Clean Slate Healthy Living Guide and Cookbook

Some of you who have followed my healthy living adventures in the past know that I aspire to eat as healthy as I can. Aspire being the keyword. I am human. I falter. When I’m feeling good I tend to worry less about what I put into my body. And the domino effect goes spiraling out of control. So, every now and then I need a personal challenge to get back on track.

My lovely friend, Fern, gave me Clean Slate Healthy Living Guide and Cookbook as a birthday present and asked me if I would join her on the 21-day action plan. Why 21 days? Because it takes 21 days to form a habit. So, without knowing what I was getting myself into, I said, YES!

“Clean Slate” emphasizes the value of whole, unprocessed foods as part of a primarily plant–based diet. What does this mean? It means eating foods in its most natural state with nothing having a longer shelf life of more than a week. Basically, no nacho cheese dip or Swedish marshmallow candy. Aw, nuts.

My paltry pantry and fridge consisted of junk food snacks and convenient comfort food: chips, popcorn, beef jerky, ice-cream, candy and easy frozen gluten-free pepperoni pizza and stove-top mac n’ cheese. But, nestled in between the junk were cacao powder, chia seeds, colloidal minerals, aloe vera juice, acai puree, apple cider vinegar and blackstrap molasses. So, I wasn’t completely lost. I just needed a guide to get back on track.

Fern was already two days ahead of me. So, off to Trader Joe’s I went and I found almost every ingredient that I needed for the first week of the plan. They didn’t have turnips, fresh ginger or frozen chopped mangoes so I stopped by another market on the way home.

Brussels Sprout Salad

Brussels Sprout Salad with Avocado and Pumpkin Seeds

Week 1 base diet includes legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and oils and seasoning.  Breakfasts are juices and smoothies, lunches and dinners include lots of live-boosting vegetables and legumes. Most of the recipes called for a handful of ingredients. Nothing took too long to prepare.

Pureed Cauliflower Soup

Pureed Cauliflower Soup

I have to admit that eating raw Brussels sprouts as a salad took some getting used to but it wasn’t bad once I stopped missing the caramelized butter and bacon. But, the pureed cauliflower soup was delicious and so easy to make.

Pureed Cauliflower Recipe: 

Chop 1 head of cauliflower into florets. Add 2 1/2 cups your choice of stock to florets into a saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Then puree in a blender and serve.

Green Machine Smoothie

Green Machine Smoothie

The first couple days were okay but today I was feeling a little run down. A couple more days to go to wrap up Week 1 and then I’ll be able to add gluten-free whole grain, like quinoa and brown rice, and fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines to the mix in Week 2.

Wish me luck!

Foodspotting: A-Frame (Culver City, CA)

Celebrating a belated birthday dinner, M and I decided to try out a new restaurant that has been on both of our lists, Roy Choi’s A-Frame. We get to the restaurant about 8:30pm and since they don’t take reservations we knew it was going to be at least a 30 minute wait. The place isn’t that big. There were already quite a few people ahead of us and the bar was completely full. The music was pumping loud and playing old school hip hop. It’s a cool, fun vibe and not stuffy at all. Chef Roy was spotted surveying the seating situation and was also seen food running really “leaving pretentious at the door.”

The wait ended up being about 45 minutes and worked up an appetite. We did some research on Yelp while we were waiting and already knew what we were going to order. We got seated at a communal table for 8 and shared the space with two other parties. One party was poking fun at us for taking pictures of our food but by the end of the night we were sharing our favorite restaurants with each other.

First dish to come out was the Cracklin Beer Can Chicken. We ordered the half because we wanted to make sure to leave room for their famous desserts. The fried chicken was served with daikon kimchi, century egg, and roja and verde salsas. Chicken skin was crisp and the meat succulent.  Beer can means they slow cook the chicken with a half full can of beer directly inside of it, which makes the meat tender and the skin crispy. It was delicious.

Second dish to arrive was the Charred Baby Octopus with carrot kochujang puree, bok choy, pickled vegetables and nori seaweed. I thought the sauce was slightly too salty with the octopus. But, with the raw bok choy it was heavenly. I’ve never eaten bok choy raw. I liked the crispness of it.

