Cherry Chocolate (Green) Smoothie

I keep waiting for the day that I suddenly wake up before my alarm goes off, spry and ready for the day, or at least suffering from early-morning insomnia. It seems ridiculous that at thirty-four years old, I can still sleep until 10:30 on the weekends. (And I'm sure I could do it on the weekdays if it weren't for that pesky alarm.) Haven't I reached an age where I'm supposed to wake up naturally at 6 am? 

I'd be so much more productive if I had. Think of all the things I could get done during the 45 minutes that I repeatedly press the snooze button. I could do a little pre-work cleaning, read the news, go for a run, make a delicious breakfast and sit down to eat it at our dining room table. 

But alas. I'm a snoozer. The day has not yet come where I choose cleaning or running or even a calmly enjoyed breakfast over another 9 minute snippet of sleep. 

Smoothies are our go-to breakfast for those mornings that it seems we might not actually make it out the door. They're quick to make, and we pour them into two mason jars and throw the lids on as we run for our cars. Thank goodness they're actually tasty. 

This is our regular, and I'll admit that chocolate first thing in the morning does put a little pep in my step. 

Cherry Chocolate (Green) Smoothie
2 servings

2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or other milk or non-dairy product)
2 leaves kale, without ribs (or 1 cup spinach)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon almond butter
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 cups frozen cherries 

Blend the almond milk and kale together first, especially if you don't have a high-powered blender like a Vitamix or Blendtec (which I don't).
Blend in the rest of the ingredients, pour into 2 jars or glasses and serve. 

p.s. If you're looking for something to channel Summer, try this green tea mango smoothie or a pineapple mint smoothie

Green Tea Mango Smoothie

I've concocted a lot of different smoothie combinations over the last few weeks, and this one is the winner. No doubt about it. I've made it three times in the last week.

It's super easy to make, especially if you brew your tea the night before so that it has a chance to cool. Otherwise, you'll be like me - waiting anxiously while it sits in the freezer. If you wanted a frothier smoothie, you could also freeze the green tea in ice cube trays and have it on the ready whenever you want one. 

Because green tea does have a little caffeine (unless it's decaffeinated like mine is), this is a great smoothie for a summer morning if you're attempting to cut back on your coffee consumption.

And it gets bonus points for making you feel like you're on an island. 

Green Tea Mango Smoothie

1 cup brewed green tea, cold
1 1/2 cups diced mango (I like to do a mix of both fresh and frozen)
1 pitted medjool date (optional, for added sweetness)

Blend together, and you're done.


I hope you're all looking forward to wonderful summer weekends! See you on Monday!


PS - Remember how I'm speaking at the same conference as Katie Couric?  Well, I'm also speaking at the same conference as Martha Stewart. It's official, y'all - I'm famous. 

Pineapple Mint Smoothie

The high in Burlington today is 97 degrees. Yesterday it was 94.

We're surviving with one window fan and a standing fan in the bedroom, but it's not pretty.

When we leave for work, the house looks like it's in mourning, all the windows closed and shades drawn, trying to keep in the cool and keep out the heat.

They tell me this happens for 5 or 6 days every summer. Otherwise it's in the 80s but drops down to the 60s over night, making for easy sleeping with the windows open and pleasant day after pleasant day.

We'll buy a window air conditioning unit eventually, but we've been busy and indecisive. And it's supposed to break overnight.

All I want on days like this is something cool and refreshing to drink, something to make me feel like I could jump into clear blue waters to cool myself off if I wanted to.

Pineapple Mint Smoothie

One bag frozen pineapple
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup mint, tightly packed
1 or 2 dates, for sweetness

Blend everything together, position yourself close to a fan, and enjoy!


Carrot Apple Lemon Juice (with Spinach!)

I'm still loving my new juicer, though I do feel a bit guilty about squeezing out the juice and throwing away all that fiber!

Even so, I drink away. 

A friend of mine commented on my first post about the juicer with a suggestion to make carrot apple lemon juice. And it was a big hit. Both Navah and I had it for breakfast one morning last week, and it has been our favorite thus far. The blend of carrots and apples gives the perfect amount of sweetness without the grass-y flavor from the all-green juice I had on the first day. We thought the celery was the culprit there. 

Of course I added some spinach because I'm trying to put some greens into any juice I make. Spinach is a good choice because you can't really taste it. (I've learned that kale is not the same.)

So, without further ado:

Carrot Apple Lemon Juice (with Spinach!)

6 carrots
4 apples
2 lemons
1 or 2 handfuls spinach



Paging Jack Lalanne

I have tried to take an appetizing picture of the juice I've been making with my new juicer. 

It's not possible. 

I'll show you a picture of apples instead. 

They're in the juice. 

So I'm juicing. 

