Savory Smoothies: Sapping the Joy from My Morning

With all of our recent travels and visitors, s’mores and dark chocolate honey mints, martinis and more martinis, my body has been thrown entirely off-kilter and is telling me so with all kinds of interesting and very uncomfortable symptoms, which I will not describe because I like you and because this isn’t that kind of blog.

My solution involves lots of probiotics and a return to normal eating—which my husband already thinks is fairly extreme, given the amount of leafy greens I consume—via a more extreme no-sugar, no-alcohol, no-grains, no-fruit kind of plan until things feel normal again. Basically, I’m giving up all of the things that make life worth living. But I added chicken back into my diet for the moment, so at least I have that.

I thought it would only be a few days before I felt back in balance again, but it’s taking a little longer than that. As a result, I’ve done something I’ve been avoiding for years: I’ve begun researching savory smoothies.

By savory smoothies I mean smoothies without fruit. Kind of like cold, blended vegetable soup. Which is just why I’ve avoided them for so long.

Before I could change my mind, I found seven savory smoothie recipes online and I went shopping.

Today’s has kale, tomato juice, half of a fresh hot pepper, a cucumber, curry powder, scallions, celery, and ice.


Don’t worry: It looks better than it tastes. Actually, the flavor’s not too bad; the texture is the real challenge. A straw helps.

My three-year-old son, adventurous chap that he is, took a sip. He gagged and said, “There’s lettuce in my mouse!” (which, because he can’t pronounce a TH sound, translates to, “There’s lettuce in my mouth!”). Of course, there’s no lettuce in the smoothie, but I didn’t bother to correct him. I just got him a glass of water and a bowl of raisins.

I’ve got six days of recipes remaining, and I’m going to stick with it until I get through them all. By the end of the week, I may or may not feel back in balance physically, but I’m pretty sure that I will no longer fear death.

Related articles (but this is NOT the recipe I tried this morning)

Book Review: Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman

Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss
Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss by Joel Fuhrman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I like the concept behind the eating plan in this book, but I found the book itself longer than necessary.

I heard the “one pound raw, one pound cooked” daily recommendation for vegetable consumption years ago and have been gradually attempting to modify my diet accordingly for some time. This book helped me to better conceptualize just how I could eat this much plant matter each day. It also helped me recognize that what I’d always considered “hunger” or even “hypoglycemia” was nothing of the sort. And I’m enjoying the recipes, especially the smoothies (but not so much the romaine/cashew butter/banana wraps).

I just think a pocket guide would be sufficient to get the ideas across, especially since I’m not persuaded to make major dietary changes based on “before” and “after” pictures.

View all my reviews

Ah, the Aroma of Arame…

If everything yesterday felt completely up in the air, things feel more settled today. It’s not that there have been any definite, positive changes since yesterday, job-wise. It’s more that yesterday gave us a big old leg sweep, and today we’re standing up, dusting ourselves off, and looking about somewhat dazedly.

I attribute this to time and three other factors:

1) We moved furniture. I’ve been lobbying to move the “office” upstairs since we moved in two years ago, and now that my husband is doing his job search from home and would like a door separating our children from his rickety train of thought, he’s finally relented. Now that I think about it, clearing off the desk and lugging it upstairs might not energize everyone, but I love to move stuff around. Usually I have to do it at night all by myself since my husband generally refuses to take part in what he considers a waste of time and energy, so it was an extra treat to have his assistance today! I don’t know if it’s a flow of chi thing or a control thing or just the illusion of progress that results from shifting the position of our possessions. Whatever it is, it gives me energy and a sense of hope.

Looks delicious, doesn't it?

2) I seem to be adjusting to my diet. I’m not so weak with hunger as I was yesterday (in fact, I feel pretty great, physically), and I’ve quickly readjusted to the lack of meat and sugar (and those flavors) in my diet. I still crave coffee. And, strangely, frosted mini wheats. I’ve not had those in years, but I can practically taste them. But I don’t feel like avoiding eating just so I don’t have to consume any more greens. I even ate sea vegetables tonight and didn’t gag.

