Posts Tagged Veganomicon

Award Winning Grilling

In mid-July, our friends Matt and Amber hosted the third annual grill-off. They added a veggie category this year, which was basically an open category for anything vegetarian. I rejoined with Dave and our friend Tom to form our team Grilly D. Williams and compete for the glory. The boys took care of the meat categories, and I made four entries – two veggies, a sandwich and a dessert for the open category.

First, I hung out with these guys.

And fueled myself up with veggies and Sanctuary dressing while waiting for my categories to come up.

First entry:

Grilled Asparagus Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms

1 bunch asparagus
large handful fresh basil, torn into pieces
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 Tbs white miso
3 Tbs nutritional yeast
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
18-20 button or cremini mushrooms

1. Grill the asparagus over medium-high heat until slightly charred and crisp-tender. Allow to cool then chop into pieces, reserving the tips for garnish.
2. Place the asparagus pieces, basil, garlic, pine nuts, miso, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt in a food processor and blend until mostly smooth. Drizzle in the olive oil while the processor is running. It is okay if some texture remains in the pesto.
3. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and wrap them in foil in a single layer. Grill over medium-high heat until tender.
4. Allow the mushrooms to cool enough to handle, then stuff with the pesto. You can spoon the pesto in the mushrooms, pipe it with a piping bag, or cut the corner off a ziploc bag and use that to pipe. Garnish with the asparagus tips.

Second entry:

Grilled Italian Stuffed Zucchini

4 large zucchini, halved lengthwise
1 small leek, white and light green parts only, halved, rinsed and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 – 2 Tbs EACH fresh minced thyme, oregano, sage and parsley
2 tsp capers
2 tsp red wine vinegar
3 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for brushing
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 medium tomatoes, diced small
salt
freshly ground black pepper
tofu ricotta, for example the recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance

1. Mix the herbs together in a small bowl.
2. Place the sliced leek, garlic, capers, 3/4 of the herb mixture, the red wine vinegar, 2 tsp of the olive oil and a pinch of salt in a small grill-safe container such as an aluminum pan. Grill over medium high heat, off the heat, until leeks are softened, stirring often.
3. Meanwhile, brush the zucchini halves lightly with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Grill the zucchini flat side down until charred and slightly tender, turning the zucchini to create grill marks. Take the leek mixture and zucchinis off the grill and allow to cool.
4. Using a melon baller, scoop out the insides of the zucchinis, reserving the flesh and leaving at least an eighth-inch shell.
5. Chop about two thirds of the zucchini flesh into small pieces and reserve the rest for another use. Mix the chopped zucchini with the leek mixture, diced tomato and breadcrumbs. Taste and add salt or pepper as needed.
6. Mix the remaining herbs with the tofu ricotta.
7. Spoon the leek mixture into the zucchini shells, packing it down slightly. Top each zucchini with some tofu ricotta.
8. Carefully place the zucchinis back on the grill to warm through and cook the bottoms slightly. Serve warm.

Servings: 8

Third entry:

Hoisin Grilled Eggplant Bahn Mi

1 large or 2 medium eggplants, skin on, sliced about 1/2-inch thick
salt
1/2 cup vegetarian hoisin sauce
2 Tbs fresh grated ginger
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tsp tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp peanut oil
loaf French bread or four bread rolls
vegan mayonnaise
lettuce
thinly sliced cucumber
cilantro sprigs

1. Place a colander over a bowl. Add the eggplant slices, salting each layer well. Allow to drain for 30 minutes then rinse and pat dry.
2. Lightly oil the eggplant slices with olive or canola oil, and grill over medium high heat until softened and slightly charred.
3. While the eggplant is cooking, mix together the hoisin sauce, ginger, garlic, tamari and peanut oil in a medium bowl.
4. Dip both sides of each eggplant slice into the sauce and shake off the excess. Place the eggplant back on the grill for a few more minutes.
5. If there is any remaining sauce, add a little to the eggplant and toss to coat.
6. To assemble, spread some mayonnaise on each side of the bread. Place the eggplant on the rolls then top with cucumber, lettuce, and cilantro sprigs.

Servings: 4

Fourth entry:

Grilled pound cake with pineapple, rum sauce and coconut whipped cream. This is more of a collection of deliciousness than a recipe. I started with the Vanilla Yogurt Pound Cake from Veganomicon, brushing both sides with melted Earth Balance and grilling. The cake was topped with grilled pineapple and rum sauce veganized from this recipe. For the coconut whipped cream, I refrigerated a can of coconut milk and scooped the solid cream from the top, then mixed it with a bit of vanilla extract, powdered sugar and xantham gum. The cream was very thick, which worked well to keep it from melting too much when it was placed on the hot cake and pineapple.
I felt really good about the dishes I submitted, but the competition is stiff among our friends! Plus, the judges aren’t necessarily used to eating vegetarian food, so I never know what to expect. But, I won a few prizes! My eggplant bahn mi placed third in the burgers and sandwiches category, and my dessert placed second in the open category. Dave placed with a number of his entries, and Grilly D. Williams won as the best team overall. Plus, my dessert was picked as a judges favorite!

What’s funny is that I spent the most amount of time testing and prepping for my veggie entries, and they didn’t even place. My sandwich and dessert entry were more thrown together, and they both placed. Just goes to show that you should always trust your cooking instincts!

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Dinner of Christmas Past

First, Squeak – if I don’t hear from you soon, I’m going to have to pick another winner of the Appetite for Reduction giveaway!

I’m going to jump in the wayback machine for a few posts to show you guys some stuff I’ve been meaning to post for months.

Christmas, 2010.  We got up early to see what Santa had left behind.

Jake sniffed his presents.

