Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Goop Life

Because I've been eating like I'm on vacation for pretty much the entire summer so far, I figured it was time to give my body a little break.  I'm not really a fan of juice cleanses (a subject for another post), but I like going back to Gwenyth Paltrow's cookbook guidelines when I want to get my diet back on track.  For her, what qualifies as a "detox" means no meat, no dairy, no soy, no corn, no sugar or artificial sweeteners (nothing artificial at all, in fact), no nightshades (tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant, or peppers), no shellfish, and no gluten.  She also eliminates alcohol and caffeine, but in the words of Seth Rogen from This Is the End, "I'm on a cleanse, I'm not psychotic."  Basically, she eliminates anything that causes most people inflammation, allergic reactions, or digestive problems, which allows for more fresh vegetables and other highly nutritious foods that regulate your digestive system and replenish your overall well-being.  Granted, I was overdoing it while I was traveling, so those weren't my usual eating habits either, but within just a couple of days of using the GP-approved detox, I feel so much better.  Whereas before I would feel tired all day long, now I seem to have unlimited energy.  I've also lost that feeling that I'm a giant water balloon waddling down the street.  Oddly enough, I still haven't made any recipes directly from her book, I've just used it as a general guide.  Here are some of the things I've been eating instead of all of those foods listed above...

Things That Didn't Really Work
Both "oh she glows" and "Heart of Light" posted this creamy avocado pasta recipe with high recommendations, so it's something I've wanted to try for a few months now.  In this recipe, the author uses avocado as the base for a creamy garlic and lemon sauce.  I stirred the sauce into 6 ounces of quinoa spaghetti and some wilted arugula leaves.  It was... OK.  I don't think I'd make it again and I actually ended up throwing away half of it.  It does look in the picture like her pasta has less sauce on it than mine does (even though I used the same amount of pasta and followed the recipe instructions exactly), so maybe that would have helped.  It just reminded me way too much of guacamole.  I love guacamole, but not on spaghetti.  I could see maybe trying this again with one clove of garlic instead of two and a little less lemon juice, but then it's pretty much just salty avocado.  At least the mushroom and yellow squash on top were tasty!

Things That Really Worked
Another recipe I tried from "oh she glows" was the Whole Foods-inspired Detox Salad.  I modified her recipe slightly by using cilantro instead of parsley (because that's what I had) and adding in a little red onion and a few tablespoons of olive oil (since I'm detoxing from processed foods, not fat).  Also, I couldn't find dried currants, so I just stuck with raisins.  She said that she serves hers with a little drizzle of maple syrup to cut the sourness of the lemon juice, but I didn't find the salad too sour at all since I added the olive oil.  Would I rather eat this than a cheeseburger?  Probably not.  Did it taste good?  Yes, definitely.

You really can't go wrong with a basic pesto.  I'm not sure what my reasoning was, but I ended up buying an industrial size container of wild arugula at Whole Foods.  Even if I ate a salad for every meal, there's no way I could go through all of that arugula in a week.  This sounds like a job for pesto!  I put several generous handfuls of arugula into my food processor along with two cloves of garlic, maybe 1/3 cup of fresh basil leaves (or one handful), and a few drizzles of olive oil.  I pureed that mixture until it turned into a liquid, then added in small handfuls of walnut halves and pulsed until it looked like a textured paste.  I tossed the pesto with one box of brown rice spaghetti and some chickpeas for texture, flavor, and added protein/fiber.  It tasted as good as any pesto I've ever eaten, despite the fact that it had no cheese in it.  This made enough pasta to serve four people.

Jury's Still Out
Something else I've been curious to try making is chia seed pudding.  Chia seeds are one of the newest health food trends because they are high in Omega-3s and relatively high in protein and fiber.  As I've mentioned before on this blog, chia seeds absorb liquid and become gelatinous.  This makes it a perfect ingredient for vegan and gluten free puddings.  I looked up a few recipes to get a sense of the best liquid-to-seed ratio and then played around with my own flavor combinations.  I came up with something that tastes great, but I can imagine some people might hate the texture.  It's sort of like tapioca pudding if tapioca was crunchy.  I'd recommend trying it because, hey, why not?  If you don't like it, it's easy to mix them into oatmeal or smoothies.  If you do like it, then you've found a new healthy dessert!
Vanilla Spice Chia Pudding
2 cups of homemade vanilla almond milk (or any kind of milk you like)
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup maple syrup, plus a little extra to drizzle on top
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 or 5 shakes/pinches* of cinnamon
2 shakes/pinches of nutmeg
1 pinch salt
*I don't measure anything while I'm cooking, so I apologize for my imprecise recipe

Whisk together the almond milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl (has to hold more than 1 quart of liquid).  Pour in the chia seeds and stir until they have all been submerged in the liquid, being careful to break up any clumps that form.  Cover and leave in your refrigerator for about 15 minutes.  Stir the mixture really well again every 15-20 minutes or so until it reaches desired thickness.  Mine achieved optimal pudding texture after approximately two episodes of Revenge.  :-)  Some of the sweetness becomes diluted after the chia seeds absorb the liquid and expand, so I drizzled another 2 tsp. or so of maple syrup on top of my serving bowl before eating, but it would also be good with another shake of cinnamon or vegan whipped cream if you're not detoxing.  Again, will this replace cupcakes and ice cream forever?  No, probably not (although frozen banana "ice cream" might).  But it cleansed my palate the way dessert is supposed to and gave me the satisfaction of a cool, sweet treat at the end of the day.  Now that I know how to make chia pudding -- about 1/4 cup of seeds for every cup of liquid -- it will be really easy to make all kinds of delicious variations.

I'm probably only eating this way for a week or so because I'm about to go away AGAIN and won't be able to control every little thing that goes into my mouth.  Still, it's nice to refresh my system every once in a while and re-incorporate fresh produce and whole grains into my diet after a period of being rather naughty.  I'm starting to accumulate a good number of go-to meals that fit this type of detox, so it will only get easier and easier each time.

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