Have a great day - eat something healthy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Where to Begin?

Getting ready to cleanse can be a daunting process but I've put together some tips to help make it easier.

Setting Up for Success shares ideas about stocking your fridge with cleanse-friendly food so when those moments of hunger (or boredom) sneak up on you, you'll be able to turn to healthy, tasty food.

Cleanse Prep - Marketing 101 is a shopper's guideline with a shopping list and tips on reading labels. You don't need to buy everything on the list but there's a great selection of foods from which to choose - it's entirely up to you.

Cooking and Baking Stand-ins offers some cleanse-friendly substitutes for cooking and baking ingredients.

Preening Your Produce lists healthy ways to clean your fruits and vegetables.

When to Buy Organic - A Shopper's Guide to Produce is a list of the infamous Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 - the 12 fruits and vegetables you should always buy organic, and the 15 fruits and vegetables that are safe to purchase in non-organic form.

And be sure to click on the links on the left side of this page to find a host of recipes for meals and snacks.

Now you've got everything you need to prep for success! See you Monday!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

So What is this Cleanse, Anyway?

This blog has been focused on introducing people to the Quantum Wellness Cleanse introduced by Kathy Freston. She wrote an amazing book by the same title - it's definitely worth the read.

For 21 days cleansers eliminate gluten, alcohol, sugar, caffeine and all animal products (beef, pork, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs and dairy) from their diets. Jane, one of our regular cleansers, came up with an acronym to help us remember everything we eliminate during the course of the cleanse – GAS CAP (Gluten, Alcohol, Sugar, Caffeine, and Animal Products).

I like to think of this 3-week program as an experiment in mindful eating. In order to eat mindfully you must pay attention to what you’re putting into your mouth. That means reading labels and asking questions while shopping and dining out. And while that might seem inconvenient and confusing at first, it will provide an immediate connection with your food and bring you into the act of eating.

That connection might bring up a host of other issues that you have around food. Maybe you eat when you’re sad. What kinds of foods do you crave then? What can you do to address the sadness instead of washing down your feelings with a bag of Cheetos? Maybe it’s stress that brings you to the trough – is it sugar or caffeine that helps you rise to the occasion? When you cleanse you have to face those things without your usual crutches. But that allows you to let the issues arise, face them, and then actually deal with them. And at SkinnyPlus, there's always someone here to listen and to offer help. 

The fascinating part of the process is that after going through a bit of withdrawal (getting off caffeine and sugar often causes a lack of energy; depending on your level of usage, cutting out alcohol can have a similar effect because there’s sugar in many types of booze; and gluten and animal products are tough and tasty habits to break) cleansers report having more energy, focus, and clarity than they’ve had in years. And that helps them navigate those emotional minefields that lurk around their favorite go-to foods and beverages.

Good things come out of doing this cleanse, whether it’s losing weight, feeling more awake and aware, or dropping emotional baggage. In 21 days cleansers dispel myths they carry about themselves (“I’m addicted to chocolate,” or “I can’t fall asleep without a glass of wine,” or “I just can’t lose that baby weight.”) And they realize that they're in control of all the choices they make about what they eat and drink – not the other way around.

I hope you'll consider joining us for our next cleanse (beginning Monday, January 3rd). It's the best way I know how to empower yourself one bite, one sip, one day at a time!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Go Now, and Live

This showed up as a link on one of my favorite sites, GirlieGirlArmy, but it originally appeared on JustAFuckinBlog and was written by Jeanette LeBlanc. Sometimes it's good to have some encouragement staring you in the face...

Thanks for sharing a great cleanse week with me and here's to a wonderful holiday season!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Fastest Way to Make Steel Cut Oats

Happy Saturday, everyone! I'm so excited because I've finally found the fastest way to make steel cut oats! Who in the world has time to stand over a stove for half an hour or 45 minutes in the morning? But this recipe is a game changer! It cuts the cooking time way down by starting the night before and letting the water do the work. Simply put, you boil the oats for 1 minute at night, let them sit overnight, and then warm them up for about 10 minutes in the morning. And because it requires less time on the stove, not only is this recipe quick and easy - it's green! Talk about a win-win!

