Gently Spiced Beet + Orange Smoothie

It seems we’re fully into the new year now. The Christmas decor is all taken down, the neighborhood immersed back into winter darkness without the festive lights. We’re all back to work and school, business and workouts as usual. Back into our old routines and maybe struggling with any resolutions made at the turn of the decade.

I suspect like a lot of people, I didn’t actually make any concrete resolutions. But I did reflect on the old year, realizing a lot of good progress on ‘overall health and happiness’ was cemented in 2019. And since I like the changes I made to get there, I’m continuing to put an effort into them.

Because there’s still progress to be made. The last several years have brought so many health challenges my way, and I’m finally seeing real longer-term improvement.

Since I work within the public health and nutrition industries, I read a lot this time of year about the best diets, and this and that. Veganuary is under way, the climate crisis and wildfires in Australia are on the top of many individuals’ minds, and reducing plastics are a topic of discussion–in Oregon, we’ve finally instated a statewide ban on plastic grocery bags–which seems archaic that we’re only just now getting there when it was standard practice 12 years ago when I first traveled to Europe.

But that’s a topic for another day–though one I do want to get to.

It came across my newsfeed today that despite the massive media attention given to the best way of eating, of working out, of ‘self-care’ – ing, etc., the best way is still personalized nutrition and integrative health. Which means one size does not fit all. And sometimes one size doesn’t even fit most.

I made a big list this morning of the positive health changes I saw come to fruition last year and after looking them all over, I realized two big foundational pieces stood out. One, I received a comprehensive micronutrient test to measure my intracellular nutrient values – as opposed to the not as reliable serum markers that a doctor might measure (which don’t show whether nutrients are actually making their way into the cells to be utilized); and I drastically reduced my stress.

Even though I was already ‘walking my talk,’ through diet, my micronutrient test showed otherwise. You may have heard the saying ‘we aren’t what we eat, we’re what we digest.’ Coming in after marathon training and a particularly bad-timing autoimmune flare, my micronutrient status was sub-optimal in many random not obvious nutrients.

What followed were several months of repletion, and continued focus on gut health to actually absorb those precious nutrients. And feeling substantially better.

But I was also frequently reminded about the link between stress and nutrition. When stressed, we use up nutrients faster and we don’t absorb them as well, because the stressed brain and body is not a resting and digesting brain and body. That means we need to try to eat in a relaxed mindset. The smoothie I’m sharing below can cause me an uncomfortable, bloated tummy on days when I eat it at my work office in a rush, or when there’s too much stimulus in the building. And on other days when I’m relaxed, it has no such negative effects.

Likewise, partially ‘mechanically broken down’ foods like soups and smoothies help our stressed systems get more nutrients in the system when we need them.

Beyond practices that help me keep daily stress in check and continuing to work on optimally digesting / absorbing my foods, I’ve also given myself a little personalized nutrition challenge to incorporate more beets and greens in this winter season. I chose these two specifically given several months of bloodwork results, but they’re incredibly health promoting for most of us.

This daily smoothie, which I often have for a mid-afternoon snack, is my current go-to.

Spiced Beets and Orange Smoothie, makes 1 ~16 oz.
To prep for several days of smoothies, I wrap a few medium beets in foil and roast them all together to use as needed. Though the ingredients might seem tedious with this and that random seed and nut, I’ve included a range of them to hit more of the antioxidant micronutrients we need. Use whatever protein powder is appropriate for you, or if you don’t need extra protein – simply leave out.

1 orange, peeled and sectioned
1 medium beet, roasted
20 grams / 1/2 a scoop vanilla protein powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cardamom
a small handful spinach or other greens, or 1-3 tsp. moringa powder
1 tsp. chia seeds
1 Brazil nut
1 Tbs. raw pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1/2 – 1 cup water, to desired consistency

  • Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender and puree until smooth. Double batch, divide, and store in the fridge if you prefer a couple days’ worth at a time.

Blood Orange & Rhubarb Smoothie {Recipe Redux}

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Last Valentine’s weekend William and I competed in a couple’s 5k race. This was the first time we’ve run such a race, where our scores and ages were combined and pitted up against a crazy-fast group of local runners. We’re often asked about running together, and though we do so only every now and again these days, our relationship did begin in part because of our mutual interest in running.

We were in the same college at OSU and happened to take a class together the last term of my senior year. Will strolled around like a laid-back California dude with his casual persona and curly blonde hair. He also routinely wore his Hood to Coast shirts. He was definitely the only guy in the class to do so. I was intrigued. 

When we started hanging out, running was our first common ground and we began running together before we were officially dating, in the final weeks before Will’s annual Hood to Coast race. A year later, we both ran Hood to Coast. Through that experience, I learned that I could still find some speed after two hours of sleep, which was periodically interrupted by manic, nearby, cowbell ringing. Having a warm-up buddy at 4:30 am after those two unrestfull hours was a definite motivational plus.

