Green smoothies

I've already mentioned that oatmeal and salads are excellent delivery systems (vehicles) for protein, iron, fiber, and more. Another great way to get the nutrients that you need and to squeeze several servings of fruits and veggies into one meal is by making a smoothie. I'm not talking about Jamba Juice (although I have a special place in my heart for JJ since the company started in San Luis Obispo, CA, where I went to college). I mean a homemade version that is lower in sugar and healthier.

Have you ever considered adding lettuce or other greens to your breakfast? Or drinking a salad? Yes, I know that sounds a little freaky if you haven't tried it before. If you've never had a "green smoothie", I challenge you to give it a try! It tastes great and you'll be getting a ton of fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.

Here's a basic green smoothie recipe to get you started.

Beginner's Green Smoothie
Makes 1 large or 2 medium servings
1 orange, peeled and quartered
1 banana, peeled
2 cups raw spinach
1 serving of your favorite protein powder (I use Vega Smoothie Infusion)
~1/2 to 1 cup water (start with 1/2 cup and add more, if needed, to reach the consistency that you prefer)
1 cup ice
Agave nectar to taste (~ 1 Tbsp)

1. Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

If you are new to green smoothies and decide to try this, let me know how it goes!

Resources:
For additional recipes and to get some great ideas on what additions you can add to your smoothies (e.g. maca, chlorella, etc.), see these resources:

1. Others' recipes: The Green Monster Movement

2. A whole book of green smoothie recipes along with anecdotes from people who have experienced huge benefits from consuming them daily: Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko

3. Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life: Thrive by Brendan Brazier

Super salad

I have a giant salad with lunch on most days. Like oatmeal, salad is a perfect vehicle for nutrition. I add all kinds of things to mine, such as: walnuts, pumpkin seeds, beans or lentils, tempeh or tofu, tons of veggies, apples, pears, and raisins or dried cranberries. From those additions I get iron, protein, fiber, and tons of disease-fighting, immune system-building nutrients. I never feel like taking a big nap after eating salad the way that I do after pasta or heavier foods. The salad that I'm eating this week is full of iron which will help me to keep my iron levels up while ramping my tri training.

In my bowl:

IMG_2898.JPG


4 cups raw spinach

1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup lightly toasted walnuts, chopped

1/2 large apple, chopped

Dressing: Combine 1 1/2 Tbsp of toasted walnut or extra virgin olive oil with 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt, and 1/4 tsp dijon mustard. Toss the salad with the dressing.

I should have added this toasted walnut oil to my recent discoveries list because it is delicious! I use it in salad dressings or toss it with my pasta dishes.

IMG_2905.jpg

Note: As with all nut or seed oils, it is best not to use this one for cooking at high temperatures. Stick with cold foods or toss with your hot dishes after cooking for extra flavor.

Here are the iron and protein content for the main ingredients in this salad:

Picture 2.png

Tip:

Aside from getting a great dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, eating lots of raw fruits and veggies will do amazing things for your skin! As you begin to add clean and unprocessed foods to your daily diet, you will see that your face will take on a healthy glow. Try adding a big salad to your lunch or dinner on most days. Eat the salad first if you will be having richer or heavier foods as well.

Recent discoveries

IMG_2895.JPG

I get burned out rather quickly when I'm eating the same foods over and over again. That is one of the main reasons that I do so much experimenting with new recipes and ingredients. I absolutely love discovering new products and frequently find new things to try in the blogs that I read.

For that reason, I thought I'd share the love by showing you a few of my recent discoveries (obsessions). I found these products through recommendations from friends, others' blogs, and just wandering around the grocery store!


IMG_2894.jpg Artisana Raw Organic Coconut Butter

This stuff is pure indulgence! I am a huge fan of coconut and adore the taste of this butter. This isn't coconut oil; it includes the coconut meat as well (the only ingredient is coconut). It might be a good source of essential amino acids, manganese, and copper as the jar says, but I'm in it for the yum! It is quite rich and a little goes a long way.


IMG_2888.jpg Blue Bottle Coffee

I love, love, love this coffee. It comes from the San Francisco Bay Area but they will ship it, freshly roasted, to you for free. I find a lot of coffees have an over-roasted and almost burnt flavor but this one does not. It is smooth, non-acidic, and has a great flavor (I buy the Giant Steps roast but there are several to choose from). I am usually more of a tea drinker, but I'm a bit obsessed with this coffee at the moment!


IMG_2891.JPG Trader Joe's Valencia Peanut Butter with Roasted Flaxseeds

I have been eating plain, smooth peanut butter forever and passed by this product in the store so many times before a friend raved about it. I was immediately hooked on this crunchy goodness! The roasted flaxseeds give it just a hint of toasty flavor.


