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Cookbook Review: Green Smoothie Magic – 132+ Delicious Green Smoothie Recipes That Trim and Slim by Gabrielle Raiz

July 3, 2013 3 comments

Image of a glass filled with green liquid surrounded by brightly colored produce with the book's title underneath.Summary:
Lots of leafy greens are important to incorporate into your diet for health reasons (vitamins! fiber!) but it can be difficult to work them in.  Enter the green smoothie.  Blend up the greens with other ingredients to give yourself a delicious sweet or savory drinkable treat and get 1 to 2 cups of leafy greens into your belly in the time it takes to drink a drink!  Raiz walks you through all the steps to incorporating green smoothies into your life from the basics of what greens to use and how to what makes a good blender to recipes to how to tweak and personalize the recipes.

Review:
I picked up this cookbook when I spotted the kindle version on sale for 99 cents because I wanted exactly what it promised.  A way to work in more leafy greens into my life in a delicious way.

The cookbook is organized into sections entitled: introduction, the magic of the green stuff, not all green smoothies are green, don’t get stuck with the same green, greens, how green should my first smoothies be?, green smoothie magic basics, the pragmatic approach to health nutrition and everything!, freezing fruit, green smoothie rescue — what to do if a recipe doesn’t work out!, about blenders and blending, about drinking and storing your smoothie, green smoothie magic 101: instructions at a glance for blending any smoothie, and green smoothie magic recipes.  If that sounds like a lot of sections, it’s because it is.  Raiz has a lot of information to give the reader.  She clearly knows what she’s talking about, and I found a lot of what she had to say very useful! Particularly how to pick the right blender, the different flavors of greens and how to pick which ones to use, how to store greens, how to save a smoothie that doesn’t taste quite right, and the basic elements of a smoothie.  Also, the recipes of course!  But how this valuable information is organized is a bit haphazard and can sometimes be repetitive.  I’m glad I took the time to read it all and glean out the important bits, but I’m not sure everyone would stick it out through such a disorganized and long introduction.  A more concise introduction to the hows and whys of green smoothies is needed.

The recipes themselves are creative without going too far off the deep-end in exotic ingredients.  For instance, even though Raiz recommends making your own nut milks, she provides substitutions for those of us who would rather not do that.  The recipes are easy to read, fully utilizing bullet-points and simplicity.  I really appreciated that.  There are also full-color illustrations throughout the cookbook , although they are primarily of the ingredients and not the smoothies themselves.  I get it that green smoothies tend to be, well, green colored, but a few more smoothie pictures would be nice.

So I read through the whole book and was ready to try a recipe.  I knew from reading the book that my low-powered food processor wasn’t ideal for blending but would work with a recipe with less tough ingredients (for instance, the beet smoothie might be a bit too much for my food processor).  I also followed Raiz’s newbie caution and went with a recipe with a more traditional smoothie taste to ease myself into it.  Below is the recipe I tried out with a picture of the result.

Image of a wine glass full of green liquid sitting in a sunbeam on a wooden countertop.

My first homemade green smoothie! In a wine glass because everything tastes better in a goblet.

“Cinnamango Smoothie (location  1558)

Blend first:
1 cup water with 1/4 cup almonds (soaked overnight) OR 1 cup nut milk OR 1 cup coconut water

Then add:
1 cup mango (frozen)
cinnamon, salt, and vanilla
2 cups spinach leaves (or any combination of mild greens)
1 T chopped mint leaves

Ice and extra water to get your desired temperature and consistency.”

You can see how simple the instructions are.  It is a smoothie after all.    I left off the introductory paragraph, which is primarily featured in the earlier recipes and talks more about the ingredients, and skipped right to the actual recipe.  The ingredients introduction is nice and makes it more conversational, but it is a smoothie after all.  You just put in the general ingredients to fit your tastes and away you go, and most of the recipes utilize this simpler style I chose here.

I used coconut water for the base of my smoothie, and my mango had kind of defrosted by the time I got home from the grocery store.  I also didn’t have spinach, but I did have swiss chard from my CSA, which was listed as a mild green in the cookbook, so I subbed those in.  When I took the first taste, it felt too strong and not smoothie-like enough to me.  So I read over the section on how to fix your smoothie and noticed that Raiz states that the temperature of the smoothie affects the taste.  Perhaps my mango being defrosted mattered?  So I added in ice, blended again, and voila! An incredibly delicious green smoothie!  It was, admittedly, a bit less well-blended than I would have preferred, but I was well aware that was the fault of my food processor, not the recipe.

So what’s the verdict? Well, I got so excited about green smoothies after this cookbook that my partner got me a blender for my birthday (using the recommendations in Raiz’s book to help him choose which one).  So I’d call it a success!  The recipes are easy, adaptable, and Raiz arms you with troubleshooting techniques to help you learn to get it right.  The beginning of the book needs more focus, organization, and clarity to help Raiz’s true expertise and talent shine through but if you want to start incorporating green smoothies into your life, this book is a great place to start.  It both explains greens and green smoothies and blenders AND gives you a bunch of adaptable, easy recipes to get going.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Book Review: Deadly Row to Hoe by Cricket McRae (Series, #6)

November 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Summary:
Sophie Mae and her best friend decided to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) as soon as the opportunity popped up in their small town.  One day when they’re volunteering at the farm, a dead body is found in the compost heap.  Sophie Mae is determined not to get involved this time, after all, she’s got enough on her plate with her soap making business and trying to make a baby with her husband, Detective Barr.  But Barr’s boss asks her to help identify the body by talking to the folks in the community , and she just can’t say no.

