Thursday, July 9, 2015

Bananacado Smoothie

Today I want to share with you a recipe for a smoothie. Now, when I think smoothie, I normally think fruit, yogurt, ice, maybe some juice or milk, all blended up. And that is an unquestionably  delicious way to make a smoothie. The problem is when you do it that way you don't have a nutritious meal as much as you have a desert. It is high in dairy (which I am cutting back on) and it his high in carbs and possibly high in refined sugars if you use juice and anything but plain yogurt.

So how can we make something delectable, portable and nutritious? It's all about the ingredients we choose. A friend of mine told me about how it is common in the Philippines to use the avocado as a desert item. They put it in ice creams, they sprinkle brown sugar on it and just spoon it up, and they use it in shakes. I also recall Alton Brown once using avocado as the base ingredient in a frosting recipe. So why not put it in a smoothie?

Not only is the avocado versatile, it is nutritious. Prized mainly for its high fat content as you can see from this excerpt from Wikipedia.
Avocados have diverse fats.[51] For a typical avocado:
  • About 75% of an avocado's energy comes from fat, most of which (67% of total fat) is monounsaturated fat as oleic acid.[51]
  • Other predominant fats include palmitic acid and linoleic acid.
  • The saturated fat content amounts to 14% of the total fat.[51]
  • Typical total fat composition is roughly (rounded to digits): 1% ω-3, 14% ω-6, 71% ω-9 (65% oleic and 6% palmitoleic), and 14% saturated fat (palmitic acid).[51]
 A typical serving of avocado (100 g) is moderate to rich in several B vitamins and vitamin K, with good content of vitamin Cvitamin E and potassium (right table, USDA nutrient data). Avocados also contain phytosterolsand carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin.

The avocado has a rather subtle flavor, so we need to add to it to create a well rounded flavor in this smoothie, so we add banana! Bananas are yummy. They are a great way to sweeten a smoothie without added sugar. They have a substantial carb count, so they are great before or after physical activity. Bananas are a prebiotic, meaning that they encourage healthy gut bacteria. Bananas are also easy to digest, they are often one of the foods parents are told to give their children who are having tummy troubles. But did you know that bananas are also good for your mood? Take a look at this paragraph from

Besides being a rich source of potassium, eating bananas adds a hefty amount of tryptophan to our diets. This amino acid is then converted into serotonin in our bodies, known to make us relax, improve your mood, and generally make you feel happier. In a study at Oxford University, researchers found that women recovering from depression who were deficient in tryptophan had a higher chance of regressing back to depressive states. Bananas are also a great source of vitamins and minerals, natural sugars and carbohydrates.
Fun factoid: did you know that a banana is technically a berry? No? Me neither, but it is. A berry is defined as any fruit that has seeds enclosed in a fleshy pulp. So botanically speaking, an avocado is also a berry. :)

Cinnamon pairs wonderfully with the avocado and banana in this smoothie. It provides a richness and warmth of flavor to this tasty treat. Cinnamon is touted to have many health benefits, you can read about it here. Suffice it to say, it has anti-inflammatory properties, it increases insulin sensitivity, helps to stabilize blood sugar, and it is full of antioxidants.

Last but not least, spinach. I am always looking for more ways to add greens to my diet. Smoothies are a great way to disguise greens, if you have picky family members. We all know if it is green, it is probably good for you, but do you know how good for you? Spinach is chock full of vitamins and minerals including:
  • 49% DV Folate (B9)
  • 34%DV Vitamin C
  • 460%DV Vitamin K
  • 10%DV Calcium
  • 21%DV Iron
  • 22%DV Magnesium
  • 43%DV Manganese
  • 12%DV Potassium - That's more potassium than a banana!

When blended in this smoothie, the spinach is hardly noticeable, but you still get all the benefits of this nutritious green.

Now, Lets make a smoothie!

The first thing you want to do is peel your bananas and freeze them. If you are crunched for time, you can put the peeled bananas in a zip top bag and smoosh them flat before tossing them in the freezer. By freezing the bananas, you won't need to add as much ice. Aim to leave them in the freezer for at least an hour.

After that, it's pretty simple, toss all the ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth.

It's pretty fool-proof. Try it out, let me know what you think in the comment section below!

Bananacado Smoothie

  • 2 bananas, peeled and frozen
  • 1 large avocado
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, loosely packed
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup ice

  1. Place all ingredients into a blender.
  2. Process until smooth.
  3. Makes 2 servings.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Coconut Balsamic Dressing

I love, love, love cooking.  I love the whole process. Deciding what to make, gathering the ingredients. Creating something delicious and wholesome. Most of all, I love to share my food with people. I love providing something scrumptious for people to eat. It makes me happy to fill bellies with good food!

Everyone has to eat, and in my way of thinking, it might as well taste good. I spend a fair bit of time looking for good recipes.  But for whatever reason,  I'm never quite satisfied with how things turn out.  So, I take a recipe that looks interesting, and I tweak it. Add a dash of this or a pinch of that. Make it just right.  Or maybe I just root around in the cupboard and throw something together. I cook by sight, smell, taste, and intuition.  When I cook,  I rarely write things down. This is only a problem if I get asked to share a recipe.  It's hard to replicate someone else's dish when they tell you to "add some garlic powder and some onion powder." I mean really, what does that mean?!?!

