Cleansing and a Recipe for Salmon Cooked in Parchment

Ingredients for Salmon Cooked in Parchment with Tarragon and Peas (c)2013 La Domestique

I’m stubborn. I don’t like to be told what to do. Try to push me and I’ll probably do exactly the opposite. Luckily, my husband finds this quality endearing. Was I born this way? Is it genetics, birth order (I’m the eldest), or ingrained in my Southern roots? Maybe my obstinate nature became stronger after I was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of nineteen. The chemo, the radiation, the doctors – I had to follow orders or die. I fell ill over the course of a weekend and was transported on an emergency jet from a tiny college town in Arkansas to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. The next day I got a diagnosis of cancer and my first round of chemotherapy. Like a dog backed into a corner, I had no choice but to do what I was told. Months of chemo, radiation and a bone marrow transplant followed. The doctors handed down mandates. Because of the treatment, I would never be able to bear children. My chances of survival would be 20% at best. The treatment would destroy my body and cause lifelong side effects. If the treatment was successful, my body would heal and I would survive.

Even though I hated living under the rule of doctors and hospitals, I’m grateful for the expert medical care I received eleven years ago. Now I’m a normal thirty-year-old woman who, like many people walking this earth, takes life for granted. No doctor informs my daily choices and I can do as I please. I’m sleep deprived and stressed. Though my diet is pretty healthy and I eat a fair amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, I have a sweet tooth and love to over-indulge in refined carbohydrates. For years after cancer treatment I’ve struggled with acid reflux and something called Graft vs. Host Disease, an immune condition in bone marrow transplant patients which causes inflammation of the digestive system. This results in weight loss related to chronic stomach upset and inability to retain nutrients. It’s like having the stomach flu all the time.

Western medicine cured my cancer and taught me to avoid anything holistic or natural, which could interact with the chemotherapy drugs. As a cancer patient, I’ve always been suspicious of natural remedies that promised a miracle cure, and resented friends who tried to push alternative treatments on me. Yoga really isn’t my thing**, and I have trouble holding back the giggles in a meditation session. {**Note- No offense to yogis. I have many friends who are into yoga, but it’s just not for me.} However, I’ve become increasingly disheartened by Western medicine. During years of battling stomach problems no doctor has recommended diet changes. I’m on and off steroid meds and popping antacids like candy. Last week I found myself in the emergency room with excruciating chest pain caused by spasms of the esophagus. That’s when I realized I am ready to change.

I enjoy eating fresh and healthy foods, but resist special diets and detox plans because I don’t want to give up the foods I love (pasta, bread, dairy, wine). At this point I believe there must be something I can do to help my body heal, and I’m willing to make some dietary changes. I feel inspired by reading the stories of other bloggers (Caitlin of RoostAran of Cannelle et Vanille, and Sarah of My New Roots) who changed their lives with food and still enjoy beautiful meals. Yesterday I went to the public library and picked up a handful of books on healthy eating. I was surprised to find several books on how to eat if you’ve got acid reflux. Today I’m halfway through the New York Times Bestseller, Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself, by Alejandro Junger, M.D. If any of you are familiar with the Whole Living Action Plan, Dr. Junger designed the first one based on his book, Clean, back when the magazine was called Body + Soul magazine, five years ago. My husband agreed to do a cleanse (detox plan) together, and I think investing in our health as a couple seems like a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year. I’m still doing some research, but the plan is to do a combination of the 2013 Whole Living Action Plan and the cleanse from Dr. Junger’s book. We’re going for what’s called a Nutritional Cleanse which involves lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes, rather than a liquid diet, like Juice Fasting.

Did you start out 2013 with a cleanse or healthy eating plan? I would love to hear about it in the comments section. Please feel free to share your favorite resources and those who inspire you. Below is a simple recipe for Salmon Cooked in Parchment that the husband and I will definitely be eating during our upcoming cleanse. Also, I’m collecting recipes for our cleanse on the La Domestique Pinterest page with boards dedicated to Cleanse Inspiration and Smoothies.

Salmon Cooked in Parchment with Tarragon and Peas (c)2013 La Domestique

Salmon Cooked in Parchment

If you’ve never tried cooking fish at home this simple recipe for salmon baked in a parchment bag is a great way to start. The fish stays moist and flavorful steaming in lemon juice and a splash of extra virgin olive oil. Toss in a handful of spring herbs and vegetables – I’ve used peas and tarragon – but leeks, baby greens or spring onions would be delicious. Other fresh and lively herbs such as mint or chives are also a good option. Salmon Cooked in Parchment is an easy technique, and once you’ve become comfortable making the dish it’s open to endless variations.

