The temperature recently hit 90 degrees here in New Jersey (in April!) so it’s safe to say that spring is in full swing! We don’t have to look much further than the dandelion puffs on our front lawn to see the transformation. Those tall spindly seed balls, though vexing, are also pretty amazing if you really think about it and all that spring energy is contagious! We catch it in many different forms.
We may feel like cleaning out and reorganizing our physical space or we may be inclined to turn our focus within — craving changes that get our homes and our bodies into alignment with the season. Spring is a good time to take our cue from the environment and get moving. Try committing to one change that seems more within your reach now that the days are getting longer and your resolve is feeling stronger!
Changing your physical environment can be as simple as cleaning out a closet or putting new hardware on your furniture. De-cluttering surfaces we use everyday can help us think more clearly — de-cluttering our minds in the process. Something as simple as rearranging the furniture in a room can be a welcome change, providing respite for your eyes and your psyche.
Whether you’d like to change your living space or your diet and lifestyle the first step is deciding to make a change. You have to be very clear on your intention. The next step is taking action. People tend to think that change has to be large to be significant and they procrastinate! But one small change that persists can give you the momentum to keep going.
If you want to get more exercise you can start by buying a pedometer and measuring your daily steps for one week. 10,000 steps a day is the equivalent of about 5 miles and considered optimal. Just by wearing the pedometer daily you are increasing your awareness around your goal to move more in the same way that keeping a food log increases your awareness of what you are eating… nudging you to make better choices.
According to all of the ancient healing traditions, being in alignment with our environment is one of the keys to well being. Even when we’re going along quite contentedly, we will get a boost from making a small change that increases our sense of well being. Furthermore, what we do repeatedly becomes a habit and being in the habit of changing, of tweaking our personal “formula”, empowers us by connecting us with our internal voice, the one that keeps us aligned.
Food Focus: Eating Seasonally
Spring is a great time for upping your consumption of seasonal greens and fruits. They are naturally detoxifying and will help you release excess winter weight. Try mixing some bitter seasonal greens like dandelion, endive or chicory into your usual salad mix. Adding berries to your salads can excite your palate and let you make the most of the berries and cherries that help us prepare our bodies for the heat of summer.
You can use seasonal spring vegetables like peas and asparagus to make dips or toppings for pasta as in the recipes below. These seasonal recipes all use the blender or food processor for delicious whole food options that require less time in front of the stove.
For those not bitten by the cooking bug and even for those who are, consider taking advantage of raw greens in smoothies… Check out my guest blog on Green Smoothies for Dr. Patrick Smith, Director of the Smith Chiropractic Clinic in Berkeley Heights:
Spring is Here… Cultivate Your Internal Rain Forest!
As a health coach, green smoothies represent everything I consider to be the backbone of good nutrition. They are made with whole, unprocessed foods, they provide the maximum number of nutrients for the fewest number of calories and they please your taste buds — voila — perfect nutrition! Why should you consider giving green smoothies a try? Green smoothies are easy to fit into a busy lifestyle and they offer a powerful way to radically increase your energy and vitality.
The Vitamix® and other high speed blenders allow you to absorb all the nutrients from green plants that were previously only available by cooking them. These high powered blenders break down the cell walls of plants that we cannot break down when we eat them raw. Blending greens is a fast and easy way of upping the quantity of plant foods you consume. Unlike juicers, high speed blenders retain all of the fiber in foods and they are a cinch to clean.
What are the health benefits that accompany making your own green smoothies? When you nourish yourself with greens, you will naturally crowd out the foods that aren’t working in your diet. Nutritionally, greens are very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E and K. They are crammed with fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll and many other micronutrients and phyto-chemicals. Some of the benefits from eating dark leafy greens are:
• blood purification
• cancer prevention
• improved circulation
• strengthened immune system
• promotion of healthy intestinal flora
What do I notice in my clients when they start a green smoothie routine? They look shinier!
Really! It’s pretty amazing — try it and see for yourself.
Here are some things to consider when making green smoothies at home. Selecting the right greens is important — not all greens are appropriate for everyone. Having a good variety of plant foods in your daily smoothies is the best way to stay out of trouble — variety ensures that you’re getting a wide range of nutrients. Be wary of using too much fruit and not enough greens — this will make your smoothie too high in sugar. Think about incorporating low sugar fruits like cucumbers and blueberries. Protein powder can be added and avocados, nuts, nut butters, oil and/or ground seeds can provide good quality fats. Adding protein and fat converts your green smoothie into a balanced breakfast.
