Green Dream Smoothie

Green Dream Juice and Smoothie Recipe

Ingredients for Green Dream Juice

These two recipes are smooth, mild, and cooling…perfect for easy drinking on a hot day.

Recipe for Green Dream Juice

makes approximately 40 ouncesGreen Dream Juice

  • 2 large organic apples, cored and cut to fit in juicer – I recommend Golden Delicious or Fuji
  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled
  • 2 limes, peeled
  • 1 inch fresh ginger – No need to peel
  • 4 leaves green kale with stalks – Red kale won’t change the taste of the juice, but it will definitely change the color!

Recipe for Green Dream Smoothie

makes approximately 20 ouncesGreen Dream Smoothie

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled
  • 1 lime, peel cut away
  • 1 large organic apples, cored and cut – I recommend Golden Delicious or Fuji
  • ½ inch fresh ginger, peeled or 1 teaspoon ginger juice 
  • 1 green kale leaf with stalk
  • 2-3 ice cubes

Add ingredients in order listed in a powerful blender, like Vita-Mix, and blend until smooth. Add a small amount of liquid (coconut water, almond milk, etc.) if needed to help the blending process.

Stuffed mushrooms closeup

“Not Your Classic” Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms on waxed paperI love mushrooms.  But I don’t love most stuffed mushrooms.  I have a problem with the consistency of the “classic version” (a paste), and if they aren’t right out of the oven, the consistency is even more troubling on its way toward cold.  So I made a “unclassic”–not to be confused with unclassy–version of stuffed mushrooms.  Un-blended, un-mushed, and un-pasty.  Your taste buds won’t will be un-happy.

Because I originally made this appetizer for a party, and there’s quite a bit of prep work, I made more than you would need on a normal night.  If you’re only serving a few people–or just yourself–you can still do the prep but only bake what you need and store the rest in the fridge.  Two days later, my leftover prepped mushrooms were still just as delicious as the first day.

Store extra mushrooms in fridge until ready to bake

Store extra mushrooms in fridge until ready to bake

For serving at a party, only bake as many as will be eaten right away, then bake as needed.  Note:  If you use a pre-heated toaster oven, you may only need to bake them for 10 minutes…they’re done when you see sizzling juice around the mushrooms and the cheese is melted/golden.  While the mushrooms are cooling, transfer them to paper towels or other material to soak up excess liquid to prevent mushiness from setting in (or juices squirting out when you take a bite!).  You could also line a basket or tray with a napkin or waxed paper and serve them that way.  Note for party planning:  The bigger the mushrooms, the harder it is to eat in one bite, which is what you want for a finger food menu.  

If you or your guests don’t eat pork, make sure you use quality thyme and add any other spices if needed to boost flavor.

Stuffed mushrooms closeup

Recipe for “Not Your Classic” Stuffed Mushrooms

  • Yields approximately 35 stuffed mushrooms
  • Prep time: 45 minutes
  • Bake time: 20-25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 packages (8 ounces each) mushrooms – I used the button/white variety, but cremini mushrooms work too
  • 2 pieces bacon, nitrate/nitrite-free
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup minced shallots (about 1 large)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 large cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • shaved/shredded parmesan cheese, enough for a pinch on top of each mushroom

Directions:

 

Fry bacon in large pan until crispy, then remove and let cool.  While bacon is cooking, clean mushrooms with damp cloth.   Separate mushroom stems from caps, being careful not to tear the caps.  Finely chop stems.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Add olive oil to bacon fat left behind from cooking and saute stems and shallots over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring often.  Add garlic, a couple pinches of salt, a few twists of pepper, and thyme, cooking for 2 more minutes.  Turn off heat and stir in parsley and finely chopped bacon.  Taste and add spices if necessary.  Toss mushroom caps with olive oil.  Use small spoon to stuff stem mixture into mushroom caps.  Press curved outside of spoon down into mixture to pack in.  Don’t overstuff.  Top each cap with a pinch of parmesan.  Bake 20-25 minutes on baking sheet.  Transfer mushrooms to paper towels or cloth while cooling to soak up excess liquid.

Sweet potato casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potato casseroleDuring the holidays, people get a hankering for sweet potato casserole.  You know, that dish made up of sweet potatoes, marshmallows, and brown sugar?  My problem with this traditional side is it’s often made from canned sweet potatoes (full of corn syrup) and ends up being cloyingly sweet.  But since it’s one of my husband’s favorite parts of holiday meals–and I admit my eyes light up when I see it too–I was determined to make a healthier version.

I baked my own sweet potatoes, which isn’t much harder than opening cans…just takes time and a little planning.  And fresh is so much tastier and healthier than canned!  To save time on the day of, bake sweet potatoes and scoop out the flesh the day before.  I found some natural-ish marshmallows at Whole Foods.  Obviously, marshmallows are not found in nature–and due to their odd consistency there is no way to have a completely natural version–but this brand seemed least wacky.  I used Grade B maple syrup as sweetener, which lends a richer flavor (with vitamins and minerals!) than ordinary sugar.  I added some (again, natural-ish) crushed graham crackers on top for a fun twist.

Don’t forget to check out my recipe for Fresh Spiced Cranberry Sauce, the perfect condiment for Thanksgiving turkey!

