Ritual Cleanse: Day 1 Review
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I went to Paris in January for a week, and when I came back I came down with a cold that knocked me out for almost 2 more weeks. As a result, I was pretty run down and started to see myself trapped in a downward spiral. I felt terrible, so I ate terrible, which just made me feel more terrible. I was craving things like sugar and white flour. When I read a review about a girl’s experience with Ritual Cleanse, I decided to give it a go. Almost all of the online feedback was positive, and pre-packaged, fresh, organic juices seemed like a healthy and convenient way to fast. I’m on a three day reset cleanse, which I’m hoping will be just enough time to reset my appetite and palette, so that I can once again fit into my goal pants.

Let me preface this by saying that Ritual Cleanse is not cheap. However, going to the farmers market and then spending my entire Sunday juicing would not have been cheap either, especially since I don’t own a juicer. I found a 20% off coupon which made $80 a day seem more reasonable, and I put in my order. I woke up at 6am on Monday morning to pick up my juice bag at a gym in Brentwood. You can have it delivered, but the company is in Irvine and their local delivery option comes between midnight and 6am, and I had no way to let them into my building except to wake up between midnight and 6am, and that just wasn’t going to happen. My 20 juices (6 per day and one set of the pre/post workout drinks) came in a stylish green cooler bag which was incredibly heavy.

9am

I brought my bag home and put my juices in the fridge. The instructions indicated that I should drink one juice every 2 hours, so I held out until 9AM to start. This was the hardest part because I like to have breakfast as soon as I wake up, and I tend to get an upset stomach if I don’t. The first juice of the day is a green juice with spinach, kale, romaine, celery, cucumber, green apple, and lemon. It’s like drinking a salad and was not a great introduction to the cleanse. The lemon was a nice kick, though. I managed to drink it, mostly by chugging, on my drive in to work. It settled my stomach’s demand for something to be put into it and I was off and cleansing!

11am

I brought my second juice to a meeting, and there is something really cool about carrying the bottle. It’s very interesting looking and they are all numbered 1-6. My second juice was a seasonal orange, blackberry, apple juice that is a pleasant pink color. It was a little tart for my tastes. At this point I had started to feel a little light headed, but the drink helped with that problem.  I was very surprised that I didn’t feel hungry. This juice I sipped, and I wasn’t done with it until 11:30.

1pm

At this point in the day, I had peed about 7 times. In addition to the juice, you’re supposed to drink a lot of water, and I’m shooting for a gallon every day. However, I’ve noticed that my senses of taste and smell are heightened, and I’ve developed a distaste for the filtered water we have at work. So, I walked down to Mrs. Winston’s and grabbed a liter of pellegrino. The bubbles tasted downright decadent. It was probably 1:30 before I started my next juice, and 2:15 when  finally finished it. Juice #3 is exactly like juice#1, except with ginger instead of lemon. I’ll admit that it was starting to go down easier.

4pm

Because it was taking me so long to drink the juices, it took me until 4 to be ready for my lemonade. It’s a blend of filtered water, lemon, cayenne pepper, and agave that reminds me of the master cleanse formula. It was ok, even though a lot of reviewers said that they loved it. The cayenne was a little weird in my lemonade, I’m not going to lie. At this point I was still feeling a little light-headed and just not very focused, but those are common side effects of fasting and it wasn’t that bad. I was able to get some work done at least.

6:00 pm

Juice #4 is another green juice, which I grabbed as I was finishing up work for the day. I still didn’t feel hungry, but this juice went down faster and easier than the first 2. Mostly I was feeling really proud of myself for sticking to the cleanse, and I could already feel my jeans loosening.