Serves 1


  • 1 piece of parchment paper, 10 x 12 inches
  • 1 Salmon fillet, weighing 6 ounces
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small lemon
  • ½ cup peas, fresh or frozen (thawed)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon

Heat the oven to 400°F. Place the salmon fillet in the center of the parchment paper. Season with salt and drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over top. Slice the lemon thinly and layer the slices atop the salmon, reserving extra lemon to serve with the finished dish. Arrange the peas around the salmon and sprinkle tarragon over everything.

Fold the parchment around the salmon to enclose it completely, as if wrapping a present. Fold up the short edges on either end then bring the long sides together by creasing one over the other. No need to stress about this step, you can always place the parchment bag in foil and enclose the package completely if you’re having trouble.

Bake salmon until just cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. The fish should flake easily with a fork and the flesh should no longer be translucent, but rather a cloudy pink color. Serve immediately, either in the bag or transferred to a plate.


  1. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like to go through at 19 years of age (or any age, really). Generally, I find the most stubborn people possess the greatest strength.
    Good luck with your cleanse. I’ve never done one so I have no advice, but I’ll be interested to read updates. If that salmon is any indication, it looks like it will be quite lovely!

    • Kay,
      Your comment made me smile. Thanks for the support, and I’ll continue to share updates here at la domestique!

  2. I love u sis and am so proud of u. Ur strength has always inspired me, and yes, it is aided well by ur stubbornness :) good luck with ur cleanse

    • Thank you sis. :)

  3. Absolutely lovely and touching reading. I, too, am anxious for updates on your cleansing. Having had many friends and relatives touched by cancer and other serious illnesses, I can tell you that diet played an enormous part in their recoveries and life post-illness. An inspiring read. Please try to get it seen in as many places as possible.

    • Susan,
      I was nervous to share my feelings in this post, but knowing you were inspired eased my fears. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Jess – thanks for sharing your story. Wow! I’ve been reading Aran’s story in regard to Meniere’s disease and wondering if diet tweaks might benefit some areas of my health as well. Anyway, good thoughts coming your way in your dietary changes.

    • Thanks for the well-wishes Ginger. Aran is such an inspiration. Here’s to healthy choices in 2013!

  5. Hey Jess! It’s very brave of you to share this touching story. Thanks! Last year I also did follow the Whole Living Action Plan and I not only discovered some new tasty recipes, but I also realized that my body is reacting very sensitive to certain foods, e.g. chocolate. Thus, I can highly recommend you this cleansing plan :)! This year, I tried to live vegan the whole month of January, which is also an interesting experience. I wish you good look and many delicious and healthy meals!

    • Franzi,
      I was so excited to see your comment and recommendation for the Whole Living Action Plan! I’ve come across some information about chocolate and will be interested to see how I do when I add it back into my diet after the cleanse (I guess it’s an acidic food that can worsen acid reflux). Going vegan for a whole month must have been a challenge! I’ll make sure to check that out on your blog.

  6. Thank you for sharing this honest post. Sadly, I am one of those people that takes my health for granted. I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through and your strength is inspiring. Growing up I rarely went to the doctor and I feel I’m growing increasingly worried that nutrition isn’t more a part of the plan when treating illness. I can understand how your views have been shaped by what you went through and I’m certainly glad you made it through a healthy and determined (I’m stubborn, too :)) woman. I’d love for the best of medicine and the best of nutrition to could come together to heal. Marc bought me a Vitamix for Christmas and I’ve been making fruit smoothies with spinach and chia seeds almost every morning. I hope to share recipes, soon! I feel like I have more energy and that I can worry less about my intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. Looking forward to your cleansing thoughts. This salmon recipe looks incredible!

    • Nicole,
      It’s a comfort to know that you can identify with what I’m feeling. How exciting to get a Vitamix for Christmas! Have you posted this smoothie on your blog? I would love to see it! Thanks for all your support, friend. :)

      • I haven’t shared the smoothie recipe, yet, but plan to in the near future. I think I’d like to share a few recipes in one post to make the post more helpful for people starting out. It was an exciting gift! I had no idea!

        • I look forward to your post, Nicole!

  7. I read this yesterday but there was so much going on I didn’t want to make a quick reply. What life experiences you have had to endure at such a young age. My heart truly goes out to you as you work to cope with the life-long issues that crop up with having had your life turned upside down. Your outlook is amazing and I really commend you for that. I haven’t done one of these “cleanses” but it does appeal to me. I think it would feel amazing to get the processed carbs back out of my body. I have dropped the carbs before but for me it does seem to backfire. My biggest success seems to come from cutting my portion sizes in half but keeping all of the food groups in my diet. I have a HUGE appetite! Good luck to you and it will be interesting to see what discoveries you find on this continuing journey. Oh, and btw, we loved parchment wrapped fish here. It’s easy, healthy, and such a delicious way to cook fish. I should do it more often than I do. Have a wonderful “hump day”!

