The Great Smoothie Debate

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Photo Credit: Rachel Benavides, The Bend Magazine

Smoothies have gained popularity in recent years and have become a go-to “healthy” option. While smoothies can enable even the pickiest of veggie haters to gulp down a serving of kale, they can also be packed full of sugar and calories. Here’s what you need to know about smoothies before investing in a high-performance professional blender.


– Smoothies are a great way to clean out the fridge and your intestines. (Too much?) Throw any produce that needs to be eaten quickly (with only a few exceptions) and blend until you have a nutritious snack filled with fiber. Bonus: The good bacteria in your gut loves to feed on the fiber found in fruits and veggies.

– Satisfying your sweet tooth with a smoothie that capitalizes on the inherent sugars of fruits and vegetables is a much better option than most desserts. In addition, smoothies that are produce-based offer a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

– Smoothies are convenient to make and very portable. If you’re choosing between a green smoothie and a drive-thru breakfast sandwich nine times out of ten the smoothie is the better option.


– Smoothies are almost always high in sugar. True, the fructose found in fruits is better for us than the corn syrup found in sodas BUT, since smoothies are blended into a homogenous liquid, we consume them a lot faster than it would take us to chew an apple or finish off a serving of carrot sticks. They also tend to raise our blood sugar more than the whole fruit/starchy veg. Further, they tend to raise our blood sugar more quickly than when we eat the whole piece of fruit. You’re much better off eating an orange than drinking a fruit smoothie that has been further sweetened with honey or agave.

– Smoothies can leave us feeling unsatisfied. We also tend not to stay full for long after drinking a smoothie. This is because the hormone our body uses to determine whether or not we are satisfied  is dependent on the mechanical stretching of our stomach. A liquid smoothie may travel through our stomach without activating our hormone so that no signal is sent to the brain telling us that we’re no longer hungry.

– Smoothies are only as good as their ingredients. Vegetables that are picked prior to ripeness never have the opportunity to absorb as many nutrients from the soil as produce that is vine or tree ripened. Vegetables and fruits sprayed with synthetic fertilizer can also be deficient in certain minerals. Even if a vegetable is organic and vine-ripened, the vitamin content can decrease over time. The amount of water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamins (niacin, riboflavin, B12, niacin, you get the drift) tend to lessen over time with exposure to heat, light, and water.

Just as all meals should be, a nutritious smoothie is balanced. These are the necessary components for a health-promoting smoothie.

1.     Protein: Examples are 8 oz milk, 1 cup unflavored greek yogurt, 8 oz almond milk. Nuts (about 14 walnut halves or 24 almonds) and nut butters (serving size 1 tbsp.) may be considered a good source of protein and fat.

2.     Fat: Servings sizes of healthy fats include: 1/8 avocado, 1 tbsp. coconut oil, 1 oz flaxseed, 1 oz hemp hearts, or 1 oz chia seed

3.     At least 1 serving of vegetables: 2 medium stalks celery, 1 cup fresh kale, 1/3 cup frozen spinach, half whole beet, 1/3 cucumber, or 3 oz carrots.

4.     Sugar from fruit: 1/2 cup pineapple, 1 medium-sized apple, 1 large banana, 1 cup berries

Do enjoy a smoothie now and again, but don’t regularly use them as meal substitutes. Think of your smoothie as a nutritious treat. You’ll be right on both accounts.

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Photo Credit: Rachel Benavides, The Bend Magazine

Smoothie Bowl

Serves 1

Prep time: about 5 minutes


2 cups frozen fruit (banana, berries, peaches, pears, oranges, mango,

1 cup liquid (milk, plant-based milk substitute, plain Greek yogurt, coconut water, water, or ice)

1 tbsp healthy fat (nut butter, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, flaxseed oil, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds)

Optional: 1 cup vegetables (sweet potatoes, greens, beets, squash, jicama, or


Toppings: 1 tbsp of your choice (fresh fruit, dried fruit, granola, seeds, nuts, coconut, raw cocoa nibs, bee pollen)


Place all ingredients (except for toppings) in a blender. Blend until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Top with fresh or dried fruit, seeds, or other options listed.


