Thursday, April 24, 2014

Living Juicy! Fresh Nutrition You Can Drink

by Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG), Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

Maybe it's the sight of greening grass, farmers tilling the soil, or the feeling of warm sun on the skin, but there's just something about this time of year that has us craving something bold, fresh, and flavorful on our plates... or more specifically, in our glass. Once the weather warms, I like to give in to the urge to pull out my juicer, blender, bullet, and glass straws (all dishwasher-safe, thank heavens!) to infuse my day with fresh juice and smoothies. Just a few sips, and I already feel more vibrant and ready to take on the day! Here are some well-balanced basics and recipes for drinking your micronutrients...

Why bother? 
1. Fresh juice and smoothies dramatically improve your ability to increase your fresh produce consumption to something closer to the 5 to 9 servings a day we should get. (And, really, how of us even come close to 5-9 servings a day? Very few!)
2. These nutrient-dense drinks are easy for your body to absorb and utilize.
3. They're easy and relatively convenient as a quick healthy meal or snack.

First, I'm going to give a big nod to my colleague and fellow Co-op Wellness Educator Kelly Lang, a Holistic Health Coach who runs Green Life Wellness and also leads the Back on Track Cleanse - a new one will begin this summer (dates TBA - stay tuned on her website). While I only flit around with juices and smoothies here and there when the weather turns warm (I'm a big fan of warm, solid, savory food in general), Kelly lives the juicy life on a regular basis. I really appreciate how she embraces juices and smoothies as a way to get more nutrients and whole foods into the diet while also having a balanced approach to the whole thing. She's taught some great classes on this topic at the Co-op over the years, and the following is a combination of my own experience and gleanings form Kelly's talks. She's also been generous to share some of her favorite recipes at end of this blog!

Benefits of Fresh Juice

Fresh-juice produce is loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes and should be consumed immediately for the best results. (As it sits, it will oxidize, lose nutrients, begin to taste "off," and may even become a hospitable environment for germs.) You won't believe how many fruits and veggies fit into a cup! Juicing removes the fiber and concentrates the nutrients, which means you get an extremely nutrient-dense and easily absorbed hit of nutrients.

Downsides: Because juice lacks fiber and concentrates the sugars naturally present in fruit and certain vegetables (beets, carrots, sweet potatoes), it can produce an intense sugar rush and crash if you're not careful about balancing and limiting your sweets. Juice also tends to lack the fats and protein that our body requires to function properly. Juices - especially the sweet ones - often provide ample calories without helping us feel full. As humans, we should eat a diet based primarily on fiber and solid whole food. Think of juice as a part of a balanced diet, not something you should subsist on for extended periods of time.

  • Look for a juicer that works for you in a price range you can handle. I like the mid-range $150 Breville which works well, isn't too pricey, and is easy to clean (most parts are dishwasher safe). Be sure to rinse everything off immediately after use to prevent a stuck-like-cement pulpy mess.
  • My inspiration for buying a juicer was starting a CSA share. Juicing is a great way to use up things in your fridge before they go bad! 
  • For best results, include veggies and greens in your juices to lower the sugar hit and increase the array of nutrients. 
  • "Sweets" include oranges (peeled), apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, and pineapple. Berries and grapes are sweet and tasty, too, but these tend to bounce around in my juicer, so save them for smoothies. Use "sweets" to develop a taste for veggie juice, then back down to a level (some suggest 40% or less) that isn't so sweet and allows for more veggies.
  • Less sweet things to incorporate include romaine, lettuce, kale, spinach, parsley (so, greens of any sort!), cucumber, celery (this gets strong, so start low), zucchini and summer squash, peppers, lemon/lime/grapefruit (peeled)...
  • Enhance the flavor without the sugar rush with herbs like fennel (bulb, fronds), mint leaves, lemongrass stalks.
  • Wash produce before using to help remove pesticides and germs. Drink immediately after juicing.

