Eating green requires some trial and error with recipe
Monday, October 07, 2013 4:05 AM
My sister recently visited us, up at the cabin, and regaled me with her latest choice for a breakfast food. As I had few of the ingredients for her breakfast smoothie on hand, I doled out the standard cabin fare - waffles. One day we had pumpkin waffles, the next day it was blueberry.
Because my husband so completely enjoys having waffles at breakfast-included lodging places, I decided to have a similar waffle iron at the cabin. When there is a crowd, I mix up a big batch of batter and cook waffles one-by-one as guests present themselves for breakfast. They are a hit for both young and old.
Before she left for home, I asked Beth to jot down her morning smoothie recipe. I did discover that the smoothie is not a uniform household hit. Her housemate, Suzie, made a face when the smoothie was discussed. She, on the other hand, wolfed down the extra waffle both days I served them.
Today, I picked up what I remembered as the key ingredients - apple cider, a lemon, celery and spinach, that I didn't already have on hand at home. I went out and picked a few leaves of kale, then assembled ingredients that also included fruit, a cucumber and a banana and whirled up a batch. Then I took a trial sip...
Not so good, sort of a grainy green drink. Then I remembered that a couple of Logan's CSA customers use the mint leaves delivered with their vegetables to add to smoothies. So, I went out and grabbed a handful of mint sprigs, then stripped some leaves into the smoothie and let it blend for a while to eliminate the graininess and incorporate the mint taste. I took another sip and decided the flavor was greatly improved.
I handed Logan a glassful and he commented some fighter friends of his make smoothies and they add protein supplements into the mixture. He thought the taste was passable.
Later, son Tyrel stopped by. I got out the leftover smoothie from the fridge and asked him to try it. He looked at it (the color had darkened somewhat), gulped it down and commented that smoothies like that would not motivate people to eat more vegetables.
So, my recipe for today's column just got tossed out.
Oh, now my husband is trying it...he says, it must be healthy for you. A sip, OK not too bad. A few more sips. "Well it is growing on me," he adds. He would drink it again, I am thinking, but he is a guy who is really health conscious about his diet choices. (He is not overweight.)
Perhaps, however, it is not so much that the concept of a smoothie packed with vegetables is bad, but that the combination of ingredients lacked uniform appeal.
When I attended the state fair, I picked up a number of healthy types of recipes. Actually, healthier eating was a theme I found carried forth by various entities at the fair.
Health Partners gave away a nice booklet called "yumPower 101," which included page after page of healthy recipes using fresh ingredients, whole grains, limited fats and natural flavoring.
Another booklet called "Healthy Eating Handbook," published by Whole Foods Market, offered options for creating layered cereal bowls, lunch and dinner bowls, hearty salads AND green smoothies.
As summer has been busy and frantic keeping up with various crops as they reach maturity, I haven't spent as much time studying these booklets as I'd have liked. I keep cooking up veggies and, truthfully, have preferred my vegetables in chunks stir-fried or sliced thin, topping a healthy pizza.
Move forward to another day. I thought I'd try another sort of green smoothie. The "Healthy Eating Handbook" has a list of smoothie ingredients that are listed as choices. One picks from several options of liquids, fruits and veggies, plus greens. Optional ingredients are categorized as healthy fats and flavorings.
The real problem with many of the foods we are accustomed to eating is the sugars, salts, unhealthy fats and chemicals that are added. We are so accustomed to processed, over sugared and heavily salted foods that something without these doesn't taste good to us.
I want to keep an open mind and I also want to eat a diet of healthy foods. So I tried again. I had picked up an avocado (a healthy fat), had a couple of over-ripe bananas, a locally grown pear and more of that spinach I'd purchased for Beth's smoothie recipe. I decided to use unsweetened cocoa powder and mint leaves as flavoring, and water as my liquid. Actually, I prefer milk, but this was not even listed as one of the suggested liquids in the list.
So I tried it, first without the pear and mint-it was bitter, probably I added too much cocoa powder. Then I added a pear, mint leaves, some stevia leaves for natural sweetness and a few ice cubes to chill it. But it wasn't until I added milk to my smoothie that it started tasting good to me (I am a big fan of milk). Beth has described the banana as one of the necessary ingredients and to give her credit, I had neglected the strawberries included in her recipe.
My sister is very health conscious-she runs each morning. She has experienced cancer twice in her life - first colon cancer over a decade ago. In spite of having a stage three tumor, she recovered and has not had a reoccurrence. But recently, an unrelated growth was found on one of her kidneys when she had a scan of her lungs (twice she experienced a collapsed lung, with a subsequent surgery). When the tumor was removed, they found it was at a stage one, which was encouraging.
I understand her concern for eating healthy foods. What could be healthier than consuming nearly a day's worth of fruits and veggies for breakfast? I like eating healthy, but want food to taste good too.
This is a challenge. If we want the children in our lives to learn healthy eating, we need to find ways to serve healthy food combos that also taste good.
Recently, I found myself inspecting the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market on a special mission for our farmers market. Getting the opportunity to view another, larger market, I was impressed with the abundance and variety of the selections. Although a smaller market, in the three years since ours was opened, our produce selection has become more varied as our vendors have expanded their crops.
The experience of shopping for healthy food has some of the same challenges as creating a healthy smoothie. I enjoyed the street musicians and a good cup of coffee with a roll of lefse spread with butter and sugar (nothing too healthy about that, but the taste was divine). Then I found a vendor who had some locally grown pears. In one basket he had pears he said were about a day or so away from being ready to eat. Another basket had pears ready to eat.
In case you don't know, pears should be picked while they are still green, then ripened off the tree. The trick is knowing when they are ready. I had purchased some at our market, but was still waiting for them to be ripe. I paid a dollar for a pear from the ripe basket and bit into it when I got back in my car.
It was perfect and tasted wonderful! A pear like that is full of natural sweetness.
The key of the smoothie issue is making sure the combo includes enough sweetness and enough flavor to make the taste transcend the feeling you are only drinking it to stay healthy.
OK, here comes my husband again, I pour him up a taste of the new combo. He looks at it and says it looks like, well, like something brown and runny...but he sips it and says it tastes good and finished off the rest in the blender.
Below is Beth's recipe. With this in mind, check out the list from the "Healthy Eating Handbook." Perhaps you can create a better smoothie than I have made thus far! After all, cooking is a process of finding the right combo and it takes trial and error getting there.
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 cup apple cider
1 stalk celery
Handful of kale leaves
6 to 7 strawberries
1 peach or pear (or whatever fruit you have)
Handful of spinach
Cut vegetables and fruits into chunks, place all ingredients in a blender and combine until well blended.
Optional-add mint leaves
"A Smarter Smoothie"
Liquid (up to 2 cups): Water, coconut water, unsweetened almond milk, soymilk or oat milk
Fruits and veggies (1 1/2 to 2 cups): Fresh or frozen - Banana, berries, peaches, mango or cucumber (add pear to that list). Cooked - Sweet potato, pumpkin or squash
Greens (1 to 2 cups): Spinach, kale, collards, parsley, chard, romaine lettuce or sprouts
Flavorings (optional, but important): Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, vanilla, unsweetened cocoa powder, mint leaves or stevia leaves
Healthy fats (optional, 1 to 2 tablespoons): Avocado, nut or seed butter, ground flaxseeds
Whirl in a blender until smooth and creamy.
Try a few combos and see what combination works for you.