Friday, June 29, 2012

Greener Shores: The New Garden

We recently moved to a home with a MUCH larger yard. Admittedly, most of our energy has been spent getting the inside livable, and also on day-to-day life. Thankfully, the yard has excellent bones and is carrying on despite our neglect. Here are some pics:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Loving my green power!

Late one recent night, I couldn't sleep and on a whim downloaded a Kobo e-book for my iPod Touch (I can't put into words how much I love this little device). I must say that e-books are frighteningly easy to buy. Just two or three taps and it's yours! Plus you save over the price of a regular (old-school) book - I saved between $2 and $5. I had about a moment's remorse for my impulse buy, but then dove into my new book. I read voraciously in the dark (love the night-reading feature) and after 3 chapters finally turned it off to get some sleep.

Green for Life - Kobo

What was this fascinating read? "Green for Life" by Victoria Boutenko. I've mentioned this book in another post as it was a major source of inspiration for my exploration of green smoothies. After my initial fascination with these verdant drinks, I fell off the wagon and didn't get back on. I found mixing them using my immersion blender too cumbersome and I didn't have the determination to press on. I recently bought a new blender, in the hopes of making the process a little easier* and decided it was time to read more on the subject.

What is so great about Green Smoothies? Through her research, in consultation with many experts in the fields of nutrition - both human and chimpanzee(!) - and her family's own evidence, Boutenko discovered:
  • Greens, above all other food groups, meet all nutritional needs.
  • A raw food diet featuring green smoothies can cure disease, prevent cancer, and even slow or reverse aging.
  • Consuming 1-2 litres of green smoothies per day can have profound health benefits, including: weight loss, improved digestion, improved allergies, healed eczema, fewer headaches, reduced stiffness after exercise, even improved sex life and peaceful birthing.
  • After one month of drinking a litre of green smoothies per day, study participants reported: less fatigue and more energy, increased motivation, "zingyness", fewer grey hairs (!) and cravings moving from processed or cooked foods to raw foods and greens.
Now that's green! My lettuce began to bolt,
so I rescued what I could and made some
green juice: 4 cups packed green & romaine
lettuce blended with 4 cups water
This book is packed with surprising and up-to-date information on nutrition and how it affects our health, as well as copious testimonials. My e-book is full of highlights for every time I exclaimed, "wow!" Needless to say, my enthusiasm for green smoothies has grown. If even a small portion of these claims are true, I should experience a big difference in my health. While I'm definitely the most dedicated smoothie drinker, my husband will drink them if I make them, and my 2.5yo will gladly consume them if they include mango. My discerning 5yo is still vary wary. I've started asking him to try a sip every day and most days he complies.

So what's in a Green Smoothie? It's actually surprisingly simple: water, greens, and fruit. That's it. The ratio depends on your tastebuds, which will adjust as you become familiar with the taste of greens. Novices (this includes children especially) should start easy so the smoothies are tasty and enjoyable. You can get a large number of recipes by registering for the Recipe App on the Raw Family site, or purchase the App for your mobile device. It also includes a FAQ and an excellent guide to green smoothies. There are combinations for all tastes and seasons.

How do green smoothies taste? Yummy! You can completely adjust your ingredients based on preference. If you like sweet, add (very slightly green) bananas or mangoes. If the green flavour is a little strong, add more fruit or lemon juice. I really enjoy drinking green smoothies and look forward to the every day. We recently went away for five days and I didn't get to drink my usual allotment - though I did manage a little - and noticed the difference. I started feeling a general yuckyness and my digestion slowed down.

I carried two of these buckets containing 3 heads of lettuce each
(in their soil) to Cornwall, ON to prevent losing them to flowering
or drought. I used half in smoothies and the other half returned home.

Want to get started now? Some tips from the guide mentioned above: wherever possible, ingredients should be fresh, local, ripe, and organic; and rotate your greens (change it up now and then to ensure nutritional diversity). A tip of my own: frozen fruits can be great for convenience - fresh is better, but frozen is a good compromise, adds a great texture, and is refreshing in summer, I usually combine fresh and frozen fruit.

Here's a basic recipe:
1.5-2 cups packed greens (start with green or romaine lettuce or spinach)
1-2 cups water
2-4 cups fruit (try mango, strawberry, apple, banana, peach, etc.)

