Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Spinach Smoothie Green Drink, Clean(er) Eating and the Year in Review

Clean(er) eating, the year in review and my favorite Spinach Smoothie Green Drink

Clean(er) Eating and the Year in Review

Don't worry... that "cleaner eating" thing doesn't mean we're changing our website and recipes, and I'll explain on down the post, but I do want to first say Happy New Year y'all!

I hope you got in your traditional Southern New Year foods by now - or whatever is customary where you live - and I truly wish you much health, wealth and happiness in 2016. Yes, this is my first post of the new year - mostly because, well... I've been spending time with my family, my grandkids, the animal kingdom, and my favorite 3-Rs... relaxing, resting and reading.

Some of that "resting" was forced though, as I woke up with a sore back one morning last week and ended up in excruciating pain and unable to walk the next. Aging is a tough business y'all, but as they say, it sure beats the alternative! Seriously though, it's like one day you're in your late 30s and you don't feel a whole lot different than you did at 20-something, and then, the next thing you know, you're 50-something and nothing works like it once did.

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I ordered a cane from Amazon (#ad) - yes, you read that right, a cane - and thankfully was up and limp-walking by the next day, and back to my Garmin (#ad) fussing at me to resume my housewalking the next. I tell ya, having that cane was a life saver and the only reason that I could get my New Year's cooking done! It wore me out, but I made a pork roast, my blackeyed peas, some smothered cabbage, some greens and a skillet of cornbread. I have no idea what happened, but I'm okay now though I have to admit... it sure was scary.

Anyway... while I realize some of you will be cutting back and making changes to your diet, and despite that title of "Clean(er) Eating," nothing much will change here at the Deep South Dish website. This is, after all, a recipe site, much like a cookbook - not a daily meal plan, so I'll plug on along as I always have and I'll be here when you need me for a recipe. In fact I have a few recipes I made over the holidays that I'll be putting up soon so they'll be available for the next holiday!

Since it's January though and some of you are in the cutting back mode, I thought I would share my favorite green smoothie recipe that I've been doing the past year, and also some personal goals and thoughts about the past year and the new year - if you care to read on past the recipe.

If you're just beginning the green drink thing, this smoothie is a great start. I love spinach, though I wasn't sure how I'd feel about drinking it! The fruit makes all the difference, trust me. It's healthy, filling and although this actually makes about 2 servings, The Cajun isn't going to drink it, so I just drink the whole thing. It carries me from breakfast to lunch.

For now, I only have a Ninja (#ad) for blending and not a Vitamix (#ad) so my drinks aren't as smooth as what you would get with the Vitamix. Though the Vitamix touts itself as making more professional smooth drinks, I did read somewhere that green drinks like this should have some "chew" to them to help the digestive processes, so for now I'm good with my Ninja!

The Year in Review and Forward

Christmas. I hope that you took joy in the Christmas season. I certainly did with these grandbabies! As a person of faith, the primary purpose of Christmas is to remind me of why I am, and in the world we live it, it's good to have a reminder. So many folks seem to lack a connection to a higher power in this day and age.

In case you are interested, I am on Instagram and that's where you'll have a peek into my daily life, unlike the blog - well, when I'm active at least, which frankly I sometimes am not. It's mostly food, well and animal related, because I don't share my family on social media. I do follow a few folks there who have these amazing, gorgeous, pristine showcase homes that they share pictures of, the kind of home I will never have, nor do I aspire to have. I am more of a watch an episode of "Hoarders" and that motivates me to pick up my clutter home! I am inspired by the Instagram decorating though, but I am saddened at so many young women feeling this need for pure perfection. A trend among most of them is to never have anything out of place. Ever.

One of the things I saw was the overwhelming relief to be rid of "Christmas clutter" as fast as humanly possible, in order to have their homes back to this picture-perfect, pre-holiday pristine look. There is so much sadness behind this for me, that I don't even know where to go with that. These women take down everything Christmas, practically at the break of dawn the day after, and then talk about how relieved they are to be rid of "that clutter." If decorating for Christmas is such a chore and you take little to no pleasure in it, then why even bother?