9:00 pm

The cleanse instructions encourage you to steam, so I just had to use one of my Christmas Burke Williams day passes. I went with a friend from work who is a very important member (she gets her own members-only dressing room!), and we steamed and soaked for about an hour. I also did half an hour in the hot tub while she got a massage. By the end of the night, I was starting to feel a little dizzy, despite drinking lots of water at the spa. It could have been the steam, but it also could have been the fact that I was late with juice #6. The final juice of the day has about three times as many calories as the others, and it’s a blend of cashews, water, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. They even leave chunks of cashew in it to make it creamier and the whole thing feels very substantial. Compared to the rest of my day, it felt like I had just finished a 6-course dinner and that I was too stuffed to move. I zoned out with some tv for a few hours and went to sleep around 11.

Sleep

Many reviewers promised that I would get an amazing night’s sleep on the cleanse. However, I woke up two or three times just to pee. Those episodes aside, it was an extremely restful night of sleep.

The Results

I woke up this morning and I was down two and a half pounds. Most of it was probably water weight that my body had been carrying due to the crap I’ve been eating since I got sick, but I feel incredibly light and energized. Two more days to go.

How Not to Date a Vegan
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So it’s happening. As much as I am emotionally and mentally unprepared for it, I have once again found myself thrust into the dating pool. I’ve got the profiles, I’m doing the e-mail banter, phone calls, and dates. The last time I was “on the market” was almost two years ago. I was working as a Jr. Project Manager at a company where my workload was much lighter and no one seemed to depend on me to move things forward. In addition to my strenuous 35 or 40 hour workweek (minus lunch, coffee, and sometimes just breaking for a walk in the middle of the day), I enjoyed an intense workout schedule of 2 gymnastics classes, yoga, and a cardio session weekly. I had time to not only to write this blog, but also to spend weekends experimenting in the kitchen. I was pretty much living the dream, even if I was financially just getting by.

Fast-forward to 2012. My job means so much to me, and it feels great to be able to excel at something and be recognized and rewarded for it. I work with a talented group of people and I run my own team of project managers. The pace is addictive and the work is mentally stimulating. I consider myself successful and I know what I want out of my life, but it comes with a price. In other words, I don’t have any time to waste. This is why I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with two things: men and the stigma of being a vegetarian.

That’s right, I don’t even advertise myself as being a vegan. When I control for factors like intelligence, geographic desirability, and not having some vague job in “sales”, I’m working with a very small percent of the male population. Adding a big scarlet V to my name just seems like too much to ask for. I was even summarily dismissed by a guy because he “love(s) bacon so much that he could never date a vegan.” So I tell them I’m a vegetarian, because hey, I eat honey, I go to restaurants without asking too many questions,the occasional dessert isn’t a cardinal sin, and the Paris exception counts. You would think this would make things easier on me. It doesn’t.

There’s probably no hope for me, but I figured that I could at least write something to offer a little advice to people who might be searching for tips. Here are eight simple rules for dating a vegan.

1. I don’t want a lecture

Yes, I am aware that humans have evolved as omnivores, I know that we have canine teeth. I shop at Whole Foods on a weekly basis, and I am all too aware that it is more expensive. Yes, I am aware that vegans have to pay attention to their B-12 levels. Did you know that that’s the only nutrient not present in a plant based diet? Did you know that our teeth are much smaller and less sharp than those of natural predators, making us unsuited for tearing apart flesh?  Did you know that the meat and dairy industries are heavily subsidized by the government? Oh, you didn’t know those things? Maybe it’s because a first date is the absolute WRONG time for a science lecture and I’m not looking to give you one. I want to wittily banter back and forth and talk about the declining quality of How I Met Your Mother and hear your charming awkward high-school stories.

2. I don’t want to argue

The only thing worse than a holier-than-thou lecture is when someone takes personal offense at the things I choose to put into my body.  If you’re getting all fired up that a girl you barely know doesn’t like to eat things with faces, then you Sir have control issues. There’s no need to raise your voice about it, there’s no need to try to engage me in a defense of veganism by taunting me or talking about all the baby animals you love to eat. You sound ignorant, so just stop talking.

