The weather report threatened rain today as I raced the storm clouds and blended my green smoothie. I rushed outside, a few props in hand, to snap photos.
My neighbor pulled into his driveway. He offered up the obligatory, “I hope we get rain.” I smiled wide and murmured an agreement. I smiled even wider realizing that he did not think twice about me snapping photos of the seating area in our front yard. I imagine he is used to me crouching along the flower beds with my iPhone and Mike’s hand-me-down camera slung around my neck. (Often my iPhone 5 captures the best photos…)
True, the neighbors and passersby may think that I am a wacky woman. I am used to being called weird and strange. I teach 9th grade English, after all. I must uphold the reputation of the crazy-cat-lady-English-teacher (that is why my pets are named after Greek mythology) There also is something about standing in front of teenagers every day that makes a person lose their awkwardness.
I know that my friends, family, and Weight Watchers members thought I was strange five years ago when I told them that I was drinking green smoothies. (Brand new members still pucker up their faces in horror at the thought of blending greens into a smoothie) Yet, I knew that if they tried them, they would be hooked — and I hazard a guess that nine times of out ten, I was (and continue to be) right about my green smoothie hunch.
My exposure to green smoothies came five years ago this coming fall. My husband Mike had suffered a sudden and unexplained brain hemorrhage. After a couple of days of intense headaches I brought him to the emergency room in the middle of the night and they found blood on his brain. He was lucky and did not need surgery and only had to spend one night in the hospital (though I personally think it should have been longer). Yours truly became his Florence Nightingale.
The weeks that ensued were a blurry nightmare. He slept and I worried. He suffered an enormous amount of pain. I watched and he slept (I constantly checked to make sure he was still breathing). His friends sent flowers and came by to visit in hushed tones. His buddy Scott brought him prayer feathers. My friend Lil in South Dakota burned sage. Our friend Molly came and sat at our house so I could run errands (I was afraid to leave Mike alone). Our friends and family prayed. Slowly he healed.
Due to loss of blood, and iron, Mike ended up with restless leg syndrome. I was at the farmer’s market in Marquette explaining his situation to a young woman vendor and she mentioned that I should make him a green smoothie out of kale. She explained that I should also include some sort of fruit that was high in Vitamin C, like an orange, to help him absorb the iron from the greens. I was curious about her advice and did research when I got home, stumbling across loads of information about green smoothies by Victoria Boutenko. During this research I learned that green smoothies are highly nutritional because the blender breaks down the green’s cell walls and helps our bodies fully absorb the vitamins, minerals, protein, and chlorophyll.
In the weeks prior to hearing about green smoothies, I had spent hours on the internet literally searching brain food. While the doctors administered tests trying to come up with a reason for Mike’s brain trauma, I was coming across information that pointed to the healing power of food. The first couple of weeks after his hospitalization, he did not have an appetite and I was giving him back-to-back pain medication for his severe headaches. Though we quickly learned he had to eat something to keep the pills in his stomach. I was forcing him to gulp down oatmeal or mashed potatoes in the short time he was awake (I soon found out the food that I was feeding him was the wrong food for someone who had suffered a head trauma). I started to seek out organic food at our local food co-op and processed strange combinations of food in the blender: pumpkin, black beans, flax oil (high in Omega-3) along with other vegetables. “Drink this,” I would tell him, “this will help you heal.” Because organic meat was pricey, I kept him on a diet that was heavily vegetarian and I started making us both green smoothies. In addition to the smoothies we eradicated artificial sweeteners, incorporated more whole foods, and ate less refined sugar. Our shopping cart, pantry, refrigerator, and ice-box underwent a complete overhaul.
Eventually Mike’s restless leg syndrome went away, his headaches grew less severe, and he grew stronger. He ended up only taking a month off of work and his medical appointments were positive and upbeat. One of his neurologists was stunned when she tested Mike. He did not show any cognitive damage and he scored off the charts in his visual memory. She said she had never seen results quite like his with someone who had suffered frontal lobe damage. I told her about my research and the food that I was making for him and she told me to keep it up. At one appointment she even called Mike a, “walking and talking miracle.”
