Time for a BluePrint Cleanse

After a particularly indulgent summer, as well as a weekend of eating Momofuku pork buns and downing a pint of Oktoberfest beer, I thought it was the perfect time to give my body a break and go on a juice cleanse. My last cleanse was Liquiteria’s Juice, Eat and Repeat, but this time I decided to go with BluePrint, my favorite cleanse program. I’m a big fan for the following reasons: it’s extremely easy to follow (the bottles are numbered by the order you should drink them), the green juice is very accessible (less liquid grass, more delicious apple-celery drink), and the cashew milk is a dream (sometimes I buy a bottle at Whole Foods for non-cleanse reasons, it’s that good). I had a Gilt City voucher on retainer for moments like this, and I purposely timed the delivery to happen right after the Oktoberfest festivities ended so that I was all set to go on Monday.

blueprint - excavation 2
the 6 juices for the blueprint excavation cleanse

People’s reactions to my going on a juice cleanse range are pretty interesting, because it’s always a very strong and negative reaction. Usually they will go off on how they would never do a juice cleanse, because juicing strips fruits and vegetables of their fiber, and it’s so full of sugar, and why are the juices so expensive (that is true, ~$11 a bottle), so what’s the point of doing it, eat solid healthy foods in moderation, dum dum. Rarely does anyone say how they love juice cleanses and do it all the time, with the exception of the 1 or 2 friends that introduced me to it. Everyone does seem to agree that supplementing your diet with 1-2 green juices is a great way to integrate more vegetables.

I personally do it because it is an effective way for me to jump start healthier eating habits. Seeing the water weight loss, however temporary, is a huge motivator, and since I worked so hard to cleanse my system, I’m a lot more conscious of what I eat in the subsequent weeks, and that helps to keep things in maintenance mode. I also think my stomach shrinks, and I end up eating less than usual, so even if I wanted to binge on a large pizza, I physically can’t. Plus, the juices taste good, so the three days of juicing, while tedious, is not unpleasant. I also avoid the cleanses that have too much fruit juices in the mix, since those are the ones with the most sugar–stick to the mostly green ones. If you want to jump on the BluePrint juice band wagon and are curious to know what 3 days of drinking stuff feels like, please proceed!

Day 1 – This was the first day of my Excavation Cleanse, which consists of 4 green juices, 1 spicy lemonade, and, the best for last, the cashew milk. Day 1 of a cleanse, for some reason, is always the easiest. I think it’s because the body is still running on solid food reserves from the day prior. I did have a slight headache by Juice #3, which I think was due to caffeine withdrawal and an early Monday morning start. I luckily didn’t have too many mental juice fog brain fart moments, and I was pretty alert during all of the work calls I was on. I do have to say that at around 5 pm, my productivity came to a halt, and I kept staring blankly at my spreadsheet of numbers.

I was also able to workout–I had a Physique 57 Mixed class at 8, and I was really worried that my workout would be pathetic, but I was able to do full-form push ups and all the modifications for the whole class. At 9:30, I was so grateful for that creamy, heavenly cashew milk, which went down quite easy and too quickly. I didn’t feel hungry today, although my stomach was feeling a little lonely at around 10:30 and kept making a lot of growling noises. But it held its ground and didn’t seek the company of solid foods. I fell asleep pretty instantaneously at 11:30 pm. The deep sleep is one of my favorite parts of a juice cleanse. Not sure if it’s because you’re calorie deprived, and it’s your body’s way of telling you that it can’t do this anymore, but the kind of sleep you get is awesome.

Day 2 – After emerging from my deep sleep, I felt super tired. I lost about a pound the next morning. I was really looking forward to my first green juice. It struck me how fatigued I was, and I felt pretty winded walking up 4 flight of steps. I didn’t have a headache today, but surprisingly I had a stomachache in the afternoon. I’m not quite sure what caused it, but it didn’t last for long. I was also extremely cold. Each time I had a juice, I had to chase it with hot water so that I didn’t feel so miserable. I have bad circulation to begin with, so that probably didn’t help with the temperature issues. I definitely wasn’t as mentally sharp as I was yesterday, I kept thinking the next day was Thursday when it wasn’t, and I would say something but type something else on the computer. I guess these are the signs of your body detoxing and going into withdrawal from not having all those empty calories and caffeine? I skipped my workout in the evening and just sat in front of the TV and watched The Voice. After the cashew milk, I again went to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Day 3 – Woke up, lost another pound. This day was a painful one, mostly because I scheduled an Advanced Physique class at 7 am. I was curious to see what my limits were workout wise. I almost didn’t make it through the push-ups, and I just didn’t even bother trying to lift my hips AND legs during the side planks. The 3 pound weights also felt very heavy, very fast, but I managed to work through it. I was also super hungry today. Usually I time my juices about 2 hours apart, but today I drank based on when my stomach grumbled. Which was earlier than the 2 hour window. I was in less of a mental fog than yesterday, which was good, but not anywhere near pre-cleanse levels. I was also really, really cold again. I was so looking forward to the protein goodness of the cashew milk, that I debated whether I should skip Juice #5 and dive immediately into the nut milk. I decided to stick to the schedule and was pretty relieved that this was the last day.