We wanted to stay at home, so we set the table and invited a few friends over for Christmas dinner.  Also, I was leaving early the next day for a week, so any leftovers needed to be something Dave would eat.  Our guests weren’t used to eating exotic stuff, so I kept everything pretty basic.

You can never go wrong with hummus.

I wanted to make stuffed mushrooms, the creamy gooey type that you wouldn’t think were vegan, so I modified this recipe, adding some nutritional yeast.  Success!  One guest said he wouldn’t have known they were vegan.

While we waited for dinner to come together, Jake entertained us by spazzing out on his catnip-filled Christmas tree toy.

Because I didn’t need leftovers, I went with a few side dishes for my meal.

Dave makes the best stuffing without even trying!  This one had onions, garlic, celery, a few types of mushrooms, and lots of fresh herbs.

For this corn pudding, I used the recipe for Southwestern Corn Pudding from Veganomicon but took out all the southwestern ingredients.  It turned out a little dry, but very tasty.

Braised greens, a la this post.  This was less to add a side dish to the buffet, and more for me to pack some greens in mah belly before I left for my trip.

Dave made a big dish of scalloped potatoes for everyone else, so I put together a little baby portion of my own.

For dessert, I made the Gingerbread Apple Pie from Vegan With A Vengeance, which was recommended to me based not only on the flavor, but also the ease of preparation.

And easy it is!  Rather than rolling out a crust, you press the dough into the bottom of the pie plate and pile everything else on.  I will definitely be making this pie again.

Be back soon to tell you about the trip that I left for the next day!

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More Personal Cheffing

For the rest of my externship, I did a few personal cheffing sessions.  I met with the client to assess their needs, planned the menu, grocery shopped, prepared the food in their kitchen, and cleaned up.  All of my “clients” were friends, so it was pretty fun!  Exhausting, but fun.

My first client was Miles.  Miles is a healthy, active guy, so I was sure to include plenty of protein and good fats in his meals.  He is trying to eat low gluten and low soy, so I took that into account as well.  I packaged his meals individually so he could grab them on the way to work.

For the first meal, I made the Quick Red Posole with Beans from Viva Vegan, served with Braised Brazilian Shredded Kale (also from Viva Vegan), toasted pumpkin seeds and quinoa with lime juice.  The kale is really great for such a simple recipe.

Since Miles strives to be mostly soy-free, he makes really interesting stuff like hemp tofu and Burmese tofu, made with chickpea flour.  He had prepared a batch of Burmese tofu, so I made Fragrant Burmese Curry with it.  The chickpea tofu held together much better than I expected.  I served the curry with brown basmati rice and roasted broccoli.

This is “tuna”-stuffed tomatoes with Italian pasta salad.  I used this recipe for the tuna, substituting hemp seeds for the sesame seeds and using an adaptation of this cashew mayonnaise recipe instead of prepared vegan mayo.  The pasta salad was based on this recipe, with gluten free pasta and Zesty Italian Dressing.  Miles didn’t care for the pasta salad much, but he said he loved the tomatoes.

My next clients were Alex & Kristin, an awesome couple who, apart from a few allergies and dislikes, aren’t too picky.  I packaged their meals for two, so that they could reheat and eat together.  (I forgot to bring my camera that day, so please enjoy the craptastic cell phone pics!)

Kristin reeeeeeally wanted lasagna, so lasagna she got.  I’m not sure I would make lasagna again for a client becuase it takes me forever to put together, but it was worth it to make her happy!  I based my lasagna on the recipe from Veganomicon, with the VCon marinara, spinach, tempeh sausage, and cashew cream with plenty of nutritional yeast.  I would’ve also added mushrooms, but they don’t like mushrooms.  The horror, I know!

This White Bean Salad with Mint was the side dish for the lasagna.  I’m not huge on fresh mint, but I think it was pretty tasty.

Atrocious picture.  I know.

Alex & Kristin love Indian food (who doesn’t?), so I made the Tamarind Lentils from Veganomicon and some saffron basmati rice pilaf.  Alex called it biryani, which I guess is what it was.  The slivered almonds totally made the rice.  I also made some kale saag, which tasted nice but photographed so horribly that I can’t bring myself to post it.  It’s unrecognizable as food.

To use some seasonal vegetables, I made succotash from a recipe I printed from Food Network’s website many years ago which doesn’t seem to be there anymore.  Instead of the bacon called for, I add a dash of liquid smoke.  I served the succotash with polenta cakes.  I wanted to do grit cakes, but the grocery store I went to didn’t have grits.

My last clients were Raelene and Wayne, and their adorable 2 1/2 year old daughter.  I packaged their food family style, which basically meant just putting the whole recipe away in the fridge or freezer.  I brought my camera that day but totally forgot to take pictures, and then left my camera there!  They were nice enough to take pictures on my camera when they tried the meals.  They wanted to eat kind of “light”, and they basically like everything, which made it easy to choose recipes.

First up, Quinoa-Corn Chowder and Classic Cabbage with Cilantro-Citrus Vinaigrette, both from Viva Vegan and both tasty and easy.

The next meal was Two-Broccoli Stir-Fry on Soba Noodles from Vegetarian Times, and Fat Free Vegan’s Double Mushroom Miso Soup.  I wanted this meal to be filling yet light, if that makes sense, and I also wanted to sneak in some seaweed :)

Lastly, we wanted to try freezing one of the meals, which worked out well since Raelene just had surgery (she’s fine), and they pulled it out of the freezer last night for dinner.

This is Curried Cauliflower Frittata from Vegan Brunch, with added spinach, and Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes from Veganomicon.  Looks like the served it with some chutney – Good call!