Very Veggie Spaghetti



Few Americans get in the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Consuming five servings of produce day in and day out can be daunting, especially if you’re a toddler, or a first grader… or an adult. This recipe incorporates a variety of veggies into a tried and true favorite that even the kiddos will enjoy. Combine them with lycopene-rich crushed tomatoes and you’ve got a recipe for health (admittedly, that pun was very much intended).

Very Veggie Spaghetti



½ medium onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
½ bell pepper, diced
1 lb ground pork
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, anywhere from a smidgen to a generous dash
1 tsp dried basil or 3/4 cup fresh basil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
¾ cup button mushrooms, sliced16 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil

balsamic vinegar, a healthy drizzle
1 cup kale, rinsed and packed (feel free to substitute fresh or frozen spinach as desired)whole wheat pasta


Salt and boil water for pasta. [Tip: Add in a bay leave to add flavor to the pasta.]

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and bell pepper to oil. Once onion starts to become translucent add ground pork, dried basil (wait until the end if you’re using fresh basil), salt and peppers to taste.

Once meat is mostly browned, add garlic an mushrooms into vegetable/pork mixture. Cook for 2 minutes. Add in canned tomatoes, kale and balsamic vinegar. Continue to cook until kale is wilted, but retains a vibrant green color.

Fun fact: Cooking tomatoes helps to release lycopene from its plant cells. Lycopene is a carotenoid (yup, that’s the same class of phytochemicals found in carrots) and may help to reduce prostate cancer. This is great news considering prostate cancer is the most common cause of death in men over 75. 

Beef Vegetable Soup



Beef Vegetable Soup

I was waiting until we had another cold front to post this recipe, but since this is Texas I realized I’d have to wait until Christmas. We enjoyed this soup so much that we gobbled it all up in one setting, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it would have been better the next day.

This beef vegetable soup makes good use of any root vegetables you have lying around. Red wine adds a nice depth of flavor to the savory broth. Caution: This beef broth will change your life. It is THAT good. My little ladybugs were feeling puny after a cold front blew in, but a little of this soup perked them right up. (And for those of you who’ve suffered through ailing toddlers, you know anything that can make them feel better is a game changer).

Beef Vegetable Soup



Serves 8

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes


2 tbsp. olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 lbs beef tips (Tip: You can cube a beef roast if you’re in a pinch like I did.)

4 cups chopped root vegetables (I used daikon, carrots, potatoes, and parsnips)

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (about 5 mushrooms)

6 cups beef broth

1 cup red wine (recommend merlot or cabernet sauvignon)

2 bay leaves

1 heaping tbsp. dried parsley (alternately use 2 cups fresh, chopped flat-leaf parsley added immediately before serving)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


(This recipe can alternately be prepared in a slow cooker. Place all ingredients in your slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 6 hours.)

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 2 minutes. Add beef tips and cook until browned, but not fully cooked (about 7 minutes). Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Add remaining ingredients, cover, and cook to a boil. Reduce heat to achieve a simmer and cook an additional 30-35 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Serve hot with a white crusty bread.




Cabbage Rolls Two Ways



It’s winter, and to a farmer that means GREENS. Kale, collards, lettuce, arugula, cabbage, they all grow best in the cooler temperatures of winter. I never get tired of the greens of winter because they are so versatile.

We had some extra cabbage that my husband had picked, so cabbage rolls came to mind. I’d never eaten cabbage rolls and when I began to read some recipes, I was left, well, uninspired. It sounded an awful lot like cabbage surrounding dirty rice with tomato sauce on top. It just didn’t peak my interest (no offense intended to anyone who enjoys traditional cabbage rolls).


I then thought I’d keep the rice, but add some of my favorite Asian flavors and ingredients. As that recipe was coming together, I figured as long as I was trying something new, why not make an Italian version? So, here are non-traditional cabbage rolls TWO ways. I hope you enjoy them!