IMG_2890.jpg Wild Wood Soymilk Creamer

I have used a few different soy creamers but never thought one was better than the other until I tried this one. It is very creamy and doesn't, in my opinion have any soy aftertaste. It pairs excellently with my Blue Bottle Coffee.


IMG_2892.jpg Trader Joe's Sunflower Seed Butter

This is another thing that I passed by in the store until a friend called my attention to it. The flavor is amazing!

If you have the time (and aren't shopping with a cart full of cranky kids like I usually am), do a little browsing the next time you go grocery shopping. Even better, check out some of the products at your local farmers' market or produce stand. There are some pretty darn creative souls out there and you just might find some new favorites.

Morning after (tri training) breakfast

Oatmeal is an excellent vehicle for all kinds of things. As I am slowly ramping my triathlon training, I sometimes feel like I need an extra nutrient-rich breakfast after a hard evening of tri training. I am always experimenting with my oatmeal by adding new things. This week I am eating a mix that is really high in protein, iron, fiber, and omega 3s. In my bowl:

1/2 a large apple or 1 large banana, chopped
1/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup soymilk
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp ground flaxseeds
1 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp hemp seeds
1 tsp maca powder
Dash of cinnamon

1. Combine the fruit, oats, and milk and cook (stovetop or microwave) until it starts to thicken.

2. Stir in peanut butter then add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Note: The chia seeds have a tendency to thicken the mixture so you can pour a little extra soymilk (or other non-dairy milk) over the top if you wish.

I don't care for really sweet breakfast foods so I usually pass on adding any sweetener. If you prefer a sweeter version, drizzle a bit of real maple syrup on the top.

Picture 1.png

Banana soft serve


Yesterday I mentioned that I was planning to test a healthy dessert recipe and I'm so excited to share this with you today! I saw this idea online a few years ago and forgot about it until I started seeing it again recently in various blogs. 

I actually hesitate to call this a recipe because it only has one ingredient and it is so, so simple to make. The result, however, is amazing; a healthy alternative to soft serve ice cream. So creamy and so good! 

Banana Soft Serve
Ingredient: 3 large very ripe bananas

1. Peel and chop the bananas and put them in a freezer bag. Freeze them overnight or for several hours (long enough to freeze solid).

2. Place the frozen bananas in a food processor (blender not recommended) and puree until they are the consistency of soft serve ice cream. 

You can add whatever toppings you like or eat it plain. How about adding some Kashi or granola and eating soft serve for breakfast? Yum!  

Two tips for avoiding unwanted snacking

I don't usually have a problem with excess snacking but I do love "testing" the batter when I'm baking. Here are a couple of tips to help discourage your inner snack monster when necessary:

1. Chew gum while you're baking something tempting. I have a bit of a love affair with cookies and, because I bake vegan cookies, the batter is free for the bowl-licking (no raw eggs involved). This is a great tip to help resist the deliciousness that is cookie dough (or freshly baked cookies, for that matter)!

2. Brush your teeth when you finish a meal. This isn't just a good idea for good dental hygiene! Ever drink orange juice right after you brush your teeth in the morning? Yuck, right? You will be less tempted to snack when you have freshly brushed teeth.  

Speaking of dessert, I have a new extremely simple but healthy recipe that I'm going to test out today. I'll post about that soon!

Size Healthy Contest

Whether I'm watching TV, reading a magazine, or exercising with my triathlon training friends, I have heard tons of inspiring success stories from people who have lost weight and gained confidence. Now that I'm in my second season of triathlon training, I feel like I have a mini success story of my own

I haven't lost 100 pounds or dropped 5 dress sizes; my goals have been a bit different. When I was in elementary school I was skinny. Really, really skinny. Some of my classmates would tease me for being so thin. I was the skinny, flat-footed kid who had a doctor's note to sit out of P.E. on running days because of my occasional asthma attacks. 

When I was about 19, I finally started to gain a few curves but realized that my ability to eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight was not going to last forever. I quit eating fast food and doubled my trips to the gym. Like a lot of women, I became somewhat obsessed with my weight. I believed that I needed to eat foods that I didn't enjoy to be "healthy".

What has changed in the past 15+ years? I no longer sit out of running! Last year I completed my first triathlon and a half marathon. More importantly, I do not obsess about my size. I don't count calories. Instead, I eat a variety of healthy foods. I fuel my body with foods that make me feel good and that I truly enjoy. Most of the time that means tons of fruits and veggies, whole grains, and plant proteins. Sometimes it means ooey gooey chocolate chip cookies! 

A fellow blogger, Angela at Oh She Glows, is hosting a "Size Healthy Contest". To enter, she has asked her readers to change the size on one of their clothing tags to "size healthy" and send her a link to a photo. Here is my entry!


Food combining and "complete" proteins


I frequently hear from people who are considering becoming vegetarian that they aren't sure what to eat. They wonder about protein sources and usually mention that they find the idea of combining foods to get "complete proteins" very daunting. If this has been a barrier for you, let me explain why it shouldn't be!

