My Lazy Veggie Ways

I’m taking a break from the Money Series for the moment. Never fear (or my apologies) – it’ll come back later this month. I’m just feeling a little burnt out on writing about money matters (not to mention a little bored) and no one wants to read a post that sounds forced and obligated. That makes a potentially boring topic even MORE stultifyingly dull.

Anyhow, today’s post is about vegetables. That’s infinitely more interesting than saving for retirement, amiright? And not just vegetables – it’s about hiding vegetables in smoothies. The sexiness in this post is unreal. Prepare to have your mind blown!

Disclaimer: As usual, links to products are my Amazon affiliate links. 

My kids, especially Cookie Monster, are somewhat picky eaters. (They’re not extreme picky eaters, but enough so that it annoys the crap out of me and affects my enjoyment of meal times. I am working on this and will report the results in a later post.) It’s a trial to get them to eat their vegetables so I cheat. I hide them in smoothies (I know, not a novel idea).

Here’s what I do. I pile in a bunch of veggies and fruit into my VitaMix and blend on high. Sometimes, I will add plain yogurt and/or milk. Because the VitaMix pulverizes everything, it’s very thick and can almost replace a meal! To make a more juice-like drink, I just add more water or milk. I usually serve this in a cup as a smoothie with a cool reusable lid and reusable straw. (I got sick of my kids spilling as well as “wasting” the smoothie with a smoothie mustache that they would wipe off onto a napkin. The straw is also a lot softer so they don’t cut their lips/gums on a plastic straw. Yes, it’s happened. My kids are talented.)

If I have extra, which I usually do, I will pour into reusable squeeze pouches that Cookie Monster LOVES. In fact, he loves them so much that even after downing a pint glass of the smoothie, he’ll demand to eat a squeeze pouch of the same thing he just drank. It’s ridiculous and makes his poo AWESOME the next day. (It does help with constipation, though!) I chose these pouches because from the reviews, they don’t explode or leak. I haven’t had a problem thus far. Like all reusable pouches though, it’s hard to get the edges clean so I’ve used either a butter knife or chopstick to scrape at the food gunk. I hand wash even though they are dishwasher top-rack safe.

I also freeze them in popsicle molds to make popsicles. I first started with standard popsicle sized molds by Tovolo, but my kids can’t finish them. Cookie Monster finds them too cold and will only eat a few bites. The good thing with these molds is that I can shove a partially-eaten popsicle back into the mold and store in the freezer until he finishes it. The bad thing is I think it’s taken a year for him to eat just ONE. These are popular with play dates, though. (I don’t serve the ones he’s gnawed on already, obviously.) Tovolo also makes really fun-shaped molds like rocket ships and ice cream cone shapes.

When I switched to the small NUK popsicle molds, I had much better luck. I really like them because Cookie Monster and even Gamera can finish it in one sitting. Their handles are super-easy to hold and catch a lot of drips. Plus, they’re fun colors. You can even break apart the molds so you can shove them in any random corner of the freezer.

It’s so silly but even though it’s basically the same smoothie, my kids like them in different formats. Go figure. I’m down with whatever puts veggies and fruits in their goldfish cracker filled bodies.

If I have enough popsicles/pouches, I will fill a re-usable tumbler for Hapa Papa to take to work as breakfast. I’m still working on remembering to do this.

In addition to the smoothies, I will also occasionally make veggie breads (from this carrot cake recipe). My mom juices and she will freeze the leftover fiber/pulp. I will either put these into the smoothies or use them in my veggie bread. I pretty much use this recipe except I also add the vegetable pulp, one or two smashed bananas, and a cup of chocolate chips. I also don’t include the walnuts (I’ve used finely chopped pistachios) and use regular unbleached organic flour instead of pastry flour. I would give you measurements, but I don’t have any. I just dump at will. 😀 It usually makes two bread pans worth of Veggie Bread. With two cups of organic sugar in it, it’s hard to mess up. I would freeze the leftovers if there were any. I usually consume an entire loaf by myself.

To give you some ideas of what to put in the smoothies, I’ve included a bunch of the fruits and veggies I use. I often just buy bags of frozen organic fruits from Costco. (Especially for berries since it’s just too expensive to juice fresh ones.) I often also wash grapes or fruits that I will forget to use in time and freeze them in small baggies.

Just remember to have a good ratio between sweet fruits and the sometimes bitter veggies. You can also add honey if you think it’s not sweet enough. Remember, too, that I have a VitaMix so it liquefies seeds and tough fibers. If your blender isn’t quite as powerful, of course, adjust accordingly. Again, I don’t do measurements. I just shove as much stuff in the blender as possible without it exploding. Obviously, these are not all-inclusive. 😀

Fruits

– Globe grapes (with seeds)
– Bananas
– Apples
– Mangoes
– Avocado
– Pineapples
– Watermelon (especially the rind without the green peel)
– Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc.)

Vegetables

– Carrots
– Celery
– Spinach
– Mixed salad greens
– Kale
– Beets (including tops) (turns the smoothie an awesome magenta color)
– Chard

Anyhow, hope this is helpful! Gamera tends not to drink as much of the smoothie unless it’s thinned out with more water. She doesn’t care for the fruit pouches but will devour the popsicles. So if your kids don’t go for the smoothie, perhaps they prefer its other incarnations.

