Those of you who have been reading this column for a long time know what I mean when I say that I'm generally not afraid to let my freak flag fly. But there is one secret I've been keeping tucked away in the back of the crisper for quite a while now, behind the fresh thyme that's starting to dry itself and the three homeless stalks of leftover lemongrass.
I think I've been hiding it because I didn't want you to judge me or to label me. Once you've lived past the publication date of your high school yearbook, you don't want to be labeled by other people unless the label starts with "50 Best" and appears in a national publication.
Still, once you've lived past the publication date of your grad school yearbook, a freak flag that wants to fly is a tough thing to keep down. Grad school for me was like a career-and-a-half ago, at least. So I think it's time to come clean with you and let the kale chips fall where they may.
I have a green smoothie habit. It's serious, it's daily, and it's affected my ability to lead a normal life. It's affected my ability to want to lead a normal life. There, I said it.
Here's what happened. A little while ago, I celebrated a round-numbers birthday. The couple of years leading up to that birthday were pretty rocky in a handful of ways, the worst of which was losing my dad to cancer. Since childhood, I've always been interested in what it means to live a healthful lifestyle and at various times I've been variously committed to actually living a healthful lifestyle. I don't want to invoke the words "mid-life" or "crisis" here, but let's just say that the culmination of those events was the purchase of a pricey high-speed blender and a renewed interest in living beyond my life expectancy.
Stories like this are supposed to end with the narrator laughing at herself with her friends over three rounds of tequila shots, I know. But even after the (ahem...non-)crisis element of this particular story subsided, I found I was still whizzing up vegetables in the blender every morning and guzzling them down with a big smile on my face.
I found that green smoothies and all the other plant-fringe goodness I was whipping up in my kitchen, were making me not only a little livelier, a little fitter, a little more bright-eyed in the morning—but also more than a little happier. So I figured I'd share that happiness with you.
Green smoothies are named as such because they contain leafy greens and sometimes other vegetables. Often they are actually green, but sometimes, like when you add berries, they're not. People drink them because they're an efficient way to pack a lot of plant-based nutrition into a relatively small package. But the clincher is that many of them actually taste great, too. You'd never know that there's a salad's worth of spinach in the recipe below, unless you feel like thinking about it to put a smile on your face. Even peppery greens like arugula and mizuna play nicely with fruits and herbs. If you like to experiment with flavor combinations in your mainstream cooking life, you'll enjoy the same creativity with green smoothies.
For most greens (kale not included, in my experience), you don't need a high-speed blender (like a Vitamix or Blendtec) to make a good smoothie, though the process will be quicker and the result creamier if you do. A banana, an avocado, or a small handful of nuts is very helpful to good texture, and a few dried dates will bump up the sweetness in a relatively nutritious way. But beyond that, it's fun to vary the other ingredients. Try mizuna, mango, banana, lime, and cilantro, for example—or whatever your palate desires.
What about you all? Do you secretly or boisterously drink green smoothies? If so, what are some of your favorite tips and tricks? And just a quick note: sometimes when I write a post with the words "health" and "vegetables" in it, a few of you leave comments with question marks and the words "meat" and "saturated fat!" and "maybe you should familiarize yourself with the recent studies of..." in them.
I just want to say that I've done the reading, I've thought about it seriously, and that's just not the freak flag I choose to fly. Maybe some of you would prefer a ground beef smoothie thinned with heavy cream. If that makes you happy, I will gladly stand by your side, toast your meat smoothie with my green one, and laugh with you about the weirdness of the world. I hope we'll both live to be 100 and enjoy every bite along the way. Cheers!
About the author: Carolyn Cope is the voice behind the popular food blog Umami Girl. A recent transplant to London, she's trying her best to act nonchalant in the company of courgettes and aubergines. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.
- 1 medium orange, peeled and seeded
- 1 medium banana
- 2 cups raspberries (frozen are great)
- 3 ounces baby spinach (about 2 cups packed)
- 5 dried dates, pitted
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds (optional)
- 1 cup ice, if not using frozen berries
If you're using a regular blender, roughly chop the orange, banana, spinach, and dates. If you're using a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix or Blendtec, simply place all ingredients in the blender in the order listed.
Add 1 cup water to the blender. Blend until completely smooth, stopping to push ingredients toward the blades if necessary. Add a bit more water, if desired, to reach the smoothie consistency you prefer. This may be especially necessary if you're using a regular blender. Divide between two tall glasses and serve immediately.