Real Food Smoothie

Smoothies are a staple around here. They’re convenient, they taste good and they’re healthy. Well, mine are healthy. I’ve seen smoothie recipes which include sneaky sources of sugar and fake food like flavored yogurt, fruit juice, flavored milk substitutes (I know, vanilla soy milk sounds healthy, but read those labels!), and soy protein isolate powders. No thank you.

My recipe is full of real raw food and delivers tons of nutrition. All these ingredients are readily available organic.

Blend until smooth in a good quality blender (if you want to go top of the line get a VitaMix, but Oster makes a perfectly good blender for a fraction of the price):

  • A big handful or two of raw baby spinach and/or kale. If you’re new to adding green stuff to your smoothies, start with a little spinach. Trust me, you won’t taste it. As your palate gets used to it, you’ll be able to add more without tasting it. Once you’re ready for a bit of green-ness, graduate to adding some kale (remove tough ribs and the center stalk first)
  • 1/2  to 1 cups of full-fat plain yogurt. You didn’t read that wrong. FULL FAT yogurt. Fat is not the enemy, it’s necessary in your diet. I really like Straus Family organic European style yogurt which has no stabilizers or additives. Their Greek yogurt is ridiculously good (OMG!), but its glorious thickness is wasted in a smoothie, European style is just fine. Beware of flavored yogurts. They are almost always hiding added sugar! This has enough sweetness from the fruit, go with plain.
  • 1 orange or 2 clementine tangerines. Using the whole fruit adds fiber and keeps the sugar content down.
  • 1 organic egg, raw. Yes. Raw. Whole egg.  The poor egg yolk, it gets such a bad rap, but that’s another post.
  • water as needed by your blender.
  • 1 tsp Carlson’s Lemon Flavored Fish Oil or Cod Liver Oil. Fish oil has no vitamin D while cod liver oil does. So I use fish oil in the summer and cod liver oil in the winter. Carlson’s comes in a bottle so there are no capsules to break. I also find the oil from the bottle doesn’t make me burp the way capsules do. And no, it does NOT taste like fish! It has a clean lightly lemony flavor.
  • optional: 1-2T psyllium husk powder for added fiber. I emphasis powder because most psyllium is sold in whole husk form, which is also great for adding insoluble fiber to your diet, but the powder blends better with liquid – not as grainy as the whole husk. If using whole husks use 2-3T.
  • 2 cups of organic frozen fruit of your choice: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, mangoes. Blueberries aren’t just a super fruit, they make it a nice purple color. Without a dark berry it can look a little gray because of the spinach – it’ll still taste great but might not look very appetizing.. Mangoes are great to add with any berry mixture. A few raspberries are nice, too many gets too tart for my taste. Experiment!
  • 1-2 frozen bananas. I always have frozen bananas on hand – just tear ripe bananas into chunks and throw in a freezer bag. Frozen bananas are the secret to a milkshake texture.
  • Water as needed to keep things moving.

Directions

  • Green stuff at the base – spinach or kale. Then the yogurt, egg, fish oil, orange, psyllium and 1-2 cups of water. Pulverize until no bits of spinach or kale remain, but you have a beautiful green liquid ready to take on the frozen ingredients.
  • Add frozen ingredients slowly, adding water as needed to keep your blender cranking.

This makes a huge batch. It’s a meal for two.

Enjoy!

“ChuckVision” Beans with Ham

It’s always nice to meet someone who can also get excited talking about Rancho Gordo. Not enough of us out there, to be sure, but the word is getting out.

Who – or what? – is a Rancho Gordo? Thanks to Steve Sando, Bean Master and the founder of Rancho Gordo, you have options when it comes to dried beans. Supermarket beans just don’t compare to heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo with exotic names like Good Mother Stallard or wonderfully descriptive names like  Jacob’s Cattle, Yellow Eye or Ojo de Cabra (Goat’s Eye). If you eat beans and have never tried using heirloom beans you owe it to yourself to try it. Plus, by buying Rancho Gordo beans you’re helping to support biodiversity and local family farmers. If that means nothing to you, then buy them just because you can’t believe the difference it’ll make to the flavor of your bean dishes.