Review:
Cozy mysteries consist of a mystery (that’s not too explicit or bloody) paired with an unlikely investigator, some sort of crafting, a good dose of humor, and a punny title.  In other words, they were basically made for me.  (Some even come with recipes!)  So when this one popped up on NetGalley, I snatched it up, and I’m so glad I did!  McRae successfully pulls together everything that makes a cozy great.

The plot is excellent.  The murder mystery isn’t too gory, but is also realistic.  The body is found in a compost heap, yes, but it’s just a dead body.  There aren’t slashed off heads hanging out in tea kettles or something.  Everyone is appropriately disturbed by the finding.  There’s no ho-hum just another day element at play.  Although I admit I had figured out whodunit before the end, the why and when were still a mystery.  Plus I never felt that Sophie Mae was being stupid and just missing something.  Why it was taking her a bit to see whodunit made total sense.  I also really appreciate that GLBTQ people are included in the plot without a big deal being made out of it.  They are just another character, which is just how I like my diversity in genre literature.

The characters are fairly three-dimensional for a cozy.  Everyone had something I liked and didn’t like about their personality, even the heroine, which is key to characters seeming realistic.  There were also a wide variety of people present from Sophie Mae’s best friend’s daughter to an elderly friend of the family.  This range is something that is often missing in literature, and I liked seeing it here.

What I really come to cozies for, though, I admit, is the integration of crafting.  In this case the theme is participating in a CSA, so parts of the book are devoted to how a CSA works from acquiring your weekly allotment to figuring out how to use it to cooking with it.  I really appreciated the quips about having so much of a certain produce that they’re coming out your ears.  I also really enjoyed the scenes that discussed taking real time out to cook dinner and what that feels like, such as talking about how garlic smells when you first throw it into a hot pan.  I know not all readers enjoy this, but honestly that’s part of the point of a cozy.  Taking the time to linger on crafts and talents that take time to cultivate but are well worth it, and McRae incorporated this element very smoothly into the book.  I do wish some recipes or CSA tips had been included, but it’s possible I just didn’t see them since I had an advanced copy.

Overall this book has a dash of everything enjoyable about a cozy mystery.  Recommended to cozy fans, particularly those in or considering a CSA.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

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Previous Books in Series:
Lye in Wait
Heaven Preserve Us
Spin a Wicked Web
Something Borrowed, Something Bleu
Wined and Died

Friday Fun! (Updates! Boston Organics, Halloween, and Hurricane Sandy)

November 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Hello my lovely readers!  I know you can all tell I’ve been very busy since there hasn’t been a Friday Fun from me in….over a month. I am pleased that I managed to at least keep a few posts trickling in, but even so I have three books waiting to be reviewed. No one thing in particular has kept me busy, it’s just….life is busy!  So, beyond my usual work, reading, exercising, cooking, general hanging out, what have I been up to?

First off, a friend told me all about Boston Organics, and I signed up for it!  Basically you get a box of fresh produce delivered to your door either every week or every other week. You can choose organic or organic and local. I chose organic and local.  So far it has been totally awesome and removed my sense of boredom I had recently acquired over choosing recipes. Getting produce chosen and sent to me challenges my cooking skills, and I’m really enjoying it!  Plus knowing that my food is coming locally, organic, and fresh makes me feel good both about what I’m feeding myself (and my boyfriend), but also makes me feel good about supporting local farmers.

Of course Halloween also happened.  Friends of mine are on the organizing committee for a Boston area scifi/fantasy group (I am so nerdy), and so boyfriend and I went to their costume party. We were Gem and Sam from Tron, and it was awesome. My friends did a great job organizing, and it was the nicest Halloween I’ve had in a while.  We also carved pumpkins! Since my current work in progress is set in the Lovecraft universe, I decided to do Cthulhu!

Cthulhu jack-o-lantern.

Ia ia Cthulhu fthagan!

Hurricane Sandy also arrived. Thankfully, it really did not affect Boston very much. Most people either didn’t have work or got sent home mid-day. The T stopped running partway through the day as well. I briefly lost power, but frankly Nstar did an amazing job maintaining power to homes in Boston during this storm.  I was a bit disturbed that my building was shaking, but truly nothing adverse happened.  My cat spent the morning trying to dive out the window to chase the wind-whipped leaves (her survival instinct is clearly amazing *eye-roll*) but by afternoon needed some serious snuggles. I actually had to wrap her up in her favorite fuzzy blanket to calm her poor little kitten nerves.  I was saddened to see that the National Park I worked at through Americorps in New Jersey suffered severe damage.  Almost every single historical building was flooded, but more importantly, the dunes that the endangered piping plovers nest on were demolished.  It’s very sad, and I can only hope that Americorps will have enough funding to send larger conservation teams than usual there in the spring.

Currently, I’m revving up for Thanksgiving this week!  Since neither boyfriend nor I can make it home to our respective home states to visit, we’ll be making our own vegetarian Thanksgiving. The planned menu is chili and pumpkin pie with vegan maple whipped cream. Nom!

Be expecting some book reviews to come up!  I’m hoping to get caught up writing them this weekend.

Happy weekends all!

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