Oh hi, Ojai.

14 Feb

2013.  Back in business.  First things first, a very heartfelt thanks to all the Dubu fans who (ever so gently) checked in, inquiring as to when they would get more Dubu.  Two things: (a) You really know how to make a grown woman cry, and (b) You had me at hello.  Point is, eight months is far too long to keep you hanging and I do apologize.  Never again, people.

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Ojai Valley Inn

So for my first post-hiatus post, I’ll recount a recent weekend in Ojai, as it was healing, joyful and beautiful — a pretty accurate snapshot of the emotional space I am trying to occupy in my path of grieving, coping and…well…living.

For MLK weekend this past month, the Husband and I decided to whisk ourselves away for an overnighter and see what Ojai had to offer.  Or more precisely, what this place had to offer.  Okay, hi.  Got it.  It’s pretty amazing.  What made the weekend especially memorable was not the Mira Sorvino sightings (not once, but twice), but instead, the fantastic Farmers’ Market the town of Ojai had to offer. (Sundays, 9am-1pm, 300 E. Matilija Street).

We love, love, love Farmers’ Markets.  Love the people, love the food, love the smells, love the sights (so much love).  Not sure if it was because the glorious sun was peeking out after a week of intermittent rain (“STORMWATCH 2013″ lol), but somehow the individual stalls selling artisan wares, organic cheeses, and mouth-watering mini-pies all looked especially perfect that day.  And to top it off, the adorable bluegrass band in the corner sat on bales of hay looking ridiculously quaint, surrounded by giggling children chasing bubbles, or something to that effect.  Probably a puppy or two thrown in there as well.  And a rainbow.  You get what I’m saying.

 

After about an hour drive north on the 101, we arrived hungry and ready to eat.  We hunted and gathered as only urban dwellers can do, and came up with a pretty nice spread. We decided to eat in the herb garden (yes, the herb garden) at our Southern California Luxurious Resort.  

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The rest of the weekend was filled with the usual Ojai-ian things we were sent by a divine power to do – lounge by the pool, lounge while getting a massage, lounge while lazily riding bikes, lounge while playing cards by the fire, lounge while watching the sunset, lounge while pretending to participate in an evening stretch and yoga class…you get the point.  34 hours later (2 hours at the Camarillo Premium Outlets, who can resist?), our minds both contemplative and serene, we arrived home, ready to take on what the year will bring.

In the words of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “We shall overcome.”

*This (and all future posts) is dedicated to my loving sister Bona Lisa Kim (August 6, 1984 – July 19, 2012).  You were always my biggest fan.  Happy Valentine’s Day, Bobo.*

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The Hungry Games: A Quest for Naeng Myeon in Koreatown

12 Jun

Vichyssoise.  Gazpacho.  Borscht.  Every culture seems to have a traditional dish of cold soup providing respite from sweltering temperatures and fortitude for who knows what else.  For Koreans, this dish is mul naeng myeon.

In Los Angeles’ Koreatown, finding a good bowl of naeng myeon can be a game.  The start of naeng myeon “hunting” season is heralded with the first hot day of the year.  Jostling Korean restaurants place ads in Korean newspapers in an attempt to draw customers, tempting readers with eye-catching photos of mouth-watering combination specials like the veritable kalbi naeng myeon combo.  Discerning customers trickle into restaurants, trying to find the perfect balance of noodles that are chewy but not overly so, and broth that is tangy but not too sweet.  Like a good man, a satisfying bowl of naeng myeon can be hard to find.

Naeng myeon, which literally means “cold noodles” is a dish with two varieties: spicy noodles with no broth (bibim naeng myeon) or noodles with a tangy clear broth  (mul nang myeon).  The latter is my personal favorite and has several components: a cold, translucent and flavorful broth, thin chewy noodles and a satisfying array of cold accoutrement layered on top (thinly sliced Asian pear, pickled radish, cucumbers and boiled beef with often half a boiled egg as the pièce de résistance).

