Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Fresh Take On Super Bowl

Super Bowl, football fan or not (I'm not, but my husband is and a huge 49er fan), is that one time of year that we break out all of our beloved dips filled with cheese, chicken, buffalo sauce, and more cheese.  Oh, and don't forget the pizza, subs, chili, nachos and more chips and pretzels than you can imagine.  This year as I was gathering my recipes for Sunday,  I realized I really didn't feel like making most of them.  I was bored of the same old dips and appetizers and although my buffalo chicken dip is always a hit I wanted to experiment and make something new.   

Since this month was full of detoxifying foods I thought I could end the month with one last recipe.  Recently, I bought fennel and decided to roast it to serve as a side dish with some chicken I had prepared.  I was so surprised how much I loved not only the flavor but the texture as well.  Often times I find fennel to be a bit overwhelming with it's licorice flavor, but roasting it made it sweet and delicious.  Forever inspired by Martha Stewart, I decided to do a twist on her version of this dip.  This Warm Fennel and Red Kale Dip is fresh and creamy and sure to please all your football fans.  They won't even realized that its good for you too.

Now, I'm not saying for you to forget about your oldies but goodies, but maybe a little something fresh and new to add to your Super Bowl spread will be the perfect bit of change for 2013.

Warm Fennel and Red Kale Dip
3 fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into 1 inch quarters
4-5 cloves of garlic, slightly smashed
1 cup curly red kale, stems removed and chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, finely chopped
1 french baguette 

Optional Ingredients
3 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a cast iron skillet or an oven safe pan heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add the fennel and garlic and cook until browned on one side, about 7-10 minutes.  I had to move my cast iron around on the burner a bit to evenly brown the fennel because of the size of my cast iron.  

Flip the fennel and garlic.  Sprinkle with salt and cover with foil.  Place the cast iron skillet in the oven and roast for 25-30 minutes.  Fennel should be very tender.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. 

While the fennel is cooling heat the remainder 1 tablespoon of oil in small oven safe pan on the stove on medium heat.  Add the kale and saute until slightly wilted.  Place the pan with kale in the oven and roast for about 5-7 minutes.  The kale should be slightly crispy.

Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees.

In food processor puree the fennel and garlic until smooth.  Add the 1/4 cup of shredded parmesan and give it a quick pulse to combine.  Remove the fennel mixture and place in a small mixing bowl.  Add kale and Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  If adding optional ingredients, add the bacon and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.

Transfer mixture to 16 ounce baking dish and sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parmesan cheese.  Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Remove the dip and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  While the dip is cooling place the baguette in the oven to warm.  Remove and slice baguette into 1/2 inch slices and serve with the dip.  Makes about 6-10 servings.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Antioxidant Blueberry Sunday

Blueberries, rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, make this small powerful fruit a great immune booster. While some of us may be fighting this seasons flu, I thought this Blueberry-Ginger Snap Cookie Crumble would be the perfect dessert to end this month's detoxing theme.  

Speaking of desserts it was brought to my attention that I haven't really posted any.  I have to admit I am the savory type.  Those who know me best, know that I am more likely to grab a bag of chips over chocolate as a treat.  However, I do crave sweets from time to time and per a request from one of my students (I'm a dance teacher) and her mother I have whipped up this scrumptious dessert.  

But before giving you the recipe, I have to thank my student Michelle and her mom, who made this request, for their never ending support and love for my desserts.  I think they'll find this funny, but I often find their praise surprising because I really never thought of myself as a great or even good baker (that's my husband's forte).   So here goes.  I hope you all enjoy!

Blueberry-Ginger Snap Cookie Crumble

2 pints fresh blueberries, washed
1 tablespoon turbinado or raw sugar
1/2 cup + 1 teaspoon virgin coconut oil, in liquid form (see notes)
1-1/4 cup ginger snap cookies, crushed (I use Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Snap Cookies)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

First rub the inside of a 9-inch baking dish with the 1 teaspoon of coconut oil.  In a medium bowl, place the blueberries and turbinado sugar and toss to coat.  Pour them into the prepared baking dish.

