Two weeks ago today, I started The Conscious Cleanse with two mason jars. One was filled with warm lemon water, the other with a green smoothie packed with kale and frozen mango. For the next 14 days, I (mostly) eschewed caffeine, sugar, gluten, dairy (no issue there), peanuts, soy, corn, chocolate, strawberries, and nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant). Basically, all my most favorite of things. In the process, I learned a lot about my food triggers and the power that food has to affect my mood and how I feel overall. While I share with you my final thoughts on the cleanse, I thought it only fitting to wrap up my experience with a mason jar – a Mason Jar Salad, that is.
You’ve heard of the Mason Jar Salad, right? I just love this concept. It’s totally a Pinterest kind of thing, except no pallets are required. Seriously, what is up with everything on Pinterest being made out of pallets? I digress. Mason Jar Salads are super cool. They are easily made ahead, totally portable, and the container is reusable. Plus, they’re so pretty.
During the cleanse, I got to exercise my culinary creativity pretty big time. One thing you should know about me – if I am given a list of things I cannot have, you can bet I am going to push the limits to thoroughly enjoy what I CAN have. On the group Facebook page for the cleanse participants, I peppered the coaches with questions about ingredients. Could I have such-and-such? Was this or that “cleanse-friendly?” Pretty quickly I learned that if I had to ask, it probably wasn’t. I took this as a challenge to find things to eat that tickled my taste buds while still adhering to the guidelines. I realized that there are just endless combinations of textures and flavors awaiting us in Salad Land. Here is but one example.
I started with this idea of a Granny Smith apple and almond butter. If anyone who did the cleanse along with me is reading this right now, they’re going to be all like, “Hold on. You’re supposed to eat fruit on an empty stomach, 30 minutes before a meal! You rule-breaker!” Yep. That’s me. This salad has 1/4 of an apple in it, and I’m totally and completely ok with that. But, to be 100% cleanse-compliant, make this salad without the apple and breathe easy. Me, I added apples, and I’m so very glad I did.
Oh, for crying out loud. Look at that beautiful spring green freshness. Crispy, tart, with a hint of sweet. Just begging to fulfill its salad destiny.
Here’s how I cut my apples to prepare them for slicing. 4 quick cuts around the core, then flat side down on the cutting board before slicing into thin semicircles. Then a short bath in salted water. You DO know about the salted water trick, right? A quick soak will keep the apple slices from turning brown. Then rinse in cool water and stash in the fridge until ready to use – no discoloration! I’m a big fan of those kinds of tips.
Next, the almond butter. I decided to do a play on the dressing from the Salad Roll Salad and it turned out to be one of my better ideas. Bright acidity from the rice wine vinegar, emulsifying fat from the almond butter, some extra sumthin’ sumthin’ from toasted sesame oil, and a smidge of salt and maple syrup to balance it all out. Super simple, simply tasty.
Shake all the ingredients up in a pint-sized mason jar (what else?) until emulsified. The dressing will thicken as it stands, so don’t worry if it seems too thin at first.
This dressing makes enough for at least 4 salads, so save the extra!
During the cleanse, I ate a lot of nuts. Walnuts emerged as a favorite, especially in salads. There is just something about the almost meaty texture of a walnut that works really well as a texture component. The flavor is fantastic, too. I did a variation of this same salad with sliced avocado, and the combo with the walnuts was just wonderful.
More crunch and flavor factor from celery and radish. I love the natural saltiness of celery and the peppery bite from the radish. Also, I think radishes are so pretty, don’t you? That color just leaps out as if to say, “Hey! Notice me!”
Finally, the greens. I can’t get enough arugula lately. It’s so peppery, I love it! A wonderful counterpoint to the other flavors in this salad. I used a mix of baby greens for this salad that included arugula, chard, and spinach. All three cups of those greens got packed into the mason jar, with room to spare.
With all these greens I ate on the cleanse, I started to see some pretty great changes happen in my body. I’ve shared a bit about this already in my last post, but one outcome came as a big surprise. I’ve had edema in my right foot for years now, and it’s really a bother. About halfway into the cleanse, I started noticing that the edema had reduced significantly. A couple of days later, I could barely notice it. I was so excited!
But then…I cheated. Going into the cleanse, I knew that there would be a couple of times toward the end that I would stray from the plan, because I was taking Michael out to celebrate his birthday. And now the edema has returned, although not completely. So, there’s something to this whole elimination diet thing. At this point I’m pretty sure that potatoes are the culprit for my fat foot, which makes me pretty bummed, I have to tell you. But on the flip side, thanks to the cleanse, I have a renewed sense of commitment to care for myself, which includes limiting foods that don’t make me feel my best. So potatoes and I are going to be on a break for a little while, just to see if they really are a problem for me. Time will tell.
Another great outcome from the cleanse? 5 pounds down, baby! Along with the weight loss, I noticed a dramatic decrease in bloating and overall yucky GI stuff. I’m not completely ok in that area yet, but I attribute that to the fact that I did stray a bit from the guidelines. The two weeks of the cleanse coincided with a great deal of stress at work and in other areas of my life, too, so I’m really happy with what I was able to do with so many outside factors fighting against me.
So, in a nutshell, here’s what I took away from The Conscious Cleanse.
- I feel my best when vegetables and fruits comprise the majority of my food intake.
- I can go without caffeine for almost two weeks and not die (although I was seriously cranky for the first few days).
- I can recognize my food triggers and make better choices rather than giving in to my “cravings.” That was a big one.
“In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die…where you invest your love, you invest your life.”
– Mumford & Sons
All in all, I’m so glad that I did the cleanse. It absolutely served as a reboot of sorts for me, and I’m ready to keep learning how to find the balance between food for fuel and food for pleasure. Because life is too short not to eat chocolate.
Now let’s finish up this salad, shall we? When it comes to making the perfect Mason Jar Salad, remember this guideline – wet at the bottom, dry at the top. Here’s a handy infographic to help!
Believe it or not, there are three packed cups of greens in that jar! Oh, and make sure to use a wide mouth mason jar, the standard mouth size is just too narrow. Use that size for green smoothies!
Make sure to take a photo of your own mason jar salad creations and tag #eatwithinyourmeans on Instagram! I can’t wait to see what you create.
Here’s to your health, and to salads packed in a jar.
- 3 T. raw almond butter
- 1 T. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
- ⅛ tsp. salt
- 1 T. maple syrup
- 2 t. toasted sesame oil
- 3 cups mixed greens
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 2-3 radishes, thinly sliced
- ¼ green apple, thinly sliced and soaked in salted water to prevent browning
- ⅓ cup walnuts
- Combine all ingredients in a tightly sealed container and shake until emulsified.
- Pour 2 tablespoons of dressing in the bottom of a wide mouth mason jar. Working from the bottom up, layer the apples, radishes, celery, and walnuts. Pack in the greens and seal the jar. Refrigerate until ready to eat. Keeps 3-4 days. When ready to eat, pour the contents of the jar into a large bowl. If the dressing has thickened up and will not easily pour out of the jar, add a tablespoon of warm water, seal the jar, and shake to thin out the dressing before adding to the salad. Toss the salad with the dressing and enjoy!