The Nutty Nana Green Smoothie

The Nutty Nana

As I was making my breakfast smoothie this morning, I was craving peanut butter and bananas. I tend to go on a throw-in fest when it comes to my breakfast smoothies, as it seems like such an opportune time to cram some nutrition into my body. But today, I stuck to my inspiration, and The Nutty Nana was born.

The Nutty Nana Green Smoothie

The Nutty Nana Green Smoothie

The Nutty Nana Smoothie

by Shelly

Prep Time: 5 mins

Ingredients (1-2 servings)

  • 1 C non-dairy milk (such as almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, or soymilk)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 5 strawberries, hulled
  • 1/4 C mixed nuts
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter or powdered peanut butter (such as PB2)
  • 2 Tbsp hemp protein powder or other unflavored protein powder
  • 2 C fresh baby spinach
  • 2 Tsp green powder (such as Veggie Magma), optional
  • 4 ice cubes

Instructions

Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender (such as the Vitamix) and blend on high for 30 seconds.

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Soymilk, banana, and Kitchen Sink nut butter smoothie

Smoothie Construction

The addition of a Vitamix to my household has definitely changed my breakfast habits for the better. Dare I say, the Vitamix has become a full fledged member of the family? I do.

For those unfamiliar with the Vitamix, it’s a high-powered blender (and by high-powered, I mean, it boasts a 2 horsepower motor). I argued with myself for years that it couldn’t be much different from a regular blender. I was wrong. Every Vitamix owner I’ve ever encountered will tell you that it’s unlike any other blender on the market. It doesn’t just “blend.” It can completely liquify everything I’ve ever thrown in it – entire apples, nuts, seeds, you name it. No chunks. No bits. Smooth, luscious liquid, ready for slurping with a straw.

I’ve got the Vitamix 5200 model, which I bought as a package at my local Costco. They don’t always carry it – but when they do, it’s a rare chance to get sub-retail pricing. These things don’t go “on sale.” Yes, $500 is a lot to spend on a blender, but like I said – it’s so much more than a blender. It has replaced my old blender, my food processor, AND my juicer. Heck, it even kneads dough (but I love my bread machine too much to give it up!)

For the first few weeks of Vitamix ownership, I relied on recipes to make my morning smoothies. As time went on, though, I came up with a blueprint for smoothie-building that I now use every day. I drink smoothies for 2 reasons:

1) They’re fast and portable. (Breakfast while driving to work, anyone?!)

2) They’re a delicious way for me to sneak in nutrition from foods I don’t like to eat. (Sneaky sneaky!)

If you’ve thought about incorporating smoothies into your daily routine, I highly recommend it! While any blender can make a smoothie, less powerful blenders will not be able to liquify all of the ingredients I recommend (which can result in clumps or chunks of food in your smoothie). No harm, no foul, though – don’t let that stop you from trying if you haven’t invested in a high-powered blender yet!

My smoothie blueprint has a few components. To build a perfect smoothie, blend up one or two items from each category and, voila! For best blending results, add liquids and heavy solids first, then powders, then greens. This gives the most intense blending to those heavier foods, and allows you to use the tamper to push the lighter powders and greens down into the mix as things get going. Also, be sure that you have one frozen component in your mix. If you aren’t using frozen fruit or another frozen item, just add 4 or 5 ice cubes on top. This prevents the smoothie from warming due to the high power of the blender. Blend for 30 seconds on high power, or until everything looks smooth. Adjust the amount of liquid to your consistency preferences; I tend to always start with 1C liquid, and if it looks a little too thick, I just add a few tablespoons of water as it is blending.

Components (choose 1 or more from each category – makes 1 large 32oz serving or 2 small 16oz servings):

Liquid Base (1 cup): milk (dairy or non-dairy) such as soymilk, almond milk, or hemp milk, coconut water, tart cherry juice, other fruit juice, water, etc. Or, mix and match (I like to do 3/4C milk and 1/4C tart cherry juice).

