Apples, Pumpkins, and Spices, Oh My!

That’s right:  It’s fall, one of my favorite times of the year.  I love that apples, cider, pumpkins, and doughnuts are everywhere, even in Phoenix, where “fall” is still 100 degrees.  Ugh!

I’m now thirty-four weeks and two days pregnant and in addition to being done with the intense heat, I’m also not always feeling fresh fruits and vegetables to the extent that I normally do.  I recently read an article about different pregnancy symptoms and the author noted that many moms-to-be develop an aversion to fresh produce.

I wouldn’t say I’m averted—most of my diet consists of fresh produce, after all—I’m just less keen on snacking on carrot sticks when I could have one of my most prevalent pregnancy cravings fulfilled in a sweet, creamy, comforting peanut butter sandwich.  The next second, I might want the world’s biggest salad, but despite my usual eating habits, in general, I’m just not as in to the foods that I normally crave.

The aforementioned article suggested a solution that is already a staple in my house:  smoothies!  If you regularly follow this blog, you know that I’m experimenting with new smoothie combinations all the time.  Especially during this pregnancy, smoothies are one of the primary ways that I’m getting all of my nutritional needs met, even when disguised as “dessert.”

Today’s dessert smoothie is, as always, packed with nutrients, contains no added salt, oil, or sugar, and capitalizes on the flavors of fall.  Introducing the apple pie smoothie, no cooking required.  🙂

As you know, finally splurging for a Vitamix has changed my life because I don’t need to cook any of the produce that go into my smoothies.  With previous blenders, I would have needed to steam a fruit like apples just to ensure a smooth puree; with the Vitamix, the apples go in totally raw with their skins intact and a silky smoothie ensues.

My pumpkin pie smoothie features ground cinnamon and Honeycrisp apples.  In Arizona, at least, I don’t see Honeycrisps all throughout the year and when I do, they are expensive.  Fall has made them plentiful and affordable, even in the desert.  Thank goodness because the Honeycrisp is low in calories (if you’re counting), high in fiber, and exquisitely juicy.  They also have a lengthy refrigerator shelf life—minimum seven months—so stock up while they’re cheap.

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The addition of medjool dates—which I use in nearly all of my dessert smoothies—adds a touch more sweetness and the caramel-like notes that are indicative of a freshly baked apple pie.  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  DESSERT SMOOTHIE

Serves 2

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice)
  • ½-1 cup specialty ingredients  –>  I’m using 1 medium, quartered Honeycrisp apple and ½ tsp cinnamon.
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp hulled hemp seeds
  • ¼-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity)  –>  I’m using ½ tsp vanilla.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness  –>  I’m using 3.
  • 100% freshly squeezed juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with 4 oz)  –>  I’m using almond.

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Taste and adjust specialty ingredients as necessary.

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Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie

Yes, another dessert smoothie, coming right up! Going on thirty-one weeks pregnant, I still can’t get enough of the sweet stuff. As always, healthy sweets are the goal, and this decadent treat is no exception.

Naturally, the star of strawberry shortcake is the strawberry. This super fruit is loaded with vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. I recently stocked up on a bunch in my Bountiful Basket and froze them, as you can see below. Ready for smoothies any time!

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How will I achieve the shortcake portion of the equation? A very basic cake batter includes some type of flour, sugar, fat, liquid, and extract. For today’s shortcake-in-a-smoothie, I’m using rolled oats in lieu of flour (learn more about the health benefits of rolled oats by checking out my granola formula!), medjool dates for sugar, a variety of seeds for fat, almond milk for liquid, and homemade vanilla extract.

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Packed with nutrients, sweetness, and traditional strawberry shortcake flavors, this dessert will check all of your boxes…and you can drink it guilt-free, any time of the day. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: DESSERT SMOOTHIE

Serves 2

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice) –> Since my strawberries are frozen, I’m using fresh bananas today.
  • ½-1 cup specialty ingredients –> My whole, frozen strawberries equate to about a cup, but if they were chopped fresh, I’d use ¾ cup. I’m also using ¼ cup rolled oats.
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp hulled hemp seeds
  • ¼-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity) –> I’m using ½ tsp vanilla.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness –> I’m using 2.
  • Juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with 4 oz) –> I’m using almond.