3. Meat is gross

If you have just asked me a question about my diet, and I have responded that I don’t eat meat, then the very last thing I want to do is hear about you putting away half a pound of bacon last weekend. Now I not only have a mental image of you shoveling massive amounts of fatty fried animal flesh into your body, but I also can’t stop picture it churning around in your stomach before eventually causing an intestinal blockage. I don’t eat meat because I can’t get over the imagery associated with it: factory farms, little chickens with their beaks cut off, pigs living in their own feces, blood and guts on the slaughterhouse floor, and that disturbing video of pink “chicken meal” being pumped into McDonald’s chicken nuggets. It ruins the mood for me the same way that me talking about how girls do indeed poop would ruin the mood for you.

4. Don’t justify your diet to me

These people don’t annoy me as much as the others. You know why? It’s because I can tell that they feel guilty about all the crappy food that they put into their bodies, and they want to justify themselves by talking about all the greek yogurt they eat or how they only eat Salmon sometimes or how they would never touch veal. You’ve made a lot of healthy changes to your diet lately? That’s good for you and you should be proud of it, but you shouldn’t seek my validation of it. I can see right through it. The best thing to do when dating someone who embraces a different lifestyle is to just pretend that that difference doesn’t exist. It’s different when I talk about it with my friends or colleagues. You, sir, are a stranger and this is one of the most personal aspects of my life.

5. No, I can’t just “get a salad”

This one is just plain rude, and I see it on the internet all the time. A guy wants to take a girl out on a date, but he wants to go to some expensive steakhouse, so he asks a question on yahoo answers. There are always a chorus of people telling him to just go where he wants to go and that she can just “get a salad”. Well guess what, I can’t just get a salad. Want to know why? It’s because most salads have chicken or eggs or other unsavory things in them or the dressing is made out of mayonnaise. Sometimes all I can do in those types of places is get a bowl of lettuce, maybe with some raw carrots or cucumbers on top and then ask for no dressing and a side of oil and vinegar. Not vinaigrette, vinegar. Now, if I am going out with my friends and they ask me if I want to go to a place like that, and I say yes, I am owning that choice and I will figure out something to eat. However, the early stages of a relationship are all about being polite and putting your best foot forward. I know that a guy is never going to treat me as well as he does on our first couple of dates, and I know that it’s all downhill from that point on.

I know this is a rant and I know that I come off as a completely self-entitled bitch, but I’m just incredibly frustrated with what I’ve been going through lately. My real opinions are somewhat more tempered than what I’ve represented in this post, but I just had to get it all out there. So thanks for reading.

The Ultimate Tofu Scramble
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I know, I know, it’s lame that my triumphant return to blogging is sans photo, but I just perfected my new tofu scramble recipe, and it was so good that I forgot to take a picture.

This recipe is my attempt to recreate a tofu scramble that we were served at The Gentle Gourmet, a vegan B&B in Paris. We visited about a month ago, and I finally think that I have out amazing host’s recipe down.The real trick is that it’s more of a hash than a regular tofu scramble. I use firm tofu that isn’t packed in water (you can get it blocks at either Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s). I’ve figured out that this is the way to go as far as tofu is concerned, because you just have to give it a quick squeeze to release any excess moisture, instead of having to press out the liquid for 15 minutes.

Le Scamble de Tofu

1 c. potatoes, diced

4 oz. of tofu cut into 1/4″ cubes and coated in cornstarch

1/4 bell pepper, cut into slivers

4 medium-sized mushrooms, sliced

1/2 c. frozen spinach (that’s 1/2 c. while it’s still frozen).

2 tsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. dried minced garlic

1/2 tsp.  sea salt

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1. Dice potatoes, cut peppers, and slice mushrooms. Then, take the frozen spinach and defrost under warm running water.

2. Add  2 tsp. oil and garlic to a skillet, heat over high heat, tilting the pan to coat. Add the potatoes and cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the thyme and black pepper.

