Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Time to Detox: < Lent's > get Healthy!

 Since the beginning of the year, I've been on a mission to lead a healthier lifestyle.  At work, we've formed a support group called 'The Healthclub'-- meeting weekly to discuss our progress, setbacks, and any pointers or tips to encourage each other to live healthfully.  We even do a 5 minute arm-toning Zumba session (complete with jazzy salsa music) in our warehouse!!  I started to eat a bit better and made it a point to walk at least 45 minutes a day.  Finally I could wiggle back into some skinny jeans that I threw to the back of the closet before the holidays!

My health regimen took a U-turn last week, though.  A U-turn that actually took the form of an 'O' called a King Cake.  It was Mardi Gras, and I was determined to redeem myself from a King Cake Fail...see link.  I think my 2nd attempt turned out quite nicely (and even healthier with the fruit topping):

And this time, I made it without a mix and from complete scratch!!

 And whaddya know, Valentines Day also fell during the same week as Fat Tuesday.  So the party never quite ended....and my healthy ways went to the wayside.  And that was ok with me- sometimes you gotta taste a little dirt, I mean cake & chocolates, to really want to go after the prize!

What's that?  A prize you say!?  Well, yes, as part of the incentive to stick with our 'Health Club' meetings at work, there will be a $100 prize given away to the person who has shown the greatest improvement.

So, with that carrot dangling in front of me, I needed to whip it (good) and into gear!

Over the weekend, I wandered into Barnes & Noble with my man Jimmy (he's a book nerd), and while he was off getting lost in the History section, I headed over to the Bargain section.  You never know what kind of books you'll find there.  I came across The 28 Day Plan by Christine Green.  $6.  Small enough to stuff in your purse, chockfull of all sorts of health & wellness tips, and featuring 6 different health plans that you complete in 28 days each...I was sold.  The first health plan I stumbled upon was the Detox plan.  I was immediately drawn to this one.  I felt that it was a good fit for me- 30 minutes of daily exercise, but most importantly, eating a healthful diet void of sugar, salt, and meat (except fish) to cleanse your system was what really drew me in.  Don't get me wrong, I love my meats...I'm Italian and couldn't say no to a cappicola/ salami/ prosciutto sub sandwich with asiago & provolone cheese!!  But I thought- for 28 days, I'm going to try this.  And besides, it's the Lenten season and now I can say I'm finally giving something up for Lent.

I purchased the book and immediately went into prep mode for the detox plan.
I said my goodbyes to my dearly beloved companions:  wine, chocolate and coffee.....

And got chopping.....literally!  Yes, I prepped a few salads to kick off the program.  I wanted to have some easy go-to salads (that tasted awesome) that I could just grab out of the fridge & combine with some of the other things you were supposed to eat on this plan-- brown rice, lettuces, fish, even potatoes, and goat cheese (but only goat cheese/milk & sheep cheese/ moo-moo stuff!)

So here are my salad recipes.  It only took me a total of an hour to prepare all 4 salads, too!   And they all taste BOMB!

Potato Salad with Fennel:
  • baby new potatoes- boiled in water for 10 minutes, chopped in half
  • fresh fennel- chopped finely
  • fresh dill- chopped finely
  • 1/4 of a red onion- chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper- chopped
  • Minced Garlic
  • black cracked pepper
  • olive oil drizzle
  • dijon mustard (mine was homemade)
Chickpea-Greek Veggie Salad:
  • Can of Chickpeas 
  • 1/2 cucumber- chopped
  • 1/4 red onion- chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper- chopped
  • Fresh Mint Leaves- chopped
  • Minced Garlic
  • lemon juice
  • Goats Milk Yogurt
  • black cracked pepper
  • a few dashes of cayenne pepper
  • ***I realize canned goods are not so healthy (with concerns of nasty BPA's in the lining of the can).  When I have a little extra prep time at some point, I will prepare dried chickpeas to use in a salad.  Here's a great link to show you how!