To save time you can pre-wash leafy greens — spin them dry and store in a plastic bag with a paper towel to absorb any remaining moisture. Most greens last for several days this way. You can also pre-wash and scrub other veggies like beets, celery and carrots. You can pre-cut any fruit that doesn’t turn brown. Don’t go as far as making your smoothie the night before – many of the vital nutrients are lost after about 1 to 2 hours.
You can experiment with different greens, veggie and fruit combinations. Getting a consistency that you like means figuring out how much water and/or ice to add — just relax and have fun experimenting!
Recipes of the Season
By Heidi Swanson of http://www.101cookbooks.com
This is a delicious spring dish that can be made with mostly one pot (if you boil the asparagus in the pasta water, which I did!). To remove the tough ends of asparagus I just break the stems…they tend to break naturally in the right spot, making getting them ready super fast.
1 bunch asparagus spears (about 1 lb), trimmed of tough ends
3 handfuls baby spinach leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for topping
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
8 ounces of dried pasta or 12 ounces fresh -linguini, fettuccini, spaghetti Mix spinach pasta with regular wheat pasta for a medley of colors.
1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. You will need tongs to quickly remove asparagus from boiling water.
2. While the water is heating, put the pine nuts in a single layer in a large skillet. Heat on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and very lightly browned – about 4 minutes. Remove pine nuts from pan and set aside. You will use 3/4 cup of the pine nuts for the pesto paste and 1/4 cup to mix in whole.
3. Salt the boiling water and drop the asparagus spears into the pot . Cook for only 2 or 3 minutes, until the spears are bright green and barely tender. Remove with tongs if using water to cook pasta and run under cool water to stop the cooking. Cut a few of the tips off several of the asparagus (diagonal cut about an inch from the end) and set aside to use for garnish.
4. Add the asparagus, spinach, garlic, Parmesan, and 3/4 cup of the pine nuts to a food processor. Purée and, with the motor running, drizzle in the 1/4 cup of olive oil until a paste forms. If too thick, thin it with a bit of the pasta water. Add the lemon juice and salt, taste and adjust seasoning.
Sweet Pea Guacamole
Adapted from a recipe from More Taste by Abby Mandel
This recipe was a recent find for me and we love it! There are many recipes out there for sweet pea guacamole but this one is simple and delicious… my pea lover loved it but so did my pea haters… I didn’t tell them what the base of this recipe is! Peas are the ultimate spring crop and I’m sure this recipe is glorious with fresh peas; however, I used Cascadian Farms frozen organic sweet peas and it was delicious… without any pots to wash. 🙂 Note that I only used one jalapeno pepper since my crew is not fond of bell peppers and it tasted yummy… the original recipe included a red bell pepper which would give it a more interesting color and most likely taste (if you’re a bell pepper fan). You could start with one of each and taste before adding a second.
10 ounce bag of frozen sweet peas, defrosted
Peppers to taste – one (or two) jalapeno peppers, seeded and one or two red bell peppers (optional – to taste)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 small red onion or more to taste (finely chop some for garnish)
Fresh cilantro (I used a handful), washed & stemmed — to taste
Sprinkle of Cayenne pepper if desired (optional)
1. In a food processor combine the peas, pepper(s), olive oil, cumin and salt and puree. Add in the onion and the chopped cilantro and process until just mixed in. Adjust the seasonings if desired.
2. Scoop out into a bowl and garnish with finely chopped red onion.
Strawberry Surprise Smoothie
This smoothie is a great one for kids (and adults!) who are not normally fans of spinach or other greens. You don’t have to use blueberries but when you do, the smoothie is a purple color — with all the other fruits the smoothie will stay green in color. If you’re not using frozen fruit you can use a combination of water and ice. We like to serve our homemade smoothies in frozen, err- beer glasses! It makes them quite festive and keeps them nice and cool… my daughter started drinking this one before I had time to take the picture!
1 – 2 cups fresh spinach leaves (or swiss chard or romaine lettuce)
8 medium frozen organic strawberries (about 3/4 of a cup)
1/2 cup frozen organic blueberries
1 – 1 1/2 cups of water to blend or 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 Tablespoon raw honey* (optional) and probably not needed if you are making it non-dairy
*Note: don’t give honey to children under 12 months old
Put all ingredients in Vitamix or other high power blender and blend on high until smooth – about 1 – 2 minutes.
Makes about 16 ounces