Sunday, January 30, 2011

Two Days Worth...

How these scrumptiously healthy green juices finally came to be is a lengthy and complicated tale that stretches all the way back to Saturday morning, when Alex and I began a long postponed DIY project.

To be clear, this wasn't your typical home craft project involving glue guns and glitter (if only it were that simple and marginally toxic)...

No, this one involved harsh chemicals, an electric sander and good old fashioned elbow grease.

Our fascination with redoing unloved furniture came about several months ago when Alex found this big, sturdy table on craigslist for DIRT CHEAP:

After some solicited advice from knowledgeable strangers, numerous trips to Home Depot and living in a sawdust-filled home for around 2 weeks, we were table to turn it into this:

Now anytime we spot cheapish furniture in need of some tlc, we can't really turn down the challenge.

That's why yesterday, with our beach plans scrapped due to the waning daylight and insurmountable traffic, we decided to put the warm sunlight to good use in our own back "yard" and get started on our latest project:

the book shelf we found at a yard sale for a measly $10 and the secondhand dresser you might remember from this post.

I've got big (one might even say unique) plans for the insides of these shelves which will be revealed, along with the completed final product, in the coming days.

All this arduous work did a number on our grumbling tummies, since our pre-noon strictly-liquid caloric intake was wearing thin.

I opened the crisper draw to find it completely empty- without a shopping moment to spare!

That's when animal products came to the rescue.

I grabbed my new gluten free bagels,

some TJ's goat cheese slices (a mini-miracle),

eggs and onions, and got to work on a much-desired and appreciated hearty lunch.

The bagels were impress.ive. Couldn't really tell them from the real thing and they've got 7g of protein + 3g of fiber taboot!

With our bellies comfortably full, we got back to the grind 'til the sun left us

... and hunger set in once again.

We showered and headed to a west side movie theatre to catch what we thought would be The King's Speech. On the way, we stopped by The Vegan Joint...

and took a little longer than expected on our respective dinners-

mine a lentil loaf with brown rice and veggies,

his a [decidedly boring] veggie wrap- made with corn tortilla.

Seeing as our chances of making the 7pm showing were nearing impossible, we decided to see The Fighter 20 minutes later but arrived at the theatre on time only to discover they were completely sold out!

Since we'd driven all that way and I was in the mood for a movie, we headed to the Borders nearby to knock out some productive reading in the meantime.

Of course, no trip to the bookstore would be complete without a stop in this section.

After two and a half hours of reading about everything Prague has to offer and more, we made our way back to the 10:20 pm showing of The Fighter.

3 hours past dinner and I was hungry once again... Going against every fiber in my being that was screaming for a cookie, I opted for a $6 salad. At the movie theatre! I was grateful for the option...

The film was fantastic- I'm not a huge fan of boxing movies, but this one was above and beyond my expectations. Christian Bale: you amaze me!

We finally got home around 1:30 am and stayed up talking for another 2 hours (despite our intentions to hit up the Hollywood farmers market early the next morning).

9 am came around and, needless to say, neither of us budged when the iPhone church bells went off.

Knowing I had a meeting at noon and would definitely need some fuel beforehand, I pushed the warm covers off around 10:30, only to be greeted with a supremely sorry sight.

After weeks of 70 degree temps and sun, it was RAINING!

AND our furniture project that required a dry outdoor setting was only halfway done!

Ah well, I suppose it's all part of Mother Nature's plan.

The crisper drawer problem had yet to be solved and I needed breakfast! All I wanted was to mix up a batch of banana pecan pancakes and call it a day. But self control was called upon in the end and I managed to mix up my cayenne pepper and lemon tonic to get me through.

Original plans to hit up the farmers market were scratched- call me a wimp but I had no desire to walk about in the cold rain this morning on an empty stomach.

We headed out to hit up 3- yes, 3- different grocery stores to remedy our empty kitchen situation.

(gah, didn't I JUST buy a ton of groceries?!)

First stop, Trader Joe's, next was Gelson's for some kale, and when we didn't find a worthy gluten free veggie patty for Alex, we made our way to my favorite Whole Foods of all time and were greeted with a little corner of heaven.

A completely gluten-free section!

Obviously, this has been one of the toughest battles to fight during the cleanse- finding good food SANS gluten.

