Category Archives: Food

Not Quite Summer BBQ

It takes three people to make mayonnaise. One to whisk, one to pour, one to dance.

“I’m very happy to have entire day revolve around BBQ.” A great statement from my friend AJ, who joined me with Keith and Donovan last Saturday for a day of foodie adventure in the Cotswolds. Our mission: to stock up on supplies for an all-American(ish) BBQ while also taken in some of the Cotswolds foodie scene. The outing took us to Talking Wines, where we literally did talk wines with the very friendly folk who helped us navigate our way through the complex flavours of two particularly excellent Australian wines. The exercise also made it easy to decide what to bring home with us.

Aussie Wines

After wine tasting, we refuelled on healthy vegan salad snacks at The Organic Farm Shop cafe prior to perusing their shop. The guys walked away with a most interesting basket of food: grass-fed, farm-raised, zero-food-miles meeeat to put on the BBQ; raw cacao nibs; and a bottle of Organic Stroud Budding (my favourite beer at the moment). My basket was much greener.

#goatsofinstagram

I was feeling anxious to get the BBQ underway but am glad we bothered to make a stop at New Wave Fish Shop for a big slab of salmon. After one final stop to Waitrose for the extraneous supplies (and cheese), we were finally on our way home where the BBQ commenced.

The BBQ itself was a seriously remarkable success. Same wavelengths were achieved. Planets were aligned. Meat was grilled. Bread was baked. It was a mutual ebb and flow of cooking, music playing, drinking, eating and playing.

Our vague menu plan: BBQ sauce, sweet potato fries, meat, fish, grilled veg, cornbread, mayo, grilled pineapple, cheese board. (Hurray for people who’d rather have cheese over sweet desserts!)

So I thought I’d report on our laundry list of successes for the evening, in no particular order…

If for some reason you’re all out of corn meal, but you happen to have masa harina, then YES you can make cornbread with masa harina, and it’s actually pretty awesome.

Weekend learning point: for lack of cornmeal, masa harina makes stellar cornbread! (Props to @keithhologram for this one.)

This Smoky Barbecue Sauce recipe from Simply Recipes was stellar (after we added a bit of soy sauce and garlic).

The secret to crispy salmon skin is to leave it on the BBQ and BE PATIENT – don’t touch it until it’s almost cooked, then take it off the heat and finish it in the oven.

Salmon - crispy skin success!

BBQ’d mushrooms are the bomb. Especially with the aforementioned Smoky Barbecue Sauce.

Glorious mushrooms

Homemade mayonnaise is the best.

Making mayo

Sriracha sauce is good on everything, particularly sweet potatoes when combined with homemade mayonnaise.

Sriracha   mayo   sweet potato fries = awesome

Crispy sweet potato fries are hard to achieve. (Any suggestions?)

Star Trek: The Voyage Home, is a great film to unwind to after a long night of cooking and feasting.

Leftovers make a great breakfast spread. Just add eggs!

Breakfast pimped out with BBQ leftovers.

Or just add toast, more mayo and Sriracha – that’s how Donovan rolls. Behold his sweet potato fry tartine:

Hugely impressed with @dollaveet's mayo, Sriracha, mushroom, sweet potato "tartine".

Thank you, Team Mayo! Looking forward to our next BBQ adventure – tandoori style!

Team Mayo

Asian Inspiration

Caramelised Coconut Mackerel from Uyen Luu's book

I’ve just had a super terrific reunion weekend with three of my great friends, Kavey, Pete and Marie. We’ve been anticipating this meet-up for months (FYI: Pinterest is awesome for brainstorming foodie get togethers) and, as usual, hatched some ambitious plans for our menu. I can always count on Kavey to come armed with fun new cookbooks to try, and this weekend it was Uyen Luu’s My Vietnamese Kitchen, which became the focus of our cooking adventures and also inspired us to go with an Asian theme throughout the weekend. As a result, I’m feeling that dopamine high of having learned so many new things! Steamed fish, Shaoxing wine, fried rice, Vietnamese omelettes, Chinese salad dressings, tempura vegetables, new ways with tofu, not to mention some delicious drinks to go with them, and a few solid GAMES to keep us busy between courses (I. Love. Carcassonne.).

