Friday, June 29, 2012

Cauliflower Soup

The cleanse included four days of blended meals/shakes. So, I made a couple of soups with the vegetables I had on hand. This cauliflower soup was one of them, and it was so simple and pretty hearty. I followed the very simple Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup recipe here.

So simple, yet so delicious!

Baked Potato Chips

Baked potato chips I made a couple times for J this week. I used my mandolin to cut the potatoes and tossed the slices in olive oil, sea salt, pepper and a couple dashes of cayenne for a nice kick. Easy. And healthy!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I Am Cleansing: What I've Been Eating

Hello, world. I apologize for the lack of posts. It's not that I haven't been cooking, I've been super busy with work...and life in general.

Today's post is all about my latest and current journey. I decided last year I wanted to do a cleanse (or detox if you want to call it that). I chose to go with the Cambiati Cleanse because a wonderful woman I know tried it and it yielded great results for her.  The program's goal is to empower you to discover keys to a healthier life, teaching you how to eat the way our ancestors ate during paleolithic times, learn how nutrition affects your body, identify food intolerances, and detoxify and cleanse your body.

Today, I am on DAY 20 (eight more days to go!!!). I'm learning to make better tasting shakes. Spices are my new best friend because seasoning is key to blended meals (there are four days of the program that is blended meals only - I'm on day three of the four days of blended meals).

So, what does this cleanse involve? 28 days. YES, twenty-eight days! ZERO sugar, ZERO alcohol, ZERO dairy, ZERO Gluten.  Also no caffeine, which I'm okay with because I cut coffee out last year (except for the occasional cà phê sữa đá when I visit home because I can't say no to my mom when she asks me if I want a glass of cà phê) and rarely drink soda. I'm basically on a paleo diet and all produce is organic, meats are grass-fed, eggs are cage-free. I drink almond or coconut milk in my shakes and use organic olive, coconut or grapeseed oil to cook.

What do I miss the most? Week two, I started craving breads and cheese. I love those things. Week three, I started craving sweets, specifically cakes. Though, I was able to get pass those cravings :P I also miss snacking on chips or popcorn when watching TV. But, that hasn't been much of an issue because I've been busy with work and we haven't had time to watch any TV. Also, it makes you think about why you are eating. When you're snacking while watching TV, you're doing it for the sake of eating something, you're not really hungry, you just want to eat. So, it's a good practice to eat only when you're hungry.

What do I snack on? I'm not supposed to snack in between meals, but if I am hungry, I will eat some seaweed, which I do when I'm not on the cleanse anyway. I also drink detox tea, which tastes like regular black tea, which I also drink when I'm not on the cleanse. I love tea and seaweed.

Here's a look at what I've been eating over the past three weeks:

I ordered all the supplies needed for the cleanse. It took up a lot of space:

Salads: I add all kinds of vegetables into my salads so I don't get bored. If there are leftover vegetables (J doesn't eat all his veggies) at dinner, I'll use them the next day in my lunch salad.

My favorite things to add to my salads are: beets, heart of palm, olives, bell peppers, blueberries, pine nuts, walnuts, pecans (all raw), avocado (only 1/4), and artichoke. Sometimes I'll throw in boiled eggs if I need more protein that day.

Meals: You'll see it's mostly chicken because for the first two weeks, I stuck to chicken - it's easy and I don't have to think about it too much. One of J's favorite was the baked spicy chicken wings I made one night. But I got sick of eating chicken, so I incorporated seafood (salmon, shrimp, crab, ground turkey and then  steak - I'm allowed to have red meat once a week).  For Father's Day, we splurged on grass-fed filets and I made Bisteak, a Filipino dish J's dad used to make. It was delish and so easy!

What about eating out? I work at home, so it hasn't been too much of an issue sticking to my diet restrictions. However, I do miss eating out and last weekend J and I was outdoors/running errands. My eating out treat is the Chicken Salad from Chipotle (without the sauce). I basically get a salad, with chicken, beans, corn and salsa. That's it. I also stopped by Whole Foods and grabbed some veggies. There is a lot of temptation and the key is to remember the goal and stick to it.

Blended meals: Drinking meals is not my favorite thing to do. All the powders make the shakes really gross. But, I've gone through lots of them and am finally learning to make better tasting shakes these days. I didn't think the photos of the shakes were very nice - they're just different colors in a glass - so I didn't include them in this post. My favorite shakes so far are Pumpkin Spice, Apple Cinnamon, Blueberry Almond, and my recovery shake after my workout is a Banana Almond Butter shake (bananas are a high glycemic load fruit, so it's only allowed after working out). BTW, I love almond butter - I've been eating it even before this diet, so no big thing for me :D

I'm having different vegetable soups for my blended meal days:

- Green Bean Soup (I used the same spices I would have used in a chicken masala dish, so it was curry-like and spicy)
- I found Organic Vegan Split Pea soup from Trader Joe's that was delicious. Though I was disappointed they didn't have more selection. I ate these on days when I was out of time and needed to eat.

