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

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)

Food processor
Measuring cups and spoons

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:


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

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

Small cup or bowl
Measuring spoons and cups

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.

Megon Comes to Visit — and Brings Chicken Salad

I first met Megon more than twenty years ago (eep!). Her sister, Heather, was my very first best friend, and, thanks to the magic of the internet, our families have reconnected.  A wee while ago, we met up with some other ladies at Heather’s house for a seed swap.  I brought that peanut butter pie I made, and the only other thing I could eat was Megon’s chicken salad.  Once I tasted it, I didn’t mind so much!

One month ago today, Megon made the commitment to her body to do what she knew she had to do and stop eating gluten.  She may have gone kicking and screaming, but she never looked back.  In the past month, she has had medical and personal developments to show her that gluten-free was the way to be.

Leaving gluten behind is not easy.  Through watching her, I realized that, even though I am 100% aware that it’s what’s right for my body, I don’t know if I could go through it all over again.  It is brutal.  In honour of her strength — and the strength of all you gents and ladies who have gone through the same thing — I’m sharing her chicken salad recipe.  Even better is that the recipe is super-easy.  Eat it up.

Megon’s Coronation Chicken Salad

1.5 lbs cooked chicken breast, shredded
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 tablespoon apricot preserves
1/4 small yellow onion, finely minced
1/4 – 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
juice of half a lemon
2-3 tablespoons honey
salt and pepper to taste

mixing bowl
wooden spoon
food processor

Pulse the apricots in the food processor.  Dump all the other ingredients except the chicken into the food processor to combine.  When fully integrated, empty into the mixing bowl and stir in the chicken.

It’s great served with crackers or tortilla chips . . . or on bread . . . or on a spoon.

CB Likes Food, Too

Sometimes I’m so selfless, I make food for people I can’t even eat! Now that I’m truly getting better from my surgery, I’m trying to do more things when I’m not grading essays.  This week, I made a lunch (and dinner) for CB that had prawns — a food I am VERY allergic to — but was actually gluten-free.  I made myself a dinner out of the non-prawny leftovers with a wee bit of chicken cooked with the same flavours but with olive oil instead of the butter.  I’m pretty sure this would be tasty without any meat if you amp up the veggies a bit more.  Any veggies could go well with it, I think.  If you substituted the butter, you could even make it vegan!

Prawn and Veggie Quinoa

prawns — 8-9 per person, I cheated and bought peeled & cooked, but it was to be sure I wasn’t in too much contact with them
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water (plus some in a bowl)
1 vegetable stock cube (optional)
handful of black olives, pitted
handful of cherry tomatoes
handful of green beans
half-head of broccoli
1 lime
little gem lettuce — or small romaine leaves
fresh coriander leaves — cilantro on that side of the ocean
a few tablespoons of butter
garlic powder
chili flakes
black pepper

mixing bowl
a couple of pots and pans (at least one pot with a lid)
fine mesh strainer
assorted metal cooking utensils

Pour the quinoa into the mesh strainer and rinse under water for about two minutes, rubbing the grains within your fingers.  This step is important because quinoa can taste bitter and woody if you don’t remove the natural outer coating.  Some quinoa comes pre-scrubbed, but I still give it a go-over.  In a decent-sized pot, melt enough butter to coat the bottom. Toss in the quinoa and stir vigorously until you get a nutty scent.  If, like me, you have spent most of your life nasally-impaired, this takes about 45 seconds to a minute.  Pour the water over the quinoa and stir.  When the water begins to boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  If there is still water in the pan, re-cover and let it continue to simmer until all the water evaporates.  Turn off the heat and let it stand uncovered for five minutes.  Dump it into the mixing bowl and fluff with a fork.

Boil water in another pot with a bit of sea salt.  Chop broccoli into bite-sized pieces.  I cooked the broccoli and the green beans together because, well, I don’t see why not.  Cook to your desired consistency, drain, and dunk immediately in a bowl of cold water for a minute or so.

