Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Adventures in Cabbage Soup Dieting

You know that feeling that you get after the holidays when your clothes are quite snug and you're sure you've probably put on a few pounds but you haven't stepped on a scale so it isn't real? Yeah, me too. And doesn't it totally suck when you actually do get on that scale and it's worse news that you'd thought?  Yikes. Then it's time for drastic measures. Enter The Cabbage Soup Diet. Seven days of weird eating strategies supplemented by non-hearty bowls guessed it...cabbage soup. 

Day 1 was easy enough, only fruit and your soup. Day 2, however, was harder on me - only veggies and soup, no fruit - which meant that my sweet tooth was killing me. An allowed baked potato saved the day. Here it is along with some curried veggies:

Curried Roasted Vegetables
  • 3-4 cups of cubed vegetables - I used onion, garlic, red pepper, carrot, broccoli, eggplant, zapallito, and about a quarter of a calabaza
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • salt and pepper
Toss all ingredients in a bowl until veggies are coated with spices. Spread out veggies in one layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Roast in a hot oven (400F, 205C) for 15 minutes covered with tinfoil and an additional 15 minutes without foil, or until cooked to your preference. Turn every 10 minutes for evenness and to prevent sticking. 

Day 3 was a piece of cake - fruits, veggies, and soup. And I should note that we didn't make the cabbage soup recipe, we actually made our own version. It included cabbage but not really any seasonings - just veggies simmered with nothing but water, salt, and pepper for about half an hour.

Day 4, however, was not. Bananas and skim milk day. Oh, the humanity. But we made a feast of it. First, banana milkshakes: Combine a banana with about a cup of cold skim milk and a few ice cubes in a food processor until well blended. Add a few drops of vanilla or almond extract for great flavor.


Banana "Ice Cream"
  • Bananas
  • Lemon juice
That's it! That's all of the ingredients. Slice the bananas, brush with or dip in lemon juice. Freeze the slices in one layer for a couple of hours. Blend in a food processor, scraping the sides as needed, until the slices get ice cream! Add a touch of skim milk if you're having trouble blending. 

I'll make this "ice cream" again along with a dollop of peanut butter of dulce de leche blended in. It's amazing how close the texture is to actual ice cream.

Days 5 and 6 permitted the eating of beef or chicken. And for me that meant tofu. I experimented with 2 cooking styles. Both began by cutting a block of tofu into 1cm thick slices and pressing between two dish towels for 30 minutes - I stacked a couple of Harry Potter books on top of a cutting board covering the towels. This process is to soak up the water so that the tofu will hold onto a marinade.

The first method called for dry frying the tofu before marinading.

Tofu Marinade (for half of a block of tofu)

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 big clove of garlic, chopped
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • shake of tamarind sauce
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • pinch of dry mustard powder
  • pinch of ginger powder
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • pinch of vegetable powder
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, add dry fried tofu, add enough water to cover the tofu. Marinade for 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. 

Saute tofu in the marinade until most of the liquid evaporates. Add any additional vegetables if you like. I added tomatoes (added for the last 5 minutes of sauteing) for day 5...

...and carrots and broccoli for day 6. I also added black and white sesame seeds, though these weren't part of the diet plan. (I also ate vegan chocolate on a few of the days...a girl's gotta break some rules.)


The second tofu-cooking method I tried was for baked tofu. This goes into the marinade right after pressing. I tried a lighter, curry powder based marinade with mint but the flavor either wasn't as strong as the soy sauce based marinade or I didn't let it sit long enough. So, that recipe is going to take some experimenting.

After marinading, bake the tofu (flipping every 20 minutes) on a lightly oiled baking sheet for 45 minutes to an hour at 180C, 350F. This gave it a great texture but because the flavor was so subtle, I went ahead and sauteed the baked tofu in the marinade and added a tomato.

Day 7 - the home stretch - incorporated vegetables and brown rice. I had been reluctant to eat an avocado all week due to it's high (good) fat content but tossed one with a couple of tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for a salad on the last day.

Of course, I took some liberties with the diet foods (it's not like there are cooking instructions) and I still had a small cup of coffee with milk and sugar for breakfast each day to keep my sanity. In the end I lost nearly 2 kilos but, most importantly, I found new and different ways to eat healthy foods. I will say that this diet can screw with your system, so watch out for weirdness and be careful. The great thing is that I'm satisfied with smaller portions and I don't have crazy cravings now. It's kind of like someone hit my reset button and I can appreciate food and drinks in moderation again. Also, my jeans don't muffin-top me so much. Awesome.