Healthy vegan shamrock shake

I’m not apologizing, but this post feels as much sham as shamrock. Not trying to be witty with the play on words, either…only the connection couldn’t be ignored. What I mean is, I have let this blog sit post-less for too long, and this is only a check-in that barely exceeds a text. On the flip side, I love this version of a shamrock shake, and who doesn’t love texting, or at least love the option of it?

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Truly, it’s easy going green with shakes like this to start the day. Doesn’t a little mint make everything lovely? Cacao nibs, even lovelier. My preference is blending them in with everything else rather than sprinkling on top only, but that’s nice, too.

Once again, lack of recipe shares hasn’t been down to lack of recipes I want to share. In fact, I’ve been working on some super fun projects I’m really excited to relay…hopefully very soon. The issue is squeezing more into increasingly less blocks of time, which are increasingly later at night (little one has dropped the nap and other factors). Stating not complaining. Happy St. Patty’s Day! (More soon.) 🙂

 

Healthy vegan shamrock shake

  • 1 frozen large ripe or overripe banana, cut into chunks
  • 3 or 4 fresh mint leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk or blend
  • Generous handful (1/3 – ½ cup) spinach leaves
  • 5-6 ice cubes
  • cacao nibs or chocolate chips to blend or serve, optional

Blend all ingredients in a blender until completely smooth. Add the chocolate either before or after blending.

National Pumpkin Day: Quinoa Chili, Quinoa Shake

Happy National Pumpkin Day! Belated. It was three days ago, and I made this irresistably sunshiny shake in celebration.

pumpkin shake 2

A backlog of recipes I’ve been wanting to share has been becoming a mountain. I’ve  been surprisingly “swamped” with work recently (quotes because what constitutes “swamped” now was more along the lines of an extra chore or two in the days when work was scheduled in big blocks rather than fit in piece-meal according to toddler sleep schedules and minimal sitter hours). I keep anticipating a future drought, but so far I’ve been able to count myself lucky it hasn’t happened. You’ll know it’s hit if I suddenly start posting daily long rambles.

I’ve been coming to realize the staple irony of the freelance life–the busiest times are compounded by looking ahead to potentially quiet ones. But the flexibility is a gem, and I’m being forced to finally learn (with periods of regression) a valuable lesson I’ve tried to put into practice for what seems like forever…to strike or at least strive for the balance of looking ahead with practical wisdom while bringing your best to the present moment. Breathe, and trust yourself to both be brave and know your limits.

pumpkins_hpIt’s not just juggling a freelance hodge-podge that’s been–at long last–so instructive. I’ve had some absolutely infectiously joyful help. Like working with the kids who sign up for Melissa’s and my Healthy Plates class. I wish I had a clip of them chatting this week over pumpkin chili prep. “Can you pass the nutmeg?” “More green pepper, please!” “I prefer the red pepper.” Brilliance.

And then, it goes without saying, there’s my Little Monkey. Robot-building, strider-blazing Big Boy he may be, but he’s still my Little Monkey. Which, by the way, reminds me…Happy Halloween!

monkey_15Find my favorite Quinoa Pumpkin Pie Shake recipe and more at the Ancient Harvest recipe pages.

Spendidly Simple Slow Cooker Pumpkin Chili

Slow cooker pumpkin vegetable chili

  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained or approximately 3 cups cooked beans
  • 1 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained or 3 cups cooked beans
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans plain diced tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 -ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups diced yellow onion (about 1 medium onion)
  • Vegetables of choice (about 4-6 cups), such as diced bell peppers, chopped spinach/kale, fresh tomatoes, diced carrots, chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup quinoa (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • dash each or more of your choice: cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, garlic powder, salt, pepper
  • Assorted toppings of your choice like avocado, cherry tomatoes, chopped scallions or onion, cilantro, shredded cheese or sour cream.
  1. Add all ingredients plus 1 cup water to a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Stir.
  2. Cook on low for 8 – 10 hours.

