What should I buy if I want to drink smoothies? Dropsie's basic smoothie kit

Friday, December 31, 2010

In my last post, I mentioned that if changing the way you eat seems too daunting, you might instead try adding something healthy instead of thinking about all the things you should remove. Starting your day with a smoothie is a great way of giving you a boost of fiber, protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals. Plus, if you're like Mr. Pick-it-Up, you will embrace smoothies because they are made in ONE container (your blender) and don't require heaps of clean up. :)

I wanted to put together a shopping list for anyone who wants to add smoothies without investing too much.

1- You'll need a decent blender- that's first and foremost. You can get away with a Magic Bullet ($30-$40 range) as a first step if you're not keen on investing. At the expensive end of the scale, you have the Vitamix and Blendtech which both run around $500. Santa just brought me KitchenAid KSB560ER 5-Speed Blender with Polycarbonate Jar, Empire Red which of course, now that we HAVE it, is on sale at Amazon. I am LOVING it. My smoothies are like silk, as opposed to the Hamilton Beach model I used to use that required me to chew the bits in my smoothies. It DID however, get me hooked on them, so I invested...I mean, SANTA did, in the Kitchen Aid model. Plus it's red...like a cherry on top...and it's shiny...and I'm a girly girl, so I like it.  :)

Unless you have a pretty good blender, you may also want a coffee grinder to grind the seeds before you add them. Seeds in their whole form typically are not absorbed, so you'll want to make sure they're ground. Something like this will work fine (also works well for spices). Proctor Silex E160B Fresh Grind Coffee Grinder, White You don't need to shell out a lot of money on it.

2- Stock up on a few key dried goods. Bulk food places are evolving and starting to include things like raw nuts and other non-GMO organic foods. Start with your local bulk foods place, or if you prefer, you can stock up from someplace online.

Here are the things you're going to want to start with. There are a million ingredients, but I'm suggesting those with the biggest impact and the most nutrient density, without sending you on a wild goose chase for ingredients in the four corners of the globe... Note: keep all seeds and nuts in the fridge to keep them from going rancid.

  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Raw cashews
  • Raw almonds
  • Raw cacao
  • Coconut milk (freeze this in ice cube trays)

Here are a few links to online versions:
Navitas Naturals Chia Seeds Aztec Superfood, 16 Ounce Pouch
Bob's Red Mill Organic Flaxseed Meal, 16-Ounce Packages (Pack of 4)
Frontier Sesame Seed, Natural, Whole Certified Organic, 16 Ounce Bags (Pack of 2)
Navitas Naturals Really Raw Cashews, 16-Ounce Pouch (Pack of 2)
Natural Raw Almonds (4 Pound Bag)
Certified Organic, Raw Cacao Powder, From Peru 1#
Native Forest Organic Classic Coconut Milk, 13.5-Ounce Cans (Pack of 12)

3- Hit the grocery store! Whenever possible, choose organic ingredients- particularly when you're talking about greens because they are among the most pesticide-ridden produce. Things with thick peels like lemons, bananas and avocados don't necessarily need to be organic if you're on a budget.

Here's your basic list:

  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Coriander
  • Kale and/or Swiss chard
  • Romaine
  • Spinach
  • Green and/or red apples
  • Bananas (peel, chop in chunks and keep frozen)
  • Lemons

4- Now figure out your favourite recipes! You can search for "green smoothies" through Google and come up with thousands of options. Shan Larter has some of my favourite recipes so be sure to check her out too. This tropical banana mint madness smoothie is one of my favourites but lately I've been doing mostly greens, seeds, nuts and lemons. They are sooo refreshing and tart. Love 'em!

As you become more comfortable with the concept of blending and melding flavours, I'm sure you'll come up with your own options with new and exciting ingredients. If you have a favourite to share, please post your own smoothie recipes in the comments section below!

Happy New Year everyone. May it be a time of renewal, health and happiness. :)

Top ten considerations when making a weight-related New Years resolution- Are you planning to lose weight in 2011?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

So Christmas has come and gone, and I hope you had a tremendous time with your most beloved friends and families. The new year brings (for many) renewed vigour and hope for change in 2011. You may be like so many who will decide that enough is enough- this is the year they will FINALLY diet successfully. They will vow that they will suffer, cut, avoid, and otherwise deprive themselves in an effort to finally fit into their clothes, or be some magic number on the scale, or perhaps a more clinical goal of normalizing blood sugar levels, getting cholesterol into healthy ranges, or bringing down their blood pressure. So fueled by that vigour, folks go searching for something they can use, a tool, some kind of framework they can fit into, where someone can tell them concretely what they can do to achieve their goal. I have some thoughts on this one..I wanted to share them with you.

