Week #1 ~ December Green Smoothie Challenge (Recipes & Shopping List)

Visualize this thing you want. See it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin. ~Robert Collier
December Green Smoothie Challenge
First off, I want to thank you for joining me in the December Green Smoothie Challenge. The goal of this challenge is to have one green smoothie a day (either for breakfast or another time during the day). We will be incorporating more nutrients into our diet and together we will stay accountable and share recipes and ideas. This is not a fast but a way to increase our intake of greens and fruit. All you need is a blender (I used a regular blender for three years before I invested in a Vitamix) and the desire to be healthy.

To those who are new to green smoothies, my recommendation is always to start 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 a couple bunches of bananas a week and when they get ripe I peel and toss into a bowl or bag in the freezer. Experiment with your favorite fruit. I have tried tons of different combinations and often tossing in what I have on hand. Frozen fruit works well and makes the smoothie cold (though you can add ice as well).

Sláinte!

Sláinte!

For this challenge I will come up with recipes that you can follow if you would like. Please feel free to experiment with other combinations and please share your favorites in the comment section or on my Produce with Amy Facebook Page.

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, many of my Weight Watchers members add yogurt, milk and dairy-free milks, and even healthy oils to their green smoothies to help meet their Good Health Guidelines.

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. My husband Mike and I both drink one for breakfast and find them really filling and satisfying. I love them and I think they give me an important boost of energy in the morning!

I have fresh mint growing in my garden and love to add it to smoothies, fruit salad, and even savory dishes.

If you do not have a high powered blender I recommend blending up the greens and liquid first and then adding the fruit (cut up in small pieces) a little bit at a time. When you freeze your bananas you will want to slice or break them into small chunks. This may not be as easy as dumping cold cereal and milk in a bowl, but I promise that it is worth your labor! 🙂

Weight Watchers members may wonder how to count the PP for the green smoothies. Personally, I do not count the PP of the fruit in my smoothies and only count the things I add that would carry a PP value (chia seeds, coconut water, avocado). Though, if you run the smoothie through the Recipe Builder, it will give you a PP value (once a fruit or vegetable is not in its natural state it is easier to over-eat). I always like to mention at my meetings that the danger of smoothies are that they may bypass our bodies hunger signals. However, I do not have this problem with green smoothies. I take a long time to sip my smoothie in the morning and it really satisfies me until I can have a morning snack at around 10:00-10:30. I attribute this to the fact that the smoothies are full of fiber and the chia seeds make them especially filling.

Week #1 December Green Smoothie Challenge Recipes & Shopping List

If you do not enjoy the listed fruit or berries, substitute them with your favorite. The amount Cherry Limeade Green Smoothieof fruit and greens that you put into each smoothie will vary depending on your personal taste. I always recommend that those who are new to green smoothies should add just a small amount of greens at first and go heavy on the fruit. You will find that the more smoothies you drink the more greens and less fruit you can start blending. If you prefer more fruit in your smoothies you may find yourself running out during the week. You may want to purchase extra “just in case.” When I first starting drinking green smoothies I found that bananas were essential to giving the smoothie its sweetness (frozen are also best). If you do not like bananas (or have an allergy), you may want to add a touch of your sweetener of choice: dates, raw honey, maple syrup, or raw sugar).

  • Spinach (3 ~ nine ounce bags of spinach) For the first week my plan includes just spinach. Week two I plan to incorporate other greens. For those who are not a stranger to green smoothies, you may want to add in some other greens such as kale.
  • Bananas (5-7)
  • 2 limes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 fresh pineapple
  • 1 ~ twelve ounce bag of frozen mango (or 2 fresh)
  • 1 ~ twelve ounce bag of frozen raspberries (or 2 containers of fresh)
  • 1 ~ twelve ounce bag of frozen cherries
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • Fresh ginger root
  • Coconut water (optional ~ regular water will work fine but coconut water is said to have positive health benefits. I usually buy one large can per two green smoothies or I buy a couple liter containers)
  • Chia seeds

Printable list: Week One December Green Smoothie Shopping List

December Green Smoothie Challenge

WEEK ONE RECIPES. Each recipe should render approximately 3 CUPS of GREEN SMOOTHIE. They are so delicious you may want to make extra (or leave a little) for a mid-day snack.  Printable recipes posted below.

