Posts tagged ‘drink your greens’

June 22, 2011

What dreams (and greens) may come

Lately, I’ve been having this running dialogue in my head. With myself. Yes, I know that’s not a good sign. Onward. It starts up around…oh…8, 9, 10 pm at night. When I’m supposed to be getting ready for bed. Or when I’m supposed to be sleeping. In short, it goes something like this (Evil Becky has been represented in italics in the below dialogue):

***

–I’m sleepy. I should get ready for bed.
–But there are so many things I could do right now…like watch all of the episodes of This American Life on Netflix!
–I can watch them later…I need to get up early for my workout tomorrow.
–…I could study medical terminology…or read all of those books that I have to write reports on before August…
–I’m sleepy. I really should go to bed.
–That’s right, I AM sleepy. I just need a little snack to keep me going!

***

And it all goes downhill from there. The night creeps towards waking hours, and I can be found filling out tourist visa forms, cleaning out my closet and organizing my desk. Obviously I’m too cool for school. Most nights, I feel like this:

Source

I’ve known this for some time now, and I’ve decided to finally go public: My name is Becky, and I have a sleep problem. For a while. Maybe most of my life! I’ve hated naps since I was a kid, and always had to be coaxed into them. Naps aside, I’ve wished more than once that I could simply plug into some energy source and recharge à la Energizer Bunny. Alas, sleep is still an integral part of a healthy life, and I’ve been short-circuiting mine through this unhealthy habit.

Not sleeping–unhealthy, really? Yup. It’s serious business, too. Slumber helps us to consolidate daily input into our memory (read: make sense of your life!), and a deficit is linked to a host of chronic diseases, depressed immunity and weight gain (most likely due to midnight snacking…ouch). Plus we need more of it: the latest recommendations have upped the adult sleep requirement (formerly 7 hours) to 7-9 hours.

Hmmm. I need an attitude adjustment toward my nights on the double. So what if it took a New York Times article to convince me? I’ve decided to create a challenge for myself, and of course, you’re welcome to come along, too. I’m calling it “Eight in Eight.” What can I say…I’m guessing my sleep deprivation is zapping my creativity as well. The challenge is simple–get eight hours of sleep for eight days. In a row. Starting tonight. I’m cringing a little as I write this. But I’m going to keep a diary of sorts to record (1) if I make the challenge for the day, and (2) how I feel during the day energy-wise. I’ll let you know how it goes on the 28th!

In the meantime, I’m adopting a few strategies to help woo myself into bed (please, um, refrain from comments of an inappropriate nature). I’m sure you all already practice them, and I’m way behind the trend of sleeping through the night. However, do permit me to share:

1. Remove all clutter from your bedroom: I did this yesterday. Check.
2. Stop eating several hours before your bedtime: Um, starting this tonight. Semi-check.
3. Stop all forms of electronic stimuli (email/internet, movies, etc.) at least one hour before your bedtime: Eek, this will be hard. Starting tonight.
4. Plan a scrumptious breakfast to wake up to. Check!

It’s no secret that I love breakfast. But hot oats and scrambled eggs have no place in steamy Atlanta summers. What to do?

Go green!

I discovered Kimberly Snyder’s blog last year and was happy to see her book come out a couple of months ago. A beautiful clinical nutritionist and yoga instructor, Kimberly features simple but delicious raw recipes on her blog and in her book. Her “Glowing Green Smoothie” has also appeared on a host of shows and is being promoted by celebrities that Kimberly works with. I started drinking one of her smoothies last summer that I want to share with you all…although it makes for a lighter breakfast, this tasty, refreshing breakfast drink will surprise you with its sweetness. It is the perfect option for those summer days when you don’t want to feel weighed down with a heavy breakfast, or for when you have heavier meals planned for later in the day.

***
Summertime Smoothie, adapted from Kimberly Snyder’s Glowing Green Summer Smoothie

Ingredients:
-2 cups of spinach
-1 cup of purified water
-1 very ripe white peach or white nectarine, sliced up
-scant handful of fresh mint leaves
-3-4 ice cubes

Directions:
Blend the spinach, water and mint together until smooth. Add the peach/nectarine slices and ice cubes. Blend until smooth.

***

Enjoy, and be sure to check out Kim’s blog!

March 24, 2011

Green. Eggs. No ham.

Why hello again. Apologies for being gone so long. I haven’t exactly had writer’s block. Life just happened. Distractions, meetings, and such. I’ve been working long hours at my job for the last couple of weeks, trying to catch up on work after my Seattle jaunt, and since I have to write so much during the day, sometimes I am overtaken by the need to zone out for a while after hours. This all sounds like an excuse. What I meant to say is…Sorry I’ve been gone. I’ve missed you. And I’m back.