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Taste and adjust specialty ingredients as necessary.

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If You Like Piña Coladas…

This post and the next will feature creative uses for leftovers. Truthfully, we don’t often have leftovers of anything in our house—plant eaters consume a lot—but there are occasionally quantities remaining of something we used for a specific, measured application. Today, I’m using leftover coconut whipped cream from my pistachio nice cream sundaes.

If you know me—or at least if you read about my curry formula—you know that I don’t like coconut. Not the flavor, not the texture, not the scent. Well, pregnancy does weird things to a girl and right now, I can say that I have a small affinity for this tropical fruit. I’m not running out to the store to gobble up all things coconut, but I have enjoyed a few coconut macaroons and couldn’t believe that I voluntarily topped my pistachio nice cream with coconut whipped cream the other day and enjoyed it! (I made it for my husband and son and just thought I would give it a try. Unexpected yumminess!)

Because I don’t typically like coconut, I would never order a piña colada. Pineapple, coconut, and rum are the primary flavors in this classic cocktail; two out of three are okay by me, but I find that when you don’t like something, it’s all you can taste. Given my newfound—albeit, possibly temporary—appreciation for coconut, I all of a sudden knew what I wanted to make with my leftover coconut whipped cream: piña colada dessert smoothies (virgin, of course)!

Despite being high in saturated fat (consume sparingly), coconut cream has many health benefits that might help you to justify the occasional splurge. This decadent plant-based treat is high in fiber, vitamins B, C, and E, and many essential minerals. You can add it to your favorite recipe right from the can or beat it and store in the fridge for several weeks. Days after whipping up a batch, I was amazed to see my coconut cream even fluffier than it was on the first day!

Fluffiness, of course, isn’t really important when it will be blended up in a smoothie, but I still found it pleasantly surprising. Another pleasant flavor component in the traditional piña colada is a garnish of ground nutmeg, which I am also using to top today’s smoothie. Nutmeg is high in fiber, copper, and manganese and has a truly unique flavor. I once heard Rachael Ray describe this wonder seed as that ingredient that makes your taste buds go “Hmmmmm.” It is even tastier freshly ground.

DSC_2317While I’m definitely missing the rum (and the wine and the beer and…), I’m happy to cool off with a piña colada that my whole family can enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: DESSERT SMOOTHIE

Serves 2-3

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice)
  • ½-1 cup specialty ingredients –> I’m using ½ cup diced pineapple and ½ cup coconut whipped* cream.
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp hulled hemp seeds
  • ¼-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity) –> I’m using ¼ tsp almond.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness –> I’m not using any as my whipped cream is already sweetened. I probably would if it weren’t.
  • Juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with 2 oz) –> I’m using almond.
  • SPECIAL ADDITIONAL: Nutmeg for topping

*You could just use coconut cream that has not yet been prepared as whipped cream. Remember, I’m trying to use leftovers.  🙂

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Top with more whipped cream and a sprinkle of ground nutmeg.

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Cherry Cordial Dessert Smoothie

As mentioned a few times now (ok, maybe a lot of times!), I am craving sweets in this second pregnancy.  I’m happy to report that I’m now twenty-two weeks along, the baby is healthy, and I’m getting all the sweets I want, the Fresh Formula way.  (Don’t worry, I’m still eating a boat load of veggies, whole grains, beans, and nuts, too.)

If you’ve been tuning in recently, you’ve seen my peanut butter and jelly smoothie, homemade jam formula, and an epic cherry pie, all working together to satisfy my sweet tooth with little to no added sweetener.  Today’s cherry cordial dessert smoothie incorporates elements of one of my favorite candies, the abundance of cherries I am still consuming from my latest Bountiful Basket victory, and a whole bunch of nutritious deliciousness that will leave me satisfied and guilt-free.

Traditionally, the cherry cordial is a cherry and sweet syrup inside of a dark chocolate shell.  If you’ve never had one, at some point, splurge and please do.  They are so so so decadently yummy!  Could I sit down and eat the better part of a box right now?  You bet…but I won’t.  With my latest dessert smoothie concoction (the first being my chocolate peanut butter version), I get all there is to love about the classic cherry cordial without the added sugar.

