20160705_smoothieI’m back on a smoothie kick. It’s hot, I don’t feel as hungry, and these smoothies help me up my veggie and fruit intake. My aim is not weight loss or control, just a cool, refreshing, and nutritious item for breakfast or sometimes lunch. Here are some recent concoctions.

First, some general tips. I mainly make ‘green’ smoothies, or those with a ratio of 70:30% or 60:40% vegetables to fruit. Veggies include any type of leafy greens, cucumbers, carrots, fresh herbs, celery, ginger, turmeric, and avocado. Fruits are usually apples, pears, berries, lemon, and occasionally bananas, mangoes, or pineapple. Liquid is coconut water or milk, plain water, or plant milk. I sometimes add a 1/4 – 1/3 cup of aloe vera juice. Load in this order: liquid, greens, heavy items, lighter items. You only need to peel veggies or fruits with tough and inedible skins; cut large pieces into chunks your blender can handle.

Today I made a nice, bright-tasting refresher, perfect after a holiday weekend.

8 ounces coconut water

2 handfuls fresh spinach

3-4 fresh pineapple spears

1 Persian cucumber (or equivalent amount of another variety)

½ lemon, no peel

Blend together. Made 2 large glasses.

 

One I made last week got rave reviews from my spouse; of course it was fruity and not green!

Mango-Pineapple with Turmeric

3/4 cup good water

2/3 cup plant milk, yogurt, or buttermilk

2 cups frozen mango cubes (can use fresh but frozen cool the drink)

1 cup frozen pineapple (can use fresh but frozen cool the drink)

1/2 inch chunk peeled turmeric root or ½-1 t. ground turmeric

½-1 t. ground cinnamon

Blend together. Made 2 large glasses.

 

This next one is similar to but not quite the same as above, but I still had some mango left.

1 cup coconut milk

Juice from half a lime (or peel the half lime and add the fruit)

1/2 cup frozen mango

Few ice cubes

1/4 avocado

1/2 inch chunk peeled turmeric root or ½-1 t. ground turmeric

1/2 inch chunk peeled ginger root or ½ t. ground ginger

Blend together. Made 1+ large glass.

 

I love this next one, it has such a beautiful ruby-red color and wonderful flavor.

Beet, Pear, and Raspberry

1 cup almond or other plant milk, unsweetened

2 medium or 3 small red beets

1 ripe pear

1 cup frozen raspberries (can use fresh but frozen cool the drink)

The beet can be raw, and unpeeled if organic. Just cut into small chunks for blending.

Blend together. Made 2 glasses.

 

A variation on the above:

1 cup almond or other plant milk, unsweetened

2-3 small red beets

1-2 cups frozen strawberries (can use fresh but frozen cool the drink)

½-1 inch chunk peeled ginger root

The beet can be raw.  And unpeeled if organic. Just cut into small chunks for blending.

Blend together. Made 1+ glass.

 

I have not made this one but it is on my list.

Carrot Cake Smoothie

Adapted from LacyYoung.com

8-10 ounces almond or other plant milk, unsweetened

4 small carrots

1-2 bananas (can be frozen)

3 pitted dates, chopped (I will not add the dates, too sweet for me)

1/4 cup rolled oats

Slice of peeled ginger root or ½ t. ground ginger

1/2-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 t. ground nutmeg

Blend together, makes about 2 glasses.

 

Hopefully you will enjoy drinking these or will find inspirations for your own concoctions! Of course there are thousands of recipes on the web using a wide variety of ingredients, and many variations.

If you try any, let me know how you like it/them!

20150812_SimplicityWhat does “live simple” mean to you? Dictionary.com defines ‘simple’ as:

  1. a. Having few parts or features; not complicated or elaborate: a house with a simple floor plan.
  2. Easy to understand, do, or carry out: a simple set of instructions; a simple chore.
  3. Having or composed of only one thing, element, or part: a simple chemical substance.
  4. Being without additions or modifications; mere: a simple “yes” or “no.”
  5. Music Being without figuration or elaboration: a simple tone.
  6. a. Having little or no ornamentation; not embellished or adorned: a simple dress.
  7. Not characterized by luxury or elaborate commitments: simple living.
  8. a. Not pretentious, guileful, or deceitful; humble or sincere  [Edited definition of SIMPLE from dictionary.com]

Life can be complicated, and sometimes we seem to make it more so. Why do we do that?! Sometimes others complicate our lives for us, and sometimes it seems that’s just the way it is. How can we uncomplicate what doesn’t need to be complex and free up time and energy to 1) take better care of ourselves, and 2) deal with what we cannot change? Remember the oft-quoted: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Here are some areas to take a look at for simplifying your life. You can’t clear them all at once, unless you are already living pretty simply. Just read through the suggestions and rank them according to how they affect your life – maybe some are not issues for you, others take way too much time and energy. Deal with the biggest stressors first.