IMG_3796

I thought I’d share a few of the recipes that I particularly enjoyed.

We loved Uyen Luu’s Omelette Bánh Mi with quick pickled carrots; the perfect thing for Saturday Lunch. We also loved her Caramelised Coconut Sardines (which we adapted with mackerel, pictured above).

Saturday Lunch: Bahn Mi and Beer

Warm tofu with spicy garlic sauce, perhaps one of the easiest and most delicious preparations for tofu that I’ve ever come across.

Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce

Miso Sesame Dressing, a sauce so nice we made it twice! First to go with panko fried vegetables on Friday night, and we liked it so much that we did it again on Saturday for veggie tempura.

Crispy Salad with Grated Carrots and a Ponzu Soy Dressing from Harumi Kurihara’s Everyday Harumi (another stellar book find).

Harumi Kurihara's Crisp Salad with Grated Carrots and Ponzu Soy Dressing

Steamed Sea Bream with Ginger and Spring Onion, adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop’s sea bass recipe on matchingfoodandwine.com (we couldn’t get a hold of whole sea bass so used sea bream fillets which worked a charm). This was very simple to make and totally outstanding. Plus, it added a new ingredient to my cooking repertoire: Shaoxing wine!

Steamed sea bream with ginger and spring onion

Spicy Peanut Noodles, another Fuchsia recipe and a perfect side dish for the fish. I’ll definitely be making the peanut sauce again to use on all manners of tasty things (veggie “noodles” come to mind).

Dutch Baby Pancake with Green Tea Ice Cream.

Clafoutis with Whisky-Soaked Dates (adapted from Kate Hill‘s recipe), served with Uyen Luu’s Vietnamese Frozen Yogurt.

Made @katedecamont's clafoutis last night, with whiskey-soaked dates. Leftovers going down well for breakfast with @lovelulu's frozen yogurt.

 

Do check out Uyen Luu’s book, My Vietnamese Kitchen, and while you’re at it, check out my friends’ awesome websites too: Kavey EatsPete Drinks and Lanyon Cottages.

There’s also a few more awesome pictures from our weekend (Banangrams, Pina Coladas, Yahtzee!) on Flickr.

7 Reasons Why I Juice Feast

Carrot Juice

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been at it again with the Juice Feast (hashtag #JuiceFeast!), along with my friend Marie Leggo who I’m guiding through the process. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the gist:

We are drinking only fresh pressed juices for seven days in a row following the same programme I did last year.

Someone on Facebook asked if I could elaborate on WHY we’re doing this, and I thought I would summarise my answer here. My earlier blog post (Juice Feast in Review) explains why I did this in the first place: largely, curiosity. But having done it I’ve amassed all kinds of reasons to do it again. Please note that this post is about why I juice feast, not why it works. But I’ll touch on that below.

