Tangerine soda and other goodies

I guess it goes without saying that we have a better selection of citrus fruits now that we live in California. Not only that but it’s quite a bit cheaper. So after I got the Meyer lemons, I decided to try some tangerines. They’re a little warped looking from the outside, but inside they are the brightest orange color, and so juicy.

Taking a cue from Kristin’s mocktail, I thought I’d try making the juice into a soda. So I mixed the juice of one tangerine with about 8 ounces of sparkling mineral water, and it turned out great.

Definitely less sweet than regular soda. It feels sort of like a grownup version of soda.

I couldn’t seem to get a decent photo of the drink, but I liked it, and I think I’ll try it with other juices. Sometimes I get sick of water and tea, yanno?

Speaking of trying new things, I had to show you this yogurt I got.

Every time I saw these cute little crocks of St. Benoit yogurt in the store I wanted to buy one, but at $2.95 I couldn’t quite justify it.

Well, it turns out you’re really just paying a deposit for the returnable container, so I bit the bullet and got one. Along with these huge strawberries and some locally made granola, I thought I’d make myself a little yogurt parfait for breakfast.

The yogurt itself is a lot like my old favorite, Cultural Revolution. It’s kind of soupy with chunks of cream mixed in. Not pretty like the Yoplaits you’re used to, but that’s how you know it’s a little closer to it’s original form.

I have to say, though, that I liked the cute crock a lot better than the yogurt itself. It was so watery it turned my granola into mush. It didn’t seem creamy or tangy or any of the things that make yogurt so good. Plus it has a lot more calories than Cultural Revolution. I can’t get that here, though, so I’ll stick to my new favorite, Clover Organic.

A couple other tips to share:

• Dates are my new pantry staple item.

Mike eats them plain as snacks, and I use them to make my fruit/nut bars. They are super sweet, and the perfect binder when blended.

I like medjool dates. Just make sure you take the pits out or buy them already pitted. Those things will mangle a food processor.

• I decided that if I was going to eat salad more often I better get good at making my own dressings. I got this cute little dressing shaker at Target.

It even has recipes on the side that show you how high to fill the ingredients so it couldn’t be any easier.

I’ve been eating the honey mustard this week. It’s a little heavy on the honey, but I can always change that next time.

What else makes a good salad dressing?

The best oatmeal

I was starting to get a little sick of juices and smoothies, so I thought I’d try a different breakfast food that I felt was equally healthy. I bought some quick oats, just your standard Quaker can variety, and a bunch of fresh berries. Instead of milk I used almond milk, and that little extra bit of flavor makes all the difference to me.

My favorite oatmeal

1/2 cup quick oats
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup of your favorite berries
Drizzle of agave nectar

Mix up the oats and almond milk in a bowl and microwave them for about 3 minutes, or until you get the consistency you like. Drizzle on the agave nectar (just a little bit!) and sprinkle on your berries.

I love oatmeal, too, because it’s such a great base for whatever toppings you want to put on. Maybe dried fruit or nuts — I’m thinking figs and walnuts — or a drizzle of maple syrup would be better on a different day.

Last day of the cleanse

I can’t believe I’m almost done with my cleanse. This morning I had my orange-est breakfast yet.

I was almost out of produce so I just made apple-carrot juice (3 big carrots, 2 apples). It was pretty tasty.

I don’t think things will vastly change tomorrow, as I plan to keep eating pretty much the same. The only thing I’m dying to do is add back some acidic foods. I can’t tell you how much I miss bananas!

Speaking of bananas, have you downloaded these Valentine fruit stickers yet?

I’m not gonna say that any food is totally completely off-limits, but my goal is to cut out refined sugar, white rice or bread, dairy products, and as many processed foods as possible. I’ll probably still have juice for breakfast, then regular meals for lunch and dinner.

We’re having pecan-crusted tilapia, veggies, and dark chocolate-dipped strawberries for our Valentine’s Day treat. No conversation hearts, no Reese’s hearts, no red velvet cake this year. It’s very tempting, but I think I can resist.

I’m trying to make some adjustments around the house to facilitate healthy eating. I got rid of our butter dish, and turned the cookie jar into a jar of quick oats for oatmeal.

