Green smoothie lessons from the Houston Arboretum's raw vegan queen bee
Green is the color du jour. Actually, green is the word du jour.
Just as we are concerned with the concept of green, meaning, not as bad for our planet as an available alternative but not great nonetheless, our food should also be green, color included.
Now that most of us have screwed up and abandoned our New Year's resolutions — bonus if you kept them for more than a few days — it's time to remind ourselves that green foods need to make a dramatic come back in our lives.
They miss you, and they like to be eaten — they like it a little rough sometimes. Ask the blender. And green foods are best eaten raw.
Truthfully, getting enough greens in your life can be challenging, especially if you are trying to avoid calorie-ladened salad dressings. The only traditional way to eat raw greens is in some sort of a salad consisting of whatever you have in the fridge over whatever you have in the fridge, tossed with whatever you have in your fridge.
That's not very appetizing. We can do better.
The problem is that to increase our intake of fruits and vegetables, we believe planning ahead is needed. Given the increasing complexity of our daily routines, adding yet another schedule to our discombobulated regiment is out of the question.
On one side, our logical brain knows what to do. But our taste buds, preprogrammed cravings and satiety system veer us down the chocolate cake, ice cream, bacon double cheeseburger and fries foodie road. Anything one can get at a drive thru window. Part of the appeal of fast food is exactly that. It's fast and does not requires planning.
A Big Mac Combo, supersized with a Diet Coke (as if that makes a difference) is a few minutes and dollars plus cents away. It's always the same. It's always predicable and loyal. And it will always make you feel the same way: Bloated, gross and pimply.
But what if getting your daily intake of raw fruits and green veggies was just as easy as visiting your neighborhood fast food joint?
Green smoothies can be your nutritional mighty mouse. If done right, they pack an incredible amount of live enzymes, nutrients, protein, fiber and natural goodness while keeping your satiety sensors smiling.
For a little lesson, I visited the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center's raw vegan queen bee, Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram, who tires out the Energizer Bunny, radiating with positive energy and fabulous skin.
"I just ate 15 bananas," she tells me. I wondered if I could possibly do that, conjuring up images of a possible banana eating contest. It would be messy, sticky and hilarious.
Bananas, and raw foods in general, are what Kristina needs to get her through her frequent seven-mile runs. When she is not doing that, you can find her teaching classes at Rice University while carrying the happy burden of running three locations of the Rawfully Organic Co-op. The Arboretum's location happens to be the newest addition to her increasing organic raw community empire.
"Organic is essential," Kristina explains. "It is pesticide free. It is cleanest fruit and vegetable you could possibly eat. You don't want chemicals in your food. It makes you sick and you don't want to toxic yourself."
I equate eating conventional produce to using any diet soda (aka death in a can) to quench your thirst after a long run. We can make better choices.
"If you want to feel alive, why would you eat something that's dead?" Kristina questions. "It's a societal habit, by eating fruits and vegetables in their natural state you are keeping all of the energy, all of the protein. You are not denaturing anything."
From a biological stand point, ponder that the human species is the only one that routinely heats its food for consumption. Many cite homo sapiens' higher intellect in making this choice. Anatomically, the way we process, digest and eliminate food may not be that different from other mammals. And you don't routinely see them throwing a big rowdy barbecue and devouring a chicken fried steak with creamy garlic smashed potatoes, a stick of butter, gravy and biscuits.
"The answer to so many of our problems is just eating better, but most people don't know how to eat better," Kristina explains. "It's eating the most colorful foods that you can think of."
Although raw cuisine or "uncooking" can be intimidating — most raw books call for dehydrators, all sort of juicers, food processors, centrifugal and masticating juicers and sprouting equipment — Kristina's methods are quite simple. Throw them in a blender and go. That's my type of prep.
I have come to love green smoothies and have developed a few tricks along the way. Keeping a ratio of 60 percent sweet fruit and 40 percent greens and veggies makes for a perfect flavor balance. Invest in a kick-butt blender. That's all you need. Personally, I am a Vitamix kind of guy.
The color maybe intimidating at first. But it's the color du jour. Get used to it.
Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram gives Joel Luks a quick lesson on green smoothies.
For more ideas on green smoothies and raw cuisine, Kristina will be teaching a class at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center on Sunday, March 13 from 2 - 4 p.m. $20 for Arboretum members and $28 for non-members, titled "Eat It Raw: Preparing Raw, Organic and Seasonal Meals," Kristina reveals her secrets on surviving on a low-fat raw vegan diet while getting 3,000 calories daily.