*If you plan on drinking your smoothies in the morning you may prep your smoothies the night before. You could even freeze ingredients in individual containers for the week. Sometimes when I know I am going to be in a time pinch in the morning I blend the night before and they stay fresh.
Day #1 Sunday Energizer

Sunday ~ Day #1: Sunday Energizer Smoothie (Click here to read the original blog post)

  •   3-4 cups of spinach (more or less for one’s personal taste.)
  • 1/2 a cucumber 
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro 
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 frozen banana 
  • 1/2 cup of raspberries 
  • 1/2 cup of mango
  • 1 Tablespoon Chia Seeds (I add one Tablespoon per green smoothie that I am making. It is recommended to soak chia seeds. I do not soak mine since I have a high powered blender and my smoothie often sits for  5-10 minutes before drinking)
  • 1 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger (since it is strong tasting you might try to add a little at a time)
  • 1 cup of coconut water or regular water

Day #2 Sunrise Green Smoothie

Monday ~ Day #2: Sunrise Green Smoothie (Click here to read the original blog post)

  • 3 cups of spinach or greens of choice 
  • 1/2 cup of pineapple 
  • 1/2 cup of mango 
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 Tablespoon of chia seeds 
  • 1 cup coconut water or regular water

(I find that the mango and pineapple is so sweet that I do not add a banana. However, you could add one or 1/2 a banana)

December Green Smoothie ChallengeTuesday ~ Day #3: Cherry Limeade Green Smoothie (Click here to read the original blog post)

  • 3 cups of spinach
  • 1 lime & zest 
  • 1 cup of cherries
  • 1/2-1 frozen banana (more if you want the smoothie sweeter)
  • 1 Tablespoon chia seeds
  • Fresh peeled ginger root to taste.
  • 1 cup of coconut water or regular water

Day #4 December Green Smoothie ChallengeWednesday ~ Day #4: Glowing Green Smoothie

  • 3 cups spinach
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1/2 cup of pineapple
  • 1/2 cup of mango
  • Cilantro (to taste)
  • Banana (optional)
  • 1 Teaspoon of chia seeds
  • 1 cup of coconut water or regular water

Day #5Thursday ~ Day #5: Raspberry & Pineapple Passion Green Smoothie

  • 3 cups spinach
  • 1/2 cup of raspberries
  • 1/2 cup of pineapple
  • 1/2-1 banana
  • Parsley (approximately 1/4 cup)
  • 1 Teaspoon of chia seeds
  • 1 cup of coconut water or regular water

December Green Smoothie ChallengeFriday ~ Day #6: Cherry Blast Green Smoothie

  • 3 cups spinach
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 3/4-1 cup of cherries
  • 1/2-1 banana
  • Fresh peeled ginger root to taste
  • 1 Teaspoon of chia seeds
  • 1/2 lime and zest
  • 1 cup of coconut water or regular water

December Green Smoothie ChallengeSaturday ~ Day #7: Mango Madness Green Smoothie (or “Leftovers” Green Smoothie)

For day #7 you may want to repeat one of your favorites from the week or toss in what you have leftover in ingredients from the week.

  • 3 cups spinach
  • 1 cup of mango
  • 1/2 – 1 Banana
  • 1 Teaspoon of chia seeds
  • Parsley or cilantro (or both) depending what you have left
  • 1 cup of coconut water or regular water

Printable recipes: Week One December Green Smoothie Recipes

Pin this blog post here.

