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

Breakfast Kickstart Juice

What is sweet and fruity with a boost of super greens? Breakfast kickstart juice!

Morning Kickstart in a Glass

Morning Kickstart in a Glass

This has become my favorite morning juice, sometimes replacing breakfast altogether. Tasty!

Breakfast Kickstart Juice

by Shelly Hokanson

Prep Time: 3 minutes

Cook Time: 2 minutes

Keywords: juice beverage smoothie vegetarian vegan kale carrot cabbage pineapple

Ingredients (1 16oz serving or 2 8oz servin)

  • 1/4 of one pineapple
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 Golden Delicious or Royal Gala apples
  • 1 big handful of kale
  • 1 chunk of cabbage (approx 2″ x 2″)

Instructions

Prep

If your juicer is small, cut all ingredients into pieces that will fit into the chute of your juicer. Most juicers can handle unpeeled pineapple, so there’s no need to peel it first.

Juice

Place one apple into the juicer shoot, then the kale, then the second apple. Turn the juicer on and push all food through the shoot.

Then, juice the pineapple, carrots, and cabbage.

Stir and serve over ice.

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Looks Aren’t Everything

We’ve all heard that research shows when food looks and smells good, it is perceived to taste better. If I were trying to sell the idea of juicing on looks alone, this would not be my frontrunner candidate:

Looks aren't everything.

Looks aren't everything.

3 apples, a carrot, a bunch of kale – juiced – and 6 small frozen strawberries, blended in.

It was pretty tasty, though!

What can I say? I’ve reached the bottom of my produce stash. Gotta get to the store!

Yesterday ended up being only a half-juice day. I had forgotten about a celebratory dinner that followed my last meeting with the Arboretum Collaborative fellowship group. It was a fully vegetarian, all-local spread that was just amazing.

Local spread

Local spread

So, for dinner, I had a giant salad made with local arugula and pickled onions with an amazing local apple cider vinaigrette (which I must figure out how to replicate!), an asparagus and smoked gouda quiche made with local Piney River Farm eggs, local potato salad with roasted garlic mayo, and a vanilla bean creme caramel with local peach cider caramel.

I know, right?!

That surely makes up for the ugly (but tasty!) juice I had this morning.

Off to the market to stock up on produce!

Going Green

So, it’s been about 2 weeks since I ran my last half marathon. That race was the culmination of a whole lot of chaos in my life: moving cross-country, starting a new (and thankfully awesome!) job, going to school for my MFA full time (12 credit hours, yikes!), and of course – another round of long-race training. Needless to say, upon completion of that race, I needed a break – so I took one. I took a break from running, and indulged in some holiday goodies in the form of way too much chocolate and pizza.

The result: I caught my first sickness in 2 years (ugh – still fighting it off), gained 5 pounds, and felt like absolute crap!

While I’m glad I took a break from all things healthy (I needed it mentally more than anything – I’ve been going at this healthy lifestyle thing for 2 years now!), it definitely demonstrated that feeling good is so much more enjoyable than eating junk food. I couldn’t wait till the new year to get back to eating right, so I started the day I got home from the holidays. I started yesterday. (The exercise is going to have to wait until I stop hacking up lungs).

Since my pre-planned junk food binge was pretty extreme (at least relatively speaking), I decided to embark upon a similarly relatively extreme detox: 5 days of only fruits and veggies.

I considered a juice fast, a la Jason Vale (the JuiceMaster), but decided I’d have a much more enjoyable experience with something like Reboot Your Life (a la Joe Cross, the guy that made the film Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead). I like Jason’s juice recipes more, though, so I’m basically drinking Jason’s juices and eating fruits and veggies as described in Joe’s Reboot Entry program.

So far, so good! I’m on day 2 of 5.

The first day, I was starving… All. The. Time. I was also pretty dehydrated from a week of holiday madness (and wine, ahem), and dehydration feels a lot like hunger, so I probably wasn’t actually hungry for food. Still, I felt like I went to bed hungry (booo).

