Yummy + Healthy + Easy Recipes from Foodie Cleanse 2013

I love trying new recipes, but half of them don’t make it into my binder of standbys. They must pass three tests: 1) Be outrageously good; 2) Be very to fairly easy; 3) Not result in me having to clean every dish I own.

This was the second year that I have done Bon Appetit Magazine’s Foodie Cleanse. It’s fun, it resets me after the holidays and it pushes me to try dishes that I wouldn’t otherwise make. Last year, just seven recipes made the cut. Many others were unduly complicated and had ingredients that I struggled to find, even here in Los Angeles!!! Crossroads of the world!

This year, they kept it simpler and I certainly appreciated that. Here are all the recipes and foods that I’ll definitely continue munching on through 2013:

This was the pair of recipes that really knocked my socks off – and they’re vegetarian!

Cod + Greens: It seems that you can season cod any old way and pair it with bok choy or chard or collard greens and you simply can’t go wrong. Plus cod makes the very short list of recommended/approved seafoods on the Seafood Watch list! Download their free app or order the pocket guide.

Smoked paprika: A spice that packs a wallop. I got it for one recipe, then started sprinkling it on my deviled eggs.

Black rice It is exactly what it says it is. It’s easy and a good trick to have up your sleeve for a dinner party. I easily found a bag at Ranch 99.

Clams – Clams are really easy!

Sake steamed clams – Totally different flavors that my typical cooking. Served w/ Bok Choy w/Chili-Black Bean paste – Wow, does that stuff pack a wallop! If you don’t like spicy, don’t use this sauce. Very tasty.

Salmon + Lentils – A classic combo for a reason

Confetti lentils – I did all the veggies in the food processor and made this using Trader Joe’s cooked lentils and it was a snap.

Squash – The tomato and squash soup was pretty good, but ultimately I like both separately so you can fully enjoy the tomato or fully enjoy the squash. However, I did like the cooking method used – putting a few cloves of garlic under the squash half, then baking it. Smelled and tasted delicious!

Salad + Fruit + Nuts + Goat Cheese – You can’t go wrong. So delicious, so fancy looking.

Radicchio and Persimmon Salad with Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese – Looks super fancy!

Toss 4 cups radicchio and 1 Fuyu persimmon (the flat variety), peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks, with 1½ Tbsp. Sherry Vinaigrette. Top with ½ oz. crumbled goat cheese and 2 Tbsp. toasted hazelnuts. You can substitute arugula, spinach, or a good dark salad mix for the radicchio, and use walnuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds in place of the hazelnuts.

Curry – This was already a standby for me, as it should be for every working mom in America. A can of coconut milk, a dollop of curry paste and any mix of veggies or meats. You can’t go wrong!! I often put in potatoes, but had never tried sweet potatoes…not bad.

To take to the office

Smoked salmon on rye crisps with avocado – The avocado actually tastes better than cream cheese…go figure.

Winter Citrus Salad – I eviscerated a grapefruit and mixed the chunks with halves of orange slices. A great mid-morning snack.

And a bonus recipe: Ahi or cod or halibut with Bok Choy (Serves 2)

The back story: I accidentally bought ahi tuna instead of cod. I love seared ahi, but my boyfriend does not, so I had to devise a way to prepare this. I found this recipe, which happened to have a very simple, but very delicious sauce that I plan to use for years to come. I also had a recipe that I had been meaning to try for a while – Miso-glazed halibut. I did the two different meals and this is the best of both:

Ingredients

  • Enough fish for two people – fillets, medium thickness
  • 1 lb. of baby bok choy – the smallest you can find (then you don’t have to cut it up)
  • 1 bunch of green onions (scallions)
  • Fresh ginger – piece the size of your hand
  • Garlic
  • 1 lime
  • White miso (you can get this anywhere, even Safeway, just ask – it’s usually near the refrigerator with the tofu)
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce

Miso Glaze – Whisk together.

