One thing I have been making a lot of lately is pesto. I got the idea to make a “pesto” inspired by the flavours of one of my favorite soups – carrot and coriander. I roasted the carrots to give them more flavour – the end result was great. I then moved back towards more traditional pesto’s – basil or herb-based with simple authentic flavours like good quality olive oil, freshly squeezed olive oil and a little Parmesan and garlic, along with some nuts or seeds for texture.
You can’t really go past a traditional pesto in terms of delicious, simple, and fresh flavours, but it’s always a good idea to experiment with food – you never know when you’ll come across something amazing, plus its important to eat a wide variety of fresh whole foods to ensure you’re getting maximum nutritional benefits.
This salad I’m sharing today was one I ate during my cleanse the other week. It is quite light yet still filling from the quinoa, and also contains a hefty dose of veggies in the form of lightly fried zucchini and fresh basil, plus the broccoli in the pesto.
The pesto I’ve used here is a slight adaptation of one I’ve been eyeing off since I received this cookbook last Christmas. It uses a whole head of broccoli, a cruciferous veggie which actually encourages the detoxification of the liver – thus making it the perfect inclusion of your diet during a cleanse, or at any time really!
This salad keeps well if being made ahead, though it is best if served when the zucchini is still slightly warm. I have made it again since finishing my cleanse and served it with some flaked smoked salmon and goats cheese stirred though which added some great extra flavours and made for a more filling meal. Some chopped nuts such as walnuts would be a lovely addition too.
To make the pesto, combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend around 10 - 20 seconds - the time will depend on how powerful your machine is, and also how smooth you prefer your pesto to be
To make the salad, heat the oil in a large frypan over high heat. Add the zucchini rounds and fry a minute or two until starting to brown, then flip and repeat on the other side (note the second side will brown quicker than the first).
Combine the pesto and quinoa in a large bowl until well mixed, then stir through the spinach and zucchini. Top with torn fresh basil leaves
One of the key elements to doing a cleanse effectively – and sticking to it – is being prepared with what you will eat for the duration of the cleanse.
To prepare for my cleanse, I picked out a few healthy, nutritious recipes that I knew I liked and would enjoy eating, and stocked up on the ingredients (mostly a whole range of different fresh, organic vegetables, nuts and seeds, avocados, free-range organic eggs and gluten-free whole grains like quinoa and buckwheat). I also prepared some other food at the start of each week that I knew I would be able to throw together to make a quick, delicious meal when the other food I prepared ran out, or when I needed a change.
Some ideas of food to prepare at the start of your cleanse is
– Ccook up a big batch of a gluten-free wholegrain quinoa, which can be used to make a salad, or turned into patties or porridge for breakfast
– Roasted a bunch of vegetables such as sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, carrots and beetroot. These can be added to salads, or turned into soups or frittatas
– Grate or spiralise vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, sweet potato, broccoli stems – these can be quickly tossed together with a pesto or sauce to mae a quick and delicious meal
– Soak some nuts to turn into nut milk for the week, or use coconut instead. Homemade milks not only taste better andare usually more nutritious, but you can be guaranteed there are none of the nasties which are nearly always added to the packaged varieties you buy in the supermarket
I have a two more delicious new recipes to post for you soon that I enjoyed during my cleanse, but in the meantime I leave you with this list below – I hope you enjoy!
Note that some of these recipes may need to be tweaked slightly depending on the specific requirements of your cleanse.
I have spent the last ten days “cleansing” through eating cleaner, sleeping and moving more (obviously not at the same time ;) and web-surfing less – or attempting to at least!
I promised I would share with you here how I went, so with further ado, lets break down what I did, how I did it and if it was all worth it.
At the start of my cleanse, my aim was to cut out wheat, gluten, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, processed foods and all sugars except for a little fruit – and I’m happy to say I stuck to this the entire the time (cue applause).
On the whole, it was a lot easier than expected. I think this was largely due to the fact that I was very prepared and made sure I had plenty of delicious meals and snacks prepared for each day. One of the main intentions of my cleanse was to stop eating sugar, and I was surprised that I didn’t really crave it much during the cleanse. The main thing I craved was actually milky tea. I’m not sure if it was the caffeine or more so the taste, however to compensate after the fourth day I started making creamy almond milk roobios chai which was delicious and satisfied my cravings.
My aim was to move more and increase my cardio. I did a little extra but not to the extent that I wanted to. One of the effects of doing a cleanse can be feeling tired initially whilst your body is detoxing, and I didn’t really feel like pushing myself during this time. Instead, I increased the amount of yoga, pilates and walking, but also rested when I felt my body needed it.