Third dish to arrive was the Veggie Nest, a potpourri of Jerusalem artichokes, mustard greens, radish turnips, cauliflower, mushrooms, toasted bread crumbs drizzled with spicy carrot vinaigrette and celery root puree. Innovative concoction of veggies and the dressing pulled it all together.

And then there was dessert. The Chu-Don’t-Know Mang, a pound cake churro creation dusted in cinnamon and sugar fried crisp to perfection while still soft cake inside. Served with malted chocolate milk and vanilla ice cream, it was a perfect end to a hands-on, deciphering, creatively assembled meal.

AFrame
12565 Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, California
310.398.7700

Foodspotting: Pailin Thai Cuisine (Hollywood, CA)

I love unexpected food adventures. So, when my fellow foodie friend, Cat, called me up this morning to see if I’d have lunch with her because she was craving Thai food, I was already looking up places on Yelp before she even had a chance to finish the conversation. The one bad thing about living on the Westside is that it’s so far from the heart of Thai Town in Hollywood, home to all the good authentic Thai restaurants. Since we were going to head all the way out there, I wanted to go somewhere new that neither of us had been to before. I had suggested Jitlada but she had already been. She suggested Pa-Ord but I had been several times already. So, we settled on Pailin because she had seen it written up on Gastronomy blog, which we used as a guide for ordering.

Turns out Pailin is around the corner from my old apartment so I knew exactly where to find free street parking because I had read in the Yelp reviews that parking, as in non-existent, street only, was one of the main cons of the restaurant. If you go, park in the residential area on Wilton Pl, St. Andrews Pl or Sycamore just one block south of Hollywood Blvd. Then walk north and cross the street. Tucked away is a little hole in the wall, family-run restaurant who specializes in Northern Thailand cuisine.

I started with the longan drink, which is a sweetened drink made from boiling dried longan with rock sugar. It’s one of my favorite Thai drinks, which I prefer over the much sweeter Thai iced tea. It’s very refreshing in a southern Sweet Tea kind of way.

One of the recommendations Gastronomer made was the deep fried larb balls. I had never had anything of the sort in my entire life. Larb, yes. Deep fried, no. It sounded like a trip to the fair and very gimmicky. I didn’t think it would work but I was pleasantly surprised. We decided to go with the pork instead of the chicken larb. Cat’s rationality: Pork has more fat and therefore will taste better deep fried. She was right.It was bursting of so many wonderful Thai flavors, including toasted rice, green onion, fish sauce and lime juice. It was delicious. It was not dripping in oil by any means. The fritters were perfectly cooked. Crispy on the outside and still soft on the inside.

The second dish we ordered was also from Gastronomer’s recommendation. Kanom jeen nam yaa fish curry served with rice noodles served with bean sprouts, shredded cabbage, Thai basil, and pickled mustard greens. This is actually one of my mom’s favorite dishes to order. It’s not a very common Thai dish and most restaurants won’t have it on their menu. It was the right amount of kick without being too spicy. The fish balls tasted like the fish was minced and grounded into a paste right there in the kitchen. Very fresh and tender to the bite. Mom would definitely approve of this dish.

Since they are known for their Northern cuisine, we couldn’t not order the Northern people’s staple, grilled sausages. The menu had two types of Thai sausage: 1. Northern (spicier) and 2. North-Eastern (more sour). We went with the North-Eastern (Issan) sausage. I’ve had this dish at many places and sometimes the meat to spices ratio is off. This one was right on. Again, the kind of crispy shell versus softer inside contrast I salivate over.

Cat was craving Pad Thai since last night so we ordered it. I usually don’t order Pad Thai at authentic Thai restaurants because there are always so many other options. I usually reserve ordering Pad Thai for the more diluted, American places that cater to the Western taste buds. But, this one did the job. The noodles were the right amount of chewy and sauce. Because I hate when Pad Thai is too dry.

Between the two of us we ordered 4 dishes plus the longan drink. Total came out to $29. Amazing. I am kicking myself for just now finding this place. I lived around the block for almost two years and I would have eaten here every night had I known. Good, cheap, tasty Thai food. Delish!