  • 4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 4 tablespoons white miso
  • 2 tablespoon bottled or fresh minced ginger

Spread the glaze over the fish, both sides. Then put the fish on tin foil and broil in the oven for 7-8 minutes. Keep an eye on it and flip it when you think you should – when its just turning brown around the edges.

Bok Choy

Mix together:

  • 2 Tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce (or 2 teaspoons of wheat-free tamari for gluten-free option)
  • 1 Tbsp of grated fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice

Cut up 5 green onions, split the white part and the green part. Use a pot with a lid. Bring 1/4 c. of water to a boil, toss in the bok choy, turn down the heat to medium, cover and steam for 3 minutes. After that, take the lid off, toss in the white part of the green onions and keep cooking for a few more minutes, until all the water boils off. Add the sauce and serve immediately with the fish on top and rice on the side. Garnish with sesame seeds and the green part of the green onions.

And if you are interested in food and nutrition, I’ll just put in a plug here for all Michael Pollan books, starting with “Food Rules.”

Food Rules: An Eater's ManualFood Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Both elegant and useful in its simplicity. I’ve read reams of books and articles on nutrition over the years and it sometimes feels like the more you know, the more confused you get. This small guide takes us directly to the heart of eating well: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I would absolutely put this in my friend’s X-mas stockings.

View all my reviews

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Sometimes the book isn’t better: Game of Thrones, I’m talking to you

Have you read “Game of Thrones”? Don’t bother. Unless you like reading screenplays. The book is so clearly written to have been picked up for production that as I read it, I often thought to myself – “Wow, this would be great with some striking visuals and an epic score to sweep me away on a wave of emotion.”

Let’s do a little compare and contrast. Here’s how the scene reads where Daenerys jumps into a fire, then emerges unscathed surrounded by baby dragons.

Book vs. Movie

“When the fired died at last and the ground became cool enough to walk upon, Ser Jorah Mormont found her amidst the ashes, surrounded by blackened logs and bits of glowing ember and the burnt bones of man and woman and stallion. She was naked, covered with soot, her clothes turned to ash, her beautiful hair all crisped way…yet she was unhurt…As Daenerys Targaryen rose to her feet, her black hissed, pale smoke venting from its mouth and nostrils. The other two pulled away from her breasts and added their voices to the call, translucent wings stirring unfolding and stirring the air, and for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons.”

Click through to see the video – apparently not appropriate for all audiences due to female nudity…

See what I mean? Even though the book came first, it feels like something you’d pick up at the airport gift shop that says “The new book based on the hit movie!” rather than the other way around.

I don’t have a problem with that – but I’m not going to read any more. I’ll just see the TV show, thank you very much. I just hope the nudity is limited to the most attractive male characters.

In contrast, I recently saw the movie “Cloud Atlas,” which joins the elite club of movies that are as good as the books they are based upon, which to date only includes “The English Patient,” “Adaptation,” and perhaps “Harry Potter,” though that’s a longer conversation.

Among the literati, it has long been taken as eternal truth that “the book is always better.” That is no longer true. More so, that’s a pointless conversation to have. It is possible for the same story to make an excellent book, an excellent movie – heck, I would love to see the same story also become a graphic novel, an immersive online game, a radio play…whatever. Take full advantage of whatever format in which you’re working. All I care about is whether it’s a good story well told.

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A Cleanse for People Who Hate Cleanses

I am very, very anti-cleanse. I know – that’s practically un-American. When people gush to me about their amazing, soul-cleansing juice cleanse or bizarre cabbage soup colonics, I just bite my tongue. I love to eat and I ascribe to the Michael Pollan approach to diet: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” so I consider cleanses to be just another form of extreme, whacked out eating.

That is, until I spotted Bon Appetit’s “Foodie Cleanse.” The rules were not unreasonable (avoid dairy, caffeine, alcohol and sugar) and the food looked…like food. Rather than a strict regimen, it looked like a food adventure – a chance to reset myself after the holidays and try some recipes I’d never otherwise do.