Week Two Green Smoothie Recipes

Please feel free to share this challenge with your friends and family. The more people involved the more ideas, tips, recipes, and inspiration we will all receive. Starting December 1st, I will be posting a daily thread on my Produce with Amy Facebook page. Please like my page so you can join the conversation. Cheers to health and thriving in 2014!
December Green Smoothie Challenge

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Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, and Tomatoes

“Some foods are so comforting, so nourishing of body and soul, that to eat them is to be home again after a long journey. To eat such a meal is to remember that, though the world is full of knives and storms, the body is built for kindness.”
~Eli Brown

Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, and TomatoesAnother Sunday is here and I have been given the gift of time to relax, reflect, and regroup for a short work week before the Thanksgiving holiday. As everyone else is surely doing today, I find myself wistful for passing time and I cling to each minute ~ wishing that the weekend would never end. Do not get me wrong, teaching is my calling and I love being a teacher, guide, and student in my classroom, but the weekend has been so cozy and peaceful that I do not want to let it slip between my typing fingers. I could easily spend the entire weekend blogging but I also had to fit in my Weight Watchers meeting, shopping, cooking, grading, and household chores. Though, I made sure that I remembered to breathe deep, savor, and find gratitude for some rest and relaxation.

It was snowy, cold, and blustery yesterday and the scale and I were not friends at my Weight Watchers meeting. Or maybe we were, it was just time for a reality check and some tough love. I faltered with my healthy goals in the beginning of November. My bedtime crept up and events pulled me away from exercise. Last weekend I picked myself up, brushed off the excuses, and I am proud to say that I started Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred (today will be Day #6). Sore muscles may have attributed to my gain this week, but I have also been negligent in making sure I am drinking enough water and a couple of days I was sloppy with tracking.

With the Thanksgiving holiday in the distant future, I decided that I do not want to face another gain. What is my plan? My plan is to build in exercise EVERY DAY (yes, even on Thanksgiving) and I will be packing my DVD, yoga mat, and weights when I travel out-of-town to visit family. This week my meals will be brimming with vegetables, I will drink plenty of water, and I will bring some of my own food and healthy snacks on my travels. I know that I can work in indulgences and still stay On Program. I will have to make smart choices and make sure that I am creating balance with nutrition and activity.

One of the secrets to my Weight Watchers success over the past seven years has been soup. Not only does soup make a hearty lunch but it is a terrific way to bulk up dinner. Add a side salad and a cup of soup to a meal and you can eat smaller portions of your dinner entrée (this will also stretch your grocery budget). Though, my husband Mike and I can easily make soup and salad dinner. Mike loves when I top his salad with steak, chicken, or salmon and I can add protein to mine with raw nuts, beans, or tempeh.

Black bean soup is one of my favorites and I make many different varieties. I do confess that I normally do not follow a recipe and often add whatever I have on hand. This means that I often am not being 100% accurate on tracking the Points Plus value of the soup and depending on ingredients count it as 3-5 PP per cup. Imagine my surprise last night when I made a pot of soup and after running it through the Recipe Builder discovered it was only 2 PP a cup. I am thankful that blogging and sharing my recipes with others has made me more accountable to accurate tracking in Weight Watchers eTools.

This soup really is fiber rich and full of nutrients with the addition of sweet potato and pumpkin. Sweet potatoes are my current obsession and I love their taste and texture. I also love spice so I added a large can of Ro-tel brand tomatoes with green chilis and a Tablespoon of taco seasoning. If you do not like spicy food you could use a can of regular diced tomatoes.

Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, and Tomatoes

*4 cups of vegetable stock
*28 ounce can of Ro-tel tomatoes with green chilis (regular tomatoes would work well if you do not want the spice of the chilis)
*3 cups of black beans
*2 cups of peeled and cubed sweet potato (I used one large potato)
*2 cups of chopped celery
*1 cup of chopped green bell pepper
*1 cup of pumpkin (I used canned but fresh/frozen would work well)
*1 cup of chopped onion
*3 cloves of minced garlic
*1 Tablespoon of homemade Taco Seasoning
*1 teaspoon of cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
*Salt and pepper to taste
*Recipe renders 12 cups of soup

10Sautee onion, celery, garlic, and bell pepper in oil until soft.