Have a wonderful Day 6!

Quick and Easy Steel Cut Oats

Typically, steel cut oats require around 30-45 minutes to cook. But this recipe cuts the cooking time way down. The secret? Get started the night before. Simply boil the oats for one minute in the evening, cover and let them sit overnight, then warm them back up for about 10 minutes in the morning. This recipe suggests cranberries and almonds as toppings but you can add your own. I like fresh cinnamon and stevia, some raw slivered almonds and a handful of raisins. Have fun with it!

Overnight Oatmeal with Almonds and Dried Cranberries

1 1/2 C steel-cut oats
6 C water
1/4 C chopped salted roasted almonds
1/4 C dried cranberries
Agave, cinnamon and stevia for sweetening

In a large saucepan, boil the oats in the water for 1 minute. Cover and let stand overnight at room temperature.

The next day, uncover the oats and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the oatmeal is cooked and creamy but still a little bit chewy, about 10 minutes. Spoon the oatmeal into bowls. Top with the chopped almonds and dried cranberries and sweeten to taste with agave syrup or cinnamon and stevia.
The prepared oatmeal can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Reheat a microwave oven and thin with water if necessary before serving.

Adapted from a recipe from Food &Wine, found on thebittenword.typepad.com

Friday, December 17, 2010

That's How We Roll - Cleanse-friendly Sushi

My dinner last night.
So many people who consider cleansing or going vegetarian or vegan say that they’d have a hard time giving up sushi. I couldn’t agree more.

My husband and I love sushi so much that we took a sushi-making class so we could make it at home. And after I went vegetarian I knew that sushi would most likely be the food to lead me astray. I was so afraid of the temptation that I stayed away from sushi restaurants for over a year. And when I finally went back, I was pretty sure that the overwhelming desire to order my old favorites would bring an end to my vegetarian life. But then I saw the vegetarian part of the menu. And I found so many incredible flavors there that I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything.

I started wondering if I could add sushi to my cleansing menu. The first question was whether or not it was gluten-free. All of the research I've done shows that it is. Then the challenge was to overcome the recipe - it calls for sugar. I decided to try agave nectar as a substitute. And after a few tries I came up with the right amount to create the perfect taste and consistency (click here for recipe). In fact, it’s so good I’m going to make it this way from now on.

I like to combine avocado, cilantro, jalapeno, carrot and cucumber for a great vegetarian Mexican roll. For a rich, savory flavor I love spinach, avocado, mushrooms and tofu. And squash or pumpkin with mushrooms and sesame seeds is sweet and crunchy. The possibilities are endless and if you’re up for experimenting, sushi is a great way to expand your cooking repertoire.

So today’s great news is that we can have sushi while we’re cleansing! Just remember to use tamari instead of soy sauce (there’s gluten in soy). After that the sky’s the limit!

Have a great Day 5!

Sushi Rice

At last we have a cleanse-friendly version of sushi rice! And that opens up the door to a wonderful world of vegetarian sushi that we can eat even while we’re cleansing! I make Mexican rolls with avocado, cilantro, carrot, English cucumber, jalapeno and tofu; I love a roll with blanced spinach, carrot, English cucumber, sauteed mushrooms (with a splash of tamari and agave), and tofu. And squash or pumpkin with sauteed mushrooms, tofu and sesame seeds is another favorite. Just remember to use wheat-free tamari instead of soy and you’ll be fine. Wish I knew how to say bon appétit in Japanese…

Sushi Rice

2 C white short grain rice
2 + C water
1/3 C rice vinegar
¼ C agave nectar

Rinse the rice until the water is nearly clear (2-3 times). Drain and add fresh water, slightly more than the amount of uncooked rice (e.g., 2+ C water for 2 C rice). Cook the rice in a pot with a cover over high heat until the rice comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff (cut & fold) the rice with a flat wooden spoon. Let sit covered at room temperature for an additional 10-15 minutes.