Mmmm…Day 1.

I was not let down. Some of the recipes had ingredients that seemed impossible to track down within 10 miles of my house, which says a lot considering I live in the heart of LA. Some were needlessly complicated and time-consuming. But many were amazing and the whole endeavor was quite fun.

The only part missing was the social aspect so this year, I’m going full bore – following the recipes (for the most part) and writing about it each day whether just a few comments on the Bon Appetit page, posting some pics to my Facebook and doing a wrap-up right here. Join me!

Recipes from Foodie Cleanse 2011

Here’s the dishes from the cleanse I did last year that I would make again.

Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa

A great alternative when you’re getting bored of oatmeal – 101 Cookbooks is a fantastic blog.

Salmon in a Bengali Mustard Sauce  with Black-Eyed Pea Curry

WOW. Enough said.

Edamame Hummus

Different, but tasty.

Crudités

I need to remember to cut up veggies at the start of each week and put them in containers ready to go. Something about calling them “crudites” just makes them that much tastier and makes me that much classier.

Rye crisp crackers

SO good! A bit elusive, but definitely make my Top 10 list since they are tasty, healthy and don’t go stale very quickly.

Tuscan Kale Chips

Can’t believe this actually worked. Definitely not transportable, but definitely yummy.

Smoked salmon

This is on the approved list? My new favorite lunch.

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January 1, 2013 · 6:03 pm

The Challenge: Photograph the Rain with Just an iPhone

I love my Canon DSLRs. I love my 85 mm lens. I love my telephoto lens. Love, love, love ’em all.

However, I can’t carry them everywhere with me – case in point: The only “camera” I brought home to Sonoma for the holidays is my iPhone. Furthermore, it has not been drizzling here- it has been outright pouring so even if I had my DSLR, I would leave it bundled up inside, not subject it to these conditions. So I decided to put a challenge to myself. Rather than whining about the lack of manual focus and the depth of field , could I turn the iPhone’s limitations into assets and take good photos of the rain? You be the judge.

IMG_0603

IMG_0651

Over an afternoon, I came to appreciate several unique attributes of the iPhone camera – it can handle adverse weather conditions, you can put it lower to the ground than you can put a DSLR (or your own head), because it can’t handle backlighting and lens flare very well, you can end up with results that aren’t alwaystrue to life but artsy and unexpected. Enjoy my walk in the rain!

Sonoma Rain Walk (as interpreted on my iPhone)

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Where our water comes from, why your water bill is going to go up and some one-liners from water people

“California’s water situation is like a bald man with a beard – it’s all there; it’s just not distributed right.” – MWD representative

Like most Californians, when it comes to water, I simply don’t think about it that much. I just turn on the tap and fresh, potable water comes out. Then I get a bill with a bunch of random line items with inscrutable descriptions and I pay it. And then sometimes they tell us it’s a drought so I try to be a good citizen and I don’t clean my sidewalk with a hose and I give my neighbors the stink eye when they do. And that’s about it.

Well, I now have no excuse for total ignorance. Over the past 10 months, I have been a part of Leadership LA and through this program, I recently had the opportunity to spend the day at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWP) and see our local water infrastructure up close with a tour of the Joseph Jensen Treatment Plant in Granada Hills.

I learned all sorts of complicated and fascinating and eye-opening stuff, but I’m going to focus this post on the most surprising things we learned and what all Californians need to know.

Where does our water actually come from?

LA is basically a desert – 89% OF OUR WATER IS IMPORTED! (Source: LA Dept. of Water and Power (LADWP) Fact Sheet 2010) That is both complete insanity and an incredible feat of human ingenuity and engineering. To our predecessors and I’m talking to you, William Mulholland, I say: I don’t totally agree with what you’ve done here, but wow. It’s not worth dwelling on it too much because we have too many problems to deal with right now to entertain the idea of having done things differently in the past…Here we are folks.