Before leaving, I grabbed a couple munchies for the road home:

a little cup of lentil soup

and a chocolate crunch gluten free cookie I shared with the boy.

Both were delish and held us over 'til we were able to unload the groceries and get our green juice on. Finally!

Now it's well past 2 pm and time for lunch. Today's adventures in the kitch will consist of a frozen veggie patty competition.

The results of which will be posted on the 'morrow.

See ya then!

Friday, January 28, 2011

"What Gives?"

I distinctly remember the kind fellow in an obscure South Carolina casting office asking me over my  Christmas vacay.

We were discussing our interests outside the field of entertainment. When I mentioned nutrition, he jumped at the chance to ask a question that'd obviously been plaguing him for awhile...

"What's the deal with all these people that don't eat gluten? I mean, is wheat really that big a deal in the health world?"

I too was intrigued by his question, seeing as I am by no means a gluten-free follower myself.

No traditional bread, oats, rye or barley [aka beer]? No thank you.

Since the cleanse I'm currently embarking on suggests trying the gluten free route to "test the waters," I thought now would be a perfect time to address the question.

During my research, I found one article (written by a gluten allergy sufferer) that deemed the gluten free "lifestyle... tortuous." And after learning of the "do's and don't's" required, I must admit: I feel her pain.

To all of you who live with gluten intolerance or allergies: I'm truly sorry for your loss and humbly commend you for being a far stronger person than I!

For the sake of simplicity, let's break gluten issues into 2 basic forms: (click here to see the full article)

1. Celiac disease/ gluten intolerance*- a chronic autoimmune disease that takes months and years to develop. Your body essentially overreacts to the presence of gluten in your GI tract. Over time, ingesting it puts too much wear and tear on the ever important villi of the small intestine, in some cases destroying them altogether if the problem is not nipped in the bud.

Some forms of celiac can be "silent," meaning the person suffering on the inside is completely unaware due to the lack of externally manifested symptoms.

*You can technically be gluten intolerant and still test negative for celiac disease, though the bodily reactions are more or less the same.

2. Gluten Allergy- this problem is marked by more acute symptoms like rashes or hives on the skin, gastrointestinal issues or shortness of breath directly after eating gluten or wheat products. While Celiac disease gets a worse rap and an actual name, severe allergies are nothing to be taken lightly.

If you're curious as to whether your body's got a problem digesting gluten, try cutting it out of your diet for a month and see if you notice a difference. A co-worker of mine did that very thing and he now lives completely gluten free.

Which brings us to question: What exactly does this gluten free lifestyle entail?

I got the following info here.

For starters, all products containing barley, bulgur, couscous, spelt, durum, einkorn, emmer, farina, fu, glaidin, gluten, glutenin, graham flour, kamut, matzo, mir, rye, seitan, semolina, triticale, and pretty much anything with wheat in the name are out.

(Looks like those spelt tortillas I bought the other day are goin' in the freezer 'til February 15)

OATS are also a questionable product on a gluten free diet- seems you have to thoroughly check the label or call the manufacturer to find out if they fit the bill. That fact made my heart hurt a little.

Ingredients that get the gold star?

Amaranth, millet, quinoa, surghum, taro, teff, flours made from beans, nuts, potatoes, rice, tapioca and corn among others.

Phew, I almost collapsed from "rule overload."

When I think of all the people who come into the restaurant asking for gluten free options and my response is, "Um... this one [mediocre] item, but you'd have to do it without the x..." Ah man, my respeck just grows and grows.

With all this newly discovered info in mind and a desire to see just how difficult it would be, I hit up the celebrity-laden Whole Foods for some wheat-free snacks.

Even while scouring the shelves of the largest health food chain in the country, I was shocked to discover the limited amount of wheat free options. (Though I suppose they're far better than they were a decade ago and assume it gets easier the longer you live it and the more you understand.)

Luckily, with a little time, patience and keen eyesight, I was able to scrounge up some of the good stuff.

As I dive into these packages, I'll be sure to let you know how they measure up on the flavor scale ;)

After the shopping trip, it was time for a cleanse-worthy, gluten-free dinner on the fly.

Well, I hope it was gluten-free.

You see, miso, like oats, is one of those things on the "questionable list." But after checking the ingredients and seeing rice and soybeans listed, rather than anything from the ix nay list above, I decided it was safe...

