My Cleanse is over!

My cleanse is over!  And how do I feel?  Great!  Better than ever!  Truly this journey of 21 days has surprised and awakened me to my body’s response to vegetarian, clean eating in ways I did not expect.  Midway through I felt that I had a longing for a bagel, but I can report as of today, I simply do not.  As the end approached, I actually began to feel sadness, as I do not want to lose this healthy well-being I have been experiencing. 

And what do I mean by that?  There are a several things: 1) I have not felt “hungry” until it was nearing my mealtime.  2) My blood sugar remained stable, no crazy cravings or drops up and down.  3)  I feel lighter, more energy.  And as busy as I am, no real fatigue.  4)  I wake up ready to start my 5:30 am yoga!  5) I am truly enjoying the new foods I am experiencing with and eating.  6)  I know deep down, this is very healthy eating that I am doing for myself.  I could probably go on and on, but here’s the next question:

So, why don’t I just continue?  I LOVE food, all kinds of food, trying and testing exciting new dishes.   Food association with relationships and events.  And what I mean by that is having turkey on Thanksgiving, sharing a decadent dessert with someone special, drinking hot Saki and sharing sushi rolls, dipping biscotti into wine… so many seasonal delights that may include animal, dairy, gluten sugar, alcohol and caffeine. 

For year and years, I have maintained fairly healthy, clean eating.  It’s not like I would even think of eating processed, fried or fake foods.  This “cleanse” or break from five key ingredients enlightened me to eating even better.  I will continue to incorporate a lot of the changes I made in these 21 days into my eating.  And, I will continue to seek out new and exciting dishes that do not include animal products or gluten.  Basically, I will continue to enjoy my food, leaning a bit more to watching what I am eating but also eating what I truly enjoy without an ounce of guilt! 

I would love to recommend this to everyone I know.  BUT, I must be honest.  Taking on this change in eating really does require that the individual be prepared to experiment with new foods, take the time to plan and prep ahead dishes and seek out and shop at places they may not normally visit.  If not, you will be faced with ‘what to eat’ and most likely not very satisfying meals to keep you full, healthy and content.  At the very end of the book it does have easy menus for those that do not cook so I’m not saying you need to be a professional chef to do this!  Just have a passion and interest in improving your health and eating the best that you can!

 Here are my final days of menus:  (I do love my gluten free waffles and oatmeal!)

 Day 13:  Breakfast:  Oatmeal, Lunch:  avocado and tomato slices with hummus on toasted millet bread, Dinner:  large chopped salad

Day 14:   Breakast at a diner:  Oatmeal with banana slices, raisins and blueberries, Lunch:  large chopped salad, Dinner while watching football:  salad, corn tortillas and hummus, roasted veggies

Day 15:  Breakfast:  gluten free waffles with pumpkin and almond butter, Lunch:  brown rice pasta and roasted veggies, Dinner:  Grilled eggplant wrap with rice tortilla

Day 16:  Breakfast:  waffles, as above, Lunch:  Florentine White Bean Soup, Dinner at Sushi Restaurant:  Veggie roll with brown rice, edamane

Day 17:  Breakfast:  waffles, as above, Lunch:  brown rice with roasted veggies, Dinner:  Baked eggplant slices with quinoa pasta and tomato sauce

Day 18:  Breakfast:  waffles, as above, Lunch:  leftover baked eggplant with quinoa pasta and tomato sauce, Dinner:  Risotto with roasted veggies

Day 19:  Breakfast:  waffles, Lunch:  leftover risotto, Dinner:  veggie enchiladas, rice and beans

Day 20:  Breakfast:  waffles, Lunch:  tomato and avocado on millet bread with hummus, Dinner:  Antipasto platter of eggplant caponata, artichokes, grilled zuchinni, kidney beans and roasted red peppers, minestrone soup

Day 21:  Oatmeal with pumpkin, Lunch:  large chopped salad, Dinner:  Roasted Fennel Soup with dried cranberries and chopped hazelnuts

Gina’s Surprise Visit and Dinner

Now into the second week of my cleanse and halfway through the 21 days!  I can honestly report that my meals have been satisfying and filling.   I still have a long list of dishes I would like to prepare.   And being prepared is key to enjoying good meals and feeling satisfied.  I realized this over the weekend when spontaneity took over and I wasn’t prepared to whip up a dinner on short notice!  That night I simply snacked on corn tortilla chips (legal), raw veggies and guacamole!  It was a late evening “dinner” as I had been busy all day and plans just seemed to keep changing!  I did have a glass of wine as I had planned to only indulge over weekends. 

