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:

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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):

Chocolate Chip Smooshy Bars

As it is crazy marking season in my Real Life, I’m opting for quicker meals and easy treats.  This recipe is one of my new favourites; it is sweet and satisfying, but you don’t feel like you’ve eaten a big, stodgy dessert when you’re done.  If you want to make it more of a treat and not quite as good for you, leave out the oats and flax, reduce the agave nectar to just under 1/3 cup, and only include 1 tablespoon of milk.  I like a bit more texture, and I like the addition of the oats and flax for mixed fibre.  Without it, they are softer and smooshier, almost like a blondie. Both are tasty, and both come recommended by my husband, the undisputed King of Desserts Sydney Makes.

Chocolate Chip Smooshy Bars

This one is the oat-free version

This one is the oat-free version

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups almond flour
1/4 cup flax meal
1/2 cup gluten-free oats
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
Extra coconut oil or other oil for greasing pan

Hardware:
large mixing bowl
small mixing bowl
whisk
measuring cups and spoons
8×8 baking pan
oven
knife
spatula

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.  Lightly grease the bottom and sides of your baking pan.

In the large mixing bowl, combine your almond flour, flax meal, oats, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk well.  Almond flour won’t clump as badly as other flours, but, because it has a slightly wetter texture, it can stick to the bottom and sides of your bowl and keep it from being properly mixed.

In the small bowl, combine the agave nectar, coconut oil, vanilla extract, milk, and eggs.  Whisk to combine.  Add the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk together.  Let stand for five minutes.  Whisk again.  Fold your chocolate chips into the batter with the spatula.

Scoop (yes, it will be scooping instead of pouring) your batter into the baking pan and smooth.  Try to get the top as smooth as you can to ensure even cooking.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven.  You want a golden colour on the top.

Remove and let stand for at least 30 minutes before cutting.  If you’re impatient (like we were), they taste just fine scooped out with a spoon after 15 minutes, but they won’t hold their shape.  They actually taste the best the next day once they get a bit more smooshy!

Seriously, you have to wait.  I know it's not fair.

Seriously, you have to wait. I know it’s not fair.

Drop and Give Me 20 Bites

I have recently had a friend come to me and ask to help her to go gluten-free.  More accurately, she knew that she needs to be gluten-free and knows, in many ways, how to be gluten-free, but she asked for help keeping her accountable.  She is already helping me to be accountable in another aspect of my health: exercise.  She also knows that learning about gluten could be even more important than taking care of herself because she has a son (a huge concern of mine I have briefly discussed before).  I suppose helping someone along this path is as much about instructing as it is about anticipating their needs.  In that regard, I have already stumbled.  She has learned the hard way that oatmeal isn’t safe.

I believe that everyone deserves to be the best versions of themselves.  For many of us, that goal takes years of discovery before we can even take the first step toward molding ourselves into who we want to be.

Going without gluten is hard.  A lot of you guys know this fact first hand.  Others can think: Would I really want to never be able to eat soft bread again?  Do I want to have a special birthday cake or no cake at all? [Full disclosure: Yesterday was my birthday, and I had no cake.  It’s still a bit of a sore subject.] How do I explain to a child who wants to share their snack with me that I can’t, not I won’t?  No doubt, a lot of people have these concerns about more or other things than gluten.  We are not alone in this fight.  I never wanted to be Celiac.  The first time I ever heard of it, I thought, “I am SOOOO glad that isn’t me!”

Accountability is the funny part that we almost never talk about.  We want to be accountable, don’t we?  We want to do right by ourselves.  Where is the disconnect in our brains that even allows us to not be good to ourselves?  Why is the desire to cheat so hard to fight — especially at the beginning — when we know we will only hurt from it?  Eventually, we grow.  We associate the foods which tempt us the most with the hurt they create, and we no longer truly want them.  At the start, we don’t have that.  We have the words, but we haven’t built it into our brains.  It’s not hard-wired yet.

I have some questions for you Celiac and gluten-free folks out there: Did you have a gluten-free coach?  Did a friend, family member, co-worker help you establish your new life with food?  Did you ask a lot of “stupid” questions?

While I had a supportive family and an understanding fiance/husband, I was on my own when I learned about gluten.  I wish I had had a guide to help me navigate.  I am a researcher by nature and by trade, so I used books and the internet to get me through it until I felt knowledgeable enough to start cooking and baking for myself again (i.e. until I was confident enough to try).  How did you do it?  Have you ever helped someone through a similar situation, maybe with another allergen?

Oatmeal Raisin Wonderfulness

I know I’ve said it a hundred times, but recipes that are already gluten-free are so much nicer.  This Christmas, I treated myself to a Babycakes (look how lovely!) cookbook, and I’m finally getting the chance to put it to use.  And, now I have a new favourite dessert.

I made her recipe for oatmeal cookies and crumbled one (and a half, shh) into a bit of greek yogurt.  It was a beautiful combination.

cookie yogurt

The recipe calls for Bob’s Red Mill products, and I definitely suggest you use them.  There are a lot of other gluten-free products on the market, but Bob’s is reliable and makes a great mix of baking flours.  Whenever possible, I buy their flours.  I even found my first Bob’s flour in Belfast today — oat flour — and I’m going back to buy a bunch of it tomorrow!

So, here is the Babycakes recipe for the cookies.  I hope you try it, love it, and run out and buy the book for yourself.

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour
1 cup [vegan] sugar
1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten free oats
1/4 cup ground flax meal
2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1 /2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup raisins

Hardware:
measuring cups and spoons
mixing bowl
parchment paper
baking sheet
whisk
spatula
oven

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325°F/160°C.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, oats, flax meal, cinnamon, xanthan gum, baking soda, and salt. Add the melted coconut oil, applesauce, and vanilla stirring with a spatula. Add the raisins and stir until combined.

Bake for 8 minutes.  Rotate the baking sheet and bake for another 7 minutes.  Allow the cookies to cool on the parchment for 15 minutes.