A few ways to get more veggies in your life!

The New Year has come, and with it the temptation to deprive ourselves in the name of wellness. Instead, I’m trying to think about the gospel of MORE: more sleep, more meditation, more time with people I love, more creativity, and more delicious foods. Over the next few weeks, I hope to encourage you with short articles on getting MORE out of this year.

For this week’s mini newsletter, I’m starting with more veggies. Personally, I’ve been challenging myself to increase my vegetable intake to get more nutrients and fiber in my diet. I always seem to have more energy and feel better when I’m full of veggies. If you’d like more veggies in your life, try some of the tips below that have been working for me. I should note that I am not a nutritional expert — just a fellow human in need of more veggies!

1. Start with veggies you like, and have them readily available.

Rather than forcing yourself to eat veggies you hate, start with eating more of what you like — and be sure to keep them around. For example, I like orange bell peppers and cucumbers enough to eat them as snacks. I’ve started buying packs of cucumbers and, when I have an orange pepper around, I try to cut it and keep the slices in a container in the fridge. That way, I have a yummy vegetable snack handy when I’m feeling peckish.

2. Wash, cut, and store veggies the day you buy them OR when you’re already in chopping mode.

This summer we bought a farm share, which offers loads of farm-fresh veggies each week. I washed, cut, and stored the vegetables the day I brought them home. I noticed I didn’t waste my veggies, and I was more likely to add veggies to my snacks and meals because the bulk of the work had already been done. When our farm share ended, I tried to keep the discipline of chopping ahead of time. Now when I’m dicing veggies for dinner, I’ll go ahead and cut a few extra veggies to make preparation easier the following night.

3. Throw some veggies in a smoothie. 
Add a bit of spinach, kale, zucchini, or cauliflower to a fruity smoothie if you’re looking to up your veggie intake. You probably won’t taste much of a difference, but start with smaller amounts if veggies are an acquired taste for you. Stumped on what to add? Try this green smoothie guide I whipped up a while back.

4. Add veggies to scrambled eggs or roasted potatoes.

For a fluffy breakfast scramble, add a little finely grated zucchini to beaten eggs before cooking.  If you need an easy side for dinner, try savory roasted potatoes studded with sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and zucchini. Roasted veggies and potatoes are a cinch — just chop your veggies and spuds into bite-size pieces, toss them in a tablespoon or so of oil, and season with salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning if you like a little kick. Roast in a pan at 400 degrees until the veggies are tender and fragrant, about 30 minutes (I usually let the veggies cook while I prepare the rest of the meal).

If you try any of these tips, let me know how it goes! I hope your new year is filled with lots of delicious veggies!

Warming ginger elixir

With three kids, I feel I am always thisclose to getting a cold. I try to fend off the yuckies as best I can with frequent handwashing, adequate sleep, and (mostly) healthy eating. Sometimes, though, I like a little extra boost. That’s when I make this warming ginger elixir. If I feel the slightest bit off, or if I feel the beginnings of a scratchy throat, I make a batch of this elixir and slurp it up straight away. It contains immunity-boosting lemon, stomach-easing ginger, throat-soothing honey, and tension-erasing hot water. Combined, these ingredients create a yummy tea that often provides me relief from early cold symptoms. I hope you love it as much as I do!

What you’ll need:

  • 1-2” thumb of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • One-two tablespoons of honey, depending on how sweet you want your drink
  • 6-8 oz water

Heat all ingredients in a small pot until the water boils. Stir. Then, turn the heat off and let the elixir steep for about 10 minutes. Pour everything into a mug, or strain out the ginger and then pour. Enjoy!

Sour Patch Smoothie

I did not mean for this turn into a food blog, but this smoothie, y’all! It has that tart, biting flavor of some of my favorite childhood treats, like Sour Patch Kids and ginger chews. The truth is, those flavors still get my tastebuds going, though I’m no longer a fan of eating sticky treats by the handful. This smoothie is the perfect substitute to fulfill all those sweet, lip-puckering cravings.