It was exciting to be in a Mexican restaurant Friday night and be able to choose dishes that fit into my plan.  I have more ideas on other types of restaurants that I will be able to eat at, such as, Sushi where I can order a California roll with brown rice, edamane and a seaweed salad and miso soup!  I experimented with a gluten-free pie crust and was very pleased with the results!  It was not something I could eat at this time as it does contain butter.  I do like how I feel without having gluten in my diet, so I may begin incorporating gluten-free foods into my “normal” eating after the cleanse. 

While all good, I will be honest in sharing my longing for a bagel, a real bagel; a grilled chicken breast or salmon or gorgonzola or goat cheese which I seem to top on a lot of what I eat.  I have been trying to avoid looking at amazing dishes I would like to prepare as the realization I can’t have any is too sad to think about.  I have not cheated in the categories of sugar, animal products or gluten.   Alcohol is my glass of wine over the weekend and a morning espresso is my caffeine.    I simply don’t have a desire to cheat, but I do have a longing and am extremely thankful that I do not have any medical reason to not enjoy those foods.  As someone who adores food and all that surrounds it; I am truly thankful and this cleanse definitely opened my eyes to this appreciation.  I do believe though that I would be able to continue to be satisfied if I did have to medically avoid these foods as my health is more important than warm brie and sourdough bread. 

 This upcoming weekend is going to be very busy, including a dinner party and tailgating.  I’m ready for the challenge and I will post my results next week!

The following are my meals since my last Cleanse post:

Day 5:  Breakfast:  Oatmeal with pumpkin, cranraisins and almond milk.  Lunch:  Leftover Pasta alla Simmered Norma.  Dinner:  Mexican Restaurant – salsa and chips, veggie fajita on corn tortilla.

Day 6:  Breakfast:  Oatmeal with pumpkin, cranraisins and almond milk.  Lunch:  Millet gluten-free bread topped with hummus, avocado, cucumber and tomato slices.  Dinner:  Veggies and plantain chips with salsa and a glass of wine!

Day 7:  Breakfast:  Oatmeal as above and above.  Lunch:  Veggie quesadilla, guacamole and corn tortillas.  Dinner:  Tomato sandwich on gluten-free millet bread. 

Day 8:   Breakfast:  Gluten free waffles with pumpkin almond butter.  Lunch: Pasta alla Simmered Norma.  Dinner:  Large chopped salad.

Day 9:  Breakfast:  Waffles, as above.  Lunch:  Lentil Soup.  Dinner Veggie quesadilla

Day 10:  Breakfast:  Waffles, as above.  Lunch:  Large chopped salad.  Dinner:  Roasted Butternut Squash and Asparagus Risotto and Black Bean Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.

Day 11:  Breakfast:  Oatmeal with pumpkin, cranraisins and almond milk.  Lunch:  Lentil Soup.  Dinner:  Leftover Risotto.

Today I came home from work to a surprise visit from my daughter.  She told me she was spending a long weekend in Captiva so when my doorbell rang I was completely taken aback!  As any Italian mother would do, I headed into the kitchen to start making dinner! 

The Roasted Butternut Squash and Asparagus Risotto and Black Bean Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce seemed hardly like cleansing food, but they were!  My daughter thought there was a different taste to this dish than I have made in the past.  I think it was more due to the vegetable broth having a stronger, earthier taste than the use of chicken broth.  I also did not use any wine, butter or parmesan cheese.

A pot of lentil soup kept me going for lunch on several days.  I never tired of this soup and even Gina really liked it.  She had never had lentil soup as she didn’t think she would even like lentils!  Oh, my little girl is growing up!