Carrot-Pear-Cabbage Slaw:
  • Red Cabbage- chopped
  • Carrot (peeled into ribbons)
  • Pear- chopped
  • Dried Apricot- chopped
  • Fresh Mint leaves- chopped
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • A tablespoon of honey
  • A dash of Garam Masala (or Curry would work)
  • Drizzle of Sesame Oil
  • Drizzle of Rice Vinegar
  • sesame seeds ( I used black ones)
Black Bean- Radish- Cilantro Salad:
  • Can of Black Beans
  • Radish Bunch- leaves removed, stems discarded, radishes chopped
  • Cilantro Bunch- chopped
  • Lime Juice
  • Ground Cumin
  • Minced Garlic
  • Dash of Cayenne Pepper
  • Black cracked pepper

Today was my first official day of the Detox.  It was a little rough not having coffee, but tea came to my rescue.  And instead of my nightly piece of Baci Chocolate after dinner...I reached for a kiwi fruit instead.  Giving up sugar for a little while might not be such a bad thing after all....

Friday, February 8, 2013

My First King Cake: Comedy & Tragedy in the Kitchen

It's Mardi Gras time and what does that mean?  Time to make a King Cake!!
When I was back home in Cincy for the holidays- I made a stop at Jungle Jims new Eastgate location to stock up on hard-to-find ethnic delicacies.  As I strolled down the 'Soul Food' aisle- I caught sight of the King Cake mix and had to buy it.  I planned on making this for my coworkers when I got back to work in January, but the office is on a company-wide health kick and well....King Cake is just full sugary temptation to fall off the wagon.  Instead, I decided to make the cake in honor of my man, Jimmy, who's about to visit me from his new town of NOLA.

Oh boy, where do I begin here.
My mother sent me a link to an article about a New Orleans bakery that made uniquely filled King Cakes- one in particular was made with apples and goat cheese.  This inspired me to want to make my King Cake with some fancy-schmancy out-of-the-ordinary filling.  So when I was on the phone with Jimmy, we tossed some ideas around and thought- ooh, goat cheese with orange marmalade might be good!  Does sound yummy, but I always like to take things to another level and remembered that I used orange marmalade in a Jezebel sauce I made last week.  Oooh....goat cheese and Jezebel sauce filled King Cake....mmm-mmm!  Southern foods overload.
Oh, and by the way, if you want the background on what a King Cake is...please click here.  And same goes for Jezebel sauce, click here.

After a little trip to the grocery store tonight, I got down to business and started following recipe on the cake mix box.  First I made the dough...

Then rolling it out....

And then forming it into the 15" x 22" rectangle as per the instructions.  My quilting ruler came in handy for the measuring....

I prepared my filling, the said Jezebel sauce, manipulated from a recipe I found on Southern Living's website.  Here are my ingredients:  Raw Honey, Apricot Preserves, Orange Marmalade, Limoncello syrup, Crushed Pineapples, Horseradish, Crushed Red Pepper, and some homemade Dijon Mustard I made a week ago.  In my King Cake filling version of this sauce, I used more of the sweet and fruity ingredients and a little less of the spicy, pungent ingredients, so as to not overpower the cake.

I whisked all the ingredients together on medium low heat and voila!  Jezebel Sauce!

Continuing on with the cake process, I smoothed out a cream cheese filling with praline sugar (which was included in the cake mix), and added crumbled goat cheese:

After the goat cheese, came the Jezebel sauce.  And that's when my King Cake turned into a tragic comedy.  Blame it on that tawdry Jezebel, I say!

One very important thing I forgot to do was to wait for the Jezebel sauce to fully cool down before I drizzled it into my King Cake.  I learned that after I jelly-rolled the cake and watched it become a soppy mess.  I won't show you the tragedy, but I will show you the comedic aftermath:

All that, even after I sang a King Cake song to the Pastry Gods.  Ah live, you learn.

Not wanting to make another sacrifice, I salvaged the goopy King Cake and carried on regardless!
Here it is, baked, after coming out of the oven:

Yes, this King's not a pretty one.  Reminds me of a cross between a Sbarro Calzone and Java the Hut, but beauty's only skin deep.  What's on the inside counts, right?!  Goat cheese & Jezebel, hell yeah!

So with a little finessing & festooning, glazing and sprinkling- the cake was decorated and the baby was placed safely in the middle.  With a pirate flag.  To make it look tough....and possibly summon the spirit of Jean Lafitte.......arrrrrggghhhh, oui, oui!

Although my finished kitchen creation doesn't look very appetizing, I sampled a little bite and I was very pleased with the goat cheese/ Jezebel sauce filling.  Presentation went out the door here, but taste was not compromised!

Some day I will revisit making the King Cake again, but until then,
'Have a Little Mercy on Me!'