I needed this dinner to be hearty enough for Alex and flavorful enough for me... Not to mention packed with nutrients and protein.

I was feeling a pilaf sort of deal and decided to create my own using lentils as the base.

It came together quite nicely, to my utter surprise...

First, I got 1 cup of lentils and 2 cups of water + 1 Tbs of Earth Balance going in the rice cooker.

Gathered my veggies of choice

Added the chopped green and red onions to 1 cup of veggie broth + .5 cup of water, covered and brought to a boil

Once it was nice and bubbly, I added the miso packet (which was just enough flavor to leave out any additional salt)

In went the carrots...

And another new ingredient to me:

Arrowroot is essentially the healthier, more digestible form of cornstarch- both are thickening agents for sauces, gravies and the like. I really wanted my broth on the ticker side and thought merely sprinkling this into the mix would do the trick. Apparently not.

While the broth didn't thicken as much as I would've liked (more arrowroot trial and error will be done in the future- I keep seeing conflicting guidelines on the subject), the dinner turned out pretty perfectly if I say so myself.

Protein from the lentils, nutrients from the veggies and miso, flavor from the broth.

Quite a treat.

And speaking of treats: several of you mentioned wanting the recipe for the chocomole I made the other day. You can find Gena's original recipe here, but I've outlined how I made it in my own kitchen below...

I used:

-1 ripe avocado
-4 large pitted medjool dates (depends on how sweet you like it)
-3 Tbs organic cocoa powder
-splash of vanilla extract
-1/2 cup chocolate almond milk (watered down a bit)

All you have to do is put the ingredients in the food processor (the little bowl will work for one serving), turn the puppy on and leave it until everything's blended into one glorious mush of healthy chocolate.

I put mine in the freezer for about an hour to give it more of a frozen mousse/ ice cream sort of vibe, but room temperature works as well!

Also gluten free ;)

Alright, I'm off to get this day goin'!

Alex and I are venturing out to a raw vegan restaurant in Santa Monica tonight- stay tuned for a full recap tomorrow.

Question: Are any of you unable to eat gluten? Was it hard to adopt the lifestyle at first? I'm curious to hear about the experience firsthand if you'd like to share... And any tips are greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Buddy System

Yes, the same policy so ferociously enforced on primary school field trips can also be applied during adulthood.

That's if you've got a willing partner.

And luckily: that I do ;)

It all started with the cravings I got around 11am today.

After my obligatory tonic, green juice and smoothie, I couldn't stop thinking about... real food!

While the cleanse technically allows a little solid food before noon, I figured splurging on day 2 would be a tad on the lame side so I pushed through the pain and stuck with the plan.

After a tumultuous, but in the end GLORIOUS acting class, I met up with Alex at home for a walk around the 'hood.

Along the way, I confessed to him the difficulties I was facing in sticking with the cleanse- how I'd already committed to it and would feel silly backing out after day 2, but man was it tough!

Then, to my utter surprise, the chicken-loving, half-Mexican steak burrito-eater that is my boyfriend said he'd do the cleanse with me.

My mouth fell open.

"You know you'd have to give up meat, right?"


"And drinking."

"No problem... Wait! The superbowl...[thinks]... nah, nevermind, I can do it."

Turns out all this borderline vegan talk and health food errand-running he's endured over the past several months is starting to take root.

Honestly, I'm pretty excited to see how he feels after living without meat for a month, and knowing I've got someone along for the ride makes this journey seem far more doable!

After our talk, I made a bee line to the kitchen for dinner prep.

On the menu tonight?

Angela's Quick and Easy Vegan Alfredo

I've made the Vegan Yum Yum version once before and while every fiber in my being wants to squirm in distaste over a faux alfredo sauce, I can't help but really enjoy the flavor of every. single. bite.

It's so easy to make, too.

Put everything in the blender....

Prep your (gluten free in this case) pasta,

Heat the blended sauce, adding veggies of choice (be careful not to get it too hot- the mixture hardens rather easily)

And voila:

A gluten free, vegan dinner fit for a cleanse.

Maybe I'll get used to this?

Sitting at the table over the last couple bites of broccoli, I noticed the remnants of a perfectly ripe avocado.

That's when a divine thought came to me ,)

Gena's Chocomole!