Wellness Cleanse Version:  Roasted Butternut Squash and Asparagus Risotto

1 medium Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into small chunks

1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch lengths

Olive oil for roasting veggies and for risotto

1 small finely chopped onion

2 ½ cups risotto

6 cups vegetable stock

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried sage

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place squash on a large baking sheet and drizzle with oil, salt, pepper, oregano, sage and cayenne pepper.  Roast for 30 minutes, add asparagus and continue to roast until both veggies are lightly browned and tender.

Warm vegetable stock in a saucepan and maintain a low simmer.  In a separate larger saucepan, heat olive oil and saute onions until tender.  Add in the risotto and stir until beginning to brown.  Add a ladle of broth to the risotto and begin stirring.  Continue to stir and add broth by the ladle full as it absorbs into the risotto.  The entire process should be about 20 minutes.  Add the roasted veggies with the last ladle of broth.  Stir to combine well.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Serve immediately.

Black Bean Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Adapted from The Quantum Wellness Cleanse

For the cakes:

¼ cup diced red onion

½ cup diced roasted red peppers

2 garlic cloves minced

2 cups cooked black beans, drained

½ cup bread crumbs made from gluten-free bread

½ teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

For the sauce:

2 roasted red peppers, peeled and chopped

1 roasted garlic bulb

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 – 2 tablespoons veggie broth

Salt and pepper

In a food processor, combine all ingredients and lightly process.  Scoop out ¼ cup portions and shape into round cakes.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat a large skillet with oil to medium high heat.  Slowly add the cakes and allow to brown before turning, about 5 to 6 minutes, adding additional oil if necessary.

To make the sauce, combine one or two roasted red peppers, roasted garlic, cilantro and veggie broth in a food processor or blender.  Process until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pasta alla Simmered Norma, i.e., Spicy Tomato Eggplant Sauce

I always follow the chef rule, first in, first out when planning my meals.  The FIFO rule is to use the foods in the order they were purchased and with fruits and veggies, I look at those peaking at their ripeness.  Sharing more of my quirkiness, I keep a list of all the fruits and veggies I purchase just to ensure they all get used and not sit forgotten in my frig!  Not only do I have one refrigerator, but I use and fill two !  And it’s just my son and I living together!!

So I have an eggplant.  And it’s going to be my dinner.  Somehow, someway.   Gluten-free, no animal products, sugar or alcohol.  I can think of several dishes, then I consider my cravings…pasta!  I am liking this cleanse as I seem to be eating more carbs!  Gluten-free, of course.

Spaghetti alla Norma is a tomato based pasta dish topped with fried eggplant slices.   The use of olive oil is permitted on my cleanse, but I opted to not fry and keep my dinner very healthy.  I prepared a basic marina sauce and added chunks of eggplant to slowly simmer and melt into the sauce.  Adding crushed red pepper is optional as it made the sauce nice and spicy, as I like it.  I used a gluten-free brown rice pasta, which to my surprise tasted very good with the eggplant sauce.  And I didn’t miss not topping my pasta with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano!

Pasta alla Simmered Norma

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion finely chopped

1 28 oz can crushed tomato sauce, I used Organic Muir Glen

1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed, about 4 cups

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1 teaspoon dried basil

2 cloves garlic minced

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

1 cup gluten-free brown rice pasta (or your choice or pasta)

In a medium –large saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the onions stirring often to soften, but not color the onions.  Add the sauce and remaining ingredients, except the pasta.  Simmer on medium low for about 45 minutes or until the sauce thickens and the eggplant cooks and softens into the sauce.

Meanwhile, prepare the pasta in plenty of boiling water until al dente.  Drain pasta and add to the eggplant sauce.  Serve immediately.

Roasted Pumpkin-Apple Soup and Roasted Pear Salad

I am on Day 4 of my wellness cleanse and I truly feel great!  I normally eat fairly healthy so through the elimination of either the gluten or dairy or maybe both, my body feels lighter and I seem to have more energy and alertness.

