To Juice or Not to Juice

That is not THE question, but it is ‘A’ question.

One that I’ve struggled with for several reasons.

1) It’s yet another gadget to buy that sits on the counter and must be cleaned after use

2) It’s expensive to buy the gadget and the requisite pile of fresh fruits and veggies required to produce the Juice.

3) Isn’t it better to get the nutrients from the whole plant rather than just the juice?
Honestly, we have never been fruit juice drinkers perhaps due in part to the gallons of nasty frozen concentrated orange juice forced on me as a child.  (I know most people like OJ – I never really did).   Perhaps the orange juice tasted so bitter to me because I had placed 3 Tablespoons (an approximation) of sugar on my cold cereal and so ANYthing tasted bitter.  At any rate, fruit juice in my adult household has been used as an occasional treat or purely as a source of calories and taste when someone can’t keep any solid food down.  It seemed to me that smoothies made much more nutritional sense as they deliver the benefit of the whole plant.

So why am I now juicing?

Several things have changed my mind on this point but due to my stubborn-ness, or my increasingly inflexible knees that only allow me to bend so far… I found a compromise in the juicing that helped resolve objection #3.

The first thing that changed my mind was the film “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.”  This is a charming film that portrays the power of vegetable nutrition to change health in a big way.  The center of the film is a man who is not only overweight but struggles with an autoimmune skin disorder.  We’ve got skin stuff goin’ on in this house, so I was interested that he stopped suffering from this problem after changing his diet so dramatically, including juicing.

The second thing was that since we have been juicing I don’t need as much sleep and my skin looks brighter.

The third thing that happened was the realization that my vitamins may not be all they’re cracked up to be.  I mean, I read labels on everything else I buy but my tendency when purchasing supplements has been to read the nutritional content but not the source.  I had some chosen brands that I trusted to ‘do the right thing’ – will I never learn?  See post on Breyer’s frozen dairy dessert and decide that apparently it will take me a long time to learn!!   I want food not chemicals.  So shouldn’t I want food-based vitamins and not chemicals as well?

So in not reading or investigating the actual ingredients in my vitamins I have been consuming things that are probably better not consumed.  This is the article that got me feeling stupid about not reading the labels.  Now to be fair, I don’t know how good the science is behind their claims but they make too much sense for me to ignore.  When it comes to food I like to say, “If it wasn’t grown, raised and/or harvested from clean, natural conditions….  Don’t eat it!”  The same should go for my vitamins.  And do I really need vitamins if I am juicing?  (Still working on that but certainly I don’t need TOXIC vitamins.)

So enough about why I have begun… here’s my knee-saving compromise.

I juice and then use the juice to combine with some kale or spinach and berries and a little banana and make a powerful smoothie.  Jam packin’ the nutrients in there Baby!  You got your nutrient dense juice and you got your fiber-rich smoothie with even more nutrients.  Never thought I wanted to be dense (see above article about Breyer’s again), but in this case dense is great.

Here’s this morning’s pile of produce:

P1000698  There’s a lot of vitamins in that pile.   Have to throw in one apple to ease the bitter for my son.  He still doesn’t like the juice, but hey – health doesn’t always taste good goin’ down.

So, since my son prefers his juice naked – no extra kale.  I pour his glass off:

P1000702 Kapow!  One beet with greens is a whole lot of color going on.

Then I put 2 large handfuls of kale, some berries and 1 frozen banana in the blender.  Add the rest of the juice…

P1000700

P1000705And blend it into a powerful purple purveyor of plenitude.  Abbondanza!  Future supplements will be plant based – and most of them will be pourable as well.

P1000706

Most people juice tons of greens and I am looking forward to having lots of swiss chard from the garden to boost the amount of greens in the juice.  Guess that’ll combine with beets to make brown juice.  I will have to start working on alliterations with the letter ‘B’.

Oh Those Tasty Sneaky Greens

As Little Sis so eloquently pointed out in “It’s Not You, It’s Them”, just because it’s in the grocery store, doesn’t make it safe to eat.  The safest foods in the grocery store are the whole, unprocessed foods: fruits and vegetables!  And of course it is an age old battle to get children to eat more vegetables.  Our culture’s diet is not based on fruits and vegetables, it’s based on bread and meat and potatoes and meat and lots and lots of sugar.

