Best Green Smoothie Yet?

A few serious trends have broken through in the health food/blogging world in the last few years. One of the most notable, I think, has to be the popularity of “green” smoothies.

The idea is incredibly simple, blending spinach or kale into a smoothie and adding whatever else you want to it to make it palatable. For quite a while, my recipes involved a fairly consistent mix of spinach, strawberries, blueberries, milk and honey. The need to honey slowly receded as I grew used to the taste of the spinach, in fact, it is something I now crave!

Now that I have my own modest income, I have been making small efforts into exploring the world of previously ridiculous-sounding health foods. Investing in ingredients such a chia seeds and flax seed, I have begun to add spoonfuls of these to my smoothies. They don’t actually change the flavour, but provide a mixture of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals, and I think are an overall great addition to a diet if you’re making a more conscious change toward eating natural foods.

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One of these superfoods which I have been more sceptical of is Spirulina powder. To give the most basic description of it, as per my unscientific memory, Spirulina powder is some kind of algae compound that has so many amazing health benefit s that people have decided it is worth trying to add into your diet. I’m not going to lie to you and pretend otherwise, but in this circumstance I have totally fallen victim to an internet fad, and while I would have stopped short of purchasing it online, I did get a little excited when I saw an attractive, shiny, forest-green pouch of the stuff sitting on the shelf in Holland and Barrett.

So, determined as I am not to let any of my new ingredients (and money) go to waste, I decided to add some Spirulina into my smoothie last Sunday. This also might have something to do with the fact that I had indulged in some Saturday night behaviour the night before, and drank half a bottle of red wine and ate a deliciously greasy pepperoni pizza, and felt like I needed something extra wholesome balance that out. I initially started out following this recipe from Deliciously Ella – one of my new favourite blogs – trusting her instructions with these ingredients more than my own guesswork.

However, I guess I got a little nervous about the entire teaspoon of green powder I was throwing in, and decided (without tasting) that the smoothie might need a little extra sweetness and added in a big splurge of agave syrup. Unsurprisingly, the whole thing ended up being a little too sweet. A bit annoyed at myself for being so hasty and ruining a perfectly good recipe, I tried to think of something I could add to the smoothies to offset this sweetness and my eyes landed on the avocados I bought the night before but hadn’t used (because of the pizza – whoops).

I have heard of using avocados in smoothies before, but never tried it myself, firstly because if I’m eating healthily, avocados will usually make an appearance somewhere later in the day, like in the Sweet Potato and Quinoa salad I usually make for lunch. Secondly, avocados can be quite expensive and since my sister eats them a lot too, our house is not usually overflowing with them, so I don’t always have a whole one at my disposal.

However, as a treat, I will definitely be adding this into my recipes in the future! The texture it adds is seriously amazing, it is just so luxurious, and the flavour was just perfect to balance out the syrup. I’m not even usually a massive fan of blueberries with spinach, but I honestly haven’t enjoyed a smoothie as much as this in a long time! In addition to this, it is always a great feeling eating/drinking something that you know is 100% good for you. And all-around winner!

As photogenic as it can get.

As photogenic as it can get.

Spinach, avocado and blueberry smoothie.

Adapted from this recipe by Deliciously Ella.

Once again, this “recipe” is mostly for guidance! Add things in the quantities that you think you’d enjoy them in.

Ingredients

– 2 handfuls of spinach

– Large handful of blueberries

– 1 banana

– 1 avocado

– 1 tablespoon liquid sweetener (I used agave – but again, I’ll probably try to cut down this amount when I try this again)

– ½ cup of unsweetened almond milk (full disclosure, this is a complete estimate, I just pour this straight into the blender guessing the amount based on my usual smoothies. I would suggest adding about half a cup and building this up based on how thick you like your smoothie.)

– 1 teaspoon Spirulina*

– 1 tablespoon ground flax*

– 1 tablespoon chia seeds*

Simply peel the banana, scoop out the avocado flesh and blend it all together. Then enjoy the goodness!

Looks very appetising...

Looks very appetising…

10 minutes later, and back to chilling on the sofa

10 minutes later, and back to chilling on the sofa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*These ingredients aren’t necessary, and I don’t think they actually affect the flavour. Feel free to omit them, I’m sure the smoothie will still be delicious.

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Sweet Potato and Quinoa salad with Smoked Paprika – my go-to lunch.

Honestly, I’m not much of a chef at all. And by that, what I really mean is that I can make things, but recipe development is not my thing. Over the last few years I have tried to improve my general kitchen skills, and I am so much more confident in my cooking abilities than I would have been before. However, my recipe “development”  usually involves a quick Google search of the ingredients I have on hand and seeing where it takes me from there!

