What’s This Closet Project 2014 Thing?

Closet Project 2014A couple of weeks ago I shared with friends on Facebook and otherwheres online that I was starting a major cull of my closet with the intention of living with a relatively small capsule wardrobe by the end. The gist is that each season you have some set number of things to wear, including shoes and accessories, excluding underwear and workout gear. Some people who subscribe to this default to the number 33, perhaps driven by Project 333 (33 items for three months). You can read more about that project and what inspired me to do this here. But the bottom line is that I have a ton of clothes that no longer suit my lifestyle or fit me and very few that do.

Since sharing this plan and my steps taken so far, which have included thinking about sorting, sorting, sorting again, washing and dry cleaning, and replacing a few urgently needed items, I have received a variety of reactions from “hey, I need to do that” to “I could never do that, good luck!” And more than a few questions, like what’s your magic number (don’t know yet), and won’t it be expensive to ditch all your clothes *again* in three months and replace them?

Another thing that has come up is why the number matters if you wear the same core wardrobe items most of the time and the other stuff is just there, or it’s in storage, or it’s waiting for a special occasion (or it’s not worn often for whatever reason). For me, it’s not that any number is significant, it’s more that I want to have an easy to wear and care for wardrobe, where *everything* actually fits me every day and I have options that are appropriate for every sort of event I might go to. While I haven’t completely figured it out, here’s what I’m thinking so far:

  • Silk Chiffon and Velvet Cocktail DressSince I live in Texas, there are really only two seasons–summer and notsummer–so the three-month dividing line is pretty false for me.
  • I have no intention, desire, or ability to buy and discard a new wardrobe even twice a year, let alone four times a year.
  • I sort of feel as though 50 might be the right number, but I still need to inventory what I have remaining at this point.
  • I plan to have a core set of items that work in both summer and notsummer, and then a set of items that come out for each season–for example, my winter coat won’t be part of the summer set and my cutoff jean shorts won’t be part of the notsummer set.
  • I want to feel in control of my wardrobe rather than feeling cranky that nothing fits me or looks good.

It’s going to be a little while before I get there. I’m pretty close to deciding what to keep, but each time I go into my closet another item tickles the back of my brain and I decide to part with it.

If I don’t love it and it doesn’t do incredible things for my {insert body part here} then why keep it?

The One with the Rotten Chicken

Almost nothing smells worse than rotten chicken.

Rocking through day two of the Bon Appétit Food Lover’s Cleanse, which, let’s be clear is not really a cleanse, I hit a couple of bumps in the road. We’ll get to the rotten chicken in time.

Smoked salmon bon appetit wmI got up a bit earlier than usual so I could put together the Avocado and Smoked Salmon on Rye Crackers for both of us, and while assembling the little open-faced sandwiches I was hit with some lightheadedness and nearly passed out. I recovered ably after a few minutes and pressed on, managing to forget the lemon wedges (P.S. there’s a lot of lemon required of these recipes). I made my black tea and settled in for a pretty nice breakfast.

So, about that black tea. I’m a coffee drinker. I don’t drink a lot, but I definitely prefer it to tea. But I wasn’t really clear if tea was OK on the cleanse because I couldn’t find a summary of guidelines–like are snacks “allowed” even when they aren’t listed in the meal plan? What can I drink besides water? I decided to look for the cleanse info from previous years and found this link for the guidelines from 2013. Very helpful. So I ate a clementine and a scoche of the chocolate bark that’s for dessert for an afternoon snack.

Roast veg salad bon appetit wmAfter a bit of work and some appointments this morning I was ready for lunch. To be honest I wasn’t looking forward to it so much, since it featured the roasted vegetables from last night and mine weren’t especially roasty. It also featured the Whole Grain Mustard Vinaigrette which was much too oily for my taste. I tend to make my vinaigrette heavier on the acid than the traditional ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid, but this recipe was 4 parts oil (olive and walnut) to acid, with a healthy dose of mustard. Which still didn’t cut the mustard, I mean, the oil. I added a bit more vinegar, but it still didn’t quite work for me. Paul loved it, however!



Red pepper bon appetit wmI really liked the dinner tonight, despite the aforementioned rotten chicken. I made white beans from scratch in the crockpot and hacked away at the herbs and garlic for the chicken, the Red Pepper-Walnut Spread (which is more of a Red Pepper-Pecan Relish), and the White Bean Salad with Pomegranate and Parsley. I got my sides ready while the beets for later in the week roasted in the oven.

I’d decided to roast a whole chicken I bought over the weekend instead of making chicken breasts for the Pan-Roasted Chicken with Red Pepper-Walnut Spread, and I had my thyme-garlic mixture all ready to shove under the skin. I added a little olive oil and salt and pepper to make it sort of a paste.

And then I opened the chicken package. Not. Good. Also, it was like $13 or something, thank you Trader Joe’s Organic!

Fortunately I’d done the shopping for the full week and had some chicken thighs (which I much prefer to breasts anyway) on hand, so the icky chicken was just a minor speed bump. Chicken went into the oven while I broke into the largest pomegranate I’ve ever seen and fended off the stalking dog who wanted both the chicken and the pomegranate. Weirdo.