The impetus was a cleanse that I'm doing for the next three weeks. It's the most moderate one out there, and I could technically do the "liquid meal" portion with smoothies, like I normally make in the mornings. But I decided that I needed something to keep me excited about it while I'm doing without the things I crave (mainly sugar and cheesy things). And a fun new kitchen appliance does the trick. 

I bought a countertop version - the Waring Pro Juice Extractor - because many of them are huge and would've taken up all the available counter space in our kitchen. 

This one's not tiny, but it's manageable.

And it makes juice!

I know other folks have been doing it for years, but I'm still fascinated by the idea that you can shove a piece of kale down there, and JUICE comes out. From KALE. 

It's pretty awesome, and I've started out with the most basic green juice - a mix of kale, green apples, lemon, cucumber, and sometimes celery. Oh, and I've thrown some ginger in too. 

The flavor takes a little getting used to - it's not sweet but the green apples and the lemon help to make it not to bitter either. It's growing on me - it's refreshing, and I think once I start playing around with some other fruits and veggies in there - beets, carrots, parsley - I'll really start to enjoy it. Of course, yesterday I slipped up and accidentally called it grass juice instead of green juice. So maybe that's saying something?

Either way, the idea is to pump myself full of healthy fruits and veggies, and it certainly does that.

I may break the bank, though. The one glass of juice I made last night had 6 leaves of kale, 4 stalks of celery, 2 green apples, 1 cucumber, 1 lemon, and a bit of ginger! That's a lot of produce. 

Once I'm off the cleanse, I think juicing will become something I do occasionally - maybe once or twice a week - or else I'd have to get a second job just to keep paying for the vegetables. 

Of course, I'm eating a lot less of the other stuff - cheese and bread and donuts (I've developed an unfortunate Dunkin Donuts problem up here). So the cost might not be as much as I think it is in relation to what I would've been spending otherwise. 

Either way, I'm hoping to share a few juicing recipes here over the next three weeks, along with some new smoothie recipes, and maybe even a couple new healthy meals. 

Do you juice?


Make-Ahead Smoothies: Use Those Muffin Tins

Thank you for the kind comments on yesterday's post. The whole experience was wonderful for me, and it's been so lovely to share it here with you. While Rwanda may pop up here and there, we're back to regularly-scheduled programming for the time being.

Please ignore the stained areas of my muffin tins. Shameful.

You know I love my green smoothies - with kale! - for breakfast, but some mornings I'm feeling lazy or busy or just ready for the part of my day that starts after I get out of the kitchen. The smoothie prepping feels like too big of a hassle. And those mornings I usually just have coffee.

Until I told you guys about my smoothies. And then one of my readers - an old friend from college - made a brilliant suggestion in the comments.

So to the muffin tins I ran. 

On a Sunday night, I can whip up a big triple (or quadruple!) batch and have them ready for breakfast throughout the week. It's also encouraged me to play a little more with the portions. So, sometimes a little bit of smoothie in the afternoon feels like a great idea. One muffin tin "puck" works great as a quick snack in that slumpy part of the day but doesn't ruin my appetite for dinner.

So this 

becomes this
Green Smoothie 1

but not quite as full.

I'll be trying this with some other smoothie ideas - hello chocolate - and I'll let you know how it goes!

And thank you to Amanda for getting me to have a healthy breakfast every morning!


Green Smoothie Goodness

What makes a new house or apartment feel like home? Obviously getting all your stuff unpacked and settled is a big one, but that can take weeks (especially if, like with us, unpacking requires purchasing new furniture pieces).  Until then, I find the this-is-my-home feeling in the kitchen.  Making a nice big pot of soup or chili is a great start, but it really hits me when I'm making the usual things, like breakfast.  The routine of bopping around the kitchen, opening this drawer and that to prepare something I've made a million times before.  Then I'm home.  This morning, it was getting back to my breakfast smoothie.

Green Smoothie 1
For the last few months before I left DC, I was having this green smoothie for breakfast every morning and loving it.  My mom thought I was crazy for drinking a smoothie with spinach and kale in it until I made her test it, and she was forced to agree that it's freaking delicious.  Not only that, it keeps me satisfied until lunch, and according to my calculations, it's only about 375 calories!  Disclosure:  I'm not generally a calorie counter and please don't expect to see calorie information on other recipes - in fact, it's a trigger for my previously eating-disordered self.  But as a newbie to the smoothie world, I was curious about whether this "healthy" breakfast was actually healthy in terms of sugar and calorie content, so I did a quick check.  Turns out it is!  And I'm eating five servings of fruits and vegetables before 9 am.  Holla.

If you're cringing a bit about the thought of drinking kale and spinach for breakfast (or at all), I encourage you to give this recipe a try.  I promise you won't taste it.  

