October 2, 2011

Simple Chicken Curry

Want your house to smell amazing all afternoon while you wait to enjoy a savory comfort-food dinner? Of course you do : ]

This recipe is from the Penzeys One cookbook. I just modified it to use a slow cooker instead of just the stove top, to make the chicken more tender and stretch out the good smells. Many thanks to my husband Karl who makes a darn fine sous chef. It’s a SUPER easy recipe that is well worth the minimal effort, and the curry is even better for lunch on day two. Also if you’re worried about curry being too “hot” for you, this one is not AT ALL.

You’ll need:
1 pound cut-up chicken breast meat
2TB vegetable oil or butter (I used/recommend ghee instead; it’s less congesting)
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
4 inch section of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. garam masala (best. spice. ever.)
1/2 c. water
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped into large pieces (these are optional, I left them out because they are acidic)
1 c. plain yogurt (whole or low fat; nonfat won’t work as well to thicken the curry)
Veggies if you want to add them – I added chopped carrots – you could also throw in spinach, kale, peas, whatever you want.

Mix curry powder and garam masala in 2T water. Let it sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Heat oil, butter or ghee over medium heat. Add the onion, ginger and garlic. Saute, stirring for about 3 minutes or until the onion starts to brown slightly. Add in the water/spice mixture, stirring quickly. Add the chicken and stir until well coated. If you’re adding the tomatoes, add them in along with the 1/2 water, otherwise just add the water. Simmer briefly and either cook on the stovetop for 20 minutes if you’re in a hurry, or, preferably, transfer to a crock pot/slow cooker and cook on low for an afternoon. I cooked it in the crock pot on high for a couple of hours and then on low for a couple of hours. Towards the end of cooking time, add the yogurt to thicken the curry.

Serve with basmati rice and plenty of veggies…nom nom nom…you body and soul will both thank you. : ]

Coming up next on this blog: a summary of the great stuff I learned at “Food As Medicine” class.

August 19, 2011

Roots is not an easy place to clean your plate.

Last night my husband and I went to Roots Milwaukee. You’d think it would be an EASY place to “Clean” your plate but not so much.

That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of healthy, delicious options on the menu, because there are. Granted, the detox program I’m doing, the Clean Program, is a bit “extreme”; however, I still had hoped I’d be able to find something on the menu that fit the bill. I really needed a big slab of protein, preferably fish, but even all the fish had soy sauce or dairy involved. So, no go.

Instead, I enjoyed this absolutely beautiful watermelon gazpacho (which technically isn’t Clean Program approved, as it had tomato, but I had to make a judge’s ruling on that one as the least of the available “evils”) and avoided the surprising Corn Nut garnish around the edges. (Yes, Corn Nuts.) Truly, anything with half an avocado floating in the center of it is A-OK with me. The presentation was so stunning it made me feel a bit less deprived.

Watermelon Gazpacho at Roots restaurant Milwaukee

Watermelon Gazpacho at Roots restaurant Milwaukee

My entree consisted of…a green side salad. There literally was not a single entree I could touch. So I ate my fresh, peppery greens with a terrific fruit vinegar and oil dressing, and tried without much success to relish the ambiance of the Cellar patio, replete with rows and rows of fresh herbs growing. And I salivated watching someone to my right eating a giant plate of pulled pork and white cheddar nachos, and someone to my left tearing into a pulled pork sandwich with Nueske’s bacon on a pretzel bun. It was, frankly, pretty brutal. My husband was kind, and just had a green side salad and a plain burger, which he said was excellent.

I wouldn’t try to go here again while I’m on the clean program, but definitely look forward to returning when I’m a *little* less clean.

Eating REALLY healthy – even in the healthiest of restaurants – isn’t easy, is it?

August 15, 2011

Clean: Week 1 Results and Reflections

After a one week Yin toxin fast, I just finished my first week on the Clean program. (This great article from Outside magazine explains it more.) It took the detox sitch to a whole new level, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But, I wasn’t really expecting this.

Monday: More energy than I have had in a veeeeeeery long time. Felt outstanding during a challenging yoga class.
Tuesday: A little sluggish, but in a super-happy mood.
Wednesday: Energy tanked, big time. Dizzy in a very easy yoga class.
Thursday: Detox-headache from hell returned.
Friday: Dragged myself through the day, and through an even easier yoga class.
Weekend: Slept for 11 hours a night, took a nap both days, and STILL feel exhausted.

Here’s the thing…it’s hard work for your body, detox. I’m told by the support staff at the Clean program through their stellar support community site that this is completely normal. My body is just diverting energy from my muscles to my organs, doing the clean-up work that needs to be done. Which is A-OK with me, because in the long run, while I don’t feel awesome and energetic right now, I WILL feel awesome and energetic very soon.