A few people have asked me about my experiences with the Natural Chef Program at Bauman College, so I thought I would share a few opinions here.  I enjoyed it overall, and I’m very glad that I did it.  Yes, It was difficult to attend the classes and complete the homework while still working full time, but I basically decided to dedicate my time and forgo a social life for six months.  The program is not vegan, but it is vegan-friendly, and I was never asked to taste or work with any non-vegan ingredients.  My classmates were super-cool about working with me and making sure I had enough to eat at the end of class.  The instructors were educated and experienced, and if they ever didn’t know the answer to a question they would find out before the next class.  If you’re vegan or vegetarian in the program, you do have to be okay with being around meat for a few classes, but you don’t have to work with it.  Also, you may have to listen to some talk about the merits of stuff like the Weston A. Price Foundation that you may not agree with.  Basically, you have to be understanding with your classmates, the same way you would want them to be understanding with you.  Overall, the program is extremely vegan/vegetarian friendly, and very approving of plant-based nutrition.  Also, because the program is a condensed six month program, you have to know going into it that you’re not getting the same education or experience that you would at a three-year culinary school.  In the end, I feel like I still have a lot to learn and to cook, but that I have a better basic understanding of food and nutrition, and a much better foundation in knife skills, cooking techniques, ingredient knowledge and kitchen timing.  Again, I’m very glad that I completed the program.  If you are considering attending Bauman and have any other questions about my experiences, e-mail me at jamboxrock AT hotmail DOT com and I’ll try not to take forever to answer!

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My First Try at Personal Cheffing

The very last component of the Natural Chef Program at Bauman College is the externship.  While many students completed their externships at restaurants or with catering companies, I chose to spend mine trying out personal cheffing, since it is what I am considering as a possible future career.  I recruited some vegan friends on The PPK who were interested in trying it out as well, from the client’s perspective.  In California, legally, food has to be prepared in a professional facility like a commercial kitchen, or in the client’s home, which is where personal cheffing comes in.

For my first assignment, I cooked a special dinner for Megan and her roommates.  The birthday boy’s favorite cuisines are Central American and Middle Eastern, and I chose to go Central American for the challenge, as I didn’t really have much experience in the area.  Note – This was before Viva Vegan came out, which would have made my planning a whole lot easier!  I did as much research as possible in order to present a somewhat-authentic meal.  I didn’t have time to take pictures, as I was serving each course plated, but Megan’s sister was kind enough to snap some shots.

First, I brought out Strawberry Agua Fresca and some South American beers.  BevMo didn’t have any Central American beers, so we had to settle for South.

The agua fresca was just strawberries, water, a little sugar, and lime juice blended up and strained.  Delicious!

The appetizer was chorizo-spiced mushroom papusas with curtido and hot sauce.

For the filling, I sauteed some diced mushrooms with a chorizo seasoning mix based on this recipe, then added some fresh cilantro as I stuffed the papusas.  The curtido recipe is from Vegan Lunch Box Around the World.

I chose a cold soup that I could make ahead for the second course, to free up some burners and cooking time in preparation for the main course.

This is Mark Bittman’s Savory Cold Mango Soup.  Not authentically Central American, but close enough flavor-wise to go with the meal.  I wasn’t sure how well this would turn out, but the diners really liked it.

For the salad course, I chose Hearts of Palm Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette.  Except that the grocery store I went to, which is usually very well stocked, didn’t have hearts of palm.  So, it turned into an artichoke heart salad, which was probably just as good.  The recipe didn’t call for avocado, but I figured there oughta be avocado somewhere in the meal.

The entree was a large plate of food, and the diners were starting to get full by this point, but they tried their darndest to eat as much as possible!

This is Tofu Pepian, Gallo Pinto, Sauteed Kale and Roasted Plantains.  The pepian sauce is from this recipe.  It was really easy to make, and ridiculously flavorful.  It was my first time working with tomatillos, so I was pleased to find out that they are relatively easy to work with.  I breaded the tofu with the method of the Cajun Spiced Tofu from Yellow Rose Recipes.  I used this Gallo Pinto recipe, which was super duper delicious, and the kale was simply chopped and sauteed in a bit of oil with some salt.  The ripe plantains were tossed with some oil and roasted at 425F, just until they started to brown.

Dessert was the birthday boy’s choice…

Smlove Pie from Veganomicon.  This picture cannot express how amazingly delicious this pie is.  It’s somewhat time-consuming to make, but so very worth it.

After this meal I was exhausted and their kitchen was a mess, but they thoroughly enjoyed the meal and I learned a lot about planning and executing a catered dinner.  I’ll return soon to tell you about the rest of my externship experiences!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

…Even though it’s two days after Thanksgiving now.  Happy four day weekend!  I’ve been taking the opportunity to sleep in and take care of business.

This year, for the first time, Dave and I decided to stay home for Thanksgiving.  We invited our friends Tom and Hope over and had a nice, intimate, huge feast.  I even decorated the table like a real adult.

And made a centerpiece, Martha Stewart-style.

We started with appetizers.  This is the Walnut Mushroom Pate from Veganomicon with some crackers, carrot sticks and peppadews (mild pickled peppers).  Tom and Hope’s dog Lucy also came over and I had forgot that she really loves to eat carrots, so that was a nice treat for her.

Since we were sitting down to a real dinner, I included soup and salad on the menu.  For the soup I wanted to keep the flavors simple and express my new found love for cardamom.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Orange Soup with Pistachio Dust

1 large butternut squash (3-4 lbs), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large shallots, quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Tbs virgin coconut oil, melted
3 cups vegetable broth
1 large orange, zested and supremed
2 Tbs orange liqueur (optional)
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp cumin
1-2 pinches cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
5-6 grinds freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, lightly toasted
2 fresh sage leaves, minced

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.  Divide the squash, shallots and garlic among the pans, add 1 Tbs of melted coconut oil to each pan and stir to coat the vegetables.  Roast for 45 minutes, stirring once halfway through.  Allow to cool slightly.
2. Place half of the vegetables in a blender, add half of the broth and blend until smooth.  Pour into a large pot.  Place the remaining vegetables and broth in the blender and add the orange segments, orange liqueur, cardamom, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper.  Blend until smooth and add to the pot.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
3. Heat the soup gently over medium heat, stirring often and turning down the heat if it starts bubbling.
4. Meanwhile, place the pistachios in a food processor and process into the size of fine breadcrumbs.  Add the sage and 1 tsp orange zest and pulse to combine.
5. To serve, ladle the warm soup into bowls and top with the pistachio dust.

