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’.

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!

A Kale Smoothie Kind of Easter

Wow.  We’ve had a whirlwind for the last couple of days what with visiting family, trying new recipes, and preparing for Easter.  We’ve had a wonderful time (as we always do when Big Sis is in town) and once again, we’ve learned a few things…

LESSON ONE: BLUEBERRIES WORK
Blueberry EggsBig Sis and I (and our respective spouses and offspring) descended on our parents yesterday, having previously hatched up (har, har) a plan to dye Easter eggs as a group. Having discovered that Paas (and everybody else) includes food colorings that we find objectionable for contact with food, we decided to try some natural dyes. We also decided(some wisdom here) to bring crayons and stickers in the event that things didn’t go according to plan… We tried several recommended options, including beets, turmeric, paprika, spinach, green tea, something else I can’t remember (“brown”), and blueberry. Remember how I said I don’t always follow ALL of the directions? Well, apparently if I’d read ALL of them (or more than one post about them), I’d have discovered that MOST natural dyes perform best when you boil the eggs WITH the food. Oh… Blueberry, apparently, is an exception to this rule. So we had a wonderful time coloring, stickering, and dying fabulously purple eggs.

LESSON TWO: A SOLID FOUNDATION RULES THE DAY

I’ve been dreading this day a bit, because of the whole sugar extravaganza.  We had a lovely dinner with my parents last night that included delicious deserts that all four of us consumed with great vigor.  It’s possible that I overdid it…  And so when I woke up this morning, the last thing I wanted was to eat candy, to see candy, to provide my children with candy, or to argue about candy.  I did give them a little in their Easter baskets, but none of the consequences that I feared came to pass.  It was absolutely no surprise to them that they would have to wait until after breakfast to have any.  It was no surprise after breakfast that they would be limited to one small item.  They have asked a couple of more times and we’ve let them work through a few Jordan almonds, but there has been no drama, no whining or complaining, and the sugar amounts have been small enough that there’s not even been an obvious sugar freakout.  I am so delighted that I can provide them with a “treat” and have it incorporated into our family’s rules about food so seamlessly.  I guess all of the earlier conversations are paying off.  Hallelujah indeed.

LESSON THREE: A KALE SMOOTHIE HELPS JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING

So I mentioned that I overindulged a bit yesterday and as happens during holiday weekends, I felt a bit done with the food celebration before we got to the actual event.  So this morning after the children found all of their bits, I went out to the kale patch and harvested the last of what last season’s still living plants had to offer.  Stuffed it into a blender with a whole bunch of other bits and served it with the hard boiled eggs that tradition commanded and some toast.  I had a small amount of the egg salad (because my husband makes KILLER egg salad), but drank down a huge glass of that kale smoothie, and my oh my but I felt better after that. The “recipe” below is fairly approximate as in my haste to complete the task before the wheels came off the children’s respective carts, I got a little loosy-goosey with the measuring.  Adjust to your and your own crew’s preferences.

FOOD HANGOVER KALE SMOOTHIE

  • 2 Tbs chia seeds*
  • 1.5c water
  • 2-3c fresh kale
  • 2 frozen and 1 fresh banana
  • most of a can of pineapple and some of the juice
  • handful of frozen cherries
  • 2 handfuls of fresh blueberries
  • 1c cold water
  • handful of ice cubes

Place the chia seeds in a bowl or glass with 1.5c water and set aside.  Place all other indredients in blender.  You may have more luck adding the items as you blend, depending on your blender.  When you’ve finished assembling other ingredients, check chia seeds.  They should seem a little jelly-like; if it’s not, give it a few more minutes.  Blend like mad and adjust ingredients to your preferences.  My crew LOVED this one.  I’m pretty sure we were close to the 3 cups of kale and the cherries added enough sweet and color to keep that reality from my children altogether.  This made EXTREMELY generous portions for four very willing consumers.  Delish.

There you have it folks, Easter traditions done (our way), important lessons learned, and glorious weather enjoyed with family members who are also great friends.  Perfect.

* A Note About Chia Seeds.  Yes, these are THE chia seeds.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about you may well have been born sometime after the 1980’s; the rest of us are busy hearing a jingle in our heads.  “Ch,ch,ch chia pet.”  Yes.  Same chia.  The seeds are highly nutritious and can add body to other foods if mixed with liquid and allowed to sit.  I’ve used them here to increase the nutritional punch and to give the smoothie more, well, smoothie feeling, thickness, without resorting to either adding protein powder or using so much frozen fruit that my Vitamix gets ticked off at me.  I get mine in bulk at my local food co-op and I have also seen them in my local Wegman’s.