Dreaming in Green ~ St. Patrick’s Day Cucumber Gazpacho Soup

Cucumber Gazpacho“The deep roots never doubt spring will come.” -Marty Rubin

The sunlight filtered through the windows today and my houseplants were sponges as they soaked up the joyful rays.

The sunlight filtered through the windows today and my houseplants were sponges as they soaked up the joyful rays.

I felt like Pandora today. Sunlight streaming through the window, I grasped the jar full of hope, and imagined spring arriving. The snow banks in our yard range from three to ten feet in height, but we know that even in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, spring is perennial and we will have our time to bask in the sun.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day and like every other morning, Mike and I started the day with a green smoothie. I decided to make our routine festive and served up our healthy drinks in a pilsner glass. Today I made one of my favorite combinations: spinach, mango, pineapple, banana, lime juice, chia seeds, fresh ginger, and water. Cheers! Or as my friend Cavan taught me today, Sláinte!

I love the ritual of making a green smoothie each morning. It makes me feel that we are starting the day out right.

I love the ritual of making a green smoothie each morning. It makes me feel that we are starting the day out right.

Green Love

As my mom Karen taught me, presentation is everything.

Sláinte!

Sláinte! Who needs green beer when you have these nutrition packed drinks to fuel your day?!

After Mike and I enjoyed our morning together, I posted the above photos on facebook and my friend Paula said she wished she could taste-test the green smoothies before venturing out on her own. I have had many friends that, like Paula, have had trepidation over taking the green smoothie leap. My promise is always that they will love them (and 9 out of 10 tell me that they do). Paula also wanted to know if she needed a special mixer to make green smoothies and I assured her that for the first few years, I made ours with an inexpensive blender. (Though, of course, I recommend a Vitamix. It has been one of the smartest investments that we have ever made.)  The trick to a great green smoothie, is first blending the water (or liquid of choice ) with the greens and then adding the fruit cut up into small pieces.

Here was my message, verbatim, to Paula this afternoon: “My recommendation would be to start very simple. My first one was spinach, banana, strawberry, and water. Spinach is naturally sweet and you won’t believe how good it tastes. A frozen banana is key because it gives the smoothie sweetness and makes it creamy. I buy quite a few bunches of bananas a week and when they get ripe I peel and toss into a bowl or bag in the freezer. 

Some of my favorite combinations are: banana and blackberries. Peaches, banana, and raspberries. Mango, pineapple, and banana. Experiment with your favorite fruit. I’ve tried tons of different combinations and often toss in what I have on hand. Frozen fruit works well and makes the smoothie cold (though you can add ice as well).

I’m a green smoothie “purist” and normally stick with water, fruit, chia seeds, and greens. The chia seeds make it filling and are a great source of calcium, protein, and Omega-3.Though I know that others add yogurt, milk and dairy-free milks, and even healthy oils.

The smoothies are a great way to fortify your iron and breaking down the cell walls of the greens makes it easier for our bodies to absorb the nutrients. Mike and I both drink one for breakfast and find them really filling and satisfying. I do eat my “lunch entree” [at work] during my prep (3rd hour) but I love them and I think they give me an important boost of energy in the morning!”

I cannot wait to hear what Paula, and her family, think of the green smoothies. Now that I have posted this here, she will have no choice but to experiment. 😉 Nothing makes me happier than getting feedback and learning new tasty combinations.

Mike was busy this weekend with his studies and we decided to spend the weekend at home. Still, I wanted to make the day special and try a new recipe to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Feeling wistful for spring, I imagined something light and refreshing to serve as a harbinger for warmer weather. Last week I received an email from Veg News for a Green Gazpacho. The recipe was contributed by Patti Breitman and I thought it would be a perfect dish for today. Last summer, cold and savory green soups were one of our favorite dinners to beat the heat.

Here is Patti’s recipe from the Veg News website:

Serves 4 to 6
What You Need:
4 large cucumbers, peeled and seeds removed, chopped into large pieces
2 ripe avocados, halved and scooped out
3 medium garlic cloves
2 medium green bell peppers, chopped in large pieces
4 green onions, chopped in large pieces
2 cups water
Juice of 1-1/2 lemons
1/3 small bunch fresh cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Paprika
leftDottedLine 3
What You Do:
1. Set aside a few sprigs of cilantro for garnish. In a food processor, add cucumber, avocado, garlic, peppers, and green onions. Blend until creamy, adding water a little at a time to reach desired consistency.2. Add lemon juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Serve with paprika sprinkled on top and cilantro for garnish.

For our green soup, I decided to divide the recipe up into two batches. I followed the Veg News recipe but for the first batch I swapped out the lemon for lime and for the second batch I swapped out the cilantro for dill and added a couple handfuls of spinach. Both turned out fresh, light, and delicious! We ate the first batch tonight for dinner and the second we will have tomorrow evening. I will be making this again and I think it would be fun to experiment with different additions. Jalapeno would be a great partner to the cilantro and chopped tomato or homemade salsa would make a vibrant garnish. Lacto Vegetarians could also finish off this soup by folding or blending in plain Greek yogurt for a protein boost.

How can you go wrong with such a beautiful plate of produce?

How can you go wrong with such a beautiful plate of produce?

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Slice the cucumber in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.

Slice the cucumber in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.

I love the way this photo turned out. It's like a spring, cucumber flower!

I love the way this photo turned out. It’s like a spring, cucumber flower!

Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender or food processor.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender or food processor.

Since I used our Vitamix, I was able to leave the ingredients in large chunks.

Since I used our Vitamix, I was able to leave the ingredients in large chunks.

Green and Gorgeous.

Green and Gorgeous.

To finish, I drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with green onion, cilantro, and for my friend Jessica ~ added a spicy kick with Sriracha sauce!

To finish, I drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with green onion, cilantro, and in honor of my friend Jessica ~ added a spicy kick with Sriracha sauce!

The second batch turned out equally as beautiful and tasty!

Lemon and dill is a incredible flavor combination.

Lemon and dill is a incredible flavor combination.

I cannot wait to have this for dinner tomorrow evening. Do not worry, I already sampled a small bowl.

I cannot wait to have this for dinner tomorrow evening. Do not worry, I already sampled a small bowl. For this version of the chilled soup, I reserved some of the avocado to add as a garnish. I love the silky and luxurious texture of avocado.

In the background our posh black cat, Pandora, pines for spring.

In the background our posh black cat, Pandora, pines for spring.

Green eyes!

Green eyes!

Spring may be slow in arriving this year, but that does not have to stop us from making our own light. While I am waiting until my Spring Break to start the annual deep cleaning and organizing, I did a few things to add a bit of freshness to our home. A couple years ago Mike build me floating shelves out of reclaimed hollow core doors and I try to swap out the decorations with the seasons. I still had Valentine’s decorations up and decided to pull some of my vintage Chartreuse Fiestaware out of storage in the basement. It is amazing how something so simple can be uplifting to one’s spirit.

Make your own spring.

Make your own spring.

I encourage you to try a new recipe or do something light and lively with the decor in your home. Grab your camera and record the way the sunlight sifts through bare branches or watch the way your pets delight in puddles of sunshine. Continue to dream and eventually spring will be here! Until then, make the most of today and enjoy every healthy moment.

St. Patrick's Day Collage“As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness — just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder – Volume One: On Wisdom and Virtues

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2 thoughts on “Dreaming in Green ~ St. Patrick’s Day Cucumber Gazpacho Soup

    • How cool that a friend will be joining you! I can’t wait to hear your review. Yes, families (especially husbands) can take a bit of work with Green Smoothies. Sometimes kids like them because of the “green factor.” 😉

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