Servings: 6

Amount Per Serving
Calories 365.04
Calories From Fat (23%) 82.37
% Daily Value
Total Fat 9.73g 15%
Saturated Fat 4.65g 23%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 185.43mg 8%
Potassium 1661.7mg 47%
Total Carbohydrates 66.3g 22%
Fiber 7.74g 31%
Sugar 9.44g
Protein 8.82g 18%

Our salad was the Roasted Fennel and Hazelnut Salad with Shallot Dressing from Veganomicon.  I first made this a few weeks ago and couldn’t find the chicory it called for, so I had it with mixed greens and butter lettuce, and after trying it with chicory I have to say that the bitter greens make all the difference in balancing the sweet elements of the salad.  I also learned that I like whole hazelnuts.  Delicious!

I didn’t want to hold my fellow diners up, so I didn’t get pictures of all the individual dishes.  Here is my plate.

For my “main” I had a chickpea cutlet from the freezer with some cranberry sauce that Hope brought.  The roasted brussels sprouts are this recipe, chosen because I found out that neither Tom nor Hope likes brussels, and I was determined to show them that they’re good.  They both tried them and said they’re okay, but they’re still not brussels fans.  I can try, no?

These rolls are the Homestyle Potato Rolls fromVeganomicon.  Yes, I relied heavily on Veganomicon for our meal.  It’s a great cookbook filled with a lot of fall-appropriate recipes.  Anywho, the bread dough was really nice and easy to work with, and it expanded even while in the fridge overnight.  I served the bread with some herbed butter.  I mean, herbed Earth Balance.

Dave requested chunky mashed potatoes with the skins, and lots of them so he could have leftovers.  I added a bunch of Earth balance, almond milk, truffle salt and black pepper to get ‘em tasting good.  Everyone else enjoyed turkey gravy, but I came up with this red wine gravy as my contribution.  It’s not the best looking color of gravy, but it tastes quite nice.

Red Wine Gravy

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup vegetable broth, at room temperature
1/2 cup almond milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 Tbs tamari
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs nutritional yeast

1. Heat a medium pot over medium heat and add the olive oil.  Sprinkle the flour into the pot and whisk immediately to make a smooth paste.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.  Add the broth, milk, wine and tamari and turn up the heat to medium-high.  Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened.  Turn the heat down if the gravy is bubbling too much.  Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the nutritional yeast.  Serve hot.

Servings: 8

Amount Per Serving
Calories 102.56
Calories From Fat (61%) 63.06
% Daily Value
Total Fat 7.15g 11%
Saturated Fat 0.94g 5%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 262.38mg 11%
Potassium 44.39mg 1%
Total Carbohydrates 5.03g 2%
Fiber 0.87g 3%
Sugar 0.18g
Protein 2.28g 5%

And of course, I had to make green bean casserole.  It’s my quintessential Thanksgiving dish.  Dave said that the ones I had made in the past were good but could have more flavor, so I set out to create my own version, and I have to say that it was probably the best green bean casserole I’ve ever had.  I wanted to make everything from scratch instead of using store bought fried onions, and I tried to inject as much flavor as possible at every step.

Green Bean Casserole

1 1/2 lbs green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb mixed wild mushrooms, diced (I used chanterelle, oyster and shiitake)
6 Tbs high heat sunflower oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1 large shallot, minced
5 Tbs all purpose flour, divided
1 cup vegetable broth, at room temperature
1 cup almond milk, at room temperature
2 Tbs sherry
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Place the green beans in a steamer over simmering water and steam for 20 minutes, until beans are tender.  Set aside.
3. Meanwhile, heat a large pan over medium heat and add 1 Tbs of the oil.  Add the garlic and thyme and saute for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Set aside.
4. Place a small pot over medium heat and add 3 Tbs of the oil.  Add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes, until they are starting to turn translucent.  Add 3 Tbs of the flour and whisk to form a smooth paste.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Add the vegetable broth and whisk to combine.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring to a boil, whisking frequently.  Once the sauce has thickened slightly, add the milk and sherry and continue to cook, whisking frequently, until thickened.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Combine the green beans, mushroom mixture and sauce in a baking dish.
5. Combine the sliced onion and 2 Tbs flour in a bowl and toss with your hands to coat.  Heat a medium pan over medium-high heat and add the remaining 2 Tbs of oil.  Add the onions and any remaining flour to the pan, stir to combine and cook until most of the onions have browned, stirring frequently.  Pour the onions on top of the green bean mixture and spread evenly.
6. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes and serve hot.

Servings: 8

Amount Per Serving
Calories 192
Calories From Fat (50%) 96.94
% Daily Value
Total Fat 10.97g 17%
Saturated Fat 1.12g 6%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 30.35mg 1%
Potassium 497.72mg 14%
Total Carbohydrates 20.21g 7%
Fiber 2.73g 11%
Sugar 2.26g
Protein 4.85g 10%

For dessert, I attempted to veganize the Cranberry Upside Down Cake from the latest issue of Eating Well magazine.

It tasted alright, but it refused to upside-down itself from my cast iron pan, so we had it rightside-up.  That’s what I get for making the recipe the first time that day.

