Three-Day Cleanse: Lessons Learned

three-day cleanse tips | kale and aleI just finished a three-day cleanse as part of my January reset (read about why I picked reset as my word of the month and what it means to me). I cringe at the word cleanse, as I feel it has negative connotations. The one I did was based on foods that are considered detoxifying and superfoods (like carrots, turmeric, garlic and greens), meant to give your body a chance to balance out. It had a smoothie and nuts for breakfast, snacks and full meals through the day. Water and tea were OK. Exactly what I was looking for.

I went on the cleanse because I was feeling bloated from the holidays and travel, and I was trying to have a refresh. I am planning a longer trip with plenty of food and drink in the late summer, and could see this cleanse coming in handy upon my return; I would do it again to get back on track and refresh my digestive system.

Tips For a Cleanse

I’ve gone a full day back after the cleanse, and I learned a few things for when I or you go on one:

  • Make meals simple, wholesome and filling when feeling like a mini-reset is needed
  • Eat less at night after dinner (no late-night nachos) and have more mindful snacking overall. The snacks were flavorful and filling: roasted chickpeas; raw vegetables and hummus; and cucumbers with cayenne, salt, lemon and olive oil.
  • Incorporate more smoothies into the mix. I found this great list of detox smoothies I went off, and plan to make a different one for breakfast every so often.
  • Continue to drink tea in the afternoon when I want to reach for coffee
  • Make more marinades, sauces and dressings myself. They’re easy, quick, flavorful and earlier than bottled, store-bought condiments.

Have you been on a cleanse? What did you think or do you have any tips you learned?

Tips for Perfect Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese tips | Kale and Ale

I love cooking. It is very calming and relaxing to me, and I can make food to my preference (which usually means savory and heat level). But there are two things in our house that I had the reigns (if by reigns we mean skillet and spatula) over to Aaron for: Pancakes and grilled cheese. That’s because those are his specialties and he enjoys making those. And make them well he does!

His pancakes stay pretty traditional (maybe a little vanilla or chocolate chips here or there) but they are fluffy and moist, consistently good. While the pancakes are good, the grilled cheese is simply divine. I tried to be helpful and make the grilled cheese once, and it didn’t compare. Aaron’s grilled cheese game is on point, I leave it up to him.

Like stepping away from the stove on grilled cheese night,  I hand over my blog ahead of National Grilled Cheese Day on April 12. Aaron shares his tips and tricks to the perfect grilled cheese sandwich to Kale and Ale readers.

Aaron national grilled cheese | Kale and Ale

Aaron shares his tips for perfect grilled cheese.

Hi, Aaron here.

I love helping Val with her blog from the background or as a taste-tester, but melty cheese is my jam. It’s a food group in my diet, anchored by foods like mac ‘n’ cheese, pizza and, of course grilled cheese. I want to share some tips for the perfect sandwich on National Grilled Cheese Day or any other day, which have been honed and shared here.

Tips for the perfect grilled cheeseNational Grilled Cheese Day assembly | Kale and Ale

Low and slow cooking.

I set my stove on medium low to medium. This helps the sandwich achieve a nice crisp golden-brown outside and smooth inside. If your burner doesn’t cook evenly or you’re making two at once, you might need to rotate the sandwich during cooking to brown all sides evenly.

If it’s a basic grilled cheese, it’s ready to flip when the top butter starts to melt. If it’s a deluxe sandwich, pay attention to how the bottom is browning, flipping when it’s cooked and starting to get crisp but not overdone.

Cheese choice is crucial.

A combination of flavorful and melting cheese (I prefer sharp cheddar and Havarti or chedder and pepper jack) balances one another nicely. You end up with a mix of taste and flavor and gooey meltiness blended together in every bite.

Grilled cheese layers | Kale and AleExtras really elevate the sandwich.

Guacamole is my filling of choice because it adds a creamy, buttery richness and good flavor. Other add on ideas include sauteed mushrooms and onions or tomatoes, but really the sky is the limit.



First-time Garden Tips

Buying garden plants |

Picking out plants for the garden.

For many years I’ve known when I owned a home I would have a garden. I became a homeowner a year (and one week, but who’s counting?!?) ago, just in time to rake a crazy amount of leaves. As soon as the snow was off the ground this spring, I began to plan my garden and once frost was over, I dug in, but early fall is the perfect time to start planning your garden for next year. Start today by seeing how and when the sun is in your yard to decide what types of plants might work best, and thinking about what you would want to grow to eat this time next year. See the “Gardening Tips” bullet points below for more tips and the USDA website for more info.

Previously I have tried container gardening with no success, as in figuring out the exact moment the basil plant won’t survive and taking off all the leaves to break even on the plant. I know the soil is better in the upper Midwest than it would be in the sandy ground of Florida, but I didn’t know what to expect. What I ended up with is an embarrassment of riches. It’s getting to the point that I keep watching the weather and I know I’m going to run out of time (typical plant hardiness zone 4B issues, I tell ya!) before it starts to frost and I’ll still have green tomatoes and other plants producing.

Garden just planted |

The garden early on.

Garden end of season |

The garden last week, near the end of the season.

Very soon I’ll be picking a lot of green tomatoes and grabbing the potted herbs and bringing them all indoors to salvage what I can. Check back Monday as I give tips on what to do with a large bounty at the end (or anytime) during the season when the produce is coming faster than can be consumed and to preserve for the colder months.

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Gardening Tips


  • Once you figure out what you want to grow, find out how much space to leave and how big the plant will get.
  • See what amount of sunlight each plant needs and if your garden will provide it
  • Once you know these two things, see if what you want to grow is still realistic with the size and location of your garden.


  • Build what you need. Fencing that animals can’t get through is good. Next year I’m going to add a trellis on one side for the yellow pear tomatoes that are up to 10 feet tall.
  • Build your garden in a way that you can still reach the ground to weed and pick produce. I’m going to add a paved path in the middle of my garden next year to walk through the middle.
  • Add dirt, if needed, and till the garden to make it easier to plant and for the roots to grow.
  • Buy any supplies you might need (tools; fencing; watering items; fertilizer; twine, cages or poles for growing; etc.).
  • Plant in pots what can—or should—be kept on its own, especially plants that spread and creep, are made to be hanging plants, or would be better to be oved to more/less sunlight.


  • I was told by a longtime gardener it’s not really worth starting from seedlings because the space/time/items needed aren’t often worth the return.
  • Rotate crops year to year to maintain the soil.
  • Trim back/prune branches as they begin to grow so they don’t get out of control and to get healthy, bountiful produce.
  • Water and drain as recommended for the plant
  • If a plant is on its last leg, give it some love with water and plant food. One tomato plant came back that way.

As mentioned above, my next post will be about what to do with all the harvest.

If you have gardened, what tips would you pass along to first-timers?

If you want to have your first garden, what else would you like to know about?