Pailin Thai Cuisine
5621 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.467.6775

Foodspotting: Sakura Japanese Restaurant (Culver City, CA)

Unagi aka Fresh Water Eel. (Camera: iPhone 4S. App: Camera+)

Tonight, one of my oldest friends from high school, C, took me out to dinner for my birthday. We both have an affinity for good food. So, when she said it was my choice, knowing her love for Sakura, it was as simple as pie. Since she was also the one responsible for introducing me to the place about 4 years ago.

Sakura House Roll. (Camera: iPhone 4S. App: Camera+)

Everyone who I have taken here since always ends up loving it and make it a regular stop on their sushi restaurant list. It’s a little, modest hole in the wall with an overflow of people always waiting outside. It’s not fancy but the food speaks for itself. It’s good sushi reasonable priced. The cuts are of generous proportions.

Senbei aka Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice. (Camera: iPhone 4S. App: Camera+)

Blue Fin Tuna. (Camera: iPhone 4S. App: Camera+)

Red Snapper. (Camera: iPhone 4S. App: Camera+)

Albacore Sashimi. (Camera: iPhone 4S. App: Camera+)

This is hands down one of my favorite go to places for sushi. It’s good, it’s reasonable priced and there is absolutely no pretentiousness anywhere in the building. I hear it’s where the area sushi chefs actually come to eat after they get off of work. That must mean something.

Sakura Japanese Restaurant
4545 South Centinela Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90066
310.822.7790

Foodspotting: Leo and Lily (Woodland Hills, CA)

Leo and Lily’s Smoked Salmon Benedict. (Camera: iPhone 4S. App: Camera+)

Today, our Breakfast at Tiffany’s group (another version of Kitchen Table Group) , ventured over the hill and “deep into the valley.” Since most of the group is either based on the Westside or  Hollywood, we usually hold our meetings in LA proper. But, one of our lovely members, P, lives out in Chatsworth so it makes it difficult for her to make it to meetings. So, we decided to trek it out her way and do brunch.

Upon arrival and P’s house, discussion began on where we would be eating. P didn’t want to take us to a chain, IHOP, Denny or Bob’s Big Boy (thank god), which the valley was in abundance of. So, upon the recommendation of her friend we decide on Leo and Lily, a European and Mediterranean Cafe Restaurant in Woodland Hills.

Walking up to Leo and Lily’s, it looks like a quaint cafe in Santa Monica. You would never have guessed it’s situated in the San Fernando Valley aka Porn Valley, amid multi-billion dollar generating porn studios. In other words, it’s adorably charismatic and makes a subtle statement.

Inside bustles with Valley Sunday brunchers. And you know it’s top-notch when it’s the only place for strip mall miles that has valet service.

Us, being a group of foodies, having done our research on the drive there, browsing Yelp for recommendations and reviews, already narrowed down the menu items by the time we are seated. We all decided to start with the iced blackberry jasmine green tea because a lot of the Yelpers raved about it. It was the perfect amount of fruitiness and tea. Very refreshing and because of the fruity  fragrance there was no need to add sugar.

I have a weak spot for Smoked Salmon Benedicts. If it’s on the menu I will have to order it. Leo and Lily’s version had a perfectly poached egg atop smoked salmon, arugula and caramelized onions on an English muffin drizzled with Hollandaise sauce. Served with a side of breakfast potatoes. The Hollendaise sauce is what usually makes or breaks a Benedict for me. Leo and Lily’s was not too overpowering and very complimentary. The size was perfect without being over-filling. I felt comfortably satiated and healthy after finishing the last bite.

Since, I didn’t overfill on the meal I had enough room for dessert. They had French Macarons on the menu for $1.00 a piece. The cheapest I’ve seen it anywhere in LA. We each ordered one. A combination of the honey, lime and salted caramel.

Leo and Lily’s French Macarons. Lime, Honey and Salted Caramel. (Camera: iPhone 4S. App: Camera+)

The Macarons were delicious with perfect crunchy to chewy ratio. The Benedict was fresh and tasty. Even the iced tea was good. The vibe was great and the service warm and welcoming. All in all, if I ever found myself anywhere in the valley I would have to make a pit-stop at Leo and Lily’s.