Naeng myeon noodles are long and thin and often made of buckwheat, potato and/or sweet potato, with variations of arrowroot, green tea and seaweed. Arrowroot noodles are healthier and a bit chewier than the usual buckwheat variety (plus, have that great Legend of Zelda-ish name).  Naeng myeon noodles are very thin, usually light in color (except arrowroot which is dark brown), and has a satisfyingly chewy yet easily slurp-alicious quality to them.  Like any Asian noodles, they are said to signify long life but for convenience’s sake, the option to cut them into more manageable sections exists at any restaurant.  (Your Korean waitress may approach your table à la Edward Scissorhands gesturing wildly, which signifies your turn to nod politely at her, showing no fear.)

The mul naeng myeon broth is complex and is akin to the Supreme Court test for obscenity: something better recognized than described.  It is both sweet and salty, iced and full of flavor from the beef, chicken or dongchimi (a type of kimchi) which gives life to the broth.  At the table, each person’s mul naeng myeon broth is further flavored with white vinegar and a yellow mustard to give the broth more depth.

My favorite mul naeng myeon contender this season is the unassuming So Hyang (3435 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles CA  90010; 213.385.5600).  Offering a $9.99 kalbi naeng myeon special all the time, it offers some of the best-tasting mul naeng myeon, in an upscale atmosphere with a price yet to be rivaled.  Since this is a Korean BBQ joint to begin with, the perfectly charred, sweetly marinated side of sizzling kalbi accompanying the mul naeng myeon is solid.  Together both are the perfect complement to a warm weather day.

Another strong contender worthy of honorable mention this season is Ham Hung (3109 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90006; 213.381.1520).  Let the games begin!

Kalbi mul naeng myeon: the perfect summer combo


Seoul-Searching at a Hanok

30 Apr

Last fall, the Husband and I were Asia-bound.  Shanghai and South Korea to be exact.  We brought all that was necessary for a proper trip to Asia: a good camera, scintillating reading material, powerful hand sanitizer, my parents, his parents.

Wait, hold up (sound of record screeching)…both sets of parents?  As some of our friends were kind enough to point out: two sets of in-laws does not a vacation make.  But  it was hard not to be swept away by our parents’ enthusiasm at what they pointed out was a potential once in a lifetime experience.  So away we went.

Any feelings of initial trepidation vanished immediately as the Husband and I quickly realized what we had embarked upon: a roll-up-your-sleeves-kind of eating tour of China and Korea.  Yes, we can definitely do two and a half weeks of this.  Two families united by a common love of regional cuisine resulting in a show and tell hour at mealtimes.  Coincidentally, our kind of trip.

As the Husband is of Chinese descent (and I of Korean), our first destination was Shanghai.  We happily stuffed our faces with noodles, dumplings and all kinds of crazy seafood (future post on this, I promise).

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Then it was on to South Korea, for a weeklong bus tour around the country (my parents’ favorite mode of touring) and then a few days on foot, walking and eating our way around Seoul.

We stayed in hotels most nights — some ritzy, some not so much.  All would agree that our most memorable experience by far though, was our three day stay off the beaten track at a hanok.

A hanok is a traditional Korean house.  Hanoks differ according to landscape, climate and even social class.  But all hanoks are single story, open up to a central courtyard and share in the characteristic ondol floor (floor based heating system).

Our hanok was centrally situated in Bukchon, Seoul, an area sandwiched between two large royal palaces.  This historical and trendy area seemed to be experiencing a surge in hanok renovation and restoration.  As this was my first time in Bukchon (and my fourth time to Seoul in about a decade), I was more than pleasantly surprised with this neighborhood.  Bukchon was both modern and traditional.  Painstakingly restored hanok structures stood next to funky bakeries, interesting coffee shops and cute boutiques.  The duality of the neighborhood’s hipness and its silent nod to its past was comforting, a feeling I found increasingly rare in a city which obviously developed at lightening speed.

