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This is my version of the green protein smoothie.  Green because of the spinach – no surprise there – but the protein is not from a protein powder.  I use two great sources of natural protein – gelatin and chia seeds.  There is a ton of information on the web regarding chia seeds’ nutritional benefits so I won’t be delving too much into it here.  Gelatin on the other hand, is something that I am learning more about and am really liking what I find.  Besides the artificially flavored and sweetened box variety, plain gelatin is a nutritional powerhouse and is a pure protein.  I buy the Great Lakes brand of unflavored gelatin because it’s derived from grassfed animals and is a hydrolyzed collagen so it’s easily and quickly digested by the body.  Great Lakes makes both a beef and a porcine gelatin.

I started taking chia when I had acid reflux years ago and the little purple pill wasn’t working for me.  I found that taking chia gel helped with the discomfort and offered so many other benefits, like protein, anti-oxidants and omega-3 fatty acid.  Because of its gelling properties, chia seeds help to thicken drinks.  The seeds can also be ground into meal and used in baking.

Green Powerhouse Smoothie

Serves 3

1 1/2 cups kefir (or yogurt or coconut milk)

2 cups baby spinach, tightly packed

1 cup frozen fruit (I use mangoes and banana)

2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

2 tablespoons chia seeds

stevia to taste

  1. Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Smoothie will thicken as it sits.

The taste of spinach is unnoticeable and the smoothie is thick from the frozen fruit, gelatin and chia.  You can certainly use fresh fruit but if you use fresh or frozen pineapple, the gelatin won’t come together because of the enzymes.  In that case, just use more chia.  This is a really filling drink and so tasty, too.

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In the past I have always enjoyed my morning coffee with a healthy dose of half-and-half or heavy cream but lately I’ve been favoring a great coconut milk based creamer (So Delicious).  But since I just ran out of my creamer and didn’t want to go to the store, I came up with my own.  It’s super simple and quick, if you don’t count the soaking time.  Cashews have a very creamy, smooth texture when blended so it makes a nice dairy substitute.

Cashew Creamer

Makes 3 cups

1 cup cashews, soaked several hours or overnight

2 cups water

1/8 teaspoon stevia (or 1 -2 teaspoons honey), optional

tiny pinch of salt

  1. Rinse and drain soaked cashews.
  2. Blend cashews with water, stevia and salt.
  3. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

There is no need to strain as you would with other nut milks.  This can also be made into cashew milk by increasing the water to 3 or 4 cups.  Other than coffee, cashew creamer can be used in smoothies and soups.  So, if you are avoiding dairy or just want to try something different in your next cup of joe, give this a whirl.

Now that it’s officially autumn, mother nature decides to throw a little heat wave at Southern California.  I heard on the radio that temperatures in the L.A. area reached 113 degress F today – the highest ever since recording began in the 1890’s.  It wasn’t quite that hot by the coast but we certainly got our share.  It’s been so hot the last few days that frozen yogurt and popsicles all sound like good breakfast choices.  I put my daughter down for a nap in nothing but her diaper and she still woke up sweaty.  Ok, you probably get the picture. 

I know that Starbucks has brought back their Pumpkin Spiced Lattes for the fall but that’s just not happening here.  Ice water is thirst quenching but gets kinda boring some times.  So I’ve been making grapefruit coolers to sip on and eat with our chips and salsa.  It’s tangy, refreshing, and cools the palate. 

Grapefruit Cooler

Makes 2-3 tall glasses

1 ruby grapefruit, juiced (about 6 ounces)

1 1/2 cups water

1/4 teaspoon stevia

  1. Combine fresh grapfruit juice, water, stevia and mix well.
  2. Pour over a very tall glass of ice.  Insert straw and sip/guzzle!

We haven’t seen too many hot days this summer so it wasn’t until this week, when we’re supposed to have a mini-heat wave, that I really needed something cold and refreshing.  I have always wanted to try an aqua fresca as they look so yummy but didn’t want to be downing all that sugar.  So here’s my version of it.

Cantaloupe & Mint Agua Fresca

Serves 3

3 cups cantaloupe, chopped

3 – 4 fresh mint leaves

1 lime, juiced

1 1/2 cups water

1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract

ice

  1. Put all the ingredients except the ice in the blender and turn it on.
  2. Pour over a tall glass of ice. 
  3. Slurp it down!

A traditional auga fresca is strained of any fruit pulp so that the liquid is clear but I skipped that step because I didn’t want to bother.  Plus, I would have missed out on all that fruity fiber.  I really like the mint and melon combination and the lime juice gives it a little bit of tartness.  And there’s no added sugar!  My daughter sucked down her cup and then moved onto mine. 

Oh, well.

Ahhh… summer is here!  Now that June gloom has FINALLY left Southern California, we are getting some sunshine and warm weather.  And with warmer weather, the kefir (is it kee-fer or keh-fear?) that’s been culturing on my kitchen counter is just begging (no, really) to be used in some cool, creamy concoction.  So out came my Blendtec and the frozen fruit.  The drink is a cinch to make and tastes soooo much better than the stuff you get in the stores.

Raspberry Mango Kefir

3 cups kefir

1 cup total raspberries and mangoes

stevia to taste

Blend it all together until the mixture is smooth.  Insert straw & enjoy!

The “kefir”, by the way, sold in stores is not really kefir at all.  Not only does it not have the same taste or texture as the homemade version, it has very few strains of the various bacteria and none of the yeast found in true kefir.  That’s a lot of probiotic goodness that you are missing out on.  For everything you ever wanted to know about kefir, check out Dom’s site.

Kefir grains are easy to get and very easy to grow.  There are yahoo groups and other kefir lovers who are happy to share their extra grains.  What I like about kefir, compared to yogurt, is that no sterilization of equipment is required and the milk or cream doesn’t need to be cooked.  The microflora in the kefir keeps all the bad organisms in check so spoilage isn’t really an issue.  Another great thing about kefir is that it’s such a versatile food.  In it’s various forms, I use it in place of yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream, cottage cheese, and cream cheese.

Now that we have a limitless supply of fresh kefir, our hot summer days will be quenched with all kinds of smoothies, frozen pops and treats.  Yum!  What will you make with your kefir?