Peaches N’ Green Smoothie

Back when I was keeping regular office hours, breakfast was always tough. I don’t know why it was easy to prepare lunch the night before but then over and over again forget about breakfast, but it was. There were months of quick grabs on the way out the door—a muffin, some leftovers, cookies whenever they were around. (Of course.)

And honestly, even though nowadays I’m most likely still in my pajamas past 10 AM (and you’d assume that such a fact would imply leisurely gourmet breakfasts), I’ll just be honest: in actuality, the biggest thing that’s saved me is the smoothie.

See, sometime last year—around the same time that all kinds of other changes were happening—I started making smoothies. I had made them before (a certain blueberry-orange-banana one made its appearance around here just weeks before my diet change), but this was different.

peaches and greens smoothie

There were bags and bags of frozen fruit, for starters, blended in all kinds of new combinations. In the beginning, it was strawberries, bananas and raw milk. Maybe with cocoa powder added, maybe with yogurt or kefir if I were out of milk. Strawberries turned to blueberries turned to mixed berries and back again. Sometimes there were mangoes or kiwi or pineapple added in. At some point I started adding raw eggs for protein. And a few times, I tried greens like kale—but it wasn’t until this year that greens became a staple, thanks to a few experiences of intensely green shakes (as inspired by the nutritional research and consultation being done by these guys). I felt my tastebuds changing and grew to really want vegetables in my smoothies, too.

Then there was one more thing: last month, when Tim and I went to visit my family for a few days, my dad surprised me with the perfect gift:

a brand-new Vitamix

(I know, I know, but I told you, he is crazy generous).

I almost cried.

Vitamix

So I tell you all that to say, or to explain, that somewhere along the line I became someone who has a smoothie every. single. morning. Like many changes, it happened gradually, naturally, the way changes often do, but when I look back, I’m kind of awed by how different things look.

You know, it’s like the way that you stand your kid against the wall and mark his height each year or, you water your tomato bush every day but then suddenly notice it’s bloomed!. Sometimes it’s not until the looking back that we see change best.

banana

Today, my morning routine is pretty simple: throw ingredients in the Vitamix, pour into glass or old kombucha bottle, and head out the door.

There is always fruit:

frozen strawberries

peaches

and a few big leaves of greens (kale, collards, chard):

collard greens

with liquids—milk or kefir/yogurt with water:

kefir

then I throw in some cod liver oil for Omega 3s (you won’t taste it anyway, and it’s easier than trying to remember to take a spoonful every day) or a few probiotics:

cod liver oil

The possibilities are endless, so things never get boring. And the particular version I bring you today is the one I made Sunday, filled with the flavor of fresh peaches (which were $0.69 a pound last week) and the grassy kick of greens. The name’s a little hokey, but the taste—and the nutritional value—definitely isn’t. Peaches N’ Greens: now that’s a good breakfast.

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Homemade (Grass-Fed) Jello

The other day, while I was depositing a check in the drive-through lane, I saw a man come out of my bank and walk to a car that had an Illinois license plate. It was the simplest thing—a license plate—something that I wouldn’t think twice about while I’m at home. But sitting there in Nashville, waiting for my $20 and a receipt, I wondered where in Illinois he was from: maybe the suburbs? I wondered how long he’d lived in Nashville—or did he even live in Nashville? Maybe he was visiting like I’d done so many times over the last year?

Shared experiences, even hints at them, are funny. We all enjoy meeting people who have gone through situations like we have, especially when the situations are less common—say, moving to a new state, for example. We like running into people who know our friends or interacting with strangers who seem to understand us. It’s just nice to feel that commonality. Often, it’s the very way that friendships begin.

Shared experiences can be big things like losing a loved one or, small things like, I don’t know, going wedding dress shopping for the first time (hollah!).

It’s kind of like jello.

gelatin and palm sugar and Vitamix

I mean, how many of us didn’t grow up eating jello, right? There were the fun jigglers of our childhoods, cut into crazy shapes and able to be picked up with your fingers; the fancy molds of holiday dinner parties, filled with fruit or marshmallows or nuts; the simple mixes where all you had to do was combine a packet with hot water and stir.

It’s something so common, we don’t even think about it. But yet, if we went somewhere and they didn’t have it (in the same way another state doesn’t have our license plates), seeing it would be kind of comforting and exciting and community-making. I love jello.

strawberries

And it’s not just the familiarity of jello I love. When I learned how powerful gelatin is in healing the gut (this broth article is excellent in explaining that more), jello took on a whole new value.

For me, the next step was finding a really high-quality gelatin, one made from grass-fed cows rather than pigs, which led me to Great Lakes, an easy-to-order option found online.