In a separate medium bowl, place the ginger snap cookies, flour and brown sugar.  Pour in the 1/2 cup the coconut oil and stir until well combined.  Sprinkle the topping over the blueberries and bake for 30-35 minutes.  Blueberries should be bubbling a bit and the topping should be browned.  Remove the crumble from the oven and allow to cool for about 15-20 minutes.  Serve on its own or with vanilla or coconut ice cream.  Makes about 6 servings.

This wonderful dessert can be made into individual servings.  Simply distribute the blueberries and cookie mixture evenly into smaller ramekins.

Notes:  Virgin coconut oil will solidify in cooler temperatures.  To liquefy either place the jar in a bowl of hot water or warm the oil in a small sauce pan on the stove on low heat until it becomes liquid. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Basil-Almond Pesto

I can't believe it's been a week since I last posted.  I'm so sorry for that and promise to keep them coming this week.  With that said, I thought I would start off with something wonderful that could be used all week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Pesto is such a versatile ingredient that I just had to make it and share.  I have to admit in the past I have tried many different recipes but was never satisfied with the way it has turned out.  It was usually too salty or just lacked flavor and texture.  So in search for the best techniques and ingredients to use to make the perfect pesto I came across a recipe from Country Living.  It is simple and fresh.  Modifying a few things to my personal taste I created this delicious Basil Almond Pesto.

The pesto was so yummy on its own and perfect to serve with a french baguette or crackers for a party.  However, I found myself adding it to my toast in the morning, sandwiches and roasted veggies in the afternoon and to a spaghetti squash (that had been sitting on our counter for weeks) for dinner.  The freshness of the basil and lemon are a perfect match with the earthiness of the almonds which give it a fantastic texture.  Seeing that we still have some left, I am thinking about baking it into pork chops or adding it to some rice or quinoa for extra flavor and serve with a grilled salmon.  OR, mixing it with some greek yogurt would make a wonderful veggie dip or pasta sauce for that matter.  The options are endless!  I would love to hear what you decide to do with it.

Basil-Almond Pesto

1 cup (tightly packed and heaping) organic basil, chopped
1/2 cup raw almonds, sliced or roughly chopped (I use Trader Joe's Raw Sliced Almonds)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1-2 large cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 cup high quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest (about 1 small lemon)

In a large liquid measuring cup, combine the extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. Set aside.   In a food processor place the organic basil, almonds, parmesan cheese, garlic and salt.  Pulse until well combined.  Next, slowly add the oil mixture to the basil mixture and pulse again until well combined and oil has been absorbed.  Makes about 1 cup.  A little goes a long way.

Note:  Pesto will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks and in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Chicken or Tempeh?

Recently I have found myself venturing out and expanding my palate through some vegetarian or vegan options.  Although I don't think I'll ever completely be vegetarian or vegan, I have really enjoyed being creative with my meals using alternatives to meat.  Thanks to my lovely friend Sommer, I have been using tempeh on a more regular basis.  Sommer is a vegan and although I am yet to experience her incredible cooking it always looks and sounds delicious.  She is so creative with her ingredients and has inspired me to look at my food and cooking differently.  Please check out Sommer's website to read more about her.

So, tempeh or chicken?  Well, as I was creating this recipe I wanted to give everyone some more options and expand some palates.  For those of you who have not discovered tempeh yet, this recipe will make you a fan.  I'm sure of it.  Tempeh originated in Indonesia and is made from slightly fermented soybeans.  The soybeans are formed into a patty, similar to a very firm veggie burger and has a earthy flavor.  In some Asian cultures tempeh is a staple protein.  I have used tempeh as a substitute for meat, fish and recently eggs. It is extremely inexpensive and you can find it at your local grocery store either in a health food aisle or near the tofu.  Now, I know the star of this recipe may be the bourbon barbecue sauce but I hope those of you who are wanting to try something different give tempeh a shot.

