Chocolate Protein Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Pumpkin Pie Chocolate SmoothieYes, I’ve fallen into the “pumpkin everything” trap. I told myself I wouldn’t succumb to those sneaky marketing ploys from the big chains and ignore the fact that it’s already September, and we’re supposed to be falling in line (no pun intended) with the fall-themed script: pumpkin, pumpkin and more pumpkin. I wasn’t going to do it. Wasn’t ready. Wasn’t feeling the pumpkin everything vibe.

But then, you know, this funny thing called pregnancy got the best of me. I saw a recipe for a pumpkin smoothie somewhere and suddenly my mind could not stop thinking about making one. Maybe all the stealthy marketing campaigns got to me. But suddenly, my mind was all pumpkin, and there was no stopping me until I had my fix.

But still another thing happened this week to lead to the creation of this smoothie — another thing that I can definitively blame on my pregnancy. I got my results back for my 1-hour glucose screening test — something I thought I would pass with flying colors, given my pre-pregnancy history of actually having low glucose levels on all my blood tests — and the results were not as I planned. My glucose levels were high. Now, I realize that a lot of women actually have this happen and they do end up passing their 3-hour test when all is said and done, without a diagnosis of gestational diabetes (I take my follow-up test next week, just to be sure). But the initial realization that my glucose was fairly high, along with even the possibility of having gestational diabetes looming in my mind, had me really re-thinking my diet and trying to re-imagine a diet plan if a gestational diabetes diagnosis were in my future.

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Blueberry-Mango-Carrot Smoothies

blueberry mango carrot smoothie

As many of you know by now from either following me on Instagram or reading this blog, my main go-to morning smoothie is a detoxifying green smoothie, made using greens, fruits, lemon and water. I may add chlorella or flax seed from time to time, but generally try to keep these smoothies to whole plant foods. However, I occasionally try to vary my morning smoothie from time-to-time, and when I do, I like to opt for a creamier option — usually with dairy-free milk and berries, and many times with avocado for added creaminess. Gennaro likes to refer to these as the “fun smoothies” (can you guess which he prefers?)

But as much as I love a “fun smoothie”, meals sometimes seem like a waste to me if I’m not making sure it’s providing ample health benefits as well. I designed this recipe to provide loads of vitamins, antioxidants and “healthy fats” in the form of avocado, while still tasting “fun” and fruity. Here’s a breakdown of the health benefits of the various ingredients (sourced from a number of web resources):

  • Blueberry: Many people know about blueberries as a high antioxidant berry (I’ve seen sources rank them as the highest antioxidant fruit). They also contain fiber and Vitamin C.
  • Mango: Mangoes also contain antioxidants and have high levels of vitamin C. They help balance pH in the body, and of course, contain fiber.
  • Carrots: Most people know that carrots contain high amounts of Vitamin A and are also a great source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant. They can also purify the blood and aid in liver detoxification.
  • Avocado: This sneaky ingredient not only adds creaminess to your smoothie, but are also high in healthy fats which can lower bad cholesterol and nourish the skin. They are also high in fiber, making this smoothie one that should help to keep you full throughout the morning. Avocado also contains other vitamins to help maintain optimum health.

I think the advent of the Vitamix made smoothie aficionados of all of us, myself most definitely included. While I certainly made smoothies in the past, the Vitamix made it an everyday thing. Unfortunately, as far as kitchen equipment goes, it is not cheap. And I would most certainly not have been able to afford one had I not gotten married and had very generous in-laws gift us with one. However, if you’re using a regular blender, I have a few suggestions for this recipe: increase the amount of liquid slightly and decrease the amount of frozen fruits. I am not sure how well the carrot pulverizes in a blender, but you could try adding it in slowly and see what happens. While I love and am completely devoted to my Vitamix, I am certainly not living under some Gwyneth Paltrow-esque rock, thinking everyone can afford a luxury like this (heck, I’m an attorney and I couldn’t even afford one if it hadn’t been gifted to me. I guess that’s a downfall of going into an area of the law where you’re “helping people”, rewarding as it may be). I made many a smoothie using my regular ol’ Cuisinart blender during my law school days without much of a problem — just a bit more coaxing with an old fashioned spoon.

