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FLC16: Highlights from Week 1

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It’s Day 7 of my Wine and Cheese Detox and I’m going strong! I feel light and refreshed, I’m sleeping better, and I have hardly thought about cheating. I even attended a work-related wine tasting on Tuesday afternoon and spit all of the wines. But I have to admit, the feel of Napa Bordeaux blends on my lips was luscious. In continuation with my Food Lover’s Cleanse, I’ve made several delicious and healthy meals the past week:

The Chia Pudding with Pineapple and Apricot and Banana Almond Smoothie made for great breakfasts – very filling, slightly sweet, and easy to get together during a morning of multitasking. I was a little put off by the thought of it at first, but I really enjoyed the texture of the chia pudding.  I will definitely incorporate both of these into my breakfast routine.

Tofu Stir Fry

Brussel Sprout and Tofu Stir Fry

The Brussel Sprouts and Tofu Stir Fry was spicy and and hearty. I love a good stir fry, and this was recipe was pretty dynamic for so few elements. I enjoyed the crunch of the water chestnuts and the tangy spice of the gochujang – a Korean chile paste that I have been dying to use in cooking since I read about it about a year ago. I didn’t prepare the suggested rice side as directed, but I did use some black rice that I cooked with bits of ginger and topped with shredded coconut. I forgot to add furikake to the stir fry, but I remembered to include it on my leftovers the next day and it added a nice umami flavor. I would recommend this dish for a hearty vegetarian stir fry, but double up on the gochujang or add some Sriracha because it’s lacking in heat.
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Last night I made Salmon with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce and Carrot Salad with Garlicky Bok Choy. My favorite component was the carrot salad, which I didn’t make nearly enough of. I didn’t bother toasting cumin seeds and used ground cumin and turmeric instead, so it only took about 10 minutes to prepare; an easy salad to get together before heading out the door in the morning. I enjoyed the yogurt-cucumber sauce on top of the salmon, and added a bit of mint to brighten it up. Overall, this meal was flavorful, light but filling, and the flavors integrated well with each other. I used the leftover salmon filet in a lunch salad with arugula, mixed greens, cilantro, mint, cucumber, carrot, almonds and miso-tumeric dressing – yum!

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By far, the Spicy Orange Hazelnut Bark was the best thing I made all week. Since I haven’t been drinking alcohol, I find myself craving something sweet in its place. I’m not a dessert person by any means, but I can’t resist a piece of dark chocolate. Rather than munching on some hipster chocolate bars I got over the holidays, I decided to get out the double boiler and make my own bark. I’m not a huge fan of hazelnuts so I used some bittersweet chocolate with almonds from Trader Joe’s and added some pistachio pieces to the mix, which was delicious. But it was the orange zest and cayenne pepper that really pulled the bark together. I will definitely be making this on the regular, whether or not it’s a replacement for wine! Here’s to another 7 days…

No Wine or Cheese, Please!

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For the first time in my adult life, I’ve implemented a “Dry January” – GASP! I know, I know; how is it possible for me, of all people, to stop drinking wine (and all booze) for an entire month? Well frankly, it’s probably not possible. Which is why I’ve only promised myself two weeks of sobriety instead of the full month. To add to it (because no booze for two weeks isn’t enough?), I’ve also eliminated most dairy and all cheese from my diet until January 15, right in time for what will probably be a gluttonous MLK Weekend.

The line up of wines over Thanksgiving, the beginning of the Holiday binge.

The line up of wines for Thanksgiving dinner, the beginning of the Holiday binge.

I usually roll my eyes when people eliminate an entire food group from their diet for the sake of a New Years resolution or the like. But I legitimately felt the need to take a break after the over indulgence that has taken place over what’s basically been the last six months. And although most of it has to do with the desire to shed a few sugar fueled pounds, I honestly want to prove to myself and any doubters than I can in fact live without wine and cheese for two weeks. So that I can fully maximize my potential weight loss, I figured I should also implement a clean diet and lots of exercise.

The last wines I drank in 2015: Dueling Scribe Cabs (the 2009 blew the 2010 out of the water)

The last wines I drank in 2015: Dueling Scribe Cabs (the 2009 blew the 2010 out of the water)

(While I didn’t drink alcohol or eat any dairy on New Years Day, I didn’t start the official clean eating part of the diet until January 2nd because New Years Day is reserved for hangover cravings. I strongly believe that any New Year resolutions or diets shouldn’t start until January 2nd so that you have at least one day to recover and prepare yourself.)