After my last post, I feel like I should post something rather cheery. And the title of this post may certainly suggest that I will do such a thing. But over the weekend, a dear friend suffered a horrific tragedy, one that made me want to hold on to everyone I love with a vise-like grip. Life right now feels a bit heavy, and as Will Ferrell would say, “This may sound like gibberish to you, but I think I’m in a tragedy.”

It reminds me of my brief time in West Africa, where the year is marked out according to rainfall… La saison seche et la saison des pluies. The rains began shortly after I arrived and continued on after I left. I probably saw the sun less than a week total. But the people I met there were accustomed to the moodiness of the land, and knew that the rainy season would pass. Life is punctuated by tragedy, and sometimes the punctuations don’t seem to be fairly spaced. The impermanence of life is one of its harshest realities and greatest gifts: terrible things happen, but they pass. And when they pass, we get back to living.

And in my life, getting back to living means good times (translate: good meals) with loved ones, or as I’m often apt to do, by one’s self. NPR and I got to spend one full day together this last weekend, and it was wonderful. The city smiled on us with sunshine and 70-degree weather. NPR did not smile, since–due to his polar bear tendencies–he tends to melt when the thermostat rises above the 60’s (that would be Fahrenheit, apologies to the Centigrade audience). We frolicked in Piedmont Park, were amazed at the astounding Bodies exhibit in Atlantic station, and topped off a perfect day with a delicious meal at Cakes and Ale. Sound familiar? Readers of Bon Appetit? As much as I would love to show you what we ate, I neglected to bring my camera and have nary a picture to share. I will tell you that this restaurant deserves the accolades it received in Bon Appetit. Although if I had to choose between Cafe Alsace and Cakes and Ale (both housed in the charming downtown Decatur), I think I might have to side with my little bit of France. In Georgia. I know that sounds weird.

And breakfast? You didn’t mention breakfast!

Did you even have to ask?

Apologies for the photo quality–this was one of those instances where the dish looked so scrumptious that I scrambled to take a shot as quickly as possible and then dove into the dish, hoping in vain that the picture turned out. Not so much.

A little better. Oeufs en Cocette, courtesy of the lovely Coco at Roost. I followed the recipe with a few exceptions: (1) I swapped rainbow chard for swiss, and (2) I used these lovely baby heirloom tomatoes from Melissa’s. A wonderful breakfast with two thumbs up from the boy. And if you haven’t visited Roost yet, I encourage you to stop by. Coco’s recipes are both delicious and healthy, and her entries make you feel like you’ve been invited over for coffee and are sitting down for a chat in her kitchen.

***
And for the “Green” bit of this post title…I decided to treat myself to a green juice the other day. Yes, that’s right…I equate veggie juice to a treat. If you have heard about Kris Carr, you’re probably familiar with her mantra to “Make Juice, Not War.” Kris, the late Jack LaLanne and many others are big promoters of juicing, mainly for its nutrient benefits and high digestibility. I particularly love green juice since it takes away the icky relish factor that can arise when you try to replicate green juice recipes in smoothie form. Given that I’m shy of a juicer and an unlimited food budget, I do have a few personal juicing caveats:

1. Only every now and then. Juicing is expensive, whether you own a juicer or you purchase from a juice bar. It takes an incredible amount of produce–especially if you are juicing greens–to squeeze out 8 ounces of juice.

2. Only after workouts. In green smoothies, the presence of fiber, fat, and protein (if you add a supplement) prevents a spike in your blood sugar following consumption. Since the fiber has been strained out in the process of juicing, all juices–including green ones–will cause your blood sugar to increase considerably. Your body is best prepared to handle this spike following a workout, this this is the time that you are most sensitive to insulin.

Again, these are just my personal guidelines for juicing. Feel free to use or discard them. Either way, I do encourage you to give green juices a try. No juicer? Do it on the cheap, à la me. Blend, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Here is a recipe I made up the other day:

It’s Not Easy Being Green Juice

Ingredients:
1/2 bunch of curly kale
1 sweet apple (I used Gala)
1/2 Meyer lemon
purified water

Directions:
1. Separate kale leaves from stalks. Place leaves in blender. Add 1/2 cup water and blend. If the blender gets stuck, add more water. Continue to blend until relatively smooth.
2. Core the apple and add piece by piece to your green juice. Blend. The texture will thicken considerably, so feel free to add more water to increase blend-ability. Continue to blend until smooth.
3. Strain mixture through fine-mesh. It may be useful to use a spoon to press the mixture against the mesh and get as much juice as possible. Pour extracted juice into mason jar, mug, martini glass, etc.
4. Squeeze lemon juice into your juice and stir. It really makes a difference to use Meyer lemons…they are naturally very sweet!
5. Drink immediately, or chill for ~15-30 minutes. I personally prefer mine lightly chilled.
6. Enjoy. Smile. Pay it forward.