We ate, we chatted, we had some wine and Dogfishhead Chicory Stout, and we watched Elf.  I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

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August Cleanse: Days 22-30 & Wrap-up

I’ve been putting this post off because I knew it was going to be a monster, and also between preparing for a friend to visit, said friend’s visit, and preparing for Dave’s birthday party this weekend I’ve been a very busy girl.

Day 22

This breakfast smoothie had banana, strawberries, peanut butter, flax, cocoa, agave, coconut milk.  This is probably my favorite smoothie combination, and for that reason I don’t let myself have it very often.  Saturday mornings are a good excuse!  I also took my multi and coQ10 and had coffee with coconut milk.  After breakfast I headed to the farmers market with no particular plan in mind.

kale, spinach in the back, persian cucumbers, celery, corn and okra

blueberries in the bag, peaches, baby eggplants, carrots, shallots, zucchini (they’re yellow and light green!), multicolored potatoes and a canary melon

When I returned home I had napa cabbage salad with spicy peanut sauce and smoked tofu.  I skipped my morning and afternoon snacks to keep it light in preparation for the evening’s activities – a vegan potluck housewarming party hosted by Megan and Kelly, The Sisters Vegan!  I decided in advance that I was going to cheat on the cleanse a little bit (how could I resist trying everything at a vegan potluck???), so I tried to make my contributions as healthy as possible.  I made my Potato & Fava Bean Salad with Miso-Mustard Dressing, except there were no favas at the farmers market so I went with lima beans instead.  A good substitution, but not at all the same as favas.  I didn’t get to snap a picture of the dish because I was running late.

I also wanted to make a wheat- and sugar-free dessert, so I consulted Diet, Dessert and Dogs and found a good looking recipe for Jam-Filled Turnovers.  Of course, I didn’t have any sugar-free jam at home, so I made my own and it probably wasn’t quite thick enough.  I also didn’t have coconut oil and couldn’t get any without driving almost an hour round trip, so I substituted canola oil and hoped for the best.

They didn’t turn out so well.  I could tell when I rolled out the dough that it was much too oily and soft, but I tried to put together some cookies anyway.  They were edible for sure, but not potluck party worthy, so I bagged ‘em up and left ‘em at home.  I don’t think this is the recipe’s fault at all – I think it’s a good recipe and I just made bad substitutions.

Oh, did I forget to mention that while I was baking and cooking I had two vodka tonics?  Yeah?  Well, there it is.  Again, that’s what Saturdays are for!  I had a great time at Megan and Kelly’s place, their house is super-cute!  Here’s my plate o’ food.

Sorry for the crazy redness, I couldn’t get my camera to take it any other way.  From top left going clockwise, this is hummus and some jalapeno sauce with pita chips, a delicious bagel bite with the new Daiya cheese made by Melisser, fruit salad, pesto pasta, my potato-lima bean salad, part of a sundried tomato scone, part of a blueberry muffin, and TWO types of corn dog nuggets with an awesome spicy-sweet mustard.  (Thanks for sharing wheat products with me Melisser!)  This was a really great meal, and far more than I should have eaten.  Now I see why people rave about those sundried tomato scones – so good!  I didn’t take a picture of dessert, but if memory serves me I had a snickerdoodle, a small chocolate thing (truffle?), a brownie, and there may have been another cookie involved.  This is why I shouldn’t wait almost three weeks to write blog posts.  Aaaand I had a few beers at the party too.

Day 23

Sunday morning, I didn’t have anything I wanted to put in a smoothie, so I made fruit salad.

Strawberries, banana and grapes with flax meal.  I also had coffee with coconut milk, a multivitamin and b complex supplement.  Lunch was napa cabbage salad with spicy peanut sauce and smoked tofu, along with spirulina and (four) jam turnover cookies.  Afternoon snack was a grapefruit.  I was planning on leftovers for dinner, but when I went to pick Dave and a friend up from bart and he suggested that he might pay for taqueria if I took them…

…this happened.  Rice, beans, salsa and chips.  It’s technically cleanse friendly, except for the rice not being whole grain.  It was also technically delicious.  Along with dinner, I had a beer or two.

Day 24

I woke up with a raging headache Monday morning and decided to stay home from work.  I don’t get migraines or anything, but I could tell this was the kind of headache that was going to stick around all day.

Luckily, I had already prepped my smoothie with spinach, banana, raspberries, chocolate hempshake, udo’s oil and coconut milk.  I also took my multi and coQ10 and had blueberry green tea.

For a snack, I cut into the canary melon from my CSA.  I had never had canary melon before, but apart from the bright yellow rind, I’d say it’s really similar to honeydew.

Lunch was the last of the napa cabbage salad with spicy peanut sauce and smoked tofu, as well as a probiotic, two blueberry jam turnovers and wild sweet orange tea.  My afternoon snack was also what I had prepped to take to work – carrot sticks, squash slices, red bell pepper and cucumber with white bean pesto dip.  Dinner was the last of the sesame tofu scramble with greens, yams, mushrooms and dulse over savory oat bran, two blueberry jam turnovers and camomile tea.  I was feeling much better by the end of the night and was able to work on some food for the next day.

Day 25

I was running late for work, so no picture of the smoothie, but it had spinach, banana, strawberries, berry pomegranate hempshake, udo’s and coconut milk, and I took a multi and b complex.   Morning snack was canary melon, a nectarine and black tea.  Also no picture of my lunch salad, which had leaf lettuce, baby romaine, mexi-millet from Veganomicon, black beans, guacamole and salsa.  There’s a picture below under Day 26 of basically the same salad.  I also took a spirulina with lunch, and my afternoon snack was carrot sticks, red bell pepper and cucumber slices with white bean pesto dip.

