Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Brown Rice Broccoli Salad with Cilantro Dressing

When I tell people about the Conscious Cleanse, a food-based cleanse, people often ask me what I eat on the cleanse. I have written about the cleanse and different Conscious Cleanse foods before. Here are a few examples:
  • Curried Carrot Soup – a recipe from the Conscious Cleanse book – it’s one of our favorites
  • Green Soup – I basically came up with this recipe by cleaning out my fridge, but it’s delicious.
  • Here is a post that shows what I ate on one day during a previous Conscience Cleanse. I didn’t eat any “treats” that day, but you could add a date or a “ball” (dates, nuts and other yummy ingredients) or two from the Conscious Cleanse book for a little sweet, delicious treat.
After doing the Conscious Cleanse numerous times, I find that many of the recipes I come up with on my own (I really hardly ever follow a recipe but make things up as I go), are cleanse-friendly. The reason is that the cleanse taught me to make food with fresh, unprocessed ingredients and really helped me to clean up my pantry. In particular, I’ve gotten much better about eliminating packaged sauces, which are usually full of sugar and other not-so-good-for-you ingredients.

A few weeks ago, I started making a brown rice/broccoli salad with a cilantro dressing, and we all like it. It is a cleanse-friendly recipe. I also made the recipe with Romanesco from our CSA box a few times, and we like it even better with Romanesco, but I can’t always find it.

Brown Rice Broccoli Salad with Cilantro Dressing

  • 2 cups cooked, warm brown rice
  • 2 heads broccoli, cut into small pieces and lightly steamed (I like it to have some bite), still warm
  • 1/2 cucumber, cut in half and sliced, sprinkled with salt
  • 3 T rice vinegar (make sure it does not have added sugar)
  • 3 T avocado oil
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • Cilantro leaves from about 5 stems (if you don’t like cilantro, basil would be a good substitute but tastes totally different; you can also increase the amount of cilantro leaves for a stronger flavor)
  • 1/2 to 1 small garlic clove (optional)
  1. Cook the rice and broccoli and keep them warm.
  2. Put the vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, cilantro leaves, and garlic into a small food processor and process until smooth.
  3. Pour the dressing over the warm rice and broccoli and let marinate and cool. Then add the cucumber slices and mix. Refrigerate for a few hours.
  4. Enjoy!
This salad gets better the longer it marinates, so it’s a great dish to make on the weekend and eat for the next few days. It’s also very portable and can be taken to work or the beach, like I did a few weeks ago.

The next Conscious Cleanse starts on April 5, and registration closes on Monday, March 31. Click here for more information and to register.

Questions: Do you usually follow recipes, or do you make things up as you cook? Do you like cilantro? I like it a lot, but my sister hates it and won't eat anything that has any in it, even if it's just a little...

Be well,

Sunday, March 23, 2014

How to Cook Artichokes and Blind Wine Tasting Party

We live about an hour away from the “Artichoke Capital of the World,” and it is hard to believe that until recently I had never made artichokes at home. They had been on my “list” forever, but somehow I was intimidated by them. When they showed up in our CSA box a few weeks ago, I finally steamed my first ones, and we loved them so much that we have been buying and cooking them ever since.

The other day, we bought some giant artichokes from Castroville at Costco and the bag came with some handy instructions on different ways to prepare them.


The first few time we made artichokes, we steamed them. We boiled the giant artichokes from Costco in some water with lemon juice.

Before you boil or steam the artichokes, do the following:
  1. Cut off the top of the artichokes (about 3/4 to one inch).
  2. Remove the leaves on the bottom.
  3. Cut off the spiky ends of all leaves with scissors.
  4. Spread the leaves apart and wash them well. Quite a bit of dirt can accumulate deep in the leaves.

To steam medium-sized artichokes:
  1. Put the artichokes in a steamer basket over salted water with lemon juice and a bay leaf.
  2. Steam for about 25 – 35 minutes, until you can insert a knife easily into the artichokes.
To boil extra-large artichokes:
  1. Put the artichokes into a pot of boiling water that is salted and contains the juice of a lemon so that the artichokes are about 3/4 covered with water.
  2. Boil for about 45 minutes.

To eat the artichokes:
  1. Pull off a leaf.
  2. Dip the white, fleshy part into a dipping sauce (see below for some suggestions) and put the leaf into your mouth and remove the white, fleshy part with your teeth.
  3. Discard the rest of the leaf and eat the next leaf.
  4. Once all the leaves are eaten, remove the choke (the fuzzy part) with a  knife. What is left is the heart and the attached stem. Cut the heart and stem into pieces and eat them or keep them to use in other dishes.
Artichoke Dipping Sauces
  • Mayonnaise with a little balsamic vinegar mixed in – so simple yet so good
  • Mayonnaise mixed with lemon juice, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce (add different herbs, such as basil or tarragon)
  • Garlic butter (melted butter with minced garlic)
  • Lemon butter (melted butter with lemon juice)
  • Greek yogurt with lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper

Blind Wine Tasting Party
On Saturday we had a blind wine tasting party. We asked guests to bring a favorite bottle of affordable red wine (no more than $15). Once all the guests got there, we put brown bags over each bottle and put letters on them. We then tasted the wines, took notes on flavor profiles, overall impressions, guessed what grapes each wine was, and gave each wine a score from 1-10. Everyone was also supposed to identify his/her own bottle. Once everyone had tasted all wines, we talked about each wine by referring to our notes, tasted the wine again, and then revealed each bottle.

