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):

Peanut Butter and Better Labeling

There’s a new law involving gluten labeling working its way through the US government.  It sets guidelines about which products can be labeled “gluten-free” and which products cannot.

Well, it’s a start.  I think it’s very important that companies not put “gluten-free” on their packaging if the product is not, in fact, gluten-free.   What the US really needs is the requirement to label all gluten-containing foods.  I think the UK is behind the US in a lot of ways when it comes to dietary restrictions, especially when it seems no one understands that being vegetarian means that, no, you actually don’t want sausage. But it’s just a little sausage. No. You can pick it out. No.

What the UK does have going for it is an intense allergen labeling system.  I can go through the entire candy aisle and see exactly why I can’t eat anything but Dairy Milk. A Celiac with a milk allergy is just screwed — but they can easily know that they’re screwed!  I spend a lot less time in the shop, reading all the labels; I pick one up, see “contains gluten”, put it back down.  Now that I’m in the US for a wee while, I have to remember to be ever more vigilant.

I have always had a love-hate — okay, it was more like hate-hate, if I’m honest — relationship with breakfast.  For years, I never knew why.  The fact is that breakfast is mostly meats and breads in different combinations.  In the South, we had grits.  Grits I liked.  Grits I could stand.  I’m really iffy about eggs, I had to pass on the bacon and sausage, and I never knew why toast left me feeling gross.  Even the quick-and-dirty options were bad because they were mostly Pop-Tarts and pastries.  All of my reasons sounded like excuses to miss the most important meal of the day: I get tired when I eat breakfast; I get nauseous when I go to gym class after eating breakfast; If breakfast is supposed to increase and sustain your brain power, why can’t I concentrate when I eat it?  Even now, I never look forward to breakfast, and — horror of horrors! — I still usually skip it.

Not a paid advertisement. I just like the stuff.

Not a paid advertisement. I just like the stuff.

When CB and I were visiting my parents over Christmas, my mother opened her pantry to reveal a treasure so bright and shiny: Gluten-free Chex Cereal.  As I explained, I’m not into breakfast, and cereal is no exception.  Typically, my thoughts go to “Yes, I’d love a bowl full of that thing that makes me bloat up like a balloon!”, but there are a lot of flavours to try.  Plus, it reminded me of getting a bag full of homemade Chex Mix for Christmas (We called it trash.  I don’t know why.  It’s better not to ask these things once you’re grown.).  Get this: it’s actually good.  I mix different ones together in the same bowl — another no-no in the Sydney Book of Rules about Food — and dig in.

Since she opened the pantry that first time, my mother has been saying, “I thought you might could use them for a crust for something.”  Well, I finally indulged her. Hello, gluten-free peanut butter pie.

Peanut Butter Pie

If you don't like peanut butter, look away now.

If you don’t like peanut butter, look away now.

Ingredients:
For the crust:
3 cups gluten-free Chocolate Chex cereal
1 tablespoon honey powder
2 tablespoons almond flour
pinch of salt
1/2 stick of butter (57g)

For the filling:
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup icing sugar
8oz cream cheese (usually 1 package), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
about 5oz whipped cream (I don’t know how to measure it. It was half a tub of Cool Whip — for shame, Sydney!)

Hardware:
2 mixing bowls
pie dish
small microwave safe bowl
wooden spoons or other stirring utensils
measuring cups and spoons
oven
refrigerator
microwave (for melting butter)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.

Crunchy.

Crunchy.

In one of the mixing bowls, crush up the Chex cereal.  I use my hands because I am classy.  You don’t want it powder-fine; you should still be able to see what it was. Add in the honey powder and almond flour and mix to combine. Melt the butter in the microwave and stir into the bowl. Spoon the mixture into the pie dish and press into the base and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes.

Crusty. I had a picture both before and after baking, but it looked exactly the same.

Crusty. I had a picture both before and after baking, but it looked exactly the same.

