Friday, July 24, 2009

Detox Day 11 - Another lapse

The cleanse is over.

While I've been OK with eliminating animal products, alcohol, and caffeine from my diet, not being able to eat gluten or sugar has been really limiting and making me a little crazy.

Yesterday, my darling husband took me to Specialty's for lunch. Specialty's is a terrific bakery/restaurant near our home that I really enjoy because it's so veg-friendly. In addition to sandwiches and soup, they have a lot of hearty salads, so I could have avoided the bread, but I just didn't want to. Instead, Aaron and I shared halves of a Caprese sandwich (fresh mozzarella, tomato, and red pepper pesto on focaccio) and a peanut butter & stuff.

The Caprese is an old favorite, but I've been dying to try peanut butter & stuff. It's really good! If you have any inhibitions about ordering PB&J in a restaurant, set them aside because you don't want to miss this grown-up version of every kid's default, go-to sandwich.

It starts with a slice of hearty whole wheat bread and a layer of satiny peanut butter with granny smith apple and banana slices. The clincher is the cranberry chutney, which has a strong orange accent.

Calories? Sure, but no more than a sandwich made with meat -- and without the cholesterol! It comes down to chemistry and plant-based foods do not contain cholesterol.

Even though I didn't last all 21 days, I learned a lot by avoiding gluten and sugar for eleven days. I'm not convinced that there's a reason for anyone but those with celiac disease to avoid gluten (a topic I hope to cover soon), but my sugar consumption has been out of control. Taking it back -- and continuing to enjoy a healthy, vegetarian life -- is my goal.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 9 - A Lapse

I succumbed. The afternoon had been a little hectic and my 21-day cleanse was feeling like more than I wanted to deal with. I'd gone eight days without consuming any caffeine, alcohol, animal products, sugar, or gluten. But I wanted a little chocolate. So I ate it. I didn't agonize over my decision, but I did promise myself I wouldn't pig out on it. Just two little chocolate truffles, which I thoroughly enjoyed. A hundred calories and it was over. No big deal.

I'm thinking of lapsing tomorrow, too. I'm going out for lunch and I want to enjoy myself, free from restrictions. I'm not rebelling. Actually, I'm learning a lot from the experience -- one of the biggest things being that sugar is completely unnecessary. You just can't make a case for it. It contains no nutrients, it rots your teeth, and it's a diabetic's nemesis.

What this means to my eating I'm not yet sure. I love sweets and don't want to eliminate them from my life, but how much is the right amount? At what point am I going overboard? The same with diet soda, which I also cut out. There's no reason to consume it. It's like smoking -- no benefit, all detriment. What's a girl to do? Stay tuned.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Detox Day 8 - Loopholes?

I have a real sweet tooth and I just love to bake, so eliminating baked goods from my diet has been the challenge of the century and I've been looking all week for a recipe that satisfies my baking and eating urges while still staying within my guidelines of no gluten and no sugar (as well as no alcohol, animal products, or caffeine).

This weekend, I found it. It's in the 1983 book Uprisings, a collection of recipes from the Cooperative Whole Grain Educational Association to which my beloved Wildflour Bakery -- Ann Arbor's co-op bakery during my college years -- belonged. Wildflour's recipe for fruit bars -- being wheat-free, dairyless, and, with a little tweaking, sugar-free -- fit my diet.

I made my bars with fresh peaches, but you can also use blueberry, cherry, apple, or dried fruit. While they definitely filled my need to bake and to eat something sweet, I'm torn over whether I've abandoned the spirit of the cleanse. As I grapple with my conscience, have a look at the recipe.

Fruit Bars

Mix well:
7/8 cup soy margarine
1/2 cup honey (I used agave nectar)

3 cups oats
2 3/8 cups oat flour

Divide mixture in half. Reserve 1/2 for the topping, and press 1/2 firmly into a greased 8x8" pan.

On low heat, cook down 2 1/2 pounds diced peaches with 3/4 cup water. Drain 3/4 cup juice and cool. To the liquid, add 1/4 cup arrowroot and mix well. Add liquid and 1/4 cup honey (I used agave) to the fruit and bring to a boil. Keep fruit boiling and stir constantly. It will be cloudy and thick. When the mixture becomes clear, turn off the heat.

Spread filling over the bottom crust and press remaining crust on top. Bake at 350F until golden, 20 - 30 minutes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Detox Day 2 - Not so bad!

Day 2 of my 21-day cleanse went really well, partly, I suppose, because there's no food in the refrigerator. For breakfast, I stuck with my faithful oatmeal, today with half a banana sliced in before cooking.

Lunch was very odd. Around 11:30, I ate a huge bowl of watermelon and finished the Spanish cocktail mix from Monday. I got hungry again around 2 and made myself a really nice smoothie with a banana, a handful of frozen strawberries, almond milk, agave nectar, and a heaping teaspoon of psillium. Sweet but not too sweet and perfect for the 90+ degree day.

When DH got home, I ate 9 corn chips with him (that's a serving according to the nutritionals). A couple hours later, I finished the watermelon. I am capable of eating as much melon as you put in front of me. There are worse vices.

So far, I've had no cravings for flour or sugar, but there's a lot of food mine fields between here and August 2, which is when I'll be done. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Detox Day 1

A week of vacation for me means a week of great food and this past week included everything from grilled cheese on sourdough at a brewery in Ashland to black bean empanadas in Eugene to perfect Oregon marionberries in Portland. Without a doubt, last week was a vegetarian foodie's delight.

This week I'm hosting three additional pounds and embarking on a 21-day detox.

