"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: Gwyneth Paltrow

greens . . .

washed watercress, kale, ruby lettuce and swiss chard

washed watercress, kale, ruby lettuce and swiss chard

While I was researching how people use their Vitamix machines on YouTube, I came across a fellow who took out a long plastic bin from the fridge filled with fresh Swiss chard and flat leaf kale that had been washed, dried and then stored. I thought this made sense because the greens would be handy to use, stay fresher longer and not languish in their plastic bags still full of grit. Besides, the bins stack easily in place of random bags piled on top of each other. The idea of an orderly fridge with space around things is a forever fantasy for me.

So, yesterday, I picked up medium and large size BPA-free plastic storage containers at the local grocery store; rinsed clean the fresh greens, let them drip dry and then placed them in the bins lined with clean paper towel.

I was a little apprehensive about using the Vitamix for the first time since it seemed to me like having a little black Lamborghini on my kitchen counter. For my first smoothie, I planned to make an almond kale mixture in the morning for breakfast, soaking some raw almonds in water overnight. The idea of a two-flavor smoothie appealed to me more than putting a Noah’s Ark full of fresh vegetables and fruit in all at once.

My thought was also to come up with combinations that appealed to my palate that were simple, clean tastes that I would want to have regularly for breakfast and lunches. Less is more feels like the right approach to develop my own vocabulary for how to use this machine. Otherwise, I’m afraid that it would just be a novelty for awhile, mixing together other people’s recipes for different sorts of things, but not with an intention to truly integrate new foods into our eating lifestyle. So, I’m developing my own “Zone” of concoctions, so to speak. The almond kale smoothie was light and tasty, thicker than just juicing and a lot less milk-shakey than some fruit smoothies I’ve had in the past.

Here are the ingredients if you’d like to try it yourself:

Almond-Kale Smoothie (adapted from “It’s All Good”, page 207)

a packed cup of kale leaves torn off the stem
a cup of almond/coconut milk (unsweetened)
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 tablespoon soaked raw almonds (let sit in water overnight in the fridge)
1 teaspoon Xylitol (sweetener, or a pitted Medjool date which I didn’t have on hand)

For lunch, I’m going to make a smoothie with fresh fruit. I peeled each of the bananas I have on hand and froze them individually, broken into thirds. My trusty little Oster juicer has worked well and I’ll make the liquid base for my lunch smoothie by juicing a pink grapefruit and two navel oranges. Then I’ll add some fresh pineapple, hemp seeds, a frozen banana and four ice cubes.

"primp"~grapefruit & orange juice, fresh pineapple, banana, hemp seeds and ice

“primp”~grapefruit & orange juice, fresh pineapple, banana, hemp seeds and ice

I began thinking I might make up names for these concoctions if I decided to keep them on my menu. Something like “Kayla” for the almond kale breakfast smoothie and “Primp” for the pineapple/citrus/banana lunch smoothie.

For dinner, I’m making leek potato soup, a (very) small lemon-grilled center cut piece of salmon, with a light green goddess dressing served on a green salad. So for today’s meals, I’ll have had a “Kayla” smoothie for breakfast, a “Primp” smoothie for lunch and one of my favorite soups with a salad and a couple of bites of fish for dinner. For dessert, there’s still a smidge of strawberry-rhubarb compote left to eat with a dollop of plain yogurt.

While I was out grocery shopping, it occurred to me that these kinds of meals might be akin to ones that are offered at those very pricey spas in Bali, the Golden Door or Canyon Ranch out here in the Berkshires. Except that having it at home was a heck of a lot less expensive than it costs for a three-(@$3000) or a 7-(@$8000) night stay (not including travel costs!) Of course, the spa experience also includes massages of all kinds, hikes and horse-riding. But massages and a walk around the neighborhood are easy to do at home–the horses, well, are more of a stretch. With this renewed perspective, I am now definitely edging towards thinking that buying the Vitamix was a BARGAIN (LOL!) rather than an extravagance!

In any case, I’m so inspired by how glowingly healthy Julia Turshen looks after losing sixty pounds that I feel I have just taken, as Lao Tzu* says, the first step in my personal journey to more radiant health and well-being!

Footnote: *A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”


and it’s all good . . .

Early roses from the garden (the striped one is called "George Burns")

Early roses from the garden (the striped one is called “George Burns”)

As some of you may know, I like to cook. One of the most interesting things to me about it is that every day offers an opportunity to learn something new and to try it out right away and be able to taste it. In the last bit of time, we have been consciously simplifying what and how much we eat. At the same time, flavors, textures and new tastes emerge as our meals evolve.