 Green Bean Soup

I'm planning to makes Cauliflower Soup and Cucumber Gazpacho today. We'll see how it goes.

Side note: I'm such a space-case, I bought a sac of red potatoes, thinking I'd make potato soup, but realized I'm not allowed to have potatoes (sweet potato/yams are okay, so I eat that). So, I baked some potato chips for J. He really liked them. I think we'll go this route in the future - it's so much healthier!

Baked Potato Chips Seasoned with Sea Salt & Cayenne

Sweet Potato Truffle Fries Served in a Red Basket

What are my results so far? In general, I eat pretty healthy and I enjoy vegetables and fruits so eating salads and lots of veggies doesn't bother me. The main reason I decided to do this program is to blueprint my metabolism and the greatest take away for me through this program so far is learning about the right portion size for my body - how much of what to eat to sustain me unti the  next meal, which is great. And, of course there is always room for learning to eat healthy, right? 

I have always been a light sleeper. I hear everything that goes on - the cats' movement, if J is up late working I hear his movements, so I was never fully asleep until everyone else in the house is asleep. I've noticed that since I've changed my diet,  my sleep is much deeper. I am actually sleeping when I go to bed and don't wake up when J gets into bed.  I'm well-rested in the morning, which is always a good thing for J's sake, because I am not a morning person. 

Although I've made an effort to work out more consistently over the past year, I wasn't able to stick to it due to work, the weather or my mood. However, I'm finding that eating healthy gives me more motivation to stay on my exercise routine and I actually want to work out and don't feel very good on the days that I don't work out. I'm still not working out as much as I want to (everyday), but I am working out 4-5 days a week, which is pretty darn good for me. I actually like sweating these days ;P

What am I going to eat after the 28 days? To celebrate, J and I are going to have pizza at our favorite pizza joint, plus they have this really good apple walnut salad that we always get with our pizza. I figured pizza has cheese and breads - two things I miss. It's killing two birds with one stone kinda meal. Although, my cleanse ends just in time for the Independence Day festivities and I'll be at a friend's party so that could be very bad. But, I don't think I'll go crazy with the food - I'm not the kind of person to overindulge, but whatever goodness I do end up eating, I know I will be very mindful of how my body reacts to it.

Overall, the paleo diet is working for us and it's something we'd like to stick to because it promotes longterm health, well-being and longevity. I'm going to do whatever I can today, to be as healthy as I can later. Also, the diet is sustainable and studies have shown vegetable-based diets to be beneficial.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Desserts & Wine, Anyone?

I was in Miami last weekend for my cousin's bachelorette party. We had a great time and it was great to see my cousins who live in three different states. On our last evening in Miami, we had a wine and dessert party to end the fabulous weekend.

We didn't want to spend too much time cooking/baking so we made some easy desserts:

I made panna cotta with a berry sauce, goat cheese stuffed strawberries and put together strawberry shortcake using store bought pound cake, COOL WHIP and strawberries.

My cousin made salmon cream-cheese stuffed bell peppers. We had some fruit and store bough cookies/brownies. Served with Rosé.
It was fun!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Happy St. Patty's Day: Corned Beef & Cabbage (in a crock pot w/ a can of Guinness)

I made corned beef for the first time. It was 1. super easy 2. super yummy. Yay, me!!! I used this recipe and changed the serving size to 4 and also threw it in a crock pot because I like to use my crock pot. Although the spice measurements were different, I upped everything to 1/4 teaspoon to make it easy for myself.

beef brisket (I used a 2.85 lb. brisket because it was the smallest I could find at the grocery store)
1/4 teaspoon each: cinnamon, ground cloves, all spice, black pepper)
3 carrots
2 medium potatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 green cabbage cut into wedges
1 can of Guinness draught (if you read the instructions, the person was firm about getting draught and NOT stout)

The ingredients:

1. Brown the brisket

2. Rub the brisket with the spices
3. Throw the brisket in the crock pot.
4. Empty the can of Guinness. Add vegetables (minus the cabbage) and water to cover the meat.

5. Set on low for 8 hours.
6. Flip the meat over halfway (this could be optional)
7. Add the cabbage and set for another hour.
8. Remove meat from crock pot and slice across the grain. Serve with veggies and some dijon mustard.
9. Enjoy with an Irish brew!

After dinner, J said to me "You should try the corned beef in a can to taste the difference." And my reply was "No. Who would want to do that?" This guy was in the US Army for six years - and let's just say - lived like one before I met him. So...there ya go!

For dessert, we had mint chocolate chip ice-cream.