What About Packaged Juice?
Most store-bought juice is little more than an all-natural sugar high, even if it is "100% juice." Many vitamins and nutrients get lost in the processing, and most juice products rely on nutrient-poor, sugar-high, cheap apple, white grape, and pear juice. Notable exceptions - deep purple-blue-red berries like blueberry, cranberry, cherry, dark purple grape, and pomegranate actually contain as much or more antioxidants than the fresh fruit and tend to be lower in sugar than other juices. Just be sure to read the back of labels very carefully to ensure it's not full of filler juices to keep it sweet and cheap. The real deal will tend to cost upwards of $9 per bottle. These juices may help fight urinary tract infections, decrease inflammation and pain, strengthen cardiovascular and blood vessel health, and boost brain function. To get a "dose" antioxidants and healing properties from these juices, just four to eight ounces a day will usually suffice. Consider mixing them with plain seltzer to stretch them out.

Benefits of Smoothies

Smoothies take the concept of juicing a step closer to real food. No major high-tech (read: expensive) equipment is required. You just grind everything up in a blender or bullet and drink, so no nutrients are lost. It's also easy to throw "add ons" in like flax seeds, chia seeds, avocados, protein powder, powdered supplements and superfoods like cacao powder... which help make your smoothie more of a complete meal. They tend to be a good source of fiber and can have good protein and healthy fats depending on what you toss in. Because of their liquid form, smoothies are still relatively easy to absorb, and they are super convenient. I find smoothies are the perfect answer for clients who are too busy for breakfast or who can't stomach food in the morning.

Downsides: It's really easy to turn a smoothie in to a high-calorie sugar bomb, and even if you manage to fit a complete and perfectly meal of nutrients, fat, protein, and carbs into a glass, you might not feel as satisfied as you would with a solid meal. Depending on the strength of your blender/bullet, tougher veggies and greens may not break down into a pleasantly drinkable consistency.

  • The stronger the motor, the better your smoothies and choices of ingredients will be. High-end choices include the Nutri-Bullet and VitaMix, but you can get by with cheaper models or whatever you already have in the kitchen.
  • Resist the urge to add extra sugar in the form of, well, sugar... as well as maple syrup, honey, and agave. If you do, be sparing. And *please* don't add ice cream - keep that for dessert! Also go light with fruit juices and sweetened yogurt. Aim to get the majority of your sweetness from berries, melon, bananas, and other fruits.
  • Toss in some veggies: try a handful of spinach or kale (ribs removed) for starters, then play around with sprouts, cucumber, and other veggies
  • Add some protein: plain yogurt, milk (cow, goat, hemp, almond), tofu, nuts or nut butter, chia, or a clean unsweetened protein powder
  • Add some good fats: yogurt (ie: whole milk) and nuts are good here too, as are chia/flax/hemp seeds or oil, milk (cow, goat, coconut, hemp, almond, soy). You wouldn't believe how amazing a 1/4 avocado is to cream things up!
  • Add liquids with purpose: Juice is nice and sweet, but play around with more nutrient-dense - and less sugary - options like various types of milk or even plain water.
  • Let your extras work for you: You don't need them, but if you want to add them, opt for the most healthy flavor enhancers. Pure cacao/cocoa powder, superfruits, clean unsweetened protein powder, herbs, supplement boosters, green powders, etc.


Courtesy of Co-op Wellness Educator and Holistic Health Coach Kelly Lang from Green Life Wellness and the Back on Track Cleanse (Thank you, Kelly!)

• 1 cup berries (strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries etc.)
• 1 ripe banana (frozen if possible – or add ½ cup ice if not)
• 1 packet protein powder
• 2 cups cold, filtered water (add more water to reach desired consistency)
Optional additions to above:
• 1 teaspoon chia seeds or hemp seeds (for extra protein, omegas, fiber)
• 1 tablespoon cashew or almond butter (adds protein, healthy fat and makes it more filling)
• Handful of raw greens (antioxidants, phytonutrients)

• 1 small bunch kale
• 5 large romaine leaves
• 1 cup blueberries (or any berries)
• ½ ripe avocado
• 2 ½ cups filtered water
Sweet Treat: Carrot-Orange-Lemongrass-Parsley
• 1 packet protein powder
Optional additions to above:
• 1 teaspoon chia seeds or hemp seeds (for extra protein, omegas, fiber)
• 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
• 1 tablespoon cashew or almond butter