With babies on the brain, I’m also thinking about two-year-old Nolan when I come up with one of these recipes.  I totally let Nolan dig in to a traditional dessert on occasion—the boy hasn’t met an ice cream he didn’t like—but by “on occasion” I mean I can literally count on less than two hands the number of times he’s eaten a dessert with animal products in it.  Because he rarely sees or consumes something like ice cream, he knows it’s a special treat and honestly, would be even happier with one of my dessert smoothies any day.  In our house, he doesn’t beg for ice cream, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets; he wakes up shouting “Chocolate smoothie!” instead.  🙂

Even these dessert smoothies are a “special treat” compared to the super food smoothies we make regularly.  As much as a two-year-old can, Nolan has developed quite the sophisticated palate and definitely knows the difference between routine healthy eating and special treats, like this one, that are often super healthy, too, especially when compared with other varieties.  I mean, look at the ingredients:

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The point is, this is “dessert” I feel excited about feeding my toddler and unborn child, so it’s definitely a-ok for me, Travis, and you, too.  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  DESSERT SMOOTHIE

Serves 2-3

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice)
  • ½-1 cup specialty ingredients –> I’m using ¾ cup pitted sweet red cherries* and ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp hulled hemp seeds
  • ¼-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity) –> I’m using ¼ tsp almond.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness –> I’m using 3.
  • Juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with 4 oz) –> I’m using the minimum in almond.

*After I made this, Travis said he wanted more cherries.  Can’t go wrong with that.  Make it a full cup if you really like ’em!

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth, adjusting specialty ingredients as necessary.

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Ice Cold Water, Tea, & Smoothie Infusers

Today’s post features an idea I took from my sister, Petra, author of lifestyle blog 100 Tacks.  She has admitted to me on several occasions that she just doesn’t drink enough water, sometimes even forgetting to stay hydrated in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  While she doesn’t “dislike” the taste of plain old water, she’d rather drink other varieties.  Petra bought a Soda Stream not to make soda, but to carbonate her water.  Sometimes she drinks mineral water.  Other times, she infuses her water with fruit or herbs.

Infusing water has become increasingly popular, especially for those like Petra.  She told me that she will freeze ice cube trays with lemon juice and pop them into ordinary water for a slow release of added flavor.  Today, I’ll be making ice cube infusers that include citrus juice and herbs, whole fruits, and veggies.  When the cube melts, you can eat the “prize” inside!  🙂

For these cubes, I use citrus juice that comes from fruit I would never consider eating whole.  For instance, while you could make these cubes with orange juice, I’d rather just eat an orange; I’m never, however, going to chow down on a lemon or lime, so their juice makes for great infuser cubes.  Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits of these super foods:

LEMON:  Loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, lemon juice can prevent/fight many diseases and ailments, such as cancer, diabetes, kidney stones, constipation, and indigestion.  Lemon juice also promotes healthy hair, teeth, and gums, can ease pain, fade scars, and more.  Although unrelated to nutrition per se, lemon juice is a popular all-natural household cleaning product if you’re trying to use fewer chemicals.

LIME:  Lime juice is also packed with vitamins and antioxidants, and like lemon juice, can assist with constipation and indigestion.  It can also relieve oral ulcers, congestion, nausea, and body odor, and rejuvenate hair.  It protects eyes, aids in weight loss, and is instrumental in preventing/fighting diseases such as scurvy and heart disease.

You can freeze lemon and lime juice—ideally with as much of their pulp as possible—alone, but I like to take the flavor profile up a notch by adding in yummy extras like fresh mint, cucumbers, or fruit.  As the cubes slowly melt, their flavors will release into your water or iced tea.

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I also love the idea of dropping these into piping hot tea to get it to a more drinkable temperature more quickly…and with more flavor!  And smoothies need some icy element, right?  While I typically freeze fruit to avoid needing to use ice, these infusers would be an extra punch of flavor and nutrition in the blender, too.

A few tips:

  1. Buy/grow/obtain more citrus fruit than you think you’ll need.  I ended up juicing two lemons and seven limes to make just one ice cube tray’s worth of infusers.
  2. Check your juice for seeds or seed particles than may have fallen through the grates of the juicer.  The seeds are bitter.
  3. Don’t make too many of one infuser combination unless you’re 100% certain you’re going to like it; it would be a shame to waste the cubes!
  4. Play around with flavors that appeal to you, inspired by combinations you already know you like or think that you will like.  Consider fruit salads, cocktails, mocktails, and teas that you’ve tasted.

