Recipe Rip-Off: California Pizza Kitchen Quinoa and Arugula Salad

No, I wasn’t raptured. No, I wasn’t abducted by aliens or zombies. Yes, I did briefly fall off the planet AND the gluten-free, anti-inflammatory diet wagon. {Boy did I pay for it too. Any thoughts I had that perhaps I didn’t have any food allergies or intolerances were proved wrong this week–via hives and swelling and miserableness!} I happen to have been thrown into a bit of a life crisis, and it has been a teensy bit consuming. It has left me mostly disinterested in food, so when something sounds good and will keep me healthy, I’m all over it. I will attempt to make occasional contributions to our little ol’ blog, but I sense it will be sporadic. But for tonight? You get something!

I had a lovely lunch with a girlfriend last Saturday at California Pizza Kitchen. They have had GF pizza that I wanted to try, and she had mentioned a seasonal quinoa and arugula salad she thought I might like. And boy, did I like it. I didn’t like paying $14.50 for it though. And here’s my pride confidence making an appearance: I thought I could make it better at home. So here’s my rip-off version.

Quinoa and Arugula Salad with Salmon

Salad Ingredients:

  • quinoa
  • arugula
  • asparagus
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • pine nuts
  • feta or goat cheese
  • salmon
  • red onion (optional)

Dressing Ingredients:

  • olive oil (or grapeseed oil, if you prefer something with less flavor)
  • vinegar of choice (champagne vinegar, white balsamic vinegar; I have some lovely blood orange vinegar from a friend, so I added a dash alongside the champagne vinegar)
  • salt and pepper
  • a tiny bit of honey or agave

Instructions:

Don’t get your hopes up for any specific measurements or amounts here. Sorry! I played fast and loose, but it all worked out fine.

Cook quinoa according to package instructions and cool. I like to cook mine in chicken stock if I have it. Chop asparagus into one-inch pieces and drop into salted boiling water for a couple minutes, until crisp-tender. Immediately remove and shock in an ice bath. Toast pine nuts for a couple minutes (don’t burn them, says experience!), and remove from stove. Chop sun-dried tomatoes. I am not friends with raw onion, but if you are, finely dice or thinly slice a few tablespoons of red onion, and add to the mix. Prepare salmon according to your preferred method. I rubbed mine with coconut oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and baked it (a couple minutes under the broiler at the end makes for some lovely crisp edges).

Whisk together your vinaigrette. I pretty much always eyeball this. Your ratios should be one part vinegar/acid to three parts oil, so 2 T vinegar and 6 T oil. Add a drizzle of honey or agave, maybe a little dijon, and salt and pepper to taste.

In a large bowl, combine arugula, cooled quinoa, asparagus, and chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and onion (if using). Pour dressing over the top and toss. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and feta or goat cheese. Add salmon . . . and boom. Dinner is served.

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Phase 1: Detoxing for Dummies

I didn’t know what to expect when I first started seeing Dr. WooWoo. After that initial allergic reaction, I’d been on a prednisone and Benadryl bender and generally felt jumpy, sick, and miserable. Any kind of solution that didn’t involve a drug was exactly what I was looking for. Someone who had seen Dr. WooWoo a couple years prior had shared some of the diet changes, so I knew some restrictions were coming my way. This was all a little bit scary to a girl who had been on a junk-food-a-palooza for the five months prior.

Let me tell you: those first weeks were hard. Some nights after work, I would wander around Whole Foods, sniffing loaves of bread, whispering sweet nothings to the boxes of pasta, cradling wedges of brie, looking longingly at everything in the deli cases and food bars, all of which I couldn’t eat. The doctor wasn’t kidding about how saturated all our foods are with these three key food groups I had to cut out for the first eight weeks. I learned pretty quickly that the absolute only way to hold to this eating regimen was to cook for myself–and to set aside adequate time for all the prep, which was a little daunting at first.

You’re probably thinking, Hey, Jen. It’s so rad that you’re telling me about this terrible eating plan that is so hard and made you miserable. Sign me up!

I’m really selling it, huh? No cheeseburger-colored glasses here! I just want to put it out from the get-go that that this isn’t a piece of cake. (See? Already I’m preparing you. There is NO CAKE in Phase 1.)