Part of the challenge has become making sure I’m getting ENOUGH calories (at least 1,200-1,500 for me), which is probably a first in my lifetime. And it’s extremely difficult to get enough protein on this program, unless you love the taste of rice protein powder, which I think just makes my smoothies taste like crap. I make sure my one solid-food meal of lunch every day is high-protein, and that my snacks are, too, but am still undoubtedly deficient. Last night, I had some fish with my green juice dinner, to ensure adequate protein, which is technically off program; but the last thing I want to do is start losing what little muscle mass I have.

In spite of that, this was almost certainly the best-nourished week of my life, with TONS of dark green veggies and beautiful fresh fruits incorporated.

Weight loss wise, it’s been underwhelming too. I’m still down 8 pounds from where I started two weeks ago, but didn’t lose any additional weight during the first week of Clean. I’m told this, too, is not unusual. My body is adapting and my digestion is still trying desperately to right itself, with a lot of support from me, good nutrition, supplements and as much rest as I can possibly finagle.

Week 2 is *supposed* to be better, and I’m completely committed to sticking it out through this week to see if it is.

Later this week, I’ll need to decide if I’m going to have Clean vacation next week, or a Dirty vacation. : ] I suspect and hope that by then I’ll be feeling good enough that I’ll want to just keep going.

Thoughts? Questions? Suggestions? Leave them below.

Keep it clean.

August 12, 2011

Friday Foodgasm: Warm Salmon and Asparagus Salad with Pesto

Here I thought, momentarily, I was being all clever, coining Friday Foodgasm and all…and there are tons of other people already using it. Well too bad, I’m using it anyway. Because seriously, after 10 days of fasting when I got this on my plate it was a TOTAL FOODGASM. There’s no other word that covers it. So, I think I’ll share a Friday Foodgasm every week with my favorite clean recipe from that week.

This one proves that super simple, uber-nutritious food can be SO DELICIOUS.

Wild Salmon and Asparagus Salad with Pesto, from Clean.

2 (5-ounce) portions of wild salmon (NOT farmed salmon)
2 tablespoons fresh pesto (below)
1 bunch asparagus (woody ends trimmed off)
4 cups mesclun greens or arugula

For the pesto:
2 bunches fresh basil
1/4 c. pine nuts
1/2 c. EVOO
1 clove garlic
Sea salt for seasoning

It goes without saying, almost, but buy local and organic for as much as you can find and afford.

To make the pesto, place basil, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor and process on medium. (I used to use parmesan cheese in my pesto, but really didn’t miss it much.) Drizzle in the EVOO while the motor is running. Season with a little bit of salt. If it’s too thick, add a small amount of pure water. Set aside in a bowl.

Turn grill on high. (If you don’t have a grill, you can use your oven’s broiler.) Brush salmon with EVOO and season with salt and pepper. Do the same with the asparagus. Grill the asparagus first, for 2 minutes on each side. Set aside. Grill the salmon for 3 minutes on each side. Prepare the salad by placing the greens in a bowl, and tossing with EVOO, salt, and lemon juice (not too much).

Serve the salmon topped with the pesto on a bed of the greens, with asparagus on the side. Or, you know, however you want.

This simple, clean, awesome meal energized me big time, so give it a try when you feel like you need a protein boost. And remember: Omega-3s abundant in salmon are your friend!

Nom nom nom.

If you try this, let us know what you think. Got any clean-food favorites you want to share? Bring it.

August 10, 2011

What Is The Clean Program?

So after a week of the Yin Toxin Fast, I started the Clean program two days ago. You get any of a variety of fresh juices, smoothies or soups for breakfast and dinner, and “real food” for lunch, which can be vegetarian or can involve chicken, fish, or lamb. Nothing processed, no sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol, no wheat, nothing processed at all, and there’s a list of “yes” (detoxifying) foods and “no” (toxifying) foods. You can have snacks if you’re starving.

Here’s a little video that explains it:

So, for example, yesterday I ate/drank a blueberry, raspberry and almond milk smoothie for breakfast; an ounce of cashews; quinoa tabbouleh and green veggie juice for lunch; two cacao goji berry nuggets for a snack; a kale smoothie for dinner. Super nutritious right? And by the end of the day I was literally ready to gnaw my arm off. I can see why this works.

And, though I’m a bit dehydrated at this moment, between the Yin fast and this I’ve lost, um, 10.4 POUNDS IN NINE DAYS. So, hunger and all, I’m in Clean for two weeks (you can do a one, two, or three week cleanse) leading into a family vacation (during which I will not be 100% Clean, I assure you).