The tasting and discussing notes was a lot of fun. We actually put a bottle of Charles Shaw in there, and one of our friends, a guy with quite of bit of wine-drinking experience, picked it as his favorite wine! Also, we had put a $20 bottle of wine in the mix since Andy had liked it so much when he tasted it a few weeks ago. During the tasting, Andy thought it was the Charles Shaw! We all had a lot of fun with the blind tasting and the different opinions and guesses!

For appetizers, we had a cheese tray, fruit salad, prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe pieces, prosciutto-wrapped cream cheese-stuffed dates, and cucumber rounds with smoked salmon, olives, and crackers.

The main course was spaghetti squash casserole, a salad, and roasted mushroom and asparagus. I cooked the components and assembled the casserole on Friday evening and put it in the oven for 45 minutes on Saturday after our guests had arrived. It was a stress-free way to entertain.

For dessert I made chocolate-covered strawberries, grapes, and blueberries. Since I am not a baker, that’s a great easy dessert that everyone enjoyed (melt dark chocolate chips with a little butter, dip the fruit in it and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let the fruit dry in the fridge). I also bought some macaroons at Costco.

It was a fun evening, and I’m looking forward to hosting more blind wine- (and maybe beer-) tasting parties.

Questions: Do you like artichokes? If so, what’s your favorite way to eat them? What was the highlight of your weekend?
Be well,

Monday, March 17, 2014

Making Time for What’s Important

A few weeks ago, I felt kind of sorry for myself on a Sunday night as it seemed  my entire weekend was filled with “work.” Well, it was filled with quite a bit of actual work as I spent several hours grading papers and prepping for my classes.

But I spent the rest of the time doing housework (laundry, cleaning, ironing, organizing, etc.), going grocery shopping (at the store and the Farmers’ Market), and prepping and precooking food for the week. I also walked a lot, something I truly enjoy. Still, somewhat frustrated, I said on Sunday night to Andy: “How do people do it? I seem to spend my entire weekend doing work. And there is hardly any time for fun.”

Meal Prep 1027

As soon as I said that, I actually realized that it wasn’t entirely true. First, I actually enjoy cleaning and organizing the house. And I like the feeling when everything is “the way it should be” even more. It makes a HUGE difference in how my week will be. When things are nice, clean, and organized, I feel much more in control. When things are out of order, I get easily overwhelmed. Spending the time to get everything organized is worth it every time and an absolute necessity for me to live the life I want to live.

Second, I enjoy selecting healthy foods and prepping and precooking these foods. I feel connected to the food we eat, and when I do a lot of precooking on the weekend, we eat a lot better. It also helps me feel a lot less stressed and overwhelmed during the week.

Ultimately, I believe creating an organized living space and having plenty of healthy food options available has helped me lose weight and then maintain my weight, and allowed me to be as healthy as possible. It’s a priority for me, and it is who I am today. In the end, I know that I am a much happier and healthier person when I spend the necessary time to get these things done. We all have the same amount of time each day, and we all decide how to spend it (this is especially true on weekends or during time off). How we spend our time shows what is important to us and can have huge consequences for our health and happiness. Doing the Conscious Cleanse numerous times over the past year has helped me to become even more organized and focused on health and well being.

This past weekend there was definitely not only work but also lots of fun as we spent Sunday at the beach. The kid has been to Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz on two field trips, and Andy accompanied his class on one of them. They both had been talking about how much they liked it. And I agree. It’s a wonderful beach with a nice little walking path through the monarch butterfly habitat. Plus, there is plenty of street parking close by, so you can avoid the parking fee and get some steps at the same time.

Questions: How do you feel about doing a lot of housework and prep work on the weekend (or during the week)? Do you have any tips and tricks to make it any easier? Organizing our lives is high on my priority list; knowing that I’ll be my best self with the boys once everything is organized makes it easier. What was the highlight of your weekend?
Be well,

Sunday, March 9, 2014

New Gym, A New Workout Routine, and Weekend Fun

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Retro Fitness to see if I wanted to check out their brand-new gyms that just opened in San Jose, California (one on Foxworthy and the other on Blossom Hill Road). It’s my understanding that these are the first two Retro Fitness locations on the West Coast.

When we arrived, I first noticed the colorful interior - yellow and red. While the colors do remind you of a certain fast food chain, I really enjoyed the colorful surroundings and felt energized throughout my workout.

Retro Fitness has all the free weights and machines that you could want to get a good workout. Another nice feature is that all the cardio machines have built-in TVs.

But probably the coolest part for me is the Cardio Theatre – a darkened room with a big movie screen with all the types of cardio equipment also found on the main floor. Every day there is a different movie that is shown continuously. On one of the days they were showing The Fast and the Furious - it made time go by really quickly. Walking on a treadmill while watching a good movie is a fun way to get those 10,000+ daily steps.