The dinner came out really well, though I did have to substitute lime for lemon in the bean salad and pecans for the walnuts in the red pepper dish. I’d definitely make the bean salad again, with lemon or lime.

Tofu, radish, and shaved carrot salad with sesame-miso vinaigrette

I Don’t Do Resolutions

So why have I decided to embark on a cleanse this year?

I am one who scoffs at resolutions, mostly because I am crap at following through with them. I hate setting myself up for failure, so rather than set some reasonable goals for self-improvement I just don’t even bother. Not formally, anyway.

Last year while we were still in Uzbekistan I saw lots of tweets about Bon Appétit‘s annual Food Lover’s Cleanse. Unlike a juice cleanse or that cayenne pepper and lemon detox thing, this “cleanse” relies on whole, fresh foods, simply prepared, with a minimum of processed ingredients, and no refined starches or sugars. I was really intrigued by the two-week venture, partly because I’d been sick for several weeks and felt run-down and icky. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find many of the ingredients on the local market in Tashkent, so I abandoned the idea.

But this year Paul and I have decided to do it, and frankly we’re totally excited about finding new ways to use up all the interesting veggies we get in our CSA box from Johnson’s Backyard Garden every other week! We really lucked out because our box comes with an incredible variety of produce, most of which we’ll use in the recipes, and since we’ve already paid for it the grocery bill didn’t seem too steep.

In reviewing the recipes and planning my shopping list, I did find myself struggling a bit. A couple of dishes call for mangoes, which are out of season and stupid expensive this time of year. Some others call for agave nectar, which is fairly high in fructose and has been shown in studies to be linked to insulin resistance and other health concerns. And since I don’t eat beef or pork, we’ve got some substituting to do. I’ll be using honey or maple syrup in place of agave, but not sure what to do about those dang mangoes!

Getting Started

On New Year’s Eve day Paul and I headed to Central Market with our cleanse shopping list in hand. We bought a ton of greens, lots of herbs, freshly ground almond butter, miso, nuts and seeds, and a shocking amount of Aleppo pepper. All this supplements the carrots, radishes, cabbage, fish, and fruits we already had on hand.

It felt like we were the only people buying “normal” food in the entire store. Most carts were filled with wine, cheese, cream, dips, fancy desserts, champagne, and other celebration foods. I’ll admit, we were feeling a bit smug, but we did close out this difficult year with a lovely New Year’s Eve dinner at Swift’s Attic.

Today’s Menu

This morning started with Steel Cut Oats with Blackberries and Hemp Seeds, except at our house it was Rolled Oats with Blueberries and Flax Seed. I couldn’t find hemp seeds at the market, and I have bags of frozen wild blueberries in my freezer, so I’ll just have to get my antioxidants and flavonoids from those guys until they run out.

Tofu, radish, and shaved carrot salad with sesame-miso vinaigretteLunch was what I’ll have to call a Hugh Jass salad, featuring a veggie I don’t love: radish. However, the Sesame-Miso Vinaigrette was incredibly flavorful, and once all the vegetables and tofu were combined the tastes blended quite well and I really enjoyed the radishes. I recommend the recipe for Spinach, Tofu, and Shaved Carrot Salad with Sesame Dressing and Spiced Pepita and Cashew Crunch, and the little spicy nuts and seeds are a great addition.

In working through the first day, this cleanse is not for the faint of heart, weak of kitchen skill, impatient, or otherwise easily frustrated in the kitchen. And if you’re unfamiliar with some of the ingredients, be prepared to do your own research, as the recipes don’t provide much information or guidance. Although, if you’re a food lover you probably are familiar with most of the ingredients.

Prepping dinner made me a little crazy. The Greenest Tahini Sauce recipe is unnecessarily complicated, I think. I understand blanching the garlic to give it a milder flavor, but blanching and shocking and draining and squeezing the relatively small amount of watercress (or in my case, arugula) and herbs is a bunch of steps in it that seem…excessive. Would it really be any less delicious if the greens and herbs were used fresh? Or maybe a quick steam in the microwave would work? It just took a lot of time and kitchen equipment to make about 1 cup of sauce.

The Red Quinoa with Walnuts and Shallots, however, was simple and delicious, even though I forgot to toast and add the walnuts (which would have been pecans in my case.

Roasted veg bon appetitI’m least pleased with the Roasted Beets, Carrots, and Jerusalem Artichokes. I already had a bunch of roasted beets, so I skipped that part of the recipe. My carrots and Jerusalem artichokes took longer than 20 minutes to cook, and when they were finally tender they were more steamed than roasted. My oven is pretty much right on temperature, so I would raise the temp to 450 to get more roastiness on the vegetable if I make this again.

Overall we enjoyed the meal, and I’m sure the leftovers will make a nice salad tomorrow. So far I’m generally impressed with how flavorful the recipes are, despite some of the prep difficulties, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming meals.