I did the most stereotypical thing one can do after the New Year. I went on a juice cleanse. Three full days existing on nothing but sludgy, vitamin and mineral-laden juice. I’ve experienced a variety of feelings: cleansed (yes, seriously), hungry, exhausted, slightly delusional, energetic, sated and, did I mention hungry? My one constant was my ever-present desire to cook. You can pump me up with all the kale juice in the world but you can’t take away my inherent need to cook.
Why did I deliberately submit myself to 72 hours of pure juice torture?
The most obvious reason: the holidays. It’s safe to say I put back enough Nutella, red meat, wine, cookies, and other unmentionables to sustain me through the entirety of 2013. I needed a detox.
Reason two: I wanted to test my self discipline.
Reason three: call me crazy, but I thought juicing might lend itself to a sort of spiritual experience.
I read in my extensive juicing research that one of the top coping mechanisms for juicers is meditation. I’ve always wanted to try meditation, but having a mind like that of a Ritalin-fueled 6-year-old has so far prohibited me from any success in this arena. As it turns out, sustaining on liquefied fruits and veggies actually helped me reach clarity of mind. Amid shaky hands, I’ve had some peaceful moments, reflecting on 2012 and what I want in 2013.
Not surprisingly, my Zen reflection time always ended in the same tortuous place: what do I want to cook in 2013 (read: what do I want to cook right NOW!) I now have an expanding mental list of all the recipes I’m bursting to try. While salted peanut butter cups and slow cooker hot chocolate have their place on the list, seasonal salads, baked fish, and poached fruits made up the majority of my cravings.
If you’re not as daring, or love solids more than I, here are two recipes to help you feel cleansed without gulping potent beet juice. This New Years I raise my glass of cashew milk to eating healthy, seasonal, satisfying food, and to never ever taking another morning chlorophyll shot.
Kale, Butternut Squash, Almond, and Cranberry Winter Salad
3 loose cups kale, stems removed, leaves cut into 1-to-2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if desired
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
1 cup cubed butternut squash
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1) Preheat the oven to 360 degrees F.
2) Put the kale in a zip-tight plastic bag and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Tightly seal the bag, releasing any air, and massage the oil into the kale using your hands, from outside of the bag. Set aside while the squash cooks.
3) On a rimmed baking tray, toss the squash with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 45 minutes, or until fork tender. Let cool slightly before serving.
4) Add the kale, squash, almonds, and cranberries to a salad bowl and toss. Sprinkle with the balsamic vinegar, more oil if desired, and season with salt and pepper.
Spicy White Bean, Chicken Sausage, and Kale Soup
Makes 8-10 servings (leftovers can be frozen)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, fine diced
6 cloves garlic, fine diced
15 oz (about 5 cups) kale, stems removed and chopped
24 ounces chicken sausage, such as spicy Italian, cut into bite-size rounds
Two 14-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
7 cups low-sodium chicken stock
3 1/2 tablespoons red chili pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
This recipe can be made in a Crock-Pot or slow-simmered on your stovetop.
1) Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and slightly caramelize, about 15 minutes.
2) Transfer the onion/garlic mixture to a Crock-Pot. Add the kale, sausage, beans, chicken stock, chili flakes, and season with salt and pepper.
3) Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or on high heat for 3-4 hours.
1) Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and slightly caramelize, about 15 minutes. Transfer the onion/garlic mixture to a plate.
2) Add the sausages and cook until slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the sausages to a plate.
3) Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the kale and 1 cup of the chicken stock. Cook until the kale has wilted, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining 6 cups chicken stock, the onion/garlic mixture, sausage, beans, chili flakes, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and let the soup simmer, covered, for about 1 hour.