Ironically, though, when I woke up this morning, I wasn’t hungry at all. I felt good (well, except for this plague of a cold I caught in Chicago over Christmas). I haven’t felt hungry today, and – knock on wood – my body seems to be fighting off this cold.

My basic plan is to:

  • drink juice concoctions and smoothies made with my Breville juicer (including a Vega protein shake each day).
  • eat fruit (bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries), green soups, and green salads.
  • drink lots of water and some tea.

Now, that does mean I’m also eating salad dressing. Sorry – I can’t live without my daily giant bowl of greens, and to that end, I can’t live without salad dressing. I also used a dab of olive oil to saute the veggies I used in today’s soup recipe (below). But those are the only non-whole-foods, non-fruit-or-veggie things I’m eating for these 5 days.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to busting out that loaf of bread I baked last week or mashing together a great new veggie burger recipe… but that day will come soon enough, and I’m already feeling the positive effects of this junk food detox. Ahhh, to feel normal again!

In the spirit of going green, here’s the recipe for the soup I had for lunch! Super tasty. I love kale!

Green Veggie Soup

by Shelly

Prep Time: 10

Cook Time: 30

Keywords: soup/stew kale broccoli zucchini garlic

Ingredients (4-6 servings)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 head broccoli florets
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into half moons
  • 2 cups kale, roughly chopped
  • 4 leaves basil, plus 3 tbsp chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 6 cups water

Instructions

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat.

Add onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add broccoli, basil leaves, zucchini, spinach, salt, and pepper.

Stir and cook for 5 minutes.

Add water and bring to a boil.

Lower heat and simmer 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in chopped basil.

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Green Lemonade Carrot Juice

Green Lemonade

Juice attempt #2! Green lemonade.

Ingredients for Juice #2

Ingredients for Juice #2

Lemon, celery, carrots, kale, cucumber, strawberries, and spinach.

OK, so I modified the original recipe. I added the strawberries and the carrots… I mean, strawberry lemonade sounds awesome, right? And, well, carrots go with everything.

Party Juice

Party Juice

The juice bucket always looks like a party to me!

Green Lemonade Carrot Juice

Green Lemonade Carrot Juice

I probably shouldn’t have added the carrots (it is my instinct to add carrots to just about everything); I suspect it killed the “lemonade” aspect of the recipe (and made the “green” in the name inaccurate).

Still, this juice was pretty good. I haven’t nailed the recipe yet, but I’ll get there! This one was much more immediately palatable than the beet juice. It tastes like a breakfast-y juice.

I’ve been storing my juices in Ball jars in the fridge. I figure, each will be consumed within a day or two, so it’s all good. Shake it up, then drink up!

I’ve got some oranges, plums, fennel, cabbage, and pears to find recipes for. Need to make room!

1 Apple, 3 Carrots, 1 Beet, and Kale

My Foray into Juicing

It has just been a foray-into kind of weekend over here!

For my birthday, I used a gift card to buy myself a Breville Juice Fountain Plus juicer (thanks, Mom!). Earlier in the week, I watched the movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, and decided that juicing would be a good way to get myself to consume the fruits and veggies that are less palatable to me, or that I don’t like to prepare based on the hassle (like beets!). I’m not going to try any sort of juice fast or anything like that right now – not while I’m training for this half marathon – but maybe someday. And I already eat 6-9 servings of fruits and veggies a day on most days, and don’t intend to replace that with juice. I figure, juicing will be a good way to incorporate more fruits and veggies into my diet. And more is good!

I loaded up on produce at Whole Foods (huge selection of organics) and got to juicing! First up: an ABC juice.

1 Apple, 3 Carrots, 1 Beet, and Kale

1 Apple, 3 Carrots, 1 Beet, and Kale

Mer, of course, had to help.

