The Hardcore Green

I’ve mentioned quite a few times how great watercress is for you: it’s the most nutrient-dense plant food you can get. Yes, it beats kale and spinach.

Unlike spinach however, watercress (and kale for that matter) don’t rate highly on a palatability scale. Well, not mine anyway. But I will give watercress the time of day because of its nutrient status.

So finding things to do with it is pretty difficult. It’s quite peppery so you usually wouldn’t want to use much. Food FervourA little in salads, sometimes soups, but I usually always revert to smoothies. They’re easy, and I can tolerate a larger ‘dose’ …Sorry, I’m really making it sound like medicine, huh? But according to Hippocrates it is, so give me this over a pill anyday…

Today however, I went overboard. I’ll blame the seller at the farmer’s market: the bunch of watercress I got for just $2.50 was so huge I wasn’t able to fit it in my fridge. I typically resolve this kind of issue by using some immediately. Hello, breakfast!

Food FervourThe problem was I had to chop one helluva lot off it to fit it in the placcy bag, in the fridge …see the pic: that’s the ‘handful’ in relation to my not-too-small (2 litre) Thermomix. If you are going to give this smoothie a go, I’d suggest you halve what I used. Unless you’re Hardcore. Like me. (Pffft!)

Simply blend a handful of watercress with the flesh of one mango, 200-300gm fresh pineapple (more or less, to taste: this is fruit that best ‘tempers’ the watercress) and 200mls of cold or coconut water. (Thermies, I blended it on speed 9 for 1 minute). Fresh mint may help to somewhat disguise the fiery watercress and will complement the tropical fruits as well.Food Fervour

Check out the rich green of my ‘hardcore’ (OD) watercress smoothie. Pretty colour but talk about a fire in my (throat and) belly!

Apple, Mint & Watercress Coconut Lassi

Glancing at my herb pots as I walked in from yoga this afternoon, I noticed how well my watercress was doing. So well that it looked like it might be beginning to suffocate my curly parsley. That’s not ideal. My mint has bounced back again too (it is temperamental sometimes) and I was suddenly struck by wonder: do watercress and mint go well together? Surely they do?

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The apple & melon lassi from one of my recipe books

Watercress, as I have mentioned before (in a previous post, see here) has been recently crowned the most nutrent-dense plant food, so I am pretty keen on getting it into mah belly as much as possible …and away from my poor parsley plant. Mint is a renowned ant-acid. And both herbs have a fiery ‘freshness’ about them.

Since I wasn’t overly hungry, I decided a drink was all I needed right now and my train of thought led me from the usual option – a smoothie – to the memory of a particular recipe I knew I had somewhere in one of my books. ‘Apple’ and ‘mint’ were swimming around my head while I checked recipe book indexes. Then I found it. A Lassi.

So I set about re-creating the apple & melon lassi recipe with my own, preferred ingredients and was totally chuffed with the result.

For one large serving, you’ll need 1 peeled, cored, chopped apple (you could keep the skin on if organic, as long as your blender is high-powered enough to break it down) 1 banana (mine was frozen) a handful of mint leaves, a handful of watercress leaves, approx 60gm of coconut cream and 200gm coconut water. (NB: fluid measures in grams because I use a Thermomix.)

food fervourSimply throw everything in and blend until smooth. (Thermies: 1½ minutes at Speed 9) It is so refreshing!

Besides your run-of-the-mill mint variety, I also have some chocolate mint growing in the same pot so included that in my ‘handful’. You could vary the concentrations of coconut cream & water to alter thickness, but I think the more cream you use, the less intense the apple & herbs flavours may be. I have considered how a nip of vodka or apple schnapps might alter the creation, but I know the truth is, it would most likely negate all the nutritional benefits of the greens…!

 

Liquid Health: Pros & Cons of Smoothies

I just gorged on cheese. I felt like some cheese on toast for lunch but thanks to my relationship with ‘instant gratification’ I started hoeing into the Nimbin Natural before my GF bread was toasted. Then I had a couple more pieces while the griller took its turn. So by the time I’d eaten, I was full as a goog (Aussie slang for “I’ve had sufficient”).

Now, with the stomach juices working hard (& loud!) I’m feeling a tad guilty about the lack of fibre & nutritional variety in that ‘meal’. Since there’s no way I could fit a whole salad in after all that (a sign in itself…) I’m going to ‘supplement’ with a smoothie.
Good old smoothies!
How did we ever live without them before? Nutrient-dense meals-on-the-run.
They are SO easy. So ridiculously easy. And they’re a blank canvas for the Creative. The one basic ‘rule’ I can ever recall hearing somewhere is:
60% FRUITS + 40% VEGGIES/GREENS

food fervourOf course, when you get used to them (that is, when you “harden up”!) you may find you can reduce the fruit component, which is a good thing for those who want to ‘control’ their fructose intake. Intensely flavoured components of a smoothie can disguise less palatable ingredients. If you have some idea of what fruits & vegetables go well together, you’re unlikely to go too far wrong. If all else fails… Google. There are literally thousands of recipes out there in the ether.

