Sunday, January 22, 2012

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

The cleanse is officially over, and I'm so glad I stuck it out!  I continued to have increased energy levels throughout, and around day 8 started to notice a great improvement in digestion.  I definitely will be trying a cleanse again this year so that I can replicate this awesome feeling. 

Now that it's over, I'm still feeling the benefits.  Overall, my digestion is still improved, and I notice such a difference in how I feel after I eat certain foods.  I'm better able to recognize foods that make me feel sluggish and gross (like the butter and sugar filled cinnamon bun I ate for breakfast on Saturday - big mistake!) and make a conscious effort to incorporate healthier foods into my diet.  With the focus off of weight-loss and onto wellness and detoxification, I feel much more motivated to continue clean eating in my everyday life!

My favorite meal during the cleanse was the creamy butternut squash soup in Week 1.  It packs in not only squash but apples and carrots as well to kick up the nutrient level, and is seasoned with lots of great cold-weather spices.  According to Whole Living, turmeric even increases the liver's ability to detoxify!  The result is a creamy, satisfying soup that is sure to warm you up on a cold day. 

To start, prepare your fruit and vegetables - peel, seed, and cube the butternut squash, peel and slice the carrots, and peel, core, and chop the apples.  No need for it to be perfect, because it's all going to be pureed later anyway.

Also prepare your spices and ginger.  I was a little over-zealous with the spices, thinking that more was better.  In this case, it's not!  1 teaspoon of ginger is sufficient, as are the spice measurements in the recipe.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan.  Saute the onion and garlic for about seven minutes or until tender.  Add the ginger and spices and cook for 1 minute more.  Then add the squash, apple, carrots, water, and salt and pepper.  Bring it to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender.

Transfer the soup to a blende and puree until smooth.  I had to do it in two batches. Return it to the saucepan and reheat.  Adjust the seasonings to your taste, then serve! 

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from Whole Living, January 2012
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
Dash ground cloves
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tart apple, peeled, quartered, cored, and chopped
1 large butternut squash (4 cups) chopped
3 cups water
Coarse salt and pepper
  1. In a large sauce pan, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until tender, about 7 minutes.
  2. Add ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves and cook for 1 minute longer. 
  3. Add carrots, apple, butternut squash, water, and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes, or until butternut squash is tender.
  5. Transfer soup mixture to blender, working in batches if necessary.  Puree until smooth. 
  6. Return to saucepan, reheat, and season to taste. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Year Mind-Body Detox

Happy new year!  I hope everyone enjoyed some relaxing, food-filled holidays.  Mine were spent up in the northeast, mostly in Connecticut but with great trips to Boston and Manhattan squeezed in.  And, of course, they were filled with lots of food:

And drinks!

I don't know if I ever even had a chance to feel hungry.  Which is horrible, but also kind of awesome at the same time.  

After all of these festivities, it was time for a change in the new year.  Never having been one for new years resolutions, I decided to try a 3-week detox, in particular, the Whole Living 2012 Action Plan.  This cleanse eliminates all caffeine, alcohol, gluten, dairy, processed food, and added sugar from your diet to help eliminate toxins and make you feel amazing.  It's no easy feat - during the first week, you eat only fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and add seafood, beans lentils, soy, gluten free grains and eggs during the second and third weeks. 

The first few days were pretty rough while my body adjusted.  I was cranky, hungry, and tired.  The cravings were impossible.  Most of all, I never realized how much my social life revolved around food!  Pizza nights, dinner parties, happy hours, and Thai delivery.  And that was just in the first 4 days!  During that time, I learned a few key lessons about the keys to success during a cleanse:
  1. Adjust for real life. Even with all the planning in the world, sometimes it just won't be practical to follow the plan to the letter.  Maybe you have to work late and don't have time to cook dinner, or a key social function arises.  Be flexible and do what you can - you'll be back on track tomorrow!  
  2. Adjust portion sizes and snacks to your appetite - don't starve yourself.  I cheated on the first day because I was still starving after I ate the food I brought in to the office.  The next day, I was sure to bring in larger portions and enough snacks.  It's better to eat more of the food that is part of the plan than to eat something off limits! 
I'm now on day five of the detox, and am feeling surprisingly great!  I haven't felt cranky and my cravings have been minimal.  Best of all, I have had a lot of energy.  Unlike most Sundays, I haven't felt the need to lounge around watching reality TV. Instead, I have been productive and active and feel ready to tackle the week.  

Here's a sample of some of the recipes I've tried so far:

1. Kale Slaw with Carrots and Peppers; 2. Steamed Broccoli and Squash with Tahini Sauce; 3. Roasted Pepper, Cauliflower, and Almonds; 4. Green Machine Smoothie (modified)
Stay tuned for my favorite Week 1 recipe and more detox results!
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