Though I'm sure it would be terrific to have a fancy blender for this smoothie, I make mine with my trusty immersion blender because (1) I don't have a fancy blender, (2) the not-fancy blender I own might have been in an accident involving pureeing hot soup resulting in the top blowing off and shattering, and (3) the immersion blender is crazy easy to clean.  

See my fancy set-up:
Green Smoothie 3
Immersion blender + plastic pitcher = blending goodness.

If you're using an immersion blender, you might want to check it before you stop blending to make sure there aren't kale stragglers - they sometimes get stuck in the little holes of mine.  I just pull them off and give it one more whir.
Green Smoothie 2
I know that I found the basic recipe (with a few minor changes from me) on Pinterest, but I just have it in my head now and can't for the life of me find it again.  If anybody knows where this comes from, please please let me know so I can give credit.  Thanks!
Green Smoothie 4
Green Smoothie

1 cup orange juice
1 cup kale
1 cup spinach
1 banana (folks usually use frozen, but I like it better not frozen)
1 pear
1/4 tsp ginger 

Blend and enjoy!

Two caveats to this recipe:  

First, you'll notice there's no protein in here like in some other smoothie recipes, like almond milk or yogurt or peanut butter.  I'm not a huge protein person in the morning.  It sits too heavy in my stomach.  But I know there are those who need that.  Navah has hers with a scrambled egg.  And I sub in avocado for the banana to up the protein element.  You could also add in a powdered protein or sub almond milk or yogurt for half of the orange juice.  That's the fun of smoothies - play around!  I sub in different fruits all the time.

Second, if you're new to 100% fruit/veggie smoothies, I recommend that you take it slowly.  Start with just half this recipe for a week and work your way up.  It can be...hmm...shall we say, a lot for a stomach that's not used to it.  

'Til next time!

Sugar-free Mint Lemonade

The summer I turned 14, my family spent a week at a resort in New Hampshire.  The resort had a lot of scheduled activities for the kids, a la Dirty Dancing, except I was playing volleyball and watching cheesy kids movies instead of hooking up dancing the merengue with a hottie.  Perhaps the 18 year-olds were doing that. At our much less movie-worthy activities, there were a bunch of kids from Boston who seemed to make up about 75% of the available age-appropriate friends.  They were all part of the same family - sisters, brothers, cousins - and they ranged in age from maybe 10 to about 17.  They were loud and rowdy and had INTENSE Boston accents, and they called me Georgia.  It was not a term of endearment.

I had not yet learned the art of ignoring people who are mean to you, so I felt stung by the questions they asked in mock twangy accents - Do Y'ALL have chickens in your yard?  Do Y'ALL ever wear shoes?  Do Y'ALL park your cars in your front yard?  

I couldn't understand why they couldn't see from looking at me and hear from talking to me that I wasn't like that - that we lived in a regular house with a driveway, plenty of shoes, and no chickens.  I didn't want to be seen as a country bumpkin.  I wanted to be sophisticated and savvy, and there was nothing I could do to convince them that I was.  The more I tried to polish my language and explain my home in a small town, the twangier their teasing got.  I don't think they were actually mean - just the result of a gaggle of immature kids all showing off for one another.  And they could see how much it bothered me.

Ah, the ironies of life.

Nowadays, there's little else that I fantasize about as much as being a country bumpkin. I'd love to throw off this city and my shoes and run around in the grass while a bunch of chickens squawk away.  Those kids had it so wrong about my life at the time, but they didn't know they were forecasting what would later be my fantasies.  (And of course they were asking the wrong questions.  It probably didn't even occur to them to wonder whether there were squirrels in our freezer ready to be put into gumbo or whether I knew how to hook my own worms for fishing.)

Though I will probably never live in the South again (that pesky gay marriage thing), I whole-heartedly plan to create that leisurely pace of life and re-acquire a slow drawl at some point down the road.  When I'm feeling like that point is a little too far away, I like to reconnect with some of those simple pleasures that remind me of home - whether the one from my past or the one I dream of for my future.  In the summer, that's invariably sweet tea or lemonade, drunk in the sun.

Sugar-free Mint Lemonade

10 lemons, juiced (about 2 cups)
6 cups water
3/4 cup agave nectar (this is enough for us, but feel free to add more if you like things sweeeter)
one handful mint

1.  In a pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, turn off the burner and add the agave nectar and the mint (It doesn't have to be chopped).  Let that steep for 10-20 minutes so the water gets all sweet and minty.  Yum.

2.  Pour your lemon juice and the other 4 cups of water into your pitcher.  Tap your foot expectantly while you wait for your mint to steep.  When you can't wait any longer, pull out the mint sprigs, and pour the sweet minty water into the pitcher.

3.  Pour over ice.  Add a sprig of mint. 

4.  Go outside. 

5.  Enjoy.

We also like to dilute this sometimes with seltzer for a fizzy treat - we're wild like that.  And I suspect it would be yummy with a little booze.