We had leftovers, so I added the corned beef and some bell peppers to our scrambled eggs for breakfast the next morning. Yum! Happy St. Patrick's Day ;D

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cold, Wet Friday Soup: Oxtail

While the rest of the country is enjoying record setting temperatures, sunshine and an early Spring, it's super "cold" and wet in Northern California. (I put cold in quotes because I grew up on the East coast and it gets cold there. I've acclimated to the weather here, so I'm kind of a wimp and really dislike being cold.)

So, it's been a long week with the time shift, things have been a little off. It rained really hard on Friday and I thought it would be nice for J to come home to a nice warm comfort soup for dinner. I braised the oxtails for hours (pretty much all day) with the vegetables and it really turned out great. I tried to replicate my mom's oxtail soup and it was pretty darn close :) I served it with a small bowl of rice and fish sauce with chili peppers for dipping.

Veggies: carrots, potato, celery
Garlic cloves
Herbs: I used what I had, some thyme but you can use pho seasoning if you have it, star anise, peppercorns, etc.

The most critical step is to rinse and then parboil the oxtail. Parboiling is basically boiling the meat in rapid water for 10-15 to remove the impurities. Rinse and then you can start the soup. I simmer the oxtail for about 2 hours with the herbs and then add the veggies in for the rest of the day.

The end result is some really tender  fall-off-the-bone meat. The broth is very light, so we usually eat this with a small bowl of rice and a side of fish sauce with crushed chili peppers.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Flat Iron Steak With Red Wine Sauce

Even though I had a glass of wine with the lamb I still had some red wine left over. I didn't want it to go to waste, so I made another great meal. This one is from my girl Giada De Laurentiis. She's not really "my girl" but I met her at a book signing a few years ago (the pic is somewhere) and she (said she) liked my name and asked if I was Vietnamese. Anyway, the recipe can be found here, from Food Network.

So, I followed the directions, because why mess with something if all the reviews says it great? Plus, why wouldn't you follow a recipe if you're making it for the first time? That could just be me. Anyway... here is Thursday's dinner. Oh, and the sauce really was great!

Some meat shots:

I served it with a side of greans and the left over garlic & chive mashed potatoes from the previous night. Still good.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks

Meh - I'm not really happy with my plating or this photo.

While at the grocery store, I got all kinds of protein. I picked up this rack of lamb. Thinking I'd like to add rack of lamb to my "Things I've cooked" list. 

I only used half of this rack because I'm only cooking for two. Which turned out to be these three pieces here. As you can see, one piece is significantly larger than the other two.

I used this recipe submitted to Food & and followed the instructions (I'm good at that).  It actually turned out really good and now I can say I made lamb shanks. Yay, me! I served this with mashed garlic potatoes & chives, some green beans and carrots - because I love veggies.

Veggies for braising. I was upset the grocery store didn't have fresh bay leaves, WTF? So I had to settle for dried ones. 

Here it is with the wine and all.

Baby carrots, green beans and potatoes.

Chives (as if you don't know what chives look like). I think they're pretty.

Garlic mashed potatoes & chives.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Taco Night: Barbacoa Tacos

Since we had a bunch of tortillas, I decided to thaw the leftover barbacoa I made once in the crock pot. I did a copy cat recipe of Chipotle's and boy, it was delish! We had a little left, so I froze it and now was the perfect time to use it up. I made a corn salsa and a salad (as usual).

J gets two tacos and an extra serving of meat because he's a guy and eats more than I do.

Breakfast Burritos

I needed something different. Every morning I make a breakfast sandwich. It's on a whole grain english muffin toasted, has a slice of 2% American cheese, a slice of turkey bacon and an egg and we garnish it with sugar free grape jelly. Every. Single. Morning. J is perfectly happy with this - he really likes it. I like it too, but sometimes I forgo the english muffin and make cheese eggs and eat it with the turkey bacon. Sometimes I have oatmeal. I just get bored. So, I got us some healthy tortillas and made breakfast burritos. The ingredients are pretty much the same. except I added chopped baby bell peppers to the mix. Just a small change, but it was what I needed.

Ingredients (makes 2 = 1 serving):
1 egg
baby bell peppers
1 slice of turkey bacon
hot sauce
2 tortillas

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Taste of Home: Maryland Crab Cakes

It was Monday night, the first work day after the time change. It was a hectic day - I was running late for a lot of things. It was 7:30pm and I had no idea what to make for dinner. Luckily, I had just bought some fresh crab meat at the grocery store earlier.

I threw together a salad with crab cakes and called it dinner. So...what makes this Maryland crab cakes? The Old Bay. Yeah, we always have Old Bay with our seafood back home.

1 lb. Fresth Crabmeat
1 beaten egg,
1 tablesppon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I used whole grain)
1 teaspoon Worcesteershire sauce
2 tablespoons butter
Old Bay Seasoning
Panko or bread crumbs

Mix all these ingredients together and form into patties (I was able to get 6 patties out of this batch). Fry for about 4 minutes on each side.

I served it on top of a bowl of greens.