That said, we can’t keep going with business as usual. Basically, we keep adding more people while there isn’t any more water (and, in fact, might be less in the future) so our conservation impulse here in southern California is less altruistic and more “Oh shit.”

Our imported water comes from basically three places (See a map.):

The State Water Project & the Delta

Being a Nor-cal native, some of my first words as a child probably involved complaining about those damn So-cal people stealing OUR water. That is partially true. I will start our tour of California’s water system in the mighty Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which, if we were a more spiritual people, could be considered the state’s fountain of life. How essential is it?

The Delta provides water for 25 million Californians (out of 37.7M of us in total) and, more staggering, irrigation for half of all fruits and vegetables for the entire United States. It’s amazing and critical to all of California – however, we So-cal urbanites are not the #1 users. Of all the Bay-Delta water, 4% makes its way down the canal of the State Water Project for use down here. The biggest chunk goes to agriculture.

The Delta is that big flat area you see as you drive to Sacramento – all those canals, etc. – it’s where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers meet and it goes all the way to the San Francisco Bay. If you’ve road-tripped down the I-5, you have seen the SWP – it’s that blue stripe of a canal wending its way down the state. It’s massive – it’s also old and it’s screwing with the environment. More below.

The Owens Valley

Have you seen the movie Chinatown? Enough said. A driving tour podcast was recently produced about the Owens Valley – looks pretty sweet if anyone wants to road trip with me!

The Colorado River

The LA aqueduct was pretty great…but still not enough!!! So thirsty! So William Mulholland and the City of LA formed the MWD to build the 242-mile long Colorado River Aqueduct. Flash forward to today: the Colorado is the most litigated river in the world! And it’s in distress!

If you want to go deeper – this blog post is a really solid overview.

Why your water rates are going to go up

Let’s kick this off with a horror film – this is what would happen if we had a 6.4 earthquake in the Bay-Delta, something which has a very high possibility of happening.

Earthquakes, global warming causing rising sea levels and snow melt, salt water intrusion, the invasion of non-native species and loss of habitat – just a few of the major issues for the Delta. Good luck sleeping at night. The State Water Project was built in the 1960s and is in serious need of an upgrade – plus we’ve learned a lot in the past 50 years and need to mitigate some of the environmental harm we’ve already done and restore habitat.

The situation is so bad that the state legislature/governator actually managed to pass a plan – the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. All of us in California will be paying for it – here in LA, the projected cost is $5-6 a month per household. And that’s just for the Delta water we get. Don’t complain – the Bay Area residents passed a bond to upgrade the Hetch-Hetchy water system and build a tunnel under the bay that will cost them way more per capita.

And that’s just the start.

The Nexus of Water and Power and why desalination and wind power aren’t all that awesome

“20% of California’s electricity goes to moving water around.” – Jack Sahl, Ph.D. – Director, Environment and Resource Sustainability for Southern California Edison (SCE)

Jack Sahl from SCE who joined some great folks from TreePeople and Heal the Bay for a panel on Water, Energy and Environmental Sustainability in LA had lots of good one-liners that were more like Buddhist koans inviting further reflection. Chew on these:

  • “It takes a lot of water to generate electricity and a lot of electricity to move water around.”
  • “Electricity you don’t use is the cleanest and least expensive.”
  • “Historically, we have stored water in California as snow.” (Put that in the context of global warming.)

I’m going to pause us here. We Americans have a history of looking to new technology as the messiah that will deliver us from our energy problems. THERE IS NO PERFECT SOURCE OF POWER WITH ZERO ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT. It’s likely all these new green technologies will be part of the picture and they keep getting better, but any of them is not a singular solution to our problems.