What are "complete proteins"?
The building blocks of protein consist of 22 different amino acids. Nine of those (the "essential amino acids") must be supplied by our food intake. The remaining 13 can be constructed in our bodies. Each protein is custom-built to meet its specific function from the 22 building blocks.

What is food combining and where did this idea come from?
In her book Diet for a Small Planet (originally published in 1971), Frances Moore Lappe emphasized the need for vegetarians to eat a variety of foods to meet their protein requirements. It was believed, at the time, that it was necessary to get all of the essential amino acids by combining different foods (e.g. beans and rice) to get "complete proteins" in each meal.

Do I need to combine foods at every meal to meet my protein needs?
No. When we eat a variety of foods, the amino acids from those foods are stored in our bodies. Those amino acids are then used to create proteins as needed. Some but not all foods provide all of the essential amino acids, however, by eating a assortment of plant proteins over the course of the day our needs can easily be met. Incidentally, the source of the amino acids (animal foods or plant foods) is indistinguishable in our bodies. In fact, the amino acids in all animal foods are derived from the plants (think cows eating grains or grass).   

What do I need to do?
There is no need to carefully plan each day's meals. Simply enjoy eating a variety of plant-based foods.

Are you curious about what amino acids are in the foods that you eat? I'll give you a link but you must promise me that you're not going to use this to control-freak your meal planning, ok?  LINK    
If you are considering making the switch to a plant-based diet, here are two excellent books that will help to answer many of your questions:

Becoming Vegan
The New Becoming Vegetarian
(Both by Brenda Davis, R.D. & Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D.)



Vitamin D


Punxsutawney Phil may have seen his shadow in February 2nd, but spring is here in my neck of the woods. In fact, I'm sitting barefoot on my lawn, listening to birds, and watching ladybugs while writing this blog post. It's time to get outside and soak up some sunshine! 

Why? In addition to squashing the winter blues, sunlight aids in our skin's production of vitamin D. Why should you care about vitamin D? For several reasons! Vitamin D:
  • Greatly increases your absorption of calcium for strong bones.
  • Boosts the immune system to help ward of everything from the common cold to the swine flu.
  • Reduces your risk of more serious illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Just 10-15 minutes a day in the sun is great. Keep in mind that sunscreen blocks ultraviolet light which is the key requirement for your skin to produce vitamin D. So apply your sunscreen after the first 10-15 minutes outside if you plan to stay out longer.

See more info about the benefits of vitamin D here and here.

Dinners!

Our fridge is loaded with veggies (we received our CSA box today). I inventoried everything that I need to use soon (fresh and frozen) and came up with this loose meal plan for our next week or so (all meals are vegan).
  • Seitan parmesan with roasted cauliflower and sauteed kale (recipe)
  • Homemade pizza with mushrooms, bell peppers, fresh basil, spinach, and onions (recipe - I use my bread-maker to make the dough to save time)
  • Enchiladas with squash (recipe)
  • Lettuce wraps (ala PF Changs, recipe)
  • Cabbage salad with tofu and peanut ginger dressing
  • Potato and chickpea stew with kale
  • Mexican plate: homemade tortillas, refried beans, rice, and maybe squash or corn
  • Dessert: homemade mango sherbet
I will also use some recipes from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone (GREAT book!). I don't really follow recipes exactly. I mostly use them for ideas and then try to simplify to make dinner prep faster. 

Mmmmm, time to get cooking!  

What can I do with cauliflower?

We received a HUGE head of cauliflower in our last CSA box. My first thought was, "what am I going to do with all that cauliflower?!" There is, of course, always the option of eating it raw with hummus or another dip (or as "crudité" if you're fancy). But this was a HUGE cauliflower. So what else could I do with it? , Since cauliflower is in season, I suspect others are asking themselves the same question. Here are a few ideas that I came up with for us:

Mashed: Boil or steam cauliflower florets until very tender. Use a food processor or mixer to puree the cooked cauliflower adding what you would normally use in mashed potatoes, such as: margarine, non-dairy milk, salt and pepper, or roasted garlic.

Roasted: Toss cauliflower florets with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add a few whole cloves of garlic (peeled), if desired. Roast at 400 degrees on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper (or lightly oiled) for about 15-20 minutes, flipping half way through cooking time. 

Curry: Here is a recipe for Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry (adapted from a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks: Veganomicon). 

Au Gratin: Believe it or not, it is possible to make a delicious vegan gratin. Here is one example. 

Soup or chowder: Cauliflower marries incredibly well with potato leek soup. Here is my recipe. This soup tastes fantastic with warm bread on a cold night.

When all else fails, there are countless resources online to find recipes for vegan dishes. There are links to some of my favorites on my Links page.