Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Detox Smoothie

Yesterday was the first full day of my "easy" detox and let me tell you... it was far from a walk in the park. I started the day with an oatmeal smoothie, which in retrospect, wasn't the best choice. It was my first time making an oatmeal smoothie and it tasted more like dessert than anything else (I soaked rolled oats with a date, some raisins, and some currants overnight and blended in the morning with an apple, some flax meal, cinnamon, and ice. Too much dried fruit = too much sugar. Lesson learned.).

For lunch, I had a pint of leftover Red Lentil, Turnip, and Parsley Soup from page 94 of Clean Start: Inspiring You to Eat Clean and Live Well with 100 New Clean Food Recipes. I was still hungry and I wasn't prepared with many options that followed my self-imposed detox rules, so I ended up snacking on some pistachio nut butter (plain, as in, with a spoon). I got a large iced green tea (unsweetened) at the Starbucks at school and snacked on some cucumbers and hummus before my stats test. When I got home, I was VERY tempted by the leftover Butternut Squash Lasagna, but I wasn't very hungry and it was late, so I went to bed on an empty stomach for the first time in a while.

I did a little more meal planning last night to make sure I wouldn't be too tempted today. I packed some raw cashews, apples, carrots, cucumbers, and more soup for lunch today. And this morning, when I woke up, I made myself a real detox smoothie.
The Ingredients

Love that 20 oz  Starbucks Reusable cup!

2 apples
1/2 large carrot
1 persian cucumber (with skin)
1 stalk celery
2 purple kale leaves
1 tb chia seeds
1 tb flax meal
1 piece crystallized ginger
1 date, pitted

I popped all the ingredients in the Vitamix and blended until smooth. It's not the prettiest smoothie and it doesn't taste like dessert, but it's full of raw goodness, a full serving of veggies, 2 servings of fruit,  tons of fiber and lots of healthy vitamins and minerals, not to mention some good old omegas.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Clean Out the Fridge Lentil Soup

No oil. No Salt. Just lots of lentils, veggies, herbs, and love.  
My grandma makes a Lentil Soup that everyone raves about. She probably uses a turkey neck or something (she tends to put them in all kinds of "vegetarian" soups, but I'm on to her now!). I never liked it growing up, but now I've come to love Lentil Soup. I love how one bowl fills me up while a lot of other soups have me going back for bowl after bottomless bowl. For the first dinner of my easy detox week, Lentil Soup seemed like a good way to start.

I started by cleaning out the fridge. There were lots of veggies left from the last time I went to the farmers market (2 weeks ago!). I grabbed 1 yellow onion, 1 large carrot, 1 large parsnip, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 small green pepper (left from my garden!), 2 small stalks of celery, and 1 rutabagas that was past it's prime.
Cleaned out the fridge and used all these veggies!
I also found some kale that was on it's way to the compost bin if I didn't cook it immediately. I try to incorporate kale into meals wherever I can and put it in soups all the time (James doesn't love kale, but he's learning to like it now that I've learned to disguise it).
Kale. I sneak it in to whatever I can!
I rinsed 2 cups of lentils and put them in a medium pot over medium-high heat with 4 cups of water and a piece of kombu (kelp).  I brought the lentils to a gentle boil, reduced the heat, and simmered covered for about 15 minutes. While the lentils were cooking, I put 1 quart of low-sodium organic vegetable broth in a large pot and dumped all the veggies and 1 bay leaf in it. I brought it to a gentle boil and reduced the heat before adding the lentils (discard the kombu). I simmered them together for a bit longer and added some more water (I like my soup brothy, but this is entirely up to you). Just before serving, I stirred in some finely chopped fresh rosemary, parsley, basil, and thyme as well as some dried oregano, cayenne pepper, and freshly ground black pepper. 
Lentil Soup and a Baked Potato. Healthy Dinner. Served.
I served the soup with baked potatoes that I had sliced in the middle before baking. I sprinkled some freshly ground black pepper and some fresh thyme and rosemary on each half and matched the halves back up. Then I wrapped the potatoes in some tin foil and baked them at 425 for around 45 minutes (I popped these in the oven before rinsing the lentils and by the time the soup was done, they were *almost* ready).

