The Art of the Cleanse

Most people, when they hear the word cleanse, get a weird, uncomfortable look on their faces. I can see the thoughts flinging themselves through their brain, “Ew, why would you want to do that?” or “I could never do that! There’s so much I would miss.” They are focusing on the deprivation, what they can’t have, as opposed to the whole world of food that they still get to play with. I prefer to think about the beauty of connecting with what’s in front of me and the artistry of combining real foods and flavors to make something truly taste-full.

If you are going to try a cleanse, first you have to understand your reason for doing it. Is it weight loss? Clearing toxins out of your liver and/or kidneys? Breaking a food habit that it’s time to ditch? Whatever your reason, there is a right way to go about it. You could include a fast, but check with your doctor to make sure that it’s appropriate for you. When you deprive your body of food, it creates stress of a different sort, so be careful.

The Cultivate Health cleanse is a two-week change of pace that gets you back to eating real foods. It’s about all of the above, but done in a gentle way so that you don’t suffer any ill side effects. Here’s what I do:

Beautiful Whole Foods

Spice up your next meal with beans and chiles.

I start by cutting out processed foods and sugary foods such as crackers, cookies, salad dressings and pre-made items. I fill my fridge with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, all organic because, if you are going to cleanse, why would you put something in your body that has toxins on it? I make sure I have lemons to add to my water and ginger or “Detox” tea to replace the caffeine I normally get in my morning tea. I stop drinking alcoholic beverages and sugary drinks. Finally, I focus on incorporating more whole grains and legumes.

On this particular cleanse, I’m also cutting out gluten, which is being reported more and more to directly affect thyroid.  Since I have a thyroid issue, cutting out gluten could help my thyroid readjust so that I don’t have to take medication for the rest of my life.

Finally, I’m going to stick to goat and sheep dairy because the proteins found in those are more gentle and more easily digested by most people than cow dairy.

My goal is to eat this way for four weeks, however, after two weeks, I will start to re-incorporate certain foods. I’m fairly sure I don’t have an allergy or intolerance to dairy, so I will probably bring back the cow’s milk dairy first. I love my black tea in the morning, so I will probably bring back small amounts of caffeine next. I hope to go the whole month eating out of my garden because there’s so much great produce out there. At the end of October, I will consider bringing back gluten in small amounts and

The best way to accomplish something like this is to make the commitment and then take a day to do some planning. Write a list of easy meals that you can make that fit into this way of eating. Examples are:

  • Nachos
  • Yam tacos
  • Rice with stir-fried veggies
  • Quinoa-stuffed bell peppers
  • Polenta with sauteed veggies
  • Mashed potatoes and a side of steamed cabbage and butter or a salad
  • Roasted root vegetables (a mix of parsnips, beets, potatoes, carrots and winter squash is lovely!)
  • Mushroom-stuffed summer or winter squash
Then figure out what ingredients you need and stock up on three or four meals worth of ingredients. If you have time, prep some of the items on the weekend – grate carrots, chop peppers (no more than two days in advance), shred lettuce, cook the polenta or rice, soak some beans, etc. Then, when it comes time to actually cook, it will make it much more quick.
Do this for two weeks and I would be shocked if you didn’t report having more energy, feeling more alert, and tasting your food more deeply. Let me know what you think. I’ve done it and I know it feels great!
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October 2, 2011 at 3:49 pm 2 comments

Local Food Week 2011

Southeastern Colorado’s Local Food Week starts on September 17 this year. There is a great line-up of classes and events, restaurant dinners and specials, a movie screening and more to tempt your tastebuds for the best of what Colorado has to offer.

 

This is an annual initiative of the Peak to Plains Alliance, so go to their website: http://www.peaktoplains.com and click on the Local Food Week link at the top to find out all the details! Then just go and explore and enjoy the world of local food! 

August 31, 2011 at 7:37 am Leave a comment

First Caprese of the Season

It is official, summer has arrived. I just picked and ate my first beefsteak (read big and juicy, not cherry-sized) tomato of the season this week. Of course, it’s already the end of August, so that means that I’ve got to get busy enjoying tomatoes in every way imaginable.

Salads are clearly a fabulous option because the fresh taste of a garden tomato shines against crisp, watery lettuce with just a light oil and vinegar dressing. However, there are tons of other great ways to enjoy tomatoes:

Toss hot, freshly cooked pasta with chopped tomatoes, basil a little coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese. No cooking required!

Make (or buy) a pie crust. Roll it out to a 14″ circle and place on a cookie sheet. Spread a light layer of flavorful mustard to about 2″ from the edge. Layer fresh tomatoes, feta cheese and a sprinkling of oregano. Fold the edges of the crust over the tomatoes and crimp if it breaks to seal any cracks. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes until crust is brown and filling is bubbly.

These are just a few of my favorites and I’m ready to get started, so I’m off to the kitchen to play. Enjoy!

August 30, 2011 at 10:40 am Leave a comment

National Awards and Saving the Harvest

You may have heard the Agriculture segments that Western Skies presented last year to the Colorado Springs Community. I happened to be a part of that effort and was delighted to get the news that it won a first prize for “News/Public Affairs” from Public Radio News Directors, Inc., a national organization of journalists who give the award “to honor the very best in local public radio.” If you want to listen to the whole broadcast, click here.

