is back on the menu, Ben is going to try lifting weights again for the first time since starting the cleanse.  We're also thinking about trying the 100-pushup challenge.  We're hoping that the intense and unending hunger pangs won't interfere with attempting actual physical activity.  After flailing around on the tennis court, there's no place to go but up.

C & D

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Cleanse: Day 5 - We can eat fish tomorrow!

Over the last 5 days, we've tried a lot of different recipes that featured some new ingredients and different takes on old ones.  There were some definite winners and losers:

Winner: roasted red peppers, cauliflower, and almonds.  This was definitely one meal that we could have after the cleanse is over.  Granted, we would probably want it to accompany a nice branzino or maybe even some roast chicken, but the roasted vegetables in combination with the toasted almonds created a nice, hearty meal that we actually enjoyed eating.

Loser: steamed broccoli and squash with tahini sauce.  We did enjoy the tahini sauce that accompanied the steamed veggies, but this dish just felt like everything you imagine a cleanse to be if you're dreading it.  Roasting or sauteeing the squash would have made it much yummier, and steamed broccoli - well, it is what it is.

Winner: spiced butternut squash soup.  This soup reminded us of an earlier Whole Living recipe we tried in November, and we'll probably make it again.  We ended up eating this recipe three times because the recipe called for 6 servings, and we actually looked forward to it.

Loser: roasted garlic-beet soup.  Just too much beet.  This is the first time that Ben ever had beets, and while he is not opposed to eating them in the future, it's going to have to be the distant future.

Honorable mention: cinnamon poached apples with toasted walnuts.  The dish itself, which we used as an occasional dessert, was nice enough.  But the poaching liquid, which was infused with ginger and cinnamon and which we used as a makeshift apple cider, was delightful.

Even though, we've only done 5 days of Week 1 of the cleanse, due to being sick of eating only vegetables time constraints, we're switching to Week 2 tomorrow.  That means some new recipes, which include seafood and legumes.  Despite some intense hunger and feeling a bit weak in the afternoons (tennis was a bit of a struggle today), we powered through as best as we could - with a few naps along the way.  We're proud of ourselves for not cheating and sticking with the menus.  We didn't even try to lawyer our way out of this either.

C & D

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Cleanse: Day 4 - Full of Vegetables

When we started the cleanse, there were elements of optimism from having an ambitious New Year's Resolution, but there was also a bit of apprehension, based largely on the fact that we would be going from a diet featuring a fair amount of meat and dairy to one full of vegetables.  Four days in, there is a bit of tedium setting in.  You know you're going to feel hungry 3-4 times per day, and by the way, this is a hunger that can't be satiated by radishes and kale.

Today, running low on smoothie ingredients, we had to improvise a little on breakfast, adding some mangoes, apples, romaine, parsley, mint, strawberries, and cranberries - this is all Elizabeth remembers throwing in the blender, in any case.  We also redid the dinner from yesterday (just as exciting too!), this time not adding four times as many red onions as we should have.  The new dish of the day was lunchtime's sweet potato, celery, and apple salad.  The dressing was nice and brightened up the vegetation, though there was some early confusion as to whether it's okay to eat sweet potatoes raw.  (Apparently it is.)

We've started planning the next week of the cleanse - you might call it our exit strategy - and, due to our upcoming road trip, we've decided to begin Week 2 on Sunday and incorporate some meals from Week 3 next week as well.  Planning ahead for the possibility of eating fish and eggs is really the only thing keeping us going.  That and mutual support or whatever...

C & D

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Cleanse: Day 3 - Shouldn't it be getting easier?

Today the food cravings really struck.  After the cleanse, Elizabeth is definitely going to have a Chick-fil-A deluxe chicken sandwich with waffle fries and Chick-fil-A sauce and a large milkshake.  Maybe she'll have a change of heart and go vegan at the end of the cleanse, but probably not.  Ben is also going to have a chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A, but probably a spicy chicken sandwich.  Actually, like 3 sandwiches.  We were both craving food - more food and unhealthy food - throughout the day.  It feels like on this cleanse, we think about food way more often than before.  Perhaps it didn't help that we repeated a lot of the same dishes as yesterday.  Just look:

11:30 am - same antioxidant smoothie from yesterday
2:30 pm - butternut squash soup leftovers
6:30 pm - steamed broccoli and squash with tahini dressing
10:30 pm - apple cider and kale chips

Well, the last 2 dishes were new, but there's nothing very exciting about steamed broccoli and squash.  Sorry.  The delicata squash was delicious - yes - but if the most exciting part of your day is steamed veggies on more veggies, well, then you have our lives on the cleanse!

At 1 pm, we went to the gym and did a 30-minute walk.  Yeah, that seems pretty lame but we don't really feel strong enough to do something more athletic yet.  What we really wanted to do was hit the sauna.  A lot of detoxes recommend time in the sauna to help remove toxins and make your skin better.  We would link to some scientific study but all the pages that seem to be saying this look especially sketchy.  In any case, Elizabeth really enjoys going to the sauna and she thinks it works.

Looking forward to the fourth day still!