Fruit & Veg Base: 1 ripe banana and 1 carrot

Protein: 1/4 cup powder (such as Vega, hemp protein powder, soy protein powder, whey protein powder, etc), or 1/2 block silken tofu

Green Powder (1 tsp): spirulina or Veggie Magma

Healthy fat (1 tbsp): peanut butter, almond butter, hazelnut butter, or powdered peanut butter (such as PB2), or 1/2 of an avocado

Nuts & Seeds (handful): mixed nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds

Fruits (1 cup): fresh or frozen strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, apple, pear, kiwi, peach, plum, melon, etc.

Greens (1-2 handfuls): raw baby spinach, chard, kale, collards, or other leafy greens

Sweetener (optional): 1-2 pitted dates or 1 tsp agave nectar

In most cases, I do not use additional sweetener. If my banana is not quite ripe, I’ll add a couple dates to the mix, but otherwise, there tends to be plenty of sweetness from the fruit. Some stronger greens like chard or collards may benefit from a little bit more sweetness to offset the bitter flavor.

I try to mix up my choices from each category. If I used a canister of hemp protein powder this month, then next month I’ll use a rice protein powder. If I used kale as my main green this week, I’ll use spinach next week and chard the week after that. If I used pumpkin seeds this month, I’ll use sunflower seeds next month. I try to limit my use of soymilk, since I eat tofu once or twice a week and don’t want to overdo it on the soy. (Unsweetened vanilla almond milk is my current favorite liquid base, as it’s low calorie and delicious. I don’t mind its low protein count because I add protein powder to my smoothies).

If I’m going for a flavor theme, I might skip a category, but for my usual breakfast smoothie, I try to hit all of the bases for nutrition purposes. I also try to pair up things that nutritionally work well together. For example, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are good sources of iron, and Vitamin C helps with iron absorption – so I try to mix high-C fruits with pumpkin seeds.

Avocados and silken tofu add the most wonderful creamy texture to a smoothie. Try one or the other and see for yourself!

I usually have my smoothies for breakfast, though sometimes have them for lunch instead. I’ll also whip up a smoothie as a late-afternoon snack if I’m feeling tired. I experience a noticeable dip in my energy levels if I go 2 or 3 days without a smoothie. It’s such an easy way to pack in nutrition! I do take a multivitamin a few days per week, but I prefer to get as much nutrition as possible from real food. I’m not a whole-foods saint, but smoothies improve my chances quite a bit.

Lastly, when it comes to choosing produce, I try to go for organic produce for anything I would eat the skins of. So, I do not buy organic bananas or avocados most of the time, but I do buy organic greens, carrots, berries, apples, etc.

And there you have it! My smoothie blueprint! What are your favorite smoothie combos?

Organic Red Chard

Nuts Over My Chard

Is it weird to drink a new veggie before ever eating it?

I tried out a beautiful leaf of organic red chard today. I’ve never eaten chard before, but at the time of this photo, I was about to drink it!

Organic Red Chard

Organic Red Chard, about to go into the Vitamix

This turned out to be an excellent smoothie! It was light and nutty and didn’t taste green at all. I don’t mind green-tasting smoothies, but I’m also glad to whip up a few concoctions that don’t taste green. It didn’t look green, either.

Nutty Chard Green Smoothie

Nutty Chard Green Smoothie (that doesn’t look green)

The one big leaf equals a little over 1 cup of greens, which is about what I use in my single servings. It worked out well!

This makes about 1 quart total – 432 calories in one large serving, or 216 if you split it with a friend. You can swap the nuts for any variety you like – I’ve used walnuts, cashews, and even 1 scoop of PB2 in place of the nuts. It’s delicious every which way. (Different nuts or PB2 will affect the nutrition content – this info was generated based on walnuts). Full nutrition info follows the recipe.

Enjoy!

Nutty Chard Green Smoothie

by Shelly Hokanson

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 0 minutes

Ingredients (1-2 servings)

  • 1 cup vanilla soymilk or other non-dairy milk
  • 1 leaf swiss chard (approximately 1 cup, packed)
  • 3 slices pineapple, round
  • 5 medium strawberries, hulled
  • 1/4 cup walnuts or other nuts
  • 3 inch hunk of cucumber, peeled (about 1/4 of a medium cucumber)
  • 4-5 ice cubes

Instructions

Blend in a high powered blender or Vitamix until smooth, approximately 45 seconds.

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Lite Brite

What’s That, Johnny Appleseed?

Today’s lesson includes a trip down Cyanide Lane and concludes with a tasty smoothie concoction!