Leo and Lily
22420 Ventura Blvd
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
818.222.6622

Foodspotting: Seed Bistro (Brentwood,CA)

Celebrating M’s birthday dinner we decided to try Seed Bistro, an organic, vegan and macrobiotic West LA establishment, in adherence to our goals of eating healthier. Hearing that vegan food can be fancy we decided to experiment and venture out of our Veggie Grill as the only vegan option realm. Sweet potato fries were fried to perfection. Not overdone and just the right amount of crispness. Roasted beets, avocado and grapefruit seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper. So simple, yet so delicious. I want to try to interpret this dish at home. Flageolet bean cassoulet, celery, carrot and apple sausage. I liked the cassoulet  part but wasn’t a big fan of the apple sausage. Too dry and crumbly. Off the daily special menu: Squash risotto, fried sage and basil oil. My favorite dish of the night. Very hearty and full of flavor. It’s a little pricey for a casual dinner (for vegan food) and better suited for a special occasion or date night.

Seed Bistro
11917 Wilshire Blvd
West Los Angeles, CA 90025
310.477.7070

Foodspotting: LA County Fair (Pomona, CA)

While I was living in New York I had to cover the State Fair for a journalism assignment and I got to rediscover what county fairs were all about with the kind of delight usually reserved for newbies. Before that visit, the only fair memory I could recollect was from when I was about 3 years old and my baby sister wandered off and got lost at the LA County Fair when my dad let go of her hand for a split second to reach for money in his pocket. We eventually located her at Lost & Found but ever since then, our family has stayed away from fairs as if they were a bad reminder of bad parenting.

So, ever since moving back to Los Angeles from NY, I usually make the pilgrimage out to Pomona to get my annual fix of deep, fried food on sticks, barnyard animals and activities and shopping for things on TV that you would never buy on TV but might contemplate purchasing at the fair.

For me, the fair is all about the food. I rarely ride the rides as I’ve seen one too many episodes of “When Carnival Rides Attack” type shows. I like watching the baby pig races though I am always disturbed by the Farmer John bacon coupons they had out after the race.

Here is an abbreviated list of the fair food sampling that I partook in at 2011’s LA County Fair.

First fair food item: Fried potato chips covered in nacho cheese with a side of jalapenos. This was probably my favorite item of the day. Perfect crispness of the potatoes and savoriness of the nacho cheese sauce.

Second fair food item: Deep-fried avocado drizzled with pesto sauce. I could have passed on this. The oiliness of the avocado combined with the oiliness of the oil-drenched batter was just a little too much for me. I did like the pesto though.

Third fair food item: Meat on a stick.

Fourth fair food item: Deep-fried watermelon. I didn’t try this myself since I was too full but stood watching a guy who had just ordered took his first bite. He said it was good. Though I can’t really imagine it being so.

Fifth fair food item: Chocolate-covered bacon. Barely tasted the bacon. It was mostly chocolate. Eh. I wouldn’t get it again.

Sixth fair food item: BBQ corn. My favorite fair food item of all-time. Grilled to perfection, dipped in butter and drizzled with lemon juice, garlic salt and Tapatio hot sauce. Delish!

Foodspotting: NYC Seafood (Monterey Park, CA)

So, after 7 days out of the 15, on the Reboot Program, I fell dramatically from grace. Eating only fruits and veggies was proving to be very challenging for a food lover like me. Going to work, getting lunch with coworkers, after-work social activities, visiting the family, etc. All aspects of my life revolved around food. There were so many temptations everywhere…even in my dreams! I was beginning to think I was only setting myself up for failure.

On Sunday, I got a text from my brother who just got notified that he had won his lawsuit and that to celebrate he was taking us all out to eat. He of course being the crustacean aficionado that he is decided he wanted to go to any place that had crab. So, we all decided to meet in the middle in Monterey Park because we were all coming from every which way. We decided on Seafood Village,  which we had discovered a few years ago after our favorite fried, garlic crab go-to  place, Macau Street, had closed down. Seafood Village was right across the street and had pretty good reviews on Yelp. So, after that fateful failed attempt to visit Macau we gave Seafood Village a try and their House Crab at $8.99 for a full crab (at the time) topped with tons of crispy, fried garlic won all our stomachs over.