For dinner, I made a curried stew with many of the veggies I bought at the farmers market, plus some stuff hanging around the fridge.  This stew included onion, garlic, ginger, red jalapeno, curry paste, zucchini, eggplant, okra, corn, swiss chard, coconut milk, tofu and cilantro.  I was really happy with how this turned out and kind of wished I had written down a recipe.  After dinner I had two blueberry jam turnovers and wild sweet orange tea.

Day 26

This very tasty smoothie included spinach, banana, raspberries, vanilla rice protein, almond extract, udo’s, almond milk and agave.  I really liked adding the almond and vanilla flavors, and also took my multi and coQ10.  The morning snack was a peach, canary melon and black tea.

Here is a picture of the salad mentioned above – leaf lettuce, baby romaine, mexi-millet, black beans, guacamole and salsa, with bonus cilantro and green onions.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the mexi-millet, but I quite liked it.  It was nice and flavorful and moist.  With lunch I took a probiotic, and had almonds for an afternoon snack.

The curried stew thickened significantly sitting in the fridge overnight, but still tasted great.  After dinner I had the last four blueberry jam turnovers and sugar plum spice tea.

Day 27

Thursday was a great day, if only because I was taking Friday off to hang out with our friend Mike who was visiting from Florida.  This smoothie was made from spinach, banana, strawberries, chocolate hempshake, udo’s and almond milk, and I took my multi and b complex.  At work, I had coffee with almond milk and more canary melon.  Lunch was a similar salad to the day before, with leaf lettuce, baby romaine, mexi-millet, black beans, avocado, salsa and lime juice, and I had almonds for an afternoon snack.

After work I headed downtown to pick up Dave and Mike, who had been afternoon-bar-hopping, and went straight home to have time to prepare for our first fantasy football draft.  I always get really nervous before drafts for some reason, so I cracked open a beer pretty soon after arriving home to sooth my nerves.  After a few beers and what I consider a pretty good draft, I had more of the curried summer veggie stew.

Day 28

Friday morning I slept in, and we were too busy chatting and planning our day’s activities for breakfast.  To introduce Mike to the taqueria experience, we went pretty soon after they opened for what would have to be considered brunch.  I had chips and salsa and a taco salad (lettuce, tomatoes, rice, beans, guacamole, salsa).  I took only a few nibbles of the fried tortilla taco shell.  We stopped by the grocery store to pick up tailgating supplies for the Giants game, and upon returning home I had coffee with almond milk.

We left for San Francisco in the early afternoon to meet Dave’s bandmate Brendan at Anchor Brewery, where he works.  He was finishing up a tour, just in time to give us a few samples and our own private tour!  It was very cool to see the inner workings of Anchor.

My food at the tailgate and game weren’t nearly as interesting as the game itself.  For a snack and dinner I brought a peach, a banana and leftover curried summer veggie stew.  In the game I snacked on some peanut, pistachios and a few garlic fries, and of course I had a few beers.

Photo essay on the wonder that is Tim Lincecum:

I love watching Lincecum pitch, but I’ve gotta say that the kid needs a haircut!

Dave and me after the game.

Day 29

I was seriously running out of fresh fruit by Saturday morning and had no time to shop, so this smoothie included baby romaine, banana, blueberry jam leftover from making the turnovers, mango pomegranate amazing meal, udo’s and  almond milk.  We were leaving for the whole day, so I took all my supplements in the morning too – multi, coQ10 and probiotic, and had coffee with almond milk.

The reason we were leaving was to go to our second fantasy football draft, at Dave’s cousin’s house about an hour away in Manteca.  Manteca also happens to be home to Taqueria Menteca, the sister restaurant to Taqueria Ripon, which is my second favorite place for Mexican food in the world next to Las Margaritas in Gainesville, FL.  I had had enough with taco salads and just went for the burrito.  However, I still tried to be good by cutting it in half and saving part for later that night.  It was nice to have leftover burrito, but that didn’t stop me from grabbing some handfuls of pretzels and tortilla chips.  We had some beers during the draft, and afterwards headed to a luau party also going on in town.  I did the limbo, tried to hula hoop, and had two veggie spring rolls prepared by the hostess for me and the one other vegetarian there.

Day 30

We got home really late Saturday night, and I slept in far past breakfast time on Sunday.  I was really, really out of fruit anyway.  I skipped straight to lunch and had another mexi-millet/avocado/black bean salad, as well as my multi, b complex, spirulina and coffee with almond milk.  Even though our guest was still in town, I needed to go grocery shopping to prepare for the coming week.  He wanted to go shopping for souvenirs, so we headed to Berkeley and he explored Telegraph Ave while I went to Berkeley Bowl.  When I picked him up we were both hungry and feeling too lazy to cook, so we picked up some Japanese food from a place just north of campus.  I had inari sushi and soba noodle soup with tofu and veggies.  It was quite bland, but I was hungry enough to not care much.

Conclusions

I figure I’ll report some conclusions, for anyone who might want to do a cleanse like this, or just for anyone who is curious.  I gained a bit of weight the last week (I suspect it was the lack of exercise and extra beers while our friend was visiting), but overall I was still just over three pounds down which is pretty good for a month.  After going back to “normal” with exercise and eating I dropped back down a bit fairly quickly.

Energy-wise, I didn’t feel any difference.  This was one area I was hoping to see a difference.  I get a good amount of sleep and have decent energy all the time, but I was hoping between the b complex and coQ10 supplements, healthy eating and exercise I would feel energized.  Not so.  I still needed my caffeine every morning and had those evenings here and there where all I wanted to do was sit on the couch.

Digestion.  I thought for sure my digestion would be great on this cleanse.  In reality, my digestive system was…ahem…unhappy the whole time.  Soon after starting the cleanse I noticed my…ah…number two was not in a good state, and this continued through the whole month.  For someone who normally does well in this area, this was a definite negative result.  I also had digestion pains a few times, probably from increasing the amount of raw vegetables I ate.

