Thursday, May 6, 2010

Going Green

I’m an all-or-nothing type girl. Always have been. This personality “flair,” paired with my love of vegetables has led to some interesting occurences in my life ...
As a toddler, I refused most food other than carrots for quite a lengthy period. Lengthy enough for my skin to develop a nice orange tinge and send my mother running to the doctor with jaundice suspicions. A quick once-over and a good chuckle from Dr. Kina (or so she tells it) landed me with a tidy carotenemia diagnosis. Feed your kids abundant amounts of orange and yellow vegetables and they’ll turn a lovely shade of copper. Lesson learned.

Although I shook the carrot habit by my third birthday, I still often find myself jonesing for a good veggie fix, 28 years later. Without them, leafy greens specifically, I feel sluggish and leaden. Lately the difference felt between eating eight or nine servings a day (about a half cup per serving) versus an “off” day of three or four has become inherently clear.

While we were in Maui this past February, a rerun of Dr. Oz was playing during breakfast (I love me some Dr. Oz). He was talking about the “green drink,” which he often eats for breakfast. His particular version consists of spinach, cucumber, celery, ginger, parsley, apples, lime and lemon juice, blended together until smooth. I found it intriguing and decided that when we returned home, these green drinks were going to become part of my daily routine.

Enter my all-or-nothingness and fast forward a couple months … I have become borderline-obsessed with the green drink. It only took a few days to start feeling the difference in my energy level, improved digestion and reduced nighttime cravings for junk or sugar. And please note my careful use of the word “reduced …” It’s not like I no longer enjoy a good scoop of ice cream and glass of wine.

Morgan, on the other hand, only tolerates the green drink because A) I make it for him (no effort on his part) and B) he knows it’s healthy, so he should probably choke it down. He has told me repeatedly that it “kind of tastes like grass clippings.” I think that’s partly due to the color and his general stubbornness, though. I honestly think they’re delicious.

After following Dr. Oz’s recipe for a couple weeks, I began experimenting to come up with a more personalized green drink. I found a combination that I really like (and Morgan thinks is a bit tastier than the original, but there’s definitely no affinity there) and have stuck with it because I'm feeling so terrific.
The Promise, The Legend, The Vitamix
I promised myself that if I had a green drink every day for 60 days, I could upgrade from my P.O.S. Cuisinart blender (seriously, whoever designed the pouring spout should be fired) to a Vitamix 5200. I have been longing after the Vitamix for years, ever since I first saw one demonstrated at Costco. They are ridiculously expensive, though, so I really needed a good justification for this purchase. Well, I accomplished my 60-day green drink goal and my new toy arrived last Wednesday. And yes, I totally spoiled myself.

I cannot write about the Vitamix without sounding like an infomercial — apologies in advance — but this thing completely blows my mind. I thought it would be a powerful blender, but it’s really so much more.

My new green drink, which is more of a fruit and vegetable smoothie, is now actually smooth. The Cuisinart left it fairly grainy, but still drinkable through a straw. The Vitamix leaves it velvety, without a trace of texture from the fruit and vegetable peels (left on for the extra fiber). And it’s fast. Any smoothie is blended to perfection in less than a minute. I also made the tortilla soup from the accompanying recipe book this weekend, which was sooo good and better than anything I’ve had in a restaurant. The 64 oz. carafe also is a huge (literally) improvement over my old blender, which was overflowing by the time I had loaded all the green drink ingredients. I could go on for days with Vitamix accolades, but it suffices to say, this machine rules. It is, by far, the most awesome appliance in my kitchen.

Plastic Mason Jar Lids to the Rescue
I really enjoy the green drink for breakfast, but finding time to eat at home is difficult. I get up at 5:15 a.m. each day and arrive at work a little before 7 a.m. Eating at my desk allows me to sleep in as long as possible, and I’m definitely not interested in my current and always unwelcome middle-of-the night alarm sounding even a minute earlier.

So, how to get these things to the office? Plastic water bottles were quickly ruled out, as the drink left them with a funky vegetal smell and the lids never sealed quite tightly enough. Thankfully, I stumbled upon plastic mason jar lids at Fred Meyer and they’re absolutely perfect! One full Vitamix makes two quarts of green drink and the lids are fantastic for storage and portability — there aren’t two parts to wash, and they don’t impart an unwanted metallic taste into your food. Plus, the glass jars don’t stain or retain any odor. Winner all around.

I know this is a record-long post, so before you alert the local mental hospital of my possible OCD, I’ll share my favorite green drink combination / recipe (if you can call it a recipe) and sign-off.

Happy vegging!

P.S. I watched my friend Katie's one-year-old suck this down like it was chocolate milk and ask for more, so try it on your own kids and let me know how it goes!!

Hillary’s Green Drink
(Note: These measurements are very approximate. I recommend throwing in whatever suits your personal taste.)

None of these vegetables or fruits are peeled, with the exception of the banana. You may need to peel these items, depending on the strength of your blender.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup water (Some blenders may need more water than this to get started, or you may want more if you like a thinner consistency. My Cuisinart blender could take up to two cups of water until it would start blending.)
  2. ½ English cucumber
  3. 4 large stalks celery
  4. 2 or 3 large “fistfuls” fresh spinach
  5. 2 or 3 large “fistfuls” kale leaves
  6. ½ bunch parsley (stems removed)
  7. ½ inch ginger
  8. 1 banana
  9. 1 apple
  10. 1 ½ cups frozen fruit (I usually use frozen strawberries or the spectrum blend from Costco)
  11. ½ cup nonfat, plain Greek yogurt (optional — I don’t always add this)
  12. 2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed meal (found in the refrigerated “natural foods” section of your grocery store)
  13. Juice of 1 lemon
  14. Juice of 1 lime
Directions

  1. Roughly chop the cucumber and celery into large chunks.
  2. Add water and first few ingredients to blender. Blend until incorporated.
  3. Continue adding remaining ingredients, two or three at a time, until all ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Blend on high for an additional two minutes (minimum), or until the full mixture is completely smooth.