Cleanse This: My So-called Cleanse Experience

Who out there has tried a cleanse?

(I’ll bet a few of you nodded yes)

Who out there has THOUGHT about trying a cleanse?

(I bet many of you nodded yes and raised your hands to that question)

Green juice – not so appetizing

Cleansing has been an on and off topic in our household for at least a few years. We have fanatical friends who go on radical juice cleanses once a month (or so it seems) and family members who have committed to month-long “gentler” cleanses that include solid food and  smoothies galore, not to mention that a raw foods & fresh juice retailer opened  around the corner last year,  taunting us on a daily basis to give starvation a shot for the low price of $60 per day. All participants claim to feel fabulous afterwards: clearer skin, leaner waist lines, higher energy levels. And despite all this, I’ve shied away from it. Until…

I read about Bon Appetit’s Food Lover’s Cleanse. I fell for it hook, line and sinker over the winter holidays as I overindulged meal after meal, and gluttonously flipped through the magazine in my limited time away from the table. The principles are simple: tons of fruit and vegetables, lots of whole grains and healthy fats,   limited caffeine and alcohol, and only natural sweeteners. 3 square meals + 2 snacks per day. It’s a non-cleanser’s cleanse. Sounds pretty good for 2 weeks, right? Here’s the tough part: no dairy, no refined bread, no pasta. For 2 weeks. Ouch. But, still, a heck of a lot better than all liquid, all the time for a week, right? That green juice scares me.

Black Cod with Swiss Chard, Olives, and Lemon with Red Quinoa on the side (photo courtesy of Bon Appetit)

The magazine hooked me on Day #1’s recipe for Cod with Swiss Chard and Red Quinoa with Pistachios.  Doesn’t sound like a painful meal to consume to me. The rest of the recipes were online, along with a shopping list to help plan your meals. Hubs and I discussed, and he agreed to commit. We decided to give it a whirl, and roughly followed the plan for about 2 weeks. I know, that sounds pretty loosy-goosy, but it was a start. I probably prepared about a dozen recipes altogether from the 14 day Cleanse (thank you author Sara Dickerman), several of which I have repeated (voluntarily) since, and a few that are now permanent additions to my repertoire. I’ll be writing about these new additions in upcoming posts.

Few other comments on the Cleanse: This is not a raid-your-pantry undertaking. Quite a bit of shopping was required, which I found to be a pro and con. The cleanse took me out of my comfort zone cooking-wise, incorporating quite a few new ingredients like harissa, red quinoa, hazelnuts (who buys hazelnuts on a regular basis?), but that was also fun. From a time investment, many of the dinner recipes were time-consuming. As a huge fan of the Minimalist, Mark Bittman, I like simple meals and some of the dinner recommendations were complex, and took a lot of prep. Hubs reminded me that the plan didn’t portend to be “fast and easy weeknight recipes,” but I still thought it worth mentioning.

In the meantime, a few words about the teaser recipe that got me hooked – Black Cod with Swiss Chard and Red Quinoa.  Delicious! What a satisfying and flavorful meal – Hubs even tasted the swiss chard. I tried a few substitutes for black cod, since it is hard to come by – regular cod, sea bass. All worked fine. And the Red Quinoa with Pistachios recipe is just delicious. Red quinoa does taste different from your standard quinoa – it’s also more expensive and harder to find. This was my first dish with it and it’s worth a try.  I’ll post the recipe below for you as well. Hubs loved it, too,

Red Quinoa with Pistachios (adapted from Bon Appetit)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup red quinoa, rinsed well in a fine-mesh sieve
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1/4 cup unsalted, shelled raw pistachios, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (I omitted as I didn’t have any on hand, and was delicious nonetheless)


  • Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add quinoa and cook, stirring frequently, until quinoa starts to toast and smell nutty, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  • Stir in quinoa, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until quinoa is tender, 25-30 minutes (15 if using white quinoa). Remove pan from heat, fluff quinoa with a fork. Cover; let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Fold pistachios, parsley, and mint into quinoa. Season with salt and pepper.