Asian Cabbage Rolls


Makes 10 small cabbage rolls

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes


1 1/2 cups white jasmine rice, steamed

10 large cabbage leaves (or alternately, 20 smaller cabbage leaves), cleaned and stemmed

2 tbsp sesame oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

1/2 lb ground beef (recommend grass-fed) or pork (recommend pastured)

2 garlic cloves, minced

a healthy splash of mirin

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sriracha

1/3 cup carrots, shredded

4 leaves bok choy, sliced

1 large bunch cilantro

additional salt and red pepper flakes, to taste


Rinse and prepare jasmine rice as per package directions. Reserve to the side.

In a large saute pan, heat sesame oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook for two minutes, until beginning to turn translucent. Add ground meat, garlic, and mirin. Stirring occasionally, cook until meat is cooked through (about 7 minutes).

While meat cooks, fill the bottom with a double boiler with a 1/2″ water and heat over high heat. Add cabbage to basket of double boiler (alternately, place water and cabbage in a large pot), cover, and steam until pliable and vibrant green (about 3-5 minutes).

In a large bowl, combine prepared rice, cooked meat mixture and remaining ingredients. Lay cabbage leaves on a flat surface and spoon 2-3 tbsp filling into the center of the leaf. Fold sides of cabbage leaf in until meeting in the middle, and roll leaf over until an envelope is formed. Secure with a toothpick if necessary. Serve with spicy mayo.

Italian Cabbage Rolls

Makes 10 small cabbage rolls

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 60 minutes


1 cup orzo

1/2 lb ground beef, veal, pork, or lamb

1/2 medium onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 red bell pepper, seeded with pith removed and sliced

1/3 cup parmigiano reggiano, shredded

1/4 cup basil, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp red pepper

10 large cabbage leaves, cleaned and stemmed

1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes (recommend San Marzano)

1 5.5 oz can of tomato paste

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup water

1 tsp Italian seasoning

salt and red pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 350F.

Cook orzo to al dente as per package directions.

Mix orzo, ground meat, onion, garlic, parmigiano reggiano, basil, salt, red pepper in a large bowl. Lay cleaned cabbage on a flat surface. Spoon two tablespoons of mixture into the center of your cabbage leaf. Roll sides of cabbage leaves in until  they meet in the middle, then roll the leaves over until an envelope is formed.

In a small bowl, mix together crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, water, salt and red pepper. Pour tomato sauce mixture over cabbage rolls. Bake for about 60 minutes, until stuffing is cooked through.







Cheese Board Bread



I love bread. I’m one of those that will eat the bread on the way home from the supermarket until there’s only a lonely, crusty end left. I find that bread that I get from a bakery, or better yet bake at home, is so much more satisfying than the kind you can find at the big box stores. It somehow satisfies with less and doesn’t have that strange aftertaste you become accustomed to, unless you eat fresh bread often enough.

We almost never buy bread anymore. I cook bread at least once a week, sometimes four times a week. My husband and I were including bread in our CSA boxes and that meant baking thirty loaves every week. It’s like gardening- therapeutic and satisfying to see and enjoy the finished project.

Baking bread is one of the most wholesome things you can do for your family. True, it is time consuming, but most of the time spent is inactive.

I have a secret weapon, and his name is Paul Hollywood. If you’ve ever seen The Great British Baking Show (and if you haven’t, you MUST!), you know Paul. My husband bought me one of his bread baking cookbooks, and it was revolutionary. Every loaf is a homerun. I have had to adjust every recipe – because apparently the hot, humid conditions of the South Texas coast are slightly different than Paul’s home in Scotland – but they are all delicious, no fail breads.

Here’s one of his recipes that I added dried fruit to. It combines all of my favorite parts of a good cheese board: 1) a hearty bread, 2) nuts, 3) fruit, and 4) cheese. This bread is so complex and wonderful, it’s great with a slathering of butter, jelly, or toasted with olive oil.

Cheese Board Bread


Makes 1 loaf

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Inactive Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 35-40 minutes


2/3 cup bread flour

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons yeast

1/2 stick butter, softened

1 1/4 cup water

3 oz bleu cheese (Gorgonzola or Stilton)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup dried cranberries, blueberries, and/or cherries


In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add in butter and water until a soft dough is formed. The dough should be slightly wet, as whole-wheat requires more water. Knead the dough in the bowl or on a floured surface for about five minutes, until smooth. Cover dough with a tea towel and let rise in a warm area for an hour.

