30 Days Complete!

30 days complete!  You may have noticed that I didn’t post a check-in for week four.  What can I say?  As the end of the challenge was so near the end of week four, I figured it was better to wait and report in at the end.

I’m happy to say that we finished all thirty days of the green smoothie challenge.  I reminded CB today that the challenge is over and asked if he wanted to continue incorporating them into our diet.  He shrugged and said, “Yeah. Well, why wouldn’t we?”  I think his response shows how much a part of our daily life they have become.  A special thanks is due to Desi (and her helpers) at Unconventional Kitchen and all the folks that I’ve met along the way in the Facebook community.  Having a support group is an amazing help!

In addition to the smoothie challenge, I did my 250 squats today to complete THAT 30 day challenge. I’m gaining stamina in running, too, which is none too soon considering my 5k is on Sunday. (If you find yourself wanting to donate to Cancer Research UK, you can still do so at my sponsor site.  I have met and exceeded my goal, but every single penny goes toward a great cause.)  I can’t wait to get out there and prove that I really can do it . . . mostly to myself, if I’m honest.

Here is the last round-up of smoothies.  Two days are missing.  The first was a day where I ate something that truly disagreed with me; I spent the evening sprawled on the sofa, and CB made his only smoothie of the challenge, serving it up to me in the dark.  The second missing picture is when we knew we were going to have a completely mad day — there have been a lot of them lately as May has been a particularly stressful but, hopefully, fruitful month — I made a double batch on the day before.  I tucked our smoothies away into small coconut water packages.  This tactic kept them fairly fresh but rendered them unphotographable. (I mean, I could have photographed them, but you wouldn’t have known what was in them.

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Week Two Check-in — Green Smoothie Challenge

We had one beautiful, sunny day last week where we got the whole family out in the garden and had our green smoothies.  I’m reminding myself of this event partly because there were snow flurries yesterday and we got rained on in the wind today.

I think I assumed that, at some point, the benefits of the Love Your Greens 30 Day Challenge would taper off. I have worked tirelessly over the past two years to reinvigorate and revitalize my body. I have been reading and researching treatments and natural remedies. I have been removing and replacing in my diet. I have been recognizing and responding to what my body says. I have been reintroducing foods and recording the results. I am now running out of R-words to use for the process.

I still believe that one of the biggest changes in my life came about when I found the right probiotic for my body. I started healing in leaps and bounds. With the exception of the ever-present need to look at labels and menus very carefully, I often feel good enough that I “forget” about being Celiac. I put “forget” in quotation marks because it is clearly still on the forefront of my mind as food is one of the defining characteristics of my life — Hey! That’s the tagline of the blog! Folks without dietary restrictions in their life, whether for themselves or for someone they love, whether self-imposed or required, rarely think twice about what all is in the food they eat. They don’t have to carefully plan outings based on where they can eat or when they can get home to make food. They don’t have to turn down food offered by a friend because they’re not 100% sure of every ingredient. They don’t have to have the same level of trust in companies, shops, and restaurants because of the consequences of cross-contamination. My point is that, at some point, these actions become second nature. We read every label of every food without thinking I am reading this label because it might have X ingredient that I cannot have. We just do it.

One of the big changes I have touched on before is medication. I carefully weaned myself off all my IBS medicines. I have now also taken myself off of all of my medications. Since my surgery in October, I haven’t taken anything to help me breathe or control airborne allergies. A few months ago, I realized that my body had actually healed enough that I didn’t need daily acid reflux medication, either. Not even two years ago, I was taking 21 pills a day just to do what little I did.

Here’s where the greens come into the story. I have had heartburn since making that decision — not everyday and not badly enough to think that I needed to start the medicine again. Since starting the green smoothie challenge two weeks ago, I haven’t had ANY heartburn. None. It’s gone. I have gone from feeling like my throat would catch fire if I even took my medication late to no medicine and no pain.  In addition, my energy levels have stayed up, I feel like I have lost more weight (I try not to weight myself often), I feel comfortable wearing jeans without fearing I might swell too large for them, and I have started sleeping more — this last point is a huge deal for a life-long insomniac.

It goes to show that, when you do right by your body, give it effective and personalized fuel, and listen to what it says, you never stop healing. I made my mother-in-law her first green smoothie this week to help kickstart her own positive changes, and I’m learning how to make my own green smoothie recipes to add variety to the program. This recipe is one I made for CB when he had to leave before the crack of dawn to travel for a conference. If possible, it’s best to make it the night before you want it and let it get really cold; you might want to blend in some ice if you don’t have the time to spare. It is thick and filling with enough fibre and protein for a great start for your day.