How I changed this recipe from what I would normally do to make it healthier and detox-friendly:
I simply omitted oil and salt. That's it. Usually, I would saute the onions, celery, carrot before adding the broth and the rest of the ingredients. I'd also probably add some oil or butter to the middle of the potato. I might add some Parmesan cheese or extra virgin olive oil to my soup bowl. But not this time! And to tell you the truth, I didn't really miss any of that added fat or salt. This meal was very satisfying!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Easy Detox Week

After all the refined carbs and dairy that I indulged in this weekend, I think it's time for a little detox. I'm mapping out my plan in this post to help me stick to it and figured some of you might be in need of a little inspiration to cleanse this week as well. I feel like it's the only week between now and the onslaught of holiday parties to stop what could easily become a downward spiral into a state of utter grossness.

I know it won't be easy, but here are the guidelines I hope to follow until the weekend when we have plans to attend a B-school Winter Gala, will be hosting a HS BFF, and will be drinking heavily at a concert Sat night.

1) No coffee. I. Know. This. Is. Going. To. Be. Hard. So why do it? Well, I'd say about half of the sugar and dairy I ingest comes in my coffee. I'm easily addicted to caffeine and right now, as the semester draws to an end, I practically have the stuff pumping through my veins (a cup of home- or office-brewed in the morning and a latte before class). It's not good. I've even been experiencing some heartburn lately (really not good) and the coffee is NOT helping. To soften this blow, especially with a big stats test tomorrow night, I'll allow myself 2 cups of caffeinated tea/day (sans dairy and honey!). Saying no to coffee this week has the added bonus of saving me some much-needed holiday spending $$! If that's not reason enough, I don't know what is.

2) Cut WAY down on sugar and dairy (try to eliminate it).

3) Eat a healthy breakfast every morning! I'll start each day with a smoothie or a bowl of oatmeal (and maybe even smoothie with oats). I'll try my best to omit dairy and sweeteners and to share my recipes.

4) Plan my meals. I usually do a good job of this, but not always. Here's what I'm planning  to cook this week:
5) Minimize use of oil and salt. I make a lot of soup and I usually start by sauteing some combination of  onions, leeks, carrots, celery and/or garlic. But nobody ever said you had to do this to make a tasty soup. I'm reading a book called Unprocessed: How to achieve vibrant health and your ideal weight. right now that I picked up at the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival. The author, Chef AJ, talks about the evil trinity of sugar, oil, and salt and I'm pretty convinced that she's right. If there are ways to avoid them, I'm going to leave them out of my recipes and I'll try some of her recipes this week as well.

6) Eat lots of raw veggies. I'll do this by incorporating some into morning smoothies and by eating a salad a day, either for lunch or dinner.

7) No packaged or pre-made foods. I don't buy heat-and-eat meals. Instead, when I do cook, I usually cook enough servings to enjoy for easy lunches and dinners throughout the week. So this won't be all that difficult. What I do eat from boxes and bags includes tortilla chips, crackers, nuts, and the like. If I do a good enough job preparing my meals ahead of time and bring things like carrots and hummus and raw nuts and seeds with me to snack on when hunger strikes, I think I can avoid the bags and boxes.

8) No refined carbs. Potatoes and brown rice are good for you, but I'm going to try to avoid anything made with flour (pasta, bread, crackers, cookies, etc) this week.

Are you also feeling the need to detox? What are your tips and tricks to cleanse the body after over-indulging? Do you think I can do this??