A couple experiments and entire-bowls-eaten-in-one-sitting later, and I bring you the strawberry jello pictured in this post. While it is a little different than the boxed variety, it is filled with whole, natural ingredients that you can feel really good about putting in your body—not to mention that help your digestion and overall health.

homemade grass-fed jello

It’s a jello I’m eating a lot lately, so I hope you’ll try it, too—and then tell me about it! Because, the way I see it, we can all use a little more community and kinship, even the kind centered around a food we eat.

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Warm Coffee-Infused Chocolate Cakes

You know, I’ve gotten some pretty fantastic packages in the mail since I started blogging—a jar of coconut oil, a case of Talenti gelato, a bag of Xylitol, something like 20 containers of Chobani yogurt.

But this month, I received something totally new, something I’d never have expected, something that kind of amazed me when I opened it, in fact: I recieved an entire case of Starbucks Natural Fusions coffee—filled with several bags each of the vanilla, caramel, and cinnamon flavors—and along with, so it turns out, the opportunity to host a meal featuring the coffee: with $100 of grocery money to do it.

case of coffee

This, as you can imagine for someone who clips coupons and winces at $5 blueberries, was an offer too good to pass up.

starbucks cinnamon coffee

We planned the meal for Saturday, with six of us gathered around a table, eating a delicious feast of salmon and salad and vegetables, of which the crowning glory was definitely the dessert: coffee-infused chocolate cakes, topped with a coffee reduction sauce, set next to homemade coffee ice cream, with hot coffee to drink on the side.

Seriously.

Thank you, Starbucks.

eggs

Of the three coffee flavors, we liked the ingredients from the cinnamon the best, as they were the most whole (i.e., no maltodextrin), so that’s what we used in every aspect of our dessert: some grounds in the cakes, some super-strong brewed coffee in the sauce, some grounds steeped with milk in the process of making the ice cream.

eggs in bowl

The cakes, served warm, are like little domes of soft, rich heaven, I kid you not. They’re not overly sweet, which makes them ideal to pair with ice cream, and they’re wonderfully moist in the center, with chocolate liquid oozing out as you eat.

cakes ready to bake

cakes baked

Saturday was actually the second time we made the cakes; the first time, at another group dinner, we had experimented with proportions, done without coffee, used the berries in a sort of puree all over the top.

That time was OK.

nate's cake

This time was perfection.

a cup of coffee

I mean, really. Forget cream and sugar. I think I’ve found a new favorite way to have coffee.

(And also, just because a delicious (and free!) meal is something to celebrate, pictures of our lunch:)

salad
cauliflower
rosemary sourdough bread
my plate
around the table

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Pizza at Porta Via Italian Kitchen

porta via
Sunday night, Tim and I got the opportunity to attend a private event at Porta Via Italian Kitchen—Nashville’s source of authentic Neapolitan pizza (and you know how much I love that, whether in Chicago, in Seattle, in Chattanooga, or now here at home).

Porta Via atmosphere

For us, the event came at a pretty perfect time, too, because, take my advice, everyone should get a night of free pizza and wine in the weeks immediately following their engagement (i.e., the weeks following a realization that now you have to plan a wedding!). With the flurry of emails and inquiries lately (which, I know, are the things many girls dream of), the very thing we needed, I think, was a chance to sit down and eat the food we both called our favorite before we’d even met.

pizza

Sunday’s event was arranged to celebrate Porta Via’s recently acquired official VPN certification, something you can read more about here, which essentially means proof that their Neapolitan pizza is the real deal: made with the high-quality Italian ingredients, flash-baked in a white-hot brick oven, created without any mechanic preparation—just human hands tossing and pressing the dough.

i love that he loves pizza

There were pizzas with caramelized onions, pizzas with mushrooms and green peppers, a traditional margherita the moment Tim asked about one. Oh, and when we first walked in, we tried a couple slices without red sauce, which were topped with sprigs of rosemary and salt; these became my new favorite, and not just because we’ve been loving rosemary ever since the sourdough we ate in the park.

pizza at Porta Via

As is typical of Neapolitan pizza, Porta Via’s crusts are chewy and charred, very thin (although not as thin as what you’d find at Chicago’s Spacca Napoli or Nashville’s City House), bearing the marks of dough that’s been thrust into a wood-fire oven more than 700 degrees hot.

counter at porta via

And after we’d eaten our fill of pizza (which for me meant five slices—yes, five), we were given a glass dish of coffee gelato from the gelato bar right by the entrance.

coffee gelato

coffee gelato on a spoon

It was a simple night—just a bunch of pizza lovers gathered together, in a restaurant tucked away in an unassuming strip mall, with live music and free samples and a couple announcements—but it was a simple night we were glad to have, glad to be given.

menu at Porta Via

It was the kind of night that made me wish we could just have pizza at our wedding.

Oh, and for those of you who like hearing these things, we have a date! (look out, October!) We almost have a photographer! and once we figure out the little details of location and food, we’ll be well on our way. Chicago-area outdoor venue ideas are welcome!

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