Baked sweet potatoes

Best ingredients I’ve seen for marshmallows

First layer of casserole

Sweet potato casserole ready to go into oven

Recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole

  • sweet potatoes, scrubbed and rubbed with olive oil
  • 1 package marshmallows – I used Elyon brand
  • Grade B maple syrup
  • cinnamon
  • graham crackers, crushed/crumbled – I used Back to Nature Honey Graham Sticks

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Scrub sweet potatoes, pat dry, and rub with olive oil.  Place on baking sheet and bake until can pierce deeply with ease, about 1 hour.  Cut potatoes in half lengthwise.  Scoop out flesh into large bowl.  Mash thoroughly.  Spread an inch or two of sweet potato into baking dish.  Dot with marshmallows, sprinkle with cinnamon, and drizzle maple syrup lightly.  Add rest of sweet potato mash and marshmallows.  Reminder: Marshmallows will expand so no need to pack tightly.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle maple syrup.  Bake at 350°F until marshmallows puff up and melt, about 10 minutes.  Add graham cracker crumbs on top and lightly press into marshmallows.

Organic lettuces

Why Organic Produce IS Worth It

I don’t often write opinion pieces like this, but the recent debate over whether organic produce is any better than conventional has compelled me to speak up.  In a September 4th news post, researchers from Stanford University were reported as saying:

Eating organic fruits and vegetables can lower exposure to pesticides, including for children — but the amount measured from conventionally grown produce was within safety limits.

Really?  I’m not sure I’d like to test this food safety theory, especially on our kids!  Each year, we find out fallacies in what was once thought to be true, safe, and scientifically proven.  How can ANY level of pesticide or toxin be deemed “within safety limits”?  Not to mention that cancers and other serious health issues can arise from a lifetime of ingesting chemicals.  So won’t the accumulation of constantly eating sprayed produce add up to an unsafe limit at some point?

The focus of this particular debate is about nutrition — that organic produce offers no more vitamins or nutrients than conventional produce.  I agree with Marion Nestle’s response in the New York Times that “….nutrients are not the point. The point of organic production is its effects on the health of people and the planet.”

….nutrients are not the point [in this debate]. The point of organic production is its effects on the health of people and the planet.

Here are my responses, as lowly consumer, on the most popular issues with organic produce:

  1. Organic is more expensive.  Depending on the product, sometimes it’s the same price as conventional or not much more.  If the price difference is substantial, I check if the fruit or veggie is on safe end of the EWG’s pesticide residue chart.  I’ll buy conventional onions (49th in pesticide residue) but spring for organic apples (conventional ones are #1 in pesticide residue).  And I figure that my health and the health of my family is more important than saving a dollar here or there.  Check out this post for more money-saving tips.
  2. Organic isn’t more nutritious. Apparently, this is true if you compare vitamins and minerals.  I’m no scientist.  But stop and think for a minute…can organic vs. conventional really be the same — in the way you feel, how your body feels, how the food tastes, etc?  Are you telling me a carrot grown in nutrient-rich soil with no chemicals added really is the same as one grown in pesticide drenched conditions?
  3. Why not grow your own?

    Organic produce is hard to find.  It can be.  But as more consumers demand organic, more farmers are growing organic and more stores and markets are providing it!  The demand will increase the supply. Here are some ways to bring the farm to you, no matter where you live.

  4. “Organic” is a marketing ploy.  I’m sure producers capitalize on organic status for marketing reasons.  But I believe that organic is a way of life.  It affects everyone and everything — farmer, environment, animals, food, consumer.  When I eat organic, I take better care of myself and those around me.  I am a more productive and loving person.  I think better thoughts and exercise more and stress less.  I think organic produce tastes better, so I enjoy and appreciate my food and how it’s nourishing me.  I pay more attention to what I put on my skin and in my home.  I seek out products from companies who are making a positive impact on our world.  So…

Is going organic worth it?  I say, “ABSOLUTELY!” 

What do YOU say?

6 Easy Ways to Naturally Increase Your Energy Level

Before you reach for another coffee or energy drink to keep you going, try one of these all-natural energy tips.  They may not give you wings, but you’ll get enough of a lift to happily get on with your day.  And you won’t get the jitters or miss any shuteye later from overdoing it on caffeine.

6 Easy Ways to Naturally Increase Your Energy Level

  1. Sniff some peppermint.  Peppermint isn’t just for freshening up your breath. Inhaling the fragrance of peppermint oil increases mental concentration and alertness.  A drop or two of peppermint on the tongue is another method of boosting clarity.  But make sure your peppermint oil is from a trusted company that only uses 100% pure therapeutic grade, like Young Living Essential Oils.
  2. Take a stretch break.  Loosening up stiff muscles can relieve discomfort, providing an immediate energy lift.  Adding deep breathing while you stretch will send energizing oxygen to all the places you need it…like your brain!
  3. Giggle, guffaw, and LOL.  Even the National Institute of Health agrees laughing boosts your mood.  Laughing releases stress and tension, two major enemies of energy and well-being.  So go ahead and watch that funny video on YouTube everyone’s raving about. 
  4. Spritz some B12.  As we get older, it’s more likely we’ll become deficient in vitamin B12.  What’s so great about this vitamin?  It supports feelings of well-being, mental alertness, concentration, and memory!  Using a spray version makes it easy to get your B12 fix whenever you need it, and is the quickest method of absorption.
  5. Eat your kale.  Dark leafy greens like chard, collards, and kale are the perfect foods to eat when you’re feeling low.  These veggies are packed with nutrients that will give you a major lift and keep you there.  Incorporating dark leafy greens in a smoothie is a sweet way to get your fill, such as in my post 2 Green Smoothies, 6 Ways to Enjoy Them.  (Take a look at my Recipes section for more ideas.)
  6. Take a “good things” inventory.  Pause for a minute to think about–or better yet, write down–all the good things going on in your life.  Focusing on the positive will elevate your mind space to a happy place.  And happy places are always more energetic, don’t you think?

Got an energy-boosting tip that works for you?

Let us know in the comments section below!