Almond Joy Smoothie – Vegan and Healthy!

What better way to wake up in the morning than knowing that, taste-wise, you will be eating the equivalent of a candy bar for breakfast while getting all the nutrition needed to supercharge your day?

That’s exactly how I felt this morning, knowing that yesterday I had experimented with creating an Almond Joy-type smoothie and today I had some ideas to perfect it!

This smoothie replicates the flavors in an Almond Joy bar.  The chocolate flavor comes from cacao, the almond flavor from almond butter and almond extract, and the coconut flavor from coconut milk and unsweetened coconut flakes.  What about the fruits and veggies?  Those come with the addition of a handful of spinach and a frozen banana, while calcium comes from the coconut or coconut-almond milk.  And I also like to add some hemp protein powder for some extra protein, but that’s optional.

Almond Joy Smoothie

All the goodness of the candy bar, replicated with healthy ingredients!

All the goodness of the candy bar, replicated with healthy ingredients!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large handful baby spinach
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut milk (the kind from the carton, not the thick canned kind) or almond-coconut milk blend
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (peanut butter also works)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon cacao power
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 3 ice cubes
  • 1 tablespoon hemp protein, optional
  • 1-2 dates, pitted (optional – include if you like extra sweetness)

Combine in blender and enjoy your smoothie!  Sprinkle with extra coconut flakes if desired.  Makes one tall glass (about 2 cups).

Vitamin-A Packed Mango-Goji-Carrot Smoothie

Smoothies have turned out to be the neatest trick to getting more veggies into my diet.  Today I decided to experiment with a new vegetable (and a new color): carrots.

I’ve been pretty successful when matching the same color fruit and vegetable, so I opted for a mango-carrot smoothie.  To amp up the nutritional value and to make it more filling, I added goji berries, avocado, and chia seeds.

This smoothie is packed with Vitamin A.  So what’s the big deal about this vitamin?  Vitamin A helps maintain healthy skin, teeth, mucus membranes, and skeletal tissue, and it promotes good vision.  This smoothie delivers about 300% of your daily vitamin A needs – 1 cup of mango has 25% of your daily need for vitamin A, while 1/2 cup chopped carrots has over 200% and goji berries contain about 68% in 2 tablespoons.  Although Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and thus can be toxic if ingested in large amounts, this is highly unlikely to happen from consuming foods (only from vitamins), as your body only converts the amount of Vitamin A that it needs.  That’s just another reason that, when possible, we should get our nutrients from whole foods, not vitamins!

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They key ingredients for the mango-goji smoothie.

Mango-Goji Smoothie

  • 1 large mango, peeled and cubed
  • 3 small or 1 large carrot, peeled (about 1/2 cup, chopped)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 tablespoons goji berries
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 cup almond or coconut (or almond-coconut) milk
  • 2-3 ice cubes

Blend all ingredients in blender.  Enjoy!

Healthy Chili-Mango Lassi Popsicles

What better way to improve the best-tasting food out there than by combining the best of two culinary traditions?  I learned this when eating Mexican-inspired sushi at a Japanese-Mexican fusion restaurant in San Antonio.  And I decided to apply this lesson when creating my chili-mango lassi popsicles.

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These pops were  first inspired by the popsicles featured on Joe Cross’ site.  I tried this recipe, but did not enjoy the banana taste mixed in with my mango.  I also wanted to spice things up a bit, and since living in south Texas I have loved adding chili to my fruit.  I did, however, like the combination of mango and coconut milk, which tasted like the Indian lassi drink.  So the combination of these wonderful Indian and Mexican-inspired flavors resulted in these great popsicles.

I’m proud to say that these popsicles are raw.  They are also dairy free, sugar-free (free of added sugars, at least), gluten-free, and soy-free.  They are also really delicious.  Start light on the chili if you are not used to  heavy chili flavor with your sweets.