This particularly charming hanok was owned by two young Korean women who I pegged to be in their early thirties.  They had spent some time living in Canada and New York, and had returned to Korea to open a guesthouse, which was rich in artistic touches (not to mention a particularly impressive security system).

Upon entering the front gate, there was a little room separated from the main house.  This was our room we were told.  The Husband  and I poked our heads in and saw a thin mattress on the floor, an electric kettle, a nightstand, as well as a beautiful mural on the adjoining wall.  I oohed and aahed over the floral motif of the mural, the ornate furniture and the thoughtfully arranged collection of Korean-American literature on the small bookshelf, while the Husband less than enthusiastically noted the absence of a television and the tiny slippers by the door which were supposed to house his size 12 feet.  We both immediately felt the heat emanating from the floor.

May I interject at this point to point out that the Husband’s body temperature seems to run a little hotter than the average human being.  He gets hot very easily.  I am the complete opposite and am always a bit cold.  While the thought of slumbering peacefully on a heated floor sounded nothing but soothing and relaxing to me, it was quite possibly the Husband’s worst nightmare.  The bathroom situation also took some getting used to.  It was not immediately connected to our room, so that we had to put on slippers (which were adorable by the way if you hadn’t noticed), and shlep around the room, outside to a side entrance, where the toilet, sink and shower (all very modern by the way) were enclosed in a different room.  While this was very novel and adventurous, schlepping back to the room after a shower in the brisk autumnal breeze with a not too large towel was less than desirable.  However we quickly acclimated to our new surroundings, our stay was more than comfortable and left very little to be desired.

Mornings greeted us with a home cooked breakfast served in the common area which had one low dining table and (you guessed it), a heated floor.  Presented with the choice of Western (eggs and toast) or Korean style breakfast (rice porridge), we all opted for the Western breakfast (lunch and dinner usually were Korean food so we wanted to mix it up).  The six of us sat cross-legged on the floor and dined on eggs, toast, freshly sliced fruit and piping hot coffee and tea, perfectly prepared and served promptly.  With no television, newspaper or gargantuan hotel breakfast buffet luring our attention away, we sat and animatedly chatted about our favorite things we had seen, memorable things we had eaten and what we wanted to do our last few days in town.

Fast forward to the evenings, after days filled to the brim with sightseeing, where we would gather around that same table again for an hour or two.  Munching on sliced apples purchased from a fruit vendor on the street, we’d sip tea and flip through guidebooks, comfortable in each other’s company.  Our rooms were too small to escape to and the rice paper walls too thin to give any semblance of privacy.  Hence we all gathered in the common room, as I imagined families had done for centuries past.  Devoid of the drone of television, we chatted about our day, shared stories, stretched our tired limbs and eventually returned to our separate chambers at the end of the night.  Content.

I realized that this was the very thing that made the hanok experience so memorable.  Not the hilarious site of the Husband scrunching his large feet into tiny pointed slippers schlepping off to the bathroom.  Not the relentless ondol heating system.  Not the Jenga-like skills we utilized to compete with our large American suitcases for room in our tiny quarters.  Instead the image I will forever have in my mind is the six of us gathered around that small table munching on sliced fruit, swapping stories every night before bed.

The Husband and both sets of parents.

Koreatown: My, What Big Pots You Have!

28 Mar

This past rainstorm came and went like a clumsy intruder with a bucket of water.  Gutters disappeared as the streets rose up to meet the sidewalk.  Brave pedestrians crossed thoroughfares, their ankles wading through the water.  The brave few with umbrellas clung to them desperately as the wind turned them inside out, transforming the scene into an array of origami-like flowers.  The rain seemed to come out of nowhere and yet was a welcome respite from the past few weeks of impenetrable sunshine (god Los Angeles, just quit it already).  With weather like this, there are two things I often feel compelled to do: bake and eat soup.  Lentil, vegetable, black bean – yeah, that’s all good and tasty, but what I truly crave in this type of weather is some good Korean soup (tang or guk).