Personally, I take great pleasure in my Christmas decorations, perhaps because many of them were my Mama's and she has been gone from my life for going on 19 years now. The ornaments on the tree, the villages, nativity, wreaths and all of the decorations bring me true joy. I am actually sad when they come down, which Mama taught me happens on Epiphany (Wednesday), the 12th day after Christmas, the day that celebrates the visit of the three kings to the Christ child, who represents the extension of salvation to those of us who are not of the Jewish faith, and frankly, is what Christmas is all about. It is also the beginning of our Carnival season down here, so Christmas trees, for many of us, become Mardi Gras trees anyway!

Most Popular Recipes: Because blog traffic is also driven by social media shares on places like Facebook and Pinterest, it's difficult to determine the true, most organic, popular recipes at a blog. I can tell you that year after year there are some that are truly consistent. Of course, the most popular end of the year recipes always include the typical holiday foods with my Southern Style Black-eyed Peas leading the pack and before Christmas, the most popular recipe for all time on Deep South Dish, my Big Batch, Super Creamy, Special Occasion Macaroni and Cheese. This year I even put up a smaller batch recipe for those of you who loved it, but didn't quite need that much!

Outside of the end of the year recipes though, the ones that have always been most popular include my 25 Terrific Recipes to Make with Ground Beef and More Things to Do with Ground Beef collections, my Mississippi Comeback Sauce is always a top favorite because of its Mississippi roots and that it's good with pretty much everything. There's my Fall off the Bone, Oven Baked Ribs that have been a favorite since 2009, Candied Yams, Salmon Patties, Baked Spaghetti, Traditional Cornbread Dressing, Slow Cooker Brown Sugar Chicken, Chicken and Dumpling Casserole and Grandma's Homemade Potato Soup, all round up the top recipes of the year.

The Cookbook (#ad). Wow, y'all. Wow. That's about all I can say about the reception of the Deep South Dish Homestyle Southern Recipes (#ad) cookbook in 2015. Thank you all so so much for your support with this project. I will tell you that I never, ever set out to author a cookbook. It just wasn't on my bucket list as I was perfectly happy sharing my recipes on the blog and reminding you of them via social media. I just did not want to face that daunting process, what with a publisher, editors, food photographers, food stylists, agents and all that comes with the process, never mind having to sell yourself through cookbook proposals and then face the rejections!

As it turns out, when Quail Ridge contacted me, gathering up a cookbook was the easiest process ever because there was nothing contrived. It literally was effortless because every recipe came from my blog, or my recipe files, and much of the photography was from basic shots I took myself, which I think made it very real for many of you. Even the cover, that so many of you love, was one of my own photos and they were round out by a few professional shots, made with my recipes, and with no photography tricks by Christian and Elise Stella. We are currently on our 6th printing of the cookbook, and I'll be making my third appearance on QVC next month. Amazing.

Clean(er) Eating and That Four Letter Word. You know the one. DIET. Which one do you want to know about, because I've probably tried the majority of them! Low fat, low carb, high protein, low calorie, Stillman, Atkins, George Stella, the Flat Belly Diet, the Sonoma Diet, The Abs Diet for Women, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem - they all work, as long as you stick to the program, although for some, the cost can be prohibitive.

Just some of my many assorted diet books. Sad, isn't it?