 

Vegan pumpkin shake

pumpkin shake (1)

Are pumpkins still adorning your front steps, or am I too late? Unless you’ve already roasted and pureed your pumpkins, that is, and have a stocked fridge. Insanely delicious, creamy, easy, pumpkin shake, perfect for post Halloween and the spoils from those Jack-o-lanterns (or better yet, pumpkins you never got around to carving).  I won’t say any more, but instead will hold back from rambling and let this be my shortest post ever (I think) to date. There’s lots of room to play, and nothing novel here. I just want to remember what I threw in the blender.

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My little kitchen helper!

Creamy vegan pumpkin shake
1 large or 2 small-medium servings

  • 1/2 cup real pumpkin puree (not canned)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups almond or coconut milk
  • 1 frozen banana, broken into chunks
  • 2-3 dates, pitted
  • 4-5 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until reaching desired consistency.

Green with gladness: spring/summer green smoothie

green_fresh2I started this week a little glum, a smidgeon green with envy. I ended feeling green with gladness and good luck. Like so many things (baby smiles, coos, cuddles, giggles, and wiggles), I wish I could bottle up the feeling to recreate another day.  At least I found a smoothie that closely captures its flavor–fresh like spring, radiant like summer.

Since our Little Monkey was born, I’ve been taking time off from the classroom and have continued a little freelance and steady contract work for this great non-profit organization promoting healthy eating and active living called LiveWell Longmont. It’s a perfect arrangement, allowing me to stay home with baby while doing my best here and there to stay current, make connections, build skills, and earn a  little income. For the most part, I couldn’t be more grateful…

BUT. (There’s always a but.)

Some days are hard. Really hard, even. Some days the cortisol pulsing from my brainwaves feels electric, and I struggle to fit everything in, or make reliable decisions on what to cut out. Sleep is becoming no longer an expendable option, yet often seems the only one. Around 6-months post-partum, I could get one decent night’s sleep and feel like Wonder Woman the next day. Now, ten months in, my body persistently says, enough already. You need to give me rest, for real, and seriously.

20140611_142316Some days are lonely. Not to say Baby doesn’t fill me up with the most satisfying companionship. He does. But… my “work self” interacts with people mostly on the phone and online. Scheduling with other moms and napping babes is an intricate matter. The windows are short. And as an “old new” mom, many of my friends’ children are reaching a point of independence that allows for more parental freedom. Others without kids are out there training, racing and exploring to the degree we did pre-kid, and while I don’t feel like I’m missing out, I do feel a little left behind, some times.

Some days, in my “old new” mom status, I’m not sure if little niggles, aches, and oddities are down to lingering changes from pregnancy, lack of sleep, regular training, kinks that come with age, or all of the above. The training and lactating combination is an interesting one, for sure. Some days my body doesn’t feel like my own anymore.

Some days I exhaust myself with worry–over what’s next for teaching, for raising our precious baby with all his innocence in what can be such a harsh and violent world; and mostly for how I’m ever going to muster the courage to one day let him go.

Some days I’m just exhausted.

And all the while, I’m so thankful. I really am. So lucky that these are my worries, and mostly they are blessings. But…there are days when re-focusing energy on  how good one has it only makes a person feel worse…spoiled and sullen on top of indulging in a little sadness.

I love it when, on those days, the universe steps in just a little and injects a jolt of fire that ignites a mood switch.

green_fresh3This week, the switch was hit with a literal puff of smoke that was our old blender blowing up with my bad mood. We had JUST been wistfully saying how we’d like a Vitamix. Storm clouds were gathering outside,  almonds were roaring in the blender, and ZAP. Blue streak and smoke. And then it was over and everyone was safe. It was a sign. Get your head in gear. Or maybe, get a Vitamix.

It doesn’t take much to shake off a bad mood when there’s an exuberant, dimpled ball of cuddles in the house. Certainly no need for a bolt of lightning. I would have awakened no matter what. But I do like the timing.