Sweet Green Porridge Smoothie

Ingredients:
1/2 cup almond milk (substitute with water or coconut water if you don’t have or can’t have almond milk)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoon chia seed
1/4 cup gluten-free oats, blitzed beyond recognition in a food processor
1 handful spinach
1 handful collards
1/2 banana
1/4 cup frozen mango
2 teaspoons natural peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
handful of ice (optional)

Hardware:
Blender
Food processor
Measuring cups and spoons
Freezer

Directions:
Put almond milk, water, chia seed, and greens to the blender and blend until there are no big chunks visible. Add the oats and give a good spin. Dump in all the remaining ingredients (banana, mango, peanut butter, cocoa powder) and blend to combine.

If you want to drink it immediately, blend in the ice and serve. If you will store it for later — my recommendation — pour into a freezer safe container and park in the freezer overnight. The ice will thin the smoothie, which you may like, but it is needed to make it cold enough to drink right away.

Our week in smoothies:

Week One Check-in – Green Smoothie Challenge

Week One of the Green Smoothie Challenge is complete! Here’s where I am:

1) I have really enjoyed all the recipes so far. I already know some things that don’t agree with me, so I leave them out to ensure I complete the challenge. There’s no sense sticking a whole knob of fresh ginger in that blender if I know I won’t be able to choke it down. As good for your body as ginger is, I think the important thing is to actually drink the smoothies you make.

2) I didn’t actually ASK my husband, CB, to participate with me. I wasn’t sure that he would do it. When I told him I was going to do a month-long green smoothie challenge, he replied, “I might have to miss a couple when I’m traveling for conferences.”

3) CB has referred to several of the smoothies as “yummy” so far, which I take as a higher compliment than, “It tastes good.” He has also requested that I balance the protein and fats in them to have nothing but green smoothies for an entire week. It also pushes me to discover and create new recipes to keep it from getting boring for our minds and mouths. I’m thinking it’s time to try things like peanut butter and GF oats . . .

4) The difference in my energy levels is incredible. I don’t get winded as easily, and, even when I’ve been stuck at a computer screen for work, I have WANTED to get up and do something.

5) My digestion has improved already. I have long wanted to find a way to incorporate more greens into my diet, but, as I have mentioned, they can be very difficult to digest when you have intestinal disorders. With the smoothies, my body has the opportunity to get all the goodness these greens have to offer without having to work so hard to process them.

6) Having what we need from fruits and veggies has leeched over into the rest of our food patterns. CB asked if we could have quinoa salad much more often. It was our dinner last night, and I loaded it down with more vegetables than usual.

Quinoa salad with chicken and extra veggies

Quinoa salad with chicken and extra veggies

7) Some of my running pants don’t fit anymore. I’m talking about the ones that fit last week. Yeah, those.

A few of the week’s smoothies (some were finished too quickly for photography):

Green Smoothies — Love Your Greens 30 Day Challenge

Real Life means many, many research papers and finals in my field of vision.  They seem never-ending at this point in the semester.  Whether you’re the one tip-tapping away on your keyboard or brandishing your new red pen, the last few weeks of a term are often a low-energy and high-requirements time of year, and it’s easy to get down about it.

Harley is an efficient but very harsh grader.  The students hate it when I let her grade their essays.

Harley is an efficient but very harsh grader. The students hate when I let her grade their essays, but how else is it all going to get done?

Well, up, up, up we go!  May is officially my challenge month.  I am most productive when I challenge myself, and, since May is my first full month back in Belfast, I’m charging myself with being a new and better me.  What am I doing?

1. I’m running my first 5K on 2 June, which means May is hard-core, prove-yourself time for my running shoes.  I’m running to support Cancer Research UK and for my friend Neil, who lost his mother last autumn.  To find out more about my dedication and my mission to go from lazy-buns to look-at-her-buns-go, visit my JustGiving page.  Any support, even the kind that doesn’t involve dollar and pound signs, is very appreciated!

2. I’m doing a month-long squats challenge.  By the end of the month, I should be able to do 250 squats in one day — just not all at once!  I know it sounds silly, but squats are great for your body.  I have to pay close attention to strengthening my knees (especially when it comes to Challenge #1 up there), and squats can also help you acquire better balance.  AND (did you need an AND?), this point is going to sound really silly by the time I get to the end of it — just picture it — squats can help your body move things along that need to be moved along.  Considering the biggest enemy I have in my body is, ahem, in that area, I could use all the help I could get.