Before - romaine lettuce, frozen mangoes,
frozen strawberries, and water


* I learned first hand last week how awful a green smoothie can be if made in a blender with dull blades. The greens and fruit skins remain in big chunks and the result is chewy - yech! Boutenko heartily recommends the Vita-mix blender, but at over $400, it's a little out of my price range at the moment. It could be a future family Christmas present. Instead I settled for a 16-speed Oster and have learned a few tricks to preserve the motor and blades: blend the water and greens first, then add the fruit which should be chopped or in small chunks, frozen fruit should be added gradually. If you get big chunks when mixing, blame your appliance, not the smoothie!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Paralysed by choice or lack thereof

Some have commented on my blogging hiatus, to give a proper answer, I decided, I needed to post.

When last I wrote, we had begun a journey into flexitarianism. All was going well at first. I was all aglow in optimism. As our family life became busier with school, work, and other commitments, my excitement started to fade. Without copious amounts of time to experiment, I found I was at a loss about what to prepare. Meals became very boring and lots of pasta and pizza were served.

My advice, now that I'm looking back: don't jump headlong into a new eating plan without... a plan. I didn't have enough quick and easy meals under my belt and I didn't have a meal plan. Although my husband is happy to ride along with me on this journey, he's mostly following my lead. Left to his own devices, he resorted to what he knew how to make: meals centered around meat.

As I explained to a friend today, I love cooking and have a large repertoire of recipes that I both enjoy making and are delicious. By removing meat from our diet, I essentially cut many of those out. I think part of my problem is that I was mourning  this loss. The other is that I had yet to build a new repertoire and was left both with little choice and too much choice.

A little confession here (no surprise to those that know me well): I'm competitive. I find I strive for more when those around me have similar goals. If they can do it, so can I! Well, a few of my friends are now changing their family's eating habits and pursuing vegetarianism. Enter my renewed enthusiasm! I also have others to share with and that is enormously important to me.

So what does my blogging future hold? Some book reviews (currently reading "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman), updates on this year's garden, and some green products I can't live without.

Now I'm off to the kitchen to make Golden Quinoa Salad with Mango and Walnuts. (I've updated the recipe with a much easier way to cook the quinoa.) This will be in our fridge for the next few days as a wonderful lunchtime go-to. For dinner, I'll be attempting Bittman's Rosotto with Vegetables and Herbs. For dessert, likely a green smoothie. We'll also try a "raw ball" (see photo below) courtesy of "The Kind Diet" by Alicia Silverstone and suggested to me by an aforementioned friend. I'll keep you posted!

 Do you have a favourite easy, meatless recipe? Please share!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Vegetarian Lessons

It seems that lately all I think about is food. I admit I'm a little compulsive since declaring us a flexitarian family. At lunch yesterday, I realised I had an overwhelming choice of delicious options in my kitchen - leftover butternut squash lasagna*, vegetable samosas, split pea soup, masala hummus (thank you Julie for introducing me to this!), green smoothie, etc. I chose a samosa, some sweet potato fries (my 2yo's choice), followed by a green smoothie. Learning to eat vegetarian is an adventure! Bonus: in over a week, I've started to look at vegetables differently.
Strawberry banana green smoothie

For example, DH and I had ordered  vegetarian versions of our fave Thai meals (me: coconut curry, DH: pad thai). When looking at the leftovers the following day, he asked, "are you going to finish your curry, or is it all vegetables?" I laughed and said, "it's all vegetables and yes!" In the past, I would have eaten some of the veggies, but focused on the chicken. This time, everything (except for the huge chunks of onion) had an equal chance of being eaten and enjoyed. We loved our vegetarian dishes, perhaps even more than the chicken versions. I was very happily surprised by that.

Valentine's Day was Monday and I learned a few things...
  1. I already can't consume as much sugar as I used to without feeling pretty sick. (I also am convinced that the eczema on my hands is linked to refined sugar, since it starts to burn after I eat something sweet.)
  2. My craving for sweets is more psychological than physical. My body doesn't want the sweets now, my brain does. I'm working on changing that.
  3. Missing my green smoothie - which I did that day because of all the food being consumed - causes me to feel not only guilty, but also incomplete.
  4. My husband is wonderful. (Okay, to be fair, that one I knew already.) He came home with dinner - something he never does unannounced - vegetable samosas, Indian split pea soup, 6 california rolls, hemp hermit cookies, and some incredible Green & Black's Carmel chocolate. He wanted to show his support for how hard I've been working to get our family eating better. I was in tears.
And the quinoa obsession continues... We've made two cookie recipes from Quinoa 365: Healthy Cookies and Oatmeal Raisin cookies. Here are some of the ingredients for Healthy Cookies:
Dry ingredients: whole wheat flour, sunflower seeds, rolled oats, flax seeds, coconut
Cooked quinoa
Before baking
Yummy Healthy Cookies
Everyone who has tried these cookies, young and old, loves them. They're not too sweet (1 1/4 cups brown sugar for 56 cookies) and are full of good things.