Bourbon Barbecue Kale Wraps

There are so many different detoxifying foods in this wrap.  Starting with the kale, which I previously wrote about, to red cabbage, black beans and broccoli sprouts.  Black beans are high in fiber aiding the digestion process while cabbage is known for it's powerful cleansing properties. With it's cancer protective compounds containing high levels of sulfurophane, broccoli sprouts are a perfect topping to this delicious wrap.  Combine all of these ingredients with bourbon barbecue sauce you'll forget how good for you this wrap really is.

Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup bourbon (Maker's Mark)

On low heat in a medium sauce pan, combine the ketchup and brown sugar.  Stir continuously until the sugar has melted.  Add the lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce and combine.  Pour in the bourbon and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove the sauce from the heat and set aside.

Kale Wraps

4-6 large Dino Kale leaves
1 chicken breast or 8 ounces of tempeh, prepared (see tempeh preparation below)
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup black beans, cooked and warmed
1/4 cup red cabbage, chopped
1/3 cup broccoli sprouts
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Bourbon barbecue sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper.  Heat a small amount of olive oil on medium-high heat in an oven safe pan.  Place the chicken in the pan and sear both sides for 3-5 minutes.  Generously coat the chicken with the bourbon barbecue sauce.  Next, place oven safe pan in the oven and bake the chicken for 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness of your chicken.  Remove the chicken from the oven and place on a cutting board.  Let it rest for about 5 minutes before slicing to keep the moisture in the chicken. Slice into 1/4 inch pieces.

First prep the tempeh by poaching it or steaming it in vegetable broth for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the broth.  Heat a small pan with about 1 teaspoon of oil on medium-high heat.  Place the tempeh in the pan and sear both sides for about 3-5 minutes.  Remove from the pan and slice into 1/4 inch slices.  Generously coat the tempeh with the bourbon barbecue sauce.   Place it on a foil lined baking sheet and bake  for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and flip tempeh.  Bake for another 10 minutes.

Building the Wraps
While the chicken or tempeh  is baking lightly drizzle the kale with olive oil and massage gently.  This will make the kale more malleable and easier to roll.

Place 2 pieces of chicken or tempeh on each kale leaf.  Distributing evenly, top the chicken or tempeh with the red onion, black beans, corn, red cabbage, and broccoli sprouts.  Finally drizzle a bit more bourbon barbecue sauce on top.  Roll the kale to form a wrap.  You may want to serve the extra sauce on the side for dipping.  The sauce really is just that good!!

Note:  You could also enjoy this open faced or as a salad.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Roasted Chickpeas

My husband is constantly trying to get me to love and eat beans.  I admit, I am just not a bean lover.  However, these little beans are packed full of fiber so I figured I would give them a try.  Roasting them was my best option to to enjoy the health benefits.  Besides, anything roasted and crunchy, I love.  

These easy to make roasted chickpeas are a perfect snack for anyone who is trying to add a little more fiber to their diet.  Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), are most often seen in the form of hummus but when roasted they become a lovely toasted treat that is great alone or on top of your favorite salad.  Try it on this one that I recently made.  I decided to make two different flavors to accommodate my spice lovers and those who like it a little more tame.

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

1 15-ounce can organic garbanzo beans
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Drain and rinse the beans in a strainer.  Continue rinsing the beans until the foamy liquid goes away.  Place the beans on a paper towel and pat dry.  Leave them to air dry for about another 10 minutes.  

In a small mixing bowl combine the garbanzo beans, olive oil, salt, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and smoked paprika.  Toss, making sure the beans are covered in all the spices. 

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the seasoned garbanzo beans on the lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20 minutes.  After the 20 minutes, remove the beans from the oven and stir.  Place them back in the oven for another 20 minutes.  After fully roasted, remove them from the oven and allow to cool before serving.

