Eating Clean With A Vitamix
I am always looking for ways to make eating clean an easier task. Eating clean, however, is one of my biggest challenges in life. (Read more about that, here.) Why is it such a challenge? Here are a few answers:
1. I LOVE food. I just do. I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. I will however, take down a plate of homemade meatballs in a fashion that would imply that the food police are going to bust down my front door and take them away forever.
2. I live within a five-mile radius of some of the best restaurants in Nashville. World-class chefs are settling themselves comfortably into our town and it is quickly becoming a destination worthy of a visit by even the most discerning gastronomical nomads.
3. As a creative person, cooking is just one more way to express that creativity. I try to strike a balance of enjoying the food that Nashville restaurants have to offer by creating my own meals and recipes at home. They are less expensive and, for the most part, healthier. I have a mantra that I repeat to myself when I’ve been enjoying too many meals out: Fat and poor. That’s what too many dinners out will get you. Harsh? Yes. True? Also, yes.
Over the past ten years, I’ve found much joy in feeding my friends and trying out new recipes on them. It is not unusual to have people drop in to say “hello” only to leave with cartons of food. Ulterior motives? Even so, it makes me happy.
4. I’ve never met a dessert that I haven’t felt an instant spiritual connection with. Struggle.
So, with all of that being said, I recently added a Vitamix blender to my cache of healthy-cooking tools. It was an appliance I’ve wanted for some time, but let’s be honest, a $650 blender is not something one runs out and purchases on a whim. It was my husband, and main beneficiary of my culinary tendencies, who surprised me with a trip to our local Williams-Sonoma for the express purpose of acquiring a Vitamix blender. Oh. Happy. Day. After a week, I’m convinced of two things:
1. The Vitamix will, indeed, be a great asset in my never-ending quest to eat more cleanly.
2. The motor in this thing could power a space shuttle.
I haven’t been more obsessed with a kitchen appliance since I purchased a life-changing Cuisinart crock pot last year. (A one-stop-shop-pot that browns, sautes, steams and slow cooks.) My overall assessment is that the Vitamix is worth every penny of the hefty price tag. The dictionary-sized companion cookbook that comes with the blender is full of great recipes and I’ve tried several of them, always modifying them to meet the demands of our household’s unfortunate dietary restrictions. No wheat, soy or coconut for me and no garlic, kidney beans, cherries or lactose for the husband.
Sauces, smoothies, frozen desserts, soups and salad dressings are just the beginning of what you can whip up in the Vitamix. That spiritual connection with desserts that I mentioned? I feel it with the Vitamix, too. Part of the challenge to myself in my clean eating odyssey is to develop an allergen-free, clean, one-week long Vitamix challenge in which I use the blender for every meal. Until I have developed that plan, I’m going to post recipes for some of the meals I’ve made so far, using the blender. The soups are based on recipes from the companion cookbook, but modified to fit our taste and dietary restrictions. Enjoy!
Roasted Red Pepper Soup (Gluten and Lactose-Free)
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves (I omit the garlic for allergen purposes)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I substitute with 2 tbsp. Gluten-Free Pantry All-Purpose Flour)
8oz jar roasted red peppers (No garlic)
1 cup low-sodium organic chicken broth
1 cup half and half (I substitute with Organic Valley Lactose-Free Half and Half that I found at Whole Foods.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 dashes of cayenne pepper (I sprinkle Slap Ya Mama cajun seasoning on mine after it is finished. It contains garlic.)
In a small skillet, saute onions and celery in the olive oil for about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic (if you must) and saute for 1 more minute. Stir in the flour and cook for 30-60 seconds or until brown. Note: Gluten-free flour does not brown as quickly or darkly as regular flour, so don’t overcook.
Add the vegetable mixture, the peppers, the chicken broth and spices to the Vitamix, secure lid, select Hot Soup program, switch machine to start and let it complete programmed cycle. If you’re not using a Vitamix, blend in whatever blender you have, then transfer and heat in a sauce pan.
Cream of Asparagus Soup (Gluten and Lactose-Free)
One bag of frozen organic asparagus spears, cooked
1 1/2 cups organic chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream (I substitute Organic Valley Lactose-Free Half and Half)
If you’re using a Vitamix, use the settings and instructions noted in the Vitamix Cookbook. If not using a Vitamix, blend all ingredients in whatever blender you have, then transfer and heat in a sauce pan.
I was too excited to eat this soup and forgot to take a photo.
Kitchen Sink Smoothies (Gluten and Lactose-Free)
I call my smoothies kitchen sink smoothies because I put whatever I have in the kitchen into it. Everything but the kitchen sink. (Within reason.) There are a million smoothie recipes out there in the world and I’ve found that its hard to go wrong experimenting with any ingredient as long as I enjoy it. Sometimes I throw in spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Sometimes I use chocolate protein powder instead of vanilla. Occasionally, I use kale instead of spinach. It really just depends on my mood and what I feel like at the moment. Upgrading to the Vitamix from my old blender has made making smoothies easier in general, from creation to clean-up.
Anyone with a blender can be a smoothie chef and develop their own recipes. (I’m not reinventing the wheel with the smoothie recipes below, but they’re tasty.) Most often, I use a Raw/Vegan/Gluten-Free/Dairy Free protein powder made by Garden of Life. It is a bit chalkier than some protein powders, but I enjoy it. If I’m making this for myself and not worried about a small amount of lactose, I use Whole Foods Brand Vanilla (or chocolate) Whey Protein. I also battle with insulin resistance, so for me, it’s important that I always include protein in whatever smoothie I’m making. As someone who has been wheat, therefore gluten-free for 17 years, I find it funny that naturally gluten-free foods (fruits and vegetables) are now being labelled GF, but if you’re going to add supplements and proteins and want to remain GF, I would double check the labels.
1 clementine peeled and seeded
1/2 cup green grapes
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 scoop protein powder
2 cups ice
1 cup fresh strawberries
1 cup frozen spinach
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 scoop protein powder
2 cups of ice
It isn’t always pretty, but adding spinach to any smoothie ups the nutrient factor. Green happens to be my favorite color.