3. Coat the tofu in cornstarch and add to the pan, along with the mushrooms. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to sweat and the tofu starts to brown.

4. Add the peppers and cook an additional 2 minutes, then add the spinach and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 3 minutes).

5. Season with sea salt to taste and serve.

Apple Chimicheesecake
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Anyone who knew me between the years 2000 and 2004 can probably attest to my love of Applebees, specifically their apple chimi-cheesecakes. Let me break it down for you: they take about half a pound of cheesecake filling, toss in some glazed apples (you know, to make it healthy), wrap it up in a giant flour tortilla, deep fry it, and roll it in cinnamon. You may think that they stop there, but you still have to add a scoop of full-fat vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. I would estimate that it comes in at 1000 calories, safely.

As a complete tangent, I was just looking up nutritional information online. Applebees has discontinued the chimicheesecake ( a responsible choice IMHO). However, this bullshit site has a user-submitted recipe that they claim comes in at 140 calories. I was so infuriated that I created an account to respond. I mean, come on, a tortilla has 120 all by itself.

Anyway, I made a vegan version that is much lighter, but still not something I would reccomend for the faint of heart. We had it on New Years Eve and paired it with When Harry Met Sally (which was actually a brilliant combination).

Chocolate Chip Cookies!
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A conundrum exists when it comes to chocolate chip cookies at Christmas. On the one hand, they are delicious and always seem to disappear faster than the other cookies. On the other hand, they don’t feel very festive or Christmas-y. Every year, I assemble a Christmas Cookie tray and fill it with different types of Christmas cookies, and every year without fail, chocolate chip makes the cut.  In a way, they are my fallback cookie, in case all of the other cookies come out tasting like dirt. They’re also easily the most accessible of all vegan cookies, because everybody is used to them. A chocolate chip vegan cookie is a must easier sell than, say, a pressed spritz cookie with naturally-colored vegan sprinkles. With chocolate chip, there’s no explaining or hard sell; people just pick them up and munch away.

For these particular chip-filled little darlings, I veganized a reduced-fat recipe by substituting egg replacer for the egg whites (yes, the original recipe uses egg-whites) and using earth balance instead of butter. Helpful hint: melting the butter before using it allows you to use less. It’s some kind of miracle of science or physics that allows you to cut the fat in the recipe, which is a good thing because you will want to eat twice as many of these cookies. They are seriously that good.

Vegan Taquería
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Oh my. When the special Holiday menu went up in place of the vegan taquería sign at the Venice Whole Foods, I was worried that it had gone away forever. But, the food never seems to have disappeared and the sign is back. If you are looking for a place to enjoy delicious vegan Mexican food, then you need look no further than that Venice Whole Foods. They have nachos, tacos, and burritos, all made with a blend of gardein vegan “chicken” and peppers.

My nachos consisted of tofu, black beans, daiya, salsa, and guacamole, and they were AMAZING. At 7.99 a pound, they seemed a little pricey, but I’m getting so used to Whole Food’s pricing structure that I don’t even bat an eyelash at this point. I think we can all agree that Nachos are one of the few foods that are always better when someone else makes them.  So, I’m going to urge you to run, not walk, to Whole Foods and order up some vegan nachos, tacos, or quesadillas, because if they continue to sell, Whole Foods will continue to offer them, and I can rest easily knowing I have a vegan nacho hookup whenever I need it.

Oddly-Shaped Samosas
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Without really meaning to, I turned last week into kind of a curry-themed a purse and a pocket week. We started off with delicious samosas and rounded out our week with a Thai coconut curry(more on that later).  Having eaten my fair share of samosas, I decided that I was obviously qualified to make my own. Rather than rolling out my own dough, decided to take the shortcut of using frozen pastry squares. I did a minimal amount of internet research to put together this recipe, which worked out well as far as the potato filling was concerned. However, I really wish that I had watched some sort of youtube video on how to assemble the little bastards. I started my first samosa will a rolled-over architecture that ended up pushing filling everywhere. Then, my boyfriend modified the technique by creating little pastry purses. They held up better during the stuffing process, but opened up in a very strange way during baking. Luckily, they were absolutely delicious, so they didn’t last long enough for me to really notice how weird they looked. That realization only came a few minutes ago while I was reviewing my pictures.