I have an affinity for things Japanese (collectivism, stoicism, Aikido, Japanese Buddhism, furoshiki), but I’ve not embraced the cuisine the way many of my compatriots have. I can roll fish-less sushi and make onigiri with salted hands, but while my children stuff sheets of nori into their mouths, I need to have some pickled ginger or umeboshi paste to mask the taste of mine. Two years ago, after reading the previous edition of Feeding the Whole Family (the one with the purple cover and the rave reviews of the flavor and health benefits of sea vegetables), I bought every kind of sea vegetable the store had (hijiki, arame, wakame, dulce, nori). To give you an idea of how quickly my interest waned, the package of arame was still unopened when I fished it out of the cupboard tonight for my Blackeye Peas with Arame and Cilantro (guess which recipe book it’s from. Seriously, just buy it. You won’t regret it. Except maybe for the Thick Potato, Cauliflower, and Dulse Soup. That none of us could palate).

I smelled the arame when I opened the package. Ick. Sea vegetable-y. That’s OK, I thought. Maybe it will be OK in the finished recipe.

I smelled it after it had soaked in cold water for thirty minutes. Uh-oh. If anything, it was worse. Still, I pressed on, but whipped up some hummus, just in case my main dish was entirely unpalatable.

I smelled it after I’d added it and the ginger and tamari to the cooked blackeye peas. I could still smell it, but it was a little better. I was still doubtful, but I put on an excited face for the kids.

“Look kids! Blackeye peas with arame! It looks like little black strings, but it tastes like nori!”

My daughter put one in her mouth and scrunched up her nose.

“This does not taste like nori,” she declared. “And these are not the kind of beans I like.”

So, I gave her and her brother a sheet of nori torn into squares, and they ate nori and hummus and veggies and lots of pickles instead of the blackeye peas and Emerald City Salad I’d made. But I was surprised to find that I actually liked the blackeye peas with arame. I think I like it in spite of the arame rather than because of it, but I still ate it, and that’s something.

3) Darnit, I spent so long writing about the arame, I forgot what the third thing was. Well, I’m sure it’ll come back to me in the middle of the night.

At any rate, while I’m still anxious about the future and a little overwhelmed at my inability to take any concrete action until my husband accepts a job offer, I’m feeling less apt to hyperventilate than I was yesterday. And I’m actually starting to feel energized about Social Month!

Ah, Endorphins and Clean(er) Air…

Between the lovely rains that came through today and cleaned out a good chunk of the pollution and the wonderful workout I had this afternoon, I’m feeling in a much better place than I have been for the past week. I’m pleasantly sleepy and know I’m going to be sore tomorrow. But I also have a Yin Yoga DVD I got from the library, so I can do that tomorrow and soothe my poor Yanged-up muscles.

For my workout, I went to a different gym location at which they have a steam room. The steam room was lovely. I think it may have been 2001 or 2002 when my husband and I went with some friends to their family’s condo in Williamsburg, Virginia, for a weekend. Our friends very generously gave us the master suite, which included a steam shower in the bathroom. Once we figured out how to work it, it was absolutely divine.

After that weekend, I vowed that one day I would have a steam shower in my home. So far, it’s not worked out that way. While we were house-hunting, I did look at one place that had a magnificent basement master with ten-foot ceilings and a steam shower that the whole family could easily have fit in. But the house was about $130,000 over what we wanted to spend and had no yard, so I remain steam-showerless.

It’s kind of funny that I like steam showers so much because, as a rule, I hate humidity. But perhaps I actually like humidity as long as I can choose when to experience it and escape it before it ceases to be fun. And there’s nothing like the intense aridity of Utah to make a person crave a little humidity.

A co-ed steam room in a gym is slightly less awesome than a steam shower in the privacy of one’s own master suite, but it’s still better than no steam at all. My husband’s not thrilled at the idea of me sitting in a bikini with three men in swim trunks, but he knows there’s an alternative. If he decides it’s worth the expense, I’m happy to sit by myself in a steam shower in my own home.