À Bientôt!

February 21, 2011

Adventures in Breakfast: three to try

It’s no secret: breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.

Why? I’m not sure. It could be that–with time–I’ve come to be a morning person, and treasure those first still moments of the day where nothing is tainted, and anything can happen. New beginnings, each morning. And I love waking up slowly, taking my time in the kitchen, savoring a spicy cup of chai or a rich cup of coffee while catching up on readings. But I’ll be honest. My mornings aren’t usually like this. I’m often running behind, having taken a bit too long in the gym or shower, or pressed the snooze button one too many times. I run out the door frantically to catch the morning shuttle, and thus begins another day of frenzied activity.

So breakfast is my take-back. It is my way of relaxing and enjoying the moment, even when it’s on the go or thrown together in a flash. Are you a breakfast lover too? If not, I encourage you to rediscover it! Putting a special spin on your first meal of the day–even if it’s just by trying something new– is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. And starting the day with a smile–especially on Mondays–well, that can make all the difference in the world.

Wondering where to get started? Here are three that I’ve especially enjoyed:

1. Green Smoothies
Green smoothies–also known as Green Monsters by many in the blogosphere–were first introduced to me by my sister, who found out about them from one of her friends. Word travels fast about good food, my friends. GMs are a breakfast staple for me, and are especially refreshing in the steamy months of summer (aka May-September in the South). Scared to drink your spinach (or kale, for the daring at heart)? Don’t be! With a tinch of fruit, you won’t even know it’s there. If the green color deters you, take a cue from Mama Pea. 🙂 There are a ton of recipes out there, and the best thing to do is to start experimenting to find the flavors you like best. Here is my favorite:

“When Monsters Dream of Figs” Green Smoothie


Ingredients:
2-3 cups of spinach
1 small cucumber (or 1/2 medium or large)
2 large dried turkish figs (or 3-4 small mission figs), chopped and stems removed
1 1/4 cups of unsweetened almond milk
1 tbsp chia or flaxseeds
4-6 ice cubes

Directions:
Blend all ingredients together except ice. After the mixture begins to look smooth, add your ice in. This makes a lot, so grab someone you love to share!


I certainly did.

2. An Unlikely Porridge
Last year, after reading about Adina Niemerow–a holistic chef who leads detox programs in California–in Food and Wine magazine, I promptly ordered her book, “Super Cleanse”. NPR saw it lying around and started poking fun at the “hokey detox info written by some…” He paused when he flipped the book cover over, saw Adina’s picture and reluctantly finished his sentence: “…amazingly gorgeous person.”

Now, I’m not much for detoxes…I think a better and wiser choice is to make healthy eating choices every day, which is precisely why I love Adina’s book. Along with making some excellent recommendations should you want to embark on a detox, she offers a plethora of recipes and detox regimes that range from hearty and healthy everyday food to the very stringent juice-only fasts. One of my favorite recipes is this grain-free fruit and nut “porridge”…Delicious!


Apple-Nut Breakfast Porridge

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped raw nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts or Brazil nuts, soaked overnight and drained
1 Granny Smith apple—peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
2 dried white figs, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon dried goji berries
1/2 teaspoon ground flax seeds

Directions:
In a food processor, grind the nuts. Add the apple, figs and ginger; pulse until chunky. Transfer the porridge to a bowl. Top with the goji berries and ground flax.

3. Sushi…for breakfast

No, not that kind of sushi! I’ve been a big fan of Gena’s for a while, and when I saw her recipe for breakfast sushi a while back, I put it on the docket to try. I won’t lie…initially I thought that combining collards and bananas–especially first thing in the morning–might approach my limitations for healthy + tasty. To my surprise and delight, this was scrumptious. Even better? It’s a flash in the pan…great for those mornings on the go!

Breakfast Sushi from Choosing Raw


Ingredients:
1 banana
1 large Swiss chard, collard, kale, or romaine lettuce leaf
1 tbsp almond butter
Stevia

Directions:
1) Cut the thickest part of the stem of the collard leaf out. This will serve as your wrapper. ***Gena’s site has an excellent tutorial for this!
2) In a small bowl, mix the almond butter with a packet of Stevia, or 7-9 drops if using bottled. I use NuNaturals Stevia and love love love it! Adjust to your desired level of sweetness and spread the almond butter along the center of the leaf.
3) Cut the banana in half, and line it up along the center of the leaf.
4) Fold up the bottom edges and wrap up burrito-style.

Eat, and marvel.

***

There you have it–three treats to brighten your mornings. Happy creating!