To say I’m excited about this post would be an understatement. It’s been about two weeks since I’ve blogged (I hadn’t intended for it to be that long of a gap, but there were some technical issues) and I’m long-winded and ramble-y on normal occasions. It’s no lie that this is going to be a giant post. Consider yourself warned.
I spent an embarrassingly long time trying to come up with a title for this post. I think that sometimes words like ‘cleanse’ or ‘detox’ get a bad rep. Even I think the word detox still sounds a little harsh sometimes. I also think that in some cases people think of cleansing as some weird fad to quickly lose weight or something along those lines instead of a way of living and nurturing your body. Which brings me around to my next point. All of the recipes here are cleansing—that’s the wonder of eating an intuitive plant-based diet. But I needed to call this blog post something, so there you have it.
I know from personal experience that a straight up juice cleanse or fast doesn’t work well for me unless it’s for no more than a day in the heat of summer. I also know that, whether I’m cleansing with juices or simply drinking one in place of a single meal that day, I need to go heavy on the veggies and light on the fruits. It’s how my diet is regularly. During the summer, when fresh fruit and berries are in season I can usually handle a bit more, but even when I’m making smoothies I usually only use a bit of green apple or some berries to add sweetness. The longer I’ve been eating a seasonal, plant-based diet the more I’ve noticed the way my body handles the sweetness and what foods are the best for me to eat. For instance, I’ve found that I really can’t eat bananas. Obviously that’s not going to be the case for everyone. It’s important to listen to what your body wants and needs—when you take a moment to truly get in tune with your body it will tell you what it needs to thrive. Like I said, in the summer I can tolerate more fruit and if you live in a warmer climate where fruits are abundantly in season this will probably be the case for you.
I’ve also been eating a very low-sugar diet for several years, so that’s simply what my body is used to. I love bitter, earthy tastes now that some might not care for so much. I’ve made notes in the recipes for the juices and the smoothies if you’re a little bit newer to this and don’t want something quite so bitter or tangy. I love the taste of spirulina but I know other people who say it tastes like pond scum to them. (If you’re using smaller amounts of it spirulina is a very easy taste to mask, so don’t be afraid to try it.) In my opinion food it meant to be played with. For the most part these recipes are rather inexact, even though I’ve given amounts as a general guideline. Feel free to play with the recipes and substitute things that appeal to you, play with the tastes until you find something you love. There is absolutely no point in eating something “healthy” if you think it tastes awful. And when you’re eating fruits and veggies it’s all healthy. Simply listen to the wisdom of your body and you’ll end up with one heck of a delicious creation that satisfies exactly what you were craving.
All right. Onto my reasons for this “cleanse”.
This is the time of year when my body can’t quite figure out what to eat. It’s not really winter anymore but we’re not fully into spring yet and there’s nothing really growing around here, so it feels like nothing is in season. Do I want more soups and roasted veggies? Do I want salads and smoothies? I find myself craving warm and cozy as well as light and fresh. Sometimes the paradoxical cravings are enough to drive me a little insane. I find myself daydreaming about gardens this time of year so things like winter squash and root veggies (which I love, don’t get me wrong) start to seem a little lackluster. In Wisconsin spring usually means teetering between winter and spring—one day we could have several inches (or on some occasions a foot or more) of freshly fallen snow which, the following day turns into mud puddles. This was exactly the kind of weather we had when I began this cleanse. We got several inches of fresh snow and the next day the temps rocketed and it was almost completely gone by afternoon. One moment I wanted to be curled up in a blanket, sipping tea and soup and the next I wanted to lie in the sunshine with a giant salad.
On top of all this there was a definite emotional side to my need for this cleansing period. In the Reiki class I’m taking we focus deeply on self-healing and the shadow self. Since the beginning of this year I’ve been going through intense healing and growth that is honestly difficult to put into words. In my chakra series two summers ago I touched on some pieces of my healing process and I’ve talked before about my anxiety/depression and panic attacks, but there are larger things that I will likely get around to speaking out about in the future. With the intense healing involved in this class I’ve found that my triggers have gotten much worse. I’m not going to sugar-coat it; it sucks. There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed, when I feel like I’m going insane, when it seems like things will never, ever get any better and this is how my life is going to look until I die. It feels like the waves will never stop pushing me under, like there will never stop being dark things to uncover and heal (or rather, be crushed by).
And it’s true. It won’t ever stop.
Healing is an ongoing process and there’s really no such things as being done with any of it or putting it behind us. There are always more layers to heal, wounds to uncover that we never previously realized we carried with us. But it doesn’t always feel unbearable. For me even the darkest moments are beautiful because I spent years refusing to feel or heal anything. To have proof, even in the form of these intensified triggers, is actually kind of rewarding. I’m constantly astonished by the deep level of healing I’ve accomplished in just three months.