Post Cleanse Day – I lost another pound, bringing the total to 3 pounds. What these tricky juice cleanse programs don’t tell you is that the cleanse is longer than 3 days. Really, you’re supposed to prep 3 days beforehand, and gently break it 3 days afterwards. So really it’s like a 9 day affair, which is way too long for me. I like a quick and fast burn. My workout in the morning was still horrible because I didn’t eat any post-cleanse foods yet. I tried my best to break the fast via BluePrint’s instructions, which entailed eating only fruits and leafy vegetables the first day. I was pretty good up until lunch, but then Ruoxi wanted to eat pork shoulder and sausage and red wine for dinner, so clearly this derailed my plans. There’s a reason why you have to ease into solid foods, because my stomach started hurting when I ate the pork, and I couldn’t eat that much. But I really, really wanted to. This is how much I like food. Even when I’m in pain or have food poisoning, I want to try everything, and I get disappointed when I can’t. Now that I’ve totally broken the cleanse, I’m looking forward to better workouts (my workout on Friday was so much more effective) and mental clarity and real meals in moderation!

Botched Vegetarian Brunch @ The Butcher’s Daughter

When you walk up to The Butcher’s Daughter, you’ll notice a bunch of lovely ladies sitting at the tables up front, taking a lot of brunch selfies and drinking the requisite pretty girl drink of green juice. Clearly they are here to stick to their juice cleanse and not for the food, because the food here is honestly terrible. Someone needs to let Dad back into the kitchen, because the butcher’s daughter is making a mess of things in the back of the house.

I hate to say it, but the food here represents the worst of vegetarian cooking. You know those nightmares you have where you order a mock “meat” sausage, and it ends up tasting like dried dog biscuit? Those nightmares come vividly to life at The Butcher’s Daughter. An order of the Full English Breakfast consisted of eggs, breakfast “sausage”, beans, tomatoes and mushrooms, and the sausage looked like something out of my dog’s Pup-Peroni Mix Stix package. It tasted like dried dirt and fennel, in case the awfulness did not come across. Again, I get that sometimes vegetarians miss the flavor of meat and want to eat something reminiscent of it, but the mock meat here would only serve to quickly remind them why they converted in the first place. The most edible part of the breakfast platter was the beans, but even so, I’ve had much better beans elsewhere.

butcher's daughter - full english breakfast v2
full english breakfast – eat at your own risk

My smashed avocado eggs benedict was similarly inedible. There didn’t appear to be any seasoning at all in these sad, pallid poached eggs, not even a pinch of salt. The avocados were also extremely plain and bare. It didn’t help that everything was piled on top of the most unappetizing slice of dry, cardboard-like wheat bread ever. Supposedly there were curry, lime and mustard seed in the avocados, but I didn’t taste them at all. We had to apply liberal amounts of hot sauce and salt to get these things to taste somewhat better, but at the end, I gave up and didn’t even bother finishing the other poached egg. And don’t get me started on the “hollandaise” sauce. This non-dairy version had a strange texture and a flavor that was nowhere near the creaminess or the brightness of the regular version. I was very appalled and disappointed by the whole thing. I did eat my pan-fried potatoes. They weren’t that great, and they lacked that crunchy, starchy coating that the best hash browns and potatoes usually possess, but these were desperate times, and I was so grateful to eat them.

butcher's daughter - avocado toast
smashed avocado toast benedict, with mystery sauce…