I've been asked by friends and family numerous times to share my recipes. I never thought there was anything special about my cooking. I was just making food for my family. My dear friends Sara and Erin have repeatedly suggested that I start a blog to share my recipes and such. I haven't done it yet, mostly because I didn't really think I had anything important to say. Well, I realized yesterday that I do have things to say, and they might be important to some people. 

So, I am starting a blog (gulp). I've never been a writer, but the words seem to be coming easier now. Perhaps because I have gained some confidence over the past year. Perhaps because putting thoughts down in writing is therapeutic. I don't know for sure.

We all cook, don't we? Maybe nothing gourmet, maybe just simple food. Maybe impressive 8 course meals. Maybe chicken nuggets and mac & cheese. Maybe you find a happy medium. I have to take it a step further. I have a chronic illness. I have had hypothyroidism for 5 years.

What's the big deal? Lots and lots of people have chronic illnesses. While that is true, I have come to understand that each persons struggle is real, and it is a big deal. It's a big deal to them, and to their family and loved ones. It affects nearly every aspect of an ill persons life, every day. And while another persons struggle may very well be more difficult than mine, that does not, and should not diminish my own. It is valid and it is real. Just because I am not alone, does not mean I am not struggling. 

With all that being said, I do believe that there are things that I can do in my every day life to make myself feel better. Food is fuel. Food can also be either medicine or poison. That is where cooking can become tricky. What foods will nourish my body, what foods will have a detrimental effect? Some times it is trial and error. For me, gluten is enemy #1. Next on the list is refined sugars. After that, pretty much all processed foods. 

This can make cooking delicious food a challenge. However, it also makes cooking an adventure! I have come across so many new and interesting ways of doing things that I never would have discovered had I not omitted certain things from my diet for health reasons. 

This leads me to the first recipe I would like to share with you. Coconut balsamic salad dressing. It is scrumptious. I have not yet come across a person who doesn't like it. You can put it on anything. Seriously. 

This dressing is an example of something I would never have tried if not for my health problems. First and foremost because I had to learn to like salad. Second because I was a ranch dressing junkie. There are a lot of ingredients in a bottle of ranch dressing that I can't pronounce let alone identify. Probably not too good for your body. 

So what lead me to create this concoction? Well, lets start with the coconut oil. Organic, cold pressed coconut oil is sooooooo good for you! I am betting that I am not the first person you have heard that from. The health benefits are innumerable. I started trying to incorporate more into my diet because of my thyroid. I started with the simplest swaps, using it in place of butter. That was easy, but I felt that I could do more with it. It dawned on me one day that I could use it in place of olive oil in a salad dressing. I fell in love when I combined it with a pear balsamic vinegar. My fate was sealed. I put coconut oil in almost all of my salad dressings now. Because coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it lends a thickness to dressings with out having to add thickeners or other junk. It also means that you may have to warm it up a bit to make it a "pour-able" consistency. I don't find that to be to big of an inconvenience. I also find that coconut oil gives the dressing a very smooth and subtle flavor and texture.

The second ingredient that makes this dressing special is the pear balsamic vinegar. There is a little olive oil and vinegar shop not too far from where I live. They have some amazing products. They have a whole wall filled with barrels of oil and vinegar of different flavors! It is a little piece of heaven. These are specialty products, and therefore, a tad pricey. Luckily my husband knows my fondness of these wonderful products and for Christmas he gave me a great big bottle of pear balsamic vinegar. Initially I looked and it and wondered what I would do with it. I mean, pear vinegar? But, oh, was I mistaken. It is ah-mazing! The pear flavor can be a bit in your face, so in this recipe it is used in conjunction with a plain balsamic vinegar. Vinegar of any kind is a great way to add lots of flavor without adding any additional fats or carbs. I use vinegar all the time!

The third star is honey. Before I started becoming health conscious, if I wanted sweet I added sugar. Makes sense right? Then I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Initially that didn't make too much of a difference to me. Then I learned that if you have hypothyroidism, you are likely to be pre-diabetic. Meaning that you should definitely moderate your carbohydrate intake unless you want to become a full-blown diabetic. And so I discovered stevia. This was a godsend for me. I could sweeten things with out adding extra carbs. So that became my new go-to sweetener. But lately I have been trying to make food that is not only tasty but also nourishing. To my knowledge stevia has no super food qualities. That is where honey comes in. Honey has so many beneficial properties, (again, I'm sure this is not the first time you are hearing this). Be aware that to gain the most health benefits you want to choose raw because heating honey destroys the beneficial enzymes that it contains.

All the other ingredients are things that I am betting you have in your cupboards right now. Mix it up, and dress any salad with it. Grab some greens, add some meat, maybe some cheese, tomatoes, peppers, nuts, anything that sounds good. Go ahead, try it! I bet you will enjoy it! Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading a little bit about me and my journey. I will be sharing more recipes, thoughts about health and hypothyroidism. I hope you will come back again soon!

All mixed up and ready to use!

The pear balsamic vinegar used in this recipe.
If you can't find this or something similar,
just use your favorite balsamic vinegar.

Coconut Balsamic Dressing

  • 1/2 cup Coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup Pear balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Honey
  • 3 Tbsp Dehydrated onion
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic powder
  • 3/8 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Pepper

  1. Warm coconut oil until it becomes a liquid, add honey. Stir to combine.
  2. Combine all other ingredients with the coconut oil and honey mixture.
  3. Pour over salad or grilled chicken.