Possessions. Material things. Stuff. Clutter can be stressful, and makes the search for useful items more difficult because the clutter buries things. It can make you feel crowded in, overwhelmed. It makes keeping your house clean harder. And, buying new (and useless) stuff may strain your finances. Is your house cluttered with stuff that looks good but may not be useful? Do you keep broken things, believing ‘some day’ you will repair them but it’s already been three years…?  Do you buy new stuff all the time because the old stuff is, well, old? One room at a time, look at the contents of the room:

            If you haven’t used it or looked at it for a year or more, or it’s broken and can’t be fixed or isn’t worth fixing, get rid of it.

            If you use it but it wastes your time and provides no real benefit to self or others, get rid of it.

            If items that are useful and needed are laying around, in the way, piled up – find a better place to keep them where they are easy to use and easy to find and out of the way.

Time. Commitments. Do you stay on the move from morning to night? Never have time to think? Working, shopping, meeting friends, fulfilling obligations to take others some place or to be somewhere with a friend or child, working out – wait, no time for that! Hardly have time to take a shower and eat breakfast, huh? Why? Take a hard look at your calendar, your obligations. Do you really have to keep all those appointments, meet all those obligations?

            Learn to say “No.” Excuses not required.

            Cancel classes or gym memberships you signed up for that aren’t being used.

            Limit your children’s activities – it will help them as much as you.

Finances. Money in, money out. Hopefully for you there is a good balance between those directions. You still want to simplify your finances. Automate as much as you can – direct deposit, auto-pay, etc. Close out unnecessary credit cards, like store cards, and use only one or two major cards. And, do you really need Netflix and Hulu and cable and … How many bills and direct debits and usernames/passwords does one want to keep track of?

If you find yourself robbing Peter to pay Paul, paying only the minimum on too many credit card bills, and having trouble paying for groceries when the house payment or rent comes due, you aren’t alone. Overburdened finances are a huge stressor. If you can’t figure out a plan to get your finances in better shape, reach out for help. Consumer credit agencies can negotiate for you (watch out for charlatans, though).

            Cancel subscriptions you aren’t really using or benefitting from.

            Pay off highest-interest credit debt first, as much as you can each month over the minimum; pay minimums on the others until it’s their turn for pay off. Then close the account!

           Buy only what you need, not everything you want.

           Pay yourself first (savings) once your debt is under control.

Screen time. Do you realize how much time, non-work time, most people spend in front of a screen? Not window screens, but Windows, Apple, Android, email, FB, Twitter, television, etc. Do you realize how much the consistent exposure to media impacts your outlook and attitude? Do you realize how much intrusion it brings to your mind – commercials, flashing lights, noise? It’s no wonder we all feel like we have ADD!            

Unsubscribe from email mailing lists whose email you delete anyway or from which you get no value.

            Set a limit on your TV/Netflix/Hulu, email, social media, and Internet browsing time each day – and stick to it.

            Reduce smart phone apps to only those you need on your phone.

            Avoid social contacts who have poisonous attitudes, and avoid engaging in gossip or malicious talk in social forums. Why spend time and energy being negative?

Multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is so overrated, so 2002! More and more studies are showing us how much less productive we are and how much less attention goes to each task when we think we are multi-tasking. Why try to do four things at once, why not finish one and move on to the next. Each will take less time, get done better, and you will have less stress and more satisfaction in the accomplishment.

Meals. We all need to eat, and of course I promote healthy eating. Meals don’t have to be complicated to be healthy. Meal planning at the start of each week is a huge simplifier. I shop the farmers market on Saturdays, and then I figure out what dinners I will make with the produce I bought. From there I make a list of any other ingredients I need, including for breakfasts and lunches, and then go to the grocery store. If I know generally what I’m cooking each night, what pre-prep I may need to do the night before or in the morning, and I have all the ingredients I need on hand, the week’s meals go a lot smoother. When making the plan I may not know which day each meal will happen, as the week’s activity often dictates that, so flexibility is key to keeping it simple.