But there is a huge and compelling reason to give this lifestyle change a try: you will feel awesome after a couple weeks. This gluten-free thing for me is about more than finding cheats or replacements for all my former favorite foods. I’m trying to change everything about the way I care for my body, and I can tell you that it has made a huge difference in my well-being. Some days are harder than others and I’ve had to re-learn and re-think many things, but the payoff has been undeniable. Take what you will from this, and feel free to ask me questions! I do love blabbing about this stuff . . .

Some notes:

  • The goal of Phase 1 is multifaceted: a gentle detox from all the garbage that has built up in your system (refined, processed foods; empty white products; SUGAR; bad fats), an overall reduction of inflammation in the body, alkalizing your system, and kind of a reset button on your cravings (especially sugar).
  • This isn’t a “diet.” You are not depriving yourself. It’s not some kind of fad or quick-weight-loss gimmick. It’s not low-carb, sugar-free, cabbage soup, or any other get-healthy/thin-quick plan. There is no counting of points, no carbs vs. protein, no “fruit is bad.” It’s a new way of life based on whole foods, the way they’re found in nature.
  • Some of the elements might seem counterintuitive to you. I understand that. Americans have been programmed to consume low-fat, high-grain, high-dairy. I challenge you to research anything on this list that doesn’t fit your current mentality. I think you’ll be surprised, like I was, about how truly backward many of our mind-sets are.
  • Try to shop organic if you can. Refer the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen so you can make some distinctions. Be prepared to shell out a little more dough at the grocery store. I don’t know what to tell you: real food is more expensive. But I think you’ll find relatively quickly that you are spending less eating out and that you are in a pattern that is doable. There are ways to make lower-cost items go further (eggs for example), and once you get to Phase 2, costs should go down further. Prepare to shop more often as well since you’ll be consuming so many perishable items. Here’s a good reminder: if it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, skip it!
  • Remind yourself that this isn’t forever. Phase 1 is only eight weeks. You can do it! And remember that you are giving your most valuable resource–your body–a chance to heal by truly feeding it, maybe for the first time, with real and life-giving foods. If anything, look at this as a vacation for your body–a chance to revel in easily digestible and healing foods.
  • Try new things! The Internet is a wealth of ideas and information. Look for recipes. Try new produce. Open your mind. It’s kinda fun, people.
  • Complete legalism will only make a person stumble. Give yourself a couple cheat meals every week. It makes a huge difference to allow yourself this in the early stages. Down the road? Those cheats will likely become less intriguing.
  • I’m only going to share a rough outline of what the naturopath and many sources online laid out for me. If you want more specific or thorough details, I suggest you find a Dr. WooWoo of your very own or take charge of your health and start doing some research. I’ll answer as many questions as I can, but I’m not an expert by any means. I will lay out what NOT to eat, a few key things to add, and a basic list of foods you can have on Phase 1.

Here are the three big things you will AVOID during Phase 1:

  • DAIRY (anything from cow’s milk)
  • GRAIN (all grains; that means NO bread, pasta, no rice, and pretty much all packaged foods)
  • SUGAR (anything refined–this does not refer to fruit)

Here’s a big “no duh”: NO artificial anything. This stuff is poison. No fake coffee creamers, no diet soda, no artificial sweeteners, no “low-fat,” no “fiber added.” For now, you also won’t be having “gluten-free” products–no mixes or pre-made stuff. You will naturally be eating gluten-free by cutting out all the grains. Don’t add any empty GF stuff in Phase 1. And no fast-food, chips, candy, soda, or any of that other junk.

Here is what you will be eating:

  • GOOD FATSstart cooking with coconut oil! I’m serious. Your body needs fat. It’s just doesn’t need garbage fat. America has this all backwards. Coconut oil is incredibly healthy (see Lisa’s torrid love letter to coconut oil), full of medium chain fatty acids and healing properties. The only fats you should use for cooking are quality coconut oil and butter. Use olive oil only for dressings (lower smoke point = carcinogens. You feel me?).
  • MEAT: (NO pork or roast beef; if you buy deli meat, buy quality preservative-free and nitrite-free ).
  • EGGS: you might be eating a lot of these.
  • GOAT’S MILK PRODUCTS: chevre saved my life. I’m not kidding.
  • NUT/SEED MILKS: almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk.
  • NUTS/SEEDS: (NO macadamia nuts, peanuts (butter), pecans, pine nuts, pistachios).
  • VEGETABLES: (NO potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, jicama, waterchestnuts).
  • BEANS/LEGUMES: (NONE on Phase 1!).
  • FRUIT: a few restrictions here based on glycemic level; otherwise the sky’s the limit! (NO dried fruit, canned fruit, apricot, cantaloupe, dates, figs, grapes, guava, kiwi, mango, oranges, papaya, peach, pear, pineapple, plum, quince).
  • CONDIMENTS/DRESSINGS: (NO pre-made); make your own vinaigrette (I’ll share recipes later!).
  • SWEETENERS: agave, honey, and stevia for now, and even these should be limited.
  • BEVERAGES: water, green or herbal tea, fresh-pressed juices.