This salad, however, has become one of my favourite go-to lunches. I’m sure I have taken inspiration from other people for this dish, but I don’t follow recipe specifically. It usually involves me just throwing in whatever I have lying around which is what makes it so easy. Having said that, the 3 core parts of this salad for me would be the quinoa, the roasted sweet potato, and the smoked paprika. Of these three ingredients, I would have to say the most important is the smoked paprika.

I think this is also known as Spanish Paprika, or Pimenton if you’re being really fancy, either way it has been my favourite discovery of the last year. While I like vegetarian chilli, I do find that I miss the smoky flavour that the meat brings to the dish, and I had tried adding cocoa powder, more chilli (not that I can handle much spice), sugar and just generally chucking in every spice I could think of, but I just couldn’t hit that depth of flavour. So, I did what I always do, and I googled. And thankfully, I stumbled upon a recipe that used this spice that was previously unknown to me. Unsure over whether it would really taste must different from regular paprika, I decided to take the plunge and popped a little pot of it into my trolley the next time I went shopping. And trust me, it was so, so much more than ‘regular’ paprika.

Smoked paprika carries a little bit of spice, so it you’re sensitive to that, you would want to use this sparingly the first time you try (my mother, who is one of the most spice-sensitive people I have met, threw 2 teaspoons into a dish one time and was unable to eat her dinner. My dad, on the other hand, thought it was delicious). But it really does add an amazing flavour to so many dishes, and I find I like to add a little bit into almost anything I make, just to see if it works. Usually, it does.

This little pot holds a lot of flavour.

This little pot holds a lot of flavour.

So, on to the salad! It’s a very simple recipe, and as I mentioned before, what goes into it usually changes depending on what’s in my fridge. Once you roast the sweet potato and cook the quinoa, it is so simple to throw together, it literally takes me 10 minutes in the morning. Great for making all in one evening and having lunches/dinners ready for the week!

As stated, usually just follow other people’s brilliant recipes. This is my first time writing one, so I will probably keep things pretty vague – it will give you an idea of how I cook anyway! Quantities will depend on how much you eat or want in your salad, and anything I write is strictly for guidance purposes. In fact, if anyone has any tips, I’d be more than open to them!

 

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad with Smoked Paprika.

Ingredients:

This usually makes me 3/4 meals, but it can depend on what else you add in.

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa

1 tsp vegetable boullion powder

2 small/medium sweet pototes, or 1 large + desired seasoning

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 1/2 tsp cumin

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

 

Method:

Cook the quinoa* and set aside to cool. Once the quinoa is cool, add olive oil, smoked paprika and cumin into a bowl and still in quinoa. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.

Peel and chop the sweet potato into similarly sized chucks and place in a roasting try. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt, a little smoked paprika and cumin or, what I have been using recently, Cajun seasoning. Place these in the oven at whatever temperature you usually roast vegetables at – I use an Aga, so it would be pretty hot. These will take about 45-50 minutes, or until they are nice and crisp, but make sure that from 10 minutes in you check and turn these regularly.

Then, add the sweet potato into the bowl and mix everything together! A bit or coriander stirred through and some lime juice finish this off perfectly. I usually don’t stop there, and things I usually to add in are:

  • Spring onions or red onions (if using red onions, I will throw them into the roasting tin about 10-15 minutes before the sweet potatoes are finished.
  • Yoghurt or hummus for a bit of dressing
  • Avocado
  • Black beans (this makes such a nice, filling salad. Adding the beans really makes it go a long way)
  • Spinach (I just stick this into my lunch box alongside the salad)
  • Bell peppers

As you can see, there is really no set method to this. But if you cook up the quinoa and sweet potato on a Sunday night, you can have a really tasty, fresh and filling meal ready to go for either lunch or dinner!  For storage purposes, I like to keep the sweet potato and quinoa separate, as I find the sweet potato goes a little bit soggy otherwise.

Some of my lunch prep!

Some of my food prep!

*A note on cooking the quinoa, I usually measure out about 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water (after rinsing). When I first started cooking quinoa, mine would always end up a bit of a mess. Still editable and tasty, but it was sticky and wet, and not like the fluffy, slightly crunchy quinoa I had experienced elsewhere. I read that this might be the fact that I was cooking it in vegetable stock, as opposed to just salted water, but changing this did not improve the texture. I was, however, adding boiling water to the uncooked quinoa and putting that on the stove, as per the instructions on the packet. Once, by accident, I filled the saucepan with cold water, but decided to continue to cook the quinoa like that. The difference was visible even before the cooking time was completed. I could see the little seeds had absorbed so much more, and when I ran my fork through it, they actually looked fluffy! Since then, my attempts are so much closer to the quinoa I’d heard others describe. I don’t know if this is a problem many other people have faced, but I thought I’d mention it, just in case it was!