Korean soup?  What’s that?  Not the scorned black pot of fermented bean paste soup that arrives at your table when you’re eating Korean BBQ, many times outshone by its sexier counterpart (the smoky, aromatic, glistening galbi short ribs).  I’m talking Korean grandmother-tested, and your dad-who-wears-slippers-with-socks-in-public-and-your mom-with-her-sixteen-golf-visors-in-her-car-pimped-out-with-a-furry-steering-wheel approved.  When people think Korean food, thoughts of kimchi, galbi and colorful panchan immediately come to mind.  But many overlook the transformative properties of Korean broth.

 

Kuengama is a 24-hour Korean soup joint on 8th and Mariposa in the heart of Los Angeles’ Koreatown.  This place incidentally also boasts one of the best hangover remedies in town: haejangook (spicy beef broth with cabbage, vegetable and, if you so desire, congealed ox blood.  Please don’t stop reading).  Whenever I am getting over a cold, feel a cold coming on, have just brushed against someone who looks like they had a cold, you’ll find me here.  Also, any family gathering, rainy day, hangover, or celebratory reason, this place is on my shortlist.  I guess you could say it’s my Peach Pit.

This is not a place I take many of my non-Korean friends when they want Korean food (the Husband excluded).  This is not a new and trendy sul jip (pub), nor are you greeted by wafts of sweetly bbq-ed meat laying on coals upon entering the restaurant.  In fact, the most exciting thing about this place can can only be seen if you enter through the back entrance:  some really big pots of soups that have been simmering for hours.

 

I’ve watched as many a non-Korean nervously scan the menu looking for something (anything!) recognizable.  This is not a place for bibimbap or japchae folks, nor is this a panchan abounding place where you ooh and aah at all the small plates of food.  This is a time to get your seolleongtang on (milky colored beef broth with meat and noodles).  Or your kamjatang (spicy pork neck and potato soup).  Or your samgyetang (ginseng and (a whole!) chicken soup).  A time to look around at the droves of Korean plaid clad golfers and families, all repeat customers eagerly wolfing down their meals, giving the place more legitimacy than any Zagat rating could.  A time to let your eyes rest on that crazy Korean drama playing on the big screen television where every actor is screaming and crying bloody murder, which of course has no one in the restaurant even batting an eye.  Spectacular.

Just as I order the same kind of pastrami sandwich every time at Langers, here it’s always the seolleongtang for me.  You can get it with meat, “guts” or mixed, but it is actually the broth I enjoy more than the meat itself, which I slowly fish out and pile uneaten on a separate plate (travesty!) while the Husband watches aghast, slowly shaking his head back and forth in disapproval.  The Husband likes to mix it up, and has a few soups on rotation: the most recent being either the haejangook (hangover cure) or galbi tang (short rib soup).  The soups pictured here are not spicy, but the haejangook (hangover cure) and kamjatang (spicy pork and potato) are quite spicy, characterized by their deep red, sweat-inducing broths.

Galbi tang (short rib soup with vegetable)

Seolleongtang (beef broth soup with meat and noodle)

Accompanying the soups are giant communal bowls of coarse sea salt and freshly cut green onion as well as a small side dish of shrimp paste — all which are are additional flavoring tools for your broth (usually, the non-spicy soups).  I also like to order the beandaeduck (mung bean pancakes) to give the meal a variety of flavor and texture.  I think theirs is one of the best in all of Koreatown and at under $8, half the price of the pajun (seafood pancake), very reasonably priced (much of their menu is under $10).