When I made the Oatmeal Raisin cookies, I had only a 1/2 cup raisins and so I used chopped medjool dates to make up the other cup. These are also really tasty and I prefer the dates - which are a new experience for me - to the raisins. Dates are very sweet, however, and next time I'll reduce the sugar to compensate. These cookies are gluten free as they use quinoa flour.

I've been doing some homework to make sure I'm covering my nutritional bases and to get some suggestions for a veggie newbie. I'm currently picking my way through the Vegetarian Starter Kit from Vegetarian Times. While I don't agree with everything (I'm not convinced of the safety of consuming non-fermented soy products, i.e. soymilk), here are some things that stand out for me:
  • eating a variety of plant protein sources over an entire as a way of getting a "complete protein" rather than focusing on having it in each meal (the older way of thinking)
  • better to focus on dairy-free sources of calcium and limit animal protein, a high intake of which encourages calcium loss from bones
  • there is a link between type 1 (juvenile) diabetes and milk protein allergy
  • using sliken tofu instead of sour cream in dips - can't wait to try this
 One of the best things to happen this week: I think drinking green smoothies prevented K (2yo) and I from getting F's stomach flu. Hurray!

Are you eating meat less or even never? Please share any lessons, tips, resources, or recipes you find helpful.

* I modified the linked recipe by using a combo of butternut squash and pumpkin that I had frozen and then mixing in some cooked quinoa. If you choose to do this, I'd say cook up about 1/2 cup dried quinoa and reduce the squash to 3 cups, otherwise it won't all fit in the baking dish (as I found out). I also used spinach lasagna noodles to give the meal some colour.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Green Smoothies

About a year and a bit ago, I was "inspired" to try making green smoothies.  I'd read a post about The Wonder of Green Smoothies. However, my fear both of drinking one and of making my little breastfeeding guy gassy prevented me. Today, my no-longer-breastfeeding guy and I made one.

This is what went in:

6 -8 leave romaine lettuce
2 cups water
3 cups chopped mango (I used thawed frozen mango)
juice from 1/2 lemon

I gave away my blender about a year and a half ago, so I mixed it using my immersion blender. The result was this:

A pretty vibrant green. My 2-year-old son K was watching the whole process and when I would give a taste before adding more mango, he'd ask for a taste. When I poured my (litre) glass:

he asked for one too:

And he had seconds, saying "I luh-uh-uh-uv juice!" Fingers crossed that what the author of Green for Life, Victoria Boutenko, says is true. She claims that the reason many of us (K and I included) suffer from indigestion, bloating, heartburn, etc. from greens is because we don't chew them enough to sufficiently break them down for digestion. When the greens are macerated in a blender, we apparently won't have that problem. I sure hope so. When he was still breastfeeding, K used to wake in the night screaming in pain if I ate a salad during the day. I eventually gave up eating greens, because I couldn't stand the guilt (and the night-waking).

Boutenko claims that all sorts of good can come from drinking green smoothies. She has testimonials from people who have had their warts, eczema, and asthma clear up. Drinkers have more energy, have lost significant amounts of weight, and cravings for junk food and sweets disappear. Further, Boutenko describes a walk in the woods where she found herself craving the greens growing along the edge of the trail! K currently has a cold and was feeling pretty rotten before making the smoothie. After drinking his two helpings, he was in much better spirits, his runny nose slowed, and he stopped coughing. He started playing and laughing again. Whatever the reason, I saw a big improvement in him.

But what did my green smoothie taste like? Pretty good. I found drinking it was strangely compelling. Despite the fact that I was looking to consume almost a litre of lettuce juice (remember, I don't particularly like vegetables), I had no problem getting it down. I'll be fiddling a bit with the ingredients to keep it interesting. My goal is to drink one a day for a week and see how it goes. I'll keep you posted. I may be growing a lot of lettuce this summer!