I will not take credit for Mike’s amazing recovery but I like to believe that the food that I prepared for him helped him heal. He is an amazing man with the determination, that us of Finnish descent, call sisu. Mike embodies sisu. He was in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves for thirteen years and served all over the globe, including Iraq in 2003. He has an extremely fierce work ethic and attention to detail and I know his determination helped him heal and overcome his setback. We often talk about how much healthier we are today after his illness because we armed ourselves with education and made healthy food choices our lifestyle.
Nearly five years later, Mike and I continue to drink green smoothies. While I have been drinking a green smoothie a day since January (with the exception of a day here-and-there) we have gone months without drinking them. Though, we always return because the green smoothies positively impact our energy levels and are filling and satisfying. In the past five years Mike and I have not had a cold that has lingered longer than a day or two. Our immune systems have been fortified with an abundance of fruit and vegetables.
For those that are new to green smoothies, I always recommend starting with spinach since it is naturally sweet and easy to blend. A frozen banana is also essential. The banana imparts a sweetness and makes the smoothie cold and creamy.
Since I have been drinking green smoothies for quite some time, my body does not crave a super sweet smoothie (especially in the morning) and I often prefer tart over sweet (unless I am drinking the green smoothie in place of dessert).
Last week I came up for a recipe for a refreshing summer classic, a Raspberry Lemonade Green Smoothie.
My desire was to come up with a another tart, refreshing, summer classic and since I love the combination of cherries and lime the answer seemed obvious. I also wanted to come up with a recipe that was simple and did not contain too many exotic ingredients for those who are new to green smoothies.
CHERRY LIMEADE GREEN SMOOTHIE
*3 cups of spinach (I normally don’t measure and usually grab three large handfuls. I measure for recipes 🙂 )
*1-2 limes & zest (I juiced 2 limes and zested one)
*1 cup of cherries (fresh or frozen)
*1 small frozen banana (more if you want the smoothie sweeter)
*1 Tablespoon chia seeds (Optional. I add chia seeds for protein and Omega-3. I find that chia seeds also make the smoothie more filling)
*Fresh ginger root to taste. (Optional. I personally love the taste of ginger)
*Sprig of mint (Optional. Because it is summer and I have mint in my garden I add it to everything)
*1 cup of cold water and a few ice cubes
*Makes 3 cups
Here is a link to Pinterest to save this recipe: Cherry Limeade Green Smoothie
My fuchsia peonies started to open yesterday and my flower boxes wait patiently for hot weather to help them flourish. The lilac blooms are started to brown at the edges but the bridal wreath is in its full glory.
For obvious reasons, the past five years, I find myself stopping to appreciate all of life’s beauty more. I am thankful that Mike is thriving and that we are a team. Our relationship is not perfect but we have weathered some rough seas together. Our love is strong and true because we appreciate what we have. Our health is precious and I am grateful for each brand new day to give thanks.
It fills me with joy to know that I can help others embrace a healthy lifestyle. I love leading Weight Watcher meetings and watching my members meet the goals that they set for themselves. When I started this blog I had hoped to help keep myself accountable to a plant-based diet. Yet, I am touched by the outpouring of support that I have received from family, friends, and even complete strangers. It may be corny, but every time someone pins one of my recipes/follows me on Pinterest or likes my Produce with Amy facebook page my heart sings because I am helping to make a difference.
I thank Mike for letting me tell his story today. To those reading this blog, I ask that you stop, savor, and appreciate the simple things in life. Nourish your body with healthy food because you are worth it. Cheers to summer, bright blossoms, and green smoothies!
*A very special thank you also goes out to my friends for the gorgeous glass featured in this post. Thank you Patti Connors for you generous donation and Theresa Oja for giving me the glasses as an early birthday present. Theresa, your unwavering support and friendship is very precious to me.
You might be also interested in some other green smoothie recipes that I have posted:
Amy’s Energizer Smoothie
For dessert ~ Gingerbread Green Smoothie
For those who like a sweet smoothie ~ Jeweled Ambrosia Green Smoothie