In the planning I also look for opportunities for shortcuts – where can I cook once and use twice? Need brown rice or quinoa for two meals? Make enough for both at one time. Salads two nights in a row? Wash enough lettuce/greens for both while I have the spinner out. Stir fry tonight? Why not clean some extra celery and carrot for tomorrow’s lunch or snack?

I think you will find that the simpler you keep your life, the happier that life is. Get rid of what weighs you down and free yourself to have more time, energy, joy, and better relationships.

20150714_cookingIf you follow food and health news, you are accustomed to reading or hearing about the processed-food and fast-food causes of obesity, the hazards of some food packaging, and concerns about additives in prepared foods. Not to mention the controversy over microwave safety.

  • Is there BPA in the packaging?
  • Does this canned soup contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)?
  • What is disodium inosinate and why is it in this food?
  • This frozen meal takes 40 minutes in the oven, but only 4 in the microwave?!

What’s a non-cook to do to avoid or minimize these issues? Cook whole foods at home! Now, before you roll your eyes and close this post, hold on! I know – you’re busy, or you have tried to cook but the dish didn’t turn out well, or you never learned how to boil water. It does not need to be difficult, take hours of every day, or mean the end of all convenience foods. After all, I am all about simple!

First, prioritize what is more important to you to avoid and focus on replacing commercially prepared items with your own cooking. Are you trying to reduce the sodium, preservatives, and packaging of frozen dinners? Bake up a big dish of lasagna or make a large pot of soup. Cool, portion out into serving-size amounts, and freeze or refrigerate for later meals. Are you concerned about salt content or the make-up of the cans of the beans and soups you buy?  Many foods we buy in cans are super easy to make at home.

Second, focus on learning to cook the types of food you like. This will help you stock your kitchen with the ingredients you are most likely to need. Also, cooking something that is easy but that you really don’t like won’t be very rewarding. Think of your favorite dishes or types of food and find some basic recipes to guide you.

Here are some other tips:

  • If you really have no cooking experience, start small. Cook up some scrambled eggs or make a pot of oatmeal from rolled oats and water. Quinoa is easy to cook, then add some steamed chopped vegetables you like (could be from a bag of frozen) and some spices or herbs to add pizzazz – makes a good meal or a side dish to grilled chicken. The Internet is full of cooking sites and many are geared toward novice cooks.
  • Recipes are guides, and generally don’t have to be followed precisely to turn out well. I often substitute one grain for another, or use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. Mostly I stick to the proportions of solids to liquids, and use the recommended cooking times to plan when to get things started.
  • Cook on weekends. This is an ideal time to try new recipes and techniques. Days off are good for cooking up a large batch of something that can be split and refrigerated or frozen in portions for a future fast meal. These days are also good for cooking things that take a while to finish, like beans. Cooked beans freeze well, so double or triple what you need for one meal and freeze the extras for later use. Cheaper, fresher, no additives.
  • Go to a good spice shop and browse. You may find smaller quantities or better prices at a grocery, but a shop like this allows you to ask questions about and smell various spices and herbs if you aren’t familiar with them. No need to start with exotic spices, stick to the ones that will be most commonly used. This site has a good, basic list.
  • When you do choose to buy prepared foods, read the label! It’s important to know not only the nutritional values, but also read the ingredients list. Any food that has a long list of scientific-sounding items should not be in your cart. If the first ingredient is some version of sugar, you also don’t want it in your cart. These are products to replace with a better choice, made by you or not.
  • Yes, you will need a few tools you may not have. Buy the best of these items that you can afford: a medium sized skillet (cast iron is best but not essential; just avoid low-cost non-stick pans – the coating is hazardous when it starts to peel) and a medium size (2 quart) saucepan with a lid will cover basic stove top cooking. Also have a glass or ceramic casserole dish and a heavy-weight baking sheet – one with sides is more widely useful. Some basic implements like a pancake turner, tongs, wooden spoons, measuring cups and spoons, and of course a few good knives.

 

Making food at home, from ingredients you put together, is very rewarding and does not have to be difficult. And if this sounds like too much work, remember that ordering pizza is even more work because you have to find the phone first. 🙂

(Thanks to Kellie Hynes of Sauce magazine for that thought!)