Lemonade “With Benefits”: Mint, Kale and Spinach

We just got back from a HOT weekend in the desert — easily 110 degrees in the shade.  Such weather calls for lemonade, and lots of it!  I’m calling this twist on a hot-weather classic “Lemonade With Benefits” because it brings a healthy dose of garden-fresh greens to a classic summer treat.  No one has to know this lemonade is spiked with kale, spinach, etc. — they’ll see the bright and beautiful green color, but all they’ll taste is lemon, bright sugar, and a hint of mint!  Here’s how it’s (quickly and easily) done:

Lemonade “With Benefits”

Toss into high speed blender (i.e. Vitamix):

6 tbsp. lemon juice (approximately 1/3 cup)

1/2 cup young, tender leaves of kale, spinach, or chard

1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)

Handful of mint leaves

Fill blender to 4 cups line with ice.  Add water until level reaches 5 cups.

Blend on high speed until all ingredients are thoroughly blended, and enjoy.  Makes 5 cups of ice cold, sweet/tart, green lemonade!

A few notes.  The ice is crucial in this recipe.  It provides grit to help break down the greenery into drinkable, not-the-least-bit noticeable bits.  Also, a powerful blender (I use a Vitamix) is key.  It breaks the sugar down so thoroughly, there’s no need to make a simple syrup, as would be required in a standard lemonade recipe.  Finally, don’t skip the mint, unless you want to taste the vegetables in your lemonade.  Which would be pretty hard-core.

You can try other sweeteners in place of the sugar.  For me, the clean, bright, old-fashioned flavor of sugar is unbeatable.  Stevia would be an interesting substitute (homegrown stevia would be a dream!)  Also, feel free to reduce or increase the amount of sugar to suit your taste.

Lemonade with benefits!  Enjoy!  (Oh and enjoying watching even vegetable-averse kids drink up kale, spinach and chard with green-tinged smiles on their face — I know I do!)

— Jen.


{go-to} greenie

I make some variation of this green smoothie daily.  If for whatever reason I don’t get around to it in the morning, we’re inevitably craving one by mid-afternoon.  This greenie is our go-to because it tastes great, first and foremost; it has all the health and energy-giving goodness we need to power us through our busy days; and many of the core ingredients — kale, chard, lemon, parsley — are growing in our backyard. Alas, our banana trees have yet to bear fruit, so I buy bananas by the big bunch, wait for them to ripen, peel and freeze them in chunks.

go-to greenie

2 cups green leaves — kale, spinach, chard.

5 sprigs parsley

2 tbsp. lemon juice — or lime juice, if you’ve got it!

1 regular orange or 2 to 3 tangerines

1 banana

2 tbsp. chia seeds

1/2 cup coconut water

1/2 cup ice

optional but recommended: 1 tsp. grated ginger, or a pinch of cayenne pepper

this is more of a greenie template than a greenie recipe.  you can add more and different vegetables (cucumber is always a welcome addition), more and different fruit (kiwi, strawberry, mango have been tested and are tasty), and you can leave out or add in different seeds (chia work beautifully, adding protein and thickness to your greenie, but so do hemp seeds).


say cheese... i mean, greenie!
say cheese… i mean, greenie!

{kid-friendliest} greenie

redhead rocks green juice!
redhead rocks green juice!

so i’ve been blending up greenies for months now, and while Bob and I are sold — drinking our vegetables, and loving it! — the kids have not been having it.  but finally, today, i came up with a recipe that 2 out of 3 kids went crazy for (Aliya is my holdout.  weirdly, she is my only kid that will reliably eat vegetables in solid form.)  well 2 out of 3 kids going crazy for green juice is an excellent result ’round these parts — and here is the recipe:

kid-friendliest greenie (makes enough for 2 / 3)

2 to 3 cups of green leafy vegetables — kale, spinach, and/or chard — tough stems removed

1 orange or 2 to 3 tangerines —  peeled (seeds ok)

juice of 1/2 lemon — about 2 tbsp.

1/2 cup frozen cubed pineapple — pineapple is pivotal here, it’s what sets this greenie apart

1 banana — adds body to the brew

1/2 cup coconut water

1/2 cup ice — or more for a frostier greenie

2 tbsp. chia seeds

blend in a Vitamix or similar high-powered blender until creamy and smooth.

you’ll find that the lemon, orange and pineapple completely hide the flavor of the greens — they are seen, but not tasted!  the lemon also keeps the banana in this blend from oxidizing, so it retains its bright green color.  not only that, the vitamin C in all that citrus helps your body absorb the vitamins in the greens.  you should feel amazing after drinking this greenie; don’t be amazed if even your pickiest, vegetable-avoiding kid, insists on draining your glass!

ruby in the dirt: Swiss chard

Swiss chard is not a vegetable i ever ate, or even recognized, until we started growing it. now i realize why — the ordinary-looking stuff in the grocery store only vaguely resembles the luxuriant plants now growing themselves so effortlessly in our backyard.

today we have two varieties of Swiss chard going — the big and boisterous heirloom Ruby Red Rhubarb, and some sweet and petite Rainbow. Ruby Red (pictured below, along with a ruby-redheaded child) has been a real star — thriving in the fairly ideal environment of our raised beds, surviving in our hot, dry, much less inviting (for vegetables) xeriscaped borders. it’s grown through all 4 of our San Diego seasons, yielding enough tasty green leaves with crispy ruby stems for our family (4 solid food eaters) to eat 3 times a week. the plant pictured here is 2 years old.

Screenshot 2014-03-30 20.28.07

the child is 4.5 years old. she and the chard look like best of friends here, but she will NOT eat it in any recognizable form. more later on disguising vegetables for the purpose of feeding them to children.

our Rainbow chard has enjoyed a pampered existence in a portion of our raised beds that receives filtered, 3 season sunlight. 6 plants yield enough small-ish (<10 inch), smooth leaves for us all to eat our fill of them twice a week. these plants went in this fall, so they’re now about six months old. fingers crossed they perform as admirably as their scarlet-stemmed cousins.

Swiss chard passes (surpasses) each tenet of my “is it worth growing in the garden test“:

  • can I, organically and with relative ease, grow a better product than I can find in the grocery store?
  • if I grow it, will we eat it?
  • can I buy a perfectly acceptable substitute so easily and inexpensively that it’s just not worth it?

the chard we grow here is way prettier (and i’m guessing way tastier) than what i’ve seen at the store. it’s grown well with no special care and despite some real neglect. i can harvest a little or a lot at a time, so none ever goes to waste. cut, washed, and packed away a little wet, it stays fresh in the fridge for more than a week.

oh yeah and it tastes great! the green parts of the leaf are tender, with a flavor not unlike spinach, but lighter, more neutral. the stems stay crispy after steaming and are lightly sweet. i like to chop them up and they do fine things for a spaghetti Bolognese. finally, it’s more than paid for itself, still feeding us — daily — several years after I first tossed those seeds into the ground.

chard is the vegetable cornerstone of our vegetable garden. if you’re not growing it already, I invite you to try (and if you’re local, I have seeds for both the varieties discussed here, and will gladly share).