Gluten-free Butternut Squash Pasta

***Please forgive me, but apparently corn, though perfect for anyone that has a gluten sensitivity, is NOT Clean, if you are visiting this blog looking for a Clean recipe, substitute the corn pasta for rice pasta, which would be equally delicious!***

Hands down, the hardest part on the Clean Program is giving up carbs. I am near the end and all I can seem to think of us is scarfing down a big bowl of pasta. As already mentioned, carbs are a major no-no, and so are tomatoes, pasta's
best friend. As mentioned in my previous post, the program's goal is to remove "common allergens, toxic foods and ingredients that frequently cause sensitivities from your diet to promote healthy digestive tract functioning." Gluten is one of those ingredients that is actually a high allergen, while tomatoes are nightshades. Nightshades are fruits and vegetables that contain a substance called alkaloids which can negatively affect your nerve-muscles, joint and digestive function.
While shopping at my local Whole Foods, I cruised by the pasta aisle and daydreamed of the next encounter I would have with my long, lean friend. And then....there it was, calling my name...corn spaghetti, a totally gluten-free alternative. I stood there for a while, considering whether this was a viable lunch option. I was actually torn. On the one hand, it was gluten-free and totally acceptable as far as the Elimination Diet was concerned, but on the other hand, I felt that part of me going on this cleanse was to rid myself of these cravings. I decided that I have been restricting myself enough while on this cleanse and caved in to my craving. Which wasn't even caving in, since again, it is totally gluten-free. Jeez, who would have thought the guilt a gal could have doing some gluten-free shopping!

Next hurdle, was the sauce. Tomatoes, out! Cream sauce, out! Olive oil sauce, not my favorite! I even had to imagine a sauce without the salty decadent flavor or Parmigianno Regiano. And then, it came to me...butternut squash....YES! To take care of the cream factor, almond milk. I left Whole Foods determined to make a creamy, butternut squash pasta recipe that Dr. Junger would approve of!

I have to admit, I was skeptical as to how this was going to taste, but when I took my first bite I had a sensory explosion. I called my husband into the kitchen and he agreed...this is damn good. Best of all, I was getting to eat pasta!

Some tips before you start:
- Whole Foods carries frozen butternut squash. It saved me so much time! If
you can't get your hands on it, simply use a good peeler to remove the skin
from the squash, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and dice up.
- Use the almond milk sparingly at first, especially when you blend. If the
sauce is still too think, add some more when you return it to the pan.
- Corn pasta breaks very easily, so don't expect to bust out your fork for
a bit of twirl dancing...this is more of a scoop-up meal.
- Taste the sauce before you add the pasta! Adjust the seasoning. I ended up
adding more salt, pepper and even nutmeg.

Clean-friendly, Corn Spaghetti with Butternut Squash Sauce

1 package of corn spaghetti (rice spaghetti if you are on the Clean program)
olive oil
1 package of peeled, cubed butternut squash (You can find this in the freezer section of health food stores, if not available, then you will need one large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup almond milk
salt and pepper
a pinch of nutmeg
handful of chopped basil
toasted walnuts (optional)

In a large skillet, warm a few glugs of olive oil in the pan. Add the onion, butternut squash and salt and pepper and saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and saute for another 3-4 minutes until the squash become somewhat tender. Add the vegetable broth, bring to a simmer, cover and allow to cook for 5-8 minutes. You want the squash to become very soft.

Transfer the squash to a blender and add half the almond milk and a pinch of nutmeg and puree.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until tender. About 8-10 minutes.

Transfer the squash back to the pan and re-heat. Add basil and some more almond milk, if needed. It all depends on what kind of consistency you like your pasta sauce. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Add the cooked pasta into the pan and stir together.

Serve with a sprinkle of toasted walnuts on top for an added crunch.


Getting Clean

I am currently 16 days in to a 21 day cleanse. Doing a cleanse is something I have always wanted to try, but I love food so much I couldn't imagine giving it up. Before I educated myself, I had assumed that all cleanses required relinquishing your right to chew and replacing that motion with constant gulps of liquid. I pretty much only knew of the Master Cleanse which would have required me to live on water, lemon, maple syrup and cayenne pepper! Who the heck find that appealing? I stumbled upon The Clean Program a while back (can't quite recall how) and it seemed to be easy to follow.