7 Reasons Why I Juice Feast

  1. The Uber Reboot: I’ve just come back from a four week trip to Chicago and like many of us have been feeling a little sluggish and soft around the edges as a result of holiday gluttony. I feel eager (impatient?) to get back to how I was feeling pre-Christmas, and to push myself further to feel even better than before. I talked about one way of rebooting at my New Year Reboot class last week (heavy emphasis on soups and smoothies). Well, juicing is another way.  
  2. Mental benefits: Last time I did the Juice Feast, by Day 4 I was on fire. I can’t remember the last time I felt so clear-headed and energised. I got so much done. It was during that time that I wrote almost all of Smarter Fitter Smoothies. Here’s what I said in my earlier post: “So after Day 3 is when things really got crazy. I suddenly had all kinds of energy that lasted from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. It was marvellous. I got so much done. I was focused. I put in lots of time on everything. I had to force myself to go to bed at night even though I wasn’t tired. I felt like I did things with purpose.”
  3. Physical benefits: Exercise is an important part of the Juice Feast and I’ve been mostly keeping up with the gym and my 10,000 step goal (Fitbit!). As with my brain brain, my body is feeling better, too. In fact, I’m feeling pretty sprightly, especially with my cycling and weightlifting, and again, purposeful.
  4. Reflection: This ties in with #3. I’ve recently felt like much of my thinking around exercise has been skewed. The warning sign is this: often when I go for a walk or a swim or the gym, I find myself looking forward to the end as soon as I’ve began. And my motivations are wonky: I’ve found myself thinking “I should go because I need to work off all that cake I ate over Christmas” rather than “I should go because I want to”. And when I think that way, I find the act boring, or worse, I push my body beyond its limits, thus subjecting myself to injury. So I’m using this time as an opportunity to think about all of my intentions and how I’ll see them through at the Juice Feast. This goes for my physical activity as well as other life stuff like building up my business and tweaking some of my thinking around food (a subject for another time!).
  5. My winter solstice mission: At winter solstice last year (mentioned in my Chicago Trip Highlights) I decided that this winter would be all about nourishment. For me, this Juice Feast is part of my way of mentally and physically nourishing the body, but also thinking about how to carry on that theme of nourishment for the rest of winter (see #4. Reflection).
  6. Catch up on life: The nice thing about juicing is it frees up a lot of time. Juicing is quick and easy compared to cooking, and I’m not spending time eating meals, either. Granted, I miss meal time, one of life’s great joys, especially with friends. But for a week, I can do without, and it’s nice to have a chance to catch up on things, and also feel a smidgen of time freedom to invest in that needed reflection I mentioned above.
  7. Get AMPED for feeling awesome. In the end, I’m doing the feast for sustained benefit. I know juicing isn’t a sustainable way to live and I wouldn’t want to. But by the end of the juice feast I should be in a great place physically and mentally to carry on doing the things that are best for me. This is all about feeling awesome all of the time – my eternal quest! The juicing should leave me in a good place to carry on with gusto. (See #1. The Uber Reboot.)

Of course, we all have different reasons for Juice Feasting. Marie summed up hers on Facebook:

For me its not just about the weight loss I’m doing it to feel great – as Jason Vales book says: ‘power-pack your body wth nutrients and enzymes to make you feel energised and invigorated’

And speaking of those enzymes, as I mentioned earlier, this post is all about why I Juice Feast, not why it works. In fact, there isn’t a whole lot of evidence out there that it “works” for any of the reasons claimed by most juicing “celebrities”. A lot of it reads like a lot of detox mumbo jumbo to me (and in fact much of it is). One argument makes some sense: Juicing gives the digestive system the ultimate spa break. How? The act of juicing makes the nutrients in the juice super easy to digest, so the body not only gets flooded with nutrients, but it also has energy for repair (energy that would otherwise be spent digesting solid food).

But beyond this, the evidence is anecdotal at best. And I suppose my own anecdote is enough evidence to convince me that the Juice Feast is worth doing.

Three days left and a world of possibilities lie ahead. Bring it on!

Juice Feasting with the Phillips Avance Juicer

Fairly typical breakfast scene at the moment. #juicing

The release of my Smoothie Book is approaching FAST (free copies up for grabs here) and naturally I’ve been making a lot of smoothies, not only to test my recipes but also to fuel my fires and get me stoked for the highs and [only occasional] lows of eBook development.

One of the things I suggest in my book is trying fresh-pressed fruit and vegetable juice as a liquid base for smoothies. So, for the last couple weeks, I’ve been playing with the Phillips Avance Juicer from Argos and finding out what the fuss about juicing is all about. Turns out, there’s something to be said for this modern day phenomenon…

I'd like to create a smoothie version of this most excellent juice, made of carrot, apple, ginger and lemon (zest included). Smooth it with some almonds maybe?