In the meantime, combine rice vinegar, agave and a pinch of salt. Gradually pour the mixture over the warm rice and lightly mix (but do not stir). Let the rice cool down to room temperature (spread on a large platter or cookie sheet covered with Saran Wrap to cool faster).

Adapted from a recipe by Masami Suga at Cooks of Crocus Hill, St. Paul, MN

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gimme a Drink Before I Die!

George Jean Nathan said, "I drink to make other people more interesting." He must have been at the same party as me last night. Because last night I endured a display of social ineptitude that brought a new intensity to the word "excruciating."

During the course of the evening I learned that we should be grateful for mass mailings because they're single-handedly saving the post office (what a relief to know my bills will continue to arrive.. in someone else's mailbox). I learned that someone's distant, dead relative won a Nobel Prize in 1928 for doing something with soil (perhaps the knowledge that his medium would eventually become his permanent residence prompted an otherwise inexplicable fixation with dirt). And I learned that a tissue placed against a vent will reveal which way the air is flowing through it (I don't care if the guy who shared this little nugget with me was 75 - you know he's smokin' dope to know this old trick!).

I am an interviewer by profession - my job requires me to look interested even when I'm not; to ask questions as if I really care about the answer. Perhaps I cannot turn that off. And perhaps the bores are picking up on that vibe and sensing that I will remain when most others would walk away. Because they flock to me like dying sinners to a confessional.

Last night it would have been nice to gulp down some ancient vine zin while stuck in my predicatment. I would have even welcomed some swill from a box. That way I could have drained my glass and used it as an excuse to escape. But, no. Thanks to this cleanse I did not have that option. I couldn't even use an empty plate to steal away - there were no cleanse-friendly options at the buffet. So I simply stood there, hands dangling by my sides, with nowhere to go.

After I finished screaming a string of expletives in my head, I reminded myself that I had chosen to be at this gathering, that I was there out of respect for the host, and that a couple of hours of utter tedium wouldn't kill me. And maybe that's the lesson learned - that sometimes you just have to endure whatever is right in front of you, even if it's uncomfortable. But if you stay in it and sit with it, it will pass.

Eventually I extricated myself from the narcolepsy-inducing conversations. And eventually I laughed about them. A glass of wine wouldn't have made things any better; it just would have made me feel more tired and headachy this morning. And running off to the buffet table would have loaded me up with extra, empty calories. But if I hadn't been cleansing, I probably would have turned to those crutches in attempt to endure (and escape) the situation.

I feel good about the choice I made this week, and for sticking with it last night. And today I feel great. And, in my opinion, that's exactly the reason why taking a breather during the holidays is such a good idea.

Here's to a kickass Day 4!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Recipe Swap

All that talk yesterday about being prepared in the kitchen made me realize that it's been a while since I've posted any new recipes, so I thought I'd share a few with you today. I've got two favorite appetizers for everyday - Cilantro and Lemon Hummus and Spinach Hummus. And this recipe for Gluten-free Stuffed Mushrooms is a wonderful option for entertaining. Then, check out this gem -Whole Roasted Carrots with Ginger - it's so good it instantly became a favorite at my house.

Today I'm going to monkey around with some dishes I've wanted to add to our cleanse repertoire - like (believe it or not) quick steel cut oatsgluten- and sugar-free sushi rice, and celery root puree. I'll keep you posted on the developments. In the meantime, be sure to check out the menu pages just to the left of this paragraph - you'll find some great recipes in all the categories.

And if you have any favorite recipes you'd like to share, we'd love to see them!

Remember - the kitchen is a great place to stay warm so get in there and get cookin'! And have a wonderful Day 3!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cilantro and Lemon Hummus

Mark and I love cilantro so we adore this hummus recipe. We add more garlic and often thrown in a jalapeno to give it some extra oomph. Be sure to add the lemon juice in small increments – just to make sure you don’t overdo it.