3. Even though I saved this one for last, it’s not much of a surprise if you read the title of the post.  I’m following Desi at Unconventional Kitchen in her Love Your Greens 30 Day Challenge.  I love this challenge because it’s not a fast.  It’s not making you give up your favourite dinner.  It’s adding goodness into your diet, and the changes you make will happen organically.  I’ve already felt this magic taking place in the past two years, as I crave something green on every plate and my sweet tooth has almost disappeared as my body has healed.  It’s not too late to sign up for the program — it’s free, comes with a month’s worth of recipes plus extras, and has a built-in support group via Facebook.  Also, it doesn’t hurt that Desi is so sweet and encouraging. (PS. If you get there from here, let me know! Team!)

As Desi has publicized the first recipe from the Love Your Greens Challenge, I thought I’d show you exactly what we had today.  Believe me when I say that it was WAY better than I thought it would be.  We left the house as soon as we finished them, and I was daydreaming about having more for about a half hour.  I followed fairly close to her recipe, but she also permits making it your own, so I didn’t have to feel guilty about my switches.  I’ll be posting more about my progress with the challenge, but you’ll have to sign up to get any more of Desi’s great recipes.

Desi’s Basic Green Smoothie (Sydney-style)

Hulk Juice

Hulk Juice

Ingredients:
1/4 cup pineapple juice
3/4 cup water, divided
1 handful of spinach
1 handful of collard greens (Tesco only labelled them as ‘greens’, but this southern girl knows)
1 banana (fresh or frozen — I went fresh)
1 cup frozen strawberry, pineapple, and mango (mixed to whatever combination you want to make up the cup)
1 tablespoon flax meal

Hardware:
Blender
Small cup or bowl
Measuring spoons and cups

Directions:
Mix together the flax meal and 1/4 cup of water in the small cup/bowl.  Let stand to hydrate.

Dump the pineapple juice, remaining water, spinach, and collard greens into your blender.  Blend until you don’t see any more big chunks of green.  Add the frozen fruit, the banana, and flax-water mixture into the blender.  Blend until you reach your desired consistency.

Taste it.  If it’s not sweet enough for you, blend in some dates or raw honey.  It was plenty sweet for us with the pineapple juice.  It’s so tasty and refreshing, you’ll forget it’s good for you.

Blueberry Soda

Blueberries, to me, represent the ultimate comfort. I’m not entirely sure why, as the process of collecting the berries before the birds get to them isn’t so pleasant. The house where I lived while finishing my undergraduate degree had mature fruit growing in the backyard; a pear tree loomed over the neighbourhood, allowing two broad fig trees to grow in its shade, but my favourite of all was hidden behind the toolshed. I’m not sure whether it was an accident that the blueberry bush was planted between the chain-link fence and the shed, or whether either was added without much thought after the fact. All I know is that I would squeeze myself between the two structures to get to the plump fruit, ducking under branches, avoiding the bees that guarded the area, and referring to my great producer as a “blueberry tree”. It’s very hard to find blueberries here in Northern Ireland. I fully expect to return with my arms full of blueberry syrup after my next trip back to the States. The blueberry soda is light and refreshing enough that I don’t even remember the mosquito whelps and sun blisters I encountered while slaving away in such a tight space. What reality?

Blueberry Soda
I'm Thing 1 because I'm in charge. :)

I’m Thing 1 because I’m in charge. 🙂

Ingredients:
20 ounces whole blueberries
2 cups water
7 ounces sugar (vanilla sugar makes a nice touch if you have it)
the juice of 1 lime
8 fluid ounces carbonated water/seltzer water for each glass

Hardware:
medium saucepan
stove
cheesecloth
colander
bowl in which the colander can sit suspended by the edges
wooden spoon
glass jar with lid or other canning/heatproof storage vessel

Directions:
Place blueberries in the saucepan with water. Place on medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and allow it to simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat. Line the colander with the cheesecloth and suspend in the bowl. Drain the berries/water through the cheesecloth and colander. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes to cool.

Gather up the corners of the cheesecloth and use your hands to squeeze out as much of the blueberry juice as possible. This is the good stuff.

Return the juice to the saucepan and add the sugar and lime juice. Bring this mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, allow the mixture to boil for two minutes before pouring it into the glass jar. Let it cool completely before lidding.

Store the blueberry syrup in the refrigerator and make sure to close the lid tightly after each use.

For the soda, combine 1/4 cup of the syrup with 8 fluid ounces of carbonated water. Add some ice and maybe a slice of lime — dress it up however you like.