Top ten considerations when making a weight-related New Years resolution

  1. Are you ready to permanently change your habits?  If you think you can do "something" for a few months, achieve your goal and happily return to what you're doing now, you can't. Sorry. What you're doing now is not working or you wouldn't be considering a change, would you?
  2. Are you ready to be in the driver's seat regarding your health and to learn about nutrition? If you are looking for someone who will just tell you what to do, I have a secret to tell you: that person cannot follow you around for the rest of your life. You need to be aware of what you're putting in your mouth, and what the repercussions are or you will fail. Full stop.
  3. Are you ready to challenge conventional dietary "wisdom", what "big food" is selling as healthy, and accept that what you have traditionally eaten won't work anymore? Milk, it does a body good. Really? Does it? This is a slogan from an advertising campaign; it is not a fact. Milk causes mucus, calcium LOSS, an assault on the immune system and plain old ILLNESS. These and other truths will surprise you as you learn how ensconced the dairy industry, big food, and other farming industries (corn, wheat, soy) are in what you are told and what you then believe. Also, getting used to the fact that fat doesn't make you fat, but instead sugar and refined carbohydrates do, is a tough thing to get used to after decades of eating "low fat". You'll have to talk yourself through that fallacy and others over and over until they finally sink in.
  4. Will you accept that once you change and make healthy choices, the people around you won't be comfortable eating with you anymore? Like-minded people hang in packs. In a study spanning over 30 years researchers discovered that one's chance of becoming obese or overweight increased exponentially when overweight/obese people were in one's social circle. So the next time your pals want to go schlopp down the next saturated fat/salt/sugar fest at some fast food restaurant, you are going to rock the boat when you decide you're not eating that garbage anymore. One of two things might happen: 1)[la-la land] your friends will thank you for introducing them to a new way of eating, or 2) [more likely] they'll get tired of listening to you and your healthy ways (and the way you make them feel guilty for abusing their own bodies), and you might have to find a new pack of like-minded folks to go to lunch with. 
  5. Are you willing to suffer withdrawal? Yes, food is addictive- both physically and emotionally. Ask anyone who has decided to give up sugar what happens when they do...it's not pretty. It hurts. Your head will throb and you'll suspect your enemies of buying a voodoo doll of you and stabbing your eye sockets repeatedly with pins. I promise that it's worth it, and it only lasts a few days, but I can't lie to you and tell you that it won't be uncomfortable.
  6. Can you envision creating new social experiences? So much of what we do is centred around food. We feast together for any number of reasons. Can you accept that those may not be available to you anymore, and can you imagine getting out there and creating new ways of just being with people?
  7. Can you give up foods that make you feel poorly forever? When you immune system is taxed by foods that make you tired, bloated and constipated, it thrives when you cut those foods out. The most allergenic foods include dairy, wheat, corn and soy. Once you give those up, you can rarely "go back" as the reactions that kept you feeling crappy most of the time will now make you feel terrible. 
  8. Are you ready to get creative with your budget? Non-conventional meats are more expensive (think happy animals not pumped full of antibiotics with room to move around) as are organic fruit and vegetables. These changes will yield incredible results, but certainly a meal will start being more expensive. The cost is not unmanageable for most, as boxed and packaged foods are eating up more of your grocery budget than you could imagine (as are crappy restaurant meals) but you'll have to do some meal planning to manage the costs.
  9. Can you make time for preparation? If you prepare foods in advance (like chopping a whole bunch of veggies in anticipation of a week's worth of lunches and snacks) you can ensure you have healthy choices on hand for when you get hungry and you're not reaching for the phone to call for a pizza.
  10. Ready to read labels? You're going to have to look at packaged foods and figure out what is and is not a healthy choice for you and your family. Things like "enriched wheat flour", sugar (think any ingredient that ends in "ose"- fructose, glucose, lactose, etc), hydrogenated oils, soy derivatives and other non-foods can sneak into everything you've eaten for years. You'll have to begin asking yourself if the foods you reach for are indeed helpful and healthy. Chances are that if it comes from a box, bag, can or package, you'll find all kinds of health saboteurs ready to spoil all your hard work. Be vigilant!
I wish you all the best in 2011, and I'll be kicking around to keep on tackling the hard food questions and providing recipes along with many other bloggers out there whose recipes I use to create yummy, healthy, satisfying meals for our family. It might seem like a lot to take in all at once, but start off by adding healthy options rather than eliminating poor ones off the hop- it may help soften the blow. Plus eventually those healthy choices grow, and you'll crowd out all the poor choices you once made. Then, my friends, you will reap the benefits on the road to a stronger, livelier and leaner you.