Yield: 4 servings, or as a side dish for 2 with leftovers


Homemade Edamame Kale Quinoa Inspired by the Specialty Foods Counter

They say never to go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. I was so tempted to load up on prepared foods yesterday at Guido’s Marketplace in Great Barrington, but used my limited will power to stave off the urges. Guido’s Quinoa Edamame Salad (pictured below) looked divine  on an empty stomach. I liked that kale was one of the ingredients – it basically makes any recipe healthy in my book – and edamame, too (super food + protein). I nearly ordered a large container when I remembered that I had a bunch of kale in my CSA pick-up, and since it had been frosty, it needed to be prepared pronto.  Hold up, wait a minute, I was going to prepare this from scratch. I snapped a picture to capture the ingredient list (thank you, Guido’s) and hurried to the check-out counter.

Tempted: Quinoa Edamame Salad @ Guido’s Marketplace

While I unloaded the cart, I started making my mental map of prep steps.  I didn’t know the quantities, or the preparation instructions, but I was willing to wing it, even work under pressure as my belly was grumbling.  The first step would be to cook the quinoa (brilliant, I know). While the quinoa cooked, I’d prepare the vegetables and herbs (edamame, kale, parsley) and whip up the dressing. Mind you, these are all assumptions that I made.

I did a quick search online to confirm the cooking time for quinoa and found a great tip fromThe Kitchn blog. While boiling the quinoa, add a whole clove of garlic and a branch of rosemary to add an additional layer of flavor.  I loved this – the quinoa simply prepared like that tasted good enough to eat. But I powered forward, and to cut to the chase, the dish turned out great. If I had had more foresight, I’d have asked for a sample of Guido’s, so I would have had a taste benchmark as well. But, for a visual comparison, you can see my dish below. Not bad on the eyes, and pretty darn good on the palette. Recipe below photo for the adventurous.

Craving satisfied: Edamame Kale Quinoa Salad


1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water or broth
3 cloves garlic peeled, 1 smashed, the other 2 cloves minced
1 sprig of rosemary (optional)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup of edamame (if frozen, prepare according to package)
1 bunch of kale or tuscan kale, center ribs removed
1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley, washed and chopped
1-2 dried chili peppers (optional)



Rinse the quinoa well. Put the quinoa and water or broth in a small saucepan, add 1 clove smashed garlic and sprig of rosemary (if using), and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes until all water is absorbed. Fluff with fork and let cool.

While quinoa is cooking, steam kale for 2-3 minutes. Remove from steamer with tongs and chop roughly. Place kale, chopped parsley, and edamame in mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, prepare the dressing by combining remaining garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and chilis (if using). Whisk in the olive oil, and adjust seasoning as needed.

Once quinoa has cooled, add to bowl with vegetables and drizzle salad dressing over it. Stir gently to combine. Serve immediately, or store for 1-2 days.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Hard Frost: CSA Pick-up 10/13/12

Mid-October and the end of CSA season in Western Mass is growing nigh.

Warning: Temps dipped into the 20s last night

If you like your kale crispy, it’s your lucky day:

Frosty Kale

Despite the overnight freezing temps, we still had a wide assortment of veggies at today’s pick-up, including some new fall veggies like Brussel Sprouts (yay!), multi-colored carrots, acorn squash and leeks (double yay!):

New: Brussel Sprouts

New: Carrots & Leeks (hello again, potatoes)

I was already brainstorming on what to do with this bounty and knew I’d have to act quick. Everything looked great, but once the ice melted, I feared many things would go to mush, and worse, rot. Here’s what I’ll make once I get these puppies home:

  • Leek, Potato and Caramelized Cabbage Soup
  • Kale & Edamame Quinoa salad (inspired by Guido’s prepared foods counter)
  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts
  • Acorn Squash with Chili-lime Vinaigrette
  • TBD

Here’s the full run-down of today’s pick-up:




Tabbouli Tabbouli Tabbouli

I just said it 3X because it’s kind of a dirty word in our house. Some people (who will go unnamed) won’t touch it. So instead of putting it on the menu, I made a delicious quinoa recipe on Saturday with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and garlic from our CSA pick-up, along with parsley, chives and mint from our garden, and didn’t utter the 8 letter word. And what do you know? It was roundly enjoyed.

I’ve written about quinoa and its virtues before, so no need to blather on about that. I will say that this recipe from Bon Appetit for Tabbouli-style quinoa was easy to prepare and very enjoyable: crunchy, summery, fresh and healthy. It also lasts a day or two, tasting better on day 2 if you ask me.