Yep, I've tried a lot of diets. Instead of that, I know the best thing that I can do after these big holidays and when the new year rolls around, is to try to get back to cleaner eating - at least for the early months after the new year (and after, in between enjoying all of our southern favorites of course). This is my idea of clean eating:
  1. Get back to my morning green drink (recipe above). I've been doing them for breakfast several times a week and I feel so much better when I do.
  2. Cut out white sugar and watch for added sugars. This isn't really that hard for me to do, however, during the holidays I consume more sugar than I probably do all year! By the time January rolls around I feel it too.
  3. Exchange white bread, pasta and rice for whole grain bread, wheat pastas and brown rice. I'm not the biggest fan of whole wheat pastas, though they have gotten way better than they used to be. I am a big fan of good whole grain and seeded breads, unless there's a leftover holiday turkey sandwich or the first tomato sandwich of the summer involved. I also enjoy brown rice - it just takes a little planning since it takes longer to cook. I like to make a batch of it to keep it in the fridge. It only needs a splash of water and the microwave to reconstitute it and you can revamp it a bit by adding in some sauteed fresh veggies too.
  4. Lower fats where I can and focus on the healthier fats and MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids). I love my half and half in my coffee and my butter and bacon for seasoning, but it's easy to use less, and I already use healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil and canola, and I love nuts, nut butters, olives and avocados (those MUFAs). I've never been a huge advocate of fat free products - I mean what is fat free half and half anyway? And what is in fat free cheese? Or margarine?
  5. Remember the balanced plate - half of your plate should be veggies and/or fruit, one-quarter grains, and one-quarter protein, and a little dairy. Good veggies, especially things like onion and garlic, mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, cabbage and red bell peppers. 
  6. Be more consistent with taking my vitamins, probiotics and supplements (like fish oil). I just flat out forget!
  7. More important, I know I need to practice portion control. If it tastes delicious, I know we have trouble stopping at one serving and that means we don't fill up on that half plate of veggies, or often we ignore them altogether. I need to enjoy my favorite foods, but get back to remembering what a portion size is, filling up with those non-starchy veggies and complex carbs, instead of multiple servings of the main course.
What I Want to Do Better This Year:

1. Eat more balanced and move more. It would be nice if that resulted in a loss of weight. I'm still carrying excess weight I put on stress eating after Hurricane Katrina. As far as eating more balanced, I know I consume more starches and carbs than I should, and it's just pure laziness. As a blogger, I slip away from that balanced plate from time to time, a big mistake many of us make in this field.

As far as exercise, I don't sweat, which means I get over-heated super easy and am prone to heat stroke, so my level and types of exercise are very limited. I did buy a Vivofit (#ad) last year and that has really helped a lot in getting me up and moving every hour. I'm notorious for buying DVDs and equipment to help me move more, trying them, getting bored and then never touching them again. In other words, I have lots of tools, I just need to use them. Turns out, that's how it works - you have to use them!

2. Read more. And I'm not talking about cookbooks! On my nightstand is a pile of 20 books I have purchased over the past year, that I just can't seem to get much past the first chapter. I try to read when I go to bed, but by that time I'm exhausted and can't seem to get more than a few pages in before my eyes give out. I need to work less and relax more, and there is nothing I love more than reading. Life is short and I sure can't take them with me!

3. Spiritually reconnect. At my last corporate job, I'll be the first to say things got rough. After Katrina, everybody I worked with was in fear of losing their cushy corporate job and that makes people do some crazy things. It got to the point that I would sit with my Bible and devotionals and study scripture and journal early every morning before heading out the door, and I'd often listen to spiritual tapes during my long commute. I guess you could say it was spiritual warfare and it really held me together. While I still read a devotional every morning and night, since I've gotten away from that turmoil, I've slipped away from those extended quiet times too. Though I am not a fan of rising super early, I do need to find space in my day to get back to that. I'm loving these new Inspirational Adult Coloring books (#ad) and the whole idea of bible journaling (#ad), so that might be a good entry back.

4. Get better organized! I used to be so highly organized. I don't know what has happened, except that I don't have that 8 to 5, Monday through Friday structure I used to have. As a blogger I work early, late, in the middle of the night, on holidays and weekends, whenever the mood strikes. There were times in the corporate world that I spun my wheels, but I seem to be on the hamster wheel much more now. At least I don't have to deal with office politics ... well, sort of. I've got to try to figure out some way to balance my life, my work and the blog, so I can get more things done and more recipes posted!

5. Forgive. On that whole office politics thing... it's hard to believe but yes, mean girls (and guys) do certainly exist in the blogging world and I have one. This person has such animosity toward me that they have formed a mean girls clique and deliberately turned brands and other bloggers against me. The "right fighter" in me wants to do something to stand my ground and correct things, while I know the only thing that I can really do is let go, let God and forgive, because hurting people, hurt people. I've been on both sides of that equation, but I'm older (and wiser) now, so I choose the narrow path. She'll figure it out one day too. Matthew 7:13-14

So there it is. I'll do well with some of this through the year, some of it only for a few weeks, some likely just days! Eh... such is life. Happy New Year y'all...  and for those of you who have bored yourself to death to this point... what are your hopes for 2016?
Posted by on January 5, 2015

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