Lucky for me, this is the time of year when the Bon Appetit Food Lovers Cleanse (BAFLC) comes out! The annual plan includes three meals, a snack and a dessert per day, focusing on healthy proteins, good fats, grains, fruits and vegetables, with minimal dairy and sugar. I particularly like this cleanse because many ingredients are repeated throughout the two weeks, and all lunches are made up of leftovers so you don’t have to spend an obscene amount of money on groceries. BA has even put together a printable grocery list that makes shopping much easier (especially when you already have most of the pantry items). While I typically don’t follow the entire two-week cleanse, I almost always find 6-10 tasty and unique recipes that I cycle through.

I kicked it off Saturday night with Mahi-Mahi with white beans, swiss chard and shiitake mushrooms. I made the meal for myself and two friends: The Mayor and First Broad. We all liked the fish (although, I could have doubled the orange zest and sage) and swiss chard, but agreed that the beans were lacking flavor. When I reheated the leftovers for lunch today, I sautéed the chard, mushrooms and beans together with 2 TB of harissa for about 5 minutes, adding the leftover cooked, chopped filet of Mahi-Mahi in towards the end. I finished the dish with a squeeze of lemon. These two small bursts of flavor added some spice and acid that the dish was otherwise lacking.

Leftovers turned healthy lunch

Leftovers turned healthy lunch

Next on the menu: Moroccan Lamb Shanks with Pomegranate with Confetti Lentils. It looks pretty delicious, but I’ll let you know how it turns out. Stay tuned for more of my favorite BAFLC recipes, and check it out yourself to let me know what you think. In the meantime, wish me luck on my wine and cheese detox!

Pretty Food Tastes Better

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I was really into the Skinnytaste recipe that landed in my inbox yesterday morning. She did a play on sushi in a measuring cup, flipping it onto the plate and creating this beautiful layered tower of spicy shrimp deliciousness. After sweating it out at the gym with my fabulous and stunning trainer, Miss Brit, I ran by my favorite Mexican market for an avocado and a cucumber. But when I finally got into my kitchen around eight – after my hilarious neighbors sufficiently distracted me – I really didn’t feel like waiting for brown rice to cook, especially since it wasn’t even short grain and probably wouldn’t be sticky enough. So naturally, I turned it into a quinoa bowl.

Spicy Shrimp Sushi Quinoa Bowl

  • 1 TB low sodium soy sauce, plus more for drizzle
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 lime, juice and zest
  • 4-6 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup of dry quinoa
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 an avocado, sliced
  • 1 tsp furikake
  • 2 tsp Sir Kensingtons Sriracha Mayonnaise

Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, lime zest and half of the lime juice in a small dish. Coat the shrimp and marinate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the quinoa: combine with 1/2 cup of water in a small sauce pan, then bring to a boil, simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Fluff and remove from heat but keep covered. Heat a small pan over a medium flame. Cook shrimp for 3 minutes on each side, remove tails, then chop into bite size pieces.

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Now, just because I couldn’t make my dinner into a neat stack sure doesn’t mean I’m not going to make it look pretty, because pretty tastes better. Spoon the quinoa into the bottom of a shallow bowl then top with cucumber, scallions and shrimp. Lay the avocado slices around the edge of the bowl, then top with furikake and drizzles of remaining lime juice, Sriracha Mayonnaise and soy sauce.

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Once you sit down and stop taking photos for Instagram, chop those avocado slices and mix it all together, seasoning as you wish with straight up Sriracha and more soy sauce. Serve with Dry Riesling, Viognier, or Chenin Blanc. I opted for one of my favorites: Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier – or, as true fans commonly refer to it as, CB+V.

Springing for Steelhead

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The Napa Farmer’s Market is back on! It actually opened two weeks ago, but I couldn’t make it until yesterday. And I was so excited that I forgot to get cash and only had $8 with me. The first thing that caught my eye was a small bag of shelled English peas. It was $3, but I had never cooked with them before so I splurged. I wandered around the rest of the market, scouting each stand to see what looked the best. I stopped at the seafood stand in the back and noticed some Steelhead trout filets – something else I had never cooked before. I purchased (with my credit card) a filet that was over half a pound and went back to another stand to pick up assorted zucchini, squash and a spring onion for a little over $5, but the farmer let it slide. You won’t get that at Whole Foods!