I recently met attorney Chuck Numbers and we ended up talking about our love of Rancho Gordo beans (long irrelevant story). A week or so later a package arrived on my doorstep. Beans. Rancho Gordo beans. From Chuck. The note included said he was at a farmer’s market in San Francisco, saw those Rancho Gordo beans and thought of me and decided to send us some of his favorite beans. Wow. How often do you run into someone that thoughtful?

One of the beans included in that package was a pound of Yellow Eyes. It said right on the package, “A ham hock’s best friend”. Yummy. One of my favorite ways to make beans. Here’s how I do it, a very slight adaptation to the Red Beans & Rice recipe in Steve Sando & Vanessa Barrington’s Heirloom Beans: Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas, and Much More from Rancho Gordo.

This recipe makes a HUGE batch of beans because you can’t buy half a ham hock. I love smoked pork as much as the next guy, but let’s face it, it’s not health food, even if it’s an organic nitrate-free smoked-in-house ham hock like this one I got at Whole Foods. I know, it’s a little disgusting looking. It’s the lower half of a pig leg, what were you expecting?

To keep the pork content to a minimum I’ve kept the ham the same as the original recipe and doubled everything else. Still plenty pork-y & luscious. Hope you have plenty of storage containers for freezing leftovers, you’ll need them (I like these, they’re glass & the round shape means I can run some warm water across the bottom and pop it out right into my 2-qt sauce pan for reheating).

Ingredients

  • 1 one pound-ish smoked ham shank (aka ham hock, same dif). Available packaged or ask your butcher, they may smoke their own
  • 2 pound yellow eye heirloom Rancho Gordo beans, soaked (or combine two different kinds of heirloom beans like I did – I combined the Yellow Eyes with a pound of Good Mother Stallard’s which didn’t cook at the same time, honestly, but it all worked out in the end)
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 medium red onions, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 6 stalks celery, chopped (include the leaves, tons of flavor in those babies)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  • Rinse the beans in plenty of cool water, picking out any rocks (happens) or broken beans. Soak them for 2-6 hours (overnight even) in enough cold water to cover by at least an inch. Seriously, tell me those beans don’t look more interesting than plain old kidney beans.
  • In a large (7 qt+) dutch oven heat EVOO over medium heat until it shimmers. Add onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic and saute 10 minutes or until veggies are soft & fragrant but not browned. If you’re like me and you typically add salt to your veggies as they saute, DON’T! You’ll add the salt later but beans like to cook salt-free for a couple of hours first.
  • Add the beans, their soaking liquid and the ham shank, adding water if necessary to cover the beans by 1 inch. Add spices not including the salt (bay leaves, thyme, oregano and cayenne pepper), bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
  • Simmer partially covered, checking occasionally to make sure the beans are staying submerged, adding water as necessary. Watch TV. Play with your kids. Do some Bikram Yoga in honor of Chuck. Whatever. It’s gonna be a while.
  • After 4 hours or so, when the meat starts to fall off those beautiful ham bones, remove the ham shank (and any pieces of meat that fell off as you were pulling it out!).
  • Crank the heat on the beans up to medium-high and cook uncovered while you shred the pork.
  • If you’ll be serving this over brown rice start that rice cooker.
  • Shred the pork, removing any bones, visible fat and other icky bits. 
  • Cook the bean, uncovered, until thick, about 20 minutes. Mash with a wooden spoon, potato masher or immersion blender then return shredded ham to the pot.
  • If you’ll be serving over white rice, now’s the time to start the rice cooker.
  • The original recipe seasons with salt & pepper earlier in the process, but I wait until the end. Seems to me that you can’t tell how much salt that pork is going to bring to the party until it’s done doing its thing. Start slowly. It takes beans a few minutes to soak up the salt so you don’t really know how much you have right away. Don’t forget the pepper.
  • Serve over rice with hot sauce, cilantro & a squeeze of lime.

During our conversation I referred Chuck to this blog and he joked he was going to start his own, ChuckVision.com. Domain not available Chuck, you’d have to talk to the Iowa City Astronomy Club about that.