Yield: 2 large or 3 smaller smoothies (halve portions if making a single-serving)

Ingredients:

3 cups cold, unsweetened dairy-free milk (I alternate between soy and almond; use non-soy dairy-free milk for soy-free option)

1 heaping cup frozen blueberries

1 cup frozen mango chunks

1/2 cup carrot, roughly chopped

1/2 large or one small avocado, skin and pit removed

1-2 packets stevia, or sweetener to taste

Directions:

1. Add dairy-free milk, blueberries, mango chunks and carrot to a high-powered blender such as Vitamix. Blend until smooth.

2. Add 1/2 avocado and blend. For more creaminess, add remaining avocado. Add sweetener to taste. Blend until smooth.

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Tropical Green Detox Smoothie

Oh, the holidays. For some reason, my mind (and body) can’t decide whether they’re a welcome escape from the everyday grind — a time to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends — or whether the holiday season is an energy-sapping grind in itself, leaving me longing to return to the monotony of my 9-5 (more like 9-7) routine. Whatever the verdict, there’s no denying that my body could use a return to something at least resembling monotony. Between the Christmas-in-California jet lag to the New Years Eve late night to the endless holiday parties, I can slowly feel the energy draining from my bodily cells. Tonight, with a few hours of unclaimed time available for relaxation, there are hopes of much-needed blogging catch-up and some quality reading, but I’ll be lucky to stay awake past 10 p.m. at the rate I’m going.

In a similar way, I am also eager to reset my eating habits to the pre-holiday status quo. As much as I got a little tired of the morning power smoothie routine, nothing is sounding better than a cleansing drink after weeks of breakfast randomness. My California vacation breakfasts consisted often of leftovers from the previous night’s carry out dinner, while just this morning I preceded yet another trip to the airport with a breakfast consisting of brownies and pizza (albeit gluten-free, vegan pizza, of course).

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Zero-Calorie Lemonade

People  often ask me what’s the one thing I miss from the past that I can’t/don’t eat today. As time has gone on, this questions has become much more difficult to answer. I’ve adapted to my new life so much that I really don’t remember at this point what I once did eat and what I once enjoyed. I find more so that I tend to miss the idea of things rather than certain things themselves. I miss the idea of being able to get filled up off the bread basket at dinner, even though I usually regretted it those times I did. I miss the idea of going to a ballpark and being able to order something to snack on while watching the game (even though I wouldn’t touch most ballpark food items “with a ten-foot pole,” as my mom would say). I miss the idea of being able to share in a pitcher of beer while watching the game at a local sports bar, or being able to share a pizza at a pizza shop with friends. It’s not that I miss the pizza or the beer itself, but more that I like being part of the group. Sometimes, having a different diet can make you feel like an outsider looking in.

I felt this way recently when my parents threw a party for my brother, who recently returned home from his tour of duty in Iraq. We had his welcome-home party outdoors on a hot summer day, and I watched with envy as others quenched their thirst with the large pitcher of lemonade that looked so refreshing. I was tempted to risk whatever illness I might have to endure (and illness is almost inevitable when I start adding sugar back into my diet) just to partake. Lemonade on a hot summer day. Is there anything more refreshing? Yes, I definitely missed the idea of that.

Luckily, I figured out that it’s not too hard to replicate this one. If you can put up with the juicing, which is really the only semi time-consuming aspect of this recipe, the rest is a simple as stirring and adding ice, pretty much.

And O.K., maybe I miss tuna melts. Just a little bit.