• 1 head of romaine
• 2 stalks celery
• 1 cucumber
• 1 green apple, cored and sliced
• ½ lime (peeled)
Optional Addition:
• ½ fresh fennel bulb

• ½ green apple, cored and sliced
• 4 large carrots
• ½ cucumber
• Handful of greens (whatever you have left)
• ¼ inch piece of ginger
• ½ lime (peeled)


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring Brunch Recipes: Welcome the Season

by Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG), Registered Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

Whether you’re celebrating Easter, throwing a Welcome Spring party, or just planning a cozy Sunday morning brunch for your family, breakfast food holds a special place in the months of April and May. Maybe it’s because brunch basics like eggs, maple syrup, and pork traditionally come into season this time of year. Or perhaps it’s how early blooms, spring greens, and perfect eggs symbolize the start of the green season and new life. Either way, I urge you to lay out some bright tablecloths pick up some flowers, and enjoy a delicious breakfast with your loved ones this month! Here are a few of our favorites...

Simple Crepes, Three Ways
This recipe makes about 10 medium-size crepes. For a crowd, set up a buffet of crepe toppings.
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbls sugar or maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbls butter, melted
Combine ingredients. Heat a non-stick skillet to medium. Once hot, use a cold stick of butter to treat the pan, then ladle some of the batter. Tilt the pan around to help spread the batter to the edge of the pan. Let brown on one side, flip, and brown on the other, remove.
  • The French Canadian: Serve with brown sugar (or maple syrup) and butter.
  • The Parisian: Serve with steamed asparagus, ham, melted brie, and a pinch of fresh or dry dill weed
  • Dessert for Breakfast: Add 1/2 teaspoon almond extract to the batter. Serve with a sauce of raspberries simmered with sugar and a dollop of creamy ricotta sweetened with a bit of maple syrup.
Apple Cinnamon Pancakes
This recipe makes pancakes more virtuous and delicious. Makes about 8 medium-sized pancakes.
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 Tbls melted butter or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup stoneground whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 peeled, grated apple
  • 1 Tbls dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch ground cloves and nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine ingredients until smooth. Cook in skillet until golden on both sides. Serve with butter and maple syrup.
  • Variation - Bananas Foster Pancakes: Skip the apples and cloves. Slice a very ripe banana into thin rounds. When you pour each pancake, place three banana slices on the top. 
Breakfast Skillet Eggs with Home Fries
This recipe serves two and can be multiplied for more. Be sure that your pan size allows the potatoes to be in a single layer with some space in between, otherwise they won’t brown well. Cutting potatoes small, using cast iron, and adding a lid ensures the potatoes bake on the stove top. For a crowd, bake the potatoes and onions in the oven and serve with scrambled eggs on top.
  • 1 Tbls or more extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped into about 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 ounce cheddar cheese, cubed (optional)
  • 2 to 3 large eggs (local, free range, pastured)
  • Needles from 4 sprigs rosemary (or 1 tsp dry)
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
  • Two handfuls of fresh arugula or other tender green
  • Salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste
Heat medium cast iron skillet over medium heat while chopping potatoes. Add oil, toss the potatoes in the pan, cover. Chop onions. Toss potatoes; when they’re a little golden, add onions to the pan, keep covered. Add more oil if necessary. Prep eggs and cheese. Whisk them together with salt and pepper. Add rosemary and crushed red pepper to skillet. Keep tossing the potatoes and onions, add some salt and pepper to them. When they’re cooked and golden, push them to the side of the pan and pour the eggs/cheese in the middle. Scramble everything together until the eggs are cooked. Serve on a bed of greens. 

Maple Cardamom Bacon
For just a few people, make this on the stove top in a skillet with a lid. If you have a crowd, bake it in the oven.

  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1 Tbls real maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
  • Pinch black pepper (optional)
Lay out bacon slices in a single layer in a covered skillet on medium/low heat or in a lined, rimmed baking sheet in the oven at 400°F. Cook until partway done. Flip, sprinkle with cardamom and pour maple syrup, continue cooking until crisp. Remove from pan immediately, sprinkle with pepper, and serve.

Blog Inspiration
Need more ideas?  Here are some of my fave food blogs...

For recipes and more, visit