Hopefully, these flavor infusers will help you on your quest to drink more water.  I always have a glass around and don’t even leave the house without filling up a bottle.  Cheers!

FORMULA BASE:  WATER INFUSERS

Makes 1 ice cube tray of infusers

  • Approximately 1 ¼-½  cups freshly-squeezed citrus juice  à  I’m using lemon juice for some cubes and lime for the majority (I just happen to have more limes!).
  • 1 cup additives (i.e. fruits, veggies, herbs, etc.) (optional)  à  I’m using strawberries and blueberries in my lemon cubes and two different combinations in my lime cubes:  cucumber + mint and mint + blueberry.

Juice your citrus fruits and check for seeds or seed particles.  Place any additives that you’re using, if any, in the ice cube tray compartments.  Fill the compartments the rest of the way with juice.

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Freeze and enjoy in fresh water, iced tea, hot tea, or smoothies.

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I’m Pregnant, and I want PB&J!

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If you haven’t heard via one of my social media accounts (follow me on Twitter and Instagram @jackiewitzke or on Tumblr, TheFreshFormula), I am pregnant with baby #2! We have lovingly named our mini-us Baby Dos, since we aren’t finding out the sex until birth. I’m happy to report that I’ve been feeling well overall, especially now that the exhaustion of the first trimester has passed.

When I was pregnant with Nolan, I craved macaroni and cheese, which doesn’t exactly bode well for my plant-based lifestyle. This pregnancy, I’m thankful to be craving something animal-free: good ‘ole peanut butter and jelly! So long as jelly doesn’t contain gelatin, it is naturally vegan. I buy nut butters containing only nuts, so they’re as natural as you can get, too. And as you know, I also make my own bread, so PB&J is generally a pretty healthy snack for me…

…except for the excess of sugar found in some jelly brands. I’ve handled this a couple of ways. If I purchase premade jelly, I look for all-natural varieties that do not contain high fructose corn syrup. Travis and I have also made our own jellies and jams in the past, allowing us to control the amount and quality of sweetener that goes in.

Regardless of how well I shop or prepare homemade jellies and jams, sugar is sugar. Not only does the average person need to avoid consuming an excess, but certainly a pregnant woman should. I have solved this problem by turning to an old standby: my dessert smoothie formula.

Yes, it’s here: the no-sugar-added PB&J smoothie! I derive all of the sweetness in this treat from raw fruit and medjool dates (as needed). But wait, doesn’t fruit contain sugar? Yes – thankfully, it is coupled with fiber to slow the body’s absorption and prevent the conversion to fat. A dietician that I follow (as mentioned in this previous post) eats primarily raw fruit in her vegan diet and claims that you cannot consume too much of natural sugar in this form (juice, of course, is another story, which I wrote about in the same post). So, not to worry PB&J lovers!

My favorite jelly is that of raspberries, which I’m including in today’s formula adaptation. Raspberries (as with many other berries) happen to be low in sugar, for those concerned, and contain more fiber than any other fruit. Pretty awesome, huh?!  These pictured below are frozen, not moldy.  🙂

DSC_2033Like my chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie, you can enjoy this one for dessert, but it would make for a well-balanced breakfast or snack, too. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: DESSERT SMOOTHIE

Serves 2-3

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice)
  • ½-1 cup specialty ingredients –> I’m using ¾ cup frozen raspberries and ¼ cup peanut butter.*
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp hulled hemp seeds
  • ¼-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity) –> I’m not using any.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness –> I’m not using any.
  • Juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with 4 oz) –> I’m using almond.

*You could use any combination of berries and nut/seed butter.  🙂

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth, adjusting specialty ingredients as necessary.

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Make Smart Substitutions

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I am excited to share with you that I completed my first Fresh Formula publication outside of my blog.  🙂  I completed an article for the Adjunct Faculty Association spring newsletter, The Connection, and was among only five adjuncts selected to write in the health and wellness section.  Today, I thought I’d share that article with you.