 

 

Only two types of kimchi will grace the table here – Kkakdugi (radish) and regular napa cabbage kimchi.  Each table is armed with the ubiquitous Korean preferred mother-of-all tools (scissors) to cut the kimchi into bite-sized pieces (or not, like my mother who swears uncut kimchi tastes better and furiously waves my hand away when I approach with scissors in hand).  Bonus: if you’ve ever fantasized about being Edward Scissorhands for even one minute, you really must try this kind of dining.

 

Finally, the pièce de résistance is the heuk mi ssal rice.  Served in an earthen pot with the lid on, this is a black and white rice mixture with tender soybeans and chestnuts sprinkled about.  The end result is a beautiful purple ebony color showcased in an elaborate voilà  moment when the lids are taken off.  The ingenious earthen pot stays hot for hours, slowly cooking the rice even more so that the bottom of the bowl rice gets extra crispy as you are enjoying your meal.  Talk about multi-tasking.  Towards the end of the meal, hot roasted barley tea (boricha) is then poured into the rice pot to create yet another soup-y treat:  nurungji (crispy rice) with tea.

Growing up, I didn’t understand my mom’s obsession and reverence for nurungji.  I would often whine and ask why she wanted to eat a pot of “dirty rice” (I can’t believe she let me out of the house sometimes).  Years later, I began to understand the allure of the crispy morsels of chewy rice, soaked in an earthy broth of roasted barley tea, matched with a singular piece of kimchi gingerly laid on top to create the perfect mouthful.  I didn’t understand that it warmed your belly and your soul to eat such simple and hearty food.  And now I can’t get enough.  Rain or shine.

A Sample of Boyle Heights

19 Mar

The Three Amigos: Tinga de Pollo, Cochinita Pibil and Mole de Pollo tacos.

Eastsiiide…Having lived in the Arts District of Downtown LA for several years now, I am a bit ashamed to admit that the Husband and I have not adequately taken advantage of our proximity to Boyle Heights and explored its rich food possibilities.  I would venture to say its a probable combination of both fear and laziness.  Fear of the unknown plus knowledge that soon enough, a handy-dandy, oh so easily accessible list of places would soon be blessed and posted online by the Jonathan Golds and Anthony Bourdains of the eating world.  Long had we been lured by tales of delicious, simmering sauces ladled onto the Mexican dishes of our dreams, sopped up by soft as silk homemade tortillas that could sail a thousand barcos.  But still we waited.  I wondered whether this meant we had become the dining equivalent of travelers who flocked to Cuba only after Lonely Planet published a guidebook.  Hmmm.  Finally on a random uneventful weekday, spurred into action by a recent Evan Kleinman (KCRW) segment on eating in Boyle Heights, we pulled the trigger and crossed over the First Street bridge.  It was time see what all the chatter was about.  It was time to check out Guisados.

Guisados, a somewhat recently opened taqueria (2010), is located on Cesar Chavez Boulevard, a main artery in the colorful and historical Boyle Heights neighborhood of southeastern Los Angeles.  What initially drew me in, and what will forever have me returning, are the tortillas.  These poufs of goodness are made from nixtamal which is freshly ground into masa in a large stone grinder by none other than the owner’s brother (who does this all in his market/panaderia next door).  The end result is fresher than fresh, never-older-than-thirty-minutes, melt-in-your-mouth masa which you can definitely taste in these tortillas.  Plus if you’re a sucker like me, your heart will be warmed by this picture of congenial familial confluence.  I’m no math person, but what immediately popped into my head was the mathematical analogy specifically calculated for Los Angeles residents.  Guisados’ tortillas : tacos ::  Bay Cities’ bread : sandwiches.