A Tale of Two Juicers

Back in the day I had a juicer, a really fancy Omega ”masticating juicer” (juicer speak for “hardcore”). It cost the world but made amazing juice (as well as pasta, almond milk, nut butter and more!). This was the Vitamix of juicers. But it had a lot of bits and pieces, was a pain to clean and in the end I sold it.

philips-avance-advance-juicer

The Phillips juicer is a different beast. It’s a centrifugal juicer (see the difference between masticating and centrifugal juicers) that actually seems to do what it says on the box: “Maximum Juice. Minimum fuss.” The setup was easy and the best thing was that the fruit “shoot” actually had capacity for whole apples. This means less chopping and easier juice. Cleanup was also easy – there are 4 pieces to clean and all are dishwasher safe (and none of the bits have annoying grooves or dips that are prone to collecting nasty water in the dishwasher).

Juicing: it’s not a detox, but it’s still cool

The juicer came with a copy of Jason Vale‘s The Funky Fresh Juice book which further led me to his other book, The Juice Master Diet which details a 7-day juicing regime (“7lbs in 7 days!” he claims). I was skeptical because I hate the word “diet” and the cover of the book makes it seem like this is all about losing weight FAST. Furthermore, the book itself is full of fluffy health claims about “body cleansing”, superfoods and “detoxing”.

So it seems spirulina makes smoothies look like something out of Ten Forward. This is cool to me. #trekkie

It may seem weird that I’m knocking the idea of “detox” when I glowed emphatically about the Clean Detox program I did for three weeks earlier this year. But as I’ve learned, calling such things a “detox” is biologically incorrect and based on a misunderstanding of how the human detoxification system really works (see: Detox Diets: Facts & Fallacies). Even Jason Vale admits (sort of): “Your body has it’s own filtration system, mainly the liver, and it’s constantly cleaning, or ‘detoxing’, if you prefer. So yes it could be argued that, ‘juicing doesn’t help the body to detox’, which is true..ish.”

Still, a book like The Juice Master Diet has a market and I get that Jason’s writing to that market. He even writes in the book: “I suppose that in order to get your message to the people who need it most you sometimes have to compromise along the way”. Ok, fine.

And hey, the stir fry juice is pretty good. (Hold the soy sauce in mine, please.)

So I read the book and made some juice and as much as I’m cynical about all the fluffy superfood jargon, I am still fascinated by this concept of a full-time juicing spell (it helps that the apple orchard is in full swing and I have a LOT of fruit to play with at the moment). I felt great after doing the Clean thing. Call it a detox, call it whatever you will: if you eat “clean food” (fruit, vegetables, pulses, whole grains, etc.) and don’t eat “bad food” (sugar, alcohol, processed food, etc.) for an extended, uninterrupted period of time, you’re bound to feel awesome, and isn’t that the point? And if that “clean food” were delivered in pure juice form, how would I feel?  Would it increase my energy? Improve my morale (which has been suffering a little lately in light of a recent foot injury)? Would it make me feel like a rock star?

So, I’ve decided to find out.

Juicy Wall Planner

Juice Feast in Progress

So, as I write this, I’m just finishing my fourth day of what I’m calling a “juice feast”. And “feast” really is the operative word here. This isn’t a “diet”, or a “fast” – it really is a feast of an alarmingly large amount of juice for seven days in a row. I’m drinking SEVEN juices a day, and many of the juices get blended with yogurt or avocado so they’re more like smoothies. Here are my observations so far:

Pros:

  • It’s not as hard as I thought it would be.
  • The plan is totally laid out for you – there’s a wall chart and an app that makes it totally easy to create a shopping list, plan your smoothies throughout the day and make the recipes. There’s very little thinking to do here.
  • The juices are really good.
  • Avocados play a major role in the smoothie recipes and I am an avo ADDICT.
  • Some of the juices are more like “smoothies” (so, fresh juice blended with avocado or yogurt) – I look forward to these the most!
  • I still have energy to go to the gym, life weights, cycle, etc. In fact, today I lifted more and swam more quickly than I have in many months. Most importantly, I felt great while doing it (albeit a little hungry).
  • I sleep like the dead.
  • I am not constantly hungry.
  • I have a LOT of energy throughout the day – no crashes ever – and this especially goes for MENTAL energy, which means…
  • I’m WAY more productive, particularly in the evenings, though this might be because I don’t spend time cooking or eating a “meal” (dinner time is one of my favourite times of the day, but often after dinner, I succumb to a movie or useless internet surfing – this hasn’t really happened, or if I do it with a movie, I do it with intention and not “I can’t be bothered doing anything else” kind of laziness).
  • The whole thing seems to go by pretty quickly.