C & D

The Cleanse: Day 2 - Delicious Poaching Liquid

Today (Jan 4) was Day 2 of the cleanse.

For breakfast, we had the antioxidant smoothie around 10:30 am.  We still felt very garlic-y and beet-y so this was a nice sweet change.  Plus, it’s super easy to make and you don’t need to spend tons of money to have these ingredients in your kitchen – it’s basically just POM, frozen mixed berries, and water.

For lunch, we had the spiced butternut squash soup around 2 pm.  It was a very good healthy version of butternut squash soup but my favorite version involves sour cream and curried apples (we could have added the latter but we didn’t have any curry or extra apples).  We also bought way too many butternut squashes (2, when we really just needed 1/2), not realizing that you can get a lot of cups of squash from a reasonably sized squash.  These squashes were expensive too so, seeing as we’re just students, we’re going to do the somewhat embarrassing thing of returning something to a supermarket.  But it’s a squash and we still have the receipt.  That’s not exactly digging through the trash.

We had a snack of pine nuts, edamame, dried mangoes, and sunflower seeds shortly after lunch.  This was basically everything we had in the cupboard that wasn’t forbidden.

For dinner, we had roasted peppers, cauliflower, and almonds at 6 pm.  Elizabeth wonders if roasting any vegetable with olive oil, salt and pepper would make it mouth-watering.  Needless to say, it was pretty delicious and she could seeherself eating this after the cleanse, so long as she can eat a whole cauliflower by myself, instead of 1/4.  Ben says he’d do it too so long as this constituted a salad that would sit under a very large steak.

For a late snack/dessert, we had the poached apples with toasted walnuts.  We also may or may not have had the poaching liquid as a delicious take on apple cider.  Two cups of poaching liquid.  Hey, it’s just apple juice, cinnamon and ginger – not like raw chicken water.  Also, the apple juice had no added sugar so we’re in the good here.  No cutting corners.  Yet.

C & D

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Cleanse: Day 1 - Beet Soup

(Note: We actually started the cleanse on Tuesday but failed to upload the post until today.  Oops.)

We (read: Elizabeth) decided that it would be a good idea to start the new year with a cleanse.  The cleanse we are using is on the Whole Living website, and given that we're currently on winter break, it would be a good way to start the year healthy, explore some new, healthy meals, and maybe lose a little weight.  We have a Southwest road trip coming up on January 14, so we're only doing the first two weeks of the cleanse (followed by gorging on Las Vegas buffets).

Day 1 started with a cup of hot water with lemon around 9 am.  The cleanse suggests that the lemon water stimulates the digestive organs and releases digestive enzymes.  In any case, it was a refreshing way to start the day.

Later, around 10 am, we had our first meal of the cleanse: the green machine smoothie.  The green machine featured a, um, healthy combination of kale, romaine, and parsley, but it was sweetened by pineapple and mango, and had a touch of ginger.  While Elizabeth had little problem with the idea, Ben found it necessary to blast a little Metallica to get himself psyched up for this ordeal.  In the end, the smoothie was not that bad, and surprisingly the parsley added a nice touch.

We had lunch around 12:30 pm.  Keeping with the green theme, we chose the avocado with bell pepper and tomatoes.  Given the frequency with which we use avocados and the other ingredients involved, this meal was not especially new to us, but it was delicious.

We were feeling a little peckish around 3 pm, so we decided to make one of the snacks - the crispy roasted cauliflower.  This was one of the dishes that we think could make it into our menu after the cleanse is over.  Olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper is really all the cauliflower needs to pop (though we forgot the red chile flakes - they would be a welcome addition).

The star of Day 1 - for better or for worse - was no doubt the roasted garlic and beet soup, though.   Preparation for the soup went fine, though our fingers and other surfaces were inevitably dyed beet red.  The recipe serves four, but we ate all of it (perhaps trying to store up for the next day).  This was not a good idea.  Of course, the beet soup was tasty.  The roasted garlic added an interesting and complex layer to the light but earthy beet flavor.  But soon we started seeing beet red everywhere.  And we mean everywhere.  Even the next morning, we could taste and smell beet.  Perhaps we should have paid more attention to the serving suggestions...

To finish the day, we did some of the recommended stretches.  By the end of the day, we felt a little weird.  Perhaps it was because of too much beet soup, or maybe the "detox" was starting to work.  Also, feeling a bit tired, we took a little nap in the middle of the day.  And finally, getting used to eating a lot less and only fruits and vegetables was a bit of a struggle, even on just the first day.  But it was a good experience to try some new recipes and foods, and it's only just begun.

C & D


Welcome to our food blog, brought to you by Ben and Elizabeth!  We are third-year law students (which explains how we have the time to start a blog) who have developed an affinity for cooking and eating - but mostly eating.  Over the last couple of years, we have cooked a lot of meals and explored many restaurants in Charlottesville and beyond, and we want to share our discoveries with anyone who will listen the world at large.

We are starting 2012 with a cleanse, so be warned:  the food we will talk about over the next couple of weeks is far, far healthier than our normal fare.  We thought that a great way to start the new year would be to cleanse away the past.  Stay tuned for more posts about it and other culinary shenanigans!

C & D