Unfortunately though, August is not really Dungeness crab season even with the  good harvest this year. Dungeness crab season usually runs from mid-November to June. So, we were out of luck. We go across the street in the other direction and try NYC Seafood  because my dad decided to go in and based on muddled Chinese/English conversation he had with the waiter he concluded they had crab because of the photos on the wall.

When we sit down and look at the menu, we come to find out there is no crab. But, they do have lobster. That’ll do. At this point, I haven’t decided that I was going to deter from my veggie and fruit only diet yet. But, all the noise and smells began to cloud my judgement. And when the ordering began, I knew that I had lost. But, if I was going to go out, I was going to go out with a bang. And this is what I lost to. I couldn’t resist.

The spread.

Walnut shrimp.

Peking duck.

Fried frog legs with lemongrass.

Garlic fried lobster.

I failed. Miserably. But, damn failure never tasted so good. Next, week I’m back to being vegan. Stay tuned.

NYC Seafood
715 W Garvey Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754
626.289.9898

Foodspotting: Popping Boba – Latest craze in drink condiments

The other day I made a pit-stop at Yogurtland with the sis because she wanted to collect the Hello Kitty spoons currently on residency. I technically wasn’t eating dairy but thought I’d just get a little cup filled with mostly fruit. It was a hot night so most of the machines were out anyways, well at least of the flavors I would normally get. Standing in front of the whirring machines, I couldn’t resist so I got sample sized squirts of blueberry, passion fruit pineapple and plain tart and then as I was going to town with the toppings, I got to these gelatinous balls that were eerily reminiscent of salmon roe but yellow. Yogurtland sushi? Ewwww. No thank you.

I asked my sister if she knew what they were and she chirped matter of factly that they were popping boba. Popping boba? For those who haven’t frequented a Yogurtland or boba store lately popping boba is the latest craze in drink accessories. “It’s boba (also commonly referred to as “bubbles” or “tapioca pearls” ) with juice that ‘pops’ inside your mouth.  It’s a invigorating and fun experience,” says the Popping Boba website. Invigorating and fun? That’s what she said.

Curiosity got the best of me and I had to give this thing a try. So, I scooped a few balls into my cup and before I even got to the register I had to try one. It is exactly like salmon roe in texture down to the “popping burst” of tasty liquid but instead of seawater saltiness it returns a sweet artificial fruitiness supposedly resembling passion fruit. The shell resembled plastic and I instinctively wanted to spit it out. I asked the kid behind the register what they were made of and he said simply that they were boba. I asked if it was plastic that I was eating and he said that he didn’t know because he doesn’t eat it. Great. If the store employee doesn’t even eat it, he must know something I don’t know. But, the sis loves it and she says that she’s had it in lychee and yogurt flavors. But, I still wanted to know what I was eating, so of course I Google it and find out a few things from the website.

The current flavors that are available are:

  • Strawberry
  • Yogurt
  • Mango
  • Passion Fruit
  • Lychee
  • Orange

Popping boba is made from water, sugar, fruit juice, calcium lactate, seaweed extract, malic acid, potassium sorbate, coloring, and fruit flavorings.

Calories Per 30g Serving: 35
Calories from Fat: 0

Not having had Yogurtland in a few months, I found everything but the fruit tooth-achingly sweet, a testament that your taste buds can actually change. But, overall, the popping boba is a unique experience in its own right. But, texture aside it was mostly the artificiality of the liquid flavor and plastic-like shell that made me feel like I shouldn’t be eating it. It just didn’t seem right. But, that’s just me. Other people seem to be going crazy over this new drink condiment. It’s worthy of at least one try. Enjoy!

Day 1: Reboot Your Life: Best Damn Roasted Curried Cauliflower Ever!

Day 1. I took the quick quiz on Reboot Your Life and the Reboot Entry Program was chosen for me based on my answers. In this plan, you can juice and blend produce as well as eat raw and cooked vegetables and fruits in any order or combination that suits your life. The Reboot Entry plan is 15 days.

Here’s a list of foods that are OK and foods that are not OK to eat during a Reboot.