It wasn’t all bad at The Butcher’s Daughter, I guess. The heritage juices are legitimately tasty–I loved the Goddess of Green juice, one of the best green juices that I’ve had in the city, but at $9 it’s a little steep. The Honey Bee was also sweet and refreshing, although probably a little too sweet for my taste. I didn’t like the smoothie of the day, which was a mango lassi that used coconut milk instead of yogurt, because all I tasted was shredded, frozen coconut flakes and zero mango. It was yellowish-orange though, I have to give them credit for replicating the appearance, I suppose.

butcher's daughter - juices
from top left, clockwise – goddess of green, honey bee, mango lassi

I’m the type of girl who likes to eat, and I usually end up finishing anything that’s on my plate, so the fact that I left a whole egg untouched is a pretty big sign of how bad the food here was. Afterwards, we walked to the Hester Street Fair and ate some pork sandwiches from Arrogant Swine to wipe out the horrible memories from The Butcher’s Daughter.

arrogant swine 1
thank god for the pork sandwich at arrogant swine.

I kind of get why the pretty fashionistas line up here for brunch every weekend–bad food is an extremely effective way of sticking to a dainty cleanse. Maybe “eating” at The Butcher’s Daughter will be my post holiday New Year’s clean eating resolution–nothing like recoiling from fake egg sauce to whip you back into cleansing shape.


The Butcher’s Daughter
19 Kenmare St (and Elizabeth St)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 219-3434

The Butcher's Daughter

Vegan Dinner at Blossom on Carmine

I am absolutely obsessed with Blossom Du Jour, a vegan take-out restaurant near work on 43rd and 9th. I almost look forward to late nights in the office, because that means I can order a bowl of Blossom’s awesome tomato lentil soup and karmic kale salad. In fact, when I was walking back home today, I was very tempted to trek out to Chelsea and order take-out at another Blossom branch, even though this is nowhere near my East Village address.

So when I saw a Groupon deal for Blossom on Carmine, a sit-down restaurant in the West Village that’s part of the Blossom empire, I was all over it. I recruited my vegan enthusiast partner-in-crime Cat to save the date for a vegan dinner at Blossom. Of course, the one day that Ruoxi the hardcore carnivore was free for dinner was the day we had scheduled vegan night, so he too joined us as a very reluctant third wheel.

The restaurant itself felt like a neighborhood joint with a nice ambiance, a quality enhanced by all the atmospheric candle mood lighting that surrounded us. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of couples on dates and small group dinners taking place around us. If you ever wanted to make a good impression on an attractive vegan, then taking her here would be the way to do it. And yes, I used the pronoun “her,” a lot of chicks happen to be vegan. If you ever attend some sort of vegan or vegetarian food festival, you will be surrounded by tons of white chicks.

We had scouted the menu out beforehand and decided to avoid any “mock meat” creations. I’m not opposed to seitan or soy by any means, but it’s highly unlikely that a vegan chik’n wrap can completely measure up to a real chicken wrap. I wanted to avoid unfair comparisons like this and felt original vegetable creations would allow for more objectivity.

I thought the vegetable dishes we ordered were really well done. The brussels sprouts, while sauteed, still retained a fresh crispness about the leaves, and the garlic seasoning provided a lot of nice flavor. The kale and baby bok choy were grilled, and the slight char and the sweet honey glaze went extremely well together.

blossom - shredded sauteed brussels sprouts
sautéed, shredded brussels sprouts
blossom - garlic grilled kale and baby bok choy
garlic grilled kale and hefeweisen/honey glazed baby bok choy

My favorite “vegetable” by far were the french fries. I know this is totally the biggest vegan cop-out order, comparable to proudly ordering a California roll or chicken teriyaki at a sushi restaurant. But there are tons of regular restaurants that mess up fries, and Blossoms’ are some of the best. Thin, golden and perfectly crispy, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

blossom - french fries
french fries

Things started to get a little more interesting with the arrival of the buffalo risotto croquettes. This dish was the first that we ordered that had more conspicuous roots in a meat-inspired dish. Clearly one might draw some parallels between this and the infamous buffalo chicken wing, but capturing the spicy spirit in an arancini ball, which had no obvious ties to chicken meat, avoided the comparisons. The chewy texture was extremely satisfying, and the rice was super concentrated with buffalo sauce. It was definitely one of my favorite non-vegetable items from Blossom.

blossom - buffalo risotto croquettes
buffalo risotto croquettes, pickled carrot ribbons, bleu cheese sauce