Although the popular notion that children have different taste buds or stronger taste buds than adults is difficult to tease out scientifically, due to many other factors affecting perceptions of taste, children do seem to have a higher density of ‘sweet’ taste receptors which is offset when puberty increases the ability to differentiate between tastes and the preference for sweet declines.

There’s no denying most children love sweet and most seem to like bland.  Maybe that’s because they can’t differentiate and so complex flavors seem strong.  But let’s get back to the basic problem.  How to get more vegetables into your children, and into you and your adults as well?!  We adults also exist in this culture and have also been inundated with bread, sugar, meat, sugar, potatoes, sugar, meat, and sugar as well!  I am not looking to engage people in a discussion about the relative merits of meat here, but it’s simple math.  If your plate is full of bread and meat – where are the vegetables?  Vegetables are key to good health!

We have lots of vegetable based recipes on board here, but I wanted to share a vegetable-increasing-money-saving-technique especially for the vegetable impaired. Continue reading

Summer Joys

It has long been my belief that a successful healthy eating plan will create a sense of abundance, a feeling of wellness, and will involve joyful eating experiences.  Yeah, right, all the time?  Nobody who has the dubious pleasure of cooking for others regularly can seriously think that ANY dietary choice will create familial nirvana.  I have found that there are some items that do, in fact, hit it out of the park every time…..  Care to guess?

Yes, okay, it’s a dessert, but it’s not just any dessert.  The desserts that score the biggest points around here are those that are the most celebratory and those that are easily associated with good times.  So cake is always good, as it is quite celebratory, but personally, when I think July, I don’t think cake.  Enter the popsicle.  Honestly, what could be more fun than a popsicle?  I’ll tell you what can be more fun than a popsicle….  making your own popsicles from healthful ingredients and watching your children eat them with their friends.  That is MORE fun than your average popsicle.  So when I saw the BPA-free popsicle molds, I heard my daughter’s voice in my head waxing rhapsodic over the high fructose corn syrup ice pop she was given at gymnastics; I promptly set aside my no plastic rule and bought those puppies.

Our first popsicles are the second offering in my Sneaking It In series: Brave Popsicles.  I’m pretty sure you are all aware of how to make popsicles.  Most of you have probably done it at some point, and if you have paper cups and some wooden sticks, you don’t even need any fancy pants molds.  I had also made dixie cup pops as a kid, but somehow while making these incredibly healthful produce concoctions, it never occurred to me that a green smoothie would make a GREAT popsicle base.  Duh.  I corralled my assistants and we promptly began stuffing the blender full of kale (about 2.5 cups packed), 3 large frozen bananas, about 1.5 c frozen blueberries, some fresh pineapple that was on its last legs (probably a cup), a little juice leftover from another recipe,  and about (very approximately) 2 cups of almond milk.  Just as I was about to flip the switch, my boy said: “Mom, we should add some sea veggies.”  I got the spirulina jar and giggled as I put a couple of teaspoons in.  Blasted away in the blender until I couldn’t stand the noise anymore.  Not very appealing looking, but a popsicle is a popsicle, right?

My assistant held the mold as I filled it.  We lined them up as we finished and then carefully put them in the freezer so we could share them with little friends scheduled to come over later in the afternoon.  Our guests arrived.  Adults made fresh pasta and sauce while children (and a few adults) participated in an epic water gun battle in the back yard.  Sprinkler, every kind of squirt gun imaginable, water balloons and a whole lot of fun.  11 of us sat down to a wonderful pasta feast and then the kids broke into their Brave Popsicles.  My children were enthusiastic in spite of the color and the clear lack of intense sweetness.  Our guests were reluctant, but eventually dug in and let’s just say all of the popsicle sticks were licked clean.  Success.  Kale in a popsicle.  Sometimes I crack myself up.

Today we attempt to create a facsimile of my favorite summertime treat – the fudgsicle.  After the prior success, I followed the same formula – made a banana based soft serve that we have enjoyed on its own as a dessert and simply scooped it into the molds.  Tonight after our fourth of July feast (which will hopefully include homemade baked beans – at the moment they look like soup in the crock pot), we shall sample our wares and I’m confident they will be delish.  Then, severe storms permitting, we may catch some fireworks.