We’ve all heard that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Turns out, there’s something to that. WebMD lists medical uses of apples that include prevention of cancers (particularly lung cancer), treatment of cancer, diabetes, and heart problems, and more. Say what?!

I’ve tried for years to get myself to eat more apples. I like apples. I’m just not a big fan of eating apples. I’ve wasted countless bags of red delicious, golden delicious, granny smith, gala, and local varieties as they’ve gone bad before I could finish them. I successfully finished my first full bag of apples recently, thanks to my Breville Juice Fountain Plus. With my new toy in town (the Vitamix 5200!), I’m hoping to keep the apple streak alive.

The store demo of the Vitamix used a whole apple, but when it came time to make my own smoothies, I couldn’t help thinking there was something wrong with eating the apple seeds. Of course, initial Google searches would have me believe that I’ll die a slow, painful death if I even think about eating an apple seed. There is, however, some truth to the notion.

Apple seeds contain amygdaline, a cyanide and sugar compound that, when digested, forms hydrogen cyanide [source, source]. Consumed in small quantities, the body can detoxify the cyanide and it poses little to no risk. In larger quantities, though, it is lethal (just like in the old murder mysteries). Stories about tell tales that even a cup of apple seeds can kill a man. (Considering there are 4-6 seeds per apple, it would take a LOT of apples to kill a man!). Still, the risk is even higher if the seeds are chewed or pulverized (like the Vitamix would do!) rather than swallowed whole, as whole seeds are generally passed without being broken down – and the cyanide compound is inside the seed, beneath its hard shell.

As likely as it is that the seeds from an apple a day would not kill me, I’m not a big fan of the idea of ingesting toxins just because my body can and likely will detoxify them. It’s the same reason I prefer organics over conventional produce. While pesticides on produce won’t likely kill me in small quantities, I don’t see the point of making my body work to detoxify the chemicals in pesticides when I don’t have to. The work the body does to detoxify all of these chemicals in the foods we eat and the air we breathe increases inflammation, and chronic inflammation can aggravate the immune system. Studies are beginning to show that inflammation is one of the biggest contributors to a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease [source].

So, why eat apple seeds if I don’t have to? I’ll leave the gambling to the poker table and keep it off my kitchen table.

That is why I slice my apples and remove the seeds before throwing them into the Vitamix.

But nevermind the cyanide and killer toxins – we’ve got a smoothie to devour!

I call this one the “Lite Brite PB Smoothie” because it turns out a less-than-scary bright shade of green and tastes sweet and peanut buttery but not heavy. Put light and bright together, and you have the awesome light-coloring toy of my youth:

Lite Brite

Lite Brite – Source

Once upon a time, a band called the Dyslexic Apaches put a Lite Brite on stage at one of their shows to wish me a happy birthday. It’s one of my top 10 memories of all times.

I digress…

This is a delicious smoothie and packs a great nutritional punch for breakfast or a midday snack! The entire recipe clocks in at 462 calories (one large serving), or can be split into two 8-oz servings for 231 calories each. (Full nutrition info follows the recipe). You can substitute peanut butter for the PB2 powdered peanut butter, but that will increase the calories and fat content.

Let’s get to blending!

PB Lite Brite Green Smoothie

by Shelly Hokanson

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 0 minutes

Keywords: blender beverage breakfast vegetarian vegan gluten-free kale pb2 zucchini apple

Ingredients (1-2 servings)

  • 1 small apple, seeded
  • 1 banana, peeled
  • 2 dates, pitted
  • 1 large handful kale leaves
  • 1/4 of one zucchini, ends removed
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (soymilk, almond milk, coconut milk, etc)
  • 2 tbsp PB2 powdered peanut butter
  • 2 tsp spirulina or barley grass juice powder, optional
  • 1 cup ice

Instructions

Blend in a high powered blender or Vitamix for 45 seconds. Enjoy!

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Lite Brite PB Smoothie Nutrition

Lite Brite PB Smoothie Nutrition

Peanut Butter Green Smoothie

Peanut Butter Cups for Breakfast?!

Peanut butter cups for breakfast?!

Well, not quite – but it sure tastes like it!