Bon Appetit’s Tabbouli Quinoa. My preparation looked the exact same

I prepared the recipe with minimal modifications and it was perfect [used chopped and seeded hothouse tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes]. Here’s how I know:

  1. Aesthetics: it looked exactly like BA’s photo above (ex the cherry tomatoes)
  2. 2nd Helpings: Served at a casual buffet lunch and discerning guests came back for more (ok, not super scientific, but unless everything else tasted awful…)
  3. The “H” Factor: Hubs liked it

Just call it something else. Chalk up another win for quinoa. I still have to try Rebecca’s recipe before the end of the month.

What’s for Monday Night Dinner? Insalata di Farro

It’s hard to let go of summer. That, plus I had a half bag of pearled farro staring me in the face that I had smuggled back from Italy.

Farro Perlato imported from Italy in small batches. In my suitcase

Farro is an ancient Italian grain that is high in protein and retains a nice chewy crunch when you cook it. It is similar to barley or spelt, but not exactly either. Go figure. I know it’s odd to bring back grains as a holiday souvenir, but real farro is hard to find stateside. And, as you know by now, I hate to let anything go to waste.

I also had a hodgepodge of veggies left over from Saturday’s CSA pick-up, so I decided to make a simple Insalata di Farro, or Farro Salad. It is reminiscent of any other type of grain salad, like quinoa or rice salads.

Not to brag, but  carnivorous Hubs deemed this vegetarian meal “quite good.”

Insalata di Farro with radishes, tomatoes, peppers and scallions

You’ll see the recipe below, but consider this a starting point. You can use any cooked or raw veggies that you may have on hand, and you can also add some cut up cheese or meat for additional protein. While we were in Tuscany, our neighbor Chiara prepared an Insalata di Farro  with mozzarella, chick peas, tomatoes and potatoes. Delish.


1 cup farro
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice [can use red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar if you don’t have any lemon]
1 – 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped roughly
4-6 radishes, thinly sliced
4 scallions, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped roughly
Salt and pepper to taste


Rinse farro well before use. Put in medium pot and add 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, salt well, and then let simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. While the farro is cooking, you can chop up your veggies and make the dressing.

Chopped Veggies: Chef’s choice

Put lemon juice (or vinegar) in a small bowl and drizzle in olive oil while stirring to make the dressing. Add salt and pepper to dressing

Farro is ready when it has softened and the water has evaporated.

Almost ready: Farro on the stove

Keep an eye on it while it cooks. If the water absorbs too quickly and it’s not ready yet, you may need to add another 1/2 cup of water. Once it is ready, take it off the burner and fluff with fork. Let it cool. Once cooled, add to large bowl with the chopped veggies and dressing. Taste for seasoning. Garnish with chopped parsley or basil, if you like. A tavola!

Yield: 3-4 servings

Monday Night Dinner: Quinoa & Bean Salad

I was feeling like something fresh and light after a long weekend of travel and nonstop snacking. I wanted a combination of veggies and a healthy grain or protein. I settled on quinoa, a newly discovered foodstuff for me.

Oh, quinoa, how do I love thee, let me count the ways?

You are easy to prepare, versatile and oh-so-healthy. Not quite a grain, more like a vegetable, high in protein and the good kind of fiber.  Downsides are that it is messy to clean up when consumed by a toddler, but even the munchkin likes it.
I loosely followed this recipe for Quinoa and Bean Salad, with a few substitutes:
  • Prepare quinoa as instructed on package
  • In a separate pan, saute 1/2 of a chopped red onion
  • Add 12 – 15 stalks of asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
  • Saute’ for a few minutes and add quinoa once ready
  • Take off heat and mix in 2 cups of arugula, some shredded basil, crumbled ricotta salata and a few tablespoons of vinaigrette
  • Mix well and serve. The arugula should wilt slightly. Add additional salt and pepper as necessary
I used ricotta salata instead of feta in the recipe because I knew hubs would NEVER touch it if he heard it included feta. And I skipped the beans. Would have been another reason for refusal to eat from the audience…
Yummy dinner, maybe a little light as a main dish. Husband asks:

What’s the big deal about quinoa?