I don’t know about you, but there is something about simple pleasures in summer that feels especially wholesome and satisfying.  Something so glorious about sharing a treat with friends and family in the oppressive heat, something so freeing about running through a sprinkler with a five year old.  I don’t know how you will spend your Independence Day, but I think I’m going to go stir the beans, whip up some corn bread, check on the freeze factor of our fudgsicles, and then turn on that sprinkler.

Smoothie Recipes:
5 Year Olds Love Kale Smoothie
Tropical Sneak It In Smoothie
Food Hangover Kale Smoothie
Green Smoothie

Soft Serve:
Choco Nana Milkshake – I added one banana and left the chia seeds out on this go round.

Home Again, Home Again

A total of 12 and a half hours in the car yesterday and we reached home sweet home at about 10:30 at night.  As lovely as our trip was, it is always nice to come home…  at least until you look at your seedlings…  Note to self: when recruiting assistance for seedling care, be sure to specify that you need help watering seedlings INSIDE not just those OUTSIDE of the house.  Mass tomato, lettuce, parley and cauliflower suicide here in central Maryland.  Why, oh why didn’t I set up my seedlings the way Big Sis recommended in an earlier post?  I just flat ran out of time.  Poo.  Between the drive and the vegetable massacre in the living room, I have to confess the zen that I had achieved (okay, for me, my own kind of spastic zen) during our visits in North Carolina and Tennessee took a bit of a beating.  My kind husband poured me a glass of wine and together we sipped and left the rumble of the road behind us.

Now, in the still of the afternoon, having begun to wash the copious laundry that results from these kinds of trips, and having returned to our “normal” life, I’ve had a moment to reflect on our trip and all that I learned.

1) If you want raw oatmeal, all you have to do is ask.  It dawned on me rather late in our Asheville stay that any establishment that serves oatmeal could likely provide me with the elements required for me to make a yummy big bowl breakfast, and that most of them would be more than happy to charge me for breakfast without having to actually cook me anything.  This really is a more generalizable lesson for me as I tend to fail to ask for things that I want, but let’s not get bogged down with my inner workings, shall we?

2) Reinforcement from other adults can make an overtired Real Food Mom’s life so much nicer.  Big Sis revealed that she was able to get my little angel to eat.  (As a side note, she really can be delightful, just not so often at the table.)  While I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I found it a little annoying that my daughter so readily consumed her food for my sister, I was delighted that someone else took on the task a few times and that there is now evidence that mealtimes CAN be easier.  My attitude can use some work – Big Sis has this relentlessly positive thing going that I could try on more effectively from time to time.  It was nice, too to have the reinforcement of watching another family eat the way we eat.  The assurance that it is indeed well-worth the effort (and the run-ins with my daughter) to continue on this path.  In order to best take advantage of Big Sis’s kale smoothie deception of two days ago, I prepared a less deceptive kale smoothie when mine returned from pre-K today.  They related the tale of the tricky green smoothie to their grandmother with much delight, and we all gulped down some kale smoothie goodness together.

5 YEAR OLDS LOVE KALE SMOOTHIE

  • about 2 cups of kale leaves
  • 2 bananas
  • about 1 peach worth of frozen peaches
  • fistful of frozen cherries
  • enough unsweetened almond milk to achieve blending

Mix in blender until desired texture is achieved.  Add ice cubes if your team prefers a more frozen style smoothie.  The cherries make it a bit brown rather than green, although when blending there was a moment when the top half inch was still pure green and it was deep pink below.  I was tempted to stop and serve it right then, and next time I may do that very thing.

3) Sometimes the only thing to do is to pull inside of your shell and roll with it…

This fellow was alongside a walking path we explored whilst touring about with Big Sis and fabulous nephew. He tolerated our presence for a surprisingly long time. When he’d had enough, he moved to the edge of the retaining wall…


We all watched, coaching him as a group: “No, don’t go to close to the edge.” “Don’t jump.” “WHAT is he doing?!” He reached the very edge, pulled in all of his bits, rocked the shell a bit and down he went. Tush over tea kettle and into the brush below. We were a little horrified. I was afraid he’d been hurt and that we had driven him to his end. We watched for a moment, and once we found him in the brush, we saw that he was, in fact, just fine. He moved on his merry way.