    • Sarah,
      Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I will admit that I’m a bit superstitious about radical diet changes because in the past I always seem to get a head cold just after starting- oh the irony! :) We all have our struggles, and one thing I’ve been reading in the Clean book is the idea that cleansing the body also seems to shake up your thoughts and an opportunity to cleanse the mind. Life is a work in progress and the job is never done, thank goodness!

  8. Hello Jess! I was so happy to come across your blog and this post from a comment on The First Mess! You and I need to get together girl! Thank you for sharing your story. I, like you, had cancer when I was only 21 (a cousin cancer to yours – Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma). I struggled with digestion issues and thought that popping Pepto pills everyday was completely fine! It wasn’t until my husband fell ill a few years ago with Crohn’s (leaving him in-mobile for 6 weeks) did we do the elimination diet (with a naturopath) and I discovered that the food I was eating was causing my symptoms (even healthy food like peppers, mushrooms & tomatoes). I am eternally grateful for Western medicine saving my life, but to be honest with you, food is a very strong healing tool (and meditation, but I won’t get into that since I don’t want to turn you off on our first meet ;)). Changing the way we eat has kept my husband off the crazy expensive medication for over a year practically symptom free. Changing food habits that you’ve done your whole life is definitely a process but I really hope that you have success with this and I look forward to reading your posts! If you are looking for a smoothie recipe, check our my Kale Smoothie. Full of fiber but still tastes good! Hugs & Smiles, Suzanne

    • Suzanne,

      I am SO glad you came over to la domestique! Your story is super encouraging, and you never know, I could get into meditation. ;) Getting cancer as a young adult is so rare, I really appreciate meeting people who can understand what I’ve been through. I’m heading right over to your blog now!

  9. I too, read this late last night and spent most of the night ruminating on the proper reply. How you handled that with such grace at such a young age. My word. On a health tangent, completely understand that threshold of western medicine being a foundation, but only being able to take you back down the track to health so far. And as much as I adore bread and pasta, muffins and pastries, I do feel much better when they’re occasional things, rather than everyday. Pulses have been such a saviour to me. And as for the fish; we must be in sync. Just last week I turned to salmon, cooked exactly the same way, except with a base of green beans, ginger and garlic and a small splash of soy. But yours looks much more artful- as always.

    • Tori,

      I remember reading your story about glandular fever and immune issues (with the release of your ebook: One Month Carb Detox), which really spoke to me. I came across the concept of a “rotating diet” in the book, Clean, that looks like what you’ve mentioned- enjoy the carbs (or wine, or dairy, or whatever) in smaller portions and as an occasional part of your diet rather than the basis of every meal. Knowing I don’t have to get rid of these loves completely is a comfort. I’m glad you like the salmon – your Asian inspired salmon sounds delicious.

  10. Thanks for sharing this Jess. One of my dear friends had Lymphoma when she was in junior high – we first met just as she was entering chemo. I’ve seen the battles she’s endured over the years, but she’s a fighter, just like you. Your cleanse is a great idea – I’ve been thinking of something similar as I’ve developed acid reflux as well. Salmon seems like a great start and it looks absolutely delicious. :)

    • Renee,
      Oooh let me know if you do something like a cleanse or whatever- we can be buddies and support each other! Reflux is so uncool. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Thank you for sharing your story and parts of your journey. I will be reading updates on your cleanse…they have helped me during times of healing through the years. and…oh, how I love a good piece of salmon.

    • Amy Jo,
      It’s good to know you’ve had positive experiences doing a cleanse. I’m glad you like the salmon recipe- you’re right- even my meat-and-potatoes-loving husband goes crazy for a simple fillet of salmon. Such a treat!

  12. Stubbon and extraordinary. I flit around blogs distracted and disconnected until something stops me and I read. Something like this. That is a lot for such a young woman to bear (we think we are grown up at 19 don’t we) your resolution is extraordinary. Wow Jess. All the best with your cleanse. I wish i could send you a big bunch of artichokes! but all the best will have to suffice xx

    • Rachel,
      Thank you so much for the kind and thoughtful comment. Oh what I would give to taste one of those artichokes! All your best is such a wonderful gift though. :)

  13. Jess,
    I am touched and inspired by your honesty. It takes a lot of courage to share so much of yourself. I would love to send you a proper email to say more (and follow up on your comment at my little space); however, I’m having trouble with my apple account and as a result your contact links, too. Is there anyway you could spell out your email for me?


    • no problem, Lara

      you can contact me with this email:

      social (at) ladomestique (dot) com

      I look forward to hearing from you! Have a great Friday!


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