I know it probably looks like I’ve just given you a long list of NO. Believe me, the list of YES is so much longer! Just go the produce department and wander. Do you honestly consume everything that is there for the taking? I think you’ll be surprised by how much delicious whole food you’ve been missing out on.

In the coming weeks, I’ll share some of my meal plans from those first eight weeks. (This isn’t as fun as cookies and Yumm sauce, but I think it’s important! You’ll get to these things in time.) Believe it or not, I’ve been out of Phase 1 for over two months, and I still haven’t added back dairy, sugar, or most grains (I do enjoy occasional brown rice and quinoa). I feel so much better and am so satisfied that I haven’t felt the need or urge to add these things back in. I’m truly shocked that this lifestyle change has stuck . . . but it has. I feel so much better that the bread/brie/pasta makeout-fest I dreamed of all those months ago mostly leaves me cold. Amazing, no?

Now I’m off to enjoy a veggie scramble with goat cheese and a quiet evening of cuddles with my fat cat. See you here again soon!

Chewy Granola Bars

love Smitten Kitchen. I have been reading her for years and have made many of her recipes, all of which have been amazing. I’m especially charmed and inspired because she creates all of these lovely dishes in a postage stamp–sized NYC kitchen (and her previous kitchen didn’t even have a dishwasher *shudder*).

I had to stop reading for a while though. Because of the BREAD. Like the most recent post, for instance. I may be committed to a mostly gluten-free lifestyle right now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t lose my marbles at the thought of a crusty ciabatta roll or whipping up a loaf of no-knead bread, which used to be a staple in my kitchen. For now, that’s not happening.

Thank goodness not all of Smitten Kitchen’s recipes involve bread. Last week, a friend on Facebook linked to this recipe and mentioned that the smell of the baking bars was intoxicating. That’s enough of an endorsement for me. I’ve been looking for a portable breakfast/snack option other than ordering boxes of Kind bars from Amazon (the cheapest avenue I’ve found). I like most of the Kind bars (although they’re a little on the sweet side for me), and I need a grab-and-go option to have in my purse at all times and for busy most nearly all weekday mornings, when I can’t manage to make myself a real breakfast on my way out the door. When my stomach wakes up sometime after 9:00 a.m., I’m always reaching for a Kind bar in my desk drawer.

I decided to whip up a batch of these granola bars on Friday night, with some tweaks. They are insanely good. I think it’s time to cancel that recurring order on Amazon. Seriously. They are chewy, dense (in a good way), and have a nice crunch if you leave nuts in larger pieces or whole. I plan to keep fussing with the recipe and to have these on hand at all times. If I prepare a batch every couple weeks and freeze individually wrapped bars, I should be covered. The options for add-ins are endless too. (Don’t worry, coworkers. I’ll be bringing a few to the office tomorrow for your feedback.) The biggest change I made is subbing the refined sugars. If you want to use regular sugar and corn syrup, you can get the amounts over at Smitten Kitchen’s website by clicking the link below.