I’ve struggled with my sleeping patterns since my early adolesce years. I would either struggle to fall asleep, taking a good few hours to finally crash out, or I’d wake in the middle of the night and not be able to fall back to sleep for hours on end. My sleeping has improved drastically over the past year or two and nowadays unless I’m stressed, or eat a lot of sugar/too many red wines before bed, I’ll fall straight to sleep and sleep the whole night through. Perhaps not so surprisingly, my sleeping habits got a little skewed in the weeks leading up to my cleanse, but all back to normal now – tick!
This was probably the thing I struggled with the most. The first night was easy – I put my phone in my room, the tablet in the drawer and closed the laptop. I snuggled up on the couch with B and Maggie and watched a movie and didn’t check my phone before going to bed. The second night was okay too – but the third night we were watching my new favorite show Reality Check which talked about a US show called “Marriage At First Sight” which sounded like the perfect trashy reality show that I would love to watch on a rainy day (please don’t judge me!) and I desperately wanted to grab the laptop to start downloading it. And then I realised I hadn’t checked my Instagram since lunchtime (!!) and wondered what exciting stuff I was missing out on. First world problems at their best over here!
Less medication I have a skin condition called Symptomatic Dermographism (the main symptom for me is itchy skin) which developed when I was around 12 years old. As a result I used to take an antihistamine every day when it would flare up. Over the past year or so I have been needing to take them far less regularly – around two, sometimes three a week, however this increased over the few weeks leading up to my cleanse. During the cleanse however I only needed to take two anti-histamines over the ten day period! I definitely think that something in my diet (perhaps the sugar, though presumably it could be something else such as dairy) triggers the itchy skin, as cutting these foods from my diet severely reduced the amount of medication I needed to take.
More energy I was lacking energy leading up to my cleanse – I even fell asleep on the couch on the Saturday afternoon, something I haven’t done in a loooong time, but used to be a regular feature of my weekends back when they also involved a lot of drinking and eating bad foods! But fast forward to the end of the quiz and Im feeling great! This morning I woke up full of energy at 6am before my alarm went off, and have felt great all day long.
Less snacking I constantly snack and even ‘binge eat’ – nowhere near as much as I used to, but still on occasion, however I feel like I have it all in check now. To make sure I stay on track with this one – it’s a biggie for me – I’ve printed out this great post from fellow health coach Amelia Harvey that I’ve printed out and put on my wall at work.
Weight loss Three weeks of eating quite a bit of sugar and a few other unhealthy snacks thrown in saw my clothes fitting rather snuggly. I don’t have scales so couldn’t weigh myself before an after, but judging by the way my clothes fit I feel my weights gone back down to what it was – phew!
For the most part, I found the cleanse to be relatively easy, but by day 10 I was glad that it was over – not so much so that I could go and eat a block of chocolate or drink a bottle of wine, but because I don’t like the feeling of depriving myself of things. If I genuinely want something, I think its okay to have a small treat occasionally – in moderation. Life’s too short to restrict ourselves constantly, and it’s not something that I would want to be doing on a regular basis.
That said, I would definitely do a cleanse again in the future, I think its such a great way to balance yourself and refocus. Despite feeling a little tired for the middle period and having a slight headache one afternoon (usually a sign of detoxification) at the end of it I am feeling great – I feel a lot more energetic, motivated and focused. I’ve also lost a little weight and feel lighter in general. I’m also feeling more in tune with my body, something which is so easy to lose focus of these days.
So, what now? Well, I didn’t wake up this morning craving cake that’s for sure! The amazing thing about eating clean, healthy whole foods is that the more you do it, the more your body starts to crave these types of food – so out with the sugar cravings, and in with the kale cravings. Okay, so maybe you won’t crave kale, but I have been hanging out lately for roasted sweet potato, scrambled eggs and avocado. Much better than craving chocolate, sweets and chips!
I am going to try and continue some of my habits from the cleanse – mindfulness/less snacking and I’m going to try and continue to limit my sugar, though I’ll happily be reintroducing more fruit to my diet, especially approaching summer and all the delicious seasonal fruit that’s headed my way. I will though try to be more aware of the effect that food has on my body and when my sugar craving set back in, I’ll know I need to take stock and rebalance.
If you’re interested in knowing what I ate during the cleanse, I’ve compiled a post for you tomorrow , so stay tuned for that.
Hopefully you’ve found some of this interesting and useful. If you’ve ever done a cleanse or detox I’d love to hear from you on what you did and how you felt afterwards, feel free to share below :)