 

Having done my research and being the inveterate indecisive orderer, I knew the taco sampler was an absolute must.  With six mini tacos (bargain priced at under $7; regular sized tacos are $2.50 each and are a hearty portion as well), I chose a sampling of tinga de pollo, mole de pollo, mushrooms, cochinita pibil (pork) and beef tacos.  Each one packed a punch as the sweet and smoky flavors seemed to leap into my mouth.  The pickled onions, cool avocado and fiery don’t f- with me jalapeño sauce served as edible signposts to mark our progress during this ten minute taco jaunt down sensory lane.  My favorites were the tinga de pollo, the mushroom and the mole de pollo.  We also took advantage of the Lent specials scrawled on the chalkboard menu and split a ceviche, which was a refreshing counterpart to the stewed taco fillings.  It instantly transported us back to the delicious ceviche spots we sought out and coveted during a trip to Cozumel years ago.  As we slowly and wistfully got into the car and drove away, I made a mental note to try the tamale, calabicitas taco and the agua frescas on our next visit, while the Husband swore the unordered chicharron and horchata were calling his name.  

Guisados (and Boyle Heights), we shall return.

Pickles After Midnight

7 Mar

When the midnight hour strikes, many people are counting sheep or are deep in an REM state of slumber.  Myself?  A perennial insomniac, I prefer to count peppercorns, elbows deep in cucumbers and vinegar.  Yes.  I make pickles, and many times it is after midnight.

Pickles after midnight are great for a variety of reasons.  One, they are incredulously easy to make.  Two, they give you and your fridge something to look forward to in a week.  And third, in the time usually spent Facebook stalking or pinning food porn to Pinterest, you will have an entire jar of cucumbers pickling, ready to go.

Pickles were always a big part of my life.  I distinctly remember going on outings to Jewish delis with my mother and older sister when I was young.  Splitting corned beef sandwiches on rye, we would slather Dijon mustard on each bite, my feet wiggling in excitement under the table from the deliciousness of it all.  Our arrival was heralded with a plate of perfectly crunchy pickles which we all agreed was the highlight of our visit.  During the next decade or so, it was the pickle jar I would reach for instead of a cookie jar since my mother never baked.  This coincidentally worked out well with my penchant for salt.  Years later, in college, I would introduce my then-boyfriend-now Husband to the joys of pickles and he too joined my religion.

 A friend of mine in San Francisco inspired me to make pickles.  This is his recipe in which I am forever grateful that he shared it with me.  The dried chili peppers were from a recent harvest of the Husband’s.  I highly recommend peppers for the novice grower (like us) since they are easy, fun and are a high yielding plant.

When pickling, you can be somewhat liberal with the seasonings and play around with the recipe, adding more garlic or less chili peppers, according to your taste preference.  I also like to alternate between using pickling cucumbers or Persian cucumbers depending on my mood and what I can find organic in the store.

Happy Pickling!

Hester’s Pickles

12-14 pickling or Persian cucumbers
2 cups water
1 3/4 cups white vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
One packet “pickling spice” (sold in local grocery stores)
2 Tbsp kosher salt (NOT iodized which will turn the liquid a strange unappetizing color and affect the taste)
3-4 bay leaves
6-8 cloves of garlic cut in half
2 cups fresh dill
Whole dried chili peppers
2 tsp whole black pepper

Heat water and vinegar on medium heat.  Add salt and sugar and stir gently so that they dissolve.  Just before it starts boiling, turn off heat.  In a glass airtight jar, add other ingredients, including the cucumbers.  Pour hot liquid mix into the jar so that the ingredients are fully submerged.  Place in fridge for 7-8 days.

      

Free at Last (or Yes, Still Talking about that Damn Cleanse)

23 Feb

Avocado - my best friend

Done.  Finito.  And I do solemnly swear to refrain from mentioning it again this year.  21 days with no soy, gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, nightshades, refined sugar, red meat, sushi, caffeine, alcohol, blah blah blah…zzzzzzz.  21 days of eye rolling from my blessed friends, family and co-workers as I blabbered incessantly about this for three weeks straight.  21 days of juicing, blending, slurping, chopping, cooking, breathing and shedding.  21 days of disciplined Jedi mastery over every precise item I consumed during this 21-day cleanse honoring the digestive system.