It’s worth a tangent to discuss the accompanying mango chutney. I’ve heard of mango chutney on all the fancy-pants food network shows, as it seems that chefs are always serving things like “spicy habenero elephant tusk…. with mango chutney” or “tandoori fois gras….with mango chutney” or “roasted duck liver with shaved fennel…..and (wait for it) mango chutney!”. They made it seem like a big deal, so when I was at the Samosa House grocery section and saw a jar of this most-precious condiment, I snapped it up. Now, sometimes I build foods up in my head so much that they are sure to be disappointing when I finally try them. Mango chutney was not one of those foods. It was sweet and refreshing and delicious. I actually could have kicked up the spice a notch on my samosas, because the mango chutney possesses some kind of mystical g cooling property.

My Current Favorite Food
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Currently, I would list my favorite dish as tofu lettuce wraps. I found a recipe on the Whole Foods i-phone application and decided that I had to give it a try. During my preparations, I discovered hoison sauce, which is possibly the most perfect sauce ever created. It’s sometimes referred to as Asian barbeque sauce, and it’s a key ingredient in the lettuce wrap filling in addition to being used as a dipping sauce after assembly. These lettuce wraps are ridiculously easy to make, and you can check out the recipe for yourself here. When I made them for a party, my secret ingredient was an extra cup of bean sprouts, which I added with the other vegetables. It added a nice extra crunch to the filling, and bean sprouts are just plain delicious.

Oh Paula
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Oh Paula Dean, how I envy you sometimes. I really am the best girlfriend ever. Unbound by concerns for health or ethical food, you blazenly start every  dish with butter, sugar, and shortening. You laugh in the face of high cholesterol and heart disease when you add bacon to everything. You’ve never met a fry daddy you didn’t love. To be clear, I love Paula Dean, and I have read from more than one source that she doesn’t eat her signature food all the time. I believe her, because if she did, she would way 800 pounds and she does not. I also have to give Paula credit, because all of her recipes perfectly capture the audacity of American southern cooking. Naturally, when I wanted to make authentic beignets for Christmas Breakfast, I turned to the master. I took Paula’s recipe for cafe do monde beignets and appropriately veganized it. It was fairly straightforward, and I think that you can achieve good results with the following steps.

1. Replace the eggs with egg replacer powder and pre-mix it before adding to the evaporated milk.

2. To make evaporated soy milk, take 2 cups of soy milk and bring them to a simmer. Let it boil on the stove for 20 minutes, or until it reduces to half its original size.

3. For god’s sake, cut this recipe in half, because even then it made over 2 dozen beignets, and they do not reheat or keep well.

Coquito Christmas
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You may have noticed a lack of posts around here lately, and that’s because THIS is Santa Clausthings have been ridiculous. In addition to working (which would be enough to keep anyone else busy), December has been filled with Christmas shopping, cookies, and lots of working out to make up for aforementioned cookies. I had the Vegan Ladies of LA over for a Vegan Cookie Exchange, which was a tremendous amount of fun. It’s been a real whirlwind of activities, and here we are on Christmas Eve. I just mixed up a very special recipe that I am going to share with you all: Coquito. As I understand it, Coquito is a Puerto Rican egg-nog-ish drink made with plenty of coconut milk. My mom makes it at Christmas, and it’s always delicious. Coquito is best served chilled over ice (this is to mask the taste of the rum), with a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg. It is literally like Christmas exploded in your mouth, so you’d better enjoy, or you may find yourself the center of the classic Christmas Carol Trope.