Cons

  • Headaches, which I experienced on Days 2 and 3. They set in at about 5pm and didn’t go anywhere for the entire evening. This may have been an effect of caffeine withdrawal – I haven’t had any headaches since.
  • The recipes can get a bit samy, particularly on the fruit front – he stresses that apples, carrots and pineapple or a combination should always be used as a base to the vegetable juices. But this brings me to my next gripe…
  • He doesn’t explain WHY. I’d love to know more about why the plan is laid out as it is and why these particular fruits and vegetables are so important.
  • I miss cooking and sitting down for a proper meal.
  • Ok, I know I said I wasn’t constantly hungry but I admit that there is a sort of latent hunger that drinking a glass of liquid just doesn’t satisfy (Jason Vale argues that this is “mental hunger” and not true physical hunger – and that if it is true hunger, we are free to simply drink more juice).
  • As much as the juicer is easy to use and clean, it loses it’s charm when you have to clean it seven times.
  • It’s expensive, especially if you buy into all of the optional recommended supplements (spirulina, wheatgrass, psyllium husks). Plus the groceries alone: I mean, 85 apples for the whole week! (I’m lucky I have an orchard.) Not to mention the cost of the juicer.
  • The juices, though delicious, get a little boring as the same ones are repeated throughout the week.
  • I miss salt.
  • I miss chewing.

I will report back in a few days when I’m finished and let you know my final thoughts on the whole thing.  In the meantime, to give you an idea of how this works in practice, I’m sharing a recipe for one of the juices that features prominently throughout the seven day juice feast, and it’s one of my favourites. I didn’t think I liked pineapple but add a lime and it’s a total win.

I cannot argue with this "Super Juice" - or this avocado.

Jason Vale’s “Turbo Express”

Juicy Ingredients

  • 1/4 small pineapple
  • 1/2 stick celery
  • 1 inch chunk of cucumber
  • 1 small handful of spinach leaves
  • 1 small piece of peeled lime
  • 2 apples – not Granny Smiths
  • 1/4 ripe avocado
  • Ice

Juicy Instructions

  1. Juice the pineapple, celery, cucumber, spinach, lime and apples. (If you have a Phillips whole-fruit juicer, put in one apple, place the other ingredients on top and then finish up with the other apple).
  2. Place the ripe avocado flesh in the blender / smoothie maker along with the ice and juice mixture.
  3. Give a good whiz for 45 seconds (or until smooth).
  4. Pour into glass – enjoy!

Why this is good for you

This juice is rich in potassium, vitamin C and iron, which helps cleanse the intestine and boost the immune system. It is excellent for rebuilding red blood cells and reducing blood pressure. It is also helpful with kidney problems and acts as a diuretic. The blended avocado contains all of our body’s six dietary needs in abundance – water, fat, protein, natural sugar, vitamins and minerals.

Source: Jason Vale’s Turbo Express

Related Links

Elderberry Recipes Galore

Elderberries

Having just written about elderberry vinaigrette, I found myself chock full of elderberry recipes and ideas for this easily forageable food. Some of these ideas found their way to Great British Chefs today, and now they find their way here. Enjoy, and let me know if you have any other elderberry recipes ideas to share!

We often think of elderflowers when it comes to the elder plant, Sambucus nigra. But the berries that result from those elderflowers are well worth gathering, too.

Elderberries have been used for centuries for their healing abilities. The classical healers used elderberries to treat numerous ills, from asthma to arthritis, and today the berries are commonly considered a natural remedy for cold and flu. There may be some merit to this; elderberries are high in flavenoids which are thought to protect the body against cell damage.

