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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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.

One Lie about Cupcakes and One Curiosity Fulfilled

As I mentioned in my last post, CB got a job.  We have started and ended house-hunting, and, for those of you crossing your fingers for me, I got a great kitchen and a yarn room that I don’t have to share (except with this spoiled rotten little gem).

zoe

Until we move in, I’m basically chronicling thoughts and meals, which, admittedly, isn’t the most interesting way to keep a food blog.  Every time I think about getting into creative mode in the kitchen, I’m confronted with the idea that this is not-my-kitchen and these are not-my-things.  So, back to CB got a job, and we looked at houses.

The day that he found out he had gotten the job, I decided he needed a little something of recognition. I spoil him, I do.  I secretly arranged with the woman who made our wedding cake to make a tiny congratulations cake for him.  The best part of her cakes is that not only are they tasty, but they have little clay figurines on top.  I dare say more people commented on how good our little figures looked on the big day than commented on how good we looked!

CB cake

The reason I mention the cake, besides just being very tickled by it, is that The Little Cupcake Cafe is one of the few places in Belfast to get a decent gluten-free treat.  I had already arranged with CB’s mother to help me pick up the cake, but it was turning into a logistical nightmare to try to get it without him knowing.  Thus, the little white cupcake lie.

Ah, yes, the sunny days of house-hunting.  While the rain was holding off, we decided a constructive use of our time was to simply take a taxi to a nice neighbourhood and walk until our feet fell off.  We made notes of real estate agencies and houses that looked pleasant.  We walked, got a little sunburned, and ended up with just about nothing once we looked up the prices.  We kept fairly good moods, considering the poor luck we were having.

Until Cake Day.

We were well across town from the shop, and I declared that I wanted a cupcake.  An hour later, it escalated to my needing a cupcake.  Another hour and CB was simply refusing me a cupcake.  Never mind that we were too far away for either of us to do anything about it.  By the end of our house search, I said that I was going to get a cupcake because his mother wouldn’t like to hear of his refusing me a simple pleasure; she would surely drive me to get one.  She played along brilliantly, feigning exasperation at her son and immediately driving to the only shop which could provide me with what I wanted.

We sat down for a cup of tea and a cupcake.  Cathy, the fondant artiste, silently showed me the cake and placed it behind the till.  I managed to signal to the girl working the counter that I was to pay for the cake while asking for a glass of water; she casually slipped my change on the counter and walked away, enjoying the bit of espionage.

As we were standing to leave, I said to CB, “That box behind the till says ‘Burke’.  Do you think it’s for us?”
CB: “Burke is a common name.  I’m sure it’s not.”
Me: “But it could be?”
CB’s Mum: “Did you buy Sydney a box of cupcakes?!”
CB: “No, let’s leave.” (getting a bit embarrassed by now)
I peek behind the till.  “But, it has MY name on it.”
CB: “Sure it does.”
I am handed the box.  “Look, it does!”  I open the box and all is revealed.  I thought he was going to hit the floor with shock.  After he eyes up the little figure of himself, I add: “I didn’t even want a cupcake.”

Less sneaky but equally as exciting (for me. Only me.) was the idea of eating on our short trip to Dublin.  As a thank you present for helping him with the application and interview preparation for his job (and probably for constantly stating how much I believe in him), CB bought two tickets to see Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance in the Gate Theatre in Dublin. [Go!  See it!  Bring a wee hand fan because it is boiling inside!]  We already had our mind set on where to eat dinner before the show, but we still had an opening for lunch the next day.  CB sent me a link with gluten-free possibilities to browse, and there it was.  The restaurant that had managed to slip my mind that I used to obsess over visiting.

Cornucopia.

It was somehow a hundred times better than I even imagined it.  We got there just before the major lunch crowd, so we got a table just as we got our food.  By crowd I mean that the queue was completely out the door, and people were sharing every little corner of tables just to be able to eat.  The menu is a set of blackboards behind the counter.  Not everything is gluten-free, but everything is vegetarian.  There was a legend hanging above the blackboard explaining what was egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, chili-free, vegan, etc.  It truly felt empowering not to have to ask what was in something before I ordered.  I am aware that that last statement will sound completely alien to anyone without dietary restrictions, but I felt like I owned the place when I ordered my food.

cornucopia

THIS was the amazing, empowered meal I had.  Curry and rice with sweet potato, carrot, chickpea, fine beans, and broccoli; kidney bean, tofu, and rocket salad; and a garlic and almond potato salad.  100% vegan, 100% gluten-free, 100% giddy-inducing.  Eat there.  Just do it.

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.