I was looking forward to the tagine dish–the warm, intoxicating Middle Eastern stew is something I love. But the tagine at Blossom didn’t have that same soulful warmth about it. Things just didn’t seem to be cohesive. Usually in a tagine the chicken and the surrounding sauces seem to melt into one another, but the elements in Blossom’s version seemed very separate, like let’s technically execute a tagine, but let’s not edit and experiment to make sure the spices and the textures are in harmony.

blossom - tagine
tagine with orange scented millet, chickpeas, dried apricots, and oil-cured olives

The most challenging dish was probably the mushroom pizza, and that was because of the vegan “cheese” that was used on top of it. I think they used daiya cheese, a vegan cheese substitute made from cassava and arrowroot, which are two ingredients I’ve never heard of before. And clearly these unfamiliar and foreign qualities were front and center in the flavor of the pizza. All that I could think about was how this “cheese” tasted nothing like real mozzarella cheese. I tasted something nutty, sometimes a little bbq sauce, which is not what mozzarella tastes like. Everything else–the crust and the vegetables and sauce–were excellent, but the daiya flavors were so strange and obtrusive. If you’re down with daya, though, then this pizza is for you.

blossom - mushroom pizza
mushroom pizza with “mozzarella” cheese

Luckily dinner ended on a high note. We ordered the blueberry bread pudding, which was fantastic. It was crispy, with the texture and pleasing warmth of a freshly cooked waffle. The citrus notes from the lemon provided some bright layers to the dish, and I liked how it wasn’t so sweet–such balance and thoughtful preparation all around. While not every dish hit it out of the park, I did appreciate how the dishes were original and well-executed. Blossom didn’t sit on its laurels knowing that its captive vegan clientele had limited dining options and so it didn’t have to try very hard to please them. Much like its name, this restaurant will continue to blossom if this dinner is any indication.


Blossom on Carmine
41 Carmine St (between Bedford and Bleecker St)
New York, NY 10014
(646) 438-9939

Meatless Monday: Spicy Eggplant Pasta

It’s been awhile since I posted something on vegan week! My vegan diet has lost a bit of momentum with all the distractions from my weekend trips, in which there were too many delicious meat and dairy options around me, and these habits carried over into the week. Furthermore, I kept noticing that my workouts were significantly better on the days when I had meat, so I’ve been incorporating meat more regularly into my work week diet.

But I still try to stick to mostly vegetables where I can. And this delicious spicy eggplant pasta dish, which is comforting, satisfying and filling, makes me look forward to the vegan work week. The original recipe calls for regular wheat linguine, but I actually swapped it for a brown rice pasta. I wanted to see if I could meet the challenge of vegan, gluten-free and delicious, and luckily this brown rice version passed the test!

Spicy Eggplant Pasta, adapted from Food52.com

Ingredients
1 large eggplant
1/2 of a medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
several tablespoons of olive oil
1 8 oz. package of brown rice pasta (I used Pastariso Rice Pasta), you can also use regular linguine!

Preparation

Cut the eggplant crosswise in 1 inch thick slices. Lay the slices on a baking sheet, and salt them well on both sides. Drizzle olive oil over the eggplant, and make sure both sides are coated.

step 1 - prep eggplant
prep the eggplants with salt and olive oil for roasting

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the oven is ready, roast the eggplant pieces for about 20 minutes.

While the eggplant roasts, heat some olive oil on a large saucepan. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, and cook for about 8-10 minutes.

step 2 - sautee onion and garlic
sautee the onion and garlic in olive oil

Add the can of crushed tomatoes, dried oregano and red pepper flakes. The mixture will already be pretty thick. Set the heat very low and mix the sauce from time to time.

step 3 - add crushed tomatoes oregano and chili pepper
add the can of crushed tomatoes, as well as the oregano and red pepper flakes

Once the eggplant is ready, slice it into 1 inch pieces and incorporate into the sauce. Continue to simmer on low heat until the pasta noodles are ready.

step 4 - add diced eggplants
add the chopped eggplants

After adding the eggplant to the sauce mixture, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook for about 6-8 minutes. Stir from time-to-time so that the noodles don’t stick together, which tends to happen more frequently with brown rice pasta. Drain the pasta and fold into the sauce. If you’re using the brown rice pasta, be extra careful, as it is not as sturdy and tensile as its wheat counterpart. It is a delicious, slightly nutty substitute though!

step 5 - serve
spicy eggplant pasta for dinner – gluten free and meat free, but not free of taste!