The Husband in a last-ditch attempt at solidarity (or because his beloved espresso machine is on temporary hiatus) joined me in the last 48 hours of the cleanse.  As he is a pretty hardcore coffee drinker, I was a bit apprehensive of having to shoulder caffeine withdrawals during the last leg of my 21-day journey.  How dare he waltz in here and try to steal the glory of the finish line.  Like a true partner though, he soldiered through with me until the end, eating only what and where I ate, giving up coffee, refraining from complaints, and abstaining from late night snacking or second dinners that, let’s face it, folks, he is no stranger to.  It doesn’t matter that every time I looked over, his eyes were closed or that he was literally fast asleep, because he was there, body and soul (kind of) when it mattered.  And those two days without caffeine were probably harder for him than my entire three-week experience, so props to you Husband.

Things I Learned This Time Around

Hugo’s Gluten-Free Vegan Blueberry Cheesecake

One benefit I derive from doing this cleanse is that it is a constant learning process for me.  So what did I learn this second time around?  Besides the world of juicing I mentioned in my last post on the cleanse, I learned that eating out at vegan restaurants in Los Angeles can get pretty frickin’ expensive.  But if you are desperately needing a piece of vegan, gluten-free blueberry cheesecake, you can have that blueberry cheesecake experience for a mere $8.  And despite the fact that it is made of sweet potatoes, cashews, coconut and agave soaked blueberries, if you close your eyes it really doesn’t taste that different from the real thing.

I also learned that there are some really great farmer’s market vendors in Los Angeles selling prepared vegan food items that make it easy and inexpensive to be vegan, such as Dave’s spicy miso soup or Bolani’s cilantro pesto (pictured below on top of brown rice fusilli pasta).

 

 

I learned that it is possible to live a dairy, wheat, gluten, refined sugar, soy-less existence and that Los Angeles is a good city that enables that, with restaurants such as CruHugo’sCafe GratitudeShojinNative FoodsRFDM Cafe, and Amwaj.

I learned that Trader Joe’s recently came out with their brand of a cold-pressed, organic extra virgin olive oil for only $6.  I went through an entire bottle during this cleanse whereas last time I had difficulties finding this in inexpensive quantities.  I learned that Fresh & Easy has really stepped up their game with gluten-free items, which can be easier on the wallet than Whole Foods.

Additionally, I learned that adding an extra week to the cleanse doesn’t seem like serious business since it is already so much of your daily routine.  I learned that the opposite can also be true too, and that it is in fact, pretty serious business.  I prematurely and shortsightedly had a beer, grilled cheese and sweet potato fries at 2 a.m. post-cleanse and woke up nauseous and dizzy the next day.  I don’t recommend this gangbusters approach, people.

Reader Questions 

Kind readers asked how I kept my motivation and what to do when energy levels were low.  I was motivated by a variety of things.  One was a feeling of control.  Just as the psychology behind eating disorders is the satisfaction of being in control, I would argue that the same satisfactory feeling applies here but in a healthier form.  A cleanse of course is no eating disorder and there is no binging and puking.  What was comforting for me was the feeling of having almost absolute control over what I ate.  This means not eating out as much, as well as having to shop and cook religiously (which really, should be more ingrained in my life).  I couldn’t control traffic, my job, rising gas prices, or annoying people in my life but I could control this.  Oh yes, I must mention that I did in fact turn into the weirdo who would ask you if I could sniff your brownies or your fries, loudly inhale and then close my eyes.  What can I say – coping mechanism!

I was also motivated by the idea that this was a way to respect and pay homage to my body.  Not to sound cheesy and new age-y, but I wanted to believe that in my natural state, my body was restoring and rejuvenating itself (sounds like a sci-fi movie, I know).  This was a period of great discipline where I had to retrain myself not to lean heavily on food for emotional solace but  learn to comfort and distract myself with other things (and things that didn’t involve online shopping).  Books.  Music.  Conversation.  Pinterest. (Ha).  It was also a period of contentedness and peace (not world, but inner).  I started seeing things in a different light.  I started saving things in my pocket to recycle instead of throwing away in the nearest trash can.  I’m not saying I was some bag lady Buddha with tons of crap in my pockets, but certain times during these 3 weeks, yes, I felt downright euphoric.