At any rate, I loved my workout and then my steam. The men who were in the room didn’t bother me much. My glasses, predictably, became covered with an opaque fog the moment I set foot inside the steam room, so I took them off. From my myopic perspective, I was sharing the room with three indistinct blobs in swim trunks that periodically stretched or massaged where I guessed their feet would be or left for a swim and then returned to steam some more. I would have preferred to share the steam room with blobs wearing bikinis, but as my dad always used to say, wish in one hand, spit in the other (only he didn’t say “spit”).

And the air! Oh, my, how lovely it was to see the blue sky again, if only for a brief time! And my dizziness almost disappeared today with all the breathing I was doing of air that was comparatively lower in particulates and chemicals than it has been for the past week!

I’m going to round out the day by going to bed early (ish), so I’ll just leave you with a smoothie I made last week. I’ve been just throwing together smoothies with whatever I happen to have around the house. I noticed that the raw cranberry sauce/relish I’d made for Thanksgiving was getting a little old. So, I tossed it in the smoothie with a couple of enormous swiss chard leaves, a cored comice pear, a peeled navel orange, a banana and a half (I was only going to use one banana, but the baby asked for a banana so I gave him half and put the rest in my smoothie. He smooshed his half in his little fists and then rubbed it in his hair), and about a cup of rice milk.

The result, artfully arranged with some autumn leaves my daughter left lying on the table:


Cranberry Sauce Smoothie

It tasted so good that I wished I’d bought a ton of cranberries while they were still at the store and packed them into my freezer. Except that they wouldn’t have fit, and I would had to have bought a chest freezer.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how to make raw cranberry sauce/relish, use a bag of cranberries, a cup of sugar, and the zest and pulp of one valencia orange (making sure there aren’t any seeds in it). Put everything in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and masticate for, I don’t know, like 30 to 60 minutes. Until it looks chunky but juicy and the sugar is all dissolved. The cranberries will try to jump out of the bowl at first. I just stand there with my hands blocking the edges and getting cranberry juice on my shirt until enough of them burst that they settle down and get crushed like good little berries. There’s likely a better way to do this, but this one works for me for the one time a year I make the cranberry sauce.

If I find more cranberries, I’ll make more sauce and post the prettied-up recipe with a picture.

Mung Bean Burgers with Kiwi Lime Salsa

We made these on our happy stay-at-home day yesterday for dinner. I was worried when I saw how wet the mixture was. Letting it sit in the fridge was a great way to stiffen it up a bit. Also, make sure the oil is nice and hot before you put these in the pan. That seems to help them keep their shape. My husband ate his on bread, I just ate mine with a fork. The kids at theirs with their fingers. The salsa is simple but excellent. The baby liked the salsa, my daughter wouldn’t even try it.

Gluten-Free Mung Bean Burgers with Kiwi Lime Salsa

Reprinted from Living Without Magazine, December/January 2011 issue.

Makes 8 burgers


1 cup dried mung beans
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1 cup mushrooms, diced
½ medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
¼–½ teaspoon cayenne
– Juice of ½ lemon
– Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
⅓ cup sunflower seeds, optional


3 kiwi, diced (I used 4)
1 jalapeño, diced and seeded (I used about 1/3 of a large pepper)
– Juice of 1 lime
⅓ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Soak mung beans for several hours. Bring beans to boil in 3 cups fresh water. Cover and simmer over low heat until beans soften, about 30 minutes.

2. Place beans in a food processor, along with oats, mushrooms, onion, garlic, cumin, cayenne, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process until smooth but still grainy. Mix in sunflower seeds and process until seeds are incorporated into the bean mixture. Form into equal-size patties. If the bean mixture is too moist to form into patties, place it in the refrigerator for about 1 hour to solidify a bit.

3. Heat oil in a skillet and cook burgers over medium-high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes per side. (I used coconut oil)

4. To make salsa, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Serve over mung bean burgers.

Split Pea Soup with Fresh Peas and Potatoes

(NaNoWriMo Day 26 Word Count: 48,072.)