A whole lime and plenty of fresh ginger bring distinctive flavors, while sweet grapes and a ripe banana balance the tartness. (If you’re not a ginger person, feel free to leave out that ingredient.) Greens round out the produce list while making you feel all grown up for eating (okay, drinking) your veggies.

To make this sweet and sour delight, just gather the following ingredients and liquify in your favorite blender (I’m partial to this one).

Enjoy!

  • Two handfuls of spinach, green kale, or a mixture of the two
  • One whole lime, peeled and quartered; remove the center pith to reduce bitterness
  • One half of a ripe banana
  • About one cup of sweet grapes (I used red globe grapes)
  • One two-inch thumb of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • ½ cup plain, unsweetened kefir, yogurt, or  nondairy yogurt
  • Nondairy milk to liquify, about ⅔ to 1 cup

Recipe Roundup! Two Recipes for Your Food Processor

I mentioned last week how much I love my new Ninja blender system. Although I mostly use the smaller blender component (like, almost every day), I’m also getting a lot of use out of the food processor.

Below are two recipes (with my adjustments) that I’ve tried with my food processor recently, and that will likely make their way into regular rotation at my house.
Dark Chocolate Energy Bites from Minimalist Baker
You can always count on Minimalist Baker to create simple, tasty, and healthy recipes. These fudgy energy bites are no exception. They satisfy my sweet tooth while giving me a boost of energy. I subbed raw cashews for the walnuts, nixed the hemp seeds (I didn’t have any on hand), and added a dash of cayenne. I love the chocalatey results and cannot stop munching on these goodies.

Cauliflower Bread from Gastronomy
I’ve been slow to jump on the cauliflower tots/bread/hash brown bandwagon. I love cauliflower, but wanted to avoid what I thought would be a time-intensive process of creating these cauliflower concoctions. It turns out that the prep isn’t that bad if you have a food processor. This recipe for cauliflower bread is simple, yet tasty. Because I’m impatient and didn’t want to wait for the cauliflower to dry out in the oven, my “bread” turned out more like a hash brown, which was absolutely fine by me. I subbed a handful of gluten-free nut cracker crumbs for the cheese, but kept everything else pretty much the same. The result was a deliciously savory hash brown that was totally irresistible. I love mine with sliced avocado and a veggie burger. I also could see adding seaweed to create a mock fish cake as a stand-alone entree rather than a side dish.

What food processor-heavy dishes are you making these days?

More about the blender I can’t stop using

The one ingredient that can make or break your smoothie is your blender. Find the perfect ingredient and the leafiest veggies become smooth as a milkshake. In contrast, sub-par blenders create smoothies with flecks of greens that must be chewed rather than sipped.

That’s why I was elated to find a great blender in the Ninja Compact System I bought recently. The system comes with a full-size blender, a food processor (with an optional dough blade), and two 24 oz blender cups. Each component is compatible with the blender base, and each component works beautifully (I have tried every single one).

The components that surpassed my expectations were the blender cups. They are used with a small blade that I doubted could handle a soft-fruit smoothie, let alone a smoothie with leafy vegetables. I was pleasantly surprised. Day after day, these cups and their little blender blade make silky smooth green smoothies (to see the handiwork, check out Monday’s post on how to make a green smoothie). Even better, the cups come with lids so that you can take your smoothie with you. You just unscrew the blender blade when you’re finished bending and then screw in the lid. It’s quick, simple, and makes enjoying a healthy breakfast or snack that much easier.

I know I sound like I’m being paid to endorse Ninja (I’m not), but I am really impressed with this product — especially since it can be challenging to find a blender that works well but doesn’t cost a fortune (ahem, Vitamix). I’ve had a regular Ninja blender in the past and it did not perform nearly as well as this one when it comes to green smoothies. If you’re looking for a single unit to blend your smoothies and handle your food prep needs, consider this jewel. I know I haven’t been disappointed yet!

Green Smoothie How-to

​A couple of weeks ago I finally bought a blender to replace the one that went kaput sometime last summer. Since buying the blender, I’ve been a bit fanatic about my green smoothies. With warmer weather, I find that smoothies make the best breakfasts — they aren’t too heavy, but with the right ingredients, they can be incredibly satisfying.