Merlin helping with juicing

Merlin helping with juicing

I washed the apple, carrots, beet, and kale (didn’t peel them – though if they were not organic, I would have). Stuck ’em in the juicer one by one, and ended up with about 10 oz of juice. I decided to double the recipe so that I could stick some juice in the fridge for later. (Might as well get a few servings out of the mess!)

The Breville at work.

The Breville at work.

The juicer has 2 speeds – low, for softer fruits/veggies and greens, and high, for harder fruits and veggies. I used high for all but the kale. I’m not positive that I juiced the greens quite right, as they didn’t seem to yield much juice – though I guess that’s typical. I’ll do a bit more reading. As far as kale goes, I think I might prefer eating it as kale chips – so spinach might instead become my go-to in juices.

I love the huge food chute on the juicer. I was able to drop an entire apple in there. It speeds up things to not have to cut and prep all of the produce first. Tossing food down the chute was FUN! And the resulting juice looked like a party!

Juice!

Juice!

The juicer was fairly quiet on the low setting, and – well, not as loud as my blender, but still a bit loud on the high setting. It was much easier to clean up than I anticipated. I had lined the pulp collection container with a plastic bag, so that part of clean-up was a snap. For the remaining parts, I just rinsed them in the sink immediately when I finished, and they all came clean. I figure, it will be a bit like using my food processor – I’ll be able to get away with rinsing/hand-washing for a week or so, then I’ll throw the pieces in the dishwasher. (They’re top-shelf safe).

The moment of truth….

ABC Juice - apples, beet, carrots, kale

ABC Juice - apples, beet, carrots, kale

I sniffed it. (Wine tasting flashback?)

Whoa. It smelled like…. earth.

*Gulp*

“Well,” I thought to myself. “Here goes nothing!”

I took a sip.

Hmm. It definitely tasted better than it smelled. It was a very mild juice – a little earthy (dang beets), but mildly sweet.

Oddly, the more I drank, the more I realized I didn’t mind the earthy taste. I suspect the appreciation would be lost on somebody that didn’t already eat a boatload of veggies every day – but my taste buds were OK with it. By the end of the glass, I was actually enjoying it.

I’m pretty excited about this new juicer! The one minor frustration is that I haven’t been able to find any good books on juicing, even on Amazon. There are a few with good reviews, but they tend to be extremely dated. I’m looking for something current, and something that doesn’t spend half the book preaching about all the diseases that juice will cure. Skip the preaching – I just want facts on the nutrients in the different juice-able fruits and veggies, and recipes for tasty combinations.

And maybe some how-to on prepping produce for juicing. I had a heck of a time figuring out what to do with the beets. I found information that said both the greens and the root are juice-able, but do they mean the leaves? The stems? The greens are supposedly the bitter part. I ended up only using the root. And, about juicing kale – is there a method to getting more juice extracted from it? Some secret trick to handling it as it goes down the chute?

Lots of newbie questions. While I may have to find my own way, it will be a delicious path!

Chickpea cutlet sandwich with creamy garlic

Sandwich Experimentation

I’m the happiest foodie version of myself when eating with my hands. I love sandwiches and finger-foods. After an accidentally awesome sandwich creation a couple weeks ago, I vowed to recreate my favorite pizza joint take-out sandwich: the Chicken Club from Nancy’s Pizza.

Last night, I attempted my first batch of the secret ingredient: the creamy garlic dressing.

Now, I don’t have the slightest idea of the ingredient list of the original dressing on this sandwich – so I’m just going to have to wing it by flavor!

After digging through my vegan cookbook collection and coming up empty, I searched the interwebs for a vegan creamy garlic dressing. My first attempt used this recipe, supposedly from the Chicago Diner (meat-free since ’83!). It turned out much too bland. I added some additional garlic, some fresh basil, and a sprinkle of Garlic Gold (the Italian herb blend) – and while that did make it quite tasty, it’s not quite there. Also, the consistency is much too thin.

