Monday, October 14, 2013

Green Smoothie Time!

Working in agricultural organizations has many perks: I get to travel to different farms weekly, meet interesting farmers, and check out firsthand what new and non-traditional vegetables are being planted. A few weeks ago, to my very pleasant surprise, I discovered that KALE had successfully made its debut in Armenia. I quickly put in my order for 2 bunches, and after 20 minutes of our farmer trying to convince me to marry his son (we have never met), I had my goodies. The two bunches I picked up looked exactly like the curly kale I knew back home with one difference: they are HUGE.

We took some pictures to show the size and then Moogeeg became upset because he wasn’t the centre of attention, and we had to spend 10 minutes comforting him:
Bigger than my face!
Moogeeg is reassured that he is all that matters in the universe
Kale is rich in vitamin A (night vision, represent!), vitamin K (helps our blood clot when we have a cut so we don’t bleed to death), vitamin C (anti-oxidant), tryptophan (mood enhancer), vitamin B6 (memory), calcium (bone health), and much, much more!

When you have a blender and kale, a nutritious and delicious green smoothie is a must! I made them all the time back home and included lots of special “add-ons”. What I love about smoothies is that they are one of the most convenient and quickest ways to make sure you are getting some of your vegetable servings in. There are just some days (like this entire month) when things can get so busy and hectic that you never have the time to actually think ahead and prepare nutritious meals for yourself throughout the day. However, with smoothies you can pack many servings of greens and veggies (as well as fruits) in one drink, and at least know that no matter how busy you are for the rest of the day, you have already had a couple of servings of veggies and fruits and as a result, lots of fibre.

I was heart-broken when the initial blender I bought in Armenia broke down after I made my 10th hmoz with it, but luckily my very thoughtful friends bought me a new one for my birthday. I have already used it to make hmoz (500th and counting!), as well as for blending soups and grinding seeds. It was time to add smoothies to that list.

I let Gohar, Allegra and Nayiry know that Friday was officially smoothie day. Gohar was apprehensive and made weird faces letting me know I had something to prove. And prove something I did!

Here is a recipe I made using almost all local Armenian ingredients. The only imported items were the orange (Georgia) and the bananas (unknown as they were “borrowed”).

-1 bunch kale (our bunches in Armenia are HUGE so I only used half)
-1 bunch spinach
-1 banana
-1 orange
-1/2 an apple
-A handful of raspberries (during the summer I freeze them so I rarely add ice to the smoothies)
-3 TBSP flaxseeds, ground (for 3 people)
-Lots of water!
This will all be in my stomach soon
As to make anything with this many greens taste good, fruit becomes a necessity. Keep in mind that this recipe is good for 4 people, and I decided to add some extra fibre (ground flax seed). Of course there is plenty of fibre in the whole fruit itself, but I still like to add extra fibre whenever I can since it promotes elimination, removes toxins, keeps our blood sugar in check, and a soluble form like flax seed is a gentle cleanser of our intestine and colon! Flax seed also has Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) that are especially important for vegetarians and vegans to focus on, so, as I like to say, win-win!

First, grind your flax seed. There is an important aspect when dealing with flax seeds as they contain EFAs, which are extremely sensitive to both light and heat, so it is very important to grind them as fresh as possible. Many stores sell ground flax seed or flax seed oil in transparent bottles out on the shelf, and you can bet your boots they are both rancid. In every case where someone has told me they do not like flax seed oil, it has been because they were consuming the rancid version, which has a very bitter taste. Fresh flax oil is light and nutty. Whenever I grind flax seed, I make just enough that will last me about a week or so, and keep it in a dark container that I keep in the freezer. Flax seed is also indigestible when eaten whole so make sure to consume it as a powder or as an oil. The powder has the benefit of fibre and the oil has the benefit of being a very direct/instant source of EFAs. Why are they so essential you ask? Simply put, our body cannot make them on their own. They are necessary for cell wall formation so that our cell walls are permeable enough for nutrients to get in, and are crucial in the development of our nervous system, by coating and protecting our neurons. They are also natural blood-thinners (take that, baby aspirin!), preventing blood clots.
You can do this with any coffee grinder
Grind & then transport to a dark container & into the freezer!
Next chop all of your ingredients just enough to make the work of your blender easier (I still fear it will break down on me, so I treat it well). First add 80% of the water you will use, then the soft fruit like the bananas, oranges and raspberries, followed by all other fruit, then the greens. Then add any powders, in this case the ground flax, and add the rest of the water:
Start blending the mix, and remember, the longer you blend it, the thinner the consistency will be. Remember it is supposed to be a “liquid salad”, so make sure it is actually a liquid. In Canada I used to only blend my smoothies for about 30 seconds for reasons unknown, and ended up needing a spoon to consume them. One day, while I was waiting for the 30 second mark, I heard a loud “bang” in my room and ran there only to see that one of our cats had knocked over my water cup so I had about 10 seconds to save my computer from being utterly destroyed (it felt dramatic at the time). After yelling horrible insults (in Armenian of course) to my confused cat, I realized the blender was still on so I ran back, assuming it would explode. It had run for over one minute and a half and when I poured it into my jar, surprise, surprise, it had a much smoother consistency, which made it all the more enjoyable. My life was changed and my cat had some extra almond milk that day, equating knocking my things over with treats, unfortunately.
So blend until you cannot see any chunks of green anymore (like above), and pour in your cups and enjoy as soon as possible, since oxidation does of course begin to decrease the vitamin content.
3 happy campers! (One had to take the picture, of course!)
Delicious, smooth and very nutritious! Gohar enjoyed it and even licked the cup clean at the end so I knew that my work was done! You can change the recipe and incorporate your favourite fruits, but aim to keep a good amount of greens and veggies in as well.

Learn to appreciate the kale-stache:

GOT KALE?! (Armenia does!)
*All photos taken by either Gohar Khachatryan or Allegra Garabedian

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