But nutritional benefits aside, elderberries actually taste pretty good, too (when prepared correctly), and are well worth foraging in the hedgerows. The easiest way to pick elderberries is to gather them in bunches, then use a fork to prick off the berries into a bowl (some of the stem might remain in the berries but for most recipes this doesn’t matter).

Elderberries for elderberry syrup

You’ve got your berries, now what to do with them? Elderberry recipes abound:

  • Elderberry “Balsamic” Vinegar - Elderberry vinegar is delicious as glaze for beetroot; it also makes a wonderful elderberry vinaigrette for salads.
  • Elderberry Dutch Baby – Just add a handful of elderberries to the batter. We did this during equinox and it rocked our world.
  • Pontack Sauce - An old English sauce made with elderberries and spices with origins going back to the 17th century.
  • Elderberry Cordial - This is particularly tasty when drunk with hot water as a tea.
  • Elderberry Jelly or Elderberry Jam - Or combine elderberries with other hedgerow goodies like blackberries and crabapples and make a hedgerow jelly.
  • Elderberry pie – pastry-encased elderberry; how can you go wrong?
  • Elderberry liqueur – if you like tawny port, you’ll like this.
  • Elderberry Wine - A bit more involved than the above recipes, but the upshot: you get wine at the end of it!

Elderberry Vinaigrette

Perhaps the best place to start with elderberries is by making a simple elderberry syrup. The recipe is easy and the result is delicious and super versatile.

  • Mix it with fizzy water as a cordial
  • Drizzle it over yogurt or ice cream
  • Use it as a base for sorbet
  • Make a cocktail
  • Use it in place of maple syrup on your pancakes and waffles

Elderberry Syrup

Ingredients

  • 2-pounds (1kg) elderberries
  • 4 cups (1l) water
  • 2½ (500g) cups sugar
  • a good squeeze of lemon juice

Method

  1. Put the elderberries in a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the elderberries tender and soft.
  2. Pass through a food mill or push through a fine sieve, then discard the skins.
  3. Pour the juice back into the pot, add the sugar and simmer for 15 minutes, until the syrup has thickened. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, then leave to cool.
  4. Once cool, pour the juice into a bottle and store in the refrigerator.

Black and Blue Avocado Smoothie

Black & Blue Avocado & Mint Smoothie

This smoothie has become a staple of mine in recent weeks, largely thanks to the abundance of blackberries in the hedgerows at the moment. If only avocados grew so readily, alas, I have to rely on Lidl for my avocado fix (yes, Lidl, where avocados seem to be both cheaper and tastier than those from other supermarkets, the exception being The Organic Farm Shop which occasionally has organic avocados from Mexico which are pure bliss).

But I digress. I like to add interest to this smoothie with mint and orange flower water, but if you don’t have those it’s not the end of the world. This is really all about the berries, and the avocados and dates make it creamy sweet deliciousness.

Black and Blue Avocado Smoothie
Recipe type: Smoothie
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 1
 

Up the dates if you like a sweeter smoothie – this comes in handy if the dates are particularly tart. Go easy on the orange flower water – a little bit (we’re talking drops) goes a very long way.
Ingredients
  • 150g blackberries, blueberries or a combo of the two
  • ½ avocado
  • a big handful of kale
  • 1 date
  • a few ice cubes
  • water, nut milk or rice milk
  • a couple sprigs of mint, stalks removed
  • a few drops of orange flower water (go easy on this)

Instructions
  1. Put everything in a blender and add enough water, nut milk or rice milk to blend. Blitz on high for a minute or so to make sure the date and everything else gets chopped up well. Serve and enjoy!

Nutrition Information
Calories: 268 Fat: 16 Carbohydrates: 33 Fiber: 14 Protein: 6 Cholesterol: 0

 

 

Clean Detox Day 6: I think I’ve been missing Healthy Vegan Breakfast Salads

Clean detox day 6

Breakfast smoothie: 1 pear, 1/4 avocado, 100ml cashew milk, 1cm hunk of ginger, 1 date, leaves from a couple sprigs of fresh mint, ice. This was terrific.