I’m having a blast over here with my new Vitamix. It is the most amazing and awesome thing in my kitchen – maybe in my whole house! (It has a little competition from my 64″ Samsung plasma TV, but not much! That’s how awesome it is!)

I really think the best part is how easy clean-up is. It basically cleans itself, so I don’t feel any sort of dread at the thought of using it multiple times per day.

This morning, I concocted a smoothie that tastes like drinking peanut butter cups (and finally found a use for the 4 jars of PB2 I’ve got sitting in the pantry!) PB2 is powdered peanut butter by Bell Plantation. The ingredient list is simple: roasted peanuts, sugar, and salt. (Don’t be fooled, though – there’s very little sugar and salt, and I find I usually need a little bit more to make it taste like traditional peanut butter). It’s preservative free, contains nothing artificial, and has 85% less fat and calories than traditional peanut butter. I knew I’d figure out a way to use this stuff (since I love peanut butter but have a tendency to overdo it, which is not so good for the waistline).

With no added protein powders or anything of the sort, this smoothie packs 22g of protein! Most of the fat comes from the avocado (healthy fats!), and you’re rocking out some vitamins A, C, calcium, and iron. Great start to the day! 511 calories if you drink the whole thing (a large serving), or 255 if you share it with a friend.

Behold, the Peanut Butter Blaster Green Smoothie:

Peanut Butter Blaster Green Smoothie

by Shelly Hokanson

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Keywords: blender beverage smoothie vegetarian vegan pb2 spinach carrot avocado

Ingredients (1-2 servings)

  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla non-dairy milk (soy, almond, rice, hemp, etc)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 tbsp powdered peanut putter (such as PB2 by Bell Plantation)
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp spirulina (optional)
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 banana
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large handful spinach
  • 1/2 avocado (peeled, pit removed)
  • 1 cup ice

Instructions

Using a high-powered blender, blend on high for approximately 1 minute.

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PB Blaster Green Smoothie Nutrition

PB Blaster Green Smoothie Nutrition

Oh, Nuts

Ahh, the aroma of nuts roasting and maple syrup dancing a drizzly dance into every nutty nook and cranny…. that’s how I’ve always imagined making nut butter to be. I love nut butter. Peanut butter? Yum. Almond butter? Oh yeah. Sunflower butter? Sure. (OK, that’s not really a nut butter, but you get the drift). Around this time last year, I was enjoying a new batch of nut butters made by a couple of college kids from Oregon that started their own nut butter business – Wild Squirrel Nut Butter. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of making my own nut butters.

When OhSheGlows.com posted this Kitchen Sink Nut Butter recipe, I scanned my mental rolodex of pantry shelves and thought, “Hey! I’ve got all this stuff! It’s about time I took a crack at this!” I decided to try my hand at a small batch of homemade nut butter.

Alas, after changing into my cooking pajamas (yes, I have cooking pajamas), I discovered that actually, I did not have almonds on hand. (Blasphemy!) Too lazy to change back into real clothes, I made do with what I had: walnuts, pecans, cashews, and sunflower seeds.

The result:

Kitchen Sink Nut Butter

Kitchen Sink Nut Butter

I must say, considering my fairly horrendous ingredient substitutions, this actually turned out really tasty! I’ve eaten it smeared on apple chunks, and with a banana, and in this smoothie:

Soymilk, banana, and Kitchen Sink nut butter smoothie

Soymilk, banana, and Kitchen Sink nut butter smoothie

My friends: the smoothie was as delicious as it looks. A swirl of chocolate syrup and I might have died and gone to heaven.

I will definitely be making more nut butters at home. I love knowing exactly what’s in it, with no extra chemicals or junk. But now, I must dig out my sleeping pajamas and hit the hay. Finals week starts early tomorrow….

Acknowledging Stress

We all have those days… those weeks… those months. Heck, I recall having a couple of “those years” along the way – times when things just don’t seem to go your way, and you find yourself joined at the hip with the stress monster.

I’m currently on what I hope is the tail end of one of stress’s roller coaster rides. Eight months ago, I moved half way across the country (away from family and friends) to an unfamiliar town to take my dream job. At the time, I was training to run my second long race – a half marathon. I ran that race in December 2011 and broke my goal time by a whopping 9 minutes. It was a huge accomplishment, but I knew the facade was starting to crack. The last few weeks of training was brutal. I couldn’t focus and felt overwhelmed. Too much stress.