Herbed Roasted Chickpeas

1 15-ounce can organic garbanzo beans
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Follow the instructions above and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Holy Kale!

If you haven't jumped on the kale craze band wagon there is no better time like now to start.  Personally I don't see kale as a "craze" but a powerhouse vegetable that should be in every one's refrigerator.  Kale provides a fabulous source of fiber as well as detoxing antioxidants, including vitamins A, B6, C and K.  It is also a great source of calcium and potassium.

There are so many ways to enjoy kale and it's different varieties.  Most commonly found are Curly Kale and Lacinato "Dino" Kale.  I prefer using the Dino Kale in most of my recipes.  Curly Kale however, is great in soups or sauteed in any dish.  I find myself often eating kale raw, drizzled in my favorite olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  For those of you new to kale or looking for an exciting way to dress it up, here are two recipes I am in love with.  One of them is my own and the other I adapted from a recipe I recently found on Pinterest using what was in my refrigerator and pantry.

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Roasted Beets

This salad is a new staple in our house.  Not only does it taste great but it is packed with lots of nutrient detoxifying ingredients.  Alongside the power food kale, roasted beets and quinoa add to this salad an extra detoxing punch.  Beetroot supports good health for the gallbladder and liver with vitamins B3, B6, C and beta-carotene.  The detoxifying agents of iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium help eliminate bodily waste.  Super grain, quinoa, is a complex carbohydrate packed full of energizing B vitamins.  I also topped this salad with pumpkin seeds which contain zinc for a skin booster.

1 bunch Dino Kale, chopped with tough ribs removed
2 medium red beets, roasted
1 bunch beet leaves, chopped with tough stems removed
1 cup cooked quinoa
2 Persian cucumbers, sliced 
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 small leek, white and light green parts chopped and roasted
2 tablespoons plus a little extra olive oil
1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
1 wedge of lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

First, prep the beets for roasting by placing the washed and dried beets onto a large piece of foil.  Drizzle the beets with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Wrap the beets in the foil and roast in the oven for 50 - 60 minutes until tender enough to poke through with a fork.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.  Once cool enough to handle peel the skin off the beets and chop into small bite sized pieces.  

While the beets are roasting, cook the quinoa according to the package.  I substituted vegetable broth instead of water to give the quinoa a bit more flavor.  Set the quinoa aside and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Place the kale in a medium bowl.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Using your hands, massage the kale for about 30 seconds.  This breaks down the kale a bit making it easier to digest.  Set the kale aside to marinate in the olive oil for about 15 minutes.  

While the kale is marinating toss the leaks in a small bowl drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Place them on a foil lined baking sheet and roast them in the oven at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes until slightly browned and crisp.

When the beets are roasted and chopped and the quinoa has cooled, combine the kale, roasted beets, beet leaves, quinoa, cucumbers, pumpkin seeds and Parmesan cheese into a large salad bowl and toss.  Squeeze the lemon over the bowl and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Toss again to combine the salad.  Salt and pepper to taste. Serve garnished with the roasted leeks. Makes 4-6 servings.

Note:  The Warm Roasted Garlic Dressing would also be a wonderful dressing for this salad.

Butternut Squash Pizza with Kale and Caramelized Onions

I am in LOVE with this pizza!  It is a fun and delicious twist on a family favorite.  There are also so many ways to make this to create a different taste each time.  Substituting pumpkin or sweet potatoes for the butternut squash is just one idea.  Adding mushrooms or a red bell pepper could be wonderful too.  I really liked using butternut squash as the "sauce" giving the pizza a sweetness.  Besides, we had a huge one sitting on our counter screaming to be used.  The kale, when baked in the oven, crisps a bit which is my favorite part.  This pizza is going to be made quite a bit this winter as well as this summer on the grill paired with a wonderful Pinot Grigio!