We loved this soup. Well, the rest of the family liked it and ate it, but I loved it. I ate it for lunch for three days, and I was sad when it was gone. But then, I have a pretty emotional relationship with soup.

The way I made this, it was not vegetarian, but it can easily be made so by not adding the ham shank. But ham shank is really very yummy, so unless you’re really serious about your vegetarianism (or about keeping kosher or halal), I recommend the ham shank. Plus, it’s fun to say “ham shank.”


Split Pea Soup with Potatoes and Fresh Peas from Feeding the Whole Family; by Cynthia Lair

Reprinted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008)

Prep time: 50 minutes in pressure-cooker; 1 hour 45 minutes in soup pot (I made ours in a soup pot)

Makes 4 servings (but I doubled the recipe when I made it because we like leftovers)

1 cup green split peas

1 T butter or extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 to 2 t sea salt

1 rib celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 small red potatoes, cubed

1 t ground cumin

Freshly ground pepper

4 c water or vegetable stock (I used chicken broth)

1 large bay leaf

1 small ham bone (optional; I used a Niman Ranch ham shank. This was another reason I doubled the recipe…there was more meat on the ham shank than I would have expected from just a ham bone. Also, Niman Ranch is yummy but it’s spendy, so I wanted to stretch it a bit)

2 t apple cider vinegar (I used rice vinegar; it’s what I had on hand)

1/2 c fresh or frozen peas

1 T snipped fresh dill or 1 t dried (now that I think of it, I think I forgot this)

Soak split peas 4 to 6 hours in 4 cups of water. This will help digestibility, quicken cooking time, and improve the texture of the soup. Discard soaking water.

Heat butter in a pressure cooker or 4-quart pot. Add onion and salt and saute until onion begins to soften. Add celery, carrot, potatoes, cumin, and pepper to taste; saute 3 to 4 minutes more. Add split peas, water, and bay leaf. Add ham bone, if using, and vinegar.

If pressure-cooking: Bring up to pressure on high heat, then lower heat and cook 40 minutes.

If using a soup pot: Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer 60 to 90 minutes.

Once split peas have softened and the soup has become creamy, remove the ham bone. Cut off any meat, discard skin and bone, dice meat into small pieces, and add to soup with peas and dill. Check seasonings; add more salt and pepper if needed (ours needed more salt). Continue cooking a few minutes more until peas are tender.

GF/CF Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies (and Week 16 Review)

NaNoWriMo Day 21 Word Count: 37,869

I know that many of you eat raw cookie dough even if there are eggs in it. But I’m certain I’m not the only overly-cautious person who will not even entertain the idea of eating raw any kind of anything with eggs in it. My daughter has been programmed so well that when we cook together, she says, before I even have a chance to say anything, “This has eggs in it so it’s not safe and sound to taste it.”

When we made these cookies, we were both thrilled that I could say, “Guess what? There are no eggs in this recipe, so we can eat the dough!” I imagine trippy psychedelic colors undulating in my daughter’s brain with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida playing over it. I highly doubt that actually happened, but she was excited about eating raw cookie dough nonetheless. So was her brother.

Oh, and the cooked cookies were excellent, too. And since they’re sweetened with maple syrup and have rolled oats in them, they’re health food, so you can eat the whole batch, which is only one dozen. If you whip some up after the kids go to bed, you easily will have gotten rid of all of the evidence by the time they wake up. The perfect crime.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair

Reprinted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008)

I’ve put the modifications to make this GF and Vegan in parenthesis after the original amounts.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Makes 1 dozen 3-inch cookies

1 1/2 cups rolled oats (I used Gifts of Nature GF oats)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (to make GF, sub 3/4 c brown rice flour, 3 T potato starch, 1 T tapioca starch, and 1/2 t xanthan gum, or 1 cup of your GF flour mix of choice + 1/2 t xanthan gum)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (I used coconut oil to make them dairy-free)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine oats, flour, and salt together in a large bowl; set aside.

In a separate bowl mix together maple syrup, butter (or coconut oil), and vanilla.

