When we started our Vegan Detox immediately after Thanksgiving, it was intitially supposed to be for one week. I was hoping to talk M into two weeks. Little did I know that he would be leading the charge to keep detoxing. . . through Christmas! I knew it would be challenging, but I was up for it.
We had dinner at the in-laws this year and it was its usual smorgasboard of gluttony, amazing, tasty, lip-smacking gluttony. There was not one thing that would be on the table that wouldn't be off limits to us. I have to stop and say that my mother-in-law has been so supportive about our efforts to eat better. Obesity runs in M's family and she wants to do everything she can to help us.
While my MIL was willing to help out, I also believed that the burden to ensure we ate healthfully on Christmas was on me. The challenges in deciding what to bring is that it had to be something that I could make here, would travel well, and that I could make a lot of so others could also eat it, but then would freeze well in case other people turned up their noses at my offering. So, I decided to bring this soup, which I adapted to make detox-friendly*. M loved this, which was surprising, since he is not a soup fan. I think it was the chunks of gluten-free bread that you stir in at the end, which makes it thicker and almost creamy. I also brought a huge salad (mixed greens with corn, black beans, cherry tomatoes, green pepper, and a cilantro-lime vinaigrette), sliced veggies, hummus, tortilla chips, and guacamole.
My SIL also made us gluten-free brownies (she didn't know about the vegan/sugar-free part of our detox). These were not vegan or sugar-free, so M politely refused them, but I couldn't resist a taste. And, ohmygoodness, those brownies were pure heaven. I highly recommend making these if you are only doing gluten-free eating/baking. The one thing I noticed, however, is that they tasted super sweet, almost too sugary. I think it's because I hadn't had any sort of sweetener for almost a month at that point. The brownies were very, very good, but just a tiny little bite was enough for me.
We tried to be as inconspicuous as possible with the fact that we were forgoing the ham and scalloped potatoes in favor of tomato soup and salad. But you want to know something? The soup was really, really good. I'm not saying it was good as in, "Oh, it was good, but too bad we couldn't have the ham." No, as in, it was so rich, satisfying, and tasty that regardless of whether or not we are eating this way next year, I think it might just become a holiday tradition for us.
The most difficult thing for me to avoid was the plate of Aunt N's famous Christmas Cookies (she makes about a dozen different varieties every year, including my nemesis; fudge) but the bite of brownie addressed my sugary cravings.
M said that it was really easy for him to eat healthfully and that he didn't really crave or miss anything. I think it helped that ham and scalloped potatoes are not his favorite meal.
*Adapted Recipe For Pappa Al Pomodoro (orginal recipe posted at the FoodNetwork.com)
3 tablespoons cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil (eh, just used regular olive oil here)
3 cloves garlic, crushed (I got fancy with the garlic. I roasted a head of garlic the day before, using this method. It gave the soup an amazing flavor.)
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried hot peppers
1 (12-ounce) can peeled whole tomatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup water (changed this to 1/4 cup vegetable stock)
1/3 loaf day old French or Italian bread (drier the better) (I used a gluten-free/dairy free bread that I left out on the counter for a couple of days and then cut into cubes.)
20 fresh basil leaves, torn
Here is where I got creative and added to the recipe the following:
2 cups of fresh spinach
1 can of cannellini beans, drained
(I stirred both of these after I added the vegetable stock.)
In a medium pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil and crushed garlic. When the garlic flavors infuse oil, add the crushed peppers being careful not to burn them. Add the whole can of tomatoes into the pot, then using a wooden spatula cut the tomatoes into chunks. Add salt and ground black pepper, to taste. (Remember, bread chunks will be added to this so make it a bit saltier then you would like it to be.) Add water (I used the vegetable stock) and stir. This is where I added the spinach, just stirring it in until it wilts and "melts" into the broth and the can of beans. With your hands, pull the bread into bite-sized chunks, then add them to the pot. "Toss" (do not stir) bread chunks in to the soup. Add basil leaves, lightly toss, serve.
I got this soup all the way to the "simmer" stage on my stove, with all ingredients except the bread added. Then I transferred this to my crockpot and kept it on low until we were ready to travel. Once we got to my MIL's, it just simmered on low until about a half hour before we were ready to eat. I then switched the power setting to "warm". I put out the bread chunks in a bowl next to the crockpot and a bottle of red pepper flakes so people could toss their own bread and spice it up accordingly.