12 February 2010

Green Smoothie Challenge: Blue-Green Aloe

A part of my experience with the Green Smoothie Challenge (www.vegetarianhealthcoach .net) involved reading "Green Smoothie Revolution" written by Victoria Boutenko, the pioneer of the Green Smoothie movement. This book was a quick and informative read about the green smoothie movement. It is full of smoothie recipes including some for dogs and cats.  I am sure that once my participation in the Six Week Smoothie Challenge is complete that I will consult this book for continued inspiration and recipes.

My biggest challenge to date in terms of taste has been the Blue-Green Aloe smoothie. I did not like this smoothie at all.  I drank this glass but not much more.  I believe a part of the challenge is to experience variety. And I certainly did not expect that all of the smoothies would satisfy my palate.

Nonetheless, I show the construction of this smoothie below (for the brave):

1 head of romaine lettuce

1 medium sweet apple

1/4 cup blueberries
1/4 lime, peeled
1 small aloe leaf (I used 1/4 cup of aloe juice)
2 cups coconut milk kefir

Green Smoothie Challenge: Tropical Green

At the end of my first week of the Green Smoothie Challenge (offered at www.vegetarianhealthcoach.net), I made another spinach based smoothie called Tropical Green. This smoothie was a mix of spinach (2 cups), pineapple (1 cup), a banana, and kefir (1 cup).  Since I love spinach and pineapple, I had really high expectations for this one.  It was good but surprisingly it has not proved to be my favorite.  I have discovered that the taste of these smoothies is highly subjective.  For example, I shared many of the smoothies with my co-workers. And there was no consensus about which smoothie is the BEST smoothie. Everyone had their own favorite based on their own personal tastes. So I think in some ways the smoothie challenge is really an experiment. Experimenting with different flavors and combinations to find what one likes and dislike. The pictures below show the evolution of my Tropical Green smoothie:


Green Smoothie Challenge: Meet Tahini

I was reading "Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal" by Tristam Stuart when I prepared my second smoothie. From that book, I learned the many ways in which over half of the food produced in the world is wasted even as a billion people are undernourished and starving. A lot of waste occurs in our homes when we purchase more vegetables and produce than we can consume before it spoils.  So I was pleased to receive instructions during the Green Smoothie Challenge (at www.vegetarianhealthcoach.net) on how to freeze fruits and vegetables in preparation for making smoothies.  It was welcome information as I made a personal resolution to waste less food.

My second smoothie introduced me to tahini. Tahini is a paste made of ground hulled sesame seeds.  Somehow in my thirty-eight years of living I managed not to encounter this great source of iron, and also calcium, magnesium, Vitamin B1 and Vitamin E.  Tahini also helps to reduce cholesterol, which is one of my main health concerns.  In addition to 2 tablespoons of tahini, the smoothie included 2 apples, 1 cup spinach, 2 bananas, 2 celery stalks and 6 ice cubes.

Common sense should have told me that my blender would not be able to mix those ingredients as shown on the right. I eventually put the apples into a food processor to do a pre-chop before generating a very smooth and tasty mix.

Green Smoothie Challenge: My First Smoothie

My first smoothie in the Green Smoothie Challenge (offered at www.vegetarianhealthcoach.net) was a lesson in the anatomy of a green smoothie.  I learned that each 32 oz smoothie typically provides 2 1/2 servings of vegetables and 2 to 2 1/2 servings of fruit depending on your preferences.   Most of the smoothie recipes used for this challenge also included a fermented dairy product such as yogurt and kefir which contains probiotics to aid digestive and immune health.  I chose to use cultured coconut milk kefir in my smoothies which is cholesterol free, lower in fat and dairy-free.  Each 32oz smoothie contained 235/265 calories, 5/6 grams of fat, 5/6 grams of protein, B12, Magnesium, Iron, Calcium, B vitamins, and Vitamins K, A, and C.

I was a little apprehensive about the taste of a green smoothie. Despite being a vegetarian, I was concerned that a vegetable smoothie just wouldn't taste good.  So I was delighted to know that my first green smoothie would contain one of my favorite greens, spinach.  I eat a lot of spinach. This is a good thing since it is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  For this smoothie, I blanched 2 cups of spinach.  I learned from this challenge that iron is better absorbed in spinach when it is cooked.

The original recipe for this first smoothie suggested 1 large grapefruit.  This concerned me since I do not enjoy grapefruits very often.  So I used oranges instead. By the way, I decided this year to break my "addiction" to Minute Maid orange juice by going one year without drinking store-bought OJ.  Consequently, I always have plenty of oranges at the house.  It made sense at the time to use some of those oranges.

My next ingredient was a whole banana. Bananas and I do not have a good relationship. The smell of the darn things have always given me a headache. And I am convinced (in spite of those that say its all in my head) that eating bananas make me sick. Nevertheless, I included a banana because I wanted to be as true to the recipe as possible.  And I thought maybe this challenge really would change my relationship with fruits and vegetables that I tend to avoid.

The final ingredient was 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk kefir. This was my first experience with kefir.  The challenge taught me about the difference between kefir and yogurt. Kefir contains 6 to 10 live cultures whereas yogurt contains 1 to 6.  Kefir is significantly thinner (drinkable) and more sour than yogurt.  Kefir is made from fermented grains (a gelatinous combination of bacteria and yeast) whereas yogurt is made by bacterial fermentation of mik. And most importantly, kefir probiotics stay in the intestinal tract much longer than yogurt.

With the addition of a few ice cubes, I was well on my way to joining the Green Smoothie Revolution. I was shocked at how good the smoothie tasted. Honestly, I did not taste the spinach very much. The predominant taste was that of a banana-orange smoothie.  Perhaps this was by design. The organizer probably wanted to introduce a smoothie that would not discourage participation but instead challenge preconceived notions that a green smoothie could not possibly taste good.  My confidence in the challenge and my ability to complete it were definitely increased by the success of this first smoothie.

Green Smoothie Challenge: Joining the Movement

I am always looking for ways to improve mind, body or spirit. So I readily accepted an invitation to participate in the Six Week Green Smoothie Challenge offered at www.vegetarianhealthcoach.net.  During the challenge, one drinks 32oz green smoothies consisting of fruit, greens, and fermented dairy products either (1) every day for three days in a week, (2) every other day or (3) every day.  The Green Smoothie Challenge was proposed as a practical and delicious way to add more fruit and green leafy vegetables to a diet. This blog documents my experience with the challenge of consuming greens, fruit, and kefir in increased quantities and in unexpected combinations.

For the challenge, I was encouraged to purchased seasonal ingredients and to support local farms. So my first task was to visit the Farmers Market in Downtown Dallas. The temperatures on that day were below freezing. But a few dedicated farmers  and conscious consumers met in the marketplace. I also shopped at Whole Foods for organic and naturally grown products that were not available at the Farmers Market.

I must admit my participation in the challenge was more out of curiosity than a desire to transform my relationship with vegetables, improve my digestion, lose weight or simply eat more fruits and vegetables.  Since my diet was already plant based, I (erroneously) thought that green smoothies did not have much to offer me.  I definitely underestimated the benefits. But more on that later.