I'm loosely following Kathy Freston's 21-day cleanse, the one that caused Oprah to go vegan for three weeks. What the plan entails is abstaining from all animal products, alcohol, caffeine, gluten, and sugar. For me, the first three are relatively straightforward. With the exception of yogurt and the occasional egg or wedge of cheese, I pretty much avoid animal products. The same is true with the alcohol and caffeine.

But three weeks of no baked goods? Oh. My. God. I'll be taking this one day at a time. One meal at a time. One bite at a time.

I'm pleased to say that I made it through day 1 without incident. My food for the day included a breakfast of oatmeal with agave nectar, unsweetened almond milk, and unsweetened apple sauce.

At lunchtime, I purchased a fruit salad and a banana.

For afternoon snack, I picked up two fresh rolls filled with tofu, julienned carrots, spinach, and cellophane noodles. Later on, I tried several handfuls of Spanish cocktail mix, a really nice combination that contains corn nuts, pistachios, Largueta almonds, fava beans, and chickpeas. (Today, as I finished the mix, I noticed flour on the ingredients list. It was the second-to-last ingredient, so it couldn't have contained much flour, but I was still disappointed. Press on!)

Dinner was also carry-out, portobello mushroom teriyaki, sauce on the side and mostly untouched (it's just too sweet!).

A girl can't be expected to go without dessert, even on a sugarfree diet, so I indulged in a quarter of a Dulcinea watermelon -- you know, the small ones with so much flavor.

Stay with me for more details on my detox journey!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Very Veggie Fourth of July

Chico in summer is like a blast furnace. By the time we finish breakfast, the mercury is in the nineties and climbing. Without air conditioning, we couldn't have enjoyed Margo's vegan flax-and-berry pancakes. Margo is the proprietor of The Goodman House, a veg-friendly bed-and-breakfast on Chico's Esplanade, a stately boulevard of homes in this farming and university-centered town located at the top of California's Central Valley.

Although it's the Fourth of July, we are the inn's only guests. Margo tells us that the inn hops in September when school starts, then again in June for graduation. But today, the students are gone and we share the city's glorious summer market with the townies hardy enough to withstand the midyear heat.

We came to Chico for The Farm Sanctuary's annual Fourth of July "pignic," which by chance happens this year on market day. I'm a sucker for a small-town farmer's market, so with sun visors pointed and water bottles filled, we're off.

It's not a large market, barely filling a small downtown parking lot. But unlike some of our suburban markets which are filled out with oranges from Mexico and flea-market style bric-a-brac, Chico's market is the real deal.

We sneak in between an olive dealer and an artisan bakery, wishing we were hungrier and didn't have a generous picnic planned for later. Today is mostly a viewing, not a buying, day.

You might be familiar with Chico; it enjoys the distinction of having been crowned America's top party school by Playboy magazine a few years back. Today, however, it is a wholesome slice of Americana.

We taste oversized blackberries bursting with burgundy juice and wave wistfully at the plums and peaches and cut flowers that we have to pass by.

On our way out of town, we stop at a liquor store for water, maneuvering through the jam-packed parking lot filled with twenty-somethings. They're using the place as a staging area for an inner-tube expedition down the Sacramento river.

Traveling west on highway 32, we marvel at how much of California there is beyond our little Bay Area. The landscape is golden with parched grass and punctuated by the deep green of live oak trees. Ten or so miles past Interstate 5 is The Farm Sanctuary, a haven for some 400 farm animals rescued from abuse and neglect, our guide, Sophia, tells us.

She leads our group of a dozen or so kids and adults into a corral occupied by Lester, a honey-colored steer who in a previous life had been a stud at a large factory farm. Stroking his flank and looking into his knowing eyes, it's hard to imagine what horrors he has seen. But now he happily greets his new admirers and enjoys the 102 degree sunshine.

Nearby is an eager, young flock of goats. They're led by Rufus, the somewhat insecure alpha with an every-man-for himself attitude. He assertively pursues the pail of fresh vegetables, playfully butting one woman who doesn't hand over the grub quickly enough.

Aaron and I leave the group shortly before the tour ends so I can get out of the heat. Back at the visitors' center (which they call the People's Barn), we're treated to a 'pignic' of Field Roast veggie sausages and Lightlife tofu dogs, chips, and oversized vegan cookies from Alternative Baking Company.

The folks at The Farm were welcoming and informative without being evangelical about farm-animal welfare. Their small store is filled with books, cookbooks, and other materials about factory farming and vegetarianism and it's definitely worth a detour should you find yourself in Chico or Orland. It was a very fitting place to spend the Fourth of July, contemplating freedom in all its many forms.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Invasion of the crookneck squash

When we got our farm basket last Saturday, I neglected to mention that among its contents were 18 yellow crookneck squash. Perfectly shaped, not too big, and blemish-free, it would have been a crime not to use them all before they went bad. Last weekend, I pan-fried a few of them in a splash of olive oil with salt and pepper. Then last night, my dear, sweet husband made a stir-fry using eight or nine of them with some heartbreakingly beautiful green beans and chickenless strips from Trader Joe's.

Still, I had another half-dozen squash to go. By chance, Tracy over at the Strawberry Hedgehog just posted an interesting recipe for summer squash muffins. It caught my eye because, while most summer-squash baking assumes that you're using zucchini, Tracy had photographed her gorgeous muffins alongside a yellow crookneck.

With our road trip looming and the produce-freshness clock ticking, I knew this morning that it was now or never for the remaining squash, so I took out my box grater and got to work. The result is beautiful and delicious. The predominant flavor is five spice, a Chinese spice blend that tastes a lot like cinnamon, but with a little something extra.

How can you not love a muffin like this? It's moist, tasty, and easy to make. Be sure to visit Tracy's blog to pick up this terrific recipe!