I don’t know about you, but I always feel a bit conflicted during this time. Time is just flying – we’ve already blown through Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday ever), and we’re in the midst of Hanukkah or gearing up for Christmas and filling weekends with holiday gatherings, holiday shopping, dinners out, family obligations, and shoveling piles of heavy snow. Let’s all take a moment to just pause. Literally, one moment. Breathe in, breathe out. Feel better?
In the midst of all of that (and more!), it’s challenging to eat nutritiously and cleanly all the time. So, I say don’t hold yourself to unrealistic expectations. BUT, harness the in-between times and take control of your health and diet to the extent that you can. It’s easier to cook something healthy from scratch when you’re at home than to turn down a melted cheese filled casserole when you’re the guest at a dinner.
After returning home from Thanksgiving (which was lovely – but also filled with rich holiday food) and before Christmas, I’m doing a mini-detox. It’s a flexible detox (which means that I can still have a cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of wine if I’m out with friends), but I’m focusing on eating and cooking only the foods that make me feel good, healthy, and strong (which means I’ve eliminated dairy and cut back on gluten). I’ve tried and studied up on a bunch of detoxes over the years, and this is by far the least scientific of them. After 1 solid week on this self-prescribed detox, I’m feeling lighter, healthier, and am not craving cheese, despite my love for brie any time of the day.
A couple weeks ago, a friend made this wonderful warm lentil salad while a bunch of us were hanging out in the country for the weekend. It’s easy! She brought all of the ingredients and assembled this salad rather quickly. It’s vegan, gluten free, and is ultra-savory. It won’t put a dent in your bank account and is not a huge time commitment to make. My favorite part about this dish is that it’s filling and fits with my current detox endeavor!
– 3 or 4 small jewel yams (or 1 large sweet potato)
-2 stalks of celery
-1 clove of garlic
-1/2 large red onion
-approx ¼ cup chopped pistachios
-1/2 cup lentils
-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
-1 Tbsp raw, local honey *See my note on honey below.
-2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
-1 handful of micro greens/baby greens
-1 handful of fresh arugula
-Salt and pepper to taste
-A bit of olive oil
Begin by bringing a pot of water to boil on the stove top. Add the lentils and cook for 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them and be careful not to overcook. Remove them from the stove right before they start to split open, so that they maintain firmness and are not mushy.
While these are cooking, mix up the dressing. Finely chop the clove of garlic and combine it with the apple cider vinegar in a small bowl. Mix for a few seconds before adding the raw honey, Dijon mustard, and a bit of olive oil. The dressing should be the consistency of a vinaigrette.
When the lentils are cooked, drain and pour into a mixing bowl. Add the yam/sweet potato and onion mixture. Add freshly cracked pepper and a bit of salt. Add the pistachio pieces and celery. Top with the dressing and mix well.
Arrange the micro greens and arugula onto a plate and top with this lentil mixture. It’s best if served slightly warm, but also keeps well in the refrigerator for a couple of days if stored in an airtight container and makes for a quick and easy packed lunch.
Check back for more detox style recipes in the next several days!
*Note on Honey:
There’s really no point in consuming honey that’s not raw, local, and organic. Although the cute little bear containers are adorable, mass produced honey has been stripped of all nutrition and is basically just liquid sugar that happens to be the color of honey. It’s also usually a combination of honey from a couple of countries – Mexico, the U.S., and India seem to the ones I regularly see on honey labels in grocery stores – which is an odd visual to me. Picture those shipments of honey all combining into a big vat in some warehouse. A couple of years ago, a Food Safety News investigation found that 1/3 of the honey sold in the U.S. is imported from China. It’s the same honey that fails to pass safety standards in Europe and elsewhere as it may contain illegal antibiotics and heavy metals.
Mass produced honey makes tracking food safety, the quality of the honey, and the working conditions for the workers in all of those countries VERY difficult to care about, let alone enforce. Buy from a local farm or beekeeper when you can! It makes life easier and is healthier for all involved – including you, the consumer and your local economy!