It’s always interesting to me to get to mid-summer and see just how much produce we have available to us in southern Colorado. This year I doubled the size of my garden, just to see if I could handle it. If I could, I intended to “put aside” a bunch. To put aside refers to canning, freezing, drying or otherwise saving your harvest for a later date because, let’s face it, there is actually a limit to just how many tomatoes you can stuff in your face in a season, once they start coming.

I have roughly the equivalent of two 15’x20′ plots in my personal garden. In taking on my neighbor’s garden, I doubled that. My neighbor helps from time to time and my ex-neighbor, who started the garden there, asked to come back and help in exchange for veggies since she and her husband were not going to be around enough of the summer to have their own garden.

This being the year of the weed, I’m so glad to have the help. It turns out that my personal garden is probably about all I can handle without quitting my day job. The good thing is that others are helping here and there and reaping the benefits.

Which brings me back to putting aside. I’ve already blanched and frozen the spinach and snap peas. I’m still harvesting kale, chard and broccoli in the garden, but just enough to use and not enough to freeze.

The root veggies are about big enough to start using. Carrots, parsnips, and many root vegetables will keep in the ground through the winter under a thick layer of mulch, so I will only pull those as needed. While beets could be treated the same way, they are so delicious roasted that I will roast and freeze them in their skins.

You can also freeze peas, beans, corn and anything else you see in the frozen section of the grocery store. Freezing vegetables preserves nutrients better and produce tastes fresher this way, so it’s my preferred method for putting aside food. However, if there’s ever a power outage, you could lose everything , so I am going to learn to can this year.

A quick nod to drying and pickling foods: Apples, plums, peaches and cherry tomatoes,  are wonderful cut into 1/4″ thick slices and dried. Cucumbers, of course, are wonderful pickled. Check out this easy refrigerator pickle recipe from Organic Gardening

Audrey’s Pickles

Organic Gardening, Aug/Sept 2010

Makes 2 quarts, approximately 18 servings

1 lb. medium cucumbers

3 cloves garlic

½ t. black peppercorns

½ t. whole mustard seed

1 t. fresh dill weed

1 whole dried bay leaf

2/3 c. brown sugar

6 ½ T. white distilled vinegar

6 ½ T. white-wine vinegar

¾ c. water

Cut the cucumbers into spears or slices and place in a 2-quart glass container or jar with a lid. Add the garlic, peppercorns, mustard seed, dill weed and bay leaf.

In a bowl, stir together the brown sugar, vinegars and water. Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumbers and shake the jar well to combine. Cover and chill. For fullest flavor, wait at least 24 hours before serving. These pickles will keep up to 3 months in the refrigerator.

Finally, there is canning. Canning is a little more labor intensive and requires special equipment to keep the food safe, but it’s worth it in the long run because you can really keep things for a long time without refrigeration. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great website with tons of information on safely preserving foods: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/. You can put aside tomatoes and tomato sauce, beans, and pureed winter squash very easily. Fruit is perfect to make into jam or put aside sliced and ready to eat.

Preserving food is a time-honored tradition. It’s so rewarding, in the middle of winter, to be able to pull out a slice of summer. Maybe this is your year to learn a new skill as well!

July 31, 2011 at 8:22 am Leave a comment

Strawberry Landscapes

Mmmm, Strawberry Tart

Your Lips Will Love This

Yesterday we ate the first two strawberries of the season from our front yard. They were amazingly sweet, fragrant and delicious, much more flavorful than grocery-store strawberries, making me wish we had more. Which is why I’m going to take really good care of what’s left after this winter-of-no-water and hope that we can encourage more healthy plants to take over.

I started growing strawberries under my plum trees to create a living mulch that would eventually take over the area. I have to remember to keep up with the watering. I’m a withholder at heart, feeling that in our dry climate, things need to figure out how to live without extra water. However, when it comes to fruit, you must give it decent water when it’s blooming and fruiting to encourage better and more fruit. Berries are so expensive that it’s worth it to spend a little more on water and have super-fresh, super-flavorful fruit, packed with all the goodness of food plucked right from the source.

Strawberries are also pretty easy to grow. They don’t take a lot of extra work once planted and want to move all over the place, so find a spot where they can take over, if they like it. Make sure the soil is well-amended and mulched to help new plants maintain moisture. Then, sit back and enjoy as the berries come rolling in!

June 11, 2011 at 9:32 am Leave a comment

Gluten-free Spinach Quiche

Simple, delicious and fun to try with GF ingredients, this was a hit at the latest class! Try it and let me know if you like it!

Spinach Quiche

Single Pie Crust from Allergy-free Desserts

5 T. cold water

2 c. Betsy’s Baking Mix (see below) or Bob’s Red Mill GF baking mix

1 t. salt

1 t. xanthan gum

2/3 c. organic palm fruit oil shortening, chilled (Substitute cold-pressed coconut oil or butter, depending on your filling.)