The other negatives were the amount of time spent prepping food, and the amount I spent.  My grocery bill was a full 30% higher than normal for the month.  I’m sure this was due mostly to buying supplements and a ton of fresh, organic fruit.  I felt like I spent a LOT of time prepping, especially for my daily lunch salads.  I was very happy when I could go back to taking dinner leftovers for lunch.

One positive was that cutting out wheat forced me to try new grains.  I tried buckwheat for the first time ever and liked it, and gave millet another shot after having it only once and not being a fan.  I will keep these grains, as well as spelt flour, regulars in my diet.  I was also shocked to find out how many products I was eating regularly had sugar.  All types of soy yogurt, for instance, are made with sugar.  So is soy creamer, and a few other products that I regularly consumed.  I’m going to stay off yogurt and take a probiotic supplement every once in a while instead, but I’m going back to creamer full force.  Coffee is just no good to me with “regular” milk.  Creamer is a deal breaker.

One rule I will continue to stick with for weight loss purposes is alcohol on weekends only.  It’s a good policy for me that keeps me from having a glass of wine on Tuesday here, a beer on Thursday here…it certainly aids in keeping my calories down.  I’m also continuing to exercise four to five days a week, and have started weight training again in addition to cardio.

Overall, I’m happy I did the cleanse (even though I “cheated” more times then I would’ve liked to), if for no other reason than to prove to myself I could do it!

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Announcements!

1.  I have been accepted to, and am officially enrolled in the Natural Chef Program at Bauman College in Berkeley.  Yay!  Starting in late September and going through February I will be attending classes nights and weekends while holding down my 40-hour-a-week job and hopefully still cooking at home a bit (other than homework assignments).  Sadly, I probably will not be able to pay much attention to my blog during this time.  But at the end I will be a trained natural chef!  I am hoping to turn this into a career change sooner than later.

2.  With my crazy schedule impending, I’ve decided to take the month of August to clean up my diet through a “cleanse”.  It’s not a diet, per say, but my feelings won’t be hurt if I lose a few pounds in the process.  I lost 8 pounds between the beginning of this year and April, then went and gained it all back on my vacations in May and June.  Doh!  Mostly I want to focus on nutritious whole foods, and NOT CHEAT!  Details on the rules and first four days below.

3.  This one is inconsequential, but I feel like listing it anyway.  I’ve always referred to my boyfriend as bf on the blog because I thought he would prefer it that way.  It turns out he doesn’t care one way or another, so from now on he shall be called Dave, which is his name.

Now, here is the outline of my cleanse:

- first thing upon waking is a warm glass of water with the juice from a quarter of a lemon
– breakfast is a smoothie including fruit, greens, Udo’s DHA oil blend or flax or chia seeds, protein powder or nut butter and unsweetened almond milk, a multivitamin and either a CoQ10 or B complex supplement
– green or black tea or coffee with stevia at work
– morning snack is fruit or nuts or both
– lunch is a salad including some form of protein (open for interpretation – veggies salad/grain salad/bean salad, etc.) and a probiotic supplement a few times a week
– afternoon snack is raw veggies and hummus or nuts
– dinner is whatever I want, as long as it all fits in a normal dinner-sized bowl and is not high in fat
– decaf tea with stevia before bed
– minimal, if any, processed food
– no wheat (grains that may contain gluten are okay)
– no sugar or artificial sweeteners (stevia, agave and maple syrup are okay)

This is my own design, but I was inspired by a number of things including Jessy’s Adventure Cleanse Tune-up and re-reading Gillian McKeith’s You Are What You Eat.  Jessy did so amazingly well sticking with her cleanse, but I’m not making mine quite as intense.  She cut out everything I am, PLUS coffee, alcohol and gluten.  I generally only have coffee two or three times a week and tea the rest of the time, so I think it’s not that bad.  And I do like my beers on the weekend, so I’m keeping them but watching my intake.  (Geez, that makes me sounds like an alky!  I’m not, I promise, but I have to be honest about it if I’m going to detail my intake day by day.)  I will not be drinking any wheat beers though.  Speaking of wheat – I say “no wheat” because I’m not worried about gluten so much, so I may eat oats or other stuff that may contain gluten.  I just want to take a break from wheat and kind of force myself to eat other grains.

All that being said, I had a plan in place to start the cleanse off right on the morning of August 1st.  I was going to go grocery shopping and buy everything I needed for the first week on Friday night so that I could get going on Saturday.  I had planned my first few meals and written out a huge grocery list, and as I headed out the door I realized I didn’t have my keys!  Through a series of unfortunate events, Dave had gone to band practice in San Francisco with my keys in his pocket, so I couldn’t leave the house.  So much for being prepared!  I ended up going Saturday morning, but it left me a little stressed and wasn’t the way I wanted to start.

Day 1

Since I didn’t have my special smoothie making supplies yet or any greens in the fridge, I had a pear and some cantaloupe for breakfast along with my multivitamin.  Not exactly a power meal, but it’s all I had.  I also drank some blueberry green tea on the way to the store.  By the time I got back I was ravenous, so I ate some apple slices with peanut butter.

The first day presented me with a challenge because we were tailgating for the A’s game.  Normally I would have a veggie burger or dog and do some grilled veggies on the side, so I had to figure out how to fit grilling into salad form.

My solution was to take a salad of iceberg, tomatoes, shredded carrot and sunflower seeds and top it with grilled mushroom and squash and a squeeze of lemon.  (I only used iceberg because I had it leftover from a work bbq.)  This salad didn’t have as much protein as it probably should’ve and didn’t really fill me up, so I had some pistachios as a snack soon after.  I also had a few beers.  Told you I was going to be honest!