Ingredients (makes 4 popsicles):

  • 2 ataulfo mangos, pit removed and scored, plus extra mango pieces (optional)
  • 1/2 cup coconut or light coconut milk (I like to make my own light coconut milk by combining equal parts coconut milk and water)
  • 2-3 ice cubes
  • 1 teaspoon chili powser, optional (or quantity to taste)

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Directions:

1.) Place some of the extra mango pieces (if using) in the bottoms of the popsicle molds.  Scoop out the scored mango flesh and place in blender.

2.) Add the coconut milk and ice to blender and blend completely.

3.) Add chili powder to taste.  I recommend adding it little by little to ensure you like the taste.  If you do not enjoy the taste of the popsicle in liquid form, you won’t like it in popsicle form!  Blend.

4.) Pour liquid into the molds, leaving a bit of space at the top if you are planning on adding more mango pieces.  Add these pieces to the molds and push in with the end of the popsicle stick (so that the mango pieces are spread throughout the popsicle).

5.) Freeze and enjoy!

Potassium-Packed Green Apple Smoothie

Yes, it’s nice to start my day with a chocolate smoothie that reminds me of a milkshake.  However, there is nothing that energizes me more than a green smoothie full of light-tasting fruits and veggies.  Drinking one of these smoothies is not only a yummy experience, but also makes me feel “cleaner” and revitalized.  I thought that this was purely psychological until I looked up the nutrition info. for this smoothie and learned that it contains half of the daily recommended value of potassium.

I get frequent muscle cramps, which is where my interest in potassium began.  As I researched more on the Mayo Clinic website, I learned that potassium is needed to maintain muscle health, including a regular heartbeat, and that the daily recommendation is 1600 to 2000 milligrams a day.  It is found naturally in many fruits, vegetables, and legumes, as well as other foods.  As I did further research, I learned that the way minerals operate and interact in our bodies is not yet known for sure, but minerals such as potassium are critical to our health.

To make the smoothie prep easier in the morning, I like to place the dry ingredients in the blender the night beforehand and chill in the fridge.  In the morning, I just add the liquid ingredients and blend.

Below, my recipe for a Potassium-Packed Apple Smoothie.

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Energizing Green Apple Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 apple, preferable green, sliced and core removed
  • 1 pear, sliced and core removed
  • 1 large handful baby spinach
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon hemp protein (optional)
  • 1/4 cup coconut water
  • 3/4-1 cup almond milk
  • 3-4 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and enjoy!

Nutrition Information: 355 calories, 929 mg potassium (Calculations based on information from the Calorie Counter from CalorieKing.com).

Chunky Monkey Smoothie

What better way to inaugurate day 4 of no-processed foods eating than with a smoothie named after my favorite Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor – Chunky Monkey!  Based on the yummy combination of banana, nuts, and chocolate, I knew this smoothie had to be a hit!

Chunky Monke Smoothie

The inspiration for this smoothie came from my favorite childhood ice cream flavor as well as from the Reboot With Joe website.  For the first time ever, I have been drinking smoothies for breakfast this week (and avoiding processed foods), and have felt surprisingly energized by them.

The inspiration for this change in my diet came from two people.  One was a friend who did a fruit-and-vegetable ten-day cleansing.  I never thought of myself as the cleansing type, but I realized that even though I may eat healthy according to dietary guidelines, I do consume too much sugar and processed food.  My second inspiration was my mom, who has recently reported feeling much better since eliminating gluten from her diet.  I have drastically reduced gluten and dairy (two common allergens) in my diet, and hope to completely eliminate these next week to see how it affects me.

I used to snack on sugar-loaded sweets throughout the day, especially when I would get stressed at work.  I am excited to report that, even though I did go through sugar withdrawal for two days, leaving me sleepy and lethargic, I have now overcome the sugar addiction and feel empowered to take on the world!  While I originally wanted to see if my reduction of processed foods and sugar would result in weight loss, the change I have noticed most is in my skin – my face feels much smoother than before.  I look forward to seeing the other benefits this healthier eating plan has to offer.

I will continue posting any recipes I create, but for now, enjoy the Chunky Monkey Smoothie:

Chunky Monkey Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 handful baby spinach leaves
  • 3-4 leaves kale (stem removed)
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 heaping teaspoon natural peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon cacao nibs
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • 2-4 ice cubes, optional

Blend all ingredients in high-powered blender.  Pour into glass and enjoy!