Measure the water into a liquid measuring cup and place it in the freezer just while you are measuring and mixing the other ingredients.

In a food processor, pulse together the baking mix, salt and xanthan gum. Add the shortening cut into small chunks and pulse to blend. There should be lumps the size of peas or slightly larger in the dough. It’s better to have larger chunks than smaller as it will blend together more when you add the water and it is very important not to over mix the dough.

Add the water and pulse just until dough begins to come together.

Dump the dough out onto waxed paper and form into a disk. Wrap tightly and chill for at least 30 minutes. If chilling 2 hours or more, remove dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before moving on.

Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a marble board, between two sheets of parchment paper or pastry cloth, or on the waxed paper, adding a little baking mix to the top as needed. Roll from the middle in one direction only and turn an eighth of a turn with each roll, until the dough is 1/8”thick and large enough to fit a 9” pie plate.

Remove the waxed paper and press the dough into the pie plate. If the dough cracks, just press it back together with your fingers. Crimp the edges and use according to your recipe’s instructions.

Store unbaked pie crust, tightly wrapped and frozen, for up to 2 months.

Filling

1 T. olive oil, plus extra to grease the pan

1 medium leek, washed and chopped into ½” pieces

4 oz. fresh spinach

6 medium or 4 large eggs

½ c. half and half (Sub ¼ c. milk and ¼ c. yogurt for a tangier taste)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 oz. Parrano or gruyere cheese, grated

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add leeks. Stir, then cover and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

While leeks cook, whisk together eggs, half-and-half and salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside.

When leeks are tender, add spinach and cover to wilt, 2-3 minutes. Mix together and pour into pie plate with crust already in it. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top, then pour in egg mixture to fill in all the cracks. Place in heated oven and bake for 30-45 minutes until set in the middle. When done, remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Betsy’s Baking Mix from Allergy-free Desserts

Makes enough for about three cakes

3 ¾ c. garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour

2 ¼ c. potato starch

1 ½ c. tapioca flour

Measure all of the flours into a large container that has an airtight lid. Stir very well with a wire whisk until evenly incorporated and no white spots remain. Then seal the container and shake vigorously for 1 minute.

Store the baking mix in a cool dry place for up to 3 months, making sure to whisk it each time before measuring.

June 5, 2011 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

Exercise in its Many Forms

It has been proven, very likely with you as your own best test subject – if you don’t like the type of exercise you choose, you’re unlikely to follow through and continue to do it. That said, there are umpteen ways to get a dose of heart- and limb-healthy energy into your day, so you should be able to find something that makes you happy. Let’s talk!

Walking  is still one of the best forms of exercise. It’s easy on your body and you don’t need a gym membership to make it happen. It makes me a little crazy to think of all the people who get in their cars and drive to the gym to exercise when they could just walk out their door and have their workout in front of them. All you need is a decent pair of shoes, which you should have no matter what type of exercise you choose.

Cycling is even better for those with joint and muscle problems. If you are overweight, it’s even easier for your joints to handle cycling than walking. Of course, this requires the bicycle, but you can find pretty good equipment at bike swaps, garage sales and online. Buy something inexpensive to start and upgrade as soon as you know you’re going to stick with it.

Yoga has now been proven to lower blood pressure, help with weight loss, reduce stress (which causes a whole host of other health issues) and may calm an irregular heartbeat. (http://tinyurl.com/3l3x8vk for the article on this particular issue.) It’s great because it helps you get limber, makes you focus on your breathing to keep you aware and also requires very little investment. A yoga mat and comfortable clothes are all you need, although blocks and a strap are sometimes handy.

Tai Chi Chih is the beginning step for those interested in martial arts. It teaches you control and is gentle on your body, which makes it great for those who don’t intend to take up more vigorous forms of exercise. No equipment or special clothing necessary and you can do it indoors or out, depending on the season and the weather.

Swimming is a great summer activity. There are outdoor pools and, if you’re lucky, lakes to tempt you. It’s gentle on your body and the only “equipment” you need is a suit. With this exercise, you use your own body’s weight to firm and tone your muscles.

Hiking is like walking, but the irregular ground uses your muscles in a more complete way, making you more stable overall. Plus, hiking allows you to get away from city noise and pollution and truly reconnect with yourself, and maybe your dogs.

Jogging is a wonderful way to burn calories and get zen at the same time. I never believed it until I started jogging, but it truly puts you in a “zone” where you feel at peace and pretty darn happy. If you are feeling strong in your walking routine, you can start by adding in a minute or two of jogging for every five minutes of walking. This is called doing intervals and is a great workout as well. Eventually you will work your way up to running longer distances until you are comfortable with where you are. Try to find dirt or gravel paths to lessen the impact on your joints.

Trail Running is a blend of hiking and jogging, and would be my favorite form of exercise if I were in a little better shape. You get that magic blend of great workout, beautiful scenery, softer ground and the runner’s high. What more could you want?

Of course, there’s kick boxing, climbing, all kinds of martial arts and even dancing, so no matter what, you should be able to find something that makes you happy and keeps you going.

June 1, 2011 at 6:06 am Leave a comment

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