If you’re a regular subscriber of The Fresh Formula, some of the article’s content won’t be new information, but a refresher never hurts.  I also included the recipe for my chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie, which was one of my first blog posts.  Click the link above to see the original article or read the text below:

On my plant-based living blog, The Fresh Formula, I share information and recipes for healthy eating.  One of the easiest changes we can make to our diets is to consider healthier substitutes for the items that we are using regularly.  Below, I have listed some examples of substitutions that I have made in my own kitchen:

  • White flour –> Whole wheat flour, spelt flour, graham flour
  • White granulated sugar –> Turbinado sugar, maple syrup, agave syrup, medjool dates
  • Iodized table salt –> Pink Himalayan sea salt

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  • Nut butters with additives –> Nuts-only nut butters
  • Eggs –> Chia seeds or ground flaxseed (mixed with water), bananas, steamed apple puree
  • Dairy milk –> Unsweetened almond, cashew, coconut, grain, and hemp milks
  • Canned beans –> Dry beans or unsalted canned beans (beans only)
  • White rice –> Brown rice, farro, quinoa, wheat berries, cracked wheat, barley
  • Prepackaged popcorn –> Bulk popping corn (made on the stovetop)

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  • Vegetable or canola oil –> Coconut, avocado, sesame, peanut, and olive oils
  • Boxed/canned stock/broth –> Unsalted homemade stock (can also be used as a flavorful substitute for water when cooking whole grains)

While many of these substitutions are more expensive, some are cheaper than their preservative-laden brethren; I believe that the health benefits are worth it either way.  I adopted a plant-based lifestyle because I had high cholesterol, so eggs, for example, were one of the first items to cross off of my shopping list.  Chia seeds, by contrast, are cholesterol-free sources of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and calcium.

I have included my irresistible chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie recipe incorporating many of the aforementioned substitutions.  It is so decadent, it can serve as dessert, but is a healthy option for a meal or snack, too!

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER BANANA SMOOTHIE

Serves 2-3

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and a few ice cubes)
  • ½ cup peanut butter (nuts only)
  • 1 heaping tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 2 pitted medjool dates
  • Unsweetened almond milk to achieve desired consistency (start with ½ cup)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until silky smooth.

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For more valuable health tips, information on plant-based living and eating, and tons of delicious recipes, visit thefreshformula.com and subscribe for regular updates.  Cheers to good health!

Start Your Day with Super Foods

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When contemplating what to post about this week, the decision was made for me when my husband, Travis, came home with a new Vitamix. If you read my post on dessert smoothies, you know that I’ve wanted one of these highly coveted, seemingly superhuman kitchen appliances for some time now. While my Ninja is a high performing blender, it fails to completely purée seeds and tougher fruits and veggies like blueberries and kale. Ready to make the switch, I knew that I needed to try making my super food smoothie before anything else to really put my Vitamix to the test.

First, a word about some of the ingredients. Below, I’ve pictured ginger root, hulled hemp seeds, and turmeric powder. I first learned about the wonders of ginger when I was pregnant. This refreshing and crisp root aids with nausea and digestion. Turmeric is another amazing root, but not having any on hand today, you can see that I’m using powdered turmeric instead. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory and is great for your skin. (I use a handmade facial soap loaded with turmeric.) When it comes to including roots in your smoothies—fresh or ground—start small. Their flavors are assertive and it’s better to err on the side of caution and add more later.

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As mentioned in my bio, I am not a culinary or dietary professional, so I am always learning about food. My sister works for a vitamin company and serves as one of my primary sources, but I do other research, too. Thus, I’ve amended my super food smoothie formula to include hemp seeds. I’ve heard the buzzing about these seeds for some time now, but they aren’t as easy to find as seeds like chia and flax. After visiting Bob’s Red Mill in Portland (you have to go!), I finally got my hands on a bag of them.   Hemp seeds are one of the highest in protein of all seeds and nuts, and are packed with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

This smoothie is another breakfast (or lunch/dinner/snack) you can feel good about, and is easy to share with little ones, too. My son, Nolan, drinks one every day. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: SUPER SMOOTHIE

Serves 2

  • 1 cup fresh fruit –> I’m using two small bananas.
  • 1 cup frozen fruit –> I’m using a combination of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.
  • 2 cups fresh vegetables –> I’m using a variety of baby kale leaves.
  • ¼ cup fresh herbs –> None today. I only have cilantro and it isn’t my preference in a smoothie. 🙂  I suggest parsley or mint if you have some on hand!
  • 2 tbsp fresh cut wheatgrass
  • 1/4 cup+ seeds (e.g. chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, etc.)
  • ½ inch turmeric root –> I’m using ½ tsp dried turmeric instead.
  • ¼ inch ginger root
  • Liquid* to achieve desired consistency (optional) –> I’m using approximately 6-7 oz of freshly squeezed orange juice.