Even though we haven’t been running together quite as often these days, Will has remained my biggest supporter. He routinely wakes up early and comes to races with me, and even when he doesn’t race, he dons his run outfit and champions me through the warm up and cool down. He stands right off the starting line and takes all my extra layers at the last moment and then strategically places himself near the finish and yells at me to sprint as if my life depends on it. I jokingly refer to him as my coach because he’s been at this racing business longer than I have and he is a true encourager.

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Valentine’s Day may be past for this year, and we don’t truly celebrate it anyway, but we do celebrate the early mornings and post-workout meal of our favorite shared hobby as frequently as we can. We also share a love for healthy smoothies, and turn to them more often when amping up mileage.

As far as ingredients go, I tend to mix together stronger or more seasonal flavors, while Will consistently opts for a heavy dose of berries. I am a huge fan of rhubarb and have been hoarding last summer’s crop in the freezer for months now. Rhubarb happens to pair beautifully with oranges. Cue blood orange season, and our blender has been in a near constant state of pink-smoothie-use for several weeks straight! 

It may not feel like it lately, but spring is just around the corner and rhubarb is one of the earliest spring crops in these parts of Western Oregon. If you’re lucky enough to have your own plant, throw a dark pot over it, and you can begin to force it out of its winter dormancy. I did this at the school garden in early January, and we are well on our way to having rhubarb ready to harvest a couple months earlier! If you are not in possession of a rhubarb plant or a freezer full of last year’s cache, you can bet there is a farmer that knows this trick and will have the first rhubarb of the season in the market soon, just in time for the last of the blood oranges! Happy smoothie sipping and early season running!

Rhubarb & Blood Orange Smoothie, serves 2
2 blood oranges, peeled and diced
1 Tbs. chia seeds
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 1/2 cups rhubarb sauce*
stevia drops or sweetener, to taste

Pour all the ingredients into a blender and mix until it is thick and creamy. Season to taste with sweetener.

*For rhubarb sauce, chop rhubarb into small pieces, pour into a medium stock pot, add about an inch of water, and heat to boiling. Turn down to a simmer and cook until the fibers have broken down and the mixture begins to get thick. I don’t add any sweetener at this point, but you certainly can sweeten it to taste, if you like.

Carrot Orange Corn-Flour Waffles

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“The heart decides, and what it decides is all that really matters.” – Paulo Coelho

As a teenager, suffering through the angst of star-crossed infatuations, I ran. Though not a runner then, not adept at sports, without the proper shoes, I’d run the dirt paths behind the horse pasture, round the fields of corn and alfalfa, dodging animal tracks and farmers.  I’d often run away my worries, my frustrations, replacing them with a colorful imagination of the reality I wanted to exist.  In college, I learned from my phys ed prof, dubbed “Lance” by the farm boys in my class, that it takes five years to make a habit a lifestyle. Seven years later, I’m still running.  Running away my worries.  Running away my frustrations, gaining a better perspective, creating a new reality.

This last few months, running has been my guidebook.  Hours away from W for weeks at a time, too often feeling like an island of one, I’ve ran and made waffles.  And been humbled.  I have done things I didn’t think I could. I have stumbled and cried, been disrespected in small, countless ways, been left speechless. Hit roadblocks.  I have laughed uncontrollably.  I have pushed and stirred, over-analyzed, lost sleep, pulled a zillion gray hairs, and gone a bit mental.

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I’ve been encouraged and let down. Too often, of my own subconscious volition, I stood at the edge of a circle looking in. Wanting to both jump towards acceptance and run towards a calling I cannot explain.  Hours, weeks, months convincing myself to feel something that my heart long ago gave up.  Getting close to the end, I worry again.  I had a standard; did I uphold it?  Did I demand all that I should have?  Did I reach those that needed to be reached?  Was there real progress made?

At the end of the day when I’m less frustrated, when my run is complete, and those waffles have been devoured, I reach for a broader perspective.  In a tough position, I am making the most of it.  I could do more. But my heart has decided, and what it decides…is all that really matters.

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Carrot and Corn-Flour Waffles, adapted from Good to the Grain
Dry Mix:
3/4 cup corn flour
3/4 cup gf flour mix, or all-purpose flour
3 Tbs. ground flaxseed
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1/2 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 Tbs ground ginger
3/4 tsp. salt
 
Wet Mix:
1 cup carrot-orange juice
3 oz. almond milk, plus more if needed
1 1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
zest of half an orange
1 egg
  • Turn the waffle iron on high.  Adjust as needed as cooking progresses.
  • Sift the dry ingredients together in large bowl.  Set aside.
  • Whisk the wet ingredients together in a small bowl.  Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture.
  • Brush the waffle iron, as needed, with additional oil.  Ladle out batter and cook until fluffy and done.
  • If available, top with freshly picked strawberries, and savor over a cozy spring meal.