Who's ready? I say bring...it...on!!!!


Christmas appetizer (raw, vegan, gluten free, dairy free): Endive boats

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I often find myself trying to come up with big convoluted recipe ideas. Then occasionally I put something really simple together and remind myself that it doesn't need to be such a big deal! This is one of those occasions.

Meet endive boats...otherwise known in our house as Pirate Boats (because I was trying to get the kids to eat them). Incidentally, each kid ate one, but there is a bitterness to endives (slight, nowhere near the bitterness of arugula) so that was all she wrote. For what you see above, I kept it very simple in the hopes that the kids would eat it. I loved these though, and can think of a thousand variations.

To serve a small group (8-10 adults):

RED AND GREEN PEPPERS (for that festive touch)
whatever FRESH HERBS you have on hand (dill? parsley? coriander? mint? or ALL of the above!)
Other possible additions:

Lastly, you will need a dressing of your choice for marinating. I used my old standard Caesar salad dressing, because I thought the kids might like it, but my "quick fix" dressing is always the following:

BALSAMIC VINEGAR (ratio of 3 oil to 1 acid- whether it's vinegar, lemon juice etc.)
DIJON (I use lots, but do it to taste).

Marinate the chopped veg/herbs etc., spoon onto endive leaves right before serving, and savour. :)

Gluten free, dairy free, vegan quesadillas, with raw sour cream and raw vegan "cheesy" nacho dip

Friday, December 17, 2010

Often Sometimes I try to put dinner together and fail miserably. Here's the thing: if I know it's super healthy, I eat it. While I'm pleased if it turns out to be yummy, I will still eat it if it's not. My children on the other hand, require much more coaxing. Here is a peek at our recent Quesadilla night, which I was sure would bomb, but ended up being delicious!

Here's the recipe:

Gluten and dairy free vegan quesadillas!
1- Chop and lightly steam whatever VEGGIES you have on hand (we did RED PEPPER and BROCCOLI). 

2- While they're steaming/cooling, make the tortilla spread (kids are eating whole wheat but I had brown rice for the gluten free version). Grind the following in your blender:

1 can BLACK BEANS (try Eden organics with no salt added)
drizzle of OLIVE OIL (whatever you need to get it smooth)
pinch of SALT (to taste)

3- Make a little assembly line where you smooth on the black bean "butter" to each TORTILLA, and scoop some veggies onto each one then close. Put each enchilada on parchment paper on a heavy baking tray. Put another sheet of parchment paper on top of the tray and put another tray on top. If your trays aren't very heavy, you may want to add a glass baking dish or something else to weigh it down.  Bake at 400 until you can start to smell them browning. This may take 15 or more minutes. Then uncover for the final "crisping up".

PS- for anyone not familiar with parchment paper, you cannot sub in wax paper. If you don't have any, use foil, but get parchment paper. Anything that goes in your oven can go on it and will never stick!

4- While those are baking, you might consider making either one of the following (or both!) for dipping:
Raw sour cream
In a blender or food processor, grind the following:
1 cup WATER
juice of 1/2 LEMON
1 tsp SALT

Raw vegan "nacho cheese" dip
Averie's "Spicy Doritos" Cheezy Dip 
1/2 C HEMP SEEDS (if you don't have these, use Cashews, all Sunflower Seeds, or try Sesame Seeds. Mix & Match your seeds as necessary)
1/2 of a RED PEPPER
3 Tbsp LEMON JUICE 1/2 Tsp SALT (or to taste)
1/2 Tsp CHILI POWDER (add more to taste if desired)
1/8 Tsp CAYENNE (add more to taste if desired)

Once you put all that together, here's what it looks like (terrible photo but you get the idea- I also served it with salsa verde). The key to getting it to all "stick" without the cheese seems to be the sandwiching while it's cooking. Bon appetit!


Healthy, homemade Christmas gift ideas

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Are you looking at your list of loved ones this year, wondering how you'll manage all those people? Has the thought of making homemade gifts crossed your mind? How about something from your kitchen that is super healthy and yummy that you can share with them?

I have been chatting with my friend Lexie of Lexie's Kitchen about doing a joint post. Now, Lexie is marvellously busy with an initiative called Share Our Holiday Table—a virtual, progressive fundraising dinner designed to raise awareness of child hunger in the U.S. This event is being hosted by Share Our Strength®—a national organization that works hard to make sure no child in America grows up hungry. Check out Share our Strength and consider making a donation to children in need. 

