Tag Archives: Healthy

Green Smoothies

17 Mar

If you’ve been following my posts about the CSA we’re doing, you know that I’ve been having these for breakfast almost every morning. And I haven’t gotten tired of them! They’re so easy and super fast. If you get bored, you can also add in new fruits, veggies, flavors, and other ingredients to the mix. Don’t be turned off by the idea of greens in your smoothie! When you add enough fruits, you don’t taste the greens at all. It tastes like a delicious fruit smoothie, and you get the added benefit of an extra serving of veggies. Kinda like those V8 fruit/veggie juice things.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned while experimenting with smoothies. It’s a lot, so if you’re not in the mood to read my dissertation, just jump to my recipe for a basic green smoothie at the bottom.

Mmm... green

Shopping & Prep

I recommend buying organic greens — since they don’t have a peel or skin, they can absorb a high amount of pesticides and chemicals. For other fruits and veggies, I refer to the Dirty Dozen list (a list of veggies that you should always buy organic). But mostly, I follow this rule: If it doesn’t have a skin (greens) or if I eat the skin (apples), I buy organic. If it has a thick peel that I don’t eat (bananas, citrus, avocado), I don’t bother with organic. I do buy organic dairy products (yogurt, milk, etc).

I have learned to prepare my fruits and veggies way in advance, which makes it a breeze (about 3 minutes) to prepare breakfast each morning. For example, my freezer currently contains a bag of diced fresh pineapple, banana slices, and apple chunks, and I have strawberries and blueberries in the fridge.

I have not bothered with any fancy equipment. I’ve read some blogs that say you need a super expensive blender in order to get a well-blended smoothie, but I’m not spending that much money. I use a knock-off Magic Bullet single-serving blender that my mom got me for probably less than $40. Maybe I’m missing out on incredibly well-blended smoothies, but I doubt it.

Greens

To ensure that your greens blend in smoothly, blend your greens with your liquid first, and then add the rest of your ingredients. You can use any kind of greens, but each is going to be slightly different.

When I get a big bunch of greens, I go ahead and wash them and store them right in my salad spinner. Then they’re ready for each morning, when I pull out a couple handfuls and rip them up just a bit while I stuff them into the blender.

I learned from a little internet research that many greens, especially those from the brassica/cruciferous family (pretty much everything on my list except for spinach and lettuce) have a natural chemical that can disrupt hormone function. This is really not an issue for most people because you’d have to eat a TON of greens every single day. But since I already have thyroid problems (and my spring CSA has given me almost entirely brassica vegetables), I was a little more concerned. The good news is that cooking them can help. So for brassica greens, I wash them, rip them up a bit, steam them, and then store them in a bowl in the fridge. Then each morning I can just pull some up and stuff them into the blender. Easy peasy.

  • Lettuce: Easiest to mask their flavor because they’re super mild. But of course, they also have the least nutritional benefits. If you’re really not sure about green smoothies, start here and work your way up to something a little more green. OR… this can be a great way to use up slightly wilted salad lettuce. I used butterhead, which was great. Romaine would be great too.
  • Spinach: A classic in green smoothies. More health benefits then lettuce but still an easy flavor to mask with fruits.
  • Kale: A standard in green smoothies. Super healthy! To prepare for a smoothie, I prefer to cut the stems out before I chop them up. If you don’t mind yours a little chunky, keep the stems. They’re edible and full of nutrients. When blended, you may see some flecks, but you won’t notice any chunks when drinking. Check your teeth afterward though.
  • Turnip greens: They blend really smoothly. They have a slightly more green taste, but not noticeable if you blend in stronger or sweeter flavors like banana and sweet juices.
  • Kohlrabi leaves: Same as turnip greens.
  • Collards: Same as turnip greens.
  • Beet leaves: Really mild flavor. A great way to use up greens that you usually throw away. They will turn your smoothie pink instead of green.
  • Mustard greens: No. Don’t do it. Gross.

Liquids

For the liquid, I started off with orange-peach-mango juice from Trader Joe’s. It was incredibly delicious, but a little too much sugar to start off my morning. As I grew accustomed to the green-ness of the smoothies, I started cutting back on sugars. Apple juice is a good option — it’s lower in sugar and acids. These days, I usually mix about half apple juice and half almond milk. Prune juice can also be a good option if you need some natural assistance in that department — just be careful not to overdo it.