In the other mixing bowl, stir together room temperature cream cheese (Okay, I’ll admit that I didn’t leave it out to get to room temperature. I put it in the microwave for 19 seconds. Yes, 19. If you want someone to make sense, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you want pie, stick around. I like your style.), icing sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla. It’ll be a bit tough to stir, and you’ll probably wonder if you’re really just making a mess. Try to form as even a consistency as you can.

The point at which I thought it was a goner.

The point at which I thought it was a goner.

Much better.

Much better.

Add the whipped cream to the mix, bit by bit. You want to fold it into the peanut butter mixture. You do NOT want to stir or beat it together because the whipped cream has the air that gives the pie its creamy texture. Like I said, I used a bit more than half an 8oz tub of Cool Whip. I would say that I would have whipped my own if I had Ruby with me, but my mother has a stand mixer, and I totally didn’t do it.  Once you have it all mixed together, just make sure your crust (and the pie dish) is completely cooled and spoon it into the crust. Spread it around however you want.  I don’t make things pretty. I just make them tasty.

I think it would be good with shaved/grated chocolate or mini chocolate chips on top of it. We only had regular chocolate chips, and, since it doesn’t go in the oven, I thought they would be a little much.  Leave the pie to set in the fridge for at least an hour.  You’ll want to take this one somewhere you’ll have to share it, or else you’ll be tempted to eat it all at once.  Peanut butter is good for you, right?!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

I really love to make desserts. I never had much of a sweet tooth growing up (I was the kid who gladly handed over most of my Hallowe’en candy to my mum, or else left it rotting in a plastic bag inside my pumpkin basket until discovering it in time for the next years trick-or-treating.), but I’ve definitely developed one in the years since. One of the candies I have become attached to is the Reese’s peanut butter cup. I don’t know if they have them over here in the UK, but my experiences with local peanut butter so far have not been completely positive. In fact, peanut butter seems to be on the top of the lists of foods Americans bring back from their first return visit to the States. You’ll be happy to know, though, that UK peanut butter does just fine in these little guys; even the Americans give their thumbs up.

Ingredients:
1 bag of chocolate chips (around 200g) (milk or dark, sweet or semi-sweet, doesn’t matter much. The dark seems to be a big hit for me.)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs (digestives will substitute on this side of the pond)
1/4 powdered/confectioners/icing sugar
1 pinch of salt

Hardware:
mini muffin cup liners
glass or metal bowl
stove
pot in which the bowl can sit above water inside
microwave (optional)
clean tiny paint brush (optional)
mini muffin tin or silicon muffin cups (optional, but helpful!)
freezer
spatula
large mixing spoon
mixing bowl
2 regular spoons

Directions:
Pour a little bit of water into the pot and place on low heat on stove. Pour the chocolate chips into the glass/metal bowl and place over the pot. Stir the chips occasionally until they all melt. Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave. Heat the chips for 20 seconds at a time, stirring between each interval, until they all melt.

If you have a small brush, use it to paint the chocolate up the sides of the muffin liners. Make sure the bottom of the cups are coated in chocolate as well. Placing the liners in silicon cups makes it easier to manipulate so the paper doesn’t flop around in your hands. A muffin tin also does the job, though it allows a little less flexibility. You should use a little less than half of your melted chocolate for this stage.

Place the cups in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This time allows them to set up and makes the final construction much easier.

While the cups freeze, mix the cracker crumbs, peanut butter, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Mix thoroughly, but do not whip. A slightly crunchy consistency makes for a better end product.

If your chocolate needs reheating, it’s time to do that. Remove the painted liners from the freezer and scoop a bit of the peanut butter mixture into each cup. The easiest way to do it is with two spoons scooping each other. Make sure not to spread it to the edges. Scoop more chocolate on top of the peanut butter to cover. Be as generous as you want and as your chocolate will allow.

Pop the finished cups back into the freezer to set. You can store them in the refrigerator after about 20 minutes, or just take them out and share.