Today is my mother’s birthday.
We have gone through good times and bad like most children do with their parents, but now that I’m older I can finally recognize how lucky I was to have such an amazing mother.
My mother is one of the hardest working and strongest women I know. She always puts others before her to nearly a fault. She is full of patience and genuine kindness. She is an NICU nurse, a crafter, an amazing cook, a breast cancer survivor, and an inspiration.
When I was growing up, she was going back to school to finish her BSN, working, and raising kids yet she always managed to keep the house clean and make 3 home cooked meals a day for us. I don’t even know how she did it. Didn’t she sleep? She even found the time to let us be kids, get messy, get creative. Playing in the dirt, sand, mud, climbing trees, making strange concoctions in the kitchen… I’m so grateful that she let us play and experiment that way. I cringe when I see mothers who wont ever let their kids have fun or get dirty.
Anyhow, I wont be able to see her because we live about 2200 miles apart now, but I’m sending her a little handmade gift…
You see, my mom loves squirrels. And eating peanuts (she pretty much lives on peanuts and peanut butter, I’m not exaggerating!). And feeding squirrels peanuts…
I made these by burning into some wood blocks I had lying around, then slicing, sanding, and glueing wine corks around the edge for a border. I hope she enjoys them. I had fun making them! I hadn’t done any pyroengraving since high school.
My mother also makes the most ridiculous peanut butter-chocolate chip-oatmeal cookie EVER. I call them devil cookies. I get mad at her when she makes them, because I can’t stop eating them. I’m not kidding, all self control is out the window. I’ve only made them in my own kitchen once for fear of their intense powers!
When I made them I subbed whole wheat pastry flour, used natural peanut butter, and dark chocolate chips. The recipe doesn’t say, but she usually adds either chocolate chips or m&m pieces. Sometimes Reese’s pb chips.
If you want to impress some friends at a party, bring these. People go crazy for them. Use with caution.
Usually I try to eat in a way that nourishes my body, choosing foods which are high in vitamins and minerals and striving for a healthy ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. However, sometimes those chocolate cravings come knocking and there is nothing I can do but satiate them! This morning and yesterday morning were some of those mornings which I found myself with a desire for nothing else but chocolate… Blame it on PMS if you will. But knowing this was probably the cause of my craving also inspired me to create a meal that not only satisfied my craving, but provided the nutrients my body needs most at this time. I have put together two great tasting a phytonutrient packed smoothies that are healthy and delicious for anyone, but specifically formulated to give women’s bodies both what they want and what they need.
The above photo is of my favorite variation: Chocolate-Cherry. I used to think I hated that combination because all I had tried were those terrible cherry cordial candies… but I have since discovered Chocolate- Cherry is quite delicious!
Chocolate Cherry Smoothie:
*1 cup fresh leafy greens (I used beet greens because I have a bunch on hand from my CSA, but would recommend baby spinach for a mild flavor and great nutritional profile)
*1/2 frozen banana, sliced
*1/2 cup frozen pitted cherries
*1 tablespoon ground flaxseed or 1 teaspoon chia seeds.
*1 tablespoon cocoa powder or raw cacoa powder
*1 teaspoon maca powder
*1 cup nondairy milk (calcium fortified is best. I use soy, but I am aware some of you may avoid soy.)
* Stevia, agave, or your favorite sweetener to taste.
* Optional but good: 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Directions: Layer ingredients in high speed blender in the order given (at least make sure you add the greens first) and blend away! Taste before you pour to determine how much sweetener you want. I topped mine with cacao nibs and granola.
Yesterday, however, I was out of frozen cherries, so I turned to the classic standby: Peanut Butter Chocolate. One of the best combos ever, no question!
Peanut Butter Chocolate Bliss Smoothie:
*1 cup greens
*1 frozen banana, sliced
*1-2 tablespoons natural peanut butter (I like Trader Joe’s because it is all natural, super peanutty tasting, and cheap!)
* 1 teaspoon chia seeds (or 1 tablespoon ground flax)
* 1 tablespoon cocoa or cacao powder
* 1 teaspoon maca powder
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1 cup nondairy (calcium fortified) milk
* sweetener of preference to taste (I like stevia.)
Directions: Put all ingredients in blender, beginning with the greens and ending with the milk. Test for sweetness before pouring into a glass to enjoy! I topped mine with cacao nibs and a crumbled chocolate peanut butter rice crispie treat. Delish!
So what makes these smoothies special?
Chocolate: Kind of a no-brainer in terms of satisfying those cravings… Of course we now know that there is a physiological reason chocolate makes us feel good. Is releases feel good chemicals in our brains such as serotonin and dopamine, even mimicking the feeling of being in love. The small amounts of caffeine also help perk us up and get us ready to tackle the day.
But did you know chocolate is also a great source of magnesium, copper, and even iron? Magnesium helps prevent cramping and copper and iron both help prevent anemia that can often occur in women of child bearing age due to blood loss.
By using cocoa powder to satisfy your chocolate cravings, you can get all the health benefits of chocolate for much less fat than eating a chocolate bar. (Not that I’m saying chocolate bars shouldn’t also be enjoyed in moderation!)
Greens: A great source of vegetarian iron, as well as calcium, vitamin c, vitamin a, and vitamin k. Depending on the greens, the nutrients will vary a little, but most dark leafy greens are high in these vitmins and minerals. I struggled with anemia for years, so I am always trying to eat lots of spinach! Although vegetarian iron is not as easily absorbed by the body as the iron found in meat, vitamin c aids in the absorption, so vegetarians should consume foods rich in iron with foods rich in vitamin c when possible.
Cherries: A few weeks ago my mother sent me an article on the benefits of cherries in fighting breast cancer. Unfortunately, breast cancer tends to run in my mother’s side of the family. My mother was diagnosed when she was only 42 and her mother and aunt also had it. I try not to worry about whether I will get it. Instead I aim to for a healthy lifestyle that will ward off all kinds of cancers. Anyhow, apparently research has shown that women who get more melatonin have a lower risk of breast cancer. Cherries are one the the best natural sources of melatonin, as well as full of other antioxidants.
Maca: I recently have fallen in love with maca… I bought it because it has been touted as one of those great new “super foods” and I’m a sucker for that kind of thing, but I keep eating it because it’s delicious! It has a malty, buttery sort of taste that is terrific in smoothies, banana ice cream, yogurt, and oatmeal. Here is an excerpt on some of the health benefits from this site:
“[Maca] increases energy levels, helps balance hormones and is said to balance the endocrine system and hormones It also helps with estrogen dominance and osteoporosis due to it’s high mineral content with approximately 300mg calcium per 100 grams making it the perfect natural calcium supplement. It also contains magnesium, potassium, iron, silica and traces of iodine, manganese, zinc, copper and sodium, plant sterols which account for it’s hormone balancing effect and 19 valuable amino acids. It also contains vitamins B2, B6, C and niacin. No wonder it is called a Superfood.
It contains considerably more calcium than cows’ milk, and also contains vitamin B12. Maca contains around 15% protein, and all of the essential amino acids. It is not just a basic supplement, but an entire spectrum of nutrients.”
The milk provides calcium, which helps with cramping. If you use soy, it is also a good source of protein.
Chia seeds and ground flax seeds are both excellent sources of omega 3s, and fiber. Chia is especially high in calcium also.
Peanut butter provides a rich taste and long lasting fuel for the body as well as a good dose of protein.
I hope you enjoy these smoothies as much as I do!