Vegan Week: Creamy Coconut Milk Tofu Curry

curry tofu - step 7

Week 2 of the vegan work week diet was surprisingly good! I definitely had a breakthrough in my energy levels. You know that feeling you get when you call it an early night and sleep in for a really long time? That’s sort of how I felt for most of last week. It was pretty awesome feeling refreshed and operating with more clarity than my usual out-of-it, blah self. I didn’t need a cup of coffee once and was totally fine with green tea. I could still finish my workouts at the same energy level as my non-vegan weeks, even my more intensive HIIT ones, which is something I’m always paranoid about because the last time I did the vegan diet, I collapsed after 10 minutes on the treadmill. I also felt like I could get full on less, and I never had any cravings for sweets or junk food (it probably helped that I had an arsenal of Emmy’s vegan macaroons with me). It’s getting psychologically easier to eat mostly vegetables, and I don’t find myself longing for a chicken or burger ever. Although to be honest, I do find myself thinking about almond croissants and cheese from time to time.

Below is a recap of week 2–onwards to week 3!

Day 1 – Raw Revolution Chocolate Coconut Bliss bar for breakfast, curried chickpeas (inspired by the amazing salad from Joan’s on Third in LA) and quinoa for lunch, an orange and almonds for snacks, Amy’s Black Bean Enchilada for dinner
Day 2 – Raw Revolution Spirulina bar for breakfast, curried chickpeas and quinoa for lunch, an orange and almonds for snacks, veggie sushi rolls from Alpha Fusion (pickled radish, mushrooms, seaweed and tofu)
Day 3 – oatmeal w/raisins for breakfast, roasted sweet potatoes with arugula salad for lunch, an orange and almonds for snacks, pan-fried brussels sprouts for dinner
Day 4 – White Chocolate Chip Clif Bar for early breakfast, oatmeal w/soy milk and cinnamon for late breakfast, roasted sweet potatoes with arugula salad for lunch, an apple for a snack, sauteed kale and garlic for dinner
Day 5 – a bit of a strange day here, but some fruit and an apple for breakfast, lots of lemon ginger tea, an Almond + Apricot Kind Bar for lunch (being flexible with the honey here), 1 cinnamon bagel from Murray’s that happens to be “accidentally” vegan, salmon and brussels sprouts for dinner (veganism comes to a close by 5 pm!)

For tonight’s vegan dinner, I really wanted to use up my coconut milk before it went bad, so I decided to make some curried tofu. This recipe is adapted from the Cheap Creamy Chicken Curry recipe on Food52.com, with a few modifications. Obviously I swapped in firm tofu for chicken to make it vegan friendly, and I didn’t have turmeric so I just used whatever I had in my spice rack–curry powder, cumin and red chili powder. I also threw in some chopped red pepper for a little color and texture. The vegan version of this recipe was very good, although I think the chicken absorbed the fragrant spices better than the tofu did. The warm, creamy sauce is the heart and soul of the dish, so you can’t really go wrong with whatever protein you end up using.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 14 oz. package of firm tofu
1 medium onion
1 red bell pepper
2 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon red chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1.5 teaspoons of tomato paste
1 cup coconut milk (I used So Delicious’ original unsweetened coconut milk)

Preparation

Prepare the onion, garlic and red pepper. Chop the red bell pepper into small pieces and remove the inner core and seeds. Mince the garlic cloves. Finely chop the onion.

curry tofu - step 4
seasoning the tofu cubes with curry powder

Take the entire block of tofu out of the packaging and remove the water. Slice the tofu into small 1 inch cubes. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of curry powder over the tofu cubes and distribute evenly. Set aside the tofu in a bowl or plate.

curry tofu - step 1
pan-frying the finely chopped onions

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Cook the onions for about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.

curry tofu - step 3
a medley of onion, garlic, spices and tomato paste

Add 1 teaspoon of the curry powder, the cumin, the red chili powder and salt into the pan and cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste and mix everything together.

curry tofu - step 6
letting the coconut milk boil and thicken, and adding red peppers for some color and texture

Add the tofu to the pan and pan-fry for about 6 minutes. Add the cup of coconut milk and red peppers. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the coconut milk has assumed more of a thick, sauce-like consistency.

Ladle the tofu and curry sauce over some hot rice or quinoa. Dish must be served warm!

Yields about 2-3 individual servings.