*Most of the time, try to avoid using juice as it is lacking the fiber from the pulp, flesh, and skin necessary to assist the body in properly processing the sugars therein.  The occasional freshly squeezed juice, pack with as much pulp as possible, is fine.  Other options include unsweetened plant milk, water, or a moisture-packed fruit such as watermelon.  Depending on the quality of your blender and the types of produce you are including in your smoothie, you may not need to add liquid to the mix at all.

Place all items in a blender and blend until smooth. Consume immediately as some seeds, even when puréed, will continue to thicken the smoothie the longer that they sit in moisture.

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Dessert for Breakfast? Yes, Please!

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Today, I made my favorite dessert smoothie for breakfast. Above, you can see the finished product, ready for consumption by one busy mommy and on-the-go toddler.  While you’ll love this sweet treat in a traditional post-meal capacity, it can serve as a decadent start to your day, too. Jam-packed with protein and calcium, it puts many other breakfast options to shame.

A few words about some of the ingredients (pictured below) in this chocolate peanut butter banana concoction…

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First, we have cocoa power. To keep the sugar content low, it is imperative that it be unsweetened. Cocoa powder, which contains powerful antioxidants, has numerous health benefits, so it may be tempting to add a lot, but its flavor is quite intense. Start with a tablespoon and slowly add more if you want your smoothie extra chocolaty.

Secondly, seek out a peanuts-only peanut butter. Many peanut butters contain added sugar, oil, and salt, which may result in you initially finding a simpler peanut butter bland. The purer taste, however, will grow on you over time; I now find myself off-put by peanut butter with unnecessary additives.

Lastly, because the cocoa power, peanut butter, and almond milk in this recipe are all unsweetened, you have only the bananas to rely on to give this smoothie a dessert-like quality. Riper bananas will be sweeter, but if even that is not enough for you, add medjool dates–which are rich in fiber and vitamins–for a little something extra. As you can see in the photo, they do contain pits, which can be easily removed by splitting the dates in half with your thumbs. Medjool dates are very soft, easy to work with, and blend well, if you have a high quality blender.

That leads me to my blender: the Ninja, which includes pitchers in two different sizes. The most basic model will run you about $100, where the more advanced models with more equipment will be over $300. While I would love someday to own one of the hailed Vitamix or Blendtec processors, for a little less coin, I’m happy with the Ninja for now. If you do not own a blender with advanced capabilities and fear that the less-than-perfect puree of the dates would result in an unappealing texture, you could substitute another sweetener of your choice.

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Overall, this smoothie blends up nicely, with the exception of the chia seeds, which I’m not sure would completely puree in any blender. Their texture reminds me of the tiny seeds on strawberries or in kiwis and does not bother me, but you can eliminate them if you so choose. I have chia seeds in many of my formulas/recipes, as they are a super food loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, fiber, and protein.

But the seeds and peanut butter are fattening, right? Yes, they are. I’m happy to report, however, that seeds and nuts contain cholesterol-free fats. If you’re following a fairly strict plant-based diet, seeds and nuts are among the only sources of fat that you will ingest. Think about that squishy, white-ish edge of a pork chop or the grease that floats on top of a cheesy pizza and you will celebrate the addition, in moderation, of a different kind of fat to your diet. Also, this smoothie need not be your everyday breakfast (I make it once or twice a week) – check out my fruit and veggie smoothie formula, too.

With that said, on to dessert!

FORMULA BASE:  DESSERT SMOOTHIE

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice)
  • ½-1 cup specialty ingredients –>  I’m using ½ cup peanut butter and 1 heaping tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • ¼-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity) –>  I’m using no extract in this recipe.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness  –>  I’m using 2.
  • Juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with 4 oz)  –>  I’m using unsweetened almond milk.

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Combine all ingredients in a blender. Taste and adjust specialty ingredients as necessary.  Enjoy!