We didn’t end up actually going into the game (long story), and instead went to Dave’s uncle’s house for some chatting and board games.  On the way there I ate some carrot sticks, celery & cucumber slices with Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Hummus from Yellow Rose Recipes as “dinner”, and then had two glasses of wine at their house.  So my dinner didn’t exactly fit into the dinner rules, but I felt it was the best I could do since we were very rushed that morning.

Day 2

Sunday went much more smoothly.  Dave took off to go fishing with his buddies (blech) and I slept in a bit.

My breakfast smoothie had a banana, strawberries, mango, kale, udo’s and almond milk and despite being a bit thick and me forgetting to add the protein powder, it was very tasty.  I also took my multivitamin and CoQ10.  The smoothie kept me full all morning, so no snack.  I also had some coffee with unsweetened almond milk.

Lunch was a second take on the salad from day 1 with iceberg lettuce, carrots, squash, mushrooms and chickpeas and a dressing of balsamic vinegar, mustard and agave (there was already oil on the grilled veggies).  It was more filling this time with the chickpeas – I couldn’t even finish it!

My afternoon snack was more of the roasted eggplant and garlic hummus with carrot sticks, bell pepper and cucumbers.  I have to say that this hummus is kind of weird.  It tastes really good and blended up smooth, but after sitting overnight in the fridge it had kind of gelled together, as if it had agar agar or something.  I had to stir and mush it up with a fork, and it was never again as smooth as when I first made it.

For dinner I made the Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango from Veganomicon and served it over spinach.  My first impression of this dish is that it was just a bit oily.  I get what the recipe is going for, and it tastes good and is easy to make, but it didn’t blow me away or anything.  After dinner I had camomile tea, which I’ve never had before, and was pleasantly surprised.

Day 3

My Monday breakfast was this tasty banana, cherry, kale, udo’s, almond milk and amazon acai hempshake smoothie along with my multivitamin and b complex.  It was actually more brown than red, this picture makes it look much nicer than it really was.  My morning snack was a pear, almonds and darjeeling tea.

Lunch:  leaf lettuce, green pepper, carrot, red onion, snap pea sprouts, cherry tomatoes, sauteed cajun tofu and Honey Mustard Dressing from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan, and a probiotic supplement.  This dressing is wonderful!  I never would have though to use lemon juice in honey mustard and it gives the dressing the perfect tang.  No actual honey is involved – it calls for agave nectar instead.  The tofu was just sauteed in a little bit of oil and sprinkled with a cajun spice blend.

My afternoon snack was more of the eggplant and garlic hummus with carrot sticks, green pepper & cucumber.  Beginning to notice a trend?  A whole batch of hummus lasts me forever if it’s just for snacks.

Dinner was precisely the same as Sunday (quinoa salad with black beans and mango over spinach) with sweet wild orange tea to follow.  I thought the quinoa salad might be the kind of dish that improves overnight, but it was still just kind of “eh”. The orange tea, however, is awesome.  It’s by Tazo.

Day 4

I’m into this green smoothie thing.  This one had banana, mango, kiwi, kale, udo’s and almond milk, and I forgot to add the dang protein powder again.  This used up all my mangos – I got five small ones for 99 cents at Berkeley Bowl that were all ready to go mushy, so I didn’t want to let them go to waste.  I took my multivitamin and CoQ10 and had a pear, a plum, cashews and earl grey tea as my morning snack.

The lunch salad was much like the day 3 lunch salad, minus the onion, sprouts (they went bad) and cherry tomatoes (I don’t like ‘em!), and plus sunflower seeds.  Also had a probiotic supplement.  Afternoon snack was celery, green pepper & cucumber slices with more roasted eggplant & garlic hummus.

Dinner was a challenge.  I was going to the recently re-opened Souley Vegan in Oakland to meet up with some PPKers and was hoping they’d have enough decently healthy options for me.  I meant to take my camera and forgot it like a dufus.  I ordered a three-item combo plate with collard greens, black eyed peas and yams.  The collard greens were very good, and different from any greens I’ve had – they were quite spicy and had a combination of spices that I could not put my finger on.  It drove me a little crazy that I couldn’t figure out the spices.  The black eyed peas were also good.  The yams…were incredibly sweet.  I’m fairly sure there was about a ton of sugar in them.  But I tried to stick to the cleanse, and I think I did pretty well for being at a place that has delicious chicken fried tofu and mac n’ cheese, and life goes on.  When I got home I had camomile tea.

(Souley Vegan’s Yelp page says they’re closed, but they’re not.  They are very much open at 301 Broadway, near Jack London Square.)

I hope that this style of posting doesn’t bore you all to death!  I want to post everything I eat, day by day, to hold myself accountable and to show anyone who may think I’m crazy that it’s completely do-able.  I’m hoping to post every two or three days, as opposed to four or more, so that there’s not so much redundant content.

So far I haven’t noticed much of any change in my energy or anything like that.  I do feel more hungry in general than before I started, but it’s not the kind of hungry where I HAVE to eat something, it’s just a little lingering hunger that tells me I didn’t totally fill up my tummy.  I’ve been cooking less in general but spending more time preparing food, which I guess is what happens when you eat more raw foods.  The only way I can make it in the mornings is to prep everything the night before, including putting the greens and fruit in the blender jar in the fridge, which kills a good amount of time at night.

Here is my latest CSA delivery.

cherry tomatoes, cherries, pears, an eggplant, tomatoes

pattypan squash, onions, peppers, basil, a cucumber,
a crookneck squash, grapes

And just because I can, some pictures of Jake from this weekend.  He’s taken to squishing his face on the arm rest when he’s trying to nap on the couch.

Kitty paws.

I love how his body looks humongous from this angle.

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