It’s also easier to go through these dark moments now that I know how to surrender. It is remarkably easier to surrender to the sadness or the fear or the shame and truly, deeply feel those emotions than to push them away and allow them to eat away at me while I pretend not to feel them. It is easier to feel the pain than to deny its existence. I’m not saying it’s fun, and my initial reaction is always to cover things up; to distract myself with something that seems more pleasant than whatever I’m currently going through. But integrating with the shadow self is where I find my strength. Because when I sink deep into the pain and the sadness, when I reach down and find what the root of that emotion is, it’s never strong enough to overpower me. The sadness (or the guilt/shame/fear/anger or whatever emotion you’re feeling) is never all there is. Those “negative” emotions are never the core of who you are. I’ve found through this healing that those emotions are not things to be shoved aside and ignored. Instead they’re tiny pieces of me that need to be taken care of. They need to be witnessed and nurtured.
My body needed some extra care recently as well. As I felt like I was crumbling beneath the weight of my triggers my body began to reflect that. It didn’t want to have anything to do with food. I only wanted to sleep and sleep and sleep. I needed a bit of a reset.
I listened to what my body wanted and came up with the six recipes I’m sharing with you today. When I started I told myself I was going to take things purely day by day. I didn’t set a goal to cleanse for a certain amount of time. There was no feeling of “abstaining” from food. In the end this was the best cleansing experience I’ve ever had. Because I was still eating a bit of smoothie and soup every day and keeping up the healthy fats my body didn’t feel as worn out at the end as it has with other cleanses I’ve tried in the past. (I struggle with adrenal fatigue, so going long periods of time without eating—even if I’m flooding my body with nutrient-dense juices—is not always the best idea.) I also created a beautiful, nurturing environment for myself to cleanse in. After sobbing my way through one of our hour and a half classes I realized that I need a space to openly feel what I was going through. This cleanse created space in my body and mind to process the deep healing—and, as a huge bonus, I got crazy excited about food again. It was so much fun to do something a little different, combining my body’s needs for cozy and fresh at the same time. I had a blast dusting off my juicer, which hasn’t seen any action since autumn, while simultaneously simmering a huge pot of broth on the stove.
For the first three days or so I mostly had juices and broth (and lots of herbal tea and water) with a bit of soup or a smoothie later in the day. During the fourth, fifth and sixth days I began adding in some of the cooked veggies reserved from the broth and began slowly adding in more of the soup and smoothie to gradually get my body used to digesting food again. It was so lovely to simply listen to my body and exactly what it needed, moment to moment. My focus, even since completing the cleanse, is to bring an even more heightened awareness to all of my meals—and truthfully, to my whole life.
Onion and Fennel Soup
1 large onion
1 large fennel bulb
½ apple, peeled
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 inch piece ginger, minced
Scant 2 ½ cups coconut milk
1 cup water
1 tsp. ground thyme
Splash of rice vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat a bit of coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Thinly slice the onion, fennel and parsnip and add to the coconut oil. Sauté for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until browned and caramelized. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for another 3-5 minutes.
Pour in the water and coconut milk and add the spices. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Let it all cook together for another 5-10 minutes and then puree with an immersion blender. (You could also transfer the soup to an upright blender.)
Adjust the amount of salt or pepper if needed. If you’d like a thicker soup you could add in a can of cooked white beans. The consistency can also be adjusted with the amount of coconut milk and water used.
Note: You can easily adjust how much broth you make by the amount of water you begin with. I actually didn’t measure when I was filling my large soup pot, but it was around 8-9 cups.
1 large onion
1 large beet
3-4 large carrots
1 medium sweet potato
2 stalks of celery
3-4 large garlic cloves
2 inch piece ginger
2 inch piece turmeric
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. cumin seeds
1 tbsp. fennel seeds
1 tbsp. coriander seeds
Salt and pepper, to taste
Roughly chop all of the veggies and place in a large soup pot with the water. Add the bay leaves and whole seeds. Bring to a boil and cover. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for at least an hour.
Carefully strain out the veggies and spices and pour the broth into glass jars or containers to store.
(I kept most of the veggies (and the whole seeds) to eat and fed some of the rest to my dogs and chickens. You can of course compost the leftovers.)
Dreamy Fennel and Spinach Smoothie
Note: If you’re new to green smoothies you can add more apple or sweeter fruit such as a banana. You can also decrease the amount of spirulina or omit it completely.
2 large handfuls spinach
1 large handful of fennel fronds
½ large avocado
½ cup coconut milk
1 tbsp. almond butter
2 heaping tsp. spirulina powder
1 tsp. lucuma powder
Juice ½ lemon
1-2 inch knob fresh ginger
1 cup water or almond milk
Wash the spinach and fennel fronds. Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend smooth.
1 large beet, greens included
¼ orange, optional
1 lemon and/or lime
Large handful kale
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled
2-3 large carrots
1 small sweet potato
2 inch knob of ginger, peeled
2 inch knob of turmeric, peeled
½ small green apple, optional
Cleansing Green Juice
1 bunch of kale
Large handful spinach
Large handful parsley or cilantro, optional
½ small green apple, optional
1-2 stalks celery
1 lemon and/or lime
1 inch piece ginger, peeled
For each juice, wash the veggies and cut into whatever size is needed to fit through your juicer. (You can definitely leave the skins on veggies like carrots and beets, though you will want to remove the rind of lemons and limes.)
Note: If you have cucumbers on hand those are a great way to add some extra water content to your juices—that’s what I love to do during the summer. I didn’t have any so I simply topped the juices off with water (which is what I used to do when I made my juices in a blender).