A new month, a new challenge

July is near. That means another set of bills, the latest edition of Cooking Illustrated, and the next online class starts up. But this month is going to be different, unlike any other month before. Why? Because I’m starting a 30-Day Green Smoothie Challenge. You might be thinking, Shelley, don’t you already do such a thing? The answer is…sorta. As much as I preach about eating green 24/7, I don’t always stick to it. At no point do I allow my clean-eating practices slip, but I could use a little extra push. That’s why I signed up for SimpleGreenSmoothies.com‘s challenge and every morning for the next 30 days, I’ll consume a green smoothie.

What makes a green smoothie, you ask? Did you think I wasn’t going to tell you and I would just leaving you hanging like a hammok in the winter? Nah, I’m not that mean. The trick with green smoothies is in the base and every green smoothie needs to start with one. Without this base, you’re left with either a mouthful of lawn or a sugar rush that will only get you through your first 15 minutes of work’s morning meetings (and to think there could be hours left to go!). The bases consists of (any) leafy green and a frozen banana. I typically go for the kale because of it’s amazing nutritional value. I talked about all the great aspects of kale in a previous post where I claim my love for it’s greeny goodness.

With this simple base, you can make wondrous green smoothies that are healthy and tasty (imagine that!). Why this base is so important is because the frozen banana (which doesn’t de-crystalize into it’s original form after being thawed, providing an ice cream-like texture) masks the flavors of the raw leafy greens. Then the flavors all happen in the add-ons. You can mix in your favorite fruits, spices, supplements or anything else you want to throw in there to make a complete smoothie.

One of my all-time favorite smoothies is a blueberry oatmeal cookie (yes, I said cookie). I promise you, one sip of this bad boy and you’ll never look back!

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Ingredients:

Handful of kale (or any leafy green)

1 frozen banana

Handful of frozen or fresh blueberries

1/2 cup oatmeal (I always go for Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free when it comes to oats)

1 tablespoon of cinnamon (I know it’s a lot, but the health benefits of cinnamon, including speeding up metabolism, are so worth it)

Pinch of salt

1-3 drops of liquid stevia extract

Combine all ingredients (except the stevia) in your blender and blend for a solid two minutes. You want to make sure everything is broken down as much as possible. This helps breakdown the raw leafy greens making it easier for digestion/absorption and helps prevent any crummy tummy action. After the first round of blending, add stevia to sweeten the mixture to taste. Drink smoothie immediately as the oats tend to make it really thick. Sip and enjoy that guilt-free oatmeal cookie. I like to top my smoothies off with a sprinkle of bee pollen (as seen in the picture) for that extra health kick. Toss in a few raw cacao nibs for a super-charged chocolate twist or blend that sucker up with a handful of raisins, you know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

When it comes to this challenge, I’m sure it will be easier on a few days compared to others. But I believe committing to the entire 30 days of green smoothie mornings followed by clean eating will keep me charged up and ready to go all the way to August!

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Kale of Duty

Ode the the bitter, leafy goodness of the plant that grows is the worst and the best of all conditions here in Maine. Its energy pumping, cancer fighting, anti-aging, vitamin punching versatility leaves me wanting more with every accomplished recipe.

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This leafy goodness is often the canvas, paint, and brush used in my culinary designs.

It took me twenty-three years to try enjoy this particular cousin of broccoli for the first time. I had my tastings of the bitter, slimy slop my bother used to boil and “give it some salt” but nether the less, I found it repulsive. That was until I tried massaged kale. Yes, massaged. The intimate crunching of (olive) oiled up leafy stock between your fingers means nothing until you’ve tried it for yourself. But damn is it tasty. A little lemon juice, sesame seeds, salt, and pepper and it makes the perfect side to any, and I mean any, meal. And that is when it all began.

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Smoked hungarian paprika grilled eggplant (tastes like bacon, I swear) and garlic hummus topped with massaged kale.

I started to put kale in everything: quiche, fritatta, salad, pizza. It was for breakfast. It was for dinner. I made it for lunches and snacks! I even figured out a way to dehydrated kale tossed in some crazy ass mixture of white miso paste, amino acids, and nutritional yeast for them to only come out tasting like Cheetos. Oh yes, Cheetos. But that was only once and I’ve never been able to replicate it again. (That felt like when your computer battery dies and it’s the one time, ever, that you computer doesn’t automatically backup and you lose six hours worth of vector work in Illustrator so you back to tracing from the beginning and you have no idea how you set up the transparency… Breathe, Shelley. Breathe.)

Smoothies

Green smoothies. You know you’ve heard of them and maybe you’ve tried one. Was it “just not for you?” That’s because you didn’t know the secret to green smoothies. The health benefits of drinking smoothies containing raw greens, in particular kale, are mind blowing but there is no need to choke anything down. Just like any craftsman, there are always tricks to the trade and mine just happens to be a frozen banana. You see, when most items are put into the freezer, they freeze (duh) and the water content forms crystals. Frozen bananas happen to be the black sheep of the frozen foods society and just plain breakdown (the same way ice cream is made). When you toss that sucker into the blender, it not only masks the flavors of raw greens, it gives you the feeling that you’re cheating with ice cream in your health-kick drink. So next time you’re feeling green about your smoothies, remember, there’s always money in the banana stand.

Juicing

I’m not going to sugar coat this for you. Juicing with greens is friggan hard, especially kale. First of all, it takes a lot of product to get a small amount of juice. Then there is the overpowering, intense kale flavor that, if you’re not careful, can totally knock you off your feet. But then I remember how manu macronutrients I’m getting from that juice and how I would never be able to eat enough raw kale to get the equivalent elsewhere. So here I have my best kale juice recipe: Green Lemonade.

Ingredients:

6-8 large kale leaves

1 well peeled lemon (Absolutely no white flesh! It comes out too bitter if you leave it on)

1 inch knuckle of ginger

3 green pears

Wash all items well and peel (only if not organic). Put through the blender and serve over ice.

Growing

Kale always tastes better when you grow it yourself. And you’ll get to enjoy the endless varieties available! There’s the classic Curly kale (most often in grocery stores), Dino, Premier, Redbar, Siberian, Red Russian, and Kamone. And let’s not forget Walking Stick kale, which can grow up to six feet tall!

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Walking Stick kale can grow up to six feet tall.

The best part about growing kale is its ability to continue to grow throughout winters. Yes, even Maine winters. All it takes is a cold box that allows the sun to heat it up during the day so it can hold onto the slightly warmer temps at night (think of a mini greenhouse that isn’t quite as warm) and baby, you’ve got a stew kale brewin’! And let’s face it, not much beats the site of fresh greens on your place/juice/smoothie in the dead of a Maine winter.

So I encourage you to give my green friend a try. You’ll won’t regret it, I promise.