The Food Network show, “Chopped” is fun to watch because the contestants take such different approaches to the incompatible ingredients in their food baskets. The judges’ comments are also instructive, critical about too little or too much seasoning, whether a dish hangs together and looks appetizing. Anyhow, “Chopped” is entertaining to watch besides the Red Sox and the Bruins (3 down, 1 to go!) As a result, G. now teases me by saying “Time’s up!” or Thank you, Chef!” when we sit down to dinner.

Another thread in my cooking lately, is searching for healthy recipes that are also compatible with our taste in food. I have been reading “It’s All Good,” authored by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen, a cookbook that underscores non-gluten, non-dairy recipes that include many Asian ingredients. Recipes such as “Buckwheat soba in ginger broth,” “Scallion pancakes made with brown rice flour,” “Polenta with Shitake mushrooms and leek,” and “Avocado cucumber soup” are among the book’s highlights. There are before and current photographs of Julia Turshen that will tempt you to try out their food philosophy because her skin is glowing and she looks trim and relaxed after losing sixty pounds!

In any case, one of the elements in “It’s All Good” is the use of a heavy-duty blender like Vitamix although the authors are careful not to be elitist about this expensive piece of equipment. Coincidentally, my daughter, C., brought up the Vitamix last weekend when she was visiting, saying that friends of hers had raved about how versatile it was to use and also how easy it was to clean. After her visit, I took a three-hour Japanese Vegetarian cooking class at the Cambridge Adult Education Center last Sunday and my instructor, Yoko, also extolled the use of her Vitamix. She used hers to pulverize dried kombu and dried Shitake mushrooms individually to have on hand to make dashi stock or to add to a variety of dishes. I was impressed by how Yoko personalized the use of the Vitamix to suit a specific type of cuisine. These three Vitamix strands in the ether convinced me to look into it further and I ordered the Professional Model 300 in ruby red which arrived yesterday.

The first thing I noticed is that the very simple packaging mirrors the elegance of Apple computer packaging. You know what I mean if you own a Mac product. Right away, I was impressed with the foresight the manufacturer put into presenting their product. I read the manual and played the DVD of a youngish male cook (with heavily tattooed arms) who read his lines from the teleprompter rather stiffly but walked us through how to use the Vitamix. Seems like the most important thing is to load the ingredients from lightest weight first (on the bottom) to heaviest on top. The liquid and soft foods on the bottom draws in the heavier ingredients on top. Start the machine on the setting, “1” and gradually move the dial to 10 for 30 seconds or whatever amount of time is called for. (Apparently, using frozen fruits, you can make a berry sorbet in 30 seconds!) If needed, use the tamper (a pusher) which does not reach the blades to stir the ingredients while grinding. Clean by filling halfway with warm water and a couple of drops of detergent, run it on high for 60 seconds, rinse and invert on a dishtowel or drainer to dry. Simple. It all sounded good to me.

The one thing I noticed while watching the DVD, was that I instantly knew I preferred the Vitamix in black to the red one sitting on the kitchen counter. My daughter, C. has been wanting one too and so I talked to her on the phone last night about whether she’d like the red one if she was ready to purchase, or I could send it back just as easily. My other daughter, M. who lives in Minneapolis, has been sounding rather wistful whenever we talked about the Vitamix on Skype. M. said that her good friend Noemi, (whom they just visited in Winnipeg and is a real foodie,) loves her Vitamix which she has used for a long time.

I thought to myself (after paging through the very thick and heavy hardbound Vitamix recipe book that came with the machine,) that utilizing this expensive kitchen tool would be worthwhile only and if only one were able to personalize its use to make foods compatible with what we like to eat. Thus, (drumroll) the recipes in “It’s All Good” quickly morphed in my mind as an ideal companion to the Vitamix because the recipes use it a lot and the dishes mirror our palate. So, Voila! as the French like to say. I could now conceive of a rationale for owning (and paying for) one.

So here we are in the beginning of June, a day after G. and I planted our morning glory seedlings near the barn where they will climb up strings to the second floor landing and grace our days with visions of heavenly blue on foggy mornings in the Fall. Based on reactions from both my daughters, C. and M. I’m thinking maybe a Vitamix will appear in their Christmas stockings this year (counting in everyone’s birthday and anniversary gifts for a year too!)

In any case, it’s all good, isn’t it?

Addendum: Here’s a link to the book, “It’s All Good,” and if you’re interested, my review under the name Eden is titled: “It Actually IS (almost) All Good!”