Planning meals does take some thought.  There is an abundance of allowed food, however, pulling it all together to create a filling, appetizing meal can be tricky as key ingredients such as flour, dairy – eggs, milk, cream cannot be used.  Of course, there are substitutes that can be used like almond milk, gluten-free flours and egg replacements.  Again, it takes some testing and time to develop dishes I will enjoy and feel satisfied.

Recipes online and in books are certainly not lacking.  Prepared frozen gluten-free foods are also readily available.  At this beginning stage though I am more inclined to prepare my own meals using basic ingredients.

The following is my menu through today, Day 4.  I have not felt hungry or any cravings for missing foods.  In fact, I look forward to planning and preparing my meals.  I have lots of ideas in mind but so far I have decided on my meals as the day approaches.

Day 1, posted previously

Day 2:  Breakfast:  Oatmeal with pumpkin puree, cranraisins, walnuts and almond milk.  Lunch: Leftover Quinoa Pasta with Carmelized Onions, Cabbage and Walnuts.  Dinner:  Roasted Veggie Quesadilla and sauteed cauliflower with onions.  For the Quesadilla I used a brown rice tortilla, hummus replacing cheese for the ‘glue’ and roasted slices of zucchini and red and yellow peppers.

Day 3:  Breakfast:  Gluten free waffles, pumpkin almond butter and agave drizzle.  Lunch:  Large chopped salad.  Dinner – Roasted Pumpkin-Apple Soup and Roasted Pear Salad, recipe below.

Day 4:  Breakfast:  Gluten free waffles, pumpkin almond butter and agave drizzle.  Lunch:  Leftover Pumpkin-Apple Soup and freshly made Roasted Pear Salad.  Dinner:   Brown Rice Pasta with Spicy Eggplant Sauce.

Roasted Pumpkin-Apple Soup

1 small cooking pumpkin, about 2 pounds, cut, into cubes or use 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree

1 large apple, seeded and cut into wedges

1 large onion, cut into quarters

1 large yam, cut into cubes

1 large garlic bulb, slice off top, drizzle with oil, salt & pepper and wrapped in foil

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

4 to 6 cups vegetable broth

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon Creole seasoning or Cayenne (depending on your level of spiciness)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place cut pumpkin, apple, onion, and yam on large baking sheet.  Drizzle on oil, salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Place foil wrapped garlic bulb and baking sheet in oven and roast until fork tender and lightly browned, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Place the roasted mix into a blender and add vegetable stock to cover.  Blend until very smooth.  For a very smooth soup, strain through a fine strainer into a large sauce pan.  Add remaining vegetable stock and all seasonings and heat soup about 15 minutes.  Taste to correct seasoning to your preference.

The soup can be made a day ahead.  Reheat over medium heat.  Serve with toasted corn tortilla as mock crutons.


Roasted Pear Salad

For the salad, I roasted one pear (per 2 servings) while roasting the veggies for the soup above, sprinkling the pear with oil and kosher salt.    I topped the roasted pears over a salad of mixed greens, chopped cucumbers, green olives, cranraisins and walnuts.  For the dressing, I prepared a 2:1 olive oil to Pear Infused Balsamic Vinegar (or white balsalmic vinegar), Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and dried oregano and thyme.

Quinoa Pasta with Carmelized Onions, Cabbage and Walnuts

Day 1 of my 21 day cleanse!  Over the weekend I prepped my pantry and refrigerator with lots of fun ingredients to get me started.  I shopped at my local grocery store, my Italian deli and Whole Foods to gather up my supplies for the week.  Creating vegan meals is not new to me and cooking for others in the past with dietary restrictions is also not new to me.  This detox cleanse is vegan but also eliminates gluten.  I have baked desserts for a gluten free client but was able to incorporate dairy.  So having very limited key ingredients to work with, this can be a challenge.   In addition, I did not purchase any prepared gluten-free breads as I thought I would.  When I read the ingredients on some of these packages, I simply decided I would rather make wholesome foods from simple ingredients and forego those breads.  Besides, once all those ingredients were pulled together to make, I assume, a tasty bread without flour, the fat content and calorie content was way high!  I do not normally read calorie or fat but rather ingredients, looking for real, readable ingredients. 