I’d love to hear your ideas, too! Let me know in the comments what has or hasn’t worked for you. Thanks in advance!

The Only Appliance I Love (Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter)

For those of you who know me or have been in my home, you know that my favorite kitchen appliance (other than my microwave oven and my toaster oven – are those considered appliances?) is the Vita-Mix. In fact, it is really the only kitchen appliance that I own (other than the aforementioned microwave and toaster ovens). (OK, I lied. I think I have a Magic Bullet and an unused fondue maker thingy. Whatever.)

Also, I hate appliances in general because they crowd up the kitchen counter and take up valuable cabinet space. Just to show you how much I love this thing, I ALWAYS HAVE IT OUT ON MY COUNTER. That is because I use it almost every day. And I love it.

Two true stories about when I first started using the Vita-Mix. (Sadly, they do not show my brain working in the most flattering light. Even sadder – all pre-pregnancy/baby brain. There are no excuses. *sigh*)

Anyhow, when my mom first got the Vita-Mix, she mentioned that it blended everything so well that it would puree even the seeds of grapes so that you couldn’t taste it. She asked me to make her a smoothie, telling me I could just put all the grapes in the blender. Somehow, I took that to mean that I would put all the grapes in the blender, including the stems. Cuz you know, FIBER. I think I did this for at least two weeks until I realized, “Hey, that’s REALLY stupid. Why would you put WOOD into your SMOOTHIE?” But even with my idiocy, the smoothie was SMOOTH. No splinters or wood chips in our drinks.

Then, another time, because I pack so much stuff into the smoothies, I was having a hard time having everything get blended. I don’t know what I was thinking. They have the fancy lid with a hole in it so you can use the tamper tool without either splattering everything on the wall or taking off your hand. Well, I was an idiot and put in the tamper WITHOUT a lid and wouldn’t you know it? The Vita-Mix destroyed the tamper.

So, a normal person would just toss everything out, right? NOT ME. I thought it was a waste of all that good fruit so I picked out all the big plastic pieces of the destroyed tamper and then served it to my mom, Hapa Papa, and I. It was all going so well until half way through my drink, I almost choked on a huge hunk of plastic. Thank goodness neither my mom nor Hapa Papa had drunk any of their smoothies yet.

Now clearly, if an idiot like me can use it, it’s a powerful machine indeed.

Product: Vita Mix
Company: Vita-Mix Corporation
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Disclaimers: I bought mine from Costco during a promotion for $375. I included my amazon affiliate link for this product, but it’s ~$100 cheaper if you just buy it from Costco. I am not being compensated by anyone to post about the Vita-Mix.

Review

Pros: I own it, my mother owns it, my brother owns it, and I pretty much force everyone I know to get one. Because it is awesome. Other than the prohibitive cost, this would be a 5 out of 5 star product. However, if you use the product on a regular (or daily) basis, why it’s almost $1/day (if you buy from Costco). Just think of the savings!

This thing blends everything. (Allegedly, even a mango pit! Because it’s jet engine powered! That last comment may be somewhat of an exaggeration.) The majority of what I make are smoothies – and it is SMOOTH. I tried to compare with a Cuisinart Blender, and it just didn’t compare at all. These are the blenders that Jamba Juice uses for their smoothies – and for good reason. I put in whole grapes with seeds, apple seeds, any fruit with seeds, whatever – and it’s SMOOTH. No prickly bits, no chunks of un-blended fruit or veggies. It’s awesome.

I also use it to make my own almond butter (Cookie Monster is allergic to peanuts), hummus, pesto, sorbets, soups (rarely), baby food, but mostly smoothies. I’ve used it as a mixer for cakes. I’ve used it to chop up veggies. It is awesome. The recipe book is handy (but not necessary), and you can definitely make more stuff – like drinks, soups, dips, etc. I just happen to use it for the things I like. Ooh, and I often put the smoothies in those re-usable fruit pouches for kids to eat, or I put them in popsicle molds for the freezer. (This is how I sneak in veggies into their diets. Plus, it helps them poo!)

The Vita-Mix is pretty easy to clean (you just add dishwashing gel and water and then mix on high). I would recommend cleaning right away if it’s something sticky (like almond butter). For smoothies, often a quick rinse will do.

It’s super easy to use and has a great 7 year warranty. I’ve had to replace some parts and I received it in the mail in less than 2 days! Awesome customer service. Hopefully, I won’t have to use the warranty again, but it’s nice to know it’s there.

Also, you can add on dry-blades if you grind your own flour, etc. but even I am not that hard core. I just have a wet-blade and so far, have not run across any problems.

Cons: Pretty much the only con is the high cost. $375 (the best I’ve seen at Costco) is a lot of money. So, I would only buy the thing if you are sure you will use it. I was already used to making smoothies with my mom’s Vita Mix so I knew I would use mine. Obviously there are weeks I use the Vita-Mix more and weeks I totally forget about it, but over all, I have definitely gotten my money’s worth!

Anyone with the Vita-Mix care to comment and join the fray? (I know, a discussion on blenders is not exactly the most thrilling of topics – but let me tell you, it is HANDY! And makes my job as a mom much easier.)