It's barely even December and I've reached the point in the holidays where I feel like a human turducken. The idea of another week like the one I just had -- pies, dips, potatoes, more meat than I usually eat in a year, over 9,000 martinis -- makes me want to Master Cleanse until New Year's.
Don't even get me started on the fact that the Polish-Catholic half of my family celebrates Wigilia, a traditional Christmas Eve, by consuming nothing but booze and starch (pirogies, kugel, hash brown casserole, cabbage noodles, bread, bread, and bread) for approximately 12 hours.
If you're feeling similarly bloaty and full of hotdog triglycerides from your last mini-weenie binge, I'm going to let you in on a way to use these interim weeks between the major eating holidays to detox a bit.
Don't worry: This isn't a diet, because fuck diets. Dieting is for high school wrestlers and monster people. It's a super easy, painless 4-step plan to feel lighter than French pastry. Ready?
1) Add Water.
Even if you're one of those compulsive water drinkers, have two glasses first thing in the AM (I do one before my shower and one after) and it just kind of gets your systems going. It's like flushing the toilet of your body! (Sorry.)
2) Liberally Apply Shangri-La's Radio on Pandora.
Play this on your laptop while you do anything around the house. You'll sweat out THE TOXINZ and increase your metabolism via excessive ass shimmying. It's nothing but songs about bad boys and teenage couples dying in car wrecks. Look, I hate exercise! But it is impossible not to dance like a complete asshole to these songs.
3) Detox Tea.
I know. Most detox tea tastes like Nicolas Cage's bathtub water, but Yogi brand has some in non-sewagey fruit flavors. Try adding one bag of detox to two bags of a delicious tea that doesn't smell like stewed dead body, and then add a bunch of cold water to make a palatable iced tea that you can sip throughout your day. Lemon's good in this too, and it's a natural diuretic. Flush, flush, flush!
Replace one meal a day with My Magic Soup, recipe below. It's vegan and it's delicious and it only gets better as it sits in your fridge. You can make it very easily with a one-bag shopping trip, or even from stuff you probably have in your cupboard. TECHNICALLY it is just a traditional Polish cabbage soup, but cabbage scares people and you don't have to use it. In fact, this soup is eminently customizable, so everybody can enjoy it. Although, I guess if you don't like soup, I can't help you. You are beyond help.
Alliums. The key to this soup is using a bunch of stuff with a lot of flavor and not a lot of fats and sugars, which means onion and garlic. It's all about customization, so if you don't like red onion or green onion, don't use 'em. You will need SOME kind of onion though, because they're delicious. If you're not a fan, just get a large, sweet white one and dice it super finely. You'll only get the flavor and not the texture. I used several cloves of garlic, a whole red onion and half a yellow one.
Crunchy Vegetables. I don't need to tell you how good fiber is for you, because gross. But try to get a good rainbow of stuff going. I like to use cabbage, bell pepper, zucchini, spinach, green beans, mushrooms and celery. I avoid carrots, corn, peas and potatoes because they're high in starch. Try to limit cruciferous veggies like cauliflower and broccoli, which can make you more bloaty in large quanitites.
Tomato Products. Most vegetable soups are tomato based, but they also have a crap ton of sodium, which is very bad for you and will only make you feel puffy. You can certainly ADD salt to this soup, but you should be in control. You'll need about two cups total of tomato product. You can use a big can of diced tomatoes, but I like a combination of no-salt added tomato paste, vegetable stock, and vegetable juice. The paste really gives it some body. Check the label: look for no added salt and or corn syrup. Jesus, didn't you see "King Corn?" Corn syrup: strictly verboten.
Herbbbbbs and Seasoning. Seriously, whatever you want goes in here. I'm Eastern European, so dill is a must for me, but the more herbs you can put in, the better. I used pretty much everything I had in the fridge and a little bit of dried stuff. Oregano, basil, flat-leaf parsley, dill, tarragon and a bay leaf (which you can fish out afterward). Don't forget the S&P. We're not animals.
OK! Let's do this thang.
I subscribe to the mis en place method of cooking, because I like to have everything ready to just dump in. Plus, I'm fancy like that. Here's what you'll have when you're done with prep:
That's a big bowl of veggies, a smaller bowl of your onions and garlic, your tomato stuff and your herbs and spices. OK, so everything's not totally chopped. I surrender, cooking police. Take me away. (But if you're going to use cabbage, put it in last, because it oxidizes after being cut and gets soggy if you cook it too soon.)
First! Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the biggest pot you have, over medium-high heat. I suggest using Greek extra virgin, but I am strongly biased, as I am Greek and extra virgin. (Half of that is true.)
When the oil is hot but not smoking, start with your your garlic and onions. I like my dice like I like my men: chunky.
Now add those pungent mothers to the pot.
When they're turning translucent, kindly add your veggies. Looks like a lot, huh? Don't fret. They'll cook down once they release their water a little.
Reduce the heat to medium and let the veggies sit for a moment until they give up most of their moisture. You can add a little more oil if you need to at this point. They should still be pretty crunchy -- we're not going for a stir fry here. Now, if you would, please add your tomato products.
Everything should be about the consistency of a nice, fresh salsa. You don't want things too soupy yet.
Here's where I add cabbage, but I know that kapusta is not for everybody. So feel free to skip this step if you're not also an old Jewish man trapped in a busty shiksa's body.
Your herbs should always go last, so dump that ish in.
Mmmm. Smells great. I want to lay down this soup in the firmament and make love to it like Zeus.
Now's the time to test the consistency, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Your veggies have probably relinquished a good deal of their water, but you'll probably need to add some to keep the cooking process going. I added about a cup and a half -- try to get the consistency of marinara.
That's it! Simmer on low until the vegetables are done to juuuuuust crunchier than you'd like. They'll soften up over progressive reheatings. Even if you plan to eat this right away, it's really nice to have some texture. I like to throw a bunch of herbs on top, too.
Et voila! Makes approximately a metric ton of soup.
I guarantee you, this is way better than anything you can get from a can or with unlimited breadsticks, and there are absolutely nothing but good-for-you things in it. For an interesting variation, put a poached egg on top and douse with sriracha for ersatz bi-bim bap, or sprinkle with a little bit of parmeggiano reggiano and basil for a Minestrone vibe.
Season to your heart's content, but go easy on the salt, since the name of the game is being healthy. There will be plenty of time to gorge on salty pigs in a blanket on December 31, by which time you may have finished this pot of soup.
I'll be eating this til' approximately pierogie o'clock. Na zdrowie!