I did, however, purchase gluten-free waffles that contained basic ingredients and toasted up two for my breakfast.  I topped the waffles with almond butter which I had mixed with some pumpkin puree and drizzled on agave as a mock syrup.  The almond buter mixed with the pumpkin cut down on the amount of almond butter used as well as softened up the texture.  I was very satisfied with my breakfast!  And if you note in my picture, I did have my morning espresso.  Yes, I will be drinking espresso in the morning and cutting out any additional cups during the day.  Besides, there are some benefits to caffeine 🙂

For lunch I had a chopped salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, artichokes, garbanzo beans and Kalamata olives.  I drizzed on an oil and vinegar dressing.  A mid morning and mid afternoon snack of fruit and almonds kept me quite satisfied!

Monday’s almost always lead me to wanting comfort food for dinner.  I normally like to prepare a frittata or a meatless pasta dish.  I purchased Quinoa pasta made from simply corn flour and organic Quinoa flour and had a head of napa cabbage.  Carmelized onion and walnuts (and gorgonzola cheese) was a quick pasta dish I was familiar with.  Obviously, I left out the cheese and to my pleasant surprise, I did not miss the cheese.  The pasta blended very well with the dish, almost adding a nuttier taste blending well with the chopped walnuts I sprinkled on top.  Comforting, filling and very good!

Quinoa Pasta with Carmelized Onions, Cabbage and Walnuts

Adapted from Vegan Italiano

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small head cabbage, thinly sliced

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

½ teaspoon salt or to taste

2 large cloves garlic finely chopped

4 oz Quinoa pasta, cooked al dente

½ cup vegetable broth

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

3 tablespoons chopped walnuts

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, cabbage and salt and cook stirring until softened, about 5 minutes.  Cover, reduce the heat to medium low and cook approximately 15 minutes longer, stirring occassionally.  Uncover and continue to cook until onions and cabbage turn a deep golden brown, adding the garlic the last few minutes of cooking. 

 Add the pasta, broth, basil,walnuts and peppper to the skillet; toss well to combine.  Serve immediately.

Quantum Wellness Cleanse

I can think about food all day and dream all night about romantic settings (with food), fantasy vacations to Italy (with food), entertaining friends (with food) and weekend getaways (with food).  I am constantly on the search for new ideas; cookbooks surround me with inspiration and, I confess, cool restaurant menus sometimes find their way back home with me.  I view food as a pleasurable celebration that provides nutrition and fuel for my body and warmth and love for those I cook for.  I enjoy the vibrant colors of fresh fruits and vegetables, the impossibly irresistible aromas that fill my kitchen when I’m baking and cooking and gorgeous settings to sit down and dine.

So when I heard of Kathy Freston’s book, The Quantum Wellness Cleanse, I was immediately fascinated.  And why, you might say, if I so love food am I fascinated in a cleanse?  First off, I would never go on a “fasting cleanse” or deprive myself on a fruit only or cabbage soup diet.  But I do believe in continually improving my eating habits and exploring food choices that can benefit and enhance my health.  I’m fascinated as well, in the challenge of creating flavorsome and inviting meals that do not contain the five ingredients to eliminate:  alcohol, caffeine, sugar, animal products and gluten.

In the forward of the book it reads:  21 Days May Lead to a Lifetime of Pleasure and Feeling Good.  Yes, I’m so all about that!  And then some.  The concept really is to step back and re-evaluate in a conscious way the food we eat and incorporate within these 21 days healthy meals that will cleanse and detoxify the body. 

I will begin my 21 days on November 1 ending right before Thanksgiving, and on a personal side note, my birthday.  I have engaged a few coworkers to join me. In fact, it was another coworker that introduced this book to me and excitedly shared her results thus far on feeling great!  I plan to post my healthy recipes and share my journey.  If anyone is interested in joining along, please let me know or simply follow my menus!