Cilantro and Lemon Hummus

1 16-oz can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
1/4 C liquid from can of chickpeas
3-5 T lemon juice (depending on taste)
1 1/2 T tahini
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil
1 t cilantro, finely chopped (I use a big handful!)

Drain chickpeas and set aside liquid from can. Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Add 1/4 cup of liquid from chickpeas. Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.

Place in serving bowl, and create a shallow well in the center of the hummus. Add a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of olive oil in the well. Garnish with extra cilantro (optional).

From mideastfood.about.com

Whole Roasted Carrots with Fresh Ginger

I just tried this recipe for the first time a few weeks ago and it produceds the best cooked carrots I’ve ever tasted! The ginger adds an almost sinfully sweet flavor and the garlic brings in an earthy base note. You’d never think this dish is so good for you!

Whole Roasted Carrots with Fresh Ginger

1 lb medium organic carrots, peeled
1/4 C water
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
Six 1/4-inch slices fresh ginger
1 T canola oil
1 T unsalted vegan butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400°. In a medium baking dish, combine the carrots with the water, garlic, ginger, oil and butter and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and roast for 30 minutes, until tender. Uncover and roast for about 30 minutes longer, until the water has evaporated and the carrots are lightly browned in spots. Transfer the carrots, olives and garlic to a plate and serve.

Adapted from a recipe by Gracie Parisi

From Foodandwine.com

Gluten-free Stuffed Mushrooms

I just tried this recipe for a dinner party I had a few weeks ago and these little gems were a hit! However, the next time I make them, I’ll probably use a little less than ½ cup of sundried tomatoes – they added a very strong briny/salty flavor that was a bit overpowering. Still, this is a great recipe that I’ll use again and again.

Gluten-free Stuffed Mushrooms

1 C parsley, chopped
½ C sun dried tomatoes
½ C pine nuts
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 t lemon juice
¼ t Celtic sea salt
¼ C olive oil
1 (8-oz) package mushrooms

In a food processor, place parsley and pulse briefly. Add sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice and salt, then pulse until almost smooth. Drizzle in olive oil and pulse again briefly to incorporate.

Remove stems from mushrooms and stuff with pesto. Bake at 350° for 30-45 minutes.

Serves 4

From elanaspantry.com

Spinach Hummus

I love making hummus at home – that way I can tweak it to my taste on any given day. Sometimes I like more garlic; sometimes I like to add jalapenos to jazz it up. Whatever I choose, this recipe has been a consistent winner in my house and Mark and I snack on it all the time. And to keep the calories and carbs low, we use sliced cucumbers, fresh cauliflower and carrots instead of crackers. Play with the ingredients and make it your way!

Spinach Hummus

1 can garbanzo beans/chickpeas (15 oz), drained
1/2 C fresh spinach, chopped
1/4 C tahini
2 T garlic
3 T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
1/4 t Kosher salt

In a food processor, process beans, garlic, spinach and olive oil. Add lemon and salt and blend. If spinach hummus is too thick, add 1 tablespoon water until desired consistency. Hummus should be smooth and creamy.

Spinach hummus can be made up to two days in advance. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator. It can be served hot or cold. (I like mine at room temperature.)

From mideastfood.about.com

Monday, December 13, 2010

3 Easy Tips for Navigating the Holiday Party Scene

Happy Day 1! Here's to having the courage to check in, reassess our diets and reclaim our healthy ways in the middle of the biggest eating season of 'em all! And because we're starting in the thick of the party season, it's a great time to revisit the topic of dealing with social situations while eating a non-traditional diet. Here are three simple things we can do to gracefully maneuver through the holiday party scene:

1. Be prepared - There's nothing worse than showing up at an event when you're starving. That's when temptation poses its biggest threat. If you can, try to eat something beforehand - a protein shake, a couple of slices of tofu, or a cup of carrots, cauliflower or broccoli  with a bit of hummus - that way, when you're faced with a dry salad, you won't feel deprived or hungry. And just to be safe, you might want to carry something in your purse or keep something in your office - an apple, a bag of carrots, some raw almonds - they'll help keep you feeling satisfied.

2. Find a new drink of choice. When the social calendar brims with one event after another and you find yourself indulging in a toast here and a glass of bubbly there, the good cheer can add up in the way of empty calories and mood-altering chemicals. So fill up a champagne flute with seltzer water and a lemon twist, or a martini glass with seltzer water and a couple of teaspoonsful of cranberry juice and toast to your own good health! And offer to be a designated driver!   

3. Get into the spirit of the season. Remember that the reason you're getting together with your friends, family or colleagues is to be together and celebrate the season. We've said it before at SkinnyPlus and it's worth saying again - it's not about the food; it's about the people. And because you’ll be alcohol-free and less focused on food you’ll be able to concentrate on your companions and really hear what they're saying. Who knows? You might just have a better time because of it. 

We're only in this mini cleanse for seven days; holiday favorites will still be around after we've finished our week. There will always be another cookie; there will always be another cocktail. We don't need to eat like every meal is our last, and we don't need "just one more" drink. Our bodies will thank us for reining in our diets - we'll feel great while everyone else is overeating and overloading, and we'll keep our calorie counts low and loaded with nutritional foods.

Here's to a great week of mindful eating and greeting - I'm glad we're in it together!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Get Ready - The Mini Cleanse Starts Monday!

It's time to get serious about what's going to happen on Monday. For seven days we'll be eliminating gluten, alcohol, sugar, caffeine and all animal products (or GAS CAP, as coined by our cleanse buddy Jane!) And there are some things to bear in mind as you get ready...

First, if you have tempting non-cleanse foods around the house, you'll want to dispose of them or at least move them to less prominent spaces in your fridge, freezer and pantry.

After that, the key to success is being prepared with ready-to-eat stuff in the fridge. Plan on picking up your groceries and spending some time in the kitchen making up a few entrees and prepping snacks that will last through the week. There's a wide assortment of recipes on this blog so check them out, see what appeals to you, and make a plan for the week. Then click on the Shopping List link under "Pages" on the lefthand side of this page for a shopping guide - and remember that this list is designed for the 3-week cleanse so you won't need oodles of supplies.

Typically, I make two entrees (all the recipes are fairly ample so two should last you until Friday), a bunch of quinoa, and a batch of soup. Brown rice and beans (black beans are my favorite) are great to have on hand too. And don’t worry – none of the recipes take much time at all.

Every few days I bake a couple of blocks of tofu so I can have it on hand. Just dry a block of tofu and slice it into 5 steaks. Marinate them in a bit of Bragg’s Amino Acids while you wait for the oven to heat to 375F. Then bake them for about 10-15 minutes, turn, and bake for another 10-15 minutes (I go 15 because I like mine a little crispy). I nibble on tofu slices throughout the course of the day and use them as chicken breast substitutes for salads and sandwiches (use lettuce instead of bread). Each tofu steak has only about 70 calories and about 8g of protein – very efficient!

For snacks I clean up some organic carrots and celery and make sure to have fresh fruit on hand. And I keep gluten-free crackers and tortilla chips around for something to crunch on. For quick treats, I mash up an avocado with a drop of lemon juice and a dash of kosher salt for a simple guacamole to serve with gluten-free crackers or gluten-free tortilla chips. Nuts are great to have on hand, too – my preference has been almonds up until a few weeks ago when I started munching on raw cashews. For a sweet treat, mix in some raisins.

If you need portable foods (for lunch at the office or meals on the go), you can put some soup in a travel mug or put together a Tupperware feast of some of the entrées you’ve made. And the tofu steaks are super easy – you can eat them with your hands! I keep baggies of nuts or carrots in my purse for hunger emergencies; gluten-free crackers work well, too.

Just make sure there’s something that’s always ready and within reach – it’s when you’ve run out of good food and you’re hungry that you can get into trouble. When there’s no alternative it’s easy to turn to the donuts or pretzels or whatever’s in front of you. So keep the fridge stocked and give yourself lots of options!

I'm looking forward to sharing the week with you. Here's to combining the spirit of the holidays with good health!