Because I am rarely without a smoothie most mornings these days, I’m often asked about which smoothie recipes I favor. I find it easier to think of basic ratios rather than specific ingredients because I’m often just working with whatever I have in my refrigerator or whatever produce is on sale. Additionally, I like a smoothie that is filling and just a touch sweet. Therefore, I don’t like adding juices or sweetened yogurts/milks to my smoothies.  I usually follow this basic guide when throwing together my smoothies:

  • 1-2 handfuls of spinach or kale
  • 1 sweet, ripe fruit (like apple, banana, strawberries, mango, pineapple, or blueberries)
  • 1 citrus-y ingredient (like lemon juice, lime juice, or a peeled orange)
  • 1 part protein or fat (a cup of plain kefir, a half cup of plain whole milk yogurt, an avocado, or two-three tablespoons of almond butter)
  • Liquid to help blend the ingredients (Try water, coconut water, unsweetened nut milk, juice, or some combination of these)
  • I sometimes include additional ingredients to add crunch (like chia seeds), flavor dimensions (cinnamon, nutmeg), or to help dominate the flavors (cacao powder, ginger).

This basic guide usually yields a 16 oz or 20 oz smoothie.

As you experiment with flavor combinations, you’ll quickly discover your favorites. Right now, these are the combinations I’m making the most:

  • Spinach + berries + almond butter
  • Kale + berries + almond butter
  • Kale + banana + orange + kefir + ginger
  • Spinach + banana + kefir + ginger
  • Spinach + banana + kefir + cacao powder + almond butter

All of the combinations above make great gateway smoothies, meaning they’re yummy enough for non-smoothie folks to at least give them a try (my kids love green smoothies — even the son who once cried because I gave him a salad for lunch).

So, who knows? Maybe green smoothies will become your go-to breakfast, too!

Easy Thai Curry

I Iove Thai curry, but replicating that delectable spice combination is beyond my level of expertise. Good thing there is something called curry paste! This tasty little condiment makes recreating a Thai take-out favorite within reach.

This recipe guide was inspired by a Blue Apron recipe a friend gave me. I’ve made it my own, and I hope you do too. Swap out the broccoli and kale for your favorite veggies, toss in some cayenne to kick up the heat, or simply add your favorite protein. My kids love this recipe as-is, so I don’t make a ton of changes, except to substitute seasonal green veggies.

The meal comes together pretty quickly, especially if you prep the veggies beforehand. With chopping included, I’d say it takes me about 30 minutes to whip up this meal. It tastes even better if you give the flavors some time to mingle, but that is not an absolute must if you’re pressed for time.

Without further ado…Easy Thai Curry!

You’ll need:

  • ½ large onion, diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 3 small sweet potatoes, sides
  • ½ bunch of fresh cilantro (sub parsley or basil if you have an aversion to cilantro)
  • 3 heaping teaspoons of curry paste
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 4 cups of water or vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch of kale, chopped
  • 1 small broccoli crown, chopped
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger root, grated
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Cayenne to taste
  • About a 1 tablespoon of oil for cooking
  • Cooked rice or quinoa, for serving

Method:

  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onions and celery, stirring until the onions become slightly translucent.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes. Stir to coat the sweet potatoes in oil. Cook until they start to barely soften, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk, water or broth, curry paste, salt, and pepper. If you’re adding cayenne, go ahead and add that now. Stir until the liquid ingredients and curry paste are thoroughly combined. (Some chunks of coconut milk may remain until fully heated.)
  5. Add the cilantro and grated ginger.
  6. Bring to a boil. Then, simmer until the sweet potatoes can be pierced with a knife (about 10-15 minutes). Turn off the heat before the potatoes become mushy.
  7. Turn off the heat and add the broccoli and kale. Stir, allowing the residual heat to cook the veggies a bright green.

This recipe makes four to six generous servings.

To serve, scoop about ¼ cup to ½ cup of cooked rice or quinoa in a bowl. Ladle about ¾ cup to 1 cup of curry over your grain. If desired, garnish with cilantro. Enjoy!