I want to go to World Market and get some more glass jars to keep lentils, beans, quinoa, and the like in. I’m thinking it will help if I open up my pantry and see all these cute jars of healthy foods lined up rather than a mess of half-full bags of things.

I also went through my recipe binder and took out all the desserts and super-rich recipes — everything that I’d now call a really special occasion recipe — and put them in a different binder. That gave me an excuse to go to Target and get a new cute one!

I had cut all of these articles out of magazines about healthy meal and snack ideas, so I moved those up to the front in case I need something quick and can’t think of anything to make.

I don’t know why, but I had a really hard time breaking up with these guys.

But eventually I decided to get rid of them completely. Out of sight, out of mind. On the plus side, I’ve been having Moroccan mint iced tea during the day and it’s really good. I forgot I had so many great teas in my pantry.

And finally, I reworked my grocery list so it has all things I’d like to see us buy regularly on it.

It’s such an easy thing to do – just make yourself a Word document with all the things you need from different departments and print out a few copies to keep posted on the fridge.

When I get some free time I’ll be reworking the recipe archive on here, too. Mike has some ideas for making it more user-friendly, so we’ll play around with it.

Hope you get to watch the Grammys tonight, and have a sweet, relaxing Valentine’s Day. I know we will!

Kale chips

Did you know you can buy kale chips in a package just like regular chips?

I haven’t tried making my own yet, because I usually use up all my kale in the juicer. But I thought I’d try these when I needed a Superbowl snack option, and they were pretty tasty. The chili-lime coating definitely helped them seem more like snack food.

I also sliced my first mango this morning. Can you believe I’ve never actually bought a fresh mango before?

I put it in a breakfast smoothie, but it definitely didn’t achieve the same shake-like effect that frozen mango chunks have. I think I’ll stick to fresh mango for salsas or eating plain.

I’m now on week 4 of my cleanse, and I feel pretty great. I don’t need as much sleep at night, my pants are loose, and I almost never feel hungry during the day, despite eating way less than I used to. I’m starting to get into a routine with shopping and cooking. Eating out remains a challenge, but at least it’s easier here where most restaurants offer brown rice instead of white and have much smaller portions.

Another mood booster – it has been absolutely gorgeous here for something like 3 straight weeks, with some days of near-record highs. My neighbor’s tree is actually blooming in our backyard. It feels like spring!

Split pea soup

Continuing with my run of trying new foods and eating like someone who has no teeth, I tried split pea soup tonight.

Sure, it’s not the most attractive soup, but it’s really yummy and hearty, perfect for a winter weeknight dinner.

I thought this recipe turned out great. It’s full of flavor, including a little sweetness from the carrots.

Split pea soup
adapted from Barefoot Contessa

1/2 pound split peas
1/2 cup diced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large carrots, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon oregano
5 cups water

Heat the olive oil over medium in a soup pot and saute the onions, garlic and carrots until the onions are translucent. Sprinkle on the salt, pepper, and oregano.

Add the water and half the split peas, and simmer for 40 minutes.

Add the rest of the peas and simmer for 40 more minutes.

Voila, easy peasy soup. Har har.

I also loved the shake I made on Sunday when I had almost nothing left to eat in my refrigerator.

It was one cup of frozen mango chunks, two cups of unsweetened almond milk, a tablespoon of flax meal, and a teaspoon of agave nectar. The extra almond milk did the trick (it only has like 40 calories per cup).

While we were out running errands on Sunday we decided to go to Oakland and try Blue Bottle Coffee, which we’d heard so much about.

Since I’m off caffeine (though I did notice they had decaf beans), Mike tried an iced coffee and got some beans to go, and reports that it’s awesome. Love their packaging, too.

I knew it wouldn’t be a big deal for me to give up coffee, but I thought I would struggle more with my attachment to Diet Coke. Lately, I haven’t wanted any at all. In fact i don’t even put lemon in my water or make tea very often anymore. Mostly I just want plain water, which is pretty strange for me.

Two weeks down, two more to go…

Juice-it-yourself breakfast

Now that I’m on two liquid meals a day I figured it was time to break out the juicer.

This thing is powerful. When you turn it on it sounds like a lawnmower. It’s a little scary, but it does the job.

What comes out is a little scary, too. First it’s this multilayered colorful juice, and then when you mix it all together it becomes the color of pond scum. Not so appetizing, but the weird part is that it does actually taste good. If you’ve ever bought a Green Machine juice at the grocery store you know what I mean.

