05 April 2011

spring cleaning doesn't have to be a raw deal

I've been known to do a lot of silly things in my life but this may have been one of the silliest: starting a food blog while going through my spring cleanse.  With my love of bacon and baking I'm obviously not a health nut.  But over the past few years I've become much more conscious of the way I eat and how what I put into my body affects me, physically and mentally.  I now try to maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes riding my bike a lot, exercising and eating well-balanced, healthy meals.  Sure it sounds easy and for lots of people this is how the live naturally.

Not me.  I grew up on starchy comfort foods in a house where most of my time was spent in the kitchen and though I was always active, I also always had a few extra pounds to lug around.  When I started grad school and work in NY, eventually moving to Brooklyn, I found myself doing more walking than I had in my entire life and I started feeling more fit and it was awesome!  I soon realized that with a few other adjustments like taking vitamins, eating healthier, making a point of walking more often and staying active, everything changed.  My mind was clearer, my body felt better, I got sick less often.  This may sound pretty corny coming from someone who just last week bragged about her amazing candy dish but it's true.  Everything in moderation, I suppose.

Like I said, healthy living isn't always easy.  The cold Winter months drag on and I'm a sucker for a rich, creamy soup with a wedge of hearty bread.  Savory smells pour out of my oven during those dreary days and my bike gets lonely for lack of riding.  When the weather begins to break, I quickly come to realize that I need something major to jump start the healthy living that I've covered up in cable knit sweaters.  I've found that the best way for me to do this is through a Springtime cleanse.  I mean, you deep clean your home in the Spring, shouldn't you do the same for your body?  A week of fasting with detox teas, rest and tons of water is followed by a week of breaking my fast with a primarily raw vegetarian diet.  My carnivorous instincts may beg to differ but my meals during this cleanse can actually be pretty tasty and are definitely creative.  Tonight, I enjoyed one of my all time favorites: Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce and a side salad dressed in tahini and ginger.  Whether you're a meat lover who hates to eat your vegetables or a vegetarian health nut, this is a meal that welcomes the warming weather and gets your body ready to enjoy the outdoors again.

summer rolls
rice paper wrappers
anything you want!
suggested stuffing:
thinly sliced veggies (peppers, carrots, avocado, cucumbers, mushrooms, cabbage, lettuce...)
extra firm tofu
seaweed salad
1. Soak rice paper wrappers in warm, salted water until flimsy, about 1 minute.  Lay flat on a wooden cutting board.
2.  Lay your stuffing materials in the center of the wrapping; use as much as will fit in your fist, too much and the wrapper will tear.  Roll the wrapper around the stuffing, sealing it all in like you would a burrito.
3. Refrigerate at least 10 minutes.  When dry and secure, cut in half and serve with dipping sauces.

Like the ingredients of your rolls, the dipping sauces can really be whatever you want.  Choose something with flavors that pair well with the veggies you choose or that add extra flavors.  Some that I like are plain old soy sauce, wasabi ranch dressing*, creamy curry sauce*, sweet red chili sauce (Thai Kitchen makes a really nice one that I use a lot,) and my personal favorite, spicy peanut sauce.     *I also have recipes for these two sauces.  Get in touch if you're interested.

perfect peanut sauce
1/2 c crunchy peanut butter
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sriracha (or more if you like it extra spicy)
2 tbsp warm water
whisk all ingredients together until smooth.  add more water if the consistency is too thick. chill.

Sometimes a meal doesn't feel complete unless it includes a salad.  With so many veggies already making up the main course I wanted to keep this one simple with lettuce, tomatoes and sliced avocado.  I like to make my own dressings when I can because that's the best way to be sure that there aren't any additives or preservatives in it.  If you're going to go through the trouble of making and eating a healthy salad, why would you want to put any bad stuff on top?  Also, salad dressings can be expensive and my philosophy is why buy what you can make yourself?  So here's my version of the very yummy Annie's Naturals Goddess Dressing:

homemade goddess dressing
1/2 c tahini
1 tbsp fresh ground ginger
1 clove chopped garlic
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 c warm water
sesame seeds
whisk all ingredients together. chill.

Even for just a short amount of time it's not easy to maintain this lifestyle so a round of applause to all my veggie friends out there.  With my husband sitting next to me savoring every bite of his jalapeno poppers and sipping a cold beer it's tough to realize that these two weeks are worth it but they definitely are.  When I reach the end of my Spring cleanse, I feel refreshed and light, as if all of those pots of savory Winter soups and stews had never happened.  And trust me, if I can do this, anyone can!  I'm set to hop back on my bike and ride to Coney Island... to enjoy a Nathan's hot dog.  Hey, I earned it!

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