OK
All fruits and veggies, including avocado
Sweet potatoes are preferred over white potato
Small amounts of:
extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil/flax oil/
expeller or cold pressed canola oil
sea, Celtic or Himalayan salt
honey
low sodium soy sauce
agave nectar
dried fruit (sulfur free)
Decaf green tea and other herbal teas
Stevia
NOT OK
Grains/Breads/Rice/Pasta
Nuts & Nut butters
Seeds
Beans
Eggs
Fish
Poultry
Dairy
Meat
Caffeine
Alcohol (including extracts)

Wow. No grains? No beans? No seeds? No nuts? This is seeming to be harder than first thought. How many ways can I eat fruits and veggies? Oh, let me count the ways.

Breakfast: Green juice and Red Pear

Izzie's Green Juice to start the day!

Lunch: Steamed Artichoke with an Heirloom and Romaine Salad with homemade salad dressing with approved ingredients and a nectarine for dessert.

Steamed Artichoke and Heirloom Tomato and Romaine Salad with Garlic Lime Dressing

Dinner: Green leaf lettuce and tomato salad with homemade dressing, Summer Tomato’s amazing recipe for Curried Cauliflower and watermelon for dessert.

Roasted Curried Cauliflower

Izzie’s Lime Garlic Salad Dressing

1 lime

4 tbs garlic cold-pressed olive oil

1 dash of sea salt to flavor

1-2 squirts of agave to flavor

Mix well together and add ingredients to liking.

There are two vegetables in this world that no matter how hard I try I gag every time I try eating it: brussels sprouts and cauliflower. So, when my CSA, Farm Fresh to You included a giant head of cauliflower in my delivery, I didn’t know what to do with it. It looked like a brain. Where do I start? How come there’s like a stem? Are they grown like Cabbage Patch kids. Are there such things as Cauliflower Kids?

Well, luckily my friend had posted on her Yumalicio.us, which btw for those who love to cook and take photos of their creations is a social medium come true, a roasted curried cauliflower recipe she had found online on Summer Tomato, which is one of my new favorite sites.

The title of the recipe, How To Make Cauliflower Taste As Good As French Fries: Roasted Curried Cauliflower. I was sold. Make anything taste like French Fries, I’m totally there.

The trick is to use a very hot oven, around 450-500 degrees. Covering the cauliflower for the first 15 minutes steam cooks it. Then when you remove the foil the high heat browns and caramelizes it.

Izzie’s Spin on Summer Tomato’s Roasted Curried Cauliflower Recipe

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large cauliflower (or several small ones), ~2 lbs
  • Curry powder
  • Garlic olive oil (my spin)
  • Himalayan sea salt (my spin)
  • Agave nectar (my spin)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Slice cauliflower into thin medium-small florets and place into large bowl or baking pan. Be sure the pieces are as evenly sized as possible, or they will cook unevenly. The smaller you make the pieces, the quicker they will cook and the more caramelized they will become, which is what is going to make them taste like French Fries!

Drizzle cauliflower pieces generously with olive oil and season well with salt, curry powder and agave. You can taste the seasoning to see if it’s to your liking. Distribute evenly in a single layer at the bottom of a baking pan. If necessary, use a second baking pan to be sure the pieces aren’t too crowded.

Cover the pans with foil and place into the oven. Roast, covered for 10-15 minutes. The cauliflower should be slightly soft and start looking translucent. If not replace foil and cook another 5 minutes.

When the cauliflower has finished steaming, remove the foil and toss with tongs. Continue to roast, stirring every 8-10 minutes until the tips of the cauliflower begin to brown and become crisp as pictured. Approximately 20-25 minutes tossing about 2 times. Continue roast to your preferred crispness but be careful to watch it as it may burn.

Adjust salt to taste (you will probably need another sprinkle) and serve.

I ate the whole head of cauliflower by myself for dinner. An entire cauliflower! And yes, it tasted like French Fries but better! You can play around with the spices and add what you like. But, damn is this the best way you’ll ever have cauliflower in your life? Probably. And it’s so simple to make.

All in all Day 1 went about without much of a hitch. No hunger pangs, no food jealousy, no hangry moments. I finished off the day with a flirty dance fitness class at Spectrum. I was feeling good and on my way to healthy.