For a thickener, I always include yogurt. With that addition and the fact that I don’t freeze all my mix-ins, my smoothie comes out more like the consistency of a drinkable yogurt than a frozen smoothie. I prefer Greek yogurt since it adds more protein to my breakfast, helping me feel fuller longer and have a bit more energy. And as with the juice, I started off with vanilla or blueberry and have gradually progressed to plain yogurt, with the goal of cutting out extra sugar.

Mix-ins

Any fruit is great. Banana is the best for masking other flavors, plus it makes your smoothie a little thicker and smoother. I use pineapple with almost every smoothie. I’ve also used strawberry, blueberry, apple, and clementines — basically whatever I have laying around.

I’ve also mixed in veggies, either in addition to or instead of the greens. Carrot is a great option — it goes well with apple juice and bananas. Mixing in a few leftover turnip pieces didn’t change the flavor at all but did give it a slightly powdery, grainy texture. Beets are good too — they go well with apple and pineapple.

Keep in mind that some mix-ins will change the color of your smoothie, if that’s the sort of thing that bothers you. Mixing warm (red, orange) and cool (green, blue) colors will usually result in a brown color, which isn’t particularly appetizing. Though sometimes I just do it and drink it from an opaque cup. Mixing cool colors (greens and blueberries) will usually result in a cool blue color. Just think back to your elementary-school paint palette, and you’ll be fine.

Green smoothie

Okay, that is way more information than I thought I would share, so if that’s too much for you, here’s a recipe. Just try it. You’ll be glad you did.

Green Smoothie

1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup packed steamed spinach or other greens (use 1 1/2 to 2 cups if not steamed)
1/2 banana, sliced
1/4 cup pineapple chunks
1/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
apple juice or almond milk to taste

Blend the juice and greens together until greens are thoroughly chopped.

Add the banana, pineapple, and yogurt. Blend until smooth.

Add more juice or almond milk until smoothie reaches desired consistency. Blend well.

After you try this, experiment a little! Add whatever you have and whatever you like. That’s the beauty of a smoothie — you can’t make it wrong. Enjoy!

Linking Up With:

YOLO Mondays from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Monday Meet Ups from Covered in Grace
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Your Great Idea Link Party from Or So She Says
Time for a Party from Fine Craft Guild
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Make Something Monday from Sarahndipities

Resolutions in Motion

19 Feb

The final tally…

Goal 1: Cook at home most nights of the week.

I achieved this goal for 3 out of 6 weeks. 50%? Yikes. But the good news is, now that I’ve started a spring CSA, I’m doing much better.

Goal 2: Have a max of 4 non-water drinks per week.

I achieved this goal 5 out of 6 weeks. Success!

Goal 3: Practice yoga once a week and take a walk at least once a week.

Between not achieving this goal some weeks or doing a walk but not yoga or yoga but not a walk, I’d guess I achieved this goal about 50% of the time. Not so great.

So now what? Resolutions in Motion

Overall, I’m thinking maybe I’m not so much a resolution person. I mean, I’m blogging about this to the world and linking up with other blogs, and the public accountability just didn’t do its job. Maybe the problem is that writing FAIL on my blog is big capital letters just isn’t enough of a deterrent to make me get up off my butt and go to yoga or cook dinner. Sorry, y’all. I just don’t care if you know that I failed at my resolutions.

But I do care that I failed because I set these goals for a reason. So I need to find other strategies that are going to help me stick to my goals.

Goal #1: I need to up my game when it comes to advance prep. I just am not going to plan, shop, and cook for a meal after a long day at work. It’s not going to happen. Our new CSA is really helping so far. Instead of starting from scratch, which is really hard for me, I can start with a list of ingredients I know I need to use and go from there. Then it’s like a fun puzzle. I also need to get back into meal planning and cooking on the weekends.

Goal #2: This one works. I think it’s easier for me to just say no to something for the sake of a resolution. I mean, really, it’s a split-second decision, and I can remind myself that I’ve hit my limit, and that’s it. A little easier than convincing myself to get up and spend an hour exercising or cooking dinner. So I’m just going to stick with this goal from here on out.

