New Smoothie for the New Year

HAPPY 2015!!

Just a short post to share this new recipe I concocted today.  It is delicious!

I used my new Oster MyBlend 20 oz.  I am in LOVE with this thing.  Single serve and it’s already in the bottle?  So convenient.  It mixes way better than my old blender (which shall remain nameless), and it’s quieter, too.  Highly recommend.  I got it at Lowe’s for $20.  Worth every penny.

Anyway… here’s the recipe rundown:

2 Cups greens mix, any (mine was Attitude greens, idk what kind)

Eyeball about 1/2 cup Almond milk coconut/almond blend unsweetened

3-4 ice cubes

Handful frozen blueberries

Handful frozen cherries

Half banana, ripe

1/2 pack Vega Sport protein powder, vanilla

1 packet Justin’s Maple Almond butter

1 scoop collagen powder

No frills, but your taste buds won't mind.
No frills, but your taste buds won’t mind.

MIX!  Enjoy!  It’s not too slushy and not too thick and SO yummy.  You can add infinite things to this, no sweetener required, the fruit really takes care of that.  I sprinkled some roasted sunflower seeds on top because I enjoy sweet and salty together. Normally I might add hemp seeds but I had them with my oatmeal this morning.  I also try to add ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric to EVERYTHING I eat lately because they soothe my tummy and the holiday eating has it upset.

Resolutions/Goals for this year:  Eat more plants, write more blog posts, finish the book, travel, be kind, be fearless.  OH and I am going to try to read the Bible front to back.  A daunting task, but something I have always wanted to do.  What are your resolutions or goals this year?

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My Growing Vegan Pantry

(Not to be confused with the following post at Oh She Glows:

My Vegan Pantry

However that one is one of my favorite blog posts, ever, and I highly recommend viewing it.)

I am pretty committed to meatless eating.  This way of eating is not exactly new to me, in fact it’s my “default” get-well from a cold diet, feel better when I’m in a slump diet, clear up my skin diet, sleep better diet, faster workout recovery diet, make sure I’m regular diet… it’s THE best way to eat, I am sure of it.  WHY it’s taken me so long to make it permanent, I couldn’t say.

The commitment part of this is new to me.  I’m used to storing away thoughts, way in the back of my mind, that I can have diet soda any time.  I can eat a big, juicy hamburger if I want to.  I don’t know why this kind of thinking comforts me, but it does.  I guess it’s because of the freedom – or perception of freedom – is something I need psychologically.  Breaking away from that will be challenging, but it’s helped by how good I feel being vegan.

The more I eat this way, the better I feel.  Physically, see above.  Lots of benefits almost immediately.  Internally, spiritually you might say, I feel lighter. I feel enlightened. I feel joy.  There is some serious smiling going on over here, and sometimes I can’t even help or explain it.  Yes, I’m sure it’s because of cutting out animal products but no, I cannot explain how I know that.  Just take my word for it.

So tonight I took a couple of pictures.  The first one is a cell phone picture of the “beginning” of my new pantry.  Here it is:

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Tri-color couscous, wild rice, quinoa, oats.

I am SUPER excited about this.  Perhaps disproportionately so.  I took the next couple of photos while preparing my food for work tomorrow:

Banana, kiwi, orange, and medjool dates.
Banana, kiwi, orange, and medjool dates.

This is my afternoon snack.  It’s fresh and alive, full of nutrition and nourishment.  As much fruit as I might have eaten in 2 or 3 days before.

Steamed green beans, ripped spinach leaves, kidney beans, steamed zucchini and steamed squash, tomatoes, and some Amy's veggie soup on top.
Steamed green beans, ripped spinach leaves, kidney beans, steamed zucchini and steamed squash, tomatoes, and some Amy’s veggie soup on top.