Desalination sounds awesome – look at all that ocean water, all we have to do is take out that darn salt! Well, taking out the salt, much less moving all that water from sea level up the hill to us takes a ton of power…which has to come from somewhere. Wind power? The wind is out in the desert which means massive power lines for miles and miles to get the power to consumers in LA, not to mention that is incredibly inefficient because a lot of power is lost in transit. It doesn’t have the same sex appeal, but the meta approach to these problems is an overall move from a “command and control power system” to a distributed system.

And on to a final koan from Jack:

“Don’t talk about sustainability in terms of being good people – we have to be laser-focused on the value proposition.”

That last one bears a little more explanation. The world is changing constantly and people and organizations aren’t always so great at changing. So even if we know what we should be doing, how do you actually get people to change? If you’re talking to a CEO of a corporation, you show him the numbers AKA the value proposition. Ditto for those government folks. Ditto for those water and power consumers – am I more likely to use less water because you gave me a magnet with a pithy slogan or because you gave me a rebate to get a low-flow toilet?

At government policy-level, Kristen James, Director of Water Quality with Heal the Bay cast it in this light:

“The environment shouldn’t always come last. It can integrate with economic needs.”

And from Nurit Katz, Chief Sustainability Officer, UCLA:

“We could be zero impact. We have enough resources and technology – the blocks are political and budgetary.”

Basically, we all have to work together and, furthermore, trust each other – across departments of government, across business, non-profit and government groups. Easier said than done, but here’s your value proposition – We have no choice. With limited resources, we simply can’t get away with the way we’ve been doing things in the past.

All this stuff can make you really depressed and frustrated. Jack Sahl put this in a rosier context, pointing out that we’re past the worst of it in a sense and we have made progress – We reached peak CO2 emissions and gas use in 2009-10 even as the population has continued to grow and that if you want to talk air pollution, the ‘60s and ‘70s were when we had serious problems. In short:

“We have had uninterrupted progress in the last 100 years.”

Go humans! We’re got this.

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Alaska: “The Last Frontier”

If going to Hawaii is more like visiting a foreign country than another state, then a trip to Alaska might qualify as a trip to another planet.

Another planet? Nope, just a glacier in Alaska

The landscape is so beautiful, it could easily be described as otherworldly. Plus, this is a place where something so basic as sunrise and sunset book-ending 10-12 hours of daylight doesn’t apply. I visited Alaska in the summer and was in the southern part of the state – the sun didn’t go down until 10:50 p.m. each night. In the winter, Fairbanks, which is in the middle of the state, hits a point at which it only gets 3 hours and 42 minutes of sunlight. Barrow, Alaska often sees 84 continuous days of darkness.

If such natural rules don’t even apply, the human rules are also in stark contrast to what we live down here in what Alaskans call “the lower 48.”

I went swimming at a City of Los Angeles pool this weekend. The lifeguard yelled at the kids not to run, not to splash water, not to dive into the shallow end, not to use kick boards in a particular quadrant of the pool – pretty much anything fun or remotely dangerous is absolutely not permitted.

Whereas in Alaska, you still maintain the right to go out and get yourself killed. Sure, there are some occasional warning signs here and there, but those occasionally get nibbled on by bears. So pretty much, it’s on you.

Not that Alaska is as wild as those of us from the lower 48 might imagine. After all, the second biggest employer in Alaska is Walmart. I think few of us picture going to the last frontier to work retail.

But it doesn’t matter. Alaska feeds our collective secret fantasy to “go off the grid” and “live off the land.” Most of us are as urban and pampered as all get-out, but with our backyard chickens and home-made pickles, we still play with the notion that somehow, we could just walk away from everything and live off our wits in the wild.

An inhabitant of the planet called Alaska. In Alaska, you can definitely rock beards.

Even if you were barely listening in history class, you probably remember something about the pioneers and the Homestead Act of 1862. The rules were simple – go out, put up a flag, work your patch of land and it’s yours (Native American occupants be damned). The U.S. ended homesteading in 1986 – the last claim was in Alaska. It’s over, but folks from the lower 48 continue to call about it.