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Spring Pea and Zucchini Salad with Pan-Seared Trout (serves 2)

  • 1 medium zucchiniIMG_1956
  • 1/4 cup Sherry vinegar
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 4 TB olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 10 oz wild trout
  • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 12 radicchio leaves, torn
  • 1 small fennel bulb, sliced very thinly with a mandoline
  • 1/2 cup shelled English Peas
  • 8 mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 10 parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

Slice the zucchini lengthwise with a mandoline. Sprinkle zucchini evenly with salt and place in a small colander in the sink for about 5 minutes. Rinse the zucchini under cold water and lay out on a clean dishtowel. Carefully fold the towel over the zucchini and roll to squeeze out the excess water and let sit.

In a small food processor, pulse a shallot. Add lemon juice, Dijon, anchovy paste, Sherry vinegar, salt and pepper. Process to combine, and add 2 TB oil in a slow, steady stream. Transfer to a small container and set aside.

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In a large non-stick pan, heat 2 TB olive oil over a medium flame. Add garlic cloves and toss off heat to flavor the olive oil. Bring the pan back to the heat and add trout, skin side down. Chop two fonds off the fennel bulb and add to the pan. Cook for 3 minutes to sear the skin, then lower the heat and cover; continue to cook for about 8 minutes, or until the flesh is light pink. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool for a few minutes.

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Meanwhile, assemble the salad: radicchio, fennel, peas, mint and parsley. Top with the zucchini slices and dressing to taste (add by the tablespoon), then toss to combine. Top with half of the trout filet and serve! I enjoyed this meal with 2013 Madam Preston White Rhone Blend – a family favorite! It’s bright and crisp, but the Rhone varietals add slight creamy undertones that make the wine stand up well to a heartier seafood.

Put an egg on it!

Put an egg on it!

The best part of making this meal was the leftovers! I incorporated the trout, english peas and fennel fonds into a quinoa breakfast bowl and it was spectacular. Sauté chopped fennel fonds with chopped white onion and garlic for a few minutes. Add the peas, trout (broken up), 3/4 cup of cooked quinoa, and a handful of coarsely chopped spinach and sauté to combine. Once hot, top with an egg, cover the pan, and lower the heat. Cook for 5 minutes then devour. I actually enjoyed this more than the salad, but that may have been due to my slight hangover.

Helluva Halibut

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I’m ashamed to admit that I have developed a new habit of shopping at Whole Foods. It was innocent at first; an organic free range chicken thigh here, some ezekiel bread there. Before I knew it I was buying chia seed peanut butter and Pamplemousse La Croix by the case. It’s especially depressing after a trip to Trader Joe’s, where I typically spend under $70 for a week of groceries, only to be followed by a stumble into Whole Foods where I spend $70 on 6 items. What can I say? It’s convenient and it smells good in there.

This past week I saw some sustainably raised halibut for $24.99 a pound. Initially I guffawed at the sticker, but when the woman in front of me ordered some I thought, other people are doing it so it’s okay if I do. Damn peer pressure grocery shopping. Alas, it was worth it because it was a helluva halibut.

Panko Crusted Halibut (serves 2)

  • 2 halibut fillets, skin removed
  • 1/2 cup Panko crumbs
  • 4 basil leaves, julienned
  • 2 TB chopped parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 TB freshly grated Parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • cooking spray

Line a baking sheet with tin foil and lightly coat the foil with cooking spray; set aside. In a shallow bowl, combine Panko, basil, parsley, garlic, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Coat each halibut fillet in lemon juice and olive oil, then coat evenly in the panko mixture. Place fillets on the baking sheet and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes (this helps the Panko stay on).

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Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, until the fish is flakey when touched with a fork. Serve with a medium-bodied Sauvignon Blanc or a bright Chardonnay, roasted asparagus with garlic, and lemony herbed orzo or Israeli couscous – perfection!

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Okay Whole Foods; you win.

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