Goal #3: As for walking, the biggest issue is the weather. Maybe I can look into a community center during the cold months — I know the gym at UNC had a walking track inside. Otherwise, I know that if I just hold out a few more weeks, I’ll start walking again. I don’t mind blistering heat, so I can make it through the summer, but I can’t stand cold, so I’m just not sure this is ever going to happen in the winter. As for yoga, I just need to remind myself in that moment that as much as I don’t want to get up and go, I’ll be so glad I did when it’s over. A friend said that to me last week, and she was so right. I always enjoy yoga, but I never want to go to it. Weird. So instead of thinking about the next 10 minutes, I’ll think about an hour from now, and how great I’ll feel after finishing practice.

That’s it! Even though I won’t be blogging about these any longer, I’m going to keep my resolutions. Maybe I’ll post a random update on how it’s going. I hope all your resolutions are going well!

I’m joining the final Resolutions in Motion link-up! Check out the link-up and giveaway at any of the host pagesShaping Up to Be a MomCovered in GraceRamblings of a Southern Belle, and Craftbotic

Kale & White Bean Soup

18 Feb

I was a little skeptical about a kale soup. It sounded just a little too… healthy. But I ended up loving this.

Each week when we receive our CSA, the nonprofit who provides it highlights an ingredient and a recipe for that ingredient. This week was kale, which I found out is rich in antioxidants and vitamins K, A, and C.

Since I had a ton of greens (it’s that time of year!), I decided to go ahead and try out the kale and white bean soup recipe that the CSA people shared with us. I followed the instructions but halved the amount.

Kale & Bean Soup

I thought it was a very delicious soup, especially when I dipped a hunk of baguette in it. It has a vegetable Italian -ish flavor, maybe kind of like a minestrone. And it didn’t occur to me until after I made it, but this dish is both vegan and gluten-free, so if you have dietary restrictions, this is a great option. Though if you want to substitute chicken broth for the vegetable broth, you certainly could.

I added in a tablespoon of flax seed, which adds fiber and serves as a thickener. It’s not necessary though, so if you’re not into it, just leave it out.

The recipe called for white beans, and had I planned on making a trip to the grocery store, I probably would have used white beans, Great Northern, cannelini, or something like that. But since I had everything else and didn’t want to go out, I just substituted garbanzo beans (chickpeas). You can use whatever variety of beans you prefer.

I had a big bowl of it for dinner, and there’s probably enough left for 2 or 3 more bowls.

Buon appetito!

Buon appetito!

Kale & White Bean Soup from Community Nutrition Partnership

1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups kale, chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
1 can white beans
2 tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 Tablespoon flax seed (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large stock pot. Add garlic and onion; saute until fragrant. Add kale and stir frequently until wilted.

Add about half the broth and half the beans. Also add all of the tomatoes, seasoning, salt and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes.

Meanwhile,  use a blender, food processor, or fork to mix the remaining broth and beans until smooth. Stir into soup to thicken. Simmer 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Linking up with:

YOLO Mondays from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Monday Meet Ups from Covered in Grace
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Your Great Idea Link Party from Or So She Says

So-Called Pizza Puffs

21 Jan

So-called? Yes, so-called. Because I’m not sure these puffs deserve the name of “pizza.” They certainly didn’t taste like pizza. They tasted kind of like little bread muffins. Which I guess is what they are.

Look at that puff!

On principle, I don’t believe in taking a healthy recipe and making it healthy. I don’t think that ever turns out well. I’d rather just eat a small amount of the unhealthy thing every now and then. I don’t need to stuff myself full of bland fat-free mac-and-cheese or one-point Weight Watchers “desserts.” And don’t EVEN get me started on frozen yogurt, because I can’t tell you how angry I am that I can’t find a dang ice cream store anymore while there’s bland frozen yogurt bars on every street corner. All those exciting neon colors are false advertising, in my opinion.

I guess my issue is that I’m terrible at denying myself anything, but I’m pretty fantastic at portion control, IMHO. I guess most people have the opposite problem. But since I don’t, I’m going to continue buying the Double Stuf Oreos, but only eat 2 (okay, 3) after dinner tonight. I’ve never been the person who accidentally eats the whole bag.

The point here is that this recipe is way too healthy to be called Pizza Puffs. Puffs, sure, no problem. But pizza? You can barely taste the cheese, it’s whole wheat, AND there’s vegetables in it. That’s 3 things that would never be true about any pizza I’d eat.