I’ve only got to lose 9 more pounds to be back to my “normal”, “comfortable” weight, or 16 more to be back at my wedding weight. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy – but – I now know that it is entirely possible and in fact will happen. And it’s not ALL about the weight loss; I am definitely feeling my energy start to return, though it’s not quite there yet. My biggest challenges right now are dealing with hunger (adding more protein today!) and finding the time to shop for and prepare the food. More about those in the days to come.

Have you ever done a cleansing fast? Ever considered one?

August 8, 2011

The Yin Toxin Fast Results, and Going Clean

Last week, I started a 13-day Yin toxin fast. Today, one week later, while still a bit tired from the fast, I have kicked the caffeine habit, lost 9 pounds, and started to feel like “me” again. Here are the deets on my experience during the week, though if you’re considering doing this or something similar I’d recommend talking to an Integrative medical practitioner first.

Day One: Happy to be committed to the fast, because I know how much better I felt after doing it last time. Missing coffee, but not too bad. Not very hungry, and it’s not hard to eat just whole grains, beans, fruits and veggies. Eating mostly dishes from recipes in A Clean Start. A little bit of a headache in the afternoon, but yoga helps tame it so can resist the urge to take some naproxen sodium.

Day Two: Down 1.3 pounds. Major caffeine withdrawal headache that gets progressively worse throughout the day. By afternoon, really struggling to sit through meetings, keep my eyes open and not take any drugs. Still not hungry, but force lunch down to try to keep energy up…big mistake. By the time I get home from work, am in blinding migraine pain and vomiting. I knew I had a caffeine addiction, but WOW. I didn’t know it was this bad. Had to take Naproxen Sodium to ensure showing up at work tomorrow. A pretty hellish day.

Day Three: Slept well last night. I feel less bloated. Lingering headache, so granting myself one more dose of naproxen sodium to ensure a semi-functional day. Not happy about needing the meds, but I don’t think it defeats the purpose, which is eliminating excess dampness that puts out the digestive fire. Finally have marginal hunger, for the first time. Eating mainly whole grain mixed rice with kale, broccoli carrots and peppers. Also, berries. And tons of water to try to flush out the lingering caffeine and because of insane thirst. Somehow, as good as eating this way feels, I’m jealous of people I see eating in unhealthy restaurants, and craving chocolate. Coffee? Not so much. Not at all, actually. But still feeling like the next 10 days are going to take forever.

Day Four: Down 2.5 pounds. Last time through this, I recall having MORE energy. Today, not at all, am totally dragging arse and mentally foggy. Mid-afternoon, the migraine-from-hell returns, but leaves almost as quickly as it came, thank you Sweet Baby Jesus.

Day Five: A bit more energy today, and starting to feel more clear-headed. But, also a bit light-headed during a gentle private yoga session. Crazy tired by evening, and really hungry. Started watching Food Inc. which is enough to make anyone stop wanting meat. I used to be a vegan, before I got pregnant six years ago, and all of this may just send me back to my vegan ways.

Day Six: Down 4.8 pounds! It’s a brown-rice-and-nothing-but-brown-rice day. *Blargh* But…wait…I’m not craving the foods I would normally crave. I’m craving cashews and farmers’ market tomatoes and Indian chickpeas with spinach. They say once you get on a clean path, your tastes change, and you know what? I believe they are right.

Day Seven: Down 5.8 pounds. Woot! I feel significantly lighter, slept GREAT and have more energy than I remember having last time on the brown rice days. Am now supporting my fast better with these natural supplements: Oil of Oregano (antimicrobial, kills “bad” bacteria/yeast in the digestive tract), Acidophilus (probiotic, makes more “good” bacteria), a liver support formula, and (ugh) castor oil. A lot of cleansing happened today…let’s just leave it at that. : ] After five meals of nothing but rice in the last two days, I couldn’t take another one…my gut hurt just thinking about it. So I “cheated”, if you can call a millet cake and a nectarine and carrot/beet juice cheating. Sometimes you have to just listen to your body, within reason.

TODAY, Day Eight: Down 9 pounds!!! Holy crap, super happy about that. And I woke up with a crazy amount of energy. But I feel like my digestive system is struggling with all the rice and beans of the Yin Toxin Fast, and, that I need vegetables and fruits to support it.

So, I’ve decided to transition starting today to the Clean Program, for the next two weeks. I highly recommend the book (Clean), by Dr. Alejandro Junger. There is a wealth of great information about how toxins affect your system and wreak all sorts of havoc. If you’re suffering from depression, or an autoimmune problem, or a whole host of issues, a Clean nutrition program might help.

Mandatory disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, talk to yours or an Integrative health professional before you decide to take this on.

Are you a clean eater? An aspiring clean eater? Ever done anything like this before? Drop a note in the comments…I’m looking forward to talking with you!