Add wet ingredients to dry mixture and mix well. Stir in nuts and chips.

With moist hands form dough into 3-inch cookies and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet or one lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until edges turn golden.

These cookies are delicious and soft right out of the oven and turn kind of crispy once they’re cool. The flavor reminds me of Russian Tea Balls, which I think are similar to Mexican Wedding Cookies. I would almost prefer raisins in them than chocolate chips. Almost.

Week 16 Review:

This week has been a little challenging. I’ve just been kind of low energy and irritable. I’ve been ignoring many of my resolutions from previous months as I focus all of my attention on NaNoWriMo. I’ve not been working out much because my knee has been bothering me and walking just doesn’t do it for me the way running does. Maybe if I don’t run until the beginning of December, my knee will be ready for action again. I’ve been going to bed late and not being as mindful as I was. I’m still aware of judgmental thoughts, which has been helpful, and I’ve started eating better again (namely, I’ve stopped drinking coffee again. I drink decaf, so I don’t think the caffeine was a problem, but I feel better without the coffee anyway).

I don’t think all of my malaise can been attributed to my self care or lack thereof, though. I think some of it is just a result of the psychological roller coaster that I’ve heard participants in NaNoWriMo ride as the month progresses. Here I am at nearly 38,000 words. I’m in the home stretch, and while I know that, if I keep this pace, I’ll finish in plenty of time, I find this fear creeping up that I won’t be able to do it. I’m doing my best to be gentle with myself and to recognize this naysayer for who she is (my inner critic trying to protect me from disappointment by keeping me from really trying to succeed at a goal I’ve set for myself. She seems to think it’s better to say, “I gave up,” than it is to say, “I tried as hard as I could and still didn’t finish.”)

Not so Green “Green” Smoothie

"Green" Smoothie. It's good. Trust me.

When I offered a taste of this smoothie to my husband, he was enthusiastic.

“Oh! You put chocolate in it?” he asked.

“Um, no.”


“Do you want me to tell you what’s in it, or do you want to try it first?”


“I’ll try it first.”

He ended up liking it. I just share this exchange to illustrate that I know this smoothie doesn’t look supremely appetizing. But really, it’s my current favorite. If you’re feeling adventurous (or if you don’t mind that it’s an odd color for a smoothie that does not contain chocolate), my recipe is below.

Not so Green “Green” Smoothie

makes 5 cups

Place in your blender (mine’s a VitaMix. I don’t know how other blenders handle this concoction):

1/2 bunch dandelion greens (I used organic red dandelion from the grocery store. I don’t use dandelion greens from the yard. They’re a different variety from the ones at the grocery store.)

1/2 pineapple (leave the core, cut off the spiky peel)

1 banana

3 frozen plums (These are probably optional. I use them because we have a golden plum tree in our yard, and I have a bunch of plums in my freezer.)

10-15 frozen strawberries (I’m pretty sure it’s these that change the smoothie from green to burnt ochre. Perhaps if you used something with less color, like yellow raspberries or something, the smoothie would stay green)

Turn that baby on and crank up to High and jam everything into the blades with the approved tamper. Blend for 30-60 seconds. I usually drink about half of it and leave the rest in the fridge for lunch.

Champion Sandwich Bread

NaNoWriMo Day 8 word count: 14,608

I baked bread today! GF/CF bread, of course. This is a variation on the Champion Sandwich Bread from Living Without magazine. (Update: Sorry, it looks like since I first posted this, the recipe is no longer available online without a subscription to the magazine. It was published in the October/November 2009 issue, so if you can get your hands on a back issue, you can find it there. If I can get my act together to get the okay from Living Without to post the recipe, I’ll update this post again with the full recipe. It’s really very yummy sandwich bread!)

Champion Sandwich Bread with added seeds and nuts, recipe from Living Without magazine

I used the basic recipe and then added 1/2 cup each of raw slivered almonds, raw sunflower seeds, and raw sesame seeds. This variation isn’t on the recipe on the website, but it’s in the magazine, listed as “Granola Bread.” I don’t think it’s much like granola, but it’s quite tasty. The kids and my husband all raved about it, and we’ve already eaten nearly an entire loaf. I think this is my current favorite bread recipe.