The program consists of eliminating various food items that are hard on your digestion, high allergen and deplete energy. These include wheat, sugar, dairy, soy, caffeine and all processed foods. Dr. Junger and his fabulous team of wellness coaches (I love you Jenny) place an emphasis on eating whole foods which are easily digested and are therefore converted into a good old fashion pick me up. There are two options, you can follow the book version, or purchase a kit. I opted for the latter.
I chose the kit because, being a working mother, with two small children, I liked not having to worry about two of the three meals allowed on the program. The kit came pre-packaged with two meal replacements for breakfast and dinner, and included all the supplements I needed. Here is a rundown of the program, a shake for breakfast, a sensible lunch utilizing items "allowed" on the cleanse, or as Dr. Junger calls it, elimination diet-friendly, and a shake for dinner. With each meal, you take a slew of supplements which work together to aid digestions, reintroduce healthy bacteria to your gut, and help diminish cravings. I can't praise this program enough!

So why did I want to go on a cleanse. Here is a short list:

1. I really wanted to re-think how food affects me emotionally. I find that I am constantly snacking on junk just because it is sitting in front of me and I hoped to break this annoying habit.

2. Mindful eating. I certainly eat healthy already (aside from the above mentioned junk I snack on.) However, before I met my husband (I blame him) I was a vegan who was a very conscientious eater
. I wanted to get back in touch with that gal.

3. Eat more whole foods. Eating raw vegetables, fruits, whole grains and other whole foods provides your body with a plethora of vitamins and enzymes that cannot be found in processed foods. They are easier to digest, and keep you feeling full longer. Most of the junk (there it is again) that I was snacking on was processed foods laying around the office, or calling to me in my pantry (I blame the kids.) On this program I was forced to re-think the packed food following me around throughout my day and has opened my eyes to the junk my kids eat.

4. Incorporate liquid meals. In another fabulous book that I have read, Spent, Dr. Lipman makes a strong case for liquid meals, particularly for breakfast. He emphasizes that breakfast is certainly the most important meal of the day, however the type of breakfast one eats is more important. He really stresses that the morning meal is literally "breaking the fast" and that the body needs to eat something that it can easily digest, therefore preserving energy for better usage. Liquid meals will halt that afternoon sugar slump and keep you energized throughout the day. It makes total sense! If I wake up in the morning and immediately take my kids to the park and run around wild with them come noon I am a wiped out for the day. On the other hand, a morning filled with arts and crafts, tickles and board games leaves me energized for the day!

5. Alleviate my tummy problems. I have some serious stomach issues. It seems that not a day goes by that I do not have some discomfort. Now, I am mildly lactose intolerant, but even on days that I consume no dairy, the discomfort is still there.

6. Energy. I can't afford to feel like I need a nap at 2 in the afternoon....I am at work! I can't afford to feel like I am ready for bed at 6 in the evening....I have kids. I desperately was looking for more energy.

Sixteen days in, I am happy to announce that being on the Clean Program has addressed all my issues! I am nervous/excited to see how I will incorporate my new philosophy on food once I am off the program, but I know that it has seriously re-set my views on what I put in my mouth.

So today's recipe comes from 101Cookbooks, a blog that I have featured before. I made a big batch on Sunday and it fed me all week at work. It is creamy, thanks to the tahini, nutty, thanks to the brown rice and almonds, and most of all delicious. The original recipe calls for asparagus, but I opted for broccoli (which I am not entirely certain is Clean-friendly...but here's hoping.) You can substitute any hardy green you like. I also doubled the tahini dressing which I think worked out great because I poured it over all at once, rather than serve it on the side as Heidi suggest.

Until next time folks, cheers and happy eating!

Tasty Broccoli and Tahini
Adapted from 101Cookbooks

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 or 2 14-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained (I went for two)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch segments (or broccoli, as I used)
3 cups pre-cooked brown rice
1 cup almond slivers, toasted
fine grain sea salt

Tahini Dressing:
1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
1/4 cup tahini
zest of one lemon
scant 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3-6 tablespoons hot water ( I ended up using more.)
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Prepare the rice ahead of time, or you can purchase frozen brown rice to make this super fast!

Make the dressing by whisking together the garlic, tahini, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil. Add the hot water to thin a bit and then the salt. Set aside.

Add a couple glugs of olive oil (roughly 3 tablespoons) to a big skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl the oil around to coat the pan, then add the chickpeas and sprinkling of salt. Let the beans saute there for a couple minutes (I like to try to get some crusty color on them). Be careful, they seem to hiss and pop more then other beans over high heat. Add the garlic and onions. Stir for a minute. Stir in the asparagus with another pinch or two of salt, cover with a lid for a minute or two to steam - just until the asparagus brightens and softens up just a bit. Uncover and stir in the rice and almond slivers, reserving a few almonds for garnish. Taste and add more salt if needed (likely). Serve family-style in a big bowl drizzled with a few tablespoons of the tahini dressing, let each person add more dressing to their tastes.