So anyway, here’s my recipe. Never thought this is what my breakfast would look like.

1 apple
1 lemon
2-3 carrots
2 big kale leaves
2 ribs celery

I tried adding pineapple once and it was a little too sweet.

For dinner I’ve been having a really yummy butternut squash soup. I bought organic squash, and they turned out to be the brightest orange color and full of flavor. I roasted one squash (cut into chunks) with a couple of carrots and one apple. Then I sauteed some onions and celery, added four cups of water, a little apple cider vinegar and turmeric to my pot plus all the roasted veggies, and blended it all with my immersion blender.

It came out so well. There was no need for cream at all. I tried having a chilled avocado soup, too, but it wasn’t very good. It just made me think I was eating a bowl of salsa with no chips.

My other discovery this week is that it’s fun to blend red and plain quinoa together to add a little more color to your meals.

Next week I tackle lentils. I know you’re excited.

‘Clean’ snacks

The weekend was pretty brutal. I must have been detoxing from something because I had a throbbing headache, sore throat, and a low fever. I didn’t want to do anything but rest. The book tells you not to take pills for headaches, so I just had to ride it out. At times I felt like quitting the whole thing, as the whole point is to feel good. But today I finally broke through it and started to feel better.

I’ve had a lot more energy and way less hunger today, which is such a relief. I went to the store and stocked up on more ingredients that will help me be more creative in the kitchen. Now my vegetable drawer runneth over!

I love buying ingredients I’ve never worked with before. Have you ever had adzuki beans?

I’ve also never cooked with coconut oil (which is solid at room temperature but melts in your hands). If you get some on your hands it’s like lotion!

And let’s face it, this is the most important part of any cleanse.

I also trashed some temptations.

Over the last few years I’ve slowly been breaking my attachments to certain processed foods, and I’m still working on it.

I had been getting pretty frustrated over the weekend at feeling like I was eating the same things over and over, especially for snacks. You can only eat so many handfuls of nuts and fruit. So I thought I’d share some other recipes for quick snacks that you can pop in your mouth if you need a little energy or want to satisfy a sweet tooth without eating refined sugar.

(Use organics where you can.)

Hummus and carrots
adapted from the Clean book

2 cups cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Blend all ingredients in a food processor. Add a little extra water for smoothness.

Brown rice crackers
adapted from Clean‘s recipe book

1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons coconut or olive oil
I pinch each of dried oregano, basil, thyme, and black pepper

Mix flour, salt, herbs, and oil together in a bowl until you have coarse crumbs.

Mix in water until the dough forms a ball.

Roll out on a baking sheet to 1/4-inch thick and score it so you will be able to break apart the crackers.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes, or until the edges start to get brown. After the crackers cool, gently break them apart.

Raw fruit/nut balls
adapted from my own recipe

1/2 cup finely grated coconut
1 handful pecans
2 handfuls almonds
1 handful dates (make sure they’re pitted!)
1 handful raisins

Toss all of the ingredients into your food processor and process until the nuts have turned into fine pieces and the mixture is starting to clump together. The smoother the better, in my opinion. Roll them into 1-inch balls.

If you like, you can roll them in a little extra coconut.

Chocolate almond butter balls
(they’re kind of like Nutella!)

1/2 cup almond butter
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon agave nectar

Combine ingredients in a bowl, and roll them into 1-inch balls. Keep them refrigerated, so they hold their shape.

(I realize what these look like, but they taste much better than they look.)

Raw coconut macaroons
from Fork in the Road (I like to halve the recipe)

3 cups shaved coconut
1 1/2 cups raw cacao powder
3/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup coconut oil
Pinch of sea salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until firm. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls (or use a mini scoop). They can be dehydrated too, if you like.

I also just wanted to say that I had never realized how dependent my diet was on wheat. It seems like it’s in everything. I have a whole new appreciation for those on a gluten-free diet, and I will try to put more gluten-free recipes up here.

Cleanse, day 4

I still haven’t technically started the cleanse part of the cleanse yet, but I’ve definitely changed my eating habits in a big way this week.

The biggest thing I notice (and it was the same when I tried a raw foods experiment) is just how colorful every meal is. I think if you take nothing else away from something like this, it should just be to try to get more color into your diet.