In addition, Retro Fitness also offers group exercise classes as well as recorded exercise classes on demand that can be played in the group exercise room on a big screen.

Retro Fitness also has a small childcare room as well as basic, but clean, locker rooms.

We belonged to a “fancy” gym (thanks to a huge discount) for many years but canceled the membership about six months ago because I had been doing more yoga and barre classes at a studio, and we have some weight sets at home. I am impressed by Retro Fitness and by what it offers for only $19.99/month (and no enrollment fee with a one year membership).

After I did my first workout at Retro Fitness, I was reminded of what to do and not to do when you start a new workout routine, or what to do when you get back to a routine you haven’t done in quite some time:
  • Don’t assume you can lift the same weights you lifted months (or years) ago – you will be incredibly sore, or, worse, hurt yourself lifting too much. I was truly surprised by how much strength I had lost, especially because I do a fair amount of body weight exercises, like push ups and also do squats with dumbbells, etc.
  • Start with weights you can lift for 8 to 10 reps with good form, even if that’s a lot less than what you used to be able to lift.
  • You don’t have to use every single piece of equipment in the gym – in fact, you shouldn’t, instead have a plan (see next bullet point)
  • Make a workout plan before you start your workout so that you don’t wander around the gym without a focus or get distracted by “cool” equipment.
After my first workout, I was very sore, but I really enjoyed the soreness. While I get a fair amount of physical activity every day, I haven’t done as many weight workouts with heavy weights as I should have in the past months, and lifting heavy weights again was a really nice change of pace. It was a reminder that it’s good to change things up once in a while, and I truly feel a passion again for lifting weights, something that I hadn’t felt in quite some time.

We worked out at Retro Fitness a few times this weekend, but the highlight of our weekend was that the kid was student of the month at his Korean school.

Reminder in case you are interested: The April Conscious Cleanse starts on April 5. Through Sunday, March 16 you can get $25 off registration with code EBCC414. Click here for more information and to register. Here are my posts about my previous experiences with the Conscious Cleanse.

Questions: Do you belong to a gym? If so, what’s your favorite part of your gym? Do you lift weights? If so, how do you keep things interesting? What was the highlight of your weekend?
Be well,

[Disclaimer: I received a free 30-day workout pass from Retro Fitness, but, as always, all opinions in this review are my own.]

Monday, March 3, 2014

Cleaning Things Up for Spring with a Conscious Cleanse

I eat pretty healthy year-round, including during the holidays and on “special occasions.” But even after years of maintaining a pretty substantial weight loss and being mindful every day of what I eat, it’s easy for little “extras” to slip back into my diet. And those “extras” often don’t make me feel my best.

My “extras” are usually the following: a bit too much dairy (I LOVE cheese), a few extra pieces of dark chocolate (which becomes problematic once it turns into a bit too much of a daily habit), and condiments (ketchup and sriracha being my favorites – it’s scary how much sugar sauces can add…). And all these extras slowly but surely contribute to me not feeling my best.

I’m therefore looking forward to cleaning up my eating again a bit by doing the April Conscious Cleanse, starting on April 5th! 

When I did the Conscious Cleanse for the first time in January 2013 it was truly life-changing. I know that’s a big statement, but it’s true as I had been suffering from gluten- and egg-intolerances, which left me miserable after pretty much every meal and really affected me all day long and even my sleep. Eliminating numerous common allergens during the cleanse allowed me to confirm my intolerances to eggs and gluten when I re-introduced them at the end of the cleanse.

Before doing the Conscious Cleanse, I never thought I would do a cleanse as I didn’t like the idea of not eating. But the Conscious Cleanse is different as it is a food-based cleanse. Also, everyone can customize the cleanse to individual food preferences. That is, you can do the cleanse being vegan, eating grains or not, and even eating some meat and fish.

I have done the Conscious Cleanse several more times since my first cleanse, and while my results were never quite as “life-changing” again as the first time, the cleanse leaves me feeling great every time. I learn something new about myself and my body every time I do the cleanse, even if it is something “small,” like making and eating different cashew and other nut “cheeses” as a dairy alternative.

The cleanse is always a great time for me to work on my overall well-being, which goes well beyond food. For example, I make more time for journaling during the cleanse. Cleansing also always inspires me to clean up and organize my surroundings more. I think in a way spring is the perfect time for a cleanse as the urge to clean “comes with the season.” 

Registration for the April Conscious Cleanse starts today, Monday, March 3. Now through Sunday, March 16 you can get $25 off registration with code EBCC414. Click here for more information and to register.

Questions: Are you going to “clean anything up” for spring? Besides doing the Conscious Cleanse, I plan on cleaning out my closet, several kitchen drawers as well as some “miscellaneous” closets and storage areas in the next few weeks. Getting organized always makes me feel a lot better and feels very calming. In addition, I’m looking forward to getting our little garden ready for spring. I will definitely have to do some cleaning out there…

Be well,