The loaves took longer than I expected to rise, probably because it was so wintery outside and we keep the temperature inside the house so low. I had just put it in the oven when the babysitter arrived this afternoon. Luckily, she took its temperature and took it out of the oven when it was done. She also did the dishes and cleaned up the toys that were all over the living room when she arrived. Have I mentioned that she rocks?

While she played with my kids, I ran for 40 minutes and then wrote at City Cakes & Cafe. This was a lovely location to write. I sat at a table next to a window looking out on the rainy afternoon, sipped a decaf soy latte and nibbled on a sugar-free gluten-free vegan ginger muffin. The music was stuff I liked (Beck and White Stripes) and the volume wasn’t so loud that it distracted me. I might try City Cakes again on Friday. Although perhaps it would be safer for my waistline to write somewhere that doesn’t have GF/CF baked goods.

And when I got home, my husband was making dinner! What a decadent afternoon!

Barack Obama Bean Soup

Day 4 word count: 7263

What’s up with me and the late nights? Perhaps if I stopped procrastinating my writing so much, I’d finish up at a more reasonable hour. Ah, well. I take heart in something I just read in Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. In an interview with Olympic runner Toshihiko Seko (I didn’t know who he was, either), Murakami asked if Seko ever just felt like he’d rather sleep in than go for a run. “He stared at me and then, in a voice that made it abundantly clear how stupid he thought the question was, replied, ‘Of course. All the time!'”

If an Olympic runner, who is someone you’d think would be well suited to running, often doesn’t feel like running, then it seems it would be perfectly natural for me, regardless of how well suited I am to writing, to often have trouble getting myself to actually write. This is, after all, the reason I made NaNoWriMo my goal for this month. Did I think it would suddenly be easy once I jumped into it? Perhaps I hoped it would, but that’s a little different. 1,667 words a day is doable, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it easy.

Change of subject:

Tonight, we had one of our favorite slow-cooker meals, Barack Obama Chili. Except in our house, we have to call it “Barack Obama Bean Soup.” If we call it “chili,” my daughter won’t eat it, but if we call it “bean soup,” she loves it. Go figure.

I got the recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking, which also includes dozens of other super-yummy slow-cooker meals.

Today, I used fresh tomatoes from our garden, which we’ve been ripening in a cardboard box under the dining room table since we pulled the plants out around the time of our first snow about two weeks ago. I doubled the garlic and the chili powder, used ground beef (which I browned before adding), and was liberal (tee-hee!) with the other spices. And I forgot to add the beans until mid-afternoon when I added a can of black beans in addition to the can of kidneys the recipe calls for.

Here’s a picture of just the tomatoes:


A variety of chopped fresh tomatoes in the slow cooker.

I love taking photos of our tomatoes all cut up together because I love the combination of colors. We grew Pink Brandywines, Dr Wyche’s yellow/orange, Big Rainbow red/orange, Green Zebra, Cream Sausage, Cherokee Purple, a red cherry tomato I forget the name of right now, and we had a volunteer Mexico Midget red cherry tomato that self-seeded from last year. In the chili are all of these except the cherries and the Cherokee Purples.

And here’s a photo of everything together (except the beans) just before I fired up the slow cooker:


Everything but the beans.

And voila! The finished “bean soup” after a little more than 7 hours on low:

No matter your political affiliation, this is a very yummy and different chili. The author of A Year of Slow Cooking also has a recipe for John McCain’s Ribs in the slow-cooker. The only reason I’ve not tried this one is because I can’t get passed the name. I don’t think I can eat something called “John McCain’s Ribs” without feeling like a cannibal.

We ate it with a spinach salad with red onions and sweet glazed walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette. If you guessed I got this from Feeding the Whole Family, you must be a regular reader of my blog. (And I don’t know why the link to the Sweet Glazed Nuts recipe isn’t working.)


Spinach salad with sweet glazed nuts and balsamic vinaigrette.