Lunch: Cucumber, cashew and lemon soup with smoked salt, paprika and curry powder. Inspired by this recipe. Not bad!

Dinner: Quinoa and steamed veggies with lemon and oil dressing, chopped parsley and dill, avocado and toasted seeds.

 

I still haven’t managed to adopt the soup-for-dinner rule: tonight’s the night, I swear! But that being said, last night’s dinner was kind of perfect after a couple days experimenting with fish and way too many veggie noodles. I think I’ve been missing my Healthy Vegan Breakfast Salads, because that’s basically what I had for dinner.

There’s something to be said for a simple meal of vegetables, grains and herbs. Add avocado and toasted seeds to anything and it’s bound to be decent. This was better than decent, especially with the lemon and dill – very refreshing.

Clean detox day 6

Clean Detox Day 5: A couple resolutions that don’t involve vegetable noodles

Clean detox day 4

Breakfast: Mango, avocado and mint smoothie. Very good!

Snacks: Celery with hummus and salsa macha. An apple or two while wandering around the orchard.

Dinner: Sesame crusted haddock (adapted from this recipe for crisp sesame fish fillets - I added smoked paprika with the sesame) with more of the infamous veggie noodles.

I love them, but it’s time to take a break from the veggie noodles.

Today was a bit of a weird one. Due to last night’s late meal, I couldn’t have my first meal until about 11am. So I didn’t really have lunch, and then I had a fairly substantial dinner. After yesterday’s quinoa flour fail, I tried sesame crusted haddock which worked much better. But I was basically repeating last night’s meal and was a little bored with the whole thing. It’s time to mix it up! I have some ideas. They involve quinoa, the seed not the flour.

I am also going to try to be more gung-ho about the liquid meals “rule” and stick to having my liquid meals at breakfast and dinner. So far I’ve been mostly having smoothies for breakfast, soup for lunch and a “solid” dinner. But the problem is that I’m often REALLY hunger at dinner time and I think I overeat – the proof is in my digestion, and I’ve been feeling a little sour-stomached in the morning. (Proof that you can eat too many vegetables.) The opposite of the Clean detox intention!

All that being said, I’m feeling pretty good. This “detox” is pretty easy, and actually very fun, and I must admit it’s been really nice feeling super good throughout the weekend (vs spending Saturday and/or Sunday feeling less than stellar due to weekend drinking and foodie indulgences).

One last thing – the mango smoothie was really good and my first use of my homemade cashew milk. Will do again, maybe with some ginger next time…

Image created with Snapseed

Clean Detox Day 4: Crispy fish without the flour

Photo Collage

Breakfast: Smoothie made with blueberries, blackberries, avocado, spinach, almond butter and one humble date. This was the first smoothie I wasn’t crazy about. It had too much spinach in it, and lacked creaminess despite the avocado. I also went too heavy on the blackberries so there were all these little seedy bits on there. Too many seeds to enjoy it. Oh well – tomorrow is another smoothie day.

Lunch: Leftover courgette and herb soup with a very small garnish of pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Dinner: Paprika-fied haddock with carrot, courgette and runner bean “noodles” seasoned with garlic, lemon, parsley and chilli flakes. Avocado on the side. I enjoyed this with one small caveat. I pan-fried the fish, and instead of coating it in regular flour, I used quinoa flour (which I mixed with some salt, pepper and smoked paprika). The quinoa flour didn’t really go crispy like normal flour would have. But my current Airbnb guests who are gluten free gave me a hefty tip. More on this below…

Image created with Snapseed

Yesterday saw the arrival of my latest Airbnb guests, an extremely cool couple from Boston (USA represent) who are totally “my people”. Before they came they told me they were gluten-free. It turns out they don’t eat all sorts of things, either because of various “allergies”. I’ve been fascinated by their stories because this is what the Clean program is all about: removing possible triggers for allergies, inflammation and bad stuff that will do damage to the glorious intestinal gut flour that keeps things moving happily and the body feeling its best.