After the race, I decided to take a break from running – just a few weeks, to recharge and de-stress and find the joy in it again.

That break has lasted 4 months, with a few half-hearted attempts at jump-starting my running shoes along the way.

What happened? Athletic fitness had certainly become more than a habit. In 2010 and 2011, I ran oodles of races – ten 5K’s, one 10K (6.2 miles), one 25K (15.5 miles), a half marathon (13.1 miles), and the insane Warrior Dash obstacle course 5K. Between training and races and recreational running, I pounded out nearly 1,000 miles of pavement and trails. Yet, here I am – 4 months later, still not running.

I heard something on NPR the other night as I drifted to sleep, and it struck me. The guest was talking about exercise, and debunking common myths (such as, the myth that the best time to exercise is in the morning. False: the best time to exercise is whenever you will do it!). The statement that hit me was:

Exercise is stress.

Stress! Gah!

But of course, she was right. Exercise (particularly high intensity exercise) stresses the body. I had become a master at applying such stress and then providing my body with the tools to recover, but I had failed to consider the cumulative effect of exercise stress and work stress and adjustment stress and school stress. In the chaos of having to function on a daily basis, do my work, and complete my studies, all in a completely foreign environment, something had to give – and it did. Fitness went out the window.

What do I do now? I’ve recognized the problem, but how should I address it?

One phenomenon that has plagued me the past few months has been mind games. My brain likes to tell me, “You’re only running a couple miles… if you’re not running 10, what’s the point?” To further that notion, the devil on my shoulder works hard to convince me that by the same logic, walking and biking are worthless as well. Of course, that is all nonsense – and in a way, I must acknowledge that I’m starting a bit from scratch here. I’ve lost most of the strength and stamina I had 4 months ago – but I haven’t lost the knowledge I gained or the accomplishments I achieved.

I’m going to start out with a little Finals Week juice reboot. I’m a fan of Jason Vale and his JuiceMaster lifestyle. I did one of his juice reboots after Christmas, with good results. It was supposed to be a 7 day juice and raw fruits/veggies fast, but I stopped after 3 days. Still, it was a great cleanse and I felt really good afterwards.

This time, let’s shoot for a happy, juicy week that concludes next Friday – May 4. Of course, if things don’t go as planned, no harm and no foul. But Finals Week sounds like a perfect build-up to kick start a healthy, active, and relaxing summer.

Time to break out the juicer! Here are some of my juice and smoothie recipes:

And for more information on my juicer and how I got into all of this: My Foray Into Juicing.

Here’s to a great week!

An Un-Winning Smoothie Combo

I’ve got another new recipe post coming up soon, but thought I’d jump on and share an un-winning smoothie combo that I came up with today (so that you don’t try it with the same results!)

Two things worked to my disadvantage: first, I was out of vanilla soy milk, so I used regular skim milk. I did not realize just how much flavor I actually get from the soy milk – it’s much more dense, maybe a bit more sweet, and… well, it’s vanilla. Second, the fruit combo I chose was not sweet or powerful enough to mask the taste of the greens – so this tasted more like cucumbers than anything else.

The mix:

1 cup skim milk
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
2 carrots
1 handful baby spinach
1/3 of a cucumber
1 whole apple
1 whole pear

So… it seems like fruits with stronger or sweeter flavors are required to mask out the taste of the greens. Strawberries are a standard component of my smoothies, and even when I only use 3 or 4 strawberries, they make a huge difference. I was just trying to mix it up today, and even though I used a whole pear and a whole apple, they weren’t sweet enough to be noticeable. I couldn’t even taste them.

The end result was incredibly bland and tasted mildly of cucumber. I won’t be making this combo again!

Purple Smoothie!

This morning’s smoothie concoction was PURPLE thanks to strawberries and blueberries!

purple smoothie

Tip: stick to 1/2 cucumber. I tried a whole cucumber in the smoothie today (along with 2 carrots, 3 strawberries, and a handful of Blender - purple smoothieblueberries, plus vanilla soy milk and vanilla protein powder), and I could taste the cucumber. Good thing I like cucumbers!

Have a great day, everybody!