So, on behalf of both of us, I want to highlight a few things I think would make great gifts this season:

1- Lexie's chili seasoning: Imagine buying bulk spices and lining up a few jars on your counter, measuring out the ingredients into each one. It'd be kind of like a little assembly line. Tag each one with a small piece of cardstock that includes her fabulous chili recipe. That's an instant dinner idea for the lucky recipient! 

2- Roasting spice rub: I stumbled across the recipe I talked about in my roasted organic chicken post and we loved it so much, we made the rub in mass quantities for use on anything roasted. Do you have any idea how delicious brussel sprouts are when they're roasted in the oven with this spice? Mr. Pick-it-up and I actually fight over brussel sprouts. I'm not kidding. So, I've worked out the math, and here's how to make enough for a lovely little jar full (the small mason jars- about 1/2 the regular jam-jar size): 

1/4 cup SEA SALT (the chunky stuff)
3 tablespoons COCONUT SUGAR
1.5 teaspoons GROUND CLOVES
1.5 teaspoons GROUND ALLSPICE
1.5 teaspoons GROUND NUTMEG
1.5 teaspoons GROUND CINNAMON

While I look at that 1/4 cup of salt and think "woah", it's actually significantly less than the recipe calls for. Plus you're only using a tsp or two when you make anything roasted. :)

3- COOKIES! Who would turn down a nice little tin of homemade cookies?? I recently made these Scandinavian thumbprint cookies from the Spunky Coconut. They were really nice, and easy to make. They are kind of cake-like, with that yummy blob of jam in the middle. Mmmmm. Plus when you give something that does NOT have refined flours or sugars, you cannot be held responsible for your gift-ee's holiday bloat. :) That's guilt-free gifting, folks! You might also try Double dark chocolate chip cookies (dairy free, refined sugar free, gluten free).

4- And last but not least, if your beloveds are into cosmetics of a more natural style, why not treat them to a jar of Lexie's homemade natural deodorant? It's funny, I've been sitting on this post for a few days and Lex beat me to it. Check out her most recent post for more information on this pretty little gift. :) 

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season so far. We're in full swing here; not much opportunity to be a scrooge when the snow is falling in big fluffy clumps outside and we're seeing even more of our favourite people. If you're looking for a great treat to make at home, incidentally, I made these raw vegan milky way bars last week. They were KILLER!!!! The kids think they're real chocolate bars (though mine look nothing like the ones in this picture, let's be honest). I wouldn't advise making these for a gift because they get pretty drippy when they've been out of the freezer for a few minutes. Logistically, it wouldn't work out well. A note on the recipe: I found that I had way too much chocolate and caramel for the amount of base I made. I would advise increasing the amounts in the nougat portion by 1/3 the recipe so that it all balances out. Notice I didn't suggest reducing the amount of chocolate and caramel because hey- that's just crazy talk...



Recipes: Tropical banana mint madness smoothie, and scalloped potatoes (gluten and easily dairy free)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

So, I've decided to try and cram in as many smoothies as I can during the Fri-Sun time period. I had one friday, yesterday I had a green smoothie and a banana chocolate smoothie, and today I had one for breakfast.

Here's today's breakfast smoothie:
Tropical banana mint madness
Into your blender, throw the following-
1 zucchini
1 handful each fresh parsley and coriander
8-10 leaves fresh mint
1 handful sunflower sprouts
1/2 lemon (peeled- not juice only)
4 coconut milk "ice cubes"
1 frozen banana
water (to facilitate blending and to thin to desired texture).

Oh...my...heavens..this is AMAZING. Sweet, and ALIVE. There's no other way to describe that taste. YUMMY!!!!

After another  dinner was a bbq'd tuna steak, bbq'd brussel sprouts, steamed broccoli and scalloped potatoes. YUM!

Scalloped potatoes (gluten free, milk free)
3 large russet potatoes
1 onion
pinch saffron
1 TB dried basil
1 1/2 TB all purpose gluten free flour mix
2 cups unsweetened organic almond milk
2 TB butter (sub coconut oil for a completely dairy free option- small amounts of organic butter don't seem to bother me so we're going that route)
salt/pepper to taste
GF bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease glass baking dish with either butter or coconut oil. Slice potatoes and onion and layer with a little salt/pepper between layers.
In a sauce pan, melt butter (or coconut oil). Add saffron and basil, and a little salt/pepper. Stir while heating on med/low for a minute, then add in the flour. Stir for another minute or two then add the almond milk (or other "milk" option). Simmer for 5 minutes, or until it thickens slightly, then pour over potatoes.  Top with bread crumbs (I made mine by grinding up GF croutons that were already flavoured with garlic and basil).
Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, then uncover and continue baking until it browns and softens. You may need to splash on a little extra almond milk if it dries out.


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