Most of us will never walk away from civilization, but we Americans still desperately need for there to be a frontier. We need a place where the pavement ends and wilderness rules, a place where you could get yourself killed.

Which is why Alaska has an inordinate number of reality TV shows about it. It’s our escape valve. Just as we watch American Idol and pretend we could be pop stars, we watch and pretend we could be burly fishermen and pilots or sled dog racers.

After two weeks of summer camping in Alaska, I know I’m not going to walk away and go build a cabin in the woods. But it gets me through a day at the office to feel like I could.

Need a little escape? Enjoy my pics!

Just for fun…some Alaska facts:

Unusually high per capita

  • Pilot’s licenses
  • Duct tape sales
  • Vanity license plates
  • Glaciers (100,000!!)
  • Spam consumption

Rural Alaskans eat an average of one pound of wild food per person per day.

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Learning to Love the Subjunctive

Learning another language is less about acquisition than a long process of letting go. You think adjectives should go before the nouns they modify? Let it go. That grammatical rule seems illogical? You think irregular verbs should be outlawed? Let it go. Why are things that way? They just are. Let it go. Besides, the more Spanish I learned, the more logical it seemed and I pitied folks who were trying to learn English. English makes no sense whatsoever.

Most people fare pretty well through Spanish 1 and 2 – adjectives, present tense, past tense, commands, imperfect (which sounds baffling, but is actually one of the easiest tenses)…Then comes…THE SUBJUNCTIVE.

The subjunctive exists in English, but we could say it has atrophied from lack of use. What better example than Justin Bieber’s new song “If I was your boyfriend”? The grammatically correct phrase would be “If I were your boyfriend,” because the status of boyfriend is currently NOT locked down…it’s not out of question, but that it is currently contrary to fact that Bieber is this lady’s boyfriend…right now, the Biebs is in more of a hopeful, wishful state. That’s the subjunctive – a perfect blend of hopefulness, uncertainty and ambiguity.

As it turns out, English-speakers (and Americans especially) are not too big on ambiguity. For the past ten years, it has bothered me that Mexicans don’t have different words for cantaloupe, honeydew and crane melons. They’re all just…melón. Ditto with lemon vs. lime. This doesn’t bother Mexicans in the slightest however. So if my head explodes over that, you can imagine how well I took to the subjunctive. Americans also have some rude and demanding tendencies. Using the subjunctive will instantly make you more solicitous and humble. There is more than a linguistic gulf between the phrases: “I think she’s totally preggers” and “¿Podria ser que este embarazada?”

Americans are culturally averse to the subjunctive. Which is why I listened with such interest to this lecture “Can Diverse Societies Cohere?” Sociologist Richard Sennett argued that in order for very different people to get along and cooperate, three things need to happen. 1) Our conversations need to be less of a dialectical tug of war and more about listening to get at what people are REALLY saying behind the words they’re using. Basically the opposite of “Crossfire.” 2) We need more subjunctive in our lives. 3) We need less sympathy and more empathy. He has an interesting definition of empathy that is more akin to a caring curiosity for others, not pretending you get everything about them and where they’re coming from, but caring enough to wonder.

Why the prescription for more subjunctive? Because it’s gray and unclear, it leaves space. Let’s say you’re next to a stranger on the bus. If you say, “Look at that girl’s outfit. Teenagers these days. I think they need not only a little more clothing, but a little more God,” the conversation probably isn’t going to progress very far. You already stated your piece. If you instead opened with, “How about that outfit? Wonder what it could be that inspired that…” There’s space to converse. (Sorry for the poor example. That’s how little we use the subjunctive in English!)

For us Americans, the subjunctive is confusing and ambiguous. That’s exactly why we might possibly need a little more of it in our lives. ¿Podria ser?

Thoughts? C’mon friends – based on your recent rants on the Oxford comma, I’m pretty sure  that you all have strongly held opinions about my favorite (and almost everyone else’s least favorite) part of Spanish.

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