I was also motivated by people who fast for religious reasons like Ramadan which is inexplicably far more difficult and who don’t spend their time blogging about it and complaining in a self-laudatory fashion (um, awkward).  Seriously though, what’s three weeks in the large scheme of things?  And low energy levels?  Honestly, nothing a handful of nuts or seeds couldn’t take care of.  I did however almost faint when I read online that this cleanse was recommended every 8-12 months.  I did this 5 months ago.  FIVE MONTHS AGO, people.  Which means, yes, I totally did not need to be doing this.  OMG.  But by then, I was already in the zen, whatever man, it’s all good mode, so instead I shifted into the “Okay, so that means I’m set for 2012″ mode.  Eleven pounds lighter (since I started my first cleanse) and hopefully a ton wiser, I am ending this chapter and reshelving for a later time.

A hearty thanks to my readers.  I promise not to bore you with this for at least another calendar year.  Following are some recipes and food items that helped me along the way.  Oh yeah, and for those of you wondering about that 2 a.m. grilled cheese?  Why, euphoric, of course.

Requested Recipes during the Cleanse

In All Your Morning Glory Juice

2 apples (I used gala)
2 stalks of celery
1 inch of ginger
3 pieces of kale
1 organic carrot (can include some root) (optional)
1/4 of a beet (can include some root) (optional)

Easy Lentil Soup

1 cup red lentils, rinsed well
3 tsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, minced
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup brown rice (optional)
salt and pepper to taste (I used 4 generous pinches of sea salt)
32 ounces of organic, low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth to make this vegetarian)
1/2 cup of fresh spinach, cut into slivers (optional)

Cook lentils separately until soft.  Drain and put aside.  Cook brown rice and put aside.  In a large pot, add olive oil and sauté the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and spices, slowly adding in the broth.  Add lentils to soup mixture, stirring slowly.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for about 10-15 minutes.  Add brown rice and cook for another 5-7 minutes.  Add slivers of spinach right before serving.  (if not on cleanse, can add some tomatoes as well during the initial vegetable sauté).

Makes 3 generous servings.

Larb 

1 lb ground chicken or turkey
1.5 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp gluten-free tamari soy sauce (optional and can use lime juice instead)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 chopped scallions (white and green parts)
1/2 red onion (or two shallots), thinly sliced
2-3 dried red chiles, chopped finely (more if you like it very spicy)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Dressing
2-3 tbsp fish sauce
1.5 tbsp honey (raw if on cleanse)
juice from 2-3 limes

Don’t be afraid to play around and add more/less fish sauce, honey and lime until you get the desired tart and sweet balance.

In a hot pan, warm some oil.  Cook ground meat, adding salt, pepper, red onion/shallots, ginger, soy sauce, chiles and garlic. Stir occasionally until meat is cooked thoroughly. While the meat is cooking, in a separate bowl, mix the dressing ingredients.  Put aside.  Put the cooked meat mixture into a bowl.  Add the sliced scallions and cilantro and toss gently.  Add dressing, tossing again. Serve on a bed of lettuce or with raw green cabbage.

Stuff We Ate Along the Way

Hugo’s Chicken Stir-Fry with Kelp Noodles
Hugo’s Moroccan-Style Stew
Cru’s Taco Salad 
Cru’s Pad Thai
Cafe Gratitude’s I Am Whole (kelp and quinoa bowl)
Cafe Gratitude’s Tacos
Native Foods’ Ensalada Azteca
Native Foods’ Soul Bowl (Faux Fried Chicken)
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