Things picked up in cheerful stride throughout the week. We made arrangements with an occasional mother’s helper/sitter to allow for extra time for work outside of nap. We (Little Monkey and I)  made a point of listening, sharing, and relaxing with with moms and babies throughout the week  with new eyes and no expectations. We went to fountain parks and baby pools where Baby cruised and stepped with the most infectious glee, beaming and glowing, yelling “Yay”, and “Yi”! I ran into a parent of a former student–then 5, she’s now 13, oh my. There’s barely time to blink, I was reminded. Breathe in the now.

And finally–hopefully not too flippantly–lest it seem I’m never going to get back to that smoothie, we made a whole bunch of green goodness with our new, killer deal of a refurbished, bargain, upgraded Vitamix, including this one. I can’t bottle up pure gladness, or baby kisses like I want to. But it turns out Little Monkey likes to share this smoothie and all its fresh, subtle, not-too-sweet and even a touch savory green glory.  I’ll always remember his eager grasp, inviting smile, the way he holds his cup.

 

 Green & glad smoothie
Modified from the Vitamix Tastes Like Summer Smoothie

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 1/2 cups seedless green grapes
  • 1 1/2  cups fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 cup baby kale
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup mango chunks
  • 2 cups ice cubes

Put all ingredients in a high speed blender and process on high until reaching the desired consistency.

Blended chia fresca

Lately, I’ve been just short of obsessed with blended icy drinks. The kind you make at home, with little to no sugar, like blended iced tea…or this, chia fresca with coconut water and lime.

Remember that moment of epiphany, when you bought a smoothie and it first struck you that you could make as good or better for about $4 less at home? Or maybe it was a burger, or salad, or whatever analogy works for you. You were probably 14. I’m pretty sure it took me till somewhere in my mid-20s. But the point is, it happened, and I made the economical, healthy change and didn’t really go back.

The reason for this mini, not-exactly-nostalgic, moment is, I had another lightening bolt just the other week, when I bought a coffee house blended, unsweetened passion fruit tea. No regrets there–it was all about the atmosphere and the company–but why on earth did it take so long to the explore boundless potential of cold drinks gone wild with ice in the blender? Atlas has an AMAZING green tea and coconut slush I can’t ever hope to create, and would gladly pay for most days, but home versions of blended iced chai, or any fruit tea, maybe with a splash of honey or lemon, are also pretty awesome and practically free.

For awhile now, I’ve been wanting to try out chia fresca, which I’d understood as a simple, refreshing, and  good-for-you drink hailing from Mexico, or at least popular in Mexico. My motivation waned, though, when I asked Gaby, who is from Mexico, about it, and she hadn’t heard of it. So maybe it wasn’t so much Mexican as Mexivention. But I’d read about it from sources I admire, like Oh She Glows among others, so it was still worth a try, regardless.

Since my impressions of  a chia fresca are hazy anyway,  I figured I may as well keep up the trend with the blender. And use coconut water instead of straight water, because that’s another thing I can’t seem to get enough of these days. How could the result be anything but slushy in a dreamy, summery kind of way?

Blending your chia seeds may make for a drink that somewhat resembles dirty dishwater, as pictured. I learned the dumb way it probably makes better sense to add the chia seeds after blending up the rest. Either way, though, it’s it’s still refreshing… in an umbrella-on-top kind of way, even.  Plus, it’s nutritious, packing in omega-3s, protein, calcium, magnesium, fiber, copper, iron, zinc, and more, thanks to the chia seeds. Not to mention exceptionally hydrating. So worth celebrating, really, you might actually want to throw on the tiny umbrella.

Blended chia fresca

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups coconut water
  • generous squeeze (or a couple of squeezes) of lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon honey, agave, or sweetener of choice (optional)
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
In a blender, combine coconut water, lime, sweetener, and ice cubes to reach a slushy consistency. Stir in chia seeds. You may want to stir occasionally while drinking.

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