This is my lunch.  With these two combined I’m eating 10-12 different types of NOURISHING, nutritious, plant foods.  Now, as these photos illustrate, I am what I have come to call “guerilla vegan”.  Meaning, my style is less organized and more, “throw lots of flavors in a bowl and wolf it down”.  I don’t slice precisely, I don’t measure or count anything, which I think is fantastic. That’s just what I do, I know everyone has their own style, but this works for me.

This weekend I hope to get out and pick up more vegan “staples” and start organizing my spice rack.  One of the best things about eating vegan or vegetarian that I’ve yet to mention?  The cooking.  OH, the culinary places you’ll GO!  Places you never even knew existed or that previously only existed in your wildest imagination.  At least, this has been my experience.

So… what’s in your pantry?  What’s your “go to” staple?  What’s the best “quickie” veggie meal?  What is the one item you can’t live without?  If you are vegan or vegetarian, what has been the biggest benefit?  How have you stayed on track?  Do you think there are any drawbacks to this way of eating or lifestyle?  I love comments.  Leave me some.

I Believe You Have My Stapler.

This week at work has been… challenging.  Normally I’m not one of those who looks forward to Friday any more than any other day, but this week is an exception.  Come ON, weekend!  I kept quoting “Office Space” in my head this week.  The pieces of flair, the fantasy copy machine beating, the “mmm… yeah.”  Seriously.  On the bright side, I do work with some amazing people.  So that’s nice.

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My “how can I help you” face

We have staff meetings a couple times a month, and fortunately they aren’t unpleasant.  As a matter of fact, they are a time of encouragement, fellowship with friends and [have I already mentioned?] there’s food.  Someone on staff volunteers to bring a treat, which could be anything.  Sometimes it’s homemade and sometimes it’s from the store.  But hey, it’s always food.  This week I volunteered to bring the food.

Now, obviously, I love food. I love to cook it, eat it, take photos of it.  I love to learn about it, read about it, experiment with it.  I sing songs to my son about his broccoli.  Admittedly, I’m a food nut.  I’m also a health and fitness enthusiast.  Sometimes vegan, sometimes paleo, but always conscious of what I’m putting into my body.  I often find myself in conversation at the office about diet, fitness, vitamins, nutrients, things of that nature.  I don’t mind it. I less-than-mind it.  I enjoy it, I light up in those kinds of conversations because food and health are my passion.

After a few minutes brainstorming, I came up with a perfect snack to represent who I am and how I think about food, and still be sweet and filling enough to satisfy everyone else at the meeting who maybe doesn’t share my food philosophies. [I also needed something that would be affordable.]  Here’s a photo:

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Drooling all over yourself, right?  ME TOO!  Fruit skewers.  Easy to handle, great for Summer and perfectly refreshing.  As I was making these, those little glands by my jaw kept tingling.  Oh, the anticipation of those sweet, sweet strawberries.  And the kiwi – I was ill-prepared and only had one – was SO ripe it was all I could do not to just swallow it whole.

One thing I have noticed about myself in the last couple of years, that either wasn’t the case before, or I didn’t realize before because I wasn’t eating as well as I should: I have a real, physical, visceral reaction to foods that nourish me.  It’s almost lust.  The body is alive, is made up of live cells, so when it’s fed living foods on a consistent basis, there is a palpable shift.  It starts to crave those types of foods.  Trust me, it’s real and it feels good.

Anyway, back to the office story.  At the store throwing all this fruit in my cart, I decided there should be something on the side.  A dip?  Yogurt?  I’m running through dietary restrictions in my head – so and so is gluten free, um I think so and so is doing this or that diet plan – hmm… I know!  NUTELLA!!  Delicious hazelnut spread that everyone likes.  Perfect.  So I get to the aisle number 149 over at the other end of the store, and I see the Nutella.  But just as I was about to add it to my pending purchases, another jar caught my eye.  It said Justin’s, and looked like my favorite Maple Almond Butter, but it said “Hazelnut”.  Is this real, or am I hallucinating?  Justin’s makes a delicious hazelnut spread too, but theirs has no ingredients I can’t pronounce and only 1/3 the sugar?!  Is today Christmas?!  For clarity’s sake, I’ll say here that I chose the Justin’s.  [Because of course I did.]