For this one I grabbed an orange, lots of strawberries & blueberries, a banana and a couple of dates and blended them with a chunk of cucumber, a stick of celery (leaves’n’all) a handful of baby spinach and some cabbage.
I blended the solids first to break them up as much as possible, then added my liquid (coconut water in this instance) for a smoother drink.

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So full… More for later!

The thing to remember with smoothies (and here I hark back to the ‘sign’ I mentioned during my cheese story) is that by liquefying your food, it’s easier to consume more than you need, plus there’s less work for your digestive system to undertake. While that can seem like a good thing  – and it can be when you are unwell and need all the energy (& nutrients) you can get for minimal effort, while your immune system is hard at work – healthy peops are likely to become hungrier sooner (despite ingesting a salad bowl’s worth of calories). Because your digestive organs aren’t really getting the ‘workout’ for which they were designed. They need the challenge of some tough fibre or dense proteins to breakdown in the same way your body responds to the fitness challenges you (should) apply to it in training!

To this end, I don’t believe smoothies should be consumed on a regular (daily) basis. After all, human evolution didn’t involve electric blenders!

For a meal on a run, yes – if you really CAN’T make the time. For instant gratification, yes, if you really CAN’T exercise self control. And heck, even for the occasional ‘nutrient supplementation’ after a very average meal (to wit: me, today) and at the expense of excessive energy intake!

 

Orange Almond Smoothie

Eden Health Retreat has a number of citrus trees scattered around the grounds so in winter there is quite a bountiful supply of oranges, grapefruit & lemons at our disposal.

With a couple of these oranges hanging around in my fridge, I decided to make a liquid version of a gluten free favourite: the orange almond cake. I had had lunch, and was hankering for a little dessert.

Thinking about an amazing green chai coconut smoothie recipe created by Jo Whitton (Quirky Cooking), I pulled together an idea for a rich drink that didn’t require ANY added sugars. And it worked. Warning: it’s very rich so you won’t need much. The following makes approximately 500mls; enough for two people. (Unlike this one, who guzzled it all down herself…and is paying the price!)food fervour

You’ll need: 50gm almonds, 1 orange (navel oranges are naturally sweeter) with all skin and pith removed, 60-80gm coconut cream, a pinch each of nutmeg & cinnamon, 1-2 teaspoons vanilla essence/paste, 200gm coconut water.

In a blender or Thermomix, mill the almonds into meal (Thermies 10 seconds, speed 9) then add all the remaining ingredients blending thoroughly (Thermies 1½ minutes, speed 9). Serve & consume immediately!

Since it’s winter here on the Gold Coast, I didn’t want to add ice, but in summer it would be an ideal addition. If need be, you could substitute the coconut cream & water with just coconut milk, but you’ll lose all the added goodness in the coconut water (higher concentration of minerals in that, than in the flesh, which is what the milks and creams are made from). You could also throw in a little fresh ginger for added nutrient value!

Green Smoothies Don’t Have to be Green…

Take this for example:food fervour

In fact, I’d say most of the green smoothies I make are brown. Because I LOVE cacao. Why not have a chocolate flavoured smoothie if you have the choice?

Cacao is the raw form of cocoa and therefore even more nutrient dense. And its (delicious) strong flavour helps disguise the bitterness that many kale varieties posses. The smoothie I just made (pictured) had 4-5 kale leaves in it and it only took 2 heaped tablespoons of cacao powder (oh ok, and the dates) to camouflage the acrid (but oh-so-healthy) green.

You really can have a lot of fun experimenting with green smoothies. If you are new to them, work off the ratio of 60% fruit to 40% greens until you acquire a taste.

For this particular smoothie (it made enough for two, by the way) I threw 2 bananas in the Thermomix, with 4-5 de-stemmed kale leaves, about 2 heaped tablespoons of cacao powder, 4-5 dates, a handful of (frozen) blueberries and approximately 300mls coconut water and blended it all on for about 40 seconds on Speed 9. For non-Thermies, blend for as long as you need to on the highest speed (to really break down the dates and kale).

I shouldn’t have any muscle cramps for the rest of the day, with the amount of magnesium (thanks to the Cacao & coconut water) in this drink. 😉

Cacao Avocado Mousse

The final touch for the best Mother’s Day pancakes is another too quick-and-simple but nutrient dense treat that can be enjoyed entirely on its own. Or with fruit (especially blueberries)! I love my fruit, can you tell?

The avocado makes this dish. Its naturally creamy texture and bland taste make it one of the most versatile super foods out there and I think people are only just beginning to discover its true potential. It’s the (very healthy) fat content that makes it work as a mousse…a mousse full of vitamin E; not what you’d expect to find in a conventional nor commercial version.food fervour

So, grab 1 small avocado, ¼ cup (approx 20gm) cacao powder, 1 dessertspoon maple syrup and IF you want to thin it down so it’s like a runnier ‘sauce’ over the pancakes, you’ll also need at least ¼ cup (45gm) milk (any kind you prefer) milk. Or even coconut water coz it’s naturally sweet, and well as (phyto)nutrient dense.

Simply throw it all in your chosen blending appliance, ‘wazz’ it ups few times, scraping down the sides in between. Actually, because avocado is so easily broken down, you could pretty much blend by hand. If you wanted. Meh, save your energy!

Soooo easy. And soooo good.