1 small butternut squash
1 heaping cup kale, chopped
1 large onion, sliced thin
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1 prepared pizza dough (I use Trader Joe's Garlic and Herb Pizza Dough)
2 cups shredded Fontina cheese (substitute mozzarella if preferred)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Begin by slicing the Butternut squash lengthwise in half.  Remove the seeds and stringy flesh and discard.  Using a vegetable peeler, carefully peel the skin off and discard.  Cut the butternut squash into small cubes and place into a medium bowl.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place the squash onto a foil lined baking sheet and roast for 45-55 minutes until tender.

While the squash is roasting, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pan over low-medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally for 25-30 minutes, until the onions are just caramelized.  Add the kale and cook until tender and a bit wilted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Take off the heat and set aside.

Place the roasted butternut squash into a food processor and blend until smooth.  Transfer the blended butternut squash into a medium bowl and add the sage and milk.  Mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Roll out the prepared pizza dough on a well floured surface.  Place the pizza dough on a lightly floured baking sheet.  Spread the butternut squash mixture on the dough.  Top with half the fontina cheese.  Next spread the kale and caramelized onions over the cheese.  Lastly, Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on the pizza.  Using a small basting brush, brush the remainder of the olive oil on the edge of the crust.  Bake the pizza in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese has melted, the kale has crisped, and the edge of the pizza begins to brown.  Makes about 4 servings.

Note: Adding a few cloves of roasted garlic to the butternut squash mixture would not only be a great detoxing boost but would intensify the flavor of the mix as well.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Garlic and More Garlic

Garlic has always been one of my favorite things to cook with and eat.  I love the aroma of it as it is browning in the pan and it seems to make every dish perfect.  Although it may leave your breath smelling like you are trying to ward off vampires, the health and detoxifying benefits are incredible.

Garlic contains the compound allicin which makes it a powerful antiviral, antibiotic and antiseptic.  Although it is most powerful eaten raw, like most vegetables, I prefer to saute, roast, or use it in a tasty vinaigrette. Garlic is full of nutrients including zinc, calcium, magnesium and vitamins C, A and B6 which makes it a must for a detox.

Roasted Garlic

Roasted garlic is delightful in any salad dressing, dip or simply spread on a piece of toast.  Add it to any dish (pasta, pizza, stir fry or soup) for and extra kick and boost in nutrients.

1 large garlic bulb 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small sprig of thyme (optional and could be substituted with any herb)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Slice the top off of the bulb of garlic exposing the ends of the cloves.  Rub off the excess papery skin carefully keeping the bulb whole.  Place the garlic in a small piece of foil and drizzle the olive oil over the bulb.  Place the thyme on top.  Wrap the garlic with foil and place it into a small oven safe baking dish or ramekin.  Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour.  Unwrap the garlic and let cool before handling.  

Dandelion Greens with Warm Roasted Garlic Dressing

I couldn't believe I was going to make a salad out of the weeds that grow in most of our backyards.  However, this bitey green is full of antioxidants that support the cleansing of the digestive tract and liver.  Dandelion greens paired with the delicious roasted garlic dressing make this salad even more toxin flushing.  It is great on its own or paired with a roasted chicken, grilled salmon, or a perfectly cook pork chop.

Warm Roasted Garlic Dressing

1 large garlic bulb, roasted (see above recipe)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar (I use 18 year-old balsamic from 41 Olives)
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 medium shallot, finely chopped

Squeeze the roasted garlic pulp into a small food processor discarding the skins.  Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lime juice, sea salt and pepper and blend until smooth.  Pour the dressing into a small sauce pan and cook over medium heat until warm, about 2 minutes. Add the shallots and simmer for another 3-5 minutes until the shallots are soft.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Dandelion Greens Salad 

1 bunch dandelion greens, chopped with tough stems removed
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1-2 ounces goat cheese crumbled (substitute parmesan, cheddar or feta if preferred)
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Place the dandelion greens into a large salad bowl.  Pour the warm roasted garlic dressing over the greens and toss until coated.  Add the toasted pine nuts and goat cheese.  Then toss to combine.  Season with pepper and serve.  