I went to the conference room early to set up, and the spread was delightful, just as I’d imagined it.  Granted, it did take a long time to slice up all that fruit and put it all on skewers, and I may or may not have gone to bed with a stomach ache from all the pieces I “dropped” into my mouth.  Still, it was a success and it all got eaten and I am quite proud of myself.  I did, of course, post a photo on instagram.  Hashtag CANIGETARAISE?

A photo, this time of the presentation at work:

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Mango Banana Ice Cream

Happy Memorial Day! I don’t know about your family, but for mine today marks the traditional beginning of Summer. The weather outside was gorgeous here, all blue skies and sunny but not sweltering. The pool is lovely, if a tad chilly, but the kids were brave enough to swim for a bit. Lunch was hot dogs, nothing too fancy. The real Summer time celebratory treat came for dessert.

I had a ripe mango in the fridge. I don’t know a lot about mangoes, or even how to cook with them, so I thought a day when the husband is home and I have some free time would be perfect for experimenting. After looking around at breakfasts, smoothies, and a few odd beauty masks, I decided to follow my own path. Mango Ice Cream! Yes! Sounds delicious, I’m sure I can make something work. I have a fancy new “retro” ice cream maker I bought on Amazon.com for quite a good price, I’ve only used it once and I’ve been itching to use it again. Perfect.

Retro, turquoise, and all kinds of snazzy.
Retro, turquoise, and all kinds of snazzy.

This is a recipe of my own design, and I’m not one to use measuring tools, I trust my “eyeballing”, but I’ll be as detailed as I can in case any readers are interested in making it for themselves.

I am Mango.
I am Mango.

I assembled my ingredients and went to work. I began with one mango, very ripe as I wanted to get the full sweetness when I used it. Cut and peeled it on the cutting board, which is the messiest part of this, but honestly I like how it feels to squish mango in my hands. Moving on… I had half a banana in that had been chilling in the fridge, since my daughter wanted some on her cereal this morning. My mouth was watering. This is going to be GOOD. For a moment I felt all “love it when a plan comes together”. It’s a good amount of banana to add flavor and sweetness but not overpower the mango. I hate it when I buy something that has banana in it and banana is all I can taste. I tend to avoid smoothies or yogurts or other products that are “Something AND Banana”.

Just the right amount of banana.
Just the right amount of banana.

My food processor is small (by the way, I’m taking donations), but thankfully everything fit. I used:
1 ripe mango
1/2 chilled banana
“eyeballed” almond milk, (Almond Breeze vanilla flavor) probably 1/4 C
“eyeballed” Fage 0% Greek yogurt, probably 1/4 C
3/4 C granulated sugar

Greek yogurt to add thickness
Greek yogurt to add thickness

Greek yogurt is wonderfully bitter, and acts to dial down the sweetness of the banana a bit. It worked perfectly for this recipe, and I like to use it in recipes that call for heavy cream. Heavy cream is just so… heavy. I wanted this to be light and fresh and guilt-free.

All mixed up.
All mixed up.

Pulse in the processor on “high” for maybe 30 seconds, just until the mixture is smooth. And voila! Ready for the ice cream machine. My wonderful husband took care of the ice and rock salt, and 30 minutes of churning later, here’s what we had:

31 Flavors has nothing on us!
31 Flavors has nothing on us!

Beautiful, no?

It was cold enough to serve immediately, but I put it in the freezer for a couple of hours so it would get a bit harder like store-bought ice cream. To each his own, but I’m glad I did this, as it melts quickly. It came out like a cross between ice cream and gelato. The flavor is off the charts, maybe a little too sweet for me so I might use less sugar next time. I got “thumbs up” across the board from husband and kids. My three-year-old said “This is TASTY!” That’s it. I’m ready for “The Chew.”