Still, that didn’t prevent me from trying the dressing on a sandwich! I made up another batch of Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon (and had a total cutlet fail – forgot half of the seasonings. Funny, they still turned out alright – since I’m smothering them in dressing anyway).

Behold: phase one of my quest to veganize the Chicken Club sandwich from Nancy’s:

Chickpea cutlet sandwich with creamy ranchYeah, it’s not much of a club sandwich – I was too tired to make tempeh bacon. This was really just an attempt to get the dressing right, after which point I’ll proceed with the rest of the sandwich. But boy – it sure is a delicious process 🙂

I think my next attempt at the dressing will use silken tofu, similar to Isa’s Sanctuary Dressing recipe (which I am still enjoying almost daily!)

(There’s some Daiya mozzarella on there too). Kale chips and a ring of fresh pineapple on the side. Nom!

Golden Chickpea & Artichoke salad in a pita

Nice to Meet Ya, Artichoke

I fear artichokes.

Well, I did. I mean, they’re just weird. They look funny. They certainly don’t look edible; they look mean!

I’ve had a variety of food aversions in my life that really have no true foundation. I’ve dispelled many of them over the past year. Kiwis are one of my favorite fruits. (Former aversion: they’re furry and ugly… on the outside. Oh, what I could learn from the kiwi fruit!). Mushrooms, as weird as my brain still thinks they are, happen to be delicious. (Former aversion: they’re fungus. Who eats fungus?!). I had no “real” reasons to dislike these foods – just head games.

And so it is with the artichoke. I’ve actually been psyching myself up all year to “try” artichokes. I’ve had them in the form of spinach and artichoke dip, a small handful of times. I like that dip. But tonight, after much kitchen talk with my cousin’s wife (and her reaction of sheer joy and passion for the weird artichoke), I decided to finally pull the trigger and make something with an artichoke in it.

I flipped through my growing collection of cookbooks, and found myself back in the sweet embrace of my latest cookbook crush: the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook. (I can’t help but feel I’m cheating on Isa. I’m so sorry, Isa!) I love that every recipe in VYY has a photograph to accompany it. And so far, I’ve loved every recipe I’ve tried from this book. For as much gushing as my friends have done over artichokes, I was surprised to find very few artichoke recipes in my collection. That’s fine – Vegan Yum Yum it is!

I made the Golden Chickpea and Artichoke salad, and stuffed it into a pita. (I like food I can eat with my hands, and for something that felt as daring and scary as eating artichokes, I needed the comfort factor for my inner utensil-shunning child). I toasted the pita-wich on the panini press, and behold:

Golden Chickpea & Artichoke salad in a pita

Golden Chickpea & Artichoke salad in a pita with kale chips on the side

Whoa, Nellie!

I must admit – with such a simple ingredient list, I wasn’t sure this was going to work. I had visions of tossing the pita to the birds and hoofing it to the fridge for a bowl of cereal for dinner. The first bite actually scared me a little – it seems I didn’t mix the lemon juice well enough and I got a really smirky first bite.

But after that…

Chickpeas and artichokes were in the hizzouse!

I got more excited with every bite; it was delicious!

Chickpea artichoke pita

Gratuitous chickpea action

What can I say? VYY is 3/3. 100% yum. And this one was super easy, to boot.

So, to the artichoke: I’m sorry I ignored you for so long. You’re tasty and I can’t wait to try you in more dishes.

Side note: I didn’t have any almonds on hand, so I used cashews instead. Nom.

Other side note: the blob on the plate is Isa’s Sanctuary Dressing – a veganized ranch stand-in that I am currently obsessed with. It’s from her Appetite for Reduction cookbook. Great for dipping!

