kale

kalePeaceful January has arrived at last and the frantic holiday frenzy is over, replaced by a blissful lull. An exhausting To-Do List has Been Done and, gratefully, there is nothing more pressing than my constricting waistband and those pesky New Year’s resolutions. Let’s see.. what will it be this year? Lose some weight? (well, of course…) Exercise more often? (hmm…) Thin out those overstuffed closets? (later…) Tackle the daunting attic? (maybe…) Annually, I flip through the same litany of well intended but half-hearted goals. And, as usual at this time of year, the plan that is most enticing is a long, lazy hibernation, Mother Nature’s brilliant idea.

So, like much of the animal kingdom, I’m going to indulge in a nice span of well-earned relaxation. Books to be read, movies to be seen… scales to be avoided… I wouldn’t want to spoil a great January escape with a reality check! After all, what’s a good book without hot chocolate and a cookie, or a movie without the buttery popcorn? What joy can be wrested from resting without the comfort food that so comforts? As an inveterate snacker, I tend to equate down-time with munching. And, obviously, I’m not talking broccoli here! Unfortunately, such excess in inertia never ends well for my mid-section. Hibernation may mean packing on the extra calories for that long winter nap but the flabby results look better on the bears than on me.

I guess that brings me back to broccoli, etcetera. Groan… is it ever tempting to curl up with a platter of carrots and celery sticks, minus the creamy dip? I rather doubt it. However, I can’t deny that there’s a certain challenge in finding the “good” in the “good for you” and thus it has become my new New Years resolution to seek it out. In my quest, I stumbled across the former gold standard of sensible eating, The Food Pyramid. To my amazement, it’s been flattened! It’s now referred to as, The Plate. Roughly divided into quarters, the new diagram indicates how to divide your meal among the food groups. The clear visual message is that fully one half of your plate should be devoted to fruits and vegetables with protein and grains sharing the other half. Dairy, yogurt, or cheese products are represented by a small circle on the side, like a cup of milk. I like it! It’s a neat graphic image of moderation and a simple reminder to eat more low fat, high fiber produce… but, veggies for breakfast? Are they kidding?

Veggies for Breakfast?

I was seriously put off by the suggestion until a recent inspiration from the Los Angeles end of the family. In the aftermath of significant Thanksgiving decadence, our youngest daughter and son-in-law introduced us to their latest morning refreshment, a full daily requirement of vitamins, minerals, and fiber in a remarkable concoction they call, “The Kale Smoothie”. (Sounds disgusting, doesn’t it? And so- o-o California!) None the less, with lines from Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham taunting my inner foodie, I did try it. Much to my surprise, as Seuss predicted, “I do so like green eggs and ham!” or, in this case, curly green leaves and enough yummy things to disguise them completely.

What’s not to like in a breakfast shake that contains mixed berries, banana, and yogurt? Well… maybe the kale. So, here’s a simple solution: change the name. Instead of the bizarre-sounding Kale Smoothie, get creative. Call it “The January Frosty”, “The Blender Brunch” or, my personal favorite, “The Plate in a Glass”. Each has a certain poetic flair without ever mentioning the odd ingredient. But, happily, the odd ingredient is exactly what you get! I had a wonderful time researching the numbers on this one. Kale provides you with 206% of your Vitamin A and 134 % of necessary Vitamin C, no cholesterol, no sugar, high calcium, high dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, thiamin, and more! How do you spell superfood? Perhaps, K-A-L-E…

Hopefully, I’ve got you sold or at least curious. Here’s the basic formula, but feel free to try some variations of your own. And, dust off that neglected blender. While you’re searching for it, I’m going to sit by the wood stove and finish reading that novel, admire the icicles dripping from the eaves, and enjoy my smoothie. Here’s to your health and a happy new year, too!

Layer the following into a blender:

  • 1 cup mixed berries, frozen (Or, choose your favorite… blueberries, strawberries, etc.) There’s no need for ice cubes as the frozen fruit chills and thickens the drink.
  • 1 banana, frozen (Fresh is fine, but peeled and frozen is a great way to preserve those over-ripe bananas you can buy for pennies at the grocery store!)
  • 1 cup plain, non-fat yogurt (Flavored can be interesting, too… just check the fat content and try to avoid artificial sweeteners.)
  • 2 cups or handfuls of raw kale, stripped from the heavy stems
  • 1 cup liquid (Here’s where things can get really creative! Our kids recommend coconut water, *not coconut milk. The water drained from the center of the coconut is reputed to be the latest health drink. It’s sold in cartons, but can be difficult to find, although nothing is impossible on Amazon. I have experimented instead with orange juice and/or skim milk, but recently, I discovered Blue Diamond Almond Breeze in the health food section at Bayside. The vanilla variety adds just the right amount of sweetness to balance the mixture and is loaded with antioxidants, Vitamin E and D, and calcium.)

That’s it! Cap your blender and turn it on to medium-high speed, stopping to push the kale down occasionally. Add more liquid if it gets too thick. Your complete meal will be ready in an instant… a luscious purple smoothie without a hint of telltale green. Only you will know how full of fresh vegetable goodness your “Plate in a Glass” really is. Want an added bonus? This recipe makes about 24 ounces… enough for both you and a friend or family member to enjoy a tall 12 ounce serving. I did the math on the calorie count. At a grand total of just over 400 calories, you will share a hearty helping of nutrition for about 200 delicious calories each.

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