Zero-Calorie Lemonade:

1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 6-7 lemons worth)

1 tablespoon lemon pulp, plus more if desired

8 cups water

5 handfuls of ice

1 1/2 -2 droppers Nunaturals liquid stevia*

lemon slices

Directions:

In a large pitcher, stir everything together and adjust stevia and/or pulp to taste. For variations, add strawberry slices or minced fresh mint leaves. Replace water with fresh brewed unsweetened iced tea for a healthy twist on the Arnold Palmer.

* Add less first, then adjust to taste

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Sparkling Pomagranate Sodas

Hi all. I’m guilt ridden because I’ve been neglecting all of your wonderful comments, which I solicited in my last post (shame on me!) The thing is, I read each and every one of them, and am always so grateful for your kind words and stories. It’s just that my husband’s good friend was in town over the weekend, and right after playing host for him, we were getting ready to take a 10 hour roadtrip back to Michigan for the holidays. We just touched down and 15 minutes later, I’m cutting out some time for a quick post. So, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for all the holiday memories, and for keeping me entertained with your stories and inspired with your holiday favorites over the weekend. Finally, congrats to our winner — and commenter #13 — Ashley on winning the ice cream machine. As I said before, I wish I could give one away to everyone. But alas, I do not have the means.

Here is a quick holiday-inspired recipe for a guiltless yet festive virgin cocktail. Truth is, I sip on these year round when I’m tired of water (which is rarely, because I fear I may have a water addiction). During the holidays, my logic is that the less I fill up on calorie-laden drinks, the more I can justify eating.

Pomagranate Sodas:

Per one serving

1 1/4 cup seltzer water

2 teaspoons 100% pomagranate juice (such as POM)

4 drops liquid vanilla stevia

Directions:

Pour ingredients over 3-4 ice cubes and gently stir. Serve.

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Cucumber Margaritas

I’ve been making an effort, over the last few years, to limit the amount of medicine I put into my body. It seems that with every doctor’s appointment, there’s a new presciption to be filled, a new ailment to treat. So when my muscle spasm medication ran out last month, I decided not to fill it. Instead, I would treat my chronic neck and back problems naturally. I’ve been stretching every day, doing yoga, breaking out the heating pad, even splurging on the occassional chair massage. But I was in especially a lot of pain last week. Instead of caving and seeking out some more meds, I stayed true to my determination to do things naturally. The last tool in my all-“natural” arsenal? You guessed it: tequila.

So, I really have no idea if tequila helps with muscle spasms. But I do know that stress is partially responsible for muscle spasms, and that most doctors and even online message boards will tell you that relaxation is key to treating these types of problems with your back. And I know that if I’m looking to relax a little bit, tequila can’t hurt, right? With the additional anti-inflamatory properties of cucumber, I think I’m well on my way here to the answer to all of my problems…(ok, I know that calling a cocktail “the answer to all of my problems” here is a little problematic. That part was a bit tongue-in-cheek. And, truth be told, I’m not sure it helped all that much, but it sure tasted yummy!)

Anyways, the hubs and I enjoyed a Friday night in watching some playoff baseball and sipping on margaritas (can we tell who’s the big Giants fan in the house? I only hopped on the bandwagon because my Tigers aren’t in it this year). I love cucumber in drinks, whether it’s cucumber water, my morning juice, or even a margarita. For this drink, I tried to make a margarita without Triple Sec, which is a very sugary alcohol (and truthfully, just another thing that would be sitting in my freezer forever. It would take a lot of margaritas to go through a whole bottle of Triple Sec). The margarita flavor is still there, with the cooling, refreshing addition of cucumber to balance out the sweet and sour flavors in the drink. This is a great drink to make for a crowd. Make sure you use a good, 100% agave tequila.

Cucumber Margaritas:

Makes: 1 margarita (you can make up to 4 servings in a large blender)

1/3 cup good tequila

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons agave nectar

7 1/4″ slices cucumber, peeled

1 large handful ice

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in a blender and serve immediately.

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