Chewy GF Granola Bars

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 2/3 c quick-cooking rolled oats (if gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free oats*)
  • 1/2 c Sucanat
  • 1/3 c oat flour (if gluten-free, be sure to use GF oat flour) (OR 1/3 cup oats, processed in a food processor or blender until finely ground)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 2–3 c dried fruits and nuts**
  • 1/3 c almond butter (or another nut butter)
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 6–8 T melted butter (or melted coconut oil, which I plan to try next time)
  • 1/4 c agave
  • 1/8–1/4 c honey
  • 1 T water
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan {I used a small rectangular jelly roll pan} with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan {I rubbed the parchment with coconut oil}.
  2. Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners, almond butter, and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing firmly to ensure the bars are molded to the shape of the pan.
  3. Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges {I baked for the full 40 minutes}. Don’t be afraid to get a little color on the top as well. The bars will seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan; they’ll set once completely cool.
  4. Cool the bars completely in the pan on a cooling rack. This part is no joke. I got a little ahead of myself and tried to slide the parchment out onto the cooling rack after about 30 minutes. Too soon! Some of the center bars ended up a little cracked and crumbly. I ended up letting them cool on the counter overnight, in the pan, lightly draped with a tea towel.
  5. Once cool, slide the parchment with bars out onto a cutting board, and use a large knife to cut the bars into squares. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or waxed paper, or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. I’m hoping they also freeze well.

*Note that any links I’ve provided are for bulk amounts on Amazon. You likely aren’t looking to purchase twelve bags of Sucanat; I just want you to see what product I’m using. (Be aware that you will find many of these products to be much more cost effective if you purchase through Amazon or other online retailers. If you have the luxury of buying in bulk or splitting a bulk purchase with friends, I highly recommend it. And if you have Amazon Prime, the deal gets even sweeter.) Most of these are available at Whole Foods or any grocery store with a decent health food section.

**Suggestions for nut/seed/fruit mixture: dried cranberries, apricots, dates, pecans, chia seeds, flax meal, sunflower seeds, coconut, walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, pepitas, dried apples, or even chocolate chips. I didn’t measure carefully for this batch, and I don’t think it really matters. I just started pouring items into a liquid measuring cup until it hit 3 cups. My mix for this batch (amounts approximate): 1/2 c sunflower seeds, 3/4 c dried cranberries, 1/2 c pumpkin seeds, 3/4 c whole raw almonds, 2 T chia seeds, sprinkle of finely shredded unsweetened coconut on one half (I was afraid I wouldn’t like the coconut…but I did! Weird).

Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

These are inspired by Chocolate-Covered Katie’s Healthy Deep-Dish Cookie Pie. I’ve made some tweaks to her recipe and halved it (it’s just not smart for me to have more than this amount in my house at a given time!). These are incredibly gooey and delicious and a total sneak for people who are leery of “weird, healthy food” (I get this line a lot at my own house). I’ve taken them to work and to a party. Everyone who tried tried them said they never would have guessed that the primary ingredients are garbanzo beans and oatmeal.

{Note: this is no Pioneer Woman or Smitten Kitchen, so don’t get all fired up about the possibility of beautiful step-by-step photos. Or high-quality photos of any kind for that matter. I will just tell you right now that most photos on my recipes are likely to be taken with my iPhone in my dimly lit and windowless kitchen. I’m sorry. I hope that will change down the road. I promise you that I won’t post a recipe unless I truly believe it’s fantastic. Hopefully that will be enough to make you consider giving it a try, lousy photo or not.}

Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

  • 1 can unseasoned white beans or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed {I used garbanzos}
  • 1/2 cup quick oats or certified-gf quick oats
  • 3 medjool dates {don’t forget to take out the pits!}
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c Sucanat and 1/3 c agave
  • 1 1/2 T canola oil {I plan to use coconut oil for the next batch, as it’s much healthier}
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips {if you’re feeling frisky, why not try a blend of the two?}
  1. Blend everything except the chips very well in the food processor. {Be aware that your mixture won’t smell very good at this point. It will smell like beans with vanilla, which is, well, weird. Never fear! I swear that once you bake the bars, you’ll never remember that the base is beans.}
  2. Stir in chips, and pour into a small oiled pan (I used a small pie plate; a double batch fits nicely in a 9×13 Pyrex baking dish).
  3. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Cut yourself a mammoth slice and enjoy! Once they have cooled, I store them in the fridge. When hot, these would be fabulous with your ice cream of choice (dairy or non-dairy) and chocolate sauce. This morning, the cooled cookie bars had a melt-in-my-mouth fudgy consistency. Divine. And I didn’t even feel guilty about eating one for breakfast.

I plan to play with this recipe as a base for breakfast bars with add-ins of dried fruit, chopped nuts, and coconut flakes. I think a big batch would freeze well individually wrapped and would make a great breakfast go-to on rushed mornings. I’ll keep you posted.