 

Grapefruit-Ginger Jam

After checking out a new farmer’s market yesterday I came home loaded with fruit, including grapefruit, lemons, and strawberries.  With the citrus season soon coming to an end, I could not resist the offer of purchasing just-picked grapefruit at a price of 8 grapefruit for a dollar.  Faced with the reality that my fridge looked more like a garden/orchard than a refrigerator, I realized I would not be able to consume all of this fruit.

So I set out to preserve the grapefruit, thinking it would be delicious paired with ginger.  At first unsure of the difference between preserves, jam, jelly, and marmalade, I soon learned that I would be making jam.  It turns out that preserves use whole pieces of fruit, jellies use the fruit juice, and marmalade is made using the rind of the fruit as well as the pulp.  Since I would be using pieces of grapefruit, but not exactly whole pieces of fruit, I decided my recipe would be a jam.

I tried to follow a recipe, but most of the ones online called for steeping the whole grapefruit overnight, or boiling it whole for several hours.  I had made strawberry preserves before by simply boiling the fruit with sugar, and decided to do the same with the grapefruit.  For this recipe, you need to peel and remove the pith from the grapefruit and lemons and collect all of the juice and pulp in a large bowl.  This may feel like a somewhat tedious process when you are doing it, but it is worth it for the simplification of the recipe and will cut down on a lot of wait time.

The grapefruit-ginger jam is delicious mixed with plain Greek yogurt or on crackers.  Enjoy!

Grapefruit-Ginger Jam

Ingredients include grapefruit, lemons, and crystallized ginger (as well as sugar, not shown).

Ingredients include grapefruit, lemons, and crystallized ginger (as well as sugar, not shown).

Ingredients:

  • 4 large red grapefruit, juice and pulp only (skins and pith removed)
  • 1 lemon, juice and pulp only (skins and pith removed)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Simmer uncovered on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes or until thickened.
  3. Follow canning instructions – wash jars with hot soapy water, fill with the preserves (leaving 1/4-1/2 inch space at the rim), and immerse in boiling water for about 5 minutes (making sure the water covers the jar).
  4. Remove jars from boiling water and let your preserves cool.

Nut, Fruit, and Seed Energy Bars With Omega-3s

For a long time, I was addicted to Kind energy bars.  I loved the simple ingredients in their fruit and nut bars as well as the natural energy they gave me when I ate them before my workouts.  However, the habit became pretty expensive.  Furthermore, I felt limited by the selection, constantly wishing that more of their bars contained flax or chia seeds.  So what was a girl to do?  Bake her own bars, of course!

For this recipe, I customized this recipe for energy bars.  I have experimented with different types of dried fruits, and learned that anything works as long as I include at least 1/2 cup of dates or prunes and a bit of honey to hold everything together (when I first followed the recipe, the bars were kind of falling apart on me).

Since I had been wishing that more Kind energy bars contained omega-3 fatty acids, I added chia and flax seeds to this recipe.  According to WebMD, omega-3s are essential fatty acids that are not produced by the body, but that can be obtained only through food.  They reduce inflammation in the body, lower triglyceride levels, reduce overall risk of heart disease, and lower levels of depression.  Some studies have even found that they may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

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Nut, Fruit, and Seed Energy Bars With Omega-3s

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole raw almonds with skins
  • 1/2 cup dates
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup fruit juice (preferably orange juice)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds), unsalted
  • 1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/8 cup flax seeds or ground flax seeds
  • 1/8 cup chia seeds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line an 8 by 8 inch baking pan with aluminum foil and grease with nonstick baking spray (Pam), if desired.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the almonds and the dried fruit a few times until they are roughly chopped up.
  3. Add the juice, honey, and salt, and pulse to blend.
  4. Add the pepitas, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and chia seeds and pulse to combine.
  5. Spread the mixture evenly on the baking pan.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden at the edges.  Remove from the oven and let cool completely before cutting or breaking the bars apart into about 8 pieces.