Add the cheese, nuts, and dried fruit to the risen dough and knead well, until all the mix-ins are well-incorporated. Form a baton or batard shape (us lay folks may think of it as a sausage shape) and place on a baking sheet. Cut slits 1/4″ deep using a sharp knife, and sprinkle with a light dusting of bread flour. Let rise for one hour.

Preheat oven to 450F. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when thumped, the bread is a nice golden color, and the cheese is bubbling and golden. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool for at least ten minutes.

*Note: If you’re not a fan of bleu cheese, this loaf might pleasantly surprise you. Heating the cheese at this temperature mellows out the flavor considerably, leaving only a salty finish.


Pulled Pork Tacos


dsc_0271The day Taco Tuesday became a recognized day of the week, my heart sang. Tacos are just the BEST. Everything is better in taco form, and depending on how you do it tacos can be a healthier option than most meals out there.

These tacos literally took less than 15 minutes to make. I shredded a leftover pork roast, added some onions, seasonings and toppings and sat down to lunch in record time. I almost felt like I was cheating when I made these tacos – nothing this easy should taste so good.


Pulled Pork Tacos

Serves 4

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 7 minutes


8-12 tortillas (flour or corn will both work equally well)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 sweet yellow onion, sliced

2-3 cups Leftover pork roast, shredded

1/2 tsp cumin (if desired)

1 ripe avocado, sliced

2 fresh jalapenos, sliced (seeded if you don’t like it spicy)

1 bunch fresh cilantro/coriander

fresh lime juice


Wrap the tortillas in thin cloth and heat in a steamer basket over simmering water for 2 minutes, or alternately, warm them for about 30 seconds on each side on a hot, ungreased cast iron skillet.

In a large saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions once the oil starts to shimmer. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pork (and cumin if desired) and cook another five minutes, until heated through.

Using the tortilla as a foundation, pile on about 3 oz pork/onion mixture, a few slices of jalapeno, a sprig of cilantro, and a slice of avocado. Squeeze fresh lime juice on top to finish.




Indian-Spiced Root Vegetables


dsc_0320The people of India have a gift of creating multidimensional flavors. One of my favorite flavor combinations is cumin, coriander, and turmeric. These three spices are a delicious addition to many vegetables and proteins, and also contribute a notable punch of nutrition.

These spices have powerful medicinal qualities. Turmeric in particular contains an active ingredient called Curcumin that is used to treat everything from irritable bowel to arthritis. In short, this anti-inflammatory is practically a wonder drug in a spice jar.

Coriander, too, is rich in phytonutrients such as flavonoids, and are believed to aid in cholesterol and blood sugar control. Cumin aids in ameliorating digestive problems, such as diarrhea and gas.

Just like most medicinal herbs and spices, I am not a huge advocate for consuming it in supplement form, as it has several adverse side effects when taken at a therapeutic dosage unless prescribed by a physician.

I hope you enjoy this powerful trio when generously added to turnips and radishes. Please feel free to substitute your favorite root vegetables in this recipe: potatoes, yams, beets, carrots, etc. will all work beautifully in this recipe.


Indian-Spiced Root Vegetables

Serves 4

Cooking Time: 20-25 minutes


Root Vegetables (two bunches or about 4 cups), cut into bite-sized cubes

2 tbsp. grapeseed or melted coconut oil

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp coriander

salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 425F.

Combine spices in a small bowl. Spread vegetables out on a large sheet pan. Drizzle vegetables evenly with oil. Sprinkle spice evenly on vegetables. Using hands, rub spice mixture into vegetables, coating evenly.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until vegetables are fork tender.








Pork Stir-Fry



Stir-frying is an easy way to throw together a nutritious meal. You can substitute almost any fresh vegetable into this recipe. A stir-fry is a great way to use vegetables left in the crisper at the end of the week. Beef or chicken would also work perfectly well in lieu of pork. I took advantage of the beautiful bok choy and broccoli ready in our garden to make this, my favorite ever, pork stir-fry (that I have prepared).

This recipe is fast and well-balanced. You can serve this on an evening when you would normally order in Chinese food and rejoice in the fact that you’re eating less sodium and your food doesn’t contain unnecessary, harmful additives like MSG. It’s also ready in about the time it would take for your food to be delivered. It will be hot, fresh, and you know exactly what ingredients have gone into it.

I hope you enjoy it as much as my family and I did!


Pork Stir-Fry

Serves 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: about 20 minutes


2 tbsp sesame seed oil

Pork loin, cut into 2″ strips

1 medium onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, cut into strips

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated

2 tbsp mirin

3 tbsp soy sauce

1/4 red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 head broccoli, cut into florets

1/2 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 bok choy, sliced lengthwise


Drizzle oil in a wok or large saute pan and place over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and pork. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes, until meat is almost browned. Add garlic, ginger, mirin, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes and cook another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add remaining ingredients and cook for another 2-3 minutes, covered, until vegetables are fork tender but still retain their vibrant green color.

Serve over steamed white rice.




Peppermint Hot Chocolate



It finally dropped below unbelievably hot yesterday, so I decided to get into the holiday spirit with some hot chocolate. I went to put a few drops of vanilla into my usual homemade hot chocolate and realized the only extract in my pantry was peppermint! Thus, came the inspiration for this simple, (almost) guilt-free holiday treat.

I love the sinful, sugary drinks of Starbucks. I could probably drink a new one every day and never find one I didn’t like. However, they don’t like me back. Even with skim milk and no whipped cream, those flavored lattes are so loaded with sugar my blood sugar is up and down faster than a public toilet seat.

This drink is satisfying without leaving a sugar hangover. Just for fun, I’ve included the nutrient analysis from the Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks and my Peppermint Hot Chocolate.

Starbucks Peppermint Mocha©ˆ                        Peppermint Hot Chocolate˜

16 oz                                                                  16 oz

440 kcal                                                              312 kcal

15 g fat (10g saturated)                                     15 g (10 g saturated)

54 g sugar                                                          28 g sugar

13 g protein                                                       15 g protein

ˆ This nutrition analysis is for a standard Peppermint Mocha prepared with 2% milk and whipped cream.

˜ This nutrition analysis is for a Peppermint Hot Chocolate prepared with whole, raw milk and 1 tsp raw sugar.

Coffee drinkers, please feel free to add a shot of espresso to this hot chocolate. If you don’t have an espresso machine at home (guilty as charged) brew a strong cup of coffee and add in the hot chocolate mixture in a 2:1 ratio.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Makes 16 oz (a Grande at Starbucks)
Cook time: 5 minutes

16 oz milk (Recommend: Plain Almond, Plain Coconut, or Raw Whole Milk)
1/4 cup organic cocao powder
1-2 tbsp raw sugar (may substitute agave or coconut sugar)
3-4 drops peppermint extract

In a large saucepan, combine ingredients with a whisk. Heat over low-medium heat until milk begins to simmer. Remove hot chocolate before it begins to boil to prevent the milk from curdling.

I recommend enjoying this large cup of joy on your back porch around sunset.

Vegetarian Tikka Masala


As farmers, my husband and I often get stuck with what some might consider “the undesirable” veggies; roots like turnips, radishes, beets, etc. But I love these underestimated little guys. Each variety has its own flavor and texture and they add a great bite to a dish. Here’s a nice way to clean out the fridge at the end of the week, or a great dish for meatless Mondays.


Vegetarian Tikka Masala

Vegetarian Tikka Masala

Serves 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

2 tbsp grape seed oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tbsp gram masala

1 tbsp grated ginger

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp cayenne (if you like it hot)

Salt to taste

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups root vegetables [sweet potato, young radishes (recommend scarlet globe or French breakfast varieties), turnips, carrots, beets, rutabagas, etc.)

15.5 oz canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

14.5 oz canned tomatoes (or alternately, a 6 oz can of tomato paste)

1 cup vegetable stock 

13.5 oz canned coconut milk


In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until starting to become fragrant (about 45 seconds). Add spices, garlic and root vegetables and continue to cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to a simmer and come continue to cook until all vegetables are fork tender. Serve with naan or steamed basmati rice.