Side side note (how many sides does this thing have?!): the co-star here was kale chips. They’re my uber favorite way to eat greens. Nutritious and dippable! They’re ridiculously simple to make. Someday I’ll write a tribute to kale chips, but in the meantime, Kath has done a video on how to make them:

 

Kale and Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

If you would have asked me to eat a “root vegetable” last year, I’d have gagged and said no way, even though I had no idea what root vegetables were. Roots? Just sounds bad. It turns out, though, that I really like the root veggies that I’ve tried since going organic! (For the record, the root veggies in question for this recipe are onions, carrots, garlic, and sweet potatoes). Yum!

The “firsts” for me in this vegan-friendly recipe include:

  • First time I’ve cooked with or eaten kale
  • First time I’ve made beans from dried and not from a can
  • First time I’ve made soup from scratch
  • First time I’ve worn my new Asics GT 2150 running shoes

OK, so the shoes are probably irrelevant to the recipe, but they sure are comfy! And hopefully, they’ll not cause blisters the way my old gym shoes did.

The recipe below comes from Emily’s blog – The Front Burner. Check out her recap – she takes much better food photos than I do, and explains every step in detail. This soup covers a slew of nutritional bases – it’s a good source of Vitamin B6, Folate and Potassium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Manganese. It’s low fat, with no saturated fat and no cholesterol.

On with the cooking!

First, I should explain that I did not use canned beans for this recipe. As part of this week’s homework in the GNOWFGLINS e-course on traditional food preparation, we were to make beans from scratch. I bought some dried navy beans at Whole Foods yesterday, so to prepare for this recipe, I soaked 2/3 cup of dry beans in water with a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar. I soaked the beans overnight, then this morning, rinsed them and put them in the crock pot to cook on high for an hour then on low for 6 more hours. I added a thumb-sized chunk of kombu (a sea vegetable) to the crock pot during cooking to tenderize the beans and break down some of the sugars in them that tend to make them… gassy. Kombu also imparts some mineral goodness. By the time I was ready to cook dinner, the beans were ready to go.

The next step was to chop up carrots and a sweet potato and stick ’em in the oven to roast. They didn’t look very exciting so I didn’t take a picture.

Up next: the stranger in my fridge, Kale. (No, not Kato). Here’s what it looked like, fresh from the bunch:

kaleThe recipe instructed me to pull the leaves from the stems. I wondered all the while if I was doing it right….

Peeling kale leaves from stemsI sure had a lot of kale…. the leaves reminded me of a cross between broccoli and seaweed. (Maybe I just had seaweed on the brain from my recent trip to Whole Foods).

Next I chopped up an onion and minced some garlic and sauteed them for a few minutes before throwing in the roasted carrots and sweet potato.

Roasted veggies awaiting kaleThen, in went the vegetable broth, and then the kale. The kale was huge and fluffy in the pot! I feared I was messing the whole thing up, but I took Emily’s word for it that the kale would wilt. I covered the pot and let it simmer for 10 minutes. At the 5 minute mark, I was still pretty nervous – the kale was huge! I think I might have had a little too much kale to begin with, so I added 1 cup of water. That helped, because by the end of 10 minutes, I could stir the kale into the mix and it was starting to look like soup.

I added the seasonings and simmered for 5 more minutes (ready to jump out of my new shoes because it smelled SO GOOD!)

When the soup was done, I ladled it into a bowl and topped it with a dollop of homemade guacamole that I had in the fridge. (Emily recommends topping with chunks of avocado). I slathered some Earth Balance spread onto a slice of my homemade sourdough bread, and…

Dinner!

Kale soupAll I can say is… this soup was AWESOME!! So tasty! My first impression of kale: thumbs up! Kale is a form of cabbage, a relative of cauliflower and broccoli. It’s a highly nutritious, dark leafy green, and has good anti-inflammatory properties and is believed to have potent anti-cancer properties as well. In this soup, it tasted mild – almost sweet. It’s a hearty green – good for chewing!

For all of its nutrition, a big ol’ bowl of this soup clocks in around 235 calories. I can’t wait for the leftovers! 100% delish.

[recipe-show recipe=kale-soup]

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