Not only do I see the recipe all over the blogosphere, but it's included in the recipe section of Crazy, Sexy Diet. I decided then and there: What better time than now?

And so it was:

Seeing as I like my desserts cold (hello self-proclaimed ice cream addict!), I popped this puppy into the freezer for about an hour after blending and bam:

"Healthy chocolate pudding" + coconut = Heavenly livin'.

Speaking of heaven, sleep sounds pretty grand right about now!

Question: Are you a "buddy" person or do you prefer to fly solo when it comes to healthy endeavors? I for one am not the best at going to the gym with friends, but dietary experiments- bring on the partners in crime!

Let's Totally Go Shop-ping!

Those are four words you'll rarely hear come out of my mouth.

Unless I'm referring to a flea market, Target or.... the grocery store.

I'd say a cleanse isn't really be a cleanse without a healthy trip to your local produce section.

Which is what a large chunk of my afternoon was dedicated to. 

Something that caught my attention while going through the necessary "out with the old, in with the new" pantry sorting was how very little "bad stuff" I had to toss. In fact, there wasn't one thing in my kitchen I'd be ashamed to show Ms. Carr- well, maybe that bag of grated cheddar and the mini twix bar from Halloween I keep in the freezer for catastrophic emergencies.

Generally pleased to find there wasn't too much going to waste, I got to thinking about all the glorious new things I'd get to try in the coming weeks.

The food component of the cleanse asks that you:

1. Cut caffeine (mostly) It's acceptable in the form of green tea, yerba mate and small doses of dark chocolate
2. Cut gluten This one's especially tough for me, seeing as I adore all things bread and don't really think I have a gluten intolerance/allergy, but I'll roll with it and see if I notice any glaring differences within my belly
3. Watch out for whites and other processed starches No white bread, white flour, white rice, white potatoes, white pasta
4. Cut out all refined sugars and artificial sweetners Looks like I gotta find a new chewing gum.
5. Eliminate animal foods or reduce to no more than twice per week Mmmk, this is the one I've got the biggest issue with. Because:
 a) I'm not really feeling a 100% vegan lifestyle just yet (though trying a vegan month is on my 2011 resolution list)
 b) I can't live without goat cheese!!! 
 c) I want to keep eggs as a source of protein in my life, considering I have big plans to get pretty shredded in the near future. 

Okay, not that shredded-gross. I'll save the workout deets for another day...

We'll just call the abridged version of this vegan stipulation in the cleanse: "watch and log your animal food intake to see where unnecessary consumption can be cut out and replaced with plant protein sources."

The program advises a liquid diet until noon, including this cleansing tonic to drink first thing in the am. (I'll spare you the gory details- if you want to know what happens, try it yourself just after rising)

warm filtered water + a little cayenne pepper + juice of half a lemon

Activate system-flushing.... NOW!

Seeing as I had a cardio workout planned for the morning, I made as heaping a breakfast as possible while sticking to the liquid plan:

1.5 frozen banana
1 scoop Sun Warrior natural protein
1 packet stevia
.5 cup of almond milk
.5 cup of frozen mango chunks
2 handfuls of spinach

I was [surprisingly] able to get through 35 intense minutes on the elliptical with that smoothie alone. (The true test will be doing justice to a 50 minute spin class)

I got home and squeezed a little green juice

1 bunch of kale
1 medium cucumber
1 medium green apple
1 lemon with rind removed

Lunch was the last of the veggies in my fridge before trekking to Trader Joe's

a sh*t ton of spinach
1 heaping handful of shredded carrots
1 cup of steamed green beans
.5 a goat cheese medallion
.5 can of cannellini beans
+ balsamic vinaigrette

With my body fueled properly, I got to perusing the book for shopping tips and went along my merry way.

Now I'm home with a fridge full of old classics,

along with some new treats to try

All in all, cleanse day #1 was pretty painless. I'm happy to report that most of my standard eating habits already fall within the realm of protocol for this endeavor- green juice, smoothies, gigante salads. The hardest part will be staving off those refined sugar cravings and watching my dairy/egg intake.

Something I didn't mention in this post, but plan on discussing in the coming days is the spiritual component of the cleanse. In a nutshell: it's a lot to do with meditation and positive thinking.

Two things with which I'm VERY down.

Alright, I'm off to hit the hay.

Catcha tomorrow with some tasty new treats!