And so did we.

The Overt and Covert Nutrifying of Little People

I have so enjoyed the feel of little tiny hands in mine as we cross the street or step into the creek.  And my11 year old seemed to be influenced by the little ones to allow more physical contact than is generally deemed ‘cool.’

We also had some lovely food moments and learned / re-learned a couple of lessons about getting kids to eat what you want them to eat.

Children will often be more adventurous or willing with non-parental adults.  Little Sis’ daughter is quite picky but ate with much less fuss and whining when Little sis was not around and so I was directing the oral traffic.  The change in her behavior was a matter of degree and nothing to do with tactics or skills, she just didn’t push the envelope so far with the non-Mommy, especially when Mommy was not around for her to needle.

And of course little white lies are a wonderful thing.  I made a smoothie of
2 cups squashed down kale
1 mango
2 & 1/2 frozen bananas
about 1/2 cup fresh pineapple
and enough unsweetened almond milk to make it go.
Then I told the little people it was green because it was a ‘green mango smoothie.’  I even had a green-ish mango in the fruit bowl to demonstrate the green.  After they had declared the smoothie delicious and were well past halfway, I allowed my 11 year old to let them in on the other contributor of  ‘green=ness’.  They continued drinking and professed delight in the concept despite having fussed previously over green smoothies that were too green in color.  Ah yes, the things an aunt can get away with.

We have had similar experiences with my son seeming to be more flexible, reasonable and cheerful with other adults.  In fact Bro-in-Law helped with some ‘Tude problems during the visit!  Thanks!

And I’m going to take this opportunity to shamelessly self-promote (although it’s free, so maybe that’s okay) a couple of songs from a CD I’m working on of health songs for kids.  Having 5 year olds around and an upcoming performance at a festival on a Blackberry Farm has re-invigorated the project.  I thought the songs might be of use to you, or to folks you know who are trying to indoctrinate little people to eat Real Food.

Here are links to a couple of songs.

Real Food

Built for Motion

Hope they are fun and useful to some little people in your lives.  They’re gonna need all the help we can give to learn about Real Food and health.  It takes a healthy village….

Please let us know if you have any other ideas about teaching kids good eating habits!

My Green Smoothie Heaven

There is nothing like a smoothie…. nothing in the world.
There is nothing you can loothie…groovy… movie….  never mind.
I love smoothies, but my boys (young and old), at some point politely requested that smoothies not be green but be pretty colors from things like strawberries, blueberries and pineapple.

Well have I got a recipe for you!  A kale smoothie!  Go ahead and groan, but you’re gonna love it.  Here is the original recipe that I got from Snack Girl’s website:
Green Smoothie Recipe
(1 serving)
1 cup frozen mixed berries
1 cup kale
1/2 banana
1 cup water
Tear kale leaves off of stems and tear into small shapes. Put berries, kale, 1/2 banana, and water into a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!
132 calories, 1.1 g fat, 31.2 g carbohydrates, 3.8 g protein, 5.8 g fiber, 31 mg sodium, 0 PointsPlus

The first time I doubled the recipe – and I probably packed the kale down a little harder than was the intention – as I am at times an overachiever.  I used only blueberries as that is what I had.  The boys stated, “Pretty good.  You can still taste the kale, but it’s okay.”  They drank it.

Next attempt I did not pack the kale so tightly, I used frozen strawberries and I threw in 6 oz. of homemade vanilla yogurt (I told you I was an overachiever!) which has 1 teaspoon (or 4.5 grams) of sugar in it.  The boys loved it, even though strawberry does not mask the green color of the kale as well as does blueberry.  (By the way, most commercial vanilla yogurt has 4 to 6 times that amount of sugar in it.  Yikes!)

Third attempt – out of berries, what to do?  Gotta have my raw kale fix!  Canned pineapple, kale, frozen banana and again the vanilla yogurt… Another hit.  And I gotta tell you, you CAN taste the kale but it’s like a fresh edge around the fruit flavor that tastes clean and right… It tastes like it’s good for you.  And soon my forearms will start popping out like Popeye’s right?  No wait that’s spinach….  Maybe I can start slipping some of that in as well ; )