So why I am sharing it? Well for one, I’m not arrogant enough to believe that everyone thinks the same way I do, and I imagine many people might appreciate this recipe. But also, I think my poor reaction to this recipe was one of expectations. I was expecting pizza, and upon not tasting pizza, I was mightily disappointed. But if they were called Whole Wheat Puffs with Marinara Dipping Sauce, then I think I’d be pretty happy.

So go ahead and make this recipe. They’re great for a snack or for serving at a party. They’re also great on the side of an Italian meal. Maybe I’ll make them again. Or maybe I’ll make real Pizza Puffs.

"Pizza" Puffs

Whole Wheat Pizza Puffs adapted from Cooking With My Kid

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup lowfat or skim milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup shredded mozarella cheese
1 cup broccoli
1/2 marinara sauce, for dipping

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a 24-cup mini-muffin pan.

Blanch the broccoli: Boil for about 2 minutes and then remove and immediately place in a bowl of ice water for 20-30 seconds. Remove from water. Chop finely. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Whisk in the milk and beaten egg. Stir in the mozzarella and broccoli. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Stir the batter and divide among the mini-muffin cups. Bake until puffed and golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve with warm marinara sauce.

Linking up with:

YOLO Mondays from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Monday Meet Ups from Covered in Grace
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Make Something Monday from Sarahndipities
Time for a Party from Fine Craft Guild

Resolutions in Motion

8 Jan

I’ve never really been one to set New Year’s resolutions. I don’t like the idea of spending a bunch of time trying to do things in January and then running out of steam by February or March. But I do like the idea of turning a new leaf. Each day is a new opportunity, right?

Mostly, I think I like the idea of self-improvement. That you can both have confidence for yourself and who you are while simultaneously being self-aware and having the courage to be a better person.

Maybe that statement is a big grandiose considering that the resolutions I’m about to set are typical, classic ones about eating healthier and exercising. But improving oneself can be both little and big things.

I think the key to resolutions is balance between keeping yourself motivated to do the work and also cutting yourself some slack for mistakes or weaknesses.

Okay, enough blathering. I decided to set resolutions this year when I saw a link-up for Resolutions in Motion on Covered in Grace. Having a group of people doing it together and having accountability through my blog readers should help me meet my goals!

Resolutions in Motion

My resolution is to Be Healthier. I’m going to do this through 3 sub-goals:

  1. Cook dinner at home at least 4 nights per week.
  2. Have no more than 4 non-water beverages per week.
  3. Do yoga once per week and take a walk at least once per week.

These are all rules that I’ve managed to follow at some point in the past couple years. But in the last few months, I’ve gotten off track. I got super busy at work and lost my game. And then the holidays came up, driving the last nail into that coffin. But now I’m back on the wagon.

Why not look awesome while you work out?

My inspiration: I bought myself new clothes! Sorry for the poor-quality selfie, as I was not originally intending to share this with you all, but there it is. I spent some Christmas money on new workout gear, hoping that my desire to wear it would result in actual workouts and not just trips to the grocery store.

I’m linking up with Resolutions in Motion hosted by:

Megan @ Shaping Up To Be A Mom
Brooke @ Covered In Grace
Tif @ Ramblings of a Southern Belle
Rosie @ Craftbotic

Resolutions In Motion is a 6-week challenge where the participants set a goal and work to achieve it. Join us every Tuesday for inspirational guest posts, surprise giveaways, blog hops, and more! The final link-up will include giveaways for some amazing prizes!

If you have not yet signed up for this awesome challenge, registration is STILL OPEN! Please go here and fill out the sign-up form, and then make sure you link up your first post before this linky closes (on Saturday, January 12th).

Participating in both the initial (today’s) linkup and the final link-up is required to win prizes, but we will also have a link-up each Tuesday throughout the challenge, for anyone who wants to write about their goal and progress regularly!

– Brooke @ Covered In Grace

That’s it! I’ll let you know how I do. And join us in setting some resolutions! You have until Saturday to register.

 

 
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Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

3 Dec

Whew! I am exhausted. Last night was our huge annual fundraiser at work — our Holiday Auction. As the fundraising person, I’m in charge of planning and executing the whole thing. With 250 people, 250 items, dinner, and more, it’s quite a task. With mostly 10- and 12-hour workdays for the past couple weeks, let’s just say that things at home have been a little… neglected.