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Leeks

Next time, I'll change up the layering on the top so it's more colorful!
Contrary to what my grandpa would say, it's fun to shake up traditional pasta dishes. When I called to wish him a Happy Thanksgiving and told him I made a lasagna without tomato sauce, he scoffed (that's what you get when you grow up in a big Italian family and start passing on the spaghetti and meatballs at family dinners). But tomatoes don't grow in these parts year round, so every time I use them, I'm using precious tomatoes that are either picked far away and shipped (consuming fossil fuels that pollute the environment) or that I canned myself (that took a lot of hard work, so I like to save those jars for when I'm really craving tomatoes).
Creamy, Cheesy, Sweet, Savory, Comforting... not low-cal... Deliciousness
For a seasonal spin on lasagna, I like to use local ingredients. Start with one star and let it be your guide. I've even made lasagna without pasta, substituting cabbage for the refined carbs. It was so good; I'll have to make it again soon just so I can share it with you!  Anyway, on to the delicious (not-very-healthy-so-be-forewarned) Butternut Squash Lasagna that I served as part of our Vegetarian Thanksgiving feast alongside a yummy Vegetable Wellington, Maple-Ginger-Cranberry-Sauce, String-Bean Casserole, and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes.
You don't need to kill a bird to be thankful. 
Ingredients for a 9x9 lasagna (roughly double for a 13x9 in lasagna):
1/2 a large or 1 small local butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
3 cups of low-sodium organic vegetable broth (or water, or water + a low sodium veggie bouillon cube)
1/2 box of no-boil lasagna noodles (I used Barilla)
2 tb butter (gasp! use a local artisnal butter if you can or substitute olive or coconut oil if you have a thing against an occasional dose of butter)
2 leeks, sliced length-wise, chopped into semi-circles, and rinsed thoroughly
1 small sweet yellow onion, chopped
1-2 tb flour and/or cornstarch
1 8-oz tub of marscapone (I really like the one from Trader Joe's because it's THICK)
1/2 c half-and-half (or nut cream or heavy cream if you want)
1/4 c shredded cheese (I used a combo of mozzarella, provolone, asiago, and Parmesan)
Fresh Sage, 4 leaves, finely chopped
Fresh Nutmeg
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

In a medium pot, cover the butternut squash with broth or water. Turn heat to medium-high, cover, and cook until squash is fork tender, about 20 minutes.
I used a Rapunzel Veg Bouillon Cube. Green specks are dried herbs. 
While the squash is cooking, brown 4 sage leaves in the butter.
Butter and Sage were meant to be together.
Add the leeks and saute until the leeks are soft and translucent. You can brown them a little if you'd like a stronger and sweeter leek flavor. Remove the leeks from the pan and set aside.
The leeks added a ton of flavor to the lasagna. 
Turn the heat to medium and add some more butter if there's none left in your pan. Melt the butter, add the onion and saute until translucent.  Turn the heat down to low and add a tablespoon of flour to make an imperfect roux. For a proper roux, you would add equal parts flour to melted butter and whisk to combine, but I often just add the flour to sauteed onion and stir well to combine.
Imperfect Roux with Onions
Add the half-and-half. Wisk together over medium heat. Add the masrcapone (Google is telling me that's not a word and suggests I change it to .) and continue whisking until well-combined. Add some freshly ground black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to finish.
Where's that dairy from? COWS! Do they eat grass like they're supposed to?
To make the sauce really come together, you might want to blend it. I tossed mine in my Vitamix with a tb of cornstarch dissolved in a 1/4 cup of cold water to thicken it up a bit.
Can you see the fat? This isn't a meal that should be consumed regularly!
By now, the squash should be ready. Remove the squash from the broth with a slotted spoon and place into a food processor or high-powered blender with some of the broth/water (you only need enough to make sure the blender/food processor will be happy blending, so this depends on how tender the squash is. If it's falling apart, you only need a little liquid. If it's still on the firm side, use a little more. I clearly didn't measure. Just eyeball it. It's lasagna. You can't really screw it up!). Puree the squash until smooth.

Now it's time to start assembling your lasagna. Spread a thin layer of squash on the bottom of your pan. Cover with 1 layer of lasagna noodles.

Then a layer of squash followed by a layer of all the leeks...
... followed by a layer of sauce...
... followed by noodles then squash...
... and a layer of cheese...
... then sauce...
 ... pasta, squash...
... sauce...
 ... cheese...
 Almost ready for the oven now!
Finally, cover with tin foil and bake according to package recommendations.

Barilla said to bake, covered with foil until bubbly, 50-60 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. This recipe should yield around 6-8 servings, depending on how hungry you are!

(note on the pan: I used a 9x9 inch pyrex, which worked perfectly with my barilla no-boil pasta. Try to use glass or ceramic. non-stick metal pans leech harmful toxins into your food and nobody wants that.) 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Vegetable Wellington

A Perfect Holiday Vegetarian Entree!
I don't remember where I spotted a recipe for Veggie Wellington, but the sight of vegetables wrapped in puff pastry must have made a lasting impression. As I planned our Thanksgiving menu, the idea kept surfacing so I decided to give it a try, but since I couldn't find the recipe, I improvised. I don't think I've ever worked with puff pastry, so I decided to go for the store-bought stuff and grabbed a box at Trader Joe's. Life has been a little busy lately, so although I prefer to make as much as I can from scratch, this seemed like an OK compromise, especially given the work + school + drive from Boston to Long Island pre-Thanksgiving week of insanity.

Cranberry Sauce
I woke up (relatively) early this morning and got to work prepping. In addition to the Veggie Wellington, I whipped up a butternut squash lasagna (I'll post that recipe soon, too, so keep your eyes peeled), a string bean casserole, and rosemary mashed potatoes for our vegetarian Thanksgiving feast. I also made a mushroom gravy and served some of my Maple Ginger Cranberry Sauce. Needless to say, there are LOTS of leftovers!

Chopped Veggies Ready to be Seasoned and Roasted
For the Veggie Wellington, I roasted seasonal veggies for 20 minutes at 400 and let them cool before tossing them with some homemade pesto and some goat cheese. Then we (it was a team effort) spooned the veggies over the defrosted rolled-out puff pastry, pulled the dough to surround the veggies, flipped the pouch, massaged it with some beaten egg, and baked it for 20 minutes at 400. It was pretty easy and turned out to be a beautiful and delicious turkey-stand-in.
Roasted Fall Veggies (feel free to sample!)
The veggies:
1/2 a butternut squash, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
6 Brussels sprouts, halved
1 blue potato, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
12 baby carrots, halved
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Throw all the veggies in a large pan. Sprinkle with some freshly ground black pepper, a few teaspoon of fresh minced herbs (I used rosemary and thyme), and a pinch of kosher salt. Coat with a couple tb of the oil of your choice (I used olive oil, which isn't ideal for roasting, but works if you don't have any high-heat oils available).  
Pesto Coated Roasted Veggies. MMMM.
The pesto:
I usually use the recipe from my VitaMix cookbook:
1/2 c Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 c Grated Parmesan Cheese
3 medium Garlic Cloves, peeled
2 c fresh basil leaves
3 tb toasted pine nuts
Salt & Pepper to taste
Sometimes, I leave out the cheese and add walnuts. Sometimes, I throw a bunch of parsley in with the basil. You don't need a high-powered blender to make pesto. Any food processor will do the trick! 

Remove the puff pastry from the freezer to allow to defrost for 10-15 minutes. Be careful not to put it too close to the oven (heat makes it puff!). Preaheat the oven to 400. 

While the puff pastry is defrosting, dollop a few heaping tablespoons of pesto atop the roasted veggies. Add a couple tablespoons of goat cheese (crumble it off the log). Stir to combine, coating the veggies in pesto and mixing the goat cheese throughout. Go ahead. Sneak a pesto-coated potato. Nobody will know the difference. You deserve it. :-)
Roll the Puff Pastry to Your Preferred Thickness.  The Thicker, the Doughier.

Spoon the Roasted Veggies onto the Center of the Dough.
Pull the corners of the dough around the veggies to meet top/center. Pinch the dough together to seal the pouch.

Don't be Shy About Pulling/Stretching the Dough; Just Don't be TOO Rough.

Pull the Edges of the Dough Together and Pinch to form Pouch.
 It doesn't have to be perfect. Nobody will see the seam.
Flip the Pouch Over so Seam is Bottom-Side-Down.
If you don't have a brush for the egg, just massage the egg onto the dough with your hands.
Brush with a Beaten Egg for a Golden Finish.
Place veggie-filled pastry seam-side-down on parchment lined baking sheet (with edges just in case it oozes). Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until pastry is golden.
Out of the Oven. Into our Tummies. We Ate the Small One. Who Wants Leftovers?
Carefully remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing. Thought: Maybe individually portioned wellingtons would work better for next year.  Serve with gravy or cranberry sauce or by itself. It's a rich dish and doesn't really need any toppings.
Way More Food Than Necessary for our Small Thanksgiving Celebration.
Because the puff pastry is full of oil and flour, I wouldn't make this kind of thing for a normal dinner, but I think it's a great dish for a special occasion, holiday, or dinner party. There's a lot of nutrition in the roasted veggies, but there's also a good deal of fat and refined carbs that I prefer not to make a habit of. 

QUESTION: What's the most creative vegetarian holiday entree you've ever prepared or enjoyed? I'm already starting to think about next year's Thanksgiving and need ideas!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mark Bittman's TED Talk

Mark Bittman has been writing about food for roughly 30 years. He has written a handful of books and his articles appear in the New York Times. He's an omnivore who advocates for taking charge of our food, for cutting down on dangerous levels of industrial meat consumption, and for eating more plants. His 20 minute TED talk is a great introduction to our industrialized food production and offers a great overview of the last century of food production and consumption in America. I generally agree with Mark and thought you might like this video, so without further adieu, here's Mark:

Do you agree with Mark?
Did you learn anything new by watching this video?
What changes do you want to make to your diet to improve your health and the health of the planet?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Maple Ginger Cranberry Sauce

Rinse, Strain, Pick Out Stems & Bad Berries
We always had the canned cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving when I was growing up. I don't remember exactly when it happened, but one year, somebody decided to make it fresh and it caused a little revolt from everyone who wanted the canned stuff, so from that point forward there were always two cranberry sauces. Sound familiar? I remember trying to make the canned stuff look classy by slicing it on an oval plate and sprinkling some nuts around the edge. I also remember trying to make cranberry sauce that everyone would like more than the canned stuff more than once. I would read recipes online and adapt them but I never loved the end result. This past weekend, I tried my hand at it again and I swear... I finally nailed homemade cranberry sauce.
Local Organic Cranberries
I read a few recipes online and didn't like any of the suggestions. I don't like citrus zest in my cranberry sauce. I don't like white sugar in anything. So, I started my own recipe and built a new cranberry sauce from the ground up. I can't believe nobody ever thought of this before, but I've never seen a cranberry sauce recipe with maple syrup and I don't understand why. Think about it. Cranberries come from New England. Maple Syrup comes from New England. They seem like a match made... well... in nature! This sauce is so simple and I love how the complex sweetness of the maple cuts the tartness of the cranberries!
In a medium pot over medium heat, combine 1/2 c Maple Syrup (the kind Rick Perry played with on his last trip to New Hampshire) with 1/2 c Water (more/less depending on the consistency you're after) with 1 lb of fresh cranberries (they're in season now and won't be for much longer so get them while they're fresh!). Throw in 2 whole cinnamon sticks. Add 1 tb minced Crystallized Ginger and/or 1/2 tb grated fresh ginger. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until cranberries pop. Serve warm or chilled, chunky or blended. This part depends entirely on your taste! I like mine warm and blended and love using it as a garnish on a plate. You don't have to eat turkey to love cranberry sauce. I plated my stuffed delicata squash with blended cranberry sauce and ended up licking it right off the plate! SO GOOD! 
Chop that GINGER!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Delicata Squash Stuffed 2 Ways

Delicata Squash Stuffed 2 Ways. Plated with Cranberry Sauce & Fresh Sage
I've been working on the best stuffed squash recipe known to man and this weekend, I nailed it, so I'm really excited to share it! Because I've been experimenting with this recipe, I actually prepared this delicious delicata squash 2 ways (lucky you!!). The left half of the squash pictured is stuffed with a creamy mushroom and goat cheese risotto with onions, dried cranberries, apple, and pine nuts (It's vegetarian but has dairy). The right side is stuffed with red quinoa, kale, carrots, celery, onions, apples, and pumpkin seeds. It's vegan, 100% guilt-free, and absolutely delicious!
Fresh From Kimball Farm
Step 1: Select your squash. I picked up 3 delicata squash at the Union Square Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Kimball Fruit Farm had them on sale. I think they were 3 for $2! 1/2 of one of these stuffed is a meal, so for $2 + stuffing, you could feed a family of 4 and have leftovers. You can opt for other kinds of squash, but Delicata are abundant right now and their hollow centers are perfect for stuffing. Oh, and you can eat the skins. If you've never had a delicata squash, they are sweet, but not too sweet. They actually taste a lot like sweet potatoes. The flesh has a smooth buttery texture and although I had never eaten one before this fall, they're now my favorite squash.
Scrape out the seeds
Step 2: Preheat the oven to 375. Slice the squash in half (I use a butcher knife to do this) and hollow out the seeds and spongy connective stuff with a spoon.
Step 3: Rub the inside of one 1/2 with some yummy butter (no crappy Land O Lakes!) and the other 1/2 with some olive or coconut oil. If you have lots of fresh herbs on hand, put a few sprigs of sage and/or rosemary in the center of the squash to add some fragrance while it roasts.  Place in a baking dish skin-side-up and roast for 15 minutes at 375. Turn off the oven but leave the squash in there while you finish your stuffing.

Step 4: Prepare the stuffing while the squash roasts.

For the risotto stuffing:
In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, melt 2 tb of butter. Throw a few sage leaves in there if you have them. The sage will infuse the butter and the browned leaves will make a great (edible) garnish for atop your squash. 
tricolor sage from my garden
Remove the leaves and add 1 medium chopped yellow onion. Saute until the onions are translucent and add 1 c chopped mushrooms (I used hen of the woods because that's what was available at the farmers market, but white button, baby bella, or any other mushroom works too). 
hen of the woods mushrooms from parker farm
Brown the mushrooms, stirring often. Deglaze the pan with some dry white wine then add 12 oz Arborio rice. Stir to coat with butter until rice turns translucent. Add a quart of warm vegetable broth, 1 c at a time, stirring and simmering until each cup is absorbed before adding the next. Add 1 c dried cranberries with your last cup of broth. As the last cup is absorbing, add one 4 oz log of goat cheese and 1/2 c toasted pine nuts. Stir well to combine. Finish with some finely chopped fresh herbs.
Mmmm. Local Goat Cheese.
1 tsp each of sage/rosemary/ tarragon/parsley (any combination works depending on what you have on hand). Last but not least, add 1 small-medium chopped apple and stir. This will add some great texture to the risotto. Feel free to add some salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat and cover until you're ready to stuff your squash.
Finished Risotto.

For the quinoa stuffing:
Saute 1 onion, 1 carrot, and 1 celery stalk in 1-2 tb olive oil with 1 tsp red pepper flakes until onion is translucent. Add 1 c chopped kale and cover to wilt the kale. Add 1 c cannellini beans and 1 c cooked quinoa. Adjust quantities of beans, kale, and quinoa to your taste. To bind the stuffing, combine 1/2 c cannellini beans with 1 tb olive oil, 1 clove of garlic, and 3 tb of cranberry sauce (cranberry sauce is optional but adds a great layer of flavor. I'll post my recipe soon!) in a blender or food processor until smooth. Fold this mixture into sauted veggies and beans over low heat. Add 1/2 c toasted pumpkin seeds (I prefer unsalted) and stir until combined.

Stuff your squash!
Remove the squash from the oven and stuff the half that you massaged with butter with the risotto and the other half with the quinoa. Shred some goat gouda over top the risotto one and sprinkle some more pumpkin seeds over top the quinoa one. Pop back in the oven until ready to serve. (Don't bake it for much longer. The squash should be fork tender. If it wasn't cooked through when you stuffed it, bake for another 10 minutes at 350. Otherwise, keep it in the oven at 200 just to keep it warm.) Serve with some cranberry sauce and a side salad.

What's your favorite kind of SQUASH?!