I think they’re interest in food is a lot like mine: we’ve had a time in our life when we drastically changed our diets, and this led us to thinking and learning more about food, and the more you learn, the more interesting food becomes. So the three of us have had a really good time talking food, but from a perspective I’m not generally used to, and it’s been great because they have some super gluten-free tips, particularly when it comes to fish.

To get a nice crispy piece of pan-fried fish, instead of coating it in normal flour, coat it in almond flour! This makes total sense, and I think sesame seeds or other pulverised nut would work well, too. She also suggested baking the fish, and sprinkling spices, herbs and ground nuts (or even sliced almonds) over the top. I’m a sucker for texture, and this is ticking all the right boxes!

I’m hoping to return the tip favour with some of my own trips with quinoa and healthy vegan breakfast salads.

The caveat to all this great conversation meant that I put off having my dinner (non-liquid, another “cheat”) until really late and I was super duper hungry and after my nice light dinner I proceeded to eat a pear, a peach and a nectarine. Right before bed.

Sleeping is prime digesting / detoxing time, and on the Clean program you’re supposed to leave a 12 hour window between dinner and breakfast to give the body 8 hours to digest and 4 hours to “detox”. I may have sabotaged this with my late night fruit binge. And it also means I can’t eat anything today until 11am. Given that it’s only 7:06am right now, this might be a long morning.

Or not! I can’t say I feel horrible and it’s not like I ate cake or ice cream. Or drank beer or wine – that is the true Friday victory!

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Oh jeez, I’m doing a detox!

I’m just back from a really fantastic weekend of camping and revelry with friends from the Rave Coffee crew in nearby Minchinhampton: two days and two nights largely spent around a campfire or a picnic table engaged in good conversation fuelled by craft beer, barbecue, bread, pickles, cake and coffee (of course!).

One such conversation has inspired me to take on a 21-day detox following Alejandro Junger’s technique outlined in his book, Clean. I know very little about this detox cleanse as of yet, but two friends from Rave are doing it and I’ve decided to tag along for the ride. I’ve been feeling less than awesome for a few months now and try as I may to “get back on track”, I feel a little lost as to what that “track” actually is. I like the idea of having a system and a plan and knowing that there’s a couple other people out there I know doing it, too. (There’s much to be said for the buddy system.)

Today was going to mark my official start but as I’m learning what the cleanse entails, I realise I’m totally unprepared! For example, I am not to eat soy, bananas, tomatoes, eggs or dairy, just a few of many “off limit” foods that are currently taking up space in my kitchen. I am also suppose to eat one solid meal and two “liquid” meals per day. No tomatoes? Liquid food? What’s this all about?

Here’s the idea: Junger’s supposition is that much of the food we eat is toxic. The toxins are stored in our bodies, and our waste systems can’t get rid of them because they’re constantly bombarded with them. The 21-day cleanse is meant to give the body a chance to clean out the toxins and restore the body’s natural ability to heal itself. This means eating an alkaline diet of high pH foods, so certain kinds of vegetables and fruits, plus wild animal protein and gluten-free grains. And obviously, no “toxins”: processed food, dairy, eggs, soy, alcohol or caffeine.

Eating “clean food” is pretty much what I do anyway, but it’s those latter two liquid temptations that will be difficult to avoid. But it’s the effect of those temptations that have me wanting to do something about it. The last year or so has been extraordinary, with weekends (and sometimes weekdays) much in the spirit of the weekend I just had: visiting old friends, meeting new ones, talking endlessly, inspiring each other and, most importantly, celebrating. But at the same time, I do feel a strong sense like my body needs a “break”. So I’m excited about this. I’m excited to have a plan. And I’m excited that the cleanse allows avocados.

Not one to waste food, I’m going to use today to do some planning and to get through those few remaining low pH foods hanging around my kitchen. Tomorrow will mark Day 1 of the cleanse. I sense a lot of Vitamixing in my future!