Garlic Soup

Since cold and flu season are now in full swing I thought this soup would be sure to kill any bacteria lingering around.  Although it seems a bit extreme and overwhelming with garlic it is surprisingly tasty and perfect on a cold afternoon.  This garlic soup is a wonderful detoxing meal after an over indulgent holiday season.  

2 tablespoons olive oil
20 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (about 2-3 bulbs)
6 sage leave
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves placed inside a cheesecloth and tied shut.
3 cups water
3 cups vegetable broth
6 egg yolks
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 warmed french baguette, sliced

In a large sauce pan heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook until the garlic is golden, stir constantly.  Add the sage, thyme and bay leaves.  Give it a quick stir and then add the water and vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil.  Reducing the heat, simmer for 30 minutes and partially cover the pan with a lid.

Remove the herbs from the saucepan and discard.  Don't worry about the thyme leaves if they have fallen off.  I have found that they give the soup a wonderful extra flavor.  In a medium bowl whisk the egg yolks and parmesan cheese together.  Add 2-3 ladles of the hot broth to the egg mixture to melt the parmesan cheese a bit.  Slowly pour the mixture into the saucepan while whisking constantly to combine all ingredients.  Using an immersion blender, process the soup until a smooth texture is reached.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot with a slice of french baguette.

Note: For an extra kick of flavor I also dashed cayenne pepper into the soup as I season it with the salt and pepper. My husband likes it spicy. Also, as I said in my last post, wine is part of my diet/detox and a buttery chardonnay was the perfect pair to this lovely garlic soup.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Detox! Retox?

Happy New Year!  I know most of you have already started your New Years Resolutions.  However, if you are anything like me you haven't made one or you are always in the process of deciding or changing it.  

After a bit of over indulging this holiday season I thought I would give my body a kick start to the new year.  Being a food lover and wine drinker, there was no way I was going to be only drinking water with lemon, cayenne pepper and maple syrup for the next seven days.  I would just rather die than deprive myself of all the scrumptious foods (and wine) that are packed full of vitamins, minerals and natural detoxifying agents.  I am a firm believer that food keeps the body happy and healthy.  You really are what you eat and this month I am hoping to expand some palates and take a fresh, clean look at some of the most detoxifying foods and drinks.

Detox Water

This water is easy to make, tasty and full of detoxifying properties to flush your system.  The lemon will help balance out the acidity of the many foods we consume on a daily basis while ginger is an anti-inflammatory and can also sooth an upset stomach.  The cucumbers are a great source of vitamin B and extremely hydrating.  My favorite herb, basil, is packed with antioxidants that can aid in flushing unwanted toxins.

8 cups water
1 lemon, sliced
1/2 large cucumber, sliced
2 tablespoons grated ginger
6 basil leaves or 12 mint leaves (this is a preference in taste)

In a large jar, I use a 1/2 gallon Ball jar, add all the ingredients. Seal the jar tight with the lid and give it a gentle shake.  Refrigerate overnight.  Straining the water through a mesh strainer is optional to keep the bits of ginger and herbs out of your drinking glass.

Of course in my plan to kick start the new year I have kept wine in my diet!  Now I'm not saying drink the whole bottle.  However, a glass (or two) with dinner will not only change the profile of your food, making it a wonderful palate changing experience, but it also has some health benefits as well.  

After reading many articles I found that wine may lower risks for heart disease, diabetes, strokes and may slow down brain decline.  Red wine is said to have higher health benefits due to resveratrol which is found in red grape skins.  Resveratrol is a antioxidant compound that can protect your heart and arteries against the effects of saturated fat in your diet.  A number of other antioxidants found in red wine may also slow down the signs of aging which may be a huge plus for most of us.  So go ahead and enjoy that glass or two of wine! Check out my post on Wine Tasting in Fashion for some great red wines.