Let me be the first to say it: I am a hypocrite.
I think it’s really hard not to be a hypocrite. Certainly I’m not the only person to declare, “I do not like that,” only to find myself changing my ways after an enlightening experience. Heck, think about how many romances start with animosity, intense negative passion that transforms into love. One of my favorite moms loves to remind me that when she first met the man she would later marry, she did not like him. At all. Thirty-something years later, they have one of the most loving and playful relationships I’ve ever seen. See what hypocrisy can do? It’s magic, I say.
In my more mature moments, I try to be open-minded about new things and people, but it’s hard. It’s really, really hard. I am an adult version what the psychologists call a “slow to warm up” baby, referring to children who are wary of strangers and new things but can eventually grow to like and trust new people. I rarely jump into new situations without carefully assessing the scene. Not surprisingly, I am terrible at dating. But I’m no longer going to apologize for these things. I am not perfect. I’m not going to waste my time feeling bad about my flaws. So yes, I am a hypocrite. I am, however, willing to admit when I am wrong.
I was wrong about green smoothies.
If you follow any of the food journal blogs, you must have seen smoothies that are blended with leafy greens like spinach or kale. The idea struck me as ludicrous, something you’d do only if you were an extreme health nut or unable to eat leafy greens prepared in a more traditional way. I love salads and kale prepared with minimal fuss—salads dressed with good olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice or even nothing at all if I just want the taste of green. I like my kale steamed, and if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll spoon some Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette over it. Leafy greens are delicious—they don’t need to be blended into oblivion to be enjoyed.
I don’t know why I decided to try a green smoothie in the first place. Peer pressure? All the cool bloggers were doing it? Boredom? Too much spinach in the vegetable drawer? Whatever the reason, I did it. I started with my favorite basic smoothie recipe, this frozen banana and chocolate treat (no sugar and without the espresso powder), and I added two handfuls of baby spinach. I remember I’d just come back from a long training run outside, and the wind was fierce. I arrived home with bits of sand and dirt stuck in my eyes and on my face, and I was exhausted from trying to run against that wind. I needed fuel, and I needed it fast. And I remember thinking that getting a little more green into my diet wouldn’t be an awful thing, even if it wasn’t necessary.
What surprised me the most was that this inaugural green smoothie was GOOD. I couldn’t even taste the spinach above the flavors of banana, cocoa, and malt powder—it was just my usual smoothie with an extra hit of nutrition. I liked it.
Since then, I’ve moved on to a more intense green smoothie, one made with baby lettuce. This version is like an amped-up version of my first one, substituting lettuce for the spinach and adding some berries and vanilla. In the lettuce smoothie, I can taste the greens—they have a slightly bitter taste that contrasts with the sweetness of bananas and milk. It surprises me that I like the bitterness—the flavor is more complex, more grown-up. The smoothie looks like swamp water, all green and brown, but the taste is fabulous.
A green smoothie can be a treat by itself, but when combined with homemade granola, it’s downright decadently healthy. My long-time readers know that a granola recipe will appear on this site every couple of months. I just love granola, and I love the endless varieties that one can make and still call it granola. Recently I fell in love with dried cherries. It was only a matter of time before they showed up in a granola recipe here. Today’s recipe is a variation on what I think is a classic granola template—the ratios are very similar to other granolas I’ve made and loved. We’re not reinventing the wheel here. Flavorwise, it’s delightful: lightly sweetened with honey, it’s nutty and chewy, and the ratio of oaty granola to dried cherries is just right: not too little, not too much. It’s delicious as a topping for a smoothie, even one that dares to include lettuce. I’m including a recipe for my swamp monster smoothie below—I dare you to try it! And gardeners: green smoothies are a great way to use up some of those mounds of lettuce you may be harvesting right now. Your crisper drawer will thank you.
Cherry Almond Granola
Adapted from We Are Not Martha’s Cherry Vanilla Granola
Makes a bit more than 4 cups (estimated yield)
Almonds and honey and dried cherries—it’s like a round-up of Rose-Anne’s favorite things! In granola form! I should mention that the yield listed above is estimated because I didn’t measure the final yield—I just divided my granola among various containers and that was that. I’ll double-check my estimate when I make another batch.
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup oat bran
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. salted butter
1 tbsp. mild extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup dried cherries
1) Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. I use my 10x15-inch rimmed roasting pan for making most of my granolas.
2) In a large bowl, mix together the oats, oat bran, almonds, almond flour, coconut, and salt. Set aside.
3) In a small pan on the stovetop, melt the butter and olive oil together. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, honey, and vanilla.
4) Stir the butter mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing as thoroughly as you can to distribute the wet ingredients into the dry ones. The combined mixture will be clumpy and sticky; carry on with your granola-baking in the next step.
5) Spread the sticky, clumpy mixture over the prepped baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes.
6) Remove the granola from the oven. Sprinkle the dried cherries over it, separating the cherries into individual pieces of fruit if they have clumped together. Bake for another 15 minutes, then remove the granola from the oven and let it cool completely. Eat immediately or pack into sealed bags or containers and store at room temperature.
Rose-Anne’s Swamp Monster Smoothie
Makes 1 very generous serving or 2 more modest servings
Green and brown never tasted so delicious together. If you must, you can add a little sweetener to make this tastier—sugar, honey, maple syrup, or whatever you prefer. Because I eat this with lots of granola, I don’t add any sugar to the smoothie base.
2/3 cup milk (I like 2% cow’s milk here for a richer taste)
1/3 cup water
1/4 tsp. or an unmeasured splash of vanilla
1 ripe banana, fresh or frozen
3 strawberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tbsp. malt powder (optional but delicious)
2 big handfuls of baby lettuce, such as baby Romaine. Spinach would probably work here too.
1) Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend for 30 seconds to combine thoroughly. Scrape down the sides, blend some more if needed, then pour into one or two glasses. Top with some Cherry Almond Granola and serve.