Quick & easy cauliflower potato soup

Looked in the fridge tonight and there was the head of cauliflower I’d intended to use over the weekend. If I didn’t make it tonight it was going to go to waste. With my new commitment to eating more vegetables I couldn’t let that happen (not to mention throwing organic food away, bad karma that). So I decided to throw together a quick soup. How bad could it be? Turned out great. Thick. Creamy. Luscious. The recipe I adapted this from (in the recent Nutrition Action newsletter) had 2 cups of milk. SO doesn’t need milk. It was super easy and it was on the table in about 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 3T extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped, core removed.
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced, skins on
  • 4 cups (1 box) Pacific brand organic chicken broth (yes, the brand matters, I’ve found no equal)
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

Directions:

  • In stockpot sauté onions in EVOO with a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper until they take on a little color (5-10 minutes).
  • Add cauliflower and sauté 5 more minutes.
  • Add potatoes and chicken broth. If liquid does not cover veggies add water (I didn’t need any). The liquid will deglaze the pot so it’ll have some color, don’t freak out.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes or until veggies are fork tender.
  • Whiz with immersion blender until smooth but don’t overdo it, potatoes can get gummy. Add additional salt & pepper to taste.

Next time I may start with a mirepoix (2 parts onion, 1 part carrot, 1 part celery) but I wanted super quick & easy tonight.

The nutrition on this recipe is pretty impressive. Low cal, 4 grams of fiber and all the good stuff that’s in those veggies. And please don’t freak out over the fat %. a) it’s olive oil, it’s good for you. b) look at calories or fat grams, not percentages. c) fat is not your enemy, in fact it’s necessary to get the most of the nutrients in those vegetables.

Grandma Marie’s Sugar Cookies

Am I a health freak? Yes. Yes I am.

Does that mean I don’t make cookies? Absolutely not. Living a healthy life is about enjoying some indulgences occasionally. And my Gram’s sugar cookies are one of those worthy indulgences. A basic little sugar cookie. Rich. Lightly sweet. Begging for frosting &/or sprinkles.

My Dad and Grandma Marie

I don’t even try to health these up (except to use all organic ingredients). The only modification I’ve made to the original recipe is to substitute Fiori Di Sicilia for the lemon & vanilla extracts of the original.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp Fiori Di Sicilia (a lovely orange-y vanilla extract). You can substitute 1/2 tsp lemon extract and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.
  • 2-1/2 cup flour for drop cookies. 3 cups for rolled.
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 425° F

Cream well: butter and sugar

Add & mix: eggs, then extracts

Then: rest of ingredients. It doesn’t specify in my recipe (you know those old recipes, short on details), but I sift the dry ingredients together before adding.

Can be made as a drop cookie or rolled out and cut. If rolling, split dough in half, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for 2 hrs. Dust rolling pin & surface with confectioner’s sugar if desired. Or make them down & dirty like I was taught – roll into a small ball and flatten with your hands or the lightly floured bottom of a glass.

Bake at 425° F for 5-7 minutes until lightly browned on the edges.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week (yeah, like they’ll last that long).

Ginger-Lemon Water. So refreshing!

A great virtually calorie-free refresher. Alkalizing to boot.

Ginger-Lemon Water

Ingredients:

  • 1-2″ knob of fresh ginger
  • juice of 4-8 fresh lemons
  • optional: 30 drops liquid stevia (or your natural sweetener of choice)

Directions:

  • Into a large (1qt) container, juice lemons. If I have plenty of lemons I use this Lemon Squeezer (it’s not very efficient). Or, if I need every drop or want lots of yummy pulp, I use a good old fashioned Wooden Citrus Reamer, in which case I juice through a strainer to catch the seeds or fish them out when I’m done juicing with a spoon. Or I just say screw it and leave the seeds in there.
  • Peel and thinly slice the ginger. For a stronger ginger flavor, grate it. Peeling ginger tip: use the back of a spoon.
  • Add plenty of ice and water to fill container, adding 25-30 drops of Liquid Stevita Stevia if you want more lemonade than lemon water. If using powdered stevia you’ll need to dissolve the powder in a small amount of hot water as stevia powder does not easily dissolve into cold liquids. Naturally you can substitute with your natural sweetener of choice or leave the sweetener out altogether.

Serve over ice. Extra nice with a slice of lemon. I hope you enjoy. This is a staple around our house. Particularly in summer.

Romesco Dip

A red bell pepper sauce perfect for dipping with raw veggies, or served with fish or chicken. Oh so good and full of healthy stuff. Never fails I get asked for this recipe when serving to new friends.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup organic raw unsalted almonds
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 cups organic roasted red bell peppers, stems & seeds removed
    If using jarred, which I usually do, rinse & drain them. If roasting yourself, use 6 peppers.
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup organic extra-virgin olive oil

 

 

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 175.
    note: don’t be tempted to roast the nuts at a higher temp, their delicate fats are easily damaged.
  2. Place the nuts on a baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Cool nuts.
  4. Place nuts in food processor along with garlic. Process until finely chopped but not almond butter!
  5. Add peppers, vinegar, salt, pepper, cayenne, black pepper and process until smooth.
  6. Keep processor running and drizzle in extra-virgin olive oil.

Oh my, it’s so friggin’ good. Scoop it up with fresh veggies like raw red bell peppers, celery, carrots, cucumbers.

*adapted from Romesco Dip recipe by Ellie Krieger, “Quick & Fresh” No. 29

Tracy’s Granola

Though people think of granola as “health food” it’s often not. Read those labels and you’ll typically find added oil and tons of sugar. My version, however, has very little (or no) added sugar or added fat. Enjoy guilt free! A great source of whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Because research shows that higher temps damage nuts’ delicate fats and cause free radicals, I use 2-step baking. Give the nuts a gentle toast first, then turn up the temp to roast the oats.

Ingredients:

Nuts Mixture

  • 1 cup organic raw almonds, whole or chopped.
  • 1 cup organic walnuts, chopped

Oat Mixture

  • 7 cups organic rolled oats (that’s one big bag of my favorite, Bob’s Red Mill organic rolled oats)
  • 1/2 cup organic flaxseeds, ground
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Stevita brand powdered Stevita stevia
    notes:
    1) if you want to go completely sugar free, eliminate the maple syrup below and use up to 1 tsp of stevia.
    2) if using a different brand of stevia your quantity may vary.
  • optional: freshly ground nutmeg

Applesauce Mixture

  • 1/2 cup organic unsweetened applesauce (read labels, some have added sugar!)
  • 1 tsp organic vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) maple syrup – this is optional but just a little sugar helps to toast the oats. If you want sugar-free granola then eliminate, but then you may want to use more stevia.

Seed Mixture

  • 1/4 c organic raw sunflower seeds (sprouted preferred)
  • 1/4 c organic raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas, sprouted preferred)
  • optional: 2T toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 170° (use the convection setting if you’ve got it).
  2. Spread the Nut mixture evenly on half sheet pan (or you may choose to not roast the walnuts, as they’re also yummy raw and add them at the end instead). Bake for 30 minutes, rotating pan after 15.
  3. Meanwhile, combine Oat Mixture in large mixing bowl, stirring to distribute salt, stevia & cinnamon.
  4. Add Applesauce Mixture to oats and stir to combine until most particles are moistened.
  5. Add the maple syrup one tablespoon at a time, mixing between each to distribute.
  6. Remove nuts from oven when complete, removing nuts to small container.
  7. Increase oven temp to 300°.
  8. Spread oat/applesauce mixture on sheet pan. Don’t pack it down, you want surface area. Bake for 45-55 minutes, stirring and rotating the pan every 15-20 minutes. Remove when toasty but not dark.
  9. Remove from oven, add the Seed Mixture and the Nuts
  10. After cooling store in an air-tight container. (OXO 4-qt POP container is perfect for a batch)
  11. Serve 1/2 to 3/4 cup with seasonal fresh fruit  (apples, bananas, nectarines, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, …), and/or organic plain yogurt if you like.