Smoothie Revolution

For the last couple of months, I’ve been making smoothies every morning. Like most people, I started with a pretty straightforward Banana-Strawberries-Milk smoothie, with the occasional Avocado-Milk-Sugar smoothie for a special treat.

As I started researching other sites and adding more ingredients, I discovered that smoothies can be so much more than just fruit blended up with milk. Smoothies are just dying to break out of that boring old smoothie mold!

So, if you’re like I was and you’re still making basic 3-ingredient smoothies, I’m here to invite you to get brave and help your smoothies reach their full potential by experimenting with some (or all) of these additional ingredients that can be added to any smoothie. (Or if you’re already a smoothie aficionado and you have favourite special ingredients you love to add, please share them in the comments so I can try them out!)

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Spinach. Every smoothie can and should have a healthy bunch of spinach added to it. It won’t affect the taste at all, and it’s an easy way to sneak more greens into your diet. The benefits? Spinach is super-high in vitamins, especially Vitamin K which helps with blood clotting and preventing bone fractures.

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Orange. If you don’t mind pulp, add at least half an orange. Oranges are high in antioxidants and Vitamin C, and are a great way of naturally sweetening your smoothie.

 

ImageGreek Yogurt. Add a tablespoon or two of low-fat greek yogurt. It boosts the protein of your smoothie which helps you feel fuller and improves tissue repair.

 

ImageAlmonds. You can easily grind up 6-9 almonds in a coffee grinder and mix them into your smoothie. Almonds provide healthy fats, reduce heart attack risk, lower bad cholesterol, aid in weight loss, and so much more. Add them!

ImageGround Flaxseed. Pull out that coffee grinder again, and grind up a tablespoon of flaxseed to toss into your smoothie. It’s a great source of fiber, antioxidants, and good fats. I’ve heard that it’s best to grind them right before consumption, to get the full health benefits.

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Cinnamon. Sprinkle in a teaspoon of cinnamon. It not only makes your smoothie taste more exciting, but it also lowers cholesterol and adds fiber and iron.

ImageOats. Last but not least, add oats for the ultimate breakfast smoothie! The primary benefit is that they will make you feel full all morning, but they are also great fiber boosters and help to lower cholesterol.

If you put this all together (with the obligatory strawberries, bananas and low-fat/almond/soy milk, of course), you end up with a smoothie that is high in fiber, high in protein, low in fat, packed with vitamins, makes you feel full all morning and tastes great! What better way to start your day? I can hardly wait to try cucumbers, and cantaloupes, and kale, and anything else I can get my hands on!

Looking for recipes to start with? Check out these inspiring smoothie sites:

http://www.smoothieweb.com/

http://themetapicture.com/smoothie-recipes-for-everything/

Home to Home

The Czech Republic was never my home. It was where both of my parents were born and where they grew up; where they developed their rigid value systems; where they internalized an unwavering belief that all good things are inevitably followed by bad things; and where they learned through hardship and misfortune that life is neither fair nor kind.

When I landed in Prague, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had been there over 20 years ago, but I was just a teenager then and Prague had not yet been touched by Western influence. This time, I would be with family who were generously sponsoring my trip which meant the agenda would be all theirs. I thought I’d admire the beautifully-coloured buildings, revel in narrow streets of cobblestone, and drink beer — lots of beer. (How else would I get through a family trip, after all?)

The first few days didn’t disappoint. I quickly discovered that it’s cheaper to drink beer than water (!), that the food is absolutely as delicious as my mom’s home cooking, and that beautiful buildings are found everywhere, despite the tremendous amount of irreverent graffiti. And I discovered traces of my family’s history around every corner.

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In the company of my father, I found myself on the little street in Malá Strana where, in the 1960s, my mother was almost crushed by a Russian tank as it rolled up the hill towards Prague castle. She had been waiting in the car for my father who was in the Italian embassy trying to get visas for the two of them so they could escape.

In a tram, we passed by Staropramen brewery where long ago my father had worked for a month.

“What did you do there, Dad?”

“Oh, I just carried things back and forth between places. They were happy with me because I didn’t drink too much beer while I was working.”

The Vltava river was a popular canoeing route for both of my parents. My father once played daredevil with his friends as they attempted to ride the mini-rapids in the river, visible from the Charles Bridge. His friends made it but he capsized, his overturned canoe hitting him on the head as he was pulled underwater. Luckily, a stranger on the shore saw what had happened, jumped into his boat, rowed up and rescued him. “If it weren’t for the stranger, I’m sure I would have died that day and you wouldn’t be on this earth.” My dad is a pretty melodramatic guy but, on that one, I believe him.

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And then there is the small, charming town of Kutná Hora where my father married his first wife at the town hall, not knowing that marriage would last just a few short years, only to be followed by a much longer, much unhappier marriage to my mother.

As we walked our way through the city, I realized the fabric of my family’s quilt was woven with the threads of this country’s red roofs, winding rivers and dark, wooden taverns.

I started to feel as though I belonged here. I became braver and dusted off my broken Czech with its limited vocabulary. To my delight, everybody I spoke with understood me and before long I was having full conversations with locals. All those years of torturous “Mluv česky!” (“Speak Czech!”) commands hurled at me throughout my childhood had finally paid off!

Slowly, unexpectedly, this beautiful country and especially Prague started to feel like home, but a different kind of home than I was used to. A home that included more than just my immediate family, and spanned so much further than just the years I had been alive on this planet. A home that welcomed me without judgement and understood me without explanation.

As I sit now in my everyday home, I can’t help but feel that I have a new home in Prague, maybe even a new life, awaiting my return someday in the future. Na shledanou, Prague. See you again.

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