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.


Blackberries for Beauty

I have a theory that eating blackberries makes a person more beautiful.

blackberry smoothie with bee pollen "sprinkles"

I cannot back this theory up with research or evidence, much less proof; it’s a feeling, a strong suspicion.  During a time when I was drinking lots of blackberry smoothies, craving them in fact, my skin improved noticeably.  Every single little bump on my skin… flattened out.  I have no before-and-after photos to offer; but even my husband noticed my smoothed-out complexion. (After I pointed it out to him. But still!)

Anyway, here is my favorite blackberry smoothie recipe:

1 cup blackberries (fresh or frozen)

2 tbsp. raw walnuts

1 cup cashew milk (or other non-dairy milk)

1 banana (frozen makes a frostier blend)

pinch of cayenne (optional)

1/4 cup ice (adjust depending on whether you used frozen ingredients above)

Place all ingredients in blender and blend from low to high.

Sweet and a little spicy, rich but not heavy, this smoothie will power you through any sort of a morning — beautifully!

PS.  Smoothie-style is pretty much the only way I consume blackberries; they can be so tart!  Blending them up with creamy cashew milk, antioxidant-rich walnuts, sweet banana, and a kick of cayenne means I’m finally able to enjoy the health benefits of these black beauties.

Heavenly Vanilla Shake { V, GF, DF }

I don’t make this stuff up! “Heavenly” is Aliya’s unscripted description of this rich, creamy, tastes-nothing-like-the-seeds-nuts-and-fruit-it’s-made-of, smoothie.  Aliya is very allergic to dairy, and it makes me so happy to be able to make her a dairy-free “milkshake” that helps her not to miss the “real thing”.  This delicious, 100% healthy smoothie — packed with Omega-3’s and -6’s, vitamins and minerals, healthy fats AND protein — is the NEW real thing!

Heavenly Vanilla Shake { V, GF, DF }

2 ripe bananas

1 date — no pit

2 tbsp. walnuts

1 tbsp. raw hemp seeds

1 tsp. flax oil

1 cup cashew milk — can substitute soy or other non-dairy milk

1 cup ice — less if using frozen bananas

generous pinch cinnamon

few drops vanilla extract or 1/2-inch portion vanilla bean

blend ingredients in high speed blender until consistency is thick and frosty.  Enjoy immediately! (bananas will oxidize after 10 minutes or so, and the smoothie will not look or taste quite as fresh).  Makes 2 regular or 3 small servings.

mustaches are so trendy right now…

{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!

Captivating Cashew Milk { V, GF, DF }

Aliya photobombs the cashew milk pic!
Aliya photobombs the cashew milk!

Making cashew milk couldn’t be easier, and it’s the tastiest (non-)milk ever!  Cashew milk is simply wonderful in coffee; cereal or granola; adds healthy fats to a vegan smoothie; and has a creamy, smooth texture without having to be strained.   Here’s all you need to know to make this nutritious, non-dairy beverage at home: preservative-, additive- and of course dairy-free.


1 cup raw cashews

3 cups filtered water

Optional but yummy: 3 dates, or agave syrup to taste

Optional but divine: 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (and/or 1 inch piece of vanilla bean)


Before making: soak cashews at least 4 hours (up to overnight) in the refrigerator, in enough water to cover them well. Drain and thoroughly rinse cashews with fresh water before placing them in blender.  Add three cups of filtered water.  Add extras like dates and/or vanilla, if using, and blend until smooth, smooth, smooth (I use the preprogrammed “smoothie” setting on my Vitamix).  Pour into serving cup(s) and enjoy!

Now, read on if you’re thirsty for the “fine print”, including “why’s” and “how-to’s”:

Soaking cashews at least 4 hours or overnight (but not longer than overnight, they could get slimy) — then rinsing them well — removes phytic acid, improving the cashews’ digestibility and making their nutrients easier to absorb.  It also makes them easier to blend, and removes “off” flavors — the more you rinse them, the cleaner the flavor in the end.  That said, I’ve made cashew milk without the soaking step, and it (I) was just fine — but others have reported tummy trouble.

Cashew milk keeps in fridge for at least three or four days, probably longer… I haven’t had a batch go bad in the fridge yet.  Cashew milk will begin to separate after a few hours; a quick shake will restore it to smoothness.

I soak my cashews in a glass container, and I store the cashew milk in glass containers, too.  A big stash of repurposed Bonne Maman jam jars contains my milk (and soups, and pesto, and leftovers of every sort) nicely.  You can drink out of them, too — and then, screw the lid on — you’ve got a plastic-free to-go cup for your coffee (or cashew-milk enriched smoothie!).  I don’t like to use plastic to contain our potables or our edibles.  Even “BPA-free” plastic containers are suspect, in my book; have you ever tasted water that’s spent a couple of hours in a kid’s “BPA-free” sippy cup?  It tastes like plastic.  That can’t be good.  At the very least, it doesn’t taste good.}

To make cashew cream, simply reduce the water in the recipe to 3/4 cup, then blend, adding more by the tablespoon until the desired consistency is achieved.

There you have it — Captivating Cashew Milk! let me know what you think of this simple recipe — and what terrific uses you put it to!