Add sweet potato and vegetable stock and simmer for 30 minutes or until the sweet potato is cooked through.

Turn off heat and allow the mixture to cool enough to put in blender.

Please excuse my messy blender. ;)

Please excuse my messy blender. 😉

Since I have a high-powered blender (a Vitamix) I did a quick blend (20-30 seconds) because I wanted a little texture to the soup and did not want to completely puree the mixture.

You can skip this step if you want chunks of sweet potato in your soup. Sometimes I cut the potatoes in tiny pieces and skip the blending.

Add the mixture back to the pot and add the black beans, taco seasoning, and pumpkin to the pot. Bring to a boil and turn down and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

*Recipe renders 12 cups. 

Other possible additions to this recipe are corn, spinach or kale, white beans, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, or brown rice.
Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, and Tomatoes

I had two cups of this soup for lunch and before serving I squeezed fresh lime on top and added a dollop of plant-based sour cream, a couple of slices of avocado, fresh cilantro, and a sprinkle of smoky paprika.
Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, and TomatoesBlack Bean Soup with Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, and TomatoesIt was delicious and FILLING. The pumpkin and sweet potato give the soup a slightly sweet background which is balanced out by the spice of the chili infused tomatoes and taco seasoning. Let me know if you try this soup and what you think.

Pin this recipe here.

Check out my soup tab for other recipes.

You can follow my recipes on Pinterest and please like my Produce with Amy Facebook page and join the healthy conversation.

Also, please think about joining my December Green Smoothie Challenge to get a jump-start on the New Year with 31 Days of Health. Stay tuned for  a “Getting Started” post  with a suggested shopping list, tips, nutritional information, and recipes.
December Green Smoothie Challenge

Have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving holiday! May your blessings be so abundant that they are difficult to count and I hope you are able to relax and find laughter and peace. This year I am extra thankful for those who are reading my blog and for the reciprocal nature of social networks. Thank you for sharing this journey!
Gratitude


December Green Smoothie Challenge

“Our bodies are our gardens – our wills are our gardeners.”  ~William Shakespeare
December Green Smoothie Challenge

The winter holiday season is right around the corner and so are many unhealthy food temptations. Last year was a challenge for me and I did not like the way I felt after indulging in too many sodium and sugar laden treats. This year I plan to jump start my healthy intentions for the New Year by challenging myself to start each day off in December with a nutrient rich green smoothie. Would you like to join me?

The goal of this challenge is to have one green smoothie a day (either for breakfast or another time during the day). We will be incorporating more nutrients into our diet and together we will stay accountable and share recipes and ideas. This is not a fast but a way to increase your intake of greens and fruit. All you need is a blender (I used a regular blender for three years before I invested in a Vitamix) and the desire to try new recipes.

If you are new to green smoothies I can help get you started with recipes, tips, nutritional information and suggested shopping lists. There are many health benefits to green smoothies, including: chlorophyll and nutrients are easily assimilated into the body since the blender breaks down the cell walls of the greens, glowing skin, increased energy levels, and reduction of salty and carbohydrate food cravings.

This challenge is a great opportunity to kick start our 2014 health routines and will turn our kitchens into a beacon of nutrition. Join me and let the transformation begin!

UPDATE:
Click here for Week #1 printable green smoothie recipes and shopping list.

Click here for Week #2 printable green smoothie recipes and shopping list.

Click here for Week #3 printable green smoothie recipes and shopping list.

Click here for Week #4 printable green smoothie recipes and shopping list.

If you want to read more about green smoothies click here to read a blog that I wrote in June about how I was first introduced to green smoothies.

Also, check out my green smoothie recipes here.

Pin this challenge here.

Please feel free to share this challenge with your friends and family. The more people involved the more ideas, tips, recipes, and inspiration we will all receive. In December I will be posting a daily thread on my Produce with Amy Facebook page. Please like my page so you can join the conversation. Cheers to health and thriving in 2014!
December Green Smoothie ChallengeDecember Green Smoothie Challenge

 

Spaghetti Squash and Tomato Soup

I have been enjoying Autumn walks with Phoebe.

I have been enjoying crisp autumn walks with Phoebe.

“Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the orchard.” 
― Walt Whitman

It feels good to be blogging again. Last weekend I had to finalize grades for the 1st marking period and this week we had parent teacher conferences at school. It is hard to comprehend that it is already November and soon the winter holidays will be upon us. I need to be extra mindful of exercise and making sure that I am preparing healthy versions of the comfort food that my body is craving. We have had many snow flurries in the U.P. and winter is quick on the heals of fall. Mike’s recent food obsession is lasagna and he teased me that he probably should get a Garfield tattoo. (Talk about a childhood flashback since I used to have a Garfield scrapbook that held stickers and cartoons from the Sunday paper.)

With cooler weather, fall forces us indoors and is the perfect time to experiment with new recipes. Have you tried spaghetti squash? It is simple to prepare and is a wonderful substitute for pasta. I bought a large spaghetti squash last weekend and used it to make one of my favorite fall recipes: Spaghetti Squash and Tomato Soup.

Pierce the squash with a knife or fork and add about an inch of water to a baking dish.

Pierce the squash with a knife or fork and add about an inch of water to a baking dish.

To prepare simply pierce the squash with a knife, or fork, and place into a shallow baking pan that is filled with water. (I bake the squash whole and use about an inch of water).

Bake for approximately 60 minutes at 375 degrees (I baked mine for 90 minutes since the squash was large). A friend of mine said that she uses the microwave to cook the squash. She said a large squash takes 10-15 minutes (flip every 4-5 minutes).

Let cool and cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and use a fork to shred the squash. It will naturally pull apart in strands that will resemble pasta.

Serve with your favorite sauce, herbs,  or use in soup or other dishes.

Cook the squash whole. It makes cutting it a breeze once it is baked.

Cook the squash whole. It makes cutting it a breeze once it is baked.

 Spaghetti Squash

SPAGHETTI SQUASH AND TOMATO SOUP

  • 6-8 cups vegetable stockSpaghetti Squash and Tomato Soup
  • 28 ounce can of tomato sauce (I also used a few cups of tomatoes from my garden that I had in the freezer)
  • 1/2 large chopped onion
  • 3 ribs of celery chopped
  • 1 bell pepper chopped (I used 1/2 yellow and 1/2 red)
  • 1 large carrot chopped
  • Large cooked spaghetti squash (Approximately 10 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon each of oregano, rosemary, and basil

Saute the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in the olive oil until soft and add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for 30-45 minutes. Makes 15 cups.

You could cut the recipe in 1/2 and it would still make a generous pot of soup. I like to make extra to freeze. You could add beans for protein and add any other vegetables such as zucchini and mushrooms. It is delicious, filling, and the addition of tomato sauce makes it taste similar to spaghetti. I rotated this for dinner and lunch last week and I partnered it with a large salad and garlic toast.

If you are a Weight Watchers member it is 1 PP per cup (depending on the vegetable stock and tomato sauce that you are using). Make sure you run it through the Recipe Builder if you add additional ingredients.

When I serve this soup to Mike I add cheese and homemade garlic croutons to the top and brown like French Onion Soup. My friend Jackie made this soup and said she added parmesan cheese and cottage cheese on the side. So I added a couple of Tablespoons of cottage cheese to Mike’s soup, along with a pizza cheese medley, and he said it reminded him of lasagna.

If you have not tried spaghetti squash, I hope my post encourages you to try something new. I hope you enjoy this soup. What is your favorite way to eat spaghetti squash?

Pin this recipe here.

Check out my soup tab for other recipes.

You can follow my recipes on Pinterest and please like my Produce with Amy Facebook page and join the healthy conversation.

Spaghetti Squash and Tomato Soup 2

Spaghetti Squash and Tomato Soup:  Produce with Amy