My closet is about two feet deep in clothes and random detritus right now. (I wish I were exaggerating.) The dirty clothes basket has been re-appropriated to serve as a second clean clothes basket, with those and another load in the dryer waiting to be folded and put away. The kitchen and fridge are full of take-out boxes that need to be thrown away and the trash taken out. And I think the BF misses me, since I’ve mostly been working or sleeping.

So… hello, December! The month for me to get back into the swing of things. I’m planning on doing a little less working, which will leave a more time for other verbs, like celebrating, relaxing, cooking, cleaning, and yoga-ing. And with the holidays coming up, I’m of course looking forward to baking. I’m already brainstorming what I can make!

One thing I’ve decided: I’m definitely making this apple cinnamon baked oatmeal for Christmas morning. In hindsight, since I’ve eaten take-out and fast food at my desk for the majority of my meals the past two weeks, I really wish I had made up a batch of this last weekend to munch throughout the week.

Baked Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

This baked oatmeal is amazing. I’m not a big fan of goopy, thick oatmeal — the texture grosses me out. So instant, microwaveable oatmeal really isn’t for me. But this bakes into a more cake-like texture, a little more solid. Much more my speed. And the apples are the best part — cooked in cinnamon sugar before baking, they are so sweet and delicious. But the oatmeal is pretty healthy, so overall, is comes out to a pretty balanced breakfast.

The best part? It’s just as delicious re-heated. So you can bake some up on the weekend and then have breakfast ready for those busy work mornings. Or… I can bake some up a couple days early, and then warm it in the oven on Christmas morning. Mmm… I’m already looking forward to it.

Mmm... Breakfast!


Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal
adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod and Annie’s Eats

For the cooked apples:
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
5 small or 3 large apples, peeled and diced into small 1/4″ pieces
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar

For the oatmeal:
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk*
1/2 cup skim milk*
1/2 cup cinnamon applesauce
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8 by 8 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the apples with 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons brown sugar for about 15 min or until soft. Layer in bottom of greased pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, applesauce, butter, egg whites, and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir until combined. Pour oatmeal mixture over top apples.

Bake for 20 minutes or until oatmeal is golden brown and set. Remove from oven and serve warm. Add additional toppings to baked oatmeal, if desired.

* You can use any milk you want to reach 1 1/2 cups total. I used a mix of the two since that’s what I had in the fridge. You could use skim, 1%, 2%, whole, or any mix of those. I’d imagine soy or rice alternatives would also be successful, but I don’t know for sure. If you try those, let me know how it goes!

Linking up for:
YOLO Mondays from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Monday Meet Ups from Covered in Grace
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Linky Party with Fine Craft Guild

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Spice Muffins

5 Nov

Halloween may be over, but pumpkin season sure isn’t. We’ve got at least another month for pumpkin, so I’ve got two more recipes to share with you. First, these muffins. They’re pretty healthy, not too sweet. They make a great on-the-go breakfast. But if you want them to be cupcakes, just add a little sugar and a delicious cream cheese frosting on top. Or if you want to hit a nice sweet spot in the middle, sprinkle a little cinnamon-sugar on top just before or after baking.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffin

Also — side note — these will make your home smell AMAZING as they bake.

A few notes on the ingredients before we get started…

1) I used a mix of whole wheat and white flour, but really only because I ran out of whole wheat. You can use all whole, all white, or some combination. Whole wheat flour will yield a denser but healthier muffin. Regular white flour will give you a fluffy texture but has really no health value at all.

2) The original recipe called for pumpkin puree, and I accidentally bought pumpkin pie filling. I thought it was better though because it added a little bit of sugar to a not-so-sweet muffin. To each her own though.

Whoa, muffin! Put some clothes on!

Alright, RECIPE TIME:

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Spice Muffins, adapted from Cookin Canuck

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup canned pumpkin pie filling
1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
2 tbsp canola oil
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place liners in a muffin tin and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.

In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, yogurt, brown sugar, canola oil, and egg. Mix on medium speed until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.

Spoon the muffin batter into the prepared muffin cups. If desired, sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the batter. Bake about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove muffins from the pan and cool.

Two-and-a-half-bite muffin
Linking up for: