Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Vanilla Pear Protein & Greens Smoothie

Happy Tuesday! This weekend was gorgeous, and we got a chance to spend time with lots of friends. From birthday parties to cookouts and just having some “girls time” with my Georgia, it was so much fun, and also relaxing.


G and I are in party prep mode, gathering together the final decorations and favors for her goodie bags … and I’m in denial that she’s turning four! Life with a preschooler is so much more fun than having an infant in my book. There’s no diapers, formula, strollers or baby carriers to lug, and no contending with teething, packing baby purees, having to find a quiet place to nurse, or booking activities around naps. However, there’s LOADS of tantrums over not getting their way, ups and downs with food pickiness, shifting preferences around which parent they want, and rigidity about favorite toys, movies, stuffed animals, sock color, hair style, you name it — which is aggravating but also an awesome glimpse into their emerging personality. I know lots of people find infants simpler and more portable, but I personally have been eager to have an independent walker, talker and day-tripper, so now that she can hang, I’m packing our agenda!


The only downside, though, is that if I’m not careful I don’t end up eating anything good all day. Combined with my frenetic office culture — which, like most workplaces, seldom offers time to break for lunch — I’m relying more and more on smoothies for sustenance on the go. I’m actually drinking one right now while I work from home and wait for the plumber to fix our dead hot water tank!


I typically make a double batch every weekend, and my favorite is a healthy green smoothie with fruit, veggies and filtered water. Soon I’ll be sharing my Sunday afternoon routine for making a big batch with Georgia so we are ready for lunches on the go all week! Sometimes, though, I need a little extra energy to feel full or recover from a midday yoga class, so I’m starting to test some of the different protein powders on the market. Today, I’m sharing a Vanilla Pear Smoothie that I made using Vega’s Protein & Greens Powder. 


Vanilla Pear Protein & Greens Smoothie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pear, sliced into chunks
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 2-3 ice cubes
  • 1 packet (30g) protein powder (or 1 scoop from a large container)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

You can substitute the water/almond milk combo for 1 cup of coconut water or a full cup of either filtered water or the milk of your choice.

DIRECTIONS

Adding the liquids first, then the spinach then the fruits and protein powder and ice, blend on high until smooth. Add more ice if you are using a fresh rather than frozen banana.

I like to store this in my favorite Shake and Go Bottle by Contigo — because they seal tight, are totally spill proof, hold a ton (24 ounces) while still fitting into my purse or car cup holder, and they have an easy-to-clean mixing ball inside to shake up the contents when you’re ready to drink. Plus, the price is right and they are sold at Target — at $6 each, I can buy two or three so I always have one clean. They even make one with a powder storage compartment on the bottom for $12 that holds up to two servings!

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The stats on Vega

The Vega powder has 20 grams of plant-based protein (pea, hemp and brown rice), non-GMO, gluten-free, sugar free, and 110 calories, or 1 Weight Watchers point. It has 4g carbs and 1g fiber, and can also just be mixed into 8 ounces of cold water or non-dairy milk. Other flavors, such as chocolate, are available. I found that it keeps fine in the fridge for four or five days, and a good shake re-mixes it well.

Why protein powder?

I haven’t shared this on here yet, but all summer I’ve been undergoing physical therapy for some lingering issues related to my labor with Georgia — in particular, some spasming muscles in my pelvic floor and a stubborn separation of my abdominal muscles, likely caused by being extremely petite, having a comparatively big baby, and pushing for two hours. Part of the PT is restorative therapy and behavior modification — which I’ll happily share more about later — but the latter phase, which I’m in now, is all about strengthening the core to support all the therapy we’ve done to retrain my abdominal wall and pelvic floor to hold my internal organs in and support my lower back and hips properly. This means I’m doing A LOT of strength training every day, sometimes twice a day, and need to take in adequate nutrients from quality foods to prepare and recover.


Protein powder is helpful if you are ramping up workouts after an interval of not exercising regularly, or while recovering from an injury — both, in my case. They can also help support healthy bones, blood, cartilage and muscle if you are mostly vegetarian or vegan, although protein powders are by NO means necessary for ensuring adequate protein intake while eating a plant-based diet. Protein powders are also typically not enough to fully satisfy your daily protein needs — they are definitely meant as a supplement.

What are the main downsides?

Well, in addition to the fact that you do not NEED a powder in order to replace nutrients from food, protein powders can be gritty or chalky in your shakes and smoothies — especially if you are used to straight up fruit and veggie smoothies — and, of course, they can be costly.

My verdict on Vega? I thought it was tasty, not chalky, minimally gritty, and overall very easy to blend into my usual smoothie, and filling. As someone who is used to drinking fruit and vegetable based smoothies with no added juice, sugar, ice cream, etc., the texture was creamier and sweeter than I’m used to — but that’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. Overall, I’d recommend. A great way to try protein powders is to pick up a $2 single-serving packet in the fitness & supplement aisle to try. That way you don’t have to drop $40 on a huge tub of something you aren’t yet sure you’ll like. I found Vega at Target, and I know Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have loads more, as well as Amazon and numerous brick-and-mortar health stores.

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What Else I’m Trying

Next up, I’m going to try Aloha’s Vanilla Bean protein powder, and Trader Joe’s Organic Vanilla protein powder. Mark really likes the Trader Joe’s fast-dissolving chocolate whey protein powder for exercise recovery, so I’m hoping their vanilla flavor is tasty and budget-friendly.

Most protein powders are whey, soy or hemp, and those are in descending order of protein content. You can also evaluate what type of sweetener each powder contains; I prefer stevia, dislike artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, etc.), and like to see a sugar content of zero on that nutrition label if possible. While there are lots of factors to consider, it basically comes down to price, protein source/dietary restrictions, and flavor/texture. I’ll let you know what I discover!

What’s YOUR favorite protein powder? Do you use one? Why or why not?

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Gymboree Sale On Now!

Drinks & Smoothies · kid-friendly · Recipes

Strawberry Peanut Butter Smoothie

Though it hasn’t felt very summery out there so far this year, something about this time of year prompts me to want to get moving more, lighten up what I’m eating so I can feel lighter myself, and spend less time cooking and eating big meals. Enter smoothies, the perfect on-the-go food with built-in health benefits. Of course, the other way to look at it is that these balance out all the inevitable hot dogs, cold beers and after-dinner trips to get ice cream that come with summer, so cheers to that, too!

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This smoothie is vegan, easy to make as well as to digest, tasty, portable, and perfect for post-workout because of the great balance of carbs to restore glycogen burned during exercise and muscle-building protein.

A healthy and filling after-exercise smoothie will ideally contain a foundation of greens and fruit, like we have here, plus a protein source such as nut butter, silken tofu or plain yogurt, and also a liquid, such as coconut water or almond milk.

I used peanut butter, but you could also use almond butter. You can sub half Greek yogurt and half almond milk — especially to boost the protein ratio for exercise recovery — or all almond milk in place of coconut milk.

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Strawberry Banana Smoothie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1-2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1 ripe banana (mine was frozen)
  • 1 can reduced-fat coconut milk OR 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 heaping TBSP peanut butter OR almond butter
  • optional: toss in some spinach or other greens

DIRECTIONS

Add all ingredients to blender, starting with liquid first, and process on high until smooth. It helps to have a high-speed blender like a Vitamix if you want to throw in a handful of greens and have them pulverized, which I did to get an extra veg boost, but otherwise this should be fine in a conventional blender, too.

The amount of berries can vary by however much you want. I used what I had on hand, which was a little less than a full two-cup bag in the freezer.

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I’m not even going to talk about the weather anymore because I think I’ve personally jinxed it from ever being nice this year. We are having a small cookout the weekend after next for Mark’s birthday, and if it’s rainy or cold still, I’m going to lose my mind.

Today, however, we got a peek at the sun, so I strolled on over to The Scooper Bowl in City Hall Plaza, which is an ice cream extravaganza that also benefits The Jimmy Fund. It’s still going on tomorrow from Noon to 8 p.m. outside Boston City Hall, right at Government Center. Perfect for an after-work outing. Or “lunch,” like I did!

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If you liked this smoothie, share it with a friend, and pin it for later! Have a great rest of the week, everyone. 

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Drinks & Smoothies · kid-friendly · Recipes

Blueberry Super Smoothie

Inspired by the Blueberry Bliss Smoothie at Mother Juice in the Boston Public Market, I set out this week to create a smoothie recipe that had more complex flavors than the results I’ve gotten with just frozen berries and coconut milk alone. While there’s nothing wrong with tossing frozen fruit and milk into the blender, I always suspected there had to be a way of packing even more nutritional clout into something built on antioxidant-rich blueberries. I also wanted to give this smoothie some heft, to make it a real meal replacement possibility and filling enough to satisfy that afternoon sugar craving. I really love how this turned out, and I think you’ll be surprised at the secret ingredient that gives it that extra edge!

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Blueberry Super Smoothie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup blueberries (I used frozen)
  • 1/2 cup juice (I chose cranberry)
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1 ripe or frozen banana
  • 1 container vanilla yogurt (Greek or regular; about 4 oz.)
  • a small palm full of pistachios
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • a dash of pumpkin pie spice*

DIRECTIONS

In a high speed blender such as a Vitamix or Blendtec, add all the ingredients, placing juice on the bottom and spices/seeds on top. Blend until smooth and enjoy cold!

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*Did that last ingredient surprise you?? That’s one of the things that made the Mother Juice smoothie so good! You couldn’t put your finger on it, but it tasted SO GOOD. If you want to really amp up the spice factor, add in some cinnamon! And if you want even more protein, make the yogurt Greek (I like Trader Joe’s vanilla bean) and add a tablespoon of almond butter, too.

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You can also swap out the nuts if you don’t like pistachios — I think almonds would be good. And if you don’t use frozen berries or banana, then throw in a couple ice cubes. I make this at night and put it into to-go containers so I can grab them the next morning. With chia seeds, letting them sit in the smoothie overnight lets them plump up and give your drink a wonderful, thick texture! They also add lots of fiber, too.

Read more about chia seeds and find my recipe for chia pudding right here.

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Have a great weekend everyone!

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Drinks & Smoothies · kid-friendly · Recipes

Banana Date Smoothie

Does anyone else love dates? Like a lot? I sure do! They’re considered a super food for a reason, and are easy to work into your repertoire.

So delicious and full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, they are a great source of energy and have been a satisfying component to many Mediterranean diets for centuries. Eaten in moderation, which is always a good idea with dried fruits, dates can boost digestion and keep you fuller longer, and lend a special flavor to any appetizer spread, smoothie, or even dessert. In fact, I did just that on Christmas Day with Sticky Toffee Pudding, and it turned out so well that I made a batch to share with my co-workers a week later. I’ll be sharing it with you in just a few days! Sticky Toffee Pudding uses blended dates as the basis for a delicious, dense little cake topped with butterscotch sauce, and it would be simply perfect for Easter Sunday, too.

You know what? If you make that Sticky Toffee Pudding, you’ll have just enough dates left over to toss in this smoothie. How perfect! If you are interested in learning how to make a healthy smoothie using dates, bananas, nut milk and oats, read on.

BANANA DATE SMOOTHIE

Ingredients

  • 2 frozen bananas (or add a couple ice cubes if using fresh bananas)
  • a handful of dates, about 10 (I buy them by the box at Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats

Directions

In a blender, add the almond milk then the dates. Blend at medium speed until the dates are mostly broken down.

Add the bananas and blend again. Then, add the oats and let them sit for a minute to soak and soften. You can probably skip this step if you have a high-end blender such as a Vitamix or BlendTec.

Puree the entire mixture on medium-high until smooth. Makes two servings.

Enjoy!

So we had a huge snow storm last week (and it’s freezing this week…spring, WTF are you hiding from??) which meant I was trapped at home for two days with no school and barely-plowed roads. I love getting in extra time with my G, but we definitely ran out of things to do after a little while. Often when that happens, we start cooking or baking together. She loves making smoothies, and this is one I’ve been wanting to try for a long time because it is so filling and fiber-rich that it really qualifies as a meal replacement. It’s delicious and good for you, and boy was I glad I’d made it a few days later when I had some early mornings and evening meetings that otherwise would have forced me toward the drive-thru for sustenance. The only thing I’d change next time is to make sure I have two smaller frozen bananas, because the ones we got at Costco last time around were so gigantic that the flavor *almost* took over the dates in my smoothie. If you find that you can only get larger bananas too, then I’d just use one or one-and-a-half.

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I thought you’d all appreciate a glamorous behind-the-scenes shot of my life testing recipes and staging food photos while home with a mischievous toddler and elderly cat. Have a great weekend everyone! 🙂

Drinks & Smoothies · Grow Your Own Way · Recipes

Mojito Mocktail

First off: here’s a real Mojito recipe if that’s what you’re about! My friend Terri brought this to Mark’s birthday BBQ this year and they were outstanding. If you just want the refreshing, minty, limey, sugary taste without the booze, though, here’s how I do: 

In a large glass, like this mason jar, muddle (crush) 10 fresh mint leaves,  1 tsp sweetener (regular sugar, or stevia, etc.), and half a lime, cut into wedges. Add a large handful of ice cubes and pour ginger ale, seltzer water (plain or flavored) or club soda into the glass, topping with more lime wedges and sweetener to taste. You can also cut the fizz by using half plain water, half sparkling water. Stir to combine — don’t strain! — and enjoy without the hangover 🙂

Reasons I Love Mint

It grows easily. Ask anyone who’s put it in their garden outside a container!!

It’s a great digestive aid. Caffeine-free peppermint tea is fabulous for soothing an upset stomach, especially around the holidays when heavy food may be dragging you down.

It may relieve nausea. I did not find it helpful while pregnant (and some doctors caution that mint can cause contractions or discomfort, especially during your third trimester)… but at other times, it does seem to do the trick.

Mint can help inflamed, aggravated skin to calm down — especially if you tend to get hormonal breakouts. A few sprigs of mint in your water can soothe you inside and out! And some people swear by masks made of crushed mint. You can DIY, or try Freeman’s Feeling Beautiful Clay Mask with Mint and Lemon.

Have a great week everyone!

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes · Uncategorized

Healthy Green Smoothie

Happy almost weekend! I’ve come down with a summer cold, so I’m stepping up my eating habits to nourish myself back to health. Nothing helps kick an icky illness better than eating right and resting. The body needs real food to recover! Sunday night, when I felt this one coming on, Georgia and I grabbed the last lettuce from the garden and some fruit from our weekend grocery haul, and got down to business. This smoothie is refreshing, re-hydrating, energizing and nutritious. Sip happily!

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Green Smoothie

Makes enough for two servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 slices watermelon
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 apple, cored and quartered
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 head of romaine, rough chopped
  • optional: 1 celery stalk, chopped (I love adding celery to smoothies :))

Using a fresh banana is fine, too. You may want to add a couple ice cubes to keep it cold if you do that. Subbing a lime for the lemon is also OK; you can also swap the romaine for any kind of lettuce, and any type of apple will do. This is a flexible smoothie that tastes sweet, not super green. My only advice would be to keep water as the base or it will get too heavy and won’t have the same smooth drinkability.

DIRECTIONS

Adding the water, lemon juice and watermelon first, then the other ingredients, blend on high until smooth. Enjoy cold! Keeps well for up to a week in the fridge, or double and freeze extras to have throughout the week.

🎉 Happy Independence Day everyone! 🎉

 

 

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes

Pineapple Mint Smoothie

New obsession alert: this is currently my most favorite smoothie in the world, which is saying a lot because I make a lot of smoothies (in fact, Georgia now asks me every night, “are we going to make smoothies with the Vitamix together?!”) This one stands out because it is so refreshing and hydrating. I’ve been battling the worst allergies this spring, and the fruit and coconut water in this drink do wonders for my raw throat. On a couple of those hot nights we just had, I swear I could’ve just had this smoothie for dinner. Enjoy! 

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Pineapple Mint Smoothie  

INGREDIENTS 

  • 1.5 cup cold unsweetened coconut water (~one 11.8 oz. can)
  • 1/2 cup cold filtered water
  • 2 apples, cored and quartered (green or red)
  • 2 kiwi, peeled
  • 2 cups frozen pineapple chunks (I used one bag from Trader Joe’s)
  • 20 fresh mint leaves

DIRECTIONS

Adding the liquids first and the frozen ingredients last, blend on high until smooth. Enjoy cold!

This made enough for two large smoothies so I set one aside and just gave it a good vigorous shake the next morning to re-mix it together. Or, you could freeze any extra, or halve the recipe and it will turn out the same.You can also adjust the coconut to regular water ratio: I happened to buy about a 12-ounce can, so I needed a half cup of regular water to give me 2 cups total. You could divide the water any way you’d like, as long as you end up with two cups of liquid for the full recipe or one cup for half.

Adapted from Kimberly Snyder’s blog.