I’m not gonna lie, the shake I had for breakfast the first two days was pretty gross. The ingredients sounded good: almond butter, peaches, and cardamom. But the consistency was sort of watery and weird, and the cardamom was way too potent.

Day three I tried a berry smoothie, which tasted much better. You have to be careful with those blueberry bits, though. They get stuck in your teeth! Maybe if I had a VitaMix…

The best smoothie by far was the one I made this morning (sorry, I drank it before I remembered to take a photo). I decided to improvise rather than using a recipe, and I came up with frozen mango chunks, homemade coconut milk, a bit of agave nectar, and flax seed meal. Mango has just the right consistency for a smoothie, and the flax seed gives it a little more body and protein. I will definitely make it again.

I’ve also made some really yummy veggie stir-fries with brown rice that I will make again.

I’m thinking about trying my own sushi, too. The only dinner that was a total fail was last night. I tried making buckwheat noodles, and they came out one giant gummy mass. Blech.

The big challenge will be the weekend. It’s Mike’s birthday, and I know we’ll eat out. I’ve already been feeling more energetic and less hungry in the afternoons, though, so I’m hoping that holding on to that feeling is more important than indulging.

2011 resolutions

First of all, apologies for the long absence. Our internet has been down for the last few days and we finally got it working again.

I’m not usually a big resolution maker, but I thought that since my life has completely changed in the last year, that it would be a good time to get a fresh start in some ways. My first big goal was to take the box of wedding/honeymoon albums, miscellaneous travel souvenirs and extra photos and put it all together into something that someone could actually view!

It cost me about $100 in prints (for 600+ photos in various sizes) and a few days of putting together albums, but I finally got that project finished.

My helpers were not so helpful.

I am also going to try another cleanse over the next four weeks. The last few months have involved a lot of overindulgence, stress, and adjustment to change. I feel a bit unhealthy and low energy. I read about the book “Clean” in the latest issue of Outside, and it got a pretty ringing endorsement from a skeptical editor.

So I’m going to try it (one week of elimination diet with no wheat, dairy, or highly acidic foods, and three weeks of the Clean diet with two daily liquid meals and one meal from the elimination plan).

After that I am really going to try to work on my relationship with food, which has never been particularly healthy. I want to release myself of the guilt and anxiety I feel about eating certain things, and try to focus on eating what makes me feel good physically rather that emotionally. I have been working on this already, and have been amazed at how less stressed I feel about eating generally.

Hopefully having more energy will lead to more adventures in California. We’re in the middle of a long stretch of great weather (60s and sunny in January!), so we’ve been trying to get out and enjoy it. We went to the dog park again the other day, and it was just gorgeous.

I love the birds out there, and Mike sees something new every time we go.

We spent a long time just watching this pelican dive into the bay.

That’s not something I ever thought I’d spend my weekends doing!

What do you want to do more of this year?

Trying out SparkPeople

After interviewing several people for fitness-related stories that said it was actually diet that was the most important part of their routines, I decided that I needed some more discipline in my diet.

Like any bride-to-be, I also want to look good in my wedding dress, but without going on some crazy crash diet that I will never maintain. So, I decided to try using SparkPeople.com to record what I eat and how much I exercise. I really like it.

I’ve kept food journals before, but this is different because it’s interactive. It offers meal plans and grocery lists, and gives feedback on how you’re doing. I find that it keeps me from mindless snacking or baking up random batches of cookies because I know I’m going to have to be accountable for that stuff. I could just not input it into the computer, but for some reason I feel compelled to do it.

My only complaint is that it’s a little complicated to use, especially if you can’t find your exact food in the search. And sometimes it seems to me like it’s underestimating calories (I don’t need any help lying to myself). But overall, it’s a good thing.

Things I’ve learned about myself:

• I pretty much always eat more for lunch than for breakfast and more for dinner than for lunch.

• I don’t drink enough water.

• I’m always hungry from about 3-5 p.m. even if I have snacks. Going back to my first point, I’m just spacing my meals out in a way that doesn’t work.

• I eat too much sugar and not enough protein.

I am thinking I should add in some more Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, and maybe some green smoothies (the only way I like to eat spinach).

Have you tried this or something similar? Does it work for you?