Cut the green beans into manageable pieces.  Drop it and the broccoli into the mixing bowl with the quinoa.  Cut the olives in half and toss in the quinoa.  Chop the coriander roughly (I used herb scissors I got as a wedding present that made me feel very special indeed) into the mix.  Toss it all together until it is well-mixed.

Ok, I tried to get a little fancy with the tomatoes.  I cut them in half and put them in a very hot, heavy-bottomed pan — NOT flat side down.  If you put them flat side down, the heat will pull the seeds out and get gunky. But, the magic is, if you leave them down on one round part and leave them there for a couple of minutes, they will char on that side and create a sweetness throughout the whole bite.  Just make sure to remove them before they start smoking and dump them in the mixing bowl.

Now for the prawns!  I don’t generally cook things I’m allergic to, so I’m glad these came out as well as they did.  I put a fair amount of butter in a pan — more than I thought was needed, actually.  Toss in the garlic powder, chili flakes, and black pepper. Squeeze half the lime (don’t worry about trying too hard) into the butter and spice mixture and stir it all around.  When it’s nice and bubbly and coating the entire pan surface — and then some! — place the prawns in one at a time.  I like to place them into the pan clockwise, so I know what order to flip them.  After about 30 seconds, swirl the pan around.  After another 30 seconds, flip them over.  Do the same again.  Obviously, if you have uncooked prawns to started, you’re going to need to cook them more.  I have no idea about that.

Place the lettuce leaves out on a plate. Spoon the quinoa mixture on top of them. Place the prawns on top.  Offer up lime wedges for an extra tang.

Here is CB’s lunch box for Monday. It may not look like it, but there was a TON of quinoa packed in there (and a lime wedge in the wee box).

prawn quinoa

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian cheese breads)

When I first became gluten-free, my aunt passed this recipe on to me.  Her boyfriend is from Brazil, and he recommended it as a gluten-free recipe (requiring no substitutions, which I find so useful).  It was so impressive, I tried several combinations of flavours.  Try various types of soft cheeses and throw in your favourite herbs and spices.  It’s quick and easy — especially if you have a blender — and is a tasty snack.

Other additions that have been successful are cayenne; garlic powder and basil; cracked black pepper.  Let me know if you try something new and like it!  Also, if you’d like to make multiple flavours at once (and/or like a bit more rustic appearance), sprinkle your chosen spice/herb directly atop the batter once poured into the muffin tins.  It looks lovely and lets you tell the difference between the different kinds.

The final breads will puff up in the oven and fall once they begin to cool.  The centers will be chewy but should still be light.  If the centers are heavy, let them bake for a few more minutes, watching carefully to prevent burning the thin tops.

1 egg, room temperature
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups (170 grams) tapioca flour
1/2 cup packed (about 66 grams) grated fresh mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
sunflower oil spray or other greasing oil

medium mixing bowl (or blender)
wooden spoon (if no blender)
measuring cups and spoons
flexible spatula
large spoon or ladle
muffin tins

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.

If you have a blender, the directions are incredibly easy.  Add all ingredients, minus the sunflower oil, into the blender in the following order: milk, egg, flour, cheese, salt, paprika, garlic powder, olive oil.  I include this order because it has liquid on top and bottom, encouraging the entire mixture to properly circulate through the blender. Blend until combined, stopping to scrap the sides with the spatula to ensure a proper mix.

Grease muffin tins, and pour the mixture evenly to just above the middle of each cup.  It should make approximately 18 small breads.  Bake for about 18 minutes, until breads have risen and are slightly browned on top.

If you don’t have a blender, I hope you have a strong mixing arm!  Add the ingredients to the mixing bowl in the following order: milk, egg, olive oil, cheese, salt, paprika, garlic powder, flour.  The reason I include this order is because, otherwise, you will likely have a gluey substance in your bowl!  It will still take swift and heavy stirring to thoroughly combine, and the job will be made easier based on how finely your cheese is grated.  Stir until you are sure it is completely combined, scraping the sides with the spatula when necessary.

Grease muffin tins, and spoon/ladle the mixture evenly to just above the middle of each cup.  It should make approximately 18 small breads.  Bake for about 18 minutes, until breads have risen and are slightly browned on top.